I pull out the recipe card, stained and bent on all the corners, though I’ve memorized most of the steps and measurements by now.
I pour the warm water together with the yeast, adding in the honey and melted butter. I watch it swirl together, then I carefully measure out the flour, adding it slowly as the dough forms. I knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic. It goes into the green speckled bowl, covered with the thin towel.
Then I wait.
I punch it, shaping and kneading it again until it resembles loaves.
Then I wait again.
Into the oven it finally goes and the smell begins to permeate the entire house. And when I think I can’t wait anymore, the timer dings and I pull hot, fresh bread out of the oven. Five loaves in all.
The kids explode through the door after a long day at school. “You made bread today?” they exclaim as I smile, pulling out the butter and jam.
“The world gives scant attention to what it means to live, to really live, to live eternal life in ordinary time,” Eugene Peterson says in his book The Jesus Way.
You may think it’s crazy for me to take an entire morning every few weeks just to make bread. After all, there’s an entire aisle of the grocery store dedicated to bread alone. However, there’s a gentle re-focusing that happens in my soul as I knead the flour into the dough.
When I make bread, I’m forced to arrange my day in a way that allows me to be present. There is no rushing the dough as it rises, no skipping a step in order to get to the end quickly. My errands must wait and I can’t schedule a meeting…. I must wait for the bread to rise. And in the waiting, my ordinary task becomes sacred as I force myself to slow down and breathe deeply.
So much of our lives are lived in small moments, aren’t they? We’re trained to think that it’s all about the big, flashy loud moments. The funerals and births, graduations and weddings will always stand out against the other days, but what about the everyday, ordinary moments?
Baking bread reminds me that the ordinary times are where I live most of my life. It brings my focus back to who I am and who God is. This humble task pumps life into my soul.
Brother Lawrence was a monk who lived in the 1600s. He spent many years in a monastery kitchen, washing dishes. “Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?” Brother Lawrence did decades of seemingly menial tasks, but he discovered an important truth. Experiencing God’s presence can—and should—happen everywhere, no matter what else is swirling around us.
If I’m not careful, my life becomes one big blur of busyness. It takes no time at all to fill up the squares on my calendar. And before I know it, the margins on the page and in my life have all but disappeared.
We weren’t made for this constant loudness in life. So when things feel out of control, I am thankful for the bread pans and the flour that help quiet my soul. There may be any number of things going on in my life, but when I clear my schedule to make bread, my heart is realigned. Richard Foster wrote in his book Prayer, “The discovery of God lies in the daily and the ordinary, not in the spectacular and the heroic. If we cannot find God in the routines of home and shop, then we will not find Him at all.”
This week may you find your quiet rhythm, your bread-making. May you re-focus and claim back some of the quiet for which your soul longs. Your ordinary tasks can become sacred when you truly live in the small moments today.