Sometime during the month of December last year I gave up buying bread at the grocery store. It wasn't that I was dissatisfied with store bought bread or anything... I looked at my grocery reciept and added up my bread purchases. They totaled somewhere around $60... for 6 people to eat for a month. That seemed a bit expensive to me. Adam Smith, the father of economics, was a Scot. My Grandmother Canfield (who lives with me) is a proud descendent of Clan Dunlop. I think it's something in the blood. We just can't help nickel and diming everything. So at any rate, that seemed like too much money to blow on something as basic as bread and my bread baking saga was begun.
In February my resolve was starting to weaken... maybe the time spent baking is worth more than $60? So.... I made a new resolution and gave up buying bread for all of Lent. All 40 days of Lent. And now the saga had religious overtones (and undertones) and I started thinking as I was baking (and kneading, and mixing). And I realized that there is a simple truth our grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew... God is in the bread.
Everything you ever need to know about God is present, visible, quantifiable, and easy to understand. The flour alone is flat, it lacks life. Without yeast, oil and heat, the flour is nothing more than flour. It has no greater purpose. With the addition of yeast the flour expands... fementaion begins and something wonderful is in the making. Oil makes the dough pliable and pleasant to handle. Heat brings the whole project to completion.
Alone we are like the flour, there's really not much to us. With God we are on our way to becoming something wonderful. Jesus is the oil... He died in order to give us eternal life, He smoothed the path so that our way would be easier. The holy spirit is like the heat. It helps the yeast and the oil work to change us from flour to bread.
Bread is forgiving. If you let it rise too long, that's ok. Punch it down, reshape it and keep going. The end product may not be exactly what you were envisioning when you started, but it's still good. If your oven temperature isn't perfect, that's ok too. Bread can cook at lots of different temperatures... again, the end result may not be what you were expecting... but it will still be good.
When life gets stressful and hectic I sometimes feel that it would be better to just buy the darned bread (Amy's dad told me that if I have a good recipe for french bread I really needed to get out more). Who in this country makes all their own bread for goodness sake? I would not be telling the truth if I let you think I haven't bought any bread at all since last December... but I have bought fewer than 10 loaves since then. When I give up and buy the bread, strangely, life doesn't really get easier. I always think as I 'm buying it that not having to make bread will free up part of my day... but I couldn't tell you where those saved minutes go.
What I have learned from buying bread is that it allows me to live life at a faster pace. I've learned through the sacrifice of Lent (when I would NOT buy bread) that slower is often better. While baking I have to plan to take slow time during the day to mix, knead, and bake. I also tend to use that slow time to think about life, about my children, my husband, and my faith. If I don't take time to bake, I frequently don't take time to pray either. And that makes all the difference. Life just seems to be better when I bake. God is in the bread.