I’m trying to establish a new norm in our household. I’m trying to make discipleship integral to life, to let God’s word work through our moments like yeast through dough.
I’ve written before about our hopes for missions and adoption, which the needs of our family have made wholly unrealistic this season. But God still calls us to daily service, and to fellowship with those around us. As Rosaria Butterfield states in her convicting and inspiring book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key , “God never gets the address wrong.” The “radically ordinary hospitality” of which Rosaria writes involves opening our homes, our table, our time to those around us, Christian or not. It espouses table fellowship as a daily practice. God has placed each of us in a specific time, in a specific neighborhood, and with a specific circle of peers, friends, neighbors, family. Like the spiraled petals of a stargazer, the Gospel should radiate from us, stretching toward those whom God has placed around us.
I embraced this ethic wholeheartedly when I left practice, inviting strangers to lunch, opening our home whenever possible. But even that routine proved difficult in the face of Pip’s sensory troubles. Soon, his needs compelled us to limit our gatherings, so that in our efforts to love our neighbors, we didn’t destroy his ability to cope with the world.
And yet, the call remains. To commune. To reach out. The Gospel comes with a house key.
It also comes with an oven.
I’m a lousy cook. I can do it, but I don’t relish it, and neither do those subjected to my mediocre attempts. But thanks to this book, I can bake bread. And the kids can help me with every step, becoming a part of the process.
There is something intensely satisfying about freshly baked bread. It’s smell evokes thoughts of home, where warmth and belonging join. And then there are the innumerable links between bread and God’s goodness. We pray for our daily bread at the start and close of each day. God provided bread from heaven for his people in the wilderness. Jesus is the bread of life, from whom all hope flows. We take bread in the sacrament to remember his sacrifice for us.
Flour, salt, water, yeast, all yielding, rising, growing into something greater. As grace changes us. As the Spirit flourishes within us, masterfully kneading his work.
And so we’ve begun a new tradition here in our household: every week we bake bread, and then offer it to someone God’s brought to us.
The first time, we decided to give a loaf to our mail carrier, who braves our El Capitan-esque driveway daily, and doesn’t seem alarmed that our kids are in pajamas and knit hats at all hours of the day. Pip dashed out with the warm loaf in hand when the mail truck drove up, ran down the steps, and . . . saw a complete stranger. Our usual friend was sick.
Pip froze in his tracks, and looked at me with an expression of panic and puzzlement. I nodded. “Go ahead. Introduce yourself and offer it to him.” God’s brought him here, now, into our lives. Give him bread.
“Hi!” Pip shouted, running down. “My name is Pip, but I like to be called He-Man. We made bread for you!!!” Arms bolt straight, grin wide as the horizon.
The gentleman looked taken aback. He glanced at Pip, me. Then, his face broke into a smile. “Why, thanks. You know, I’ll probably eat this before I finish my route!”
I don’t know if we’ll see him again. If we will, we will have common ground, the ice broken. If not, I pray God will use yeast and flour to fill his soul.
Recipients since then have included the kids’ godmother, an ailing neighbor, and the youth worker at church. We hope to share our bounty with those who keep us safe, those in need, those who are suffering, those who are celebrating. Family, strangers, friends, those we’d like to befriend. Along with some of the loaves, we’ve included honey butter whipped up in the mixer, and cards with lines of Scripture. In all, we’ve included warmth, and connection, and a breaking through the walls behind which we hide. And Pip and Bean have been able to actively participate in every step of preparation, to skip with anticipation, to witness the warmth and joy that comes with ministering to another.
I value those who read this blog so dearly. Will you join us? Do you offer daily bread to others already? Is your bread in the form of your hospitality, or your time, or a specialty cake, or a dozen doughnuts? If so, please, share your stories, and I’d love to post them here!
Would you like to start sharing bread on your own? If so, here’s the scoop:
It starts with this recipe, adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It’s wonderfully easy to prepare, and you make the dough ahead of time and pop it into the fridge for up to two weeks. The yield is about 3 loaves, depending on how big you prefer them.
1.5 TBSP Kosher salt
1.5 TBSP yeast
3 cups warm water
6 1/2 cups bread flour
Mix in a standing mixer with the dough hook. I drizzle olive oil around the rim of the bowl so the dough doesn’t stick, then cover the mixing bowl in plastic wrap and let it rise for about an hour. Transfer to plastic containers, and store in the fridge (leave room in the containers for the dough to rise more, because exploding bread dough isn’t as life-giving smeared all over your leftover chicken curry . . . don’t ask me how I know this). I find that the bread tastes best after several days of continued resting in the fridge.
On baking day, turn on the oven to 450 degrees F, and place a pizza stone in the oven to warm. While the oven heats, on a pizza slice, spread some cornmeal. Then dust the dough with flour, and with flour-coated hands (so the dough doesn’t stick — it’s very slack), shape it into a ball. It should look like this:
After shaping, slash lines in the dough with a knife. If you skip this step, your loaves will bust open from the buildup of steam, creating some unusual proboscis deformities (again, don’t ask how I know this).
Let the dough stand for about 20″. Then, transfer to the pizza stone in the oven. Place an oven-safe bowl of water into the oven alongside the dough. Then bake at 450 for ~45 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and let the loaves cool for at least an hour before cutting into them.
Wrap in brown paper before gifting; plastic wrap or plastic bags will make the crust soggy. To add a specialty butter, just whip some butter in a mixer with an ingredient of your choice — honey, chives, etc — and transfer to a small container.
Please, share with me your daily bread narratives! May the Lord use the meager labors of our hands for his glory.