Sticky potato water and yeast. Mashed potatoes, flour, and butter. This past weekend found me combining these ingredients in a large earthenware bowl. My arms, jeans, and fingers were dusted in flour, or sticky with dough; the perfect picture of a bread-maker. If there is one thing I have learnt about bread-making these past four or five months, it is that you must knead the dough. Otherwise, you will have dense, flat, or crumbly bread. Kneading takes patience, knowing when to let the dough rest, and strength in one's wrists and forearms.
Kneading has a rhythm to it, pushing the dough away from you with the heels of your hands. Not too hard, or you will break the gluten strands. Not too softly, or you will not stretch the gluten strands enough, resulting in a flat or crumbly loaf.
Life has a rhythm as well. Over the past few years I have discovered the Church calendar, it keeps me stretched, but not broken. Though I grew up with Christian parents and siblings, we have been more evangelical than liturgical believers. Discovering the cadence of Advent, the twelve days of Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, the Transfiguration, Eastertide, Ascension Day, and so on continues to teach me to walk in the pattern of God's ways, to the glory of His Name. One strand upon another, like the kneading and resting of bread dough, these Church seasons make me stronger. Lent and Advent are like the heels of the Father's hands upon my heart, preparing me to make room for His Son. Christmas and Eastertide are the moments of resting in a comfy, warm (but not hot) oven.
The bread analogy breaks down at some point, of course. Still, I wonder how many times God prepares, kneads, and rests our hearts, allowing us to be baked in the fire of trials. I know that I 'knead' rhythm in my life: seasons; circadian rhythm; sleep cycles; hours in the day; days in the week - some for work, some for rest; night and day; pain and joy; work and play. You need routine and new experiences, too. We all do, whether we realise it or not.
This post is my first in the Twelve Days of Christmas. I plan to wrap up on January 5th, the eve of Epiphany. I still have a lot to learn about the metre of life, in the Church calendar and otherwise. Over these twelve days I want to share something I'm thankful for, because one strand of life is gratitude. Over and again Scripture speaks of those who had great calamity fall upon them, yet their response was to praise God. Such was Job, when he had everything taken from him he said, "The LORD gives and the LORD takes away, blesséd be the Name of the LORD." And the Apostle Paul reminds us to give thanks in all things, for thanksgiving is God's will for us in Christ Jesus (I Thes 5.18).
“The greatest honour we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of His love.” ~ Julian of Norwich
Today I am thankful for many, many things. However, I will choose to name the greatest gift ever given which makes even good health, family, freedom, food, unexpected calls from good friends, a job, a community of friends, and a home pale in comparison: I am thankful that God is not 'out there'. I am humbled, blessed, and grateful beyond words that God is Emmanuel - God [here] with us.