Every Monday, I take off my wedding ring and pull my hair back in order to mix, pound, and watch bread rise through the dark oven door. I always need to control something, and my two-year-old never listens. So bread has become my new muse since leaving the corporate world. Watch out, Julia. Here I come with this hard crust and soft center business, all up in your junk about how Parisians do it best. So says the woman who used muffin mixes and bought canned biscuits. I shudder now at the thought of my former self.
The old me wore heels and rushed off to the office, saying things like “well that’s a bifurcated approach” and “I hope we don’t bust our E&O deductible.” I never used yeast packets except for holidays, and couldn’t understood why things never looked like magazine photos. I was harried, and short-tempered, and wondered why my husband didn’t pitch in more with the kids. I was juggling a career and a novel and small children and, well, I didn’t have time to wait hours for things to rise, for goodness sakes. I scratch my head at that woman now. I pity her a bit, running around and around the wheel at a dizzying pace.
My life is simpler now. I am settling into a new routine. I complain less. I sigh less. I try to hug my children more. But most of all, I’m grateful.
I used to think staying home was akin to bondage, where men secured all the power and the women were forced to perform menial tasks. Who is John Galt? was framed on my desk, as if to remind myself to keep fighting against the machine. Stay-at-home mommies wrung their hands about potty training and play dates and had nothing interesting to talk about. They wore flip-flops and gym shorts and all went to Starbucks after carpool talking about reality television. I went to law school. I defended the Federal Government. I’m a fighter. Women before me forged a rugged trail for me to blaze through. Plus – it was good for my daughter to watch me working, so she could witness first-hand one who could do it all. I could buy bread at the grocery store. Right? Anyone give me a hell yeah?
But one day, I quit running. I realized that my life was out of balance, and I longed for peace. So I quit my job, and bake day firmly settled over our house like a bad coat of dust. Maybe it was to fill the house with an aroma of warm wheat. Maybe it was so my daughter had memories of always having fresh bread. But when I really dig down deep, I think it was just my way of working things out. To put my frustrations into tangible form. I punched and kneaded and watched the first few batches bubble up or not rise at all and wondered how I’d make it in this new life. But I kept trying. There was always next Monday, after all.
I’m so very thankful these days. I piddle around the house. Sometimes I take a bubble bath after I drop off the kids. I take long walks and pray for wisdom. I make up songs with my daughter and let my son pick me flowers on a Tuesday afternoon. I used to laugh at those mothers. I used to think they were crazy. I was built for more than this, I thought. While waiting for a new batch of bread to rise the other day, I took a walk in a wooded area around our house. I heard the snort of a deer not ten feet away before she went running off at breakneck speed. I laughed out loud, scared to death of a deer. As it turns out, this is enough. I’m finally hitting my life’s stride. I finally feel ready to stretch myself in ways I never did before.
I’ve learned that one has to feel bread dough to know whether it will turn out okay, regardless of what the recipe says. You have to pat and form and squeeze it beneath your fingers. You have to knead and pull and give it time to grow. To let the yeast mix with the warm water and sugar. To rise.
Sometimes you just have to push the pause button and take it all in. Long measured breaths. One ingredient at a time. Then, you’ll start to see how God is working all around you. How he softly calls you to do something greater, and bigger, and more glorious.
A friend told me to cover my dough bowl with hot tea towels, which was an excellent tip, and I rub risen loaves with water to form a harder crust. Just for looks, I sprinkle the top with oats. I love every part of baking bread, from the smell of the yeast granules to the way the molasses runs down the heap of sticky dough like dark rivers, to the moment I pull it out of the oven and my family comes rushing over, asking for butter.
I am so grateful for this moment in time to walk slowly with my hands behind my back. I am allowing my words and thoughts and the meditations of my heart to slowly expand, growing into myself with each passing day. I am praying. I am listening. I am rising.