Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Growing in Christ

In the last six months or so, my husband and I have had some really good conversations that have all circulated around the same basic ideas and topics.  It all started one day when I had a mini breakdown about myself and my feelings of spiritual inadequacy.  I am typically a pretty logical and academic person.  By the term "academic", I don't mean that I am super smart or anything like that.  What I mean by that term is that I think of things in an academic, factual, and concrete manner.  I'm not very touchy-feely or emotional and the way I process things reflects that, including the way I often think of spiritual growth.  Now, I know that spiritual growth is not about how much knowledge I have about the Bible, how many verses I can properly quote, whether or not I know all of the historical background that lends significance to each Biblical event etc.  But, because I like to think of things in an "academic" manner, I began to judge my spiritual maturity based on the (lack of) number of books I had read about deep theological topics, the (lack of) deep Biblical group studies I had recently been a part of, and the (lack of) scripture I was able to quote.

Thankfully, God has blessed me with a husband who is more "academic" than me and is always a clear thinker.  He gently reminded me, that while the pursuit of Biblical knowledge and theology is good, it can also become a god in our lives if that is the end we are pursuing.  He also reminded me that I already know plenty about God and His desires for my life and challenged me to see if I was already doing what God was asking of me.  It made me realize that I was getting caught up in the idea of being "Bible/Theology smart" instead of really focusing on letting the things that I already know about God to change me.

So I am trying to take these things to heart.  Instead of berating myself for not reading all of the books that everyone says I "need" to read, I'm trying to concentrate on just living a life that is more Christ-like.  For me, 1 John 4:7-8 coupled with 1 Corinthians 13, are the verses that I am really holding on to in this journey.  The passage in 1 John tells us that whoever loves, is born of God and knows God.  The passage in 1 Corinthians seems to take this to the next step and tells me exactly what love is.  If I can work on really loving, as it is defined in the Bible, then I will grow in my faith, relationship, and knowledge of God.   

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bread, Bread, Bread

I love bread!  Really, it is one of my favorite foods.  I could eat it every day, for every meal, and would be quite happy.  Thankfully, most of my family seems to share my love of bread as well and will happily help me eat a loaf of bread whenever I make it (yes, we will eat the entire loaf for one meal).  

I also love to bake bread.  I am not an artistic person at all but baking bread is a way that I can create something using my own two hands.  I get great satisfaction from kneading the dough, feeling for the right texture and consistency, and shaping a loaf.  I know, sounds really weird but I really do like to make homemade bread (almost as much as I like to eat it).

I recently received two great bread cookbooks to help fuel my love of baking and eating homemade bread.  The first is Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.  This book is wonderful.  The breads I have made using this book are some of the best tasting breads I have ever made (like the Multigrain Struan....YUMM!)  The breads in this book are also all whole grain so I feel good about eating them and feeding them to my family.  The complexity of the recipes, the scientific information used to arrive at each formula, and the hands on process for making these breads really excites the part of me that just likes to make bread for the sake of making bread.  

The second book I received is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  This book has also produced some tasty loaves of bread (as well as a few novelty items like pretzels and cinnamon rolls) and is great for days when I just don't have time to "create" a loaf of bread.  I have to admit, when I received the book I was a bit worried that I'd miss the hands-on aspect of making bread.  But I have grown to really appreciate this book for its unique process of making bread and the place it has in our home.  For instance, as I sat down to plan last weeks menu and grocery list, I realized that at least two meals during the week begged for a fresh loaf of bread.  Unfortunately, our week also called for us to be out of the house much of the week and unable to babysit a loaf of bread as it went through the kneading and rising processes.  So, I decided to solve that problem on Sunday night by whipping up the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich recipe in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book in..... yep, 5 minutes.  Later in the week, I was able to pull out the dough and have a fresh baked loaf of bread with very minimal "me" time. 

The other unique thing about the ABFMD that I really appreciate is that making one batch of dough early in the week can produce very different breads later.  Not only can you use the same dough to make different shaped loaves (resulting in different textures and crusts), you can also use one dough recipe to make different types of breads by adding ingredients to it on bake day.  Even more surprising, is the way the bread flavor changes the longer the dough ferments in the refrigerator.  This past week, I used the 100% Whole Wheat recipe to make two, very different loaves.  The first was baked using a typical bread loaf pan and produced a slightly sweet, softer crusted loaf of bread.  The second was baked several days later and had started to take on a slight sourdough flavor.  I baked this loaf free-form using my banneton which produced a nice, crunchy crust.

Don't they look good!

Friday, March 19, 2010

History at Our House

For History this year we are currently studying the Early Middle Ages.  I know the kids won't remember a lot of what we are studying but I'm hoping the exposure they get and the fun they have learning about this time period will carrying into the future and give them a basis to build off of later.  Besides, I'm learning a lot even if they aren't!  One of the things we do each week is add figures to our timeline.  These might be important people or significant events we studied during the week and is the kids' favorite part of their history studies.  Each week they love to look at all of the figures they have added and find their favorite one.  In "A"'s case, the best figure is the most colorful or pinkest one on the board (typical girl).  The boys tend to like the ones that are somehow associated with some type of destruction (typical boy).


Monday, March 15, 2010

Our Valentine's Day

We don't celebrate Valentine's Day.  It all stems from a complete mis-understanding that happened on the very first Valentine's Day we spent together (okay, it was all my fault.... I stuck my foot in my big mouth!).  So, ever since that first Valentine's Day we have chosen not to participate in the completely commercialized holiday.  We figure what is the point of celebrating a holiday that is really all about making money for the flower, candy, and card industry just to try to prove we love each other.... we already know where we stand on that issue.  But, every few years, out of the blue, my husband decides to surprise me with his own version of a Valentine's gift.  Today, just such a surprise arrived in the mail for me.  It was a gift that was completely frivolous, something I never would have bought for myself, very thoughtful, and showed just how much my husband loves me.  The attached card said "Happy Valentine's Day.  Our Valentine's Day"!