Friday, November 9, 2012

Give us this day our daily bread

Last week, the kids and I had dinner at our friend's house where she served homemade dinner rolls.  It was delicious and inspired me to make it myself.  The recipe was easy enough except it required kneading for, get this, SIX to EIGHT MINUTES.  People, this is ridiculous.  Is this actually how breads are made in this day and age?  In the 21st century?  I gave it my most valiant effort of two minutes and called it good.  Six to eight minutes is a freakin' eternity when all you're doing is kneading. I mean, that is a VERY uninteresting activity.

But it was wonderful to have the aroma of fresh bread baking wafting through the house pre-meal, and the whole family enjoyed the rolls.  Homemade dinner rolls, I'm in.

On my day off today I decided to tackle another recipe from my good friend the Pioneer Woman.  Jenny's recipe was convenient in that it can be done in an hour.  I thought if I tried a recipe which gave  the bread more time to rise it might turn out even tastier.  Here's the recipe:

(emphasis mine, you can see the appeal of this recipe for me)

I don't actually know PW, but she must be used to feeding her big hungry family because her portions are out of control.  I immediately made the executive decision to half the recipe, knowing my cute tiny family will probably only eat just half of that.

If you are familiar with PW, she posts beautiful pictures detailing each step of the process.  I swear to God, I followed the instructions to the T, but when the time came to roll the dough into three perfect little balls for the muffin tin,

my dough was such a sticky, gooey mess, there was no WAY that dough was going to shape itself into anything remotely similar to a sphere, it took on a personality of its own and just plastered itself relentlessly to every crevice of my hand.  Oh, it was very upsetting.  After many frustrating attempts, I gave up the presentation and figured if I can just somehow transfer the blob into my muffin pan and bake it, we can at least still enjoy ugly looking but hopefully tasty dinner rolls.

Oh wait, did I mention that as I meticulously made sure to measure just half of each ingredient (remember, we're halving the recipe?) I  made one tiny, teensy miscalculation?  Well, not so much a miscalculation as I forgot to half the salt.  So instead of ONE tablespoon, I dumped in the batter TWO.  This turned out to be the deal breaker.  The rolls ended up hideous in presentation but far, far worse tasting.

This is the part in my blog post where I typically derive some deeper meaning out of my mundane daily existence.  In this case, I don't have to exercise any mental gymnastics to dig for reflection.  Bread is used throughout Scripture as a sign of God's provision.  YHWH provided manna for the Israelites. Jesus taught us the Kingdom of God is like yeast working its way through the dough, and ultimately declared himself as the Bread of Life.

And I'm sure there's some spiritual lesson in here about humility (failure in the kitchen) or diligence (knead the dough, for goodness sakes) or neglect (salty rolls, anyone?) which I should absorb.

But more and more I'm learning our faith is not just about our individual piety.  Being spiritual doesn't just affect our attitudes and future destination post mortem.  When Jesus offers us bread, He's not just offering us a way to Heaven but an invitation to be a part of an exciting new world of redemption.  In this newly redeemed world, mistakes are forgiven, grace is offered, and we cry a little but then laugh over failed kitchen experiments.  We gather around the table and serve up three-day-old toast instead of warm fresh rolls.  We pray and chuckle over "give us this day our daily bread", but then we are sobered by remembering the people who still go hungry, without bread, in our world.  And then, we might cry for real.  Big, compassionate tears which moves us to advocate and act.

"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

I might not have remembered to halve the salt, but I remember this.  I remember Jesus.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Scarecrow: Some People Do Go Both Ways

When you grow up, as I did, in a Taiwanese family but schooled in a Western context, you learn to cope with dissonance.  When your "village" consists of parents and teachers from dramatically different cultures, you are raised to straddle two boats  floating in different directions.  I have blogged in the past about my TCK (Third-Culture-Kid) issues, and by issues I mean I really should pay top dollars to anyone who can help untangle the mess that is my background.  But because I like to keep my cash and avoid the stigma of seeing a shrink, I'm just gonna "process" out loud here and who knows, maybe a nice counselor will happen to read it and sort me out for free.  *qualified professionals only, please.  And no, watching Dr. Phil does NOT count.*

Here's the dealio:  you know how I can speak two languages?  Most people think that's really cool and stuff, but it also makes me really weird.  See, I grew up learning both languages at the same time, so I think my brain formed differently from the get go.  In order to interact in one language, I developed the capacity to hear, respond, and act according to one culture's set of rules and standards.  But then I was presented with an arguably opposite set of expectations delivered in another language and customs, and in order to resonate with both, I think I had to grow another brain.  No, you say, science has not proven multilingual persons to present with multiple brains.  Well, guess what, I'm not a scientist.  I'm a blogger and bloggers can say whatever the heck they want.  

Anyway, back to my alien brain formation, I believe my two brains are constantly trying to coexist within my average sized head, sometimes in tandem with each other, other times elbowing and shoving to make room for themselves.  So when my behavior and choices appear to other people as being "self-contradictory", I argue on the contrary, I am "self-consistent", it's just that my two brains have opposing functions and opinions but they are fully contained within oneself.  

Boy I can make up crap to justify my schizophrenia, split-personality, TCK issues.

How else do you explain why I am never content to belong to one group?  In school, as most of my friends gravitated to the Chinese crowd, or the English-speaking crowd, I had best friends belonging to both groups.  In college when time came to declare a major, I chose two: Business/economics and Bible.  And no, I do not sell Bibles now as a career.  When we were newlyweds, we tried out a "young marrieds" small group at church and I almost suffocated.  Why, would anyone in their right minds, want to hang out with people just like them?  We made a quick exit and joined an eclectic group with a leader who is now openly gay, couples with adult children, divorcees, and young singles.  In politics, I am pro-life but also hardcore environmentalist.  In theology, I believe absolutely in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but am open to the theories of evolution.  As a woman, I had babies early, cook exclusively for my family, design craft projects around the home.  Yet I also work, dream big dreams about saving the world, and engage in conversations that are male-dominated.  

Heck, I even use Apples AND PCs.  

The truth is, I learned from a very young age how people can be different but have equal value.  I learned that ideas can be opposing but still worth engaging.  I learned how we can speak in foreign languages, eat different foods, believe different gods, and still interact in meaningful ways.  I learned by default to think outside the box because I was raised outside the box.  

I realize my circumstances as a TCK is quite unique.  However, it's not just me, is it?  Aren't we all inclined to resist being labeled as just one brand of human being?  We are inspired by great art and music and nature because we are given a window to something bigger than ourselves.  We feel our way around the walls of whichever box we are in, groping for an opening to step out.  We spend our lives trying on different labels to see which fits, then begin to resent the weight those labels add up.  

There is a certain comfort in belonging to a category.  Common threads bind us and give us strength.  The desire to put down roots grounds us.  But then let us grow a vibrant, diverse tree that branches out far and wide.  The fear of the unknown cannot keep us from living robust lives which shatters boundaries and break down walls.  It may feel like going down the road less traveled is going to be lonely, but that's simply untrue.  There are plenty of people there - people with big hearts, brave souls, generous charity, living dynamic lives.  Somehow, meeting them grows your heart bigger, injects courage into your souls, and prompts more generosity.  

Yes, I've got issues.  And just like the Scarecrow says in the Wizard of Oz, I go both ways, and that life can get conflicting and heavy-laden, but this less traveled road has led me to some beautiful places and people.  

What do you think?  Have I got the crazies, or am I not all that different from you?