19 November 2010

Bake to Pray

Fresh Baked Goodness

I love baking.  Like, deeply and passionately.  There is no room for Atkins in my life.  Whoever says that carbohydrates are bad for you is wrong << and should be promptly re-educated >>

Anything in excess is bad for you.  Everything in moderation is A.O.K. in my book.   If we’re honest, we’d probably all agree that fresh baked bread is both delicious and comforting << and what combination is better than this? >>.

Wonderful things go on around the act of baking.  Lives can change through the sharing of baked goods.  << I’m serious. >>  

Pumpkin goodness
Fresh loaves of bread both warm the kitchen and fill the space around it with delicious seasonal smells-- pumpkin and spices through the fall and winter; banana and apple in the spring and summer; French, sourdough, and even beer batter cheese bread smells come and go all year long in our house. 

The act of baking bread is both stimulating and engaging for all of our senses-- taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch  << Spiritually speaking, I’m most tuned in when all of my senses are engaged and stimulated >>.

Breaking bread together at a common table can bridge language and cultural gaps, as well as political, economic, and social barriers.  I’ve also learned after our recent adventure in Egypt that no culture’s baking skills should be underestimated << some new mothers say the sound of a baby crying causes their boobies to fill with milk… for me, the words “Middle Eastern desserts” causes me to drool >>.

Henri Nouwen says, "When we invite friends for a meal, we do much more than offer them food for their bodies.  We offer friendship, fellowship, good conversation, intimacy, and closeness.  When we say:  ‘Help yourself…take some more…don’t be shy…have another glass,’ we offer our guests not only our food and our drink but also ourselves.  A spiritual bond grows, and we become food and drink for one another."

We become food and drink for one another when we share a meal together.

A permanent supportive housing development for people emerging from chronic homelessness recently opened in our << church  and work >> neighborhood.  As a community, in a couple of weeks a group of us will spend an evening baking loaves of fresh bread together.  The following day we will deliver the loaves, with notes of welcome, to our new neighbors.  These are people who have lived roughshod lives of survival on the streets experiencing unimaginable pain, brokenness, and loss.  With hard work and community support, they have emerged from that life, overcoming obstacles in order to achieve stability and housing. 

As their neighbors, instead of fearing them we’re choosing to love them, and the first iteration of expressing that love is through prayer, clothed in the form of baking. 

Then we’ll present them with a baked offering and a warm word of welcome.
Opportunities like this inspire my passion for baking. 

My prayer is that in a couple of weeks we will build relationship with one another and get to know each other as we discover our “new normal” with this new housing development as it integrates into the fabric of our neighborhood.

Here’s a recipe for the good of the cause << it’s a staple in our house, year round >>:

Beer Batter Cheese Bread
8 oz cheese (4 oz shredded and 4 oz cubed)
3 C all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1 (12 oz) light-bodied beer
1 - 2 tablespoons of melted butter

Oven at 375 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Combine ingredients from cheese to pepper (on list) << for the cheese I like to use a combination of Habanero Cheddar and regular Cheddar; Gruyere is also really good, but that’s not one we keep around the house regularly >>, then mix together with beer << I like to use a light to medium beer- Blue Moon and Yuengling have both made yummy, hoppy breads >>. Spread into loaf pan so batter is even; then drizzle evenly with melted butter.

Bake for 45 - 50 mins << the loaf should come out craggy and delicious... see below >>

Beer Batter Cheese Bread
If you’re bold and daring and like to experiment, here's an option that might just make you pee your pants: use smoked Gouda for the cheese, and mix in 8 slices of crispy, crumbled, cooked BACON.

17 November 2010

And God was like, "Jess. Relax. I've got this."

Selective Service.  Men between the ages of 18 and 26 have to register with the Selective Service.  In case our country is forced to re-institute the draft during a time of war, the gov't needs to know how many able-bodied men are available.

Did you know that non-citizens have to register?

I sure didn't.  And neither did my Bolivian husband when he arrived to the US on a fiancĂ©e visa 11 months before his 26th birthday.  

We were meticulous.  We used a fine-toothed comb, over and over again as we went through the laborious and costly process of getting married and adjusting the status of my new husband to Permanent Resident.  The hubs is from South America << of the Bolivian persuasion  >> .  I'm from North  America << of the US persuasion  >>.  
Wedding Day Bliss
In order to mate and build a nest together up north, we had to fill out approximately one truckload of forms, have fingerprints taken, give hair and saliva samples, show proof of our love and marriage << -picture Al and Peggy- Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage, Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage... >>, jump through hoops, sing television sitcom theme songs, and perform a perfect 10 square dance together.  You might think I'm joking.

House. First time home-buyers no less.
So a few years pass.  We're still happily married.  We've got a house and a dog.  And the hubs loves politics.  So much so that he said before the last election, "I wish I could vote."  Voting is a both a right and a privilege.  I exercise mine << do you exercise yours? >>.  I decided to check.  Not on you and whether or not you vote.  I decided to check on what it would take for the hubs to become a US citizen.  

Come to find out, there would be another truckload of paperwork- along with a trunk full of money- required to start the process, but the process we did start, in order to have my "alien" husband become a US Citizen.

Once we forked over both the truckload and the trunk full, we offered more fingerprints, gave more hair and saliva samples, jumped through more hoops while catching Frisbee's in the air, and we eventually landed in Memphis  << grateful for the opportunity to drive approximately 14 hours in less than 24 >>.  

Interview time... dunh dunh dunhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  I thought I'd get to go back with the hubs for his interview, civics/history test,  and whatever else they planned to require of him for this 2nd of 3 steps in the citizenship process.  

I. Got. Denied.  And it went something like this:

Officer: Mr. Boke... Mr. Bock... 
Me: Honey, that's you.  Let's go.
Officer: David? << nods...   then to me >> Who are you?
Me: Oh, << back off mutha effa >> I'm his wife.

Officer: You can't go back with him.
Me: Oh... Really? Are you sure?
Officer: ... << Glares >> ...
Me: Thanks. I think I'll just wait over here with the nice Polish couple.

15 minutes later the hubs comes out in a huff, mumbling something about needing to go and register for the Selective Service.  

Huh-what?!?  You can't register after age 26.  We studied that question on the drive over.  And the SS office is in Illinois, which is a long way away from Memphis.  Gah!

We eventually hit the road home, opting to take this setback as a great opportunity to deal with more paperwork, hoops, hair and saliva, and probably more money.

Fast forwarding here so as not to bore you with all the details of the process, we were fairly hopeless that the hubs would get sworn in anytime soon.  And then we read this one little eensy weensy teenie tiny paragraph on the form we filled out for his permanent residence.

And there was a << very dim >> spark. We waited. And waited and waited and waited.  Deadlines were approaching, and we were getting antsy, nervous, and anxious. << when both of us are worked up like that, it ain't pretty folks >>

This past Sunday night we were in a mad dash to clean the house because folks were coming over for Bible study the next night.

I'm in the office, and the hubs is in the kitchen.  He comes into the room, and holding a postcard he says to me, "Honey, is this what I think it is?" << there was a trace of hope in his voice >>.  I looked at this postcard-- dated the Monday before... return address Illinois... something about Selective Service(!)... registration number(!)... since 2006(!)


That eensy weensy teenie tiny paragraph on the form we filled out for his permanent residence is what did the trick.  Whew!  What a relief!

Here's how the rest of the conversation went:
Hubs: How long do you think we've had it?
Me: Gosh, I have no idea.  It's dated the 8th, probably arrived on the 10th, today's the 14th... there's no telling.
Hubs: Can you believe they sent this on a POSTCARD?
Me: No... they alway send our official stuff in the exact same kind of envelope. I never would have thought they'd send a postcard.
Hubs: Ahhhh!
Me: Ahhh!
<< literal high fives all around while jumping up and down >>
Hubs: You know where it was?
Me: Where?
Hubs: On the kitchen table... right on top of your Generosity devotional.
Me: Really?


So fast forward to that window of time right before bed when we're talking, de-briefing the day.  I have this AHA moment.  God was totally using this to show me something, giving me answers to the questions we'd been wrestling with around the subject of the hubs and his citizenship.

AHA Part 1: God was in control the whole time.  From the very beginning of our relationship, God has been right smack-dab center of it.  God has been orchestrating the whole thing from before the hubs and I ever met.  We've danced this dance, me and God, for the past 7 years << that's about how long I've been both listening and actively participating >> where God leads, I follow, and when God says LEAP, I LEAP << faith and fear cannot co-exist >>. Among a multitude of other areas, God has the hubs and his citizenship process under control, too.

AHA Part 2: God needed us to slow down.  As a result of the paperwork snafoo and subsequent delay, the hubs' relatives who are coming for the holidays will probably be in town for his swearing in.


And God was like, "Jess.  Relax.  I've got this...... No really.  I've got this."

01 November 2010

Lovable Laffy Taffy

Halloween.  It's come and gone.  Pumpkins are carved.  Costumes are worn in << or out? >> and retired.  Doors have been knocked.  Lights have gone out.
It's a dachshund.
Can't you see the resemblance?

Weenie dog in a hot dog costume in front of the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile.

It's November 1st.  That means only one thing for most Americans.  


Kids beg for it.  Adults try to resist it.  Everyone's pockets and backpacks are full of it.  And there are- of course- the inevitable sugar crashes.  Moody people walking around in a saccharine coma.  Furry teeth.  Achey gums.  Brightly colored tongues, lips, and sometimes even teeth.  

And wrappers in trash cans.  Lots of wrinkled, crinkley, gloriously EMPTY candy wrappers.

At our house this morning we had some leftover Laffy Taffy.  It was purchased strictly for the trick or treaters. <<  They were not bought because I love Laffy Taffy or because I spent the entirety of my childhood at the skating rink purchasing  Laffy Taffy and then reading the jokes and laughing with my friends 'til my sides hurt >>

Where do 2 bunnies go after they get married?

Why did the orange use sunscreen?
Because he started to peel!

What do you call a bird with sunglasses?
A bird watcher.

What do you call a lazy kangaroo?
A pouch potato.

What did one casket say to the other casket?
Is that you coffin?

Glorious.  Hilarious.  Side-stitch inducing.  Funny.  That's what lives on the outside of the Laffy Taffy.  Who would have thunk it?