Rising: Post-Alaska plans

Can I just say, I’m astounded by the amount of food that teenage guys and men in their early twenties can eat without it affecting their waistline at all. Sometimes I sit at “family meals” here at TLC and just laugh to myself as my boys, fresh from their carpentry and aviation jobs, scarf down plate after plate of dinner.

To keep up with their voracious appetites (and because we don’t have the luxury of buying bread from a grocery store) I spend one, sometimes two afternoons a week baking bread for my students and staff. My students have gotten spoiled with homemade bread for sandwiches, toast, and to eat with the copious amounts of homemade soup that Tom and I feed them, and as much as they joke about becoming addicted to my “white people” cooking, I absolutely love having the time to spoil them a bit by baking them bread “with love”.

On a more selfish note, I love that my afternoons of baking give me an excuse to blast my worship music and twirl in my oven-warmed kitchen like a fool while breathing in the sweet scent that reminds me of my Tia’s kitchen on holidays. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me and I absolutely love that it’s become a part of my job description for this season of life.

RisingThe alchemy that occurs when I pour the ingredients into a mixing bowl, knead the dough that subsequently forms, and watch it rise in the ancient metal pans I found at village swap-meet astounds me. It just doesn’t make sense to me, this magic of baking, but it’s taught me a lot about life over the years. And if I’ve learned one thing this year through baking enough bread to feed a small army every week, it’s that you can’t rush the process.

When I try to hurry through my “memorized” list of ingredients, I inevitably forget the salt.

When I get over ambitious and try to make all six loaves at once, at least two somehow get screwed up.

When I convince myself that I need to rush, I don’t let the dough rise for long enough and my bread loses its beautiful, smooth top and its light, fluffy texture.

For someone who is, in the words of my car-obsessed grandfather, “All gas and no breaks”, spending time allowing my bread to rise seems like a waste, but it’s essential. The sitting and waiting, the patience, the “down time”… it’s essential in baking bread and I’ve been reminded that it’s essential in my walk with Christ.

In the last week or so, the Lord has brought me to a place of “rising”.

Since roughly December I’ve felt like someone put my brain inside my Kitchen Aid and turned it on high. As March has approached (aka the time of year when teachers usually begin signing their contracts for the next school year), my post-Alaska plans have been at the forefront of my mind. And in the last few months, the Lord has dumped what feels like nine million opportunities in my mixer with me and watched as I’ve spun and stressed and struggled, trying to figure out which is the “right choice” for the next season of life. Stressing and edging God out of the equation is so often my default reaction to seasons of change, even though I know deep in my heart that all I need to do is quiet myself before Him and ask (slash trust Him) to lead me.

I debriefed all of this with one of my most dear friends today (while our day’s worth of bread rose). She laughed and fed me the exact advice that I’d given her last summer when she was stuck on spin-cycle with Jesus.

“I don’t think God is going to tell you where He’s leading you, Kacy. I think He’s just going to let you sit and enjoy your time with Him, and then He’s going to take you there. I think you just need to wait and see; be silent and follow as He leads, one step at a time.” (Ironic advice given the number of times Exodus 14:14 has come up in our conversations with and prayers for each other throughout the last several months: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be silent.”)

As I sit at my kitchen table this afternoon with pans of bread slowly rising next to me in my window sill, I know this to be true. This is to be a season of patience and listening, waiting and “rising”– not hurrying to get to the next thing on my to-do list or rushing my proverbial “baking”process… (or running full speed ahead into the obscure darkness, which almost seems like a shame because I’m SO much better at all of those things. #sarcasmfont)

I’m not gonna lie—I’m hungry and am anticipating eating the magical smelling bread next to me, almost as much as my heart is anticipating seeing what the Lord is going to do with my life next. As it currently stands, there’s a very good chance that three new countries and the ability to help found a non-profit that Denver drastically needs are in my immediate future… But all of that seems to be another blog for another time. Plus, I need to get off my tush and put this next round of bread in the oven before no one has anything to eat for dinner tonight.

I would love it if you would join your hearts in prayer with me as I wait and “rise”, sweet friends. Jesus is up to something… I have no idea what it is, but in the words of the United Pursuit song that I love so much, I know “It’s gonna be wild, it’s gonna be great, and it’s gonna be full of Him.”

PS: If you need to find yourself needing to breathe and pray, to quiet yourself and bake some bread today, here is the recipe that I’ve fallen in love with, courtesy of the lovely Mrs. Sarah Wardell.

Basically Manna from Heaven Recipe

  • 3 c. warm water
  • 2 tbsp. active rise yeast
  • ¼ c. agave or honey
  • ¼ c. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 5-8 c. flour

Mix warm water, yeast, and agave in your mixer for roughly a minute. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to allow the yeast to proof. Slowly mix in the flour, oil, and salt until your dough forms. Mix/knead the dough with a bread hook for five-ish minutes. Spray your bread pans with non-stick spray and allow the bread to rise for thirty minutes. Bake at 375* for thirty minutes. Makes two sandwich loaves. (Disclaimer: This temperature and time works well here at sea level; you might need to adjust it a bit if you’re baking in the high-altitude promise land of Colorado.)

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Anticipating in our own Nazareth

The last three weeks have been an absolute explosion of emotion.

There’s been intense grief and sadness revolving around the murder of one of our Denver Street School students.

There’s been the guilt that comes with the what-if’s– What if Johnny had just been in school that morning? What if we had loved him more practically? What if we had shared the Gospel more explicitly with him? What if…

There’s been an overflowing of love in my own heart for the community that God has put me in for such a time as this– An inexpressible gratitude for the marvelous people in my life who have checked in on me, texted me, prayed with me, cried with me, and kidnapped me on the weekends simply to bring life back into my withered soul.

There’s been laughter at the thought of memories, rejoicing over small moments of justice, and the heartbreaking sound of screaming and tears as teenagers have sobbed in my lap simply asking, “Why, Miss? Why?”.

It’s been an emotional heyday, but I can honestly say that the one emotion I haven’t seen much of is anticipation– which is a gut wrenching shame given the fact that all throughout this time of mourning, we have been in the season of Advent preparing for Christmas.

Advent… the season entirely devoted to anticipating the coming of sweet Baby Jesus in that manger so long ago and the second coming of our Glorious King in the days to come.

Advent… the season in which my high schoolers should be asking questions about Jesus while baking Christmas cookies in my kitchen after school. They should be studying for finals and wrapping presents, not raising money for their friend’s funeral…

You see, I think I’m stuck on this anticipation bit because before all the emotional ish hit the fan, I had some big dreams.

I had resolved that this year, things were going to be different. For the first time in my life I was going to look forward to Christmas with my own wild family and by-George, I was going to inspire my students to see the good in their own less-than-awesome situations. We were going to anticipate and adore and sing praises to the King while we baked and giggled and looked at the forecasted snow.

So that Wednesday morning, before the emotional fiasco began, I gathered my girls around the dining room table in my classroom and we read through Isaiah 9, appropriately titled “For to us a Child is born”.

We sat around that table and were brutally honest with each other; we admitted that Christmas was hard for all of us and because of that, no one was really excited for the holidays. But together we made a pact to think on the good things this year; we would think about Jesus as our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. We would think about how that little Baby born in a manger changed everything for us.

A mere six hours later, everything HAD changed, but in a way no one was anticipating.

At 6 pm, I sat sobbing on the front steps of a coffee shop, making the calls that no one ever wants to make– the phone call letting the rest of our staff know that they would be seeing a familiar face on the 10 o’clock news that night, one of our own– the victim of a triple-homicide that had shocked a quiet neighborhood in north Denver.

That night and for several days after, I simply existed. I did not adore. I did not sing. I did not bake, nor giggle, nor wrap gifts. And I certainly could not figure out how to anticipate Christmas or Jesus’ arrival.

Everything just felt broken and foggy and wrong.

As my students sat in my classroom the next day and begged to know why and how this was happening, I hugged them and sobbed, wondering similar things: I know in my mind that God is Sovereign. I know that He works all things for His ultimate Good and Glory. I know all of these things, but how? How on earth could anything good or glorious ever come out of this? This brokenness, this darkness, this despair of Your people. YOUR PEOPLE who should be celebrating YOU right now! How the heck is goodness supposed to come out of this?

That Sunday, much to my slight annoyance and mixed relief, one of our pastors at Park Church stood up and began to preach out of Isaiah 9. As Gary spoke, I doodled, “mmm”-ed, and choked back tears when he read verse 6– that same verse that I had read with my girls not even a week before. But when he looped back to the historical aspect of verse 1, he got me:

Historically, the tribe of Zebulun that is mentioned in verse 1 of Isaiah 9 had been looked on with contempt by the other nations. They had been the first to compromise their beliefs. They had been seen as the most deluded in terms of their worship of God, and because they were from the North, they were often seen as the place where destruction came from. Yet this promise in Isaiah 9 says from that same place, Light will come. From a place of darkness, Hope will come.

There’s a little town in Zebulun named Nazareth– you might have heard of it. Something amazing happened in Nazareth. Someone amazing came from Nazareth. You would have heard the people in Jesus’ own day say, “Can anything good really come from Nazareth? From that much darkness?”

Yeah. Yeah, it can. A man, our Jesus, came from Nazareth. Hope came through that darkness and Hope is coming still.

It’s been three weeks today since Johnny was taken from us, and part of me wants to think it’s a shame that a reminder of this tragedy is falling on Christmas Eve.

But this morning I was reminded: I may not be able to see it yet, heck I may not see it for a long time, but Jesus came out of the darkness of Nazareth when people questioned whether anything good could come from such a janky little town, and goodness will eventually come from this.

Someday. Someday Good will come from this mess and I can rest in that Truth because my God keeps His promises. So that is what I’m anticipating now this year– seeing His Goodness and Glory in the midst of brokenness (once again).

~

Merry Christmas to all. Yes, to the cheery stocking stuffers and the mourning, drippy mascara wearers alike. Jesus Immanuel has come to be with us in it all. For He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace and He will reign forever… Advent2014AnticipateFor to Us a Child Is Born”

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

2 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

(Isaiah 9:1-7)