Daily bread

Loaf of BreadFew things are as comforting as the aroma of fresh baked bread drifting through the kitchen. Even better is slicing through its crunchy crust and breathing in the steam. Add butter. Bliss.

But it seems that these days, homemade bread is something of a novelty. It’s a specialty item for a special meal, or the perfect gift to deliver to a sick friend. One of my pals bakes bread in between jobs, because being home all day allows for the waiting, the punching down, the waiting, the baking, the waiting.

That’s probably why homemade bread is a rarity. Too much waiting. Who has the time or attention span? Even my retired grandmother is too busy with her volunteer schedule, church duties, and daily routine to consider baking bread. What a luxury that would be! And yet we pray that God would be so generous as to give us our daily bread.

My parents are extreme hobbyists. When they find a new one, they research every square inch before diving in with complete dedication. Bread is the perfect example. Well, flour, to be exact. Last year, Mom and Dad decided they wanted to make their own bread from scratch-and I mean, scratch. They found a farmer who would sell them wheat berries in bulk. They invested in a hand-operated wheat grinder. They experimented with recipes, and now, they have perfected a recipe for a delectable whole wheat loaf.

During their research my folks learned an interesting thing: flour doesn’t last very long. Wheat berries can stay sealed in a cool, dry place for months, but as soon as they’re ground, the little jewels start losing nutritional value. In fact, fresh flour is at its nutritional peak for just about one day.

Give us our daily bread.

I realize that being able to grind flour and bake bread on a daily basis is a long shot for many of us. In fact, insisting on it would probably complicate our lives, rather than simplify. But I wonder what other benefits we might reap by regularly engaging in the ritual of mixing, waiting, punching, waiting, baking, waiting …. What rewards might we find beyond the satisfaction of a thick, warm slice of bread?

Perhaps a better exercise in simplicity is to be intentional with the time. To pay attention during the waiting, spend it in prayer or meditation, and ultimately being grateful for a generous God who supplies our so many’ needs, every day.

-Mandy Garcia

Mandy Garcia is associate director of communications for the Church of the Brethren. “Daily bread” first appeared in the March 2014 issue of Messenger magazine, published by the Church of the Brethren. Used with permission.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Navigating the Jungle of Wedding Gifts: Why Donations are Just as Good

jungle croppedFaith influences many of our decisions in life: how and where we live, what jobs or careers we pursue, and what we buy. At least that is our hope. As we were preparing for our wedding earlier this fall, Shawn and I reflected on our desire to live simply. By living simply, I mean that we want to bike, walk, or bus instead of drive, read a book instead of watch TV, cook together instead of eat out, and engage in any number of other “slow” living practices. We do this as a way to have a richer experience of life, to tread more lightly on our Mother Earth, and to live out our faith by generally attempting to counter our culture of haste and thoughtless consumption.

We thought about our possessions. Having lived on our own for several years, we each brought various dishes, cooking utensils, and household items into our new home together. They may be a little eclectic, but they work! Many of them have emotional value too, such as my great-grandmother’s teapot that my own grandmother carefully preserved for me. We have been taught to care for our possessions as a means of stewardship. Why buy something new, albeit matching, that expends fresh resources, when we can preserve what we already have or buy a functional, secondhand piece for a better price? To us, it makes complete sense to keep and continue to use what we already have, instead of asking for brand new items just because we’re getting married.

Another factor in our desire for simplicity is the rich human experience we are able to have by not having to constantly maintain a plethora of unnecessary items. We have been blessed with rich experiences at Camp Amnicon in northern Wisconsin, where we guided canoe trips and lived in a nurturing community where work was shared and each person was valued for deep, intangible qualities. Our spirits were nurtured by others seeking God and by nature. We also believe that, as Christians, it is our responsibility to care for others who are in need. These experiences and desire for simplicity led us to request donations to Camp Amnicon, the Nature Conservancy, and People Incorporated nonprofit focused on serving those with mental illness and experiencing homelessness) as a way to lift up our nonmaterial values and avoid excess possessions that we might acquire as wedding gifts.

While we appreciate family’s and friends’ generosity, we didn’t want unnecessary stuff that would bog us down and hinder our enjoyment of how we believe God wants us to live our lives—enjoying the company of others, treading lightly on the Earth, and trying to use only what we need and to share the rest. Of course, many people still wanted to give us things—and most people did—but we appreciate those who saw that their donation in our honor is an equally valid gift to us because it helps us support organizations that give life and serve others.

-Casey Englund-Helmeke

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.