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Life lessons my sourdough starter is teaching me (or at least reminding me of)

sourdough starter

Just over a week ago I mixed together some flour and water and left it on my counter to ferment. Guys, this was HUGE for me.

I’ve wanted to enter into the world of sourdough for quite some time but the whole thing seemed daunting. There was such a steep learning curve, so much that could go wrong and I had a hard enough time keeping up with my kefir and kombucha I wasn’t sure I could handle one more living organism (in addition to my two children, of course).

But I wasn’t able to bring my SCOBY for kombucha and though I dehydrated and brought my kefir grains I can’t make it because all the milk is shelf-stable. My time, brain and counter now all have space for sourdough.

I watched videos, read blogs and did as much research as I was able to with the preschooler on my lap while the toddler slept. Finally, I was ready to dive in. For five days I diligently added flour and water to the fermenting and increasingly bubbly glob. On the morning of Day 6 I mixed up a basic bread dough, kneaded for 45 minutes (yes, 45 minutes!) and waited for it to rise. That part didn’t seem to be over successful but I stuck it in the oven anyway, figuring it would turn out fine.

I successfully baked the worst loaf of bread in history.

I looked at what was left of my starter and felt betrayed. I had nurtured and cared for it and I spent 45 precious minutes of my Saturday morning getting sore muscles. What I got was a in inedible brick.

While I discovered I haven’t learned very much about baking sourdough bread (it’s a whole different ballgame than yeasted-breads) I am being reminded of some important lessons that not only apply to learning a new skill but to all of life.

worst bread

These are nothing new and I’m not sharing any great insight or wisdom, but hopefully this can be a gentle reminder of what you already know but seems to be easy to forget (or am I the only one who needs to be constantly reminded of the basic lessons she’s already learned?).

Things seemed hardest before you start

Like I mentioned, I’ve wanted to start sourdough for some time but the idea of making my own starter intimidated me and kept me from taking the plunge. Turns out the making a starter is easy, like really easy.

Sometimes what holds us back from going on an adventure, taking a risk or just simply doing something new might not be as big of a deal as we think it is. That doesn’t mean everything will be easy, but it might not be as intimidating once we’re in it. We just need to take that first step and find out.

Grace, grace and more grace for yourself

The morning after I baked my brick of a loaf of bread I attempted to slice a piece. Crumbs were flying, my knife was bending under the pressure of my arm and I kept complaining to Ryan about how terrible it was. Eleanor, bless her heart, came into the kitchen and said, ‘Mommy! It looks good!’ She was entirely wrong but it was sweet of her.

For lunch I attempted to make PB&J sandwiches from a few pieces of the very middle of the bread that were somewhat salvageable. I really should have just gone to the bakery for a real loaf of bread. When I served the ‘sandwiches’ to the kids, Eleanor again kept telling me how good it was, that she really liked it. Any time I said something negative about the bread, she would counter me. In the end I gave them leftover Canadian Thanksgiving pumpkin pie for lunch.

More often than not, we are more critical of ourselves than others are. We are ready to extend grace to those around us but withhold it from ourselves. We set unrealistically high expectations and feel like failures when our lives don’t match them. But those closest to us don’t expect as much from us as we do. We need to let go of our lofty ideals, do our best and be content with that. Everyone else is.

rising dough

It’s better when you have someone to walk alongside you

While I did research sourdough baking methods, it would have been much more helpful to have someone who has already mastered the skill standing with me in the kitchen, walking me through each step. She could have told me if my starter was really ready, how much flour to add, when the dough was kneaded enough and when it was done rising and ready to go in the oven. I’m just guessing, learning as I go and making a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided with some expert insight.

While it’s helpful to have someone to guide us as we learn a new skill, it’s even better to have someone walk alongside us as we learn how to live life well. I’ve never had an official ‘mentor’ but there have been people in my life who have helped me navigate new seasons or sometimes just get through. When we enter into a new phase or start an adventure the wisdom another person who has been there can be invaluable and can give us a proper perspective. And it just might save us from making a few mistakes.

Life is in seasons

If you’ll notice, my bread is 100% white flour. That does not make me happy. Part of the reason I got into sourdough is because the fermentation that takes places helps make the bread easier to digest so it does negate some of the harm of the white flour. Even still, my ideal would be fresh, organic whole wheat spelt flour I ground myself. But right here, right now all I can afford is white flour and I doubt I could find spelt berries in this country. One day I’ll have better flour but that day isn’t today and I’m coming to terms with that.

Our lives ebb and flow, moving from one season to the next. Some seasons are really enjoyable and we don’t want them to end, others can’t end soon enough. When we live in recognition of this, we are better able to be content in our present circumstances, not be overwhelmed by difficulties and savor the good times even more.

decent bread

Time, it takes time

I expected to bake a beautiful artisan loaf of bread on my first attempt. It didn’t happen. My second loaf was better (not pretty but edible and it tasted yummy!) and I am anxious for a third attempt. I’m doing more research, learning and getting opportunities to practice. These take time, it’s not going to happen overnight. There’s a reason there’s a difference between a professional baker and me!

It can be hard to just wait while circumstances, opportunities or relationships come to fruition. While there are times to act and get things going, some things only happen with the passing time and there’s nothing we can do about it. We just need to be patient and let time do its good work.


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5 Ways to Sleep Better Naturally – Guest post at Red+Honey

 

5 Ways to Sleep Better Naturally

Today I’m posting at Red + Honey. Read the teaser here and click over to read the rest. While you’re there, stay a while! It’s one of my favorite blogs and I am constantly blessed by it.

Does anyone understand why our ideal is to ‘sleep like a baby’? I’ve spent a lot of nights with babies and, let me tell you, I do not want to sleep like one.

But I don’t necessarily want to sleep like an adult, either. While sleep seems like it should come easily, it doesn’t always.

In general I sleep well but between pregnancy insomnia, times of high stress and jet lag I’ve had my fair share of sleep difficulties. While at times it can be easy to reach for the melatonin (it’s natural, right?) I’m learning some techniques to help me get a good night’s rest without heading to the medicine cabinet and that go beyond conventional wisdom (exercise, chamomile tea, relaxing baths, etc.).

Click here to read the rest!


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My two greatest fears in moving abroad (and why vulnerability is hard for me)

Greatest Fears

Vulnerability is not my strong point. I appreciate and admire it in others but me getting vulnerable? Woah – not gonna happen.

I’m an encourager, a support person, a biggest fan. That means I listen to other people and I affirm them. I love telling others I think they can do it, that they’re great and that they matter (at least I try to do this — I’m still learning).  But I don’t like when the tables are turned I have to share and be the one whom attention is given to. And I’m also terrified that if I let people really see me, they won’t like me. That they’ll see that I’m nothing special, kind of boring and there are boatloads of people more worth their time. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not but I definitely am selective with what parts of me I share. And because I really want to encourage others I don’t mention the areas I’m struggling in or the challenges I’m facing. In my mind it’s just better for the other person if I don’t burden them with my own messiness.

Continue reading


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Backpacks, stories and faith

Backpacks, stories and faith

It’s been two weeks since we left Oregon for Skopje, Macedonia, our home for at least the next six months.

It’s a crazy thing to do: pack your family’s life into seven checked bags and six carry-ons and move to a country you’ve never been to, where you don’t speak the language and put yourself in the hands of complete strangers.

It only took long enough for us to hit cruising altitude on our flight out of Portland for me to wonder, ‘What the hell are we doing?’.  The fact that we were on a redeye, I’d hardly slept the night before and the kids were restless might have had something to do with it, but the thought crept into my head and stayed with me for the rest of our travels (which was a total of 30 hours – I don’t know how we survived). Continue reading


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A day in the life

House

I always love hearing or reading about other mom’s everyday lives. I usually learn something, am convinced to incorporate something new into our family life and I am always encouraged. I’ve wanted to do a post about what a ‘typical’ day looks like in my life for a while and I realized I am quickly running out of days in Oregon (20 days until we move to Macedonia!) so this is my chance. I’m not one to look back but I do enjoy remembering so while I do hope you can get something from this, I am also glad that I have one day of our time in Oregon captured in detail.

Here’s what Thursday, August 21st, 2014 looked like for us: Continue reading


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Kids and Major Life Changes – Guest Post at Red+Honey

6 ways to prepare your kids for major life changes

Today I’m posting at Red + Honey. Read the teaser here and click over to read the rest. While you’re there, stay a while! It’s one of my favorite blogs and I am constantly blessed by it.

It’s well known that kids need routine and predictability. They behave better when they know what is happening now, what is coming up next and they understand what is expected of them.

But what about when everything changes? What about when their routines are altered?

In September my husband, two kids and I are moving to Macedonia. Ryan and I have moved internationally three times already, twice with kids in tow, so we have a pretty good idea of how to handle the challenges we’re going to face. But when we moved before our kids were babies and while there were adjustment periods, they were minor. They’re 3 and 1½ now so we need to prepare them for the change and help them understand their new life when we arrive. We need to help our kids make this major life change.

Click here to read the rest!


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More with Less: The Freedom of Debt-Free

Freedom of Debt-Free

 

Welcome to the series More with Less where we look at various ways we can live a more abundant life with fewer possessions. I hope this series helps you to rethink how you view your money and possessions. You can read the intro My Journey with Money and previous installments: The Four Purposes of MoneyGive Your Money AwayCultivate Contentment, Own Less Stuff, and Fear, Faith and Money.

Today we make the Ryan’s final master’s degree tuition payment. It’s a day we’ve been working hard towards for over two years and, oh man, am I ready for it!

Before Ryan was accepted to his program we decided we would not take out loans to pay for his education. We knew it would mean big sacrifices, from making major cuts to our grocery budget (and spending in general) to moving back to Oregon. We knew it would be hard but going debt-free was best for our family1.  Continue reading

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