It’s a little chilly to sit outside early in the morning these days, but I just can’t help myself. The sun is too inviting to remain indoors. I just watched a Kingfisher diving for his breakfast. Our cat, Zephyr, a natural Social Distancer, is sitting in the sun six feet away. Even the vultures are enjoying this beautiful morning, riding an unseen thermal above the trees.
“This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 KJV
It’s easy to rejoice in the beauty of God’s world. Easy to give thanks for sunshine on the water, warmer temperatures, evening fires in the back yard. It’s much less easy to be thankful for what’s going on in the world right now. To find blessings in the middle of Staying Home to Flatten the Curve. In the middle of facemasks and fear of an invisible, but virulent, opponent.
But blessings are there to be found. For one thing, I’m loving having dinner together with our entire family every night, because we don’t have to rush off to meetings and events. And while part of me would give a whole lot to be able to attend even one school concert, another part is enjoying this slower life.
I decided to take advantage of my extra time and learn to make bread. I make bread, German Stollen, once a year, at Christmas. It is a sad but true fact that doing something one time a year is not a good way to become an expert. My inept attempts sometimes produce delightful bread and sometimes produce flat, weird bread. As a result, I have become unreasonably afraid of yeast.
Well, when better to overcome my fears than in this fear-filled time? I opened my Drawer of Random Baking Ingredients and there I found two expired packets of yeast. Not one to give up, I Googled, “proving yeast," followed the steps and, lo and behold, it proved itself viable!
I then pulled out the bread baking book that I bought a few years ago and had used exactly once, and proceeded to make three loaves of quite serviceable French Bread. It probably wouldn’t have made a Frenchman say, “Oh, la la”, but it was, by golly, far from a failure.
I also began making some sourdough starter, spurred on by a childhood friend who keeps posting pictures of beautiful loaves on Facebook. I faithfully fed the paste-like mixture, until I had, after 10 days, something that resembled a kindergartener’s jar of yeasty-smelling, lumpy playdough. When the cat decided it was something worth licking, I knew I had it just right.
I pulled out my trusty cookbook and proceeded to follow the San Francisco Sourdough recipe, though the author hastened to remind us that unless you’re actually making your starter in San Francisco, it isn’t San Francisco Sourdough, but you can pretend. I then made three quite tasty loaves of Worthington Sourdough, which, while not hugely sour tasting, was quite yummy. Had we been allowed to socially intermingle, I could have passed it off as San Francisco Sourdough to all but the most discerning of taste buds.
As I considered the remaining jar of starter, a sticky mess of flour and water, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it is that such an unappetizing mixture could become anything of value.
And that, of course, makes me think of myself. Sometimes — fairly often lately — I feel like nothing more than a sticky mess. The stress of the virus is bad enough in itself, but having a daughter who is a senior in high school has made it immeasurably worse. True, there are worse things in life than missing the last term of your senior year, but for her, at 18, it’s the worst she’s ever faced.
One can choose to be bitter. One can choose to be angry. Or one can ease into the last of the five stages of grief — and believe me, we’ve perused all of the stages recently — and accept that this is, as they say, what it is. It isn’t what we wanted. It isn’t what we’d planned. But we’re choosing to make the most of it.
Choosing to make something good from the sticky mess. Yes, despite it all, this is the day which the Lord has made.
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is email@example.com.