I love to bake. Like… really love to bake.
I will bake anything, for anybody. Cake, pastries, pie, bread… you name it and I will try it.
Last year, I was approached about auditioning for a baking show. In one of the interviews, I was asked why I bake. As I sat and thought about it, I realized that baking is my therapy. I realized that Sparrow has changed the way I feel about baking.
In 2014, I joined the team that was Sparrow. 6 strangers said yes to an adventure laid before us, led by Carissa. We joined a mission that we did not completely understand. We had to rely on God, and each other, to figure out what in the heck we were doing. It took us months, and conversations… so many conversations, but we wrote policy, made plans and got our license with Children’s Division. Then came our residents. These moms that we had been planning and praying for… that were nothing like we expected. Sometimes they were harder, and sometimes they were easier, but always they needed more of us than we expected. These brave mamas come from such hard places, and have such heavy stories, and I often struggle under the weight of those things. It was important to the first team, and still is important to our current team, that Sparrow be a safe haven. A place that young women can begin to talk about the hard, scary and painful things that have happened to them. A place they re-learn to trust other people, and themselves. A place where they can meet Jesus and begin to heal. To create an environment like that takes intention. And prayer. Lots of prayer.
For me, hearing the stories and holding space for our Sparrows to share their lives, comes pretty naturally. I want to know them. I want them to feel safe, and seen when they are with me. But, I am not a parent. And I don’t play one on t.v. Deciding on rules, and consequences and boundaries is harder. There was no manual on how to do this. The Sparrow’s Nest for Dummies is still not a thing. There are methods, and best practices, and those are good and helpful. But there are no formulas for people. We are all broken and messy, trying to help other people who are differently broken and messy. It is hard!
That is where baking comes in. Baking is science. I know the rules. I understand the rules, and boundaries. I know that steam is what makes pastry flaky. So I have to use cold butter, or chill the dough, before it goes in the oven. Yeast is alive, and creates gas, and that is what makes bread rise. So the water I use to dissolve the yeast cannot be too hot, or it will kill the yeast, and my bread won’t rise. I know that if I spread the meringue over the edge of the pie crust, it won’t shrink away from the crust when it is baked. Basically, if I do this… I know this will happen. There is comfort in that. Also, if you know me, you know there is another reason I like to know the rules. If I know the rules, then I know the boundaries. I know just how far I can go, or what I can do, before the rule is broken. I see that as a strength… my parents may disagree, who knows. Anyway, as it turns out – people are not like that. There are no hard and fast rules for helping people deal with the hard and painful things in their lives. I don’t know what combination of words and actions is going to help. And, what works for one, may not work for any other.
So, I bake. I can go home at the end of the day – whether our Sparrow wrote me the sweetest birthday card ever, or another Sparrow cursed at me in a meeting, and process the day. I can follow the rules, and know for sure that the sourdough pretzels will turn out right. While I do that, my brain can wander, and I can pray over the situation I left. I can recognize the part I played, and learn from it. I can think about how I should respond if something similar should happen again. It is a way for me to use some creativity and decompress.
There is also the added benefit of my house smelling like a bakery a lot of the time. And that is not a bad thing! I do end up with more baked goods than I can eat though, so feel free to ask me to share!
In the spirit of sharing… this is one of my favorite recipes for fall. Fresh Apple Cake. It is so good! Eat it for breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner… Or all three, really. No judgement here.
Fresh Apple Cake
1c chopped pecans (or other nuts) 1c coconut
3c flour 1 1/3c oil
1 1/2t cinnamon 2c sugar
1t salt 2 eggs
1t baking soda 1t vanilla
3c chopped apples (any variety)
Dredge nuts in 1/2c flour. Sift remaining dry ingredients together. Cream oil and sugar together. Add beaten eggs and vanilla to the oil and sugar. Stir into the flour mixture. Fold in the apples, nuts, coconut. Pour batter into greased and floured 9×13 (or larger) pan. Bake at 350 for one hour.