November 28, 2012

A table and some bread

We love having people at our house. 
We love food.
And we love cooking food for people! 
Our current dining room table can seat 6-7 people but we wanted to have a place to fit more of our friends. Michael decided he wanted to build a huge table for the deck. 
He had to build it on the deck because there is no way we could get a 10 foot table up there. 
This is before we stained the benches. I love the lights! 
We can now seat 14 people around the table!

Here is the first big group of people enjoying the table. 
Our one regret is making the table right before winter! It is a little too cold to enjoy now but come spring, we will be out here all the time!

Another recent project for me is bread making. 
I, by no means, have a clue what I am doing. I have friends who are becoming experts in the bread making world. They know all the tricks and secrets. They can make bread that is gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, vegetarian, pescatarian...(Ok, a little sarcasm ;) I am not one of them, maybe one day. I just wanted to see if I could make a simple loaf in the oven. So here is what I did:
- Package of Yeast
- 1.5 Tablespoons of salt
- 3 cups of water
- 6.5 cups of flour (I used all purpose, but I have also blended this recipe with whole wheat and bread flour)
1. Mix all the ingredients together. I mixed it all in a big pot because I needed something with a lid and big enough for the dough to rise. 
It will look something like this...

2. Place the lid on the pot/container but make sure you have a little gap to let air out or a lid with a hole in it.
3. Let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

(This is in the refrigerator. After I let it sit out for 2 hours I refrigerated the extra dough - just showing you how I loosely placed the lid)
This was the texture of the dough after sitting for a few hours. If you use different types of flour it won't  look like this!
4. Ok, some websites say use scissors and cut a big piece of the dough. I found it easier to use my hands. Pull/Cut off about 1 pound of dough

5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
6. While it is preheating, spray a pan and place the dough on the pan. It is suggested to let the dough sit on the pan for 40 ish minutes before cooking.
7. You can cut knotches on the top if you like.

8. I placed the pan on the top rack and then put a brownie pan full of water on the bottom rack. 
8. Cook for 30-35 minutes
Ta-da! Some tasty bread. 
Here is my first whole wheat loaf. I used a loaf pan for this dough. I also added honey to make a honey wheat loaf. It was not as 'slimy' as the all-purpose dough so it as a lot easier to cut the notches at the top. You could also brush egg whites on the top before backing. Or dust some flour on top. 
So now it is time to experiment with honey, wheat flour, all-purpose, bakers flour, rosemary, etc. 
It is amazing that all you need is flour, yeast and water to make bread. 
We'll see if I can perfect it.
It is so simple. 
Go make a loaf and your house will smell delicious! 

November 4, 2012

The Helper

I recently took a gifting test and discovered that I have a gifting in "helps". This gifting is described as assisting others by freeing them up to do what they need to do. Typically someone with this gifting can see when someone needs help before the person in need sees it. One website calls my Myers-Briggs personality "The Caregiver" and "The Nurturer" (ISFJ/ESFJ). I find so much fulfillment in helping others. I don't necessarily have a service gifting, I am not the first person to get a job done. But if I see someone in need I would jump up at the opportunity to help.

One of the most important days of my life was October 6th, 2010 - the home birth of Henri Cooper (my dear friends Sarah and Stephen's little boy). Since that day my life was never the same. One of these days I will put into words that experience and the shift it created in my life, but it is still a moment that I am trying to process. I have participated in two other births since then, March 2011 and March 2012. I was the role of a doula. Doula is Greek for "female slave". It is someone that walks alongside a mother in labor, like a birth partner. It is a long and laborious process (and I am not even the mother) and yet one of the most rewarding things to go through. I've found that to be true about all things I do...the most rewarding tend to be the most trying. I absolutely love walking alongside women in labor.
Sweet, new baby - March 2011
Timing contractions - March 2012
This last week I had the amazing opportunity to go with my coworker and close friend, Autumn, to Ethiopia to pick up her son Mihretu, after 15 months waiting for him. It is interesting that the process of adoption is similar in many ways to pregnancy, especially in the 3rd trimester. Waiting for Embassy clearance is like waiting to go into labor. When you pass that due date it just gets so hard to wait any longer. I remember Autumn saying, "I am ready to induce" ;). In this adoption I functioned as a doula, on call, ready to walk alongside a new mother.

The email came from the Embassy Tuesday, October 23rd and we were on a plane to Ethiopia on Friday, October 26th, just three days later. The four days we spent in Africa with Mihretu were incredibly special. Autumn got to take part in so many firsts with her new son. It was magical and I feel so honored to have witnessed such a miracle. This little boy whom I met twice in the last year, that I prayed for every day for 15 months was now in his mom's arms. It was like witnessing a birth. It was holy and precious. And let me tell you, Mihretu is amazing! That boy is so smart, brave, funny, and he knows who is mother is. I really love him.
We also got to see couples meeting their babies for the first time at the care center. It was intimate, like being in the ultrasound room as the parents hear the heartbeat for the first time or discover the gender of their child. One dad that joined us with their little girl at Embassy was sharing his heart for their children. He said, "All my children, both biological and adopted, are gifts from God. God has entrusted us to raise these children. My biological children are no more mine as are my adopted children. I love them all the same." What a beautiful picture! Adoption is a glimpse into the heart of God, that God chooses us to be sons and daughters. Michael and I definitely want to adopt - after working in orphan care, I can't imagine not choosing adoption.

(Side note: Today is Orphan Sunday. If you haven't experienced what it feels like to have a heart for the orphan, I highly suggest going on a short-term trip. It will change your life forever. Consider what sponsoring, fostering or adopting might look like in your life. Yes that was a plug for Visiting Orphans ;)

Then it was time for the flight home or to continue the analogy, active labor. I was helping Autumn here and there in-country but she really was doing great with the transition. She could still 'walk through the contractions'. But boy, 40 hours of travel is another story. One of the hardest things I have ever done. Confine a toddler to a seat for three flights, one of them lasting 11 hours. Now add the fact that this child does not speak your language, barely knows you, has hardly left his care center, experiencing so many new things, time change, jet lag, and pure exhaustion. This was the final stage of the adoption pregnancy. This is when Autumn needed me the most. And at one point I didn't think we would make it...but we did. We landed in Nashville and Autumn and I lost it, emotionally and physically we were done. We did it! He is now home. Such an emotional moment.
Although there were a few trying moments, Mihretu did great!
He is perfect :)
And now Autumn is starting the path of parenthood as all parents do after birth. I am so incredibly proud of her. When she saw her little boy the 'mom switch' turned on. She is a natural and I just loved watching her care for Mihretu with such patience, love and grace. It really was inspiring. Waiting for court, paperwork, Embassy, the ups and downs, all prepped her for this new season. God gives parents 9 months (and a lot more for adoption) to prepare. It is a long and hard journey leading up to coming home and that is just the beginning. But it is in our weakness that God is made strong. I don't know if we are ever really ready for parenthood but I think this is part of entrusting our children to God, to lean in for direction, strength, grace and peace. It is a partnership with God. And I absolutely love watching and sitting at moms' and dads' feet as they "figure it out" one day at a time.

Michael and I hope to step into this season of our lives in the next year or so. Whether through birth or adoption, I am grateful to have experienced that intimate moment of transition when a family is formed. I am so excited to experience that moment for myself and to share that with my husband. But until then I plan to continue to walk alongside others in this special time of their life.
Welcome home dear Mihretu. You are one loved little boy!