Editor’s Note: Current missioner in Bolivia, Maggie Van Roekel, shares a beautiful reflection she created based from her favorite bread recipe.

Baking has been a love of mine for as long as I can remember. In my short lifetime, the kitchen has provided me with space to reflect and build relationship. I love the process of turning simple ingredients into something of substance, being able to work with my hands, and the opportunity to share with others.

Last year for a retreat, I decided to put together a reflection based on the making of one of my go-to baking subject: bread. I would like to share it with you. I invite you to try it alone, or in a group of people.

This is one of my favorite bread recipes, but feel free to use a personal favorite!

Ingredients:

Take some time to look at all of the ingredients in front us. Right now in this moment, we have expectations for these ingredients. Although we don’t have a clear way of knowing exactly how our bread will turn out, we can imagine.

While we do what we can to not set expectations for our time on mission or in our lives, due to the environment and society we are from, it’s almost impossible to not have our own ideas or expectations. Take some time to reflect on what kinds of expectations you had coming into this year related to community, your spiritual life, your ministry or work, and how they may be different or similar to your experiences.

Prayer: God, we each came into this past year with an idea, an expectation of life in community, in ministry and work, and in life. We praise you for the ways the Holy Spirit has molded our paths, helping us to adjust when things didn’t go as expected. Help us to continue to keep our minds open to the ways we are being called, even when the invitation may be unexpected. Amen.

Kneading:

Now it’s time to mix and knead the ingredients together. This can sometimes be a difficult process, taking time and a little elbow grease. This part, as difficult as it may be, is a necessary step in order for the bread to turn out.

On the journey of everyday life, we have all encountered difficult moments; moments that leave us feeling tired, frustrated, and disappointed. Some have lasted just moments, some for longer periods. While going through periods where we have been “kneaded” it can be hard to see how this process helps us to grow.  Take some time to reflect on some of the difficulties you’ve faced this year.

Prayer: Lord, we praise you for the difficult moments we have experienced this year. Through the challenges we have faced, we have grown. We know that it is through the suffering and difficulty in life which allows us to grow in love, compassion, empathy. It is through the challenges where we learn to be vulnerable and find true community. Help us to continue to work through challenging moments as they arise, that we may face them with attitudes that may allow us to grow. May we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with those around us and grow in love and relationship. Amen.

Rising:

Before the bread can be baked and shared, it needs time to rise. The leavening in this dough helps the bread to rise. Through rising, bread softens and grows.

Life also provides moments of light. Those joyful moments help pick us up and provide us with the means to keep going. Take a few minutes now to reflect on the people, the places, and the moments that have lifted you, that have helped you to rise.

Prayer: God, we are so thankful for the situations in our lives which have acted as leavening. We thank you for the moments, the places, and the people which lift us. The moments of joy, laughter, beauty and awe we experience give us the hope we so need in order to give of ourselves from a place of abundance. May we continue to seek joy and find appreciation for the people and places which surround us. Amen.

Baking:

As we’ve maybe talked about once or twice, baking is the process of change. In the case of bread, this sticky dough will convert, through the baking process, into a soft bread.

Life is full of invitations for transformation and conversion. When we recognize and accept those invitations, we often leave with growth or change. Sometimes these changes are drastic and obvious, sometimes more subtle and difficult to notice on our own. In what ways have you noticed change or growth in yourself? In community? In your spiritual life? In ministry?

Prayer: God we praise you for our own growth and conversion. During this year each of us has changed in our understanding of justice, love, and compassion. In big and small ways, Your hand has guided us toward your heart of love. We pray that the Holy Spirit continues to guide us, mold us, transform us, bringing us closer to You. Amen.

Sharing:

We have now finished the bread and are ready to share it with one another.

Our lives are also filled with invitations to share with those around us. Each of our life experiences is different and full. We often have to make the conscious choice to make our table a little bigger, to invite people who are different from ourselves, to listen and share attentively and without judgement.

How have we been able to create sacred space to share with those around us? In what ways can we choose to invite others to our table?

Prayer: God we give thanks for the opportunity we have to share in this moment with one another. We ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us in the ways we share our experiences with others. Guide us in our journey to make our tables a little bigger. May we share with compassion, always meeting people where they are in love. Amen.