It started with cupcakes, continues with bread. I’m waiting to see where else it might head.
For those who have witnessed any piece of my journey over the past 6 years, it might look a bit haphazard. Meandering from country to country, job to job, school to school – my ever-changing activities appear at first glance disconnected. As I dream out loud to anyone whose ear I can capture, I know that I overwhelm with my succession of 5-year-plans.
But the three threads that weave through my every thought – a love for food, a love for people, and most of all a love for the God who created it all – have sewn before me a journey that I am constantly excited to explore.
6 years ago I stepped on a ship, exceedingly proud that I had chosen to spend my first year out of high school in humanitarian service on the coast of West Africa. I had a love for the poor and the marginalized, and a singular vision of how a strong woman of God should live out her calling.
At 18 years old, untrained for any task outside the kitchen, I steamed milk, pulled espresso, and created an array of baked goods using the supply of ingredients stored in our second deck pantry. I spent many weeks frustrated that I’d come all the way to Africa to do what I could have done back home, failing to realize that these tasks were less about my doing them and more about the men and women who they blessed. In time, as I stirred together muffin batter and flipped crepes for nurses and teachers, I discovered that the joy I found in cooking strengthened the community around me as well.
Slowly, I came to realize that those cupcakes I’d sold to buy my plane ticket might not have been financial preparation for a time of service, but the service in and of themselves.
I spent the early mornings near the end of my ship days looking out the fifth deck windows, dreaming of the future bakery I would open where I’d knead bread and glorify God and maybe some day move back to Africa. The visions came piece-by-piece, the exact end unclear, but unified in the goal of praising God and making food. The path seemed straightforward and simple, and the obvious next step was culinary school. So I did my research, made some calls, filled out applications…and went to Wheaton.
I did not go to Wheaton willingly.
I cried, I tried to transfer. I asked God why He made me deviate from the straight and simple road.
I complained that it was a waste of time, a waste of money.
I stood convinced that I should spend my days in ministry and that indulging in intellectual engagement was a waste of precious resources. But thankfully God knows my mind and heart far better than I know myself, and I emerged from Wheaton with an awareness of how complex and mysterious, beautiful and divine is the intersection of food and faith and culture.
I’ve learned the importance of holding my plans loosely before the Lord. To those who seek to keep things simple, or those who hate to plan, or those who wait until they’ve come to conclusions to share their thoughts with the world, I am doing a terrible job. But seeing as I am not any of those people, ‘holding plans loosely’ looks, for me, like a series of three, five, and ten-year-plans based off those tiny pieces of vision, ready to respond as the yet unclear whole shifts somewhat further into focus. Sometimes it looks like a pitiful pile of tears on the kitchen floor, a glass of wine (or two or three) as I process aloud to a gracious roommate, or spreadsheets and budgets and job boards and e-mails. Sometimes it looks like attempting to run around every which way until I hit the path of least resistance and realize that was where God was guiding me all along.
I am increasingly grateful that God’s journey is far grander than the straight and narrow I’d sought to create. What a joy it is to unlock the ways that Christ reveals Himself in the chemical structure of bread or the community building nature of the Eucharistic meal. Living in the mystery of what is to come, maintaining the room to make mistakes and live in the questions and learn what else I don’t know that I don’t know, is far safer than the singular vision I’d previously found so simple to swallow.
As I round out this summer, close out my time at one more job, prepare for a major research project, and build yet another “long-term” plan, I await in eagerness to discover the ways that God’s guidance will work like yeast through each of my tasks, transforming them into something far bigger, tastier, and more beautiful than I can ask or imagine, raising them into something I cannot control, and leading me onward in the safety of His ever-patient hands.