Saturday, February 20, 2016

You won't find me on the Great British Bake Off

On two occasions I tried making cookies from scratch.  The first time, I pushed them too far into the oven and watched them burn in the fire at the bottom.  The second time, I think something went wrong when I mixed the butter and sugar together; in any case, they didn't work.
I think I may be the only expatriate woman around here who doesn't bake.  Though I certainly appreciate my friends who do :-).  Other than the doughnuts which we eagerly buy at market each week, there is no opportunity to purchase cakes around here.
I have a couple of exceptions to my 'no baking' way of life:
A) I sometimes make 100% wholemeal bread rolls with the help of my breadmaker (which I think I may have broken last week...).  We can't buy nice-tasting bread here and packed-lunch options are limited, so it's very helpful to have bread rolls that my family will all eat.
B) If a member of my family has a birthday and I haven't managed to talk anyone else into making a cake for them, I will somehow get involved in that process.  Usually Andrew makes the cake, using a box mix with some interesting added ingredients, and I do the icing.
Yay for our dinosaur cake tin, which so far as been used three times.
This is why I don't bake:  

1) Baking is not fun for me.  I know at least some people enjoy it.  Many people apparently also enjoy other activities which require some degree of co-ordination and artistic interest; for example painting nails, putting on make-up or doing crafts.  Not me.
2) It takes me too long to find the ingredients in my cupboards.  This leads me to believe my time would be better spent tidying my cupboards (something I find more enjoyable and satisfying than baking anyway!)
3) If I took time to bake, I'd have to give up something else in my life.  I don't want to stop resting or working, and I certainly can't afford to give up tidying!
4) In the culture I grew up in, a store-bought biscuit (Americans: think Oreo...or even half an Oreo with no cream) was considered a perfectly adequate snack.  So it's hard for me to find the motivation to produce anything more extravagant for 'snack' purposes, knowing that I could just purchase a packet of Oreos (which thankfully are available here).  I'm finding there are a range of other snacks I can send to events such as school parties that don't involve baking.
5) If I attempt to bake, I end up with flour and sugar all over the place, as well as dirty pots and pans that I might not get around to washing very quickly. The number of ants, cockroaches and rats and are roaming in the vicinity, eagerly searching for food, make this particularly dangerous.

6) I already have to cook mostly from scratch, due to the limited availability of ingredients.  I don't feel the need to spend any extra time in the kitchen.

Green omelet anyone?  I don't think I'll be starting a food blog anytime soon!
So, baking can leave me 1) unhappy 2) frustrated  3) unfulfilled  4) unmotivated 5) overwhelmed with mess and 6) kitchened-out.  Rather than feeling that I should bake more, I can see now that the world (and particularly my household) is probably a happier place when I avoid it as much as possible!
Please don't think that I have a low opinion of baking overall, or of time spent baking.  I greatly appreciate the efforts of people who make the baked goods that I love to eat.  I know baking can be great way to love and bless other people.  Life would be a lot less exciting for me if I never got to eat homemade baked goods.
But that doesn't mean that I personally have to be involved!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Seen by Others

How do others think and feel about me?  Does it matter? Do I need others to see me a certain way? Do I need God to have a good opinion of me? 

These are some of the questions that are coming up as I read through 'When People are Big and God is Small' by Edward Welch.  While I don't necessarily agree with everything Welch writes, it's certainly providing some great food for thought.  (Quotes in italics are from this book.) öztürk

I like to have the approval and acceptance of others; It feels great to be seen as special, capable and helpful and to be included by others. I like to know that what I'm doing is important and significant to God. I think most people want to know they are loved. 

I feel good, temporarily at least, when these desires are satisfied. 

I've seen God use the encouragement of others to give me direction for the future.  

I can love other people by speaking positive words into their lives. 

I think it can be helpful to let our loved ones know how much we appreciate it when they acknowledge or recognise us in positive ways.

But what about the times when these desires aren't fulfilled and we're left feeling bad?

Is the solution to make sure that these felt needs do get fulfilled, even if it means resorting to demanding, complaining, or manipulating?

 Is it possible that the pain we feel in these situations is more complex than we realise?  Could it be that our unquenchable thirst for love and approval stems from our own brokenness and from our doubts about who we really are?  Perhaps the compliments and affirmations we so desperately seek will never be enough to fully satisfy us.

But what if let the difficult, sometimes agonising, feelings of not being loved or accepted direct us to pursue the truth about who we really are and what we really need?

Here are some questions that I've been considering as I read about unfulfilled emotional desires:

-Do I need to grow in my Fear of the Lord, and 'remember that these people who control you are harmless kittens when compared to the Lion of Judah'? I was greatly helped by Welch's chapters on the fear of the Lord; it's a topic I've mostly glossed over before.

-Am I fully believing who I am in Christ? 

-How aware am I of God's unfathomable love? Am I delighting in the God who fills me (which is the subject of Welch's 10th chapter)?

-Do I know what it means for God to cover my shame?

-Do I know that I'm accepted by God?

-Is the strength of my unmet desire exacerbated by hormones or by a lack of sleep? In these cases, I find it helpful to remember that the feelings are temporary.

-Have I lost sight of some of my deepest needs: To bring glory to God; to love him and love others? Here is something I've discovered in various relationships: If I move my focus away from what I want from my friend, and onto how I can love that person in the way that's best for them, I've been able to maintain a much more happy and healthy perspective.

I certainly don't see any simple answers when it comes to handling these emotional desires.   Things can get particularly messy when issues from the present and wounds from the past bring extra pain and complexity.

I'm also not saying we should allow people to hurl negative messages at us (I'm remembering what I learnt about 'Debunking the Myth of Forgive-and-Forget').

Sometimes we do need to avoid certain unhealthy situations: Perhaps permanently; perhaps until the situation changes; perhaps until we have reached a healthier point in our ability to deal with it.

It's not simple, figuring out how to deal with those feelings that lead us to believe we need to be more loved, more understood, more approved of, more significant etc. I still don't know exactly what I think about it all. But as I notice strong unfulfilled desires within me, I want to react in a way that draws me further into loving and fearing God, loving his people and bringing glory to him.

 Thoughts, comments, and challenges are welcome in the comments section!