Easter Bread

There are a lot of things to love about Easter—chocolate bunnies, new dresses, egg hunts, spring blossoms—but the thing I love the most is reading the account of Christ’s resurrection. As a perpetual optimist, I’m a big fan of happy endings, and that’s what we get when we keep reading the Gospels after the events of the crucifixion. The difference between Luke 23 and Luke 24 is monumental!

 

The women who had looked after Jesus and his disciples throughout his ministry saw him die a gruesome death. Luke says that others “beat their breasts and walked away” from the foot of the cross, but many of his followers, including these women, stayed to keep watch. Later, they followed Joseph, the man who had asked permission to bury Jesus, to see where he would lay the body. Once they knew where the tomb was, they went home to prepare burial spices and finish all their tasks so they could rest. It was the Sabbath, and these women knew the rules.

 

I imagine them feeling weighed down, their arms and legs seemed heavier than ever before as they took down their spices, pausing to hold the dried flowers and leaves and resin to their noses to smell the familiar, soothing scents which perhaps reminded them of the burials of other loved ones. They were sad and confused, but I bet they were grateful for a job to do. They needed purpose and agency to keep going.

 

Then, early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women took the spices and headed to the tomb. When they got there, they saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. They ran inside, but Jesus’ body was gone. They clutched those spices and wondered what had happened. Was this good? Was it bad? What should they do? Who should they tell? Then two men in lightning-bright robes appeared out of nowhere. The women fell to the ground, hiding their faces. The angels said, “Why are you looking for him here? Don’t you remember what he told you? It’s all happened just as he predicted.” Then the women remembered, and they ran to tell the others.

 

I look forward to the day when I can meet these women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. I want to ask them what it was like to be a woman in their time, and what did Jesus’ teachings mean to them in light of their social position. I wonder if they’ll discuss how caring for others, especially Jesus and his disciples, was such a big part of their ministries. Whether they were preparing meals or preparing burial spices, this was how they showed love.

 

The older I get, the more I see this to be true. I feel a natural pull toward feeding the stomachs and souls of those I get to love on. Now that I have college-aged kids, I like to cook a meal for them and their friends. And my kids are learning to appreciate our family traditions as they see them in a new light from a little farther away.

 

One of those traditions is something my mom started when I was little. Every year, she made Easter Bread—soft, eggy rings of yeast bread covered in crunchy sprinkles with a dyed egg nestled in the center. It was my favorite breakfast all year, and now it’s the favorite of my kids. There are several steps to make the bread, but it’s not all that difficult. In fact, I made it twice this year to accommodate the busy schedules of my girls. That’s how important it’s become to us. But for me, it’s not about eating the bread. It’s about creating memories. Yeast dough has built-in periods of rest where you wait for the dough to rise. These magical moments are gifts. The dough expands while you remain watchful, expectant. Then, when the dough is baked, the house smells amazing, filling up with a heavenly aroma. This is how we prepare and celebrate.

 

So much has changed over the thousands of years since Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary crept home after witnessing the horrors of the cross. The most striking difference came when they entered the tomb and found it empty. They had carried spices to mask the smell of death, but left the tomb rejoicing with the angels’ news ringing in their ears!

EASTER BREAD

  • 12 hard-boiled, dyed eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 packets of yeast (or 5 ½ tsp)
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
  • Sprinkles (optional, but also essential)

Cook milk, sugar, and water in microwave for 1 minute. Pour into large bowl, and add yeast and ½ cup flour. Stir until smooth. Add oil, salt, and 2 eggs, and beat with mixer. Add flour, mixing well after each cup. Turn dough on lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-8 minutes. Put dough back in well-oiled bowl, coating all sides of dough with oil. Cover with a cloth, and put the bowl in oven with the light on to rise for 1 hour. Punch dough down and let rise for more 30 minutes. Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Roll each part into a long rope. Take two ropes and twist them so that there are 6 “nests” to hold 6 dyed eggs. This makes one 1 large ring. Repeat with other dough and eggs. Let rings rise until doubled in size (or let rise over night in the refrigerator). Beat egg and brush onto dough. Add sprinkles. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting each ring into 6 sections.

Turn on the light

When you’re the youngest kid in a family, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up with an eclectic treasure trove of toys/junk. At least that’s the case for our youngest son, Ezra. His three older siblings amassed plenty of plastic figurines during their early childhood, and now those Happy Meal toys and army men and Fisher-Price animals and Matchbox cars are in various bins and boxes in his bedroom, if not strewn across the floor waiting to be stepped on by my bare feet.

 

One of his favorite collections is a set he picked out when we traveled to Disney World a few years ago. It’s made up of figurines from the movie The Lion King. He likes pretending that the hyenas are attacking the lions with the ultimate fate of Pride Rock in jeopardy. Recently, he asked me to help him find Scar, the main bad guy from the movie. Ezra didn’t feel like he could satisfactorily play out the drama without him.

 

Now most moms know that they are often the only ones who can find lost things. It’s not uncommon for me to hear the following: “Where are my shoes? Have you seen my library book? I can’t find my jersey!” And apparently I’m the only one who possesses the unique ability to find these things that I don’t own nor am I responsible for. (Often, all that is required to find the lost item is looking under other things, and, for some reason, this is a difficult skill for kids to master.)

 

I instructed Ezra to comb through his bins of toys and his toy chest. After a few minutes, he came back to the living room and reported that he had been unsuccessful. He said that he had dumped all of his toys on the floor, but he still couldn’t find Scar. I walked back to his bedroom and saw the piles of toys, noticing that the light was off and the window blind was still closed from the night before. Ezra was standing behind me, so I asked him, “Did you look for Scar with the light off?” He answered, “Yes.” I told him that it’s difficult to look for something in the dark. In fact, it’s nearly impossible. Knowing my proclivity for finding things, he decided to believe me. We switched the light on and started digging.

 

The Bible mentions light and the goodness of light hundreds of times. We see that God made light at Creation, just as He is light with no darkness in him. The Bible says that we can’t simultaneously live in the light and hate a fellow believer.  It says that people can be walking in darkness, then they can be transformed once the light dawns. We read Jesus’ instructions not to hide our lights under a bowl or a bed.

 

Jesus also tells a story about a woman who has ten coins and loses one. She lights a lamp and sweeps her house, carefully searching for the lost coin. Once found, she rejoices, calling her friends and neighbors over for a party. (Jesus’ parable doesn’t specify that the woman was a mother, but it makes sense that only a mom would be able to find the lost coin.)

 

Light is essential, from growing plants to finding lost things. Just as a sunflower leans toward the sun’s rays as it climbs taller, we should set our sights on good things and allow the light to reveal what we’ve lost.

Nonsense

With my recent COVID-19 diagnosis, I acquired a strange, unwelcome gift—the loss of my senses of smell and taste. First of all, you should know that I’m kinda famous (at least within the confines of my own mind) for my uncanny ability to smell things. I even wrote a fictional character in my middle grade fantasy series who has the power to smell the future. (I called his power “Olfavoyance…Nose-tradamus? A Schnoz-ard?”)

 

As with most super-powers, mine is both a blessing and a curse. For instance, I knew fairly quickly when my kids had poopy diapers. I could detect when the food in the oven was done without the aid of a timer. I could narrow in on the source of a bad smell like a bloodhound. But odors, even ones that first came well-received like Chick-Fil-A nuggets from the drive-thru line, would linger and eventually displease me. The smell would have to be eradicated, or I would find no rest. (Cue Hero Shot—Abby’s cape blowing in the wind as she stares off into a busy, nighttime metropolis.)

 

But once the virus took away my ability to smell—and therefore my ability to taste—I struggled to find pleasure in the same things I enjoyed before. My daughter baked banana bread, but I couldn’t smell or taste its goodness. I couldn’t appreciate a flowery hand soap or the scent of clean bed sheets. I could no longer delight in outdoor smells like the honest, sneezy splendor of a freshly mowed lawn. It felt like I was taking in the world only halfway. Something was definitely missing.

 

Being able to smell isn’t the same as being able to truly love others, but when the Apostle Paul describes the gifts of language and intelligence and faith and generosity in 1 Corinthians 13, he says they are nothing without love. Just like banana bread is just a brown lump of sugar and carbs if I can’t fully smell and taste it.

 

“Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

 

I don’t know why this virus does what it’s been doing. None of it makes sense to me. So much of the madness of the last year has been a series of “puzzling reflections.” That’s why I’m grateful for my faith in a God who has all the answers when I feel like I have next to none. I’m hanging on the promise that someday I will understand everything just as completely as my Maker understands me.