The Story of the Great Roanoke County Sourdough Bread Drive

Dear Henry,

When I first moved to Roanoke, I'll admit, I cried. 

Not because of the area  - The Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful, and the Roanoke area has a lot to offer. It really is a great place to live. But, I struggled with the house we had to live in. We rented it online, from Oklahoma, sight unseen, with no other choices, and I really wish there had been another option. We arrived at a small, mean, poorly maintained home in a bad neighborhood. It reminded me so much of the small, mean houses in crime-ridden neighborhoods where I spent my younger years.  

And we had a year-long lease.

The situation was disappointing because so much of this move seemed to be part of a divine plan, and I was sure everything was going to be "perfect." It wasn't. The condition of the house and the neighborhood it was in was a soul-sucking and crushing blow at the end of a 3-day drive. I found myself (again) asking God if He was being serious and reminding Him (again) that it was situations like this that caused people not to like Him.

All the same, I tried to make the best of it by blessing the house, engaging in all sorts of interesting projects (especially the Old Lick Cemetery) I had discovered immediately upon entering the city, and reminding myself that I was in a space better than much of the world possesses. It was difficult to be patient and wait out the year. 

During this time in the rental, a few themes kept coming up, both secularly and spiritually. One was "patience, " I ran across so many stories about the need to be patient and to wait situations out. There were even several scriptural references too. Romans 8:25 & James 5:7 appeared quite a bit in my readings, and because the Big G speaks in coincidence and pattern, I tried to be patient. It isn't one of my virtues, but I tried. 

The story of the Prodigal son popped up quite a bit too. The Prodigal Son has always troubled me, but not in the way it seems to trouble others. I've always felt the utmost sorrow for the father whose two sons only cared about what their father could give them. The younger son returned only because he was hungry, and the older son was mad that he never got a goat. The gift of being with their father wasn't recognized.

The story of the Prodigal Son reminded me of a scene from the second The Chosen where Young James (played by Jonathan Walker Ross) comments that Jesus is only being praised by people because He was healing them and wonders how many people would spend time with Jesus if he weren't doing so.

 Which brought to mind how embittered I am by the topic of healing.  

You see, I don't expect the big G to heal me from "The Accident" any more than He already has, and He has done a great deal. God brought me back from the edge of death twice. That both my son and I survived our ordeal is miraculous. That we both have "normal" mental faculties is also miraculous. That neither one of us has any significant physical impairments is another miracle. That I'm uncomfortable most of the time is, I think, to be expected, given the situation.

But because I am "not well," and because most people want to help and everyone is sure that I need prayers for healing, I would rather everyone devote their prayers to people in crisis. I am simply living the life I received. Since the Big G chose one of the most painful ways to redemption, I've concluded that discomfort is beside the point.

So, in November, I caught the season 3 episode of the Chosen, where the Young James/Jesus talks about healing, with Jesus asking Young James to trust why he wasn't to be healed. I decided to stop fussing as much about everything and trust that if this was part of the ribbon of my life, it was all going to work out. I was going to act like neither one of the sons. I wasn't going to ask for things, particularly healing. I was just going to trust and be. I also decided to eschew all Advent meditation books that focused on healing (these seemed to be a trend this Advent). Instead, I chose Father Joel Sember's "Oriens," which focused more on the story of the Advent/Christmas season. 

That turned out to be a good plan. The Advent/Christmas season corresponded to our house hunting. We had started the search at the beginning of Advent, found *our perfect* home a couple of days before Christmas, and moved in right before the Presentation (and Fish's birthday). 

The final reoccurring theme of our time in the rental was bread. Along with the themes normally found in regular liturgical observance, my parish offered a lecture series on Pope Francis's Apostolic Letter Desiderio Desideravi. In addition, I attended a wonderful class on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary that discussed the correlation between the manager and the Eucharist. In addition, I've been reading about prehistoric man and the beginning of agricultural development. Agriculture began in almost every early society because of their diety required bread offerings. I even had a wonderful discussion with one of my friends about receiving on the tongue rather than the hand, which I am still pondering. 

All of these themes and meditations came together a couple of weeks before we closed on the home, so I decided that I would make bread in my new home first thing for thanksgiving.

And because going overboard is my favorite thing, I decided to make sourdough.

Bread building was a peaceful way to spend the last couple of weeks. The process of collecting the ingredients and tools and the tasks of creating and feeding a sourdough starter were relaxing and gave me something small and meaningful to do daily to prepare for the home I was truly grateful to be moving into.

Of course, when the sourdough starter was about four days old (3 days before closing), the logistics of my decision struck me. Sourdough bread requires long rising times, and to ensure that bread was the first thing I cooked in the house meant that I needed to start the process the night before, making the dough and allowing the first rise to occur overnight, then, before our morning closing, shaping the loaf and allowing the second rise to occur while we loaded the moving truck and drove from downtown Roanoke to the western edge of Salem. And it all worked out according to plan! I baked the bread as we unloaded, and my husband is convinced I have lost my mind.

Anyway, it worked out. We all moved in, and our first meal in our new home contained freshly made bread and seemed like both the perfect gesture of thanksgiving and the perfect first meal. So we're unpacked and settled, and I'm excited to see what happens next.

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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