Monday, January 05, 2009

Sleeping with Bread: Leavened and Unleavened Bread


From Wikipedia: A leavening agent (sometimes called just leavening or leaven) is a substance used in doughs and batters that causes a foaming action intended to lighten and soften the finished product.

leav⋅en   [lev-uhn]  
1. a substance, as yeast or baking powder, that causes fermentation and expansion of dough or batter.
2. fermented dough reserved for producing fermentation in a new batch of dough.
3. an element that produces an altering or transforming influence.
–verb (used with object)
4. to add leaven to (dough or batter) and cause to rise.
5. to permeate with an altering or transforming element.

I've struggled with my last Sleeping with Bread posts. (I've actually struggled with blogging at all.) Part of problem is a general sense of feeling overwhelmed.  At various times over the last year, I've written a little about how some things need to change in my life... diet, exercise, spiritual exercises. Well, it is related to that, but also to a lot of other circumstances. Paul and I had a little discussion about it over lunch today. I'm grateful that he is completely sympathetic to me right now. He sees that life has something of a stranglehold on me right now.

So, as I considered the question for today's SWB post, I thought about the word leaven. It really explains where I am at right now. Life feels unleavened. All the ingredients are there... flour, salt, water... These are my family, my friends, my community, my faith. I cannot really complain about these things. I am blessed in so many ways.

But the leaven is missing.  The bit of life that lighten and softens me... that alters or transforms my life... that brings consolation... that allows me to appreciate and make something more of my ingredients.

I think there are two important things to consider. The first is that I am truly in a time where the external circumstances of my life are stressful. School (torture I chose) and issues which have come up since my father's death last April (torture I did not choose). Anyone, under similar circumstances, might experience what we Christians sometimes call "a valley experience." ("Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...") The other important aspect of all this is the physical component. As in the preceding paragraphs, some of these things I have "chosen" in the sense that I have some control over them (diet, exercise) and some just happened to me (sleep apnea, hormonal issues).

Either way, here I sit, typing away, feeling flat and heavy when I would rather feel light and airy. My challenge is discerning how much I can "do" something about and how much I can't. I have this list in my head of all the things I could do... exercise five days a week, go on a diet, lose weight, spend an hour a day in spiritual contemplation, conquer the sleep apnea machine--all while making sure my family isn't neglected. (See... it really is overwhelming.) What do I really tackle? What do I leave alone for now? How do I push through when the hormone-induced migraines or insomnia make me want to curl up and ignore the world that beating at my door?

It is somewhat paralyzing, knowing where to start. I have some hopes and ideas of where to go and what to focus on. I have one friend on call as my cheerleader/personal trainer/coach and all around nag encourager for the coming semester. (I got your card today, Michelle. Thanks!) Paul and I talked today about prioritizing what I need to do between now and the spring semester. I can make a better effort work on my bits that need more discipline.

As for the rest... well, as I referenced Psalm 23 earlier, another part of that verse comes in handy now, "...He restores my soul." Because that is what I think I am talking about when I say my leaven is missing--that restoration of my soul at a time when it has been depleted. I'll depend on it.

Psalm 23

 1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


atypical said...

yeah, it's like that. I have been wrestling with expressing something similar today. What a surprise, right?



AJU5's Mom said...

We all go through the valleys in our faith. I am just too lazy normally to even talk about them. Hopefully your time before Spring term can allow you to refocus and possible start some sort of study that will allow you to move from the valley to at least the slopes of the faith!

Anonymous said...

My tendency is too not even acknowledge the valleys, as if denying they exist will make the journey out smoother. I'm beginning to realize this is NOT helpful. At. All.

Anonymous said...

This was a great analogy. It's a tough spot to be in.

I think if you can take a walk most of the days you want to, you will be accomplishing a lot - healthful exercise that tends to be mind-clearing, even meditative, that may help you sleep better.

I also find that when I remember to put my family first, it actually requires a lot less energy than when they have to pull my attention from elsewhere, and I end up with more time to accomplish what I need to.

Good luck!

Mel said...


Boy this is familiar.
I'm doing a touch of this myself. I'll be grateful it's just a 'touch'--

It's an exhausting place to awaken to find yourself in.

John Ross said...

Yup, I get it - all those trials and tribulations...Unleavened is a good descritptor(probably not a real word). Prayers go with you...

Shari said...

I constantly feel this way, so I can relate SO much. Especially right now. I am trying not to let the overwhelming side of life paralyze me this time, as it has many other times. I've been adding more Bible reading to my day even though I don't feel that I have the time. I just need it more than ever. I know that it's transforming and supernatural, so instead of turning to food or other things, I'm trying to let God's Word fill me.

Hang in there, Mary. I think you have a much better handle on life than I do. :-)

Chickenone said...

more cheerleading/encouragement/nagging to come...

Kristi said...

Whenever I read one of your posts, or a comment you've left on my posts, I think we sound so much alike.

A couple of months ago I read a book called Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron and it completely changed my spiritual outlook. It added the leavening. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Have a wonderful week, and like another commenter said - go for a walk, it is like medicine for your soul.

Jessi said...

Just hang in there and work on what you feel is necessary to get yourself feeling 'light and airy' again. *Hugs*

Anonymous said...

I feel you! Thanks for posting the 23rd Psalm, it helps.

Anonymous said...

You seem to think your problems are spiritual. I am almost certain they are physical. If you have sleep-disordered breathing and it is not treated well with CPAP (every minute you sleep, including naps), you will be subject to depression, anxiety and total lack of energy. Get a free membership at and get the fellow patients to help you optimize your therapy. If you don't get a good therapy, things will only get worse.

Good luck,