Sunday, February 26, 2012

When life gives you lemons... bake them into things.

In my mind there is little debate about the best dessert ingredient.  While this blog is about lemons, lemons do not take the title home.  The obvious answer is chocolate.  People who disagree are freaks of nature and I find you difficult to understand.  With this in mind, I was invited to bake gourmet desserts for a banquet up at camp in two weeks.  If it were up to me I would make three desserts that are chocolate in one variation or another, but some people prefer other things so I had to play with some not-chocolate dessert options.  One of my experiments resulted in the purchasing of meyer lemons.  I bought massive amounts of them because when I go up to camp to bake, the nearest grocery store is 20 minutes away so I stock up to avoid a mid-bake emergency trip to the grocery store.  I came home from camp with a good 10 extra lemons and no idea what to do with them.  Life didn't necessarily give me these lemons, I had willfully purchased them, but I had to figure out what to do with them, so bake-fest began.  I went on trusty Pinterest and the lemon-y treats were plenty, beginning with these Lemon Burst cookies.  Funny thing?  I found the recipe and it was ridiculously easy but did not require a single actual meyer lemon to make it thanks to the lemon cake mix.  10-0=10, so I was still stuck with 10 lemons. Quite the conundrum.  Your heart goes out to me, I'm sure. 

My pinning frenzy resulted in some sweet roll and cinnamon roll recipes however that did an adequate job of depleting my lemon supply.  They also depleted my time for sleep as I went to bed at 1:30am on a school night, but that surprises no one since I'll choose about any activity over sleep except maybe running (whether its from a bear or for "leisure").  I made blueberry cinnamon rolls, meyer lemon sticky rolls, and straight up cinnamon rolls (because all experiments need a control, right?). 

Exhibit A: Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls

Exhibit B: Meyer Lemon Sticky Rolls

Exhibit C: Straight Up Cinnamon Rolls

The sweet roll project used 4 lemons.  10-4=6 (admiring my math skills? bet so!).  Experimentation continued.  Lemon poppy seed bread was an obvious choice.  Using my favorite cookbook, Pie in the Sky, for the recipe was another obvious choice.  The beauty of these choices is that it resulted in a delicious treat which my kiddos enjoyed while it snowed! Seriously, who doesn't love shoving your mouth full of bread on a snowy day?  I'm a fan of it.  So were my students.

The result of all of these endeavors was one remaining meyer lemon, which was lacking a peel, since I used it for zesting.  I can feel good about my use of all of the lemons because even the leftover one got used somehow.  Not like I-used-all-of-the-buffalo-I-hunted-including-the-eyeballs good, but good. It turned out to be a tasty endeavor, although if the lemon man and chocolate man had to duke it out, I am still gonna put my money on chocolate man.

Sometimes life is full of lemons.  I am in a season of lots of lemons and life lemons aren't really the kind of lemons you can bake into delicious things (trust me, I would if I could).  There are not sufficient inspirational quotes or tubs of ice cream for some of the things life can throw at us.  Sickness, brokenness, and death are unfortunately things that no one is a stranger to.  In the midst of these seasons, it is so easy to throw tantrums, to question, to wrestle with reality or retreat.  We disdain the presence of these lemons and curse their existence.  I'm not gonna say that they compare to the challenge of finding the use of 10 measly meyer lemons that called to me from the fridge because they don't, but I am gonna say that the result is sweet, much like these desserts.  As it turns out, these life lemons challenge us to identify our purpose, mold us to be a better version of ourselves and give perspective to what is already in our lives and its value.  I told you, pretty sweet, right?  I would also like to mention that it is calorie-free sweet (and that's not because I made up a fake rule about it), so that's a double win.  As you are reading this, you might be wondering why I am getting so emo, since  my usual style is not this-belongs-on-a-hallmark-card but you also might be reading this in the midst of some big life lemons like me wanting to have a fist-pounding temper tantrum like me and needing some encouragement.

So today, be reminded that life lemons serve a purpose, what we go through is not in vain, our circumstances to not define us, and we are being sculpted into something beautiful through the process.  As a sculptor sculpts, it uses a chisel.  Chisels are not smooth and delicate objects; they are sharp and probably could be added as a weapon in the game of Clue.  Each chunk the sculptor carves from the rock is removed with force, but the end result is a masterpiece.  You are the Sculptor's work of art and the finished piece will be a thing of beauty, bringing glory to it's Creator.

"I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.   Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering. I will rescue you for my sake— yes, for my own sake! I will not let my reputation be tarnished, and I will not share my glory with idols!" Isaiah 48:10-11

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