I tend to run away from bandwagons or doing what everyone else is doing. For example, in college, I refused to even look at the option of going to China with the group I was heavily involved in because everyone else was going. Nope, I chose a different continent. Yes, partly because I was being drawn to it, but honestly, also partly because I’m stubborn and wanted to be different. How ironic that I have now lived in China for seven years.
When the One Word movement started, I didn’t want to join in. It was hard for me to force myself to search for a word to focus on for a year. So, I didn’t. I just let God speak to me how and whenever He wanted. But last fall, I felt a word He wanted me to focus on: joy. I realized and appreciated the idea of focusing on a word or idea for an extended period of time. I came to grips with the fact that I may not receive a word in January, but it can still be my word! Recently, after spending some extended time reflecting on the recent months, I felt the Father laying another word on my heart: marathon.
Now, let’s set things straight before your mind turns to this girl running for hours on end. No, not me! I admire those who can dedicate such time and energy to staying fit and reaching goals! I’ll stick to my 30-minute videos, thank you.
This marathon I speak of is the marathon of my current life, similar to lots of you: living overseas, a husband with many busy roles, three young kiddos, homeschooling, and the roles I attempt to juggle. It’s chaotic most days. But instead of giving in to complaining about the chaos and noise, the Father is moving my heart and mind to focus on keeping my eyes on Him and others.
Like I said, I’ve never run a marathon or anything longer than a few miles, but I do know that it’s a grueling process. You have to train long, long hours. You have to sacrifice time to do that training. You have to be in tune with your body, feed it well, and give it proper rest. On the day of the race, the jitters and adrenaline are high in the beginning, but begin to fade. During the hard part of the race (someone experienced with 26.2 miles chime in here—I’m thinking hard is anything past 2!), I imagine it’s not wise to look down at your feet, watching every step hit the pavement. You’d probably rather look up, find your rhythm, and encourage those around you.
This marathon of life mirrors that of a race. This season of busyness and training, teaching, and disciplining children will hopefully pay off when they are older. As I enter the daily race of chores and duties, I have to be sure I’m fed well with his Word and getting proper rest—yes, this is tricky with children.
I also have to be sure I’m not focusing so much on myself. This marathon? Everyone is doing it, just at a different pace. Some miles are faster than others. If I take the time to listen to others, ask how they’re doing in their current stride, or bless them in some way, doesn’t that spur me on to keep going? Every single time.
When this part of my race is over, this busy season, I hope to look back and see that I, like Paul, “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.” (2 Timoth 4:7) My son memorized this verse a few years ago, and misquoted the last word as “trophy.” It was hilarious at the time, but I hope that when I look back I don’t see how focused I was on just getting through this stage , collecting accolades along the way; rather that I looked around me at others and encouraged them to keep on running. Most of all, I hope to look back and see my eyes focused only on the One who can give me what I need to even get close to finishing well. With joy.
Do you have a One Word for 2017? What does your current marathon look like, and how are you keeping a rhythm?
I’m not a huge fan of the regular, hard pretzels I buy from the import stores and serve to my kiddos. But these soft pretzels ready to be dipped? Yeah, these, I could eat all day. Perfect to whip up for a party, and with 3 kinds–regular, garlic herb, and cinnamon sugar–everyone will probably be fighting over who gets the last.
Soft Pretzel Bites (3 Ways)
The dough is simple, and easy enough to divide to make different versions. You can definitely divide the batch into the 3 different kinds–I just didn’t.
Puffy and ready to punch down–my favorite part!
Who cares if they’re imperfect–they’ll taste great either way!
Delicious little bits.
Boiling the bits in baking soda water ensure you get the soft pretzel texture–a small crunch on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
Browned to perfection.
Ready to be dipped into a delicious sauce, preferably mustard for me!
Soft Pretzel Bites (3 Ways)
Ready in: 2 hours
Slightly Adapted from: Annie’s Eats
Basic pretzel dough:
1½ cups warm water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2¼ tsp yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbsp water
To make the basic pretzel dough, combine 1/2 cup of the warm water (not hot!), yeast, and sugar. Let sit for a few minutes, until bubbly, to ensure yeast is active. Mix in the rest of the water, salt, melted butter, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix well. Continue adding 1 cup of flour at a time, mixing between each one. Knead 5-8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until dough comes together in a smooth ball, adding flour as needed to prevent from sticking. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 450° F (230 C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate it. Divide it up into approximately 6 equal portions. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out into a long rope about 1-inch in diameter. Use a pizza cutter to cut the row into small segments, no longer than 1-inch each. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the pretzel bites into the boiling water in batches so that they aren’t overcrowded. Boil each batch for about 30 seconds, stirring once or twice to submerge all surfaces in the water. Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer and spread out on the prepared baking sheets. Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt.
Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 9-11 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve with mustard or other yummy dipping sauce.
*Garlic herb variation: To the basic dough recipe, add in 3 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley, 2 teaspoons minced thyme, and freshly ground black pepper to taste while mixing/kneading the dough. Continue with the rest of the recipe as instructed, using a lighter sprinkle of salt on top before baking.
*Cinnamon sugar variation: Make the basic dough recipe as instructed, omitting the sprinkling of salt before baking. While the pretzel bites are baking, combine ¾ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Mix to blend. In another small bowl, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. When the pretzel bites are done baking and have cooled enough to handle, dip the top side briefly in the melted butter, then dip in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to adhere to the surface. Gently shake off any excess. Repeat with the remaining pretzel bites. Let stand 5-10 minutes to allow the mixture to set on the surface of the pretzel.