“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
― Charles Dickens
This is Week 4 in our journey through the season of Lent, and this week we are focusing on what it means to “Give.”
Giving tends to be a theme during Advent and Christmas, but we don’t always associate it with Lent, when we find ourselves thinking more about what we should give up and less about what we could give away.
Thinking through the sorts of things that we might be able to give as a family and as individuals I tried to focus on what sort of physical or emotional gifts we could give that would bring a smile to those we encounter this week. I wanted to find a way to live out those words of Charles Dickens – to find ways to lighten the burdens of others.
This week is the second week of standardized testing for our kids, there is a forecast full of rainy days for the coming week, tax season is in full swing, and Easter seems as if it might never get here. Considering all of these factors, I determined that the four things our family could give that might mean the most this week are: smiles, hugs, encouraging words and snacks.
Which led us to making soft pretzels. Because pretzels bring about at least three of our four challenges – they are a snack, they look like a hug, and they make most everyone smile. So this weekend our family learned how to make these edible hugs, which turned out to be surprisingly easy and incredibly delicious. Miles and I made the dough, then during family movie night we all worked on rolling and shaping the pretzels into their criss-cross shape. And after just a few minutes in the oven, we had a yummy post-movie snack, and gift to give friends on Monday.
HOMEMADE PRETZELS RECIPE
Yield: 12 pretzels
4 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cup warm water
5 cups flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup baking soda
2 cup hot water
1-2 TBSP butter, melted (optional)
First proof your yeast. To do this mix 4 tsp of yeast and 1 tsp sugar with 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes until mixture becomes foamy.
Next, in a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Add in oil and mix by hand. Add in yeast mixture and use a stand mixer to thoroughly mix dough together. Add in an extra water, 1 tbsp at a time if dough is too dry to work with. Knead for about 5 minutes with your stand mixer or for 7 minutes by hand. Dump mixture onto a slightly floured kitchen towel. Form into a ball and lightly cover the ball with olive oil. Place the dough in large bowl and place a damp towel over the top. Place in a warm area (I often place the bowl on top of my oven while it pre-heats) and allow to double in size.
In a medium bowl, mix baking soda and hot water together. Preheat oven to 450F.
Once dough has doubled in size, form into a log shape. Cut into 12 equal pieces, roll out each piece like you are making a play-dough snake. Form the dough into a hug, or criss cross shape.
Dip pretzels in the baking soda/water mixture and place on greased baking sheet (6 pretzels per sheet). Sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake in oven for 8 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.
Let cool completely before wrapping individual pretzels in small treat bags to give away to friends, neighbors or co-workers.
Oh, and make sure to save a few pretzels, hugs, smiles, and kind words to give each other as well. You never know when someone in your own home could use a little extra lovin.
Pretzel making not your thing? That’s ok – here a few other ways to talk about and practice creative giving this week:
The Reverse Lent Challenge
Stone Soup by Heather Forest and Susan Gaber
The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett
Strangers At My Door – Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Are you creating A Family Lent box to keep tactile reminders of your Lenten practice in? If so, for this week ‘s theme Give, have family members write an encouraging note or draw a picture for one another telling what it is that they love or admire about each person. Add them to the box during the week, and on Sunday take all the notes out to read. Another idea is to put a list in the box of all the people you gave pretzels, hugs, smiles, or encouraging words to during the week.
I just want to tell you each how glad I am that you are here, how encouraging to me each of your visits are, and how much I have loved sharing this Lenten journey with you!
PS –Want to see ideas from the previous two weeks? Here they are:
Enjoying this series? Looking for more ways to practice faith at home?