To God, love is more action than it is affection. Love is more what we do than it is what we say. God, however, mastered both by first promising Abraham as many descendants as the stars in the sky (though Abraham had to wait a while for God to fulfill that promise) in the book of Genesis, then by promising Israel a Savior to come and rescue them from their sins in the book of Isaiah, and finally, by coming down to us in the body of Jesus. God tells us He loves us through His promises (affection) and shows us He loves us by fulfilling those and so much more (action).
Think about all the possible ways to verbally express love to someone. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there just one - "I love you"? Now, think about all the possible ways to visually or physically express love to someone (no, I'm not really talking about sex here). My favorite way lately: baking. Surprise surprise, right? Baking isn't for everyone, I know, but something about a warm, sweet cookie or brownie or whatever the heart desires is just... special. Baking shows a special kind of love.
Hopefully Heaven has an oven so that I bake some cookies or something for Jesus.
But seriously. My first love language is physical touch and my last is gifts. My second to last is acts of service. Clearly, I have some work to do when it comes to serving others in love (a work in progress), but that's why I find such joy in baking. That, and science, too. Sure, I could keep every last bite for myself. My sweet tooth would be beyond satisfied if I were to do so, but still.
A few months ago, a mini "what's-the-purpose-of-my-life-right-now" crisis hit me hard. It was the end of the week and I had several containers full of cookies and brownies and whatever else I had baked for the blog that previous week, yet I didn't feel full. An outsider could've walked into my kitchen and probably thought I had all a college-girl-who-loves-to-bake could want - a spacious kitchen, fancy-ish equipment, and a pantry stocked with ingredients. I didn't see think that in that moment.
Somehow, God got me out of the house in less than five minutes with bags full - like many bags full - of leftover baked goods, bars and chips and whatnot generously sent from various companies, and more. I headed downtown early that Sunday morning, prayed for guidance as I sat parked in my car, and asked God to bless this food to someone else who needs it.
Approaching people on the street (not every single person I saw, but the ones who looked like they may have been sleeping outside for many nights, if you know what I mean) feels a little scary at first, but when the first person smiled with a gentle and sincere "thank you", I heard God's reassurance and felt His hand guiding me.
I don't know these people and I can't necessarily say I love them with an affectionate love. Some of them can actually be quite rude. But I know Jesus loves them with an affectionate love and wants to work through me (and you) to display the action-ate love. What. An. Honor.
Other people whom I do know and do love with affection... well, there are a handful of people I love more deeply than I can put into words, and to serve them with fresh-baked cinnamon rolls or warm cookies from the oven is my absolute favorite part of the "job".
Love is not just "I love you" or "I care about you". Love is not just dinner dates and wedding rings. Love is also not just handing out food to people on the street. Love is showing "I love you/care about you" using what skills and passions from the One who first loved you to give to and serve others. Be it cookies for the boy (or girl, but I figure its mostly girls reading this) you think you might love or cinnamon rolls for everyone at church on Sunday (for which I have to say these are a splendid fit).
Makes 6-8 rolls
For the rolls:
3/4 cup almond milk
3 chai tea bags (I use Tazo tea)
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for skillet
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 packet instant yeast
3 cups + 1 tbsp. whole-wheat flour, plus extra for rolling
For the filling:
1/4 cup butter, softened (not melted)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup chopped almonds
pinch of sea salt
For the frosting:
1/4 cup nut butter
3 tbsp. almond milk
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of powdered sugar, for sprinkling
- In a small saucepan, warm the milk and tea bags over medium heat until just before boiling. Don't let it heat higher than 110F - that will affect the yeast activity. Remove milk from heat, transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the yeast until it bubbles and foams.
- One by one, add the eggs, butter, and sugar. Whisk to combine.
- Sift the flour into the wet mixture and use the dough-attachment on a stand-mixer to knead until it is no longer sticky. If you don't have a stand-mixer, use a wooden spoon to combine and then your hands to knead until the dough doesn't stick to your hands.
- Transfer the dough to another bowl, cover, and place in a warm environment. I turn my oven on to 200F and then turn it off, and place the dough bowl in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours. Whole-wheat dough doesn't double in size like dough made with white flour, so don't waste your time waiting. It should grow in size after this amount of time.
- Prep the filling by whisking together the softened butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and spices. Set aside.
- Clean and lightly flour a large flat surface (i.e. kitchen countertop) and knead the dough for 1-2 minutes. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough and as close to the edges as possible. Sprinkle with chopped almonds.
- Gently roll lengthwise tightly from one end to the other. Lightly grease a sharp knife with butter or oil and slice the roll into 6-8 portion. You can also use floss here, but I haven't tried that.
- Grease the skillet (I used my Lodge Cast Iron) with a tablespoon or two of butter and place the cinnamon rolls evenly spaced throughout the skillet. Bake for 18-22 minutes. They may seem under-baked when you take them out of the oven, but they will continue to cook in the skillet. Do NOT over-bake!
- While the rolls cool, whisk together the ingredients for the frosting and spread a couple spoonfuls over each roll. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately.