My Echinacea plants (coneflowers) bloomed beautifully this year, attracting lots of butterflies.  Now they are drying up and becoming very ugly.  The flowers turn brown after losing their petals but rapidly change to an unattractive black.


I can see the coneflowers from my kitchen window’ and one morning I decided that I needed to snip them off to get rid of the eyesore.  Suddenly, there was a burst of color as several yellow finches landed on the dead flower heads and began to pick seeds out of them.  I wanted to take a picture of the color contrast, yet I suspected that if I went outside to do so, the birds would fly away.  After I watched for a while, I took a chance. My suspicion was confirmed.


There was a lesson for me that morning, made easier to learn by the fact that I was already in a time of meditation and prayer.  I have been feeling rather melancholy lately, in some part due to a recent thyroid surgery.  I never seem to be able to keep up with yard work, but this year has been worse than usual.  Weeds seem to be popping up everywhere, and my allergies only complicate the situation.  I manage to get my grass mowed and my garden dealt with, but not much of anything else outside.


I am way too prone to see the negative side of things instead of the positive.  My late hubby was good at keeping me balanced, but he is no longer here to do so.  As I sat there gazing out the window that morning, I was staring at the dried-up coneflowers and feeling as useless as they looked.  Then the finches came and feasted on what I thought was ready for discard.  I could all but hear the Lord say, “Just like the birds found a purpose for what you thought was of no account, I have a purpose for you, even in this time when you cannot understand what it is.  I can take what you think is ugly and make it attractive.”   Ecclesiastes 3:11, sums it up in these words: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”


What happens when an ugly glob of dough rises and goes through the heat of baking?  A beautiful loaf of bread!


No-Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread


1 cup lukewarm water

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil

3 tablespoons molasses or maple syrup

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1/4 cup nonfat dry milk

1-1/4 teaspoons salt

3 cups whole wheat flour (may use white whole wheat flour)

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, optional


Heavily grease an 8-1/2-by- 4-1/2-inch loaf pan. Grease pan well, as bread tends to stick.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Beat mixture vigorously for 3 minutes with an electric mixer set on high speed. Dough will be very sticky; not pourable, but not kneadable, either. Scoop into the prepared pan.

Cover pan; let rise about 90 minutes; it should just about rise to the rim of the pan, or barely cresting over rim.

Uncover dough; bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil after 15 minutes. Bread is done when golden brown on top (an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 195 degrees). Remove from oven; after 5 minutes turn out onto a rack. Brush with melted butter to keep the crust soft. Cool completely before cutting.


Nameless Bread


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

4 teaspoons olive oil

4 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

3-1/4 cups bread flour (may use all-purpose)

1 tablespoon powdered buttermilk

2-1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 packet)


Place ingredients in bread machine in order recommended by manufacturer.  Set on French or Italian mode and let the machine bake it.  Yield: a 1-1/2-pound loaf.