Opening eyes from where I’m lying in bed, I analyze the rustic wood beams overhead, captivated by the contrast of dark wood against a white painted A-frame ceiling. Through the opening of a small, square window, I glimpse a bowl of blue sky. Assurance that the sun is shining and plans for a morning swim in the heated pool will materialize.

Bees buzz about the bedroom, a reminder that I am an expat living in England where screens on windows don’t exist. Their collective humming suggests the sweetness of honey and the dream I was having before the light awakened me.

“Pancakes!! I dreamt I was eating pancakes soaked in pure maple syrup,” I inform H, lying awake next to me. I can almost taste fluffy golden buttermilk pancakes drenched in melted butter and soaking in a sweet amber river.

In Dorset, on a rare summer getaway, the two of us are tucked away in a farmhouse, avoiding the alarm clock, cooking meals, and thinking about inboxes. The night before, from a gingerbread treehouse surrounded by a meticulously manicured flower garden, we watched deer graze quietly in an adjoining meadow. And thanked God for the beautiful abundance loaned to us by generous friends.

It’s July, when we normally make an annual pilgrimage to a family cottage in Canada. But this year, a bevy of excuses kept us closer to home.

We stumbled sleepily down a narrow winding stair case, pushed pieces of crusty artisan bread in the toaster and flipped on the kettle. Peanut butter toast chased by swallows of milky tea didn’t satisfy my expectant palette.

But the more I think about eating pancakes, the more I realize the dream I’m savoring isn’t about satisfying a craving as much as it is about digesting what the pancakes represent.

Pancakes symbolize love and belonging.

As a child, I learned about the true face of love through the rhythm of predictable weekend visits with my grandparents.  From an unpredictable, insecure home life with a single mother struggling with poverty and alcoholism, to the predictable security of their home and loving embrace.

“Love resides in Grandpa’s morning rituals, his buckled shoes shuffling an impromptu tap dance on the tile floor the moment he spies me in the small pink nightgown drifting across the kitchen. He twirls a dancing spatula to make me laugh. And every Saturday, he flipped Hungry Jack pancakes on the griddle because he knew they were my favorite.” Rhythms of Rest, page 73

After I married and gave birth to two children, a rhythm of summer vacations to H’s family cottage in Canada provided a predictable pause from loneliness while living in the South. “H’s family cottage is the clasp holding six decades of Healey family history, and a reminder to all of us that we belong even when our accomplishments threaten to become our identity.” Rhythms of Rest, page 41

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes sputtering on the griddle, at least two times a week, are a mainstay of family vacations at the cottage. And that’s why I dreamt about pancakes while sleeping in Dorset.

We long for the taste of home while living as exiles for Jesus.

When everything around us declares that life is unpredictable, changing, and not at all expected, our soul longs for what seems to be absent in the world: love and belonging.

Nearly three years ago, a few short weeks after moving into our terrace house in London, we welcomed our church staff to their first American pancake breakfast. Fluffy golden layers were gobbled up quickly though I noticed a curious difference while stacking dishes at the sink. Their plates weren’t swimming in maple syrup. But laughter is the same in all cultures.

From the US, my daughter sends a message on Facebook, asking for the family pancake recipe. She wants to make breakfast for a bevy of friends who slept over. Because pancakes for breakfast was her predictable childhood request — after every sleepover she hosted in her bedroom and every birthday breakfast we celebrated as a family.

Maybe you woke up this morning in a strange and curious place. Nothing about your life feels or looks familiar. Perhaps you have a craving for something intangible, nameless, and yet deeply personal.

Could it be that what you are longing for isn’t a faraway dream, memory relived, or an escape from life as you know it. Perhaps you’re hungry to hear what God is saying: You are loved, and you belong.

We arrive home from Dorset to our son preparing for a hike in the Cairngorms of Scotland. “How about some pancakes before you board the train?” I ask him with alacrity because the craving of maple mingling with buttermilk is still lingering.

“Sure, he says, that sounds great!”

Pancakes have become a kind of curious spiritual discipline; a reminder to myself and those I love that we are all exiles longing for home.

Do you have a favorite recipe that cultivates generous hospitality? I’m sharing mine with you today.

Buttermilk Pancakes
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  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 5 T. sugar
  3. 2 tsp. baking soda
  4. 3 tsp. baking powder
  5. ½ tsp. salt
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 2 cups buttermilk
  8. 1/3 cup melted butter
  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Stir wet ingredients in separate bowl then combine with flour, sugar, soda, powder and salt.
  3. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended but don’t over stir.
  4. Fold in fresh blueberries or chocolate chips to the batter if desired.
  5. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve with maple syrup.
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Shelly Miller / Posts / Blog
Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications. Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, will release with Bethany House Publishers in the fall of 2016 with a second launching in 2017 with Lion Hudson. Find more of Shelly’s writing on her blog, Redemptions Beauty, and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.
  • Avatar

    What a beautiful symbol of belonging!
    Thank you for sharing this.
    I’ll look more closely at what I think I’m longing for. And maybe I’ll make sure that I have the ingredients for pancakes and maple syrup on hand to help another “exile” to remember.

    November 13th, 2017 10:42
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      Shelly Miller

      Thanks Heather! I hope that as you examine your longings, Christ will meet you in the midst. And having the ingredients for pancakes is always a good idea.

      November 13th, 2017 14:34
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    Melanie Blank

    “even when our accomplishments threaten to become our identity” – love that line!

    November 13th, 2017 14:53
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      Shelly Miller

      Thanks Melanie! I appreciate you letting me know what inspired you in this post. It’s so true, isn’t it? Our accomplishments can quickly define the sum total of who we are, if we let them. Thankfully, Jesus loves us for who we are, not what we do!!

      November 14th, 2017 5:04
  • Amy

    This was so lovely to read, Shelly — sweet (and true) comfort food of its own.

    November 13th, 2017 18:40
    • Avatar
      Shelly Miller

      Awe, lovely of you to say Amy. So great to see you here in the comments friend! May today provide a sweet reminder of God’s great love for you.

      November 14th, 2017 5:05
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    Theresa Boedeker

    During the summer I long for bing cherries. They remind me of childhood trecks across the mountains to pick cherries and then coming home with wooden apple boxes full of cherries. We would eat 2-3 pounds each a day.

    November 13th, 2017 22:20
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      Shelly Miller

      Oh my heavens! The imagery you created with your comment Theresa — warm, cozy, communal, outdoorsy, sweetly savored — I love it! And I do love cherries too. 2-3 pounds a day? Your fingers must’ve been dyed red.

      November 14th, 2017 5:07
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    There something very beautiful you are writing about here…the reality that we are people who are all the “ingredients” of our lives. What a blessing when the beautiful ones enter our dreams and remind us of who we are—who’ve we have always been. I need to pick up some real maple syrup when I go to the grocery later…although my fam likes the fake stuff! Oh well….

    November 14th, 2017 8:34
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    Lynn D. Morrissey

    Sweet Shelly,
    Every time you write something, I think, “This is my favorite piece.” And then you go and ou do what you did! 🙂 This is exquisite and set my mind whirling back to my own childhood and living in a flat above my grandparents. How I adored them. I too would descend winding steps and always have butter-sugar toast on Sundays at their place, and just a buttered slice on a paper towel to eat in the car on the way to church. My grandpa’s specialty was his buttermilk waffles which he made on Saturdays. He had more leisurely time at the end of a long work week to create something noteworthy. How I loved helping him fold the airy egg whites into the golden batter. Those waffles were light as air, and their indented squares pooled with pure maple syrup. I lost my grandfather when I was only eleven, and his passing broke my heart. We still make his waffles, because they are so much more than a tasty offering. Food is always more than food. It is warmth, comfort, camaraderie, memories, love. It is soul nourishment, and yes, I think you are right, it is spiritual discipline, and I’ve never thought of it in that way. Thank you for the insight. From what you are saying, about how those pancakes are a link to your past and now your future with Murielle, I think food can also represent a strong bond that links the generations in the bond of love. We always need to eat, and if we do so mindfully, spiritually, it reminds us that we always need to love. We can’t survive without food, and we can’t survive without love either! Thank you so much for sharing! And that paragraph about your grandfather is one of my most favorite in the book!

    November 14th, 2017 10:48
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    Nancy Ruegg

    My grandmother, who was an incredible baker of pies, rolls, cookies, etc., often made pancakes (from scratch, of course) when I stayed overnight with her. She’s been in heaven now for over forty years–along with many other family and friends. The older I get, the more anticipation builds for heaven where the desire for love and belonging will finally be fully satisfied–with our precious Jesus first, but also for those who’ve gone before. P.S. That verse in Hebrews about the cloud of witnesses just came to mind. I had to smile when I “saw” that cloud created by flour–from Grandma’s baking!! 🙂

    November 15th, 2017 20:59

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