This week, barraged with family and work challenges and a full plate schedule weighing heavy, I felt like I was in a pressure cooker.
Last night as I sauteed sweet potatoes and kale on the stove, I whispered a repetitive prayer in cadence with the stirring of my wooden spoon, “God help me, I’m overwhelmed!”
For a few moments, my stove become my altar, my kitchen, a sanctuary.
Brother Lawrence said, “the time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen…I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
Kitchen praying is prayer in action. Even as we go about our mundane kitchen duties, prayer makes our work meaningful. While we chop and stir, wash dishes and clean counters, prayers become portals to the great mystery, hymns bringing heaven to earth, shepherding us to the comfort of God’s love.
Amidst my bigger concerns of my husband’s ongoing work challenges and tough schedule, my teenager’s struggles growing up and facing the wider world, my own anxieties juggling my family’s needs with unexpected and monumental emerging needs as I begin to face the empty nest transition ahead, and the mounting full plate schedule for the weeks ahead, life just suddenly felt too much. Other annoyances piled up: my son spilt coffee all over the tan rug this weekend I’m still trying to clean up. After my husband asked him to take my Starbucks coffee inside from the car, even though it had a lid, coffee squirted out the hole as he ran into the house, his arms full with jackets and school books, a long string of coffee droplets splattering all over his trail. As I walked out the door Monday morning a dead baby rat greeted me at the door way, guts and bowels and squirts of blood spread on the concrete before me. I ran back into the house to get a dust pan and plastic bag, on the way back I concocted an ingenious method of wrapping the bag around the dust pan, then went out the door successfully pushing rat parts with a stick onto the pan, then removed the bag so the dismembered pieces fell conveniently into the bag’s sack. I still need to clean up the blood and a few spare, tiny body parts.
Too much information, I know, but isn’t life just messy sometimes? All the reason we need kitchen praying.
The other night the cops tore through our neighborhood, red lights flashing, sirens screaming, neighbors on front lawns. It’s the only time neighbors talked to one another since summertime, which seams like the season when neighborliness blooms. The next day The Patch reported a woman was raped and beaten by her ex-boyfriend just down the street, her young daughter witnessed the ending scene and called the police.
Saint Paul says, pray without ceasing. Yes, we must.
Kitchen praying is an exquisite and simple act right in the comfort of home, a gift we can give ourselves each day. In this beautiful and troubled life, a life where faith comes and goes, a life that sometimes becomes just too hard, kitchen prayers both feed and empty us. They bring us into the invisible heart of grace, where we give thanks for being lifted higher, for releasing what is not ours to hold, for returning to our maker, garlic scents rising.
Yes, my kitchen, now my daily church, is a time to pause in space and time while moving from cabinet, to refrigerator, from sink to stove to table, communing with God, receiving the bread of heaven.
My kitchen prayer reminded me, even while I cook, I stand on holy ground.
As lovely Saint Teresa of Avila says, “Know that even when you are in the kitchen, Our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.”