A Place for Relationship – The Living Room

Most homes have some kind of “hang out” space. This could be a living room around a fire place, a family room where the TV is, perhaps a sunken den with an oversized comfy couch. It is somewhere were people in the home enjoy gathering. They choose to spend time there. Perhaps in yours there is a bookshelf or game cabinet. This space is not a place for isolation. You can’t expect perfect silence for constructing that card pyramid on the coffee table. If you are video chatting with someone, expect others to join your call.

As we talked about last week, the dining table is a relational place. Families come together to share their day, to talk about what’s going on in their lives. The living room is also a relational space. But instead of a space for talking about what’s going on, it is the space where the going on is happening.

Take a look at your living space this week. What is the focal point of the room? Is everyone able to access their favorite space in the room? Slow down this week and be intentional in observing how your family uses the space. Consider the following ideas to make this space inviting, clean and functional:

  • Vacuum under the couch and tables.
  • Vacuum or deep clean the furniture
  • Untangle and organize any wires, cords or other electronic elements that have become untidy
  • If you have bookshelves or other organizers, take everything off, deep clean and then reorganize the materials in a thoughtful way
  • Consider adding a plant or flowers to bring greenery and life to the space (artificial is ok!)
  • Clean windows, inside and out
  • Launder drapes or curtains
  • Invite your family to a game night. Make it fun with popcorn or other treat
  • Begin a read aloud with the whole family. If you need ideas, the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is a great place to start. Even of some have read them before, there is something unique and special about these books which makes them worthwhile at all stages of life. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is particularly appropriate for Lent. If you would like other ideas, check out The Read Aloud Revival and take their short quiz on the homepage. We have loved all the recommendations we have taken so far.

What about your spiritual living room? This is where the rubber meets the road. You’ve been fed at the Eucharistic table and been brought into closer unity with Christ. Now you have to go home, go back to work, go out into your community, and interact with people. You have relationships with a great many people. Some relationships are presently flourishing. Others, perhaps in need of tending. Part of being in a relationship is being open to that other person. We listen to their needs and share our own. How well have you been sharing your needs? Are you willing to ask for and accept help from others? How well have you listened to the needs of others and been willing to be generous with your time and effort?

We are also in relationship with God. In the mystery that is the Trinity, we might be interested to discover that there is the opportunity for 3 relationships with God, while still being one relationship overall. We can spend time with God, our Heavenly Father. We talk intimately with Jesus, our Savior and our Brother. We feel the movement of the Holy Spirit deep in our souls. Lest this isn’t enough to contemplate, you also have a spiritual mother in Mary waiting to assist you on your journey to holiness.

Don’t be overwhelmed! This one week will not be sufficient time to cultivate all of these relationships. Spend some time in prayer and ask God for the wisdom to see where He wants you to spend your time and with whom.

Next week, we will travel to a more humble space. It is one of privacy, but is shared by all. There is always an opportunity for cleaning in this room, both physically and spiritually. See you then!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

A Place to Commune – The Dining Room

In the kitchen we prepare the food. We sometimes, if we are lucky, get a little taste test. But the full meal isn’t experienced until we transition to the dining room, or primary eating area. I know not all homes have an official “dining room.” For the sake of this reflection, hold in your mind your main eating area, that table where your family typically eats its meals.

Eating together is an ancient practice. Every culture has its own traditions, rituals and procedures for shared eating. Eating, especially eating with others, serves multiple purposes. First, the obvious, you’re eating to stay alive. The human body can impressively go about 3 weeks without food, but only 3 days without water. We need both food and drink to live full, healthy lives.

Eating together has other purposes as well. Eating together places everyone at the same level – you are at a common table. In many cultures and throughout much of history, you were eating out of shared vessels as well. We are sharing the fruits of our labor, our harvest (or our grocery trip). We have conversations with one another. We find out about our day, our plans, our hurts and our joys. While the ideal family meal of everyone smiling, sharing appropriately, using their utensils with competency and napkins on every lap might sound out of reach for your family, no matter how messy the meal memories are being made. We are teaching our children, and reminding ourselves, that we are on a journey together through life. We come together at table to share with one another.

There is, of course, another table which we come around as a community. We come to the altar, the table of the Lord. We gather here to be fed in a supernatural way. When we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, we believe that we are receiving true food and drink which will sustain us, body and soul. Jesus’ gift of Himself remains unchanged. As Catholics, we believe the the Eucharist is the True Presence of Christ. Each time we receive Jesus, we open our lives to Him, to be transformed by Him, from the inside out. As a community we come to become one in the Body of Christ.

This week, take a look at your eating space. Ask yourself, “What kind of eating experience have we been having lately? I am I happy with it? How can we model our gathering at table to be more reminiscent of the Eucharistic table?”

Consider spending extra time and effort this week in your eating area by tackling any of the following projects:

  • Washing table and chairs
  • Laundering cushions
  • Oiling any hardwood areas
  • Moving table and cleaning rug/moping whole area, not just around the table
  • Dusting and cleaning any wall hangings or pictures
  • Using china or fancy dishes for one meal, not to celebrate a special occasion, but to celebrate your family
  • Cook as a family and then eat as a family – no one is left out from the preparation
  • See if you can identify one or two meals as unique to your family, what are your favorites? What do your children think they will cook when they are adults?

Thinking about your spiritual “eating area,” consider the following:

Next week, we will move into our main living spaces. We have been fed at table, now we go to engage more deeply in the relationships that were strengthened there.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

A Place of Preparation – The Kitchen

Stand in the center of your kitchen. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths. As you open your eyes, take stock of your kitchen space.

Our kitchens are centers of our homes. This is where we come to prepare the food which will nourish our bodies. It is also where we store our food as it awaits preparation. We store quite a bit in our kitchens when you open your cabinets and really look. There’s food, yes. But there’s also pots and pans, mixers and cutting tools, utensils of wide variety, hot pads and storage containers. Then there’s the appliances. Would you be able to name all the appliances in your kitchen, blindfolded?

I love my kitchen. I am a person who loves to cook and bake. The act of feeding my family is one of the biggest ways I show my love for them in a concrete way. I enjoy the way my children’s eyes sparkle when they walk into a fresh tray of muffins or brownies. I love when they run to tell their siblings what’s for dinner because they are so excited they can’t help but share the good news. I love their curious faces as the peek around the corner and ask, “What’s that I smell?”

Before I can cook any of these delicious treats or hearty meals, a solid grocery store run has to happen. I am also a list person. I absolutely have to have a grocery list running at all times or I would never get everything (and let’s face it, as a mom of 6 kids, as I walk in the door from the store I’m writing something down for the next trip). I am vigilant to keep certain things stocked so that I’m ready to shift dinner when plans change or to make an extra batch of cookies for a friend.

What is the “kitchen” of a spiritual life you may ask? If the kitchen is where store and prepare food, then I envision the kitchen of my spiritual home to be where I keep my daily spiritual tools. These are things like daily prayer, monthly confession, the reflections on the Hallow app (more on that at the end of this post), spiritual reading, etc. These are the habits and practices that keep me on the path God is laying out for me. Just as we all have morning and evening routines as we wake up and go to sleep, there are spiritual routines we can choose to maintain. They are part of our daily sustenance for our daily work.

As we look at our physical kitchens this week, here’s a list of ideas for ways to give your kitchen extra time and attention, to make it a place you want to spend time and energy creating nutritious and delicious food. Let me know in the comments what areas of your kitchen you spent extra time on. I’m thinking my refrigerator and freezer will be much brighter and more organized by the end of the week.

  • Wipe down cabinet interiors and exteriors
  • Clean baseboards, especially those under the cabinets
  • Sweep and mop in the same day
  • Empty refrigerator drawers and clean interiors
  • Empty freezer, clean where needed and check expiration dates before organizing
  • Check pantry for expiration dates
  • Add 5 items to your grocery list to donate to a food pantry
  • Assess your appliances – how often do you use each one, is it still a necessary part of your kitchen
  • Completely clean off countertops, clean and organize. Put away anything that does not belong
  • Clean any windows and doors
  • Clean oven door interior
  • Clean oven overall
  • Run a cleaning cycle on your dishwasher
  • Clean coffee maker/tea kettle

As we look more closely at our spiritual kitchen, take some time to write down what you keep stored there. Do you have a rosary you haven’t used in a while? Did you ever finish that spiritual book you were gifted at Christmas or your birthday? Have you signed up for an Adoration slot like Father has been requesting at Mass for weeks now?

What practices are you keeping up with? Do you read Scripture daily, say an Our Father before bed, pray a rosary on the way to work? It is important to recognize the things you are already doing. During this week, pay attention to how you feel about your established practices. Are you content, settled? Do you think you could do more, want to try something new? Lent is an excellent time to dust off old practices or let new ones inspire us to deeper prayer. Just like we go into our kitchen every day to prepare food for our daily living, we ought to be spending time in prayer, feeding our soul with connection to God’s presence in our life.

If you are looking for something new to add to your spiritual kitchen, I cannot speak highly enough of the Hallow app. I use this app for a variety of reflections, including a daily Gospel reflection by Jeff Cavins. I also listen to both Fr. Mike Schmidt and Bishop Barron’s Sunday homilies there. If you are familiar with the Litany of Trust, it’s there. The Bible in a Year? There. The Rosary? Yep. A gorgeous chanted Rosary in 5 languages? Yes. Kids’ specific content? Brand new and so well done. And so much more! There is a free version and a premium version (premium is $60 a year). I am part of a community called Hallow Heralds, people who love this app and wish to share it with as many people as possible. If you are interested in trying it out, the following link will gift you 3 months of premium access completely free. I do not receive a kick back or anything, it’s a gift from the Hallow community to you. I would love to hear if you know about Hallow, if it’s something you find a helpful tool in your spiritual kitchen.

Next week, we will spend our time in our Dining Room/Main Eating Area.

May God bless you

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com