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

December 3, 2016 – Keeping Chaos Away

In case you don’t remember, this whole Advent series was inspired by a new cleaning routine I’m trying to stick with.

A load a day keeps the chaos away.

As most stay-at-home parents will tell you, laundry can be very quickly become a mounting tower of terror especially with small children around. If things get out of hand it can be a daunting task to regain control. The FlyLady’s solution is simple. Do one load a day. Start it in the morning, move it in the early afternoon, fold and put away in the evening. One load, start to finish, every day.

We can apply this concept to our prayer life. I’m not going to promise that a prayer a day will keep the chaos, the whining, the broken sink, the traffic or work deadlines away. However, a habit of prayer will help us to handle these unavoidable situations in a more humble, gentle, patient way.

St. Paul encourages us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I believe wholeheartedly in this pearl of wisdom. However, I also know from experience how intimidating a task it can be. Rather like that mountain of laundry. For just starting out on a prayer journey, I find St. Paul’s advice to the Philippians to be a little more manageable:

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:6).

Still a challenge to be sure and definitely similar, but it’s more concrete. Giving all things to God in prayer and most importantly, doing so with a spirit of thanksgiving. I have found that I am a more thankful person when I talk with God every day, even if it is only for a few moments. The longer I go between prayer, the harder it is to find that thankful spirit. Instead I have an attitude of “Why me?” or “Where were you when!” or “I’m just too tired, talk to you later.”

After only one week we already have a few tools in our prayer preparation toolbox. We have a few periods of time each day that are conducive to focused prayer. We have the Sign of the Cross. We have our guardian angels. Let’s add one more inspired by St. Paul’s advice about our disposition regarding prayer. Thankfulness. Instead of begrudgingly giving God those three minutes, let’s offer them with a joyful spirit. The Psalmist tells us

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His mercy endures forever (Psalms 118:1).

For today, really hone in on these words, they are full of opportunities for reflection during your day.

Give thanks to the Lord….for what? What are you thankful for today?

For He is good…God is always good, even in the midst of a struggle or hardship. Regardless of what is happening in your life today, where do you see the goodness of God? It may be in a place you haven’t looked yet.

God’s mercy…We are wrapping up a whole year dedicated to the mercy of God. God’s mercy is present for us each and every day. What’s more, we are capable of being agents of God’s mercy to one another. Where have you felt God’s mercy? Who showed you God’s mercy? Who have you shown God’s mercy to?

Don’t sit down and expect to answer all these questions in 3 minutes. Wait for your prayer time, say the Sign of the Cross, ask your guardian angel for wisdom. Slowly repeat this verse once or twice and consider just one or two of these questions or one of your own making. Talk to God about it. Ask Him questions, offer petitions, seek reassurance or guidance. Before you know it, your 3 minutes will be up. Pray more if you want but regardless of when you close your prayer, continue your day with a renewed spirit of friendship with God.

If you gain nothing else from these reflections, hopefully some part of this prayer experience will be meaningful enough for you to try and continue it everyday. A prayer a day…

***What other Scripture passages do you like to use for prayer? Have you ever used a specific passage to focus your prayer? Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com


December 2, 2016 – It Doesn’t Mean Hoarding

Have you heard of preppers before? Preppers typically refer to a group of people who believe that the apocalypse or some other kind of calamity is going to fall upon the earth (think zombies) and they must be prepared for it’s arrival. This includes everything from having bunkers in the back yard, being able to make their own food and clothing, find or create fresh water and stocking up on foodstuffs and weaponry. Say what you want about the legitimacy of their claims, you can’t dispute that if they are correct, they are most definitely prepared.

But this kind of preparation, of collecting and stocking up, does not translate to the kind of preparation we have been talking about the past few days. You can’t spend your whole day (or your one hour at Mass) praying and then expect those prayers to “last” for the week or the month. It’s not as if you can put prayers into some form of bank and then withdraw from it until you need to refill it again.

Think of it this way. You have a friend. You and your friend spend a whole day together doing the things you like to do and having quality conversations about life, your friendship, the past, the future, etc. It’s a great day. But then, you don’t call your friend for a year. You don’t reach out, you don’t post on their Facebook wall, you make no effort at connecting with them. Then, you do decide that all the friendship of that day has run out and you try to connect again with your friend. You might be surprised by what you find. Maybe your friend is engaged to be married, maybe they changed jobs, maybe they had a baby. Who knows, but certainly not you since you were disengaged from their life for a whole year.

Now I know this is a rather extreme version but it makes a point. We can’t expect to have a relationship with God when we only talk with Him a few times a month. We definitely can’t expect to build a habit of prayer if we only pray when we are in distressing times or we want something badly. The type of preparation we do in daily prayer isn’t stockpiling, left on a shelf to get dusty and be pulled down in desperation. It is renewing. Each day that we pray, we renew our relationship with God. We allow God to make it deeper, stronger, more trusting and more life-giving. Together with God we are placing our lives on the sturdy foundation that God has made for us. That way, when hard times do come, we find ourselves standing solidly on layers and layers of trusting prayer experience.

***Did you find the presence of your guardian angel comforting? I know I forget about mine and it is good to be reminded that I always have her in my corner. Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com