Standing at the kitchen sink the other week, I quickly scraped three-hour-old bread crusts off one of my children’s plates into the food waste bin and then hurriedly put the plate in the dishwasher. The sink was full of lunch dishes and I needed to start on dinner. Also, a writing deadline loomed, and I wanted to get the dishes done and dinner made and the kids packed off to bed so I could get to my computer and finish the essay I was in the middle of. So I moved quickly, a familiar sense of too-much-to-do and not-enough-time filling my chest and flattening my breaths. 

And then I stopped as realization dawned. Once again I was living as though there was something else I ought to be doing, something other than the thing I was doing. I saw the dishes and the dinner I had to make as things to be gotten through so I could get on to my “real work.” This is a trap I fall into over and over again. It is also a lie.

If God is present always and everywhere—and He is—then He is just as present with me and active in me when I wash dishes as He is when I write or teach. When I am washing dishes, the dishes are my real work. 

I took a deep breath, filled both my lungs as full of air as I could and slowly exhaled. I continued scraping lunch leftovers into the food waste bin and loading the plates into the dishwasher, only this time I did each task slowly, with attention, attempting to be mindful that God was with me, that He was doing a good work in me as I did the good work of washing dishes.

When I turned my attention to the pans, left over from breakfast, I thought of Brother Lawrence, who was as at home with God in the monastery kitchen among the pots as he was in the chapel chanting psalms. What he was doing mattered far less than Who he was with. He was able to be present with God wherever he was because he knew God was present with him. 

It is impossible to be present to God when I am blasting through a task as fast as I can to get on with the other things on my to-do list. God isn’t present in those tasks yet because I’m not present in them. He’s present in this task, the one I am doing right now. His grace is sufficient for this task, not for those, not till they become my present task. Until then, focusing my attention other than where I am only robs me of the all-sufficiency of God for this moment, this task. 

As I scrubbed oatmeal off the sides of a saucepan, I repented of thinking this work of dipping my hands in soapy water was a barrier to my real work. I repented of my mad dash through a task as rife with meaning and meditative possibilities as the washing of dishes. Dirt and grease, water, soap, scrubbing, cleaning—the possibilities for prayer arising from this task are almost endless, the possibilities for parables of the spiritual life are rich. But even if they weren’t, the task itself would remain good because it is necessary, good because it is a gift to others (in this case my family) and good because God is present in it. 

The kitchen is full of the glory of God. The dishes proclaim His handiwork. I just need to show up and pay attention.

K. C. Ireton / Posts / Blog
K.C. Ireton is the author of two books and the mother of four children. An avid reader, she believes that a day without books is a day without meaning or joy. She also likes food, especially when her husband prepares it. Vive le weekend!
  • Shelly Miller

    Such good truth Kimberly. A simple task, like doing the dishes, can become a holy moment when we invite the presence of God to be in it with us. Holiness inhabits our intentions.

    August 3rd, 2017 4:07
    • K.C. Ireton

      Ooh, Shelly. I like that last line: “Holiness inhabits our intentions.” I’m going to ponder that. Thank you!

      August 4th, 2017 1:24
  • Kris Camealy

    This was beautiful, Kimberlee. And how deeply it resonates with me in this season, where being fully present has been both inviting, and also a challenge. Thank you for this…

    August 3rd, 2017 11:07
    • K.C. Ireton

      Yes, “inviting and also a challenge.” That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? May we both rest in God’s love right in the midst of the invitation and the challenge. xox.

      August 4th, 2017 1:26
  • Maeve

    Such a powerful reminder. I so easily separate my work into compartments. Thinking one is “spiritual” while the other is…not. Meanwhile, God cares about every square inch. He is inviting us to join in and care about every piece too. All of it, as you said, be it writing/teaching or scrubbing dirty pots & pans, is worship and holy ground. Thank you!

    August 8th, 2017 9:54
    • K.C. Ireton

      You’re exactly right, Maeve. We fall into the sacred/secular trap so easily. For me it’s the visible/invisible trap–the work that is visible to more people is valuable and important, while the work that is largely invisible isn’t. But God doesn’t see it that way at all. And as I grow deeper roots in Him, my ability to see the value in the less-visible increases…as does my ability to enjoy the very work I used to rush through to get onto more “important” things. Hallelujah!

      August 8th, 2017 13:55
  • Melanie Blank

    Just what I needed to hear. Thank you.

    August 25th, 2017 15:08

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