Samantha Stephenson ponders how to find God in a sink full of dishes.
This house will never be clean again.
Despite the unlikelihood of this statement, I know it to be true. I’m drowning in a sea of toys and laundry, and if I am to take Marie Kondo’s advice, it’s all going in the trash because none of it is sparking any joy.
The kitchen is my one respite. Even on the most hectic of days, the kitchen remains the place where I can still check off the boxes. Meals will be prepared and served. The dishwasher will be loaded, and the coffee set for tomorrow. This room is proof of my productivity, and for that, I love it.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta must have loved it, too, or else why would she offer this advice to her sisters: “Wash the dish not because it is dirty, nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” My Confirmation saint, Saint Teresa of Avila, offered this consoling advice: “Know that when you are in the kitchen, our Lord moves amongst the pots and pans.” The kitchen, then, must be some sort of blissful haven for many of us overwhelmed by the endless cycle of domestic responsibilities, right?
Well, maybe not. Maybe these Teresas, these powerhouses of virtue, had access to dispositions honed by years of practice. Not one that sought to deny the value of the work of their vocations, but to sanctify each task in the offering of a joyful, obedient soul.
I am not a Teresa.
My invitation to holiness is at the kitchen sink, where I enjoy the steady, soapy warmth of the water washing plates clean again. It’s in the oven and at the stove, where favorite scents marry. It is on the dinner table where I offer my family nourishment, the Eucharist of our domestic church and the foreshadowing of the heavenly banquet to come. In these places, grace and gratitude flow naturally, tied to these little acts of service that I love as a mother.
Past the kitchen, through the garage door, lurks my nemesis: a pair of dark and humid machines whirling endlessly, the rhythmic tapping of jean zippers on metal a constant reminder that there is more to be done. I fold stubborn fabric that has passive-aggressively gathered itself into a thousand wrinkles, tossing the unwearable pieces straight back into a hamper that mocks me with its ability to remain obstinately full. I glance at the painting of the Polish Madonna hanging sheets on the line, and this image reminds me that here, too, is where I meet God.
Every folded shirt and orphaned sock neatly stored is an occasion for holiness. When I greet these tasks with prayer and purpose, I say “goodbye” to the gloom in my soul. I allow God’s warmth to penetrate me until I radiate His own goodness. That is the path of virtue. That is what it means to be a saint. I am all that stands between me and this quiet loveliness.
So I will go now to greet the laundry basket with a smile, with gratitude for its heft. The weight of these many baskets full means that there are loved ones to clothe, and abundance that clothes them. I will fold and stash each garment with love in my fingers, imagining the caress of this fabric as an extension of my own embrace.
I would rather be weeding in the garden, standing at the sink, or snuggling with my little ones. I would rather so many other things. But this is the work of the moment. This is the task at hand.
And so I surrender. I trust God to iron all out my little wrinkles, starting here, in this laundry basket, with a joyful “yes.”
Copyright 2023 Samantha Stephenson
About the Author
Samantha Stephenson is a Catholic author and homeschooling mother of 4. She hosts the podcast Mama Prays: Pursuing Holiness as a Catholic Mom and is the author of Reclaiming Motherhood from a Culture Gone Mad and the Mama Prays devotional. You can connect with her on Instagram or sign up to receive her Mama Prays Substack newsletter.