Over four hundred years ago, a wounded French soldier entered a monastery, committed to devoting his life to God. He became known as Brother Lawrence, and he was assigned kitchen duty, which he found annoying. But he used that irritation as an opportunity to grow, and eventually he was able to say:
“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
This idea of maintaining a feeling of holiness and closeness to God during everyday work speaks to me. As a young wife and mother who also works outside the home, I have plenty of responsibilities and people “at the same time calling for different things.” And I often have a hard time finding serenity in the midst of all of it.
So I decided to take on a Brother Lawrence challenge: I would learn to work with mindfulness and seek to do all things for God. But how? I had no idea where to start, so I decided to look for other people who had figured it out.
A quick search on Pinterest showed people creating sacred spaces in their homes, whether with altars and candles, crystals, and statues or simply with rugs and pillows. I also found guided Bible studies, yoga routines, and private retreats.
I tried getting up early to read scripture or meditate, but I either fell asleep halfway through or spent so much time at it that the rest of the morning was rushed and hectic, which pretty much defeated the purpose. Besides, I wanted something that would work at any time of the day, no matter where I was.
This brought me to the concept of mindfulness. In his book Peace Is Every Breath, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Mindfulness is attention . . . . It’s the capacity to recognize clearly that every moment is a gift of life, a gift from the Earth and sky.” With so much of my day filled with multitasking and interruptions and lists of things to be done, I was drawn to the idea of focusing my attention on just one thing at a time, taking the time to appreciate each moment.
I found that paying attention, especially to the small things I normally take for granted, helped me recognize and feel grateful for the myriad blessings in my life: hot water from a tap, a soft bed to lie in, the comfort of my son leaning on my arm as I read to him. In her book One Thousand Gifts, Christian writer Ann Voscamp adds, “Thanks makes now a sanctuary.”
I don’t know that I’ll ever be able match Brother Lawrence in his ability to “possess God” even in chaotic circumstances, but I feel like I’ve found a vital clue. Everyday holiness begins with gratitude.
Whatever your form of worship, you may find that giving thanks in all things is a key to living your one life well.