I‘ve been feeling a lot of anxiety lately. I stopped at the Catholic supply store in Houston and picked up a new incense. The wafting smoke calms me and takes me to a quiet place in my head. This new French amber grains is sweeter and softer than the usual Jerusalem scent I have had in the past. I rather like it; I have found a new favorite.
My daughter coughs as she walks through the clouds of smoke. Her older brother– having served on the altar for many years –calls out from his bedroom, “It’s cleaning out your lungs!” “That doesn’t make any sense!” she cries back. ” I tell her that it’s purging the devil out of her lungs, to which she confidently replies, “I don’t have the devil in my lungs!” “Then why are you coughing?!” calls back her brother.
This house –home to my little domestic church –is a wreck. The kitchen pantry shelves are in the dining room, and the dresser I am going to use in the master bathroom is also in the dining room. Half the dining tile is broken and subfloor is exposed. All the kitchen subfloor is exposed. Stacks of the pine flooring we plan to install are scattered throughout the kitchen, the dining room, and the hallway.
My bathroom is gutted, with bare sheetrock and half the subfloor finished. The bathtub and the toilet are in my bedroom. Boxes of the contents of the broken china cabinet are stacked in the classroom. The six of us are sharing a bathroom. The shower in that one bathroom is out of commission. One child took a shower in the backyard this evening, another took one at a friend’s house. The rest of us took baths and tried our best to not get the wall with holes in the grout wet.
I work in my kitchen and I see chaos. I sit in the dining room and feel chaos. My mind is chaos.
“Be nothing solicitous; but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be known to G-d,” I say this aloud. I say it again. I think it, I breathe it. I know it. But I have a physiological response to the chaos surrounding me. The chaos, however, isn’t as striking when seen through the smoke of the incense.
I use essential oils to help me through anxiety. I have also tried Vodka… but I rather like the effect the aromatic clouds have on me. Perhaps because it takes me to the stained glass, the Tabernacle, the Sacraments… I’m not there physically, but somehow my body takes it in, and the air, though it is filled with smoke, is clean and sweet and easy to breathe.
It won’t smell like a church in the morning when it is time to make the coffee to fuel my day and face the chaos.
As the smoke subsides, the sound of crickets drifts through my bedroom window and I am reminded of the late hour. As I drift off, the scent of the incense will fade. It won’t smell like a church in the morning when it is time to make the coffee to fuel my day and face the chaos. But the embers of the charcoal and French amber will still be on my dresser, reminding me that regardless of the misplaced bathtub, the boxes and the cracked grout and broken shower head, my home is still my little domestic church, and these little blessings –the ones who bathe awkwardly, make themselves vulnerable in a friend’s home, or shower outside with the garden house without complaining –are a little congregation depending on me to sort through this chaos for them and with them. At least I have my incense to light if I need to blur the lines of the wreck with smoke (and if worse comes, I have Vodka too).