The other morning, I went out and sat on our back porch. It’s something that I often do on the weekends. It’s my time before everyone else in the house gets up and our hectic life shifts into high gear. I go out there to pray, write, decompress, and reflect.
It is, in many ways, my own personal chapel. There are no stained glass windows, but there is a wide variety of colorful flowers all around, including the rosebush just off the porch that was given to me when my mom died. Past the vegetable garden that provides our family with nourishment, a statue of St. Francis looks on from the back corner of the yard. The fire pit, a few yards away from the porch, speaks to the gathering of family and friends many nights, celebrating the blessings of relationships—and very often s’mores. This porch is a physical connection between my past—growing up in this house—and the present—moving back after Mom’s death.
When I was younger, I would often watch my dad sit on the back porch in the evenings and gaze out onto the yard. Sometimes my sisters and I would join him and fall asleep on the glider next to him. I always wondered what he was looking at. I wonder if he was looking out on the same things I do now.
Even these days, when he comes to the house every Sunday from the retirement village where he now lives, he sits and gazes out on the backyard. Does it offer him the same spiritual experience as it does for me?
How Do You Pray?
As I sat on the porch that particular day, there was a slight breeze blowing. The sun was just beginning to extend its rays over the giant tree in my neighbor’s backyard, casting a soft glow on the world below it. My dog, Tigger, was curled up and fast asleep on the couch beside me. The words of Psalm 46 repeated in my head: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Suddenly, my youngest daughter, Kacey, appeared in the doorway.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m praying,” I told her.
“It doesn’t look like it,” she countered. “It looks like you’re just sitting there in your pajamas, doing nothing.”
“Really?” I jokingly shot back at her. “And what exactly does prayer look like?” She proceeded to give me the standard bow-your- head-and-fold-your-hands answer. Then she recited a few of the prayers she has learned over the past few years in school, such as the Hail Mary and Glory Be—just in case I had forgotten them.
That’s certainly one way—and an important way—to pray, I told her. But it’s not the only way. Sometimes, I said, a prayer can be as simple as saying “thank you” or just acknowledging and appreciating the blessings you have.
“When I sit out here, I say prayers of thanks for all the things I see around me—the trees, the breeze, the sounds of the birds and the bells from the church up the street,” I said.
Finally, I told her how I pray for her and her siblings who are often asleep inside when I’m out here. Of course, that prayer is usually immediately followed by a prayer of thanks for this all-too-infrequent brief period of peace and quiet.
I’m not sure she bought into it, but I hope that maybe someday she will understand and discover her own personal chapel—wherever that may be.