Church at Home

I am curling my hair in the bedroom when I hear Kelly open her door and walk downstairs. I glance at my watch – 8:30 a.m., the time we’ve set for our first roommate breakfast. I turn off the curling iron, and survey the floor of my bedroom, uncharacteristically messy these days. I really should clean this up now, I think. It’d be nice if I could just have this hour before church to myself.

But I’m not one to break appointments. Especially not this one. Since Kelly moved in three weeks ago, I’ve only seen her two or three times. She works late at her graphic design job in DC. Amy and I, both teachers with early schedules, are usually in bed before she returns. The three of us have yet to sit down and figure out house rules and routines, and until we do, I know I won’t really feel settled. I sigh, noting the compression in my sinuses and the cramps tightening my stomach. Just do it, I tell myself.

I join Kelly in the kitchen where she’s in the middle of rummaging through her cupboard, pulling out stacks of cans: Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, generic black beans, Del Monte corn. “I’m looking for my pancake mix,” she explains.

I smile, moving into the dining room to set the table: three pink placemats, three cream plates with scalloped edges, three forks, three knives. By the time I return to the kitchen, Amy’s made her way downstairs too, still in the sweatshirt and boxer shorts she must have worn to bed last night. She’s cutting overripe peaches into bite-size pieces, sorting them into two neat piles on the cutting board: edible and brown. Kelly’s found the pancake mix and is stirring in an egg.

“Does anyone have milk?” she asks.

“I’ve got skim,” Amy returns.

“I’ve got one percent,” I add before turning to measure coffee beans into the grinder.

Amy opens the fridge door and pours the milk into the one cup measuring cup. “How are you Abby?” she asks, handing the milk to Kelly.

“Okay,” I say, trying to keep track of the number of tablespoons I’ve measured. “I think I’m coming down with a bit of a cold though.”

“Oh no,” Kelly exclaims, looking up from her mixing bowl, her eyes widening into genuine alarm. Though we go to the same church, I barely know Kelly, so I’m struck by her sympathy and sincerity. “Do you need medicine?” she asks.

“Actually, that’d be great.” She runs upstairs to get some while Amy and I chat about our Saturday night activities: movie for me, catching up on e-mail for Amy. When Kelly returns, I thank her and pop the cold pills into my mouth, their bitter sweetness dissolving and spreading across my tongue in the brief seconds before I wash them down with water.

“So what do you think we should do about chores this year?” Amy asks. She’s finished slicing peaches now and is sorting through the blueberries I left on the counter last night, throwing away the moldy ones and dumping the others into Kelly’s pancake batter.

“What did you do last year?” Kelly asks. Amy takes a few moments to explain the system the two of us and our old roommate Chrystal had used, and I listen, hand poised on the button that will start the coffee grinder. Kelly likes our chore chart, so we all agree to keep it.

With our decision comes a lull in the conversation, so I push the button, the whirr of the grinder forcing each of us into our own worlds for a moment. When it’s finished though, we return to each other, chatting about plans for a new DVD player while we measure, stir, brew and sort. We’ve never cooked together before, but we’ve fallen into it easily, a natural rhythm emerging in our movements, in our words. I breathe deeply, taking in not only the rich aroma of coffee and the crisp scent of pancakes in oil, but also the moment itself and its echoes of goodness, rightness, home.

Amy and Kelly are both flipping pancakes now, Kelly in a round skillet, Amy in a wok. Neither pan’s right for the job, but they don’t seem to mind. I grab the margarine and pancake syrup and put them on the table, then add the finishing touch: a candle in the center. I run upstairs to get a match and return to light it, finishing at the same time as the pancakes.

We all sit down together at the table. “Wow, we work well together,” Kelly says, surveying the results of our efforts: coffee steaming in mugs, peach and blueberry pancakes, some perfect crisp rounds, others lumpy piles. I offer to pray. “Thanks God,” I say, “for letting us all work together this morning to make breakfast. Thanks for fun memories. I pray that there’d be many more in the coming months. And I pray too that in the fun, there’d also be lots of growing together, lots of helping each other seek You more. Amen.”

I look up and smile at my roommates, truly thankful for this moment and for the fact that I’m not spending this hour before church alone, thankful too that church is beginning to work its way into my home.