Several birthdays ago, my sister gave me a tea kettle wrapped in layers of brightly-colored paper. Years later, it is covered with brown markings of gas flame and many mornings.
Once shiny, now it bears evidence of life. I love that.
Always it sits on my stovetop. Unless I’m making something requiring lots of pots, and then it waits happily for me on top of the toaster. Our kitchen is a cramped one, so we find space where we can.
I wake in the morning before my four darlings. I come downstairs to my kettle and fill it for the preparation of my French press coffee. I pluck the little round lid from the kettle’s top and fill it just right with water. After so many mornings, I know the level of kettle water needed to bring my French press to exactly half full. This satisfies me. I like being an expert in little things.
I squeak the lid on top, place the kettle on the front right burner and ignite the flame.
Then I sit down to write or pray or listen to kettle sounds, which feels like prayer.
The bubbles start small, dancing shyly in their metal house. Then the excitement grows. Families come together for the revelry, and they are having a grand ol’ time. The party atmosphere builds gradually to a tightened pitch. And then in the moment when the kettle is ready to blow, the bubble families stop their dancing. They wait. The sound drops. Quiet.
The revelry is fun. But as a mama of three young kids, I do love some silence. I savor and soak in the moment.
I wonder if this is what a shift in barometric pressure feels like and imagine mama birds and babies suddenly scattering for roosts and horse’s hooves pounding through a meadow.
In this sleeping house, the kettle silence moves me to the stove, where I pause a moment to savor the nothing and turn off the heat. The kettle stills entirely before the whistle can do its screaming through the kitchen, up the stairwell and into the warm breath bedrooms.
I think about this silence. This peace. This pause between boil and whistle screech. I wonder about why it moves me and am reminded of the words: “Be still and know that I am God.”
An invitation to draw near. Grasp hold of truth in my deepest places of knowing. In the folds of my brain, layers of skin covering muscle and bone, fibers of my heart.
In the moments of our mess when the party builds to fevered frenzy, when the girls’ voices grow, the pounding booms, the quarrels intensify, I know this building of bubbles.
We sure loved the hootaninny, but now it’s the end of the party, where tempers flare and some of our guests threaten to blow and make a noisy mess of it all. I worry I will be the guest who does the worst damage at the end.
I am standing at the edge of overwhelm and fear of how I may respond. In the moment before the kettle blows, I have a choice. Be still. Listen for God’s assuring presence. Or plow ahead overturning chairs and tearing down decorations.
I learn that the Hebrew for “be still” is probably “enough!” or “stop!” This voice of strength grabbing hold of me from inside gets my attention.
When I begin the flailing and feel the boiling of skin from underneath, when my body, myself, my children, their noises and mess are all I can see and hear, God calls me to acknowledge Him.
Of course, when I do the first acknowledging — “God you are here” — I don’t know what that means or what’s next, because in that moment before the whistle, I feel the sort of eerie pause, the empty. But my here-God knows.
I wonder if not for the fear of my collapse, can I really know peace? If not for the unraveling, can I really know what it is to be hemmed in?
Bearing the marks of life, I need. And he gives. Presence. Peace. Safe place.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:10-11