My little house is located at the bottom of one of the prettiest little hollers in northern Kentucky. We’re surrounded by 90 acres of woods, rolling hills, and there’s a little running stream that I can hear when we leave the bedroom windows open.
The house is in a little quiet spot—I can hear the train rolling like it’s about to come through the yard even though we’re ten miles from the track. Songbirds were the norm in the summer, but lately I’ve only seen hawks and buzzards flying around. There’s a warren of rabbits in the field in front of the barn, and the little bunnies like to play in the middle of the road, which is pretty safe because a heavy traffic day in our neighborhood means that the mail carrier, UPS, and the school bus all drove by at least once.
I’ve imagined what it would be like to put up a little shrine in the corner of our room that faces the stream, or in the music room. I’ve even thought about what items I might like to have included in it. But I haven’t made any moves to start shaping it. This isn’t because I’m not praying at home—it’s because I keep getting stuck on my porch.
As someone who feels a little extra prickly and tired during the winter months, I know I need to spend some time outside every day, even on cold days, to feel as good as I can. This is also true about my prayer life—the crazier things are in the world or just inside my head, the more I talk to Jesus.
The porch is a good place to do that, especially on days when the fields are too muddy for a walk. At first blush, you’d probably be fooled into thinking there’s nothing much to see but the barn, the mailbox, the old tractor we have designs to fix up, my husband’s woodshop, the black walnut tree, and the spot where the chicken palace used to sit.
But on days when I can let myself be quiet (inside and out) enough to hear the wind whispering like angels’ wings, I can see the Kingdom of God spread out before me. I have lost track of time out there, in my blue canvas lawn chair—and that is a rare and wonderful gift, to lose time staring off into space, watching the clouds roll out or in or just change shape.
I keep summertime pictures on my phone to look at, here lately—I’m sharing a few of them with you, just in case you need a little reminder of green and growing things. There’s nothing green in the yard right now—I can see hills and geographic features in the wintertime that are usually covered up with foliage in the spring and summer.
There’s a spare quality to the winter landscape that is beautiful, prayerful even, but I’ve had a hard time taking a good picture in the overcast, gray weather we’ve been having for a few weeks. It’s been as low as -4 degrees on the porch this winter, and as warm as 62. When it’s super-cold, I layer up and put my sweatpants on top of my jeans, on top of my tights, and wear my big coat on top of a fleece vest on top of a thin running jacket, and sometimes I wrap up in a blanket, just to be sure. I sit on my porch and pray, waiting for spring or a word from Jesus or for the sun to peek out from the clouds.
Praying on the porch is different than the way I pray in church, or when I wake up, or when I go to sleep, or when I’m in the middle of my day. It is a more quiet kind of prayer—the kind that is mostly me listening, not telling or reporting or talking or complaining or asking for forgiveness or the grace to offer it.
On the porch, I feel like God and I are companions in a way that stills my soul. It’s not a dissimilar feeling to having my first cup of coffee with someone who knows and loves me well—there’s a lot of quietness because it takes me at least 45 minutes to wake all the way up every single morning. Oh, I can get ready and get things moving in the right direction, but as far as conversation or executing major executive functions…that is not my area of ministry. But time on the porch is a blessed reminder that I don’t always have to be up and running, don’t always have to be watching the clock, or making the bacon, or whatever else I’ve told myself must happen today.
When I am still and quiet, when I can allow myself the grace and space to sit and lose track of time and train of thought, small and beautiful and powerful things find their way into my hands and heart. I was always a praying girl, but the porch is where I learned to look and listen. Thanks be to God.
If you have a porch, is it a place of prayer for you?