My two boys are playing LEGOs upstairs with their dad as I take a deep breath and inhale the cool air and quietness that permeates the downstairs. A question dances in my mind while my fingers delicately graze the spines of an ever-growing collection of cookbooks. What will I make tonight? I finally select the book I want to experiment with and thumb through the pages, losing myself in the sight of beautifully photographed desserts and my notes, written in pencil, about the failures and successes of my ventures.
The pages cascade one after another until my eyes are captured by an alluring recipe. I hastily search the ingredient list, making sure my kitchen is stocked with the necessities for this new adventure. Check! I have everything. I ask my dutiful, electronic assistant, Alexa, to play music from my favorite baking playlist, and then I rummage through cabinets and drawers. Glass bowls and stainless-steel measuring cups begin to appear on my counters. The pantry and refrigerator also entrust their elements to the sacred altar of baking. I take intentional breaths and lose myself in the goodness that baking brings to my soul.
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to bake, but a new passion for leaning into and growing this craft was stoked inside of me at the end of last year. Little did I know that this new hobby would bring my heart immeasurable joy and the ability to help quiet the chaos and fears of an ongoing pandemic.
As I write this, COVID-19 has been shifting and altering the world we live in. For several weeks at the grocery store, my eyes would take in people hurriedly shopping, and my body would become highly aware of the energy emanating from the worried whispers and shifting glances. Entering the aisles normally filled with pantry staples left me feeling as if I had walked into an apocalyptic parallel reality. Shelves laid bare, naked, and emptied of the sustenance we take for granted every day. Carts, overflowing with toilet paper and canned goods, would rush by scavenging for more—for anything.
Countless tears have filled my eyes during this overwhelming event, and ever-present anxiety attacks my mind relentlessly. On many days fear has crash into my body like a tidal wave, leaving me desperately breathing in oxygen like a dehydrated woman drinks water in the wilderness.
Similar to my journey with baking, anxiety has also followed me closely in my journey through life. There have been seasons of life where anxiety has felt small and unassuming, and there have been seasons, like the present, where it fights for control of the driver’s seat.
I began exploring my anxiety after the birth to my first baby because I spent six months living with postpartum anxiety. I was able to reveal the nameless, faceless foe that had been affecting my life for years and identify it during that time. Alongside my counselor, I discovered what my triggers were and how bursts of anger or intense sadness manifest as a way to control the fear.
When I am in the kitchen, the mixing of flour and sugar and the creaming of butter and eggs administers a much-needed salve to my soul.
The loudness of fear is quieted by the whirring of my Kitchen Aid, bringing calm into focus. The steam from the hot oven rushes past my tense face, whisking away the worried creases.
With each ingredient I scoop and every batter I pour, I tenderly bless the brokenness of the world around me and inside of me and invite all of the uncertainty and chaos to rest for a while. The invitation to walk upon sacred ground has been heard, and now it is time to be still.
Mal Arnold is a passionate Latina wife and mother who is a chaser of dreams and believes in living life with abandon. She writes to pour some of herself out for any who care to experience her heart, but is also an avid reader, lover of old movies and going on journeys with family as well. She has seen heartache and trauma in her past and is learning to let her Maker heal her broken places.