My days in Lent look different.
They feel different.
They sound different.
My Lenten days rise and fall with the sounds of children’s laughter and cries.
My prayers rise up from the humblest of places caring for my children – baths, potty training, spit up, and speech delays.
My music for the season is comprised of lullabies and kids’ songs.
My holy reading sits on library bookshelves and in the hands of toddlers and babies.
My body finds peace in watching my children sleep.
My heart beats with joy in the stolen kisses and unexpected hugs.
The days are no less holy than when I was serving a church as pastor.
The days are no less sacred.
The days are no less faithful.
They’re just different.
Tonight we gathered as a family for soup and crackers at the church. The baby smiled at those who joined to eat. The toddler fed herself and passed the bowl of crackers. People greeted one another sharing about their days. Once we finished our soup I left with the kids before worship began. I didn’t have any responsibility to lead or plan worship. I didn’t preach. My only responsibility was to put the kids to bed.
We came home to go through our nightly bedtime routine. The water poured from the faucet as we brushed teeth and washed hands. As the water rushed out and splashed on the counter it was as if I could feel the sign of the cross being made on my forehead. It was as if I could hear the words being spoken to me: You are a loved child of God.
Next the pajamas came out. Clothes from the day were thrown in the hamper and clean pajamas placed on their bodies. In the dressing of the children it was as if I could hear the words of scripture being spoken to us: As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
I pile on the bed with the toddler and baby, our bodies touching and fidgety. We read stories. We read the same stories and books over and over again. The same ones we’ve been reading for weeks. We know what comes next as we turn each page. We sing the same songs. It’s almost as if I can hear the words of scripture being spoken to me: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Colossians 3:16)
Then we settle in for prayers. We pray for our family, those near and far. We pray for this world. We pray for our community. We give thanks. We entrust to God all that makes our hearts heavy. We sigh in gratitude at the chance to live this one, precious life. We squirm and jump up and down. The toddler grabs the baby for a kiss. The toddler then jumps on the dog kissing him as well. The baby grabs a book stuffing it in his mouth. We pray with our words and our bodies.
To close our prayers I say the Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father, who art in heaven…
In those moments of prayer I remember the communities and the people across our town and the world who join us in this simple prayer. In this most powerful prayer.
And then, finally, we mark the sign of the cross on our foreheads.
You are a loved child of God.
I tuck the kids in bed. I hear their protests and cries. The lights turn off and I entrust their rest to God. As I walk down the hall, with a full heart, I can’t help but be fulfilled.
My days in Lent do look different in this season of my life. But they are no less faithful. I am grateful for the worship of my days feeding, cleaning, reading, bathing, and playing. I am grateful for the church whose doors extend all the way to the bedroom of my children.
This is worship. This is Lent.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/