the sacrament of motherhood’s ecumenical moments


It’s Sunday morning and we do not find ourselves filling a pew.  Instead, I am home alone with the mighty seven.  For once, not locking myself in the bathroom to find a moment of peace and quiet, but internally hushed with open eyes in the trenches.  And finding church in all places unexpected.

Motherhood is sacred, holds vestiges of the venerable, no matter which door one darkens on Sunday.

My southern baptist roots don’t prevent me from experiencing the blessedness of christening by toddler saliva as he sneezes in time with me zipping his pants after a successful bathroom trip.  Wet face is only a physical expression of the deep reverence of such a task.

The tiny toes, attached to ball-shaped feet, at the end of chubby legs that circle my waist, remind me of rosary beads.  Each sweet, tiny nub, a prayer ascending as I trace them with gilded finger.  Each whispered request as laced with thanksgiving as it is with lint.  Relishing the chance for our hearts to beat, as they are, one on top of the other.

And miracles?  Yes, they happen, too, in a place as hallowed as the kitchen.  Because there’s nothing in the wide expanse of cupboards and the cold frontier of refrigerator that sounds as good to her as peanut butter toast.  And all I can summon for the sacramental spread is the crusty bit left around the edges of the jar.  Yet somehow in the knife’s rhythmic scratching, I am unwitting player in the reenactment of loaves broken, multiplied on the tongues of the needy.  I scrape out the last bit and it covers a host of bare bread’s exposed transgression.  Love, like this covering of peanut butter, that always stretches to conceal.

On my head, reminiscent of the veils worn by sisters of Mennonite persuasion, is a baseball cap.  A covering of grace for hair still damp and unstyled — part of mama’s standard uniform.  I don’t need its permission to pray, perhaps, but the brim acts as a stark limitation of my vision, an emblem of my nearsightedness, providing an impious reminder of the humanity by which I am still bound.  And peeking out from the hump of a brim, lines stare back at me in the mirror, these not made of ash, but of skin, wrinkled and aging.  Depending on the movement of my brows, they are now horizontal, now vertical.  A poignant representation, all the same, of “dust to dust.”

The only sermons and songs we know in this parish are from the lips of Bob and Larry, common veggies who carry more than chlorophyll and lycopene.  Somehow, sitting cross-legged on the floor with the baby resting against my chest, I hum quiet liturgy with the familiar tunes and anticipate more than entertainment.  Pentecostal fire, it burns within.  I hear not three points and a poem or a 20-minute guilt trip, but the Divine whisper, more of a deep stillness than a speaking, more like contentment than striving.  And I think they sense it, too.  Because we look in each other’s eyes and we laugh and we relive and repeat what we like.  We’ve experienced this together.  So this is communion at the cup of the free.

This is the church of holy tickles and manna new with every piece of gum that tucks itself into the tread of my sneaker.

And these are the wild moments of my deeply symbolic life.
Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord . . . as He shows up in the common grace of unexpected places.

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Kelli Woodford
Kelli Woodford hopes never to recover from the Mighty Mercy she has been shown. Although her life is now filled with more diapers than she’d like to count, she carves time out to write about finding God in the simple and the frustrating at Chronicles of Grace (
Kelli Woodford

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  1. A lovely Sunday among the holy hush of family and finding sacred space among the fragments that speak of truly living. And those baby toes, just love that imagery of them wrapped around like a rosary. Beautiful write as usual Kelli.

    • Yes, the baby toes! I so love those useless padded feet. Lovely imagery, Kelli, and it’s the hope of these sacraments, these avenues of grace, that keep me hoping through each day.

      • Kelli Woodford

        i bet you *so* get this, don’t you, Kelly? with those twin toddlers!! thank you for being here. this is a strong anchor for my hope, too.

    • Kelli Woodford

      thanks, Shelly. the “truly living” is where i need help most in really seeing, i think.

  2. Kelli, the sacred is not limited to or by or in the ways we may have rigidly limited sacred in our old paradigms. I love this, it opens the doors to the real sacred and the true holy. The set aparts in the set asides. The everyday holy. And we are just an everyday holy people after all. The pomp, the overly puffed up, and the ceremonial pale when compared to toes and buttercups in a field and just enough to peanut-butter to spread on the the bread. Humbled by the simple here. And finding joy in it with you.

    • Kelli Woodford

      oh, we ARE an everyday people. love how you said that. taking it with me. thanks for your love here, friend.

  3. Brandee Shafer

    You are very blessed, indeed.

    • Kelli Woodford

      yes, m’am, miss Brandee. blessed beyond words’ ability to convey.

  4. Beautiful, Kelli.

    • Kelli Woodford

      gracious Sarah, thank you for stopping by.

  5. Gosh, friend, my thoughts exactly. I’ve been living this for two years. Im glad someone else gets it. There is so much beauty here, there is no point bothering to quote any of it–how would I choose? Gorgeous write!

    • Kelli Woodford

      you’re a good friend, Nacole. i can’t wait till we can share our “getting it” in person — sweet, sweet Spirit in this place.

      • Oh, sharing it in person? Yes, I for sure am looking forward to this! Can’t wait! I am going to be on cloud nine until April, I think. 😉

  6. Well, every time I read your writing I feel my heart rising and falling with your words. I really do. But this? This is my favorite. That baseball cap analogy is just amazing and perfect and every other word that I can’t seem to think of right now.
    And the sons and I, we circle the kitchen table every morning and there is liturgy, there is communion, there is grace.
    A deeply symbolic life. Indeed. This I do know my friend.

    • Kelli Woodford

      ah yes, you have been one of my instructors in learning this perspective, this holy vision, dear friend. thank you for your generous words.

  7. Oh my. I’m breathing slow through this one, like a meditation. Kelli, all your writing is beautiful and breathes of the Sacred, and this, I think, is one of the most beautiful, delightful and creative I have read so far. How everything you described here IS sacrament and liturgy and grace – in the simple, ordinary and bathed in sneezy snot, spread thin with peanut butter – I am so delighted by how you see all this in your everyday. Praise God, for these beautiful, holy moments that play out beyond the walls of any church building.

    • Kelli Woodford

      yes. i pray to walk through my days with open eyes, always. thank you, lovely friend.

  8. Diana Trautwein

    Stunningly beautiful, Kelli. Thank you so much. I could use a baby-toe-rosary some days, that’s for sure. :>)

    • Kelli Woodford

      you can borrow mine, friend. 😉
      love to you.

    • Kelli Woodford

      thanks, sweet one. thanks for reading.

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