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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.
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 (http://jasonandkelliwoodford.blogspot.com/).