In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being (John 1:1-3).


Imagine a world without words. Not a complete lack of words, but definitely a shortage of them.  

And those words are rare. They take work, time, patience and lots of prayers. The words come in shouts and gibberish and screeches. 

A world without words—this is my family’s reality. Our joyful, spirited 3-year-old daughter has childhood apraxia of speech. 

When Charlotte was a baby we waited to hear her first words. When she turned 1, she hadn’t yet uttered “mama” and “dada.” By the time she was 18 months, we still couldn’t hear any discernible words. Today she only speaks a handful of words. 

The wait for words has been full of sadness and, at times, anger. I’m sad Charlotte can’t tell us stories. I’m angry at those who were unable to help her earlier. Some days I worry we’re pushing her too much with speech. At other times, I just want her to be a toddler and play.  

My daughter’s speech delay is only part of her personality. We’re grateful that she is healthy, growing and loving. She loves trains, playing at her train table and repeating, “Choo-choo.” She loves other kids and spends hours swinging and sliding at the park. I adore watching her interact with her baby brother, kissing him, reading with him and never leaving his side.  

While her speech delay isn’t the end of the world, right now managing it is our world. Days are spent driving to and from speech therapy. Learning from the therapist how to make sounds. Deciphering Charlotte’s made-up sign language and hand motions. Helping her communicate with other children. Wondering how others view her lack of speech. Yearning to hear her say, “I love you, Mama.” 

Back to the beginning 

School has started, and I can’t help but think about Charlotte being at preschool with so few words. Most nights during prayer time I give thanks for how far she’s come. I pray that she’ll continue to work hard and build her language. And silently I pray for myself. I pray to stop mourning that which could have been if only she didn’t have apraxia. 

I grew up with a love of words instilled in me. Love for the written word and the spoken word. Love for God’s Word and the chance to share that Word with others. My parents said I never stopped talking as a child. During high school, I preached my first sermon in church. As an adult, I share words from the pulpit as a pastor and on paper as a writer. Now, as I witness my daughter’s lack of words, I keep using my words to tell our story. To remind myself that what is and what is to come is good. To trust the Word is inside of her.   


Most nights during prayer time I give thanks for how far she’s come. I pray that she’ll continue to work hard and build her language. And silently I pray for myself.


Whenever I’m up at night my worries tend to go back to our beginning. I wonder about Charlotte’s time in the womb to delivery and the early months of her life. Did something happen? Did we not do enough? Did we do too much? I can make myself sick with worry if I think too hard. So I force myself to go back—not to her beginning or even mine, but to the very beginning. 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 

I think of the beginning, when potential spilled forth from God, when God created the world from breath and spirit, where the Word existed. There’s never been a time devoid of God’s presence.  

There are always beginnings. Always more to come. Always potential. Always creativity.  

That’s the case for my daughter. That’s the case for all those who are back at school or starting school for the first time.  

Nevertheless, I can’t help but worry how my daughter is being received by her classmates. I wonder when she’ll be able to talk more fully with her teachers and friends.  

Among so many worries, what I’ve realized about my daughter’s lack of words is there’s only one word that truly matters: God’s Word. God’s Word of love and potential. God’s Word of goodness. God’s Word for me and for my daughter. God’s Word that resides within us all. God’s Word that knew us from the beginning.  

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:4). 


Among so many worries, what I’ve realized about my daughter’s lack of words is there’s only one word that truly matters: God’s Word.


God’s Word, Jesus Christ, takes all our doubts, questions and worries and carries it for us, turning it to hope. 

This is my daughter’s beginning. It’s all of ours. A beginning without end. A beginning where all our words come from the first Word. 

A word of love.  

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
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. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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