Focal verse

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13).

Reflection

Beneath the blue sky, a friend and I met for a walk on a nature trail with our collective five kids, two strollers, one bike, water and snacks. “Walk” is a loose term for what unfolded. We moved in fits and starts, crying, corralling, picking up a toddler with a scuffed knee and conversing with a defiant preschooler. 

“I push, Mama!” Charlotte, my 5-year-old pleaded. “Please, Mama!” Taking a deep breath, I stepped away from the stroller to give her small hands room to push her younger brother. She craned her head over the handlebars just enough to see the path ahead of her and took off in a sprint as I kept my distance, trying to eke out a moment of conversation with my friend. After one sentence, I saw the stroller rush down a grassy embankment, tilting to one side. 

“Alright,” I called. “It’s my turn to push now. Go and run with Liam and look for leaves.”

In total, we walked an hour. I can’t recall what we actually talked about in between bargaining with our children and doling out snacks. Yet between the screams, demands and crashing of strollers, magic happened. My friend and I bore witness to one another in our calling as mothers

In the parking lot the kids piled into their car seats and we folded the strollers. With the slam of my trunk I turned to my friend. “See you next week?” I asked with a wave and a smile. 

“Sounds good,” she responded. Sitting in the driver’s seat, I gave thanks for that day and our walk—the sun, the gentle breeze, the hugs, the tears, all of it—together. 

Throughout the various stages of parenting, the best thing we can offer to others is our presence and witness. We remind each other we’re not alone.

While we stayed home due to COVID-19, my connections with fellow parents were different yet just as needed. Calls, Zoom chats and snail mail took the place of in-person get-togethers. With every connection point, I felt less alone and more seen. And my children saw that they have a group of people cheering for their mother.  

When we invest in friendships, whether virtually or in person, we acknowledge the gift of community and remind our children that God’s presence can be found precisely amid showing up. 

Practices

How might you show up for your friends and model faith-centered friendship to your children? Maybe you could send a text and invite family friends to the park for a physically distanced picnic. Try a virtual game night and use a video chat with family friends. When you gather, be present and bear witness to others. Afterward, discuss with your children how you saw God showing up in your fellowship with friends.

Prayers

We pray for the diversity of families—single parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, and blended families—that they may know and share God’s love. 
We pray for opportunities to listen deeply and learn from others. 
We pray for parents of newborns and of newly adopted children. 
We give thanks for playdates at the park, hikes in the woods and picnics with friends. 
We give thanks for church communities that become family. 
We give thanks for laughter among friends. 

Service opportunity

Call your local animal shelter to learn about volunteer opportunities. Get together with friends and see if you can walk the dogs for exercise. As you walk, say a prayer for the animals and their future owners as well as a prayer of thanks for friendship.

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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