In the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine my family continued to take part in the usual plans and activities. We ate together, played games, read books, loved one another, talked with our neighbors. The kids went to school, I wrote and answered emails, and my husband planned our congregation’s Lenten services.

Yet I was aware that war raged across the world. In spare moments I refreshed my screen for the latest news, scanned social media and reached out to friends who might be impacted. I didn’t initially address what was happening in Ukraine with my children (aged 7 and 4), but I did offer prayers for the country, for the world and for peace to reign.

“What’s Ukraine?” my daughter asked one night. We gathered at the globe in our living room, and I showed them the country. We talked about the bad choices being made and how people needed prayers for peace, healing and comfort. Our conversation didn’t go much deeper, but we did lift up the people of Ukraine and ended our prayer time with the Lord’s Prayer.

As a parent living in the United States, I’m pondering the reality of my days compared to those of Ukrainians at war. Last Sunday our congregation baptized a child. Before church, our family picked out a card for Owen, the baby being baptized, and my 7-year-old wrote him a note:

“Owen has a baptism. I love you.”

As a parent living in the United States, I’m pondering the reality of my days compared to those of Ukrainians at war.

The card contained only a few simple words. Owen was baptized. But remember that baptism declares we are beloved. It reminds us that God is with us—present, living, moving and breathing through us. Even when the world rages against us, when there’s war and violence, when the news shows mounting destruction and loss of life, the simple fact of Owen’s baptism confirms God’s commitment to bringing hope to a weary world.

God hasn’t given up on God’s people, and I refuse to give up on simple acts: prayer, listening to neighbors, loving my children, practicing forgiveness, lighting candles. From the safety of my home and the comfort of my life, these acts feel inconsequential, especially when so many people are fighting for their lives. But if I believe in the God who came into this world as a baby amid the muck and mess of life, I must also believe that the places to start bringing hope and healing into the world are precisely the places where I find myself: in my home, with my family, in conversation with those who think or believe differently from me. In the water and word, and in God’s declaration to each of us: You are loved.

Facing so much uncertainty in the weeks to come, I’ll focus my eyes and heart on both the life in front of me and the lives of those across the world. As a family, we’ll pray for peace and share meals with neighbors. We’ll lift up Ukrainian families fleeing for their lives and help a local mom adjust to life with a newborn. We’ll light a candle for the conversations of leaders abroad and in our country. Both deserve my attention, both are the responsibility of people of God, and both have the power to bring peace and hope.

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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