Becoming a Parent Changes Everything, Even My Faith

Feeling God’s hand in each of my vocations.
little girl in a pink coat holding her fathers hand

At my ordination to Word and Sacrament ministry in the Lutheran church, I felt the hands of so many who believed and encouraged my call to be a pastor. With hands pressed on my head and shoulders I heard the words: 

Bless your servant’s proclamation of your word and administration of your sacraments, so that your church may be gathered for praise and strengthened for service.

Make Kim a faithful pastor, patient teacher, and wise counselor.

Grant that in all things Kim may serve without reproach,

that your people may be renewed and your name be glorified in the church (ELW). 

Looking back to that cold January day over 12 years ago, I remember those hands placed on my head and shoulders. I felt their weight, but also the warmth from being surrounded in love, joy, and hope. God’s call to serve the church brought me into community and I knew I was not alone. 

Many of those hands were those of my childhood pastors, seminary professors, colleagues and friends; people who loved, taught, and walked with me in understanding what it meant to be called. God’s call came to me through the voices of encouragement over the years. God’s call came to me in moments of prayer. God’s call inspired me from the witness of those who had gone before me. 

As a pastor I felt the hands from my ordination as my own hands gathered with parishioners to pray. My hands offered bread and wine with the words “given and shed for you.” My hands chopped food in the church kitchen. My hands wrote notes, sermons, and Bible studies. My hands turned the pages of scripture. My hands poured water over babies and adults at baptisms. My hands marked the sign of the cross on foreheads. My hands cradled the sick and weary. My hands extended for blessings. 

My hands are still full

I still feel those hands from my ordination, but now a different set of hands pull me towards God’s call. My days are spent with my two children rather than working full time in a congregation. My hands embrace, chop, cook, dress, hold, tend to injuries, clean up, write, color. My hands volunteer at the school, make phone calls, and fill out paperwork. My hands come together in prayer. I also watch the hands of my children living out their callings: playing with blocks and Legos, coloring and crafting, inviting friends to come and play, and extending arms in an embrace. 

Since becoming a parent, my faith, too, has shifted and deepened. My days rise and fall with the sounds of children’s laughter and cries. My prayers rise up from the humblest of places caring for my children—baths, reading, packing lunches, doling out snacks, and shuttling to practices and lessons. My music for the season consists of lullabies, old VBS CD’s, and kids’ songs. My holy reading sits on library bookshelves and in the hands of my kids. My body finds peace in watching my children sleep. My heart beats with joy in the stolen kisses and unexpected hugs.

God deepens my understanding of grace daily as a parent. When I lose my patience and offer an apology to my children, God reminds me that forgiveness is readily available. When we pray as a family I picture God holding me as I hold my children. This is our call as parents: to love as we’ve been first loved.  

The same calling

In this season when I’m not working full time in the church, the technical term is on leave from call, but really, that feels far from the truth of my days. I still do the work of a pastor—preach, preside, lead, and pray. Some Sundays you can find me leading worship for a colleague, and other days I’ll lead Bible study or retreats via Zoom. I teach Sunday school reading Bible stories and making crafts with elementary kids. Through it all, my words and actions point to the love and grace of God. 

Most nights at bedtime, I finish reading a few pages in a chapter book with my eight-year-old daughter, Charlotte. We lay together for a few minutes before I say goodnight and walk down the hall to my home office. The sun has long set and with a quiet house, I turn to the work of writing. I answer emails. I put pen to paper. I open a blank Google document. 

Inevitably, I hear the tip-toe of my five-year-old son, Isaac, down the hall and into my office. Turning to him, he opens his arms and gives me a hug. He offers no words, just his embrace. Crawling into my lap, his legs cascade over me, he looks to the computer and sees the words I’m writing. For a few moments we sit in the silence, our bodies providing warmth and love to one another. 

This is my work: a mother, writer, and pastor. My kids watch me follow my dreams throughout the margins of the day, early mornings reading and writing, nights away to focus on writing, and Zoom meetings with writer friends. I tell them about this work and these words I’m sharing with the world. They know my first book I co-authored, The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years is a testament to the love and grace God pours into our lives. They see me in my clergy collar on Sunday mornings going to lead church in another town. All three calls are wrapped up in one—mother, writer, and pastor. And each call serves to inform the others. Because ultimately all these calls and the words I’m writing are a testament to the love of God. 

When I’m tempted to forget my call to the church, my children show me that my vocation to motherhood only serves to strengthen and affirm that call. Someday I will again work full time as a pastor of Word and Sacrament, and when that day comes, I’ll take with me the hands and lessons of my children, whose love sees me as mother, writer, and pastor; as one called by God. 

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Kimberly Knowle-Zeller

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller

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