For the Living of These Days—A Word from Renee Purtlebaugh

One of my favorite moments during this season of being healthy at home (week 7, but who’s counting?!) happened this past Sunday morning just before our online worship service began. Many of you know that each week I’ve been emailing out a family Bible study lesson, a coloring sheet and our typical children’s worship bulletin for our families with children to use whenever they have a moment to do so. For our preschool families, I’ve encouraged pulling out a favorite children’s story Bible and reading the story together.

The story Bible we use at home was only about a page long, and so together Eliza and I curled up on the couch about 30 minutes before worship began. She had already started to color the coloring sheet, which was a picture of Jesus breaking the bread and Cleopas and another person realizing who Jesus was and marveling at their conversation on the road with him.

“Do you know what the picture you are coloring is of?” I asked. “That’s Jesus breaking the bread and sharing it, just like you did mommy!” (harkening back to Maundy Thursday where I shared Communion live from our house, and she and Tyler watched it online from the car!)

“Yes, we share the bread because Jesus did. Let’s hear more of the story.” So, I started reading, and we stopped and paused several times. “But mommy, Jesus is alive! That big rock isn’t there.” And on and on we went as we practiced saying Cleopas, talked about how we usually recognize people and more. An important note: all of this happened in about 5-7 minutes. It was definitely not a drawn-out enterprise with a preschooler!

As worship began, and we made our way through the service, we both sat and colored. She continued using her coloring page, and I used an image from the children’s worship bulletin. Remarkably, it helped us both to listen and internalize the service more fully. As the Gospel  lesson approached, I gently reminded her to listen for the story and see if she heard anything she recognized.

As Jim read the words of the Gospel, her head tilted and her eyes shifted to the screen and then back to me in a sort of wondering disbelief. “Mommy, he said Cleopas!” “Mommy, that’s our story we read.” I’m not sure we captured all of it that morning, but there were at least a couple of moments where the God connection was deeply present, and it has carried me through this week thus far. Just by attempting to carve out a tiny bit of space to tell the story of Jesus in our home and letting it be whatever it was going to be—snuggled up on the couch in our pajamas, coloring on large storybooks, and listening for God—actually turned out to be one of the most sacred moments of the past 7 weeks.

Yes, a global pandemic has upended our days, but I’m finding that sustaining my spirit by looking for and finding ways to connect with God is the most important piece of my day. Once I’ve connected, I cling to it. If I never sense it, all remains a bit dull and matte. Even if just for 5 minutes, even 1 minute here or there (because let’s be very honest, even 5 consecutive minutes is hard to come by right now) is enough. With it, my wells of patience and creativity and especially hope are all a bit deeper than normal.

And so I wonder…how are you making space for just 5 minutes to listen intentionally for God this week for you and for your family? Where have you drawn close to God, and where is God drawing close to you?

Even as we make our way through week 7, arguably when we are most weary to date and  the adrenaline has long worn off, may God surprise each of us with a moment of wonder and closeness in unexpected ways. ~ Renee