When the pool opens for the season, my kids want to be there. We meet our friends and always make new ones. I hold friends’ babies so they can change a diaper or wrangle their toddler into the water. We share snacks. We rock each other’s sun-drenched babies as they sleep. Sunscreen is a group commodity. We’ve celebrated birthdays with cupcakes and popsicles. At times it’s hard to tell who belongs to whom—we’re all looking out for one another’s kids.
At the pool we splash in the water, we let it hold us, going under and coming up; the water is present. Surrounding us. Moving us. Supporting us. We learn to trust our bodies, the strength of our arms, the power of a breath. We feel what it’s like to be held and float staring into an endless blue sky. And all along, with each jump and dive and pull with our arms, the water brings us into community. At the pool, summer after summer, I’m attune to remembering our baptisms.
In my Lutheran tradition the water at baptism is generally a splash from the baptismal font. We watch it drip down our foreheads and sometimes startle babies into tears. The water is a gift and a mystery, it’s ordinary yet full of God’s presence. Water is a tangible, physical sign of God’s invisible love. The water is always with us. Baptism claims us as God’s children and in that moment with the water and the Word, we are forever declared a loved child of God.
The pool is a great place to remind our children that they are loved just as they are. Each time they splash in the water, we can remind them of the waters of baptism. Each time they stand back afraid, we can declare to them God’s presence. Each time they cheer in glee, we can give thanks for God’s joy. Each time they share with their friends or work out a disagreement, we acknowledge the body of Christ with us.
Water seems so ordinary, yet our faith teaches us the extraordinary power found in it—through the water and God’s Word at our baptism, we are declared good and God’s beloved. And every summer, the waters at the pool invite us to splash into this love.
This excerpt is one of 90 devotions found in The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years. If you’re in the midst of raising young children and wondering how to meet God in your days, or simply desire to know you’re not alone in this challenging work, this book is for you.
I wrote The Beauty of Motherhood with my friend Erin Strybis. As two moms in the thick of the early years, we know what it’s like to wade through sleepless nights, drop our children at daycare, dole out snacks and meals over and over, balance playing with our kids with work and housework, and deal with the barrage of worries and guilt: Am I doing enough? What does that mean? Are my kids behind? Why, God, why?
We also know the myriad miracles of parenting: each stunning, bittersweet milestone, long days spent playing on the floor and paying attention to little things, cuddling our kids at storytime, worshiping together, and celebrating birthdays, Christmases and Easters as a family. And in this devotional, we hold both the challenging and happy moments together and point our reader toward the grace reflected in all of it.
Since becoming a parent, I’ve longed for peaceful resources and devotions that help me sense God’s presence already with me. Our prayer for the book is that it will remind others they are not alone. The Beauty of Motherhood will make a great baptism gift to encourage new moms in your congregation. It can also be given as a welcome present for new member mamas of young children. If you host a new moms’ group, the books could be a resource for a multi-week group study. What’s more, a group of grandparents may be interested in buying devotionals to share with their daughters or daughters-in-law to encourage them in their faith and mothering.
In additional to The Beauty of Motherhood, here are our other favorite resources for parents:
Ordinary Blessings for Parents: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Family Life by Meta Herrick Carlson. This book of blessings calls out the simple struggles that remind us we are in good company and that we are loved in the midst of loving children.
Mothering Spirit is a gathering place to explore parenting and spirituality. With storytelling shaped by the liturgical seasons, the collaborative, ecumenical project offers weekly essays and prayers from diverse voices on motherhood–plus virtual retreats, e-books, resources, and creative ways to connect our stories with God’s story.
God’s Dream by Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams is a children’s book with great illustrations and simple, yet elegant prose. The book highlights God’s loving vision for humankind.
*Excerpted from The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years © 2023 Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY 10016. Reprinted with permission.