Uno and Valentine’s Day

“Can we play Uno?”  A deck of Disney princesses lies scattered on the table as Charlotte doles out seven cards for each of us.

Before school while eating breakfast, after dinner, and free moments throughout the day we gather at the dining room table for Uno. The cards find a home between crumbs, napkins, and papers from school. Once the cards are dealt Isaac and Charlotte laugh at their hand. “I have all yellows and only one blue,” Isaac says. He leaves his cards face up for everyone to see. Charlotte shows off how she learned to fan out her cards holding them in one hand.

Throughout the games we hear the same chorus of phrases.

“I go first,” Charlotte declares every time.
With every skip or reverse the kids offer a “sorry” and a big smile.
“Uno!” they yell.
Plus the new words for how many cards we have in our hand: “Two-No, three-no!”
As soon as someone places their final card we offer high fives and then hear, “Can we play again?”

The kids haven’t tired of playing rounds of Uno yet, and I haven’t tired of being with them playing by the rules and sometimes not playing by the rules. At the table we’re fully present. No phones or to-do’s are before us. There’s nowhere to be but looking one another in the eye, a hopeful smile, and a handful of colors and princesses.

Sometimes when we play I offer a lesson on taking turns and losing with generosity. But sometimes a game of Uno is just that, a game of Uno. It’s presence and love and being with the people before you.

This month we celebrate Valentine’s Day and the start of Lent. Both provide the time to focus on love and presence, both offer invitations to go deeper into God’s love for us. In the days ahead I pray you find invitations to be present to yourself and to others. To listen for God’s voice in the quiet and in the encouragement from friends.

Not everyone will play rounds of Uno this month (but if you are, please let me know!).  Perhaps for you, this month practicing presence means getting outside to walk with a friend and marveling at winter’s beauty. Or maybe it’s volunteering at church and listening to the people you meet. Maybe it’s going to worship when you’d rather stay home and rest. Maybe it’s listening to that coworker who never has anything positive to say. Maybe it’s making a phone call to a family member you haven’t connected with in years. Maybe it’s a note of thanks to your teacher.

Wherever you find yourself this month, tuck this truth into your heart: God is with you.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is a mother, writer, and pastor living in Central Missouri with her family. She’s the coauthor of The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years (March 2023). You can read more at her website: If you’d like to read more from Kim, you can sign up for her monthly newsletter, Walk and Talk here. As a gift to her readers and subscribers who sign up, she has a free downloadable resource: Walk and Talk with God: Reflection, Scripture references, and a how-to for your own contemplative walk.
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