My four-year-old wanted a live and friendly pig in attendance at her birthday party (to be “Wilbur” from Charlotte’s Web, of course) and my sister found one for her. So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how true it is. It really does take a village to raise a child.
As we go on in growing our family, I wrestle with the same questions I know a lot of people do—questions that make people a little gun-shy in terms of openness to life. How will we be able to do for all our kids what we could much more easily do for just one? How will we afford it? How will we have the time? How will we have the energy? How will we see that each kid is getting what he or she needs? I think what the Lord is showing me lately is that a lot of these questions get answered by the village. He is singing over my heart that He will provide for all the needs of His people, as the word says:
You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
My kids are included in that and I watch over and again how He uses the people He has placed in our lives to provide for all the things we need. Our village. Our community. But, community can be a hard thing to settle in to. Trust me, we’ve lived in Steubenville—one of those rare pockets of the country where more often than not, you find yourself in conversation with someone who thinks like you, lives like you, acts like you. At the foot of such a vibrant and thriving Catholic university (Franciscan), in the overflow of so much grace, community happened for us naturally—in both organic and organized ways.
Then we left the bubble and we learned that community looks different in different places. But it really is simple. Community, in my mind, is made up of the people God has put in your everyday life—your family, neighbors, families at your kid’s school, your priest, your parish, and those people who just keep inviting you over. Our friends will tell you that we are like stray cats. If you feed us, we are going to keep coming back. And so we found our village.
No, you might not see eye to eye on every one of life’s issues with that person you’re sharing a meal or a play date with. You probably don’t see eye to eye on all of life’s issues with anyone on the face of this earth. That doesn’t mean we aren’t meant to live together, to open ourselves up to one another, and to share the grace we are all receiving from the Lord with one another. In my life, the grace my family has experienced in community looks like this: Oh, your kids are going to run full speed around my house, screaming at top volume, spilling things on my rug, and scavenging my pantry for Cheetos? Yes, please come over and stay for a while.
Grace shared is that sister who will find you a pig, the grandparents who scour the Internet for that ever-elusive toy on the Christmas list, your bachelor cousin who will load them up and take them to the dollar store to let them pick out those goodies you keep denying them, the in-laws who open their home for you to have a free vacation, the brother who will take his time explaining things at the aquarium, the priest who knows your kids aren’t going to be still or quiet during Mass but wants them there anyway, the friends you meet along the way who grow to love your kids as if they were their own. And so everyone gets fed.
But, this only happens if you are willing to venture out into the village. I have a very vivid memory of being home for a visit when my firstborn was still new. He was a colic monster. I had gone over to a friend’s house to see her and her family and my son just wouldn’t stop crying. There was nothing I could do. I hated that feeling of not being able to comfort my own child. I hated that feeling of looking like I had no idea what I was doing. But the truth is: I didn’t. There wasn’t a way for me to know what I was doing without ever having done it before and it was so difficult to be stuck in that place of having no idea what the heck was going on in my own life at that point. But that’s where I was.
See, motherhood forces you into vulnerability and it takes a while to get okay with that. If you don’t get okay with that, you hole yourself up in your room (which I also did for a while) so as to not let anyone see you when you are weak. But this whole bit about the village? The village can’t rise up and respond if they don’t see your need. Sure I’d like to think that we are just awesome and so people invite us over and love on our kids and welcome us into their lives. But, I suspect that there’s a bit of: Yeah, these guys are in a little over their heads. Let’s reach out and share a little grace. And I am now so okay with that. The work of raising family is kingdom building. And kingdom building doesn’t ever happen alone. It takes a village.
This is true for all size families, for married couples, for single parents, for first and tenth-time moms, for those near to and far from faith. Look around at whom God has placed in your life. Pray about it and ask Him to reveal to you the hearts of those you can trust. Look for the ones you can pour into and support as well as the ones who can be a support to you. A lot of times I think they end up being the same crowd. And when you see those people, bring your vulnerability to the table. There’s no prize for looking like you have everything figured out. Let your kids be loved. Let yourself be loved.
And if you need a break, a meal, or a pig for a party, don’t be afraid to ask. That’s what the village is there for.
Copyright 2016 Kelly Pease
Photo: by Drew Hays (2015) via stocksnap, CC