Before I had children, I would nod and hum and revel in the quiet wisdom and quaint visions of well seasoned hands working alongside young, fresh ones amidst a brood of fresh-faced, angelic children. What a romantic notion!
When my first child was born, I was overwhelmed at the sense of loneliness that washed over me. I was then overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and help that came our way as meals poured in for nearly three weeks as classmates of my husband heard of our joyous news and just wanted to help. It was then that I knew: it really does take a village.
I remember relishing in the invisible support holding us up as we took our first shaky steps on this journey of parenthood. I also remember the deep
void chasm I felt in my heart when our moms flew back to Arizona to continue their lives, leaving us in the vast expanse that is Texas to rear this wee one. Once again the phrase echoed in my mind: It takes a village.
It was at that moment I wondered: Villages are all well and good. Community, family and support are invaluable and desperately needed as we strive to raise our children in the wisdom and grace of Christ. But what do you do when all the natural paths to that community do not exist, or are not present, for you?
Our first two children were born in Texas, an 18 hour drive (or 4 hour flight) away from any of our family. Our third was born in Ireland, nearly a full 24 hours of travel away from our family. Our (literal) village here consists mainly of families that have lived here for generations upon generations. Nearly everyone we know can point to their childhood home, their parents' childhood home, the old family farm, etc. They have community.
For those of us who do not, for whatever reason, have the natural connections for community and villageness (I think I just invented a word) we have a choice to make. We can allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by the task before us and the fact that we are so dreadfully alone in this noble endeavor.
Or, we can build community around us.
I would venture to guess that most of us are not nearly as alone as we feel. And chances are, there is someone near us who also needs the support, encouragement, accountability and help such a community can provide. (read: if you need it, someone else does, too.) So, here are a few simple steps to help build community where there seems to be none:
1. Start with your natural connections. Do you work outside the home? Do you frequent a mother/toddler group? Book club? Church? Look for other moms/families you already naturally intersect with and work to build that relationship.
2. Take the first step. Reaching out to make a new friend (or deepen an existing one) can be scary. Start small. Invite her to meet you and your child(ren) for a cup of coffee/tea. You can do this in your home or at a local coffee shop or park if it seems a bit too intimate to first meet at home. Look for ways you can serve her, and reach out if you see a need. I recently asked a lady that I see everyday at school for her phone number so I could text her and we could get our younger kids together to play while our daughters are at school. She smiled, sighed in relief and said, "I've been thinking the exact same thing! I just didn't want you to think I was too nosy or forward!" If you need community, chances are they do, too!
3. Give up the idea of perfection. Community and real faith is messy. If we're going to invest in, and reap the benefits of, true community we have to be willing to let our guard down. A friend recently popped over unannounced (which I love) and I invited her in for tea. I was smiling on the outside, but in my head I was thinking, "Oh no, the counter is covered with dishes. Ack! I hope she doesn't see that dried out, wrinkled up grape under the table. I hope she doesn't notice the trash can overflowing..." I eventually cracked a joke about the state of my house and she waved her hand in dismissal and said, "I'm so glad to see someone else lives real life like I do!"
4. Don't stay alone. Reach out here! While I fully believe in-real-life-community is an invaluable part of raising a family, and walking with Him, building it takes time. While the seeds you've planted above grow, you have a community here that loves you, and is a great, safe place to come for help, prayer, advice, and celebration of your victories. Reach out here through the comments, on the Facebook page, and through Twitter! There are countless other communities out there, too! Women Living Well, MOB Society, MOD Squad, Sisters in Bloom just to name a few!
Where do you find true community? If you are feeling alone, how can we help? If you have a good, strong community around you, how can you reach out to someone around you who needs community?