We’ve all heard the phrase “it takes a village” and mostly in relation to raising children. This week I have been reminded that the purpose of this village is not just serving our little ones, but it’s raising each other up, too. I am deeply grateful for the village I have, the friends with which I have been blessed — their wisdom, their prayers, the joy and laughter that allow us to shoulder the sorrows and burdens together.
This week alone I have been drawn deeper into relationships, challenged by those doing life side-by-side along with me. I have friends from all walks of life as part of my community and they all love me and support me in different ways. My village this week has included an evening as part of a book club, play dates with other young mothers and children, family time with my sister and mother, a coffee date with friends from my own childhood and I know that before the week concludes I will have had numerous other encounters with my community that I will be important.
This village is a two-way street — not only do I feel loved and supported, challenged and made to grow, but I offer of myself to those that venture to go there with me as well. I know that for any of these relationships to be worthwhile, they need to be authentic, and that can be hard. It’s hard to be vulnerable, to be honest with one another about the struggles we face in life. It’s hard to ask for help, or prayer, or to admit my imperfections. But I won’t be reaping the benefits of this beautiful community if I can’t do those things. As I learn how to go deeper I am allowing God into these relationships, and the beauty that He springs forth is a piece of His kingdom here on earth. I want to model authentic community for my kids, so they don’t settle for second best in friendships. I need to serve, and be served. I need to love, and be loved.
It’s a handful of women that I’m beginning to get to know better, deeper, over a cup of iced tea and a good book. Under the guise of literary conversations and comfort of well-loved characters, glimpses of heart and mind are easy to come by. One by one, life stories begin to unfold.
It’s the mothers who are in the trenches with me. The women who know the pain of daily living out the birthing of these tremendous beings; women who show the battle scars with pride like I do. The women who so generously share with me their hand-me-downs, their peanut butter, and their heartfelt opinions with strength and openness. Who else knows the joy?
It’s the family that I have been graced with that loves, and loves, and loves some more. The family I was born into, and the ones that I’ve chosen and have chosen me. Who else truly knows the ugly, all of it, and loves me so hard anyway? This is a piece of village that I couldn’t ever shake off, no matter how I tried.
It’s the people who have known me the longest. Dear friends who remind me where I come from. When I lose sight of who I am, it’s these friends who make it possible for me to remember it again. Friends who knew me before. Before whatever it was. These gals hold some secrets and stories that are best to stay hidden, and boy, aren’t I glad that someone holds them for me?
Sometimes it can be scary to be the one to step out first — to take the walk through the village and find that all the doors are shut, that everybody is busy with their own tasks. But deeper joy comes in sharing our tasks together. I’ve learned that all it takes is a knock on that door, and it is most often met with relief. No one wants to feel alone, and I am thankful this week for the joy that I have felt in knowing that I am not ever alone.
For me, summer inevitably is a simple time. It has been too hot to move fast; to muggy to undertake anything complex. Clothing is considered optional most times (for those under the age of 4, at least) and food choices even tend towards simple grilled meals, fresh straightforward veggies, and cool fruit with no need for accompaniments.
We are staying at my mom’s for a few days, watching her dog while she is away. This was a last minute trip, and yesterday I was in a minor panic as I was trying to anticipate our family’s needs for the next few days, packing clothes, food, and favored loved ones. I don’t know why, but this sent me in a bit of a tailspin. The kids mostly do well over at my mom’s, but the Eldest has some sensitivity about where he sleeps, and how he sleeps. A few days away from his very own room in his very own bed, and I’ve already made a catastrophe in my head about our sleepless state a few days from now. Also, we have some plans for the next few days, and I was stuck inside my head, trying to make sure that these plans still meshed with this recent relocation. You should know this: my mom lives not twenty minutes from us, and is actually a much more convenient location for many things, including my husband’s commute to work. If I forgot something, it is not difficult to run home. There is not much that can’t be improvised from here. But it was in the shortness of my breath on Sunday afternoon, while staring at piles of clothes, and a stack of bills that needed to come with me, that I couldn’t see the simplicity of these moments, of this season.
Monday morning began early, as they often do, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to fill our time. Not being in our own space, I couldn’t rely on our normal household tasks and reliable games to keep us busy. But in the simplicity of childhood, the simplicity of summer I’ve been amazed to watch our morning unfold. It has beautiful, and simple. We’ve been awake for four hours, and both little ones are still in pajamas. I’ve had my two cups of coffee, and perused some morning news and blogs. I’ve listened to screams of laughter and joy, and of course, had to intervene about every third minute or so, but have not so much had to entertain. We discovered a big cardboard box, covered it with an old blanket, and with these simple things have created endless play. I remember now why we are not busy.
I still have some errands to do; I still need to firm up our dinner plans. But I know we won’t go hungry. At some point I’ll have to help the kids into some real clothes. I know that the kids can’t play like this forever, and that we’ll need to figure out a few more details of our week. Maybe we’ll play in the creek this afternoon, maybe I’ll dig into my mom’s super eclectic craft cabinet. But it is not as complicated as my head thought it to be. It’s so much simpler than that.
My cousin recently wrote about her experiences with meditation, and what it’s teaching her. Her teacher shared these words of wisdom: “take the bees nest out of your head and bring it down into your heart. your head can’t solve your problems because your head created them. but go into your heart. your heart knows the way.” I know how to do this: be a mother, be a friend, be myself — it’s simple. It’s with the rhythm of the seasons, the pulse of my breath that I can stay in this moment, and enjoy the empty day with little responsibility.
I wonder what Ann Voskamp is like in real life, in person. Because in her writing, she is someone I want to spend time with. A lot of time. I want to soak up her wisdom, her countenance, her love, gratitude, grace, patience. I know it’s not hers, it’s His, and therefore it can be mine, too. Today, all I have for you is this: when you are finding it hard to be patient. Read this now. Don’t believe me? Here’s a taste:
And it strikes me, an epiphany over the fry of bubbling pancakes, “Love is only patient if it’s first grateful for what is.”
When I am not patient? My failure to love is first a failure to be grateful for who people are right now.
Patient people dare to gratefully accept people where they are. Grateful for who they are now, appreciative of works of art not yet finished, but still deeply loved.
I think I get it, the order of love, the preeminence of patience — love is patient first. Because it first is grateful for what is.
Not my words. But what I’m soaking in, today. And I’m grateful for lazy, super-hot mornings, with books piled high on my bed with the little ones tucked in between pillows and friends. Thankful for freshly ground peanut butter and buttery french baguettes. Grateful for the air-conditioning that is all “Little Engine that Could” around here. Thankful for grilling outdoors, in summertime joy, with those I love. And I’m going to work extra hard at being grateful for the tender-hearted boy who is scared by the sound of his hard working air-conditioner tonight, when evening darkens our house and I have lost sight.