It takes a village…
…to raise a child.
I am finding this to be 100% true.
But I’m also going to argue that it takes a village to live a life, whether you have children or not.
Growing up, I lived in an African village, and it really did take an entire village to raise a child. If a child was misbehaving and parent was not present, the nearest adult would make sure that the child was corrected. If a mother or a father was unable to care for a child, the nearest relative or neighbor would take the child in. Meals were eaten in community. Life was lived in community.
When I moved to the States, I greatly missed this culture. As Americans, we value our independence. We value our clean home and family meal times and our “proven” methods to raise our own children. Asking for help is often frowned upon because then that means we aren’t happy, blessed and put-together.
I’m learning more and more that I need community.
Since I have had Tera, a whole new community has opened up their arms to me and taken me in. The community of mothers. Now, I’m not just talking about the people who have been there, done that. There are millions of people in that community. I’m talking about the people who have been there, done that and then turn around and gently guide me in doing that.
It’s the busy Mom who brought me a meal and honestly asked, “How are you doing?”. Then gently smiled and said, “yes, I remember those long nights and those frustrating days. Let me know if you need anything.”
It’s the aunt who sacrifices her one day off to come and hold the baby, feed me lunch and hang up the laundry when I have a nasty cold and no chance to take a shower.
It’s the person on facebook who restrains from giving unsolicited advice and instead just says, “i remember that. You will be fine. You are a GREAT Mom.”
It’s a sister in the church who gladly lends me her car so that I can get to a doctor’s appointment.
It’s the Grandma who drops everything and immediately calls across the ocean as soon as she sees the skype message that says, “I’m having a horrible, terrible no good very bad day”.
It’s the uncle and cousin who save us thousands of dollars by fixing our car for us.
It’s the mother who comes up to me after church and says, “Thank you for being so honest on your blog. When I was a first time Mom I thought I had to LOVE every single moment with our newborn. I thought I wasn’t allowed to dislike life with a newborn. But I greatly appreciate your honesty in letting others know that it isn’t always easy.”
It’s the cousin who answers the phone and patiently gives me some (asked-for!) advice about how to calm my baby down. And this was the night before she gave birth to twins!
It’s the lady who I’ve never met that sent a gift for Tera. Just because.
It’s the friend who asks honestly, “How are you really doing?” and then actually listens to my response, instead of just glassing over and commenting on how great life with a newborn must be.
It’s all the people, all the world over, who have sent us things for Tera. Headbands, outfits, checks…the list goes on and on.
It’s the person who sends me an article that makes me laugh out loud…because I desperately needed that laugh.
It’s you. You know who you are.
A couple Sunday’s ago, our special music in church was this song: Stained Glass Masquerade
It’s been a while since I’ve listened to this song, and it spoke right to me. It’s exactly what I needed to hear, and exactly the encouragement that I needed.
Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small
Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong
So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade
Is there anyone who’s been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage
The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart
But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be
Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Or would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay?
So this is my encouragement to you today. Don’t just find that community. Be that community. Step up and be the one to admit that you don’t have it all together. Hug the lady who tearfully admits she is pregnant, but doesn’t really want to be. Take that brand new Mom a coffee. Offer to hold the screaming baby, and at least wait for the screaming to die down before you start throwing out recommendations for diet and lifestyle changes, in order to get the baby to stop crying. Show up for the family who just had a miscarriage. Give balloons to the woman who just found out she is having a girl. Cry in front of your guests; admit that it’s not easy. Humbly ask people to pray for you…not in an attention-getting way, but in a way that honestly lays out your weaknesses, your fears, your failings and asks others to help you with them. Take dinner to that new Mom- even if it’s just a cheeseburger from McDonalds.
Seriously. It takes a village. But it also takes small steps to tear away that mask and become that community. I’ve been so greatly encouraged by my community the past few weeks. You know, it doesn’t even mean you have to do one of those things I listed above. You could start with sharing your story, your struggles, your weaknesses. I don’t mean in a public forum, a facebook status. I mean to a person that you see struggling. To a mom who needs your help. To a single woman. To a new family in your church, your neighborhood. If all those people could help me in small ways…you can do it, too.
And on the days when I’m tempted to despair and feel like I am all alone, I just need to remind myself of all these blessings in my life. AND, instead of wallowing in self-pity, I can kick by butt into gear and make sure that I am doing my part to build a community.