On Tithing to the Toilet

Well, folks. Let me give it to you straight. There are those Sunday mornings where the stars align, the “get-along” and “be happy & pleasant” fairies wave their magic wands over the children while they sleep, all goes according to plan, and everyone is dressed and cheerfully out the door on time for church. (Theoretically. I say that in faith that this occurs for someone, somewhere.)

And then there are those Sunday mornings when your kid drops their offering money down the toilet at the moment you need to leave. Mmmhmmm.

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Why We Need to Feel the Sadness

A few days ago, the girls and I came home from running errands just like a million times before. I pulled slowly into the garage, turned off the car, and got out to help Willa out of her carseat. My six year old was stalling like usual, because, ya know, you can't cooperate fully or the grownups may think they have control. God forbid we let a grown up think they are in charge of us. Anyway, as I lifted tiny Willa to the ground and then began to gather up bags to carry inside, I heard a thud, and then that split-second delay of silence before the wailing. I dropped whatever I was carrying and jumped over to the side of the car to see Willa holding her head, and Audrey with a terrified face saying, "SORRYsorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry it was an accident I promise!"

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Thank God for My Village

creek Lately I have been overwhelmed with all the thankful feelings. Maybe it’s fall and the colorful leaves and beautiful weather, but I’ll take it. You know, sometimes in life, it takes great intentionality and effort to choose thankfulness. And then sometimes, after you make those choices over and over again, you start to actually feel the feelings. It’s funny how that works. “You see what you look for,” someone once said.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.Think about things that are excellent and worthy or praise.”

-Philippians 4:8

I’m thankful for so many things, and so many people, but lately I’m overcome with gratitude for my “village”. I’ll explain in a moment. It’s like a broken record to say that parenting is hard, but it’s nonetheless true. I’m barely equipped to make good decisions about what to eat for dinner (pizza is calling me every. single. day.) let alone mold the minds and hearts of other precious human beings. Oh yeah, and also keep them alive, well fed, clean and groomed, and…what is that sticky stuff in your hair? Why do you have SO MANY BOOGERS?? I’m convinced the “boogie monster” is 100% real and he resides in my 2 year old’s nasal passages. So at least you can tell your kids that they’re safe; he’s been located and he’s nowhere near your house.

…Oh good grief, where was I? Oh yes, my village! (Clearly I desperately need it.) I have an AMAZING family who pretty much is a village in and of itself, and who does an incredible job looking out for one another and just being what I feel God intended for “family”. Of course none of us are perfect, which is never the goal, but we take care of each other. My sisters (-in law) watch my kids, lend us everything from costumes to books, cook for us, and bring us gelato (we have a slight obsession with that stuff—don’t stage an intervention, I’m not ready to give it up). I honestly wouldn’t make it without this extraordinary group of ordinary people, and I’m blown away constantly that I get to be in this family.

Speaking of family, my parents happen to live halfway around the world from me, but they shoulder my load and take care of me, even across an ocean. They drop everything to “hang out” (skype) with me, and make my kids laugh with crazy antics over the computer. They pray over us, they listen, they cry with me (I cry a lot, for those of you who don’t know me), and they encourage me. Sometimes when I’m having a horrible day or a horrible week, a text or “skype date” with them can instantly change my perspective and give me the umph I need to keep on truckin’.

I have a group of mom-friends who have linked arms and who are not about to let one of our sisters fall. We have to carry each other, sometimes drag each other, but we’re all gonna make it, no exceptions. We pray over one another, we cry (a whole freakin' lot) with one another, and we laugh and eat together. When one of us is not doing so hot, we try our best to shoulder the load and carry some of the burden for awhile. Sometimes that’s making a meal, taking extra kiddos, or simply speaking love and grace in a world screaming competition and perfectionism. We’ve weathered a lot together, and I can’t believe what a privilege it is to be part of something so beautiful. Those women are all gifts to me and I’m so thankful.

When my husband was in Guatemala last week, I honestly felt like I was being carried by my village. The first night he was gone, a good friend came over after kid bedtime (which is when the good snacks come out—all my fellow parents out there can testify) and it was like therapy to my soul. One afternoon my rockstar teacher cousin (in law) came over and gave my lucky kindergartener an incredible afternoon of crafts and stories and fun. Another day a friend took my kids all afternoon so I could have a breather and get a few things done. I got to spend some one-on-one with one of my oldest friends which was a big treat. One evening my mom-&-dad-in-law had us over for dinner & dessert (and a myriad of other treats from “Nana’s” pantry, because apparently Nana’s food is infinitely better than ours). Another day I hung out with my sister-in-law and left my kids for awhile to play with their cousins while I had some alone time. Another night all my sisters (-in law) came over to eat and laugh and paint pumpkins together. Seriously, the fact that I get to have these kinds of relationships is beyond me. It’s like heaven on earth.

In fact, it is heaven on earth. My dad used to say, “people are all we get to take to heaven.” That’s fine by me, because I’ve been blessed with the best people a girl could ask for.

It’s my prayer that everyone would find their village. But if you’re feeling a little sad because you don’t think you have one, I have good news. You can create one. No, it’s not easy. And yes, it takes initiative, and also kissing your comfort zone goodbye, but you can have community. Where do you start? You start by providing it. Open your home, invite people over. Seek out others who might feel a little lonely. If you’re feeling a need, chances are someone else is feeling that same need, so look for ways to meet it. Make a meal or pick up take-out for someone who needs it. Be the friend you want to have. Be vulnerable and let someone in. Risk rejection, because most of the time, people will surprise you in wonderful ways. Even if you don’t immediately find a BFF, you’ve won a victory because walls are coming down and you’re making connection.

All the “one anothers” in scripture sound a lot to me like “Be one another’s village”:

Love one another as I have loved you.

Submit to one another.

Bear one another’s burdens.

Pray for one another.

Encourage one another.

I’m so thankful for all the people that carry me when I need it. I’m humbled and grateful that God has put so many incredible people in my life—what an absolute privilege. I pray God makes me the type of person who supports, encourages, carries, and loves my people well. Amen.