Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sometimes, It Takes a Village, Idiot!

"God helps those who help themselves."  This is not scripture.  This is Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanac.  The stories in the Bible tend to prove the exact opposite.  God does not help those who help themselves, but rather, He helps those who humble themselves enough to call on Him for help.  At the same time, however, one must be open to the form in which the help arrives.

According a traditional African proverb, and a book by former First Lady and current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, "It takes a village to raise a child."  In the traditional context, this may be true.  In the context of Ms. Clinton, I suspect it takes a village to raise a child, and by a village, she means a government.  And if this can also further the increasingly popular idea that fathers are nothing more than a luxury or a redundancy, then great!

I, for one, have kept to the once traditional, and now so quaint it is comical, idea that it takes a mother and a father to raise a child.  I have had to re-think this a bit.

I have been going through quite a trying time, as I have written.  First, I was pregnant, then sick and voiceless, now going through the longest miscarriage in the history of woman-kind.  All while trying to be a mother to three young children and a wife to a husband who spends ten hours a day, seven days a week (literally!) in the library.  Forget being a housewife.  There is not enough energy left for the house.

A few weeks ago, at the very end of myself, I prayed for help.  And, I got it, in the form of my father-in-law, Grandpa Scott, swooping in and caring for us for a few days.  Since then, as some things have improved, others have gotten worse.  It seems that almost daily now, something knocks me back down onto my knees, where there is nothing to do but pray.  Until finally, FINALLY, I got it.

I can not do this by myself.

And, thanks to the Lord and His provision, I don't have to.

Let me be clear.  I have always had help.  My wonderful husband helps.  My self-less mother helps.  My generous sister helps.  I have often worn this help thin, because I thought they were all I had.

I was wrong.

In the last several weeks, my usual help has not been available.  I have had to call on, and been called by, women from the corners of my life, and now find myself wondering why they were relegated to the corners.

Patty.  Earth Mother Patty.  She told me that for the last two years, the Lord had put it on her heart to reach out to me and build a deeper friendship.  But, every time she talked to me, I gave the impression that I had my act together and was busy with other things.  Ha!  I suppose if you count wearing my robe until noon and eating chocolate for breakfast, in the bathroom no less, so I don't have to share with the children, having my act together, then yeah, I was busy.

In the last six weeks, Patty has come by my house for tea, bringing with her the most beautiful bouquet of peonies and honeysuckle.  Do you know the joy fresh flowers can bring to a room or a stressed out mom?  A few weeks later, she invited me to lunch.  And, after that, she and her sister Jane, met me at the park so that my kids could have a nice morning out, when I had no voice to call them and no strength to chase them.  She hugs me when she sees me.  It makes me a bit weepy just to think about it.  Yes, Patty.  I need a friend.

Abby, the best babysitter in the world, has come by on the most minimal of notice, even making a point of squeezing in three hours of babysitting between her real life activities on a Saturday afternoon.  And her mother, Brandi, always drops her off and picks her up.

My Aunt Jo took the kids and me in for several hours when Hubband needed to use the one computer in our small house to study.  Without kids around.

My friend Jennifer, who has a nursing baby and a potty training toddler, was more than hospitable when I called her at eight o'clock on a random Tuesday morning and asked her if I could be there in an hour, because I just could not stand to be cooped up at home one more second.  She even fed the kids and me lunch.

My sister-in-law Heather, also sainted, and with a servant's heart, has come by several times to babysit, in a pinch, for doctor's appointments.  And, she brought Starbucks.

My sister came by and watched my kids for a few hours, and then, deciding that I was iron deficient, took me out for a steak dinner.

Claudia, from church, called, out of the blue, during a rare lull in the day when I could talk, and on a day I needed someone to talk to. 

Rebecca came by with two of her four boys, to play with my two boys, while Catherine slept, and I went off to the doctor, yet again.  And she still found time to do my dishes.

Penny, from church, brought me a gift, a very feminine scented lotion, as comfort for my loss.

Janie gave me a free hour with a masseuse, which she herself had earned through a day-care barter system.

Gina, my pastor's wife, and Bethany, her fifteen-year-old daughter, came to watch the kids, again on a moment's notice, again while I went to the doctor.  They even came sooner than I needed them to, to care for me.  It was not a problem, Gina, mother of five, informed me.  She only had one kid at home that week (two are away at college, even though it is summer, and two more were away at camp) and her husband was out of town for two days.  They came back the next day too, because I needed someone.

What Gina didn't tell me was that she had been invited to join her husband for the short trip.  He would be working part of the day, but they could have had some time alone, a nice get-away.  She declined, convinced that she was not mean to go.  She felt the Lord was leading her to stay home for some reason.  I turned out the be that reason.

You must understand, I have never called Gina for anything in my life, big or small.  But, when I woke up last Monday morning, feeling like I was in labor, knowing Hubband could not stay with me, Gina's was the first name the Lord called to my mind.   And what she did for me those two days was huge. 

Then this week, as I was finally recovering, Hubband's mother came for a visit.  She helped with the house and the kids, while I caught up on a few neglected duties, like the laundry, the marketing, and my blog.

The service of all of these other women, was His provision, a gift from God, an answer to a sincere prayer from a place of brokenness.  There is no other explanation.  I am humbled by the awesomeness of this.
Yes, it takes a mother and a father to raise a child.  And, yes, it may also takes a village.  Though I don't think we need a village to raise our children for us, we sometimes need a village to be there for us, so that we can raise our children.  This is a distinction, not without a difference.  Ultimately though, it takes God to raise a child.  And I pray that I never forget it.


  1. This made me a bit weepy, I confess.

    Your last paragraph especially. I have never lived near family, but I have had great, generous friends. One friend, when I had my third child, would come and get the boys and take them for the morning so I could get a break. Other friends organized a week of meals when I had my fourth child, and took my older kids on outings. And I always went to drop-in at the family centres wherever we lived because I felt supported and relaxed.
    It's lovely that you have taken the time to realize all the good help you have been given as an answer to your 'prayer from a sincere heart'. Some people just expect help, and some, like you, accept it openly and with humble gratitude because you genuinely need it right now. xo

  2. In fairness to my inner circle (husband, mother, sister) I think I have too often given the impression that their help is expected, when in fact I am very grateful and well aware that they are under no obligation. (Well, husband is a little.)

    At the same time, I don't like to ask other's for help because I don't want to be a bother.

    In my recent situation, I really had no choice. I had to ask, and am appreciative of the response.

  3. I was only half joking about the Au Pair.
    It works out to be a very good deal one way or the other as for $100 a week with room and board. You would have someone to chat, could do light housework and kid wrangle. And as far as the version of English you speak, that's to the good as they would not have the fraught problems of English accented English. For that accent sets the Worlds teeth on edge.

  4. This is such a wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing from your heart. Sometimes we have to be on the brink of desperation before we are willing to take the help of our friends. I'm so glad to hear of all the wonderful people that have come to give you encouragement and real, practical help. Lovely!

  5. Oh Tracey. I have not been in the blog world much lately. I am SO VERY sorry for your loss!

    Your post is REAL and in that I love your heart and it makes me wonder...WHY do we wait until we are at our lowest to call out for help? God is WAITING! I am the same way and have been blessed MANY times over with friends, family and acquaintances that have blessed me in a time of NEED!
    My prayers are with you and Hubband and the whole family.

  6. I, too, am just learning of your miscarriage, and I'm very sorry.

    I'm feeling one of those speechless moments.

    I'm glad you have lots of people close by who care about you and your family.


  7. My first visit here, so I feel a little awkward commenting. But, firstly, I am so sorry for your loss and the troubles that emanate from that.
    Secondly, I have learned that sometimes when we think we do not "want to be a bother", other people in our lives are bothered. Most of us want to help each other.

  8. really a wonderful and wise post...i am glad you had so many wonderful people around you to care for you when your usual were not available...we all need that...we were never created to live life sorry for your loss as well...

    happy tt!

  9. I was very moved by this. I'm glad you have your lovely family and friends around you at such a difficult time. I'd help if I could.... I really would!

  10. Its unbelievable how help comes to one... and its very true that a village raises up a child... Sometimes its the help from other people which make us live further.. Don nto loose hope... life is unfair but there are always good ppl around to count own...

  11. So sorry for your loss and for all the problems you are having at the moment. Friends and family are some of God's greatest gifts. Here's wishing you all the best. I'll keep you in my prayers.

  12. Ah been there but I'm pleased you have such an amazing support system. I'm not religious myself but hey, all things work in mysterious ways and any help we can get from any source in times like this is extremely welcome.