When I remember how protective I was when I first became a mum, how determined I was to make sure that my baby knew he was loved at every moment, I know I was naïve. I thought that I’d be able to do that with my own willpower and determination. I didn’t foresee the day that I would know that bringing up children is a group effort: that “it takes a village to raise a child” as the Nigerian proverb says.
As we are getting ready to move on from our current ‘prayer stair’ in Yorkshire, hoping to find a new one in Bath, I am giving thanks for the people in my ‘village’ who have made the parenting job easier, and actually, better. I’m thinking of volunteer football coaches, teachers, babysitters and Cubs leaders. I’m also thinking of the parents of our sons’ friends who have shared lifts and friendship.
In the ‘village’ that is our church family, there have been amazing volunteer leaders in lots of different groups, who have shown real care for our boys, too. What stands out, though, are the adults who have made a point to speak to our kids, even when they weren’t on duty. Research has shown that the thing above all others that makes children and young people feel at home in a church community is the warmth of inter-generational relationships. Adrian, pictured here, is among others, a shining example of exactly that kind of kindness that points to God’s love.
But it’s not just kids that need a village. I’m aware of just how important my ‘village’ has been to me in recent days, a village that includes those who live nearby but also those who are connected in other ways. The doorbell rang a couple of days ago and I answered it to find a smiling lady offering us an unused packing box. Some biscuits appeared on our doorstep the next morning and a friend offered to take me for a coffee and to pray for me. Yesterday, a beautiful home-made Advent calendar arrived.
In this time when we really don’t know what is coming next, these gestures of kindness mean everything. A couple of weeks ago, I’d had a some bad news concerning the details of our move and almost instantly a text from a friend followed saying that she was praying for me and mentioning Psalm 46, which reads in part
God is our refuge and strength.
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
…The Lord Almighty is with us…
Another friend said that when she was praying for me this song came to mind: Jesus, who we follow, sailed on some changeable seas himself, but he kept true to his purpose, living out God’s parental love for everyone.
Perhaps I too often expect that the seas will be calm for us. The truth is that life is stormy at times. We aim for the shore that we think God has called us to, but sometimes it involves a firm grip on the helm and lots of resolve to keep the boat steady. God turns things to good. God’s been good to us through our ‘village’, God’s been good to us through the stormy seas, God is going with us into the future.
Karen, we are very sorry you won’t be able to come to see us in Whitby before you move. Where about near Bath will you be living? I ask because one of our children has built a house in Frome and we shall probably be visiting there one day. I know what you are going through over the delays in actually moving. We have been waiting since September. We sold in 2 days and found a flat in a Retirement home on Westcliff so we will still be in Whitby, but after 26 years it will be sad to be away from so many friends. We are just unable to cope with the stairs in this 300 year old cottage any more. We hope you will be very happy In your new place, you have had such a happy time I your village, and I know something about that as we had been living in a small village in Gloucestershire for 22 years, had both taught in the village so it was tough, but we went on to Hengrave where in just over 4 years we made so many good friends, so all was well! Thank you for your lovely prayer stair messages, please keep them up. We send you our love and prayers. Chrisanth xxx
Sent from my iPad
I just read a wonderful thought: “How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them. If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with Thee.” And in another place, He said, “Peace, be still!”
A friend gave me this quote from Isaiah which I found so helpful when I was praying for a colleague in hospital – it is “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor shall the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43 v 2
You prayer stair posts are always so encouraging and can often arrive on the right day at just the right time. I wish you well – hoping you will continue to post them – good luck in your new “village”.