On balancing family and community

by gidget on February 8, 2013

in community,family

Target date with this beauty, finally spending her Christmas money!

This girl.

The dialogue plays out almost every day…

“Mom, what are we doing for dinner?”

“You mean what are we having?” {I say this, knowing full-well what she means.}

“No, what are we doing?”

“We’re eating, at home, with our family.” {I wait for the response I know is coming.}

“Are friends coming over?”

~~~~~

In a family that highly values living life in community, I’m coming to a place where I feel like our little family unit needs some reconstruction on its foundation.

While we don’t want our nuclear family to become an idol, I’m struggling with finding the balance between being community-minded, while also forming a tightly bonded connection in the hearts of the five people (and specifically the three little people) that live in our home.

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As Gigi approaches six years old, this is becoming something that weighs on my heart more and more. I love her social personality, her loyalty and love of friends, but honestly? I feel pangs of jealousy that she’s not content with just being with our family on the occasions when we don’t have friends or extended family around.¬†

This is just real talk. And maybe it’s just my pride.

But maybe the Lord is impressing on me more and more what it means to shape these little hearts He’s entrusted to me on a daily basis. They are just so darn impressionable (and I love that).

So I’m weighing out whether in the last couple of years we’ve been too focused on living in community (but on the other hand, is that really possible in a gospel-centered life?) at this foundational stage in our children’s life.

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I don’t at all want to back out of community life. Because I know that is what the Lord has called us to.¬†Sometimes community is hard. And it would be easier to just isolate ourselves and focus more inwardly. Of course it is also beautiful, and I am beyond grateful for those the Lord has put in our life in the last couple of years.

And I wholeheartedly want to raise kids who value living out the gospel wherever that takes them.

But practically, now, as our kids become more and more aware and involved in what we’re doing (i.e. not just napping in the Ergo, along for the ride), I want to explore how to balance the foundation of family with the goal of then inviting others in to experience that life of community.

What is family, after all, if not our “first” community?

It’s our most basic place where we can live out the gospel in real time with one another.

I don’t have the answers here; I’m just sort of processing what’s been on my heart. But I hope to explore it more here on the blog as we go about life.

Right now, I think it’s going to look like more boundaries… more structure (Gigi thrives on that anyway)… sometimes saying no… celebrating the blessing of family, and sibling friendship… but also continuing to embrace community when the Holy Spirit prompts it and when it shows up on the doorstep (the door is always open here still).

I’d love to hear how if any of you have struggled over this balance? Any suggestions for building up that foundation while also engaging in community?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Theis February 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Loved reading this Nicole! Bret I have this conversation a lot. The joys of ministry are absolutely wonderful and we are still figuring out how to balance it all. I know it will change season to season, but I know I need to find my rest and peace in God alone. If I am longing and waiting for all my external circumstances to line-up perfectly…I will never find the right balance because I am not looking to Christ in those moments. PRAYER…it’s has to be done without ceasing. That’s a discipline I want to grow in. Thanks for sharing!!!

xo sarah
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beth@redandhoney February 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

I guess we have the opposite problem. Searching for a new (elusive!) community/church to join, to build into, to love on, in which to be loved. After moving back to the Toronto area after 2.5 years of being away, and now in a different suburb than before, we feel like we’re pretty well starting from scratch, socially, and it’s exhausting, and frustrating. So, be glad for your abundance of community! :)

(Sorry, I hope that didn’t come off as a lecture, lol! I just am a little envious of your problem :)

(And also – I hear your heart on this – your mama-heart and wanting to be number one in your littles’ lives… and I so get that. I feel those same jealous pangs when my kids “want” grandparents, etc. over me.)

xo,
B
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Meredith Cox November 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Nicole (AND Beth!),

I just started following both of your blogs. Love ‘em. Just reading this post and then Beth’s reply was like seeing my thoughts scrolling down the page. We too just moved back “home” to Florida after 2.5 years in Texas. It’s great, but we’re realizing that it’s a little weird too.

Community is the heartbeat of our family. We just love knowing and sharing in people’s stories. We had a pretty great group of folks here when we left, but were able to help create and be a part of something so different and so much deeper, more genuine (borrow a cup of sugar, let me watch you kids, can you pick up an extra chicken while you’re at costco, neighborhood potlucks, tears and prayers and pregnancies and fun) while we were in Texas. It was just amazing. Then God called us back here.

We’re back in the church we helped to plant, close to family…it’s great. Really! But the awesome community we thought we had before looks so broken in comparison to what we were fortunate enough to experience while we were away. I feel like I’m right in the middle of what the two of you are describing. Knowing the amazingness of community, the blessing of a unified family and yet the awkwardness of not feeling “at home”, at home.

Sorry, so much rambling happening here. We’ve just gotten so many blank stares and misdirected excitement in trying to LOVINGLY convey these ideas and grow this all here in this well-known, yet newly unfamiliar landscape.

I guess, thanks for sharing your hearts? haha I have zero advice. For now it’s prayers and the stubbornness to keep trying to get my neighbors past “Hi, how are you?” Feel free to share any new developments you’ve had since February! :)

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gidget November 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Hi Meredith! Did you see my recent series on community? Not sure if anything in there would help you at all. We were in a similar place when we first moved home but thankfully we quickly got involved in a church that has community really wired into its DNA. I don’t know where we’d be without that.
All I can think to say is that maybe the Lord wants to use you guys to really jump-start that deeper sense of community in your neighborhood and/or your church. Maybe a regular open house of sorts where you can invite your neighbors would be a fun place to start.
Thanks for reading and commenting! xo

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Meredith Cox November 17, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I have read it! Great stuff. We were actually hosting a monthly neighborhood potluck in our last neighborhood and it was such a refreshing time for us. We just seem to be hitting some road blocks in trying to create that here. We’re realizing that the culture in this city is a little different. While wonderful and home to some amazing folks, it’s a very transient place. I don’t know if people are just afraid to make friends or what, but we’re not giving up! Thanks for the encouragement!

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Jodi July 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm

For sure there are seasons to this and we use our kids (6 & 8) as our guide. My husband was an elder at our church, our pastor and his wife are VERY extroverted so they assumed everyone loved to host people as much as they do, 3-4 nights a week. My husband and I are both introverted, not extremely, but we know our limits. I love to have people over but recognize it can’t happen all the time. We have grandparents over once a week to see the grandkids, each attend bible study once a week, throw in after school activities and homework, and then if we had parties or other things to attend on the weekend, there truly isn’t a lot of “extra” time.

This past year with my almost 8 year old was really difficult in many areas. I did not need the extra pressure of getting the house ready for guests when he needed me to parent him, to get a hold of his heart, so we backed way off of entertaining regularly this last year. I began to notice that when we had a lot of people over, he hid out in his room. Or if we only had a couple over, he would misbehave to get our attention. He needed our nights off to focus on our family and build those relationships. I continue to serve by bringing meals to new moms or whenever the need arises and he loves to help me deliver them. We also serve every weekend at church so it’s not like we’ve stopped doing everything. I think it’s important to see ways to serve our community other than hosting people in our home.

I know that as they mature, we will be able to host again more frequently. And honestly, I think it’s refreshing for newly marrieds or other families with young children to hear, “I’d love to host (or accept the invitation) but we need a family night, thanks for understanding.”

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Jeanni July 16, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Nicole, I understand completely. We never were running constantly, but it often felt like our family time was lacking. When we started homeschooling two years ago, I started to think that I needed the kids in coops etc. It wasn’t until God spoke to me very clearly and made the poi t that He wanted me to teach our children, not the community. My kids are now involved in a hs group I co-admin, but I make sure our family time comes first. My husband and I noticed that when we spent more family time together, behavior also improved. Community is awesome, but it can’t take the place of an awesome mom like yourself!
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