We’re wrapping up our series this week on spiritual practices for weary moms, and this week I want to talk about a spiritual practice that’s not often thought of as a “spiritual practice” and is so commonly a missing piece once we cross the chasm into “mom life.”
“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But, encourage one another daily as long as it is called, “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:12-13, NIV, emphasis added
The early church was marked by an essential component that I believe is one of the pillars that drove the gospel message forward– community. We read in Acts 2 about the believers meeting daily in the temple courts, breaking bread together, devoting themselves to the teachings of the apostles and prayer…
These first Jesus followers lived their lives in community. When we read Paul’s letters, his exhortations are not passive encouragements from a far away pulpit, but rather personal Spirit-led sentiments from moments, victories, hardships shared.
It’s been a little disorienting this year for our household in the community department. Between COVID quarantines, having a new baby, and a myriad of other life stressors, our engagement with church and our usual community has changed, shifted, and in some ways broken down despite our best efforts.
And all of this has left me wondering if it’s truly possible to engage in community as a young mom.
How do we do the things we used to do when so much of our lives have shifted, changed, and been upturned by the events of home and world?
Later in the book of Hebrews, the writer gives this exhortation to a weary and faltering church,
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25, NIV
When I read this, the message I receive is affirmation and validation of the weariness, as well as an assertion that giving up meeting together is definitely not the answer. We need community to bring us comfort, to share in the joys and sorrows with, and to call us out of mindsets steeped in brokenness and into the glorious light of Christ.
And so, if we need community AND it’s exceedingly difficult to engage in community, how should we then do it?
First, community takes a little creativity.
When we were in college, my friends and I were accustomed to 10am coffee dates with friends, late night Bible studies, or any other unique and/or convenient time we could find between classes and work to spend time in fellowship.
Then, systematically, as we all graduated, found jobs, got married, and had children, the margin of time shrunk and our usual 10am Saturday slot became filled with naptime or grocery shopping.
Schedules are generally a huge hindrance to community engagement, mostly because no two mama-schedules are alike. Between work, work-from-home, nap schedules, husband’s work schedules, and bedtimes, finding a shred of time where several moms are free at once is like searching for the needle in the proverbial haystack.
If we approach our engagement in community with the same methods we used to, we might look up and say, “Sorry, sis, there’s just no time.”
Christian and I used to live for the after church lunch dates with friends. We adored sitting and chatting with people we loved, soaking up sweet fellowship after a rich sermon message.
But, after we had kids we quickly found that amazing community time replaced with a mad dash to the house (singing loudly the whole way home to keep our babies awake), and then wrestling kiddos into bed and sinking into the couch, too exhausted to remember that there even had been a sermon.
Just because the times we were used to aren’t available doesn’t mean there was no time. We learned early that this stage required us to be creative in the where, what, and when of spending time together.
We’ve had people over for early morning coffee at 6am before the kids rise, we’ve had people over after bedtime. We’ve learned to have lunch with people in our homes while the kids napped, set up pack-n-plays for friends’ kids in our bedroom, gone on walks, and met at the park or farmer’s market.
If we are going to engage in meaningful community with one another we must be willing to think outside of our usual boxes. The good news is that we are image-bearers of the Creator of the Universe. I encourage you to take some time this week to lean into prayer and mindful discussion with your friends to discover what spaces could hold time for camaraderie and fellowship.
One question I like to ask myself is, “What am I already doing this week that I could bring someone else into?” A dear friend of mine who has been the epitome of community for my family and I in this season has often been on the receiving end of an invitation to my late-night runs to Publix or Hobby Lobby. I was already going, and so it made sense to invite her along with me to take advantage of chatting in the car and as we walked through the aisles.
Next, community takes some flexibility.
I grew up doing gymnastics, and so physical flexibility has been a strength of mine for most of my life. Unfortunately, however, that strength does not translate to my sense of schedule, routine, or expectations.
My basic MO for parenting so far has been, “find something that works and then don’t do anything different until you absolutely have to.” In some regards this has served me well, but in the realm of finding time and space to invite people in my life, it has been a huge stumbling block.
So, I assure you that I am speaking these words of truth as much to myself as I am to you, mama.
When we grasp too tightly to our bedtime schedules or expectations for peaceful mealtimes, or any other routine we’ve set in place for our sanity, we will severely limit our ability to have meaningful community in our lives during this season.
Routines, schedules, and expectations are strengths in the parenting game. I will be the first one to shout that from the rooftops. Our days in the Konhaeuser household are marked by specific landmarks to give us refreshment and rest that helps my kids and I function well on a daily basis.
But, it took me longer than I’m willing to admit to realize that one day of a skipped nap, one chaotic mealtime at a restaurant, one late bedtime that results in an early wakeup, one extra episode of Daniel Tiger… will not ruin my child or our routines.
So often, our lack of time and margin for community is rooted in an unwillingness to surrender our schedules or desire for order, even if it’s just sporadically.
As I’ve been willing to release my grip on my daughter’s bedtime or nap schedules, or even the old picture in my head of a nice peaceful dinner out with friends, I’ve been able to find pockets of time that hold real space for community.
It’s not easy and often I find myself prickling when a friend suggests a meeting time that I know will be a struggle for our schedule, but I promise you that I have not once regretted my decision to shift our schedules and expectations a bit to spend time in meaningful fellowship.
Just last week we had dinner with friends that ended with all of our children in over-tired silliness, me leaving dinner early to put the kids to bed while Christian waited for the food to arrive, and ultimately a much later and more chaotic bedtime than is my habit. The friend we were out to dinner with texted me to apologize and my response was genuine, “It was worth it to spend some time with y’all.”
I encourage you to really consider requests or suggestions for spending time together. Maybe not on a daily or weekly basis, but I assure you that in the same way your kids benefit from you holding to your routines, they will greatly benefit from a mama who lives her life connected to other people.
Finally, community takes commitment.
“We do what we want.” The words were from the pulpit, spoken by a long-time friend who had been mentoring Christian and I for quite some time. The sentiment had been expressed to us before, but in that packaging doused in the context of the worshipful surrender of a church service highlighted the point in new ways.
He was referencing our laundry-list of excuses that we often give for not doing something that we know we ought to do. And his point sounds harsh, but it isn’t necessarily wrong.
We commit to what we see the value in. We sacrifice for what is meaningful for us. We can say, “I’m too busy,” or “I have so much going on,” but what we are really saying in that moment is, “What you’re asking of me really isn’t as valuable to me as these other things I’m doing.”
This is a good thing! With all that is vying for our attention as mothers, wives, community members, sisters, friends… We have to have a level of discernment about what it is that is valuable to us, or we will drive ourselves crazy trying to do all of the things.
Time with my children is valuable to me. Limiting screen time for my family is valuable to me. Mostly-healthy living is valuable to me. I sacrifice time, convenience, and resources to keep these values a priority in our family life…
With flexibility, of course 😉
So, if we want this friendship, community thing to work in this mothering season, we have to decide if it’s valuable to us or we simply won’t remain committed to it. We will perpetually be passing each other in grocery stores, talking over the wiggling toddlers and the apples, “I miss you! We should really get together sometime!”
I think we all know that community is important. Maybe it’s felt like getting time with friends has required too much sacrifice or energy because we weren’t employing creativity and flexibility to schedule those times. Maybe it really is just about inviting those two mindsets in to help us make time for one another.
For the sake of this conversation, though, let’s look at some scriptures on the benefit and value of continuing to be in community with one another just to reaffirm that value as defined by the Spirit of God speaking through the Biblical authors:
“Let us not give up meeting together…” Hebrews 10
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature,attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13
“All the believers were together and had everything in common…” Acts 2:44
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3
The God we serve is a God of community. He never intended our walk with him to become an echo chamber of our own experiences, sheltered within the safety of our own four walls and family. When we reach out in community, there is a well which we both add to and draw from.
Yes, in this mothering season it takes a heavy dose of creativity and flexibility to make it work, but if we will see the value in community the commitment will follow.
I’d love to hear from you! What’s been most challenging about engaging in community for you as a mama? Schedule? Expectations? Something else? Let me know in the comments!