“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
Last fall I posted a question on Facebook and sent off a few texts to friends: “Anyone interested in gathering on the first day of school and praying for the year?” One by one, mothers responded, and when school began, 20 of us gathered to pray. We listened to one another’s joys and sorrows and marveled at the similar feelings we all felt.
As we offered our prayers before God and one another, I sensed a shift in my heart. Our community came closer through the act of praying together and trusting God to hear our diverse prayers. Since that time, I’ve found solace and hope in continuing to gather with a group of mothers and our kids. One invitation led to another, and now, nine months later, we have a group that gathers weekly to care, pray and share the joy and tension of raising children.
Looking back, I give thanks for park playdates, snacks shared among friends and conversations that lifted up myriad mothering experiences. These gatherings are the result of saying yes over and over again, of offering invites and showing up, of being honest and vulnerable, of having small conversations about big things: sleep deprivation, making friends, childhood milestones, sickness, worry, love and forgiveness.
Our children see the value of community. They have friends and the chance to practice forgiveness and compassion. They must learn to share and work together when feelings get hurt or when something breaks. Perhaps most important, our children see their parents investing in relationships, a reminder that we aren’t meant to spend life alone.
Every week we get together at someone’s house or at the park, and every week we’re building something. Call it what you will—a village, our people, mom’s group—but what I give thanks for is God’s gift of community.
Pray as a family for your friends and neighbors in the community. Lift up their names and pray that you all can come closer together.
If you have space in your yard or in a nearby park, invite some people to join you for a picnic. Don’t overthink the invite or worry about what you need to do. Focus on gathering people together and witnessing how God works in community.
With warmer weather, move your meals and activities outside. See what other neighbors are outside and invite them to join you for conversation, tea, lemonade. Ask them how you can pray for them.
Go as a family to your local town board meetings. Learn about your neighbors’ concerns and how local members are cultivating community.
We pray for families struggling to feed themselves and for organizations ministering to those who are hungry.
We pray for neighbors who are lonely, and we give thanks for friends who reach out to us.
We pray for schools, teachers, students and staff as they celebrate the end of another year.
We give thanks for new life: babies, flowers, gardens, vegetables.
We give thanks for opportunities to invite and be invited.
We give thanks for friendship and friends who become like family.