Is it just me or is raising kids difficult? From one parent to another, I want to take this opportunity to encourage you and say, “you’ve got this” and “well done.” I wish I could say that in person. We need this as families, don’t we — this encouraging, laughing, learning, knowing, mistake-making, mourning, celebrating, doing life together in person with each other?

I’m passionate about family, not only for my kids to be raised in a solid core unit but also for all five of us to do “family” with other families. I truly believe God designed us for community, to be better because of each other. Throughout my life, I know I have grown because of my relationships, but it has been a journey.

Over the past five years, I felt joy each time we added a son to our family (three in total), and I was so thankful to have people offering help. However, I also had a preconceived idea that I wouldn’t actually need these individuals if I was more successful at this parenting gig. Raising kids is intensely personal and it can feel risky to share our families with others because there are so many different ways to parent. And let’s be honest, parenting in front of other parents can feel about as awkward as being caught on stage without having glanced at your script. Perhaps we are afraid of being evaluated as “needs improvement,” or perhaps it’s because we esteem autonomy so highly, or that adding more little humans to our already busy schedules makes it too difficult for casual get-togethers. No matter the excuse, it will take some initiative to invite connection with our families, but the good news is that it will be so worth it!

What I came to understand is that needing each other is both a given and a gift. Being embraced by family and friends while mourning the loss of my mother-in-law and celebrating the birth of our twins in the same year provided beautiful connections and healing. Needing encouragement from a faithful friend with twins proved life-giving. Accepting meals and housework help while I was sick taught me humility, generosity, and grace. Listening while City Group friends gathered around us to pray when we had exhausted our own words comforted us beyond measure. And if this isn’t enough, we can remember that our kids are watching how we do life. Let’s show our sons and daughters how to be courageously connected so they can benefit from an unshakable foundation set in God’s community. I’ve learned that my family needs other families; and yours does, too.

Finally, let’s start simple. Let’s linger in the hallways of Mill City Kids. Let’s smile at each other (especially when holding a crier). Let’s allow our kids to get their rambunctiousness out together in the flower gardens across the street. And let’s take that uncommon and sometimes uncomfortable step of inviting each other in — with a hello, by asking for a name (even for the third time!), for help, for prayer, for a shared laugh at a parenting “moment” or for a listening ear over coffee. Let’s find each other, and by that effort I believe we will discover the tangible love, grace, generosity, and community of Jesus.