Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living and advocacy for youth in vulnerable places of life. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (TESOL and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have five kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.
We get this question so often:
"Isn't it hard raising your kids in the midst of that type of ministry?"
Yes, my friends. It's hard.
There are days when we lock our doors and hide in our (unfinished) basement. We've been known to "run errands" for hours on end, just to escape the chaos and spend time together. We've eaten out at restaurants more often then budget should allow, in order to have a quiet meal together.
And, then there is the issue of influences when you get this many kids together. Yes, they learned every swear word, all body functions and parts at a young age. They've watched a number of people duck into the back seat of squad cars. They seen belt marks, and varieties of rituals to ward of evil spirits, and little boys who pull down their pants in a crowd. Oh, and the twerking - yes, you read that here. Anyway, it's the truth, and they've seen it all.
Not to mention, they've seen Jay and me exhausted and distracted.
But all that? That's not even the truth of it.
Here's the truth: this past summer, we were gone for almost three weeks in August, visiting family. While I was still relishing the quietness of the trip, my kids - all of them - missed their home. More than that, they missed their friends.
Because life here isn't quaint or tidy, but it's right. And, sometimes, it feels just plain beautiful.
Our reasons? Well, our reasons are a list of things that have evolved into positives, although initially we perceived many of them as only challenges. It's taken us awhile to see God's hand in certain aspects, but we're learning to embrace the training ground that this is for our kids and for us:
Our kids have seen us wrestle through the prioritizing of family life - even if it means taking drives around the lake in order to talk as a family. It's made us more intentional.
It's challenged our kids in many good ways. For example, I overhear them greeting people at the door, and saying things like, "no, you can't use my bike because I'm not out there right now" or "no, my dad can't come to the door because he's busy" and I applaud them, because they are learning a vital life-lesson of how to say "no" and how to stand up for themselves (and practicing that like 20x a day).
It's caused our kids (and us) to grow. I've seen one of our children in particular struggle with peer pressure - daily. But, it's on our front lawn. And, we have ample opportunities to process through the situations together. We believe this is God's provision to train our children in how to handle many social situations.
It's given our kids living proof of how God works in peoples' lives. They've seen individuals change and be changed. And, we can say with conviction, "yes, there is hope for all us, because Jesus knows we are all a mess without Him, and He made a way for us to know Him." They see it with their little eyes.
It's given our kids modern-day heroes and a global perspective. Many of the adults in their world have suffered great loss as refugees, are bravely transitioning into life in the USA, and model true resilience and strength. The daily living for our kids involves people and situations from around the world.
It has touched their hearts. My kids have been so very loved and cared for by this neighborhood, the numerous individuals from our Summer Teams, the steady flow of university students, and other volunteers. Thank you all for blessing them.
So, after that long trip away, we finally got home...
And, you know what? Our little street turned into red carpet, and we rolled down it.
The neighbor kids come running, screaming the names of our kids. My kids start pounding on the windows, shouting back through the glass (oblivious to the sound barrier.) God knew I needed to experience that homecoming, needed to see the positive impact on my kids.
Challenging? Stressful? Exhausting? Yes. A million times, yes. But, we've been so blessed. These are our kids' best friends, their birthday guests, their memories-in-the-making.
They are loved, and they love.
Parents never know what type of future to expect for their children. We certainly don't for ours. But, we're seeing now a little more clearly how God's using this place and these people to mold our kids. And, we're grateful for it...more often than not.
So, the truth about raising kids and missional living?
It's an adventure. It's releasing our kids to a future only God knows. It's worth every minute. It's a leap of faith. It's excellent training for real life. And, it's a potential disaster, but for the grace of God.
We're holding on to the promise of that grace.