I was a fresh faced, barely 19 year old when Dan and I got married. Nineteen, y'all. If you would have asked me at sixteen when I thought I would get married I would have yelled, "Never!" and hid in a cave of blankets with my books and a box of cookies (which is still how I prefer to avoid most things, but I digress).
But at seventeen I started dating my best friend, and at eighteen he asked me to marry him. Two months after my nineteenth birthday he put a ring on it and I bound my heart to his for the rest of my life. When you're nineteen "the rest of your life" can be a very long time (God willing). Plenty of people thought we were nuts (fair assumption, really). We didn't have any money. Dan had finished his schooling already, but I dropped out of college to move back home and get married (cause when I rebel, I do it 1950's style). We were young and hopeful and dopey in love. And honestly, I would do it over and over again. It will forever be the best decision I have ever made.
Him and I, we're teammates. We're on the same side. We work hard on making sure we stay that way. Outside of the grace of God and the work we individually put into our marriage and family, there is one major factor that we look to in keeping up the momentum when life seeks to leave us drifting aimlessly away from each other.
That whole "It takes a village" thing is no joke. I don't know if this is still a popular school of thought, but I can tell you for sure that our lives would look drastically different without our village. Our kids would miss out on so much. Things we can't teach them. Things they'll really only hear if their parents aren't the ones who are saying it. Love and encouragement and life lessons. The ability to look outward; to see how those outside of their house respond in times of need or crisis or even happiness. Our village allows them to see their parents develop healthy friendships and deepen their own relationship. Our village is vital to the survival of the life we've built, because they helped build it with us.
Every village looks different. It's a hodgepodge of personalities and strengths.
It's the pastor who's at the hospital at 5am to pray with you on the day you miscarry your baby.
It's the aunts and uncles who play games on the floor and are magic in your kids' eyes.
It's the neighbor who leashes up your dog and meets you halfway so you don't have to take all the kids on a wild goose chase looking for your wandering golden retriever.
It's the grandparents who snuggle and sneak treats and dream with your kids while you have a night off.
It's the friend who lets you in to experience their pain and loss. Who gives you a gift when they let you help shoulder their burden.
It's the couple that snuggles your baby during worship and pace the hall with him during the sermon on a Sunday morning.
It's the one who lives far away, but always seems to know when to call or text at just the right moment with an encouraging nudge/shove.
It's the friend who opens up their home so you can opt out of the nightmare that is one hotel room and three kids.
It's the friend who holds your infant in the back of the sanctuary so that you can take the toddler to the bathroom minutes before the Christmas Eve service starts.
It's the person who sees you floundering in self doubt and becomes your cheering squad.
A village is a meal train and private Facebook messages with late night advice for your sick kid. It's pulling and tugging the pain out of you when all you want to do is curl around it. It's coming for the laughter and staying during the heartbreak. It's those who see you, see your family, see your triumphs and struggles and through it all choose to say, "I'm here. I am for you."
Who is your village? Who is for you?