Sunday, September 28, 2014

Intentional Community Building

Last Sunday a wind storm swept through the valley of Juneau and the sky was a classic autumn grey and the leaves were dancing and I had a typical nerd moment on my back deck musing about the loveliness of a seasonal change. The fall magic motivated me to make pumpkin waffles and wear a scarf and sip my allotted one cup of coffee. We lost power for about an hour that evening as well and our little candle on the kitchen table flickered as we all sat around making shadow puppets on the wall (you guessed it, I was tickled narrating how lovely the evening was in my head).

I've slowed down a bit as we near the birth of this fifth little and what a blessing littles are when it comes to pulling in and really being "ok" with staying put. If we are always going we don't have moments when we are all together, doing things like shadow puppets. In the past...because I was always "looking around" at what OTHERS were doing... I may have judged these types of families who don't seem to go out on the weekend to "Kids Night at So and So" and "Open House at Blah Blah" as people who live in bubbles....since we're not getting out ourselves I've had to redefine this apparent lack of social interaction as "building community in the home."

Yes, in our own home we are building a community.

In Joan Chittister's The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, she has a beautiful chapter on community:

"In the Rule of Benedict,
community is made up of 
common worship,
common ownership,
and common life."
" become community
in a Monastery of the Heart
requires regular
and meaningful interaction 
among the members.
It is more than calendrical
or routing celebrations,
as important as these are,
for the building
of a common spirit."

I could copy the whole chapter but when I was reading this for the first time the lines

regular and meaningful interaction among the members

REALLY resonated with how  I wanted to build a sense of community in a large family.

It seems that having regular interaction within a family would be fairly easy to do. Homeschooling has really helped in this area, because my littles are always home and life at home together has given us REGULAR interaction. Because a majority of our day is passed together, it does seem fine to have the littles in out of the home activities...granted there is the balance of how many car days vs non car days we have. We also have to guard our time with our daddy. I have confessed in past posts that I realize this all changes as the littles grow into bigs...but I am not there yet!

So perhaps that "regular" interaction is there for now but...for me at least, the tricky part may be securing the "meaningful interaction" in a home. I have come to realize that living in a post-Christian modern high tech society means also having to constantly live with the hour to hour decision to live INTENTIONALLY.

There are so MANY distractions today that can rob us of meaningful interaction with our loved ones.

Seriously...there are I-phone & television/screen time/Facebook distractions (forget that I am blogging right now) that steal time away. Distractions...they can take all types of forms...I will admit that in the past I have fallen into the trap of having too many commitments out of the home (even if they are for good things like Church). I can also get into funky "oh my gosh I need to sit and have coffee with...list of people.." and this can be dangerous too if I am constantly shooing my children away. Are you missing moments?

Meaningful interaction.

Praying together. Reading. Singing. Laughing.

Raking leaves.

Playing in the leaves.

Cooking together. Enjoying the meal that we just cooked together.

Napping together.

Yes, building the family community is such beautiful, holy, intentional work.

And yet this author was specifically writing about a Benedictine community...and so...we extend outward beyond the home and I see the same regular and intentional interaction at work in our community here in Juneau. A specific community of women of faith who have been blessed with a love for littles.

Over the last five years, I have experienced an ease of coming and going in the homes of these women and taking care of each other's littles that I didn't receive in fullness when I worked full-time in the Coast Guard. We feed our littles together.

We help move each other's furniture. We babysit. We pray together. We read books together.

We celebrate feast days and life together...

My sister visiting from D.C. threw a surprise shower for me with the women of my faith community.
Celebrations are fun, but perhaps it is more what we do in ordinary time that helps us grow.

Last week my dear friends Jennifer and Janet came over and we built a new land of Israel for our atrium...

I loved the leaf on her hat.

That's Jennifer's sweet little one year old taking it all in. That's my eight year old enjoying a frozen banana on a stick...apparently she likes it.

We spent a good solid three hours together. Justin was off for the day, and it is the very rare occasion that I have anyone over when he is home (unless its his idea). This Land of Israel map needed to get done and well he needed to putter about the yard a bit before winter...mow the lawn one last time before we exchange the lawn mower for the snow blower. While mowing the ditch he mowed over a rock and it shattered the back window of our already run down minivan. While Justin called the speedy glass people, Janet went out with a dust pan and broom to sweep up the shattered glass.

She didn't ask where the broom was.

She didn't announce what she was doing.

She just went and helped.

The afternoon was delightful and there were littles EVERYWHERE. There were front doors and back doors and garage doors open, potty breaks happening, snacks being shared, shoes off and not off, interruptions galore....but it was meaningful.

As my family grows and we are homeschooling with more than just art and nature walks, I have found that being prayerful and truly discerning how we as a family spend our time is very important. Am I listening to the littles? Am I listening to my husband? Am I listening to my own needs? Who are we inviting into our home? How much time is spent away from our home? Time is so precious and being intentional with it takes prayer. Thought.

The other evening we were blessed with another perfect night for a campfire. The gnats are long gone and Justin just gets into a "I need to split and burn wood" mode. We love it! We sometimes extend the invite to neighbors or a few Coast Guard friends. My eldest specifically said, as we were all getting our jackets and hats on, "I like having friends come, but can it just be our family tonight? Just us?"


Thank you for reading. I LOVE this LITTLE BLOG COMMUNITY. I am specifically thinking of Lindy and Suzanne today because they popped in on my blog a few days ago when I was a little down and had removed it from public view. The Holy Spirit prompted them to stop by and they contacted me asking how they could view it. Random I know! But really...such a sweet gift...I shouldn't need to be affirmed, but that hour they were there. Bloggy hugs xxoo.

Message to Suzanne: My literary friend...if you are still looking for a good read... I am finally reading St Therese' Story of a Soul ! Special thanks to Kimber for allowing me to keep said book for I think over two years...I am finally reading it!

God Bless.


  1. I love what you're saying here! I pray sometimes that if I ever have littles, it's in a community like this one. Your blog has encouraged me many (many many many!) times. I love it and YOU. I'm so glad that you are enjoying the Story of a Soul. It is such a joy to share St. Therese with someone who I know loves her too! Oh, and the 'napping together' picture made me smile.:) Love, Kimber

  2. If God blesses you with littles, I hope we are here so my girls can watch YOUR treasures, wouldn't that be fun? Yes...I love St Therese even MORE now that I am getting to know her through her writings! Thank you for your comments Kimber xxoo

  3. Love Love LOVE this post! I thought of you as I'm printing off page after page of apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and other Autumnal sites to visit next week while in NY. When I come back, we have to get out of our cocoons for one more playdate before Little MIss Forbes arrives. I miss you and your girls' smiling faces, and I have so much to tell you :) Blessings!

    1. That sounds LOVELY, especially since the campground is closed! Can't wait to see you dear friend xxoo