We live in a mountain valley of sorts, a beautiful oasis among the forests and rivers of southwest Oregon. We are 500 feet from the end of the county road, surrounded by neighbors we fellowship with, mountains that roll the fog in, a creek that runs most of the summer, and wild animals of every North American kind. It's like a cul-de-sac of wild freedom and holy fear.
We have our share of unsavory characters and questionable dwellings here, but if ever there was a village that could help raise a child, this would be the one I'd choose.
I don't think it's supposed to be only a 2-person endeavor - nurturing, protecting, shepherding these kids Jesus has entrusted us with. All of us grow up in community and all of us benefit from the annoying rub of others.
Did I say annoying? I meant sharpening, like iron.
Which has to be annoying.
From the prayer chain to the bench in front of the market, people who love our children are never in short supply in this little town.
To all the people who are helping us raise our kids - thank you.
To the neighbors who will send our children home when they hear us holler, who let this gang of cul-de-sac kids roam their yards and kitchens - thank you for being a safe place.
To all the coaches who've ever helped our kids become more of who they are, who raise the bar for them and ask for bigger goals and stronger morals - thank you.
For being our teammates and enforcing what we try to teach at home - how to be self-disciplined, navigate fear, overcome a lack of confidence, and sacrifice comfort for something larger than yourself. Thank you.
For all the heartache in all the lives of the kids you touch, and all your sensitivity and desire to help - thank you.
Thank you, coaches, for putting up with parents on the sidelines. We realize that the piddly wage you get for your coaching amounts to pennies when you calculate the hours.
To youth group leaders and mentors and friends who text my kids from a village in Burma because you remembered their big event and want to know how it went - thank you.
For all the times you dragged your family around to minister to my kids; for the one-on-one discussions about important things; for your watchful eye and praying heart; for your concern for other people's children and your time at the carwash or the skeet shoot or the church camp or the 4-H meeting.
For opening your homes to teach my kids how to bake, opening your gyms and giving your time to help them meet their goals, mentoring them towards career possibilities and strong spiritual lives and victory in every area.
To the Sunday School teachers who make church fun and the Bible more than a story - thank you.
For your hours of praying and preparing and all the Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings spent locked away with children - bless you.
For taking our older kids under your wing and helping develop their love for Jesus by teaching them how to serve the younger kids - thank you.
For sacrificing your time, your comfort, your fellowship, and your sanity - thank you.
To the grandparents, some by blood and some by choice - thank you.
We wore you down with toddlers and date nights. We took advantage of your open doors and cupboards and hearts and you never turned our tired-selves away.
Now you employ our children and support them at all their events. You counsel them from the Word and your own lifetime of experience and do we even know how blessed we are to have you all?
To all of you who've gone before us and raised godly young adults who now mentor and encourage our kids - bravo, and thank you.
We will listen to your counsel and cry at your tables and pick over what's left of your sanity for all the nuggets we can glean. Tell us it's all God's grace and lots of prayer, and we'll have plenty of hope.
I used to think I had to do it all on my own, just me and Jesus, you know? I am thankful for all the help I can get now, and thankful for this small place and the big-hearted people that live in it.
Wherever you are, make it that kind of village.