Tonight is Peytons next to last class party of the year (simple pot luck and movie night). Next month we have a mother-daughter tea party here for all the girls in her class plus all the moms Ive gotten to know over the year from having this time each month.
Moms comment every month that it would stress them out to have a monthly party. I tell them that this has been a life project for us - one about relationship, not entertaining. For three years, when the girls were in early elementary, I took them to a local homeless shelter where they read to the preschool children there for an hour each week. That was their first training on intentional conversations, selfless friendship and investment in lives (read life-ministry). From there the Lord moved us to Minnesota (and homeschooling) where we had nothing in common with anyone, and yet we all had to find ways to connect. There was never a day there when either of the girls felt like they had a close friend, and yet we had kids around weekly, gatherings all the time and parties of every sort. They learned on a deeper level there how to lead a conversation and ask questions of others. (They found, and still find it difficult, that most talk only of themselves but never ask questions about others lives.) They also learned that whether you enjoy someone or not, there can still be much learned from others. Moving back to Colorado, we quickly found comfortable relationships anew and both girls have community once again. But now they know how to invest/engage differently.
These parties this year have been our (Peyton and my) collective community investment and a continued intentionality toward others. It is a very diverse group - many unbelievers, many different religions. We do have an agenda in inviting them in - we are wanting to be their friend and share our lives. In time, if we earn a place to have further discussions, we will be thankful for that privilege. In other words, as I tell the parents, we invite them into our home so we can get to know them and they us. Its about relationship, not entertaining. Certainly there is some stress in trying to get to know certain people, but if relationship is the goal then the house being perfect or the details being this or that doesn't matter quite so much. This is the difference between entertaining and hospitality.
I learned from watching a woman older than I, one who had walked where I had not yet walked, that in these middle and high school years, the best way to disciple is to take your girls with you in all you do. I know, from Peytons words, that having these monthly gatherings she has learned much about engagement of others, whether they are her favorite friend or not.
Bit by bit, I continue to find ways to have them walk with me and then the joy, and learning, is doubled.