We are just two moms with a desire to help our kids develop a love for others. A few years ago we committed together to regularly make lunches for NCC’s InService ministry that supports friends experiencing homelessness. We had visions of our children happily working in harmony assembling sandwiches, decorating bags, and carefully selecting Scripture verses to include…all with grateful hearts, of course, for the many blessings they have been given.
It turns out the reality of service is a bit more chaotic. Imagine eight young children and two adults, surrounded by the sounds of crying (generally the kids, sometimes the moms), laughter, rustling of lunch bags, fighting over crayons and stickers, and arguing over where each child will serve in the sandwich assembly line. You’re likely to hear us say things like “Stop licking the cheese,” “Don’t throw the clementines at each other,” or “No, you may not eat another heel from the bread loaf...you’ve already eaten four.” Generally the lunches have to be repacked at least once to more equitably distribute the 10 mandarins and 15 granola bars the three-year-olds dumped in one bag when they got bored. And those memory verses, we’re lucky if we remember to include them 50% of the time.
Life is full for us right now. Both of our families welcomed child number four, sweet little boys, into our homes this summer. Amidst the chaos of this season, it’s easy to become inwardly focused, allowing relationship and service to fall by the wayside. In order to make service part of our story, we’ve learned that we have to prioritize and schedule serving alongside our little people. So every few months you’ll find our names on the InService lunches sign-up list.
Serving together provides accountability to something we desire in a season where it just doesn’t seem to fit. It grows our friendship, our children's friendship and makes us focus our energy and resources on people outside of our homes.
We are women who are selfish with our time, impatient with our kids, but find encouragement in life as we fill lunches.....even if we really just wish we were eating Sweetgreen by ourselves.
Regular service for you may look different, but for us, right now it looks like 50 lunch bags, five loaves of bread, two bulk packages of deli cheese and meats, 50 clementines, 50 granola bars and 50 waters. Did we mention the eight kids eight and younger?
It’s not necessarily pretty, but it’s sweet. And do-able.
A few tips that we’ve learned along the way:
- Find a friend – Use service together as an opportunity to regularly connect with an old friend or to build a relationship with a new friend.
- Schedule your service – No, you don’t have the time, but if it’s not scheduled, it will never happen. Just pick a date and say “If all I do this week is go food shopping and fill lunches, that’s great.
- Embrace the craziness & the limitations – When young children are involved you have to limit your expectations of what can be achieved and anticipate chaos.
- Talk about what why you serve – As you serve with your children, discuss the why behind the work, even if they don’t really seem to be that interested. One day they will ask to whip up a bag lunch on their own for the homeless friend around the corner from your home, and you’ll know the message is sinking in.
- Bring lots of snacks – Children are always more joyful in their service once they’ve had a snack….though the snacks never seem to successfully deter our crew from pilfering slices of cheese from our homeless friends.
If we are all faithful to find the little opportunities to help lead our kids into service, they will grow into a generation blessed by deep friendship and connected in their desire to love and care for others. There is nothing these moms could want more.
Kristen Connell and her family attend NCC's Echostage location and enjoy family time outdoors.
Heather Gonzales is an Indiana native, raising her family in Washington, DC. She and her family attend NCC's Echostage location.