As our time in Minnesota comes to a close, we of course have been reflecting on our many experiences here in Minnesota. I feel our life did a 180 since being out here, in a good way. We came broken, hurt, and childless, with two babies in heaven. Now we leave refreshed, renewed, and with our beautiful daughter Mazy Grace. All thanks to the village we have lived in for the past 4 years.
As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well I want to give you a glimpse into the village we have lived and how we would not be the parents we are today if it wasn’t for them!
I think about Open Rock. This is an after school gathering at our youth building, where kids can come eat supper with us, do homework, play games, or just hang out. From the very beginning, we have taken Mazy. It has been at Open Rock where she has learned to play pool, ping-pong, play bumper Mazy on the couches, hoola hoop, eat chips, and make friends triple her size. It has been here that our youth group kids have adopted her as their little sister. From the time when she napped on the 50 year old couches in our junior high room, to the booster seat and baby food she used to eat, to now, where she is running around giggling and wanting to play what our youth group kids play. They have loved her as their own, and what a joy it has been to see them love her the way they do.
I think about youth group and events. Thanks to our baby-whisperer of a babysitter, which has made going to youth group every other week possible! She has loved Mazy as her own, and thanks to her tender care, it was almost a guarantee that Mazy would sleep through the night those nights. I am not even kidding. When Mazy cried and cried, she would rest easy in her arms. What a blessing that has been! Also, during the NFL season, we would have kids come over to our house to watch football, and Mazy was so excited for the “kids” to come over (that’s what she called them). She would give some of the guys the cutest smile, knowing she was cute-stuff already! Oh, and that’s where she also knew she could get chips and sugar. They again, have loved her as their little sister.
I think about school games. It did not matter what sporting event we were at, Mazy was always well loved. Whether it be her hanging out with the students in the student section, coloring with fellow toddlers, or sitting on another parent’s lap, she couldn’t wait to go to “game” (games in her language). She knew when we said “game” that meant kids, and oh she would ask all day until we finally left. Sometimes we had no idea she landed in someone else’s arms, but that just shows how much people invested into not only our lives, but hers.
I think about appointments. Being a first time parent, I didn’t always have a clue what I was doing. Going to the doctor or specialist was always a bit nerve-wracking because I didn’t know what to expect or how to handle a certain situation. At each appointment though, Mazy has been given such wonderful care. From her prenatal appointments, the fetal heart monitoring they did, the actually day of delivery (one of best days of my life thanks to the staff that day), to the specialists we had to see after she was born to test her hearing and for spina bifida, to her chiropractor appointments, ear infection issues and surgery, and brief hospital stay for a virus. She was well taken care of! Each doctor gave such incredible care. but I have no doubt that we will find that care in Michigan too.
I think about our churches. Being a part of two churches, Mazy had the privilege of getting to know 2 congregations (and we did too). She always asked “Jeff? Steef (Steve)?” when we were heading to church, wondering whose church we were going to? It’s adorable! We have had two congregations investing in her and our family, giving us encouragement, love, and support. And see them come around us, as promised through baptism, has been a humbling experience.
I think about our friends. It brings me to tears to think about all those who have graciously befriended the Sterks! The countless times they have come along side us to lend a helping hand. Hands to love Mazy while we had to go away, hands that made us meals, hands that helped us with projects, and hands that beat us in games like cribbage and hand and foot. Friends that go far beyond distance, but are friends for a lifetime. Mazy now calls them “friends” as well. These friends have truly become our family and we will always refer to them as such. Friends who have walked with us through some difficult times in our life, who accepted us while we were still grieving, and who loved us despite.
It has been no mistake that God called us to Prinsburg, Minnesota. He purposefully carved out a season of our life here for umpteen reasons, but we firmly believe that one of those being, to experience what it means to live in a loving village of people. We have no doubt that this will continue in Zeeland, but living in Prinsburg grew us a a family, but teaching us to open up our lives and let others in. Our little family would not be where it is today, if it wasn’t for our village. Mazy would not love the things she loves, if it wasn’t for our village. At mealtime, we ask her what she wants to pray for, and she starts to list off names of people in “our village.” Just goes to show how much they have made an impact on her, a two year old’s, life.
Like I said, if there is one thing I have learned, it is to let people in. Let people come alongside of you. Let people love your family. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to open up. Don’t be afraid to let others in. We sure are still learning this too, but thanks to our village, we leave as different people.
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