Loving My Neighbor: Unfamiliar Territory

On Monday, I packed up the unruly crew I call my own (except during embarrassing public displays of disobedience) and confined them to their car seats while we made our way to the old 'hood we called home up until nearly three years ago.

We spent time with the neighbors across the street from the old place that became family to us there and will always be, no matter where we call home.

The crew enjoying their Chick-Fil-A lunch around beloved Aunt Carol's table.

 Sitting on the front porch steps, watching the children "helping" Uncle Joe watering the plants, I recalled the way moving to that neighborhood completely transformed my perspective on what "loving ones neighbor" looked like. Through the benefits and messy moments of opening oneself to live alongside neighboring lives, without any hidden agenda or self-righteous motives, I was able to see why Jesus placed such emphasis on loving our neighbors as ourselves.

While we are now living in a different neighborhood, with different dynamics, the seed that God planted in the old is still growing. I love my "new" neighbors:

 My children are making lifelong memories with their children... 

I walk daily with a neighbor who has become a dear friend who I can text when I'm losing my mind...

I have watched God slowly heal another who has lived for years with a debilitating illness. She is a friend who inspires...

I have praised God when getting a call from my neighbor next door, asking if my two girls could come over and play for the morning(" go girls! hurry! before she changes her mind!!!)...

I have been grateful when, having dinner 30 minutes away from our home, that I could call our John Wayne-esque neighbor and ask him to go over to the house filled with our children and a timid babysitter during a tornado warning...

 My heart felt full after a special Christmas dinner with several neighboring women who have become good friends...

The playing, the sharing, the relying, the special dinners and over-the-fence conversations are all part of it.

But it has increasingly come to my attention that it is not enough. Especially with the news-to-me information that there are currently 89 homeless children in our school district. Our "rural", country school district that is full of manicured farms and little league-loyal families. How can this be? And how can I, the one who God has been cultivating a heart for neighboring, turn my head from such a statistic to continue sipping my hot coffee in my warm, well-built farmhouse?

The answer: I can't.

It would be easier to write a check. Fund a program. Cast a prayer. Admonish my children to be grateful for the roof over their head as if it's a sign of God's special favor. Continue growing my annoyance at the government's inability to solve social ills. To gloss over the command to not store up treasures on Earth, while my Heavenly storehouse remains embarrassingly low on inventory.

I am product and part of a Christian culture that has become so programmed, so fixated on only the ways promoted by our brick-and-morter command centers we call "Churches", that we have lost a sense of individuality and the freedom to explore HIS unique mission for our life. (This is not to say great things have not stemmed from church-organized events. They have!)

 I have a number of friends whose hearts beat for adoption...I have others who quietly listen to broken hearts, drowning in messy circumstances...and yet others who speak up for children facing unimaginable horrors. It has been refreshing to see them unleashed, propelling forward in His mission for them, powered by the One who inspires them. They are ignoring the whispers-or shouts-of discouragement, keeping it non-political and doing it all in the name of the great and all-consuming love of Jesus. They are not waiting until they've got it all together or have perfect answers. It really isn't about them at all...but in following His cue, they reap tremendous joy in the doing.


Tonight, several women from our school district will join me around my kitchen table. God brought us together quite surprisingly, with hearts similarly inspired to help the homeless. We might not be able to change the world as a whole. Yet when our homes directly intersect with those who have none, it is our slice of the world we can change. The need is great for people who are no longer willing to wait for programs and government hand outs to help those who need tangible expressions of His love. Real needs are met by imperfect people who have been touched by Real Love. 

I am looking forward to continuing this adventure in growing my roots deeper in the loving of my neighbors...not just when the soil is rich and easy, but also when it's unfamiliar and rocky.

(Everyone's mission is different. It would be terribly boring and ineffective if we were all called to the same thing. Thank you for allowing me to share a little bit of mine).


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