Monday, September 30, 2013

Love Thy Neighbor

Can I just say that God is so cool?

A few weeks ago my Big Man was out mowing the lawn and he noticed the guy across the street was doing the same. About halfway through, however, the man across the street's lawn mower gave out. Kaput. So the hubby went over and offered our lawnmower to our neighbor to which he responded with many "happy expletives". 

Let me back track. We live in the hood. It's definitely a change from the Virginia suburbs I grew up in, but I'm learning that God is using us here. Javie likes to say that we can't be missionaries elsewhere until we learn to spread the gospel first in our home, and then to our neighbors. I've been fighting to move because I simply don't feel safe here most of the time, but I'm trusting that God has us here for a reason. 

So today... as I was cleaning the house I could hear the man across the street mowing his lawn. I figured he either fixed the one he had or got a new one, but really didn't think much of it. Big Man and I have been talking a lot lately about maybe doing something for the kids that live in that house for Christmas so I made a mental note to listen out for when the mower turned off so I could go ask the guy if he could give me all the kids' info. He works two jobs so it's hard to find a good time to talk to him. About 2 minutes later I heard the mower stop, then start, then stop again. I looked out the window and he was struggling to get it started. Here's my chance.

I walked across the street and simply introduced myself and said we'd like to get the kids some small gifts for Christmas. His only reply was "You need to talk to my wife", and then he lead me to the front door. I could only make out her silhouette from where I was standing and he kept telling her "Just come here the lady wanna speak to you. It's for the kids." So she got up and came to the door.

I told her what we wanted to do, half expecting her to get offended. Instead she just smiled from ear to ear and kept repeating "God is so good!" I just nodded in agreement and kept talking. She stopped me and said, "No you don't understand. We just went to the pawn shop to get another mower and on the way back we were talking about Christmas. I told him I just didn't know how we were going to get them more than one group gift and just said a little prayer that somehow God would help us figure this out. And here you come walking across the street saying you want to help?! God is SO good! Lady, I just lost my job and he has the only car so I'm stuck here all day while he works both jobs and it makes me feel so guilty!" I had to laugh and tell her I knew exactly how she felt and then started explaining our situation. I let her know that because of our car situation and me not really having a job that it wouldn't be much, but that we definitely wanted to help. And she assured me with an exasperated sigh and said "Anything helps." 

I told the man that he could use our mower again if he'd like. They both walked over to the house a while later and we ended up talking for about an hour. They told me about how they'd been here 2 years but have been looking for another place to move because none of the neighbors talk to them. The woman said she doesn't sleep well at night because he's always out working late and she waits for him to get home. We made a deal to watch out for each other. I told them that it's our goal to get to know our neighbors and build an actual community where we can support each other and she replied "Now that's exactly what we've been looking for". 

So I have two questions today; 1) Why aren't we building our ideal neighborhoods? Rather than keep complaining this whole time that I didn't like our neighborhood, all I really needed to do was follow Jesus across the street. Back in the day people took care of their neighbors and they all looked out for each other. Most of the time now we either don't know our neighbors or we gossip about them. We make excuses that we don't have time or that we can't trust strangers, when really all we're doing is isolating ourselves from anything new and possibly uncomfortable. So I want to challenge you to either meet your neighbors, or if you've already done that then find out how you can serve them. 

2)Who else wants to help? From what we've seen there are at least 4 kids in the house across the street whose clothes are all worn and over-sized. I'm sure a Christmas dinner for the parents would be a blessing too. I'll post info on the kids as soon as I get it from the mom but please be praying for how you can help out with clothes, toys, food, or gift cards this Christmastime. 

And to think it all started with a broken mower~ like I said God is so cool!

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
    “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
    when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
    who lives trustfully near you. -Proverbs 3:27-29

The poor are shunned even by their neighbors 
but the rich have many friends.
It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
 but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.
Do not those who plot evil go astray?
 But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness. -Proverbs 14:20-22

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In a Sea of Ugly...

The past few weeks have been especially trying for me. I always marketed myself as the girl who could do anything. Give me a task and I will make sure it's done. I took a job a few months ago that I honestly thought would be a piece of cake and for whatever reason I have just been struggling to keep up. Every time I got to a breaking point I'd start praying and asking God why something that seemed so simple to so many other people was so difficult to me. I'm the hundred pound girl who can use a jackhammer, I've managed other people's households, I made Lebron say please and thank you! Why can't I grasp this simple task? And God kept responding "This isn't what I created you to do." 

The hardest part is the disappointment. I didn't want to let my husband down and the financial burden fall on him, I didn't want to let my boss and close family friend down who was counting on me, I wanted to prove everyone wrong who doubted me in this position. And I certainly didn't want to admit I wasn't capable of excelling. 
Hubby is happy to be alive-I am clearly worried about the car

Rewind a little to Labor Day weekend and picture my beautiful Scion XB t-boning a chevy pickup. Cue the panic attacks. A woman ran a stop sign and now I have no transportation. My first new car, the car I put hundreds of thousands of miles on in only 5 years, the car that took us away from our wedding and to our honeymoon suite, the car I thought we'd be transporting our children in... it's gone. And the whole time I'm asking God why we, His servants, are now in a rut, while this woman barely has a scratch on her door. And God replied "Because it's the one material thing you took the most pride in, and I'm freeing you from that." Ouch. Of course He's right. He's God. And I get it. But it sucks. 

So my boss took me out to lunch to discuss my very apparent struggle with this job. I was very honest with him about how much of a failure I was turning out to be. He asked what my real dream was and I started going on and on about Raising Shiloh; the non-profit I want to start to help teens that age out of the foster care system. So he said he'd like to help, and pretty much fired me on the spot. Goodbye to one stress, hello to a whole new anxiety. 

So once again I talk to my go-to guy... "C'mon God, you've got to be kidding me right? What are we going to do with only one stable income? How am I going to find a job without a car to drive?" and once again a very calm reply came. "You said you'd give up anything I asked. I've shut the door for you to do my calling. Depend on me and I will provide." 

Not that I don't have full faith, but ya'll I am SCARED. I'm only 3 days in to not really having a job and I feel like I'm a teetering mess. Push me one way and I'm manic and excited to get this thing DONE! I'm about to do God's work for His glory and there will be kids whose lives are changed in the meantime! Push me the other way and I'm insecure, distrusting, and unable to control the tears and anxiety-ridden worries.  

So my question is this; do we get out of the boat and walk on water, or stay where's it's "safe" because we're too scared to drown in a sea of ugly? I think we, as Christians, keep having this expectation that things are supposed to be comfortable and only mildly challenging. We think that because we're living for God and striving to be righteous that things should go the way WE want them to, life should be beautiful. But really, God has called us to notice the ugliness in the world and do something about. And on top of that, there are no guarantees that we won't get hurt while doing it. In fact, it's more likely that we will be persecuted AND hated while doing His work. AND EVEN HARDER, we're supposed to REJOICE and BE GLAD while all of this is happening. Let me tell ya'll, I haven't gotten to the rejoicing and being glad yet. But I know it will come. 

Please pray for my husband and me. Pray for his ministry to thrive and that we see students coming closer to Christ.Pray that our home life is a safe haven from everything going on in the outside world and that our finances are used wisely.

 Please pray that God provides for my soon-to-be non-profit and that the right people are put in my path to help me on this rigorous journey. Pray that funding comes through to start it and to run it. Pray that volunteers find US! Pray that this business card isn't the only thing I ever do to get this thing going. And most importantly, pray that God's will (not mine) be done.

He didn’t doubt God’s promise out of a lack of faith. Instead, giving honor to God for the promise, he became strong because of faith -Romans 4:20 (GWT)

Almighty Lord, you are God, and your words are trustworthy. You promised me this good thing. -2 Samuel 7:28 (GWT)