HOPE, Living with a Community Mindset

Come-Unity

I’m kind of on a story-telling kick. I hope that’s ok. I appreciate the chance to shout out some of the crazy-cool things God has shown me through His people.

This story begins one day when I moved into a new house. It was a lovely house; almost 100 years old and in the sweetest little village. It did have a fully functioning toilet at the top of the stairs. No walls, no sink. Just a sweet little farmhouse landing with an original bead board linen closet, a floor-to-ceiling window, a couple bedroom doors and a toilet. (My nephew was the first to use it, much to Carter’s chagrin.) So the house needed a little work… It had enough charm and character to make up for that!

While Collin and I were looking at buying The Toilet House (as it was apparently nicknamed by the neighbors), we noticed a backyard fence with a gate leading into the neighbor’s yard. We could “fix” that after the toilet had walls around it, no problem. Of course, on moving day a neighbor came right through that fence and welcomed us to the neighborhood. (Let me just say that I’ve moved a good number of times and never have I ever had a neighbor welcome us or even introduce themselves!) This neighbor, her husband and son were kin to the folks we had purchased the house from and the kids used to run back and forth between the yards. I wasn’t so sure I was comfortable with this set up having a 3 and a 1 year old myself, but thanked her for the welcome.

Well, let me tell you, I have learned more about community from this friendly neighbor than anywhere else! She came through that fence without reserve, but also without judgement or agenda. She walked into the house like she had known it her whole life (or at least a long time). And she had! She knew why the toilet was at the top of the stairs. She knew the neighbors’ frustration with the fence-sharing situation. And she knew why the family had to sell this house to us. She had a heart for this neighborhood and especially for this block; and so she made it her business to know us, too. And we became friends.

It didn’t matter that I was in the middle of muck and mire with a chronically (Celiac) sick baby or that I didn’t have a car of my own to get out during the day. She didn’t mind having all of our playdates at my house so I could regulate baby naptimes and she didn’t mind packing a (gluten) lunch for her kid and then de-contaminating my kitchen afterwards so we could hang out longer. She never judged me for my crazy Jesus-loving commentary or church-going even though she had already made up her mind on the matter. And she openly “watched over” our house at all times and commented on our comings and goings without shame. (I just love her utter honesty!!)

When I think of my new neighbor popping over or calling as soon as we walked into the driveway, I realize the crazy grace and acceptance we had for each other. She tried over and over to quit smoking and I tried over and over to plant a productive garden; but we did it together. We talked about potty-training and husbands and church and budgets while we walked the streets of the village to go to the library, grocery store, and park. We taught our boys to ride their bikes across the street in the open parking lot. We drank a lot of coffee with even more creamer. It was the simple life, in a sense.

Unfortunately, now I realize how complex that kind of community really is. I have not yet been able to recreate that way of doing life together since we moved away from that neighborhood. During our time in the Toilet House, I learned what it meant to BE WITH someone. To show up and sit. To traverse the highs and lows without wavering in friendship. My neighbor came over and she was beside me AND for me! (and vice versa!)

What if we all sought to create that kind of community? One where we came along side each other and united in spirit for a life season? What if we all embraced COME-UNITY?

Living with a Community Mindset

My Friend At Meijer

I have a friend at Meijer.

She is employed there while working on her degree in Criminal Justice.

I get to see her in the checkout lane EVERY time I go. It’s one divine appointment after another.

It all started one day when I complimented her hair, I had just taken out Mya’s first extensions and my hair-care world was being rocked. How do women around the world have the time, commitment, and knowledge to do “this” over and over!? It seemed like I had just succeeded in doing everything wrong. (My own hair, mind you, is washed once a week “whether it needs it or not” with minimal brushing in between and occasionally curled…ONCE for the week!) Poor sweet Mya will one day cry at the photos of her lovely locks torn to shreds and dry as bone after I got those braids out

Mya's pretty braids before I ruined them!
Mya’s pretty braids before I ruined them!

My friend has some gorgeous dreads that I’m absolutely positive took days to put in. And she must care for them meticulously because they always look so smooth and glossy. “I can learn a few things from this girl,” I thought so I struck up conversation. I’ll admit she was a bit reserved at first. Who can blame her? I’m sure not everyone who checks out wants to hear your whole life story and your hair care techniques when they ask “How are ya?” But once I complimented her amazing hair, she smiled and opened right up. It is obviously something she prides herself in and she had a lot to say. By the time I left the store, I knew all her style secrets and a few tips from her experiences with her nieces and nephews too. I went straight home and washed, conditioned, and finger brushed (this is a HUGE help!) Mya’s hair. Then I made a super-secret, tried-and-true, best-loved recipe for a homemade daily oil spray that is divine. My new friend is a genius!

As luck would have it, I got to go back to the store just two days later. (I love those multiple-trips-in-a-row-weeks…NOT.) My friend was there and so was Mya this time, so I introduced them. Now they can be friends too. The world needs more of these friendships that start with nothing and yet continue on for the love of Jesus. I never feel the need to preach or leave a tract, but each time we chat I do leave behind a little bit of Jesus with a smile, a question, even a hug these days.

All my kids know my friend now and boy, are they better at showing Jesus’ love than anyone! They run up and say “hey” with no reservations. They high-five and smile sweetly and any person knows they really mean it. There’s no angle, no expectations to be fulfilled, we just want to be friends. I’m pretty sure my new friend will get a birthday party invite at some point, because kids are so good at loving fiercely. I want to be like that. I want to love my friends fiercely no matter how well I know them or what their story is. Now that I think of it, I may just invite her over for coffee. I want to know her more and I want to love her even better and someday, whether I get to tell her or not, she’ll know she encountered Jesus and I think she’ll like the Jesus she met.