All tagged Loving Your Neighbor

Home is Hope

Home is foundational. 

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.” {Isaiah 28:16b}

Twelve years ago, I left the home I grew up in. First, for college. Then, for Guatemala and Chicago, and now Milwaukee. Years one through twelve, parting from home felt mostly an adventure. Leaving behind my grandparents and parents and siblings was hard, but easier to simply chalk up as my allotted sacrifice.

Over the past few months, guilt and sadness and homesickness for all I’ve missed hit me hard: friends’ weddings, sisters’ graduations, nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays. Now I feel the sacrifice of “hating” my blood in order to surrender my life’s plans to Christ’s leading. Now, I miss home as the hearts I grew up among, as my loving upbringing.

Chutes and Broken Ladders

Each time I walk up the stairs to our front porch, I am reminded of how privileged I am to be here.

It was the third house we toured with our realtor, and I was smitten over every detail: a relatively new home that only needed a heavy paint job, enough square footage to create a guest bedroom, an open concept kitchen and living room to practice hospitality, and even main floor laundry.

We heavily debated over its location in the heart of the inner city, but after a few days of late night discussion and dreaming and anxiety admitting, Husband received a devotional in his inbox with this verse attached:

The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. {John 1:14}

We are not the type to demand signs from heaven, but we were pretty sure that confirmed God was shouting, This is the one!

We Can't Stop at Band-Aids

I woke up from a nap to four missed calls from my neighbor.

I called back right away, never expecting to hear her voice come through the speaker saying, “I just got evicted.”

My mind raced for solutions to a problem much larger than I am, and then came back to the starting line when she asked, “Do you have any trash bags to put our stuff in?”

Token White Girl

I could easily reword my Christian testimony to reflect the number of interactions I had with people of minority races before the age of 22:

“I lived in an all-white Christian home, attended a mostly white Christian school, and went to a predominantly white Christian church.”

In specific regards to African Americans, what I knew were things I was taught in history books or saw in the movies. To me, they were like mystical creatures who manifested themselves into three categories: historical figures from the Civil Rights movement, NBA players, and Tyler Perry’s Madea.

Leave Your Heart Open, Just Not Your Garage

We asked them for advice.

Years ago they lived in a similar neighborhood in Kalamazoo, and they remembered the times their parents called asking, "So, how's Beruit?"

In what could have become hours of conversation had to be boiled down to a few minutes walking out of the sanctuary. With big smiles they answered my question, "Don't get too attached to your earthly possessions."

Two weeks later, we are out a bike and a new lawn mower. 

The Carpet Guy Won't Work in Our Neighborhood

"You ain't brought your mama here yet, have you?" Johnny asked with a slight smirk.

My mama lives on the other side of Lake Michigan but no, she hasn't been to our new house yet. Johnny grew up a couple blocks down the street, so he wasn't naive to the crime maps we scoured in our free time for months before we bought the place. 

"By the way," our contractor joined the conversation, "The guy I usually hire to do carpet won't work in this neighborhood." Another smirk. "But Home Depot and Menards will."

Won't You Be My {Honest} Neighbor?

Being neighborly means not only loving someone just the way they are, but also presenting ourselves just the way we are.

And this type of authenticity goes much deeper than how tidy we keep our homes or how often we burn the pizza. It’s beyond how many times per week I choose to wear yoga pants instead of pants with a zipper, or how often I forgo mascara.

Needy Neighbor

I don’t want to be the Needy Neighbor. I don’t want to be the one who looks in the mirror and sees Haggard and Depression staring back on these cold winter days. I don’t want to be the neighbor who wakes up to only 27% battery power every morning.

It’s difficult to think about generosity and hospitality when we feel like we have so little left to give. It’s hard to remember that in our weakness God makes His power known.

I might cry out, “Lord, I have so little to offer!” And maybe He’ll reply, “Looks like five loaves and two fish to Me. I can work with that.”

It Wasn’t #GivingTuesday; Is That Why He Didn’t Help Me?

No, there isn’t anything wrong with Giving Tuesday, except that maybe it should be called, “Give Whatever Cash You Have Left After Black Friday and Cyber Monday” Tuesday. But days like Giving Tuesday, and the mindset that outreach is a single, isolated event that we do around Christmas, should sound off a few alarms at how seriously we take Christ’s commands to love our neighbors all life long.

The Political Gospel {and other things I won’t fall for this election season}

1. I will never fall for the Political Gospel.

The Political Gospel is the idea that checking a box next to an imperfect person's name on a ballot will be their ticket to either Heaven or Hell. It's the statement that says, "You can't call yourself a Christian if you vote for that candidate." While our political views indeed stem from our faith, the only thing that can save us is to cast our vote with the one perfect Man who ever walked this earth. {John 3:16}

A Conversation About Race Over Chicken Tacos

Our stories – mine and Candacee’s – are different too. She grieves her father. I grieve our baby girl. And as we sit next to each other, as we share about who we’ve lost, our two-hour conversation starts to make the slightest bit of sense.

Because, listening.

The best way to support those who grieve is to listen, to give them space to feel, to hurt, to bleed without rushing to find a bandage or insisting it’s already all better.

Maybe the brokenness of our city is meant to be grieved too. Maybe mourning with my African American brothers and sisters who mourn is at least turning my head in the right direction. Maybe when tragedy happens I need to push aside my assumptions, my comments and labels, and just dwell for a second: “That was somebody’s daddy. Somebody’s son.”

Because then the tears will surely come.

Grateful {By Comparison}

“Thankful-By-Comparison” gratitude is always well intended. We take things for granted all the time. And the fact that others might lack what we happen to possess does beg for a response.

But if the root of jealousy is comparison, then the root of our gratitude shouldn’t be comparison too. We can’t let our gratitude be rooted in anything besides our choice to be joyful in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

I’d Like to Believe {That Our Family Was Meant for More}

I realized that within the lines of her email, my friend was really saying, “I’d like to believe that my family was meant for more. That my family, as followers of Christ, was meant for more than just striving to live up to the word called 'Organic,' or any other parenting pressures.”

It’s not that caring for the wellbeing of our families should really be called a “trend.” It’s not that it’s bad to breastfeed your kid to whom you naturally gave birth, until they turn two years old. It’s not that it’s bad to have a huge garden from which you cook whole food meals from every night. {Sometimes it even makes me want to cheer, “Yay! Christians who care about their health and the environment!”}

But it is one matter for our lives to contain this long list of trends, habits, hobbies, and lifestyle. And it’s an entirely different matter when our life as a Christian family becomes primarily focused on those things. Finds their purpose in those things.