Thursday, June 5, 2008

When we moved into this neighborhood 16 years ago this month it was supposed to be temporary. We were newlyweds and didn't care for apartment living. We were wanting to be in a house so we rented this one when it came available just months after we married. Ron's parents owned the duplex and gave us a great deal on rent. I think we paid like $400 a month.

After a couple years we bought the duplex from the parents. We rented one side while living in the other. We had the opportunity to rent to several colorful tenants. Our intention was to do this for a few years then buy something else in a nicer neighborhood and keep this home as rental property. Again, the best laid plans... These were our plans and not God's.

When Ron changed careers and went into the ministry it was obvious that we either needed to sell and move or keep and live. We would not be able to do both. Our family was growing and we were out-growing one side of the duplex. The choice was made to keep this house and convert it into one home. Lots of blood, sweat and tears later we are still in that process.

There have been seasons where I hated this house. I hated this neighborhood. But I can see that this has been God's plan for our family, even if I have been a reluctant participant. Our neighbors have been colorful to say the least. We have had a shooting across the street, a meth dealer two doors over, immigrants from Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Ukraine all speaking little or no English. I wanted more for my kids, and to be honest for me too. I wanted a pretty yard. I wanted a beautiful home that was finished and completed, no wall to remove, plumbing to revamp or windows to replace. But all these things have really been blessings. We have been able to expose our kids to the real world in a safe way. They have seen the effects of bad choices first hand.

Gradually and slowly the Lord has changed my heart. Don't get me wrong, I am very tired of living in this undone home. I would love to have the Contractor Fairy come and finish it while we sleep, but that is not going to happen. I have come to love my neighbors. the Lord is showing me how to love them and see them through His eyes, not mine. God has showed me that not only is there value in being the home that all the kids migrate to, but that others notice and appreciate it. My neighbor that we affectionately call 'Mrs. Cravitts' (from Bewitched) just told me the other day how much she appreciated our ministry to the neighborhood and how we let all the neighborhood kids play here. One day she called just to let me know that she counted and there were 14 kids in my backyard. Thank you Mrs. Cravitts. Often we will have friends over and there will be little noses against the glass in my front door or an eye peering in to see if the kids can come outside to play.

My dear friend Ganiment who is from Albania has become a dear friend. Her husband was a judge and lawyer in Kosovo, now he delivers pizza , and they are thankful. They are so grateful for our country and the opportunities their children have here. For them it is not about materialism, opportunity and safety is the American Dream. Their family reminds me that what really matters in life is relationships with friends and family. They love to talk over a cup of coffee or come check out how the garden is growing. They remind me of how ridiculous it is to accumulate things just for the sake of things. They also remind me of how wasteful I can be. Recently they couldn't believe it when I ripped out my pansies to replace them with petunias. The pansies were wilting in the heat, and I knew they wouldn't make it though the summer months. One of the neighbors asked to have them to put in her shaded back yard.

I remember years ago a friend of mine had a neighborhood that had ice cream socials and bunko parties and I wanted that so badly. After years of whining to the Lord to move us He told me 'if you want that do something about it'. We have had a hot dog roast and an ice cream party that was so much fun. At first the neighbors didn't know what to think about being invited over, but after the awkwardness wore off everyone had a great time and we are a better neighborhood for it. This summer we are planning a backyard movie night and several neighbors are already looking forward to it.

There are still some families that stretch me and are hard to love, but I am sure I am the same to others too. I wish I would have not been such a late bloomer, as in 'bloom where you are planted'? I missed great opportunities while I was thinking about the 'If onlys'. Opportunities for friendships as well as sharing the love of Christ.

I am thankful for my neighbors. I am thankful for the children. Blerta (little B), Alton, Ghent, Kaltrina, Alma, Zane and Nate. I am thankful for my kids being exposed and learning about other cultures. I am thankful for the other two christian families. I am thankful that our yard has no trees so the kids can play football or we can lay out a slip and slide. I can truly say I am thankful for my home and my neighborhood.


Tricia said...

Thanks for the insights...I am glad God has worked in your life and neighborhood...I guess I have been experiencing a case of writer's block, hence, no new blog posts for me. I just don't have anything to say right now...I'm sure something will come to me sooner or later, I hope!

Sarah@Life in the Parsonage said...

Wow! Isn't it amazing how he uses us even when we're reluctant and dragging our feet :)

I've had many, many times when I've questioned God, because His plan didn't quite match up to mine...finding peace in that is such a gift!

Thank you for sharing your journey...that mansion He's preparing for you in Heaven is gonna knock your socks off ;)

kim said...

I remember your house (well, half of it anyhow) with fond (albeit sometimes strange) memories. My great Aunt Hope used to live there. She was my "babysitter" for many years in my early elementary years and i would go there before and after school each day. The neighborhood had its cast of characters even back then.

What a gift it is that you are able to be the "gathering spot" for the neighborhood children. What an example you must be to the other families in the neighborhood! I agree with Sarah, the mansion is going to be everything you can't even imagine.

Ginger said...
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Ginger said...

It is such a good thing to reflect on life, isn't it? It is also an encouragement to others when we can reflect and then give testimony of how God has worked and is working in us. Thank you for being that encouragement to me today!

Wendi said...

I have been over many times and couldn't believe how many kids where around your house. I think the kids can sense that your house is a house of peace, comfort, and love. I think they see Jesus in your lives and they are drawn to that. Sometimes I'm sure it can overwhelming, but you are very gracious, and welcome any to your home and I think that is a neat and awesome thing. It reminds me that I need to be more like that, that my house should be a house of refuge, for others. Thanks to your whole family for being such great example!

Jeanine said...

To me, your house and neighborhood sounds beautiful! I wish I could see it all! What a blessing you and your family are to the neighbors, especially the children. How fortunate that God has placed you in their lives and them in yours.

Jamie said...

Jill, this post has me a little teary-eyed. This is what "letting your light shine" is all about! There is a lot for me to learn through your story, thanks so much for sharing. You are is so not about the things we can accumulate. You are sharing Jesus in a real way and doing a great job of it.

Carol said...

I LOVE YOUR "HOOD"! I love hanging out in your yard and playing with all the kids, or just watching them enjoy the safety and warmth that you and your family share. The only time I hate your neighborhood, is driving in or out, it makes me a nervous wreck to drive through the swarm of kids! I hope to have a yard for all the neighborhood kids very soon. Yer livin my dream Jill!!!! ;)

Carol said...

I forgot to tell you that your hair looks absolutely adorable! I kept meaning to tell ya but we kept getting side tracked. Anyway, I LOVE IT! =) So now I put it in writing for the world to read so ya gotta forgive me for not mentioning it.... That's the rule. I make them up as I go along so I don't appear to be a "bad" friend. =)

Lori said...

You know what I love most about being your friend?
It's that I know that will see God's hand in every situation that you encounter, whether that be through a process or simple faith you always get there and that is a great encouragement to those around you.
You are precious, my friend.