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.