Learn and Grow + Letting Go.They are simple words. Seemingly harmless. Nothing in these words indicates any sort of major upheaval in one's life, nothing out of the ordinary, not even a hint that one should really be on guard because these little words are going to wash over your life like a tidal wave. Too late. The current has swept me off my feet and I'm trying to stay afloat...
I didn't know that on January 3rd, I would be saying goodbye to a very dear and precious neighbor. At a family Christmas Eve gathering, a family member unknowingly spread a virus to everyone there. Within 24 hours, Bernie became ill. He struggled with the illness for more than a week and on January 4th, he called one of his daughters and told her he was in trouble. Several hours later, he suffered the first of several strokes. And, on January 21st, he passed from this world to a better one.
Bernie was 88 years old and had lived in the neighborhood for 65 years. He did have a lung problem and often labored with his breathing, but truly nothing seemed to stop him from doing everything he wanted to do. He was joy and sunshine in my life; living in this neighborhood. A neighborhood I would NOT have chosen to live in. For as long as I can remember, I've dreamed of living out in the country on a few acres ~ you know ~ living off the land! Ask our children. Ask my husband. They've heard about it their whole lives.
5 years ago, God plopped (I mean "planted") us in a working class neighborhood, in a city that doesn't have the best reputation in our region, in a post-war quick build area, just off a busy boulevard, with a higher rate of crime than some areas around us, surrounded by a people group that I, honestly, would rather not live near, we purchased at the top of the market and are now "under" in our house and to top it off ~ we're on the liberal side of Washington state. REALLY?
Now, you're thinking, "Well, here she goes again... whining to commence." No whining, just observations and sharing from my heart. Hopefully, you'll keep reading.
There are challenges to living in this neighborhood. But, don't most neighborhoods have some kind of challenge to deal with that you'd rather not? Yes, we thought it "ideal" to live just across from a small city park, but we've discovered reality is something quite different. Many people who visit the park don't care anything about anyone else nor cleaning up after themselves. And, there are neighbors who think only of themselves and don't care if their actions bother you or not. Others have themselves completely cut off from everyone else ~ "if I don't know you, you won't bother me." We are in close proximity to SeaTac airport and there are days (and sometimes many days) where the airplane noise and rumble are utterly irritating (it wasn't like this when we moved here). And yet, I could be describing any neighborhood...
That said, our neighborhood is also a lovely place filled with many lovely people. Some have lived here for many, many years (50 or more), some live in the "family" house (you know ~ grandma and grandpa's house), some are newer to the neighborhood (like us) and some are renters. It's the connection to people that fills me with joy and keeps me going when I really want to flee to a different place. Because I walk Coco and work in our garden often, I've met a lot of people walking through the neighborhood or walking their own dog. In addition, delivering goodies to our neighborhood on St. Nicholas' Day each year has also enabled us to meet neighbors that don't walk by. The older people in our neighborhood are my favorites! They love to visit, are happy to see you, share stories and are pleasant people to live by. But, the reality is that they are getting older and, eventually, they will all pass away. The people I see regularly will not always be here. Bernie was an extra-special neighbor and we visited often. We were quite fond of each other. Truth-be-told, we loved each other dearly. And now, he's gone. Healed and settling into his eternal home while I remain here. In this neighborhood. And, I am crying out to God (louder than usual) to PLEASE get us out of here soon and very soon!
We have a challenging relationship with our next-door neighbors and the neighbors behind us. And, we are "different". Back in the day, we would have fit in with everyone else ~ but in today's culture in this working class neighborhood, we are different. We're building an urban farm. We're putting chickens in our backyard. We're tearing out all the grass on our property and raising a lot of fruits and vegetables. Common occurrence in many neighborhoods, but not in ours. Not yet anyway. So, we are different. I find it very easy to connect to our "older" neighbors and they gladly share about their large gardens, canning, chickens... of "yesterday" and live a little through our current efforts, which we love sharing with them too. We share a common bond. They encourage me and keep me going when things are challenging all around me.
2012 is my year to Learn and Grow and to Let Go. I just didn't realize it would be happening as quickly as it is nor to the degree it has already occurred. Tears come quickly today and my heart is grieving the loss of a precious man in my life, but I also know that God is at work all around me and He's asked me to step into His story. What if He won't answer the CRY of my heart ~ to escape city living and settle into the countryside? When, Lord? When?
And today, came a reply. Not a 2x4 kind of answer, but a gentle bullseye to my heart... Yes, I was reading my morning devotional:
Praying with Tears
"During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence." Hebrews 5:7
The life of Jesus provides the model for our prayer lives. God is seeking to mold us into the image of His Son (Col. 1:27-28). If we are to act like Christ, our prayer lives must be conformed to His. Many Christians are unwilling to pay the price that Jesus paid when it comes to interceding with God. Jesus' prayers came with vehement cries and tears and, "because of His godly fear," He was heard by the Father.
Why, then, did the Father refuse His request? It was not due to any sin in Jesus' life, nor was it because the Father did not love His Son. The Father said no, despite the unfathomable love He has for His Son, because He knew He could not spare His Son and save a world. Likewise, the Lord cannot always spare you and your family and complete His redemptive work in those around you.
Are you willing for God to deny your pleadings? Will you intercede with the Father so deeply and intimately that evening the midst of your tears you are able to say, "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done?" The Father will always relate to you out of the context of His love for a lost world. Has God said no to one of your requests recently? Accept His answer. Have you been learning obedience through what you have been suffering (Hebrews 5:8)? If you have, God may choose to make you a source of salvation to others even as He did with His Son.
I have cried out to God countless times for others, for situations, for freedom from city living and His provision to finally realize my lifelong dream. Today, He once again puts before me a choice ~ willingness to be obedient and follow Him or go my own way. Once again, I reply... "Nevertheless, not my will by thine be done." Yes, here. In THIS neighborhood.
I have given my life over to Him and even though I struggle in humanness ~ in the end, I choose His path. In Learning and Growing and Letting Go, He is already revealing that this year will not look anything like what I could have thought or imagined. Unexpected things are occurring in the first 26 days of this New Year. We shall see where His path leads as His will is done in and through my life! Won't you consider allowing Him to do the same in yours?
May abundant blessings fill your days. May you see God at work in and through your life. I look forward to sharing next Thursday whatever God lays on my heart as I pause to ponder and reflect in a busy world...