Today’s post comes from a friend I met last summer at the Speak Up Conference. I’ve enjoyed getting to know JJ over the past few months. JJ Landis is a writer, librarian, and mom of three who lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She enjoys sharing her cookie-cutter life with others on her blog My Life, His Story at www.jjlandis.com.
It Takes a Village
I live in a typical American upper-middle class neighborhood. Four-bedroom houses, two-car garages. Granite countertops and mulched flowerbeds. Most families have two or three kids. Quite vanilla at first view. Possibly even boring to some.
But my unexciting cookie-cutter home is in a community that is teeming with friendships and sturdy neighborly relations.
Despite looking homogenous, we are quite diverse and varied. In our political views, religious ideals, traditions, parenting styles. Some of us attend church, but not all. Varied faiths inhabit our depths. We have animal rights champions next door to hunters. We have enthusiastic consumers living in harmony with cheapskates. We come from all over the country and world.
We look out for one another’s kids and for each other. I believe the surest way to lead someone to Christ is to be Jesus for them. To be God with skin. To love with action.
The times I feel nearest God are the times when I acknowledge my blessings and the love and service I’m being shown and given. Even if that comes from someone whom I could argue with about theology, lifestyle, politics.
A couple of weeks ago, I rushed to get through the shower before my kids caught the bus to school. An unknown and severe sharp pain seized my lower back and knocked me to the floor. Wrapped in a towel on the dirty floor of my bathroom, I reached for my phone and called a neighbor to ask if she could make sure my kids got on the bus okay. Because I was trapped, naked, unable to move.
Not only is she a fellow mom, but she also is a nurse. She offered to come help me get into bed, promising she has seen and done much worse and would not at all be fazed by my condition.
I was about to accept her offer, when another call came in. I told my nurse friend I’d be in touch and switched over to answer. A different neighbor was just checking in. She started the conversation, “Are you busy?” Though in pain that caused tears, I laughed and said, “No. Just hanging out on my bathroom floor.” I went on to explain my freak ailment.
Within minutes, she was at my house, cleaning up the kids’ breakfast mess, washing the dishes, checking on my laundry, bringing me water. And she didn’t leave until I had crawled into my bed. My pride could have prevented me from letting her in to see the Monday morning mess lurking in my life. But I accepted her help and service.
Several years ago, we flew home from a vacation on Thanksgiving. That same day, we sadly departed on a 12-hour drive to attend a funeral. Three tired, yet over-stimulated from vacation, little kids and heartache made the trip dreadful. Four days later, when we pulled our filthy minivan and weary selves onto our street, back into our ordinary life, we saw Christmas lights on at our house. When we entered the front door, we were assaulted with the smell of garlic and peppers arising from the hot meal in a slowcooker on our counter. Milk and bread and eggs awaited us for a morning meal.
Doing life together doesn’t always involve the dramatic. Injuries and funerals are not necessary to extend love or feel cared for. The day-to-day around here is what makes life special.
We borrow things from other families. We feed each other in times of need or for no reason at all. We pass along clothes and toys to those with younger kiddoes. When my husband and I go for walks around the block, we often don’t complete the circuit without stopping to chat.
It’s not unusual to send or receive a call or text saying, “I’m headed to the store. Need anything?” or, “Can you grab my kids after school today? I’m running late.” Or, “Hey, are my kids at your house? Send them home.”
My kids, ages 11, 9, and 6, all have friends who think nothing of walking right into our house. We joke with them, we feed them, we discipline them, we love them. And it’s reciprocal. My children have spent countless hours with other parents. I embrace their robust and balanced childhood.
Perhaps this kind of living goes on in most neighborhoods. Perhaps the only difference in mine is that I live here and experience it firsthand. I don’t know.
I do know that I am allowed to soak up blessings and discover the love of Christ daily. Wherever you live, I encourage you to discover community. Make a small step by reaching out with a tray of cookies or an offer of babysitting. Recognize and graciously accept what’s offered to you. Then pass it on.
My personality type is on the “introvert” side of the continuum. I am inclined to stay home, hide in my house with my computer and books (will heaven have books?), not answer the phone. I like to be by myself. Quiet and solitude are my favored companions. Living in a community has taught me hospitality, grace, and to open myself. To give. And also to receive. I yearn to be God with skin and shine Jesus’ light. And I crave His warmth as it radiates from those around me.