Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I Have Learned

One of the mosaics from St. Mary's Cathedral
and Basillica, Covington

We've been in our urban home for about three and a half months now. I know I've been strangely silent. I haven't even kept up with my gardening blog like I had hoped.

Yes, I've been busy planting, weeding, harvesting, tilling, mowing, moving, unpacking, preserving, and now back to teaching school at home...but I don't think this is entirely why I've been less verbose.

What I've been learning over the last several weeks, is that some lessons (which are also gifts!) are simply too close to my heart to put words to them. I don't know that I've ever experienced God's Spirit so visibly working in any other season of my life, unless it was in the midst of great tragedy. To have Him obvious and apparent around every bend and bridge of this Journey has left me breathless. 

It's sort of difficult to speak when you're breathless.

But, as He always does in His impeccable timing, He's been placing words on my heart and in my mind, so that I can hopefully encourage someone else who is experiencing His closeness that can be most overwhelming...or to inspire someone who longs expectantly to see His hand and is ready for Him to pull back the curtain to reveal their next move.

This is in list format, because when eloquence fails me, lists help my analytical, logical mind process the fullness of the moment.

The things I've learned since moving into an urban environment:

  • I've learned that "urban" places can still have huge trees, quiet streets, beauty and bugs. 
  • I've learned that neighors in urban areas may be more willing to smile, wave, say "Hi!"...or tell you their whole life story!
  • I've learned that urban neighbors will give your husband roses to bring home for you.
  • I've learned that urban neighbors who have lived on the same street for decades may have never met each other.
  • I've learned that when you move onto an urban street and are trying to "practice the art of neighboring", you sort of stand out and are even told by one neighbor that you are now the social hub of the she laughs and delights in the fact that you know more of your neighbors than she does.
  • I've learned that people who live in the "projects" at the end of your street...and need to walk down your street for access to groceries, etc...will avoid eye contact with the people in these pretty houses, and are caught completely off-guard by this white lady calling out to them to say "Hello!"
  • I've learned that these same people will, with time, look for your face as they walk by your house, longing to see someone's smile light up as they pass.
  • I've learned that when you pray for the Holy Spirit to interrupt your day for His Kingdom purposes, you better mean that He can interrupt your mowing, so you can take your neighbor that you barely know to get his car that his homeless buddy let run out of gas. And you better be willing to stand by the side of the road while he hot-wires this car...and you pray that any police passing by will believe that it's his car and that you are not in fact an accomplice to grand theft! [This is an hilarious story all by itself!]
  • I've learned that when you try to live a more "green" existence and buy a manual mower, you better be prepared to be the entertainment on your street. You should know that every neighbor will have a comment...and you can hear them without a mower running! And the same neighbor you helped get to his car will adamantly insist on mowing your yard for you.
  • I've learned that you need to have a plan for when people knock on your door asking for money. If you don't want to just turn them away, you need to keep cash on hand so you can stand at the bus stop with them or give them some work to do so they can feel empowered and not despised. 
  • I've learned that God's Spirit can give you a burden to pray for people who are so obviously living outside of His Will for them,  that they can't even pretend to have it all together.
  • I've learned that there are snakes in the city too! Ugh!
  • I've learned that you better not be offended too easily by language that would make a sailor blush! And that your kids can't be offended by it either!
  • I've learned that many people in the city can't hold up the mask of having it all together. They will tell you about their sordid past or present. They will walk stoned down your sidewalks and their dealers (or loansharks or whatever) will shout at them for their money from the front porch of their house.
  • I've learned that the city doesn't take as good of care of your neighborhood park if your neighbors don't take care of it either.
  • I've learned that the TANK and school buses, when faced with side-swiping a parked car or crossing the line toward an oncoming one (that you are driving), on a very narrow city street, will opt for the the chance of hitting the moving one. Go figure?
  • I've learned that when you don't panic at the sound of gunfire...your kids won't either!
  • I've learned that when your heart's desire is to find a church that will love and serve the people of your neighborhood...the Holy Spirit plants one...five houses away from your front door!
  • I've learned that I can go to church to "serve and not be served"!
  • I've learned that when you put free stuff out on your sidewalk for "Free Stuff Fridays", the drug dealer is a little skeptical that you're giving it away and completely caught off guard when you holler out to him to help himself! [I just love Jesus and how He works!]
  • I've learned that you can grow food in the city...that your neighbors and those walking by on "Free Stuff Friday" are thrilled to enjoy your harvest. 
  • I've learned that people who think your neighborhood is scary, just don't have the eyes to see the beauty that's all around them.
  • I've learned that Jesus cares about my kids' hearts too when my lonely 12 year old finds a buddy down the street who has been waiting 10 years for another kid move in.
  • I've learned that I can come home after celebrating a child's birthday dinner and find protestors and pray-ers at the end of my street...and be frustrated that I missed it!
  • I've learned that Jesus is walking the streets of my neighborhood...and I want to follow Him wherever He goes!

I don't think I can ever adquately describe the overwhelming contentment, joy, love, mystery and adventure that I am experiencing almost daily. This list only scratches the surface of what I know is still to come.