Will finished his cigarette and took one last look around his yard, his house then grabbed his cooler and shoved it into the back of his black pickup and rode off. I could see him through my sunroom window where I pray every morning, through the thin layer of cedar and maple that separates our two homes. When you live so close, you either love your neighbor or, if you’re a Christian you “have to” love your neighbor. My husband and I did both, for six years, and in return I think Will liked us and may have even been a little sad saying goodbye.
Now my own life is changing, that much I know. In my excitement, I’ve started way too many things at once and I wake up exhausted. I’m not even working.
“Hi honey! What did you do today?” my husband asks when he comes in from a day of building things, caked in saw dust and sweat.
“Oh, I was working on the non-profit/ book stuff/coaching website,” whatever the case may be. And he nods respectfully even though I could be creating Frankenstein in the basement for all he knows. In a way I wish I was because I’d have something to show for hours of labor each day. But nothing. Just dreams that make more dreams.
Will was the best-ever neighbor. He watched our house when we were gone, rescuing all of my plants on the sun porch last winter when the temperature hit a numbing six degrees. He even watched our house when we were home, sending my husband text alerts about suspicious activity in the street. Once he saw me walking my dog at night past his house.
“You should be careful here at night,” he warned.
“I’m okay,” I assured him. “I have a big dog.”
“I have a big gun if you ever want to borrow it,” he offered with a smile.
Now looking over to his empty house is like looking at a corpse in a casket. He’s not there so it’s just a house, swept clean and echo-ey. Last night my husband and I prayed for good neighbors, maybe ones that we could point to Jesus. We tried with Will, inviting him to church many times.
“The church would burn down,” he responded. Or he would wave his can of Budweiser at us and yell, “I’m too drunk!” But I have hope for Will as he heads to his new home high in the Vermont mountains. God speaks through His creation and I believe our good neighbor will hear.
I’m in a season of transitions and I’ve always had a hard time separating things. Same with when I lose someone close. It’s like the whole weight of everyone I’ve loved and lost bears down on me and I’m crushed. My son Miles and his wife and children just packed up their lives and left their home of seven years in North Carolina, to begin a new life in Malaysia.
“Malaysia? ” people say, with their faces twisted up in shock. “How long are they going to live in Malaysia?” I think only God knows that answer. It’s far, it sounds crazy but that’s how following Jesus often looks. And they are all ecstatic.
They visited us on the Cape before they left. And to complete my joy, my other two grandsons were here at the same time. Balls, trucks, beach buckets and books lined every foot path inside and out. Joyful chaos. Then it was time for goodbye. As they pulled out of the driveway a small hand pressed against the back window, then they were gone. I know now why my mom hated goodbyes.
See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
A knife, a grenade and three crayons. I move methodically around the room, eyes to the floor that is strewn with the last remnants of my grandchildren’s busy worlds. The big stuffed teddy bear that Leo dragged around the house and yard with him had to go back in the Celtics can with his other buddies. Pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks and the glue my granddaughters used for the odd jeweled raft they created that was semi-stuck to the small play table, were sorted back to their shoeboxes. I sighed. These kids utterly wear me out in such a glorious way. The bubbles go up high on a shelf and I turn to scan the room, still and quiet. Curious George, missing an eye, winks at me as I turn and go back to my grown-up world.
I wish my life was as easy to sort as that play room. Career up on a shelf, people close to my heart that I know God wants me to spend time with – maybe they can sit next to Curious George and chat while they wait for me look up from my laptop. The book, speaking invitations stacked neatly in predictable color-coded boxes. Just yesterday I stared at all the messages I had flagged in my mailbox, wondering why they were so disorganized and then it hit me. They were organized by color flag. Only I had picked a random color each time I flagged one.
“Oh purple looks cute! I’ll flag that purple!” Not a clue that there was an opportunity for some order.
But maybe, just maybe, I am exactly the way God intended me to be – the same girl that danced on the desktops to break up the monotony of a 2nd grade classroom. Jesus is probably shaking his head at my mess and thinking it would be a good thing if I could sort it all out a little more, and He would help me, no doubt.
“God is not a God of chaos,” I’ve heard over the pulpit more than once. And it’s true. But I think He’d rather have us doing something, than just being like Will’s house. Empty and echo-ey.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Renewed day by day. I like that, no, I need that. Yes, there is much to do. Maybe Jesus can help me color-code my dreams. Or we can build a jeweled raft and try not to glue it to the table.
“Hi honey! What did you do today?” my husband will ask.
And for once, I’ll have something to show him.