Backyard Transformation!

Our Backyard Journey: From Muddy to Magnificent!

Source: Backyard Transformation!

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God’s Creative Third Option

shilohKindergarten
My momma heart was utterly broken as I brought my little five-year-old girl to Kindergarten for the first time. She had a May birthday and I had been hoping to keep her safely under my wing for an extra year. I felt convinced that the longer I kept her tucked by my side the better off she would be. In fact, I had even tried homeschooling for preschool; unfortunately it turned out to be a tough year riddled with personal illnesses that had left me jaded and unable to continue.

swingsI had longed for my daughter to be home for that extra year. My husband and I had talked and prayed about when we would send her. We had debated about it for months and we just couldn’t agree on the subject. He thought it was best that she start school at a younger age and I remained in the opposite camp.

Ultimately, we knew that she would be okay either way but we still couldn’t agree on which option was the very best for her. I finally agreed to do it my husband’s way even though I strongly disagreed with him. We had to decide at some point, after all.

shiloh-up-closeSo here I was, bringing my blue-eyed, red-haired baby to school. Her body was nearly being swallowed by her full-sized backpack as she searched for her classroom. I longed to change the decision, to grab her back out of school and keep her with me. Without even realizing it, I began secretly complaining.

With a Side of Anger…
Unknown to me, as I grumbled and grieved, a bitterness and anger were growing within me towards my husband because of our disagreement and, quite frankly, because I hadn’t gotten my way when I was clearly the one who had the best opinion.

Any time my daughter had a hard day, I mentally complained. I continued to think that if we had waited, each challenge she faced would have been easier. Slowly, those little pieces of bitterness and anger grew into a big rock in my heart.

I knew things couldn’t change. The decision was made. So I didn’t pray about it and accepted my anger and frustration as my lot to bear. I stuffed it down, deep inside. The bitterness came out in occasional comments to my husband, but mostly, I kept stuffing.

I didn’t even recognize that it was happening but the anger kept growing. Every year at every teacher meeting I would ask the teacher if she was in the right grade. Every year, the teacher assured me that my daughter was doing great.

But it didn’t matter. I was still angry.

si-3Kindergarten… Again
Nine months ago, it was time to put my son in kindergarten. I felt the same emotions brewing in my heart again. My husband and I had discussed what to do and remained in disagreement on how to proceed. Again, I verbally conceded but was so incredibly disheartened and angry inside.

Finally, I became consciously aware of how angry and bitter I had become over three years. A few days into the school year, I knew I couldn’t hold the anger anymore. This couldn’t be God’s best for me or this situation.

Nothing could change. But I finally chose to pray anyway.

si-2Anger and Prayer
I prayed that God would do something. Something. I didn’t care what but something to make the situation right again. Something to shave away three years of anger. It didn’t seem possible, it seemed hopeless, but still I prayed.
I prayed daily, in anger and in desperation, waiting for God to show me a third option that my little earthly mind couldn’t fathom. What did I expect from this prayer? Honestly, I was hoping it would have something to do with my husband changing, not me. I wanted vindication, and yet, in my fury, even with clenched fists, I prayed openly for God’s will, for God’s best.

Forgiveness and Freedom
One month, just one month after I started praying, I was walking through the hallway in my house and I just stopped. I realized something. I wasn’t angry anymore. I was starting to forgive and let go of the deep hurt I had held for so long.

I couldn’t see anything that could possibly change in that situation but God could. God knew my heart needed to change. It didn’t matter who was right any more, my heart and my relationship with my husband were what mattered.

I began forgiving my husband, and the load got lighter. The rock of anger in my chest was slowly starting to wear away with each prayer. I continued to pray and began to embrace forgiveness and let go of anger. I finally spoke with my husband about it and was encouraged by his openness and love as we discussed the topic.

3rd-and-kI don’t know why I so stubbornly held onto the lie that nothing could change for so long. I don’t know why I couldn’t believe that God might have a third option for me, for us.

Continued Forgiveness, Continued Healing
It’s been about nine months since I began praying about the thing that couldn’t get better and I still disagree with my husband. If you ask me about when to send kids to school, I will get fired up when sharing my opinions, but I’m not holding anger anymore. I’m not only okay, but at peace with the choice we made for our kids.

When God started showing me that third option I started trusting Him with more things. I started praying about more things that couldn’t change. I started bringing things to Him that I hadn’t considered bringing to Him before with a new hope that Jesus could enter the story and do a new thing.

This story has been the start of many new beginnings in our relationship. I began realizing there were many more rocks in my heart over a number of topics I had been stuffing. We’re still having many conversations and praying through old hurts. However, all those rocks I had been holding onto are slowly melting away.

brOur relationship is healing in these other areas I didn’t even realize it was broken and hurting. It has brought new life, love, joy, and openness to our marriage.

I’m so thankful I prayed when nothing could change because God brought new hope to a situation steeped in lies. He made my hopeless story beautiful again.

Your Turn
The beginning of this story is embarrassing for me. I don’t like it. It exposes much more about my humanity and brokeness than I would like to share. However, more than maintaining my pride, I long to see my brothers and sisters in Jesus daring to pray. Believing that God has a third option for us, whether it is a new path we didn’t have eyes to see without His guidance or even a path that includes a change in our hearts.

If you are like me, there is something in your life that can’t and won’t change. I pray that my story gives you the courage to hope and to lay your heart before Jesus with an openness that just maybe He can show you a path you cannot perceive on your own.

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 wasteland.
-Isaiah 43:19

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Roman Shade Redo & Kitchen Pictures!

Before                                                        After
Roman Shade Redo
Scroll Down for Kitchen Pictures

Roman Shade (19)

Roman Shades- Before

So, we had these amazing superior custom-made Roman shades in our kitchen when we moved in. The only problem was that they were brown and I was going with the gray family. Seriously, everything in gray (or white, or cream). These were brown and once I painted the walls gray they just had to go.

The price of new custom Roman shades of the same quality would have cost between $500-$1,000 (price comparison below). Panel curtains were out of question for me because this is a high traffic area in the kitchen. In addition, any “off the shelf” shades/blinds didn’t fit because of the windows being custom sizes. I was convinced I could recover these Roman shades for a fraction of the cost of getting them professionally recovered while maintaining the superior quality, and you know what? I was right, I could. And they look amazing and it only cost me $50.

This project is a simple process with no sewing, however, it is super time consuming and slow. Do you have Roman shades you are thinking about recovering or replacing? Check out the process below and see if you’re up for the long haul and big savings involved in recovering them or if buying new is the right path for you!

Happy Crafting!
Randa

PROJECT
RECOVER 3 ROMAN SHADES
(Superior Grade, Roman Shades with fabric backing)

Cost Comparison
My Cost: $50
Lowes (In Stock): $204.91* Large Shade: $95.97, Small Shades: $108.94 ($54.47 each)
*Not actually available in the custom sizes I needed. Closest price comparison was Levolor Brand – Oak Wood Blinds.
Special Order Shades: $597.48 – $1,146.69 ($199.16 – $382.23 each)
Custom Roman Shade Estimates

Supply List
$40 Fabric (I used 2 curtain panels from Target that I found on sale- $20 each)
$10.99 Fabric Spray
Fabric Scissors
Iron
Ironing Board
Spray Bottle (water)
Long Nose Pliers
Pliers
Drill
Scrap fabric/plastic (for over-spray from fabric spray)

Part 1 ~ Curtain Prep

  1. Take Pictures!
    Get an accurate sense of what the shades look like and document in pictures.
    *We’ll be covering the brown fabric on the front of the shade, however, the white backing on the shade will remain.
  2. Detach Roman Shade from Window Frame
    Use a drill or screwdriver to carefully remove curtains from window frame.
    Roman Shade (39)
  3. Detach Eyelets and Pulley System From Wood Frame
    The Roman shade uses a wooden frame at the top to hold the curtain together. Put curtain face down and the backing facing up. Use 2 sets of pliers and screw driver to remove eyelets and pulley system from wood frame. Leave the remaining pieces of the pulley system intact. I just left the rest of the rope attached down the back of the shade. Yes, It was a bit awkward when working with the front of the curtain but since the back had a plain white fabric which I kept as the backing, it was worth just dealing with the awkwardness and saving myself some extra work later.
  4. Prepare Fabric
    Measure and experiment with fabric. Consider where you want the pattern of the fabric to start at the top of the window frame and how you want the fabric to be balanced. Each curtain will need to be set up similarly to ensure that the look is consistent.
    *Check and recheck before cutting!

    Roman Shade

    Choosing the right fabric! It took a while for a family consensus. I still like the small sample in the middle best but chose to compromise. I’m so agreeable. 😉

  5. Measure and Cut Fabric
    Allow 3-5 inches on either side of the edge for folding over and mistakes.
    Do the same for the top and bottom of the shade. Don’t forget to take into account that you will roll the fabric around the wood frame on top and fold it under at the bottom.
  6. Iron Fabric

    roman-shade-6

    I’m pretty much an ironing ninja.

  7. Prep Wooden Frame
    The wooden frame is part of the top of the curtain which is used to attach it to the window frame. Gently pull back curtain fabric from around wooden frame. Pull off old curtain material that is wrapping the wooden end. Repeat on other side.

Part 2 ~ Bring on the New Look

  1. Recover Wooden Frame Edges
    Use scraps of fabric left from the larger curtain to recover the edges of the wooden frame. Trim excess fabric so overlap won’t be too thick. Use a hot glue gun or a wood stapler to wrap it like a present on both ends of the wood frame.
  1. Prepare Wood Frame
    Put new curtain fabric over the top of old fabric. Turn shade face down. Pull up new fabric around the wood frame and carefully position. Cut excess fabric for a smooth surface. It doesn’t matter if some of the original curtain gets cut or damaged as it will merely be the surface which we base our covering on. T
    *Remember that the curtain needs to be positioned so that when it is wrapped around the wood frame the pattern is even. Check and recheck this before moving on.

  2. Attach New Fabric To Wood Frame
    Staple/glue the fabric even with the wood frame over the old fabric. Roll wood frame and fabric while carefully folding in the new fabric over the old along both edges. Staple and glue as necessary. Once the fabric is properly attached on the wood frame very little glue will be needed.
    *Roll Wood Frame until in the position it will be when hung.
  1. Reattach Hardware
    Carefully screw in the hardware and rope system for the shade. I tried to put it back in the same location as before. I also marked where I would be screwing the wood frame into the window frame. Ensure that it is working properly. If you forgot what it was supposed to look like check your pictures to reassemble.
  2. Cover Original Fabric
    Flip the curtain so the front is facing up. The new fabric should be resting loosely on top of the old fabric. The Top of the curtain should be securely attached. Smooth new fabric over old fabric and gently wrap the sides.
    *For those of you who like wrapping presents think of the old fabric as the thing to be wrapped up in the new fabric.

  3. Iron Edges
    Once the body of the curtain is laying in place iron the edges so they fold neatly over the old fabric and tuck under the backing for a clean line. The curtain should look almost done aside from the fabric still hanging loosely at the bottom of the shade.
    *Keep in mind that I am tucking the new fabric only around the old brown fabric. The white fabric that makes up the backing will continue to be the backing of the curtain when redone.

Part 3 ~ Finishing Up

  1. Connect Old and New Fabric
    Your new fabric should be lying loosely over the old fabric with the edges ironed, still able to fold or unfold from around the old fabric. It’s time to make a decision on how/if you will connect the old and new fabric.

    Here are your choices:
    1. Use spray adhesive between old and new fabric. This is adhesive-spraywhat I did. It works well but is a lot of work to smooth out and shows the bends in the fabric very clearly. My shade will be up the majority of the time so this worked great for me. If you will have your shades down often, I recommend option 2.
    2. Sew new fabric to old fabric in a few places. This is the best option but it’s more work. Choose a few spots in the bend of the fabric to attach the old and new fabric. This will keep the new fabric in place and it won’t show the spots sewn when the shade is pulled up.
    3. Do nothing to attach and see if it stays together well enough. This might work great but if it doesn’t you might need to go back to option 1 0r 2.

  2. Fold In Edges
    Position shade so the new fabric is facing up. Check to ensure edges are still crisp, iron again if needed. Use fabric adhesive to spray underneath the edges of the fabric then fold back in an press to secure. Be sure to guard from over spray with an old towel, plastic, or newspaper. Again, I folded the new fabric around only the old brown fabric and left the white backing exposed for a clean finished look on.
    *As I went I continually checked to ensure my pattern was straight and my fabric wasn’t wrinkling.
  1. Finish Bottom
    Use spray adhesive to fold the new fabric around the bottom of the old fabric and fold it over the edges at the bottom to give a clean finish. Iron the edging at the base if necessary.
    *Also, notice how the front fabric has been separated from the backing so I can create a new look with the updated fabric while maintaining the clean lines the white backing will give when put back together.
  2. Smooth
    Smooth out any bumps or crooked lines on the shade.
  3. Attach to Window Frame
    Screw shade into window frame.
    *Some nudging and pulling may be necessary to get the pattern perfectly aligned when being hung.

    Roman Shade -Backing
    Completed shade and backing will have completely clean lines.
    No evidence of the old fabric remaining!

Roman Shade (34)

One Completed… Two To Go!

You Did it!
*Repeat as needed to get all of your shades recovered.

Kitchen Pictures

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Kids’ Art Wall

img_20160902_085510401

Roman Shades – After

img_20160912_143354890

img_20160912_143652480

img_20160912_143818346

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Backyard Transformation!

Here it is! My first “outsourced” house project. This summer, my husband and I asked Joe Farmer and his crew at Livin’ Green to help take our backyard from muddy to magnificent! It was especially fun to watch the progress out the window since all my personal projects were on the shelf in lieu of summer fun with the kids.

 

The Side of our Home – Before and After

This home and our last drew us in with the gorgeous trees that covered the property, however, they have both missed other perks like grass, plants, and landscaping. We never had a chance to make changes at our last house so we were thrilled to work with Joe and find just the right look for our new backyard.

Walkway Between Garage and Patio – Before and After

What started with a simple idea to fix the erosion problem and sew some grass seed became a great fire pit backyard redo. After several tons of dirt were brought in, the crew pulled out the old warped and cracked concrete steps and sidewalk and began to rebuild the foundation.

Patio Steps – Before and After

I was a mess over the stone and paver choices for weeks. My love of all things gray had to be balanced with the warm red and tan colors that made up the outside of our home. Finally I settled on retaining wall colors that were a warm brown color and Driftwood pavers that blended browns and slate gray tones.

Patio Deck Steps – Before and After

Livin’ Green went to work with our newly chosen pavers and stone. After much diligent labor in the hot sun they created beautiful steps and paths out to our new fire pit. As an added bonus they built-in some natural curves and slants to work with the gradual slope down the hill that will keep all that dirt in place.

 

The Back of Our Home – Before and After

Livin’ Green installed a sprinkler system and then got to work on landscaping, sod, and mulch. It was SO much sod! Some glowing LED lights were also added to for just the right amount of light for us to find our way to the fire pit without detracting from the beautiful night sky.

Yard and Fire Pit Area – Before and After

Now, we are on the search for the perfect Adirondack chairs and preparing to have one last portion of the backyard to completed. It’s so much fun to have a backyard after four years without one.

We are loving our new yard and plan to roast s’mores all throughout fall!

Scroll Down to see all the detailed pictures of the finished product and the process

FINISHED PRODUCT!

 

WALKWAY – START TO FINISH

STEPS, STEPS, STEPS! – START TO FINISH

FIRE PIT AND PATHWAYS – START TO FINISH

IRRIGATION AND SOD – START TO FINISH


UP NEXT…..
Here’s our next project in the back yard. I’m standing on the tall stairs looking over the wall at all the… ahem… opportunity that we still have left in the backyard.

IMG_20160902_171727838.jpg

To Be Continued…. Our Next Project (the rest of the back yard).

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Hope for the Dreamers: What I Learned From the Life of Joseph

I’m at a crossroads in my life. This year has been the first in eight years that I haven’t had one of my littles with me every moment of the day. The last twelve months have been great but also unsettled. I’m scared to take a step in a new direction. I’m scared to mess up and spill the full cup of potential I’ve been dreaming about for years.

glassOnce upon a time a wise pastor asked me how steady my hand was with the cup God had given me. He lifted his hand from his side and gently shook an invisible cup before steadying it. At the time he was counseling me as I struggled with two choices and the patience required for the choice I thought was best but hardest. After talking to him I found strength to steady myself and the image of the cup stuck with me.

I started thinking about the dreams God had laid on my heart over the years. So many times I had eagerly lifted an empty cup up to Jesus in prayer, asking him to fill it with whatever he had for me. The thing is, I wasn’t so good at holding those dreams and letting them grow until the proper time. I had a long stubborn history of spilling the cup at the wrong time.

broken glassI’ve had a habit of taking what God has given me and running off with it. Rather than continuing to offer it back to him, I would grab those baby dreams and bolt with the idea, pushing to make them happen in my own time.

I don’t want to do that anymore. Slowly, I’m learning what it looks like to hold a full cup and be okay with living in not yet. I haven’t had much success with this cup holding thing because, well, I’m a stubborn, bull-headed steamroller who wants to get things done in my time, not God’s.

This summer as I’ve cautiously prayed about the next step and whether it’s time to start pouring out a new cup, I’ve been drawn to Joseph’s story. He was, after all, one of the most famous dreamers of all time.

If you’re not familiar with Joseph you can get the full story here: Genesis 37-50. I’ll paraphrase but my version won’t be nearly as good as the original.

pexels-photo-110876-mediumJoseph, the Dreamer
Joseph was a seventeen-year-old, sheep herding dreamer. He was one of the youngest of his family with twelve older brothers who literally hated him. His dad, Jacob (aka Israel), loved him most of all the brothers and thus, gave him a super sweet colorful coat and his brothers hated him even more (Parenting 101: Don’t do that).

Then one day Joseph had some dreams. Literal dreams, while he was sleeping and told his family like any of us might (they were just dreams after all, right?).

Joseph shared the dreams of his older brothers, even his mother and father, bowing down to him. Well, his brothers were pretty upset about it.

That’s putting it mildly. Some of his brothers actually plotted to kill him. Ultimately, they settled on selling him into slavery, pocketing the cash, and telling their dad, Jacob he had been killed by animals.

Now, in my mind that is a picture of some utterly destroyed dreams.

But the story wasn’t quite done yet. Joseph ended up being carted off to Egypt and sold again to a guy named Potiphar. Joseph was so effective that he was put in charge of the whole household. After some vicious lies were spread about him he ended up in prison, where he again, was so effective he was put in charge of the prison while there.

Finally, 13 years later, Joseph was released from prison, rose to power in Egypt, effectively ran the entire empire for the Pharaoh, and saved God’s people in the process. Oh, and remember those crazy dreams of his family bowing before him? Yeah, that happened.

Hope for the Dreamers: 2 Lesson’s from Joseph

IMG_5163 (1)1. God can and does redeem spilled dreams.

Joseph was absolutely wronged, no denying it. However, he also wasn’t a completely innocent victim. Joseph was an impatient, prideful young man who didn’t really know what to do with the cup God was revealing to him.

In his arrogance and ignorance, he spilled the dreams onto his family. His ill-timed action ran down on them like hot lava, putting them at their boiling point.  

While I bleakly consider Joseph’s failings, I simultaneously find so much hope in his story. God put a dream on his heart over a decade before it was to happen. Joseph certainly flailed about with those dreams, but he loved God and continued to follow Him as he stumbled along.

It seemed like a spilled dream that was lost forever but God was working to redeem that plan for Joseph and for His people.

This gives me hope for the dreams I have taken and run with on my own. Those dreams I thought were gone forever. God can still redeem them and use them in his time.

2: Keep chasing after God- Become worthy of the calling God has on one’s life. Follow

Joseph spilled his dreams and soon after, his brothers committed a great evil against him. That’s a pivotal point in Joseph’s story. However, after studying it longer, I no longer find myself focusing on just those moments.

It’s the next 13 years I’m interested in.

He lived as a man after God’s heart, working with all his strength for his masters, with character, honor, and integrity and he became a man worthy of the dreams of that 17 year old boy.

That’s a lifestyle worth emulating as we hold (and even spill) our dreams.

“Not Yet” is Okay
After twenty-four years of cleaning up spills from the cups I had poured out at the wrong time. This last nine years, I’ve been trying to understand how to hold my hand steady with the cups God has given me.

I’m learning what it means to live well and to live fully as a follower of Jesus in not yet. Not yet, has felt like some sort of half-life, a piece of what is to come, a piece of my full arrow signpotential in Christ.

However, these times of not yet, these times of waiting might just be the most important because I’m not only learning what God has for me but how to continue to offer it back to Him daily. How to learn to walk with Him as I process what it looks like to pour out that cup at the proper time.

 

Questions to Ponder

  1. Spend some time thinking and praying about dreams God has put on your heart over the years.
    – How have your responded to those dreams and ideas in the past?
    – How did you follow God well in those times?
    – What opportunities do you have to improve those journeys?
    – Are there places you need to ask God’s forgiveness and redemption in those stories?
  2.  Is God preparing a new dream for you?
    – If so, consider what it looks like to continue to walk with Him as you progress down that road.
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Tea Parties and Good Samaritans

apartment, home, seatLonely Apartment
One hot, humid day in the summer of 2003, I found myself standing alone in a second floor apartment on an island in Japan. I walked aimlessly around the room waiting for anyone from my group to return so I would have someone to talk to rather than just listening to the Japanese cartoons which were currently my only form of entertainment.

I heard the doorbell ring and I walked to the door to see who called. It was the sweet Japanese lady who had given us the apartment to use for the month. She had opened her home to my group. We were American college students connecting with the churches and students in her city for a summer mission trip.

She smiled and motioned to me. She spoke little English but I remembered instantly why she was there.

Several days ago, she had invited all of us in the apartment to a Japanese Tea Party. No one else remembered or perhaps, they did remember and so had chosen to be gone when she came, but I was there. I tried to motion a “no thanks” but either she didn’t understand me or wasn’t taking no for an answer. She swept me out of the door and toward the elevator to her apartment upstairs.

As we went up to her home, I wondered how long a Japanese Tea Party lasted. I would be there till the end as I had no afternoon commitments and no one to come to my rescue. I assumed hours of awkwardness among strangers was my inescapable plight.

Room With Table and WindowsTea and New Friends
She walked to the entrance of the tea party room before me. She smiled and modeled the way I was to remove my shoes and get on my knees to bow before entering the room, then she waited for me to follow her lead. I did as her hand signals instructed me to do and entered the room.

It was carpeted with a thick bamboo mat and there were eight 50-something Japanese ladies sitting quite properly on the ground in an oval. They looked up at me, smiled, and all did their best to welcome me with facial expressions and hand gestures. I was given a spot to sit and shown proper posture with my legs and feet folded neatly under my body.
Brown Teapot SmokingAs I surveyed the group, I saw they were all dressed in their best yukata’s (a traditional Japanese outfit) with their hair pulled back. I looked down and blushed at my own outfit. I was wearing a pink tank top and jeans with my hair flopping down on either shoulder in white-blonde braids.

The ladies continued to welcome and smile at me. They overlooked my sloppy, inappropriate attire and helped me to fully experience the tea party. They noticed me shifting uncomfortably and rubbing at my legs under the weight of my body for such a long period of time. They touched my knee and motioned for me to sit more comfortably. One lady even explained in broken English that they had “more practice” at sitting like that and gave a smile.

The experience was amazing. It seemed I had been ushered into a secret, sacred space of these beautiful friends to witness their life and share it with them. They overlooked my appearance and my language to show me true hospitality and love.

The Good Samaritan
Fast-forward thirteen years to a rainy night in 2016. My daughter was just starting to transition out of Bible story books to reading the Bible. It was a bit thick for her to comprehend just yet on her own so we were lying in her bed working through it together.

As we read the story of “The Good Samaritan,” (Luke 10: 22-37) we stopped at the words spoken by the expert in the law in answer to Jesus about obtaining eternal life:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

My daughter nodded in understanding until the bit about neighbors. Her question was the same as asked by the man in the story, “Who is my neighbor?” She scrunched up her nose at the thought of having to “love” that neighbor boy down the street.

To answer her question, I read Jesus’ parable which was designed to do just that. Her body language changed from confusion and puzzlement to eager understanding of Jesus’ words.

She began to see that a neighbor isn’t just defined by those on our street, our family, or even our social circles. She began to understand that “neighbor” meant something much more broadly. A neighbor was anyone who needs our love, mercy, and compassion.

Jesus used a story that could awaken the interest and understanding of not only an expert in the law 2000 years ago but also to my eight-year-old girl listening on her knees with excitement. He got it, she got it, and I got it. That was the first step.

Good Samaritans and Tea Parties
Then we talked about the reality of living that out. My daughter looked a little daunted by the task and I felt the same. So, I told her the story of a moment of loneliness I experienced in a second story apartment in Japan and the little lady who found me wandering in wait.

What I feared would be an awkward lonely afternoon trapped with strangers at a tea party had turned into an experience where I was wrapped into the fold of love of a beautiful group of friends. They found a way to make me their neighbor at a Japanese Tea Party in the span of a few hours without even the benefit of sharing a language. That’s crazy amazing.

My daughter seemed to get it and I understood a little more too. Being a good neighbor felt daunting when we thought about all the people in this world who are in need. The Good Samaritan was going about his day and chose to open his eyes to see the need before him. Rather than pass by like the “righteous” travelers before him, he stopped when an opportunity presented itself to him.

My daughter and I discussed how we don’t often see people near death and bleeding on the side of the road. However, part of being a good neighbor is simply having our eyes open and being ready to give time and space to the needs of others around us.

It’s easy to walk quickly with our heads down but if we keep our heads up and look people in the eye when we go about our day, when we make space to stop for people who need a neighbor, we open ourselves up to be Jesus’ hands and feet, or perhaps even His listening ear.

  • Read Luke 10:25-37 to explore more about Jesus’ Parable about The Good Samaritan.
  • Have you had times where you needed a neighbor to be available to you? Consider thinking about how the presence or absence of a “neighbor” affected the way you proceeded through that time.
  • What are some tangible practices/ideas you can put in place to be a good neighbor?
  • What are some ways you can be prepared to take opportunities when they present themselves unexpectedly?
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The Silence Before the Storm

Lent
It was last week Thursday and Lent was feeling dry and monotonous. I had committed to daily prayer and no day-time television. Each day, I had fulfilled my prayer time and had chosen books and music rather than TV.

It was beginning to feel like I was checking boxes on a chore chart. As I reflected I knew it wasn’t what I wanted from this season and it wasn’t what I wanted with Jesus.

Embracing Silence
While I pondered and prayed I felt a nudge to embrace more silence. This idea was terrifying for me. I had a rough time a couple of years back and although things were better, being left with my broken self before Jesus for more silence felt crippling.

My prayer time over the last few years had been consistent but it had been a brutal discipline that I fled from after my daily commitments were fulfilled. More quiet during Lent would mean more listening and more space with no escape. But I decided to try it.

With moans of frustration I mentally prepared myself for one week of silence. No television, no books, no music, day or night.

Monday passed in aggravation and Tuesday nearly broke me. On the outside, all was silent. My home was silent. I was silent. Inside was different, inside I was a mess of thoughts and emotions that were pulling within me like an unkempt weed from which I could not become free.

Perhaps it wasn’t Jesus who was so terrifying in silence but rather what was revealing itself in me.

I had been up most of Tuesday night engulfed in thought. I pondered Jesus calming Peter in the garden and Jesus speaking with Pilate. His quiet humble confidence bubbled up from within Him. Jesus could so boldly be His genuine self and then let the chips fall where they would fall.

Exposed in the Silence
In the quiet I looked at my own center, it was exposed and it was wild and violent. Full of weeds of anxiety, fear and discontent. In silence, I could see that I wasn’t as much like Jesus as I thought I was or want to be.

The stark contrast I saw between Jesus and myself showed me how much I still needed Jesus. I didn’t just need Him to forgive my deep sin but to journey with me and pull me free from my disquieted anxiety-ridden center. I was looking straight in the face of how high the cost had been for Jesus and it was uncomfortable and I couldn’t get away from it. I couldn’t find relief, just silence.

So Wednesday, while running an errand, I determined to give up my silence. Perhaps quiet wasn’t a good idea for me, I had been wrong about the nudging, it was time to escape the bitter devastation of my condition. I drove home determined to give it up and I sighed with relief that I would be able to embrace distraction again soon.


glass, rainy, carThe Still Before the Storm

Then, as I drove home I noticed the sky was dark and people were sparse. There was an eerie quiet in the air. It was cool and calm and the clouds were motionless in the sky. Their dark shapes and the damp stillness made it clear that something was coming. Soon it would burst forth from the sky and rain down upon everything in its path. I didn’t know if it would come with thunder and lightning or a gush of rain, heavy and thick, but I knew it would come.

I arrived home and waited for a moment. I decided not to quit the silence just yet. Instead, I went and sat on my porch. I waited for the rain and sat in the deep of the Lenten season. The whole week felt a bit like Jesus was still on the cross and I was stuck in the gloom and sadness of my brokenness.

I just wanted Lent to be over.

This fasting had shown me once again my deep need for Jesus. It showed me the costly grace Jesus joyfully died to impart on me. I used to understand it but, somehow, had so quickly switched from understanding the great depth of my need for Jesus to a glorified-sticker-chart of Christian accomplishment. Why did I always forget?

I was still alone on the porch. Jesus didn’t seem to be there with me. Not in a way I could understand.

Then I smelled the air and I remembered that I was waiting for the rain. I heard a few drops falling gently on the grass. Similar to the quiet before the rain was Jesus, allowing me to sit in this quiet week without showing His presence to me. But all of a sudden I knew He was there even if I couldn’t see Him.

Jesus was on the move. I could feel it. I knew Jesus was coming. Not yet, but my heart was suddenly ripe with anticipation. He was okay with the clouds brewing in my soul as I became aware of my fearful anxious center.

It’s Thursday now. The rain has come outside but I’m still waiting, however, my center is slowly calming. I’ve begun to give the lies of fear and anxiety buried deep within to Jesus. I’m preparing to make space so Jesus can rain down His truth, joy, love and light upon me. So new life can be planted in the space where I was holding those wild lies.

clouds, storm, thunderstormWorth the Wait
I feel Jesus is coming in more than just my life, He’s on the move in bigger ways than I can see. I don’t know what it is yet but I feel it in the air. In my heart, among my friends, and in the entire church body. It feels like we are on the edge of something.

I want to be ready more than I want to escape the deadly quiet. I’m thankful for the rain this week because otherwise, I would have missed waiting for Jesus. I would have let the lies keep growing and left them to destroy me.

I have a long way to go before that space in me is fully free at last. However, I think without the quiet, the frustrating, awful, terrifying quiet, I may have missed it all together. I’m still in the middle of this, I’m still waiting for Him to rain down.

But I think today I’m a little closer to being ready for Him to do just that.

“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from you own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and he will say: Here am I.”

-Isaiah 58:6-9

 

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