Sunday, June 21, 2015

Loving My Neighbor

Ladies,

On 6/26- I will have my first ever guest blogger- Amy Lively who has written a book-
How to Love Your Neighbor. It's funny because I don't even remember how I found Amy, but I took a look at the free preview for Chapter One which you can check out here: Look Inside, and I immediately wanted to read more.

Matthew 22:37-39
"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Here is my story and hopefully it will help paint a picture for you as to why I have come to believe so strongly in what Amy is sharing in her book and why I wanted to include her in my blog.

So-I came from somewhat of a "mega church". Good church, Biblical teaching, but I got lost in the crowd, my husband disconnected from the church and I was struggling big time to get myself and my two boys to church every Sunday. I felt lonely in a room full of people...so I started to pray...ALOT. Every morning on the way to work for 4 years..."God- I need a church family. I need my husband back in church with me. I am dying over here."

Back up six years...my husband and I bought our first house in a large neighborhood with not the greatest reputation. We heard that it was being invested in by local police officers moving in, that the local schools were great and that crime was not as bad as it used to be.  My husband and I walked into our home and without knowing anything about the community history I told him that this house was the one for us. It was the perfect size, walking distance from the beach, 2 minutes from the school, library, grocery stores, EVERYTHING I needed as a busy working Mama. We got the house and I was THRILLED.

At the time I was working about 30 hours/week and teleworking two days/week. I tried to fit in work while caring for my then 1 1/2 year old. We spent a lot of time walking around the neighborhood, I was pretty lonely- I knew no one and I was, as I said, attending church mostly alone with my boys and not really connecting with people. So I started to pray as I walked around, for every house, every family... and slowly, on those walks, I started to meet people here and there. My son was a magnet for anyone and it was easy to talk to people while he smiled and charmed everyone...

Over time, my heart became increasingly heavy as I walked around... as I began to see not only the dilapidated homes in the community, but the hurting and lost around me...I started noticing young people smoking at the playground, yelling out cuss words, I could hear Moms yelling at their children as I walked by houses, I noticed small children playing outside with no one watching them...and then there was the drunk neighbor who thought shooting off fireworks every Saturday at 8pm was a great idea, RIGHT when I was laying my kids down...:) 

One afternoon after I had put some work in while my little guy watched some cartoons and napped, we walked down to the beach and I met a young Mom. She didn't make any eye contact with me and she had two small children with her- a boy and girl- and she was watching them play near the water. I approached her and introduced myself- immediately I noticed approximately 100 scars on her legs and arms from cutting...My heart broke. We made small talk and I prayed for her on the way home. I will never forget the image of those scars on her body and the hurt I could see in her eyes...

We have lived here for six years and although we have had some good neighborly connections; a man who watches our dog when we go out of town, a woman who watched my kids for several years while I worked and we have had many play dates with families at the local park, we have never truly invited our neighbors into our lives... One day I noticed a little church a few streets over and I thought to myself- "Now that is where I should be going to church." It was right smack in the middle of our neighborhood- funny thing is...I never saw anyone there, but every time I passed it- I had a feeling that it would be part of my life someday.

About 8 months ago I met a sweet lady at the local Chick Fil-Et in the play area. I had my 2nd baby by then who was sitting on my lap and she had a little one and was pregnant with her 2nd. We talked a lot and I felt a strong connection with her- she told me that she and her husband felt called to plant a church in this neighborhood called- Woodland Beach-and she asked me have I ever heard of it? OH MY- I got chills, YES- that is MY neighborhood and YES we need a church SO BAD.

I ran into her later on at a local church Trunk or Treat and then about 4 months later I ran into her again at the local Rita's. Her husband was with her and she had had her 2nd baby and we talked and he gave me a card for their church plant which was meeting at their house. My husband and I began to attend...he was apprehensive at first but then he slowly became engaged and now we are regular attenders... and guess what church gifted our church their building to use? That little church I kept passing in the middle of the neighborhood!

Our Pastor has been preaching a Love Your Neighbor series and this was shortly before I found Amy's book. Since then, I have been praying for my neighbors and seeing God connecting me, and I am just taking it one step, one relationship at a time...and I have been SO BLESSED. I want to encourage you, that even as busy working Moms, you are called to connect and love your neighbors. And you WILL BE SO BLESSED when you do. 

Liz

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