Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Land of the Living :: Volume II

 Our farmhouse sold back in September and in no time flat, we were way behind in finding what came next. It took nearly 18 months for us to find a buyer, and all along, we resisted the urge to window shop for something new. We didn't want to get attached. Besides, the market was saturated. We knew it wouldn't be a problem.

Within the week of the sale, we were out with our realtor. We'd always felt drawn to  Goshen, but we didn't really know why. So she took us around. In one afternoon, we toured four beautiful homes with hardwood floors and wrap-around porches. We rumbled down the cutest brick street in town and the yards all looked so tidy and fenced. Inside, I could imagine the possibilities. The moldings were thick and the windows were charming. There was a butler's pantry. Our would-be neighbors were college professors and bankers. It was walking distance to the coolest coffee shop around.

We drove away from the last showing in the rain and I felt hollow inside. Cory's first pick was my last, and vise versa. For the first time in our history, we weren't meeting right in the middle, together.

But mostly, it just didn't feel right. That's my surest indicator, my trusty "feels right" gauge. It didn't seem to me that we sold everything we loved best to move to a manicured back yard on a brick street.

A few rainy blocks down, I saw the most gorgeous home. Kelly green, to boot. It was for sale. How the heck did we miss it? I didn't even notice the rumbling sound of brick under my wheels.

There was a sign for La Casa in the yard. I knew only enough to know that it was "a program" and that we probably didn't qualify. But we called anyway and learned two important facts. 1) We did qualify (most people do) and 2) The green house was already sale-pending.

I went to dinner with a friend and Cory sent me antsy texts that we were "on to something". La Casa had just landed on our radar. We felt a rush of breeze as the curtain pulled back a little.

It turns out, the green house was an anomaly. It was displaced. Most of the La Casa homes were over on the other side of the tracks. That felt right, somehow. Peace swept down and settled around the cracks and we hoped hard that night that things would make even more sense in the morning.

They didn't.

Silas and I followed the directions under gray skies and the further we drove, the more real it got. It wrestled with what I knew was true - that we were headed to a neighborhood that would never be in a magazine, or even the town paper. I kept driving north, resisting the urge to turn it around and drive back to the shiny hardwoods. Maybe we were wrong all along and that's where we were supposed to be. Maybe I was just in a bad mood yesterday.

The houses on the block were mostly vacant, crumbling down to the foundations, windows busted out. There were two La Casa homes, one a new-build and one a remodel. Both were nice. Neither had a yard. How do you raise kids without a yard? That may have been when I started to cry. I can't remember now.

Here's the thing I need you to know: It's not about the neighborhood, really. It could be so much worse. It could be a whole lot better. It's not inner city. It ain't the Projects. It's not about the broken glass or the trees. What it's about is the fear. It's about fear of letting go, fear of trying something new, fear of people not understanding, fear that maybe we're altogether wrong. It's fear that your good kids might be good because of all the room and the air and the public school Bible class on Tuesdays. It's fear that the neighbors won't like you and your old friends might forget you.

That fear creeps up on its own. It doesn't need an invitation. It can take something a little unsettling and turn it into a nightmare. I hear what many of you are saying, that it's not so bad after all, and I understand.

But what I also know is that when I stood on acre 6 with all of my flowers and the orchard and the swing-set and the barns, when I cooked in the kitchen we built ourselves, I knew that I never wanted to be anywhere else. I knew I had been blessed with a dream and I could never have imagined handing it back over and walking away, down a street with no lamp-posts, without a clear idea of why.

We're not going to start a ministry. We have no immediate plans to round up a Bible study or canvass the neighborhood. We aren't going there to rescue our neighbors or teach them a particular truth.

We're just going. We're going to live among them, be their neighbors and let them be ours. That's the beginning and end of the story. It's a short read.

So maybe that's the biggest thing I've learned so far, that it's not about the why or the where. It's about the Yes. It's about not wanting to walk around slightly ill from the knowing that we didn't go when we were supposed to. It's about kicking fear in the teeth and shrugging off the nay-sayers like a bad sweater.

This thing that we're doing? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense tonight just like it didn't back on that September morning when I called Cory and told him I just couldn't do it, I couldn't live without a yard. (I'm not sure what I would have used as a scapegoat in the presence of yards, but I know I would have come up with something.)

I drove out of the neighborhood then all the way out of town. I took us back to that one place that felt safe and I tried to forget that its days were numbered. We were back to square one and time was running out, but I was confident that God had something for us. It was just a matter of finding it.