Monday, February 23, 2015


I've been spending time lately looking out my bedroom window. It's the biggest perk of moving our bedroom downstairs. I was barely able to see out the window at all when we were upstairs, and certainly not from the comfort of my bed.

It helps that at least half of what I see is white. It's the perfect backdrop for juicy pops of color and all my mixed-up thoughts.

White shrouds my yard, my neighbors' yards, in thick blankets, as high as our boot-tops. We've hit that time of year when we begin to despair a little. We find ourselves remembering last summer - it wasn't so long ago - and hoping it'll come back for us again.

It's harder to believe in late-February.

The weather lady said this is one of our coldest February's ever. Colder than last year, and that's a truth I'd rather not linger on too long. Last year was so bad, we swore it couldn't get worse.

The winters have gotten so much harder since we came to the city.
I know it's a coincidence, but I could probably be convinced otherwise if I tried.

Right now there's a red truck outside my window and a tiny shed the color of a Tiffany's box. I've lived here over two years and never noticed that shed. I couldn't see it until I shifted my perspective and all the world blurred white. I couldn't see it when I didn't need to see it.

So when I'm tired of writing or I need to understand the condition of my heart or when I've just spoken words I regret, I stare hard at that shed, past the bowing arcs of wires and power lines that should muddy up the view, but somehow make it even better, and I remember this is where I belong.

Not forever, but for now, and with any luck at all, for a good long while.

For all the stories I share about my neighbors and this community, trust me, you don't know the half of it.

I could write volumes, and some days, I think I might.

I could tell you things that would make you bawl. I could tell you things that would make you want to drop what you're doing and run breathless to the nearest half-busted city.

Or, I could tell you about the time last summer when a man ran stark-naked in his yard in broad daylight, just two doors down. All we know is, his dog was on the roof, he was in his birthday suit, the cops showed up, and before it was said and done, our corner was edged in yellow crime scene tape.

I could tell you how we gathered in our back yards after it was over and laughed and sighed, how this weird incident of humanity drew us a bit closer than we had been, how I felt a throb in my gut - I knew there was trouble there, so why hadn't I baked them muffins or a cake?

I could tell you they returned home a few days later and I swore I would do it then. I would bake muffins and show up in the face of their shame and welcome them like I should have done before.

I could tell you I never baked a thing. I never even saw their faces again. And now they're gone.

Someone told me two nights ago that we were described to her by mutual friends as a family who "moved to the city to sort of be like missionaries."

On the one hand, I'm sorry if I ever gave anyone that impression.
On the other hand, I suppose it's partly true.

We moved here to be a neighbor. That's all.
We moved here because this is where we were sent.

But if Jesus lives in and through us, we're always on mission, right? In theory?
Aren't we all neighbors, and aren't all neighbors "sort of" missionaries?

We had certain ideas, and most of them ended up being wrong.
It's hard to know why God believed this is exactly where we needed to be.

I think about it all the time.
I keep staring hard at that blue shed but it's not giving up a thing.

This morning I drove Calvin and Ruby to Chess Club in my striped pajama pants. Our neighborhood is not a morning person. It's sleepy and grumpy before it's fully light, just like me.

Driving back, I got stopped behind an early bus picking up a child who, for certain reasons, doesn't attend the neighborhood school.

Its lights flashed red while it waited, with me behind.

The bus was waiting for Olivia.

We never, ever see her. She all but disappeared a few months into our move, just after I handed her a quarter on popcorn day and she squinted her eyes like, "Who the heck are you?"

I thought for sure she'd be a part of our lives, and that hasn't even come close to happening.

The lights flashed red again, again, again, and I watched her house like a hawk. I wanted to lay eyes on her. Check out her curls and her cheeks.

The bi-fold door cranked closed and the bus drove on without her.
Her home was dark and silent.
I wondered if everything was okay, then eased into my driveway, not a soul to be found around me.

Olivia is all the proof I need that I didn't come here to save anyone.
She's evidence that my ideas are usually wrong, a next-door reminder of the ways I'm still not good at this and the reasons I'm the one that needs saving.

So this is my city.

This is my home, all white-washed and looking prettier than it ever has before.

I love it so much. I can't get enough of this mashed-up feeling that we're all in this together - whatever "this" is.

We belong in the confusion encamped around us, and in the pain, and in all the wild hope that we'll learn to love more, every year, every season, every frost-bitten February day.

"God's blessing is everywhere. And so paying attention outside of church buildings - as well as paying attention inside church buildings - becomes a way to see more of God from different angles, uncovering more meanings. Whether in the midst of a literal city, or in the suburbs, or on a lonely mountainside, worship outside of church buildings allows a glimpse of the world, the whole world, transformed." - City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Mile

For more thoughts on the city, go here.

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