Our Neighbor Kid Walks into Our Home. Without Knocking.

neighbor kid I am enjoying our neighbor kids and their unique craziness.

They frequent the Brenner Garden patio at least 2 evenings a week. They see the smoke from our chiminea and it's their battle-signal to run across the parking lot to bang on the fence, peep their eyes through the holes, and ask so politely beg for cookies.

I love it.

Loren and I look at each other when we hear the herd of feet pounding the cement towards our little area. We smile, close our books, and gear up for whats coming, which is always something different.

Patio Chiminea Bon Fire

Reading by the fire, the handsome lad

There is a family with 5 rugrats siblings plus 2 more girls from different families. When we open the gate, it's like unleashing a million {or 7}  minions into our little, tiny, cramped, small, suffocating area. They're all trying to talk and tell us stories from afar: school and home and the parking lot. They attempt to tattle on one another to Loren & I. Somewhere in the midst of the frantic chaos of story telling yelling, Caleb asks for cookies.

Do you remember Caleb? He was our M&M boy (read about him). He is the one that started this growth, this tumor on my heart for all of the neighbor kids. He used to randomly knock on our door, many times pushing his youngest brother in a plastic thing, and ask in his kid accent, "Umm..can I have M&M's?"

Neighbor kids

Can you see why I just adore Caleb? The clueless kid is too cute not to love. He is in his full glory here: itching his belly while I am selling some furniture to strangers from Craigslist. If the buyers weren't creeped out enough by our raging garden in our apartment patio, Caleb sure gave them a run for their money. I love this kid, I adore him, I cherish him. His smile makes me heart swarm with a thousand butterflies.

As my heart grew for Caleb, I made M&M cookies. Then, one at a time, I found out he had a sibling. And another sibling. And oh. 4 siblings!

Thanks to the Ladies Activity Group at church, my freezer is packed full with dozens of cookies. They got together one Wednesday morning and baked 130+ cookies in various kinds! Talk about being the church and swooning my heart. {Using their gifts and passions of baking to build me up, equip me, to serve the neighborhood kids in my neighborhood - so cool.}

These kids are always running around the parking lot. They like to call each other names and punch each other. Because, well, they're siblings and kids and don't know how else to spend their life. They're a handful - props to the mama who raises them!

Loren and I had to decide: Were we going to be a set of adults in their life who constantly corrected their poor behavior towards one another? Who told them how they are living every breath wrong? OR are we going to be a set of adults that offer grace when it isn't expected, showers love when they "don't deserve it," and even gives them cookies when they should be sent to a corner? What legacy do we want to leave?

We chose the latter. Oh what freedom. What right do we have to correct them, anyways?

The other day I got home from running errands and was eating lunch when I heard the door open. Again, for the second time that day. In walks curious Caleb, on a hunt for cookies. Do you know what a blessing it is to have people walk into your home, knowing they are fully welcome?

My heart was so happy. But also, a little nervous that I was going to get yelled at -- I had yet to meet his parents and how awkward to have someone else's kids in your home that don't even know you? The last thing I want is to damage any possible relationship with them.

He then said, "My cookie, I dropped it earlier and I lost it."

I had watched him take that cookie and eat it while riding his scooter earlier today. So he lied.

"Are you lying to me?"

He shook his head no. I asked him again. He still said no.

"Caleb. You know that even if you ate the cookie, I would still give you another if you ask. You don't have to lie to me." While he stared at me, I thought I saw it click. So I asked him again if he really dropped the cookie. But he said he did drop it. I explained, "Caleb, I only want you to be honest. Guess what? If you lied, I'll forgive you. I'll show you grace. Do you know what grace is?" He shook his head no.

As I explained to him the meaning of grace, and why the heck I would ever show him such a thing, I was so thankful for Jesus. I am so thankful that He offers such freedom through grace. When I finished explaining as best I could to a 5 year old, I asked him again if he had lied. He said he did lie and ended with, "But ummm, can I still have a cookie?"

freedom through grace

I wonder if I do this to Jesus more than I want to know or admit. I wonder if I don't admit my sins and mistakes before Him, I don't repent, because I don't want to admit that I should be condemned. It's like I don't want to accept grace, yet again, because it feels like I'm always asking for grace. But isn't that the beautiful part? That grace is unending?

As I handed Caleb the cookie after he confessed his lie, I was filled with complete joy to offer grace, mercy, and forgiveness through a cookie. No strings attached. I was overwhelmed with joy to give him what he has been taught he doesn't deserve.

giving grace

Friends. Let us shower one another in grace. If you wear the name "Christ," then guess what? Christ says that in His presence you are blameless, without a single fault (Colossians 1:22). Christ says there is now no condemnation, no shame, for those who call upon His name (Romans 8:1). Stand firm in these promises and truths. Don't only cling to them for yourself, but share this grace with those around you that "don't deserve it." Give grace, because it has been given to you. Walk in the freedom of giving it with no strings attached.

Jesus, Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for always, always offering grace and forgiveness, with joy! You are so good, so so good to me. You give grace when I don't deserve it. Help me to share that same grace with your beloved people.

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Grain Free & so good

Okay folks. These are TOO good not to share. Holy cookie they are a gift to your taste buds! And so easy. Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups almond flour 2 1/2 TSP coconut flour 1/2 TSP baking soda 1 egg 2 TSP vanilla 1/3 cup melted butter (coconut oil for daily free) 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (pure maple syrup if paleo) As many dark chocolate chips necessary

Instructions: Preheat oven 350 Mix dry ingredients Add wet ingredients Mix mix mix! Add chips Bake 10 minutes

Oh my yumm.

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Neighborhood Children + M&M's.

These are some of my neighborhood orphans. The boys' names are Caleb (orange shirt), who has introduced me to "Landon my brother" (waving in the dark shirt) about sixteen times. And over there in the pink shirt and adorable pig tails, well that is Dora. Her older sister Denise chose her name. 20130906-212255.jpg

Last night as Loren and I were getting into the car to head downtown to the Beanery, I saw Caleb bending over that drain, sticking his fingers into that pile of dirt. And he was definitely eating it.

"Caleb! What are you eating?!" His response as he looked up and sprinted across the parking lot to our car was, "DOG POOP!" He was smiling so big. But as he approached me he asked "Hey. Do you have M&M's?"

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On the left is Caleb again (quite the littele tyrant) hauling some baby I had never met into my house.  I was looking around just waiting for the cops to show up yelling "stranger danger." The thing about Caleb is that he brings all of the other neighborhood kids to my door and begs for candy. You cannot see, but to the left of that adorably chubby baby are two more girls. Julia and a girl Loren and I refer to as "that one girl." (I should really learn her name).

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This is Caleb, once again. I had given him some M&M's about 1800 times before this and ran out of them. The day before this photo was taken, I offered him a tomato in replace of M&M's (haha) which he happily took. Biting into it like an apple, he scrunched his face, and then he stated "I dont like potatoes." Oh the joy.

The following day, I arrived home late, was exhausted, and ready for bed. As I got out of the car I dropped all of my groceries because a little tyrant M&M seeking boy was hiding behind my car door and shrieked "DO YOU HAVE M&M'S TODAY?!" I did not, so instead I asked him to help me carry in all my food and I would give him some chocolate chips.

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About a week ago, these precious rugrats were literally waiting outside of my door for us to get home. It was getting DARK. To the left of the stairs is my door. They had piled up about 300 random balls and 3 bikes.

Chilling M&M-lady got home.

The second we rounded the corner into our hall way, the question was asked. No, stated: "Can we have M&M's." It was music to my ears.

How can you resist a bunch of kids who are always running around the parking lot? All day, all night, literally keeping us up with their screaming games until after 10 pm. I am sure they are orphans -- there are never any parents around. Ever. Not even mentioned. It is odd.

I anticipate the question, "DO you have M&M's?" I love it. I love these kids. I have told Caleb about Jesus and I want to just sit with them in a circle and tell them about Noah and the Ark. I dont know why, I just do. I want to give them yummy food and invite them in to make cookies (is that so illegal?).

But seriously people! Do you have precious children running around your life that need a little extra attention?. Maybe some M&M's? Maybe you can make a mark on these precious, most fragile lives that are so fertile. So ready to have some seeds of Life planted.

Maybe you can be remembered as the neighbor who gave them M&M's and shared the best thing ever shared (Jesus. Love). MAYBE, you can give them Jesus so they can give Jesus to others. IMG_5740

PS. Please note this: tonight I made cookies and they (you can't see them all but there were 5) were literally smashed up against our "drive through window" for an hour. It was great. It made my night. And my soul is being refreshed by these vibrant tyrants.