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.

Loving Our Neighbors

Our once-neighbor girl showed up at our front door to ask if I would run a 5k with her. Yesterday we trained with the Girls On The Run team and it was about 1,000 degrees outside.

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We walked 2.91 of the miles and jogged about .1. It was awesome and I loved it and she kept saying, "No offense but I need to walk." Girl please...no offense taken! I'll gladly walk and soak in the hot sun while sweat pools and falls off of my face.

By the end of the training-run-walk I was wearing her vibrant tutu, carrying her water bottle, and holding a piece of paper. It was great, really. I felt like an all-star champion.

During our training-run {walk}, I couldn't help but ask Jesus to make something bigger out of this than me running and encouraging her. Though I know that is of value, I craved to go deeper. I hungered for more of His purpose in my life.

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Around mile 2 our conversation turned from cold water and butterflies and best friends to Jesus. She told me all about her dad's anger when she was younger and the darkness that came with the violence she experienced. She told me all about the power of God, and how her dad was invited to church by a basketball buddy. For years he invited him and for years her dad declined, until one day. Since that day, he has worked on his anger and now goes into his bedroom to calm down when he gets worked up. She shared her favorite verse, by memory: "cast your cares upon The Lord because He cares for you," Psalm 55:22.

She told me that she remembered that I once told her that I loved Jesus and that He loves her, so she knew that I would be a good running buddy. We could talk and chat and pray, and I would understand. Those were her 4th grade words.

This is all through and for and because of Jesus.

I'm going to be real honest: this is not for Natalie. If I lived for Natalie, I would be a nurse at Good Sam, spending every single waking moment either alone in my garden, reading with a cup of tea or with Loren. I would live for me and only for me. I am a very, very selfish person. And often, I hate admitting that. But these past few days, I have found immense freedom and recognizing that. I have found freedom in admitting to myself and to Jesus that I am so, very selfish. And that BECAUSE of Jesus, I get to choose to live for more than myself. Because of Jesus, I get to live large. For Jesus and through Jesus and only because of Him, I get to pour my life out.

Friends. We have the most beautiful and blessed calling: "Love your neighbor...Feed God's sheep...Love His people."

Because of Jesus, Loren and I purposefully loved our neighbors. Because of Jesus, Loren and I tell our neighbor kids that they are MORE than their circumstances. These things aren't huge or big deals - it's simply what we as Christians are called to do. We spend our time and energy on others, because of and for Jesus. We get to live for something bigger than ourselves. Through Jesus. And Boy, are we fulfilled! Even through exhaustion we are blessed through the fulfillment of living sold out for Jesus. All glory to Him.

I want to encourage you to love and serve your neighbors. Smile at them. Learn their names, even if you have to keep a note pad list of them on your fridge! Take them cookies at Christmas and love their kids. Share your story about how you love yours, so we can have some ideas. My sister babysits for her neighbor's kids so she doesn't have to get a second job. You never know what fruit will come.

You never know. You may get to be a loving, listening ear, pointing towards Jesus. You may be the only person outside of the family, encouraging this crazy following towards Jesus - do it. Encourage. Empower. Serve. Deny yourself for the sake of building up this Bride {the church} and those around you.

Let's choose to live for something bigger than ourselves, every day. Live for Jesus.

All for Jesus. All because of Jesus. All through Jesus.

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