Saturday, April 17, 2010
When I was growing up, I loved to play with the kids in my neighborhood. It was just the way it was back then. It was no big deal to be outside all day long playing somewhere in the neighborhood with whoever was out playing at the time. It was fun. Some of my neighbors from the past I am still in contact with even though none of us live in the same state now (or country for that matter - right, Mandi?). For some reason, getting to know the neighbors now isn't quite as easy as it used to be. Maybe we've been inside too much? I don't think we're unfriendly, but who knows? When we first moved into this house we loved that there were no houses directly behind us - we can actually live in the backyard without someone's window peeking down over us and I love it. But our children were very young, too, so we saved up and as soon as #3 was born, we put in a fence in the backyard. Mostly to contain the little ones and help them to know their boundaries without us yelling all the time to 'get back over here'! We also did it because the neighbor children would cut through our backyard to get to another street, but they wouldn't just cut through the back of the yard - they would go out of their way to walk across the patio and pretty much right at the back door of the kitchen. Not exactly good manners. So, the fence turned out to be a great investment. (I forgot to mention it keeps the Great Dane, the pot bellied pig, two goats and some roosters out of our backyard, as well.) But now that the girls are getting older, they really want to play with 'friends' in the neighborhood and at this point, they are only allowed to play in our backyard because of a few factors. So, anytime they hear a kid outside they start peeking through the fence to see who's out. Normally, it's their friend, Allison, from 2 doors down. I don't think Allison is ever inside her house except to sleep. I've seen her all over this neighborhood. She knows everybody and everybody knows her. And now thanks to a rental house beside us, there are 2 more kids their age that come over often. But yesterday, I left my two oldest outside to play while #3 and I stepped inside for a moment to get a drink and I heard lots of voices. Through the window I saw numerous kids and all were trying to get inside the playhouse. We ended up having 10 kids before it was overwith and they were anywhere between the ages of 2 and 11. Because I didn't know them and because my baby has to be right in on all the action, I had to come out and supervise the situation. Only 2 flowerpots got knocked over in the process of all those kids trying to get inside the playhouse and I think that was a major accomplishment. I really enjoyed seeing my girls interact with these big kids. It was really good for them to be around strangers and experience real life interactions. (I say 'real life' because #1 goes to a Christian school and we are at church 3 times a week and she really doesn't have an opportunity to mix with kids who come from homes that aren't quite like ours.) Before they came, though, we had noticed some of them outside and I had told the girls that if the kids wanted to come play, they know where to find us. So, Firstborn prayed and asked God to please have her friends come over and just moments later 7 kids come walking through the gate. She was ecstatic! Immediately she told me that she had prayed and that God answered her prayer. I was so happy for her. A little later, she came in and got some of these tracts to give to her 'friends' and told them this would help them know how to go to Heaven when they die. One boy seemed very interested in it and took it home with him. (He's the one in the pic below.) Not too long after that, the kids started leaving. (They travel in a herd.) So, when the last one had left, I saw Firstborn sit down on the adirondack bench, hands folded, looking at the gate and she began praying, "Dear Jesus, Please let my friends come back! I want to play just a little longer." And before she could even say 'Amen', here they came.....one at a time, until all of them were back. Her eyes lit up and she jumped up and down and ran to me and said, "I just prayed and God answered my prayer!! It's a miracle!!" I nearly burst into tears over what she had just experienced. God hears her prayers and cares about her desires. That's something I've known for a long time, but she had to learn it for herself. We may have to make a few rules about how many kids can be in the playhouse at one time from now on, but we want to try to always be friendly to our neighbors. Nothing ever happens by chance. We live here in this house, in this neighborhood, for a reason that is bigger than anything I can imagine. And because of that, we need to be friendly to our neighbors and taking advantage of any opportunity we have to befriend, encourage, point them to Christ. Firstborn told Allison yesterday that she is trying to be a missionary where she lives. I am convicted that I need to do all that I can to enable her to do that and to make sure I'm not discouraging her from doing that whether it's with my attitude or my words. My backyard is a nice place to hang out, but really it's just a tool that God has allowed us to have where we can entertain friends and strangers alike with the hope that we will be able to have an eternal impact on their lives.