On the heels of my decision to stay and press in, we experienced breakthrough. This often seems to be case- just when you run out of strength and determination, a few inches past the breaking point, there lies the finish line. It reminds me of an incredibly emotional moment I witnessed several years ago while watching a completely wasted athlete collapse just yards from finishing the Kona Ironman. She was disqualified as volunteers had to carry her the last few feet. Thankfully, in our race it’s known from the very beginning that Jesus will be carrying us whenever our legs give out, and this is where I have been lately.
Friday night was surreal. I was emotionally taxed as I bounced back and forth between hosting our biweekly community potluck and tending to the dog’s body and my grieving children Stay Part 1. Many were attending for the first time, in fact one couple had providentially knocked on the door to introduce themselves (they closed on the house that day) just as the potluck began! We had a gaggle of awkward teenagers, several sage seventy somethings and most everything in between. At one point I came inside as everyone was going around the table, giving their names and sharing a little bit about themselves. There was laughter, tears, encouragement, powerful testimonies of deliverance from destructive lifestyles, admonishment, connection. It tasted like I imaged a bite of heaven to be. We were a group of messed of people in love with Jesus and hungry for community. The whole evening was a beautiful mess.
Saturday we visited our new neighbors and toured their home while they shared their vision- it matches ours perfectly! She also gave me a good connection for my job hunt, offered the use of her riding lawn mower and gave us a key so we could use their workout room anytime we wanted! Sunday my roommate filled the living room with fiery young people as she taught about prophecy. Monday I took a walk and had a series of connections with my neighbors along the way. By the time I arrived home, I was overwhelmed with the fact that my heart finally felt at home.
I had planned on a long, quiet walk, but it turned into encounter after encounter! A short chat over the fence with my closest neighbor. We have enjoyed their company on a regular basis and while he was recently in the midst of chemo we just delivered dinners across the fence. She is an avid animal lover and often buys treats for the dogs, brings books to my daughter and cheers us up with her sunshine personality. Around the bend, a chat with a quintessentially southern woman who has begun to attend our gatherings (I am thoroughly enjoying her friendship), and her granddaughter who plans to start joining us. After they drove off I asked her husband a bird question and before I knew it, I was the proud owner of sixteen gourds to house Purple Martins and a huge pole to hang them on. Just this last month he has blessed me with seeds, homemade wine and supplies, grape vines and the offer of his homemade greenhouse when mine blew over. He has farmed this area for for most of his 82 years and is a wealth of knowledge!
I barely walk out of their driveway when the old man who constantly drives his farm truck around the neighborhood while checking on his horses stops to chat. He laughs as he tells me his name and says many people around here call him bad names, apparently proud of his crusty reputation. He has faced and fought cancer successfully, but it left a mark on him. He gets animated as our conversation turns to flowers. We both love peonies! Turns out he ran a nursery for years and is eager to help me beautify my farm. He insists on taking me out to dinner, and after several rounds I give way to his old codger charm with the deal that I go out with him if he joins our family for dinner. (Six days later I had my first Cracker Barrel experience- I feel more southern now )
At the end of the road I visit with my new friends on their porch- she recently broke her hip and we began to know each other as our family delivered a few meals. She is eager to have people over and carries a heart of hospitality. Her husband is an avid gardener and we enjoy rambling around his yard talking about the local plants. When I leave he usually hands me a tree or a flower, or in this case, a whole truckload of firewood!
As I walk up our driveway, I am overwhelmed with the friends I have all around me and the generosity every single one has shown towards me. There is so much treasure here I can’t carry it all- even in my super duper diesel farm truck!