So, we got back from Cambodia on July 17th, and it’s really no secret that I landed back on U.S. soil pretty darn sure that I could think of nothing more PERFECT than moving our family to Cambodia permanently. That country, those people, grabbed my heart and still haven’t let go.
If I had the time, I’d read back through my journal from July 17th on and give you a little timeline of when I decided that okay, maybe God doesn’t want us to move to Cambodia. Maybe he wants us to serve the people of Cambodia from here in Columbus, Ohio (and take trips there any time we possibly can).
And maybe, just maybe, he has a pretty radical plan for us right here in our own city, our own neighborhood.
There’s our new church (more details later) and my (and Nina’s) reading buddy and a couple other cool things in the works, but I kept feeling like there just had to be something I could do in our own little sub-division. But what?
A brief overview of our neighborhood: we’re just one big oval and a small circle. 130 homes if I had to guess. Built around 1990. 1400 sq ft average. Lots and lots and lots of different countries and religions and colors represented. Columbus address (and taxes) but Westerville City Schools. Pretty quiet and mostly crime-free (except for the cars that got keyed–Gabe’s included–a few weeks ago). Lots of kids.
At the beginning of the school year, God dumped one really cool opportunity on my lap. One neighbor with four kids needed a place for her youngest, an 8-year-old boy, to stay from 7:20 (when his older sister got on the bus) until 8:10 (when he got on the bus) each weekday morning. She asked me if I could do it (her son, A, and Ava are in the same class in school), and I said yes. She asked me how much I would charge, and I said nothing.
I’ll be honest. At first I thought, “Poor me, inconvenienced every morning, blah, blah, blah.” Thankfully, God grabbed me and shook me, and I got over myself right quick. And, oh my word, A is a complete angel. And he gets along with our girls beautifully. And it’s so completely normal now that I feel like he’s one of my own kids. Such a blessing.
So, fast forward to 9.20.10 when I wrote in my journal, “God, I want our family to reach our neighborhood for you.” Then 9.21.10–“God, show me your vision for my neighborhood and community.”
Then on 10.07.10, an idea. “Lord, I got this idea to do Cans for Cookies. Invite all our neighbors over to bring cans for the food bank in exchange for some cookies. Meet neighbors. That sort of thing.”
Then I started jogging again in the mornings (after taking about 16 years off). Gabe measured my “course” for me. One lap around the ‘hood = .37 mile. I typically do 6 laps (or zero). I like to pray while I run, and I started praying for our neighbors. And my idea for a neighborhood gathering kind of gathered steam.
On 10.13.10, I sketched out a little “invitation” to hand out, and after that, I wrote, “Lord, will you bless this? I’m really excited about it. And you know what? Even if no one shows, we took a step of faith, right?”
Then on 10.27.10, the day before Trick-or-Treat (I know, I know, we Ohioans are Freak Shows who Trick-or-Treat on the closest weekday to Halloween), I got a crazy idea. Hand out the invitations as we walk around trick-or-treating! Except wait. I haven’t made any invitations. I haven’t even picked a date. I’m not even sure I’m really doing this–it’s just an idea, right?
I felt God’s nudge to go for it, and it was strong. So I chose a date, typed up some invites, and printed them out (3 to a page. so they were small and manageable) on blue, yellow and white paper I had lying around.
YOU’RE INVITED! To the 1st Annual Cans-for-Cookies Neighborhood Bash!!
WHO: You! And your family!
WHAT: Bring a can of food or two for W.A.R.M. (Westerville Area Resource Ministry), eat some yummy homemade cookies, and meet your neighbors!
WHEN: Sunday, December 5th from 2-4pm (come and go as you please)
WHERE: Gabe and Marla Taviano’s house (our address)
WHY: Bless people in need and get to know your neighbors!
HOW: RSVP if you want, so we’ll have enough cookies. (my e-mail address) Just walk, run, drive, bike, rollerblade or skateboard over to our house anytime between 2-4pm. We’re looking forward to meeting you! Feel free to e-mail with questions!
I probably handed out 40-50 while we were trick-or-treating and got a really good response. Sure, some people looked at me like I was a nutcase, but several people said something like, “Wow, this is really cool. We’ve lived here for five years and really don’t know anyone.” A couple people said, “We’ll definitely be there.”
I just felt completely giddy the rest of the night and all the next day. No one has e-mailed me yet to say they’re coming (and 2 people let me know they already have plans for that day), but I’m not giving up hope.
Then Nina and I walked around our whole neighborhood this afternoon and put invitations on every single mailbox, so everyone’s covered. And now we just sit back and pray. And ask God to nudge people to come. And bake lots and lots of cookies (we’re going to deliver them to neighbors in the event that no one shows).
Are we feeling a little proud of ourselves for this step we’ve taken? Hardly. This is the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere, and there’s really no excuse at all for us not reaching out and loving on our neighbors more than we have. If this doesn’t “work out,” we won’t lose heart. It was a step. And we’ll keep taking them.
I thought it was cool that I “happened” to read these verses this morning from Galatians 5–“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (v. 13-14)
I’d LOVE to hear about something you’ve done/plan to do to love on your neighbors. And PLEASE, by all means, steal my invitation and do the same thing in your neighborhood this holiday season!