Monday, November 14, 2016

On Community

One thing is certain.  When God created people, he intended for us to live in Community.  Community is something that I know I crave at my core.  I read once that "community is a gift God offers to pour love out on us all."  That's so true! 

Back in 2005, God called me to move away from my family and the community of people I knew and loved.  He called me to a job and place to live that was 7 hours away from all of this community.  But, I was at a point in my life that I was in complete surrender to His will.  I soon realized that God's plan was great and I was so excited to see it unfold.

He brought me to a job that I absolutely loved.  The people with whom I worked soon became my community.  Then, I met Drew.  I met him at a time that I was looking for a new church.  He happened to be interested in seeking a new church as well.  We ended up finding one together in 2007.  That church is still our church home.  After we were married, we moved into the home that I had purchased when I first moved to Austin.  We began hosting Community Group (small group through our Church) at our home.  Shortly after we began hosting community group at our home, a new couple moved in across the street.  We introduced ourselves on a Saturday and brought over some fresh baked cookies.  The next morning at church (keep in mind our church has thousands of attendees), the pastor did an opening introduction and then said, "go shake a hand and get to know your neighbors around you".  Guess who we happened to shake hands with?  That new neighbor that had moved in across the street from us.  We had never mentioned which church we went to.  It was an extremely brief meeting and introduction the day prior. That neighbor just happened to be sitting in the row next to us and happened to attend the exact church as us, even though there are hundreds of churches in Austin.  Coincidence?   I think not. So, we invited him and his wife to our community group as well.  Our community group continued to grow.  Although we began as a mixed group of married and single folks, the married folks began having babies.  Just before our son, Luke was born, we decided to put our home up for rent and purchase a new home in planning for his arrival.  We were so thankful that our group agreed to continue to stay together even though we moved.  Then, Luke was born (he was the 3rd baby born in our group) and other babies continued to join our group.   Soon, the adults were beginning to become outnumbered by the children.

our community group family from November 2013
We absolutely love this group of people.  They became more like family to us.  They were part of our Biblical Community.  We lived on a busy street in our neighborhood that made it difficult to meet neighbors.   When the folks who lived across the street or next door would come home from work, they would pull directly into their garage, close it behind them and that would be all we would see of them.  Every now and then we would wave or say hello, but deep conversations didn't happen that often.  But thankfully, we had this community group.  It was especially important as I went through cancer treatment, since we have no family in town.  Later, our church began encouraging something called "Life Transformation Groups" (or LTGs for short).  These were smaller groups of 2-3 people of the same gender within our Missional Community Groups who would meet each week to hold one another accountable, encourage one another and get to know each other deeper.   I loved my LTG!   One of my good friends from my LTG, Sarah, also decided to homeschool her children, and we had so much in common!  We both even talked about how awesome it would be to live in closer community together with some of our other friends.  For example, we would have loved to have some sort of commune on large acreage where we would each have homes but could share in tasks and responsibilities.   It would look more like the Acts Community in the Bible.  We half joked about it but both knew that there was a lot of seriousness in our excitement.

Time went on and I grew to really love homeschooling our children and this new mission and purpose that God had given me after cancer treatment.  Over time and after about 6 years of living in this home, we realized that God was calling us away from our home to seek a new one.   He really put the desire in our heart.  I mentioned to my friend, Sarah, how fun it would be to find some land that we could both build homes on.  She agreed that it sounded great.  Oh my goodness--it was my "commune" dream come true!  I was all over the task of finding land that we could both build homes on.  The problem that I was running into though, was that anything we could afford was really far out from the city of Austin and Drew's work.  Drew didn't want to extend his commute any more and I don't blame him.  I love having him home as soon as possible after he's done working.  And, it's nice to be close to Austin.  Also, after researching it, I realized that building a new home on land you find cost WAY more than buying a home that already has land.  It didn't look like finding that land and building two homes on it was going to be do-able.  Drew and I decided though regardless, it was time to list our home for sale.  A tenant recently had moved out of one of the homes we own and lease out.  We thought, if our home sells and we haven't found one to purchase and need a place to live, we could always move there.  We were pretty certain that shortly after we would list our home, it would be sold, just based on market conditions.  I continued to look for homes on land, that had a large enough lot that could be split.  It was so hard to find that with a home that was close in.  In the meantime though, I also was looking just at homes with lots large enough for one home.  On the way to driving by a home that had popped up in my automated search, I felt like I saw out of the corner of my eye a for sale sign for a home way down one of the side streets.  The neighborhood looked super cool, with homes on large lots.   So, I thought that I would proceed to the home I was originally planning on driving by (which was nearby) and then come back and see what was down that street.  I drove by the home, decided it wasn't a good fit for us and then came back to the mysterious "for sale" sign.  As I approached the sign, I quickly noticed it said "sold."   I was disappointed, as I had already decided the neighborhood was beautiful and seemed just perfect.  But, I turned around in the nearby cul-de-sac and noticed a beautiful home with a "coming soon" for sale sign.  Those of you who live in the Austin area know how hot the market is--you have to see a home the day it comes on the market in order to even have a chance of getting it.  So, I called the realtor who was listed on the sign, expecting the price to be way out of our budget.  It wasn't outside of our budget, but it was quite a bit more than we wanted to pay.  It sounded just perfect in so many ways though and was going to be listed in the next day or two.  When I came home and crunched numbers, surprised at how much equity we had in our current home, I realized our payment would be exactly the same as our current one! I would have NEVER noticed that home coming on the market, since it was outside of our search price range, had I not randomly seen the "for sale" sign of the other home out of the corner of my eye while traveling down the busy road.  I don't believe that was by chance.   We got our closing document in preparation of the close next month and noticed our monthly payment was within $2 of our current one.  Isn't that crazy?  It does sound crazy, but God was most definitely orchestrating everything. We moved into that home in March 2015 and it truly has been a dream come true.

Anyway, I just knew that my friend Sarah and her family would love this area.  So, I was immediately on a mission to find a home in this small neighborhood of 13 or so homes for them.  This is a quiet neighborhood that is basically one long street with two culd-e-sacs (one on each end).  Each home has an acre or more.  So, if her family could buy a home on this neighborhood, we could fulfill our dream of living in closer community on acreage!!

In the meantime, one day as Drew, the kids and I were standing by our pool talking we heard someone call out, "Drew!," behind a fence that backs up to our side yard.  Drew looked over and noticed it was two of his good friends from his old church that he used hang out with when he was a single guy.  They lived right beside us!!!  Also, they happen to have two kids who are within 6 months in age difference from our kids.  We were so excited to find this out.  So, our neighbor friends turned one of their fence panels into a gate so we could go back and forth between yards freely.  These neighbors actually don't live in our neighborhood, but an adjoining neighborhood.  So, if that moment wouldn't have happened, I am not sure when we would have finally realized that we already knew each other.   I began to feel like we were getting that Acts "community" that we craved as we got to know them better over time.  The kids have loved playing together as well.  It is awesome that they can go back and forth between yards and we know they are totally safe!  Everything about this home journey seems to be totally God orchestrated.  I couldn't have picked out a more perfect situation here--but God knew. This neighbor family is one that we have grown to love--they truly have become more like family to us.  We have enjoyed experiencing important life events with them, such as birthdays and even the oldest daughter's baptism. 

About 3 months after we moved into our home, a home three doors down the street on an acre and a half came up for sale by owner.   My friend, Sarah, looked at it, but at the time, it was way overpriced, and the layout didn't seem to work for their family.  I totally understood though.  Time went on and that unique home sat on the market.   Finally, the owner began dropping the price.  It continued to drop to be closer to market value.  Our friends looked at it again about 7 months or so after the last time they looked at it.  Something amazing happened.  That same house began to be something they could totally see their family in.  It had a space behind the garage that they could turn into an office for our friend who works from home.  Although the home was advertised as 3 bedrooms, there was actually another room that could only not be considered a bedroom because it had no closet--it made a perfect bedroom for their youngest of 3 boys.  Their other boys could share a HUGE bedroom together (which could eventually become a bedroom for all three of them) and then they would also still have a guest bedroom.  Well, guess what?  Those friends purchased the home and became our neighbors about  7 months ago.  God had a plan all along and he orchestrated it magnificently!   I couldn't have designed all this better myself.   We love our little community so much!  The kids are blessed to be able to grow up near other awesome kids their ages.  Also, I consider these two moms some of my closest friends.  What a blessing they and their families are to us!

This summer, we came up with an idea to have our own little Olympics celebration with our kids.  It was very last minute, but the three of us moms pulled it off and I think it ended up being pretty fabulous.  I believe the kids thought it was great as well.  Each of us came up with 2 activities or crafts and 1 olympic-themed snack.  We started at one home and after the 2 activities and snack, we paraded to the next home as the Olympic Fanfare played on my phone.  We even made sure to make the whole thing a learning experience as well.  The kids learned some history about the Olympic Torch, did a craft, played lots of different sports and learned about science (specifically physics) and it's importance in sports.  Here is a little video of our fun Olympics ceremony.   

We love our neighbors and community and are so thankful of God's orchestration and design in bringing us all together.  It is so cool to look back and see how it all unfolded.

But, "community" does not just consist of neighbors or folks nearby.  To me, "community" includes the people you "do life with."  And for me, not only do these people include my "blood" family from afar (that's a given, but again we have no family in town), but these folks include my homeschooling community.  I love the moms and kids in this community.  We build each other up, hear stories of each others' daily struggles and accomplishments and identify as we have "been there", and help each other out when needed.  I consider my homeschooling community like my local family. 

Some of my "tribe"

More of our "tribe".  I love these mamas and their kiddos

More of our "tribe" doing what we love to do:  hiking and exploring

and more...

When we imagine that we, as Christians and humans, can live in total independence and self-sufficiency, we are deluding ourselves. God, from the beginning, never intended that we should go through the world "alone." We simply cannot experience fully the power and delight of life with God without also being drawn into life together with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Without experiencing such life together, we will not discover how wonderful the news about Jesus really is.   --Howard Macy from "Community: God's Design for Growth"

So today, I am thankful for "Community".

Two of my close friends Sarah (left) and Melissa (right).

No comments:

Post a Comment