post and photos by Sue Duby,
Chuck dreamed of a serious “downsize” for a long while. After one too many years of mowing lawns (since he was a little guy so the story goes!), trimming trees and repairing leaks, he hoped for the moment to unfold in our move to Northwest Arkansas. I wrestled to join his dream and added a few “ok … if …” thoughts to his. A yard for my flowers. Big windows and happy light. Décor that whispered, “Gather here for rest, safety and warmth”.
A few weeks of hunting left us discouraged, frustrated and tense (call it one of those record times in our marriage). With no clue how to move forward, we suddenly stumbled on it. A new listing. A townhouse. When the front door swung open, I knew I was home. Depending on the day, we now call it our English cottage (great gardens!) or our Beach Cabin (though the nearest beach is over 700 miles away).
In the excitement, I never really noticed a lot of details… many only realized a few months after moving in. Our driveway sat back on a small cul-de-sac (fewer cars). Our back fence bordered two beautiful homes (with treed landscapes for us to enjoy). Two small turns led to the exiting gate (quick access). Three minutes on the gas pedal dropped me in front of the grocery store. And more… including a shared wall with our neighbor’s unit.
Elderly Joe spent his hours inside, with never a sound floating through the walls to our home. Every few days, we’d catch him on the driveway grabbing the newspaper. With only quiet nods from him, we set a goal to continue our greetings and one day earn a smile. The smile finally came. After a few years, Joe passed away, the unit sold and became a rental.
Dave moved in and we began the dance again. Shared a meal in our home. Befriended his vicious looking Doberman, discovering a big baby under all those muscles. Rescued Dave from a flood during the big freeze, when we discovered water gushing from his garage. And this week, Dave moved. Rumor said the unit will soon be sold again.
One night as Chuck and I sat under the stars in the backyard, we discovered thoughts bubbling up in each of us and we dared to share them (true confession time). I frowned. “What if they decide to plant trees next to the fence and ruin my perennial garden?”. “What if they are noisy and strange?” “What if they don’t want me taking charge of the median between our driveways where I ALWAYS plant MY flowers?” Chuck: “What if they have an unruly dog… or worse two dogs?” “What if they build a patio and we lose our privacy?” “What if we can’t be friends?”. The questions continued to spill forth.
Along the way, that familiar unsettling stomach churning began. And then a whisper… ”What about what I want?”… and I knew it was time to pause. “What You want Lord? WHO you want Lord?”. Those questions had not entered my mind.
Suddenly it hit. We’d made a long list in our pondering together. A lengthy stream of “I want _______, I want ________, I want _______”. All about us. All to do with what would seem to keep us happy, content and loving our space (as if we even know what that would truly be!). How can it be after all these years… still discovering how very human we are… how easily we fall back into self-focus… and forgetting how we really want to live.
I sheepishly turned to Chuck. “I think we’ve been so selfish. Only thinking about us.” He nodded and sighed… and we began our reframing. Taking a step back and working to get His view. Within a few minutes, the load felt lighter. Our smiles returned. We traded new ideas. “Lord, bring who you want to the unit”. “Show us how we can be the neighbor they need.” “Have your way.” “Let us be part of Your plan, instead of forcing our own” (as if we could even do that!).
The story is yet to be written, but we’re excited for this next adventure. The “For Sale” sign appeared today. We wait with the empty townhouse beyond our wall … yet a bit anxious, but settled. May He continue to keep our hearts open to receive (and welcome) all who come our way.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.’ 31 This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 Amplified
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