By Miriam Rossow

I was having lunch with my two sets of neighbors on a random Thursday afternoon. We are getting to know each other and talking a little about the neighborhood and neighbors. I told them I noticed that the neighbor next to me, Dennis, had not been out walking his dogs. I asked if they knew if something had happened to Dennis. ‘He died.’ was their answer.

I was shocked. How could I not realize that my neighbor had died? How was I so oblivious to what was happening around me? I didn’t even realize he was sick. He apparently had cancer.

How could I not realize that my neighbor had died?

Dennis was a nice man who kept to himself. I saw him out walking his two poodles often and we would say hello and talk about the weather or my kids. The first couple of years we lived in our house we had tons of snow and Dennis would often be found snow blowing our driveway and sidewalk. I remember walking over with a plate of cookies with Caleb to thank him one winter. That was the longest conversation we ever had!

Dennis was not a follower of Jesus. I do not know his story or if he had ever been told about Jesus. I do not know if he had a relationship with a church that had gone sour or if he had just refused to hear the gospel. I do know I never told him about Jesus.

I do know I never told him about Jesus.

The opportunity never seemed to arise to share Jesus with him nor did I go knocking on his door to cultivate an opportunity. I could dwell on the guilt and sadness of Dennis not knowing Jesus. I could beat myself up for not sharing the Good News with him. I could dwell in the fact that we did not bring Jesus to Dennis.

I think instead of dwelling on the guilt or sadness of not knowing Dennis was ill and died Jesus is inviting me to be more aware of my surroundings and what is happening around me. I believe I am being invited to connect with my neighbors in a new way. I think instead of beating myself up over never sharing Jesus with a man whose life did not cross with mine in a way that opened up conversation I am being called to look for those relationships Jesus is putting into my life where I can share Him.

I believe I am being invited to connect with my neighbors in a new way.

The confession on Sunday made me ponder this as we said that we are often too much focused on our lives to be aware of those around us. I have felt this stirring for some time and I think it is partially what prompted the change in my schedule this year. I am no longer working outside of the home and have found that I have more space to just be aware and care about those around me.

My heart has been burdened for friends that are struggling with marriages, children, and just general life. My heart has been burdened to be available for my husband and children in a way that I was not able to be in the past. My heart has been burdened to connect with my neighborhood in a new way.

I have found that with a little less on my plate I am able to do these things. I am able to not be nosy but be aware of what is happening in the lives of those around me. And it is not just being aware; it is being aware and able to care about and for those people and situations. If nothing else I have space in my head and a little more time in my schedule to keep those situations in prayer.

Jesus is in me. He has been stirring in my heart for some time a desire to be able to share Him more and now He has positioned my life in a way that I find it easier to do that.

Jesus is in me with you. I am thankful that on Sunday I can confess with others that I sometimes get too busy and focused on my life. I can hear the call to open my eyes to those around me. I am thankful for the promise that when I fail there are others around me to lift me up and to share the promise of forgiveness. I am thankful that I am surrounded by people that are also looking outside of themselves for what Jesus is doing.

Jesus is in me with you for the world. I have been put in a time and place for a purpose. I am thankful that my schedule has been arranged to allow for some space to have lunch with my Hindu neighbors on a random Thursday. I am thankful for the opportunities to share my faith and Jesus with those neighbors whose lives have been crossed with mine. And I am thankful that I can trust that Jesus has a plan for Linda, Dennis’ wife. I can have my eyes open to opportunity for me to share and I can pray that others will be placed in her life to share Jesus with her.

My life still gets busy even with a little slower schedule. I have 4 children from high school to first grade and so that alone keeps my calendar full. And it means it is easy to get stuck looking in and focusing on my life only. There is a lot going on in my life. The wonderful news is that Jesus continues to call me back to Him and the people around me, family and friends. He continues to open my eyes to see those following along side of me. He continues to call me to Himself surrounded by others so we can share Him with our little world, both big and small.