By Lydia Jentzen Will
I’m not sure how or when it happened, but sometime over the summer, my back yard became the place to be. Children from all over the neighborhood congregate, swing, sing, play baseball, eat popsicles and build forts. In the evenings, when my husband is home from work, we both head out there. I push the baby on the swings and he wows all of the kids with his skills with a basketball or hitting a ball over the garage roof.
These days, with everyone back at school, the yard is a bit quieter during the morning, but once that school bus pulls away from the curb, it comes alive again. Sometimes I bake, and a steady stream of eager little ones line up outside the kitchen door, dirt smudged faces smiling brightly, pulling out their best manners in exchange for a piece of cake or a cookie. Sometimes they come running in with something they found in our regrettably neglected vegetable garden – a tomato or a pepper, ready to be sliced up and shared. Sometimes I spread out a quilt and knit and just watch these kids playing together. It’s not always pretty or smooth sailing. Accidents happen, people get hurt, arguments break out. We usually manage to work it out in a grace-filled way that points to the true source of joy.
I was standing in the back on Sunday when the Pastor delivered his sermon. Rocking a fussy baby, wondering just what it meant for me, in this stage of life. My life with little space for extras, little time for friendships, little energy for much beyond raising up my family. The relationships I do have are with people similar to me. Relationships forged at MOPS groups or our home school co op that build me up and encourage me, yes, good things…but not quite what Pastor Justin was talking about. When and where and how, then, do I find my Samaria and forge a path through it, all while serving my family in a little house in Ypsilanti?
I put two and two together, when, right at 3:30 pm, a neighbor kid knocked on the door. I looked up from cooking dinner and smiled her right in. I can bloom where I’m planted. Be a friend where I am. Perhaps my neighbor in this sense is, well, quite literally my neighbor. The little girl from down the street who plays Polly Pockets with my daughters, the boy who borrows a wrench to work on his bike right there in my driveway.
The gospel can be lived out in city slums and projects. Missionaries can carry it to never before reached tribes in the jungle. Ecumenical conversations can be held between respected leaders of different faiths. For me, in the life God has given me, it takes place in my back yard. In my kitchen. When I invite a neighbor kid for dinner, or send out cookies for a picnic tea party. When I smile at the cashier ringing up my grocery week after week, and tell the greeter “God bless your day!” on my way out the door.
The vocations of God’s people vary, greatly. God calls to us to follow Him while laboring in the lives He has set us in. Mine, for now, is raising children. But it is not just or only that. No, that is merely the jumping off point of passing on the blessing. Right where I am. Today, a back yard, surrounded by children. Living right out loud, spreading the light.
You can read more by Lydia Jentzen Will at her blog, Small Town Simplicity: The Pursuit of a Humble Life.