Actually Loving My Neighbor

I much prefer to stick with the Matthew 6:1 idea, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.I have to say, I really struggled with writing this because it is not in my character to highlight things I have done, but as I was reflecting I realized this time there was a benefit to it.

This verse, just a few lines earlier, in Matthew 5:16 contrarily says, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” I think sometimes the situation is dependent upon your heart’s condition. One verse is written to teach people to be a model of God’s grace in this world, while the other warns against doing things motivated by so called bragging rights, or praises from others instead of the praise of God alone.

So, having said that, I tell this story to equip and encourage and in the hopes that others can relate.

Our neighbors moved in the summer time, and the house next door has been empty for sometime. It’s been weird and lonely having a dark empty shell beside us, with no one filling its walls. This has made me reflect on the importance of neighbors for safety’s sake and for relationships.

For years we have prayed for a child my oldest child’s age to move near us as he’s always been the odd one out amongst our friend’s children and even other neighbors. Years we prayed! When the house beside us was listed, I prayed and even doubted. What are the odds a preteen boy would move next door?

Well, whatever the odds were, that’s what happened! Not only that, but a child from my son’s current class at school! One he already has a rapport with. Total fluke for us, as we didn’t know the parents to even tell them. We realized it after they had already toured the house and chosen it. God always hears our prayers, and that alone makes this story worth sharing.

Finally the day came and the new family moved in this past weekend. We had a few handshakes and comments back and forth, but that was it. Our sons were delighted and bounced back and forth between both houses all weekend. My son happened to be telling his friend about “Moms spaghetti, which is the best ever! Hopefully you come over and have it with us some time!” The friend said “spaghetti and pizza, those are my two favourite meals.” Spoken like a true child who’s carb-love hasn’t bit him in the booty yet,… I kid.

He mentioned that they were getting take out, and I joked about doing the same thing when we moved.

Monday morning came, and as per routine, I sat out to plan the week’s meals and head out for the groceries. I threw spaghetti on the list for this evening knowing it was just talked about. Then I realized, why don’t I double the recipe and feed my neighbors? Its easily done, after all I often make this recipe for our family of 6 and have left overs, and I know their son likes it at the very least. Usually I make garlic bread and caesar salad to go with it and all of these things can easily be doubled for a bigger crowd. In fact I have even done this before for a couple different families.

So I thought about when we moved in, how nice it would be to have someone bring healthy-non-take-out food and actually do the work for me and I realized how much I would have loved the same. The neighbor who moved out did bring us treats when we moved in. I remember my sister saying “Wow, I thought that only happened on movies” when she showed up, plate of goodies in hand.

Then the doubt crept in, would it be weird to show up at a strangers house with food? What if they have allergies? Do I go over and ask if they want it? What if they say no? What if they are picky? Are they vegan? Oh, I’ll just buy some treats and make it easy. Except I had really wanted to do this.

Off  I went to the store. I put a ton of vegetables in the spaghetti so I need to plan ahead if I’m going to do this. I considered it the entire length of the store. Its a lot of extra work for me. I can’t forget one of my kids has an appointment today. I still have the reading for school to do this week. I am pretty tired too. Excuses crossed my mind all too easily. Except, I had really wanted to do this. 

What if they think I came off to strong and get weirded out by me? What if I use too much garlic for their liking? Man, the price of peppers has gone up, and I need so many less if I just make food for us… What if… what if… what if…

And this is my point in sharing: How easily is it for us to just talk ourselves out of actually doing the good things? How simple is it to carry about our busy lives and not stop to think about others.

We moved into our current house with four kids, one was only six weeks old at the time. It was total chaos and I found the routine of keeping the kids fed and taken care of while trying to unpack and deal with a newborn was brutal. You don’t have to have a newborn to know a move is hard on a family. Take out and stress. Added costs and broken things. Heavy lifting and total chaos for a few days.

So, I decided that enough excuses had passed through my mind. I was doing this and that was that. I purchased enough to make family dinners for us and them, and came home and started right away at it.

When the kids came home, I told them my plan. My oldest was so excited to bless his friends family and ran outside to tell them. Each of us carried a part of the meal over, and we delivered them a meal of spaghetti sauce, salad, garlic bread and even an apple crisp I had frozen for a special occasion. How much more special does it get then new relationships?

First the father of the house saw us and grinned. The mom cried. She couldn’t believe it. That right there made it all worth it. Yes, I am the comes-off-too-strong neighbor. Yes, I am the Mom who has been where you are trying to balance it all in a new home. Yes, I am the lady who puts too much garlic into things.

In the moment though, I could see that she didn’t see that stuff, she just saw food. Welcomed, warm, and wholesome food. She just saw a friendly neighbor.

It was so worth it!

We have to stop listening to the excuses in our heads and find new and creative ways to share kindness because those acts are the ones that will change the world. I hope my children remember this and do the same when they are grown. Nothing is greater than feeling welcomed, and having a full belly.

 

Leslie’s Spaghetti Sauce Recipe: Click to enlarge.

Leslie's Spaghetti sauce

 

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