Living in a Neighborhood 101

Living in a neighborhood is new for us.

My kids have lived  their whole lives in a house on a busy street where cars sped around corners and it wasn’t safe to get your mail out of your mailbox,  much less bike ride or walk to  a friend’s house.   We had neighbors on one side of our yard, but an empty, wooded lot on the other side.

There was no communal place to play.  No sidewalks.   If my kids wanted to see friends, I arranged a play date and drove them back and forth.

When I wanted to  take a walk, I drove into town, unloaded the stroller, walked my son down Main Street and back, climbed back  into the minivan to drive home.

Now, though, we’re slipping into something new: Neighborhood life.

Friendly dogs pop over to  our house for random visits and we say hello to “Abby” the red-haired retriever and “Bruno” the little black and white fellow with the stubby tail from next door.

My daughter rides her bike for the first time pretty much ever and we take walks and wave to  people we know and even those we  don’t.

We call out to others about the beautiful weather when a summer’s evening feels unusually cool and we are blessed with extra tomatoes out of the abundance of a backyard garden nearby.

I feel held accountable to keep up with the garden weeds, even in the heat of July, even when I’m busy, even after a summer rain shower that makes everything grow like a jungle overnight.   No more calling it quits in my yard the first time the temperature hits 90 degrees.

After a week or so in our new house, my husband actually had to explain some neighborhood-life  tips to our kids.

  1.  You don’t have  to  ring your own doorbell when you get home from being outside.  This is your own house . You can just come on in.
  2. Don’t just invite yourself over for dinner at a friend’s.  If they are ready to eat dinner, come on home.

We’re all learning and adjusting a bit.

Maybe learning to  live in a neighborhood is a lesson for all of us.

Maybe it doesn’t come naturally, this staying close, being held accountable,  giving and taking and sharing and caring.

After all,  even Jesus’s followers didn’t always know what to  do.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”


But, who is my neighbor anyway and do I really have to love ‘that guy’?

The disciples surely had some growing to do in the neighborhood-life department, too.  They weren’t alike and perhaps didn’t have that much in common outside of Jesus.

They were fishermen and a tax collector, a zealot, and Nathaniel sounds to me like a well-educated skeptic.

Some were related by blood, some were friends, others were outsiders.

And, as people in close  proximity are wont to do, they fought over superiority and responsibilities and decisions.

What drew them together wasn’t their “sameness.”  It was  simply going where Jesus was going, following where Jesus led them,  working together as a team to  minister as Jesus sent them out.

They were fellow-travelers and “bunk mates.”  Surely, they had to learn to be each other’s neighbor along the way.

In the Old Testament, Ruth declared her never-ending,  stick-to-it loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi like this:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God (Ruth 1:16 ESV).

This is what she promised :  “I’ll go with you.”

There can’t be many sentences in this life more powerful than that. 

Not just “I’ll pray for you” or “I hope you have a nice trip” or even “I’ll watch your stuff until you get back.”

Not that.  This:  I’ll pack my bags and put on my walking shoes and I will  go with you.  

The disciples traveled together.

Ruth and Naomi traveled  together.

Who is  traveling with you?

Stacey Thacker writes,

The presence of a friend can encourage us to not turn back in grief, but to look forward with hope (Fresh Out of Amazing). 

We all need a little  whisper  of hope today and we all know someone who needs us to whisper hope to them.

None of us can traipse along as fellow-travelers with every single person we meet.  We’d be drained and exhausted.

But we can’t  set off all by our lonesome selves  either.

Instead, God draws us to the right people and we choose to follow His lead.  We whisper the words to them….or maybe they whisper to us:  “I’ll go with you.  We can be neighbors.”

When you’re tired of asking everything else, ask Who

Psalm 86-15

My daughters wrestle with my son. They tickle him and bounce him down on the bed.  They invent games, make-up reasons to chase him.

He, in turn, grabs the light sabers and initiates a duel.

They squeal through the house.

But then….

Mom calls the girls to homework time, or reading time, or piano time, or some such other responsible nonsense.

My son’s answer to the abandonment by his favorite playmates?

Scream across the house at the top of his lungs:



Climb all over them on the piano bench.  Pull at their pencil-holding arm while they try to fill in the homework worksheet.  Yank them up out of the sofa and demand that they chase him again.



These are the nicknames my son has bestowed on my girls.  Toria (Victoria), Wauren (Lauren), and Tat-Tat (Catherine).

He calls for them all day long.  He summons them for playtime through the afternoon and evening.  He cries for them when they climb onto the bus and when they head off to bed for the night.

Names matter to this two-year-old right now.  He’s learning to get attention (more like demand it.)

And these are the names that matter most: His family.  He knows his Mom and Dad.  He knows these three sisters who adore him.  And he points to his own chest and names himself:  “An-dew.”

I love in the book of Ruth how Naomi asks her daughter-in-law about the first day of gleaning in the fields.

Ruth probably came home tired after the day of working.  Yet, her arms were full of her day’s pickings.  She must have been rejoicing, thankful, excited!

After all, gleaning could be risky for a young woman on her own.  Who knows where you could end up: a field with a dishonest farmer or, even worse, one with a lusty field hand.

But Ruth returns home safe and returns home with abundance.

So, Naomi asks, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked?” (Ruth 2:19 ESV).

Ruth knows the real answer isn’t about the where.  She doesn’t launch into geographical descriptions or give the name of the farm.

Instead of answering Where, Ruth tells Who: “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz” (Ruth 2:19 ESV).

Kelly Minter writes:

“Isn’t the who always so much more significant than the endless how’s, what’s and why’s we endless fret over? I tend to toil over details, trying to figure out how things are going to work out, where help is going to come from.  It is then that I am most in need of Jesus…”(Ruth).

My son knows what matters most right now is his “Who.”

Ruth knew that her “Who” mattered far more than the “Where.”

Surely we should know the same.

I fail at this so often.

My kids had to ride the bus home from school, something they hadn’t done in four years.  I’ve been picking them up all this time.

So, I fretted over that change in the routine all that day.  I prayed about it and asked others to pray about it.  I watched the clock and distracted myself with activity, anything to keep my mind off what might happen if things went wrong.

I forgot my Who.

My faithful God, the God who loves me and loves my children more than I ever could, can care for them.  I need to trust Him to hold them in His own hands and stop freaking out over the tiniest details as if I’m the one who is really in charge here.

Maybe this is the hardest thing, for a mom to entrust her babies to God.

I want to hover, want to protect, want to plan out every detail and avoid every hurt or disappointment.  I want to combat every bully and avoid every bad influence.  I want to control the conversations on the playground and every detail of their day.

But I need to trust my Who.

I trust in His faithfulness:

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15 ESV).

We can worry over countless details every day.

We can sink under the incessant pounding waves of anxiety:

Where are you going to find safety and provision?

How is this all going to work out?

When will this trial be over?

What am I going to do about this?

Or, we can erase all of the excess and get down to the essential:  Whom do I trust?

Who is my God?

He is faithful.  He is gracious and compassionate.  He is able, strong and mighty and oh so merciful.  He is our Provider and our Shepherd.  He is Love.

He is our perfect Father.

We can rest in Him.


Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King


The Early Riser Who Isn’t a Morning Person

psalm 30-5My son is an early riser who really isn’t a morning person.

That means most days, he wakes up at the first hint of light and then grumps about it for the next hour.

Most of my kids have gone through this phase of waking mom up too early.  Over time and with training, most of them grew out of it.

Although, I do have one daughter who is simply a morning person.  She can bounce out of bed far too early and jump all over the house cheerfully with a running monologue about everything she wants to do that day—all while I’m laying back down on the couch to avoid fully waking up.

She’s always been like that.

Not my son.

The other day, it was the worst ever.  He woke up.  He woke me up.

Then, he yelled about everything he asked for.  Cereal.  Drink.  Blanket.  Curious George, Mickey Mouse or Thomas the Tank Engine.

He asked.  I gave.  He screamed.

Finally, I lifted that tiny bundle of morning-angst right up, set him into his crib and told him we needed a restart.  We’d try again in a few minutes.

Sure enough, about five minutes later, I once again greeted his sweet face with a “good morning” and a fresh start.

Bless his heart, that boy had started the day determined to be in a funk.  But a ‘restart’ button on the morning was what he really needed.

Maybe we do, too, sometimes.

Our emotions, they can overwhelm and overpower us.

And, while God created us with these feelings to be indicators of how we’re doing as we navigate the big wide world of life, He didn’t mean for those feelings to trample us underfoot.

Still, there are days that instead of bossing our feelings around, we feed those little monsters until they’re towering beasts.

We feel sadness, and we feed the sadness, giving into melancholy, reading sadness, listening to sadness, watching sadness, talking about sadness.

We feel anger, so we feed the anger.  We ‘vent’ and rage, we call our friends and get riled up all over again, we make speeches and post on Facebook.

In her book Wherever the River Runs, Kelly Minter writes:

“A high school student recently told me that she actually enjoys being sad, writing in her diary for hours about how she and her boyfriend continually break up and get back together.  She was like a melancholy teenage moth admitting her attraction to the sparkly light of drama.  I looked at her and as lovingly as possible said, ‘You’ll get over that’”

I remember those days.  Somehow when you’re a teenager, melancholy feels good because that’s when you know you write the best poetry.

But here we are all grown up and mature and I haven’t always truthfully gotten over that.

Some days, I let my feelings run crazy and pull me right along with them.

In the book of Ruth, we meet a woman named Naomi who endured great tragedy.  If anyone had the right to feel despair or sadness or deep grief, it’s her after losing her husband and two sons while living in a foreign land.

Yet, Naomi had a choice:  Give In or Find New Strength.

After she trekked back home to Bethlehem, she made a speech to her old friends:

“Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:20-21 ESV). 

Her sorrow engulfed her whole identity.  She couldn’t be Naomi any more.  Now, she was Mara–“bitter.”

She was giving in.

She spills out the intensity of how it feels like God has abandoned you—The Almighty…The Lord…has done this to me, has dealt bitterly with me, has brought me back empty, has testified against me, has brought calamity upon me.

Oh, how so many of us have felt this also, that somehow–even though we know it isn’t true–it feels as though God has abandoned us or, even worse, set Himself against us.

In her Bible study, Ruth, Kelly Minter writes:

“Although there will be weeping in this life, the direction in which we weep is what truly matters” and  “What we do while we’re weeping makes the difference” (p. 22 and p. 45).

She calls it “weeping forward.”

It’s not staying stuck.  It’s not allowing grief to subsume us.

It’s choosing to get up each new day and confess all that sorrow to God, not faking or pretending everything’s great, but choosing this:  Choosing to overcome.

Choosing fresh starts and new mercies.

Choosing to keep going.

Choosing, if we have to, to weep forward.


Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King