Sunday, June 4, 2023

Where There Are No Sidewalks: God's Unexpected Good Gifts

As a first time house buyer, I wanted a home where I could step outside my front door and walk around my neighborhood. I envisioned sidewalks and light poles lining the road, streets with white paint lines marking their boundaries, and the scent of lilac drifting through the air as people strolled past my yard. I dreamed about walking our imaginary family dog around the neighborhood, waving to a neighbor mowing her grass.

My family and I were moving halfway across the country from the Midwest out West for my husband’s new job. We were relying on our real estate agent to help us navigate the home market in a new place from a distance. My husband and I made one joint visit to house shop together that spring, but when the first home we attempted to buy didn’t pan out, we were left with two choices: wait or house shop virtually. Neither option was great.

With two elementary-aged boys, including one son who didn’t handle change well, postponing buying a house seemed less than ideal. But trying to make one of the biggest decisions of our lives—buying our first home—through a computer screen seemed unwise.

Our real estate agent mentioned a home that popped up on the market that she felt would be a great fit for our family, but it wouldn’t last long.

“Is the neighborhood walkable?” I inquired. This was a sticking point for me. Since we were moving from the city to a town, I didn’t want to land somewhere we could only drive to and from.

“Yes,” the real estate slowly answered. I could almost see her head nodding as she processed my question.

As my husband and I poured over the online photos of the home, read descriptions, and then did a live virtual tour via our real estate agent’s phone, excitement stirred within us. This home was checking almost everything off our list. Everything that is except for one thing—it wasn’t in town. It was close to town, but not in town. But I kept returning to what the real estate agent had told me: this was a walkable neighborhood. I could handle not being in town as long as I could be mobile in my community.

But how? I wondered. How could this country-feeling home be in a walkable neighborhood?

We decided to place a bid on the home—it seemed too good to pass up. We knew this home would receive multiple bids, but figured if we won, I could fly out to see the home before the end of the inspection period.

I kept glancing at my phone, biting my lip. When would the agent let us know the outcome of the bids? Being two time zones ahead of Pacific time wasn’t working in my favor today. Lord, if this is the right home for our family, please let us get this home. If not, please guide us to the right home.

When my phone lit up with an incoming call and my real estate agent’s name popped up on the screen, I took a deep breath.

“Congratulations!” my real estate proclaimed. “Your bid won!”

A smile erupted across my face. I exhaled the breath I had been holding and my shoulders relaxed. Now I needed to figure out a time to see this home in-person.

Flying across the country over the course of the night wasn’t my first choice, but we were on a time crunch with my husband’s work schedule. I would make a whirlwind 48-hour trip to see this house then hightail it back. My prayer to the Lord for this visit was simple: Lord, please help me know if this isn’t a wise choice for our family.

Exhausted from poor sleep from a red-eye flight and feeling slightly nauseous from the curvy countryside road, I pulled my rental car into the driveway of the home I had only seen through a screen. My hand trembled from too much caffeine as I clicked the car into park. As I walked the grounds and explored indoors, I knew this home was indeed as good as we had hoped.

But when I pulled out of the driveway to head back to the airport, one thing was clearly missing from this neighborhood: sidewalks and street lamps. The road leading to this home was unmarked, not a line of paint touched its black top.

I stopped to grab a bite to eat and to give a brief report to my husband.

“Well, what did you think?” he asked.

“It’s great,” I said. “But I don’t think it’s walkable.”

“But do you like the home?” he asked.

“Yes, it seems even better in-person,” I said.

I sighed. Maybe I couldn’t have it all. We already weren’t going to be in town limits. Sure the real estate agent said it was a walkable community, but maybe she meant I could do so if I wanted. I didn’t see a soul out for a stroll. Dreams of neighborhood walks with our future dog felt out of reach.

As I mulled this over during my two-hour drive to the airport, I wondered if I needed to readjust my expectations. This house would be a great fit for our family. While I was disappointed it wouldn’t be a place for neighborhood walks, maybe we would need to be more intentional about local area hiking. This home seemed like a wise choice for our family.

Months later when my family and I rolled up in our car on move-in day, I was excited to call this beautiful home ours. As I looked out our kitchen bay window that first summer morning, I was startled by what I saw: people walking. Not just one or two, but multiple people taking a morning stroll. Some held leashes for their dogs. Others talked together as they enjoyed the cooler morning weather. Even an occasional jogger.

I put my coffee mug onto the island counter—and stared. “It can’t be,” I muttered. My heart did a cartwheel. The corners of my mouth turned up. My real estate agent was right after all.

Over the coming months, I learned this was a neighborhood without sidewalks, painted road lines, and street lamps, but one that people walked regularly. Some biked. One even skateboarded. But this much was true: cars expected to encounter pedestrians on the road at all times of day.

What I envisioned wasn’t quite right, but what I received was far better. We learned all the neighborhood dogs’ names. We met neighbors out for a stroll who stopped to welcome us and greet our labradoodle puppy. We learned the neighborhood pony’s name and heard him whinny when we failed to bring him a carrot or apple. On cold winter mornings, the scent of wood smoke wafts through the neighborhood.

During a family walk with our puppy one afternoon, a gray-haired man invited our boys into his yard to meet his flock of goats, llamas, and chickens. Noticing the joy dancing in their blue eyes, the man told the boys to come back another day to learn how to feed and care for the animals. My boys were thrilled.

We didn’t need sidewalks. We didn’t need lines to keep cars on the road. We didn’t need street lights. We belonged to a neighborhood that turned my ideas upside down, but was an answer to prayer. Through a reliable real estate agent, God led us to a walkable community—something that mattered to me. Our heavenly Father indeed knows how to give His children good gifts. And I was never so happy to be wrong.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

May 28 is International Day for the Unreached, but let’s remember: Missions isn’t an add-on

Zarmina leaned forward, her white head covering slipping off her gray hair. She looked at the faces of her Western guests. Perhaps these women would know why she kept having the same dream for years. A man in shining, white clothing beckoned her to come.

She tugged the scarf back over her head. Her brown eyes darted between the two ladies seated on her floor cushions. No woman in the Central Asian community could make sense of her recurring dream. She took a deep breath and shared this odd dream with these first-time tea visitors from another country.

And to her surprise, these foreigners knew exactly what this vision meant.

Around the globe, 42.5 percent of the world is considered unreached with the gospel. This means from the time one is born until the day that person dies, one doesn’t have a chance to hear who Jesus truly is—or know a Christian to ask questions.

And to complicate the matter, the Church only gives 0.01 percent to ensure the good news reaches those who don’t have access.

Read the full article on the Denison Forum.