On Monday, my little people slept for a long stretch of time and I had 4 hours to type out a little submission for an organization called Cause-Pub’lishing. They are going to publish a book of stories, written by folks just like me and you, sell the books on Amazon, and give 50% of the profit to Blood: Water Mission!
So anyway, I submitted a story and shared it on Facebook and Twitter yesterday. Today, I am sharing it with you guys! If you read it and find yourself inspired to get your hiney off your couch and go love your neighbor, I’d love for you to go and vote for my story. Please. The editors will choose to publish stories based on their own opinions…and the number of votes I receive. All you have to do is click here, and check the Orange thumbs up! (Just to let you know, if you vote, you will be asked for your FB or Twitter contact info. They ask for it to allow you to only vote once and I think to prevent spam voting. If you decline, you can’t vote! Just thought you should know- 23 people asked me about this yesterday. Smile.)
I thank you from the bottom of my little gnarly heart!
And here it is!
When Your People and Your Place Happen To Be Your Hometown
She stands next to the ironing board, iron in hand, my husband’s button down in the other and I watch her as she flings the iron back and forth in the air, steam rising from the heat of the water.
She’s talking a blue streak and she’s making no good sense, when she says, “I’m bipolar, you know. You care if I go smoke one on your porch?”
“Sure. Go ahead,” I say, hoping the cigarette will calm her down. I watch as she digs into her bag and I can’t help but think that God made a mistake in sending me here.
I’d rather give her a twenty and do the ironing myself than spend the afternoon giving her a job.
I can’t help this girl and frankly, I don’t want to.
The kids are on the porch swing waiting for us when we pull into the drive. All three of them, shoeless, coatless, and covered in grime.
They scratch their heads because the lice won’t leave them alone and I scratch my own head in response to the thought of lice.
I park the car and watch as my small tribe tumbles out to welcome their friends.
I inwardly groan because I’m tired and I’m worn and my heart is too small to care for three more kids. Especially kids with lice.
I got nothing, Lord. Nothing
I step over bits of glass and beer cans and make my way to the front door, silently praying that no one is home.
A stench permeates the air surrounding the door and I realize that there really is no front door. It is simply a door frame covered in scraps of fabric, each scrap covering a square where a piece of glass should have been.
I knock on the side of the house, next to the door, and I mentally prepare myself for a face to appear.
“Hello. I live just a few doors down and I wanted to bless you with a loaf of bread because Jesus is the bread of life. Is there a specific way that I can ask Jesus to bless you this week?”
I run the words over and over again in my head, and relief washes over me when no one comes to the door.
I leave the loaf of bread on the porch and I escape the moment.
And all I can think about is how this family needs more than a loaf of bread.
And I don’t have more.
It’s early evening when I find a minute to myself. The sunlight lingers over the yard as I watch the children play ball on the lawn.
My legs dangle from the porch swing and I absentmindedly read a paperback. My glass of wine warms in my hand.
“Hey. Is the preacher home?” I hear him before I see him and I’m startled at the voice so close by.
I look up in time to see him stride across the road. He’s dressed like he’s been at the restaurant, his white jacket smudged with grease. I smell seafood as he comes closer.
“Hey Dennis. No, he’s not home yet. He’s watering the grass at the warehouse. I’ll tell him you stopped by, though.” I pause, waiting for him to wave and move on to wherever he is headed.
He just stands there, looking at me, like he has nowhere to go.
“So how’s Jade?” I ask. “Have you seen her lately? Do you still get supervised visits?”
He sits on the edge of the porch and I shift on the swing, knowing I have just given him a reason to stay.
I exhale and I silently pray, “Help me Jesus.”
Three years have now passed since God gave us a people and a place.
We’ve only lived here, in this place, for 19 short months.
And I’ve only recently begun to open my heart up to these people.
We live in Small Town, North Carolina, smack dab between the railroad tracks and tobacco fields…
A place where racial tension runs deep and wide,
A place where the have-nots far outnumber the haves,
A place where gangs clamor for territory and drugs run rampant,
A place where farmers still farm and families still live on family homesteads,
And a place where most everyone goes to church and where few really seem to know Christ.
This place is my hometown, the very place that made me.
I’ve spent half of my life living on the outskirts of this city, sitting under a steeple, avoiding the very people I now call neighbors.
Most days, I find that I still try to avoid the ragamuffins around the corner…until I remember that I am one of them.
And on those days, those days when I roll out of bed and find myself standing neck deep in grace, I make Koolaid and serve cookies to those filthy kids on my front porch.
I open wide my home and my hands…