Tuesday, July 26, 2016

To Love

His sister dropped him off with those two bags filled with his dirty clothes right outside the abandoned house beside us.

I caught a glimpse of his face, just before I turned back inside the house,

just before I cleaned out the rest of the clothes from the washing machine.

He had called Tony and asked if he could do his laundry at Madison House because we were all leaving for camp in the morning, but when the washing machine here in our home is large, and there was already crazy chaos happening, why not just do his laundry here?

He said yes in his quiet way.

We've almost been at Madison House 4 years. Not long, I know, but long enough to have memories that are embedded deep - long enough to know that first impressions are rarely correct.

He scared me, in that first year, and I'm not sure why anymore. I just know at some point, it changed. At some point, he began yelling my name across the street and waving as I would walk by with my little ones up the front steps. At some point the guard came down a little.

So when he walked in our front door and filled up the washing machine with his things, it didn't feel odd to have him in the house. I know it probably seemed a little odd for him, but he is loved by the people who live here.

Tony and I, we slipped out for a quick dinner and while we were gone, he must have slipped out too, promising to be back to finish up the wash.

Only we got home first, and I still had laundry to finish while his last load spun 'round and 'round in the dryer.

He kept telling me that he could do his own laundry, switch the loads and put it away - but he wasn't here and I stood in my laundry room completely unsure what to do. Not wanting to do the wrong thing, or offend in any way.

There's a sign just above the washing machine that a friend made for me in Canada that traveled with us here and that just keeps getting hung back up wherever I find myself washing clothes - a reminder of what I'm actually doing when I'm bent over those tubs and filling with soap or changing loads...I'm not sure if he saw it, but the words, "Blessing Room" stop me each time I take the time to read them and so that is why I did what I did.

Because folding his clothes was no different than folding the clothes of my own children - praying over him as the stacks grew taller was just as natural as praying over the piles for each of my four. One doesn't have to bear the title of "son" to be loved like one. Loving others takes place in the mundane and quiet moments - and sometimes actions are the only way to show the truth of it.

I had to run home the next morning before we headed out of town and away from wifi for the week to rescue a blanket a certain 3 year old had forgotten, and as I jumped out of my car the first yellow bus drove by and his face looking out at me from near the back windows beamed with a joy I rarely see.

And I have to ask myself why I am so often afraid to be bold enough to love? A woman who sits regularly under the shade of a tree across the street wanders by our front gate tonight while I sit on the porch reading and as she gets to the end of our property line, she begins to jerk around erratically. By the time she crosses the street, she is having a full on conversation with the air and the man in the blue house sits calmly and watches with his cowboy hat pulled low while he brushes his dog. When she double-backs 20 minutes later, she is calmer, her walking smoother and I keep rocking in my chair.

And I think, "Water. Why didn't I offer her water?" If I am to love like Jesus, offering water should be a natural thing.

I don't even know how to pray.

Neighbourhood kids leave our yard half an hour later and as we are cleaning up the last of the mess, Olivia whispers to Tony and I, "I think the lady in that car is dead".

Tony's eyes meet mine and he quietly walks out the gate towards the Suzuki that's been parked by our house for the last 2 days. Windows are rolled down, and that's when I see her face, mouth open, eyes closed.

"She's breathing", Tony calls to me and as everyone heads to the door he leans close and says, "I think you should give her some water".

And that fear settles in as I walk to the end of the kitchen and pull down that mason jar and fill it with water, as I reach for the biscuits Liv had made for dinner...the ones that were in the shape of a heart.

And Tony and I, we go to the passenger window and 3 minutes feel like an eternity when you are trying to wake someone up you don't know and as she's jolting awake, she's trying to convince us she's fine, even though we all know she isn't.

But she takes the water. And she takes the bread baked into a heart.

And as I mopped up the water spilled on the kitchen floor later, I *know* that could have been me. It could have been me just as easily strung out and asleep in a car with the windows duct tapped together, I know the wickedness of my heart and where I could have followed it to.

Moving down to 4th Street was nothing heroic or grand on our part - as Tony said this past week at camp, "There's no good or bad parts of town - they are all bad apart from Christ. Our sinfulness is just expressed differently in different ways and places".

My sinfulness is exposed more here than maybe anywhere else - but the beauty of Christ's grace is that He allows me to see it so much faster and He gives me opportunities to try again in ways that I can easily recognize.

I picked raspberries in the garden of a dear friend while she was out of town at the beginning of the month and at first, I found it hard to know where to begin. It wasn't until a cat brushed against my legs and I looked down that I found the heaviest and sweetest fruit was hidden under the leaves and branches near the bottom.

And it's true here...and there...bending low in service, worship, and love - it can be difficult - it can be hard and hurt deeply, but in the quiet, in the Shadow of the Almighty, we can find the sweetest Peace and Joy.