Monday, November 17, 2008

Marital Moments Issue 13 - Love Your Neighbor

I dedicate this post to my amazing husband who inspires me in so many ways to be better than I am...

When we moved to VA a little over four years ago, it was culture shock for us coming from the West Coast. We were used to "outdoor" kind of people and in truth, we are "outdoor" kind of folks. What surprised us the most was how our neighbors came and went without so much as making eye contact or nodding to each other. They came home, drove into their garage. The "drawbridge" of their castle closed, and they were no more until dawn the following day. Now, I know that all of VA is not this way. But where we live, most individuals are commuting to Washington, D.C. (at least an hr one way) daily for work. And they are TIRED when they get home. All of that to say, it has taken A LOT of time, energy, and sometimes work to get to know those we live by.

My husband noticed that our next door neighbors were not mowing their lawn. Knowing that our HOA (Home Owners Association) is very active when it comes to infractions, he was sure that they were getting letters about leaving their lawn un-mowed. So he asked the wife one day while he was out mowing if she would mind if he mowed their lawn. They have some physical limitations and my husband had decided that with his driving lawn mower it wouldn't be difficult for him to mow their lawn now and then. She told him it was alright with them if he mowed.

So he began to mow their lawn (front and back) on the days that he mowed ours. After the first summer, they had not said anything to him - no "thank you's" or kind words about him taking the time to do it...nothing. I was a little irritated that he was going out of his way to help them and they weren't even thankful. My husband was slightly bothered, but told me that he had decided he was doing it as unto the Lord and not unto men. So he continued. Year after year to mow their lawn. Then he began to trim their front tree. Asked if he could remove the stump of a dead tree in their lawn and then removed it. He put fresh wood chips around the base of the tree in their front yard when we re-mulched our yard...all the time with their permission, but not really any "thanks." Gradually, however, they began to wave. Then they waved and smiled. Then they began to stop and say, "Hello." Last summer, they began to actually walk over to our driveway and talk for small lengths of time...and they said, "Thank you" to my husband for mowing, taking care of the stump, trimming the tree and the mulch. I was amazed.

At Christmas last year, the kids and I made cookies and I had them go to several of the neighbors houses. They would ring the doorbell and sing, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas!" hand the neighbors the cookies and tell them "Merry Christmas!" They had a blast doing it. Shortly after they had given our neighbors the cookies, our doorbell rang. There on the doorstep was our next door neighbors bearing gifts for every person in our family. They had bought special Christmas candy for the kids and chocolates for us and they had taken a photo of our house at night with the Christmas Lights on and had framed it for us. We invited them in and we chatted for almost a half an hour. They told us that we would never know how much it had meant to them that we would care enough to give of ourselves for them. They hold any hint of religion at arms length, but I can tell that my husband is making an impact through his actions.

This spring, when they were heading out of town and had asked us to keep an eye on their house for them, the kids and I asked my husband if we could plant some flowers and bushes in their flower bed (at the front of their house - but had nothing but weeds in it for years.) He had just had the same idea. He worked hard to dig up the hard ground, place new soil down and each of the kids planted some flowers and my husband planted the flowering bushes. They were thrilled when they came home. We now have neighbors and friends...because my husband was willing to serve as unto the Lord and not unto has impacted our marriage and our family for me (for all of us-children included) to see him lead in this way. There were times when I wanted to tell him to just quit...his time was worth more...but I am so glad that the Lord allowed me to be silent (for the most part...) and support him while he served. I am still praying for them to come to know Christ, but even if we don't reap what my husband has so generously sewn, I know that he has made an impact. I am blessed indeed...

I'd love to hear how your spouse has inspired you to be a better person! No spouse is perfect, but I believe most have at least one thing that can be inspiring...oh, and make sure to tell them how they have inspired you!

Many Blessings!


Stacey @ The Blessed Nest said...

What a great story on how to love your neighbor! And on obeying God! I'm sure your children will one day be good neighbors as well, after seeing this example modeled by your family :)


Stacey @ The Blessed Nest said...

Yes, of course add me to your blog list :)! Thanks!!


sassy stephanie said...

Great story!

THanks so much for visiting me and leaving such kind words. I appreciate it!

sassy stephanie said...

Oh, and I love the idea of taking a pic of the house at night. Very cool!

Vickie said...

Hi, I am from SITS. You were above me in roll call.

Wow, what a wonderful story about neighbors I am amazed when I hear stories of good people and good actions. They are still out there in the cities.

My husband is good with our kids. He misses them so much when he is at work. He is also the neighborly one, while I, unfortunately, close our castle bridge when I come home.

Jimmy Parker said...

What an inspiration this story is! And how humbling, especially when I consider my actions (translation: inactions) toward my neighbors. You two are such a powerful witness for the love of God. The leadership you provide to those around you—both physically and “virtually” via this blog—is tremendous. Thank you for your faithfulness in serving the Lord and sowing such good seed wherever you can.

Kathryn said...

Shanda, what a wonderful example of living as Christ, serving in love as His hands and feet, and working unto the Lord rather than for man.

Your husband's faithfulness in serving them, even in the initial absence of gratitude, reminds me of Jesus' words in two Scriptures:

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?" (Matthew 5:46)

"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High ..." (Luke 6:35)

And all glory to God that your husband's kindness (and the kindness of you and your children) has begun to warm their hearts!