Front Yard Living

At the beginning of the summer, during our daily Quiet Rest Hour, the energy in our house changed. I looked up from my book and felt that it had gone from Quiet Rest “Quiet” to eerily and suspiciously “Quiet.” I closed my book and walked upstairs where I found my oldest daughter obediently and happily reading in her room. My three-year-old was not in her room or in the playroom – our two designated Quiet Rest spots.

I looked into our garage and, sure enough, found the door open and a tricycle missing. Barefoot, I walked out to the front, crossed the street, and headed toward the most likely of our neighbors. There I found my daughter and her friend playing sweetly in the driveway. I waved to our neighbor who told me that, when asked, my daughter confirmed I knew exactly where she was.

Welcome to our neighborhood. Of the eight houses in our cul-de-sac, seven know my kids and take an interest in our daily lives. Three have an open-door policy, meaning if I can’t find my kids, I’m fairly certain where to look. But really, I know exactly where my girls are: out in the street, biking, playing, imagining, building forts, and exploring with the neighborhood kids and grandkids.

This community didn’t happen overnight. When we moved into our house in the suburbs four years ago, it was December so we didn’t have much of an idea about our neighbors. We had a good feeling – right away, people stopped to introduce themselves and I often found our driveway and sidewalk miraculously shoveled after a snowstorm. As winter merged into spring, we found ourselves outside more and more often.

Garage doors stayed open, front porches were filled in with comfortable chairs and hanging plants, and I discovered we had moved into a neighborhood of front yard people.

I responded by moving our water table to the front yard, stocking our freezer with Otter Pops, and learning the value of shifting from the backyard to the front yard. Often, my inclination is to go out back, where I can read quietly in our hammock, where my preschooler can run through the sprinklers naked, and where we have a sweet haven from the busyness of life.

Our backyard still functions as that but it has become so much more. When we intentionally decided to shift to living out front, we invited our neighbors into our lives. We met the little girl across the street, who is nearly the same age as our oldest. We met the grandparents whose grandkids often bike with our girls. We sat on front lawns and learned the stresses and joys of each other’s lives.

There’s a cost to living out front. We’ve had to navigate boundaries and space when it comes to kids trooping in and out of our side gate. On stressful days, I just want to close the door and hunker down and that’s not always possible.

Choosing community can often be messy. And yet, I wouldn’t give up that intention for the world. Now, as our kids grow and our activities have changed, we’re not just hanging out in front as often. Already I feel pangs of nostalgia as our kids get busier. I’m thankful for the newborn down the street, knowing that front yard living will continue for a few years more.

I think back to that relatively simple act of moving the water table out front and marvel at all that unfolded from there. Even as summer comes to an end and we look toward more structured days, I think about small ways I can keep my focus on our neighbors – from bringing a book or my computer out front to wave as others walk by to date nights after bedtime on the front porch rather in the backyard, I want to continue the spirit of loving my neighbors well by being present in my neighborhood.

What is one small shift you can make to live in your front yard more often? Perhaps sidewalk chalk or bubbles in the front yard will help you meet new neighbors? I am amazed at the ways the simplest acts bring about community.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog: https://blog.mops.org/backyard-front-yard-living/

Finding Heaven in Spring Snow

“We were never made for heaven. Our bodies, formed of dust, were always intended for a life on earth. This world is our home. The great promise has always been not that we would go to live with God, but that God would come to make his home with us.”

Christie Purifoy

When I read these words in Seth Haines’ recent Tiny Letter, this idea resonated with me. I love this shift in thinking from going to heaven to bringing the reconciled kingdom of God to earth, to restoring the idea of perfection right here.

As we remember the Easter resurrection and the promise of a restored earth, I find myself seeing glimpses of this new earth – this idea of making our home here, in this creation more and more. As I intentionally look for it, I see God coming to make his home with us.

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Spot Bea…

Last week, Denver was hit with a huge blizzard. March is normally our snowiest month, giving us dense, wet snow that quickly melts. On Wednesday, it was clear that this snow was bigger. Daisy and Bea, who love to tramp around in the backyard on snowy days, stayed inside. We had tons of screen time, hot chocolate, and lounging. When the snow let up in the late afternoon, we made the long trek across the street for cookie baking with our neighbors. Bea got stuck in our driveway, so I plowed ahead, dropped Elle into our neighbor’s arms and went back for Bea.

At around 5:00, as people made it home from work, the sun peeped out and people headed outside to shovel. Shoveling spring snow isn’t my favorite – it’s heavy and slow going. But, it’s also rewarding – the sidewalk clears quickly and by the next day, the sun has dried the pavement. It’s also a time of community. Because it’s light out later, we gathered and shoveled and waved and were in the drifts together. One neighbor recently had surgery, so others gathered to shovel his drive.

After a day of being housebound, the reminder of community was so cool to watch. God seemed present in the snow shoveling, in the gathering and caring for neighbors, in the heavy spring snow that soaks into the soil.

It’s a small thing, shoveling snow with neighbors. But it’s a big thing, too, remembering that even wet spring snow is a glimpse of a restored earth.

How are you on the lookout for those small-but-big moments of finding community and restoration?