There are two young, elementary school aged girls that moved in across the street about a month ago. Their mom kicks butt doing a million things for her family, driving from here (nearly Woodbury), to the U of MN, to Saint Loius Park and to Wayzata almost daily. Talk about a DAY. Her girls are just the sweetest! They love to come over and spend some time in our garden and try new foods. We gave them a jar of our pickles and OOOh they loved them some pickles!
Since school started I hadn't seen the girls as much, and I was starting to miss them. Wouldn't you know it they showed up at our house today, with a friend, wanting to see our chickens and check on our cucumbers and of course, ask for more pickles! We couldn't spend a lot of time with them because the girls had to get ready for bed, but it sure was nice to see them again. I got lots of hugs and laughs.
About half an hour after we sent them on their way back home with some cucumbers I hear a voice yelling for me….. FROM the street!!
"SOOPHIIAA. SOOOPPPHHHIIIAAAAAAA. SSSoooOOOoPPPHHHIIIAAAAaaAAAaaA."
OOOH no, no, no, NO. I am NOT about to go answer someone who is howling for me from the street, I though to myself
"girl, get your butt up here if you wanna talk to me!".
I started practicing in my head how I was going to gently but firmly have the conversation about how to get my attention - and that yelling my name from the street is not the proper way..come up and knock for me. The yelling stopped and about 30 seconds later I heard the soft patter of a timid elementary school girl knocking at my door. So I went to answer, speech recited and ready…but when I opened the door it was not at all who I expected. It was not one of the neighbor girls, instead it was their friend from down the street, and she looked like she's about to burst out in tears.
She first asked me if I have the girls phone number, I don't.
I ask her why, and she says that she forgot her glasses and can't go home without them. She looks really scared, so I invite her to sit down with me for a minute.
We talk about what happened, how losing things is an easy mistake (umm…if you know me, you know I am the PERFECT person to be talking to about mis-placed things). She tells me her mom is going to be really mad because she just got the glasses today. I remind her again that it's so easy to forget things, and they aren't lost forever. I try to coach her through how she could break it to her mom, and just try to free her of the guilt and lie that she is irresponsible because she did an easy thing and forgot something…but she is very scared still. I feel a little lost for words, and then I remember something that happened to me when I was 6 or 7, that changed my life.
My mom had just come back from a trip to Florida with her boyfriend at the time. She brought me home this beautiful mini-mouse ring that I was just OBSESSED with. She said she spent A LOT of money on it, so I could only wear it around the house, but of course I was just going to die if I didn't wear it everywhere I went. So through my convincing near-death tantrums I convinced her to let me wear it to school.
At recess, I loved to do the monkey bars, and the ring was really getting in my way! It was cutting into my fingers so logically, I took it off and put it in my pocket. Well, two minutes later I was swinging upside down on the monkey bars, two minutes after that I was running all around the playground and at the end of recess, I went to get the ring out of my pocket and just about died again when it wasn't there.
I started freaking out. Frantically I just dropped to my knees in panic and started digging. Then I realized our whole playground was covered in PEBBLES. Then I realized that kids had been running around all over for the past 25 minutes kicking the pebbles around everywhere, so it probably wasn't even where it dropped - wherever that was! I realized I started recess at the monkey bars and then ran around too, so it could be anywhere! This little ring was SOMEWHERE in the midst of millions of small grey pebbles.
I just started crying. And digging. And sobbing, and crying and digging. I was sad I lost the ring, but I feared even more how my mom was going to react when I had to tell her I lost it on the first day that I ever brought it to school. Goodness, I must have looked a mess because one of the teacher aids came over and asked me to take a deep breath with her and then asked what was wrong. I told her everything and just couldn't stop crying. Then she asked me something that changed my life.
She asked me if I believed in God. I did, so I nodded yes. Then she asked me if I'd like to pray with her. I said I didn't know how, so she asked me if she could pray for me. She said praying is just telling God how you're feeling, that you're sorry for any mistake that you might have made, and then asking for help. So she prayed for me like this, "God, Sophia is feeling really scared and sad that she lost her ring. She is really sorry that she lost it. Could you please help her find it?" Then I started asking God to help me "please, please help me find it God! Please, please help me!". Then I remembered that I went upside-down on the monkey bars so I ran over to the monkey bars and started digging.
And just when I thought I should give up, just when I was about to lose hope and give up on God and all of this nonsense..I found it!! I found that ring!
In that moment I couldn't believe God cared enough to help me find that ring in those millions of rocks. Maybe it wasn't the prayer that helped me, honestly if the teacher hadn't come over I wouldn't have had the courage to even keep looking, her mere encouragement helped me persist in looking and then find it. But I believe it was a miracle I found that ring that day, and I have looked back on that moment over and over in my faith walk and remembered that God DOES care about the small things in our lives. It has reminded me to press on in hard times, even when things much bigger than rings were at stake.
That's how faith works, if you put your faith in God in the small things, you build strength and are better able to have faith with the big things.
So today, when this little girl was at my doorstep, full of fear over having had fun with her friends and forgetting about her glasses, and when I was lost for words at what to say, a still small voice came to me and nudged me to pray with this girl. I get really uncomfortable asking people if I can pray for them because…well people have used it as a weapon before and it makes people uncomfortable. But kids seem different. I felt like I could ask her and she wouldn't think I was trying to convert her or condemn her or do anything weird to her. I just remembered the boldness of that teacher who helped me find that ring, how that impacted my life, and I saw so many parallels. It honestly was the best thing I could think to do in the situation, and was what felt natural for me. If I were in her shoes with no other logical ways of solving the problem on my own then I would pray. Why shouldn't I share that with her now? So, after mustering up a lot of courage I asked her.
"Do you go to church?"
… Immediately I almost regretted asking. I thought to myself'…"ugh, I don't really feel up for telling a child aalllll about God for the first time here, really? ugh!!! Goddddd, really???….Ok, I guess I could give an abridged version if I havee to…"
"Do you believe in God?"
To which she nodded a big and strong yes. This was a HUGE relief to me. WHEW. Dodged that one!
So I asked her if she wanted to pray about it, she said yes so we sat on my stoop and prayed. I made sure to emphasize how it's part of being human to make mistakes, and that it's ok because God loves us no matter how big or small they are. I emphasized how much he loves us, how he came to help us with our mistakes, that he wants to help us heal our mistakes and learn from them so that we don't hurt anymore…how he loves us no matter what….lots of that. I was really honest, and straight forward, and just said what was on my heart for her. I didn't really know how it would work out but, I believed that God cared about this situation just as much as he cared about my ring, and he WOULD show up, somehow.
After praying I asked how she felt and she said better. She still wasn't ready to go home yet, she was still a little scared so I told her I would sit with her as long as she needed, until she was feeling brave enough to go home.
We started talking about the dogs next door, and talking about maybe first mustering up some courage to go pet them. Just as she was about to get up to go, the neighbors came home! Her face lit up, she was so excited that the neighbors came home, now she could get her glasses and go home without getting in trouble. I said "hey! Prayer works! go get your glasses now"
She gave me a HUGE hug, said thank you and ran off.
It was a moment of light. Maybe it was just chance that they came home when they did, but if we hand't taken the time to pray she may not have been there when they arrived. It was beautiful.
Tonight was a gift for me, and it made me realize that I want to continue to just be present here, living with a mission. I don't need to be meeting people in prayer every day, that's not what I think it means to live missionally. God is in the small things, and God works through us. To me, that means you have to be there for people, in the small things, if you want to really love them. I believe that God is happy when we are loving towards one another, when we show up in peoples lives the way God shows up in ours. Its through these relationships that we come to know God, and so it is through relationships that others come to know God. Not through a prayer to 'save them' or get them 'converted'. It's not about being in the club or out of the club, or even having the right thing to say or knowing all the answers. It's about having a safe space to bring the small things, to know that they matter no matter how small. Having a space to feel safe to bring the small things opens us up to trust that maybe we can also bring the big things - and that means maybe we can bring our whole, true selves. And that - our Wholeness, our Trueness, our Real self is what I believe God really wants us to bring everywhere we go. I think that's why He seeks us so much, because he knows how beautiful we are when we are Whole, and He desperately wants us to be Whole.
I love where we live. It may not be the fanciest neighborhood or the closest to great shops and restaurants (although there are a few around here), but the encounters I have with people here just make this place feel so amazing to me. Today I had an encounter with a young girl from our neighborhood that affirmed to me that there's something special about being right where we are, right now.
Where I live, I am finding people who are open to being connected, open to sharing small things - and I am sharing too. It's this sharing, these relationships, that I love most about where I live. It's in this way I feel we are finally living that mission-loving our neighbors, living in solidarity in the small things. Not to 'convert people', but to really love them - because love is the real gift of God.