New city, new start

February 1, 2016 -- Living City

New city, new start
By Erin Kelley

Because my husband is in the army, our family has moved quite a bit. We’re happy that he can serve in this way and have met many wonderful friends that we are able to keep in touch with. Yet with every move the process of meeting neighbors and making new friends starts again.

So when we recently moved across states for my husband’s new post, there was that same mix of joy and pain. At first we were all really excited, but then the reality sank in that we were far from the neighbors and friends we had made during our almost four years in Virginia. In various moments, there were lots of tears.

One day, my 12-year-old daughter Gracie was really discouraged that no one in our neighborhood had stopped by to say hello or to welcome us yet. I encouraged her to be patient, and right away I stopped, sat down beside her in our dining room and said, “Well, let’s ask God to bring someone to our home to welcome us.” So we did. We prayed that in his time and when we were ready, God would bring the right person to say hello. It was a moment to share with my daughter my trust in God and that we can welcome him into every situation we live.

The next day, my husband Matt and I were out shopping for items for our new house, and I got a phone call from Gracie. First she apologized that she had opened the door to strangers while we were gone, but then she proceeded to explain that she only did so because they had cookies and came to welcome us to our new home. She was so happy and more convinced of God’s love for her and our family than ever before. We both giggled with excitement and commented on God’s faithfulness to us even in the small things! Jesus does say, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am  there among them” (Mt 18:20).

Feeling God’s love inspired Gracie and me that evening to be the first to love our other neighbors as well. We baked some cookies to take around to those we had not met yet. That baking really lifted Gracie’s spirits. (Mine too!)

The following evening, our whole family went door-to-door around the neighborhood to bring the cookies, and we were truly humbled. Two of the visits left me completely changed. At one home, we were invited in right away. The lady was so welcoming and even invited Gracie to an event with her daughter later that week! The house was lit up and the atmosphere was joyful. We eventually learned that her husband would not be home with them at Christmas as he is a retired Navy man and would be off shore for the holiday. He had just left. Despite his absence, she was incredibly thoughtful and upbeat.

The second home was quiet and dark. When the door finally opened, a man answered who was kind but looked exhausted, and he was immediately apologetic for his messy house. His wife slowly got up off the couch and came over carrying a child in her arms. His head was bald, his body the size of our seven-year-old son Jack’s, his face was pale, and he was sleeping. Cancer. I couldn’t shake these two very different experiences we had just had. Both were special and difficult encounters with Christ.

It was a beautiful opportunity to remind our children that while we are sad that we have just moved to a new place, and we are waiting to make new friends, we have to remember that there may be a very good reason why people haven’t come over to say hello yet. We went to be a blessing to others, and instead the blessings we received were far greater than any plate full of cookies.