Saturday, April 25, 2009

On the go...or not.

The sounds of sirens wailing from an ambulance is not a strange sound in our neighborhood as we only live four blocks from the emergency entrance to a hospital. However, at the beginning of April the sounds of the sirens were loud enough to get every canine in the neighborhood to bark as paramedics scrambled out of a firetruck and rushed into our neighbors home.

Gary was being wheeled out of their home on a stretcher as his wife Carol was standing on the porch watching. I asked her what happened and she thought maybe he had a stroke, but wasn't sure. I offered to take her to the hospital, but she declined and thanked me saying she would be okay. The night before Gene and I left for Omaha I asked her how he was doing and she told me the test results revealed that he had spinal meningitis.

That was all before Gene's April 6th surgery and we got back home on Thursday, April 9th. I kept telling Gene that I needed to go over and see if he was home and if not how he was doing. Finally, last Saturday, nine days after being home, I pried myself away from my busyness and walked across the street to check on our neighbors. Carol was sitting outside visiting with her son and met me at the curb. I asked her how Gary was doing and she said, "Oh, Lelia, he died on Wednesday."

She had just returned from his funeral so she was still dressed in black. I listened as she explained that on Tuesday he was doing fine and by Wednesday he was gone. In two weeks time Carol went from doing yard work with her best friend to picking out clothes for him to be buried in. Widowed after 47 years of marriage.

As I stood there listening to her share how she hadn't been sure how she was going to be able to make it through his funeral, I felt like the neighbor with a heart as shallow as a kiddie pool. Before I returned home to tell Gene the sad news, I hugged her and promised I'd pray for her.

On March 1st, we celebrated 10 years in our home. Over the years, we have found out which neighbors share a common love for Jesus as we do. We are very blessed to be surrounded by Christians wherever we look. Tom and Cindy to the west of us and Ben and Julie across the street. I know these couples believe in the One and Only because with each one of these neighbors we have talked about God. At one time or another we have encouraged each other in the Lord and shared about what He is doing or has done in our lives.

But not with Gary and Carol.
We'd wave from afar as they were always out in their perfectly trimmed yard.
If we did cross the street to talk it was about the dogs or I'd apologize for our yard not looking anywhere close to their leaf and weed free dwelling which always made them laugh.
A few years ago I would occasionally send the kids over with a plate of chocolate chip cookies in my feeble attempt to be neighborly.
They are your typical nosy neighbors and always wanted to know what was happening.

As I heard Carol's words that Gary had died, the reality that I didn't know if he was saved or not really sunk in. In the 10 years and 1 month that we have lived across from them, not one time did the name Jesus come out of my mouth. Not only don't I know their beliefs, they don't know mine. Why? Because I chose to talk about our dogs or our lawns, but never Jesus. Never was the One who I claim to be my All my topic of conversation.

I regret not sharing Jesus with Gary.
Did Gary ever have a teacher lead him to Jesus like I did when I was in 2nd grade?
Did Gary ever realize that the cross is more than a gold pendant hanging on a necklace?
Did Gary ever know forgiveness from the Original Forgiver?
Is where Gary will be for eternity worth leaving his wife for?

So now we live across the street from Carol and her dog Penny.
Happily married wife in March, sad grieving widow in April.
When I see her, do I continue to talk dog talk with her or do I strike conversation with purpose?
Has Carol ever had anyone lead her to Jesus?
Does Carol realize that the cross is more than a gold pendant hanging on a necklace?
Does Carol know she has been forgiven?
Is where Carol will spend eternity worth me taking the time to find out the answers to the above questions.
Or not.
Busy will always be in my life, but will someone miss out on Jesus being in their life because of it? Takes time to walk across the street. Time I need to make.

During a political race our neighborhoods are lined with our belief in a candidate, but so often Jesus is our best kept secret. I think when Jesus told the disciples to "Go" He not only meant it for the missionaries spreading the Gospel in a foreign country, He meant it for me and for you to GO...right across our street.

The last time I spoke to Gary a few days before he left for the hospital the names Penny and Kane were mentioned.
Our dogs.
Ten years and one month.
No mention of my Savior.
Lord, have mercy.
~Many Blessings~


Rachelle said...

This is sad, but such a STRONG reminder of what we are to be about. Thanks for the lesson.

Yolanda said...

I would guess that many of us, myself included, needed to hear this and be stretched.


Shanda said...

We have worked so hard to get to know some of our neighbors through the years; and yet there are those we have never shared openly with. They know we go to church; that I lead some kind of women's group, etc. We've invited some to services at our church; but we haven't REALLY shared the Lord with them. I think in a way, we have been waiting for them to ask...this post struck a chord deep within. I pray it will resonate with many and we will all have wonderful neighbors in heaven...

Chris & Brenda said...

Once again your words have moved us to tears and challanged us deeply. Your capacity for transparency is not "normal", but a Gift of God. We are blessed to be part of your family.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

Sad but so true. We tend to live in our own little worlds. Our own little comfort zones and this is a great reminder that we all need to be about God's business.

Thanks for sharing from your heart,


valerie said...

I'm so sorry about your neighbor Gary. I know you are a blessing to all your neighbors and I know they notice something different in your life....something very special. You are a good neighbor. How many take their neighbors cookies? :)
You will be there for Carol now and I pray that one day soon you get a chance to find out if Gary knew the Lord.
We have new neighbors just behind us. They are a young couple with a little boy who looks to be about two. I met the lady briefly one day. I pray while we're out in the yard this summer we'll get to know each other.
This is a reminder for all of us to be a light that shines.
Thank you once again for sharing from your heart.

Rachel B said...

We always think we have time, don't we?! What a good reminder to get busy living what we preach. I pray that you will find the strength to talk to Carol. And find out the answer to some of the questions you posed in this post.

Thanks for the very powerful and honest post, Lelia.

Lord bless ya. :)

Tami Boesiger said...

You are not alone in your regret, Lelia. We all have a Gary we missed the mark with. Mine was my grandfather. I prayed for a chance to talk to him about Jesus. In His faithful fashion, God gave me one and I chickened out.

I regret it greatly, but have used it to motivate myself not to do it again. We can't change the past, but we can learn from it.

Hang in there,

Sita said...

Been there unfortunately...when we lived in an apartment, our neighbour died, and I rarely had interaction with tell the truth, had a twinge of..."wow, did God send us here next to the this man to tell him about Jesus...if so, I totally messed up...then again, I was pretty messed up emotionally--post-partum--so I couldn't really handly any more emotions like I just told God "sorry..." and left it with Him....

Love you, Lelia...

Susan said...

Oh Lelia,

I'm sorry about Gary. I know I'm convicted for sure. How many opportunities I've missed, God only knows.

Please pray for me. Since I've moved I've met a woman from India, a few doors down.

I'm befriending her now, and believing God I'll have the opportunity to lead her to Christ.

I hope in time...

Thanks for being real and reminding us all to be bolder about our love for Jesus!!

PS Please send me your address, yes AGAIN. I have something for you!


Rachel said...

Reminded me of some lyrics to a Greg Long song:

"Some people talk about forever, like it's a time that never comes. But just like days we thought would last, time goes by so fast... Tomorrow's come and gone".

Like your other commenters expressed... I need to allow God to stretch me - to make me more sensitive to His prompting when He places me.

Thank you for this reminder... something that has really resonated.

"Just Me - NC Beth" said...

You are not alone in just "waving" to the neighbors....we have lived in the same house now for almost 30 years and really know very little about some of our neighbors....

Thank you for reminding us that we need to "go ye therefore"....something we do not do.


sarah said...

What a great reminder! And I love how you brought it back around to Carol. I loved that so much because, even when we see opportunities missed, there are others waiting for us. To focus on the missed opportunity alone would not further His Kingdom at all. But when look up from our regret - there lies more opportunites. Because God does not say, "you missed it so you're work here is done". Perhaps the Lord has you there for such a time as THIS. Even if Carol knows the Lord, I am quite sure that now more than ever she could use a reminder of His Love.
Man, I've got a neighbor myself that I need to go visit with some cookies for a chat. Thanks!

Walking on High Hills said...

Thanks for being transparent, thanks for being real.

Paula (SweetPea) said...

Oh Lelia....words...what thoughts right now are, oh how easy it is for ALL of us to be drawn to those of those that somehow the name of Christ comes out easily and we soon know we share His love. Yet, those that His name doesn't automatically come out, we know there must be some distance or unlikeness for whatever reason. THose are the ones who need us to speak up the most yet those are the ones it is hardest with whom to share the best secret. Why is that? With more thought and time, I'm sure my mind could find a biblical teaching in it...maybe GOd wants to stretch us in those difficult times. I'm sure, I too will soon be in the same situation. Leaving my other neighborhood of four years, I could tell you the names of two families. Of course my entire neighborhood had hundreds of homes but even those within six of me...did I know their names, let alone them? I knew the ones closest were Catholics but yet I never spoke His name.

Thanks for the reminder to be more transparent, to be more real, to be more uncomfortable by sharing adn speaking the important things and not the easy common things.

You're the best, Lelia.
Love ya mucho,

LynnSC said...

OH Lelia,

I am so understand your pain. My husband had a young 20 year old worker to die about 2 years ago... that was the question on our minds too... Did we ever tell him about Jesus?? If we didn't... did someone else?? I know that we are all guilty of allowing opportunities to pass by. May God have mercy on us... And in His faithfulness... He will send others our way. We can only seek to be obedient in the future. Thanks so much for your honesty.

love you my friend,

Carol said...


I understand. I have neighbors that live so close, yet we never talk too, and especially not of Jesus.

I was talking to my niece Saturday night and we were talking about our friends and family that don't know Jesus, and how we are to be His hands and feet. But are we. I can't say that I am.

Much to pray over.

Love and Hugs,

Surrendering Mom said...

Thanks for the words. We all need to step out of that box and make Christ known.