Nine Doors Down

I apologize for not talking about managing our time today as I’d said I would. I’ll return to that topic sometime next week. My plans were shifted by shock. Read on:

She lived nine doors down.

In the two years we’ve lived in this subdivision, I’d seen her on my walks.

Perhaps she was rolling her trash out to the curb. Or in her front yard watering her flowers.

I’d smile and said “hi”, just for a brief second.

After all, my neighborhood is big; my life is busy.

So I’d pop my Ipod earbuds back into my ears.

And I’d keep walking.

Nine doors down.

Just nine doors down this past week flashed lights and sirens and all things alarming.

A fire? I thought as I turned into my sub, returning from  an errand-running venture.

My mama heart raced. My son was home alone. Had he burnt some toast and set the smoke alarm system blaring?

Or worse?

Had a car caught fire or a power line fallen?

As my car crept closer to home, I saw it was not my house. Relief for my soul. And though the rescue vehicles were parked in front of her house, no fire appeared to be blazing at my nine-doors down neighbor’s house either.

“Must have been a false alarm”, I reasoned to myself.

It was two days later when I heard the awful news.

No fire. No smoke. Just a saddened soul.

You see, nine doors down, something happened in the soul of my nameless, flower-watering, ‘smile and say hi’ fellow human being; something told her this life was not worth living anymore.

So she made sure she stopped living.

Her heart no longer beats.

Her flowers still grow, but she can’t water them anymore.

I can still walk by her house, lost in the Jesus-music blaring on my Ipod.

But there will be no more waves. No smiles as I stroll. And no more thoughts of, “I should stop and find out her name. I haven’t really met this gal yet.”

But the conversation my husband and I have had for the past year will continue. Perhaps with greater urgency now.

In our old neighborhoods (there have been three) we’ve made it a goal to offer a Bible study. A low-key, doesn’t-matter-if-you’ve-ever-gone-to-church-before, short and simple meeting of folks who all happen to live in the same development.

Todd does this at work too. Men and women meet on their breaks to gather round and meet Jesus. Many for the first time. Their curiosity is piqued when they are handed a flier announcing the short, you-don’t-need-to-know-nothing-“Jesus-y“-to-attend  study.

Others in his factory throw the flier in the trash.

Yes, right after Todd hands it to them.

In our neighborhood, we’ve not yet passed out fliers. Is it too soon? We haven’t held a Christmas open house to meet everyone yet. We’ve baked bread and pulled weeds for those real near by. But haven’t struck a friendship with too many others.

So we’ve pondered, is it time?

And do we have time?

So far we’d answered no.

Now, nine doors down, no flier is needed for the single gal who is no more.

Would things have been different if she’d gotten an invitation? Or would she have rolled it out to the curb with the rest of her trash?

God only knows.

I cannot beat myself up; but I can do something.

So can you.

We can stop, permitting God to tap us on the heart,  gently interrupt, and rearrange our day.

We can go deeper; beyond a “hi!” to an authentic “Who are you?”

Will you do it?

Will you at least try?

Then, leave the results up to God.

Results are His job.

Obedience is ours.

And trust me, it is AWFUL to get to know your neighbor through the tales and tears of her relatives as she lies lifelessly nearby in a coffin.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17

May we all respond to those taps on our hearts today and not ignore them and keep walking. God just may use us as He saves a life.

After all, remember…..

It isn’t a far walk.

It is just nine doors down.

____________________________________

If you hear God tapping too, will you respond? Will you think of one person whom you see often but have never gotten to know? Then, do something.

Ask them their name. Thank them for bagging your groceries faithfully for ten years. Hand them a thank-you card if they are someone who serves. If it is a neighbor, invite them for coffee or soda or sweet tea. Offer kind words or a hug. Anything to show God’s love. Who in your life is just ‘nine doors down’? I’d love to know.

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37 Comments

  1. We’ve lived on our little street for 7 years now, and I don’t know the neighbors to one side of me. Or the others up the street further. All older, we don’t see them out and about and I don’t know how to get to know them – or even, directly, their name. It seems that this has become so common in our society! Thanks for sharing some ideas about how to reach out.

  2. I can relate to ‘Nine doors down’ … I have a lovely family,that I love.

    Because of personal limitations, I can not ‘get to them’ often ~ can not be the ‘activities’ director’, for family events, etc.

    Over the years, ‘generation one’ has gotten busy with aging parents, their own work needs, their now adult families and grands.

    ‘Generation two’ has become ‘overwhelmed’ with time requirement of their new families, work and young friends, etc.

    The result? I often feel like the outsider looking in, wondering when one/they will remember to send an email, (or ever answer one I sent) make a phone call, ‘just because’ or ~ even to say ,hey ~ our branch of the family is getting together to celebrate birthdays~ a visiting family member, or just because, can you come?

    It feels very, ‘out of site, out of mind.

    Tho I am not desperate or thinking of ending my days as the
    ‘neighbor 9 doors down’ did ~ I do understand the ‘sting’ of uncaring- disconnected people/ family and the feeling that if I were not here, no one would notice for very long (one less responsibility?)

    So~ my friends have become my family, my interest my children to give myself too~ and caring about other as much as possible, permitted my purpose and building a new life, my focus.

    So, when you are looking for a “9 doors down’ mission, may I suggest that you ALSO take a close look within your own family of origin, for that purpose?

  3. Such a powerful story, one I pray God will use to do great things. Thank you for the reminder that our mission field really is in our own backyard. In a way I feel like I was the girl nine doors down – broken and on the verge of giving up, but God intervened and now I pray I can honor HIM by sharing the blessing with another. Thank you for sharing your heart and encouraging mine.

  4. I am just getting to this and want to thank you. Though my husband is a missionary kid and I see the value of doing mission work in different parts of the world, I have always felt that God has called me to the mission field of my neighborhood. Standing just beyond your front door lie people who may never know Christ, have fallen away from Christ or just need to see Christ’s light in you, not because you are trying to convert them or get them to come to your church, simply because as Christians we are called to imitate Christ and to show His love. Can you imagine a world where we all ministered to our families and our neighbors? Each of us spreading Sonlight in our corner for the Glory of God…something to think about. God usually gives me elderly neighbors to love on which is a whole lot of joy!!
    I think I will do as another poster said, I will go” 9 doors down” hunting today too!

  5. Karen, great post. What a reminder that we really have no sense of what is going to happen in a few days or a year. Trusting God with the results and being responsible for obedience…. so so so true. Thank you, my friend. What a devastatingly serious reminder of living our life with urgency.

  6. Karen,
    Just this week as my son and I were walking in our subdivision we were discussing just little things about different houses that we liked, or if we lived there what we would change. Just general chit-chat. As we kept walking I begin to think about what could be going on inside of these houses. Sometimes a pretty package outside–broken hearts inside? My husband and I have talked about doing a neighbor hood Bible Study, also.
    The Lord has really been speaking to me about obedience lately. We need to just do- because He said so. Why do we make it so hard. Thank you for sharing so honestly with us today.

  7. God confirming to me again, “just go do it!” I can make plenty of excuses, but none of them are significant when you consider the lives involved. Thanks for letting Him speak through you today!

  8. VIA EMAIL: Wow, Karen, that is a difficult situation, I will pray for wisdom for you and your family as you look to God and comfort your neighbours, and look for ministry opportunities.

    You have challenged me, and I will try and be more attentive to hearing the voice and tug to “go where Jesus would want me to go, and say what he would want me to say”, thank you for your honesty and encouragement to make a real difference in peoples lives, beyond just saying Hi.

    I thank God for proverbs31 website and the many Godly women that are touching my heart, ministering and drawing me closer to Jesus,

    God Bless you all,
    Sincerely, Susan

  9. wow~ what an awesome story. How sad that a lost soul gave up from loneliness in her heart or lack of hope for a future.
    A good reminder for us to really ‘press in’ and listen when we ask “how are you?” or ‘what is your name’.
    How sad.

  10. She doesn’t live “9 Door’s Down;” or at least I don’t know it if she does; but she parks her car just down the road only to sit in it and stare out at the lake. That’s what it appears as though she’s doing anyway; common sense and the Holy Spirit say something different though…they tell me that she is hurt and that she is trying to find a way to heal. The trouble is that she’s trying to find it on her own.

    I have felt led to stop by her parking spot on several occasions; well, every time I see her parked there yet I never have. Then, not long ago, God decided to stop tapping and to start pounding on my heart when I looked out my window to find that she had parked in front of the church that I pastor and live next door to. She walked to the back of the church building where we have a beautiful, peaceful prayer garden that also overlooks the lake. Sadly, by the time I prepared myself to join her on the bench where she sat…she had gotten back in her car and left.

    I thank you for your story; though I didn’t need it to know what God was leading me to do, I already knew; but it will help me to act on that leading.

    Thank you.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story. I was almost the “9 door down neighbor” but praise God someone did reach out to me in a TIME I WAS OPEN to listen. I pray now that I will be the one to reach that neighbor, other mom of my daughters volleyball and everyone else God puts in my life daily.

  12. Oh Karen…in reading this I can’t help but wonder if this was His plan all along-you telling this story to ‘gently’ and lovingly push us in the direction of reaching out and loving our neighbors! I know it’s done wonders in my heart and I truly thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable enough to share it. A lesser person (me) likely would not. I have goosebumps thinking of the lives that will be saved (PTL!) by you sharing! Wow!!!!

  13. Thanks for the challenge Karen. I am one of these people with great intentions and always put off doing what I know i should. Time for me to hit the “restart” button.
    Blessings to you & your neighbors!

  14. Thank you Karen. I am also the “newbie” on the block, and have barely met my neighbors. My husband and I tend to be a bit reclusive. I recently felt as though I needed to “get out” more, so now I feel that even more. When my son passed away at home only one of our neighbors knew us. I should have learned then. That was 5 years ago, timing is everything right?
    God Bless you Lady!

  15. Thank you for being courageous enough to write this, Karen. Thank you for challenging the rest of us. The part about being “busy” jumped out at me.
    The wonderment of God working through us is often missed these days because we are too busy. The result…missed opprotunities.
    Wow! Thanks for the tap on the shoulder, friend.

  16. Powerful Karen. Absolutely powerful, profound and spilling forth with God’s spirit and grace. We’ve been in our neighborhood for two years, just like you. JJ and I have talked so many times about inviting our neighbors over for a cook-out and we never have. We say hi, we talk a little over backyard fences. But not much life-sharing.

    JJ leads a study at work. We lead a class at church, but it’s been so long since we’ve led something in our home. I wonder what God would have us cut to make room for those who live only 2, 3, 4 doors down. There are only 4 houses in our little subdivision. Praying for your neighbors as I pray for mine. Would love to see the material you and Todd normally use.

    Love yoU!
    Renee

  17. What a beautifully profound and challenging post. Thank you Karen. You have certainly given me some things to ponder this morning.

    You have certainly given us all some things to ponder.

  18. This is such a tender beautiful post. I was just pondering how I can build community in this new one I’m in. This is great encouragement to get out and do something!

  19. Karen,
    I agree with Tracie. This is such a powerful post. I just watched “To Save a Life” with my teenage son last night so I think God is trying to tell me something. I am the new one in my neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be the one to reach out first. I will be pondering about this a lot. Your post will make a difference in lives.

  20. Karen,

    This is truly one of the most tender, heartfelt, beautiful stories I have ever read. Thank you for reminding us that for every one of us our calling in life is to reach out and share the Hope that we have found!!

    Love you!

    Wendy

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