Neighbors: Back-To-School Ice Cream Social Planning

You know how I said I needed to get involved again with my neighbor project? Here’s my story about how I’m planning to do just that – although it had a tough beginning, as they all do, hurdles to overcome, walls that get in the way as if someone is out there to prevent us from doing and glorifying God by putting his word into action.

Our church, since we’ve been attending there almost seven years and probably longer, has always done a back-to-school ice cream social to get kids ready and thinking about the new school year. Since we’ve never had kids school-age before, this event has been somewhat of a mystery, but I believe in the past they have sorted donated school supplies for backpacks they intended to take to local schools for students who were less fortunate. Therefore, the ice cream social has always been a staple.

This year, however, our church is hosting a concert for the Grammy winning, The Okee Dokee Brothers instead of the traditional ice cream soirée. In a moment of stepping out of the boat-ness, I volunteered to host the usual ice-cream social at our house. However, my girl-scout-badge-worthy volunteerism was quickly squashed when our children’s minister brought up a crucial piece of information: “did you know your husband volunteered to do ice cream after the concert?”

Wow, how embarrassing! So much for touting “communication” as a skill in our marriage! Okay, so I couldn’t do the social for the church. There was always small group. But then I communicated with my husband. “Yeah, small group is going to do ice cream as our outreach project,” he said.

“Grrrrrrrrrr,” I growled a little too loudly.

“What’d you say?”

“Great!” I smiled.

[So, I have this idea; I want to do a back-to-school ice cream social and it’s already going on at church after the okee dokee brothers concert’] I texted my pal in my small group, [‘so do I ask my neighbors to that one, or ask small group to help another one with my neighbors and I, or put my big girl panties on and host one on my own?]

her text [Oh, big girl panties, for sure]

I knew that’s what she was going to say. As soon as I wrote “big girl panties,” I knew that was what I was going to have to do. It was like God was handing me my own pair of shining, white Hanes, coming with the clouds of heaven, singing Big Girls Don’t Cry, but with harps and doves fluttering out around.

Now came the exciting part, the part I was good at really, the planning part. First, the reconnaissance part: counting houses. You never know many houses have been sold/resold/built/etc. In fact, three houses had been built since the Egg Hunt. I know it sounds crazy, but to make sure my count is accurate, I’ve taken the kids outside a lot more. I want to be sure that I have the right amount of invitations. I don’t want to be caught in that moment of putting invitations in mailboxes and then realize that I’m short and that neighbor I’m short for ends up coming out. Maybe he or she wouldn’t really care, but maybe he or she would – maybe thinks “she didn’t do her recon well!”

After recon, is the construction of the invitations. I am definitely not the most artistic, so I rely on stickers and pseudo-cheerleader writing from 1999. I am most proud of my twisted sense of humor. Please check out my fancy-schmancy examples below.

Invitations Pre-Artistic Flair

Invitations Pre-Artistic Flair

Post 1999 Pseudo-Cheerleader Flair

Post 1999 Pseudo-Cheerleader Flair

Hopefully, people also read the FAQs.

Hopefully, people also read the FAQs.

Then it is time to rinse and repeat. After I wrote the first four of these I put off the writing of the other twenty for almost two weeks. It was really hard putting my hand to the test of that pain. It’s like “Hey, guess what hand? Today, we’re going to do something that hurts as soon as you start and hurts for two whole hours! How does that sound!?!”

I did finish the invitations today though. How? Tomorrow my daughter will be helping me pass them out and it is the only day it will be just her and I before the day of the event so I had to get them done.

So now we are back to the waiting period of “Will we get responses? Will people bother to come? Will people remember to come? Will people care to come? Blah, blah, blab!” Pray for my/our sanity! Thanks!

Neighborhood Egg Hunt – A three-week-old status update

It has been nearly three weeks since our neighborhood Egg Hunt and I should have posted about it the night after, but life got in the way in the form of a 10-20 page paper due the following week, work stress, and the day-to-day events like changing out my work hat, with my “mom” hat, and “wife” hat, and “me-time-NOW” hat.

Truthfully, I purposely waited a week after the hunt because we (my husband and my small group) used the opportunity to invite my neighbors to Easter church service the following Sunday. I wanted to see if we had any intended come, before rambling about the event.

I was still nervous up until the couple of minutes before I shouted, “ready, set, hunt!” I had all the eggs stuffed the night before and I was just hoping I wouldn’t have to make any lengthy speeches about why I decided to host the event or why my lawn, with the insane amount of fire ant hills, was the less than ideal spot for the hunt (I didn’t).

My husband, the kids, and I got home with about thirty minutes to spare. I hurridly brought the eggs out and had my kids help me spread out the eggs in each of our labeled spots. I had an obvious-enough hunting area for the 0-2 age group, a try-the-best-I-could-to-hide area for the 3-5 group, and spread-them-out-like-crazy area for those 6 and older.

Sign made for 0-2 age group

Sign made for 0-2 age group

Sign made for 3-5 age group

Sign made for 3-5 age group

Sign made for 6 and older group

Sign made for 6 and older group

 

My friends from small group showed up and with five minutes to go, we patiently waited for anyone who RSVP’d to show up.  Finally, it was 6:00 p.m. and we were missing four kids who I knew would be there.  We waited and waited, but they never came and since there were so many already set to go – I let them go.

In less than ten minutes, the eggs were found and the kids were sitting on the street curbs, opening up the eggs and looking through their treasures.

One little girl and her daddy said thanks and mosied on their way.  He’s been hard to connect with, but he came and that is a starting point.  The couple two houses down and their twins hung around.  The husband stood and talked with the other men who were holding up the invisible fence at the edge of our yard.  They talked about manly things…the wife talked with us gals and as it turned out, her mother went to our church.  She came the following Sunday and they plan on returning once their children are well.

We had another neighbor express interest in coming to church, but I’m not sure if she was there.  I keep wanting to offer to bring her daughter with us one Wednesday, but we don’t have any room in our car.  I know I should follow-up with this neighbor, but I don’t know how without making it sound like I’m making her feel guilty.  What if she was there and I didn’t see her?  “Missed you Easter Sunday!” just seems too indicting.

About thirty minutes after the start of the Egg Hunt, my neighbors that I knew were coming showed up.  I started losing it – oh no, they thought it started at 6:30, not 6:00 – we rushed around and all the kids who participated donated two or three of their eggs for us to rehide so this family could participate too.  It was so touching to see them all want to make sure this family could enjoy the experience as well.

About an hour later we were still chatting on our lawn.  I was starving, but I didn’t want the conversation to end.  Of the twenty-two houses on our two streets that end in cul-de-sacs, six  houses participated and we had over ten kids hunting.

One neighbor asked how long we had done this and I said, “this is the first time! Hopefully, we can make it an annual thing and maybe some food next year too!”

Overall, I was very happy with our turnout and that we were able to get people to come to church too was icing on the bunny shaped cookies!

Invitations I made for the event

Invitations I made for the event

 

In the meantime, I have been reading a book by Alan J. Roxburgh called “Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood,” which my dad gave me. The beginning is very academic, but once you get into the meat of the book it has some great implications for what it means to be missional in today’s North American society. I’m hoping it will give me some ideas on my follow-up.

Neighbors: I’m Nervous, Unsure, and Diffident

I am nervous about tomorrow, my D-Day of determining whether I have the real guts necessary to meet my neighbors. Well, it is beyond nervous and beyond just meeting them. I’m so anxious that my medicine isn’t working for my anxiety disorder…my heart quickens and my breath shortens into fast, nasal inhalations so that oxygen continues to pump through me, but I’m feeling like tomorrow’s uncertainess is swirling around me and I’m not really in my body, but more like I’m looking at myself go through this painful experience.

And tomorrow is more than dropping off tiny, Christmas gifts at the door, regardless if they are home or not. Tomorrow is about action and engagement: fellowshiping and building relationships. Why am I so scared? The worst thing that could happen is that no one comes and I’m left with twelve dozen eggs sitting there. No, the worst thing that could happen is that I start a conversation and then end up making a fool of myself by whatever comes out of my mouth. The worst thing that could happen is that I don’t build any relationships and I’m left with nothing.

I believe in a real, viable Devil who sends out thoughts of uncapability, that scare us into thinking that we can’t do what God tells us He needs us to do. The Devil has infiltrated my plan already; my husband will be in Dallas tomorrow and there is enough of a chance that we might not make it back home in time (although he assures me he’ll be back with no problem), the weather is supposed to be coooold – 57 degree high, but that is cooold for this time of year in Texas, and now the anxiety attacks.

Please pray for our work tomorrow and what can be accomplished through a simple egg hunt. I hope to update you all with happy and relieved thoughts afterwards!

Quick Update on my Neighbor Project…

My goal for next week was to reach out to my neighbors in a new and more frightening (for me) way, going beyond my Christmas gifts from my December endeavor, but then I realized that I had – eeek – three days to plan whatever that was going to be.  Then, while dreadingly thinking of the supposed garage sale I could put on to greet my neighbors as they perused my unwanted items and my three children terrorized them in return, I had a glimmer of thought: “why don’t I just give myself more time?”  It seems like I’m dodging my intended mission.  Yet, I don’t think I really am.  Instead, I – with the help of my church small group and awesome husband- am going to put on an Easter Egg Hunt in my neighborhood with my yard and the grassy place across the street serving as Grand Central Station for Easter camaraderie and the “neighbor (and hopefully their children) collector.”  I’m so excited about this idea, I can’t stand it.  I’m ready to make cutesy, Pinterest-inspired invitations and buy a huge bag of gleaming, plastic eggs to fill with stickers and non-melting candy.  Mostly, I’m excited about seeing my neighbors outside of their homes and the potential fellowship that will ensue.  I’m an introvert by nature, but there is something about the possibility of making new friends in Jesus’s name that just gets me hyped!  Prayer for my – our – event would so be appreciated!!

Neighbors: What is My Next Move?

Now that I have successfully delivered my “neighbor gifts” to my neighbors, I’m considering what my follow-up action is going to be. We live on the corner of two cul-de-sacs and that convenience of a meeting point is not lost on me. I think that a block party is just the right fit for my next big mission to my neighborhood.

A bonus to this block party idea is that I could easily resource people from my church small group to help me in this endeavor. My husband and I joined this group because they have put their faith into action. In past discussions of what our small group could accomplish on a fellowship night, others have even brought up the block party idea as a way to draw others to a Christian fellowship and get-to-know-you experience.

I feel that more than stating we are going to accomplish this is knowing whether people would attend. What do you think is the best way to draw people out of their homes? Is it a flyer to pass/mail out or a personal invitation the night of the shindig? What do we offer – a full on meal extraordinaire or simple snacks?

I have to say, I’m a bit worried it will turn into a block party for the kids in the neighborhood. I want to make sure adults come too. How do you think I can best make this happen?

‘Tis the Season to Love My Neighbors: Part Three

Neighbor gifts

The first house I lingered…second house, nobody was home…the third house, I caught him at his mailbox….the fourth house was warm and responsive….the fifth house – they were just perplexed…the sixth house was conversational…the seventh house, I was interrupting, but they were still gracious.

Thus began my delivery of my “neighbor gifts.”  My two oldest children tagged along and each had her and his job.  My daughter was the gift-handing-out helper and my son was the doorbell helper, at least when he could reach it!  Beforehand, I psyched up the kids to get them ready to give out our presents.  I coached them to sing out “Merry Christmas” when the neighbor opened his or her door.  This worked only after my daughter warmed up to the experience and pulled her head away from its seemingly permanent spot of her cheek to my rear cheek.

Once we passed the first eight houses (number eight was another ding-dong reverberating through empty halls), we moved on to the other street on which our house resides.  It was upon crossing this threshold that I realized I had counted two less than what I needed to drop off at all the houses! Unbeknown to me, new neighbors had bought the house that was literally finished that week – and they were moving in that day.  I definitely couldn’t be passing out gifts to each house and not stop there; they could be watching me and seeing me pass their house with nothing just didn’t seem, for lack of a better word, “neighborly”.  I sweated my deficient planning as the kids skipped along to the next house.

Two sweet kids answered the door at number nine on our stop.  At the previous empty houses, I had left the baggies on their doorsteps.  At house number ten, I had just seen its occupants drive away and knew they weren’t home.  I have also blogged about getting to know this neighbor before and our long get-to-know-you.  I decided I would come back if I had enough.  The next house, eleven, scared my kids into number twelve’s yard; when my son pushed the doorbell a Labrador, who looked as if it was going to scratch the glass out of the windows when it jumped on them, ferociously barked – and I just decided not to leave anything there.  It probably set us back another few years into getting a dog, so we’re even.

I loved coming to house number twelve.  This is the house of my neighbor who has children at the same school for which I work.  My daughter and one of the children are in the same class.  The children answered the door, and you would have thought we were Santa to the little boy in my daughter’s class.  He was talking so fast about how happy he was to see Lexi and how much he wanted to come play outside with her, but couldn’t.  It definitely made the lingering too long at house number one, perplexed looks at number six, and the vicious dog at number eleven, all worth the entire experience.

We moved on to number thirteen, which I could tell was a dud from the street.  All the windows were dark, and so again, I cheated and said I would come back if I had enough left.  From the outside, number fourteen looked like at least four, licensed drivers were home, but no one answered – and I wondered if they were like me, who pretends that no one is home if I don’t want to answer the door.  My daughter was one step ahead of me and placed a gift at their door.  I didn’t want to confuse her more by implementing my “come back if we have enough” rules, and let it slide.   At house number fifteen we were greeted by a young woman who was friendly and thanked us for braving the neighborhood.  She had children, but didn’t say how old.  I’d guess they were really young.  We finally came upon the brand new neighbors.  The man was pulling out in his truck and had curiously eyed my gift basket, so I approached him at his car window.  It was really awkward, and I felt like a fool, but I welcomed him and his family to the neighborhood and we chatted about how quickly they had moved in to the home.  Even before its completion, they had a contract on the house.  I hope my gift giving might have cemented their love of our little neighborhood.

The next two houses didn’t answer, which helped because I was down to my last two gifts.  The last house was probably the most gregarious and loquacious.  She introduced herself, her soon-to-be husband, and her teenage daughter, who all came to the door.  We talked about how they had met my husband – no news flash here – and also wanted to get out around our streets and really get to know everyone.  By this time, my children were touching all of her Christmas decorations – which look amazing – and I was able to really open up and explain myself and my mission to my neighbors.  Warmly they congratulated me on getting outside and braving the houses with unknown entities behind locked doors.  They encouraged me to get out more, and thanked me for the gift before we departed.

What an experience! I completed my tour and was able to remember some names as well!  The best part was seeing how excited my kids were to complete our mission.  I think a “block-party” may be my next project once it really warms up and all our kids can be outside.  I’m excited for the future and what God will do through me as I reach out.

*********

A couple of days after, I received a package of Chex mix with a Christmas card from one of the houses where people weren’t home!

‘Tis the Season to Love my Neighbors: Part Two

Ever since my first success at introducing myself to my neighbors, I’ve wanted to repeat that action tenfold. I have made the effort to reach out to others on our streets (we live on a corner), but haven’t made great strides in what I am now calling my “Neighbor Project” in conversations with my friends who have read my blog. With the Christmas season fast approaching, and our little neighborhood getting brighter and brighter with each addition of lights trimming roofs and blow-up Santas riding motorcycles, I have wanted to do something special for my neighbors that would definitely make me get outside and take more action.

Although I now know I must get out of the house, I tried to convince myself to do all sorts of things that didn’t actually involve me getting further than my mailbox. At one time in the last few months, I thought it would be a good idea to send our Christmas card to each neighbor. I persuaded my unconscious to agree that mailing out a card with random kids’ pictures on it that said their names and Seth and my name on it wouldn’t be creepy or anonymous. I even considered getting a picture of Seth and I from when we hadn’t had kids yet and Seth’s face wasn’t so red and my gut wasn’t so hang-y, then putting this picture in with our Christmas card. That way, I could reason, I wasn’t just sending a card with some kids’ faces on it. I was going to write a note about how much I hope to get to know them and then pay forty-five cents for each of the eighteen houses on our streets, so the mailman could take them from my mailbox, back to the post office, and then return them to my neighborhood…without me having to meet anyone! My introversion would win and I would be doing a good deed too!

But then I thought if I’m going to pay eight dollars and ten cents to mail something out to people that live RIGHT NEXT TO ME that I would be insane and not really be completing the purpose of my Neighbor Project.

Thus, the pfeffernussen. The pahfeffernewessan…a…what? Actually, you pronounce it “fef-er-noose-n”. Instead, I decided that I would use that eight dollars to buy some flour, sugar, milk, butter, and a slew of spicy ingredients that make up a heavenly cookie that my father made my sister, mother, and I at Christmastime each year. There are a variety of ways to make this cookie; it’s usually coin sized or smaller. When I made it a few years back, when I was teaching, my students always thought I was eating dog food because it was made that small. I fondly remember my dad once trying to speed up the process of making the ropes you have to roll out before cutting each tiny piece. The Play-Doh noodle-maker set seemed a perfectly quick way to make the ropes. After that Christmas, however, we didn’t ever use that Play-Doh toy again and instead went back to the old, annoyingly lethargic method of hand-rolling and slicing.

Once I realized that my card sending would not be the best method of meeting my neighbors, I set towards making my pfeffernussen. It is ready to go. I made these cute tags to explain that I wasn’t gifting dog food.

My art skills are quite limited...

My art skills are quite limited…

I’m going to also place a sticker on the back that has our names, but most importantly, I’m going to take them to my neighbors.  No joke, typing “take” just now gave me a mini-heart attack.  I know I’ve had success in the past, but just like anyone who freaks out when they take a test, past success doesn’t always mean I won’t sweat this one in front of me.

The good thing is that I’ll have my kids with me.  I plan on doing this sometime in the evening this week.  If my “here you go person I’ve never met, have a cookie from a stranger” goes south, I can at least count on my kids to say something too cute or funny and relieve some of the pressure.   Hopefully, they’ll run from each neighbor’s to the next.  Or maybe, I’ll meet a future friend.

I’m going to do this.  I’m going to do this.  Does saying it a million times in your head make it better?  I’m going to do this.  Wish me luck!