This morning, I was bursting with joy as our family made the commitment to sponsor a child through Compassion International. Just bursting!! On the verge of tears, I felt so great, like I was doing something really great that God had placed on our family.
Then, at 8:30am, with it slightly drizzling outside, my 4-year old, Colten, asked to go outside and ride a bike. Not a big wheel or something noisy, but a 2-wheeler with training wheels. I went outside to watch him, complete with my coffee mug, big jacket, monkey slippers, and huge grin on my face. I felt great. Standing in the alley behind our homes, guarding my precious child in case someone backed out of their garage or drove in, I felt great.
Then she came out. The neighbor that has been harassing us about our noisy kids. In addition to Colten, we have a 7-year old, Jaden, and the boys do play outside. They'll ride bikes or we'll set up a basketball hoop or Jaden will set up his hockey nets and play street hockey. The kids are always supervised by either Jeff or I, they only play during reasonable daylight hours, and we don't let them yell or be excessively loud. But many of our neighbors are elderly and prior to us moving into the neighborhood a year ago, I can only assume that kids playing outside was not a common occurrence. Her confrontations towards my husband have been quite aggressive, including her going after him as he tried to walk away, but today it was my turn.
So when I saw her garage door go up, I cheerily waved to her and said "Good Morning!", complete with my monkey slippers on. She told me that my son was making too much noise. That all the neighbors thought we were too loud. That he should be riding his bike at the park (1 mile away). That I was arrogant and uppity. That I took better care of my dogs than I did my kids. Ouch!
I tried apologizing for any time I ever came across as arrogant. I told her that the boys had permission to ride their bikes in this alley, that Colten was not even talking as he was riding, he was just happily toodling around in circles. I told her that I wanted to keep peace with the neighbors. I told her that I didn't understand, we had been friends when we first moved in a year ago and I didn't know why she seemed so angry with us. I expressed concern over her recent health problems and that I would pray for her healing (this was said very sincerely, but it seemed to make her very angry).
But most importantly, I lost my joy! I forgot all about my sponsorship of a little boy in Nicaragua. I forgot about Jaden & I winning 3rd row seat tickets for a tobyMac concert this Tuesday. I forgot about God coming through for us financially this week and giving Jeff many promising job opportunities. I forgot about passing Neurology, and all of my other classes, after a very challenging Fall quarter. I forgot about all these things that I had been praising God for all week.
For the rest of the day, I was back in the rain, in my big jacket, my monkey slippers, holding my mug of coffee, but now without a grin as I was told that I took better care of my dogs than I did my kids.
I do pray for Debra, for her physical and mental healing, for peace in our neighborhood, and for our kids being able to play outside without fear of receiving a letter threatening a fine if we continue to 'disrupt the peace'. I pray that God uses this experience to shape me so that I may be able to gracefully handle conflict (I did pretty good today, but threatening to call animal control if her always-off-leash dog ever charged my children again was likely not the Holy Spirit speaking through me at that point; funny how one bad sentence at the end of a conversation can negate all the peaceful and graceful things you said up till then...). I pray that I never let someone else steal my joy like that again. I pray that Jeff's heart softens as well, as he was pretty angry that these things were said to me.
And now I thank Pastor Rick Warren for his well-timed tweet tonight:
"Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."
I can only imagine that I did something good for the Lord, and the Devil immediately tried to squash me, and I let it happen. Next time, I pray to do better.