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best friends, community, neighborsIt’s hard to imagine that a decade ago, their faces were unknown to me. The names that today sit sweetly on my tongue, framing the landscape of so many stories, had never been spoken; their phone numbers, never dialed.

Harder yet to comprehend, is the awesome working of God in building the community I love deeply. Like a chess player hovering over the checkered board of His own design, I see Him working; pondering the next move. Positioning the women who would move in across the street and next door; who would become to me more like family than neighbors.

God, in omnipotent power and with grace undeserved, lifted the pawns and set them down to stretch fledgling roots and take their places in my heart.

We have walked with one another through trials that, left unspoken, threaten to flatten faith and leave you sitting alone on the kitchen floor. We share our eggs and borrow sugar; lend our ears and hands and shoulders to cry on. We sing together on Sunday. And we love each other’s children with the kind of affection that comes from seeing them grow from suckling babe to unsteady toddler to lanky teen.

But the hard part of love is the honesty, especially when being honest means acknowledging change and giving voice to fears that whisper your undoing. In those moments, loving is a choice I steady myself to make.

This fall the Lord saw it best to tip the chess board and let the pawns slide from their tidy squares without righting them again. And as my own life entered a sea of emotion, the walls of my community were also tossed. I dug in my heels, pushing back against the sobs and the questions that held me hostage, and I wondered why.  And I wondered why now?

Had this community swelled too large in my heart? Become a golden calf in my land of white-picket fences? Could it be that God, in his tender mercy, was using a September storm to grab hold of my chin and force me to look Him in the eyes?

Today, the storm has settled to a fine mist that hangs over our triangle of earth. Somedays it traps me in a damp haze of autumn fog, and other days, when the sun determines to shine more brightly, I see a ribbon of color flapping across the horizon.

But every day, when I gaze out my kitchen window and see their faces, I am grateful. Each day that I hear the doorbell ring or pick up the phone to dial the numbers that my fingers have memorized, I give praise.

Because even though I still grapple with the off-kilter and out-of-focus, I see the undeniable provision of our Loving Father and know that he’s still working on that chess board. And though things still feel out of place to me, I sense him drawing close and breathing new life into it all.

I sense him standing at my white-picket fence, asking me to trust him. Asking me to lean into his love. Asking me to let the designer… design something new in my community.

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Have you dealt with difficult transitions in your community? How did you sense God’s love through the trials?