Front Porch Living (Is it Time to Change?)

There’s something special about a back yard, right?

Here in America, we value them very highly. We check out yard size when we buy new homes. We think about improvements. We pour money into those improvements – new decks, fire pits, the best play sets (trust me, I’m not downing it, we’ve spent a few years building up our back yard to match our dream for this home). We think about the fun we’ll have as a family and with close friends as we gather and spend time together. We go big.

And it’s great.

But… could it be limiting us?

Stick with me for a minute.

Scripture makes it pretty clear that God has places and times ordained for us, long before we even have an idea they may be a part of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 2:10, Psalm 37:23, etc).

In our family, this means that he’s chosen where we are right now. We love (most of the time), the phrase “Bloom Where You’re Planted,” and in the past year, it’s taken on a new dimension, as we were preparing to move before a pandemic hit, keeping us exactly where we were in the first place.

We believe that God has placed us where we are, and that wherever that is, is our mission field. It’s where we’re supposed to love well, and live transparently. It’s where we’re supposed to build friendships and go deep. It’s not an accident. It’s not a place to stay where we wait for the future. We are to make the most of every minute we have wherever we are, for as long as he has us wherever that is.

It’s true for you too.

God has placed you where you are, and you’re to make the most of it. It’s not an accident, and whether it’s where you WANT to be at the moment or not, there’s a plan (again, whether you can see it or not).

Which brings me back to backyard living.

Our back yards are amazing, and they’re places where maybe we’re able to have deep conversations, build fun memories, and grow established friendships and relationships… But if we’re so focused on our backyard living, we might be missing out – just a little bit – on what else God might have for us.

To learn that – we might have to do something a little uncomfortable: we might have to move to the front porch.

Don’t laugh or roll your eyes yet.

A few nights ago, I was convicted of this. My backyard was, well, loud. With 5 kids and countless neighbor children, that’s not all that uncommon. But, I wanted to read a book. So, I moved out to the front porch, thinking I’d spend time alone, lost in that book.

Over two hours, as I sat down, I had conversations with no fewer than 12 neighbors, most of whom I’d rarely (if ever) spoken to previously. I read exactly 3 pages of the book. But instead of being frustrated with that – which, to be honest, would be my normal reaction – it got me thinking.

See – our neighborhood is pretty great. We have a lot of SOLID friendships here. We do firepit nights, game nights, and have a blast. But, it’s easy to feel like that is “enough.” Why branch out if we’re satisfied with what we’ve got?

Because it’s we’re called to do.

As believers, is it up to us to decide our plates are full enough? That our circles are big enough? Or, are we to believe that God has ordained our steps and our futures, and that he might want us to be more inclusive than our backyard lifestyles allow for?

Trust me: I get the hesitation. I’m a full-fledged introvert here: opening up and going through the “newness” that comes with fresh relationships is not my favorite thing in the world. But, it doesn’t really matter where my comfort starts or ends if I’m living with a plan that’s bigger than mine in mind.

If I’m living in my secluded backyard paradise that I’ve built with my own hands for my own pleasure and escape, am I truly open to God’s plan for my life? For my family?

That was a hard thought to swallow.

I’m not condemning back yards.

To be super, super clear, I’m not downing backyard living.

Like I said earlier, our homes (and as an extension, our back yards), are meant to be places of fellowship… places where open living can happen, deep conversations can take place, laughter can be shared, and relationships can grow deep.

But when we start to be content there, with the people who are already in our lives, it can be awfully easy to start to feel like it’s enough, and to stop looking for opportunities that God might have for us beyond our own contentedness.

I don’t think this is limited to our homes.

I see this as a trend – especially among women – in churches: are we welcoming new women to our circles? In our kids extracurriculars: while our kids may have been a team for years, are we making new parents feel just as welcome? In our work places: do we go to lunch with the same co-workers all the time: do we see those who might be looking to fit in?

Again – for those of us who are introverts, this can feel really, really, big. Comfort matters to us and long-time friends often feel safer. But, I don’t think we’re supposed to live safely.

A quote that has always resonated with me, was something I heard Kent Julian share at a youth retreat when I was younger, quoting Robert Wickman:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming—”Wow…What a Ride!”

It’s something we should all aspire to: arriving to the end knowing that we leaned fully on our God, trying to follow in his footsteps and his path, sharing our stories and our lives with those he’s placed in them… instead of our own comfort and contentedness.

Maybe it means shifting where we spend most of our time.

What would moving your life to the front porch – whether hypothetically or literally – look like? What could it mean for your life and the lives around you? Is it a chance you’re willing to take?

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