Mid-September in North Carolina is a perfect time for porch sitting – a favorite Southern pastime. A glass of sweet tea and a good rocking chair and there you will find bliss.
I was nearing my third trimester and we had just moved to our new(est) rental house. It was a 1970s Ranch-style house with “gorgeous” dark wood paneling and “stunning” wallpaper. For us it was an oasis, wood paneling and all, after a wild ride of life in West Africa.
On a sun-soaked fall day we took to the yard to wash our car and trim up the low lying trees – a bit of American normalcy. I waddled myself around the front yard pruning as our new neighbors across the street sat and stared at me. They sat and stared. They didn’t get up and come over to introduce themselves. They just sat and stared as I hauled my burgeoning belly and a pair of clippers from limb to limb uncomfortably aware of their gaze.
We lived in that house for eighteen months and our only interaction with those neighbors was at our mailbox, which was next to their own and on their side of the street. Even then it was always from across a chain link fence.
We were wearied by life right down to the bone and that little house on Blacksnake road held us through an uncertain time of life. God held us and He used people to carry us along through new parenthood and all our questions about calling and place.
We found a church and a small group almost immediately after we moved. It gave us room to exhale. We don’t have a great track record with finding a church that fits us so we had braced for a long and disappointing search.
We were in desperate need of community that got off the porch and moved toward us.
I found it one night at a church community group bonfire. A sweet older mama called to me as I walked out of the house, her house actually, headed toward the backyard festivities. I thought she was talking to one of the other ladies in the group because she said she had something for whoever it was she was speaking to. She said it in the way you would talk to an old friend whose Tupperware you were trying to return. We had only just met so I thought surely she wasn’t talking to me.
But she was.
She was getting up off her porch to come toward me.
She had made me a baby gift, handmade and full of love. A woman I had only met once had made me and my baby girl yet-to-be-named a gift that started to sew up the hole where I needed community so desperately.
I recognized a tendency in myself through meeting this sweet friend. I like to stay on the porch. I’m comfortable on the porch. Give me sweet iced tea in a mason jar and a rocking chair and I’ll stay there forever.
I’ve always felt that I deserved people to move toward me to create community, especially when I’m the new girl in town. The problem is that we’ve moved a lot and I’m almost always the “new girl.”
Some of us need to get off of our porch and stop expecting people to come to us. I know that sounds harsh because some of us have deep wounds from community gone bad. I get that. I’ve been there, but I’m telling you it is worth it, wounds and all.
I also recognize that sometimes we’re in places mentally, physically, and spiritually that make it difficult to reach outside of ourselves. That means the rest of us have to be getting off our porches to move toward those who are in that place, whether or not they ever get off of their porches to come to us.
There are those of you who are always getting off of your porch and I want to thank you. You’ve taught me how to be brave in community. I’m learning how to live it forward to others who are still afraid to step off of their porches.
After eighteen months we moved to a new place, new town, new community and I realized that I had to do the hard work without expectations from others. The beautiful thing that I have found is that when we move toward others open-handed and without expectation, they move toward us. Our porches get shared and expanded and those fences that we used as defenses come down.
I’ll always enjoy a good porch sitting at the end of the day, but I’m planning to live my life off the porch from here on out. Welcoming anyone I know to come and sit a spell.
Do you need a push to get off your porch? Maybe you are looking for an opportunity to invite folks past the porch and right on into your home?
That is what (in)RL is all about.
By Jessica Leigh Hoover, from the (in)courage archives.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
(in)courage and friends,
I’m a NC gal so I know all about sweet tea and porch sitting….except you can’t do it mid August when it’s just too dang hot lol. I’ve moved around the country a lot and I soon learned that if I was going to make friends, that I had to be the one to extend my hand first. Sure, there is the risk of rejection (and I experienced that too), but each “no” gets you closer to a “yes”. I always kept in the back of my mind this scripture: “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20). I know God goes before me and has already prepared friends for me. My job is to follow His guiding and discover what He has already laid out. But, I often had to be the one to get up and move off my porch. Still I remembered His promise and knew that a long lasting friendship was going to have to begin with “Hello, my name is…..” Great reminders here from the archives!
This is great. I am one of those who sit on the pouch waiting for others to come. Last week I had an experience that helped me realize how God is keeps his words Exodus 23:20 that His angels will always walk a head of us. Yes God walked ahead of me last week and after” I got off the porch” and reached out , a miracle took place in my favor. My I always have the grace to reach to others and put a smile on their faces.
Summer Rae says
Dear women of in(courage),
I am a 20 year old woman and a series of bad “community” experiences left me stuck on my porch… maybe even chained… happily at work slowly putting up screening making myself a nice, little, screened in porch. Where I could smile and wave at others passing by, they could still see me and maybe have a nice interaction. But, letting them in? Well, that was something else entirely… that is until about, almost a year ago now, when the LORD blessed me with the amazing woman I now call Mama. Now, Mama saw right through my screens, rolled up her sleeves and gently began dismantling them one by one. Every time I find myself edging back towards my porch she pulls me right back off. I find myself beyond blessed to have such a GOD fearing and caring Mama who is constantly challenging me and always has room on her porch for me. Thank you again, this post had such blessed timing… I pray your day is blessed!
This side of Heaven,
Jen @beautyandbedlam.com says
Summer Rae –
I’ve seen a few of your comments now and I adore hearing you share your heart about this woman you call momma. As I finish up writing about hospitality, your story is one that echoes reassurance that it’s all worth it. That reaching out and welcoming someone alongside, heck, maybe sometimes we even have to first drag them along with us, is worth it.
Can I ask how you first met her? How did she first reach out to you?
Summer Rae says
Dearest Miss Jen (Jen happens to be my Mama’s name!),
It is all my LORD and Savior! I am more than happy to share some of my story with you. I first met my Mama through mutual family friends that let me tag along to a series of parties that she threw. At one of them I was playing with her youngest (of ten), at the time two, I was doing a little bit of sign language with her and twirling her about and Mama made a comment about me being good with kids and coming to help out sometime (I am now more than fully aware she is beyond capable and in fact did not need my “help”)… I didn’t know then just what GOD was doing. As week’s passed by GOD wouldn’t let either of us forget about it and eventually it ended up with her asking me if I would like to come help out two days a week (I lived three hours away at the time and so the plan was to drive down one day to help with laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc. stay a day and then drive back the next day back to my other two jobs). But, thank GOD, the first week I drove down she and Papa pulled me aside and said something along the lines of, “We are a fast judge of character and well, it might be easier if you just moved in.” I didn’t even hesitate, I had been praying for so long for GOD to show me what was next and this was so clearly it that I didn’t even question it. It’s not until I tell people the story that I realize it was pretty crazy of me to move in with a family (of twelve) I had maybe met briefly seven-ish times through glimpses at parties… but, GOD had prepared me in so many ways that I hadn’t even realized, so that when it was time to leave camp and follow the cloud pillar He was sending before me I just… went. Getting me here was the “easy” part… She already had ten kids of her own and now she was taking in a 20 year old young woman who had a lot of growing up, and learning, to do herself (and still does). I had a less then ideal childhood (which, I know isn’t unique). My mom passed away when I was eleven years old and various women have tried to come in and “fill that spot” inevitably they all get tired of the “game” and fade away. But, Mama wasn’t about to let my past experiences keep me chained to my “porch.” She has helped me work through so much that no one else has ever bothered to before. She has shown and continues to teach me what a real relationship looks like. It can be ugly and messy, it’s hard and you have to fight for it. But, it is one of the most beautifully, blessed gifts from GOD… our need for others and relationships. When GOD is the main focus in every one of your relationships, they will be blessed and you will be surprised at how strong He can make them… and you! I know this was probably more of an explanation than you bargained for… but, I love sharing GOD’s work in my life! I pray your day is blessed Miss Jen.
This side of Heaven,
Michele Morin says
Gentle push noted — and greatly appreciated. Our “neighborhood” is rural and so there’s no over-the-back-fence or meet at the mailbox opportunity to get acquainted. It always takes me a while to muster the courage to show up on a doorstep bearing muffins, but it’s time to do it again.
Jasmine Ruigrok says
Hello ladies, I’ve been reading along here at (in)courage for a while but am only now commenting. This brought tears to my eyes, because it describes so much of where I am, and also where I so long to be. I feel like I’ve spent so long off the porch and seen so little fruit in open hands I just want to crawl back onto my porch screen it off tightly. Perhaps it is because I have been trying so hard in one place; you can only extend so much to a single community before you realize you aren’t quite what they’re looking for. I’m at a place where I am exhausted from the effort of pouring out, and wondering if there is any merit in watering infertile soil… I’m not making a lot of sense here, am I? I sat down to write a more optimistic comment but it didn’t want to flow, and I considered deleting this, but decided I have nothing to lose in being real. All this to say, thankyou for this exhortation. It only takes the smallest encouragement when you’re ready to quit to give you the strength to rise again! I’m grateful.
Jen @beautyandbedlam.com says
Jasmine – I feel your heart beat and have shared it many times. It’s exhausting always being the one to get off the porch and there are season when we do it a bit more energetically than others, but then I remind myself of the One who never stops inviting, never stops welcoming and I’m so glad He didn’t decide one day that He was just to tired for me. So we press on, we till that soil a little more and realize that what we think is infertile be the exact spot where a flourishing garden sprouts years from now.
Keep on, keeping on. You are doing an amazing job!! 🙂
You make perfect sense to me. I have felt what you are feeling. And your note encourages me that I’m not crazy.
Thank you for sharing.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
It sounds like you have a wonderful heart of love to share and you’re not afraid to reach out – two great plus signs right there. Maybe, like you said, you are trying to pour out in the wrong area – on infertile soil. Is there another group that is perhaps “others focused”? Sometimes when you come alongside women/people who are focused on something outside themselves you are able to make bonds more easily. Say for example an outreach ministry at church or a Habitat group, or a food bank group, or soup kitchen, etc. or find a group that fits YOUR giftedness. Or invite a few women that YOU find interesting over to your home and maybe you might click with one of them. I have found that it only takes one kindred spirit to drive all the loneliness away. Since I was new to the community I invited a couple other new people over and I fortunately found things in common with one of them. Will be praying for you….you have A LOT to offer to others. Keep looking around for other groups and extend that olive branch of friendship.
Jasmine Ruigrok says
Dear ones, thankyou so very much for both your encouragement and wisdom! How I needed to hear this counsel. THANKYOU, so much, for your kindness and thoughtfulness in reaching out even in this small way. This is where getting off the porch begins. 🙂
Nancy, you’ve echoed words I’ve wondered (even out loud at times!); “am I really seeing this, or am I crazy? Am I just being selfish or self-centered?” You are very much not alone. Thankyou for reminding me that I’m not either.
Beth Williams says
Praying God opens doors of opportunity for you. May He send you one good “life-doing” friend. It may take time & will definitely take effort. It is well worth it. Prayers for you my sweet sister!
When porches become fences, they lose their charm. These days, I’m all too comfortable sharing a smile and a wave instead of words and a hug. Beautiful reminder this morning to get off the porch and meet in the middle. Thank you, Jessica. ((hug))
Well, I wanted to reply to every comment here. I see a little piece of me in them all. Weird thing is I don’t think I’ve realized, until recently, just how guarded I’ve been. And I can pinpoint each episode in my life that caused me to erect another wall, but I hadn’t even realized I was doing so. Thanks so much for pricking our hearts with this post today. It’s definitely timely for me.
Jen @beautyandbedlam.com says
Sweet Deidra (and others reading)-
We love how you are getting off your porch and going first so often these days. You know how much I love our porch and there’s nothing more that I’d love than to share it with you.
As a WW to a WOC, can you share your best heart suggestions for going first? For those in rural communities, who find themselves without the day to day interaction of being able to simply get off the porch and reach across the table to those of different racial backgrounds, what are practical ideas for someone who really wants to radically change their every day?
I have the ways that we have done it, but it’s through football, sports etc and I’m wondering for that WW, introverted woman, how can she go first? How does she connect? I’d love to offer a broader perspective.
This post opens up great dialogue. I’d love to hear how others have intentionally made this happen.
Jen @beautyandbedlam.com says
Oh my, Jessica!!!!!
I love this piece. I’m a big porch proponent in getting off that porch or inviting others onto it with me. When I read it on my phone, I thought it was written by Deidra. Oops!! So you can disregard the above. 🙂
Melissa Henderson says
I love porches. Right now, we just have a back porch and during the summer, our great-nieces come to the back door and bring their friends. We always have a supply of popsicles and snacks for the kids. Love the friendliness of our neighborhood. 🙂
This is such a great reminder of taking ownership in relationships and moving toward others in community. It’s crazy hard to “get off the porch” but it brings divine appointments full of life-changing interaction. Great post today!
Oh my goodness! I LOVE this!!! I’ve needed this lately. God has really been speaking to me about unity in general and especially in my church. I’ve always considered myself a loner and I’m happy that way but God has shown me I can be happier and more fulfilled when I’m united with others for His cause. Not that I don’t like other people, more so I feel like they don’t like me and it’s comfortable to just stay on my own porch. God hasn’t called me to be comfortable though. Thank you for this! I’m going to start praying specifically that He would give me the courage and confidence to get up off my porch and go encourage someone else. Thank you thank you thank you!
Thank you for a good reminder and encouragement. I so agree with you. We can only ‘feel sorry for ourselves’ for so long. Just because no one talks to me or initiate a relationship doesn’t mean I’m hated by others. Someone has to start something somewhere somehow, otherwise….imagine everyone sitting on their own porches and staring at everybody else without smiling or initiating any relationships, what would the world be like?!
This resonated with me today. Our last house was in the midwest, and I got used to the culture of neighborliness. Now we are in retirement mode in the southwest, in a family neighborhood because I preferred it to a retirement community. We moved in three years ago. Our daughter and her family live nearby, which is a blessing, because any attempt we have made at extending friendship in the neighborhood hasn’t gone far. I don’t think it’s just us, honestly. We thought perhaps we could get to know people and serve the community when my husband joined the HOA board. Wrong move – HOA boards are not popular! Our church is nearby, which is ideal for my husband who has physical challenges. It is a small church and the core group seems to have known each other for years. Newcomers stay a while and then move on. We have tried to connect and I really like the people but my husband thinks maybe it’s time for us to move on, too. I still keep in touch with friends from our past, but it isn’t the same as interacting and sharing life together. I am wondering if this is meant to be the season when I draw closer to the Lord and depend on him more, as the “friend that sticks closer than a brother.” I sure do talk to Him a lot! Thank you for”listening.” 🙂
Courtney Stoops says
I know I should get off my porch or let others onto my porch but I’ve been hurt when I so badly just needed a friend. I put up a privacy fence and I feel like now I can control what others can see or share. I know that’s not the right answer, but I’m sitting on my little porch where it’s safe and when the world is at arms reach I’m not causing a problem.
Rebecca L Jones says
I think it makes for a good book title. I’m a Ga peach, myself, and porch sitting or swinging and tea are as common as biscuits and cornbread. And spring and fall is right, it gets too hot in summer. I have a couple of beautiful porch memories, but they are more in the way of it being a prayer closet or a secret place, whether in the evening smelling the honeysuckles or in the morning watching doves come to eat from the feeder and sipping hot coffee, it’s a place of quiet and still and rest in the Lord. He will meet you there and you will find grace and peace. And even some butterflies.
Theresa Boedeker says
I like you comment about some of us need to get off our porches and some of us need to be willing to meet on the porch of those who can’t get off theirs. I think sometimes it is easier to get off our porch when we have kids we are taking here and there and being thrown into situations with other women and moms. Sometimes it seems easier to just chat and get to know each other. Start attending activities you take your kiddos to and soon you will see the same person over and over. And soon you are talking. Maybe it is harder to meet others women when you don’t have children I had a friend who moved to a new town and had no kids at home. She never did have a reason (in her mind) to leave her porch and meet other women.
Beth Williams says
I love porches, rocking chairs & sweet tea. Doing life in this world requires friendships. God made us for community. He wants us involved with others. It might mean getting off your porch and saying Hi to your neighbor, or taking something to the “newbie” on your block. Whatever it is that God puts on you-just do it. You might make a great life-long friend. Time has come to take off our masks and be ourselves & love one another.