I am a shy and quiet person by nature. I am not one to just start talking to a stranger. I am not one to initiate conversations. I am not one to initiate activities. So when my husband and I moved to a home in the country, I liked the idea. We lived a few miles outside of a small town.
We did not jump into the small town life right away. We shopped and bought our groceries and went to church in a nearby ‘city’. People didn’t know us, people didn’t keep up with us. I thought that is how I would like it.
Then we started to ease into the small town life and atmosphere. We decided to embrace the life we were part of. We started getting groceries at the small grocery store, going to church in our town, and eating occasionally at the local café. It was wonderful. We were welcomed with open arms.
I guess I had forgotten how nice a small community can be.
You know the type of town where everybody knows your name and asks how you are. Where the owner of the small grocery store helps you carry your groceries to the car. Where people are genuinely happy to see you at church. Where your neighbor notices a tree fell down in your yard and offers to help cut it up and move it away. Where the neighbor with a tractor comes by to scoop the driveway after a big snowstorm.
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
That’s what it was, that was it… I needed to start seeing how God sees.
I need to start seeing with my heart and not my head. My head reminds me I’m shy and I won’t know what to say and what if they don’t like me. My heart says these people are put in my life by God. They are a gift from Him to me. They are a way for me to see and feel His love here on earth. They are a way for me to share the love of God here on earth.
If I wouldn’t open myself up and open my heart up to my community, I would miss these wonderful people. I would miss out on what I can learn from them. I would miss the love they share. I would miss the opportunity to grow.
For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
It can feel risky to open yourself up to people you don’t know. It is hard to be vulnerable and it certainly takes courage. It takes stepping out in faith. But I think it is worth the risk, don’t you?
Have you had an experience where seeing with your heart was more important than seeing with your head? Have you had a time where seeing with your heart made all the difference? We would love to hear!
By Jennifer, StudioJRU
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For a long time my heart was set on the things of the flesh, it was not until God had caused me to be born again and healed the past pains before I could trust seeing with my heart. The Bible tells us the heart is a wicked place where sin abounds, but a regenerated heart by the rebirth of salvation and the maturing by His Word is one that can be trusted. God gave us emotions to enhance our relationships, but sometimes until there is healing that heart can betray us. We are also told to guard our hearts, so we are to be careful who we give them to in all relationship, friends and souses alike. We are to know the character of a person first so that we are yoked in friendships and spouses alike with friends of God, not friends of the world. This is the art of fellowship; the community of believers, the book of Acts continued in our lives today. As with the alien of the Old Testament, we too are to welcome them, and let them know of the love of God, and His desire as a reasonable request to live holy before Him, living sacrifices, with guarded hearts. The act of extending the hand of fellowship is a command rather our heart is in it or not, but the true heart with all its emotions will make such an act, full of joy.
The true heart will make it full of joy… I love that, Eileen! Thank you so much for sharing!
Amy Hunt says
I specifically remember a snowstorm a few years ago–the only one we had that winter–and the first year we had moved into our neighborhood. The way our neighbor just came over with his snowblower and just started attacking all the snow in our driveway as my groom was trying to shovel us out. He just nodded and did. It was remarkable. And then the way others in our neighborhood, just a house up from us, helped a woman get unstuck and my groom helped another get his car unstuck. Snow can be a nuisance, but it can be such a sticking point for neighbors’ hearts. *Letting* our neighbors befriend us was the gamechanger for me.
Allowing a befriending, yes, such a gamechanger! I am so happy you were planted in such a welcoming neighborhood, Amy!
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Shelly Miller says
We’ve lived in a few small towns, some that felt like another culture. We struggled to find a place to fit in some. It was in the embrace of meeting in community, accepting cultural and social differences that we began to feel at home. After eight family moves, I’ve discovered that I could live anywhere because Jesus resides in all of them. So glad you found this too Jennifer.
Exactly… we can live anywhere because He resides everywhere! Such a great thought, Shelly. Thank you for sharing!
I can identify with this, Jennifer. We moved to a small town almost 18 years ago from the biggest city in Canada. I found it difficult just to get my grocery shopping done because so many people wanted to talk and say hello. It didn’t ‘help’ that I was the minister’s wife! Though, I sure didn’t mind when the owner of the grocery store would personally take my shopping to my car to load it for me!
Our town is experiencing explosive growth as the house prices are so much less than the city. I no longer know the people at the store but I still say hello. They shyly say hello back, as they are city slickers and a little nervous about talking to strangers.
The best part is seeing someone I do know. Whether we met on the soccer field, parent council, figure skating or church, we have history together. My husband’s prof at seminary used to tell the young graduates that you really don’t do ministry until you’ve been in a charge for more than 20 years. We didn’t know what that meant until recently. Performing the marriage ceremony of a young women whom you baptized as an infant or leading her funeral service because she succumbed to breast cancer while you try to comfort her children, all these are the privileges of being in community. They forge links which you never get in this fast paced, church-hopping, always moving up and out world. I would pray that everyone gets to live in such a community!
Beautiful. So beautiful to hear those privileges of being in a community. You are exactly right, that you just can’t feel that with a ‘moving up and out’ mentality. Thank you for sharing, Kelly!
Karen Clancy says
This is exactly how I feel about living in Saint James Missouri
That is wonderful, Karen! Thank you for sharing!
I am the kind of person who would be happy to stay alone all day–just give me a room of books and I’m fine. But it takes those times when I do step out of my cocoon for me to realize how much I miss community. Definitely worth the risk, Jennifer. Definitely.
Nice to hear someone relates to this, Laura. We are blessed with opportunities for that risk, aren’t we?!
Nearly ten years ago, a group of people were visiting our town from out of the country. Our pastor asked us if we would be willing to host a family of five for the week. My husband was a youth pastor, & they had two teenage boys. They also had a six-year-old daughter (a year older than our daughter, at the time). We agreed to have them, but we wondered what we’d have in common with the parents (who were a good 15+ years older than us). What we had looked on as a potentially awkward relationship has developed into something like family! They have become very dear to us and have made trips to visit us nearly every year since. (We have plans to visit them as well, but the budget hasn’t worked out for it yet). What a blessing to see with the heart!
That is awesome, Amy! I love how He can put people in our life in an unusual way and they become family. Love that you shared this story, thank you!
Karen Fawcette says
I, too, am a shy withdrawn person most of the time….this weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone to serve others. Believe me, it was way out. I discovered it was National Say Thank You to a Police Officer Day… and in my dreams (literally) had all these visions of service to them. I woke up ‘challenged’ to say the least… but felt if it was on my heart that heavy, I needed to do something at least. I got some flyers printed up, and again, waay out of my comfort zone, actually walked into business after business (50-60) and put on my most outgoing, cheerful attitude (normally zilch) and asked them each to post flyers so that somebody would see and just say thank you to a police officer! I wanted to quit after each single time, it was so hard for me to do… but I did finish hours later, exhausted, and then baked them fresh cookies. I dropped off the cookies and a poem I found, describing Police Officer in a scriptural acronym. The officer who took my gift had no idea what it was about (I guess nobody else said thank you today?) but I followed God’s leading… I served… hopefully blessed somebody… went out literally into my small community for the sake of another/others. I don’t know if it will have any other impact other than what it did for me. Hopefully so. Ahhh… community… sometimes it is all a heart-thing.
Oh, Karen, that is so wonderful!! I can just image how He was smiling with your service that day. My husband was a Military Police Officer and I know what something like that would have meant to him. I applaud you for following His lead to bless this special men and women who serve us. I am sure you had a special impact on many people that day!! Thank you so much for sharing your story!
Crystal @ Serving Joyfully says
I want that community, but I’m so shy and insecure it’s self-destructive and I end up feeling alone. Still trying to figure out how to break that cycle.
Sometimes it just takes time for us shy people, Crystal. I totally understand that! He will lead you, even in little ways, to step out into the community. I pray that you can find a welcoming community to be part of. You are part of our community here already!!
Beth Williams says
I can identify with this post. I, too, am a little shy and not one to open up quickly. I moved to a small town in VA for school. Immediately I had a neighbor bring me dinner the first night. That family was so kind to feed me occasionally–even taking me out to eat with them. Friends at church invited me over for Thanksgiving.
Later, after marriage, I moved into a small town in TN-Elizabethton. He took me to his church and it was hard at first to make friends. That church is small and built on a few families from the area. Since living here 8 years I have grown to love this town and the people. Everyone is so caring & friendly–not like the big towns.
Great post about opening up to community!
That is such a great story of how people welcomed you in like family, when you were in school, Beth! It does take time, but it is wonderful to grow to love a place and the people like you have!
After college and before marriage, my roommate and I were in a store looking for paint. The young man helping us was, well, obnoxious. I could see Carolyn’s put out expression, and it would have been easy not to give him the time of day. But with the Spirit’s nudging I started asking him about himself and listening to what he had to say as he answered questions about family and work. His entire tone changed into a genuine person, not artificial. In this one instance I learned the value of caring beyond the mask others can show, to be a real ‘neighbor’ even in a department store.
Sometimes, all it takes is genuine care to open a person’s heart. I love that you followed the Spirit’s nudging and showed this stranger God’s love. Thank you for sharing that story with us, Ann! You are a wonderful neighbor!
dana butler says
Just had to jump in and say – this is a really cool story…. It convicts me. Awesome job listening to the Holy Spirit in a frustrating situation.
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I am shy too Jen, and would be perfectly happy to sit at home and do the things I love to do. But I have found you are exactly right. I would miss so much if I did that. When I am brave enough to step out of my comfort zone I am so blessed.
It helps to focus on the good that comes out of stepping out of our comfort zone, doesn’t it, Linda?!
Just last night we enjoyed we took part in a huge 100th anniversary celebration of the fire company my husband is a part of (which was also a celebration of life in small town America). When I found myself near the owner of an estate tucked behind our community who graciously hosted the event and whom I had never met, I decided I needed to go out of my comfort zone to introduce myself and thank him. What followed was twenty minutes of talking life with what felt like a kindred spirit who happens to be a wealthy business man 25 years my senior, definately not the type of person I would ever expect to feel comfortable with. We think of judging people as looking down on those we perceive as less desirable than us but I realized last night that sometimes it is assuming those living a life unattainable to most of us could not possibly be relatable, be a friend.
What a wonderful point, Tonya! Sometimes we do make those assumptions and when we do we could be missing such a great opportunity to meet a kindred spirit. Thank you for sharing your experience of stepping out in faith like that!
dana butler says
“That’s what it was, that was it… I needed to start seeing how God sees.”
YES….. I’m learning that if we see one another by the Spirit, with God’s perspective, others are so much less intimidating, and we’ll be so much LESS likely to compare ourselves to them, to measure ourselves by them…. and MORE likely to love them the way that GOD does and to be secure enough to begin to open our hearts to them…
Really enjoyed this post. 🙂 Thanks!
Thank you so much, Dana! It really does change everything when we see with God’s perspective and were are less likely to compare. Amazing how He teaches us, isn’t it?!
I grew up just over an hour away from you, up near the South Dakota border. 🙂 My parents moved from our small town while I was in college, but I still have lots of family in Cedar County.
What a wonderful ‘small town’ connection we have Brook!!
Loved reading this…I too could be so content just staying home, immersed in my art and website adventures with the Lord! I went backwards tho’, from the small town to the larger, more impersonal city… which made our church home and small groups all the more important.
So loved how you said this!
Blessings to you, friend!
Thank you so much, Cindy. I am so happy to hear you have found your church home and small groups to be so important! I can imagine how different that makes a big city feel when you find those small connections.
We live in a smaller community than we did in California, but it’s still larger than a “small” town. But we like it. I have felt this last year that I want to get to know my neighbors better and so with another friend, we started “Girls’ Night Out.” Some we have had 15 and others only a few. But it’s all okay. It’s a process. I’m excited to see what God will do here in Northern Idaho. My head has said that women are too busy to get together with their jobs and families and all the activities everyone is involved in. I decided to go around my neighborhood and invite ladies to my house. I knew God was preparing the soil as many said this was exactly what was needed in their lives. I know He’s not done yet!
Oh that is awesome, Diane! I love the idea of ‘girls’ night out’… sounds like a wonderful way for Him to gather new friends together. I love that you said you know He’s not done yet. Oh the possibilities that are there!!
I can closely relate to this post!! My husband and I along with our 3 small kids moved to a small town 3 1/2 years ago in response to a job offer. Prior to moving, there were so many bumps in the road that kept sending us straight to our knees to lay it at the Lord’s feet. He truly led us to this small town but upon moving I realized I knew no one. In the week that it took us to move our belongings, we kept passing this beautiful church on the hill. Each time, I kept feeling this strong tug at my heart and the Lord speaking to me sayting that it was the church that I needed to be at. Once the next Sunday rolled around, our children and I (minus the hubster since he was out of town working) were at that church for Sunday school and then church. All the people welcomed us in with such love and friendship. I felt at home! So much so that I joined that morning during the invitation! We have been there for 3 1/2 years now and will testify that it truly is the church that the Lord led us to!!!
I love to hear how no matter where we are, God can remind us and make us feel right at home. Thank you for sharing your sweet story, Shalena. So happy you found a place to feel like home!
it sounds so lovely where you live and I’m glad God blessed you as you opened your heart to community…blessings, Jennifer…I’m thankful for my neighbors, and how we try to look out for each other.
That is wonderful to have caring neighbors like that, Dolly. They can sure make such a difference!
So love that about small towns! It’s definitely worth the risk to open up. I always try to remember that I must not only do it for myself but also for others and to allow God to use me in any way He can.
Exactly, Jen! Pushing past our own discomfort because He has wonderful plans for us!!