On Where Church Is {And Gratitude in Pictures}


In the Deep South on a Sunday morning, Husband and I sitting on porch swing drinking coffee and resting on the Sabbath the best way we know how, the black gentleman neighbor across the street brings something right up to the picket fence. I can tell by his posture he has come over on a mission.

He never goes to church when his son and wife pull out the drive--he stays behind. And on this day, he has spotted us out on the porch.

My husband goes out to meet him, and Mr. James, smoking his cigar on this fine Sunday morning, he hands a bag of fish over the fence to my husband, and I can hear him telling of the trip and how he caught them.

He doesn't do it because he thinks we need the food, or because we are poor, or because the church said to get out and knock on doors--he just does it because it's what's in his heart.

Just like a couple of weeks before, when his son showed up on our front step with fresh vegetables from the garden, a big sweet grin on his angel-boy face. I know his sweet mama had plenty of family she could have given that fresh summer bounty to, and for some reason, she chose to share it with us.

From my spot on the lazy swing, in mid-July sweltering Mississippi heat--heat so thick and heavy it makes your throat close up and your lungs just pure forget how to work--I can see him waving his cigar and his booming voice talking of all of us going down to the lake together some time to let the kids fish. We can use his boat, he says. Why he came over on a Sunday morning out of the blue to say all of this, I really don't know. It's always hard for us humans to believe that someone may just want to be friendly, no strings attached. Life teaches us to be hard.

My mind goes back to a few weeks before that, when the girls and I walked over in the middle of the day just to show them our new kitten, because we know they love kittens and they know we've been looking for one for the girls for a couple of years. When I walked across the yard up to where Mr. James was working on a load he had brought home, he looked up at me and eyes wide as saucers, jumped and let out a foul word. He apologized profusely, of course, and kept telling me he thought I was a ghost suddenly upon him. One minute I wasn't there, and the next I was right up on him, he said. I said to him, well, I am white enough to be a ghost, aren't I? We had a good laugh about that.

They haven't talked much, except the time my husband borrowed a post hole digger, and the time that we had no phone and no heat and I went over to ask to use the phone in the cold--and Mrs. Viola said Come over and stand in front of my heater and get warm anytime, baby--and then the time we stopped by on Christmas Eve to bring a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped up with love.

Mr. James is still waving that cigar around and talking up a storm, and my husband just keeps nodding, yes sir, and his voice carrying over on the breeze, going on and on about lakes and the best times to fish, it's like he's making up for lost time, right there at our picket fence on the Sabbath.

Maybe he is all the church we needed today, because it is where two or three are, and church can be had over a picket fence. Many in the church would never grace my picket fence--I invited and they wouldn't come, many would never walk over uninvited just to say hello--but they will bang on my door if I don't attend service, many would never bring food just because--but they will put me on the list to receive help from the food bank, and they would hardly laugh with me right in the yard over a foul word slipped--because Christians don't laugh, especially about things such as accidental curse words.

And when I was the one in the throes of deep depression and illness, I felt like a leper no one would come near--when I was the "least of these", where was Jesus with skin on? Where was the church?

And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it's power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. James--

maybe he is Jesus to us today.


Gratitude in Pictures and Lazy Summer Days all running together...{#931-955}...:

The pure light of the two of them together...

Sisters laughing....the laughter in a home being medicine...

Older sister spinning little sister and the way she adores her...
Mid-summer backyard fun...

Littlest sitting with her big sister for protection...

My babies trying their hands at sparklers, their curious, joyous faces lighting my life....
How she will always take anything from Mama's hand...

The perfect summer treat--ice cream in a cone {with raspberries and blueberries and dipped in baker's melting candy and red crystals!}
Letting the ice cream run down because we can...
Taking in the wonder of nature...

That I can remember her like this...
Watching them play in the rain...

Old friends visiting....
The goodness of God's bounty offered us every day...
Light caught on wood...

The wonder of color...how it captivates me...
Thank you notes written to Daddy for working so hard for us, an idea I got here, from Alicia, who I like to call friend--so thankful for her encouragement {that could be 2 thank-you's!}...and it couldn't have come at a better time for this Husband working 7 day weeks, the days so long...
Family in the backyard when Husband is home unusually early, the makings for popcorn popped on the grill, and pizza
Hearing their laughter, squeals; Hard Eucharisteo: calming their yells and crying...
How she carries her hippo and blanket with her everywhere she goes...
Caramel popcorn popped the old-fashioned way, the beauty of creating... 
Fudge adds the sweet finish...
Please come back tomorrow for the recipe for my Old-fashioned caramel-fudge popcorn! And maybe a story in the works....
your comments mean so much to me--they soul-drench me in grace and minister to me. And your prayers mean even more. I am not able to answer each comment--I am probably wrestling a mountain of laundry, or baby girl who apparently thinks freedom means clothes-free; cleaning up potty-training messes or apple cores lost in the recesses of un-folded clothes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love you! Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much.... if time permits, I will come by your place and leave some encouragement for you!

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my gratefulness.

Still counting and joining in community with sweet Ann and others...

  On In Around button



  1. Oh, I resonate so deeply with your words, friend.
    This is my church, too.
    And you have described my Jesus.
    (He's not the one with the expectations and the attendance chart.)
    Love this more than I can say.

  2. Yes, this is the Jesus I know and the One who draws me to His heart because He is full of laughter and love, because His touch is as soft as those baby kittens and He throws NO STONES at we who are weak and imperfect, only beckons- "COME."

    I love your eyes to SEE Jesus in your midst and pray that your heart may be healed from whatever pain "the church" has caused.

    Do I say this every time? This post is MY FAVORITE! (okay, and your next one will be too. Just like your last one :) !)

  3. Nacole,

    Nice to meet you, friend. I'm popping over from Imperfect Prose. I enjoyed peeking over your picket fence with you, meeting your neighbors, and glancing into your heart. Thanks for the chance...

    Jennifer Dougan

  4. Oh Nacole, I'm so sorry that people, the ones who should've cared more than strangers, weren't there to love you through a hard time. This story is so lovely, the way Jesus comes to us with a bag of fish at the picket fence. You should think about reworking this into a short story to publish somewhere. Just my opinion, but I thought you did a beautiful job telling it. Love you!

  5. really like this story/post - what a community you have. Yes - I have three boys, so I'm living in a different paradigm.

    God Bless you and yours, and thank you for the encouragement.

  6. Isn't Jesus altogether lovely? sometimes, he gives us fish. sometimes he asks us to pass them out...and watch what unfolds.

    I agree with shelly. You should write this in short story form and watch the publishers fight over it, friend! it's a beautiful picture of the One who saved a wretch like me....

  7. This breaks my heart, isn't being Jesus with skin on the reason for church in the first place? At some point we all get hurt and turned off from the church, I know I have. But something keeps bringing me back, and it isn't the imperfect believers. I pray one day God will lead you to a church that will help you heal and make you believe once again in it.
    Love this post! So honest and real..

  8. You really, really know how to paint a picture with your words. And a beautiful one, at that. Grateful for you, and the way you weave a story that finds its ways back to Jesus.

  9. "maybe he is all the church we needed today." girl, you sure can write. i loved this piece, this word-picture.

  10. It's a dance, this being good neighbors, and it's a delicate one. It sounds like you have (and are) perfect neighbors. What a blessing for everyone involved.

  11. Nacole, I thank you for sharing this wonderful post... my heart is right with you and my laughter and my tears... Yes to all of it! yes! I go away seeing with you...
    And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it's power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. James--

    maybe he is Jesus to us today.
    blessings and grace be multiplied to you dear ones! And say hi to Mr James for me... and hug your kitten for me too!

  12. loved those sunflowers in that beautiful blue pitcher...made me think of Van Gogh...I digress...you have a real gift of writing, Nacole...glad you could see Jesus loving you...hugs, across your white picket fence :)

  13. I just cannot believe we have not met before today. I am visiting from Emily's. Your heart, your blog, your story and your writing are filled with the beautiful. I am so happy the Lord brought me here today. I was raised in the South and live in the South so this echos such a familiar part of my story too. Look forward to getting to know you and your precious heart even better. Love your fence, it is on my heart wish list....may I enjoy yours in the meantime?

  14. Oh the Southerness of it all......... oh, thank you, I just soaked these moments in. From the simple sacredness of this Sunday morning with your neighbor, to the pictures of the girls running in the rain, and a glimpse of your visiting with the Schloss'....... my heart ached, in a good way. :) <3
    I drank in these moments with your neighbors that you've shared, and I hear and see Jesus working in and through it all. What a beautiful display of His LIFE moving through your words and pictures, and throughout your life as a whole.
    I love reading the comments above, what fine folk! They say it all so well! :) you know some pretty cool people in here and they have excellent taste in that they love your writing as much as I do! :) I second their compliments and encouragement! Love it!! Love you!! <3

  15. What a beautiful picture of Jesus right there at your fence. When we don't find him he finds us. You wrote it so well.



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