Trekking in Faith, Nocatee, FL (2018)
Mark 12:30-31: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and all of your strength. The second is this, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no greater commandment than these.
If you would have told me a year or two ago that I would bond with our next door neighbors, the Martinez family, I would have told you there wasn’t a chance.
We couldn’t be more different, on paper. They had teenagers, we had babies. They were working on math homework and teaching their oldest daughter to drive while I was changing diapers and giving our kids lollipops when they eventually pooped successfully on the potty.
But a tragic event occurring on December 17, 2017 at the Martinez home next door budded into an unexpected friendship.
We don’t even come close to living up to the second greatest commandment of loving our neighbors as ourselves. Our jobs, activities and crazy schedule always seem to get in the way.
And a lot of times, our pride gets in the way, too. I have caused broken relationships with girlfriends in this neighborhood due to miscommunication and betrayal. My husband has been too tired after work to stop and connect with a neighbor who seems like he needs encouragement.
But the story of friendships budding with the Martinez family right next door will always be a sweet one to us.
The night that we returned home from our first mission trip to Guatemala, we felt inspired to make big changes in our lives. We spent the plane ride home talking passionately about leaving our hometown of Nocatee, where were perhaps “too comfortably” raising our boys.
The next morning, though, God reminded us that He needed us exactly where we were: next door to the Martinez family.
That morning, the Martinez family lost their father and husband to suicide. The neighborhood was shocked, the family devasated. Years of culminating family heartbreak next door began to come to light, none of which we realized for a second. And Logan and I just stared at each other thinking, “The mission field was right next door the whole time!”
Fast forward one year, as we prepare to attend an anniversary event to celebrate Eric Martinez’s life: we are beyond blessed that the Martinez family has become an extention of our family. The mom, Kelly, and I ended up having more in common than I originally thought like fitness, a love of food and travel and Carly Jean Los Angeles clothes 😉 And their children are precious with our young boys, entertaining their squealing hugs and stop-bys with hand-written notes for them.
Oh, what a gift God has given me to be able to spend time with these neighbors. I recently was able to spend one-on-one time with Emma, the middle child of the Martinez family. We were able to talk about Emma’s dad’s death and how hard it is been on her and her family. But we also got to talk girl talk: about high school life, boys and school.
We haven’t figured out this whole love your neighbor thing. While we’d like to think we are experts, we are still very much novices. We need to be better at reaching out, saving time for neighbors that we do not yet know and overall choosing to put these neighbors over ourselves.
But for now, we don’t just wave high and close the garage door behind us when the Martinezs are outside. We don’t rush in with the dog to avoid conversation. No, God has given us unexpected friendships with the Martinez family and we can’t wait to see how this friendship will grow in the years to come.
Won’t you be my neighbor,
We love you Martinez family!