People think we’re crazy. But crazy is kind of what happens when your heart is open to God.
Earlier this year we invited a family of eight to come and live with us on our two acre property. When we moved into a beautiful wooded neighborhood with acreage a year and a half ago, our hearts were longing to share this place. We wanted people to come and hang out, eat, relax, and enjoy these amazing quiet woodlands. My husband did an exceptional job at building our home, although downsizing 800 square feet right in the middle of growing a larger family isn’t exactly conventional, but then again, we don’t want a conventional life either. And as much as we wanted to throw our doors open for people, we didn’t build our home with a large amount of people in mind. It has a simple layout: one big family/dining/kitchen room, two bedrooms, one bathroom, and one small laundry room/storage/ family closet, although our upstairs holds a spacious attic.
We knew this sweet family of eight from our home church fellowship. The people we worship with have taught us the importance of “doing life together.” We’ve learned that worshiping God is more than just entering a place, singing songs and leaving fuller for the week. It’s about our entire life. It’s about being a useable part of Christ’s body, functioning as a voice, as hands, as feet, as a tangible expression of love in other people’s lives. Worshiping God often means diving into uncomfortable relationships, being messy with people, and sharing a kind of intimacy with people that few actually experience, but most long for.
A Tiny Home for Eight
Earlier this year, this family was looking to get out of their rental house and had plans on purchasing a trailer for their family to live in. They never asked to stay on our property and it wasn’t something they had even thought of, but we were all willing and excited about the idea when we put it out for them to consider. Fast forward a little, and the trailer they were going to purchase fell through at the last moment, but they were already in the process of moving out of their rental house. So, like any good friend, we invited them to live in our attic.
Yes, we invited eight people to live in our little-over 350 square foot attic. And the craziest part?
They loved the idea.
There was much planning and building to be done after we all said “yes!” to the idea. With much work and much creativity, they turned the once attic storage space into a bonafide tiny home, and in the middle of May, during a crazy rainstorm, they officially moved in. It’s amazing how they have made the space their own. They have an outside staircase leading to the front door, a kitchen with a full sized refrigerator, a bathroom, shower, and vanity. They built false walls in one corner of the rectangular shaped home to have a master bedroom, although it’s just about the size of a mattress. They even created unique tables that function as bunk beds at night for the kids and dining/homeschool tables during the day. The only thing they didn’t have room for was a washer and dryer, so we share ours with them.
Their hearts are grateful and open to following God. They have had other experiences of living with people and people living with them, so they were really open about sharing what works and what doesn’t when it comes to intentionally sharing spaces and sharing lives. We relished their advice and their enthusiasm for intimacy with people. It’s amazing how this kind of friendship can feel like a hot meal to a starving soul. Most of the time you don’t even know how famished you are until true nourishment is offered to you. This world offers so little in the way of true, messy, heart intimacy with other people that when you find it, you kind of want to gobble it up and ask for seconds.
Holy Ground in a Bathroom
I have to admit, I thought hard about what this idea would mean for our everyday life. Like anyone else, I like my quiet afternoons, I like my plans, and mostly I like feeling like I’m in control. But when you invite God into your heart and people into your life you realize that those are exactly the things you must let go. We knew there would be sacrifices and work; good relationships, like a good marriage, take commitment and patience, but we also knew more than anything there would be great blessing and joy.
Living closely with another family means that there has been interruptions, noise, messy emotions, a few difficult conversations, tears and hurt feelings. There is no doubt about it, toes have been stepped on. But God has provided a rich soil for hearts to grow, learn and love.
One evening, this mama of six and I were washing our youngest little girls in our tub downstairs, since their bathroom holds only have a shower and no tub, and the youngsters were in desperate need of a good soak. We began talking about our mutual friend who had just said goodbye to the baby she carried for only 22 weeks. Our hearts ached for her. We wrestled with the reality of death as our babies splashed and dumped water on each other. We shared our thoughts and our grief over the thought of losing a child so loved, intermittently stopping to remind the children not to drink the now murky bath water. And as we sat in that cramped space, me using the toilet for a chair and *B on the floor, I thought, this is what it must mean to be on holy ground. In our everyday, bathing little bodies into evening, wrestling with death, sharing hearts and words, sharing lives and homes, this is where common meets divine.
This thing we’re doing is holy.
The Shared Life
But I know what you are thinking…What is it really like sharing a house and land with twelve people? How does it really function with the six kids plus two of our own ranging from two years to twelve? (With two more precious babes on the way! One for our family and one for theirs!)
It is fun. We share laughter and conversations and movie nights. We share our TV and they share their trampoline. The kids share their days together, playing, running and building forts in the trees. But it takes daily compromise too. We share a washer and dryer and laundry soap. Sometimes we share meals, muffin tins and ovens. The kids squabble and bicker just like any group of children, and it takes a humble heart to know how to react to each one, especially when they are not your children. And sometimes we all fail. We learn how to communicate better, especially voicing our concerns in a way that’s beneficial for everyone. Sometimes we have “family” meetings. It also means support is nearby, and oh, how helpful that is when raising a family! They share homeschooling advice with us and we share budgeting tips with them. We share illness remedies for the little ones and occasionally watch each other’s kids.
We are learning so much from watching how a larger family functions in their day to day life. I see our heavenly Father in it, the way He welcomes more and more to the table of grace, and I love it. I love watching a huge pot of stew quickly empty while ladles scrape the bottom for more; still everyone has had their fill. There is always enough to go around. I love that there is always room for one more body, one more chair, one more plate. I love that everyone has a place and a duty to perform. Maybe the little ones pick up toys in the yard while the older kids wash and dry the dishes. Everyone gets to help and everyone feels needed. And I love that there is more than enough opportunity to learn how to love, every single day.
Each family has much to give and much to gain, and I believe that is exactly what God intended for all our relationships.
Are We Crazy?
People are a little shocked when I tell them our living situation. It’s just not very common here where big houses hold small families, instead of small houses holding big families. But we live in a world that is backwards. The more I think about it, the more I realize that crazy is a soul parched of meaningful relationships. Crazy is a life centered on preserving your life, instead of giving all away to become tattered by loving. Crazy is holding back, and not allowing God to do what is most miraculous and that is, to change you into a person who says “yes!” when the world says it’s nuts.
We don’t know how long this season will last with our upstairs “neighbors.” We don’t know what God has in store for each of us. But whether it will be a long season or a short season, I know that this is a precious time. We are grateful for this adventure in sharing. And I know that I will treasure this season for the rest of my life.