Every time God does something in my life, allows me to be some kind of vessel for his love or provision, I am overwhelmed with joy that he would use me. I am convinced there is no higher privilege. But what I always seem to forget is not how he’ll use me to shape someone else’s life, but how he’ll radically shape my life through them. This year I have been reminded of that again.
One year ago, we and another family said yes to sharing our lives and spaces with each other. (You can read the original post here). We said yes to sharing our yard, our time, and our hearts with each other. One year ago we opened our doors, unsure how, but excited about what God would do, and it is now one year later that I feel the door to my heart has been flung wide open too.
Two years ago my husband built a large garage that became our house. In it he built a spacious attic that later became a tiny home for a family of 8. And for the last year that family has been living above us. At the start of this adventure there were 12 of us, 4 adults and 8 children, 1550 square between our two spaces, and no pets to speak of. Now there are 14 of us (since the addition of two precious babies!), about 1700 square feet between our two homes (since the addition of their new bedroom) and a gray cat named Kit-Kat. We’ve gone through several more cats (a litter and strays) and 11 free roaming chickens that didn’t survive out here in the woods.
It was one year ago this week in May that we began to share our lives with this family, awkwardly at first (for us) and with a good amount of messing up too. I thought I knew how to love people, and right now I’m quite sure that I still don’t, but I think I’ve learned just a little about what love means.
I’m learning that love, in its simplest form, is just saying yes. It’s saying yes when God tugs on your heart and it’s saying yes to people who walk into your life or knock on your door. You may not know how to do the thing that God is tugging at your heart to do. You may already feel like a failure. You may be scared. But a heart open to God, open to love, simply stays open.
I’ve also learned that when you walk with God you walk with people. Grace and mercy become more than ideas, they become your daily breath. A daily taking in and giving out. It becomes like the air around you, penetrating every pore, every moment. If you let it.
And I’m learning that I have to let it. I have to let God do this work. I have to let him teach me how to love. Remember that love is staying open. Love is showing up. And this is the hardest work because love is often messy. There have been many messy moments with this family over these last 12 months, and I have often found myself wanting to pull back and retreat. Find a place where I can preserve whatever parts of my heart haven’t yet been hurt. Sometimes I’m simply tired of showing up and staying open and I want a break. But I have learned that in those moments, the moments I want to run away, are the very moments that I need to press in. They are the very moments I need to crack the door to my house and the door to my heart a little wider. And just at the moment that I press in instead of pull back, I find something I didn’t expect: love meets me. Love finds me and reassures me and comforts me and relieves me. When I press in to these relationships around me, when I spend an evening to chat with *B instead of take a nap, I find I am strengthened. When we take the time to gather all the food and dishes and spend an evening eating together, making messes instead of quietly eating in our own homes, I find I am full of blessing and joy.
Because this is what we were made for.
I have a tendency to want to be alone. I value time by myself, in the quiet, with my own thoughts. But this principle of “pressing in” is exactly what I have learned. People may wear you out at times, but those are the very same people that will lift you up, and fill you with encouragement and strength to keep pressing in.
In this unfolding new year, we are enjoying our new precious babies! A girl and a boy, born six weeks apart both in the midst of terrible Texas flooding. We have also enjoyed parents-in-law staying with us temporarily in an RV now parked next to the house. And as we move forward there may be many more changes to come. God is on the move, and I find him doing just that. We hope to welcome more faces to this place and we hope God has new places for my husband and me to welcome us to also.