An influential voice in my life recently told me that it takes at least a year, up to two years, to truly feel settled into a new home. We moved in December 2011, December 2012 and June 2013 so I suppose that means I have been in an ongoing state of being unsettled. I only notice it occasionally.
“Make yourself at home!” What does that really mean, anyway? Do we really mean it when we say it? What do you do at your home, in the privacy of closed blinds and locked doors? Is your bathroom a mess? Do you leave cups of water everywhere? Is your unopened mail piled a mile high on your kitchen table? Don’t make me ask you about the laundry…
As a true southerner I use this phrase alot. I want people to feel comfortable in my home. But do I *really* want them to make themselves “at home” or do I want them to feel comfortable helping themselves to more coffee or a second helping of the dinner I just served.
Beyond those physical creature comforts, have you ever asked yourself what it means to truly be “at home” in another person’s home? Would you change the way you talk to your spouse? Your kids? How much time you spend behind a screen of some sort? And when the day goes sideways or you feel a fight brewing with your spouse or kiddos, would you still act and react as if no one was watching?
Our family recently concluded a season of life where we lived with another family; a family much like us at a similar age and life stage. Late last fall we found ourselves in need of a place to stay while we pursued buying a town home in Loudoun County, VA. Some friends of ours from church, who we honestly didn’t really know all that well, had once asked us to “make ourselves at home” as we visited with them over dinner. During this visit we learned that they had the gift of hospitality in the most radical sense (by American standards) in that they had hosted families in their home for extended periods of time. This family feels called to live in community and to bless others by showing authentic hospitality. We knew this about them to an extent, as we knew a missionary family who had lived with them for a summer. What we did not know then was that we would soon be recipients of their God-given, Holy Spirit driven hospitality as we found ourselves in need and they happily opened their doors, responding to our need and inviting us to stay until we “got it all worked out,” in other words, an open-ended, extended stay.
All in all we lived with this generous family 7 months. I spent the majority of my last pregnancy there and brought baby Lucas home there as they also brought their third child home two weeks later. We did Christmas together, New Years, Birthdays, Valentines Day (which actually was one of the best date nights of my life) and hosted many mutual friends and their families for dinner. We got to know their extended family and they got to know ours. It really was crazy. And I am certain there are people close to us that just couldn’t understand it. Why would a family with young children, not only willingly, but joyfully welcome another family with young children to live with them? All up in their personal space?
The only answer is God. People have a lot of opinions these days about Christianity and followers of Christ and the church. But let me tell you first hand that this right here is true Christianity: brothers and sisters in Christ serving one another and sharing their blessings with others in need, holding loosely to the creature comforts of this earth and letting an entire family invade your home for as long as they need to be there, letting their kids chew on your kids toys and cooking dinner side-by-side each night in your kitchen, not only letting but insisting they use your plates and bowels and pots and pans. We even had our own fridge in the garage. It was truly outstanding. Not to mention all of our earthly possessions were stored in their basement. It’s very sobering to be able to stand before a pile of boxes and furniture and say “lookie there, thats all my jank.” But that is another blog post!
There are many, many reasons why it was in God’s plan for the Walters to live with this family, some of those are obvious and some are still being worked out in my head and heart. But I can tell you this: I was never happier to be a guest in their home than when my water broke at 5:30 am on Mother’s Day and all we had to do was let them know it was go time, no questions asked they let our nearly 2-year-old hang out with them on Mothers Day until one of our friends could come out to the house to relieve them. The got her up, got her dressed, fed and entertained as if she was their own the entire day while momma and daddy worked to bring baby brother into the world. And our daughter never skipped a beat because in her mind she was with family, and had been with family the entire time.
Now that we are all moved out and trying to settle in to our new home, it’s definitely a bit lonely as we miss the friendships and conversations and honestly the sense of security and belonging that comes with being vulnerable and accepted by another, warts and all. And as I sit and observe the activities of our new (and EXTREMELY different) neighborhood where we now live, I wonder if and/or when God may lead us to pay it forward. Because the truth is, it’s not that radical. It’s just a matter of living out what you say you believe. The next time I say “Make Yourself at Home” I pray that I am ready to really mean it.
Acts 2:42-47: The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This post is one of several in the series “31 Days of Life as I Know It.” Click here to see a list of all posts in the series.