The Coming Adventure...

Well, we have a little adventure on its way to our house.  
Namely, a little more than a month ago, we invited another family to come and live with us.  I don't know how to tell this story without just jumping right on in... so:

WHO?
  • They are roughly our age (just realized I don't actually know their exact ages), with two kiddos ages 4 & 2.  
  • Details to come later, but we met through this blog.  Yes.  You read that right.

WHAT?
  • They were living in a very un-family-friendly locale and for years have talked about moving to the Dallas area.  
  • We've been brainstorming with them job and housing possibilities, but (unless you're an executive) it's just hard to convince a potential employer, "really, I'm serious" when you're applying for a position while living in a completely different part of the country.

WHEN?
  • We invited them a month ago.
  • They should arrive in about 3 days, depending on how much longer their road trip with little ones actually goes.
  • We've given them the option of staying up to six months, if need be, in order to get a job, find a local church body, make sure they settle in a living situation they'll be content with, etc.  Obviously we'll all be delighted if that pans out sooner rather than later, but in this current job environment and so that they don't feel rushed, we've offered up to six months.

WHERE?
  • We have a four bedroom/three bath house with a large living area and 2 small "other" spaces (a sun room and an office), so we've moved our play room into the sunroom, and our daughter has given up her room for this time.  They'll have two bedrooms and one bathroom and of course we'll share the common space.  Yes, it'll be tight to some degree.

WHY?

  • First, as we were going through a small group study of David Platt's book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, God prompted Doug & I to do this as we prayed through and for their situation... and we've always tried to obey Him quickly.
  • Second, because we're part of the Body of Christ & they are our brother and sister.  If my blood  brother or sister were in a hard situation, without any family members to rely on, of course I'd do all that I could to help them.  And the New Testament doesn't use the terms "brother and sister" to mean "people we hold at arms' distance and keep meaning to get together with."  While living overseas, we came to understand so much more about the close familial relationships God intends for us to have within the Body of Christ & want to live that out in our lives as He prompts us to do.  This is one fleshing out of that conviction He's put in our hearts.
  • Third, because it's really not that much of a sacrifice to make in order to invest in a family's ability to provide for their needs and flourish as a family. 


HOW?
  • We made a long list of things to think through and talk through (alone time, chores/routines, quiet  nap times in mid-day, personal preferences/norms like clutter, can kids walk around with snacks?, what's the neighborhood like, etc.) and then talked and e-mailed and skyped like mad about them.
  • We're going to have weekly house meetings after the kids are in bed to talk through any issues/concerns that have come up that week.
  • We'll do it by God's grace... as both of us are couples trying to be molded to the image of Jesus, we want to let this process shape and refine us and not just make us bitter or frustrated.  So we're going to work at it & pray about it.

We're actually looking forward to it.  :)  

If you've read this blog for very long, you've probably realized that we are willing to take risks if we believe it's what God's led us to do as a family... moving to China almost 7 years ago, having our daughter in Thailand 6 years ago, moving to Istanbul with three week's notice 4 & 1/2 years ago, deciding to stay in the States without a job or house or car 1 year ago... and now this.  We like adventures, when God's the travel director of those adventures.  

Thoughts?  Advice?  Mainly, I just wanted to share so that those of you who read more than just a post here or there would be informed about something big happening in our life.



Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


21 comments:

Amie said...

What a great opportunity for you all to learn and grow together. Some of my dearest friends have done this several times (and just took another family in). We have seen amazing things happen in their lives. All of the families involved are large, Christian, and homeschooling. And now they are closer "family" than many biological families you see in the world.

Sara said...

I commend you; following the leanings of the Holy Spirit is a difficult thing, but so rewarding when you do it right! And, I think you might be taking in a family I helped years ago, and if so, I think that is one of the coolest God things ever! I found your blog through hers (now either private or non-existent). I will be excited to keep reading your posts to see whether I'm right. :) I have goosebumps. I'm so excited for your family.

Catherine said...

What a great adventure for you!! I can offer some advice since our family did the same kind of thing about ten years ago. First, we had two daughters of a woman who was dealing with some serious medical and social issues (we had two of 7 girls). They were part of our family for six months. That situation isn't similar to yours very much because we essentially parented the girls until the mom was able to take them back home. And she was in complete support of our parenting them. So it all worked. Although it was exhausting!!

Almost immediately afterward, a friend of ours needed a place to stay with his two kids because his wife was divorcing him but was talking to her boyfriend on the phone every night, etc. It wasn't a good situation for the kids, so we offered to let the family stay with us until they found another place to live. Things we learned:
1. Settling all those items you've discussed already is invaluable. Our guest couldn't understand why I kept the butter in the refrigerator and my husband had to gently remind him that it was my kitchen.
2. Time limit - which you've already done. We actually had to find a place for this family to move to because the dad thought that a good way to look for a job and a home was to go to the graveyard and sit and pray.
3. Set boundaries for kids. This we did pretty well (probably the only thing!). Since this family lived in the basement, my kids had their bedrooms to themselves, which was very important at this point. My daughter, in particular, needed at least some space to call her own since she'd been sharing her room with two other girls for six months. If they'd been sharing rooms, we'd have set up some kind of "personal space" in the school room or something like that.
4. Make sure it's legal. We weren't too concerned about the legality since they weren't staying long and weren't paying rent, but we got a letter from the township saying that they heard that we had another family "living" with us and that the zoning of our subdivision as a single-family area did not allow for this. When we called the county, we found that we were just fine as long as there was no separate entrance, bathroom, or kitchen area. As long as we shared all those things, it was considered single family. We think the neighbor across the street disapproved of the dad since he had long hair and sometime looked rather scruffy, so he told the town chairman.

If we had to do it all again, we would definitely take the girls for the six months. I'm not sure if we would take the family. If we did, it would be with serious boundaries. The main thing we were trying to do was to help the kids, so I think we would offer to give the kids a place to stay if we could go back in time. But, we can't, and we learned a lot!! I hope you can benefit from some of our life lessons.

In any case, have fun on your new adventure. It won't be easy, but I hope you can look back on it as one of the best times of your life!

Catherine

Jessica B. said...

I think it is awesome.
Just curious- how will you handle it if the wife is out and Doug needs to go out also? Are you comfortable being at home with the husband only? Or vice versa?
I'm only asking because we've thought about having people stay with us too for extended periods. I believe you have similar principles in your marriage and just wanted to know your thoughts on it.
Jessica

Jamie Butts said...

Here's an article for you, Jess! - http://www.girltalkhome.com/blog/when-people-live-with-you'

What a great way to serve and show hospitality. My best friend's family hosted so many students or couples for months or years at a time, and she always said, thought it held challenges, the blessing was really hers! (But, we recipients thought the blessing was surely ours!)

Sarah Robbins said...

I've had the privilege and blessing to host singles and families in my home on several occasions. While it wasn't always easy, it was always an overall good experience. Each time, like you, I saw believers in need and was prompted by the Holy Spirit to offer. Like those in the early church, I saw it as an opportunity to view everything I have as given to me by God for the purpose of ministry.

While there are certainly difficulties to overcome and things to get used to, it was always such a fun time! I ended up sad each time the people found new opportunities and moved on. I think you'll find it to be such a wonderful experience- if you maintain open communication and a servant's mindset!

Marelize said...

We always had people staying with us/living with us temporarily growing up. Still to this day, it is one of the things I value most in terms of how my parents displayed generosity, open hands and obedience to the Lord. While not easy, what a great way to teach yourself and your children about living for the good of others. Love it.

Jess said...

Thanks for the link, Jamie!


Jessica-
We did talk through that and we'll just take the other spouse with us... if there was ever a time when opposite gender spouses would end up there alone, one would head out to a local coffee shop or Doug could head up to his office, etc. But honestly, with she & I both being stay-home moms, one husband who works 5 days a week, and another husband who will be out looking for jobs, etc., I don't anticipate too many times when even that will be an issue.

Good question, though.

We have always had the policy of not being home or in the car alone with the opposite gender... the only time I've had an exception to that has been as the kids have gotten older and we've needed to have workmen come out to install or repair something. There's just really never a need to be alone with someone of the opposite sex, and it eliminates a lot of potentially awkward or slowly-sliding-into-sin type situations.

~Jess

Jess said...

By the way, guys, it is very encouraging to hear back from so many of you who have done it or seen it done and have given us encouragement. She's read some of your comments on the road and I've enjoyed reading them, and both of us are encouraged.

I think we both anticipated more people thinking we're insane. :D Ha, of course, plenty of people may be *thinking* that... but they (so far) haven't commented, LOL.

~Jess

Beth Celestin said...

Love how you allow the Lord to guide you in your decision-making. It's interesting that most of the time people (including myself) only feel God's leading into "comfortable" situations. But when we look into Scripture and see God's track record in leading people, it's more often than not into a self-sacrificing situation. Thanks for sharing this and reminding us all that we're part of something much bigger than ourselves! Praying for smooth transitions!

Melissa said...

I found your blog a year or so ago. I don't remember how, but I have continued reading because I've found it encouraging and this post is just comfirmation of that! What a sweet blessing you are being to this family!

Anonymous said...

Good luck! It sounds like you have thought this through well. I'm sure you will be able to manage unforeseen situations. I would expect the most challenging part to be helping your youngest children adjust to sharing their home with strangers (to them).

Laurie B

Catie said...

What a huge blessing you will be to this family!! I think it's wonderful that your family is willing to take risks like this. Keep us posted!

I really want to read Radical too.I have a friend who said it was so great and very convicting. :)

Johanna said...

Jerry and I read Radical together this fall nd have started some radical adventures ourselves! Thanks for sharing your process with us.

Jonathan said...

What crazy adventurous lives the Lord leads us in! We're excited about hearing updates of your experience. As you know, we've lived with others twice during our marriage but not with kids... so many more factors to consider. Since we've seemed to follow your footsteps in various parts of life, I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually do this too!

My Favorite People said...

I just realized you have a blog - how fun! I think what you're doing is great and more Christians should be willing to do this. We had a time when we lived with my parents for 4 months and it was a bit of a disaster because my younger brothers hated it, but it really did work out well for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

My first thought was, "But you're about to have a new BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!" That's something I would never be able to pull after having a new baby, but I'm sure you've thought that through. Hope it works out for all of you!

Mrs. R.

Jess said...

Ha, yes, we've thought that part through too. We're having a baby. and a home birth at that, LOL. They are planning on taking a week house sitting or in a hotel once I hit labor... so that's one detail that's important. I will have a little time completely in my little quiet newborn enclave. :)

But any of us could pull it off, truly. Sure, they'll see my flaws... but plenty of people around the world live in much tighter and less private quarters than we have become accustomed to in America. It really is doable. Not always easy or comfortable... and I'm sure there will be rubbing spots like when you wear new shoes and your feet get uncomfortable in certain places for a while... but it will be worth it, for all of us.

PLUS. This is my 6th baby. If there are medical issues, we'll cross those bridges when we get there, but if everything is healthy & "normal", I know this gig, ya know?

It's never "easy" but we've hosted family visitors in our "home"/apartment/Thai bungalow for the last 3 babies WHILE having a baby. And have hosted people soon after having babies, too.

Truly, we can all do more than we think we are able. We have grown so accustomed in the US to holding people at arms' distance, having all of our comfortable and easy space around us, and it often keeps us from having the "iron sharpening" that happens when we really rub against real people with our real attitudes in real life.

I'm looking forward to having my responses to my children be under scrutiny, actually... it will be good accountability for me at a stressful time when it would be easier to snap or respond out of frustration to my children. She's looking forward to certain parts of this too. We are all trying to look at this as an opportunity to love and serve each other as part of the Body of Christ... to grow more like Jesus.


Long answer, LOL. But yes, we've definitely considered that I'm due in 9 & 1/2 weeks as part of this whole decision. :)

Anonymous said...

First off, I think you are so generous in doing this. I hesitate to comment because I want to be supportive, but at the same time I've been through this a little myself. My husband and I lived with his mom and stepfather for a year when we first married. Also, a few years ago we let two of my sisters (on separate occasions) live with us and one of his brothers. Living with his parents was actually pretty good, although the privacy thing very much became an issue. I felt very stretched at a year with them, and it was good that we moved out at that time. They expected us to help work around the house, cook dinner once a week, etc. It pretty much worked.

On the other hand, when my sisters came, it was horrible. I had just bought a new house, had a new baby, and got a new job. It was very, VERY difficult to adjust to all those things, plus try and care for my sister. She was very immature, sick, and not helpful. I found myself very bitter towards her. Eventually, I had to force her to move to a dormitory. It was horrible.

My other sister brought home boyfriends that were not respectful of me or my home, they caused property damage, and became angry at me when I pointed out the problems they caused. They expected me to just put up with it and give them free food and shelter. To top it off, one of them took my car and got in an accident with it, totalling it.

Now, my husband's brother was wonderful. He mowed the lawn without us asking, he did the dishes, he helped with the kids... he just did stuff and it was great. He was mature, looked for a job, cleaned up after himself, he was respectful. So the brother and the sisters were night and day experiences.

I say all of this not to rain on your parade but to caution you. With a new baby, I can't imagine taking on something as huge as a whole other family moving in. One extra person would be hard enough. It will be weird and difficult for the other mother to know where her boundaries are. It's just not a natural situation.

Now, if you are in a very good place emotionally, spiritually, and physically, then maybe it'll be alright. If these people are mature, respectable, responsible people, then maybe it'll be alright. But boundaries and expectations are huge. What will happen at the end of the six months and they haven't found anything yet? How well do you really know them, trust them?

Wishing you all the best, hoping it works out. Sorry to be a party pooper, but I've been through the ringer as far as this extended living situation goes, and I feel compelled to share it with you.

God bless you all,

~ worn out mama

kharking said...

This is fascinating even though it isn't something that I could imagine my husband ever being comfortable with. We have talked over the possibility of having my youngest sister live with us during this upcoming year and, of course, we're always looking ahead to the potential that one set of our parents will need to live with us long term in the future. I'm interested to see how this turns out and what adjustments were made well in addition to those that you didn't expect if that is something that you can share.

Mrs. K said...

My husband and I did this for a family and it was the biggest testing of our marriage, the biggest trial of my life, the most dependent on God that I had ever been, and in a strange way a blessing in disguise. When it was over our marriage was way more stronger than before.
We were newly married and my husband was prompted to move in with a family who was about to lose their house.(This was also a huge lesson in respect and submission for me) We basically moved in and took care of them financially for 2 years.
The Lord taught us a huge lesson in boundaries. After time, what little boundaries we had began to blur and became non existent. We lost sight of our purpose in helping this family. It turned into expectations and demanding of us instead of us freely and joyfully giving. The relationship between our families basically disintegrated and we parted ways on bad terms. You guys are doing everything we should have. Boundaries, Time frame, family meetings. I don't know if you mentioned chores but that is another thing to consider. Another thing we learned was that whoever is living with us needs to be contributing as part of the family. It is an attitude and not just a chore list. Just like in a healthy marriage/family if one person sees something that needs to be done like dishes, taking out the trash they help out with it because we are all working together as a family to keep the home we share clean.
I also had a baby in that time and it was difficult but I just accepted it, tried to extend a lot of grace, and prayed a lot.
Also, family members did think we were crazy but it was also a testimony.
I pray that it will be a blessing to both of your families. :)