“SO, how’s it going at Josh and Amanda’s?” -Many people, all the time.
As most of you know, we are currently living in our dear friends Josh and Amanda’s house. When we started this Thailand journey a year and a half ago, we prayerfully worked into the timeline a season where we would live with people, save money, have Stephen not be working and just spend time together as a family fundraising and getting ready to, ya know, leave the country. As it turns out, Stephen needs another surgery, so him not working came a touch earlier than we had planned, but, as always, God is providing and it’s great.
So, that’s the season we’re in: prepping for Thailand through surgery and healing, saving money, going to counseling, fundraising and spending lots of time together and with the people we love.
And we’re living with our friends and their family. In total, there are currently six adults and four children living in what I refer to as Chateau de Whiting.
And, let me tell you, it’s pretty awesome. And really, really inconvenient for everyone.
I think people are super curious about how our living situation is going because a.) it’s unique, b.) not a ton of families live together in a single house, c.) we’re all different (different is a nice way of saying we’re loud and/or crazy) so how the personalities are meshing is a topic of interest and d.) my family (the three of us) is sleeping in one room (which, well, that alone garners many questions and curious looks).
For many years I’ve sought community and all that comes with it: companionship, accountability, solidarity, wisdom from others, etc. I’ve dabbled in “intentional community living” (that’s a story to be shared over dinner sometime…it’s an
painful interesting one). I’ve lived with single friends and married friends. I like doing regular life with people around me.
However, I never, ever thought that it would be when I was married with one baby and one on the way that I would actually be doing real life community living.
Now, when we all started talking about us moving in with Josh and Amanda, we never called it community living. We never used the word intentional. We just talked about them helping us out by letting us live with them. We talked about logistics, about the timeline and about laundry days. It was all very practical and plain, to be honest. We were excited, living with our best friends seemed like this weird, unexpected, even random, cool thing we were getting to do. I mean, what adults with kids get to have sleepovers with their besties every night?
We knew Josh and Amanda were the perfect fit for this season. We’re all close, to the point of calling each other the family that we got to choose. They know us, our hearts and what we needed and wanted this season of life to look like.
We’re also able to be painfully and embarrassingly vulnerable and honest with each other. Which comes in handy when you’re sharing a kitchen, co-parenting each other’s kids and seeing the 24/7 marriage of two other people. There have been a handful of times in the last couple months when stuffing hurt feelings or questions or miscommunications and being passive aggressive or even just avoident would have been way easier than a conversation to deal with whatever needed to be handled.
If you know me, or Stephen, or Josh, or Amanda, then you know that stuffing things doesn’t really work. Like, in general in our own lives. So throw us all together and boom, a four hour long conversation on how we can best interact with each other’s kids to most effectively support their parenting choices.
Emotionally, it’s not for the faint of heart. Living this way, right smack in the middle of someone’s house and life and family, you can’t really hide. You can’t run away.
There have been numerous times where Stephen and I were
arguing fighting having lively conversations that leaked out of our room into the living room, kitchen or hallway. Or was just loud enough that it didn’t matter if doors were shut. I mean, you want to talk about trusting people? Try fighting with your spouse in front of someone. Or accountability? I mean, having people around (half of whom are under five and repeat, oh, everything you say) all the time makes you really pause and think before you speak. I would like to think that having two people I love and respect and look up to watching my marriage hasn’t changed the kind of wife I am, but then I’m lying to myself. Because the reality is, I am much nicer, kinder, gentler and just overall better when there are people watching. Especially when one of those people is someone I’ve given permission to ask me questions and be honest with what she sees in me.
Living this way has really forced us to come face to face with the choice to become missionaries. I’m going to be honest, I love my son. He’s cute and nice and funny and smells great after a bath. But I am over sharing a room with the kid. I want to laugh and talk with my husband without worrying about waking up a sleep gremlin. I want to get nuts and turn on overhead lights if I need to see something. It would be a luxury to take a shower and drop the soap or shampoo and not have a mild heart attack that the sound rose the beast. Also a dresser. I’d love a dresser again. And our amazing king size bed that we gave away when we moved in. These pregnant hips are thankful for the daybed, but Ikea does not understand what this woman needs.
Also, we are literally in the middle of the house. You walk in, and there’s the guest suite. Right off the living room, next to the front door. So, I mean, there’s not a ton of privacy.
And then there’s the reality of living with two preschoolers and two babies. Someone is always napping and someone always wants to play. Someone is always getting shushed, and doing things like grinding coffee and running a vacuum need to happen in specific windows.
All this because we (me and Stephen) are choosing to be missionaries and because they (Josh and Amanda) are choosing to live out generosity to a radical, tangible degree.
Do I miss having my own space for my marriage and my parenting? Do I want to be loud whenever I want? Do I want to have an entire fridge to organize and fill with my own food? Do I want to invite people over whenever I want and not worry about anyone but Shep?
Yes, yes I do.
But more than the convenience of dressers and space and quiet napping environments, I want to be a woman of integrity. I want to treat Stephen well because that’s the wife I am, not because Amanda is in the next room. I want to actually be okay, not just in theory, with owning very little. I want to be content to share and have “my” space invaded. I want Shepherd to innately not have a sense of entitlement, but rather a strong knowing that he belongs to a very secure and bonded family.
And, I want to be a missionary in Thailand.
And this is all apart of that.
Sometimes, when I can’t sleep because the daybed isn’t the kindest to my growing baby house, I look around and start to get frustrated or insecure or even feel silly with and about the choices we’ve made that have led us to sleeping in that daybed. Sometimes I feel inadequate because we don’t own a home and all of our belongings are in storage. It’s easy when Shepherd is crying and all I want is my own room to start to doubt our decision to live this way, to be missionaries, to not care about material things, to sacrifice things like space for the sake of being able to move to Thailand. It’s easy, late at night, to think we’re foolish and live with our heads in the clouds. Real adults don’t do this. Real adults don’t live with people and not have anything. Shepherd should have his own room with a real crib and all his own stuff.
Thankfully though, the morning always comes. Even the latest of nights when it’s the hardest to sleep and there are all kinds of voices telling me we’re doing it wrong are met by a sunrise.
And in the daylight I can see all the beauty of this season. The beauty of preparing to be missionaries by getting rid of a lot of our possessions, learning to be together 24/7, sharing our space with others (even when we don’t want to/are tired/need alone time). The beauty of being surrounded by people who are for us and love us. The beauty of being the recipients of crazy generosity. The beauty of my son having three sister cousins to play with and learn from. The beauty of having constant accountability and help and encouragement and being able to laugh and cry with your best friends whenever you want.
The beauty that God continually gives us opportunities to make us the people we say we are or the people we want to be. The surgeries forced us to get honest about what makes us okay, what we value, what we actually believe about God. Living here has forced us to be okay without the things we thought we were entitled to or deserved. It’s taught us how to be with people in a new way and forced us to examine our marriage and parenting afresh.
So, how’s it going? Well, you should come over for dinner and see.