“Hey, wanna make dinner together tonight and eat on the front porch?” Tay asks me as we head out the door at 7:45 am for our short jaunt to work. Tay and her husband Joel lives upstairs in our two-family flat. Tay and I both work at an elementary school a mile down the road, so we ride together each day. Tay and Joel own one car, and so do Myles and I. Since Joel works at home and Myles goes to school 30 minutes away, Tay and I just take their car so Myles can drive our truck to school. Ironically enough, I actually drive their car each morning since its stick-shift and Tay doesn’t know how to drive stick. (And let’s be honest, experiencing my pathetic stick-shift skills everyday have probably dissuaded her from ever trying to learn!)
Dinner is scrumptious. I have half a salad leftover from a luncheon at work on hand, some bell peppers, onions, and fresh herbs from my new garden. Tay has 2 chicken sausages, brussel sprouts, potatoes and garlic. We chat as we chop, tossing everything but the salad into a big skillet with lots of farm fresh butter from the Eastern Market. Joel is away on a business trip at the moment, so its just Tay and Myles and I on the porch eating tonight. Dinner never would have been this good if we hadn’t combined what we both had together… I think as we eat, sip ice tea, and watch our neighbor girls all dressed up for prom and out in their yard taking photos with every single auntie, cousin, and grandpa in the family.
I feel so satisfied as I shower and do dishes tonight. I’m thinking about how the best meals we have are the shared ones. Every Tuesday night, Myles and I host a “Family Dinner” for our merry little band of Jesus followers and whatever neighbors and friends we can persuade to join us. There’s always a theme, and everyone brings an item or two or three, and combined altogether, its almost always a win. We had some killer fish tacos last week – complete with mango & cilantro and a dozen other fresh toppings. I mean, who wants to chop a dozen different toppings when you’re eating tacos solo or just with your husband? I find Tuesday dinners are like a sigh of relief, because no matter how crazy the week gets, you know that a healthy, complete meal is guaranteed to happen.
“Linds, where’s the vacuum?” I hear Tay call to me as I shower. “In the back room… don’t forget to empty it if its full.” We share a vacuum. They are expensive little machines, and so darn essential. But its completely unnecessary to have two in one house. We also share muffin tins. And a 9×13 pan. And a pencil sharpener. Showers. Spices. Eggs. Internet service. Milk. Prayer. Bath salts. Flowers. A guest bedroom. Printer cords and extension cords. Heels and earrings. Aspirin. There’s also three unmatched socks sitting on our stairs right now, because a handful of other friends who don’t have a washing machine come over to do their laundry here… and I have no idea which of the 8 different people those little lonely socks belong too. As I write this, Tay just came down to ask for a lightbulb. Literally, every single day we use or borrow items from each other. I find it gets easier to ask all the time – because the response so far has always been generous, and because we both owe each other so much at this point, there is no point to any kind of record or any kind of shame.
As I clean up the clutter from the day tonight, I’m thinking about how comforting community is. I always have what I need. I freely give and I freely receive. My life is much, much richer. Its not always convenient, but its convenient more often than not. There are definitely those Saturday morning when I want to sleep in and I can hear every move Joel and Tay make in our creaky old house, and there’s definitely those weekends when I’ve let my laundry pile up and unfortunately everyone else in the community has too and there’s a line of baskets out the laundry room door. There’s definitely those aggravating moments when all I want is a hot shower, but everyone’s flushing toilets and dish washing keeps yanking all my hot water. But for every moment of frustrating are at least two moments of safety, comfort, and provision.
Tonight I think to myself, God is so smart. He is so wise, and so, so smart. His ideas about sharing freely and living as family simply make the most sense. Community living is smart for so many reasons – I am more free financially, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. I am a better steward of the earth and resources. I am more safe, which in my neighborhood is a big deal. People know my business all the time, and it is GOOD for me. I can’t get away with sin. I can’t get away with selfishness. I think when we live in isolation its very possible to be the most selfish person on the planet and never even know it simply because there is no one to expose it!
I wanted to write this out tonight, because I want a reminder. In case I ever get the notion to strike it out alone, or get tempted to posses two cars when I only need one, or begin to think that I don’t want to share whats in my fridge because there might not be enough for me, I want to read words like these and remember what it is I truly want:
I want richness. I want fullness. I want a colorful story. I want the grace and goodness and generosity of God to fill all my days and all my rooms. I want to live with my hands open and a yes in my heart. When my hands are open, I can’t hold on to stuff… but I am also ready to receive anything good that’s given to me. And when there’s a yes in my heart, I can’t always be sure where I will end up, but I can always be sure that I haven’t missed out on anything glorious.
Our home here in a new city sure looks different than our full house in Kansas City did. I don’t have little brown faces and giggles and oatmeal-covered hands waking me up in the morning, or the horrid smell of weed wafting through the vents, or teenagers sleeping on my couch every night.
Yet, that is.
Sometimes houses take a while to fill. Sometimes longer than you hope. Our empty bedrooms make me sad. And everyday I ask God, “Who next God? Who are you bringing us to love and to be loved by? Who are You going to fill our home with? Yes to whoever You’ve got in mind.” And I remind myself that all my best, craziest stories and favorite people from the last few years came from prayers like this.
Sometimes I hold my hands open when I ask God this, as my way of telling both Him and myself that whatever I have I will give and whatever He has I want. And I do try to always tell Him “YES.” Even if all I say is that one word, He knows exactly what I mean. I know Him well enough to know that He always takes us up on every single yes. Every single one.