Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Moving In

1984 - My first experience moving in to a new home.

In addition to being on the move this summer (from Texas to Indiana, Indiana to Kentucky, Indiana to Texas, and next, Texas to China), I have been moving households, as well. Before my time-with-parents-cum-dissertation-month in Indiana, I moved out of my sweet riverside apartment. Last night, I moved into my new home.  

I began this blog because questions about home have been haunting me since college.  Those questions had grown acute once again last fall. Although I have felt at home in Texas for several years, I still live in a world of academic pilgrims and wanderers.  It is natural in a college town, a college church, and a college campus, that friends will come and go steadily.  Last fall, however, I realized that in the summer of 2011 I would witness a particularly hard exodus of friends from Texas.

My heart was heavy with these thoughts one night in late October as I shared dinner with Grant and Jennifer. Both have been friends of mine for most of my time in Waco, and last August they became husband and wife.  Even before they were married, Grant and Jennifer each had an instinct for hospitality, and I had spent many happy hours in their company.  On this particular warm autumn evening, I was particularly grateful for being invited to their table, even though I wasn't feeling very convivial. 

I didn't mention this sadness to my friends, but after dinner, Jenn and Grant began to discuss the house they were about to buy, and the reasons the house attracted them: it was in an old neighborhood, had hardwood floors, a lovely kitchen, and a sizable backyard with enormous pecan trees. It was also large enough, they said, that it would be possible for people to live with them. The last owners of the house, a young married couple, had let two single women share the large back bedroom.

At this point, Jenn asked me what I would be doing when Adrienne graduated.
"Oh, find another roommate, I suppose," I said, trying not to sound as mopey as I felt.

"Well," said Jenn, "We've been talking about the idea of having someone live with us, but you know, it's hard to know. Some people can be good friends and not do well living together. But others...."

The next thing I knew, we were having the first of many conversations about the possibility of me moving in with Grant and Jennifer. On that first night, neither they nor I were sure it would work, but as we talked, prayed, and planned over the next two months, we grew more certain that this idea was worth trying. When Jenn began saying, "Well, we thought we might paint the front bedroom purple -- you like purple, don't you, Bethany?" I realized that we had decided. Early this spring, we sat down together to plan finances and sketch out a garden. In May, I moved scores of boxes into their attic. Last night, Jenn picked me up from the train station and brought me home. 

This new home excites me for many reasons. First, living here is a strange thing to do, and Strange Things provoke people to ask important questions.  It isn't typical in twenty-first century America for a single woman to live with a married couple, especially when she is neither sister nor daughter, mother, aunt, or any other recognized relation. The reactions people have had to our plan have reminded me that we are undertaking a curious experiment.  Several people have asked if I am in difficult financial straits, and many more have made rather vague comments about the idea being "nice," just as people will sometimes mumble lukewarm accolades over a picture of an unattractive baby.  The people who know all three of us well, however, have been as enthusiastic as we are. "Of course you should!" my mother said when I first mentioned the idea. "You'll make things so beautiful!' said Margaret.

This certainly won't be the first time I have lived with other people, but I'm nearly past the age when roommates seem normal.  College roommates last until graduation, and it is common enough for twenty-somethings to live with friends until, for example, one of them gets married, but those arrangements are often still treated as something that is still a step shy of real adulthood. Moving in with Grant and Jenn isn't exactly "settling down"-- I'll probably leave Waco when I finish my degree--but it is a different kind of situation. It feels either very old-fashioned or very Bohemian to live with married friends.

We are making this choice, however, neither for the sake of tradition or transgression.  We are going to live together because our faith teaches us that friendship in Christ doesn't need to fit into normal pictures of home and life together. We are going to live together because we want to see how something as mundane as living arrangements can provide a glimpse of the Kingdom. I doubt there is a Hallmark card precisely suited to this occasion. Thanks be to God for that.

Here are some of the reasons I’m excited for this season with Grant and Jenn:

-- Already old friends, we will share one another’s joys and sorrow in new ways.

--I will be able to "fast" from many of my possessions.  Many of the things I sometimes mistake for home--a bookshelf, a soup spoon, a tea pot--are already packed away in the attic.  Resting from some of the cares and distractions of ownership will free my attention for other things, especially as I finish my dissertation over the next year.

-- I will be able to walk to church again.

-- We will cook for one another and share more meals than we each eat alone.

-- From watching Grant and Jennifer, I will learn more about the wisdom and challenges of a Christian marriage. 

-- We each have quite different personalities, and it will be good to see the world through one another's eyes.

--I will remember that freedom--to pack up my house, to move in with friends--is one of my greatest resources at this stage of my life.

As we begin this time together, I hope you will pray for our endeavor:

--Pray that we do not mistake proximity for intentionality. Ironically, I have often found that living near or with friends makes it easier to take one another for granted.  It is dangerous to assume that quality time will "naturally" happen if people live together. Pray that we will be good stewards of the time we have together.

--Pray that we will communicate clearly and often, so that we can quickly address any conflict, worry or discomfort.

--Pray that together we might practice hospitality to others with enriched imagination and courage.

--Pray that our time together will be witness (even if a strange one) to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Do you have any suggestions or advice for my friends and I as we live together? Have you ever been part of a household that did not fit the status quo in your culture?

1 comment:

  1. Oh, sweet friend! You know my feelings about this. :) I could not be more thrilled for the three of you. I believe you've already pinpointed one of the easiest traps of communal living in your first prayer request.

    I will be praying for you all...most especially that you see Christ and the Spirit in new and lasting ways that will spur you on to incredibly good works. :)

    Love to you and yours!