Several months ago I scribbled “I want a home well lived in on a blue sticky note at my kitchen table. I jotted the words down so fast they were hardly legible, but something urged me not to let the thought pass without giving it a permanent place. I stuck it on my desk right next to my desktop computer, which I rarely sit at. Ponder more later, I thought.

I didn’t want to forget the overwhelming weight of joy I felt inside as I woke up to a sink full of dishes, a disheveled living room, and a single square of toilet paper left on the roll.

A scenario that would typically make me feel annoyed and irritated had somehow left my cup overflowing. I was able to see the dirty plates, crumbs everywhere, chairs out of place, and necessary clean-up as a blessing instead of a chore.

Why now?

My perspective had changed. My focus finally coming in clear, as if my eyesight had been blurry for so long and I’d just been gifted 20/20 vision overnight.

I heard recently that the average person lives to be 82-years-old, which means the average person has 30,000 days here on earth.

30,000 days. 

I don’t know about you, but to me that is NOTHING. That is shockingly little. That is so shockingly little that never before have I felt so awake to how I want to spend my days. My short, precious, 30,000 days. And that’s if I live to be eighty-two!

When I stumbled upon my blue sticky note with the chicken scratch writing on it yesterday, I knew why The Lord nudged me to jot those words down.

I’ve loved our life. I’ve savored the way we have kept things neat. (My friend’s will tell you, I love tidy. Tidy might as well be my middle name. Or OCD.) I thought E and I were alright to only have each other’s backs. We took care of each other and told ourselves that everybody has somebody. At a moment’s notice anyone could have stopped by and our place would be in pristine condition.

But then we started to have deeply rooted friendships and even started initiating relationships that weren’t ever going to happen on their own. We realized not everybody had somebody. We longed for community in a way that redefines our picture perfect idea of the word. That’s when things started to get messy.

Countless random, and not so random, people have joined us around the table for dinner. Wine flowing, abundant laughter, honest conversation, and crumbs galore. It’s fun at first, sure, but it adds up and it gets old and it’d be easier to take care of us and let everyone else fend for themselves. “Love your neighbor as yourself” has translated into me sucking it up and inviting people over even when I’d rather not. It means I better feed, serve, love, and ask questions to the people who show up around the table because I would want that for myself.

Do I love others as much as I love myself?

Do I love others as much as I love myself?

Do I love others as much as I love myself?

Oh, how I long to say yes.

How I long for people to say yes to that question of me.

But if the answer is no with my actions, then the answer is no.

Our in-unit washer and dryer (a rarity in city apartments for common folks like us) gets used, free of charge, by friends who’d have to spend extra time, money, and energy going to a Laundromat or sharing with multiple neighbors otherwise. This doesn’t create a mess, but it brings people into our space. It’s more convenient to keep things to ourselves; to not be inconvenienced, but that’s not how Jesus calls us to live. “Love your neighbor as yourself” puts a real damper on our selfishness, doesn’t it?

Then, the biggest mess of all: parenthood. Becoming parents overnight to a 3-year-old is a massive undertaking. Of course, if you’ve been following along on my social media accounts, you’ve seen how much we love having her in our home, but it’s no small task stepping into the role of a caretaker.

I’m standing here in my kitchen. I’m looking around our apartment… my eyes become crinkled as my cheeks become fuller. I can’t help but smile.

Our place is different. It’s no longer in pristine condition. We have play-dough engrained in our living room rug, crayon marks all over the coffee table, dried frosting in random crevices throughout the kitchen, her pictures up on the fridge, her bath toys in the tub, a gallon of our friend’s detergent in the laundry room, cash prepared for the man on the street corner, case workers coming in and out, and a gazillion memories being made everyday. Our couch feels broken in from people crashing on it… or N jumping on it. Either way. It’s not cold in here. It’s not a museum. It doesn’t smell or look new. It’s not shiny or impressive. Things are being used. Things are out of place. Things are breaking, including hearts. People are leaving their mark. It feels like a home well lived in. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Come on over, (Seriously.)
Manda (and E)

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2 comments

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This is my prayer and has been for many years. If all the churches in one city or community would prayerfully commit themselves to fostering as a ministry, and if a group of couples in each church would respond to God’s nudges to love and provide shelter for children, and if those churches would pledge to give support to those couples–emotionally, and physically and spiritually–those churches and those couples in those churches could make an extraordinary difference in their world. This is a hard calling, filled with joy and agonies, but it is a holy calling. Wondrous blessings on your heads. Love.

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Karen, I couldn’t agree more. Hearing from you – someone I admire, glean wisdom from, and respect greatly – means a lot. Thankful you’re a part of Soul City Church and a mentor to so many of us young people.

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