The Fourth Bedroom

This month marks two years that we have lived in our current house.

When I found out that I was pregnant with our second child, the 1000-square foot home that we then occupied suddenly began to feel claustrophobic as I imagined another person sleeping (or not sleeping) in it.  First world problems, I know.

We began looking for houses with more space, focusing on the ones with a fourth bedroom.  Technically, we didn't need it, but my husband and I (okay, mostly him) wanted a guest room so that we could open our home more frequently to others.  We found the perfect place in less than a month.  It had been on the market for 12 hours when we bought it, and it had its own private guest bedroom and bathroom.

For weeks before we moved into our new home and for months after, we prayed for ways to tangibly bless others through this gift that we get to call "ours".  We had neighbors and coworkers over for dinner and had showers and parties here.  My parents and other friends passing through town would occasionally sleep in the fourth bedroom. 

And then there was Kayla. 

In October, this 18-year-old came to stay with us.  She had aged out of foster care and was not in a good living situation, so when she asked me if I knew of anyone who was looking for a roommate or had an extra bedroom for rent, I could almost literally hear God whispering to my heart: "Mary Rachel, you do." 

Of course, I needed to address this situation with my husband, but after some prayer, he only asked one question about it.  "Do you trust her with our girls?"  Yes.

Kayla moved in about a week later.

From the very day that she brought over her few possessions, the devil's attacks began.  Her stuff doesn't match yours.  Your house isn't going to always look perfectly put together anymore (like it ever did with two small children running around).  She has a cat.  MR, you don't like cats; they stink and they shed.  She doesn't have a car.  What an inconvenience!  You work with her; you're never going to have any "alone" time.  All four of us have to use the same bathroom so that she can have her own.  How annoying!  It's already SO LOUD in here, and we're adding another person to the noise level.  Your parenting is constantly going to be on trial before someone else.  She's going to see this circus that is your home and judge you.  You aren't good enough.

On and on the struggle went to hear the voice of truth louder than those other voices feeding lies into my head.  As my lips spoke words to her such as, "Kayla, you aren't a burden to us.  We want to help you," I realized that I was trying to preach them to myself, as well.  "Mary Rachel, she isn't a burden to you.  You want to help her."    

Kayla stayed with us for four months.  She got a car, and her previous living situation improved so that she felt safe in returning to be with her only family.  As quickly as she was here, she was gone. 

In the past few days since Kayla has moved out, I've been trying to process these recent months.

Guys, it was hard.

I think that it is challenging to invite a non-family member to live in your house, regardless of who it is.  I am a private person, and I love comfort and my own space.  Any invasion of those things by anybody is going to throw me for a loop.  Layered on top of all of that was the fact that Kayla, though sweet and earnest, is a teenager with a dysfunctional upbringing, and I felt completely lost in my own home.   

I never questioned that we were doing what God called us to do.  He has given us far more than we need or deserve, and I believe that he expects us to be generous with our home and our time.  But, it is one thing to have this idea in your head of what generosity looks like and quite another to be so generous that your lifestyle actually has to change.  When generosity and good stewardship begin to make me slightly uncomfortable, I want to run.  And in this case, there was nowhere for me to go. 

15,092.

That's the number of days I have left on this earth, assuming that I've been given 70 years.  I recently began "numbering my days" (Psalm 90:12), and admittedly, there have been far too many of the past 120 when I've shuffled into the bathroom that I shared with three other people, marked off another day, and resented my lot in life.  15,092 is a lot of days, and it isn't.  The 120(ish) days that Kayla lived with us definitely wasn't a lot, and, regrettably, I spent many of them feeling sorry for myself and being annoyed with a situation that I chose.  If you've been reading this and thinking that I'm an awesome person because I opened my home to a teenager who didn't have one, you just got a peek into what's really in my heart.  It's gross.

Why did we do it?  

That's a multi-faceted answer, and I might have responded differently depending on the day that you asked me.  

Partly, I wanted our girls to notice us opening our doors and making outsiders feel welcome.  Those little people are watching everything we do, and I was hopeful that they would witness a glimmer of hospitality and aspire to imitate it one day. 

I also longed for Kayla to experience a functional family that loves each other.  I knew that we weren't perfect; however, I thought that we could show her something unique.  Conflicts were inevitable, but I yearned for her to see forgiveness and healthy resolution following them.  

In short, I wanted to change Kayla's life during her time with us.  Perhaps she would be so inspired by our gracious living that she would be a radically different person when she walked out of our front door than when she walked into it.

I don't know if Kayla learned a single thing by living with us (except for how much crying there is up in this place), and I'm not sure that she needed to.  Maybe that wasn't the point.  In my reasons for inviting Kayla into our home, I was hoping to see change in everyone else, but I think that what God was after was change in me.  (Isn't that usually how it goes?)  I'm stubborn, selfish, and ungrateful, but perhaps I'm the tiniest bit less that way than I was when the fourth bedroom became occupied in October.  

This I know for sure: Not one of His seen or unseen plans during the past four months was ever thwarted by my apathy and complaining.  And that's really good news for everyone involved.

"I am God, and there is no other.  I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.'"

-Isaiah 46:9-10