Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Journey - Two Families - One Roof

While building our new home, Greg and I are living with our daughter and her family. There are seven of us, an eighth who visits occasionally and a baby on the way, all under one roof. We are using every bit of available space in the house, but we don't feel overly crowded. There are five bedrooms and three bathrooms, which help a lot. Greg and I live on one side of the house, which includes a laundry room, bath, family room and two bedrooms (one I use as an office). Sarah and her family are using three bedrooms, two baths and a living room. We share the kitchen and dining. And it's working well. Though I'll admit we are presently under a bit of duress. The flu has come to visit . . . for what I believe is the third time this winter. This time it's a stomach bug. Ugh. 

Throughout the years, my husband and I have invited friends and family to share our home. Most of the time we did so successfully. However, it doesn't just happen. You need a plan and you need to stick to it the best you can, modifying when necessary. Harmony is possible.

These days the number of people across our country who are sharing space is growing. Some decide to live in close quarters because of financial need. Children open their homes to aging parents. Parents welcome children just out of college while they transition into the working world. And there are folks who simply enjoy sharing their lives with others. No matter what the reason we need a plan if dual living is going to be a success.

I'm certain some of you have experienced this kind of living arrangement. And I'll bet more than one of you is yelling, "No! Don't do it!" 

And you'd be right. Sharing living space is not for everyone. Our personal attempts have not always been successful. The experience can be excruciating. 

So, if you find yourself needing to share a home with others what can you do to increase your chances of success?

Here are some tips I've picked up along the way.

  • Know the people you plan to live with. If it is a room mate situation and you've met through an ad or a mutual friend, get together more than once and go through likes and dislikes, personality quirks and expectations. Get to know one another.
  • Thoroughly discuss expectations. Examples are: Who pays what and when? How will upkeep of the house be maintained? How will you share the kitchen? And who cooks?
  • A time frame should be discussed. How long do you expect to live together? 
  • A trial run might be a good idea. You can set up a period of time, say one month, where you can try it out before making a final decision. You'll need an alternative plan just in case it's a no go.
  • Be honest, but full of grace. People don't always see eye-to-eye and if our roomies are getting under our skin we need to speak up, especially if it's about something we agreed on and they aren't holding up their end of the bargain. However, grace is essential. Don't strike out with words or with anything else for that matter. Work out a resolution in love.
  • If there are pronounced differences in living styles it's imperative to talk through the issues that could come up. If one is a neat-nik and the other is a casual housekeeper, how are you going to overcome the contrasts? You might decide it's not a good match - listen to your gut.
  • Respect one another. 
  • Set up scheduled meetings for communication. If we know there will be opportunity to voice questions or differences we're less likely to avoid addressing them and thus avoid blow ups. 
  • Agree on guidelines for your meetings, keeping honesty and respect as key components of discussions. We once shared our three bedroom home with my sister and her four children. There were seven children and three adults in 1400 square feet. Living quarters were tight. Meetings were essential. The kids loved being part of solutions and couldn't wait to voice their opinions and suggestions. Family meetings were generally fun and constructive.
  • Pray. If you are believers together, then make sure to pray together.

No single plan works for everyone. The challenge is to find what works for you. 

I look forward to moving into a new home and being just Greg and I again. But I'll miss the close relationship I share here with family. I love being part of my daughter's, her husband's and my grandchildrens' lives. It has been a special blessing. 

I'd love to hear about your experiences. Do you have more tips to add to the list? I hope you'll share. We can all use a little help.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Quiet Moments With God - Feather Clipping

Darkness enveloped the forest while wind and rain whipped the land. I approached a shadowed building, lay my hand on a cold metal clasp and slowly opened the door. It creaked on aging hinges . . . 

Am I writing a thriller? Nah. Just visiting the chicken house after dark. 

Some of our chickens like to fly over the fence. We've provided a large space for them to range so they don't need more freedom. And sometimes outside the fence there are marauders who like to kill chickens. So in order to protect the vagabonds we sometimes need to clip their wings. The best time is after dark when they can easily be lifted off the perch.

My daughter, her husband and my grandson and I went to work. We were gentle and soft spoken, but some of the hens got stirred up anyway, acting like they were about to be murdered. One hen in particular, a big fat sassy gal with gorgeous black and blue feathers started cackling loudly and ruffling up her feathers while doing her best to get free. I talked gently and held her for a few moments, but she kept right on cackling her head off. We all started laughing, even though I felt kind of sorry for her. Obviously she believed we were about to put an end to her.

After we'd finished and I was back inside and reading I got to thinking about that hen and how little she trusted us. We were there to help protect her. The clipping is not painful and it will help keep her safely inside the pen and away from predators. We knew that, but she didn't.

Sometimes I'm kind of like that hen. I like my comfort zone and I want to stay in it. When something comes along and rocks my comfortable boat I don't like it. Or if God closes a door on me I can get to cackling about it, certain calamity is coming upon me.

I know I'm not the only one who gets disgruntled when things seem to go wrong. Would I be right to say there are a lot of us who do that? And if the truth were told, we'd be a lot happier and live more peaceful lives if we stopped squawking and ruffling our feathers over unexpected circumstances and learned to trust God's wise perspective instead.

Maybe we can remind one another that God's not about to do us in when all He intends to do is a little feather clipping.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Quiet Moments With God - Being Me

I've been absent for a while and I've missed you all. The holidays swept in and overwhelmed me. To be absolutely frank I've been exhausted. Anyone else worn out? I'm pretty sure part of the reason I'm so tired is because I've been trying to fill someone else's shoes - a pair that doesn't fit me.

Christmas wasn't just about work. I had a lot of fun too. However, I took on too much responsibility, a habit I've gotten into in recent years. The Lord has been speaking to me about my need to just be me - it really is okay. 

I've been reading a book called Becoming Myself. It's thought provoking to say the least. And the portion I was reading today went right along with the devotion I read as well. And then a scripture verse told me the same thing. I've learned that when I hear something three times from three different sources I'd best pay attention.

The devotion I read was from Streams in the Desert. It included a poignant story about a king and his garden. The garden is withered and dying. When questioned, each plant had given up on life because they weren't just like another plant. The oak tree wanted to stand tall and beautiful like the pine. The pine tree was distraught because it couldn't bear fruit like the grapevine. And the geranium was fretting because it didn't have the fragrance of the lilac.

The king came upon a small violet. It was vibrant and alive and when the king asked why it wasn't disheartened like the rest of the garden the little flower responded, "I know I'm small, yet I thought if you wanted an oak or a pine or a peach tree or even a lilac you would have planted one. Since I knew you wanted a violet, I'm determined to be the best little violet I can be." 

I envision that little violet dressed in its vivid colors and wearing a big smile as it stands up straight and bright, being everything it can be for the king. The violet has found joy and contentment in being just what it was intended to be.

I want to be like that, but I struggle. I sometimes find myself longing to be like someone else. I'd love to be tall and willowy, bending easily in the wind. Instead, I'm more like an oak. I'm broad, heavy-limbed and weathered. My limbs don't bend easily because I've had to stand my ground and strain against life's storms. 

Can I be content as an oak?

I'm confident God knew what He was doing when He created me. I'm also certain that he intends for me to grow and mature and even change, but I need to embrace the core of who I am; only then can I fulfill His purposes for me. 

I'm on a journey, searching for clarity and hoping to discover who me is. I will likely find things I don't like as well as some nice surprises. In the end I pray I am able to throw aside unreal expectations, guilt over false failures and be thankful that God created me to be an oak. 

Grace and peace to you from God,