Monday, February 22, 2016

One More Hot Dog in the Pot

We have two house guests staying with us for two weeks. A woman in our church had to fly out last minute to care for her father who is very ill several states away. Her two teens are in classes with my kids. Instead of pulling them out of school for two weeks, we offered to let them stay with us. Someone at work heard and casually said, "Charlotte, you have a very big heart." I sort of scoffed, because I'm the least merciful person I know.

Before you think I'm being falsely modest, I'm not joking. I'm sort of infamous for being difficult when it comes to mercy. 

It's always crowded.
I believe we make our own way. I believe it's almost always personal fault, not circumstance or accident or something that happened to you.  I believe that you have to decide to live a different way before it can manifest, and most people choose wrong or not at all.

So, I blame personal failure for what most would call happenstance. It's why that mercy thing is so hard for me. But the weird exception in my life has been twofold: teenagers and dogs. (Maybe God thinks it's funny.)
Regular day in my kitchen.
It never occurred to me not to offer for the kids to stay with us. I didn't have to ask The Husband either. He almost always lets me have my way (because that is the kind of love he exhibits for me daily). I just said, "Hey, we are having house guests for two weeks."

He grunted and said, "Sure we are."

Then he cooked ravioli and homemade sauce and mozzarella bread and made sure each of those kids had two helpings.
Where would we all sit to eat?

Now, keep in mind that we have eight people in this house already. Eleven are rolling around here tonight. My mother lives next door, but she comes over for laundry and eats all of her meals with us. She's come over tonight, because she doesn't like to stay alone in the "weather" (if it sprinkles or f5 tornado it's 'weather').

We have five kids. We have four (FOUR) dogs (some of them are actually ours and some of them transplants aka neighbor dogs that came and never left). We have one misbehaving cat.  We have boyfriends who visit and family friends who come to fellowship weekly. It's like a circus all of the time.

What it looks like when only seven of us travel.
We have people in and out all of the time day and night. We are busy, stretched, half crazed. We can't eat a sit down meal together most of the time, because there isn't a table big enough in my house.

My washer and dryer have never been idle more than six hours at a time in two decades. I have four large stock pots and we always serve buffet style, because that's what it takes to feed a dozen people at every meal. We have two refrigerators and two freezers and have to set a shower schedule to get everyone cleaned up.
My living room is always this full
And you know what? We've never gone hungry or without. God has been good to our family, usually through the hands of other people. I can't even envision a world where I don't say, "Sure, you can just come stay with us. We'll work it out. We'll fit you in. We'll feed you. We'll take you. You are welcome here."

Loving people is going to cost you something. Be careful that you aren't talking about living a Christ-following life and then shoving your family into a bubble, not allowing other people to participate in the party. You need to have open doors, open heart, open life.

What it looks like to feed the whole show.

If it's  only "your four and no more" you have missed out on the best parts of fellowship. The messy parts. The real parts. The scary parts. The damaged parts. The fun parts. The lovely parts. The best parts.

Invite people in. Let them see you as you really are, not as you want or hope to be. And you'll be surprised at how God moves in those relationships. How He is revealed through your love and open, unprotected sharing. Don't be afraid. My unmerciful heart can do it, so I know yours can too. 
We love Chinese food. Man at the take out place asked, "How many people do you feed with all of this?" The Husband responded, "All of them, Buddy. All of them."
Regular nightly meal.
Always room for one more in the house. Sometimes you have to get friendly, but we'll get you in there.

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