the girls next door

We make a home slowly, because this is how homes are made. It takes a year, but after a year, when we are piled on top of each other, sharing space, sharing rooms, sharing air, when the space finally seems too small, we discover that we have made a home.

This morning we are eating pumpkin oatmeal, sipping coffee, sitting on the floor and she says "I'm sad. I'll miss our small home." We are just moving next door, so please forgive our melancholy--homes are made slowly and we know this.

Someone asks me yesterday what Texas has given me and the answer is quick, without thought: this home, but in particular, these girls. In this home I have known grace toward me and grace inside of me, more than I ever thought possible. Wherever I have lived I have been happy, whether pockets of happiness or streams of it, there has been happiness. I have known community. I have known the struggle of living life beside another breathing, thinking, feeling life. And it has been hard. And it has been good.

But this home?

In this home it has just been good, a steady stream of good. We have wrestled through doubts, questions, crushes, first dates and last ones. We have laughed until our sides hurt, and wept in fear or anger. Here, in this place, we have known Jesus and we have known each other. Here is another thing we have known: that we are not finished yet. And what a comfort that has been, to me especially, to know that this home is a work in progress and we are each too.

I come from a place where the doors are always open and where people freely come and go, and I wished for that for this home. In the beginning I tried to make it happen and was sad when it didn't. Our neighborhood isn't conveniently located, and while it has a lovely downtown, there isn't much to draw people here. I don't know when the shift happened though, in my heart, where I realized that if our home is our primary place of ministry, then the people we share life with ought to get the first parts of us.

This is why, when a friend asked me the other day, why I didn't move closer to where the action is, where my church family is, and where I'd be certain to keep my social calendar full, the answer was easy for me: these girls are my family. I'd rather minister to and be ministered to by these girls than to have a bigger house, or a more central location. I'd rather wrestle through life, questions, faith, and fears within this home than start all over again.

I know my nemesis is a fear of commitment, a fear of locking myself into anything or anyone, a fear that I will be needed beyond what I have to give. And when I signed my name as the primary leasee the other day I checked my heart for that fear, I dug around a bit, pushed on the tender parts of me, checking to see if that fear still lingered.

It couldn't be found.

I know that in this place we are not covenanted with one another, at any point one of us could leave, get married, move away. In the past this lack of covenant has been a source of frustration for me because I want unconditional love and I can't find it anywhere on earth. But more and more I am learning that part of covenant is choosing to love and not loving because you have to hold contract. Loving because it's a decision. Building a home around trust and mutual care, selflessness.

But I find that you can be surprised by covenant--that it's not something you choose with a flourish and a signature. That it comes slowly, the way you build a home. That it is shared, the way you live in your space. That it is binding, the way you care for the wounds of another. That it is full, the way you stock your life.

That it is here, in this home, where we have been a family.

And that it will be there, next door, where we will be more.

We're emptying out.