The last couple weeks have been kind of ridiculous at our house. We are getting ready to sell our home, which is quite the challenge with five kids underfoot. I’m pretty sure before we get all the scratches in the baseboards filled, the kids will have managed to create some new ones. I thought I was doing a really sneaky job at packing away some of the two year-old’s toys until I realized I forgot to take the batteries out of the Fisher Price farm and now one of the boxes keeps mooing if you bump into it. Every crayon mark on the wall tells a story and some moments I feel sentimental about washing them off and some moments I’m just incredibly irritated that somebody managed to do that while I wasn’t looking.
I’m excited to get into a new home that better suits the needs of our growing family. When we moved into this place we had two kids and one of them was our foster son whose future with us was uncertain. With a history of infertility, one lengthy adoption completed, and fresh off the pain of a miscarriage, this house seemed like the perfect place for a fresh start. The years went by and God did miracle after miracle in our family. Babies who might need a place to stay for a couple weeks became our forever children. Miracle pregnancies that were never supposed to be possible happened to us in spite of the doctor’s predictions. And now we find ourselves—the infertile couple who couldn’t imagine how God would fulfill our desire for children— the parents of three adopted kids, one biological baby, a foster baby who may be with us longer than we anticipated, and pregnant. The bedrooms have been filled to capacity and the one bathroom we share has seen a lifetime’s worth of potty-training two year-olds. This house has been witness as amazing blessings have come through that front door and beautiful memories have been made.
But I’m a restless soul. I crave change and am not much for sentimentality. The time has come to move. But before we do, I want to think through the lessons I’ve learned from a little house. You see, I spent my first ten years of childhood in a little house, too. My four siblings, my parents, and I shared one bathroom. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a sibling for a roommate. We ate every meal at the large dining room table because it was the only place we could all fit. The sounds of my mom singing while she did housework, my brothers arguing in their bedroom, my big sister on the phone, my little sister playing Barbies beside me— this was the soundtrack of a childhood in a tiny house.
As a child in a little house with a large family you learn you are not the center of the world. Be too loud and you wake up a baby. And nobody likes that. You can’t rearrange your bedroom furniture because there’s only one way all of it will fit and the doors still open and close. If you sit in a seat other than your usual chair, there’s bound to be conflict. In a tiny house you learn to respect other people’s space and belongings because you want them to respect yours. You learn to carve out private spaces in places like your closet or under your bed or up in a tree just to be alone. You rarely know fear or loneliness because there’s always someone close who can comfort or distract you. You also can’t have a secret.
As the mother now in a little house with a large family I am seeing the beauty in a new way. It’s hard to collect too much clutter in a house without much space. My inability to keep things tidy and organized (because there is a place for nothing and nothing in its place) keeps me humble. I have never needed a baby monitor. When any child has called out in the night from hunger or illness or bad dream, I have been there in a moment. When it’s time for dinner, one quick announcement sends everybody scurrying to the table.
And still, I can’t have any secrets. Whatever treat I want to eat in peace is discovered either before I’ve eaten it, while I’m eating it, or the wrappers implicate me after the fact. There are no private phone calls, secret splurges, and even Christmas presents are usually found before I get a chance to wrap them.
I know our ideas of “little” are shaped and influenced by our culture. Many of the issues that are causing us to look for a new home could easily be labeled “first world problems.” As I look back on my childhood in a tiny house and the childhood my children are experiencing, I thank God for these “problems”. And in the midst of it all, my children have not known hunger. They have had a bed to call their own, even if they frequently end up in someone else’s. We have been able to offer hospitality to children in need and use this tiny house as a place of safety and love.
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