Downtown Cornerstone Blog
Jul 11
2018

Stories of Grace | Community Over Comfort

Community, Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”

I sink onto the stained and faded not-so-white carpet, surveying the cardboard boxes stacked half way to the ceiling. My fearless toddler free-climbs the newly formed summits. I call to her to descend and decide to leave the boxes hungry while I rest. Though tired and a bit overwhelmed, I pause to thank God for this entirely unexpected but miraculous move.

I’ve never lived alone. Born the youngest of three kids, I immediately moved into a full house. After high school, I moved into college dorms. I shared a house with six women and then my husband. I moved six times in less than four years, but not once did I reside on my own.

The summer following my senior year of high school I had no residence to call my own after my family’s house, the only home I had ever known, was foreclosed, and we were evicted. It was that summer I first lived with my friend, Anne Johnson.

I crashed on her couch until the dorms opened. We were roommates throughout college, which is where we met our respective husbands, who also happened to be high school best friends. We intentionally sought to be next-door neighbors, both couples renting apartments above our church’s gathering space in Pittsburgh, PA. When Ben and Anne moved to Los Angeles, we figured our co-residing days were past. But God had other plans and brought us all to Seattle.

We shared an apartment in South Lake Union until Ben and Anne were ready to become foster parents. God provided a home for me and Justin just two blocks away so we could continue to do life with the Johnsons. During our sabbatical, we asked God “What’s next?” He answered by providing a four-bedroom house in the heart of Capitol Hill so that Justin and I could begin our family while living with the Johnsons.

Many single people cut costs by communal living, and some married folks do as well. But two families living together seemed unique to many, enticing to a few, and flat-out absurd to others — namely our Washington State Foster Licensor. She sat across our dining room table, eyeglasses situated sternly on the edge of her nose, staring at us in disbelief.

“I just couldn’t understand why two families who were unrelated would ever want to live together. I thought you all were crazy. But now that I’m talking with you, I see what you have here is really quite special.”

God not only changed our licensor’s mind but He also moved mountains of paper work and bent bureaucracy to create our co-joined foster home. He fashioned a family that shares no DNA but dinner around the table every night. And then He nudged us to grow more. God laid it on the Johnsons’ hearts to extend hospitality to more children in need of a home, but we had run out of space in ours. We either needed to live apart or do the impossible of finding a five-bedroom house within our budgets in Capitol Hill.

With the unlikelihood of us finding such a house, the comforts and conveniences of living apart crept into my mind. I began to linger on how I could put things where I wanted them and not have someone else move them. I thought about a fridge full of food only I wanted to eat and having no parameters around using shared space. I could finally build my own little kingdom unchallenged by anyone else.

But as I pressed into prayer over our next living situation, the Spirit changed my plea from “Lord, provide a place for me to build my kingdom,” to “Lord, what will bring You the most glory? Living together or living separately?” As I prayed, I became confident He would provide the exact residence that would give the glory to Him rather than to me.

After several weeks of looking for our “unicorn” house in vain, we decided to stay in our current house until God provided a bigger space. Letting go of my fantasies of the control and comfort of living as separate households did not come immediately or easily, but I trusted this was the best option even if it felt like a sacrifice. But the Johnsons still wanted to grow their family, so as a last-ditch effort, we reached out to our landlords to see if we could convert the basement into a fifth bedroom.

“No. That’s totally illegal,” they responded, “but we have another larger four-bedroom house if you want to check it out.”

Though it lacked the essential extra bedroom, we agreed to look at it. The house happened to have a second living room space, which we asked if our landlord would be willing to convert to a fifth bedroom.

“Sure. I could do that. It’d take me a weekend to put up a wall and a door.”

We were astonished. Our God, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence that which did not exist, created the exact house we needed. And in doing so, He obliterated any bases for me clinging to my comforts over the narrative He was unfolding between our two families living together.

If you’ve ever done it, you know living with others can be tedious and frustrating at times. God has used those moments of unwashed dishes, misplaced items, and damaged property to again and again reveal the depths of my own selfishness and idolatry of comfort. Community living provides regular occasions to die to myself and out-do my brothers and sisters in showing honor, whether by taking out the trash or cooking a meal. Living with another person helps challenge the happy delusion that I’m in control and the world revolves around me. Multiply that by two families living together and the opportunities for conviction are constant.

But living in community with fellow believers yields far sweeter fruit than my creature comforts could. We enjoy a house filled with laughter and prayer, singing and always an extra set of hands, others to pick up the burden when one of us falls sick or exhausted. We play board games; we talk about what we’re reading in the Word; we sharpen one another.

There are days I’m still tempted to believe that conveniences of living as a single-family-unit outweigh the riches of living together. At those times, I recall how God has gifted us this house and that He is building His Kingdom, not mine. So I join Him by praying, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, in our home as it is in heaven.”

– Jen Keogh, DCC Member

If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email info@downtowncornerstone.org.