Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pushing the Couch Back

Our apartment is quite tiny.  You can call it quaint and you can call it cute (all terms I myself prefer) but pretty words aside it is simply small.  So small in fact, that we don’t have room for a kitchen table.  We opted for comfortable seating arrangements (i.e. a couch) instead of the grand, large farmhouse table that I have been dreaming of for years.  Nate and I still gather around our “imaginary” table for meals but for now, my dreams of beautiful dinner parties and setting a creative table-scape will have to be put on hold.
I have always wanted my house and the home I make with my husband to be one with a revolving door.  Growing up, the house my parent’s built was filled with not only my family but also several others who took refuge there for a meal, a season, or a decade.  I can’t remember them turning anyone away.  Living in a home that kept me safe and provided shelter for more than just the immediate members of my family grew in me a strong desire to always love and serve others.  From the get go, I learned that homes were meant to be lived in, shared, and opened to more than just the few who used it as a return address on envelopes.
My greatest concern in calling such a small space home was that we would be limited in the ways we could open our home and make it available to others.  Farmhouse table aside, there are no guest bedrooms to stock with fine linens and plush pillows.  However, no matter how small the space it is our prayer that our home would still have a revolving door for friends from afar to visit and new friends to feel loved and encouraged.
            This week that prayer was answered.  Upon hearing of our move to the Northwest I immediately tried to find a way to serve.  I love working with students and so I quickly applied to become a mentor and bible study leader for a group of girls from the University of Washington.  These girls live in community together, in a somewhat Christian sorority, in a large mansion right near campus.  All of the members of the house are placed in a bible study and each week meet together with a mentor and a student leader.  I count it as a blessing that I was chosen as a mentor and Thursday night was our first meeting as an entire group.  The girls asked if they could come to our place for bible study and without hesitation, yet worried about space in the back of my mind, I eagerly said yes.
            Nate agreed to spend the evening in our bedroom (He is such a Saint) and the two of us (Nate helped clean and pull ingredients) prepared apple cider and freshly baked cookies for the girls.  I was nervous before they arrived.  Would our house be too small?  Would I be the strange California Girl Bible Study Leader?  All sorts of questions plagued me as we pushed the couch back and waited for the girls.
            Shortly after seven, six beautiful girls appeared at our door.  Our apartment had our first house guests.  Not only were they the first visitors to the Bruce household but also they were the first friends we would meet.  And so as Nate helped me pour the cider, six girls filled our living room, sat on our couches, and a few were gracious enough to perch on the floor.  I sat on a yoga mat and scattered pillows around to make everyone more comfortable and Nate vanished to the bedroom.  For a couple of short hours I got to not only begin to know these girls but to commence on my journey of falling in love with each of them.  I can already tell these six girls will become like little sisters to both Nate and I and each week, regardless of the size of our home, we will gather together, with the couch pushed back and some of us on the floor, and we will talk about life, love, college, and most importantly Christ and what it means to be a follower of Him.  
In our dream world, Nate and I would have loved to have a house.  In our ideal world, we would have loved to have a two-bedroom apartment.  Yet, in our perfect world we have a tiny little place that we plan to fill with as many people as possible as opportunities to host and to love present themselves.  We can push the couch back, eat a meal Indian style on the floor, blow up an air mattress and cover it with the most cozy comforters you’ll ever know.  This small apartment, that is becoming our home, is not ours to hide in.  Our doors are made to swing open and to be a shelter for anyone, at anytime, along their journey.
 There’s a country song that sings, “You’re gonna miss this.  You’re gonna want this back.  You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.  These are some good times, so take a good look around.  You may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.”  This has become a mantra for Nate and I.  We will miss these days.  The stories of our one bedroom apartment and how a whisper in the kitchen carries to the shower.  We are taking it all in and casting more than just quick glances.  We are blessed to have a home and to have people to share it with.  And from here on out, no matter where we are, we will remember the goodness of pushing the couch back