I never, ever imagined we would invite a stranger to live with us. I could not have envisioned all the ways it would change me, either.
When Ashley first moved from Ireland to our city on the central coast of California, she rented a small one bedroom apartment not far from us. She lived there for nine months until the owners needed the space for a family member. Ashley then moved about 20-25 minutes north to live in a great beach town. What she found, however, was the commute was inconvenient due to her varied work hours. She discovered something else as well- she was spending quite a bit of time at our house.
We met a few months after she moved here to the USA because she was hired on at the church where we were serving. She knew the Lord was calling her to live and work in the States. Our friendship blossomed over the months, and when she moved north, she would stop by our house for a quick chat or a meal when on a lunch break. We would invite her over for dinner as she was single, and we knew eating alone all the time could get lonely, plus we enjoyed her company. Some evenings she would stay late as we got engrossed in conversation, so we offered the couch for the night. Gradually, she wound up over so frequently, that it seemed obvious to my husband and me to invite her to move in with us for a year. We still had two children at home and one away at university and had never done something like this before. What in the world were we doing? She wasn’t related to us and in many ways, still felt like a stranger. What would she think of our parenting, our marriage, our messes, our quirks?
Ashley began renting our daughter’s room with the agreement that when our daughter was home on a school break, Ashley could either share the room with her or sleep in the den. This arrangement worked well but wasn’t without its sacrifices. My family had to get used to someone new living in our home, and Ashley had to get used to living with my family. Coming home at the end of a workday for her meant walking into a house filled with noise, homework time, a messy kitchen full of dinner prep, and other things that she wouldn’t have as a single woman. She had to grow accustomed to our routines, idiosyncrasies, family jokes, and loud talking. We had to adjust to her quieter ways, her accent, her traditions, and her softer personality. We made it work, though, and after a year, we decided to continue this unique living arrangement. She ended up living with us for close to five years!
I learned so many things from sharing my home with a single friend, and there were a few surprises as well.
Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of an “outsider” moving in.
We received some strange responses when we shared that Ashley was moving in with us. Some people couldn’t understand how or why we would open our home to a stranger; others were very curious about how it would work. Some people thought it was “weird” to invite her into our home. A few even worried about how it would look if I were away for the day, and she was there at home with my husband or teenage son. We had our fair share of unsolicited advice and comments, most of which we ignored. We knew we were doing what Jesus called us to do.
A garbage can is called a bin
We learned quite a few new words and phrases. Ashley had lived in both Ireland and England, and along with her “funny” accent came words we hadn’t heard before such as ladybird (ladybug), rucksack (backpack), nappie (diaper), courgette (zucchini), car park (parking lot), and so much more. We discovered trash means something different in the U.K., and vacations are referred to as holidays. We became acquainted with Irish and British customs, and this came in handy when both our older two studied at universities in the U.K.
Two cooks in the kitchen are better than one
I love to cook and bake, and it turns out that Ashley loves to be the “sous chef.” She is amazing at food prep and chopping, at taking over if I had to help with homework, at cooking creatively and helping with menu planning. I loved having a friend in the kitchen to cook with, to chat with, or listen to music with while stirring or sauteeing. That made meal prep so much fun! We baked dozens of cookies, brownies, and cakes over the years as well as so many yummy meals.
Everyday girl-time doesn’t get old
When Ashley moved in with us, my husband had taken on a new job and was working a tremendous number of hours. This equated to late nights and working weekends for him. Her companionship helped prevent loneliness. Grocery shopping and errand running became fun because I had a girlfriend along with me most of the time. We never grew tired of one another’s company. Ashley was always game for “girls night in” which usually meant Netflix marathons (usually chick flicks or thrillers) complete with a big bowl of popcorn, good chocolate, and sometimes a glass of red wine. All the everyday girl-time made us best friends.
A roommate can be good for your marriage
Ashley frequently suggested my husband and I go on dates (we didn’t need much encouragement!) while she stayed with our kids, and she held down the fort when we went away for the weekend or on a business trip. We could completely trust her with our children, our home, and our cars. Her presence made my husband and me more accountable for our words and actions towards one another.
Single people don’t always fit in at church
One of the biggest lessons I learned from this whole experience was that churches are geared more for families and youth, and less for singles. Many classes, sermons, and activities focus on family or married life. The needs of single people can go unnoticed, and they may feel invisible. I had never thought of the place single people have in a church until living with Ashley. It then made me more understanding as I watched my adult children tried to find their niches within the church. She made us more aware of how patronizing and rude some people can be as if being single equals being immature. That was an eye opener.
Best friends can become family
My youngest felt like she gained a new auntie after she and Ashley became close. Ashley was happy to accompany her on field trips, take or pick her up from school, help with homework, or watch Disney movies together. As my kids got older, they would have jam sessions with her, discuss the latest popular music, or grab a frozen yogurt together. As you can imagine, after five years of someone living in your home, you become near and dear to one another. Ashley joined us for holiday meals, family vacations, dinners out, day trips, recitals, award nights, etc. and she was there for the hard times, too. While living with us, she saw plenty of arguments, injuries, illnesses, death, messes, dirty laundry, imperfections, trips to the Vet, and such. Typically friends don’t experience all that with each other, but when friends become family, they do.
I never, ever imagined inviting a stranger to live with us, but I am so glad we did! We originally asked her to move so we could bless her, but my family and I ended up being the ones blessed beyond measure. If you ever find yourself in a situation to invite someone to move in, give it a try. That person may end up becoming like family.
Could you ever see yourself doing something like this? Have you ever considered it? I would love to hear about your experience!