|The Stilmot Family|
There is one family that you are born into. These are the people you share the same genes with, the ones who drive you to school, and teach you to ride a bicycle. I adore my family. I praise Jesus for the incredible relationship I have with my Mom, Dad, brother and sister-in-law. They are some of my favorite people.
Then there are families that God just plops you into.
I am a college grad who is making her way up the ladder of teaching full time. And I live with a family of six. Some may call my living situation unique. Others talk to me with a quizzical look, trying to fit me into a predetermined box: nanny? babysitter? renter? Don't you get along with your real family? Wait, you live with four kids? How does that work? Curt was even asked if I was a foreign exchange student. It is about time I explain how I became Sarai Stilmot. To do so, we need to back up a few years.
|Our first family outing with Sarai|
Yet something was different.
Unexpectedly and insistently, God's voice urged me: Go to the prayer room. Go. Now. Why Lord? I wondered. I thought perhaps I needed to pray for a friend who was struggling. So with that reason in mind, I hobbled out of my row, with an excuse-me, pardon-me, apologetic smile as I stumbled over legs, purses, and coffee cups. Then in the prayer room, I sat across from Mary Ellen. This wise woman exudes God's love. Her whole body leaned in as she listened to me, her hands grasping her Bible, and she asked me if I belonged to a House Church. I said that I did not, but I had wanted to do that at some point. She suggested I try the House Church she goes to...in Newberg! The light began to dawn as to why God wanted me in the prayer room that Sunday.
Back in my college dorm I coerced my friend to go with me to this thing called House Church. After all, I would rather not try it alone for the first time. I had a night class that ended at 6:30, which was when House Church started. So I called this woman named Jodi--and how do you say her last name?--to ask if it was alright if I came late. She was warm and welcoming and completely flexible with a late arrival.
The first time I went, I knew I had to come back. I was enamored with the idea of a house with a couch and a kitchen and people of varying ages. I lived in a long hallway with a bathroom at one end, a laundry room at the other, and 18-year-old girls in the middle. Curt and Jodi’s house was filled with laughter and people who instantly made me feel welcomed. The fellowship was a source of life for me. Needless to say, I hardly ever missed a House Church night for the remainder of my junior year.
In the fall of 2010, I was a senior starting my part-time student teaching, wet behind the ears and a mixture of anticipation and hesitation. Before school officially started we had a supply night for the kids to bring in their fresh cases of Crayolas and token box of Kleenex. As I greeted other parents and their third graders, in walked Jodi and the kids. Katie looked at me in amazement and asked, “Miss Sarah?”
Katie was in my class as I taught place value, learned from my mentor teacher, and grew into the teacher God was calling me to be. Katie was such a sweetheart: kind to her classmates, attentive in class, and a joy to be around. While student teaching I remember second guessing my outfits on House Church nights, for how does one dress when around a student at their house for a small group Bible study? My teacher world was mixing with my college world.
|Trick or Treat - Sarai's first time|
Within a few weeks, Jodi asked if I could babysit the kids. All four of them called me “Miss Wilmot” as I piled them into the van for an adventure including Little Caesar’s pizza. Then, student teaching was over, and my life suddenly had more free time. In November of 2010 I had lunch with Jodi and Paige. We had chicken noodle soup. I sat at the kitchen table, the very table I am sitting at right now as I write this. Jodi asked me about my plans for after graduation. I talked about how I was considering doing my Masters’, but since I was dirt poor I was trying to figure out the logistics. $500 doesn’t take you very far in the search for housing. In the far back of my mind I had thought about how the Stilps had a guest room, but I never would have dreamed of asking to stay with them, for I didn’t know them that well and I didn’t want to impose. I talked with Jodi about how I wanted to go on a university-sponsored traveling program, but didn’t have the money (the theme of my life at that point). We had a pleasant lunch and I said goodbye and moved on.
|4th of July|
December rolled around. As I sat on my university-issued armchair in the apartment I shared with three other girls, I listened to a voice mail Jodi left on my phone. As I look back I realize it was a typical Jodi move: running at the speed of life, cleaning the kitchen, managing children, and multi-tasking, yet in the midst of it all thinking of me and taking the time to call. Jodi graciously helped me realize what I was denying: the travel program was not realistic. I should just drop it and travel the world later when I have more money and know people going on the trip. I felt relieved after finally making that decision. Then came the invitation that literally changed my life.
“I talked to my husband, and you are invited to stay in our guest room this summer while you work on your Master’s.”
Live with the Stilps for free? They barely know me! How generous!
|Can't take us anywhere|
After thinking and praying and processing, I called Jodi back several weeks later and asked, “Remember how you invited me to live with your family? Well.... umm... does that invitation still stand?” Thankfully that invitation was indeed still open, and I moved my stuff in right after graduating in May of 2011. This is now my sixteenth month living at the Stilps. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am about to enter a new season of life, where I will be moving in with my brother and sister-in-law down the street from the Stilps. I won’t be saying goodbye, for we are family, and family is forever. We will still do life together, and I am excited to include my brother and sister-in-law in on the action. God has blessed me above and beyond all I could ask or imagine, and I praise Him for how He orchestrated it all.
In answer to the quizzical looks, no I am not a nanny, a babysitter, or even a foreign exchange student. I am the fifth Stilp child and they are my family. The kids introduce me to strangers as their older sister and Curt and Jodi think of me as another daughter.
I knew I was officially inaugurated into the Stilp family when I was given a nickname. Everyone in our house has at least one, even the dog Dusty. Over a game of Settler’s of Cataan I became “Sarai.” Then, when planning events that involved both the Stilps and myself (a Wilmot) we morphed into the “Stilmots”--Stilmot Christmas, Stilmot camping, etc. Therefore, long before I ever get married, I have experienced an official name change: Sarai Stilmot.
I praise You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only You can create and sustain family. Only You could have orchestrated these events for Your glory. Thank You for Your creativity and Your faithfulness.
|Our Christmas 2011 Card Photo|
Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom?
It's way over our heads. We'll never figure it out.
Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes!
(Romans 11:33-36 - The Message