On the surface, our family looks pretty typical. Scott is in full-time ministry at a local church and I’m a writer/blogger/speaker. We have a fifteen-year-old daughter who is a cheerleader, has a boyfriend, and is active at church. Our dog Buddy looks like Flash from “The Dukes of Hazzard” and is, for the most part, a typical basset hound moving from one comfy spot for a nap to another with a few breaks for eating and random barking at the people walking outside.

Our weeks are full of church and ball games and checking on grandparents and wondering what’s for supper and how the cars are already out of gas. We laugh at random YouTube videos and look for some sweet snack around 8:30 every night.
Seriously, we’re just normal folks who live in a small town in North Alabama.

Sometimes, though, normal and typical has the opportunity to be a part of something incredible.

In July 2014, we added a new member to our family. No, I didn’t have a baby at 42. {Whew!} And we didn’t adopt. Instead, we moved a 63-year-old man with Down Syndrome into our guest room. James is Scott’s great-uncle. He had been living back and forth with family in Arkansas and Alabama. Since his mother, Mamaw Grace, passed away, James has been an orphan.

James and Us

A well-loved, cherished and taken care of, orphan. He has lived in several homes with different members of the family and hasn’t had his own room since he moved out of the little house in Melbourne, Arkansas, where he grew up.

Last summer, we talked everyone into letting James come stay with us. We had an extra room we could give him. He settled in quickly to our life, even though it was much more active than what he’d been accustomed to the previous few years.

James’ schedule is simple. Every morning he gets up and, after dressing himself, he sits down at the table where he eats whatever we give him for breakfast {as long as it isn’t spelled e-g-g-s}. After eating and taking his daily medicines, he carefully cleans up his spot at the table and spends the next half hour in the bathroom. He shaves with an electric razor and has currently managed to shave his sideburns halfway up his head. But we’re working on that!

Once he finishes with his grooming, he arranges his clock, coloring books, crayons, and full glass of water on the desk we’ve set aside for him. The desk looks out into the backyard and I often “catch” him watching the squirrel scamper across the fence or the birds at the feeders or traffic on the street beside our house. He works until lunch time. You see, his mother taught him the value of diligence. His work is coloring and he has carefully and thoroughly colored countless books in his 64 years {his birthday was in January}. He uses one crayon at time for the most part, filling in page after page, until the crayon is gone. As he finishes each book, he gives them to me or to others. He takes a break only for lunch.

Sometimes our average, normal life is

 At four o’clock each afternoon, work ends. He meticulously cleans up his desk, putting everything back in its place. His afternoon is spent watching DVDs. He’s watched everything from the 200+ movies in Scott’s Christmas collection to season one of Heroes. But his favorite is wrestling. James loves wrestling and music and, for several years, had a fascination with computers. One of our favorite “James stories” is the Christmas Scott’s mom got him a child’s toy computer after he had spent months staring with longing at the PC Scott’s dad had in his home office. When James opened the package on Christmas Eve, we all sat with bated breath knowing he was going to love it. Instead, he grunted and said, “Hmm. Toys R Us.” {Suffice it say, that present was returned.}

James Christmas Presents 2014
Typically he eats his supper on a tray in his room as he watches his DVDs. He can’t hear well so meals can be hard for him with all the background noise. At ten o’clock he comes in to tell us good night. I follow him to his room and carefully take off his slippers and socks. After I tuck him into bed, I lean over and kiss his forehead as I remind him how much I love him. His last words as I turn off the light, “I ub you too.”

Sometimes our average, normal life is the perfect place for welcoming others. What I’ve learned the most from having James live with us is how meaningful the simple acts of kindness and respect are. We’re better people because he’s with us. We smile more and we slow down more when we’re home. Casiday helps with fixing his meals or opening his DVDs. Even the dog will stop and let James scratch his ears on his way to find a new spot to nap.

Hospitality isn’t always about doing something big. For us, it’s really just been a choice to be available. We’re still busy and our pace is often hectic. Sometimes James goes with us and sometimes he doesn’t. {He’s able to be home alone for a few hours at a time.} But we opened the doors … to our hearts and our home. And we found out there was more space than we’d realized. I think that’s how genuine hospitality works. It expands inside us and makes room for others.

James being sily

You probably don’t have a 64-year-old great uncle with Down Syndrome to move into your guest room. But I bet if you open your eyes and your heart, you’ll find there is someone who needs space in your life to feel welcomed and safe and known. And that is what hospitality offers.

QH_GT

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    Lisha Epperson

    Your tender message of being available touches me. I’m in a season of shut doors but I remember fondly times when we were that family. The one who took in the wayward nephew or friend in crisis. Each time was a simple yes to a need. What a gift those times were. Even now, I know hospitality is expanding in us and will make room for others. Thanks for sharing this story.

    February 20th, 2015 4:53
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Lisha, the seasons of shut doors are hard, aren’t they? But what a beautiful testimony you have of making space in your life … for others and for God to work in you and your family.

      February 20th, 2015 15:09
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    Kris Camealy
    http://kriscamealy.com/

    Teri lynne, this article blesses my heart so much. This glimpse of your daily life with James is such a joy. Thank you for reminding me always of what is most important, for being a friend who speaks truth and helps me always to focus on what God has put right in front of me. I love the way your LOVE others. So grateful for you, my friend.

    February 20th, 2015 11:59
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Oh Kris! Now I am crying … and I miss you so much it hurts. Almost a year ago I was the guest in your home, painting little girls’ fingernails and learning about Legos from your sweet boys. Those days with your family {and Refine!} remain an Ebenezer in my life … a marker of God’s specific and gracious love for me.

      February 20th, 2015 15:08
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    Jolene

    What a beautiful picture of Christ’s love! Blessings to your family!

    February 20th, 2015 13:28
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Thank you, Jolene. James is a precious person and, as with all giving, we receive ever so much more than we could have imagined!

      February 20th, 2015 15:06
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    Linda@Creekside
    http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com/

    Absolutely beautiful. I’m sharing your story over on the sidebar at my place. I want the people in my world to meet you and your family, Teri …

    February 20th, 2015 14:46
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Oh Linda, how kind of you. We love having James here with us … and we are thankful to be able to give him a place of his own. He is dearly loved by his whole family and a gift to all who know him.

      February 20th, 2015 15:05
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    Becky Keife
    http://www.beckykeife.com/

    Teri Lynne, I can’t think of a better way to begin my Friday morning than with these words. Just beautiful!!

    February 20th, 2015 15:08
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Oh Becky, thank you!! I wish I could just bottle up some of the love and sweetness James Ed has and give it to everyone … wouldn’t we all be better??

      February 20th, 2015 15:19
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    Kristin_theschellcafe
    http://www.kristinschell.com

    I love all your James stories, but this one just made my day. You take Romans 12:13 to heart, my friend. Taking every opportunity to open your life and home to others. I’m so encouraged. Thank you. xoxo

    February 20th, 2015 15:33
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Love you … and your example and encouragement about being #FrontYardPeople”!!
      xoxo

      February 20th, 2015 15:44
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    Beth Gilmer

    I love this, Teri Lynne. James has brought several smiles to my face this year, and I am so glad that you have shared him with me and with the world. The smiles when he comes to Casiday’s games melt my heart. Awesome post.

    February 20th, 2015 15:38
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Beth, he’s so fun! Every time we’d get home from a game and I’d ask him what he thought, he said the same thing: “That was the best game I ever saw!”

      February 20th, 2015 15:43
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    Cassandra G. McGinley

    I can remember when I would visit Aunt Gaye and Uncle Don in Arkansas and James would be there staying with them. I was young but I do remember that I always thought it was wonderful that both homes would welcome him into theirs so openly. James is a gentle soul and is loved by all that have met him. I am so glad that you and your family have welcomed him into your home and lives. You are a blessing to him and his family. As his family has aged, you are exactly what James needed. What a great example you are teaching your children on giving, acceptance, love and sacrifice. I also remember James’ fondness for wrestling. Thank you for all that you have given and for sharing this wonderful family’s story.

    February 20th, 2015 15:55
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Thank you, Cassandra! I am thankful for the opportunity to have him live with us for this season … but also, to be able to share his story with others. He is the inspiration, isn’t he?

      February 20th, 2015 19:22
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    Mollianne Buster Massey

    I love this, I love the heart of your family and I love you!

    February 20th, 2015 16:35
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      I love you … and the lessons on hospitality you have always taught me. Thank you for welcoming a very spoiled and selfish young woman into your home about 20 years ago.

      February 20th, 2015 19:20
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    Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org/

    What a sweet, sweet story. And how very like something Jesus would do. Having someone new in your home is different, and sometimes uncomfortable, but usually rewarding. You are an inspiration! Grace & peace.

    February 20th, 2015 16:46
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Oh, I am not really an inspiration, Leah. I promise … it is hard sometimes and I am constantly aware of my own selfishness. But the way God is using this tender soul to tender my soul is a gift to be sure.

      February 20th, 2015 19:21
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    Christin
    http://christinslade.com/

    This is beautiful in every way.

    February 20th, 2015 21:43
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Thank you, sweet Christin. I appreciate your kind words. James makes our world more beautiful in every way.

      February 21st, 2015 1:03
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    Megan Spires

    Teri Lynne, your words here and story of selfless love have totally captured my heart. What a true blessing you all are to each other. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with all of us. I am truly inspired to allow God to search my heart and show me those whom I can make more space for in my life. Love you, sister.

    February 21st, 2015 6:12
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Megan, not selfless … not selfless at all. I promise. Sometimes it is hard … because all the best things are, right? But hard is the way of stretching. And oh how my selfish heart needs stretching!! Love you so.

      February 21st, 2015 21:17
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    Kate Battistelli

    Oh my friend, your story makes my heart swell. You and your family are the embodiment of living and loving like Christ. These words of yours say it all: “But we opened the doors … to our hearts and our home. And we found out there was more space than we’d realized. I think that’s how genuine hospitality works. It expands inside us and makes room for others.” Oh Teri Lynne, we all have SO much more space than we realize! We think it has to be big and fancy and impressive but your simple act of love, of opening up space in your heart and home is such a precious example of what true hospitality looks like. Because really–what hospitality consists of at it’s essence–is just. making. room. I love you and miss you too!

    February 21st, 2015 17:43
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      TeriLynneU
      http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/

      Sweet Kate … your life inspires me to look for hospitality opportunities!! I am thankful for your friendship, your wisdom, your love. Love you so, my precious friend!!

      February 21st, 2015 21:15
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    Arnie
    http://lwddnxn.com

    Hey, that post leaves me feeling fooshli. Kudos to you!

    November 6th, 2016 0:55
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