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Three years ago, Heather Libby and her six children were close to being homeless. Heather’s marriage was ending, and the house where they lived was about to go into foreclosure.
Michele Hogan, a member of Wheaton Bible Church who has been Heather’s friend for more than twenty years, grew concerned about the family’s situation. She remembers Karina—one of Heather’s children, who was twelve years old at the time—voicing her fear that they would be living in their van. Michele told her she would never let the family spend a night in their car.
“I made a promise to Karina,” Michele said, and the time came when she had to back it up.
That day, Michele made the decision to invite one adult and six children to come live in her three-bedroom condo (with two big dogs soon to be added). It was wall-to-wall mattresses and kids and boxes and clothes.
“We had one room that was literally a bed and a giant blow-up mattress,” Kyrie, 17, said. “There was no room to move around.”
That situation clearly wouldn’t work for the long term, and one day Michele came home with a solution. She announced that she had bought a house.
She had originally looked at a different house she wanted to purchase, but someone else had already beaten her to it.
“It was a testament to how God provides that I didn’t get that one,” she said. It was so much smaller than the home she eventually purchased—a house with four bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs for Heather and her family, and a master bedroom and bath downstairs for Michele.
So how do a single woman—accustomed to living by herself—and a family of seven adjust to living together?
There has been a learning curve, the two women admit.
“A clean kitchen is ridiculously important to me,” Michele said, “and I didn’t know that until seven other people moved in with me. Through this experience, I’ve learned how selfish I can be—like when I’m woken up, or a child is a smart aleck to me.”
Heather and Michele also admit that communication can be a problem. And sometimes they disagree over how to discipline the children.
“I think this would be a lot harder if we didn’t have a sense of humor,” Michele said with a smile. “It also helps that they really are good kids.”
The children have faced a lot of adjustments too: they lost their house, their parents got divorced, and they transitioned from homeschooling to attending public school.
To help with all the change, Heather attended WBC’s DivorceCare, and the kids attended Caring for Kids, which especially benefitted the two younger boys.
Heather remembers Kaiden coming home after Caring for Kids one Monday night and handing her a paper with these words written on it: Divorce was not my fault.
“You could tell that was news to him,” Michele said. “Caring for Kids was a good place for the kids to talk about all that has happened in their lives.”
Despite the constant chaos of eight people—and two big dogs—living together, they are happy with the living situation.
“I love feeding people, so for me this is awesome,” Michele said.
Heather says their garage looks like Costco. “Not to make this a sob story, but we didn’t have any money, no groceries,” she said. “My kids did not know food galore until they moved here.
“As a mom, just knowing my kids would eat was great,” she adds.
Michele and her housemates also discovered the generosity of other people and have seen how God provides in so many ways. When the family moved in with Michele, they were given money for beds, furniture, and other accessories for their house. One friend even painted their dining room.
Just recently, Michele and the Libby family witnessed another generous act, when the family didn’t have the money to pay for this semester’s bill for Heather’s oldest child, a student at Wheaton College. As Heather was trying to figure out how to come up with the money, she was informed by the school that someone had anonymously donated money to pay for the semester.
“God has just shown up with checks when we didn’t expect it,” Michele said, “providing in ways we never think about.”
Now that three years have passed and another of Heather’s children is headed off to college next year, some changes are ahead.
“We’ve been here three years,” Heather says, “and it’s time to give Michele her life back.”
But Michele has never felt as if her life was taken away.
“It’s never been my house,” she said. “It’s our house. I look at it like this: I have a good job. I make more than I need to live comfortably. It’s not my money—it’s God’s money, and I’m just the steward.”