The Rock House was home, the place undergirded with deep magnolia roots and azaleas planted by my husband’s great-grandfather. But in order to put our money toward debt and our actions where our mouths are, we prayed that if we should move, then would our Father give us a community of college girls to move into our home and provide us with a 4 bedroom place where we could live in close community with others as well.
In two weeks it fell into place, and I had three weeks to pack. Suddenly I was selling everything, thoughts of a future move to Africa dictating what went into boxes, to consignment, and to the trash.
When we unloaded the boxes and furniture, a young newly-wed couple at the apartments gave their entire day to us. He broke his toe in the process and didn’t complain one time. She watched my boys, and they disobeyed her, running out in all their clothes into the pouring rain.
Close friends came and sat in a circle of straight-back chairs and prayed that God’s work be done in our hearts and in our home. I’ve eaten the bread of neighbors. I’ve given cans from my pantry. Many apartments have shared dirty footprints on their carpets from the lot of boys and girls that swarms like honeybees from door to door, enjoying as from flowers.
Never more tired, never more with unsuspecting knocks, we have never been more encouraged, never more held up, and never held more accountable to what we say we believe.
It’s had me daydreaming First-Century Style of how critical community was to the faith when the church was newly born, and I’ve been learning that it’s just as critical today.
For me, adding the extended family of Christ to our day-to-day living has jolted my eyes and has brought about a new level of truth-telling for me. When I get out of the shower and mascara bleeds down my face and a towel stacks up on my wet head, and then someone needs something at the door, I have to answer, confessing the real me and offering what I can, in spite of the ugly. My girlfriend walks below my window, and I can see that she’s so tired she might not make it up the stairs, so I am now responsible to care for her, see what I can do to help.
Christ is living, and right now I see it most in CommUnity, in the silent moments in a balcony game of rummicub, in the way children share germs and light sabers, and in the way those older than I are modeling habitual confession, prayer, and discipline.
On my part, to take advantage of this community, I’ve had to cling hard to a slower lifestyle and release my own vision for my future, and I’ve started taking notes, calling it A Community Companion.
It’s not easy to let go of myself in order to let people in, but we’ve been given a temporary, rare gift here, and it’s caused me to ask myself: what can I learn from this that I can use later to foster community when it isn’t a simple 3 steps from my front door?
What is it you do to foster community where you are?
By Amber Haines, The Run AmuckLeave a Comment
Open door mentality, no matter what the house looks like or what it or I am in comparison to someone else. This is an attitude that must be cultivated.
I was once so busy in my church, so wrapped up in its activities that I rushed right past my neighbors. No more.
Amber Haines says
This is so so hard for me, Ms. Marilyn! One of the very women I wrote about on my blog yesterday came in to borrow some oil. I deeply apologized for my mess. She has 9 children of her own, and she looked me square in the face and told me to Get Over It!
Ahhhh. I know. My southernness hinders me a great deal in that area. Or is that my pride?
Kelly Langner Sauer says
I’m just discovering people again lately – taking pictures and talking again and meeting and seeing and describing and revealing. I don’t know where this is going, but I feel me opening, feel an invitation that I want to accept.
Your new community is fascinating, like extended dorm life – you’re part of something I always hoped for, but never quite got, with dropping out of school and health issues no one wanted to concern themselves with in their own busy. Your sharing it helps me feel somehow involved, like an extension of it; your words are like an open door into more life, and that fosters my own opening.
Thank you for encouraging.
Amber Haines says
Oh Kelly, it’s so funny how after a baby or a move or both, how long it takes to feel like you get to come out of cave-living. When you do, though, the contrast is great, and you know how to appreciate it.
Thanks for encouraging me.
A Community Companion: On Fostering Community | The Run a Muck says
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Marcus Goodyear says
As crazy as it sounds, we build community at our website by coming up with specific community building tasks. Some people are in charge of content. Some people choose images (which we hadn’t anticipated being as important as they are). Some people listen to bloggers, leave comments, send emails. Some of us have a regimen of phone calls. One guy takes care of Twitter and Facebook (though his job is big enough for two).
We’re approaching everything with joy, but we’re not assuming anyone knows how to do community on their own. And we’re assuming a good community takes a lot of work from everyone.
(And we have the greatest admiration for what Incourage has done to build community too!)
Amber Haines says
I agree with that, too. The comradery behind the scenes of (in)courage is such, well, an encouragement to me. I do think that interesting place to watch for how to foster community is a work place – how people fill certain rolls and pick up slack.
In regard to what goes on on-line: I think the challenge is to apply what we get here in internet land to our real, skin-on-skin lives. It’s hard.
Honestly, it’s so easy for me to get sucked into this world and not apply what I’m learning here to the lives of those right in front of my face. It turns out to be fake if all we have is in word and not in deed.
Sometimes, for some reason, the internet community is deeper than the skin-on-skin lives we live. And then, when there’s a chance to meet the internet friends face-to-face, or skin-on-skin, it’s a bit daunting to me. Yes, it’s hard. Good word, here.
Cassandra Frear says
Amber, this is a neat story. Community is hard work, no doubt about it.
As I read your piece, I kept seeing your lovely face with that mega-watt smile — glowing at your new friends in spite of your exhaustion.
Amber Haines says
Ha! Cassandra, it’s true that a really bad day can be soothed in the courtyard with friends who’ve had their own battles all day, too. That’s where the confessions come in, and then so follows healing – most often.
We have a dinner every Thursday that we invite anyone who needs a meal or family to come and have dinner with us. I tell them its nothing special….this week will be scrambled eggs and waffles. We just fix what we are having as a family (just more of it). We have been doing this for about a year and a half and are just now sensing the community building around us. We (all of us) are the ones we call when there is a need…we are now on each others ‘in case of emergency’ lists….in each others weddings, helping with parenting issues ( and now at some of our ages….the parenting issues are reversed)…..
we love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything in this moment.
Amber Haines says
Tammy@If Meadows Speak says
I’m so glad to see you words again (clapping happy hands here). In all my travels, my relationships were only as long as my temporary roots allowed. But I’ve discovered, in Christ, there’s a WHOLE community, family really, for me to engage. We are now involved with a couple of home-fellowship Bible study groups, plus a community of homeschooling Mommies where we share the ups and downs of those too. And I relate to letting the masacara run down. The first time I let a neighbor see me without makeup was like dropping the emotional mask I’d wear behind it. That’s the raw and real me. No longer dolled up, would I dissappoint them? Seem too plain? I realized then, I think those things more than just my superficial appearance.
Ps. Lightsabers? You too? We’ve started calling our two boys Jesus-Jedi’s.
Amber Haines says
You’re so right about the masks. I find that when I peal one off, there’s another one behind that. It’s a process, I guess.
I love how you’re experiencing community. Thank you for sharing that, and YES, the light sabers have come close to thorn-in-my-flesh status.
I have loved watching this journey for you… especially since it has to do with Africa and taking risks and I love all things Africa 🙂 I love how you are taking each moment to experience a teaching moment wherever you are… how you are maximizing your moments and keeping your eyes focused on Christ to direct your steps.
You are amazing!
Amber Haines says
This makes me cry. I am not amazing. I’m really really a mess, but it is good to be near God. Thank you for encouraging me.
Amy Sullivan says
I would love to hear more of your story and adventures. Africa has been ringing in my ears lately.
Jeri @godsdreamsforme says
I just love this post! Our townhouse just so happens to be in the middle of everyone leaving or arriving back home. I do the same thing. “Hey, girl :D”. Take notice if she needs to talk story, tough day/week, get a hug, or laugh.
I’m finding I become more alive because of it. When it’s my turn, I’m blessed just the same.
Wow….what a great post and very encouraging. The best thing in life is when you see the Lord working and that is truly happening in your life.
I read a little book back in the olden days when I was newly married. It’s called Open Heart, Open Home and it’s written by Karen Burton Mains. The subtitle is this: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome and Wanted. It was my introduction to community, and the significance of letting people in. I still recommend it.
Melissa Brotherton says
Your situation sounds similar to mine. I live in one of nine apartments over my church. We’re a small community and all in each others business…in a good way. We see the mess, the struggles, the tired. We also see the love of non-family, become family to my children. We see the joy of shared meals. We see the comfort of errands run for a sick friend. It’s a unique situation I’m in; sometimes intrusive, but always interesting.
Elizabeth (@claritychaos) says
Oh, I don’t know what I do. I don’t, I think. My dad just emailed me about this the other day, about seeking out Christian community, but I know I don’t do it.
I don’t mean this in a way to put pressure or responsibility on you, but you challenge me in ways I need to be challenged. Thank you for sharing your voice out here in the ether.
(i love the light saber photos. looks so familiar.)
Holley Gerth says
Oh, it does my heart good to see you words and heart in this place. Hope I get to do the same in person soon. XOXO
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Laura@Life Overseas says
First off, I love hearing from you again!
Secondly, I totally agree that Community is hard, good work. I love how you ended with the idea that this season of learning Community may be the fertilizing the soil for later Community, as well–whether it is in Africa or somewhere else.
For me, I am seeing that, like many things, chances for Community seemed easier in the States. I thought it was so hard to organize schedules and clean the house and arrange for a dinner, etc., but I am finding that my current isolation makes Community all the harder to pursue. Lack of language, such a variety of English-speakers, etc., makes organizing around soccer schedules seem so easy. And, once again, I kick myself for the ways I avoided it or ignored its importance.
Because I am seeing afresh that we are so much more likely to fall and buy into Lies when we go it alone.
Megan at SortaCrunchy says
As I mentioned briefly in the comments at your place, God is wooing us and challenging us (my husband and I) to examine that First Church. I guess you could say we are daydreaming First Century Church, too!
We’ve had this crazy thought. The first church – they broke bread together DAILY. They appreciated the intimacy of sharing meals and they clung to each other in community over shared food.
What if – WHAT IF – we began to break bread together daily? What would that look like? Would anyone show up?
It feels wildly uncomfortable yet irresistibly appealing at the same time. Would you whisper a prayer for us, that we might embrace the wildness He calls us to?
Amber Haines says
Yes, I am whispering it now. And isn’t “Wild” the right word?! It so is. I thought my rebellion before I believed was wild, and I always liked the wild, but it’s nothing compared to this.
Seven different hands knocked on my door yesterday.
To Think Is To Create says
Megan, the breaking of bread daily – that is exactly where we’ve been lingering lately too. The way that first church did it…wow. Can you imagine? If only our community was able to live that kind of urgency. That love.
Amber this is an uncomfortable piece of awesome. Thank you girl.
Last evening a young, newly married and first-time pregnant sister in the Lord asked a handful of women to circle her … with our faith, with our prayers, with our worship and with our love. We asked Jesus to come into our midst by His Holy Spirit on her behalf. We asked to be bread broken and passed that the incense of our real and raw sisterhood would be fragrant in His nostrils. We asked that He would move us beyond our tidy facades and self-protectionism in order to receive our precious sister’s helplessness and weakness because of fear that has been plaguing her. We asked to be taught how to listen and how to receive … not out of our own abundance but out of our Lord’s. We asked to be wounded healers. We asked to be made aware of our own poverty and Christ’s riches. We asked for mercy because we knew that apart from Jesus, we could do nothing. We asked for humility in order to trust and surrender to His leading of our intercession. We asked to be shown how to get out of the way that the way would be made clear.
Last night 7 of us chose to be shepherd-women for one sheep who believed she had lost her way. Last night in communion we lived something of the unity of the body.
Laura@Life Overseas says
I just re-visited my comment and noticed that maybe I came off sounding like Community is easy in the States. That is most definitely not true.
Community is a battle, no matter where you are on the globe and no matter what season you are in.
Sorry for the poor communication on my part, and thanks, again, Amber, for the inspirational post.
Love you words and images, always.