Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A New Addition!

In case you hadn't heard the word on Facebook, I'll clue you in:
we had a baby!

Gwendolyn Shiloh was born on 6/21/11 at 12:44pm. She weighed 6 lbs 15 oz and arrived with a full head of brunette hair.

Her name means "Beautiful Peace."

It was quite a long ordeal and I'm still in recovery-mode. I think I have a couple posts in my head that I'll ruminate on, but if I'm somewhat quiet for a while, you can be sure I'm probably napping with my baby.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Apparently, Being a Hermit Doesn't Work in Intentional Community

"If given the chance, I would be a hermit."

So writes Shelley Batdorf at Introverted Church, in a guest post entitled Parenting as a Spiritual Discipline. Although her post is geared towards parenting as an introvert (and thus, I was thoroughly intrigued), I couldn't help but resonate with her and relate some thoughts to my current experience.

When we moved here a month ago, my husband and I couldn't help but immediately notice the difference between our first community-living experience and our current one. Within the first week, we reflected on the biggest difference: we went from living with two introverts to living with two extroverts.

I guess it also doesn't hurt to mention that Elliott and I are both introverts. Well, he is a high-functioning introvert who is sometimes mistaken for an extrovert, and I ... well, I'm almost a hermit.

Ever since I can remember, I would happily hide away in my room as a kid -- writing and enacting stories, reading, playing, singing -- whatever it was, I could do it on my own and be perfectly content. Once I got to college and lived with various roommates, I would often steal away into my own room whenever I got home. When I was outside my apartment walls, the world forced me to interact with it. When I got home, I could embrace what I longed for: space and quiet.

Since coming to live in this new home, I noticed my hermit-habits popping up again. And quite honestly, I've indulged them. Nearly the only thing that draws me out of my room is the baby-in-my-belly requiring some sort of food. It takes a great deal of effort for me to think about going downstairs to simply "hang out." It's not that I don't love my housemates (I DO!) and it's not that I don't love spending time with them (I DO!) -- it's just not my natural instinct to be around people.

Yet, as Shelley Batdorf writes, "We all need other people, to be in community and to take our place within the Body."

So true, Shelley, so true. In fact, I wrote about this very idea only a few months ago. We are made in the image of a Triune God -- a God who is at the same time one and three -- who, from the very beginning, was in relationship with Himself. To fulfill our whole, created nature, we need to be in community with one another. We need relationships.

Unfortunately for some of us, that requires a little bit more work.

Through some awesome communication with one housemate in particular, I realized that in order to love my housemates better, I need to sacrifice some alone time to be with them. They have helped me understand how the extroverted mind thinks and how I can serve them. I have learned that I don't even have to do without my "down" time to be around them -- that even being in the same room helps them. I have learned that I need to be more deliberate about hanging out and being around, and that being a hermit all the time will do much more harm to this community than it will do good to myself.

And, in return, they respect my introverted character. Actually, I would even venture to say that they've done a better job serving me than I have done for them. Realizing that I need extra alone time and space, my housemates have provided it for me in abundance. It's definitely my turn to be aware, give back, and just be around.

"Community calls out into the world from behind our walls, to be with others even when we would rather be alone."
Thank you, Shelley!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No Man (in Community) is an Island

Peeking around the corner of the kitchen doorway, I make sure no one is looking. I silently pick up the stool, move it closer to the cabinet, and stare up at the canvas bags that taunt me. I know I shouldn't, and yet I do. Because it's such a simple task, and asking for help would be silly.

My one hand grips the stool, and the other hand reaches toward the cabinet to steady myself as I step onto said stool. Suddenly, from the living room come the familiar, rebuking shouts of concerned comrades.

"Rachel, what are you doing?"
"Are you on the stool again?"
"Why don't you just ask us for help?"

Because I like doing things on my own.
Because I like being independent.
Add to this that I am an introvert, and my instinct tells me to shirk away from others -- from expecting help, from asking for help, from accepting help.

Learning to live in a new intentional community while being 8-9 months pregnant has been a stretch for me. It goes against my instincts. God has blessed me with three graciously patient and helpful housemates who are not only willing to do what I ask them, but also go out of their way to make sure I'm taken care of. When I'm having a rough day and can barely will myself out of bed or I am overwhelmed with homework, you can be sure that dinner will be on the table, the dishes will be clean, and my water bottle will be filled with cold water.

And yet, I still find myself shirking from such dependency. As long as I remain self-sufficient and separate, I feel a (false) sense of safety. I can keep myself at arm's length and things remain uncomplicated.

Think of your own relationships. When you are acquaintances with someone, you most likely don't ever fight with them. There's nothing beyond surface chatter, and so there's nothing to dig up and deal with. Your baggage remains your own, and things are safe. Things won't get said. Feelings won't be hurt. When you become close to someone, you can no longer hide the things you have so tried to cover up. Things that have been left untouched for years start bubbling to the surface. Your own actions affect the other person, and you are forced to deal with your own humanity.

"God reveals a thousand things in your heart which you swear are not there..."
Fenelon, The Seeking Heart

When we become dependent on one another, there is the risk that things will get messy. But things also get real, and we are able to grow into better people. We learn how to communicate, how to forgive, how to love. We stop living in our self-absorbed little worlds and begin to see the larger world through compassionate, self-sacrificing eyes.

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality."
Romans 12:9-13