Monday, October 27, 2008

Belonging to My Church and Neighbors

I found myself sitting in a room last Friday night in an unusual setting. Ten women including myself were gathered in a cozy living living room, all of them neighbors, and none of them attend my church. Edith Piaf's voice was serenading us over the speakers as we sipped on sparkling beverages and nibbled on delicious permission bread cakes, cheese and crackers with figs, little pumpkin treats, and flourless chocolate cake slices. The tones of chit chat conversation flowed easily between us, though most of us knew little, if anything about one another.

What may seem a typical room of gathered women, for me, was not so typical. As I sat enjoying myself with these strangers, I realized that I've never gathered in any kind of intentional small group that wasn't based on common faith or an extension of a church small group. And, I have never been in a room with so many of my neighbors at the same time. I'm not sure what that says about me? Regardless, it was a new experience that I was intrigued by and welcomed.

I ran into Rebecca on a Saturday afternoon. Joel and I were still living on 518 North Madison and were ready to prepare our lovely flower beds for the winter. I was tired of cheap Target plants and decided to try an actual nursery, where I might find ranunculus bulbs to pop up in the spring, or iceland poppy seeds. Rebecca, not much older than myself gave us some of the best green thumb help and advice, and by the end of our flower transaction we were also finding a bit of friendship. We exchnaged numbers, as she lived literally just around the corner and had a husband named Matt, about Joel's age. That was how Rebecca and Matt came into our picture about two and a half years ago.

Rebecca has quite a whim for creativity and in her desire to bring the wonderful women of Pasadena that she knows scattered here and there together, sent an invitation for a "Ladie's Salon" (to be renamed by the group according to what they would like). Different than a book club, the "Salon" is more or less like a topic club.

Each of us brought something to share. A poem, a magazine article, book, one person even brought a biology article, some had personl stories, and I brought possibly my favorite book of all time, for sure my favorite children's book: "Are You My Mother?" by P.D. Eastman. I have this love for baby birds, so delicate and dependent. There really is nothing like holding a little fuzzy in your hands. I picture God holding me in his safe hands, when I think back to the little birds I encountered as a child and held in my hands. In the story, little bird is born and falls out of the nest. He runs into a myriad of characters from a kitten, to a dog, an airplane and even a "snort" (yes, a snort). If you do not know what a snort is, then you will have to read it. What I like best about the snort is that it's the most terrible and scary experience for the little bird in search of his mother, but it's also the experience that reunites little bird with his mom, his home and place of belonging.

Belonging was the topic for the night. Quite a topic to ponder, especially for those of us who call LA home. It's amazing, all weekend I have thought about belonging more than ever before and have gained new perspective. I feel a little more at home in Pasadena with these new freinds and neighbors I will see at the Salon every month, and bit more like I belong here in this time and place. I'm thankful for my church community, it will never be replaced. I'm thankful for my neighbors, and I hope I see my neighbors more than once a month when we gather for our topic. These two seperate worlds somehow are making me feel less divided, but actually more satisfied and something is right about it. I welcome this new experience and belonging to my neighbors in a way that I never have before.