Creating Community Through Shared Experience and Tradition

So it’s been six months since we moved into our new place in Hamilton, and we’re almost unpacked (ha!).  Just a few boxes left in the front porch that need tending to.  We are slow, but we get there eventually.

We’ve also been in the process of unpacking together what it means to be a Community House.  About a month ago, our friend Anita moved in, and our daughter has made it a second home of sorts – we made a little space for Hannah in the attic for when she visits from Toronto – so now we’re up to five in the house.  On Wednesday our basement bunk beds arrive, and we will begin to prepare space for two more!  Really, it’s all very experimental for us, and we know we’re getting lots wrong along the way, but the good thing is that we know we will grow as much from our failures as we do from our successes.

Our favorite night is Mondays, which we call Family Night.  We all eat together, and often just check in with each other around the table over dinner.  Generally we don’t serve desserts at the house, but I’ve begun planning dessert for Mondays, to make it more of a special meal.  Last week?  Upside down Mango Cake!

Yum!  After dinner, we move to the living room, pull out the guitars and worship and pray together.  The last two weeks we’ve been putting Bert, our parrot, on his perch in the middle of the living room, and he croaks and whistles along to the worship.  And after our prayer time, we all do our housework together – so the house is all nice and shiny for Spaghetti Tuesday!

I’ve recently become much more aware of the power of shared experiences and traditions in the formation of community, and the Christmas Season has given us some lovely opportunities to feel more connected to each other in the House.  Early in December, we trimmed our Christmas Tree together.  We fused some of the rituals that we grew up with in our respective homes, and created a lovely evening of drinking apple cider and egg nog, listening to Handel’s Messiah, and transforming our little tree.

It was a lovely evening.  Last night, we took the money we had gathered through the year (we have a jar in the kitchen where we toss our loose change), piled into a car and went to Toys R Us, and filled a cart with toys for the Hamilton Dream Centre.  Again, we could feel a qualitative difference in our hearts and feeling of connectedness with one another as a result of our shared experience and we are already planning what we want to do next year.

Sharing our living space?  Not so difficult.  Sharing our lives with one another?  A little harder.  But we’re finding that intentionally creating shared experiences and rituals is really helping us along the way.

Tuning into His Song for this Season

Yesterday was D-Day.  December 1 and the Christmas Decorations come out!  My boxes of snowmen were bursting at the seams and rattling in the attic, and the tree was leaning against the patio fence, waiting to come in out of the cold, but now everybody is happily occupying our living room and the rest of the house.

I love Christmas.  I love the decorations, the music, the foods, the celebration, being with family and friends.  I love the feeling of warmth and well being that comes over me.

This year  I am exploring more deeply how to tune into the song that God is singing in this season.

I bought my presents from micro-enterprise in Uganda.  Making donations to Compassion and World Vision in lieu of gifts.  Making some of my other presents.  I’ve found some good online resources to help cut the cultural clutter:

http://madeinusachallenge.com/2011/occupy-the-holidays-ten-ways-to-make-your-gift-giving-more-meaningful/ (minus the made in USA part – just translate “Canada” in your brain as you read it)

http://www.facebook.com/AdventConspiracy – a movement that helps us replace consumption with compassion.

I have also found and am following the advent series produced by 24-7 prayer.com, which I am enjoying so much!  It is really tuning my heart for the season and I start each day with these online reflections:

Tonight at the Community House we are trimming the tree, eating pizza and drinking apple cider and listening to Handel’s Messiah.  Christmas is coming!  Jesus is coming!