Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Phantom fannies and pockets of community

Listen to this post:

After experiencing the intensity of a gathering of caricature artists secondhand during my husband's recent convention, I returned home a little deflated. Jealous even. Missing something. Not feeling connected. To the point of posting so on Facebook.

The first response came from a young adult, whose wisdom I have learned to trust. Remember "awesome Quakerness," she responded. Oh, yeah, my Quaker Meeting, the one I have attended regularly for 14 years, served on numerous committees, loved and been annoyed with, but mostly loved. The place I feel accepted for who I am, but, sometimes, also unseen. The one I've disengaged from a bit to go out into the real world and complete the work to which God calls. That one.

So I journeyed there Sunday with those thoughts in my head and heart. I wanted someone to reach out to me. Little did I know it would start with my 15-year-old being tempted to worship with a bookstore trip after. As I headed into worship, I left her and my younger daughter behind to debate whether to attend First Day School or hang, silently, with the adults. The younger went one way and the older, another. When she brushed up against me on the pew, my being fluttered. It took me Somewhere Else. To the first time I held her hand, we pushed through the glass-and-wood doors and took our seats on the satiny benches polished by 50 years of phantom fannies.  She was a toddler and I, a young(er) mother seeking relief from the pain of an auto accident. When my favorite song, the Shaker "Simple Gifts," lulled out of the piano, I knew I was home. Before any worship had officially begun.

How many stories had I heard of people seeking the right faith community for, well,  years? I merely went where my mother and daughter told me to. My mom had known I was struggling and searching and encouraged me to try the Quakers. "I think you'll like the simplicity," she said. Didn't hurt that my favorite Methodist pastor from childhood was the interim. Shortly before that, one morning my daughter greeted me, unprompted, with "Mommy, I know Jesus." Yes you do, I thought, and it's time to find a spiritual home.

That home has been Cincinnati Friends Meeting, through thick and thin. Sunday, the minister's message focused on getting young Quakers back to meeting. Like Autumn and baby Carter, who came with his dad (the first person to ever give Autumn, gum and I reminded him) and mom, granddad, who grew up in the meeting, and great-grandparents. They have been rocks of this meeting. In fact, Papa Paul was the first to speak to me that initial visit with Autumn. We bonded over his Cincinnati Mortuary School shirt because I had worked in the funeral industry.

After a few months, back when Autumn and I first attended and when a permanent minister was hired, Quakers asked if I would leave as well. No way, I invariably answered because I remembered Paul and his kindness to a stranger. He reminisced about how he'd get down on the playroom floor with both of my girls, just like he now does with Carter.

It all was a warm reminder that I do, indeed, have more than pockets of community.

• Where do I experience community?
• How do I experience it?
• What's my role in building that community?
• When it seems lacking, how do I fill that need?
• How has Spirit filled it for me?

after witnessing this
intense crush of
gung-ho artists,
working, socializing

I was, no doubt,

envious that I
lacked this
closeness of
like others

I felt I
only had
of community

but was
by a young
and wise

that it
was no farther
than my
oldest daughter,
my faith community,
my family,
my neighborhood

my heart


  1. Last night in church I was praying about eyesight (I wear glasses) and I asked God "What do I need to learn to heal my eyesight?". Almost immediately a person sat down next to me. This person had never sat next to me before and I confess that I felt a bit uncomfortable because to my perception she was a very overweight person that often said and did things that were a bit odd. The thought came to me that God wanted me to see His creation the way He does, without being judgemental (which I am). So during the service, I "focused my eyes" and saw that this woman loved God,loved to sing,and was very sincere and kind. That was a start at improving my vision. I will keep working on it.

    I am mentioning this because, like you, I have off-and-on been envious of my spouse's community which seems more full and intellectually attractive. It occurs to me that is another area where I need to improve my vision and see more clearly the fullness of the community that God is giving me. God is infinitely wise, loving, and creative so I must have a community that God knows is perfect for me. I am working on "seeing" my community with this new thought.

  2. What a wonderful story, Colin. How many times have I asked for something with a particular idea of how/what it should be and Spirit always responds with a solution so much better than I could have possibly imagined. Sounds like that's what happened to you! Somebody once told me that when we bump up against people, it smooths us. I'm beginning to think so. Thanks again for putting yourself out there. Seems we have common issues along our paths!

  3. That is how I felt tonight after reading "Quest for the Lost Name" by George Makris. Things that I had been worried about came to light after reading the spiritual words.

  4. Becky –

    Thank you for stopping by. I'd like to more about this book and what, specifically, speaks to you in it. Where did you find comfort from those worries? I believe feeing disconnected, at times, is a universal experience. I appreciate your commenting. Blessings on your journey.

    1. Well, I know it sounds funny getting inspiration from a fictional novel- it was entertaining yet had a spirituality context throughout. I have been feeling really stressed lately and there was a part in the book that talked about how one can access and liberate to overcome problems, manifest goals, and serve life. I know it was a simple thing, but it really touched me and made me realize that I have the power to change the way I feel. Something that gave me peace.

  5. Simple thing? No way, that's huge ... at least for me. I struggle to detach all of the time. Even so, it's wonderful when I can. And as for inspiration from fiction, I find that happens often. Thank you so much for sharing, Becky. Keep me posted. Thanks!