a long journey to normal avenue

About a year and a half ago my husband and I were just getting into our church in East Hollywood, Los Angeles, and began talking with a new friend, Don. We’d heard that he was also interested in new monasticism, living intentional community, and living among the poor, as we were. We started meeting and talking about it sporadically. Eventually a few of our friends from church caught onto our excitement and joined in the discussion of what is possible.

The small group of us started drawing up plans and dreaming together, talking about who, where, when, and what we could be about. But eventually this past summer different visions and different timing meant that our group decided not to all move in together. A few from the group started a new house that is blessing our community, and my husband, Don, and I continued to wait and plan on our own.

In the mean time, Mike (my husband) and I moved down to East Hollywood from Pasadena. We felt that even though we hadn’t found the right house or intentional community yet in East Hollywood, it was still time to move into the neighborhood. Plus, Mike took a new job in Culver City, near the ocean, too far of a commute from Pasadena. We rented a room in a big house where some of our friends from church already lived, and have enjoyed spending the last few months being their roommates.

Eventually another friend became interested in our intentional community idea and the four of us began the process of dreaming and scheming all over again. We began focusing in on one area of the neighborhood that we felt was a good fit, getting to know the blocks and searching for ‘for rent’ signs. We saw a few apartments and met to talk about the marks of our community. But eventually hesitations came out and our friend decided it was not a good fit, and it was back down to Mike, Don, and I.

By this time I was beginning to really ask God what was going on. I had been praying about this house for a long time now. Why wasn’t God making it happen? I had promised myself that I would be patient through this whole process and wait until I felt that God was ‘putting the pieces together’, knowing we would move when God seemed to be orchestrating something. I still trusted that God had put this desire inside of me to move into a house to live among the poor for a reason, and that God would give that desire opportunity when the right time came along. But now my trust was faltering. Instead of slowly seeing momentum forward, things seemed to become increasingly disappointing. The vision of a large house with eight people and a forming rhythm of life together in the neighborhood seemed to be fading away in the setbacks and discouragement. I began asking God if three committed people was all God wanted, or if we were just fooling ourselves. What in the world was God doing with all of this?

Because of some agreements with roommates and timing issues, Don had to move out of his apartment, with the hopes that we would have found a place by that time. It seemed that our hand was finally being forced. Don could couch-hop for a while, but we needed to find a real place for him, and all of us, to live. My commitment to waiting until God seemed to be putting the pieces together seemed to be getting in the way. We only had three people, and circumstances meant we had to move sooner rather than later.

So, over the past few weeks, we began searching for a place the three of us could live. Our hope was to find a three bedroom apartment that we could afford so that we could add a fourth person to our house when and if God brought someone along. The search was discouraging because three bedrooms are hard to come by in that area of our neighborhood. It was also hard because I kept fearing that we were forcing things to happen before they were supposed to happen, making the apartment search even more discouraging. I kept thinking, “maybe we should pull out now, retract our 30 days notice with our roommates, and search again in a few months when God brings a fourth person to our team. And we’ll just find someplace for Don to live in the mean time.” I kept searching, despite these thoughts running on loop in my head, hoping God would do something in our search or in prayer to tell us if we were on the right track or not. It’s like being lost in the woods, looking for anything to tell you you are on the right path home, and finally catching a glimpse of the cabin’s roof through the trees. I needed that glimpse. I needed some reassurance we were on the right path.

Tuesday night we finally found a place. It was a four-unit building, on the corner of Normal and Madison. We had looked at an apartment there a month before when there was still four of us. That apartment had clearly been through a lot- broken in windows, kicked in doors, drug paraphernalia on the floor, rotting cabinets, and a rotting out kitchen floor. Now we were back to look at another unit in the building- this one was in much better shape, had three bedrooms, and was affordable. We already had met some of the neighbors and the kids playing in the back yard. It was on a corner that felt like a good place to be, and the building was right for hospitality- open to the street with plenty of yard all around it. It took us just a little while before we knew… if we are ever going to find someplace, this was it.

I’m still not sure if that was my ‘glimpse of the cabin roof telling me I was on the right path home’, but for now finding a place is good enough. I am still plagued with doubts. Can we do this with only three people? Will God bring a fourth person along? where? when? How do I leave the great house I am living in now without compromising relationships? Are we silly to think our neighbors will even want to get to know us? Will we fail at this, or will God do something with us in that corner of the neighborhood?

For now, I am hesitantly hopeful, praying that God will do something with our faithfulness to this vision. Thankful we finally found an apartment. Excited to start meeting the neighbors. It’s been a long journey, but we’re finally moving to Normal Avenue.

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