This is a reflection written by our fellow sister, friend and communitarian at the Mustard Seed House, Anneke Geel.
Reflection: A year at the Mustard Seed House
By Anneke Geel
When Peter and I and moved into the Mustard Seed House, we didn’t know whether it would be for 15 months or several years. As it has happened, it has been the shorter option because we are now moving across the country so my husband can pursue a PhD. Throughout the discernment process over whether to apply, where to apply, and ultimately whether to accept this PhD opportunity, it has weighed heavily on our hearts to think about living away from the friends at MSH who have quickly become part of our family.
From the moment we decided to move here, our choice to live with other people rather than alone has been a tremendous conversation starter and point of curiosity for people in our lives. At first I sometimes found it hard to explain to others why we had decided to move (again—this is the third place we have lived in less than 3 years of marriage) and what exactly we had moved into. People ask, “Is it like a co-op?” Well, sort of. Sometimes when I described our latest move, I could almost hear the person thinking, “This is one of those weird hippie communes.”
I finally settled on saying something along the lines of, “It’s a community house where we live with other families who are also Christians. We help each other out in life, pray together, and try to care for creation together.” That, of course, is not a comprehensive summary of why we are all here, but I think it’s a good start. I have found that for most people, the tried and true “come and see” principle Jesus taught us has been the best. Every time I have a friend or family member over, it seems to help them understand why we would want to live with these great people. They also see that the values we share are in many ways more fulfilling when we live them out together than on our own.
One of the things I have loved about living in this home has been the sense that everyone expects the best of one another’s intentions. Even when there is a disagreement or misunderstanding, we have worked to create a community environment of assuming that we all want right relationships with one another, and we try to keep accounts short. There is also a tremendous sense of respect for each of the families living here, both in the different ways that we do things, but also in our need for time together. As a very social extrovert who tends to overextend myself, it has been so helpful to be supported by this community in protecting time that is just for me and my husband.
Seeing two of our housemates, Ricci and Eliacín, raising their children over the past year has helped both my husband and me feel that having children was something we could actually do too and for which didn’t want to wait any longer! We have had a pretty up-close look at some of the challenges that children bring, like lack of sleep, and trying to interpret this very complex world in a way your child can understand. We have also seen the joy our housemates experience in their children’s growth and affection as well as how they meet God as they parent. It’s partly as a result of having seen this real joy in their lives that Peter and I are expecting our first child in January.
In some ways it feels this past year has been a launching pad for us, a foundation from which we will spring forth into a new city, new community, and into parenthood. We also pray to continue to deepen our understanding of how God has called us to live in His world.
As we leave, we are not sure what our next experience of community will look like; whether it will be similar in the sense that we physically live with others or whether we pursue community in other ways across the bounds of separate homes and apartments. However, we are definitely sold on it as a way of life!