Listening in Santa Cruz - Sept. 13, 2016 (Part 1)

A light Pacific Ocean breeze sweeps through the garden. Ducks and chickens waddling to their specific rhythms, while wild bunnies use their ninja skills to grab a quick snack. Rows and rows of flowers in full bloom and very strange plants that look more like plants from the Jurassic period. A welcoming sign that simply reads “Farm Stand”. A small snapshot of the hospitable land called The Homeless Garden Project, where Ryan Althaus has been a part of the community for the last year and half.

Before Ryan Althaus arrived, I had time to walk through the large garden and hear people sharing with each other the ins and outs of life. There was a group of people cleaning the harvest of the day and a group creating bouquets for a local hospice organization. What was at work here?... Suddenly a voice rings out, Ryan’s arrival with his reminder/greeting, “Yoga Tuesday Everybody! Have you seen my new friend Cassie?” His announcement catches the attention of the entire community. His wild hair, pierced eyebrow, and well-loved visor does not scream pastor.  The warmth and care in his voice towards his friends in the garden community whispered it. Later, that afternoon, we spent time walking through the garden, chatting about theology and church, and reminding those working that in an hour or so yoga would begin.

The 1 hour yoga class, which happens every Tuesday in the garden at 2pm, was the most lovely yoga class I had ever been to. Six of us in a circle. Moments of silence. Moments of conversation. No pretense. No worry about if my outfit was “in” or not. I wondered about the many times I had skipped yoga class because of my fear of not being flexible enough, not having the coolest yoga pants, and not knowing what the jargon actually meant. Would I belong or would they assume I'm an imposter? Yet, all this was gone. Simple. Grounding. Peaceful. Yoga.

As we walked to a park bench, where I could listen to his story about his work, Ryan asked, “How many people feel the same way about church? ‘Will I belong? Am I enough the way I am to be accepted here? What do all those words actually mean? Will I belong?’”

Joy, rest, acceptance, and peace flooded over me as I left Santa Cruz, the evening of September 13th, 2016.

The story continues on Thursday's post (September 22nd). Make sure to check out Sweaty Sheep and don't forget to 'like' them on Facebook. Podcast with Ryan sharing more of his story coming in October through The Seattle School's podcast channel.