I know how it feels to start over, and over and over…. Having moved 19 times over the years, creating community is hard. If you are trying to maintain friendships formed years ago in another season, trying to create new friendships in this new phase of my life, trying to get rooted into a community either in my neighborhood, my church, or my social group, I have been in your shoes.
I moved to various cities for summer opportunities. I moved to start marriage. I moved to begin civilian residency training for Brad, my husband. I moved again to fulfill Air Force payback for Brad. We moved to take care of elderly loved ones. And so on…Each time I had to find the courage to create community for myself, my family, my children…I want to encourage you that it is possible, it is worth it, and by God’s grace, you can do it!
Keep in mind two things:
Covid has brought us great transition and challenge in the last 18+ months. There are losses to grieve, and it is important to accept that these have changed us and affected our story. We have lost fellowship with canceled vacations, failed to find restorative time for ourselves because children are home from school, caregivers might have resigned because of risk of illness, and job situations and income may have been lost.
Considering all this, it can be difficult to reach out again as the lockdowns are lifting. It may be terrifying for some of us to now intentionally serve others. So, accept the season you are in. Acknowledge the loss, then look at what you do have to offer or extend to someone else. This is critical to your survival, to your community, and to the journey that you get to share with others.
After the birth of my first two children and the miscarriage of a third between 1998 and 2003, I began to homeschool my oldest for kindergarten. I was relatively new in town, had new neighbors, and was trying to find fellowship with others who shared my faith.
It became a season of hunkering down to teach my kindergartener, managing a toddler, and right after beginning to homeschool, getting pregnant again. As you can imagine, I didn’t have much luxury time to visit with other moms. I was surviving…barely finishing very full days: laundry, meals for hungry littles, learning about teaching, nausea, snacks again, cleanup, playtime then nap, dinner, fall into bed…all to enjoy those SLEEPLESS NIGHTS OF JOY.
I learned how critical it was to figure out my own needs for fellowship. Just how do you find time to have lunch with a girlfriend and even finish a complete sentence without a tiny tot crying, wiping a nose, or working a cup of tea around naptime? How, with a part time job and teenagers and all their emotional needs, do you find time to pull away from the “taxicab” job to actually connect for a solid hour in person with your group of gals?
I don’t think any of us would argue the value of community, why we need each other. This last year has demonstrated how isolating the lack of community can be. But it’s hard to find sometimes, isn’t it, in various seasons of life?
TAKING STEPS TO COMMUNITY
1. The First Step: “Acknowledge where you are in life.”
Ask Yourself - What is it you need? Do you need a deeper friend? Do you need coffee away from children? Do you need a shopping trip, or even just a shower ALONE? Do you need weekly book study? Do you need to go back to school? Do you need a new job?
For myself, I think I need to stay busy, be productive, type A…Enneagram 1, you get the picture. I would rather be busy keeping house and check all the boxes than to leave things undone to go out for a few hours with someone. It might ruin the toddler’s attitude if they miss a nap, for crying out loud! Then our whole day is affected. I’d also rather keep everyone on routine than to interrupt a good night’s sleep. Sleep gets to be a commodity, right? Or now, with multiple high schoolers, it might interrupt a good homeschool day to schedule a coffee date, what with the education flowing, books being read, worksheets finished…or my volunteer work calling my name from the computer.
But what I truly need is this:
I need events and excitement AWAY from my house. Brad finally recognizes that. We have come to respect that about each other. Accepting the need I have has been important, and it is also helpful when your partner or loved ones respect it, too. Brad used to look at me with those puppy dog eyes when I’d leave for ANYTHING and say he’d miss me while I was gone. I actually felt guilty going anywhere by myself. I love a good adventure, and when spontaneity strikes, I cannot wait to jump in the car. And if I can’t go somewhere exciting once in a while, I’m going to go crazy. I learned, however, it would help me be a better mom, wife, and teacher, and they would be much happier if I could get that need met for myself.
I must be intentional about planning it just for me. Even if the housework is calling my name. Even if my family of introverts is not interested. It will be life-giving for me to get out, for me to make the effort of making a date with a friend because of the fruit it produces in my life afterward. It’s so worth it.
2. The Second Step: Ask “What part of life’s journey, what season, are you in?”
I used to be in a season of young parenting, needing some outside mom connection for the kids, maybe some adult conversation for me. I am now in a season of young adult parenting, with lots more time on my hands. My needs have changed somewhat. I now have independent learners who can manage school or work alone while I go to a meeting or get out of the house. Now I feel like connecting professionally with other women would be exciting. But I also still deeply need to have a heart connection with someone in the same season of life that I am in.
I’ll never forget December 2011. We had just moved to Virginia in March, and it was time to do Christmas shopping for family (who lived back in the South) and also for my four children, ages 4-12. I begged my brand, new neighbor if she could watch my youngest two, the girls, for just two hours so I could do a Christmas shopping blitz. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to ask for help. It turned out my neighbor had three boys. She absolutely loved that one babysitting stint, as it gave her a precious memory of having tea with two little girls that afternoon – while I GOT SHOPPING DONE! She and I have become great friends and rely on each other for a myriad of things now.
This is a huge point I want you to remember. It’s uncomfortable to ask for help, but so very worth it. I heard a quote last month by Dr. Joseph Lee on a recent virtual conference. He said it’s “…okay to recognize that we will have a lifelong need of help.” What do you need from community? God created us to need and serve one another. Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
I had a very practical need years ago. Freshly grieving my first miscarriage, an elder’s wife in my church called and asked if I needed anything. I didn’t know what to say that week. I had no idea what anyone could do to help me. But I took a huge risk and answered her honestly. I needed food. I needed dinner made for me. So, I ASKED.
She was grateful to have something tangible to do for me, and I was humbled to ask, yet grateful she said yes. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have told that story – a young, grieving mom, unable to cook dinner. It makes me cry just writing this down. But we have to ask for help. This creates opportunities for friendships to blossom!
BORROW AN EGG
Susan Miller, in her book, After the Boxes are Unpacked, says to “Borrow an Egg.” If you are trying to create community and you don’t know your neighbor, find something you DON’T have, and go next door and ask for it! Be intentional and ask their name, how they are doing, but can I borrow an egg, or a stick of butter, or a cup of sugar? It is the best advice I ever got. It helps you get over the fear of reaching out with embarrassment and instead puts the power into your hand of offering friendship.
Asking for an egg is so practical, but guess what you can do with it? You can plant seeds for a relationship. You can begin a friendship! And once you are done baking, share some of it with that neighbor!
Here you can read perspectives on life, ministry and God's Word from a variety of PCC's female leaders.