Sunday, January 26, 2014

Looking for community when you're in a new place

 I've written before about Linda She was one of my baby toting mom friends from Houston days

I  know from experience why moving is third on the list of stressful life events.  It comes just after death of a loved one and divorce.Each move I made as a trailing spouse has its own special story of how God graciously brought me into community when I so desperately needed a place to feel like I belonged.    I learned some lessons during our first move with the phone company  to Houston, TX in July, 1979 that served me well over the next 25 years.  My husband, two year old son and I left the small town of Potosi in Missouri where he had taught and coached for 8 years.   We were part of a loving church family there that had gone from meeting in the VFW hall to having a small building that all the members had actually helped  build.  While the men raised walls and hammered drywall onto studs, the women had stained woodwork and been available for whatever else was needed that they could do.   The members there had taken care of my husband when he was a bachelor, welcomed me with showers for wedding and first baby, and tenderly cared for and  supported us  when I miscarried with my second pregnancy .   We knew everybody well and they knew us.  Once you have been loved on in such a close family  it is hard to imagine life without such a gift.   I naively thought that I could find community like that in a new church just by showing up.  It wasn’t  that easy.

First there was an element of Christmas in that July.  I was not quite as ready to give birth as Mary, but I was pregnant and there was no room at an inn.  A very large, national Baptist convention was meeting in Houston that week, and all the places we thought we could find temporary housing were full.  It was the summer of a gasoline shortage in the US and you could only fill your car up every other day.  To further add to inconvenience and discomfort,  our car did not have air conditioning and I had never lived in a place as hot and humid as Houston!  The efficiency room we finally found was just that, a room, with no place for a 2 year old to play.  I was the one who had to go into the bathroom and close the door when he needed a  time out.   Fortunately there was a church nearby that was having a vacation Bible school.   “That’s it,” I thought!  VBS would be my entry to community.

It seemed like such a large church compared to where we had lived.  The VBS was well planned and organized and there were lots of children and other parents our age.  I watched other moms dropping off their children and talking in their small groups.  I hoped I would be invited into a conversation.  I hung out by the nursery door to try and catch a woman who was pregnant or carrying a small baby so I could ask about a good doctor.  I felt a little shy to make the first move.  I expected someone to notice me, to talk to me, and then I would jump in.  But that’s not the way it happened. 

I got tired of waiting.  After all, I told myself, I really needed to find a doctor.  I finally decided and dared to speak up and not wait for one of those other young, baby toting mothers to speak to me first.   I was lucky, no I was blessed because when I did reach out and begin that hard work of  settling in to a new community  I not only got the name of a good doctor,  I  also got the loan of maternity clothes and much appreciated hand me downs for our son. Friends!

Wilma and our sons, her kids, (and a couple of others!)on a camping trip at Huntsville State Park in 1982

 And then came more connections!  When our new home that we finally moved into proved to be infested with fleas and I needed to be out of the house while they sprayed,  I remembered my conversation with someone I had met at church who lived nearby and dared to ask if I could come stay at her house.  Wilma and her husband Loyd were the “grandparents” down the street who I needed to love on us and our children when our own families lived so far away.  They ended up keeping our oldest when the second was born and both when number three came along.  In the four years we lived in Houston and in these 30 years since they loved on us like we were their own kids.  Last spring we had the privilege of being included to stand with the family around Loyd’s bed when he became very ill and passed away. It was a precious, solemn, intimate time of sharing great love. 

So here is what I learned from that first experience of moving and needing to find community:

1. Be a salmon.   My husband coined that term to describe how I dare to swim upsteam  The opposite of a salmon he calls a “Home Depot person”  (def.)one who stands outside waiting to be asked,  so called because Home Depot was the meeting place for laborers hoping to be chosen for  work in one community where we lived.

2. Remember what it feels like to be lonely and invited in.  Reach out to the Home Depot people out there, the ones just waiting to be noticed, the ones needing what is yours to give. 

3.  We all need community, a place to belong.  Sometimes it is not a physical relocation but a time in life where you find yourself in a season that is new and so different that you feel alone.  You can stand outside the nursery door, so to speak, as I did, and try to notice someone who is in a similar situation, who might turn out to be the friend or-

May I suggest another possibility to find community for a special need you might have at this time of life? Find and read  "The Hard Work of Getting Along".  Crystal Stine's post there is an explanation and invitation to join an online  group of women who want to offer friendship, encouragement and support to other women.  Read and pray over the listing of nearly 60 (in)courage groups available for you to be a part of  for whatever season of life you may be in right now.  All you have to do to accept the invitation is follow the directions there. I so hope you have community in real life, but consider this invitation if you need it, and pass it along to someone else who might!  It's been a great blessing to many, and I pray that the Lord is pleased I pass along His great gracious gift of community by serving as an (in)courager community group leader.  


  1. I tried and tried late last night to comment on this on my phone but I was CRYING so much I couldn't see the keys! Thank you for being the person who came and found me trying to run away from connection. Thank you for loving me enough!

  2. Now I'm crying too and asking, "Who found who?" It was a holy set up I believe! Forever grateful to He who knows just who we need in our lives and just when we need them.....

  3. Oh Pat- amen and amen! Community is so important- we know that from experience so many times. Thankful for a faithful God who pursues His people and thankful for His followers that have loved us well.


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