Now the Lord said to Abram (Abraham), “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.”
We sang this song at the end of every Girl Scout meeting I attended in my childhood. I’ve moved so many times since then I can’t even list them all. Sufficient to say when I have trouble falling asleep I count addresses instead of sheep. All this mobility has emboldened me to render opinions about the process of both being the new kid on the block and putting out the welcome mat.
Today I’ll focus on things we can do to help ourselves make the transition from stranger to at home when we move. Next time I’ll focus on how to help new folks feel welcome in your community.
Bloom where you’re transplanted. There will be both advantages and setbacks to the new place. Look for the advantages and you’ll find them. There are new friends waiting to get to know you. No matter how wonderful life was back there, that’s back there. Now we are here. Focus on here and now.
Step by step. Settling into a new place takes time. We don’t have to unpack the whole house in one day. We don’t have to fill every day of our calendars in one week.
Ask for what we need. People don’t know what we don’t know until we talk to them. Most people are eager to share information about their communities if we ask them.
Explore. You’ll never have this much free time again once we do get settled in and busy with new friends and activities. It’s time to check out museums, restaurants, and other points of interest. This will come in handy when friends from the ‘back there’ community come to visit in the ‘here now’ home.
Get involved in something, but not everything. Many churches have the unfortunate habit of over-recruiting new members with offers to do everything from making coffee to coordinating the annual Christmas pageant. It’s easier to add commitments later than back out of them once people are counting on you.
Seek out other new people. People who have been in the community for a long time don’t mean to exclude new people; they’ve just forgotten what it was like and have full schedules.
We can go “home” once in a while. We can stay in touch with the folks back where we used to live. Indeed, doing so can be helpful in adjusting to the new home. Life there flowed on without us and while we will probably be welcome to visit, we will be just that – visitors. Realizing that might help us connect better where we are now.
This too shall pass. Expect to feel blue, disoriented, overwhelmed and sad sometimes – especially around “trigger” dates such as holidays, the anniversary of some special tradition from the last place, birthdays celebrated with people not available this time around. These emotional responses make you normal. Letting go of what was to adjust to what is requires a lot of emotional energy. It’s normal to experience bouts of negative feelings. If they don’t pass with time though it’s time to talk about them to someone – a pastor, mental health care professional, or a trusted friend who’s also had to adjust to multiple transitions.
Consider that this may be part of God’s plan to work through you in some way – to be a source of hope to someone you wouldn’t have known you had you not moved there. Or to experience some life situation you wouldn’t have known about had you not moved. Or to try out a new vocation or hobby that will bring you much joy.
Finally, when we moved our girls around (six school systems from Kindergarten to high school graduations) I would remind them – the people you miss now were once strangers waiting to get to know you. The day will come when the people you’re getting to know now will become the people you miss when either you or they move on to the next chapter of life.
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver. The other is gold.” The more we move the more treasures we get to explore.