Photo: Dawn Camp
This past August, my husband and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary. In eleven years of marriage we have lived in ten different homes, in eight different cities, in six different states, and in three different geographic regions of the United States. In short…we move. A lot. No, we aren’t in the military. And no, we didn’t want to make all those moves to quench a thirst for adventure. We desire stability. But for one reason or another we have lived a nomadic lifestyle of sorts for the past eleven years.
The packing and unpacking brought with it highs and lows. Saying goodbye hurt. Saying hello to the new was both scary and exciting. Each time we moved, I remember praying for community. I wanted to find a group of like-minded friends who loved Jesus, adored their families, and were committed to serving others. Often, my prayer was answered the way I wanted it answered. I moved, I went searching for friends, and I found them. Sometimes, it wasn’t so easy. But then it hit me…life is not high school. There is more to living than fitting in. If I really wanted to be a part of a community, I couldn’t just look for it.
I had to BE Community.
I had to reach out to others…love people I didn’t know…even the ones who didn’t return my smiles or warm greetings.
Often I’ve been asked how I was able to handle so many moves. My usual response was always “through the Grace of God.” And that remains true. But many people were looking for specifics, because cultivating new friendships is not always easy and it seemed to them that I had a knack for it.
As I prepared to speak with a MOPS group about community, I thought of the following acronym to describe what helped me through many transitions.
A.S.C. (Pronounced ask)
Be aware of the types of communities around you and the needs prevalent in those communities. Next think of how you can meet some of those needs. Is there a family where both parents work? Perhaps they can use a home cooked meal. Is there someone who seems lonely? Perhaps that person would enjoy coming to your home for tea. Once you start looking for needs, you will find them…and you will find ways to meet many of those needs.
As you assess the community, it is also important to be aware of your personal desires, goals and talents and use those to serve others. It is also important to be aware of your limits.
The first MOPS group I joined was filled with many wonderful women. However, most of these women had known each other for a long time. Although no one was mean to me when I walked into my first meeting, no one went out of her way to make me feel welcome or special. As I left the meeting that day I thought of never returning. But I knew that was not the proper response. It was a small town and I needed friends. I needed community.
When I attended the second meeting, I mentioned to the leader that I noticed that there was not a greeter in the group. I then volunteered for the position.
I did not know a soul when I first joined the group. But by the end of the second meeting, I knew the names of every mother and child. Having the official role of “greeter” gave me the courage I needed to talk and ask questions. That’s how I learned that no one in that room was being rude or standoffish. They were all like me…coming to a meeting to soak up a few minutes of adult time with their friends. They didn’t intentionally try to ignore the newcomers, they just didn’t realize that some people may have felt left out.
When we moved to a different city less than a year later, that precious group of new friends helped us pack, clean and load our moving van. They cried with us. They were sad to see us leave, because they were our community.
Often when we’re in a new situation, we expect to be the ones being welcomed and served. But life does not always work that way. Sometimes God calls us to serve first. Some simple service ideas included baking treats for neighbors. Helping strangers take groceries to their car. Opening your home for playdates or girls night outs.
The final letter of the acronym represents celebrate. Once you find friends, take time to celebrate them. Start a birthday club. Send congratulatory notes to moms when their children reach milestones, thank each other for friendship. Celebrations do not need to be fancy. They just need to be sincere.
Finally, make sure you do not forget about the ask in ASC. First and foremost, ask God. Ask Him for guidance concerning all of your friends and community members. Ask him to soften your heart toward those who are difficult to love. Ask Him for opportunities to serve. Ask him for courage.
By Angela, Becoming Me.