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.Leave a Comment
I’m involved in MOPS here in Australia! It truly does provide such a wonderful opportunity for community. Thanks for sharing the role MOPS has played in your life. Blessings, Cath / SquiggleMum.
Denese B. says
Thanks so much, Angela! Your post has got me thinkin’ and praying. Enjoy Him today! : )
I have tears moistening my eyes.
Thank you SO much for writing this. I do not know if this is a post you had ready to send, or if you wrote it special for today’s contribution. Yet what I do know, is that it spoke volumes upon volumes to me. And I cannot say thank you enough. Yet here is my heartfelt attempt: THANK YOU. So very much.
Leah Waggoner says
Wow. We’ve moved 11 times in 10 years too! We aren’t in the military either….it is just the way things have played out for us. I’ve experienced and lived every word you wrote. Life is a journey and we get to choose our attitude. The greatest commandments are to Love God and love our neighbor. I’ve always considered it a blessing that God continues to give me new neighbors to love. Keep the old relationships and continue developing new relationships. All for the glory of God. God bless you and your family!
Holley Gerth says
Angela, I love how you said we should BE community rather than just trying to find it. That is a beautiful perspective that we all need to remember! Thanks for much for the way you share your heart with us here. XOXO
I’ve had to move several times too!
My family has handled it very well. I struggled
on one of them until I found the best group
of ladies ever!
Community can be tough!
I think…..people who have never moved should think outside the box
and invite new people into their friend circles. You never know who
you’ll discover by being a friend to a stranger.
This is exactly what I needed to hear today… I need to PRAY for community and serve those in our community. Thank you for the simple, yet perfect, reminder!
Amen Angela! Congrats on 11 years in 10 homes! If you are still sane that is an achievement in itself!
We also celebrated 11 years this summer and I’ve lost count of the number of homes… somewhere around 14 I stopped counting. Ironically, we are stability fans too. God uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong! I didn’t learn until recently to specifically pray for community, but it has worked lately!! We do not have because we do not ask.
I appreciate your call to jump in the trenches alongside other women wherever they are really at (which may not be where we expect or want them to be). I’ve even had someone pick me for a friend that I wouldn’t have chosen, but He worked good out of that too! Blessings!
This is wonderful. Some great insight into building and looking for community. That seems to be our buzz word, “community.” And for many that just looks like a church fellowship, but what about those who are looking for something a little different. Not just church friends, but life friends?
We are in the process of learning to love on those right next door and across the street. At the public school and the grocery store. Stepping outside of the normal ways Christian folk do fellowship. Instead of catering to a type of community that does not satisfy, I’m learning to open my eyes and love those right in front of me everyday. I’m learning a lot about community in this context that I did not understand before. It’s a holy mess. But it’s a beautiful mess.
Thanks for sharing this. Great tips.
Jessica…I totaaly agree with you about “stepping outside of the normal ways Christian folk do felllowship”. Last week I felt convicted about this. I had been at church/at a church event for 5 of the 7 days of the week! I thought to myself, “It’s great that I’m being fed, but who’s feeding those who don’t come to church?” I’m prayong for God to reveal His purpose for me in this conviction. There are so many out there longing for community, and I’m not sure they even know how to find it. Thanks for being real and challening here. 🙂
What great advice! I’m definitely trying to fit in now that
I’m no longer a single woman, it’s hard to find people in my peer group. I’m taking this to heart.
what an wesome post.. i actually was thinking about MOPS…wondering if I should check them out at my church…very encouraging….
Erin M. says
So so good Angela! Love the acronym!
I love this post! Its so true. We have moved 5 times in 6 years of marriage and we plan on moving again in the next couple of years. We waited for the neighbors to come welcome us, for moms at the playground to invite me to hang out again, for our church to offer a women’s group I would enjoy, etc. None of it happened. I decided to start my own playgroup and its been really successful. Its hard to put yourself out there and I’ve had my share of rejections but I have a great group of friends to show for it and I am so thankful.
I am the most insecure about my home. Since we move so much I don’t have nice furniture or a large housing budget. It makes me nervous but I open my home up anyway and joke about how “kid friendly” it is meaning don’t worry about spills on the carpet or marks on the walls. 🙂
It takes courage but there are so many benefits! Your post is spot on, I love it!
Jamie…I see myself so clearly in your words! As a former military spouse (hubby was in the AF for 8 years), I’ve had my share of moves. 🙁 It’s rough, but also so rewarding. I learned quickly that if I wanted to have friends, I needed to BE a friend. Now, I have friends literally all over the world, friends for a lifetime.
When we finally moved back home, I was suprised that at our new church no one welcomed us in. I mentioned it to a friend who had been going there for awhile. He encouraged ME to step out. Shocking! So, I did it! And hubby and I committed to be the friend to the friendless at our small group, at service, etc. Now, I feel like my life is overflowing with community.
I have also been insecure about my home and the way things are “around here”. Today, I stepped out and invited a friend over for a playdate. I had this strange peace come over me that I need not worry about what the house looked like, how she perceived my mothering, etc. We had such a special time together. She told me how much she needed the playdate and how blessed she was. And I was blessed too! Makes me think of that Britt Nicole song “your insecurities, they try to alter you”. But, I can’t let them. God wants abundant life for me, and it’s in rising above those insecurities THROUGH HIM, that I find that abundance. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Angie, it has been many years since we saw each other or talked. I was so happy to find you on the computer. The article you wrote is wonderful. You really seemed to have become an wonderful God loving young woman. When you get back home, look me up, I would love to see you. May God continue to lead you and bless you and your family.
Charissa Steyn says
Thanks for the encouragement Angela!! Practicing all of these at the moment. It’s so hard when you aren’t seeing fruit and you feel like the one who is always sowing, giving, and initiating. But i am inspired again to keep on BEING community, I know God will be faithful to bring a harvest of beautiful friends around my husband and I.
Great thoughts on how to build community!
Thank you, that is what I needed. It is sometimes easier to focus on the disconnectedness (is that word?) of life that we forget to make connections.
Melissa May says
This is so good. I just moved out of town for the first time ever (except when I was 4 so I don’t think that counts!) and considering we’re starting training for life as missionaries, I need to get used to it! Moving is going to be happening more often. Period. God was just telling me a week ago as I realized I was grieving the loss of my old community that I loved DEARLY, that I needed to go (wherever He sends us as missionaries) and BE what I was grieving. Your post gave me some great practical tips on HOW to do that. Thank you.
Becky K. says
Thanks for your words of encouragement! This very idea of BEING the community I long for has totally been on my heart lately. I recently joined a mom’s group at a local church (very similar to MOPS). I didn’t know anyone and went to the first Mom’s Night Out, a game night at a gal’s home. I paid attention as we went around the room and shared our name and children’s ages. Later in the evening I started talking with two gals who had kids the same age as mine. The next week I set up a play date with one and a lunch date with another. I found that following up right away was key! It can be so easy to say, “We should get together!” and then never follow through. Even though I’m new to the group, being the one to step out and initiate has been a blessing to me, and I think to these other two ladies, too. Your post urges my heart to keep going! Thanks.
I think it is so awesome that you volunteered to be the greeter before you really knew anyone! THAT is being proactive and intentional. Being a quiet person myself, it’s really hard to do that!
My husband and I moved 7 months ago, and we’re still struggling to find community. I’m trying to make the effort to sit by people I don’t know at church, and invite people over, but it’s hard! Thank you so much for the acronym. This post was really, really helpful!