Theatre gal now working in full-time ministry. Here to encourage you as you figure out a life lived pursuing Jesus.
Call me basic but autumn is my favorite season. I loved experiencing fall when I lived in the Blue Ridge mountains. I drove through rolling landscapes of crisp, orange trees on my way to school, basking in the beauty of creation.
There is something so comforting to me in this seasonal transition. Sweaters are unearthed from their corner in the closet. George Winston’s albums play a melodic backdrop through the house. The holiday anticipation begins to creep in.
The irony is that transition looks so beautiful within nature, yet feels horribly uncomfortable when it happens within us. It’s disruptive. It’s foreign. Familiarity falls away like leaves until the landscape of our life is unrecognizable.
I enjoy fall because year after year it looks the same within my household. It’s comforting like an old friend. Life transition is like a stranger that shows up unannounced and you don’t know when they’ll leave.
In 2020, we are all experiencing a transition in this global pandemic. We toss around the phrase “new normal,” hoping we can attach some real meaning to it, rather than the uncertainty we feel. The reality is that we don’t know what lies ahead.
I first had my normality turned on its head when I moved to Florida in 2018, thousands of miles away from nearly everyone I knew. I arrived at my parent’s new townhouse in my silver coupe on a hot August afternoon, a 20-year-old college graduate consumed with her insecurities and lack of direction.
My sister moved in a few weeks later, feeling just as I had when I arrived. We were both unemployed at the time, and spent nearly two weeks sitting around applying for jobs attempting to explore our new city. One day we decided we needed to get out of the house, so we went to the mothership of comfort—Target.
We had no money to spend since we were both broke and unemployed, so we just wandered around the home goods and women’s clothing sections, fantasizing about what we would buy. I forget who said it first, but as we eyed the Magnolia products we couldn’t afford, the words, “I’m not happy” spilled out.
It was maybe too simple a phrase, but it encapsulated so much.
I miss my friends.
I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.
I want to be somewhere where I feel like I belong, and I don’t feel that way here.
I was wracked with uncertainty and desperately wanted something to feel solid and familiar.
I wish I could say the story played out like a Hallmark film. That the new girl in town found a charming, quirky community that accepted her as one of their own and she felt at home. The reality was far slower and more mundane.
There were church services where I sat alone. Some weekends went by with no plans. There were coffee dates with people who would become friends and others that I barely saw again.
Eventually, I got a job. I started to make friends that would become my community. I became a middle school leader at my church.
Normalcy wasn’t something I found; it was something I had to create, and it didn’t happen overnight. I had to choose to show up day after day and build.
I’m not a gardener. It’s one of my goals in life to learn how to keep a plant alive because currently, I cannot. But I remember my mom and my grandmother gardening when I was young. It was a slow, messy process. The fruit or flowers only grow after getting your hands dirty with work. And sometimes, even after all the planting, weeding, and pruning, your plant still dies.
Building a new normal is a similar process. It can be tedious and uncomfortable. Oftentimes, the work you put in does pay off, but not everything grows the way you envision it will. That’s not to say it’s not important. All of it is important, I swear.
We’re all experiencing this on some level in 2020. From the pandemic to conversations about race to the presidential election…America is deep in the uncomfortable days of normalcy disappearing. In a lot of ways, that’s actually quite good. However, over the upcoming years, we will all be challenged with the difficult process of attempting to create something better.
I have been in the midst of this transition on a much smaller, more personal level this year. I moved again in January, after 16 months of building in my first city in Florida. I was excited about the move, and I love my new city, but I underestimated the punch that the transition would pack.
Since we moved just before shut down, it’s only now that I am truly digging into the building process. If I can be honest, friend, it’s hard. Some days I’m lonely and uncomfortable. On other days I am filled with gratitude.
I look around at the changing season and can’t help but recognize that I, too, am experiencing a death to renewal process. That is what autumn is after all, right? Trees die, the sun takes a shorter shift, and winter arrives so that new life can be birthed with spring. It’s an annual story of renewal right before our eyes.
I know that in order for me to see spring within my own journey, I have to be okay with letting change take over. I have to bid farewell to my expectations and hold a funeral service for my comfort zone.
Listen, fam, if you’re in the thick of this season where you’re home doesn’t feel like home, I want to offer you a few practical steps to start building. I’m not going to pretend it’s always easy, but I know it’s worth it.
I spent the first six months after my move wishing I was somewhere else. I was hesitant to plant roots because why even bother if I was planning on leaving? Emotionally I was keeping one foot out of the Sunshine State. Then I heard the phrase, “Be where your feet are.”
I first heard this quote from my best friend’s mom at a little breakfast restaurant in Hershey, PA, the summer before I moved, but I hadn’t grasped it then. Months later, my sister threw a copy of Hannah Brencher’s book, Come Matter Here, at me (10/10 would recommend). It then clicked that I couldn’t keep one foot out the door and be able to truly invest in my new home.
Sometimes we are fortunate enough to move somewhere we love, meet a group of people we instantly connect with, and feel like we have a purpose in our work. I find that most of us are missing at least one of these components, if not more. Typically, you are not able to put your desires together like puzzle pieces. Instead, it’s more like an archaeological excavation. You have to search, unearth, and carefully uncover the items of true value. Sure, you’ll find a few dull stones, but if you keep looking, you’ll come across some gems.
My charge to you is this, friend: give it your all. Find a church home, and be active in it. Do your true best at your job, whether it’s what you want your future to be or not. Unpack all of your boxes and hang some art on your apartment’s walls. Call it home. Give it the name, even before it feels worthy of it.
Making friends as an adult isn’t easy. Gone are the days of preschool, where befriending your neighbor was as simple as reaching for the same color crayon. Now we have work schedules, children, insecurities, and Netflix accounts that get in the way.
For me, I knew that the place I was going to build community was through a church. My top priority after moving to a new city is finding a church home. I do thorough online research and attend several services—I believe you need to go at least three times to get an accurate feel—and then I take my pick. When I make my choice, I get involved. I sign up for the membership class, offer to serve on a team, and find out if there’s a small group I can join.
Here’s the thing…I’ve worked in ministry. It’s not easy. I wish that every person who walked into a church was greeted by someone wonderfully kind and friendly, who would remember their name the following Sunday and ask them to come over for dinner. That just doesn’t always happen. A lot of people fall through the cracks.
Even outside church culture, people don’t reach out to newcomers all the time. I think a lot of us are now so comfortable building connections online that we’ve devalued the process of befriending people in person.
What that means is that you need to take the initiative. It can be awkward and bold. It’s basically friendship dating, after all. But the unfortunate fact is that people are most likely not going to go out of their way to get to know you. You can sit around and wait for that to happen, or you can take action.
If I meet someone and it seems like they would be the kind of person I could build a friendship with, I ask for their number and if they would like to get coffee sometime. Seriously, it’s basically dating. Sometimes you get coffee and you realize that you don’t click all that well. That’s okay! Other times, you meet someone who becomes your best friend.
I know that process can sound terrifying, especially if you’re introverted. That is what the comfort zone funeral service is for.
If trying to meet one on one with people is too much for you, join a group activity. I find it’s very easy to bond with new people when you’re experiencing something together. Whether it’s a small group, a community theatre, a sports league…but take the initiative to get involved!
Now, if you’re reading this in 2020, I realize not all of that is as easy as it used to be. You’re probably going to have to hunt for opportunities more, and a lot of it could be happening online. I encourage you to still choose to show up. Isolated doesn’t have to mean disconnected.
This is slow work, y’all. Like building a house or growing a garden, it requires time, intentionality, and patience. Transition is messy, but I believe something beautiful will bloom out of this season.