This past year, we made the decision to move our family 1,800 miles to a new place where we knew no one. We came to beautiful, green Tennessee, and our last eight months of Southern hospitality and culture have been fantastic. As we prepped for our move, I spoke with a few friends who had also made drastic moves with their families. Time and again I was told a version of, “It’s hard—harder than you think it will be.”
They were right and also wrong.
Change is never easy, so I decided I would do everything in my power to make this transition as smooth as possible. Without family and friends nearby, I would be missing the support of my network. I jumped in with both feet and quickly went to work creating a new one. I attended my local church where I made it a point to talk to everyone, and particularly mothers with young kids. On Sundays, we invited any family over who I thought could be potential friends. I joined groups on Facebook for newcomers to my area. I attended game nights, exercise groups, a group for moms of preschoolers, and parks. Any time I saw my neighbors outside, I was sure to wave and talk with them. I’ve taken them cookies, bread, and cake.
Let me tell you what I’ve learned in all this. There are so many people out there just like me. I found those also new to the area, and others who were looking for friends. So many were trying to build up their own networks and searching for the same kind of love and support.
Was it awkward putting myself out there? Sometimes. But I’ve found that if you embrace the awkwardness, people around you find the humor and enjoy it as well. In my first few weeks, I decided to attend a High Fitness class that was being taught at my church. I didn’t know any of the people or the moves. I showed up a little early, introduced myself to the teacher, and said, “I’m just here to make friends.” We’ve since had many good laughs about that.
I’ve also learned that when we are actively trying, God will make up the difference. In general, I’m a fairly introverted person and usually spend my time with just one or two good friends. One of the tender mercies I’ve received from the Lord throughout this process has been the ability to speak to people I don’t know and attend events where I know no one. God can fill in where we lack and give us abilities that aren’t generally our own.
And I’ve also learned it’s okay to mourn what you left behind. Most days here are lovely. My family loves Tennessee! It feels like it was always meant to be home. But every once in a while, it’s hard–harder than I thought it would be. On the special days that we would normally share with our family and friends, it hurts. Birthdays and Christmas looked very different this year.
Initially, I tried to coat the pain. When the time came for our annual Christmas party, I decided to host one here, with new people. It wasn’t the same, and I felt empty noticing the difference. I am learning that I don’t need to recreate everything here that I loved about my old home. This is a new place, and it can be filled with new, wonderful people, activities, and traditions. It will take time to create them, probably more than I want it to. My job is to be open to new experiences and let myself feel all of the emotions that come with them.
Was it worth it? Oh, yes. Life is always going to be filled with highs and lows, no matter where you decide to make your home. Here in this new place, away from family and friends, I am learning I can put myself out there and create a network of support. I am also learning just how significantly the Lord can fill in for our weaknesses. And I’m learning to embrace and accept the many moments of both happiness and sadness I will feel. There’s so much life to be lived in this new, crazy adventure.