I've lived longer in this area (twelve years) than anywhere else, but I haven't always felt so rooted, grounded, and just...deeply satisfied here. In fact, Jim and I started our marriage just over six years ago assuming that--as soon as my joint-custodial arrangement no longer precluded it--we'd return to East Tennessee. And who can guess what the Lord has in store?, but these days, we think of this as our permanent home base, if nothing else.
These past couple weeks, I've been asking myself: what changed in terms of my relationship with my physical (as opposed to virtual) community? And I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about settling in, in hopes that they'll bless or help.
- I spend time in my community, which sounds like a given but isn't necessarily. Years went by that I spent most of my waking hours in various workplaces or hang-outs outside my community. I know we can't all work near home (My husband works outside our community!), but we can usually make choices regarding where to spend our free time. This past weekend, for example, Jim and I talked about going to the lake or ocean but decided, instead, to explore the new state park right down the road.
- I joined a church within my community and have developed ties to those with whom I worship; however,
- I reject daily the idea that my church exists within one building and, instead, make a point of serving the Lord whenever, wherever, and however I feel led. With this mentality, I've developed many friendships inside my community but outside my center of worship.
- I identified my spiritual gift (mercy) and went to work, casting myself under the leadership of those who specialize in the realm of pastoral care. By doing so, I've developed friendships with those I've served under and with...not to mention with those I've participated in serving.
- I've committed to studying the Bible with others in my community. If anything forges bonds more than this, I don't know what it is.
- I've stopped trying to limit the number of friends I have. That looks silly on the page, but I've gone through seasons of feeling reluctant to start at the beginning with someone: to tell my story, to go through that awkward phase of getting to know a person. At some point, it just clicked: everyone has something to teach me. Also, it's ok that not every relationship develops into a deep and eternal bond.
- I've stopped trying to develop friendships for the sake of my children. This has been huge for me. I don't mean to imply that I maintain friendships inappropriate for my children; I mean that some of my most rewarding friendships are with people who don't have children my children's ages, or at all.
- I've stopped waiting to be pursued. Instead, I initiate, invite, include, offer.
What about you? What connects you to the community in which you live?
Or what particular challenges do you face there, in terms of feeling connected?