I started this little informal series on friendship a while ago since I am in a unique position, after having just moved far away from everyone I know, to process how to make friends, why we make friends, and the fact that God has a plan apart from all of my own plans.
That's what He's showing me so far. His plans are really awesome. And mine, well, they're well-intentioned but it's like I'm walking through my days with blinders on. I can't see the whole story, only what's right in front of my face.
The first two months of living in MT, I tried pursuing new connections in several ways. Here are a few.
- I hung around the school after the kids got out, and prodded them to point out kids they liked so I could pounce on their moms.
- I called & emailed the church we've been attending to find a women's Bible study to join.
- I chaperoned two school field trips with the hopes of meeting other parents and getting a feel for the other kids.
- I punched numbers into my phone as soon as I met another mom at school or church or a field trip. I think I got at least 4.
- I was happy to converse with any and everyone who showed interest. Neighbors. The woman at the pool. The mom in the grocery store parking lot.
So far, I can confidently say that much of my effort fell flat. It didn't amount to much of anything. Sometimes, the people I tried to pursue further turned out to be not the best match, for one reason or another. (Really there are SO many factors involved, no wonder it's so hard to make a friend. A huge factor, if you're a mom, is the kid-to-kid dynamics, then there are different grown-up personalities, life stage, and a huge one, I'm realizing, is simply how busy a family has chosen to be. Super busy families are probably not ones willing to fit in new relationships.)
The chance to meet women at church could have been better if we had not moved in April, right when every Bible study and ministry was wrapping up to shut down for the summer. Those efforts too fell flat.
But as nearly all my efforts to make friends were failing, I observed that during all my wheel-spinning, God was at work too. Separately. Not sharing His plans with me, just secretly acting on my behalf. It was as if He was right alongside me, making things happen I could have NEVER predicted or pursued.
The first weird thing was that a stranger who reads my blog spotted something familiar in one of my pictures I posted months ago. Though she had never contacted me before, she had the courage to email me, saying she knew exactly where I was, grew up in my town, and spends the whole summer here with her husband and three kids. She was arriving in only a couple weeks and SHE asked ME to meet up for coffee. Notice this? God just casually placed not a creepy stalker, but an amazing mommy friend in my path who was pursuing ME. He made it clear that He was the one doing all the work this time.
Since then, we've hung out a lot. Our boys love each other's company. They attended VBS together. We spent the 4th of July with their extended family, and I cannot tell you how blessed I've felt to have her as a friend. I might cry when she goes back home in two weeks. I took that photo of cowgirl boots at the top the night we met up for dinner and she offered to show me the best places in town to find some. I'm so blessed by her friendship. I know I said that already. I have no pictures of the boys because, well, they're boys. They move a lot.
The next weird thing that God did was to draw my children each to one friend in class who, turns out, happens to have an amazing Christian family. I think that is pretty remarkable. I didn't find these friends. God did. He planned this whole sneaky thing. And in the 9 weeks my kids attended the local public elementary school, they connected - just enough - with a child.
I met one family at Open House, as they were checking out their son's classroom the same time we were. We exchanged numbers then, and I talked further to one of the parents on the field trip, who also chaperoned. Then one day, the mom invited my kids and I on a picnic at a park. Our time turned out to be such a salve to my soul! True fellowship with another believer who easily speaks about matters of faith is a treasure. And God brought this family, this fellow mommy, into my life just when I needed her. She was so loving to me. I'm so thankful.
And finally, my daughter connected with one of the sweetest girls you could find. They had a couple playdates, but recently, the family invited us over to their house for a last minute casual dinner. It was our first dinner invite since we've moved, and again, I can't tell you how much it blessed me. I kept thanking them for extending friendship to us, and offering a night away from home to enjoy adult company while our kids played throughout the evening. I don't know if they felt the same, but it seemed a great fit. You know how it is; it's tricky when you meet another family. There are mom dynamics, husband dynamics, and kid dynamics. Other than my son getting a little picked on by the swarm of girls, everyone enjoyed each other's company. Who knew that love from the body of Christ could be so powerful simply amongst pulled pork sandwiches, trampoline jumping, and the warm July night? There was no intense prayer time or deep spiritual conversation happening. We were just laughing and eating and parenting. But together.
Then they invited us to the rodeo. That was a really fun time too. Well, for us, anyway. Not the baby cows getting flung down into the dirt. We had nachos, snow cones, watched fireworks, and oooh'd and ahhh'd at a lot of fancy cowboy tricks. This is the way relationships grow. Togetherness, shared memories, and junk food.
So three months in, lessons learned:
1. No matter how hard I try, God has plans that WILL meet my needs when I need them met. If I'm looking for them, I'll be ready to respond and cooperate and do my part. (It's not charity; He always makes sure I have a part to do too.)
2. Extending friendship to another woman or another family is a BIG deal. People don't do it enough. I didn't do it enough in the past. But now, realizing how much it means to me, I'm resolving to be more proactive, particularly to newcomers like in my neighborhood or church. You could too, if you're at a place in life to do so. Invite a family over for dinner. Ask someone to coffee, or to a picnic with kids at the park. Open your life up to someone who may be in need of fellowship or a little hospitality. I bet you may even need it too.
Have someone in mind? You may be the person God wants to use to meet her needs.
She'll be grateful beyond words.