Have you ever struggled with belonging?
2 1/2 years ago I married the love of my life. Looking back it amazes me to see how God brought our two, very different lives together! That’s a whole other story for another time. Along with the huge and exciting adjustment of married life though, came a very difficult change……moving.
I moved over 1000 miles away from everything I knew and loved…my family, close friends, coworkers, my beloved small-town community, my church family…to a completely different community, different culture, different job, different church and the list could go on…
After our honeymoon was over and we were settling into our new routine, the reality of all that change began sinking in. It was a rather difficult time for me. I wish now, that I could go back and have a fresh and different perspective than what I had at the time, but I suppose it’s somewhat “normal” to go through a sort of grieving process when you go through a big life change, leaving what you know behind.
I believe that we go through experiences for a reason, whether it be for our own growth and maturity, or maybe it’s to help someone else who will later go through similar changes.
If you’re reading this and you’ve gone through some big life changes… maybe you’ve moved, changed schools, started going to a new church, recently joined a youth group, or you’re having a hard time making friends. Whatever the case may be, and you’re struggling to find your place. I’d like to share some practical tips that I’ve learned from my own experience. I must add a reality check (or disclaimer, as I’m fond to do)….I by NO means have this all figured out! I still struggle some days. Each of these tips continue to challenge me to get out of my very comfortable, personal bubble. While I’m STILL learning and desiring to grow in these areas…I HAVE begun finding more appreciation and purpose for where I am now. So without further adieu….
Here are my 7 practical tips to give you a fresh perspective and to help you begin to find a sense of belonging.
#1. Get outside your comfort zone
Sometimes you have to make the first move. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” If you’re struggling with jumping on the friend train, IT TAKES EFFORT!!! Some people attract friends without seeming to put much of ANY effort into it…others simply do NOT have that ability. If that last one describes you, start simple. Invite someone over for a brunch, picnic at the park, or go to a coffee shop and chat it up. If conversations don’t come easily for you, choose an activity. Hiking, shopping, going on a walk, eating out…go to the zoo! The options are endless. This creates an environment that makes conversation flow easier. Experiences create deeper connections.
#2. Stop focusing on yourself
The more you focus on yourself and your problems, the more depressed and isolated you will become. Instead…
#3. Choose gratitude
In any situation I believe there is always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us don’t have to think too long to come up with something we can be thankful for. Here in America we have it so much better, as far as prosperity goes. There’s nothing like being thankful for what you DO have to give you a more positive attitude and outlook on life!
#4. Start serving
When we’re busy helping others our problems become much smaller! Think food pantry, or visiting the elderly in a local nursing home (some of them don’t have family to visit them!). Get to know your neighbors! Drop off a plate of cookies or invite them over for a barbeque! Get involved with a church, join a youth group, or, if you’re past that stage, offer to help plan youth activities. Find a local kid’s club to volunteer at in the afternoon, ask a busy mom if she could use a free day…if we are looking for opportunities…WE WILL FIND THEM!!
#5 Be hospitable
Do you remember when friends would show up to your house unannounced and it was no big deal?? I don’t either…that was before my time! How fun would that be though, to pop in randomly at a friend’s house and it wouldn’t matter if they were still in their pj’s or not (that would be me)…you’d both sit down and chat over coffee and donuts… or oatmeal if you’re being healthy (not sure why I chose oatmeal because there are PLENTY of yummier, healthy options)…but you get my point. I’d LOVE to be that person, that if you drop by unannounced, you know I’ll have coffee and snacks waiting for you’re arrival! >>DISCLAIMER<< if you’re reading this and you live in my area…paleeeease give me a 30 minute warning text, cause I’m not there yet!! #momlife 😉 Anyhoo….I feel like I’m rambling.
Being hospitable is a great way to get to know people better. Invite a group over for a campfire and s’mores…who can say no to that?!
Act like a tourist and get to know your hometown and surrounding area better! Find fun things to do that will make you excited about where you live. Where I grew up, our little town put on a “Fall Festival” every year. Complete with a parade and fireworks, oh and cow-pie bingo….no the food was NOT the smelliest part of the festival. 😉 It was a fun event the whole community looked forward to!
Where I live now, they have a parade and offer other fun community events, which I obviously have not been to since I’m not describing them in detail…but hey it’s in the plans I promise!!! 😀
#7. Pray your heart out
Last, and MOST importantly, give your desire to belong, to God! Watch and see where He takes it! All the other tips I shared, pale in comparison to this one. You can put out ALL the effort and do ALL the things, but God can do SO much more and bless you in ways you can’t even imagine!
If you’re still reading this, thanks for sticking along with me! I KNOW there are others out there who have gone through a big move like I did and I would love LOVE to hear how you transitioned and what you did to make the change a little easier! One last thing, I can’t remember ONE time where I stepped out of my comfort zone and later regretted it! Life is too short to stay in our little bubbles! Let’s break free of them and see where God takes us! Until next time!
P.S. If these tips help you, share them with someone else who may be struggling!