Years ago, my husband and I moved from Colorado to Alaska. We’d only been married for three years and it was the first time I had lived away from my family. But we were excited about the move and looked forward to exploring our breathtaking new home.
My husband and I settled into jobs we liked and found a comfortable place to call home. After trying out a few churches, we found one that was a perfect fit for us. The congregation was welcoming, and we soon felt at home.
Everything was nice and pleasant…except.
My many years of holiday celebrations had been spent with family. My dad had elderly relatives that lived near us and my parents, siblings and I shared a meal together at every major holiday. I had grown accustomed to and comfortable with our family dynamic and associated the holidays to closeness with family members.
Being a very high introvert, this stability and predictability was integral to my enjoyment of our social engagements. Although I survived the winter holidays, I broke soon after.
Our Bible study leaders invited my husband and I for Easter dinner at their home. Which sounds sweet but felt like a challenge. While the invitation was kind and appreciated, I had never met any of the other guests…my introverted nature roared disapprovingly.
“It’s not right,” I sobbed into my husband’s shoulder, “holidays are meant to be spent with family, not strangers.”
Ever the understanding one, he offered, “We don’t have to go. Do you want to stay at home?” But we had already accepted the invitation. I didn’t want to flake, so I gritted my teeth and off we went.
I’ll tell you what. In the midst of that group of strangers, God showed me a new definition of “family.” By the time we left that evening, it felt like we had known them for a lifetime. We would continue to be close with them throughout our five years in Anchorage. The relationships I formed in this group helped stretch my faith and help me grow in my walk with Jesus.
God opened my eyes to this truth: everyone who belongs to Him is part of my family. In fact, since then I’ve made life-changing relationships while renovating a church in Nome, Alaska; working in Children’s Ministry in Portland, Oregon and Cut Bank, Montana; and meeting our Compassion-sponsored children in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Places I never thought I’d go and people I can’t imagine my life without.
Apparently, there is more to family than just lineage. The blood of Christ is a powerful bond. I was lonely because I had specific expectations about what holiday celebrations looked like. Once God changed my perspective, I was free to enjoy a new chapter in our lives.
Yes, it takes courage, but being brave has its rewards. If you’re in a new place and feel lonely, take a risk. Join a small group or start volunteering at your church or in your community. People won’t necessarily pick up on your need for connection, but there are plenty of opportunities if you’re willing to take the first step. If we hadn’t joined our Bible study at church, we never would have connected with our new friends. We had to make an effort.
On the flip side, if you know of someone new to your community, especially if they don’t have family nearby, invite them to join you, whether it’s at church, for dinner, or a holiday celebration. Find out their interests and help them acclimate. Introduce them to people that they have something in common with (similar ages of kids, similar interests, or a shared experience). Make it easy for them to get connected. They have gifts and talents to offer to the Body as well.
Everyone has value and we all belong in God’s family. Just being followers of Jesus is a big thing to have in common. You have family members all over the world who are just waiting to be discovered. Sometimes it just takes a small step, but soon you’ll realize a strong sense of belonging.
Are you willing to take the risk? Go find your family. You’ll be glad you did!