We spent the summer exploring the area, looking at homes, swimming in the hotel’s outdoor pool, playing tennis, going to the beach and enjoying the ease of life for a time; school would be starting soon, and we were due to move into our new house just a few days before that.
After school began, the kids would come home quite discouraged, homesick for their old friends, trying to make new ones; I would send them off each morning with a cheery “be friendly!” and give them what I thought were inspiring speeches about “the best way to make friends is to be kind to all!” They would nod wearily, not really buying it.
I truly believed that God would provide friends – He is the one who made us to need friends, therefore, I wholly trusted that He would provide them as well. However, I hadn’t fully appreciated the disconnect in the “how” or “when” parts of that equation.
On one particular day after school they observed me busily unpacking; Lydia asked, “So mom, where have you been today?”
“Nowhere honey, just here at home, trying to get settled.”
A steely look came in her eyes, as she candidly challenged me “well, you’re always telling us how we need to get out there and be friendly and meet people – but you haven’t even left the house for two weeks.” She was right and I was caught.
Convicted by the truth of her words, I called the church we had been attending the past month. “Hi, do you offer Women’s Bible studies?” It turned out, they did, and the very next day in fact. So, the next morning, still stinging from being found so hypocritical, I went.
That was an eye opening experience for me as I sat all by myself, amid a group of strangers, listening to the buzz of conversations going on around me, punctuated with laughter. I felt so alone. I didn’t know how to break in, let alone which circle to attempt to interrupt. I felt a newfound comprehension for all that I had asked my children to do and discovered: breaking into new circles was not easy. A few tears escaped my eyes, as I felt desperately homesick.
Soon, a woman stepped up front and called everyone to quiet, I just listened and watched. When it was time to split into our smaller classes according to what we signed up for, I joined the crowd moving to the next room. That teacher scanned the room and apparently saw some new faces, so we were going to go around and say our names and tell a bit about ourselves.
There’s just no denying it, I have a very tender heart. For years I have asked God if he would strengthen me so I don’t cry so easily, but so far, that hasn’t been my experience.
I gave myself a good stern talking to, determined to just state the facts and let the next woman go. Closer, closer my turn came. Steady Sarah, closer, Ok – You’re next – stay calm.
Gulp. Softly, “Hi, my name is Sarah Depledge, my husband and I and our 5 children moved here from Wisconsin a few months ago, and we don’t know anyone here yet”- with that, I dissolved into tears. I’m pretty sure hiccups were involved even. It was awful. Two kind women came over and gave me a quick hug; one became a dear friend within a couple weeks.
But it absolutely taught me to have a deeper empathy for what our kids were facing every day, out there, without anyone to lead or break the way in for them. They were going to have to trust on God to provide; and I was going to have to be in much more prayer for each of them. After that experience, I sure would be.
Hebrews 13:1-2 reminds us, “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
That experience taught me the importance of being kind and welcoming to others in a way that I might not have learned any other way than by going through it myself. It’s easy in the busyness of life to get caught up and forget that not everyone may be as ‘familiar’ in our churches and our pathways – can we take a moment to encourage and welcome people we don’t know? We never know how God might use that simple act of kindness to bless someone’s heart!
Have you been on the lonely end? How are ways you have tried to reach out to others and welcome them in? Let’s talk…you know – between friends.