I moved 3 times before I ever started school. I attended 5 different elementary schools, 1 jr high and 1 high school. And the jr high and high school were across the country from one another. To say "we moved a lot" is an understatement. And my parents were not in the military, so I didn't have the benefit of being with other kids who moved a lot.
All this moving I believe has heavily shaped who I am today. I understand friends come and go. I never have a lot of friends - but when I feel short on them I know how to go get some. (I do have to remind myself of this fact.) I understand that a powerful friendship is worth sometimes more than family. This isn't to say I don't value family. This is to say that God will fill in gaps in my personal community. He created us to be communal beings.
I've been thinking a lot about community. Like a leaf blowing across a busy freeway, an inkling of moving crossed our paths. The move would have been across the state and so I found myself contemplating this little leaf. I realized that although I still have never lived in a house for more than 5 years, I have lived in this community...my community...since I got married oh so long ago. My community has changed drastically since the day I said "I do". There are very few people that have remained in our life over the years that we do not have common blood with. But community is similar to those ocean waves. Each wave is different and brings fresh changes if you look closely - yet the waves are all the same when looked upon from a distance. My life isn't really all that different. There are people. There is a job. A house. Hobbies. Life. Family. But many faces have changed on all fronts. Our friends are different. We have kids - so our family focus has drastically changed. Our church is different. My hobbies even look different.
So one thing staying in one place has really taught me is that the churn of change doesn't really require moving. Moving out of an area will guarantee a change in the faces, the house and even possibly the job. But obviously since very few people in my life are the same from 14 years ago, staying in one area doesn't guarantee a stable community either.
We have been attending the same church for 8 years now. This, by the way, is another record for me. I have never lasted so long at a church - through no fault of my own. Changes have come for all different reasons. I value church so heavily that I have never given up on it. (I also don't accept excuses for people who do. Church really is just that important.)
Even though I have moved frequently, it still doesn't make it any easier to set down roots or to get to know people. There is no instant way to weasel your way in to a tight knit group who all knows one another already. I think that is true even for my current church - who I adore. So many of them have been together for so long - that I still frequently feel like the 'new kid'. But I believe that is somewhat why God has placed me where I am at.
A year ago last Easter I sat in a foot washing. At the time I had another perspective on the whole thing - but lately I've been thinking about what someone else said to me. She thanked me for being so welcoming. In fact, she made a beeline straight for me to tell me this during this ritual. I didn't necessarily feel it, so it was a bit of a wake up call to me. I am an introvert. I'm socially awkward. I'm always terrified of saying the wrong thing. I do frequently say the wrong things. (I did just this last Thur. I've been trying to not relive it.) Could it be that this is a gift God has given me? Gifts are those things that you do without trying and without meaning too. They just happen. Lord knows I don't try in this area. I really am not good at talking to strangers and I can be so unwelcoming I have to remind myself to smile...because my face looks perpetually like I'm scowling if I don't. (No really. There is a constant conversation in my head..."Miriam! You aren't smiling! That person is going to think you are angry with them! SMILE ALREADY!")
Perhaps I've been carrying around this new feeling for so long that it is just perhaps part of who I am? "Hi I'm Miriam! I'm new...I've been here about 8 years how about you?" I'm certainly only just feeling established. I'm only just figuring out my role in my church. (I feel I've just scratched the surface...at this point about all I do is gather people...women specifically.) Why am I so slow? It took the Israelites 40 years to figure things out in the desert. I'm not 40 yet...and I'm certain I'm no better than they are.
I'm thankful for finally having this feeling of roots and community. I don't believe it will last. That will always be a perpetual feeling for me. But I'm thankful for it nonetheless. Roots have allowed me to grow stronger, to blossom and to grow thick branches. When the next swirling storm of change comes through, I will be ready and stronger than ever to handle it.