This post comes from my sweet sister-in-law Lauren from Porter's Happy Place. She moved here in the summer of 2010 after getting married. She left all comfort and familiarity to follow her love to his home. There were many adjustments to be made and here Lauren shares some things that helped make her transition a little easier.
It's so exciting to be asked to be a part of this new series on showing love. When Sarah asked me to guest post, my initial thought was, “How on earth would I know?!?” I’m going to have a hard time explaining to others how to help someone who’s brand new to the area especially when I don’t even know what I need or want most of the time. (Let’s blame that on ridiculous girly emotions and over-thinking absolutely everything).
…That being said, I hope that you’ll bear with me on this little journey of thought.
Hey, I’m Lauren. I’m Sarah’s sister-in-law and newest Rieke girl (aside from our sweet Evie). I married my husband, Jed, in 2010 and after graduating college and quitting my full-time job, I left my friends and family, moved to Virginia, and became a pastor’s kid. (All in one fell swoop! - Oh, the things I do for love.)
Honestly, when I moved away from my home in Pennsylvania and came to Virginia Beach (despite the similar climate) it was unexpectedly different and quite difficult. Not only does Virginia Beach shut down with the twinkle of a snowflake (haha), but I was now married, hours away from my family and friends and all familiar things.
Even my church environment changed with my move. Church had been the place where I had always felt completely comfortable. That’s where I made most of my friendships and connections and I found great comfort and purpose there. Needless to say, in the midst of so much change, it was incredibly difficult to step outside of the tiny comfort zone I still had left. I didn’t really know where I fit and how to get involved. It took so much energy to push conversation and/or plan activities.
Absolutely everything I did took extra effort, extra energy…and a great deal of thinking. Navigating my way through the town (even to the grocery store) was an adventure. (Thank goodness for Google maps and nice gas station attendants!)
Meeting people wasn’t difficult (in my case) but every conversation seemed to begin and end with questions about marriage and babies and my recent college graduation. I spent a lot of time telling the same stories over and over again (to multiple people, which I didn’t really mind) but more often than not, the conversation ended there. Our time together was often very brief and didn’t allow for a great deal of heart-felt conversation or connection. I like getting to know new people but I really didn’t know what to ask most of the time.
Being new, I felt as though I had to be very careful around people. I desperately wanted to please my new family and I wanted to be liked by their friends. I also wanted to establish my own personality, boundaries, and home though, which led to many aggravations, miscommunications and hurt feelings (for everyone). I often felt as though I couldn’t be “myself” with the people I was supposed to be closest to. (I don’t doubt that most of those feelings came from learning to be a ‘Pastor’s Kid’ at age 22).
On top of the obvious emotional stress, my body was incredibly fatigued due to outrageous allergies (oh, Virginia!), hormonal changes and a consistent lack of quality sleep. (Again, I blame marriage.)
All that to say… and with that in mind…
I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of the things that make transition to a new place a bit easier (based on my experience) with new everythingness. (Of course, that’s a word!)
So here are some things that I’ve determined were helpful for me. I’m sure there are more and that they vary depending on each person and personality involved… but here it goes… 10 ways to care for a Newcomer
Always Say Hello
I don’t believe the common comment, “No one even said hi”, should never be a valid complaint. It isn’t fair when you have to consistently initiate conversation but I think it helps (at least for me) to consider it a sacrifice of love.
Don’t’ be Afraid to Ask Questions
It’s always better to be overly interested and ask too many questions than to not acknowledge someone at all. Not asking is a quick way to make someone feel alienated and unimportant.
Pray for their energy levels, their spiritual and emotional well being, and their physical and monetary needs during their transition. Pray that they meet good friends and mentors and that they quickly feel at ease in their new home.
Don’t automatically assume that someone is disinterested or snobby because they are quiet or because they didn’t accept your invitation at first offer.
Change is exhausting, overwhelming, and often quite complicated. Try to keep that in the back of your mind when you are feeling hurt by someone’s lack of interest. Allow plenty of room for disappointment and unrequited attention. Just keep loving!
Allow Plenty of Opportunity
They didn’t come to the group gathering you had planned and had to cancel on you before your cozy movie night in? Keep asking! Consider trying a different approach. Perhaps a coffee day-date, dinner out or a simple no-pressure card, note, or welcome basket of local goodies. Different people feel cared for in different ways. Sometimes it’s a hug, good conversation, an outing or sometimes a sweet gift. Feel it out and regularly offer opportunities for involvement, as you are able.
Also, give a newcomer the opportunity to serve (with you or with another group). Service often gives purpose to those who are feeling rather lost. If you know that they used participate in youth group or worship team or their local softball league, help them get connected. Let them know that it’s okay and acceptable to get involved as soon as they are ready.
With so much change and so many new things, it’s so nice to see normalcy. Take the pressure off by keeping things casual and treating them as you would a family member or close friend that you are already comfortable with. Perfection not required.
Don’t be afraid of one on one time. Spend some time chatting over coffee or searching for a new something for their home. Have them over for a night of ‘nothing in particular’ and just lounge on the couch for a couple of hours or make dinner together. Take time to show them that they are important to you and worth your time.
It’s essential to connect through common interests and feelings …but sometimes it can be hard to find common ground when questions are one sided. New-comers may not know what to ask or how to connect, so help ease the pressure by doing some of the talking. Share about yourself and give them a chance to get to know you!
Let loose and just have fun. Ask them about their hobbies or interests and seek out special events or lessons. Make memories by doing something new for you but that you know they will enjoy. Put yourself out there, be a good sport. Sometimes looking a little “silly” together can help ease the pressure and form some pretty ridiculous memories!
Arrange a Group Activity
Help form connections with others by planning, or going to, a group event. A ladies game night, a holiday party, bowling, dancing, a sporting event or craft lesson could be just what they need to meet a new friend or make a pleasant memory with a new group of awesome gals!
I think you’ll find that if you treat your town, your church and your friend groups as your “home” just like the house you live in, you are more likely to act like the incredible host you are! Women, especially, seem to have a natural ability to be hospitable and comforting. Use your natural ability and instinct to really make a difference!