I'm no expert on starting over. Many students I knew at BFA have more experience uprooting, saying goodbye, and beginning again than I do. However, as I "reentered" life in the States this past year, I noted several things that helped me to connect in Pittsburgh. For the first time, I found myself new in a place that others didn't know I was new. I was no longer a freshman in college or new staff overseas with orientation and special programs to help me navigate my new world. It was up to me.
On Sunday, I had the opportunity to share some of my story with people who are new to the city - the same small group I attended a year ago! It's amazing to think how God used my year of adjusting to equip me to welcome Pittsburgh newcomers this fall.
Do you find yourself in a new place, or are you looking to get more deeply connected where you live? There's certainly no recipe for instant community, but here are a few suggestions from my experiences:
1. Explore and get lost. True story: For awhile, I only knew how to drive to Target and church from my house without using my GPS. When I allowed myself the adventure of attempted navigation, I discovered new sections of the city to enjoy and more efficient paths between familiar places. In Pittsburgh, exploring invariably means crossing a bridge unnecessarily or getting stuck in Parkway traffic from time to time, but it's all part of the experience! A less risky and highly suggested option: Ask someone who knows the area well to drive when you go somewhere together, and you can learn a lot as the attentive passenger!
2. Find your happy places. Personally, I'm recharged when I'm strolling along the rivers at Point State Park, looking over the city from Mt. Washington, or sitting under the globe lights on my front porch. What energizes you most or reminds you of familiar places you miss? Whether it's a picturesque running trail, a cozy coffee shop, or an international food store, locate these places in your new city, and it'll start to feel more like home.
3. Make a bucket list. Creating a list of things I want to do and see in Pittsburgh made me even more enthusiastic about exploring my new city! (In case you were wondering, my bucket list includes studying in the Cathedral of Learning and going on the Ducky Tour, as well a sub-section for the burger restaurants and coffee shops I want to try.) Find out more about your area, and you can begin your own list. Note: Asking for bucket list suggestions is a great conversation starter and checking things off the list can be accomplished with new friends!
4. Get connected to a church. My involvement in my local church has been a lifeline for me in this first year of living in a brand new place. Joining a small group, serving in church ministries, and attending special events outside of weekly services are great ways to meet other people, while also being fed spiritually and serving the community. It's important to be discerning about where to attend church, but chances are you won't find a church exactly like the one(s) you previously attended. Ask the Lord to direct you to a place where you can grow in your relationship with Him and others, and be open to wherever He might lead you.
5. Make new friends, but keep the old. It turns out that the lyrics of the tried-and-true Girl Scouts song are actually true! While it's impossible to keep up with everyone I know, I need friends with whom I share history and memories. They "get" my sense of humor, pray for me with deeper understanding, and remind me of God's faithfulness. However, I also need people to live life with me in this current season. It may feel risky and exhausting to initiate new friendships in a new place, but I've found that many others around me are also hoping to find another friend or two!
More than anything, we can rest in the confidence that Jesus will give us exactly what we need in His timing. He's been reminding me of that truth throughout in this season of transition, and I have a feeling it will be a recurring theme throughout my life. He is in control. He is enough. May Jesus be glorified as we daily trust in His presence and rely on His provision.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
"Every new season of life is an invitation to leave behind the things of the season before, the trappings and the traps that have long expired, right for then, no longer right for now." - Shauna Niequist, Present over Perfect
What has helped you get connected in a new community?
What do you appreciate about the place where you live?