If there’s one thing I’ve had to learn how to do, and then do over and over, it’s make friends. Our nomad lifestyle over the years has forced us to learn a thing or two about making friends and valuing those friendships. Living far from our families for most of our married life has also allowed some of these friendships to turn into beautiful and unexpected adopted family relationships. What a gift.
What’s ironic is that most of the time, we’ve been the leavers, the movers, the “we’re only here until April-ers”, but twice now since our return to the US we’ve been placed (by God and by Shawn’s job, but mostly God), in military towns. It’s ironic because so many people are here temporarily. And for once we’re trying to settle (we’ve lived here for almost two years… is that a new record!?) and everyone’s all, “Yea, we move again this summer.” Or (worse…), “Next month.” And if they aren’t military moves they’re oil field moves and for crying out loud I just want to live somewhere where we stay, they stay, our kids and husbands are best friends, and we host holiday parties together. IS THAT REALLY TOO MUCH TO ASK?!
So here are a few things I’ve learned in my life crash course of moving and making friends:
– Be the first! Send a text, message them, follow them on Instagram. Don’t wait around for someone else to make the first move. You think you’re shy or awkward? Newsflash: everyone else feels the same way.
– The “little random texts” are the biggest. Like when Carolyn wrote me this week and asked if she should get bangs. That meant everything to me because it meant she was thinking of me when she could have texted 50 other people with this life-altering question. So skip the formal and just jump in head-first into the world of random text messages (that also means you have to actually ask for their phone number). “What did you say the name of that donut shop was?” “Hey neighbor, do you have any use for 15 egg whites?” (PS- Donna, we can’t wait to taste test those meringue cookies that you have magically created from an oddly colored sack of 15 egg whites that I carried to your house. And Carolyn, I say to skip the bangs. Your forehead is perfect and bangs are always more work than they’re worth.)
– Find a way to be present in their life and they’ll in turn be present in yours. That’s friendship!
– Along those same lines, make a plan to hang out. Have them over. Embrace the mess or the just-vacuumed. You do you. Just let them in. Meet for coffee or for a walk. Or at the library for free. Or plan a party. You need friends, they need friends. So hang out. Don’t overthink it. (Or you can do like African Jenn and just stop by to say hi.)
– If making friends with Africans taught us one thing, it’s the power of a phone call or text saying simply, “Just wanting to say hi (greet you) and see how your family is doing.” That’s it! That always made us feel loved and thought of. You had to pay for phone credit as you used it over there, so sometimes that was literally the extent of the phone call. But guess what? It spoke volumes. And it taught us to do the same.
– Don’t forget about basic stuff that you learned in Kindergarten: smile, say hi, introduce yourself, toss out a compliment, exchange numbers. Who knows where that could lead.
– It’s hard to make friends if you’re at home watching Netflix all day. (Or so I’ve heard…) So get out there and get involved in something. A ministry at church or in the community, take a walk in your neighborhood, join a small group, take a pottery class, join MOPS, etc. Our culture says that people are too busy and that we should leave them be, but how offended are you when someone says hi, and crosses beyond your basic pass-in-the-hallway greeting. And for crying out loud (at risk for sounding like a grandma here, but also I don’t care) put your phone down. Life on the screen isn’t real life. Even *GASP* in line or in the waiting room, make eye contact and have a real conversation with someone. (Side note: how can we ever share about the hope we have in Jesus if we’re scrolling our lives away and never meeting people or talking to them?)
– Don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because half her head is shaved and her ears are gaged all the way to her collar bone doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be good friends. And the same goes for the mom in her old college sweatshirt with three kids hanging on her and no time for makeup. People are people. It can’t ever hurt to get to know them.
– Don’t just migrate to friendships in the same lane as you. I love friendships with older women, younger women, single women, veiled women, career women, women in the same season as me, women from vastly different cultures as me, etc. Variety IS the spice of life.
– Not every person is a “next level friend”. And that’s ok! Love them at the level of friendship where you are and see where it goes. Care for them because we’re called to love all people. Serve them if and when the opportunity arises. But you don’t have to beat yourself up if your paths don’t cross that often or they’re not the first person you text when wondering whether or not you should paint your bathroom an eggplant purple.
– When you do find those few and rare gem “next level friends”, make time for them, talk to them, work at it as you would any relationship of deep meaning and value.
– Invest in the mover/relocating/soon-to-deploy person too. You never know when it could be you, and at the same time, you never know when your paths may cross again, how keeping in touch could mean so much, and if/when you might end up in the same town again.
– Long distance friendships can still pack a lot of punch and value for your soul. So just because you’re moving or they’re moving doesn’t mean it’s over.
– Cliché as it may sound, they don’t have a friend like you. And don’t assume they already have enough friends, or that because they have family in the area they don’t need friends. Wrong. We all need people in our lives, and friendships enrich our lives in so many ways.
– When tragedy or grief or hard days come, don’t shy away. That’s when they need a friend the most. Don’t know what to say? Then say, “I don’t know what to say. But I’m here for you.” And in my own personal experience with grief and hard times, food goes a long way.
– If you’re needing a certain kind of friend, or friends that fit you as a couple, or friends to help or encourage you, or friends to have fun with (etc.) take it to God. He knows, he cares, and he’s the maker and provider of all good things. Throw out your cares and requests to him! And in the meantime, know that there is no better friend than God. Although, honestly, IDK if he would choose eggplant for your bathroom.