More than once, I’ve been the gal who’s “not from around here.” Yesterday, Facebook reminded me it has been a year since we arrived in the Northwest. We were weary in every way, and in a time when we longed for the comfort of those we know best, our family spent the summer scattered. You make the best decisions you can at the time and trust God to lead, but that’s no guarantee it won’t be hard or even hurtful. It’s been both and more, as anyone who’s been the “stranger” will tell you.
A year later, I’m no longer stunned by the landscape. I have a Washington driver’s license in my wallet and a map of Oregon in my car. Buying “Western Family” groceries is normal, and I know my way to a surprising number of what I like to call “coffee shacks” around the region. It takes a least a year for a new place to start feeling like home. For a long time you feel “foreign.” A “foreigner” is a stranger, a newcomer who lacks rights, maybe a temporary resident. But God has a tender heart for those who aren’t “from around here.” He says, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34) Because God welcomes us, we should welcome others.
It’s not easy being new. Have you ever experienced it? With all of my experience relocating, I can say it’s no wonder “Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses,” (Psalm 18:45)! I’ve done a little trembling over the last year, and longer than that if you count the pain of packing up and leaving.
If you’ve followed my journey over the past year +, you know our life looks different than it did two years ago. Like any season of change, I’ve gone through grieving and trying to be brave. I’ve gone through valleys and out again. God brought people into my life on both sides of the change, like a means of delivering His kindness. Sometimes He surprised me by using strangers to hold me up in the hardest moments.
In case there’s a new girl in town who crosses your path, I want to leave you with inspiration from women who lifted me when I was at my “most foreign.”
- Like the woman who took us in … literally “in.” We lived in her home while we looked for one, though I was too stunned and sad to be fun or interesting or helpful.
- Like the woman who invited me to serve … just based on what she heard. She didn’t make me wait a year to “prove it.”
- Like the woman who asked me to come pray … and didn’t mind that the only prayer I could get out was a wordless one.
- Like the woman who came and cleaned for me … because she knew I was going to need a friend, so she was it.
- Like the woman who wanted to pray for me … and she did, over and over, and followed up about each need.
- Like the woman who smiled at me … like Jesus smiling at me when I needed to know He hadn’t stopped watching.
- Like the woman who hugged me … before I was ready to be hugged, because she hugs everyone, and she wanted me to be in “everyone.”
- Like the woman who wrote to me … and shared her heart lessons and prayers and let me share mine back.
- Like the woman who called me … and told me about her days like old friends do, because I missed old friends.
- Like the woman who came all those miles to be with me … because “familiar” was so far away.
Anyone who follows Jesus is a citizen of heaven, a temporary resident on earth, a stranger in a world they’re no longer comfortable in. But we love putting down roots, bonding with a people and a place, and making memories. I really do think God likes it when we do that, for He wants us to prosper where we live and impact our earthly community (Jeremiah 29:5-7). People know us by how we love. (John 13:35)
What to say to a stranger
- I don’t think I’ve met you before.
- Hi I’m ____. Are you new here?
- Tell me about the place where you came from.
- Hi! It’s nice to see you again.
- Would you like to sit with us?
- Are you finding your way around?
- If you have questions about the area, here’s my number. Let me know if I can help.
- Forgive me for not remembering your name. I’ll write it down this time. I’m ___.
Is there a For Sale sign on your street? A moving truck at the apartments down the road? An empty desk in your office? Let’s keep our eyes open for strangers among us, that gal who’s “not from around here.” Someday Facebook will remind her of the day she came to our hometown. May it be a reminder of how God blessed her through women like you.
Have you ever been “new?” What did someone do to reach out to you?