We moved into our houses a year and a half ago, started the home buying process about two years ago, & knew we would be living in Fort Worth long-term about four years ago. Throughout that time & especially once we knew where we would be living, we have been praying consistently for one thing. Community. All four of us wanted it & needed it. We all had lived in strong community at one point or another & knew the importance of it.
Trey & I met through our home groups at The Village Church in Dallas. The girls' group that I was a part of & the guys' group that he was a part of hung out frequently & ended up merging into one group after about a year or so. Those were the people we did life with day after day. We literally lived with some of those people, prayed with those people, served with those people, and loved those people. Once we got married & moved to Abilene, we felt the loss of this community deeply. It was very difficult for us and our marriage to be in a new city where we didn't know many people. Add on to the fact that we also knew that we wouldn't be there for long & we were constantly having to come home for weddings, showers, and events in the DFW area. It was a season where we definitely learned to lean on one another but we definitely felt the ache to have people surrounding us that we could live day-to-day life with.
When we moved back to the metroplex, we were living with my amazing in-laws while we saved a little money & started the process of looking for a house. While we prayed for a community in Abilene, we really started to pray that Lord would provide solid friendships for us wherever we ended up finding a house because we knew how badly we needed that.
We moved into our houses in December of 2016 & were immediately thankful to have built-in friends in Kyle & Sarah and we all four began to pray together for those friendships. And, slowly but surely the Lord brought us more than we could have ever asked or imagined.
We had prayed and were continually praying that we would be able to connect with and build friendships with our neighbors. He answered that prayer. We now have a group of friends (some neighbors and some not) who meet on Sunday nights to pray together & study the Bible. We have Bachelorette watching parties, hang out at the pool, celebrate birthdays, cry together, grieve together, and just live life together. It has truly been the biggest blessing in all four of our lives & we couldn't be more thankful. Our hope is that over time, we would get to know even more neighbors and friends and invite them into our community.
For some of you, I know this post is stirring up longings in your heart. You might be reading this just wishing that you could be in the same situation. I get it. We were there for several years. If that's you & you're wanting my two cents on how to best initiate deep, solid friendships where you are, here is what I have learned from our experience...
Pray for it. The Lord designed us to live in community with one another. Ask Him for it. He loves to give good gifts.
You're going to have to put yourself out there. When I moved to Atlanta for an internship in 2011, I learned that sometimes you have to do weird things to make friends. You have to introduce yourself to your neighbor when you are in your robe grabbing your mail. Or you have to knock on someone's door and invite them over for dinner. It's going to be awkward. It's going to be uncomfortable, but I promise the reward is totally worth the risk and the more you put yourself out there to meet and connect with others, the easier it will get.
Lead with vulnerability. If you are already in a group of friends that feels too surface level or maybe in a new place and just starting to get to know people, be willing to be the one who is open and vulnerable. Share what you're struggling with and be open about where you're at. Be willing to open up first & others will follow. Even just being honest about the type of community that you desire will do worlds of good in opening people up!
Be willing to put the work in. A community isn't built overnight. It takes times to build the foundation of trust in a friendship. Show up for people. Listen to them. Invest your time into them. Be patient knowing it will take time for those relationships to build.
If you are in a strong community with people that love you, be sure to take some time this week to tell them how appreciative you are of them & how much they mean to you!
Sarah & I both have been so fortunate to build amazing relationships with friends both near (like right next door) & far this year. I feel completely surrounded by people who are loving us and supporting us. This has not been an easy year for Trey & I. With health issues, unexpected expenses, infertility, and miscarriage it has been a lot for us to walk through. However, the Lord has been so good to provide neighbors who bring meals, friends who are constantly texting, and people who are constantly praying for & with us. Whether you are currently walking with a solid group of friends or yearning for that, I pray that you would feel the Lord's love through a friend this week.