I’m 10 months into my new job at a new church in a new state. Most days it feels like I’ve been here a few years. I feel at home both in northern California (it reminds me of my favorite home – Vancouver, BC) and at my church. I can tell these are my kind of people and that life will be good here.
But there are also days when it’s hard to get more than 4 good hours of work from my brain. I feel tired despite regular exercise and sleep, and that’s when I remember that I’m new! I’m still adjusting to a new culture and a new city. When my brain and body are tired, I coach myself to breathe deeply, to give thanks for my job and for God’s presence, and to be gentle with self-expectations. Thriving in a new place doesn’t happen quickly. And I have plenty of time.
I’m discovering new things to love. A friend introduced me to the delights of Korean and Burmese cuisines. Yum. Seriously, YUM. Taking evening walks in my neighborhood is one of my favorite things. Our temperate climate keeps flowers and shrubs in bloom. I’m partial to Lantana because it’s so cheerful. My neighbors are predominately Indian and Middle Eastern. During my 2-mile loop, I usually hear 4 languages spoken. Women exercise in vibrantly colored sarees and running shoes. One evening I passed a man walking a slow rhythm as he chanted from a beautifully calligraphed text. My neighborhood is alive with activity and color and diversity. It revives my energy on the draggy days.
Settling into a new place brings some loneliness. That’s a natural side effect when you go where you don’t have established relationships. Even though my job is very social, all of the people-time is building time, not resting time. I burn a lot of emotional and physical energy listening, asking questions, and filing stories in my brain as I get to know people. Many days I catch myself daydreaming about friends that are far away. Friends who know me – my history, my hangups, what makes me laugh, and what encourages me.
Earlier this month I flew to Pennsylvania and spent a few days with some of those friends. With Holly, Lauren, and Stephanie, I don’t have to share my story. I could snort or make an off-handed comment and not worry that I might be misinterpreted. I could be silent without the awkwardness. Lauren and I laughed loudly in a restaurant and drew some stares and raised eyebrows, but I didn’t care. It was so good, so freeing and playful, to be with people who know me.
Spending several days with my best friend Stephanie and her daughters was heavenly. I love kids and there were three red heads crawling all over me every waking hour. I got to read dozens of picture books and bring characters to life with accents and intonation. (The baby particularly enjoyed that.) I got to color with fat crayons. I got to wait for the school bus and take walks during breaks in the autumn rain. I sat at the kitchen table and chatted with Stephanie while she cooked us Midwestern fare. (We are native Ohioans and share a love for cheese and Crock-Pot meals.)
During time outs, and nap time, and after bedtime, we talked. We talked for hours, catching each other up about our families and our daily lives. We reminisced about meeting 9 years ago during a grueling interview day at a college; about the four years we worked together at that college; and about the notoriously horrible backpacking trip we took in the PA woods. We talked out some in-the-trenches, serious things and tried to discern the tracks they are making in our souls. We cried together. We laughed. Sometimes we just sat quietly on the same couch. There was peace. I felt loved and known even when we were doing nothing.
Stephanie and I are Anne Shirley and Diana Barry incarnate. She’s a kindred spirit, the sister of my heart. Her life is full and very different from mine, but that made my time with her so refreshing. There’s even science to prove how life-giving her friendship is to me. Check out the contrast between my typical sleep cycle and my sleep cycle the night I got home from vacation!
Fall is charging ahead. Three blinks from now I’ll be celebrating my first anniversary in Silicon Valley. I’m building a life here. It’s good even when it’s draining. There’s potential for rich relationships and ministry. I’m grateful to be here, witnessing new things blooming in and around me.