There are a lot of downsides to relocating every couple of years: uprooting a nearly new home, saying goodbye to friends, trying to find new friends, learning where everything is and then forgetting how to get there... I could go on and on. And yet, there are a few helpful and enjoyable things that I've tried to incorporate with every new move with the hopes that this one, this latest move, will be easier than the one before.
1. Find - and visit - your local library
It's not just enough to know where it is, you have to actually go there! Before we moved overseas, I knew where our local library was and liked its close proximity to our house, but I think I only ventured in there once and it was to use the free internet to buy U2 tickets online in 2001. Shameful!
When we settled in our lovely village in County Meath, I made it my mission to find the nearest library and patronize it. Got a card and everything. And the world - or rather, that tiny part of Ireland - opened up for me, and with it came book club and friends and storytime with the kiddos and wall art on loan, not to mention the books and the lovely Fergus who paid my overdue fine. every. time.
Then, upon arriving back on the scene in the Midwest of the US, I again sought out the library, and walk my kids there weekly, anxious to see what will await us. Visiting your local library (frequently!) grounds you in your community, provides you with excuses to read anything or everything, and may even introduce you to your next best friend. Trust me.
2. Walk around your block, and then the one after that
The best way to not feel like a newbie weirdo in your unfamiliar neighbourhood? Become familiar with it. Walk it, explore it, wave to the neighbours, and repeat. You won't ever feel like you're at home until you recognize its scents, the way the leaves look in the sunset, or the children who call out to your children by name.
The Irish village we called home was easy to walk because, quite frankly, everyone walked. And when you try to pass someone on a very narrow stretch of footpath, you have to say hello. Not only this, but in our village, all the essential places - the shop, the post office, the pub - were all within a short walk. These places are where community happens and being able to walk there, and being willing to walk there, lessens our solitary confinement and enhances our community experience.
And when I walk, I pray. I pray for what I see, what's around me, and who may pass me by. This, more than anything, enhances the love I feel for the place I start to call home.
3. Research the Farmers' Market scene
Looking for good bread from the Mennonites? Love freshly picked flowers on a bright spring morning? Wonder where on earth you're going to find locally resourced honey to help you out with your wicked pollen allergies? Look no further than a Farmers' Market.
There are a handful that gather within 10 miles of our home, but the one I fancy is in downtown Kansas City (that's city centre to my European readers) and I would rather be there than anywhere else on a Saturday morning. The smells and sights and sounds emanating from this large city block make my heart happy. And we usually leave with a stroller-basket-full of fresh, locally grown, clean veggies and fruit. Not to mention cinnamon rolls, kettle corn, spices, daisies, honey (for the girl with eczema), etc., etc.
I've also heard it mentioned that one can find local organic farmers' markets, as well. I'm almost afraid to test this theory as I love our City Market farmers' market just too much and don't want to be tempted to stray. If you do have experience in this, though, feel free to add your thoughts below.
4. Find & play in green space
If you've recently moved to an urban area, this may seem unlikely at first. But at least in our current city, and the ones we've lived near in the past, this is more common than one might think. Look up your zip code (or township) on Google Maps and look for green. And then go there.
We have several beautiful parks out here in the suburbs, many of which have excellent playgrounds for the children to use and abuse, but my favourite parks are always in the city. Whether it's a large urban park with ducks in a pond, or a walking trail down an old trolley line, or even a field at the end of your cul-de-sac, go out and play on some green. You'll meet people, you'll laugh, you'll get dirty, and you'll tire yourself and your children (and/or pets) out and get a good night's sleep. Sounds like a bargain to me.
5. Rethink church
Not just think church, re-think church. I don't mean rethink whether or not you go to church or stop going altogether. On the contrary, there is no better time to evaluate what church means to you (and your family) and how you want faith to shape your home and your life than when you relocate to a new area of the state, country, or world.
Don't just look for that good 'ole denominational back-up, or plop into a new congregation sight unseen. Take some time to research, pray, prioritize, and seek out a faith community. Apart from parenting, there is probably no other greater influence on the life of your marriage, your family and your kids than the place where you will learn about God. The future really is shaped by what we believe about God and how we feel about His Son, Jesus Christ, and what we intend to do with that information.
Do you want your children to worship in church with you? Or are you looking for highly-efficient children's programs? Are you looking for something large with several extracurricular options? Or are you looking for an intimate family of believers? Are you searching for relationships over religion? Do you want your church, your community, and your mission field to blend into one? None of these things are mutually exclusive, but we all have a priority list when it comes to how we want to be involved in our faith. Take your time, visit, and pray... this may be the very best time to step out of one's pew and rethink what church really does mean.
These are just my five things, and there are probably loads more to choose from. If you've relocated recently, what do you suggest? I'm still looking for a few new things to try!