I sat, perched in my seat, silently struggling to pay attention to the sermon the pastor was preaching. Instead, my eyes flitted around the room. I wondered if this was where we belonged.
We were visiting another new church for the first time. Finding a church after moving was proving to be one of my least favorite things to do. I missed the familiar. Saying goodbye to those we’d known and loved well still stung. After our recent move across the country, over 1,200 miles away from the home we had known for the previous 13 years, we hoped a place to worship and serve would help us begin to feel at home.
This small church reminded me of the one we attended back in Texas. As my eyes wandered, I noticed there were several families like ours with young children. We had an 18-month-old son and another little boy on the way at that time. I looked at the other moms around the room. Would we end up being friends?
A few weeks later, we decided it was a place we should stay and get connected. I kept looking at those other moms, smiling, pretty, and friendly enough. But they all seemed to know each other so well already. Their kids already played together, grinning and giggling with one another. I learned that most of these families were founding members of this young church that had started just a few years prior. It had been a long time since I was the new person at a church. I was sure these ladies didn’t really need my friendship. But I was equally sure I did need theirs. I made up my mind to take a chance, to jump in with both feet and see where I landed.
One of those smiling moms came up to me after church the next Sunday to introduce herself and welcome us. She told me about a local petting zoo she thought my little boy would like. Later that week, I looked her up on Facebook and sent her a message. Hesitantly, I asked if she and her kids would like to go with us to the place she had recommended. She said yes, and she even invited a few other moms from church too.
I walked up to the entrance, excited and nervous about spending time with these ladies. From the first smiles and greetings, I could tell how genuinely kind and caring they were. In the warm sunshine, the smell of hay and animals filled the air. Our children scampered from chickens to goats, sheep, and other farm animals. Some eagerly wanting to touch them, others wanting to keep their distance from these strange and noisy creatures. Over packed lunches, we chatted as we watched our little ones on the playgrounds. We took pictures. The conversations flowed so easily that day. To me, it felt more like a normal get together than a first meeting.
There were four moms and about a dozen kids, on that first outing. And from there we kept getting together…more moms, and more kids! We gathered at the park for play dates and for prayer. We met for story time at the library. We savored picnics and ice cream. We united during Bible studies and moms’ groups. We shared life for two short years.
Too quickly another job opportunity came up for my husband, and we moved back across the country…again! Heartbroken, I left the wonderful friends I’d worked hard to make in this short time.
Back in Texas, in a completely different city, starting over again proved equally daunting. We didn’t know a single person. After moving twice in less than three years, would I have the strength to care about people that much again? Or would it be better to keep to myself and not let my heart get invested this time?
The scene was the same, in a different place. I sat in churches trying to listen while looking around and wondering. This time was even harder than the last. Our now three-year-old son missed the friends he knew and loved. It broke my mama’s heart to see his nervous face each week, and for him to refuse to go to children’s church.
Finally, one Sunday, he walked into a room where a handful of other children his age were playing. I sat in the service with my husband praying he might enjoy class this time. In the bulletin, I noticed a list of openings for singers and musicians on the worship team. Being a lifelong pianist and singer, I have always been part of worship at church and hoped this might be a great opportunity to use my musical skills to meet new people and get involved.
When we picked up our little boy, for the first time in weeks, he was smiling! At each church we visited previously I asked him, “Did you have fun?” Until then it had been, “No, I don’t know anybody.” That Sunday when I asked him the same question, his answer was finally different. “Mommy, I had fun. I played with a new friend. Her name is Vivian.” I thought to myself that I needed to meet Vivian’s mom. A few weeks later, I met Vivian’s mom and shared the story of her sweet daughter’s kindness. Her friendliness is a big reason why we decided our church was the right place for us. Both mom and daughter are precious friends to us to this day.
Now we have a whole new community of friends in yet another place on the map. We meet friends at church, at mom’s groups, Bible studies, and many times just by striking up a conversation at the park. I don’t know how long our current location will be our home, or how many more places we will go on this journey. But I know wherever we go, I will meet people I want to get to know and love.
I have left and will continue to leave pieces of my heart all over the map. Each place I have lived, from my childhood home, and during the 20 years of my married life, every city and state, holds a little piece of it. My life is sweeter and richer because of the people I have met along this road of life. I cherish the friendships and the memories I carry from each one. In some form or another, we will always be connected. There is room for everyone, always space for one more friend, because the map of my heart reaches far and wide.
Angela Sensenig is a follower of Jesus Christ, a wife, and mother of two little boys (and one little dog). She is a former teacher now embracing her role as a stay at home mom. She finds joy singing and playing the piano, riding horses, and running. Through the changing seasons of life and family, it is her goal to practice contentment and gratitude every day. She is so thankful to God for grace, His unfailing love, and for the gift of motherhood. She loves being a mom so much that she started a blog in hopes to share encouragement about life through God’s Word and her reflections on raising children. She is passionate about learning and sharing Biblical truths that will enrich and refresh the hearts of mothers everywhere. You can find more of her writing on her blog. You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Thankful Mommy on Pinterest.