to belong

home is where the heart is Five years ago we pulled into this tiny town in our rattly red Ford Taurus, not knowing a single person. Not a one.

I spent that first year here living long days in our blue carpeted rental, desperately trying to feel at home. To find my people. To reach out. To build relationships and connect.

My heart longed to have face to face conversations that went beyond the polite how are you? I'd push the shopping cart through the aisles and hope to lock eyes with a familiar face. Library story time was spent scanning the room for a kind smile. You can bet I'd give my right arm for an invitation for coffee. And I don't even drink the stuff.

All I wanted was to belong.

Because not belonging? It's hard. Lonely. Scary.

And it's humbling. Especially for a girl who had spent her entire life surrounded by dear friends. Never the new girl, never the outsider. I was the outsider.

Until I wasn't. I'm ever grateful to the women here who invited me along. The ones who called and e-mailed, the ones who said I'll meet you there! and Come with! It will be fun. The ladies who love me and my family. The ones who offered up their friendship with open arms and the dearest hearts.

This outsider now feels like she belongs. And now I'm the one diving in to reach out to others.

On a bit of a whim a few years ago, I started a weekly moms group at our church. I wondered if anyone would show up or if it would be me all alone twiddling my thumbs. It turned out to be a mixed bag of sorts - some weeks moms would come in droves and other weeks it would be me and one other. Either way, on Thursday mornings, the doors were always open with possibility.

One morning brought a gal with long blonde hair and kind eyes. She was new to the group and new to town. We chatted and laughed and swapped stories for two hours while kiddos played at our feet. When she left she thanked me again and again for hosting the group. I've been searching for something like this. You made my day she said. And I knew exactly what she meant.

With my little guy in elementary school now, I've uncovered new ways to include and befriend, but for years I kept showing up for the moms group and reaching out. Even if it meant setting everything up and then no one else showing. Because someone might've come. And it might've just been their ticket to belonging.

Today, friends, I would love for you to take that first step. Share your smile freely. Shine your light. Seek someone out and wave her over to sit with you. Compliment her scarf. Ask her questions and listen to her story. Meet her for coffee or a coke. Tell her you're so happy to know her and mean it. Link arms with her and smile knowing you are both loved something fierce by the One who was generous enough to create friendship.

There is always someone looking to belong.

And there is room enough for everyone.