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Making friends

Shortly after W and I moved to North Carolina, my son and I found ourselves at Chick-Fil-A celebrating his second birthday over milkshakes. It was just the two of us, and I inadvertently eavesdropped on a conversation between two women a few tables over. There were four children demanding food, bathroom breaks, Mommy's attention, and the women were talking across tables to each other. (Or maybe I remember it that way so I don't sound like such a busy body.) Either way, I heard them say they were planning a neighborhood Bible study. Because I was new to the area and knew absolutely no one, I introduced myself. To my great surprise, they actually called and invited my family to their study.

I remember when my husband and I were driving to the Bible study, the very first night, and I was reminding him over and over again that we do not want to talk about our next move. If it comes up, we will try to glaze over it, without lying. "Why, yes, he is in the Navy. No, he won't be deploying soon." Let's leave it at that. Who needs to tell our new civilian friends that we will be moving in three years? I could already see them weighing their options: invest in a friendship that has an end date or stick with friendships I already know...? Not a hard choice for a civilian family planning to live in an area indefinitely. I quickly realized that socializing with civilians is very different than fellow Navy wives, maybe good different. Initially, hard different. The first questions I get are: "Oh... he is in the Navy? Will he be leaving soon? Will he go to Iraq?" Well, he is a submariner. I doubt they will be dropping submarines on Iraq anytime soon, so, no (though I am awere there are submariners that do, on occasion, get stationed in Iraq). I would then get a few questions as what he is doing stationed here, in the South, an hour away from the closest base. After briefing my first couple civilians as to what the STA-21 program is, how it affects his naval career, how he's accepted in the core program, what he used to do as a nuclear mechanic, and the difference between a Los Angeles class and Ohio class submarine, I started shortening my response. The glazed looks were a good indicator that I gave too much information. Their response confirmed they didn't hear a word I said, "Oh, so at least he won't be leaving soon, right?"

After coming from a boat where friendships were fast-- maybe too fast sometimes-- the civilian friendships felt hard and difficult to make. I remember calling my Navy girlfriends and complaining that it feels like these women here already have lives and don't need another friend. I felt like the outsider. At my church, I tried to volunteer. I felt-- stronger at the time-- that God wanted me to lead a Bible study to middle school girls. Growing up, my Bible study leader at that age changed my life. She was such a strong and positive influence on me, years after we had parted ways. Even now, the faith instilled in me has powerful roots sprouting from those years. I wanted to do that, be that change for good. Instead, the pastoral staff reiterated that only church members can work with the children (save for volunteering in the nursery, oddly enough). I've had this problem before. My husband and I have discussed it and we feel strongly that we are not going to become members to every church that we attend over the years. It doesn't seem like the best plan of action. Initially, I was very frustrated by this road block. I completely understand there needs to be a system of accountability to leaders in the youth ministries. It is just challenging when you are in a situation like mine, moving every few years, calling a new city home, and being a visitor at your new "home" church. I prayed to God and asked him why he would push me to undertake a task like that knowing they would say no. What does he want me to do with that closed door? I gave that desire over to him and one day I will see what he wants me to do with it.

Now that we have lived here over a year, my heart has softened. Originally I felt a sense of panic when I thought of three long years with civilians, comparing their husbands business trips to underways and deployments. I felt like my words would constantly be in check, my feelings kept to myself, my life unknown to them. It was hard for me to adjust to my husband being home-- constantly-- and hard to let go of the "jealous" feelings, as I call them. I am very jealous of our family time. Now, I am better. Before, I would guard our family time like a bear, making sure that the one weekend he was home would be spent together. He is home every weekend for the next three years. We can make the most of our time during this long stretch, partaking in hobbies we have put off, travelling for pleasure, attending events. I am enjoying this family life, the slow pace of a Saturday spent at home with football on and warm rice krispies all over our fingers.

I have found more friends. I joined local mother's groups, mainly a twin group. I accept every invitation that comes my way that I am able to attend. (My husband's schedule and our young children sometimes make it difficult for me to get away.) When I was still without local friends, I kept an eye out for double strollers or children that played well with D at the park or soft-play area at the mall. Constantly I tell my husband to pass my phone number out to every married couple in ROTC or get their wives' phone numbers for me. There are women here that I have truly connected with. I think you get that vibe as soon as you meet that right friend, the conversation is easy and you both walk away looking forward to the next play date or lunch date. I've been blessed to find women like that at every move. This time just took longer! From where my heart is now, I feel like God has been reminding me of my responsibilities: to rely on him for everything, to be the mother he wants me to be, to be supportive to my husband, to take things in stride, and to turn all things over to him. My oldest son is three now and repeats everything. I cannot complain that I don't have that "good" friend in front of him-- what if my bad attitude rubs off on him? I need to count my blessings. To teach him that God will always provide, even if that is in a different way or at a different time than you expected. I want to instill a sense of adventure, dependence on God, gratitude for time spent together, and a heart that is open to whatever life brings in my boys. But they will not learn those things from books or good wishes; we must live that for them and exhibit the pattern of behaviour my husband and I expect them to imitate.

It really feels like God is taking my heart, once a closed fist, holding on to all my emotions in fear that they would overtake the demands of life as a Navy spouse, and opening it up to new experiences. He is turning this "rut person" in to someone who (almost) looks forward to challenges and embraces change.


Stacy Lynn said…
I admire you, Kimber! After moving five times in two years, I know how hard it can be to make friends in new cities. Hang in there!
NC Buckeye Fans said…
My door's always open! Come play/chat anytime! You're a great writer! We have a blog too for all of our family far away. I am so far behind though.
Kimberly said…
Thank you, Stacy! Lisa, I checked your blog out. I love all the pictures!

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