Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Friends

When we were weighing the pros and cons of moving to Oregon vs. staying in Illinois, one of the big pulls to staying was our network of friends. It was wide and deep and multi-tiered with old friends, new friends, and everything in between. When we moved to Newberg five months ago (has it already been that long?) we knew my Mom, her husband, and had a few acquaintances. The rest was a big question mark and it was an intimidating place to be. To complicate things, we moved in the middle of the summer so our kids didn't have an instant network of ready-made friends at a new school to pull from and it put me in a position of being intentional about finding friends for the kids.

I prayed fervently for the Lord to lead me to friends for the kids and for Curt and I, then set to work to meet new people. In the first week we lived in Newberg, we signed up for the reading program at the library, for swimming lessons, for pre-school, for MOPS, and for Vacation Bible School. We went to various parks around the Newberg area and I got very familiar with the "Hi. I'm Jodi. We just moved from Chicago. What's your name and how old are your kids?" mantra. But as we traipsed around, God orchestrated the days and times of our activities and started answering my prayers.

At swimming lessons we met Lauren and her three kids, Alex, Collin and Jack. Jack was in Alli's class and they were like two peas in a pod, creating mischief and looking irresistible while they did it. Lauren and I exchanged numbers and an easy friendship started to form. In a matter of a few weeks, we were getting together regularly and she watched Paige for me every Wednesday for an hour so I could volunteer at the elementary school.
A week after being in our rental, we were invited to a neighborhood block party and we met the Russell family who had a daughter Grant's age and a son close to Alli's age. Bobbi is a Newberg native and was gracious enough to initiate being my local tour guide. She took me to cool parks, included me in outings she was planning, and saved us the best possible spots to watch the annual Newberg Old Fashioned Days parade. She and Eric attend Solid Rock and encouraged us to come with them. We went one time and knew we'd found our new church home.

Bobbi introduced me to her sphere of friends on our street, and that's how I met Kelly. Her two boys match up perfectly in age and disposition with Grant and Paige and immediately frequent play dates became part of my schedule. Lucky for us, Kelly and I really connected and before we knew it, we were having weekly coffee, swapping kids to exercise, and dragging bus stop visits into lengthy conversations.

Our first week at our new church, I overheard James talking about a triathlon he completed, so I butted into his conversation and introduced him to Curt. His wife Laura loves running like I do and they have four kids, in rapid succession, just like us. We had instant connections on multiple levels and quickly developed a deep friendship. Even though we live 45 minutes apart, we feel intimately connected to them and relish every chance we have to get together.

At VBS I met Milly, a gorgeous European who happened to sell Mary Kay (I was out of every product I owned) and lives in the neighborhood we just moved to. Her daughter Jordan is becoming one of Alli's good friends and her gift of hospitality is so comforting. She always has hot tea and coffee cake ready for visits at her house.

We joined a house church and began developing friendships with Andrew and Minnie and Nick and Kari. A recent women's event began the start of new relationships with Jessie, Raina and Christy and I'm excited to see where they go.

Good friends of ours who live in Seattle introduced us to their best friends who live locally in the Portland area. Wendy and Drew embraced us and introduced us to their whole circle of friends. A few play dates, a couple of BBQ's and the circle kept expanding.

When Alli started school, I gained Amber, and her daughter Faith, as quick friends for both Alli and I, and when I attended my first MOPS session, my table leader, Sandra, and I laughed at all we had in common, including sons and daughters the same age in the same classes at school. Sarah Farris had a daughter Katie's age, lives within a mile of our new home, and recently relocated from down South, so we had a lot to talk about as well.

This Sunday we started digging through the boxes in our garage. It was unseasonably warm and the entire neighborhood was out enjoying the 60 degree December day. We realized that the street directly above us is LOADED with kids and all these families quickly initiated introductions between their kids and ours. Within minutes the empty lot next to ours was full of kids, ours included, playing in the mud, rappelling the rock retaining wall, riding bikes or playing football. Kids came and went in groups between about 5 houses and I lost track of the names of all the neighbors I met who welcomed us warmly with open arms.

When the kids toured their new school, Grant was able to bring his new best friend with him to check stuff out and it seemed to ease his anxiety about starting a school because he got to experience it first with Alden.

Moving to our new home this past week was really eye-opening. Friends came out of the woodwork to offer help with watching the kids, packing and unpacking boxes, schlepping furniture, and loading and unloading the UHAUL. Our entire work crew, with the exception of my Mom's husband, was made up of guys from our house church. My Newberg girlfriends showed their girl power and helped me haul all the mattresses and box springs over and provided fun places for the kids to play so I could power on with projects uninterrupted.

Today as I reflected on their kindness, I realized that God had answered my prayers for friends not just for the kids, but for Curt and I as well. In a short span of time, our family already has a circle of wonderful people, from all walks of life, who have welcomed us into their homes, their lives and their hearts. I miss my friends from Illinois, but these new friends have softened the pain of separation and enriched my life and I am so grateful. In a blink of an eye, these new friends, will be old and dear friends and I love that.

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