We tried to keep up with our families up in Delaware and North Dakota (and siblings scattered from Michigan to Africa), but our social network was made up of college friends and members of the Chinese church we attended.
When the school year ended, we decided to spend some time near Christopher’s family and community as we prepared to move overseas. A year later, we felt the Lord’s redirection from overseas ministry and had to decide where we would live.
I had enjoyed the past year of putting down some roots and getting to know Christopher’s family and community more. I’d never lived in one place more than seven years, so we decided to stay put.
It’s been almost three years now since moving here–good, hard, fun, exciting, vision-searching years. God has continued to lovingly draw me out of my comfort zone as I’ve begun to find my place here.
Here are a few things I’ve learned since being transplanted into my husband’s community:
1. Relationships take time.
When I was living in a college dorm, everyone had to actively make friends or have none. Friendships were measured by the semester, and I had to figure out who I was going to keep up with once graduation happened and everyone scattered across the world like confetti.
The ground felt much more solid when we moved to the same town where Christopher’s great-great grandparents had lived. I noticed that there wasn’t as much of a rush to deepen relationships as on the college campus. Interactions felt more like a slow cooker than a microwave.
I had to learn to relax in these new relationships and enjoy the seasoning process.
2. His family isn’t mine (and that’s okay).
I’m so grateful for my in-laws and the life perspective I get when I’m with them. It helps me understand my husband better and be more accepting of traditions and ways of doing things as we build up our own little family. (Things like adding seasoned salt to popcorn, singing before meals, and appreciating a well-told story.)
At Christmas, we spent some time with my family and Christopher said, “You’re like a totally different person with your family.” My counselor reminded me that I had a whole lot more shared experiences with my own family, and as I get to know my in-laws better, I’ll grow into my place there, too.
3. There’s nothing wrong with observing (or not knowing).
Sometimes when I was in a group setting, I worried about not contributing to the conversation. I feared they thought I was rude. I had to learn that it was okay to enjoy breathing the same air and just listen.
And when stories were told from “before my time,” I could appreciate the history of the place I’m living.
4. I have the unique opportunity to enjoy and bless other transplanted wives.
I’ve found that there can be a certain camaraderie between other transplanted wives if we are only brave enough to share our experiences with each other. And what a relief to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t know how everyone is related.
It’s also a good excuse to be the one to welcome someone who is even newer to the community than me. We can even relate to missionaries who are coming back to the States and finding their place in the culture and community again.
When I had a baby, I got to know women who had already been wiping up sticky floors for a few years. Christopher got connected with friends who play music and enjoy board games.
It’s been a blessing to feel the freedom to pursue friendships individually and as a couple.
6. I can enjoy new ministry pursuits.
When I lived in North Dakota in high school, I regularly played on a worship team at church. In South Carolina, I taught 3-5th grade Sunday School for three years. When I moved here, I was able to start fresh and ask God where I would best fit at this stage in my life.
7. Being bold brings blessing. (Do you like that alliteration?)
I’ve need this pep talk regularly. When I’ve quit worrying about how I’m being perceived and shared my own life and struggles with others, it’s opened up the way for others to do the same. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t sit next to each other in kindergarten or that we didn’t graduate from the same high school. Maybe we can’t laugh over shared memories yet, but we can enjoy life right now and listen to each others’ histories.
So if you’re a transplanted wife, know that there are others in the same canoe. We might just be too shy to say anything yet.
On the other hand, if you’ve been planted in the area your whole life, we can’t wait to get to know you, too, (and hear some embarrassing stories about our husbands.)
What have you learned as a transplanted wife?