Out with the old.

My confirmation came 18 months after we moved into the ward.

My mother-in-law came to stay with us last January (January 2012). By time April rolled around she was still staying with us, still going to church with us at least 75% of the time, and still being asked in Relief Society if she was a visitor.

That's a long time to be introduced each week.

When we moved into our ward in July 2010 we left an amazing ward in Flagstaff. We seriously loved it. We had people we could call in any situation - fun, baby sitting, emergencies - you name it. But, to be honest, there were some who felt less favorable about it. We were NOT those people. It was the epitome of home for us, with no family - a really impressive equation.

Our family, first week in our new home, July 2012

Then we moved 5 hours away into our new ward. The first couple months were tough. We felt like we still didn't know anyone after faithfully attending every week. We spoke in sacrament meeting after living in the ward a couple weeks. People would approach us the next three Sundays to tell us what a great job we did but never any other comments, never an introduction, never an invitation to anything.

It was about nearly three months into our membership in our new ward before I was given a calling and by that time I felt kind of useless. Really, I could go on and on about how half the ward was related to half the ward and how they had family close by and didn't need to reach out. But we needed it, really badly. We never DIDN'T go to church, because us going to church wasn't about people in our ward - and thank goodness for that. But it was tough sometimes, especially when Ted had to work Sundays.

To put it plainly, we felt isolated and unimportant.

We thought, "Maybe it's us. Maybe we just don't fit in here or we're stranger than we thought."

So when my mother-in-law shared her feelings, I felt validated. After a year and a half in a ward where I still mostly felt like an outsider, save a few families we love, I felt like maybe it wasn't just me. Or maybe it was and it was her too.

I talked with my two best friends about this situation in depth and both gave the same response. "You'll know from this experience what not to do, how you don't want to be."

I thought, after this experience, moving again would be another gamble. Moving always is. You never know just what you're going to fall into, not entirely. This gamble seems to have been in our favor.

Our newest home, a terrible angle, but a picture to break up the text. :)

Maybe it was because of our terrible experience in our old ward or maybe this ward really is just awesome but we feel rejuvenated. - And not just us, Ted's mom feels the same way.

Our first Sunday in our new ward, I felt that we left knowing easily as many people as we did in our old ward the Sunday before. I feel, living here, that I matter again. And I don't think I fully understood how unimportant I felt there until we moved here. People have been kind, inviting, open. Our first week here, a sister up the block came and grabbed the girls for an hour just to play. We've been invited to dance recitals and dance camp, swim lessons, lunch at the elementary school, and library story time. I got a calling this week! We've received more invitations to more activities in our first 3 weeks here than we did in our first 6 months.

My point is not comparison of wards as much as comparison of experiences and our circumstances in our lives. I actually would never say our old ward was terrible all together - there were a lot of people that were kind but there were also many that seemed too caught up in their own lives to think about someone else.

What changed? Am I a different person? Did I forget to brush my teeth for the majority of those two years? Are people here unusually ugly and by comparison we're stunning? I don't think anything has changed and I am not saying this place is perfect. I'm also not saying the last place we lived was entirely bad (as previously mentioned) but our experiences so far have taught me a lot. This has taught me the value of something simple - an introduction, the offer of your phone number (just in case it's needed!), sharing a story time schedule you never read that was on your fridge. Simple gestures can make a huge difference and I'm going to try so hard to remember that as we meet new people - new neighbors, co-workers, and friends at church. Because if I'm not better for my experiences then it was wasted.


Heather said...

Man, I am sorry you had to deal with that. I have also experienced the isolation and it is heart breaking. Like you, it has given me perspective and made me want to be more proactive in seeking out friendships. Yet that is often easier said than done! I am so happy your new ward is so welcoming!

With our recent move we moved back into our old ward of 7 years. Yet during the 2 years we have been away so many things have changed and we are the newbies. I have yet to really connect with anyone and having little ones makes it hard to attend all the meetings and extra ativities with Phil's schedule.

Beth said...

I should post this as anonymous in case anyone in the ward reads it! :) But you summed it up nicely. We're coming up on 2 years almost and I still only know maybe a dozen different names/families. It's definitely a learning experience if nothing else.

Erica said...

Moving is hard...especially if you don't "mesh" with your ward. All wards are good, but not all wards are a "fit" for your family. We have definitely learned that over the years. Sometimes it almost makes the anticipation of moving and finding a place to live scary. I sometimes worry, "Is this ward going to be a fit for us?" Now, I also know how important it is for me to step a little bit out of my comfort zone and introduce myself and get involved quickly when I move into a new ward.

Also, Congrats on #3! How exciting! Hope you are starting to feel better.