Cultivating Meaningful Friendships

Six small-town secrets that lead to authentic relationships

I'm a small town girl. I love connected communities where the beauticians know everyone's business, where men ride their lawn mowers in the 4th of July parade, and where the mayor is also the school bus driver. So I experienced a huge culture shock when I had my first baby, and ten days later moved to the big city for my husband's new job. Four months later, just as I was beginning to adjust, the company moved us to Switzerland. I know that many women would have grabbed their fondue pots and jumped on the plane with glee, but I was devastated. I'd moved my parents' first grandchild to the big city eight hours away—and now I was taking him to a foreign land across the ocean.

I didn't know it then, but those moves were only the beginning. After 25 years of belonging in my small, familiar hometown, I was embarking on a moving adventure that would include eight moves in nine years. In less than a decade, we lived in five states, seven cities, and one foreign country. I also gave birth to three boys in four years during that time. Through all those stressful transitions, I learned a lot about the importance of cultivating meaningful friendships.

As small towns are overtaken by suburban sprawl, we're losing our sense of connected community. Depressed and lonely people are everywhere—even in the church—and heartfelt friendships are becoming as scarce as hen's teeth. Many of us have an abundance of only shallow, "smile and wave" acquaintances. And we carry a void in our hearts that can only be filled by deep, authentic relationships with God and others.

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