I jumped into life here when we moved to Oregon two months ago. No stranger to moving, I knew the drill of setting up a new home: bring toilet paper and trash bags, because you won’t find them when you’ve got nothing but packed boxes. Let the kids draw on said boxes as a way to pass time until their toys reveal themselves. Go easy on the menu plan for the first month, because you won’t yet know the right grocery store or the best place to store your spices.

And also, jump into community as quickly as possible.

That last one is true for me, anyway. As an extroverted introvert, I need people almost as much as I need alone time. People are what make a place feel real to me, more like home. When I reminisce over my former residences, it’s the people that first delight my consciousness, not the restaurants. So I know it’s true for any of my new locales as well: I need to find my peeps.

There’s something beautiful and reassuring and restful about friends who know you well. They’ve been there for years, or they just get a side of you more than the usual crowd. Perhaps you have a shared history, or maybe you relish in the same passion.

I’m finding new friends in Bend, and I’ve delighted in the friendly atmosphere found in small-town culture. I sip that coffee as I eagerly hear the heart of a new friend across the table. But all the more, new environments pull me into inward thankfulness for those tried-and-true relationships.

I’m not saying it’s the easiest thing in the world for me to make friends. But it’s worth it for me to trudge through my insecurities, fears, and awkwardness to do it.

This past weekend I was in Hilton Head with fellow (in)courage writers. Normally scattered from Seattle to Florida, we gathered in a beach house to dream, pray, walk, and laugh. Mostly laugh. And tweet each other from two feet away.

I already knew most of these girls. These are women with whom I’ve journeyed across the world, who’ve sat in a bar next to me and made fun of my tiny purse, and in whose lap I sat as we careened down a mountain.

They’ve also share their stories—deeply personal stories—over late-night Skype chats, and they’ve sent exactly the right email at exactly the right time. They get my business side, they get my writerly side, and they get the weirdness of what it is I do.

In short… these women are my tribe. And I’m so blessed to have them.

Created for fellowship

We are made for relationships, of all sorts I believe. We need people similar to us, different than us, from different cultures and life stages and ages. We crave just one person to get us, the real us, and who’ll take our late-night calls.

And yet many of us settle for the convenient or the absent. We may look for awhile, but we give up when it’s not easy. We chalk it up to a challenging stage in life (little ones in the house), an environment that’s not exactly what we’d prefer (this church isn’t as perfect as I’d like), or simply a difference in personality (I don’t really jive with anyone I know).

Our lives are fuller and sweeter when there are kindred spirits to walk alongside. We find meaning and purpose when we have people to serve. God speaks to us in many ways, but in my life, He often likes to use people—we miss out on a unique perspective from Him if we don’t let others in our life.

This looks different for all of us, of course. Some of us would be overwhelmed with more than one comrade in our life, while others may need a veritable entourage. But I’d hate for any of us to miss out on true companionship because we didn’t look for it.

Here are ways I’ve found my life’s dearest friends:

1. Be a friend.

Know that corny phrase, “The best way to find a friend is to be a friend”? It’s actually kinda true. Practice the lovely art of listening, serving, and caring—not to get something back, but just because. These acts alone will fill your cup.

2. Open up.

Take a chance and share your heart. As you know someone longer, share with them deeper. Don’t hold on to needless fear when it would mean missing out on soul care from a friend.

3. Be open to new things.

Drive yourself to that book club, as difficult it might be. Call a new neighbor over for coffee, even though you’d wish someone would invite you for a change. Register for that conference and see what happens. Create that playgroup so that you can find the adult conversation you crave.

I’ve made the most surprising friends in the most unexpected places, all because I dared to do something new.

4. Take care of yourself.

Don’t expect your friends to solve your problems, never fail you, or be God. Practice the fine art of taking care of yourself, so that you are able to be a thriving, functioning adult. Let your friends care for you when it’s needed, but don’t ask more from a fellow human when they’re just not made to give it.

I’d love to hear from you: Where have you found a friend in an unexpected place? How do you like to meet new people? Or what do you do to combat loneliness?