When You’re a Stranger

When You're A Stranger

When You're A Stranger

Have you ever moved away from home to be a stranger in a new place?

I know I’m not the only one who has. I know that I’m not the only one who has packed up everything and left everyone and started over somewhere new. When I married my husband, we boxed up the collections of my lifetime; old quilts folded next to glistening new wedding gifts, the books from my childhood packed with bowls and linens for a new life ahead. Together, we drove half-way across the country to make a home together. A new home.

I’m a California girl who was born and raised in a city that is nestled between Los Angeles and Santa Monica. I love it there. Somedays, I close my eyes and I think about the warm sunshine that covers you like a blanket. I think of farmer’s markets, juice shops, sea salt air, avocados, and freshly made tortillas. I think of those beach days and bonfire nights and the desert and the mountains and palm trees that turn to joshua trees that turn to redwoods and how beautiful my home state is. The days I miss California the most are the ones where I think of the crest of a wave before it crashes on the shore and when I think of my family and friends who are there and feel so incredibly far away.

Moving to the suburbs of Chicago has been an adventure, but it isn’t easy every day. I am a stranger in a place I do not know and do not understand. It’s winter now and Chicago is covered by a blanket of sparkling white snow and the longer I am here, the longer I feel like I don’t quite belong. It’s been almost a year, and I still feel like a stranger.

Being a stranger has looked like days off with no one to spend them with and going to see a movie alone because your husband is working and your friends live hundreds of miles away. Being a stranger is starting over and missing the deep relationships you left behind. Being a stranger is clinging to the one person who is home now. With my husband I can find home here in the cold and the ice and the wasteland of this winter because without him, the warm life-filled California days wouldn’t feel like home again for very long.

God has made us a promise. He will never leave us or forsake us and He will be with us wherever we go. It’s a beautiful thought to know that even on the days that I feel the most alone, my Heavenly Father is there, gently teaching me to rely on Him for my needs. The seasons of emptiness are in my life as reminder to find my fullness in Christ and in Him alone.

Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up. | Charles Haddon Spurgeon

There is a longing, though, for community. Being surrounded by strangers and then realizing that it’s me who is the stranger, the outsider – those are the times when I feel most alone. I have my husband, and we are both anchored in the promises that God has given us but we both feel the ache for a community and the longing for the people we love, and for the friends who used to be so close by.

I am a stranger.

Maybe you’ve been a stranger too.

Maybe you still are and you know what it’s like to leave and to move and to wander and the start over. I’d love to hear your story because, maybe if we are all strangers together, then we won’t be strangers any more.

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  • <3 Yes to this! We moved about four months ago and I'm still feeling like a stranger! It's wonderful to be reminded that Jesus knows my heart!

    • Hello Susannah! Yes – knowing that Christ is with us is the best promise to cling to.

  • Oh sweet Cassie! I totally understand how you feel! For me the hardest days are when I know my family is gathering for a celebration, or friends are getting together to hang out! Or when Beckett was born and my parents were in town for a few weeks, but then had to leave….

    I promise, it does get better and it does get easier! Above all, I would encourage you to use this time to really cling to Austin and Christ. Recognize that as a wife, you are now defined in a new manner – after Christ, your husband comes first – before your family or friends. It’s a concept that is easy to say, but harder to necessarily put into practice. For the short time that Brandon and I lived near my family after we were married I realized that I was still often turning to my parents for advice and direction (out of habit more than anything) – moving away from family and friends has made me really make Brandon my rock and embrace our new little family.

    My other piece of advice would be to put yourself out there! This has not been an easy thing for me – I hate the awkwardness of bridging new relationships 🙂 Church is a great place to start – is there a bible study or women’s group you can get connected to? Have you met your neighbors or looked into places where you can volunteer? Remember, new friendships take time – embrace this opportunity to look for opportunities where you and Austin can make new friends together as a couple – that has been something fun for Brandon and I to do.

    Maybe this isn’t an issue for you at all, but watch out for falling into a pattern of bitterness when you feel lonely. I know there have been times where I have felt like I gave up everything when I got married and moved to MN (family, friends, location, job, etc.) and Brandon gave up nothing….let me tell you that is a dangerous road to travel down! Be open with Austin about your feelings, but look at yourselves as a unit – rather than 2 separate individuals – and try and think about living in Chicago in that context. What is better for you as a married couple.

    You are so right – God will NEVER leave us or forsake us and this is a great time to really reflect on the truth of that promise in your life!


  • Actually I have lived within 30 miles of my birth place my whole life! Very nice post.

  • I can completely relate to your post! I grew up in southeast Alabama and moved to Baltimore, Maryland for a couple of years before coming back down south.

    I didn’t know a soul in Maryland and was a stranger. It wasn’t until I met my best friend that I started feeling like less of an outsider. Maryland living was a completely different way of life for me, which I am sure you can understand!

  • I can relate so well. I just moved from Canada to Wisconsin. It’s so different here. It’s been four months and I am still a stranger.

  • Thanks for sharing this, I’ve been here before as well. I used to move a lot when I was younger since my parents were in the hospitality business and were transferred from city to city. It was hard leaving behind old friends and having to create new connections, but it really shaped the person I am today. Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


  • Oh, Cass, this is beautiful. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to move far away from my family and community I love so much. I so admire the bravery of you (and Julianne!) to follow your husbands where God is leading. Love you much and I will continue to pray that every day God will be grafting you into your community, bring you amazing local friends to create relationships with and enable you to bloom where you are planted. ((bit italian hugs))

  • I have moved a lot and I actually like the catharsis of a move. Getting rid of old literal and figurative junk. Starting fresh. Clean slate. I love it actually. (With the change in climate be sure to take you vitamin D!!)

  • I think there are many instances where we are considered strangers, not just when we move somewhere new. The feeling of being a stranger, even if it is at a new yoga class, is exciting but scary!

  • A new day – we are strangers to it. I tell my teenage sister to look around and notice that there are strangers all around her and so they are all potential new experiences. Before you know it – the new will soon be the familiar and it will be exciting for you to show it off to the “new” person.

  • I’ve lived in Nashville my whole life and my husband and I talk sometimes about moving away and starting over, but I think I would miss my family and city too much! I admire you for being brave enough and starting over again.

  • Love that quote! Frankly, I’m so excited for the day when my family can move to a new place. I’m sure it’s much easier to do as a family, though.

  • I first moved from India to USA seven years ago to do my masters and totally relate to feeling like a stranger. And just about 6 months ago my husband and I moved from New York City to Seattle, leaving behind our closest friends and lots of memories. Though I feel like a stranger in Seattle I am trying to look at it as an opportunity to meet more people and build new friendships, its hard but I have been fortunate enough to meet a few very interesting and genuine people and that gives me hope!
    You can do it too, it takes patience, time and effort but totally worth it. Hope you are able to make good friends soon!
    xx, Kusum | http://www.sveeteskapes.com

  • Last year was my third state move since being an adult. This last move was a lot easier than the first two moves. I believe living in Illinois was the hardest because of the weather. I felt like a stranger there for the first 3 or so years, We lived there for almost 10. It was the place I did my most growing. I really got to know myself. I pray that it gets easier for you.

  • Hey girl. i forgot to mention how much I am loving your blog. Super relevant and I love your writing. Good job!

  • Oh my heart breaks for you. I’ve been there. I moved to a town I knew exactly no one. I didn’t make a friend for months. I made acquaintances and familiar faces… But friends came slowly. 2 years into living in this town I found my niche. I know that’s not comforting. It does take a long time. I still deel homesick and miss things about home but this has become my place and when I’m away from here I miss it too. Prayers for you and comfort. Winter is especially hard.