Seven months ago, my husband and I packed all our belongings into the back of a Penske truck and moved south to follow a calling God had given us. We left behind all our friends, family (well, we did take our two boys!), and everything we knew as we started on this adventure. We didn’t know what awaited us. When my husband and I had visited 2 months earlier, I remember distinctly feeling that everything was different here and it was.

When we pulled down our new street, two of the sweetest people were waiting to welcome us home. Their names were Ted and Bonnie, and they were our new 88 and 82-year-old neighbors. With giant hugs, Dunkin Donuts, and some Southern sweet tea, they welcomed us into our new home. My tears were ready to emerge after days of traveling through all kinds of weather. We were home.

What I came to realize was that the sweet lady from across the street was much more than our welcoming committee. As our friendship grew, she became the person I was able to turn to for prayer when I couldn’t tell the people of our new church my sadness as I began the process of walking through all these new pieces of life. I could sit at her kitchen table and simply cry my eyes out. She never judged me, but simply prayed, listened, and gave advice as she could.

My time in the South has been filled with people just like Bonnie. Recently, I celebrated my 36th birthday. This year was quite different than years in the past. My small family of four celebrated together instead of having a large party at Godfather’s Pizza. It’s our tradition, but this year was different. While I very much miss my family in Minnesota, I’m thankful for the friend family I now have here in Tennessee.

A wonderful lady decided to throw me a girls night birthday party. She gathered together ladies who have become my friends through different groups I meet with during the month. At the birthday table that night, there were women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and of course Miss Bonnie. As I sat there looking at these women, I realized how each one of them had blessed my heart over these last seven months. Each had played their role. My 30-something peers walk through life with me as we raise our babes and love our husbands. The 40-something ladies share the ups and downs of having kids starting to leave home. We laugh, cry, and pray for their children as they spread their wings. My 50-something friends share their wisdom from having an empty nest and all that means now.

While I am busy learning from these special ladies, I also have taken time to share life with the generations to come. Recently, our youth led worship on a Sunday morning. We all joined together to pray before service began. After taking time to intentionally pray for the teens who would lead the entire congregation in worship, I was overwhelmed with such great joy as one of the teens reached over and began to pray life-giving prayers over me. These teens knew how to pray and minister because they had spent time learning alongside some of us not-so-young adults.

There is something special about living life with the generations around us. We all have something to give and something to learn. Each of these ladies plays a vital role in my life. Sometimes I give and they receive, sometimes it’s the other way around. That is why having generational friends is so important.