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  • Writer's pictureJenni Lien

How to Build a Life in a New City | Advice for Ambitious Christian Girlies (+ Pep Talk!)

Interested in how to build a new life in a new city? Are you in the midst of doing this or maybe you want to one day? In this episode, I cover the three things I’m focusing on during these first few weeks in Taipei, things that I feel set me up for success during past moves from Canada to Singapore and Hong Kong. The episode ends with a pep talk to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus this season because we are smart women and want to focus on the right things, amen? Let’s kick out unhelpful worldly opinions and live life according to the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) — the one whose opinion matters. Life with the Lord is the most fun adventure — if we will walk in faith and believe! Themes: Expat life, living abroad, moving abroad, obeying God era, holy girl era, Christian entrepreneurship, pursuing a God-given dream, Christian girl, Christian woman

Listen to You Are You Christian podcast for women on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Or for my reading-lovers out there (I'm with you!), the transcript is below.

Hi friends! Hope you’re having a good start to the week. I’m prepping this from my dining room table, after some prayer and worship time. And journaling. I’ve felt my morning journaling sessions with God have been extra sweet lately because there’s so much going on. So much change and trying to be faithful and surrendering fears — and realizing again that there’s nothing like being close to God.

Living with a heart position of drawing near to God every day because we love him and know we’re loved is so healthy. I think logically we all know this is the best way to live but sometimes things like shame and control can keep us away from his best. So, to start, I just pray that 2023 — just over four months left to go — is a year where we did our best to surrender and walk in faith more than ever, trusting that God will never let us down. It doesn’t matter if we doubted or messed up months, weeks, days, even minutes ago. Today we can lay down our burdens, our crowns, anything that we know is keeping us from fully surrendering to him — and commit to following his lead once again.

So with this episode, I thought it might be useful to share about how I’m building a new life in a new city in real time — in case you’re thinking about doing this or simply wanting to meet new people or make some life changes right where you are.

In case you didn’t know, I’m Canadian and have lived abroad basically my whole post-uni adult life. I started The Yay Project and this podcast when I was living in Hong Kong, and was there for 7 years, but before that I lived in Singapore, where I moved right after undergrad and was there for 4 years. So this season in Taipei is my third time living abroad.

I got bit by the ‘living abroad’ bug during my time in Singapore. Before then, I’d basically completed all of my education in the same city — from elementary school to undergrad — and was so excited to travel and explore more of the world. Living and working in Singapore during those impressionable post-grad days shaped me so much. Not only was I navigating the workplace and paying my own bills and all that, but I needed to build a whole life — find a church, friends, figure out my career direction, etc. The personal growth, being challenged and stretched, was so intense in the best way, and helped me see that things we dream really can come true. Moving to Hong Kong was slightly different in that I was being transferred with my company but I still needed to build a new life and surrender to God’s expected and unexpected stretching. I’m excited to see what the next few months will bring. But one step at a time.

In week 3 of this third round of living abroad, here are the areas where I feel God is leading me to focus:

1) Find a good church

This was absolutely key to me being happy during my time in Singapore and Hong Kong. And I’m sure it’ll be the same for my time in Taipei. Yes, we have our relationship with God and solitude with him is important. But he made us for community! We are not meant to do life alone! We need to work at forming healthy relationships.

When I was younger, I saw church and small groups as things that would benefit me. I needed friends — so when I was feeling lonely I’d go to small group. But there is nothing like relationships where we invest in one another, share honestly, pray for each other, grow, and really do life together, as I experienced with my Hong Kong small group which emphasized commitment to the group.

In looking for a church, I think it’s natural to ask friends, or friends of friends, if they have any recommendations. Searching on Google of course. I’ve done both this time. But as we explore and are drawn to things like branding, worship style, etc. may we not forget to ask God. Maybe he doesn’t want us to go to the popular, large, trendy church — maybe there’s a reason he wants us to go to a new church plant. Or vice versa. Or somewhere in between.

And I also think it’s fun to explore new churches. So many people are following God’s call on their lives, sharing what he’s saying, walking in his will. We get to meet new brothers and sisters as we figure out where God wants us this season. May we not get stressed or impatient when wanting to settle down somewhere but enjoy the journey of seeking God and following his lead.

2) Find friends

Once we get that sense of where we’ll settle for church, let’s get plugged into a small group. Well, I’ve actually checked out small groups before settling at a church too. For example, when I was in Hong Kong, there was an international church that a lot of people I knew went to. My flatmate went there. There were lots of people my age. So I went to her small group for about a month really trying to make it work but I just didn’t feel a click even though it checked all the boxes. I think I might have tried to make it work but shortly after I checked out another church and was in tears during worship with the strong sense that at this church I would face my issues head on and surrender them to God. And my first visit to the small group I ended up settling at… I just knew I wouldn’t need to check out any others. I felt at home, I felt mentored, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The Holy Spirit gives us that inner knowing — what a gift. I’ll be starting to check some out this week and next, and praying for confirmation over which church to settle in. Would love your prayers as I discern which community God has for me. Let me know if I can pray for you too!

A little ‘work in progress’ testimony on this: This past Sunday, I checked out a church that was recommended by a friend of a friend. She went to undergrad with a friend I met in Waterloo. After service, I was checking out the small group board when a girl with the cutest styled hair about my age came up to say hi. We shared a little bit about what brought us to Taipei and then had this sense of like ‘Hmm we seem to have a lot in common, we should talk sometime…’ Then I asked if she had lunch plans, she happened to be free, we grabbed Italian and really did have so much in common from similar interests, career industries, families, how we hear from and speak to God, this time in Taipei, and she’d been praying about friends to pour into and I was praying for new friends!

pizza and a salad from Mia Cucina in Taipei
From our lunch at Mia Cucina :)

When we move to a new place, there’s a lot of newness but praise God that we have him as our firm foundation always. He brought us here, he knows all the details already, and we get to do life with him.

3) Find your schedule

In life, I think we’re always learning and growing, experiencing new things, facing new challenges. Some seasons are sweet and relaxing, but do we have many of those for long? Moving to a new city is exciting and sweet, but also tiring. There are a lot of little errands that can pile up, and it’s not unusual to end the day very tired but feeling like the main thing you wanted to get done is still on hold. This is normal and may we give ourselves grace, knowing we just need to do our best and God will help us with the rest.

That said, we can be smart and efficient about things. I am big on batching and having specific days for certain things. For example, if I need to do errands or have meetings, I’ll try and do the same type of task all on the same day so I can have long, focused work sessions that aren’t interrupted. It’s energy management, right, especially for us ambiverts or introverts.

And while things are busy, we’ve still got to stay fit, eat decently, and eventually focus on the main reason we came to this city in the first place. For me, it’s to work on Pink and New, an emotional health platform for young Christian women, and so I’ve set up my home office, scouted out neighbourhood spots with good wifi, figured out how I can stretch my dollar most efficiently in terms of meals out and socializing.

I also think it’s helpful to build in some regularity. When I first moved to Singapore, I didn’t really know anyone. I had a few acquaintances but as an introvert/ambivert, I also wanted some time to settle in by myself. I’ve always loved coffee shops so each Saturday I’d pack a journal and go in search of some quiet time. There used to be a café called The Plain in Tanjong Pagar that I went to nearly every weekend for years. I think it was the second café I checked out, and — while I still tried new cafes with friends — it became my regular spot. The owner would always greet me (and all guests) with a smile and remember our order. They were also happy to let me enjoy my time in the café, tucked into a corner of the communal table at the back, journaling for literal hours without pressuring me to keep ordering things (though I did because that place amazing, affordable, and felt a bit like family). It was the first place that felt like home in Singapore, that I was making Singapore my home.

Taipei running park trail
Where I run most days :)

In Taipei so far, I think my version of this is going on runs. After a few days of not running, I started to feel a little antsy, strapped on my running shoes, and just started exploring some of the main roads until I found my people! There’s a river park a short distance from my apartment and pounding the pavement, surrounded by other runners, helped me feel like Taipei is becoming home.

So today, while these tips are quite straightforward, I hope the examples give a little colour into what life looks like being set up in Taipei — in these early days. My focus might look different each week, but in these first three weeks, amidst all of the family commitments I’ve had, these are the three essential bits that have carried me through all my previous moves. There are many things to do but prioritizing God absolutely needs to be our foundation.

Also, with all the newness, sometimes we can be tempted to stay busy so as not to stay lonely. Or because we feel a need to show people how well we’re doing. Let’s leave those kinds of thoughts in the past. We are too busy to dwell on nonsense. We’re in a new season, a new era, of living for God first because there’s no time to waste. Jesus is coming back and he’s got stuff for us to do before he does! Let’s spend time with God in prayer and worship, seeking him for advice, awaiting his answer over spending hours watching a new TV show. Let’s spend time with God resting or exercising instead of filling our heads with junk. Let’s move saturated by God’s Spirit. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on the author and perfector of our faith because we are smart women who know who our Lord is and why we live. Let’s be ambitious for and live for the right things — to know Jesus and make him known!

Love you guys, thankful we can do life together this season. Any questions about living and moving abroad, send them my way. Until next time, God bless you.


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