Wednesday, April 29, 2015

4 Brave Mamas

           Oh my goodness Mamas, yesterday was powerful! Four AMAZING women shared their MOPS testimonies, and I balled like a baby. Seriously, I don't even know if I can read my notes, they are covered in tears. What struck me the most when I heard each woman share their unique story, was how much I related to all of them. I was like 'Yay they're as messy as me!' And then in discussion time, I found that others at my table had messy stories too, beautiful messes!
         First to share was the funny and beautiful Mama, Megan. She was so brave to go up on stage and keep it real! I really admired her transparency. She shared her struggles as a new believer, and then as a new Mama. Megan had Post Partum depression and struggled with anger. When she first joined MOPS, she felt the need to "Fake it till I make it," but God kept reminding her to trust Him. Through coming to MOPS, God used some women to rally around Megan through encouragement and unconditional love. Today, she is so thankful for God, her family, and MOPS. Megan shared how she is the youngest Mama we have in our group, but I feel like God has given her great wisdom. Her words of encouragement for us are "Trust God, be honest, and ask for help. He will send the right people into your life, you only need to let them love you."

      Next up to share is the magnanimous Katie. The second I met Katie, her warmth made me feel like I had known her for years. I would have never expected she had such a trial in her life. Katie shared about being separated from her family, feeling isolated and having a marriage that was falling apart. When she first came to MOPS, she had fears of being judged. But no one ever judged her, and she felt loved. She was able to share with her table leader her struggles, and that she was on the verge of packing up and leaving her husband. Her table leader was there for her and gave her godly wisdom. Through counseling and our Great God, her marriage is better than ever today, and her husband became a believer last year! Praise the Lord!
I am so impressed by Katie's trust in God and her ability to share with her table leader. Katie's advice to us is to "Ask for help and open up. Without these moms, I wouldn't be with my husband or have my family." Thank you, Katie, for being so brave!

      Next up is someone I call a friend and was instrumental in bringing me to MOPS. The lovely and sweet Amy. Amy also struggled with Post Partum Depression and feelings of loneliness. Her mentor recommended she join MOPS, and like our sisters above she hesitated at first. But when she came she realized "I am somewhere where people are kind of not okay too." She also shared about her battle as a perfectionist. The Lord revealed to her...."Amy, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you, it matters what God thinks of you." So true Mama! Amy is on leadership at MOPS. On of the best pieces of advice I thought she shared was that she turned her focus outward to serve others. Instead of looking inward like depression makes us do, MOPS gave her an outlet to serve others and focus on them. Amy's brave advice for us is to "Just take a baby step out of your comfort zone!" and " We are all moms trying to figure it out, all wanting to do the best for our kids." So refreshing to hear!!!

  Last, but certainly not least, is one of the funnest and funniest chics I know. I am thankful that I have been blessed to get to know her this year. She's the wonderful Ms. Teresa. Teresa had a tumultuous childhood that consisted of her parents divorcing, her mother's addiction to prescription drugs, and her step father abusing her mother. As a young girl she would tell God she hated him, and she learned to bury her feelings inside herself. This led to lack of trust, low self worth, and surfacey friendships. Teresa joined MOPS with her guard up. She was beginning to let them down and then she found out she was pregnant with her third child, while her second one was only 5 months old. She was devastated and began to put her walls back up. But you awesome MOPS moms opened your hearts to her and those walls came back down! God is so good! Teresa's last statements were so powerful I just need to share them all with y'all. "We are all broken. We need communities like MOPS to let our walls down." "I feel safe sharing my real self. Never did I think I could have these friendships." And my most favorite of her wise words "He loves me, He never left me. Even in dark days, He never left me!" Wow!

       Sorry I wrote a book, you guys, but I really feel the Lord saying through these Mamas, be open and share your hearts with each other. Each one of these women were apprehensive about joining MOPS. It was scary to all of them. Being real and truthful was scary to them too. But, just think how different their stories would be if they didn't reach out. Look at the Bravery of these women in spite of their fears. And, look how the Lord used their stories to encourage us to reach out. The enemy wants us to stay home and hide our fears deep inside ourselves. But our Great Father provides sisters to share with, give and receive love from, and know we are not alone. That deserves a Hallelujah!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April Mom of the Month (M.O.M.)!

Our April Mom of the Month is....

Cyndi D!!!

1.) Who's in your family?

Myself, my husband Walt, Grace 4 1/2, Emily 3, Wade 6m.

2.) What is your favorite thing about MOPS?

My favorite thing about MOPS would have to be getting to know other moms & learning that I am not alone in raising my kids.

3.) What is your favorite family activity?

Saturdays are my favorite...when Walt doesn't have to work, we go to Mr. T's for donuts, then take the kids to the park to play & then go home & spend the afternoon hanging out in our front yard visiting with the neighbors & enjoying family time.

4.) If you could hang out with any celebrity for the day, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

The only person I can come up with would be Sarah Drew (Mom's Night Out, Grey's Anatomy) She seems like she would be really fun & I really admire her values in the hollywood industry.

5.) Describe a fun childhood memory.

I love camping, so my fun childhood memories involve lots of camping trips...we have gone camping many places, but every summer we go to a place called Sly Creek Reservoir with my immediate family & my aunt & uncle and their 2 boys...we have been going to this same place for at least 14 years and we enjoy taking our wakeboard boat with us...there are so many memories that we have made there together!

6.) What is one piece of advice that you can offer to our group?

I try to remember to give myself & others grace. So, if I don't get everything done around the house (laundry, cleaning, etc...)I try not to be too hard on myself. I try to do the same with my husband & kids too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Being Brave To... Love Extravagantly

I don't make space in my life for extravagant love.

Most of the time I'm just trying to get dinner on the table by 6:00, my kids to bed on time, and to school with clean clothes and a lunch.

My baby needs diaper changes, and feedings, and naps -- preferably not in the car, but that's often how they happen.

At yesterday's meeting, listening to Bob Goff speak, I had tears. The kind of love he was talking about seems so far away to me; so amazing, but nearly impossible.

I'm surviving here. My days are a series of distractions. How do I love my kids this way? How do I love my husband like that?

If I think about it for long enough, I realize it's not necessarily all the "to-do's" in my life keeping me from going the extra mile.

It's fear.

Bob spoke about this in reference to his story about "four-footer" and the boy's miraculous recovery from a horrific attack by evil men. The boy knew that God was bigger than his enemy. And he was not afraid.

What am I afraid of? What are we, as moms trying to make it through the day, afraid of? What keeps us from loving extravagantly? Because, let's not forget that we love already. We love greatly. We love our kids and husbands by our scheduling, our dinner-making, our early-rising. We love them by meeting their needs, don't we?

I don't feel capable of more right now, to be honest; but I don't have to do this alone. I can not love this way, but God can. And He does. He loves us beyond just meeting our basic needs, doesn't He? He loves unconditionally, and without reservation. He loved us when we were still lost.

Keeping these three things forefront in our minds, we can also love that way, and encourage greatness in our kids:

1. Instead of telling people how far they have to go, what if we tell them how far they've come? Often we strive to "encourage" our kids, or our friends, or our husbands -- and instead of doing that, the complete opposite is accomplished. Let's tell them what they have done already! Let's encourage them in how far they've already climbed! Because the road is long, and life has steep slopes. When we feed this kind of speech into others, they will remember how far they've come and be encouraged to keep going!

2. Tell people WHO they are, not WHAT they are. I gave an example to my table yesterday of my oldest daughter. She's 7, and her personality... challenges me. She can be disorganized, and irresponsible. She loses things and blames others for her problems. Often we tell her what we want from her: Be more organized! Take responsibility! And honestly, I don't see this helping her. She gets discouraged, and beaten down. I see her spirit wilt under the weight of our scrutiny. What I have rarely done, and should do MUCH more, is encourage her strengths. She is creative, and loving. She tries hard to please her parents and teachers. She protects and loves her sisters and brother. These are words she needs to give her courage when life is hard. Some tasks will always be a challenge for this girl; but I want her to be confident in her strengths so she has the energy to also take on those hard things. Bob Goff said it this way: "Stop manipulating -- don't tell them what you want, tell them what you see in them, what they are turning into." What we want for our kids, isn't always what they will be, and it isn't always what God wants for them.

3. If you want to bring out extravagant things in your kids, do extravagant things. Keep in mind, that what is extravagant in my life may look different than what it is in yours. Don't define "extravagant" according to another person or another family. You don't need to pull your kids out of school and travel the globe in order to love them like this! But wasn't that an amazing story to hear? It really did encourage me that nothing is impossible. I can wake up on a Saturday, and choose to say "Yes, why not?" to my six-year-old and her list of places to go that day. I can write notes of encouragement and put it in my kids lunches. I can say "so what?" to my list of to-do's, and instead play a game with my kids, even if it's close to bedtime. I can choose to say a big NO to fear, and YES to joy.

Also, I think as moms, we get lost, too. We forget that there were once extravagant things we wanted for ourselves! Paths, dreams, hobbies -- we put them on the back burner. And they've since gone cold.  Don't you think your kids would be encouraged to see you enjoying your life? Doing something brave, going somewhere further? I think so.

I'm going to think about that for myself, and I challenge you to do the same. Our extravagance doesn't have to take us to other countries, but it can still take us on journeys we may have never known.

Be brave, ladies. And even when this MOPS year ends, and this theme of "Be You, Bravely" is no longer, still be brave. Make it your life's work. Being a mom is no small task, and loving extravagantly is not the easiest path, and having goals beyond breakfast may threaten to overwhelm. Still, be brave. I'm right there with you. We all are.