Monday, December 19, 2016

Traditions: Simplify and Enjoy

With two young kids, 5 and 2, I have been grappling with the question: did I get them enough?  I started the Christmas season with a plan to buy a large Santa present for each of them and just a couple small gifts.  I thought I would do the four gifts that I had read about on Facebook last year, but when telling my friend my plan, I realized I only knew the first three gifts to give.  I knew it was something like: something they want, something they need, something to read and then, huh, no clue.  Even with an almost flawless gift giving plan, I still find myself doubting my choice to keep it simple.  And, it is not just with presents.  Honestly, if I did not have the expertise of mentor moms, speakers like Marti Boone and my own mother, I would be a mess through Christmas trying to do and buy everything.  Being overindulged, over-scheduled and overwhelmed is not the way I want my Christmases to be.  I realize now keeping Christmas simple, enjoying family traditions and remembering what Christmas is really about is the greatest gift I can give to my family.

Our guest speaker, Marti Boone, gave me an answer to my gift giving conundrum and that answer is the same one my mom has been saying to me the day my daughter was born.  Simplify.  It is just as exhausting for me to live my over-complicated life as it is for my mom to hear about it.  I already live a hectic life with a husband that travels for work a fourth of the year and two young kids; I am trying to make those unbearable moments into teachable moments.  As much as I am told to keep it simple, I find myself exhausted from over doing it.  It is easy for me to say I am only going to do the traditions that are important to my family, but actually following through takes self-control and not falling into the pressures around me.  I have to really think about my family’s needs and what we can and can’t do during the Christmas season and what is truly important for my family.  The tool that Marti shared has my name written all over it.  The simple T chart, with things I need to do on one side and things I want to do on the other side is exactly what I need to keep my family from being over-scheduled.  If I get to just one thing on the want side, it will be an added bonus.  It is the first way I am going to keep it simple. 

A second way to keep it simple is by focusing on Christmas as the season of giving and Christ our Savior being born.  By making traditions like going to church and sharing with others, our children will learn from us the true meaning of Christmas.  It is our job to teach our children that doing for others is the greatest gift.  Marti shared multiple ways to do this throughout the holiday season.   She suggested making goodies and sharing them around the neighborhood, visiting older people who may not have family around, and to consider giving to Angel Tree, an organization for kids who have a parent who is incarcerated.  By involving our kids in sharing we are teaching them that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Lastly, expect​ ​the​ ​unexpected during the holidays and in life in general.  Unlucky for my family, I experienced this first hand over Thanksgiving.  My daughter woke up with strep throat and we spent the day trying to get antibiotics for her.  It was not what I had envisioned, but we made the best of it.  I was glad that Thanksgiving was not at our house this year and my husband and I were able to make it work.  He went to Thanksgiving number one at our uncle’s house and I went to Thanksgiving number two at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  All the while, my son went to both and was a trooper even without his typical nap.  It all worked out, my daughter got better and I learned a valuable lesson: it is not in my control.  As much as I plan for this Christmas, things may not go according to plan and that is okay.   

Keeping it simple is not the only way I am enjoying this Christmas season.  As a relatively new mom, I am working on my family Christmas traditions.  I grew up in a family that has traditions and those traditions are what we remember as adults.  Off the top of my head, it was two Christmas trees (one for the kids and one for my mom), crab for Christmas eve, Christmas movies galore and candlelight service at church.  It has changed as we have gotten older, but those memories feel good and I want my children to reflect on their traditions when they are older.  One tradition I want to try (*and maybe you do, too) is Marti’s ginger cookies.  Her ginger cookies were the gift she sent to her son, Todd, when his ship docked in Virginia.  She was unable to deliver them herself, but her family friends were going there for Christmas and were able to surprise Todd.  Marti also shared a Christmas tree tradition and it had us in tears.  Her tree is not a Pinterest tree, instead her tree has ornaments that have been in her life for over forty years.  Not all of them are beautiful to the naked eye, but beautiful to the beholder.  One ornament was made by Joel, her son, in 1981 the day he invited Jesus into his life.  Another was a paper chain made by her and her brother.  Four months later her brother passed, and on her mother's tree the chain has hung for many years.  It is missing links, but it is a special memory that makes the tree complete.  This tradition is beautiful and I am glad it was shared with us. 

Ultimately, we all strive to have a loving, sharing, and caring Christmas.  Hearing from others about Christmas reminds us what we know is true in our hearts.  Christmas is about Jesus Christ being born.  My hope is that all of us can enjoy Christmas with our loved ones this year.  Merry Christmas.

“Let not our hearts be busy inns that have no room for Thee, But cradles for the Living Christ and His nativity”

*Big Soft Ginger Cookies
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
¾ c margarine, butter or shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ c molasses
2 tbsp sugar
-Combine flour, ginger, soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; set aside
-In large bowl beat margarine, butter or shortening with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften.  Gradually add the 1 cup sugar, beat till fluffy.  Add egg and molasses; beat well.  Stir dry ingredients into beaten mixture.
-Chill dough before shaping into balls.  Shape into 1 ½ -inch balls (1 heaping tablespoon of dough each).  Roll in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 ½ inches apart.
-Bake in a 350° oven about 10 minutes or till light brown and still puffed.  (Do not overcook.)  Let stand for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Cool.  Makes 24 three inch cookies.

- Amanda

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dear Mama,

"It takes a village to raise a child" has always been one of my most hated quotes. I've seen the village and I don't want them coming near my children. But there is some truth to the quote. We need women who have gone before us to come along side us and offer suggestions, guidance and prayer, lots of prayer. I guess I have been so opposed to the village idea from early on in my motherhood journey. Before I had kids I knew exactly how I would raise my kids and how they would turn out. I was a Nanny after all, how different could it be (hardy har har). After I had little babies I was still resistant to all the advice, much of it was so overwhelming. As my gals have gotten older and I have been able to hear things a little better, hopefully my pride has waned a bit.

Last Tuesday we were blessed to hear from our mentor Mamas. If we should listen to anyone it should most definitely be them, godly women who have been in the trenches. They had many excellent tidbits for training and raising our precious babes.The two that stuck with me and convicted me the most were the advice to cherish our kiddos, and Erin's advice on staying in the Word.

It is so hard to cherish these times. Yet all the Mentor Mamas echoed that we do just that. My motherhood pendulum can swing back and forth daily from feeling head over heels in love with my kids to anger, frustration and planning my escape to Mexico at any moment. But it is so true that it happens so fast. Isn't that the number one thing we hear after we have babies from fellow Mamas...'it will go by so fast.' I have a 9 year old you guys, and she has her nose in a book almost all day and an eye roll at the ready. But those moments that she lets me cuddle her, I take those in. Breathe them in, Mamas breathe in that baby sleeping on your chest. That toddler running towards you with arms up...breathe it all in. It truly is like the blink of an eye.

And the most convicting part of the panel last week was Erin's Pitcher, Cup & Saucer analogy. God is the pitcher pouring into us as we draw near to Him. Only after we have been filled by Him can our overflow spill out onto those around us. Eeekk, knife through the heart. Lately my time alone with God has been pretty dry. Then I went to church on Sunday and the sermon was on parenting. Our Pastor was going over and over again on the importance of our relationship with God and how it affects our parenting. (Okay Lord, I hear ya). And isn't that so true? We can't do this parenting thing alone. Yes, we need advice from Mamas who have gone before us, but most importantly we need the Lord. We need to be seeking Him daily so we can pour out kindness, goodness, patience, self-control and love on our babies.

So yes I fail daily, no one is a perfect person or Mama. But thankfully today is a new day. A day to spend time with God, even if it's just 10 minutes. A day to cherish these babies and show them how much we love them. Breathe it in Mamas, as you hustle and bustle around with your busy day. Stop and take in these moments. Because those are the most important things we will do all day. Talking to God and loving our babies is our most important work.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Hospitality. I love it. It’s my jam, as it is my mom’s, my grandmother’s and so on. I was raised in a very hospitable family. But, we tended to be more of the Martha’s than the Mary’s, always being busy little bees with some impertinent detail that just couldn’t wait. My dear grandmother will still miss half of a party because she’s too busy cleaning up the kitchen! I would work myself into a tizzy trying to make sure every area of my house was picked up and everything laid out just so….I had an impression to make ya know!

Then I had children. Three of the most spirited, adventurous whirlwind kids came into my life and hospitality took on a whole new look. I still love to have people over, and throwing a good party with detailed decorations is still so much fun, but I’ve also learned to let go and let em’ in!

Hospitality in this stage in my life has become “Come on in! Have some coffee, kick off your shoes and let the kids make a mess!” There will probably be dishes in my sink, and a whole weeks worth of laundry piled on my bed. My kids will most likely only be half dressed, but
welcome to our home! This is us doing life and we’d love to do it with you!

Now, I know I may sound carefree and crazy, not caring that your sock just got stuck to some sticky substance on my kitchen floor, but I’m only human. I still struggle with the need to perform, to seem like I have it all together. Pinterest oozes from my home. (I just spent the
last 30 minutes picking up my house before our Heating guy shows up. For the love.) But over the past few years hospitality has evolved into moments of being genuine, making the connection and making sure everyone feels at home. It no longer means an immaculate house, perfectly obedient children and a face with makeup...It means opening my home and my heart to whomever walks through my door with whatever condition myself or my home may be in. Truly listening, wanting to understand and being there for that person who has taken a seat on our well loved couch.

I have a dear friend who I treasure doing life with. We can both look/smell atrocious, our house a health hazard and our kids complete disasters, but if the other one needs some company, a word of encouragement or a safe place to regroup/gather themselves, our door is
always open. It has been a lifesaver on more than one occasion.

The “image” and obsession over details that don’t truly matter has always been a
struggle for me, which is why I think it’s funny that God called me to help lead our MOPS Hospitality! As soon as I was asked, I immediately started thinking about all the decorations and fun little details we could do, but then God grabbed me lovingly by the heart and reminded me
that it’s not about the frills and the fancy and the matching’s about you, the women who walk through our doors, each with a beautiful and unique story. I know I still have a lot to learn, and there will still be days I struggle with giving my heart to the things that really
matter, but it is my prayer that each and every woman that comes into our MOPS family feels welcomed, safe and loved. There may not be a pinterest worthy decoration or game, but I will always have open arms and a cup of coffee waiting for you!

- Mallory

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

KINDa A Hard One

Kindness!!! Well, my whole blog post that I wrote, and spent a long time on I might add, was erased by one of my children. Breathe in, 2, 3, 4........ breathe out! Oh Jesus help me to be kind. Argggghh!

This morning Pastor Tim Giannosa spoke on Kindness and it was many good things: funny, inspiring and especially for me, CONVICTING!!! Anyone else?

I am a verbal processor which basically means I have zero filter, things fly from my mouth, some good, some negative and some hurtful. For me it is easy to be kind to others, unless you live with me then, well, the verbal diarrhea flows and flows. Oh how I wish I could take back so very many hurtful things I have said to my husband and my children. My husband gets all my moody attitude and my girls have heard many unkind tones come out of me. Oh yes, I can go back and apologize but words stick, how you treat someone sticks. Pastor Tim shared about how his hatred grew as his step-father's words stuck with him. I also remember horrible things my mother said to me, or about me, and our relationship is highly damaged, to the point where there isn't much of one at all now.

The good news is I am not alone in this struggle. You are not alone too. We can't do this in our own will, or by our own strength. He uses these struggles to grow and strengthen us.
There were 4 main points that Pastor Tim shared about. I will attempt to give a synopsis of here...

'All Amazing acts of Kindness will have....

1. Patience.
Kindness is rarely developed, or fine tuned, in the good times. It is easy to be kind when things are going well. On hard days it is really easy to be a jerk. Kindness will be developed and tested during the boiling points of frustration, especially during those times of people failing you again and again and yet again. In these moments, we can take from the Spirit what He has given us. Love is Patient.

2. Sacrifice.
You need to Sacrifice something to be kind. It doesn't cost a lot to change someones life but it does take sacrifice. Some sort of sacrifice. Will you sacrifice your time, your money, your resources.

3. Words.
Focus on your words. The tongue has the power of life and death. Proverbs 31:26 says, "she opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of Kindness." Jesus is the Word. Guard your words and be extra careful with what you say in the hard moments.

4. Forgiveness.
Ephesians 4:32 says, "And be Kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."
Forgive others in the same way God forgave you. Bestow grace upon people. Hold nothing against another person.'

Ladies, it was so easy to hear this message and allow lies to come into my head  "I am a bad mother a bad wife a bad friend". But these things are just not true. We need to forgive ourselves for things we have done and ask God to help us to be more kind. He will! We can do all things through Him! I love how Pastor Tim gave us practical ways we can practice being kind. With the Holy Spirit on our side there is nothing to stop us!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Motherhood with the Awe & Wonder

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Heavens and Skies filled with glory? I can’t seem to lift my head above the piles of laundry scattering my floor to even see the sky!

Wonder in the motherhood. 

Wonder if my stomach will ever not spill over the front of my pants.  Wonder if my kids will develop stomach cancer from all the Mcdonalds they eat.  Wonder if I’m reading books with them enough.  Wonder if I’ve bathed them this week.

It is so easy, so very, very easy to lose sight of the wonder and awe of God when your living minute by minute with your little tribe, burdened with the stresses of this world. 

You may think, “I don’t have time today for a glorious trek into God’s beautiful creation! I have to nurse the baby, clean the ring from my toilets and figure out what the heck I’m going to feed my hard working husband for dinner! Wait, where did my toddler go……”

But take heart dear mom, God’s wonder and awe are right at your fingertips! You may not be able to load the family into the minivan for a spiritual journey through the forest, but you can look deep into the eyes of your sweet babes and see God’s true wonder in the intricate design of their little blue eyes.

I grew up with a mother who truly new how to appreciate God’s wonder and awe in every moment.   Mom, I apologize now for all the times I rolled my eyes.  We’d be out and about, and without warning she’d GASP, causing all of us to wonder who died or where was the snake.  She’d then exclaim “Guys! Look at this flower! God is amazing!”  (Next time you see her, ask what her mantel magic is :) )

Now that I am no longer an angsty teenager with rolling eyes, I appreciate how she notices the smallest beauty or magical moment, especially now as a mother of young children.  It has made me realize that I don’t have to trek very far to be surrounded by God’s glory, to be a part of the beautiful creation that is all around us.

Watching my children on their hands and knees, noses to the ground following a roly poly across the sidewalk.

Feeling the patch of cool damp grass between my toes on warm day. 

Those horrible fires we’ve been having in California, have made some pretty spectacular sunsets.

The smell of the fresh cup of coffee I hold as a lifeline as my littles and I  watch the sun come up.

Our amazing mentor moms can attest to the fact that one day in the not so distant future, we will have all the time in the world for soaking in the beauty and majesty God has created, but until then, I pray that we can stop and literally smell the roses, take a stroll around the block hunting for fall leaves,  look deep into the souls of our children with awe, and bask in the early morning sunlight with hot coffee in our hands. 

And after writing this, I looked up from my spot on the porch to witness my own little wonder moment of seeing my three sweet babes all playing alongside each other, beautifully working together….nevermind that it only lasted for 5 minutes.  It was wonderful just the same!

- Mallory

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

To Be or Not to Be, That is the Question

Anxious.  I am anxious.  I know the expectations for my first blog and know I am capable of writing from the heart, but being vulnerable is not an easy task.  This morning at Mops I was reminded many times in various ways to be authentic and get real.  I thought I could get away with just writing a poem on what I learned about friendship (which I did below) and call it a day, but inside I knew I needed to open up and connect.

Sitting down and listening to Jen Hatmaker describe her experience with meaningful friendships, especially during the early childhood stage, was familar.  As a young mom, she was lonely and knew she needed friends.  She entered new friendships insecure and wanted to be well-received.   At first, she was inauthentic and more focused on impressing her friends instead of connecting with them.  But found out by opening up and being vulnerable, the frienships became more meaningful to both parties.  Her testimony showed me that being real is necessary if you want meaningful friendships and I do.

Reflecting on my friendships, I realize I am a different stage in each one.  Being a mom of younger children, I have been working diligently on making new friends.  Making friends has never been difficult for me, but sustaining them is.  Now, I am starting to see why.  Jen Hatmaker made it clear that sharing the worst moments can make friendships stronger.  I am self-deprecating by nature and have to work daily to stay positive.  I enjoy laughing at myself and will tell a friend exactly why I am a mess.  Although I dislike this trait, it may be a part of why my friendships are meaningful.  I am not afraid to be real about me or my life even at the first interaction.

The part that is a challenge for me is getting through the confrontations.  I agree with what Jen Hatmaker says about friendship and ultimately facing bumps in the road.  We will have tension in our relationships, but how we handle it can lift friendships to the next level.  According to Jen Hatmaker, by speaking up and letting your friend know you are wounded, you are letting her know you care about the relationship and are not willing to let the problem disintegrate the relationship.  

Confrontation is out of my comfort zone and I would do anything to avoid it.  Learning today that confrontation is necessary is a game changer in my life.  I dislike the idea of having to tell a friend what offended me, but if it is going to make the relationship more authentic and real, then it needs to happen.  I've decided taking the cowardly way out and being passive aggressive or defensive is no longer allowed in my life.  I have been taught a lesson today and I intend on growing and making more of my relationships meaningful friendships.

Meaningful Friendships according to Jen Hatmaker:
M. Mops brings us together, but the next step in making meaningful friendships is up to us.
E.  Every mom could use meaningful and consistent friendships especially during the early childhood years.
A.  Alone is how motherhood sometimes feels, but friends can help immensely.
N.  New moms may feel the need to be inauthentic.
I.  Instead of impressing our friends we should connect.
N.  No, it is not always easy and hitting a bump in the road is normal.
G.  Get real with your friends.
F.  Friendships that share the worst moments become stronger.
U.  Useful to take the risk and share what is going on in your heart and mind.
L.  Learn to be transparent and sincere around friends.
F.  Fork in the road in friendships are bound to happen
R.  Rough patches and tension are a part of all friendships.
I.  Insist on talking about hard times with your friend,
E.  Even if it means having to confront the problem.
N.  Necessary to speak up and be genuine.
D.  Defensive is not ideal in a confrontation; instead listen, show you care and learn what can be done to fix the problem.
S.  Saying what hurt you in a relationship will make it more meaningful.
H.  Healthy relationships will set an example for the kids. 
I.  Important that kids see meaningful friendships in your life.
P.  Put yourself out there and let your friend love and know you.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What's Blog Got to Do, Got to Do with it?

Hi Y'all, I'm Summur the resident blog lady. This morning's MOPS meeting was so fun and exhilarating. It was awesome to see so many new faces. If we haven't met yet come find me and say hello, I love love love meeting new people!

I thought I'd take advantage of the first blog post to introduce you to the blog and our new blog team.

The blog team is made up of four regular Mama's who all have different backgrounds and perspectives; Amanda, Ginny, Mallory, and me. The goal of the blog is for the writer to just share from their heart. Sharing what God showed them that morning, or is teaching them currently. It's not to say 'this is what you should get out of this meeting' at all. My hope is that it will be an encouragement to you. 

The blog is all about reflecting on the last MOPS meeting with a post coming up within a few days after each meeting. We also have tabs on top of the blog.
Home...for the posts.
Leadership.....bios and pictures of those who serve you.
Meeting Dates & Registration...MOPS dates and dues info.
Breakfast...some video recipes, and quick ideas.
Contact Us...where to send your friends who want to join.

Well that's that about the blog. I'm ready for a nap now, ready to see some stars, Ha! I'll leave you with my favorite verses.
"The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face towards you and give you peace." Numbers 6: 24-26


Friday, July 29, 2016

We Are The Starry Eyed

Who's ready for MOPS to start back up? I know I am.
If you are new to MOPS - Welcome! I can't wait to meet you!
I have a lot of hopes and dreams for this year. Last year was a bit rough for me personally, so I am totally ready to dive into a new year full of new possibilities!
At first I was not quite "getting" this years' theme, but now I am completely on board!
Starry Eyed means we choose... Hope, Wonder & Kindness!! Doesn't that sound so refreshing?
Here is a great video explaining 'We Are The Starry Eyed'.....

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Flourishing Forward: Moving On

Thank you.

Thank you for letting me write my heart to you, and for accepting me as I am.

My time has come to an end as the blog leader, and I won't be staying with MOPS next year, as most of my kids are off to school and crushes and homework and body changes....

And that's all pretty awesome. Please God, let it be awesome. This new stage of parenting, I have to admit, is daunting.

I was all set and prepped to take on the blog next year, but one night, making dinner and dealing with 3rd grade girl drama, I realized I need to move on.

It's not my kids, it's me. I've tried to keep dealing with my kids as though they are still 3-year-olds, and because of that, discipline has been a struggle. Connecting with them has been a struggle. Discovering who they are again -- a struggle. And I've been stubborn.

I don't want things to change. I was just getting good at this parenting thing, and now it's changing, and I've resisted.

This is hard, you guys. Being a mom is hard.

Keep going. Don't give up. What you do, right now, when they are babies, this counts. Stay strong. Be brave. Keep flourishing and dancing to music in the kitchen, and setting up play dates, and enjoying their intense love for you.

Hopefully I will discover the equally amazing parts of this next stage.

I am handing the baton of "Blog Leader" to Summur Braley, and I know she will shine and love on you and share her heart and take this blog to a new and wonderful place.

Until then, keep flourishing in motherhood!


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Flourishing Together: Acceptance and the Last Meeting of the Year

At our last Mops meeting I sat and recorded my two oldest girls singing, or lip sinking their hearts out, to Every Move by David Crowder and I had an overwhelming feeling of joy. 

I just felt so thankful to be with you guys, all of you guys. Yes you, even you the ones I don't know from Adam. I may not know your name but I smile at you and you smile back. I strike up a conversation with you in the breakfast line and you laugh at my 12 year old humor. I admit to you I have no clue what I am doing at this motherhood thing and you say 'Amen'. We get each other, we accept each other we are there for each other. I love that. I love you guys and am so incredibly blessed by all of you and your personalities, strengths, even your weaknesses. Because they make us who we are. They show us that God fills in those gaps. He gave us each other to encourage one another and build each other up. We did a pretty great job of that this year Sisters. 

We did flourish fiercely! We let our light shine on one another and decided to be a place of acceptance instead of exclusion. So thank you for that, thank you for being my peeps, and thank you for letting me sit next to you.

~ Summur

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Flourishing Together: Finding Community in Motherhood

First of all, thank you to everyone who came up to me after IWFM and told me I should do stand-up comedy. It was completely unexpected, but sparked a hope in me that maybe I really am as funny as I think I am. Bless you. You spoke your truth and probably planted seeds that will blossom into something my husband will have to deal with at a later time. I'll need all of your phone numbers so he can call to thank you personally.

But on to the meeting today. 

I'm so proud to have been a part of this MOPS group for so long. The women who were brave enough to stand in front of you all prove once again that this group is full of strong, gifted, loving women who long for support and friendship and grace, and they found it here. That's a big deal. 

Amanda mesmerized us with her story of how she came from a teaching career, to the land of the SAHM; from how she grew as a mother and a friend, and continued to grow as a new believer in Christ. Hers is a very familiar story, I'm sure, to many other women in our group. As young moms, we are often faced with choices -- choices that seem like they will forever change the course of our lives. And at the root of those choices, is always our babies. Like Amanda, we make space for them, and often alter our course from what we always thought we wanted, to what we need to do. However that may look.

Amanda is MOPS. I can't help but say that. She embodies so much of what we are here. And her poem at the end. You guys. Well, you can find that posted on Facebook. It's for all of you, because the way she "moms" has changed dramatically because of this group of women.

   Amanda H.

Our next lovely speaker was Mallory, who isn't new to MOPS, but actually grew up as a Moppet, and then stayed in slavery as a MOPS junior worker, and then eventually left MOPS forever. Or so she thought.  

She denied her need for the women in this group for a very long time, in spite of her mother's nagging encouragement. She knew about MOPS. She had her fill of it. But life very often changes our plans, and we are guided to do things differently. Our needs change. And Mallory found herself right back where it all began.

But this time she stayed, not because her mom dragged her along, but because it was where she wanted and needed to be. Mallory is also MOPS. And M&M wouldn't be the same without her. It would just be "M." And that would be sad.

   Mallory H.

Our third speaker was the courageous Sophia, who gave us the gift of her story. She began in a place of solitude, distrust, and abuse; but when her mothering journey led her to MOPS at Big Valley Grace, what she found here was more than just hot breakfast and a chair to sit in. This was the place where she was able to share her struggles, and feel heard. She began to heal, by the grace of God, and because of authentic friendships with the women here, she has grown to be one of the most open, honest, and supportive women I know. 

    Sophia S.

I'm so thankful for this group, for these women; I'm so grateful for this experience of motherhood that breaks us into tiny pieces and strews us about in the most unfamiliar of places, and causes us to search for help, for hands, for eyes -- so together we can find our pieces and help eachother get back to being who we are at our core:

Strong, fun, creative, intelligent women who became moms.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Flourishing Friendships: Loving Through Brokenness

Before MOPs, if you asked me what my “home team” looked like, I’d tell you that I have never, and would never, have one. I’d tell you that friendships with other females were pointless – catty, painful, competitive, but never necessary or even worthwhile. I grew up not knowing Christ, believing that I would forever be worthless, and never seeing a single healthy relationship.

Fast forward two years, I can’t imagine my life without the women I’ve opened up to and learned to love. MOPs has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. If you were around for sharing my short MOPs testimony last year, you heard a bit of how important it was for me to be surrounded by God-fearing women through a tough part of my life. I’ve learned this year that the ‘tough’ part may be a season, but it never completely goes away. The enemy is relentless in his attempts to isolate us as moms and women.

I’m a people pleaser at heart. I absolutely want everyone to like me and it makes me sad and self-conscious if I feel excluded or insignificant. Because of this, I tread lightly. I’ll be honest if you ask me a straightforward question, but I live in fear that if I try to have a hard conversation with a friend and they disagree with me, we’ll be done with that friendship. Shauna Niequist talked about how friendships grow – tell the truth, share when your feelings get hurt, and show up when things get messy. There are women whose God given talent is to make and keep lifelong friends. I am not one of those women. I am scared of what it takes for a friendship to grow. I can tell the truth, but I’ve never been secure enough to be honest about my hurt feelings. I can show up for others when their life gets messy, but I’m scared to have expectations (or ask) for anyone to be there for me. I have lived life so isolated for so long that I’m terrified of shattering any fragile acquaintanceship I’ve built. 

I can’t tell everyone how to be the best friend to every single person – that takes personal time and effort. You have to make an intentional effort to know and love someone. Shauna says friendship is evidence of God’s love. Think about how you treat your friends versus how God has loved you. Do you speak life-giving and soul shaping words to them? Do you show everyone you say you "pray" for, God’s generous and unconditional love? Or do you (consciously or otherwise) compete with them? Do you make your friends feel insecure? Do you actually know what kind of struggles they face on a daily basis? If you were to have a hard conversation, are you scared that they’ll leave or are you sure that they’ll be there and your bond will grow? What about God? How has He loved you? How does He make you feel?

Even in all our brokenness, we can still love. Jesus was tattered and torn, beaten and bruised. Jesus was pushed so far to His limits – to His death – yet He still loved us. 

There are so many pressures and expectations on us as moms and as women. You don’t have to be perfect, God never called us to be perfect. Shauna said “When something goes wrong in a friendship, it’s normal, we’re human” and I think that’s a statement that can be applied in every aspect of our lives. I’ve never needed perfect friends; just friends that love a perfect Savior and encourage me to find my worth in Him

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Being Prepared for More than a Blow Out

One vital thing that I learned being a mother, was to be prepared. Always. For anything. My diaper bags were always packed for every occasion or mishap. First aid, extra clothes, diversion toys and extra flip flops were always on hand. Sure there were days where I forgot something, but worst case scenario, we could easily live for a week on the Gold Fish crackers under the seats of my car. But that’s just it, I’ve always been ready for the small case scenarios. A child just peed all over himself and you? No worries, I have extra clothes. That crack that jumped out and scraped your knee? I’ve got a bandaid. Oh, sure we can go inside that super nice restaurant for lunch with our 3 small tired children because I have iPads educational toys and snacks!

But when it comes to the large scary worst case scenarios, I’ve always had the mindset of “Yes, fire safety and all that is important. We’ll get to it one day and plus it’ll never happen to us.” But then all it takes is that one time and you're suddenly a part of the “It happened to us” club. When it's simply a trip down to the hardware store and a totally fun family meeting, and you’re prepared to save lives! Yeah, ok. I get it. I’ve been lazy. Thank you Father God that the worst we have had to handle was a few choking incidents, and those were easily solved with a swooping of the throat and a little baby back slapping!

Fast forward a couple years, and our family decides that we are going to start our adoption journey. As I read through our requirements and household safety regulations, I become panicked. How have my children survived thus far without knowing how to properly do CPR, chemical cupboard locks, special detectors and a fire extinguisher!? We are a living time bomb for disaster! As we have gone through the classes and paperwork, I realize that these truly are simple things to invest in. A Saturday afternoon of prep and my family can rest easy, knowing they are safe. My husband and I are now certified CPR super heros, we are working on our family escape route, buying a fire extinguisher, replacing all the detector batteries, teaching the kids the correct time to call 911 and praying to our heavenly Father that none of it has to be used!
Why not as mothers do everything we can (in a sane and acceptable way...don’t bubble wrap your child) to be completely prepared to keep our families safe and alive! I pray that Dale’s talk didn’t fall on deaf ears and that we all went home and at least thought about what we would do in case of an emergency.

Motherhood. It is not for the faint of heart.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Noticing Goodness: When There's No Happily Ever After

Ginny Thomas, mentor mom and "mom" to many, shared her story with us at Tuesday's meeting.

She started her story by reminding us that God was present in it; and although it was not necessarily a "happily ever after," hers was a story of hope.

Ginny took care in her life to do what was right; to marry the "right" person, to go to church, to be a good mother and wife to the best of her abilities. But as she soon realized, doing all the right things didn't necessarily equal a perfect outcome.

She was involved in church, Bible study, and had two beautiful children. She was happy in her marriage, loved God, and was thankful for her blessings.

But her world came crashing down when after more than one affair, her husband left their family. She was on her own at that point. It was devastating.

But God was near.

But, God. He was everywhere in her life, from the very beginning. 

I think what struck me most about her story, wasn't the affairs, or the financial stress, or the three jobs she needed to take to support her family...

What struck me was that she actually did Notice Goodness through it.

The impression of her heart over the beat of the story, was that God is good. Always.

The story told was that we are loved. He loves to not only meet our needs and feed our souls, but He longs to bring us joy.

And when Ginny was gifted an anonymous $500 left on her car one day, she saw it as a gift a husband would give to his wife. She said it was like God was saying, "Buy yourself something pretty."

She saw it as an "I love you."

This was the point where my emotions overwhelmed me. 

How often do I interpret life circumstances as inconsistency in God's character? As bad things happen and people hurt me, when those I love abandon me, how often do I assume this is how God must be?

Instead of reflecting feelings of abandon upon God, Ginny gave herself with abandon to Him. 

Ginny's story, though she may not see it as a happily ever after, is actually a narrative of True Love.

Because God.

At the end of her talk, Ginny left us with the lyrics to Blessings by Laura Story, and so I leave this with you as well:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can't satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Simplify. Organize. Beautify.

Oh, how I love to organize. My childhood bedroom was a minefield of stuff, the floor so messy that only I knew the secret passageway to avoid a booby trap. Yet my closet was impeccably organized into matching labeled boxes, clothes organized by spectrum. There was no danger of falling boxes teetering precariously atop an over-packed shelf. Cleaning my room was a task I did begrudgingly, but I had a system. Clothes and shoes first. Books and papers second. By that point, my room was mostly presentable with only a few miscellaneous items left without a home. 
Throughout my life, I’ve read dozens of books, blogs, and articles about organization. My organization style has changed a lot over the years. What I’ve learned more in recent years is how much better it is to declutter and discard. My big ah-ha moment occurred when I read (somewhere I can’t recall now) that clutter always costs something
It costs space – Garages so full we can’t park our cars inside? Attics or closets where we “cram and slam”? Clutter costs the space we have in our homes. 
It costs money – As if our homes aren’t crammed enough, how many of us have extra storage units to house all of our clutter? That costs money. Aren’t most of us constantly buying all the little add-ons and impulse buys (Target dollar spot anyone??). All those Pinterest-worthy knickknacks are only adding to our clutter and taking away from our wallets.
It costs energy – Isn’t it funny how when it comes time to move houses, all of a sudden we realize how much stuff we have? Where does it come from? Does clutter breed while we sleep? (I think it must.) All that energy is spent just moving clutter from one place to another without ever actually dealing with it. 
One book that has really opened my eyes to the idea of only keeping what I truly love is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up by Marie Kondo. If you were at morning MOPS, you heard me describe the methods recommended in this book.

This book was a revelation to me. The funny thing is, my method of tidying as a child goes right along with this. Instead of location, it instructs you work by category, starting with the least sentimental and working to the most sentimental. What I forgot to mention was the funky “woo woo” part where you thank your possessions as you get rid of them. Yes, that’s right. It’s weird. Why would I do that as a Christian? I thought about it, and what I got was this – As Christians, we need to thank God for all He has given us. We’re called to be wise stewards of our money. Part of why things are difficult to let go is because we spent some of that money that God gave us on these items. Sometimes letting go means we weren’t the wisest with our God’s money. By letting go, and thanking God for His provision of what has become clutter, we can move forward and make wiser decisions in the future. 
A cluttered home is a sign of a cluttered mind. Isn’t that so true? For me, if I see a sink full of dirty dishes and I can’t see the kitchen counters, my mind cannot handle the idea of making a healthy meal. I’ll reach for the cookies or the Cheetos and stress eat instead of throwing together a salad kit. Call me crazy, but clutter stresses me out so much that it affects my mind in ways I can’t explain. By taming the clutter and keeping things organized (as much as life allows), I can think more clearly and make better decisions. As women, we’re called to be the managers of our homes. I think sometimes we don’t see how easily our attitudes and frantic behaviors can affect the atmosphere of the entire household. How we manage our homes has a direct and profound influence on our families.
“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:27
This is our God-given responsibility as women, wives, mothers… to be the managers of our homes and not to be idle. Idleness, in this verse, does not mean we never sit down or rest (although it might feel that way at times). It simply means not to be lazy. It’s hard work to manage a home! But we are called to point our families to Christ. If our homes are cluttered, crazy messy, and overwhelmed all the time, how will that point our families to Christ?

What if you HATE organizing? Give yourself grace. Give yourself time. Go back to step one. The more you simplify, the less stuff you’ll have to organize. If you’d like more encouragement on Gospel-centered home management, I highly recommend checking out The Homemaking Foundations podcast on iTunes
This is the fun part! After all that hard work of clearing out clutter and organizing what we love, we get to beautify our homes for our families and guests. Make your home a haven. Let it be a place where your family wants to be. A place where they can feel refreshed. Consider playing worship music in the background instead of letting the TV drone on in the background. Create quiet and restful places where your family can retreat to read the Bible and pray. We don’t need to have the Pinterest-perfect house to have a beautiful home. If decorating isn’t your thing, ask someone to help you! I know several MOPS moms that DO love to decorate and would LOVE to help you out (I’m looking at you, Mallory). 

It is important to note that many homemakers are motivated by pride. “I know that when I enter someone’s beautiful house it’s easy to let envy and pride take over my heart. I think that decorating your house can be for God’s glory but it all depends on your heart attitude. Be motivated by humility to serve those who come into your house rather than pridefully showing it off. Try and cultivate humility in your thoughts and actions and this will come out in your homemaking.” – Jami Balmet

Make your home a place where your family can flourish fiercely. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

How Can it Be?

I’ve put off writing this blog much longer than I intended…I think a lot of it has to do with feeling a little intimidated and a lot insufficient. I am an anxious person, so my first worry was: “If Erin doesn’t like it, I will be shunned from the church!” That was obviously a harsh generalization of the pastor’s wife, who ended up being so sweet and kind and selfless! I asked a friend, who I would probably call a mentor at this point, and she offered some suggestions and took so much [self-inflicted] pressure off my back. Like our fierce coordinator, Dana, I get my best ideas in the shower. (Sorry, Erin, for being in someone else’s shower thoughts!) I really heard the Lord tell me two things that Erin was trying to convey on Tuesday.

1) God is faithful – even in the strangest, worst, best, whatever circumstances, He. Is. Faithful. God can take your hurts, your happiness, your weird friendships-turn-relationships, your blah days and turn them into something for His gloryEven when you think you’re in the worst or even the best place, God’s not done with you! One of Erin’s life verses was “…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). How beautiful it is to know that God’s not done, even when we feel like we are! And honestly, I feel like I’done much, much more than I’d ever like to admit! Which brings me to Erin’s second point…
2) Every testimony matters – I’m going to be blunt here, I rolled my eyes a bit when Erin described her “apple pie America” life. It was mostly out of jealousy, but also out of my inability to understand or see the bigger picture. I’ve only ever dreamed of an “apple pie America” life/testimony. I was talking with my table leader one night describing some disturbing difficulties I faced as a child and I said, “I seriously thought it was normal – that every family was like that!” So it came as no surprise to me when I took Erin’s ‘easy’ testimony like an unintended jab at my heart. When I get out of my own selfish world and really think about everything, that’s just me being unfair, AGAIN! No one’s testimony is easy, is it? We all have our own struggles and hurts. What matters is what you do with those struggles and hurts.

Finding and believing in God’s purpose for me has always been a difficult task. When you Google “what does the Bible say about purpose in life?” there are COUNTLESS verses! My personal favorite is the beginning of John 15:16, Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you!” My husband just shared something with me, “How cool is it that the same God that created mountains and oceans and galaxies and puppies looked at you and thought the world needed one of you, too.” It baffles me every day that God chose me; that He created me, that He sent His Son to die for ME, that I’m that loved by Him!

For those of you who don’t know and don’t follow my personal blog, I’m going through a rough season in my life. Sophia said it best on our MOPS Facebook page: “I needed all of what’s happened to have happened to bring me to my knees.” I’m still learning to let go of resentment and jealousy and pain. I’m still learning to live with my past. A lot of the support and help I’ve received has come to me via people’s testimonies of God’s faithfulness. What I have learned is that it’s equally important to hear about God’s faithfulness in EVERY circumstance, whether it be ‘apple pie’ or painfully broken, so that you know God is constant, even in our erratic, unpredictable world.