Friday, September 15, 2017

Hello Freedom, it's nice to meet you!


Ahh, a new year of MOPS has begun! Yay! Welcome everyone! I hope the first meeting was as refreshing for you as it was for me! It was so nice to be surrounded by friendly faces, hot coffee, and hot food! Okay, I have seriously ended every sentence so far with an exclamation point. I am just THAT excited about this MOPS year! On Tuesday we watched a video on this year's theme, Free Indeed. Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • We will let love be the loudest voice.
  • Your scars are a roadmap to another woman's freedom.
  • We will go first in order to set other captives free.
  • We will proclaim that fear, worry, anxiety, and comparison will not win.
  • We are committed to fly and this is the year we stretch our wings.
  • Take to the skies and be free indeed.


For me, this theme couldn't have come at a better time. God's timing is perfect. I imagine that's the case for most, if not all of us. Don't we all need freedom from something? I've been held captive by my own thoughts of not being good enough as a wife, mother, friend, sister, or as a person, fearing that I woudn't know what to say in a conversation, or that no one would like me (the list goes on). In reality, that is so not true. Believing these lies about myself only kept me in my cage. Now that I'm accepting myself, opening up, and being vulnerable, I'm experiencing freedom for the first time; and well, it's freeing. I've started to see that sharing what we've gone through or are going through can make way for meaningful relationships. Of course I'm still human and I still get weighted down sometimes, but God is faithful and gives me the strength to lift my head up and walk on. I also have this amazing community of Mamas who are so encouraging. We have each other. We are not alone. We all have hurts and struggles. Sharing ours can not only be good for us; it can benefit those who hear it. It could give someone else the courage to do the same.

I came across these verses a couple months ago that made me think of MOPS, and was going to post them, but haven't yet. So here they are now (:

1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Proverbs 12:25 NIV
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Can't wait for our next meeting!

-Heidi M.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ode to MOPS



There is a little group of gals who hear me when I share.
They listen to each complaint, and heart ache and never seem to compare.

Although some mornings I can hardly muster up the courage,
I know as soon as I join them my heart will be encouraged.

God has blessed me with true friends, even when I felt alone.
You see four years ago, I moved back and hadn't a friend to call my own.

One morning I prayed and asked Him for some friends that were honest and true.
He said "Go to McDonald's and just you see what I will do".

Uhhh..Okay Lord, that's weird...but off we went to play.
Sitting with my burger I noticed the place was packed that day.

A Tuesday afternoon and so many beautiful and witty women.
Surely they wont talk to me, they have so many children!

Slowly but surely, I let down my guard and said "Hey, Hi there, Hello.."
They happily accepted me and told me about a place where I should go.

The following week I walked into a Venue I'd never even seen,
I bet no one notices me, and some may even be mean.

But one by one they started to smile and even remembered my name.
Ate a hot breakfast without a child, hey maybe I am still sane.

Life moved on just as it always seems to do,
Babies, friendships, illnesses and depression crept in too.

 My God was ever so faithful and I didn't feel so alone,
I had this squad of Mamas making sure I left my home.

We never know where this life will lead,the ups and downs the flips and flops.
But I do know He helped save me through a place called MOPS.


-Summur


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Brave

First of all, wow. What a morning full of open arms and open hearts! Thank you Maribeth, Yesi and Dana for having the courage to share your beautiful stories with the rest of us this morning!

I heard so many times this morning how God used your brave and raw words to speak truth to other moms. Each of us were born into this world with an incredible story ahead of us. The mountains and valleys of our story have helped mold us into who we are at this moment...and nothing suprised God. He knew every laugh, every stumble, every tear we would shed before it was even caught in our throat.

For so many years, I saw the hard days, the struggles and downright gut wrenching, heart shattering moments as times when God was reminding me I needed him...maybe even a little
bit of punishment for the poor choices I had made. And though part of that may be true, I now fully believe that these moments where I tried so hard to control and fix and erase away, were
precious moments of God molding me,showing me grace, building me up and creating in me a person He could use for good and glory. But hindsight is 20/20 right? John 13:7 “Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”

MOPs has become a wonderful place to be who YOU are, exactly where YOU ARE. And sometimes that isn’t a great place. Sometimes that’s between a rock and a hard place, but they say that diamonds are made under great pressure.
I’d like to say that the past 6 years I’ve been a part of MOPs, I’ve been open and real, but I’d be lying to both of us. There were years where I played the “I have it all together” card really well.
I had the usual motherhood complaints that come with the territory, but nothing that I would bare my soul for. But then I got lonely, and overwhelmed and maybe even a little depressed. So I opened up. I started going to MOPs and I let my freak flag fly. I couldn’t do this motherhood
journey alone. I can’t do it alone. We shouldn’t do it alone.

You only have to be brave. Brave to step out of your comfort zone and talk to that mom who wouldn’t normally fit into your “category.” Brave to open open and share your struggles and raw places and then to feel totally normal when you realize you’re not alone. Brave to try that new egg dish you saw on Pinterest on your turn to bring breakfast, and to be okay if it doesn’t turn
out. I guarantee that if you allow yourself the chance to be brave, good things will come. So, that being said, here is my moment to be brave. My husband and I are fighting tooth and nail for our marriage. We are in a deep valley. A hard
enough place that by the world’s standards I could call it quits and no one would think the worst. But I am not a quitter, and even on the days where I can’t seem to lift my head off the pillow or
even fathom feeding my family, I can see the light at the end. God has opened my soul to see that He is creating in me a better story than I could have ever written myself. Thank you Jesus for grace. Our marriage WILL be stronger, better and faithful through this. Just like the coal
that is pressed on so intensely, almost to be smothered out, only to come out the other side a diamond, I’m putting my complete trust in God that He’s going to make a fantastic diamond out
of our lump of coal.

I almost didn’t register for MOPs next year. I didn’t want to not have it all together. Wasn’t feeling brave enough to slump through this valley amongst other women. But then a couple of dear, precious friends I have made in MOPS, reminded me that this was exactly the place I needed to be. Surrounded by women who love Jesus and would in turn love and encourage me. Like I said before, MOPS is the perfect place to be WHO I AM, right WHERE I AM.

-Mallory

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Friendship

"What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins & griefs to bear, what a privilege to carry, every thing to God in prayer."

Jesus can be our best friend but it's clear through scripture that He still calls us to fellowship & community in earthly friendships with messy people. 

Heather Blass shared about an early messy friendship and what God taught her through that and where He brought her because of that. 

Close friendships are amazing and beautiful but we need to be sure they are healthy and growing as well. Sometimes we stuff things down over and over in a relationship but eventually it's going to blow up and possibly cause irreparable damage. Also God may be pruning that relationship for His purposes and plans but we may not see why He's doing what He's doing. 

Here are some components of a healthy friendship:

1. Grace - We need to give grace. We don't always know what people are going through so assume the best about one another.

2. Truth -Be willing to face the truth.

   a. The truth about myself - be who you are and be willing to share how you feel, always speaking the truth in love. Be willing & humble to hear the truth about yourself too.

   b. Share what you are going through (in proportion with who you are with). If it's a brand new friend you don't want to spill all your guts but be willing to "go first". Sometimes this can cause an instant bond because of common issues. Don't stuff your stuff!

 c. Let others share their ugly stuff. Let's not put each other on a pedestal because we are human and we are going to blow it. 

"Friends love through all kinds of weather". Proverbs 17:17 (a) Let's not be just "fair weather friends" but also friends through the storms of life. 

3. Trust - Be a trustworthy friend. Do I keep confidences and trusts? Can I be counted on to keep private what should be private? 

"A perverse person stirs up conflict and a gossip separates close friends". Proverbs 16:28

4. Forgiveness - Do we forgive? Sometimes that forgiveness takes a while but we are the ones suffering if we do not forgive. "Love prospers when a fault is forgiven". Proverbs 17:9 God can turn a bad situation into a good & healthy relationship. 

We can't lose ourselves in other people - our spouses, kids or friends. We must be whole in ourselves. We need to know who we are- each one of us is special & unique with our own passion and talents. Our identity can not be all about being someone's wife or someone's mom or someone's friend. The only One we can lose ourselves in is Jesus because He is perfect.

Jesus is grace, He gives 2nd chances, He speaks truth to us, He is trustworthy and the original Promise Keeper. He forgives - He paid the price for our forgiveness.  

We need to beware of social media - it can be used for good and it can also be used for harm. How thoughtful am I about what I share or post? 

Comparison kills contentment!

Community is so important and everyone has something to offer. We need to learn from one another and beware of becoming isolated. No mom should be or feel alone. We can change the world by how we raise our kids. Are we intergenerational? Becoming friends with someone outside your age group can offer rich rewards. Be sure to tap into your mentor moms - they choose to be in MOPS for you, as ones who've experienced much and as prayer warriors. 

Challenge: 

You get as much out of friendships as you put into it. The more you put in, the more you get out. You need to be able to share - be authentic. Put judgements aside & instead look to understand someone and what they are going through. Have grace and understanding. (Maybe they're in a hurry because they have diarrhea!) 

We as the church need to care for each other - we are not perfect or always happy but let's be genuine and strive to be in harmony with one another. 

"You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common". 1 Corinthians 1:10(b)

You've got a friend in me! And better yet, you've got a friend in Jesus!
-Ginny

Monday, April 3, 2017

I Get So Emotional Baby!

During our last Mops meeting, we watched a video on the topic of anger. It had many amazing tools to teach us how to deal with our emotions, or our “Super Power” as she called it. We can use our anger for good or for evil. And I can sooooo relate to that. I am a passionate person. I love deeply and am very sensitive to others. But I can also respond in anger swiftly. I am not one to hold my feelings In. Whereas my husband is calm cool and collected and holds everything in until it all comes out. I don't know if one way is better than another, and I definitely see our different emotional responses in our children and how they deal with their own big emotions. It's just like a mirror up to your face of your own sin and ugliness. Ouch! Generational sin is some powerful stuff.

I am highly on guard for getting out of control with my kids. We had some major emotional, verbal abuse in my house as a kid. (I think that's why when I had so much anger after having my last baby, I knew my brain was not working correctly.)

But you guys, I have been so on edge last week analyzing my every move. Am I raising my voice too much? Oh crap, I sighed at my kids fighting, will they think I don't  love them wholly for every essence of their being? My husband came home and was in a good mood, and I was in a grumpy mood. Will he think I am an angry old grump? I was literally freaking out over every exasperated sigh and exhale.
It is highly important to be self-aware and have practical tools to aid us in controlling our anger. But we have something better to help us!

This morning I read my devotional and was again reminded that no matter how hard I try and try to do what is right in my own power I am going to fail, no doubt about it. But we are free from the bondage of sin. Praise Jesus! I can analyze myself all day long, or I can give it over to the one true God who has me

"I have been liberated,
Set free,
and given new life,
New hope,
New motivation,
and new peace,
Of heart and mind.
No I have not been freed
To walk my own way,
To write my own rules,
OR to do what I choose.
No, I have been given
The best of freedoms.
I have been freed,
Not from God's rule,
But from my bondage
To me.
Following,
Obeying,
Serving,
Submitting to God
Is the thing I was created to do,
So it is the place where
True freedom is to be found.
Rebellion never gives life.
Self-rule never brings freedom.
So grace has worked to rescue
Me from me,
So that I can know the true freedom
of serving Him." Paul David Tripp

-Summur

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Conquering Relationship Challenges

Our Tuesday morning Mops meeting was one that got me thinking a lot about my relationship with my husband.  Since we got married eight years ago, we have had to work hard on our communication.  I realized quickly that when I would ask too much of him, he would shut down.  I attributed this to the way he was raised and figured it had nothing to do with me.   Boy, was I wrong.

My husband is the sweetest man I have ever met.  Because of his size people become hesitant, but after a quick Harvey laugh, it is realized he is hilarious and light-hearted.  Things don’t ruffle his feathers and he has the ability to go with the flow.  Our beginning vacations as a married couple consisted of riding by the seat of our pants.  At times we would find ourselves driving up to Kirkwood in the dead of night or meeting up with friends in a faraway place at the drop of a hat.  It was fun and always an adventure.  His flexibility and sense of adventure is attractive and exciting.   I like reflecting on that time when decisions didn’t feel heavy.

Life progressed to beautiful children and a lot of necessary communication.  First of all, raising kids involves a lot of talking, planning, follow through, revisiting and repeating.  The fun is and will always be in our relationship, but having to talk business is a chore.  I find we get offended easily and in turn we don’t want to talk about it again. And, hay, who wants to deal with the un-fun stuff anyway?  Adulting in general is hard and I was not surprised to hear that the majority of problems in a marriage are not the big ticket items.  In fact, it all relates to how we communicate with each other.  Come to find out it is not all related to the way we have been raised; it has to do about the way we act towards each other.  It should be simple.  Here I am madly in love with my husband trying to be a good partner, friend, lover, and wife.  Aren't we all working towards that goal?  But things get in the way and riffs happen. 

Fixing those small things that bug us about each other have a simple solution.

Number 1: Examine the way we question our partners.  Day in and day out I ask why.  Questioning is part of understanding and it is what I do.  I thought that asking why was helping our communication.  My husband is not one to readily spew out details, so asking why seems like a way to get more information.  Asking why is okay, but the way we ask may change the results of the conversation.  My goal is to try to ask why in a way that does not assume that he has not thought through the situation.  Remembering that he makes choices by considering all options will make my questioning come out prettier.  My hope is he, in turn, will not attribute my asking why to nagging.

Our partners crave respect.  Showing respect can be as easy as a simple thank you. 

Number 2: Say thank you.  It is time to start noticing those small things and thank them for it.  I tried it last night, and it brought out a smile.  I am not just thanking him for the things I ask him to do, but for things he usually does.  My goal is to thank him as much as I hear I love you, which is an awful lot!

Finally, the racy part. 

Number 3: Our partners want to feel close and connected to us.  Women can feel this closeness and connection through many different outlets, like a heartfelt conversation, but men need it in a physical way.  Although it is so hard to want to make love when you are bugged, it may be something that will help the communication.  That physical connection is the antidepressant for him and may make the situation feel lighter. 

In our marriage we have grown and are continuing to learn how to empower each other.  Our pitfalls should not be considered a road block.  Working on communication by speaking kindly to each other, respecting the choices we make and connecting emotionally and physically can help bring both individuals back into alignment.  Being on the same page will make conquering our challenges together easier. 

- Amanda

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It's Only a Season

   Has your life ever felt chaotic and out of control? (most days, right?) Then add moving, changing churches, a new job, toddlers, and .....really? A  surprise pregnancy!?!?

Our speaker Summur Braley shared her intimate and personal story of coming face to face with postpartum depression (PPD) & anxiety.

  All Summur ever wanted to do was to be a loving mommy to her children but during her last pregnancy and after the birth of her 4th child, sweet Holiday, she started to not recognize who she was becoming.

  On edge, very angry, anxious, and distant from God. At this time, Summur felt like if something happened to Holiday, it  could possibly be a medical emergency and going to the ER or almost calling 911 full of panic and fear was the "go to answer".

    It was a very sad and stressful time for their whole family. Matt, her dear husband, had to calmly talk her off the ledge she was so clearly on. She decided to call her doctor who told her in a very matter of fact way that she had Postpartum Depression. This was a difficult diagnosis to understand because Summur had always been a very cheery person, an extrovert, so how could this be? The doctor explained that anger is one of the main signs of depression and anxiety. The number one sign for Summur was that was she acting "unlike herself". Her doctor put her on antidepressants and sent her to a psychologist. The antidepressants didn't work but the psychologist was terrific. She gave her breathing techniques, practical daily changes to make along with suggestions of looking out at the horizon, beyond that little square we are locked in when we have a baby.

    Summur also learned that PPD & anxiety is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It's not something you have done, it's not because you think negatively, its not something we bring on ourselves and it's not the Lord punishing us.

   It turned out that talking about it was huge - for her and for many others. This epidemic is nothing  to be taken lightly. One of our own in MOPS lost her best friend to suicide because of postpartum depression. We can not trust our feelings at this time. We must reach out and get help even though it seems like everyone is so far away from us, including God. They are there for us, He is always there for us. Untreated postpartum depression can lead to postpartum psychosis and that is a very scary thing.

  We were given a very helpful handout that explained symptoms of PPD & anxiety, and postpartum psychosis, what to do if you have symptoms of PPD and how to help someone suffering from PPD.

   Finally "spring came" to Summur and her household, she started feeling like herself again, seeing colors and using her creative energy to start a tie dying business. God was so  faithful.

"For everything there is a season"
Ecclesiastics 3:1.

Please remember that PPD is only for a season but you do need to recognize it and treat it.

Have Hope -
Ginny

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hush Little Baby, Mama's Gonna Buy You a Mercedes if you go to Sleep

"Rock a bye baby, in the tree top
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
and down will come baby, cradle and all"

That's some dark stuff right there.

But we've all been as desperate for our baby to sleep as the lyricist to that ancient nursery rhyme.
If my baby would only sleep through the night....
If my 2 year old wouldn't climb into bed and kick me in the head all night...
If my 4 year old wouldn't wake me up at 3 in the morning asking where her hoodie is... (this literally happened last night and she doesn't own a hoodie currently)

But alas the struggle truly is real, Ladies.
I feel like my main goal as a mom is to get my children to sleep. Okay kids let's eat this meal at this time, play at this park, have this playdate, and so on and so forth and then you precious children will sleep like angels tonight! Thank you to the good Lord for bedtime!

Last week we were graced with the presence of an honest to goodness Sleep Expert. The lovely Jo Anna Inks. When I heard she was coming to share with us I honestly thought..."Oh this will be good for all of those young new Mamas."
You see I am an old old Mama, with four children of varying ages and I've always had pretty great sleepers. So what could I really learn?

And then I was humbled.
(Why is it that all of my blog posts have this common thread? Apparently I need a good kick in the pants)

Jo Anna had some amazing tips.

1/ Watch the Waking Hours
Babies get over tired very easily, if they are grumpy they are probably TIRED!

2/ Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Humans, and babies, sleep better in the dark.

3/ Be Predictable
Babies and Toddlers love a predictable routine. A predictable bedtime lets your child know what's coming.

4/ Feed After Naps, Not Before
Number one reason babies/toddlers don't sleep is the connection they have formed with needing to eat to fall asleep.

5/ Same Place, Same Time
Have your child sleep in the same place and the same time everyday. Nap time and bed time should be in the same place too.

I ran into Jo Anna in the bathroom after her talk and told her about my one year old, Holiday. She had been waking up at 5 or six in the morning and I do not like waking early, at all. I put Holly down at 7pm like clock work every night, Jo Anna suggested trying a 6:30 bedtime. This morning she woke up at 8 am y'all!!!
Oh happy day!!!

You guys there was just so very many good tips that Jo Anna had for us. I highly recommend you give her a call.
1 (209) 813-0609.

Good Night Sweet Hearts,
Summur

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Rhonda Stoppe: There Is Hope

Rhonda Stoppe speaks like a woman with “No Regrets.” Not like a woman who wishes her life had been different. Not like a woman who hasn’t made mistakes. She doesn’t preach like a woman who holds onto pain, and she doesn’t speak the Word like a woman who doesn’t understand It’s power.

Instead, she spoke at MOPS on Tuesday like a woman who’s seen a lot, if not “it all.” A woman who has had to go before the throne of God on WAY more than one occasion, to ask for very large things.

Like Forgiveness. Like Grace. Like healing. Like Love for her enemies. Like strength when she feels the most thin, and the most weak, and the most unable.

She spoke like a Mother. Like you and I.

When I hear the phrase “No Regrets,” it triggers all of my regret. I think, well, that’s not me, lady! I have stuff. I have things that I wish I could erase or do-over. But the more I hear the definition of “The No Regrets Woman,” according to Rhonda, the more I realize that IS me. That’s all of us. Or, it can be, if we choose it.

One way we can choose to have a No Regrets Life, is to look at our lives like a story. Like a narrative, still being written.

Often I look back on events past, and think about the decisions I made, and looking in on those little moments in time can be discouraging. But then I look at those events, mixed in with those moments of rescue by God, those times when I was at my lowest, and someone came to help me. I remember moments where it seemed hopeless, and a stranger saw me and gave me words of encouragement in a college bathroom. I remember being halfway across the country, and another believer took me into their home and treated me like family.

I still look at my hurt, I remember those who hurt me.

But I remember those who helped me more. And I know that those moments were God showing up. He never left.

He shows up in our stories. If we look for Him, we will most certainly find Him there.

And the beauty is that our stories aren’t done yet. He isn’t finished! When the little moments get me down, or I feel worn, or tired, or unappreciated, I will remember this is only a tiny part of a greater story of God’s goodness in my life.

I have hope to be a No-Regrets woman. And so do you, sister.

-Char


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sharing the Joy of Books

Last week we were inspired to take our children, and our grandkids, on trips to foreign lands; to meet kings and queens, rulers and emperors, Indians in the Cupboard and Very Hungry Caterpillars. We were told we could have a P.H.D. by being a Parent who Has Desire to share the love of books and reading with our children.

I was struck by the generational passion for books that was so evident in this family. Cheryl had a mom who read to her, then she read to her children and now they are reading to their children. In the Bible we read about generational sin, sin that affects the 3rd or 4th generation. How wonderful to think about a positive generational habit to pass down to the 3rd or 4th generation and beyond.......the love of reading & books.

We were asked to think about some questions so I will highlight a couple.

1. How do I instill in my children a desire & excitement for books?
Start young! Train early!
Set aside time to read and remember that a busy schedule is a deterrent to reading!
Reading is the honey for your child's soul- sweetness of life, and we are capable of giving honey to our children even if it's only 10 minutes a day.
One book recommendation was Honey For A Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt.

2. Where do I find good books?
Visit the library, church and city libraries.....frequently & regularly. Go to story time, get them their own library card and let them pick out some of the books. Be sure to get books on tape for car rides and always have a book with you for doctor appointments or waiting in pickup lines.  There's also second hand book stores, Amazon Used Books as well as trading books with friends and family. Be sure to buy some books for your children to own - this will be the beginning of their library. Try buying books for each of the holidays and when you bring them out year after year a tradition will be born.

We were given ideas of practical times to read to our children:
During breakfast read a devotional.
During lunch show picture books.
During snacks after school, read them chapters from a novel.
During bedtime read more stories as everyone gets cozy and winds down.
Let them read in bed and never use their reading time as discipline.
Remember that reading leads to better writers & listeners and reading is the key to true learning.

We were challenged to be a commercial for reading by putting down our devices and model "SQUIRT- silent, quiet, un-interrupted, reading time". There are so many benefits to reading to or with your children including bonding with them and having an avenue to teach them your faith and values.

So with a B.A.- Better Attitude, a B.S.- Believing Spirit, a M.A.S.T.'R.- Make A Special Time to Read; you will end up with a P.H.D. Let's be passionate parents about reading and sharing the joy of books. Well I'm off to join Pa & Ma and their daughters Mary, Laura and Baby Carrie as they leave the Big Woods of Wisconsin to move West to Indian Country.
Happy reading!

-Ginny