You may have noticed that things have gone kind of quiet on here lately…for a whole month, to be exact. Life has been BUSY. In the last month, both boys celebrated their first day of school (all the “WOOHOO”s!), which is a whole thing. Getting kids early to bed, and early to rise every day with a hearty breakfast in their tummies and a healthy lunch in their backpacks is no joke. And while the kids have been celebrating their first days in their new adventures, I have been busy preparing for a first day of my own. Today all of my efforts came together and the adventure finally began!
But before I tell you about the new adventure, let’s rewind a bit.
About 2 years ago, shortly after we moved to California, I joined a group at our church called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). I’d heard of MOPS for years (in fact, my Mother-in-law was one of the founding leaders of MOPS International back in the early 80’s), and I had several friends in MOPS groups, but it just never worked out for me to attend a group of my own. Once we were in California, however, I knew that I needed to find a place for me. A place where I could connect with other moms AND get a break from my (darling) children (who were completely overwhelming to me at the time).
MOPS has totally filled that space in my life. As soon as I joined the group at our church I started meeting new mom friends and getting connected. It was love at first sight. For the past 2 years, MOPS has been the thing I most look forward to every week. It’s been a total game-changer, and I’m so glad I finally decided to be a part of it.
Now, fast forward a bit. Shortly after I started attending my MOPS group, I was asked to step into leadership. But not just any role, the main role. Like, be in charge of the whole group. I’d only been in the group for about 2 months, so I was honored that they would even ask me…but I had to say no. This was right when we were considering homeschooling the boys for the following year, and I knew that I couldn’t lead both my boys and the MOPS group well. I declined, but I told them to think of me again in the future if they needed more leaders.
Fast forward another year, and the opportunity came up again to take over leading the group. Hannah had just been born and I was sensing that homeschool wouldn’t be the right fit for our family the following year. If we didn’t homeschool, I knew that I would have the time and energy to pour into MOPS and I could give a leadership role the attention it deserved. The timing was right this time, so I said yes! The next few weeks were a blur of learning as much as I could from the standing coordinator before she handed the reigns completely over to me. By the end of May, the transition was complete and I found myself suddenly in charge.
Over the summer I planned leadership retreats, tracked down about a dozen community leaders to come speak at our group, worked with the church staff to plan and execute publicity and marketing materials, and tried to learn as many of the behind-the-scenes details as I could. There are, as it turns out, a LOT of behind the scenes details that go in to running a ministry.
Everything was coming together beautifully. Then, about 3 weeks ago, tragedy struck. Our ministry leader and my mentor, Dee, suddenly passed away. Dee was a huge advocate of MOPS, and she had a great love and passion for our group. Her passing was a shock to me and to everyone in our church and community who knew and loved her. At her memorial service a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of people filled the room to share funny stories and precious memories of this incredible woman. Dee will be greatly missed by me and by her MOPS family.
But even in the face of tragedy, today came.
Today was our first official meeting of the year, and it was amazing. We had about 50 moms at our first meeting, and as I was walking around the room everyone seemed to be having fun and connecting well with one another. We had a huge breakfast spread and there was enough coffee for everyone. Win, win, win.
My team worked so hard to make the room welcoming and gorgeous (thank goodness for them, because I still haven’t even figured out how to hang up pictures in my house!). I was so busy running around that I didn’t get many photos, but here are a few photos of the room before the moms arrived this morning:
Everything ran smoothly, and I am so grateful. Grateful for the incredible moms that I get to travel with on this grand adventure, grateful for God’s provision, and grateful for the calling to leadership.
This morning I gave a brief talk at the group to introduce myself and the MOPS International theme for the year, “We Are The Starry Eyed”. It went something like this:
MOPS Welcome Talk 2016: We Are The Starry Eyed
Like all of you, my family is very important to me. I love my family more than life itself, and I will do anything for them. Well, almost anything. There is one thing, however, that I have sworn off until my kids move out: housecleaning.
Not too long ago, before I decided to boycott housecleaning, I decided to vacuum my house. Now, you have to understand that even before I quit housecleaning, I did it very rarely. Like, only when the filth and the general level of broken health codes required that I do something.
Unfortunately, we had reached that point, and the cleaning simply had to be done. Between a dog, two boys who spend most of their waking hours tromping through the woods, and a baby who is learning the fine art of “self-feeding”, our house had reached a new level of disgusting. Even I couldn’t ignore the mess any longer.
So, when the stars aligned and I had both a napping baby AND two boys happily playing Legos in their room at the SAME TIME, I seized my opportunity. I quietly slipped upstairs so the happily playing boys wouldn’t realize I was trying to be productive (A mom’s productivity is, of course, the quickest way to make her children need her). I took out my vaccuum and I spent 20 minutes attempting to remove the layers of filth that had accumulated in the month or so since I’d last braved housecleaning.
When I finished vacuuming upstairs, I proudly surveyed the work I’d accomplished. As I was patting myself on the back, however, I realized something. It was quiet. TOO quiet.
Every mom knows that TOO quiet is the second most-feared sound, next to the terrifying high-decibel scream that follows the silent scream when your baby gets hurt.
I took a deep breath and headed downstairs to the boys’ room, bracing myself for what I would find. When I tried to open their bedroom door, however, it wouldn’t budge. I finally pushed my way through and discovered the source of the barrier: clothes. Lots of clothes. Piles of clothes. In fact, strewn across the floor was every single piece of clothing our family owns (P.S. We own too many clothes). Clothing from every dresser and every closet and every shelf was piled in the center of their room. Forget that I had just spent an hour folding laundry and putting it away that morning. Now, we had MOUNT LAUNDRY…and it was about as tall as Mount Everest.
But we were just getting started. I walked down the hallway to put the vacuum away in the laundry room. When I entered the laundry room, I was greeted with pure chaos. The boys had emptied our craft bin and “decorated” the entire room with streamers and stickers and paper cutouts and scrapbooking decor. It looked like someone had taken a Hobby Lobby and shook it out all over the room. It was, the boys declared, a party.
And just when I thought I’d seen enough, I looked down and saw the dog’s water dish. Where there should have been clean drinking water, there was a yellow puddle. I didn’t even need to ask the boys, because I already knew. They had been using the dish as target practice–PEE target practice. And, in all honesty, I was quite impressed they were able to aim and hit such a small target with such accuracy. That takes mad skills.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or scream or just pass out right then and there. So, I decided to take some age-old advice: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Since this was a PARTY according to them, we had our party. We put on the party hats that were lying on the laundry room floor and we finished hanging the streamers over the door. We jumped in the pile of clothes like it was a giant leaf pile.
And then we got to work. We dumped out the dog dish and disinfected the living daylights out of it. The boys learned how to fold socks and pants and shirts. The party is still up in the laundry room, because it’s actually kind of cute and it makes laundry day a little bit more fun.
I made a conscious decision that day– one that didn’t come naturally, but that was necessary in that moment (for my sanity and the physical safety of my children). I decided to embrace the mess. Because, in the end, isn’t that what life is like?
There are times in life when everything seems to be going well, but then–BAM!–some MESS happens. The drawers of your life are emptied out into a giant pile in the middle of the room, and you can’t even see around the mess.
A tragedy strikes your family. You long for another baby, but it’s just not happening. Your husband leaves town for business right as your toddler contracts a double ear infection. Your housing situation falls through. Loved ones pass away, and you are reminded of the fragility of life. We see injustice in the world, and it breaks our very hearts. You’re having an “I Quit” day and you just want your mommy, but Mom lives a thousand miles away. You yearn for a better tomorrow while just struggling to get through today. Motherhood is full of dark times. There is pain. There is sorrow. There is despair. Darkness comes in many different forms, and we all face it at one time or another.
But there is hope! Even in the darkness, we can find the light of hope. This year at MOPS we will be joining together as friends and comrades to support each other on the front lines of motherhood. Through both the light and the dark–no matter what we are going through, whether it’s a “dark” struggle or a “light” joy, we are in this together. Because together? Together we are stronger. And together, we are The Starry Eyed.
Starry Eyed means looking for the light, even when darkness is enveloping. It is an opportunity to hope recklessly and to witness God’s presence guiding things seen and unseen, comfortable and uncomfortable. Starry Eyed means running wildly toward hope when it seems that all else has been lost. Starry Eyed means finding the wonder in the mundane (Can I get an “Amen” for endless piles of laundry and dishes?!). Starry eyed means finding comfort in the kindness of friends and strangers alike. Because this journey of motherhood? It can be rocky and confusing and downright scary. But as the Starry Eyed, we find our hope and wonder and kindness together–and we find refuge.
Psalm 139:12 says, “Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”
When we are going through the dark times of life–the chaos and the mess–we can find our refuge in God. We can choose to live courageously in both the light and the darkness, because He’s GOT this. We can perform significant acts of kindness that will send ripples of light out into the world. We can open our eyes to wonder, and choose hope over fear. We can move forward courageously, because we are the Starry Eyed.
When we reflect back over our lives, this year is going to stand out. It will be the year that we decided to live fully by both sunlight and moonlight. It will be the year that we embraced the beautiful mess that is motherhood. And the best part is, we will experience it all together.
So, thank you. Thank you for joining us on this journey at MOPS this year. YOU are important, and we are so glad you’re here. This will be a year where we will be stretched to challenge ourselves as individuals and as mothers. It will be a year that we will create new friendships and deepen old relationships. It will be a year when we will laugh and cry (and laugh and cry some more…because we’re moms, and that’s what we do best). It will be a year of learning to embrace both the dark and the light, because…
we are the Starry Eyed.