Friday, March 13, 2015

Courage to Live in Community


 
 
One of the scariest realities of becoming a mom is finding other mommies to mommy with. Of course there are the lucky few who seem to have aligned their first pregnancies with those of close friends or siblings, but for most of us, along-side the joyful expectation of that first precious child comes a sense of impending loneliness.

I first felt it when the school year started in August. After a whirlwind summer of preparing our home and hearts for a new baby and getting in one last unencumbered roadtrip - logging over 3,000 miles, my husband returned to teaching math during the day. And I stayed home. After 3 years of nearly year-round teaching - spending the school years in high school English classrooms and the summers teaching conversational English in China, I stayed home. And stayed home. And stayed home. And went to Target.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE time that is all mine. In fact, I love it so much that I didn’t really do anything to connect with other people. And, really, I didn’t know how. I was out of practice with finding and engaging in community that wasn’t established institutionally through work.

And then came the third invitation to join MOPS. I really thought MOPS was for mothers of preschoolers - as in kids in preschool… But my ready-to-pop belly and I kept getting invited.

And wow. Just wow. The first meeting was overwhelming. I didn’t know where I fit and I didn’t know what to talk about. I’m not sure that I said much of anything, actually. But just listening to these women, I knew that I wanted a way in. A way to dig deeper. And you know what? It happened. And I can’t even tell you how. I just kept showing up.  

There’s this thing that is just true about being a mama in a room full of mamas. We are all in the same boat and we all know it. We ARE a community, we just have to learn to live like it. I’ve learned that the deep stuff - the soul-nourishing community we all crave, starts with the practical. The great thing about that is the practical isn’t so scary. We can sign up for the practical - literally! There is a description of biblical community in the book of Acts that describes the early church sharing meals, pooling resources, and worshipping together. We build the foundations for community when we bring a meal to a new mama, join chaos to chaos for a playdate or a picnic, or invite a family we don’t know well over for dinner. We pool resources when we put on potluck birthday parties, pick up one another’s groceries, carpool to and from school, trade babysitting, and pass along clothes.

Where are you being led to engage in community here at MOPS? Keep an eye on the MOPS facebook page for opportunities to bring meals to new mamas. Gather gently-used clothing and toys to pass along to other mamas at meetings. Better yet, find a specific family to regularly pass clothes to. Reach out to the women at your table for playdates or coffee. Host a mama-and-me workout in your backyard or garage. Join the Zumba ministry at Pyle Elementary on Saturday mornings with Katie Valorosi or the MOPS Book Club with me (Heather Fenton). Community begins with and depends on these acts of service and engagement, and our willingness to take even small steps toward going deeper in relationships. We are all on this mommy journey, so let’s not do it alone!
 
 
Heather Fenton is mama to 4 littles 5 and under and facilitates the Bridge MOPS Book Club.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Courage to Choose Connection over Comparison



You know the scenario all too well. You see her with that cute outfit, with her adorable kids, with her Pinterest projects, with that new hair style or those skinny jeans, and you cringe. You see those posts on Facebook about that great vacation she’s taking or that cuddly picture with her husband, and you’re just plain jealous. You don’t want to feel that way but it just keeps surfacing.

Sound familiar? In an age of Instagram and Facebook, when we have “full access” to each other’s lives, it’s easy to get caught up in comparison. It’s easy to start comparing our worst days to someone else’s highlight reel. It’s far too tempting to get a glimpse of someone at the park or at church and think, “She really has it all together.”

A few years ago I had the opportunity to attend MomCon, the national convention put on by the MOPS organization. One of the speakers was mama-author Shauna Niequist. Her presentation on the topic of “Connection over Comparison” made a huge impact on me. “Connection is a soul saver, and comparison is a soul killer,” she said. “Instead of thinking about what God gave us, we become obsessed with other people’s lives.”

I am ashamed to admit that I have lost friends over comparison. It pains me to think about it today, but I have had to walk away from relationships that became toxic in this way. It’s no fun to be in a conversation where it’s constantly a contest to “one-up” each other. What would happen if we leaned in and listened instead? What would happen if we congratulated her or cheered her on for her victories instead of sulking in the background?

I have learned through the years that comparison kills community. My challenge to you today is to fast from comparison. If you are tempted to compare yourself with another mama, try a genuine compliment instead. Take a break from the internet and cross the distance between you and other real mamas. Invite her to the trampoline place or to tea. Find a way to get your families together for dinner. Brave the harder questions. Dig into the stories that shape you and not just your status. Create a space for connection instead of comparison.

What I’ve discovered is that when we dive into each other’s stories, when we welcome people into our messes and everyday challenges, we discover we are not alone. When I am willing to be vulnerable, others are willing to be vulnerable too. And somewhere on the journey of inviting and sharing and connecting, true friendships and authentic community is born.

 
Dorina Lazo Gilmore is mama to three active, uniquely-their-own girls. She is a published author, teacher and the coordinator of the Bridge MOPS group.

 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Be You, Less Busy





 

I like my holiday traditions. I love the after-Thanksgiving decorating, the walk down Christmas Tree Lane, the decadent desserts and dinner parties, the wrapping and unwrapping of Christmas books each night of advent, the doorbuster sales, the white elephant gift exchanges, the homemade cinnamon rolls and Christmas Day ravioli. I love Christmas cards and endless twinkling lights and Pinterest projects. For years, I have pushed through to get it all done, get it all right, get it all accomplished and then chalked up that ragged, worn-out feeling as being just part of the bustle of the season.

But this year I know I need to slow it down.

Slow down our schedule, slow down our commitments, slow down our hearts.

When I hear the same message resonating from a lot of different places from different people I respect, I know it's time to start sitting up and paying attention. This is often the way God tries to show me something important. Truth be told, God's been whispering this message to me about slowing down Christmas for the last few years, but I didn't really want to listen. 

This will be a different Christmas for my family - our first Christmas without my husband who died in September from cancer. Some might be tempted to cancel Christmas in our circumstances, but with a 3, 5, and 8-year-old I know I can't do that.

I do know I have a perfect opportunity to do something different, to slow it down and be more intentional.

Author Brene Brown wrote this in a recent blog post, "We live in a world where life can easily become pageantry, and the best performers make it look balletic and effortless. Of course, there’s no such thing as an effortless holiday show. If you sneak a peek behind most people’s red velvet curtains at holiday time, you’ll often see houses brimming with anxiety, maxed-out credit cards, crying children, and marriages that make the cold war look warm and fuzzy. I’m convinced that the only way out of this is by cancelling the show. Not canceling the holiday, but giving up the show."

I was convicted by that. On Thanksgiving, I started thinking through our long list of Christmas traditions and asking myself why each one is really important. I found myself dwelling on a few key questions: What am I really longing for this season? What traditions are just part of the show and which ones really matter to me?

I realized that every year I long for two things: quality time to enjoy the story of Christmas and a meaningful way to bless others. 

Looking through my list, I knew I needed to cut back on at least a third of our holiday traditions and then cross off a few more that were really meaningful but just made the season far too busy. It was hard work but there was great freedom I felt in doing it.

It's December 11 and none of my Christmas decorations are up. We are slated to go get our tree tomorrow night with friends. Our tradition has always been to put everything up the day after Thanksgiving. We didn't do that this year. And that's ok. It's one example of a way I gave myself grace and permission to slow down.

Instead, I've spend these first two weeks of Advent reading through a new treasured book called UNWRAPPING THE CHRISTMAS STORY by Ann Voskamp with my kids. There is a story and beautiful illustrations lighting each night of Advent. This book has encouraged some amazing conversations with my girls. We haven't finished every night's reading or every question, but we have slowed down most nights to enjoy it together. I have treasured this time. It's a new tradition that really matters to me.

My challenge to you (and myself) is to slow down for five minutes and ask yourself: What can I cut out these next few weeks? When can I say no graciously? What can I take off my to-do list so I can say yes to the heart of Christmas? If Christmas is about the birth of Emmanuel, meaning "God with us," I know I don't want to sprint through this season all bleary-eyed and miss out on the moments I could have with that God-baby.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Coordinator of the Bridge MOPS. She writes books for children and also teaches at California State University, Fresno. She is a mama to three active girls.

 

 
 
 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Be You, Creatively




On Friday, I took my kids to a birthday party. One of the activities was painting. The hostess mama had paints and paper and brushes for each child. She boldly let them go to town. My three daughters, who are wild about painting, filled up every inch of white space with thick, swirling colors. Crimson crashing gold melting green. My littlest even got some fingers in the action. As they painted, I noticed something extraordinary: a light in their eyes. This was the “creator light,” the satisfaction that they were creating something with their own hands.

The legendary painter, Pablo Picasso, said this: “Every child is born an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

This is the difficulty. We learn to edit. We start to look around and compare. We recognize other great artists, and we feel the weight of expectations. We squelch the creative for the practical.

David writes in Psalm 139: 13: “For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

As I read the words of this scripture and others, I discover two things: God is our Creator. He created us to create. 

When I first became a mama, I discovered the urgency of everyday demands often trumped time for myself, time to be creative and unwind. With each child, this time proportionally diminished.
Through the years I have come to understand that I have to be intentional about creative space for myself. God has wired me to create. I bring Him glory when I create. This has looked different in various seasons of my life. My creative seasons have included writing blogs, painting canvases, making jewelry.

In other seasons, it’s been knitting. I love knitting because it involves a beginning and end. I start with a delicious ball of yarn and end up with a little baby hat or chunky scarf. There is something deeply satisfying about holding that finished piece in my hand. I created it. Perhaps it isn’t perfect or what I thought it might look like but it is my creation. I don’t find this deep satisfaction in doing the laundry or scrubbing toilets.

I have had seasons where cooking was my creative space. Sure, it was practical: we needed to eat. Yet I afforded myself some extra time for perusing cookbooks and making something more involved because I knew I need the cooking therapy. I knew the chopping and mixing and tasting was something my creative mama soul needed.

Do you allow yourself creative space?

For you, maybe it’s gardening or arranging bedroom furniture or sewing or making someone feel welcome in conversation or playing guitar. I urge you to stop making excuses about your kids and your shortcomings. Stop “pinning” and start creating.

I love the way writer and pastor Erwin McManus puts it: “When you allow the living God to shake your life loose from all that holds you, and recreate and remake you, you are once again stepping into your artist’s self.

I challenge you today to be you, creatively.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Courage to Embrace Your Child's Individuality





As a mama of three girls ages 2, 5 and 8, there’s a lot I’m still learning. In fact, every day is a wild journey of discovery about my girls and myself. One thing I do know for sure: we are all different.

That may sound obvious but it’s a big deal. It’s something I have to constantly remind myself as I navigate the waters of parenting. Each one of my girls is a masterpiece – uniquely wired and created by God. 

It's tempting to get caught up into what other people think about our kids - how they should look or behave or think or act. I have been that mom. It's been a journey for me to learn how to celebrate each one of my girls and embrace their individuality.

I know that my oldest, Meilani, feels wholly alive when she has a colored pencil or marker or paint brush in hand. She’s also a planner. She loves to know what’s on the agenda for the week. She loves to set up her room for friends to come over and have every stuffed animal, every Lego creation in its place. I also know that my sweet girl sucks her bottom lip when she’s nervous or thinking hard.

I know that my middle daughter, Giada, is a snuggler. She thrives on hugs and tickle time and cuzzling before bed. She loves to be active. She spends more time standing on her head than she does sitting right side up. She loves gymnastics, basketball, soccer. She also loves to make new friends. She’s the girl you want with you on a long trip to a new place because she can win over any stranger.

I know that my youngest, Zayla, oozes joy and passion. She’s a whiz at puzzles! She scrunches up her nose when she smiles and erupts with contagious giggles. She is independent, needing to buckle her own seat belt or serve her own dinner.

My girls recently lost their dad to cancer. We anticipate seeing Daddy again in heaven one day and gaining a greater understanding for the heartache we now endure. As a family, we are learning how to grieve both individually and collectively. Recognizing that each of my daughters is unique proves important now more than ever. 

My oldest doesn’t like to cry in front of people while my middle little needs someone to hold her close when those tears come. When my 2-year-old misses her daddy, she is comforted by pictures on my phone and videos with his voice. They each have their own unique grief journey. It's different from mine and other kids who have experienced something similar. These are all things I’m learning.

I believe part of our job as mamas is to lean in close, to listen to what our kids are telling us with words and body language, to get to know what pushes their buttons and what makes their hearts beat. I believe a large part of our job is to embrace their individuality and teach them to be themselves, bravely, in light of that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

FALL 2014 MOPS DATES



Hi Mamas!

Mark your calendars today for our Fall 2014 meeting dates. We have some fun activities and meaningful topics planned. Be sure to invite a friend!

Registration is $35 for the year, which includes all the supplies & goodies offered during our meetings as well as a welcome package from MOPS international, their monthly magazine and special gift to encourage you to BE YOU, BRAVELY this year as you mother. Sign up today right here. We also do have childcare classes available!


August 14 - Jump Around event at Aerosports Trampoline  - All Families Welcome! (Come register for the MOPS season, bring a friend and reconnect with other mamas!)

September 11 - Be You, Bravely: Facing your Mama Fears (speaker: Dorina Gilmore)

September 25 - GAME NIGHT: Fun competitions forging new Friendships

October 9 - Courage to Embrace your Child's Individuality (speaker: Cori Schmidt)

October 23 - Be You, Creatively: CRAFT NIGHT (speaker: Emily Hope Baker)

November 13 - Courage to Balance Work & Mothering (speaker: Noelle Golling)

November 22 - MOPS Holiday Boutique (Host a table selling your own goods or come shop & snag some fabulous gifts for your family & friends!)

December 11 - Be You, Generously: CRAFT NIGHT (Creating Christmas Crafts & Gifts)