This year I embarked upon a new journey, one that I didn't expect to take but have stepped out in faith in nevertheless. I became a founder and coordinator for a MOPS group at our church, one of only two in our whole area.
I'd never attended a MOPS meeting before when the idea was suggested to me by a pastor at our church. Doing my research led me to a place where I felt equal parts overwhelmed and excited, wondering if this is something I could actually DO. You see, I am not an outgoing person. I've been an introvert for as long as I can remember. I've had some leadership roles in my careers that have forced me to be social and friendly, and I think over time the Lord has used that to shape me and overcome my introverted-ness and insecurities. But I've also been hurt by friendships in the past and struggle with worries of abandonment, and risking that part of my heart held me back at first.
But I had this longing... longing to have friends who could pray with me, could laugh with me, could sympathize about those nights of no sleep or the frustration of taking small children grocery shopping. Friends who I could truly be ME around, not this pretend perfect-mother social-butterfly version of me that I have for so long worn as a costume and taken off at home only to shed tears for being so lonely and isolated. My heart broke at the idea that there were others out there just like me, so very tired of the facades and putting on a "brave face" (though it is everything but), others who also longed for something more but felt too scared to take that risk of relationship... too scared to be themselves and reach out to other mothers who are unknowingly similar and harboring the same longing as they fold the laundry and do the dishes.
You see, this year I struggled with the idea that I was "brave" because I made the first steps in starting this group. God equipped me with the talents for it... organization, leadership, craftiness, planning skills, non-profit business education, etc etc. It didn't seem like a brave thing to me to use these skills to benefit others. It just seemed like a natural way I could serve given what I have to give.
But I see now that being ME Bravely was not at all about beginning this group nor about leading it... it was instead about my courage to build relationships with other women based on something real, somewhere where I couldn't hide my flaws and frustrations. I learned to share the burdens and the joys of motherhood with my leadership team who are no doubt the best and closest friends I've ever had. I became brave enough to admit to them that I am too tired to clean my house, that I yell at my kids when I'm exhausted, and that I need prayer (and lots of it). They encouraged me to ask for help, to lean on them, to not do it all on my own (as I have for so long).
I've realized that to be me, bravely, meant I needed to find other moms who made me be brave by forming friendships and taking that risk right along with me. And now as our group grows and grows, I am able to see clearly that longing in others... that fear of letting go and being ourselves for fear of rejection or judgment coupled with the fierce desire to have relationships built on something more than parenting fads and complaints. At MOPS I've seen relationships grow, and not just my own... I've watched as experienced been-there-done-that moms encourage new moms and reassured them that they will survive this and be stronger for it, that it is all worth it. I've witnessed moms grow closer together over the shared burden of losses too great to carry alone. I've seen a community of women band together where once there was just an empty space. Looking around the room at this amazing group of tired but happy women, this verse repeatedly resonates in my heart: "A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul" (Proverbs 13:19)
In the course of finding my courage, others have found their own. To God be the glory.