How MOPS saved me

MOPS, if you don’t know, stands for Mothers of PreschoolerS.  Groups of moms with young children meet all over the country to chat, craft, and remember that they are not alone.  I would not have made it to potty training without them.

One of the things the ladies of my MOPS group taught me was the importance of saying thank you.  It may be belated, but that doesn’t diminish my gratitude.

As I shared yesterday, I became a stay at home mom when my oldest son turned two.  My younger son was a mere eight months old (24 -16 = 8).  It was the start of summer, and I quickly discovered that all the activities and clubs and support for moms with littles was a school-year kind of thing.

thank you mops

It was a long summer.

I’d left all my friends behind at work.  I’d cut our income in half and our budget was reeling from the fall-out.  We were unchurched… with all the mess and emptiness that the word implies. I was alone. I was isolated. I was feeling like I’d made the biggest mistake of my life but determined not to admit it.  I had two babies, both of whom were attached to my side and determined to drain the life out of me.

I was a sleep deprived, hormone crazed lunatic.

By July, I was desperate.  I made a calendar using two sheets of blank paper taped together and a big blue crayon showing all the days until Labor Day.   In red, I circled the day that my oldest would start preschool.  I also circled the day that MOPS would start.  I counted the days every single time I saw my calendar taped to the refrigerator.

I told myself that if I could just hold out until MOPS, it would all be ok.

I did.  It was.

In all my neediness, it was still hard to walk into a strange church into a room full of unknown women that first MOPS meeting.  My social anxieties were through the roof. My sons were uncooperative. I felt unlovely and awkward in every sense of the word.  By the time I wanted to back out, some lady named Mrs. Titus had an iron grip on my elbow and didn’t let go until I was surrounded by food and strangers.

It felt good to eat food someone else had prepared and it tasted better when I could eat it without interruption.  The strangeness of it faded as we began to talk. The words spilled out from all of us like waters through a floodgate.  We left with new friends, a stack of email addresses, and the promise of a lunch date.

I left that meeting with something much more important than a playdate.  I had discovered that I wasn’t alone.  I hadn’t been the only sleep deprived, hormone crazed lunatic in the room. The words “me too” can heal and soothe the fears we didn’t even know we had.

me too

By the time we met for that lunch date a week later, my husband was in China.  It was the first time since children that he’d been away.  I was still in shock – ten days earlier my husband hadn’t even owned a passport or a suitcase.

No wait, that’s not quite right.

My husband was in (rural communist) China for three weeks (staying at a hotel at the end of a dirt road with “brothel” in the name), we’d put the house on the market, AND my mom was out of the state on vacation for what seemed like an eternity.

The next ten months were a blur.  Hubby was in Singapore or China or Taiwan more than he was home. I watched in horror as the real estate bubble crashed.  I struggled to keep a house show-room ready for the endless string of nap time showings. I sold our dream house and bought the new (smaller, older, cheaper) one while my husband flew back and forth to Asia.  I packed our home.  I weaned our son.  I started potty training.  I squeezed the last penny out of our budget. To borrow a phrase from Lisa-Jo Baker,  I discovered I was much stronger than I knew.

Through it all, my MOPS group was there. They laughed with me. They prayed for me. They understood when I canceled the playdate at our home because the house needed to be shown.  They were always just a phone call away.

I always knew if I could just hold on until MOPS, it would all be ok.

I did. It was.

Even after that, MOPS still saved me.

When I was asked to step into a leadership role in MOPS, I did.  In the process, our family finally became “churched” and found home.  It was because of MOPS that I stood with my two sons and watched as my husband was (finally) baptized.   The boys squealed with delight when they recognized their daddy on the giant screens on either side of the baptismal.  My oldest yelled “that’s my daddy!” to the delight of us all.

It was within that same church home that we first studied scripture together as a couple, where we found Financial Peace at where my husband facilitated a later session of FPU.  After that, the budget always seemed to stretch a little further and there just didn’t seem to be a need to fight over money anymore.

It is within that same church family that we found a small group (or two or three) of people to do life with.  Friendships have formed, mentoring has happened, and faith has been strengthened.  Long after I’ve outgrown my season for MOPS, I still find myself saying “if I can just make it until small group, I’ll be ok.”

I do.  It is.

It was through MOPS that writing found me.

That leadership position they asked me to take was the dreaded “publicity coordinator” role.  That roughly translates into publishing a member directory, making sure registration events happen, and then publishing a newsletter.

It’s the newsletter part that people dread.

But it was the newsletter that re-awakened my love for writing.  It was in the newsletter than I began to appreciate font choices and typography and layout and design.  It was in the newsletter that I began to play with graphic elements and clip art. It was in the newsletter than I began to see the connection between writing and encouraging and began to understand God’s purpose for my life.

The parts blogging I love the most have roots in the newsletter for MOPS.  

It may be belated, but I just wanted to say thank you.

a belated thank you to mops

Thanks for being the lifeline when I was scared and alone and in need of hope.

Thanks for being patient and understanding as I struggled to remember who I was.

Thanks for grace when I was too strung out to be anything but unlovely.

Thanks for believing in me long before I believed in myself.

Thanks for patience as I grew into the woman God had always known I would be.

Thanks for challenging me, for refusing to accept my second best, and for catching me when I fell.

Thanks for saying “me too” and really meaning it.

Thanks for planting seeds and having the faith to leave them planted.

Thanks for friendship and sisterhood and chocolate.

It means more than I can ever say.

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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