Let your God-Colors shine Guest post by Shannon Toller

Let your God-colors SHINE

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I love that this year’s MOPS theme is Free Indeed. It’s like a challenge from God to us mamas to proclaim freedom over ourselves and break the chains that bind us. No longer can we hide behind our fears and failures, because the enemy wins BIG TIME when we do that. I was blessed to be able to attend the RRC Women’s Conference again this year, and the wise and lovely Lisa Bevere hit me with some Truth that I must share with you:

God loves me uniquely and without rival,
and it’s about time I move beyond my pain
and into my purpose.

Yep, that was a V-8 moment if I’ve ever had one. God doesn’t want me to live in the past and wonder what could have been: that’s the devil’s playground. God wants me to embrace my brokenness and use it to His glory. To quote a Rascal Flatts song, God wants to bless my broken road. He wants to take all my broken pieces and weave them together in the story of His Kingdom. He no longer wants me, or you, or anyone who reads this, to live shackled by the lies of the enemy anymore. It’s time for us to arise and walk out of the prison Satan has us in, and the key to our cell is: FREEDOM.

As a mama, I worry constantly, about everything. I worry about my husband, I worry about my children. I worry if I’m making an impact, I worry that I’m not as Christlike as I should be. I worry that I can’t afford organic food and in turn, we eat way more Fruit Loops and Mac and Cheese than I care to admit. I worry like it’s my job, y’all. Except it’s not my job: I don’t get paid for it, it’s totally worthless, and it’s a hamster wheel that never ends. But, Satan loves it when I get like that. The enemy loves to watch me crumble under the weight of the world. That monster loves to taunt me as I pray over bare cabinets and hope for a miracle. I wish I could say that I don’t give in to that nagging voice that tells me that I’m not good enough and that I’m a bad mom. I do, more times than I care to mention. But, on the days when I’ve got my armor on and I’ve armed myself with the Word of God, the devil shakes in his space boots. I’m a force to be reckoned with. I’m the prayer warrior I know God is preparing me to be, and in those moments: I’m free.

In those moments where I can hear Derryn singing worship music in her room, I’m free. In the moments when I see her heart for others as she prays for them, I’m free. In the moments where I can embrace the childlike faith my child has and live in that undeniable Truth that is as real as the sun shining on my face, I am FREE INDEED. The enemy knows that I am an arrow in the quiver of my Heavenly Father, and he is dead set on keeping me silent about my faith. But that is why it is so important that I keep on talking about Jesus. I’m supposed to shout the Good News from the proverbial rooftops; proclaim it with every breath I take. I love the translation of Matthew 5:14 in The Message:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.
God is not a secret to be kept.
We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.

First, can we all agree that Crayola should call crayons “God-colors” from now on? But more importantly, can we truly be the light that is as public as a city on a hill when we are sentencing ourselves to life in a dark cell? As crazy as that sounds, we are locking ourselves in our own prisons just by giving in to the lies of the enemy. We can’t do this to ourselves any longer, mamas! We are free FOREVER because we have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. His Spirit resides in our heart, He takes up residence in our homes, He forever has a place at the dinner table. We need to be eating, breathing, and preaching this GOOD NEWS every single day. Not only do we need to be instilling these truths and values into our children, but we need to instill them into our own hearts. We need to remind ourselves of the simplest Sunday School song that our children sing every week: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. We need to fill our cups just as much as we need to pour into others. You are MORE THAN WORTHY of the love of Jesus. You were literally MADE to love Him and love others the way He loves you, so don’t let Satan tell you otherwise! We all need to reach out and grab onto that freedom that a relationship with Jesus Christ gives to us. We need to stop taking His sacrifice for granted and give Him ALL the glory. And, we do that by sharing our hearts. We do that by sharing our truths. We do that by sharing our testimonies. We do that by sharing our JESUS.

I want to leave you with the theme verse of the conference, and I pray that each one of you break the chains of your prisons and live in the FREEDOM that Jesus has prepared just for you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, sweet mama, and NO ONE can take that away from you! Hug your husbands, hug your babies, and hug your tribe. We are all in this together. <3


I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
- Ephesians 3:16-19 -

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Freedom Through Intentionality Tiffany Hart

Showing up is good.  Expecting things to go well is good.  Planning on being fed is good.

But what do we do when none of these things turn out good?  How do we find the good and enjoy where we are at when it looks nothing like we anticipated? Is there a way to find peace in your struggles when it is a million miles from what you dreamed of?

You can expect the good and look to people to take care of you and make sure your experience is excellent but you might come up empty handed.  Why? Simply put. . .  Satan.   But really, humans are flawed and as much as we want situations to be perfect, beautiful, and inspiring- that is not always the outcome. Our expectations of things are likely going to be much higher than the actual experience.  

So how can we beat this and enjoy the madness when the setting, people, time, chaos, etc. isn’t what we planned?  

Be intentional.  

Set your pride aside and instead of planning on everything being perfect: strangers coming up to greet you or the food tasting exactly right or everyone showing up  and speaking words of wisdom over your life, plan on it being half as good, maybe even a quarter as good.  But don’t be discouraged, instead spend time in Jesus’ word, fill your heart with His truth and come as you are.  

Say what is on your heart without fear of judgement.  Encourage those around you, even if you might be the one needing encouragement.  Reach out to someone new even if it fills your introverted soul with terror.  Share your story of psycho kids, too much yelling, and crying alone behind the locked bedroom door.

This is what will bring freedom.

I know because I was the one who lacked intentionality, the one who expected people rather than Jesus to feed me.  The one who was silently battling post-partum depression hoping someone would magically know instead of asking for help.  The one who decided that everything was wrong simply because it wasn’t exactly how I would do it.  

It’s insanely easy to critique every scenario imagining you could do better but not being willing to say some things that might help.  It is simple to think that it is everyone else’s responsibility to make sure you’re happy but the truth is, it’s not.  

Your joy will be found in Christ and from there your intentionality will flow which will result in your freedom.

So today, before you think about everything that went wrong, first think about how today might have been for someone else.  And had you rather spoken up about some concerns or shared your battles you might have found someone to say, “me too.”

I encourage you to look at yourselves and ask, “How can I put myself to the side in hopes of being present, intentional, and loving?”  

Since doing this myself, I have been able to enjoy things so much more.  When I decided that it wasn’t all about me, I have been fed and cherished, I have found people to come alongside me and encourage me.  

I have found freedom and it feels so good.  

Painting by Tiffany's sister. Check out her etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/BejuledArts?ref=search_shop_redirect

Painting by Tiffany's sister. Check out her etsy shop

https://www.etsy.com/shop/BejuledArts?ref=search_shop_redirect

Week 5: Unpacked

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Last week we had the pleasure of hearing Dee Dee Woodman, M. Ed, LPC speak to us regarding some common areas in which we keep ourselves enslaved, trapped, and bound. She came with a message intended to help us access freedom in our lives, even in the day to day.

 

Dee Dee said that in her experience she has determined four main areas in which people prevent themselves from accessing real freedom. They are as follows: expectations, sense of self, in being overwhelmed, and by judging others.

 

Some brief take aways that she provided are as follows and please forgive me, I took some personal liberties this week while unpacking the practical application- Banks got me called out again but I trust that God is behind what I’m writing despite what I may’ve missed.

 

Expectations:

Freedom can be grasped if we will take a long look at our expectations. What were your expectations of motherhood? Of marriage? Of your home? Of your identity?

 

What we communicate to ourselves in the expectations we place- has the power to defeat us before we can even get started. Expectations keep us stuck in some level of bondage and unfortunately because we've developed the habit of placing them in the first place- it takes intentional time and practice to break the habit. Give yourself grace as you practice going into situations without expectations of how it will or should look. I think we will be pleasantly surprised by how differently things can go and how much better we can feel when our emotions aren't hanging on our desired outcome of a situation.

 

Sense of self:

I may have missed something here so I’m going to take some liberty and fill in my blanks.  I think this can be seen in how we tend to be our own worst enemy. Too often we are hardest on ourselves so when our “sense of self” is a beat down version of who we really are, again we're defeated before we've even started. We’ll never embody the ideal version we might carry of ourselves in our head because we're human and fallible. (And as a side note- you’re making your friendships really hard and inauthentic if you’re trying to live up to an identity you’ve created in your head rather than the one you’re currently walking in.) This applies also if your sense of self is inflated. If you've got an inaccurately swollen sense of self, in being under the impression you’re BETTER than your actual, broken self, this too is just as self-defeating as constant negative self-talk. An inaccurate sense of self is an obstacle in the way of attaining freedom.

 

I wrote in my notes “Messages from the enemy are rooted in a version of our truth. They’re catered to the lies we already believe.” I’m not sure what Dee Dee mentioned this in relation to but ultimately, this is true for ALL aspects of our lives. This is how the enemy operates but as I’m sitting in this coffee shop right now it hit me that this is especially accurate in regard to our sense of self and the lies we begin to believe about it. For instance, do you have a mom that yelled a lot growing up? Or maybe your Mom was super critical of the physical appearance of others? Do you find yourself doing the same things? Can you hear your inner-voice saying “you are fat” “you yell too much” or worse, do you find yourself hypercritical of others who exhibit these behaviors as you tell yourself you’re “so much better than she is?” The enemy is at the root of both lines of thinking and it’s all ties back to an inaccurate, swollen, or defeated sense of self.  Beware of the way the enemy personalizes the messages that cripple us. Using things from our childhoods or past scars to influence our sense of self. Make sure you take your sense of self to the Lord and allow Him to shed light on how you can develop it in a healthy way- by remembering that His voice tells you you are worthy, you are loved, you are forgiven, you were created on purpose, and WITH purpose. Allow Truth to influence your sense of self, nothing else.

 

I love that Dee Dee dropped a couple expletives while still being able to talk openly about the war being waged day in and day out for our spirit, our attention, and our devotion. She talked about spiritual warfare openly because ladies, as a counselor, this is what she actively combats on a daily basis. Essentially she is an expert on speaking truth over long-spoken and deep-rooted lies from satan. So for those of you who feel like the idea of spiritual warfare is a little too ‘woo-woo’ for you, I pray that having heard it from such an approachable, down-to-earth, real and empowering woman who says the “d” word from time to time, that it helped you to accept that the “baggage” we carry around can 100% of the time be traced back to the enemy and his attempts to thwart the focus of your heart and the way you perceive yourself and situation.

 

Being Overwhelmed:

The third area that keeps us trapped as mothers is in being overwhelmed.  I was so grateful that Dee Dee  didn’t try to give a step-based solution to being overwhelmed because bottom line, we going to be overwhelmed. Instead she said “Motherhood can be overwhelming BUT- this is because it’s the most important job in the world.” Not downplaying the role of father at all, because the roles of Mom and Dad go hand in hand (literally) in shaping children but the greater message here is GRACE. We will mess up, we will get overwhelmed and say the things we promised we'd never say when we became Moms. We'll hide, cry, and try to shame ourselves for leftover pizza three meals in a row and not living up to the imaginary mom we've cooked up in our head but its here in these moments that we need more than anything to manufacture and praise the small victories. To sit on the bathroom floor and say "God I feel this raw hole of shame in my chest right now, anger with myself because I keep letting everyone down but Lord... you brought me these children and this morning, you woke them up healthy. If nothing else, help me to replay these two things and remember that you sent your son because you knew I couldn't do this alone. Let this be my victory today."

 

Dee Dee said something along the lines of - YES, the world is dark but instead of living in fear of the world we’re raising our children in, why don’t you raise your children to be the ones who bring light into the darkness? This doesn’t mean yelling less, cooking more vitamin-rich food, or having a more conclusive and consistent approach to discipline. You can strive all you want but you’ll find yourself downtrodden and defeated at the end of each day because truth is, you CANNOT mother within your own strength. So instead- when you yell, you repent and not just to Jesus, but to your littles. You say “I am so sorry, I want to tell you that I’m tired and that Mommy’s body hurts a little more this time of the month but my sweet child, that doesn’t help does it? Because I’m sure I’ll yell again for different reasons and I'll have to apologize all over again because I am not perfect and I mess up all the time. But this why we need Jesus- because HE is who I put my hope in to help me the next time I get sad, mad, or my body hurts.”

This is how God operates. Its not “read these three books, outline these chapters and perform for me." It’s "come back to me when you’re sad, ashamed and disappointed in yourself and do the same when you’re feeling self-righteous and judgmental- turn it ALL over to me- and watch as I change your heart.”

 

There’s no formulaic approach to what Dee Dee was sending us with. No step work we can do to be better, more liberated mothers. It’s being REAL and acknowledging our need for the only thing we CAN rely on to be perfect. Jesus.

 

Being Judgmental:

The last area she said that often enslaves women is judgment. Seems obvious right? Now, I have to preface that I have an interesting relationship with social media- which I’ll probably get into the specifics of when it's time to begin praying for God to bring up the woman who will replace me in the Publicity role for steering - but Dee dee specifically brought up social media when talking about judgment being an enslaving factor. She opened the floor for women to speak out over the ways that social media fuels judgment of self or others. “Exaggerating Mom-guilt” was mentioned as something social media causes. Looking at someone’s professional pictures was another thing that is rough for some. It seems someone’s social media profile can inadvertently cause us to hold our life and theirs side by side as we gather feelings of superiority or inferiority. Either way, this is bondage because it's not living in the present with the spirit guiding to gratitude, goodness, and truth.

 

Dee Dee has seen a lot, not only in her professional life but in her personal testimony. Alcoholism, abuse, mental illness- she has seen it all and God bless her, she continues to combat bondage and evil in the life of her clients. She is an authority on helping us access the keys that will release our shackles. Her suggestion for attaining freedom is simple. Show up vulnerable and look honestly.

 

Truth. Honesty. VULNERABILITY.

 

I feel like you’re going to grow tired of me saying the same thing over and over this year but God is making it OBVIOUS to us this year that TRUTH is what sets us free, indeed.

 

Somewhere along the lines of our society, upbringing, and world we’ve given into the notion that we wont be accepted if we’re authentically ourselves; ugliness and all. Sometimes it can even show up in noble ways. We’re tempted to hold back what we’re truly and honestly feeling or needing for fear of it hurting someone. Just last week I found out that I loved a friend better by being brutally honest by saying “I need less face to face time, I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed.” I was so scared that what I was going to say would hurt her that I risked being dishonest and inauthentic- which would’ve ended worse. Nothing I said was hurtful- I was being honest that I will love her better if I honor my boundaries better. Come to find out, we love better in general when we allow honesty to guide our interactions with all. 

 

My very favorite thing that Dee Dee said was:  “Truth will set you free but you’ve gotta’ walk in courage to get to truth.”

 

Honesty and authenticity take courage. The courage required to apologize to our husbands when we cannot reign in our emotions and we’re ANGRY. . . but can’t really remember why and its making us feel insane. Or when we allow ourselves to leave the TV on a little longer in the morning if it means closing our eyes on the couch and saying "God, I know you’re here- change my heart today. I need you." To halt the comparison game and the stupid expectations we inflate and project on our sense of self and identity. To think through where we should be going when we’re overwhelmed and resort to our habitual tendency to judge as a knee-jerk reaction to our discomfort.

 

Show up. Look honestly. Look at these four areas in your own life and just once this week- step out in courage. Speak truth over yourself. Cheer for a sister who posts a picture of how she's proud to have the body she does after three babies rather than letting your internal voice snark up with “its obvious that weight loss wasn’t for you at all but for a collection of little blue thumbs-up on your facebook.” (horned emoji again.) The more we accept our own authentic, gross brokenness the more we accept and love the brokenness of others that so often isolates us. Can I just use Harry Potter to strengthen my argument real quick?

 

 

Luna Lovegood: [about her father] We believe you, by the way. That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and you fought him, and the Ministry and the Prophet are conspiring against you and Dumbledore. 
Harry Potter: Thanks. Seems you're about the only ones that do. 
Luna Lovegood: I don't think that's true. But I suppose that's how he wants you to feel. 
Harry Potter: What do you mean? 
Luna Lovegood: Well if I were You-Know-Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it's just you alone you're not as much of a threat. 

 

 

As women, can we PLEASE acknowledge that Lord didn’t wire us for comparison but for companionship? We are no good alone. We need a pride of lionesses following us, licking our wounds, encircling us as we sleep in shifts to ensure our cubs are protected and provided for. Women who can feel the hairs on the back of their necks rise when one of their sisters is in battle. Women who will rush in to provide reinforcement.

 

The next time you’re crying on the couch or sitting behind a closed bathroom door- will you invite someone into it? Who can you send a text message to saying “I have been scrolling through facebook and instagram for the past two weeks blindly criticizing and rolling my eyes at women in order to convince myself that I’m doing okay but the truth is, I am falling apart. Will you hold me accountable to stop? Will you check in with me? Will you pray for me right now?” Who can you love well enough this week to say “Hey, I am not doing a good job right now of honestly honoring my boundaries and I feel like I need some time to myself but I don’t want you to think that’s any indication of my love for you. Are you okay with that?”

 

If you do not have someone- go on a coffee date. Get your husband to take the kids as you sit across from someone and toss social graces aside as you proudly say “I am in need of fellowship and because I’m a mom, I don’t have any time to waste- will you tell me your story? Are you in a position to hear mine?”

 

Don't for an instant begin to allow your bondage to limit your impact and make you feel small. Acknowledge the things that enslave you. Wear them as a badge of honor to advance the women standing right next to you. Because chances are, she's shackled to the same thing but she's been waiting for your hand to grasp hers so she can lean far enough out of the cell to grab the keys to set you both free.

Show up. Look deeply, speak honestly, live courageously and don't do it alone.

Be free.

 

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What's Your Story? Guest post by Jordan Garner

 

A year ago this Christmas I made the decision to help with the God Behind Bars Christmas party. It was a decision made to help me get out of my box and experience new things. The night was amazing and eye opening, but it wasn't the women there or the event that most spoke to me, it was the drive home.

 

That night I'd made another bold (for me) decision and carpooled with a couple girls I'd never met. I showed up at Mollie's house and there she allowed me into her home. Both of us seemed nervous, but she was so kind and hospitable. I sat on her couch chatting with the baby, hubs and cat, and then our driver showed up and we left. The roads were crazy icy that night so the majority of that ride was spent talking about the roads and my "Big Thing" which was to run in the Colfax Marathon. But it was mostly superficial chit chat.

 

We went about the night and then it was time to go home. 

 

I don't remember how we got onto the topic, but Mollie began to share her story with us. I remember sitting there dumbfounded and amazed at this incredible woman. The things she has endured, struggled through and overcome to be who she is... to say her story is something we should all hear is a complete understatement. She finished her story after graciously indulging my naive questions and then asked, "What's your story? What's your testimony?"

 

Guys! I didn't have an answer. 

 

"Oh, Um... I've been a Christian since I was 5 when my family got saved. I grew up in a private Christian school. I sang on the worship teams at school and church for years and years and now here I am. I don't really have a testimony, I don't think"

 

She didn't buy it. Told me I was wrong and that everyone has a story, a testimony.

 

"I wish I had a great story to tell you, like yours."

 

Again, she stopped me in my tracks, "No you don't, don't ever wish that on yourself"

 

She encouraged me to look deeper and find my story. She told me it was in there somewhere. So I've spent the last year trying to keep my eyes open and find my story. 

 

Here it is.

 

When I was 5 my family started doing the church thing, the God thing. I was so young and I truly don't remember a time that it wasn't just part of our life. I was home schooled through the 2nd grade and then started in a real school in 3rd at the age of 9. I was the 4th youngest kid in the class. I continued in that same private Christian school until I graduated in 2003. We learned about Jesus everyday. In junior high I began to have friend problems. I think they probably started earlier than that, but I don't think they really started to sink in until junior high. Girls were here mean and I was impressionable. Definitely on the sheltered side of life at that stage. I was learning that navigating female friendships was a tricky thing and I didn't realize that I was also learning a strong distrust for those kinds of friendships. In High school I dated the bad boys. The ones who would ultimately get me in trouble and then start rumors about me that weren't true. By Junior year I would lose all but one of my friends because of those rumors, which is a harsh blow when you only have a class of 15 people who you've known the majority of your life. My only happiness would come from volleyball and my choir, show choir and show trio. They were the only place where (I thought) my talent and worth were undisputed. No one could tease me or take that away from me, and I was mostly correct. But Senior year, at 17, is where my story starts to take a turn.

Me and my graduating class. . . of 15.

Me and my graduating class. . . of 15.

 

I began dating a boy a couple years older than me and, obviously, more experienced. I started going with him to his college FCA (fellowship of Christian athletes) group with him every week. We spent so much time together, my parents had even let me go home with him (to Nebraska) for Valentines day. Things were good and I was happy, I thought. Until I turned 18. Things changed in him. He started pressuring me to be physical, sexually, and I wasn't ready, wasn't having it. One day he pinned me down in the bedroom of his apartment and started to force himself on me. Thankfully, his roommate came home to hear me yelling and came to my rescue. Because I was so naive, I stayed with him, until a few weeks later when he broke up with me saying that I wasn't mature enough for him. Really???

 

Move ahead a few more years, and a couple more difficult relationships and I'd met my now husband. We went through a lot of crap and healing together. When we were married with a 6 month old son, he got sick. Seemingly overnight my incredibly strong, fit, and healthy husband was to sick to move. I took him to the doctor for the second time in 24 hours and I was told that I need to take him to the ER. Now. They'd already called to tell them we were coming. Within 3 hours we were admitted for severe pneumonia. Within 4 hours he was on a cannula with a mask over it, both at 100% oxygen to keep his stats up. Within 6 hours I was being told that if I'd have waited 6 more hours to bring him in, that he would likely be dead, they don't know why, or what was wrong. After 2 days I was making the decision to put my husband into a medically induced coma because he no longer had the strength to fight this mystery illness on his own. I stayed by his side everyday as he went through lung tests, biopsy's, surgeries, a form of dialysis and so many other medical tests. Our son was brought to me every 6 hours to nurse and pick up what I'd pumped in between. I had to make every decision and be the strong one while everyone else was falling apart. And then he was just better... we still have no answers. I had to help my husband do things that no wife should have to do, and we still don't know why, or what had happened.

Clayton intubated, in a coma, November 2013

Clayton intubated, in a coma, November 2013

 

Flash forward 18 months. I was at my 20 week ultrasound with boy number 2 and I was told that something is wrong with his heart. at 21 weeks I had a fetal ECG at The Childrens Hopsital CO. They told us that our sons heart was seriously sick and that we had the choice to terminate or face a lifetime of medical struggle and possibly death within the first year of his life. A few days later I got a call from the top fetal cardiac surgeon in Boston saying that we were perfect candidates for a potentially life saving, still experimental, fetal heart surgery. So off we went, to Boston, where we didn't know anyone. I had my tiny, unborn child's heart operated on at 23 weeks of pregnancy. He survived, I survived. But we were not out of the woods. Eddie was born by C-section at 39 weeks. I didn't get to see him for over an hour. I never got to see my brand new baby without a wire or cord attached to him. They never showed me my son before rushing him out of the room. Since he was born he has been on several medications, oxygen, had a seizure, had a catheter heart surgery through his neck and an open chest heart surgery, among other things.

We took this one right before they took me to the OR in Boston to have our unborn baby's heart operated on. I was more nervous than I'd ever been and he was terrified, too. 

We took this one right before they took me to the OR in Boston to have our unborn baby's heart operated on. I was more nervous than I'd ever been and he was terrified, too. 

 

I have dealt with rejection, heartbreak, PTSD, post partum depression and anxiety. I've dealt with finding my identity through trials. I struggle with staying true to who am I and wondering who that is. I have continuously questioned my worth as a daughter, mother, wife and friend.

 

And then this year happened. Mollie telling me that I have a story sent me into a spiral of questioning if that was true. Guys, she was so right. I don't have a story like hers and that's ok. I have my own. 

 

My life allows me to come alongside the battered woman. It allows me to sit in her shame, sit in her pain and offer gentle, loving guidance and support. It allows me to encourage her to let her light shine again through the ugliness that this world offers us daily.

 

My life allows me to enter a hospital with strength and a clear mind to sit with the mom of a very sick baby and allow her to come apart and be messy with her tears. It allows me to give her guidance on what to ask the nurses and doctors and to go rest. And my presence there allows her to trust that she's not alone in her fear and pain. 

This is Eddie two years ago today after his first open heart surgery, at three months old.

This is Eddie two years ago today after his first open heart surgery, at three months old.

 

My life allows me to come alongside women taking care of sick husbands and children and give them support they didn't realize they needed. It allows me to instinctually help. It allows me to have a sympathetic and empathetic heart for women who are broken.

Clayton with our 6 month old, Oliver, just days before Clayton came home from the hospital. 

Clayton with our 6 month old, Oliver, just days before Clayton came home from the hospital. 

 

Friends, I have a story. It might not be one of light bulb transformation. It's not one of overcoming addiction. But it's a story. It's my story and I am proud of it. I've been a Christ follower all my life, and though I've fallen away and made poor decisions, I've never struggled in knowing who God is. But I've struggling in knowing who I am.

God calls us to be exactly who we are. We are perfectly imperfect and I believe that's what makes each one of our stories so perfectly unique. In HIM we are perfectly imperfect. Think about it. If we all had the same story, then what kind of story would that be? I'm realizing that I am who I am for a very good reason. God wants me that way, and my story is still developing, it's still being told, written and lived. Everyday my life is adding to more of what is my testimony and that's such a beautiful thought. My testimony today might be very different than the one God uses in 20 years. How cool is that? 

 

I know who I am. I know my worth.

 

I know my story.

Week 4 : Unpacked

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Disclaimer time friends. One of my very favorite things about working inter-generationally with women doing social work was being able to observe how as people get older, the stronger they feel about their opinions and beliefs. It seems that once we’ve gone through our 20’s and find what makes us passionate, we spend our 30’s figuring out how our gifts and passions play into our daily lives and then as we age into our 40’s and beyond we kind of perfect our gifts and opinions in a way. You feel me?

 

Sandy came in last week with a message for us meant to encourage and invigorate the way we approach and perceive our children’s learning brains. I can guarantee she’d be devastated if all we came away from it with was frustration against the convictions and opinions she's developed regarding homeschooling and medication from her time and experiences on this earth. She very plainly stated her opinions without pushing us or trying to change anyone’s mind. In fact, she said “many of you are going to disagree with me and that is okay.” So if you’re still hung up on that and unable to focus on some of the other amazing things she taught. . . I don’t say this to hurt you, but I don’t think that’s on her. In the meantime, I would encourage you to dig into what unsettled you and talk to a friend about it. But to me - as a woman whose best friend home schools her four children and as a momma who desires to homeschool her own, all I saw was a woman standing up and sharing information meant to add tools to my Mama tool belt, not change my mind or beliefs. A friend reminded me just yesterday of Charlotte Gambill's words- "If you've been offended by the church... get over it." I love you, but thats kind of how I feel about this situation. 

 

 

Can I just say how much I loved seeing photos and practical application messages posted on the Facebook after Sandy spoke? That’s what this is all about. Bottom line, we are going to hear things constantly through our lives that challenge our comfort but if we spend all our time focusing in on the things we disagreed with or are offended by, no one grows. In fact, the enemy LOVES if your entitlement and frustration block out the fact that someone with 60+ years of exposure to life and children and women and science stood up and imparted wisdom and encouragement but all you took away was that her opinion on homeschooling differed from yours. You dictate your mood and the fruit you bear in that way- it is entirely up to you whether you will dwell on something that rubbed you wrong rather than take any small piece that might contribute to your life, family, children or self. I saw mamas going home and trying new lunch options rather than saying “I don’t think she should’ve asserted her agenda in that way.” It was hot. So hot. 

 

We rally around one another in the pursuit of sharing our passions, why would we not do this for her? It could be that her willingness to stand up and speak that morning was just the encouragement one woman needed in order to boldly confront a situation she’s been avoiding. We don’t know what God is doing just beneath the surface but what we do know is that He’s there, He’s moving and He calls us to choose the road that cultivates love. Lets love one another and cheer each other on. If you win, I win. That’s woman-wide.

 

End Rant. Whoa, I don't know where that came from. I love you all and Jesus loves you all even if you left angry last Thursday. 

 

SOOOOO... onto what I'm supposed to be writing:

Practical application points from Sandy Nation’s discussion of the learning brain. Here are some of the notes I wrote in my journal and thoughts-

 

Because we will ALL undoubtedly encounter resistance or rebellion from our littles I loved how she encouraged:

1)    Don’t give up, Don’t give in, and outlast the push back we get from our kiddos

2)    Tell kids WHY we are asking them to do something they don’t want to. Help your kids understand the logic for why they're being asked to do something they may not want to.

 

With toddlers when their 2 second attention span goes away from the book you’re trying to read- allow it but excitedly encourage them to return. “Guess what Red riding hood did next my love? There’s more!”

 

Poor hydration, nutrient deficiencies, and chemically/emotionally toxic environments influence the development of the brain but these are all manageable and treatable things. YAY!

 

Ensuring a constant and steady flow of nutrients and fluid will aide in optimal brain development for our children. We need to be mindful of what we’re expecting their little bodies to run on and be careful with sugar intake! Proteins, B vitamins, Omega-3s and ample sleep will help set our kids up for success.

 

I came home and immediately told Kyle “We’ve got to stop telling Brady that he struggles with math because we did.” It just makes sense! Why would we limit our children in any way? In fact since Brady wont be with us until Christmas break I have started practicing on Banks every time we put him down to empower him. I have chosen to speak Romans 8:37 over him and say “Bankston, you are more than a conqueror because of Gods love in you.” I LOVED the encouragement she had for us to empower our children at night. To tell them to shoot high to dream big and to know that though it may not be easy that they can achieve whatever it is God has set out for them to accomplish. Side note: I think it was Kerri McCullah who gave me that nugget of wisdom. I really love saying "With God's help you can accomplish whatever it is that He has set out for you" instead of saying "You can do whatever you want if you dream big and work hard enough." Anyone else struggle with striving? I don't want to impart that on my children. 

 

She encouraged us to break up and provide processing time for our children, to encouragement movement in order to get their brains back to a learning state. I do appreciate the explanation she gave as far as technology is concerned. Even though these kinds of things can send our mom brains into a full on guilt cycle, she said that a child can learn ANYTHING if their attention can be kept right? Well she also said that technology does a phenomenal job of keeping our children’s brains attentive. What I took from that is to be really mindful about our children’s exposure to technology because their brains can grow reliant on technology to keep their attention at the suffering of their focus when learning in more "traditional" ways.

 

And then the hard one for this Mom and Step-mom is hearing how much stress negatively impacts kiddos. I hate it because I know it’s true and when it comes to Step-parenting there are stressors we simply cannot change in our given situation.  BUT- again Sandy empowered. She encouraged us to explain potential stressors to our children. To talk things out and acknowledge the stress. To partner with our children by explaining that there will be disruption whether mentally, physically, or emotionally but to lovingly remind “I will always be there.” Also, I try to flip my fear around and remember that if stress can impact so negatively then there must be equal influence on a child’s well-being if they see love, comfort, vulnerability, and affection lived out in their environments, too.

 

Overall, what I took most from Sandy Nations blessings and lessons last Thursday was that there are mountains of scientific information that we can dig into in order to “cover our bases” as far as cultivating an environment that can support the optimal development of our children’s brains. BUT when those mountains feel overwhelming- slow down. Breathe. Look your children in the eyes and try to see what they may be in need of.

 

For me, most often when I slow down and look at Brady or Banks I see they’re in need of love. Now that love may come in the form of a conversation about their need to try new foods while putting off the dishes or laundry until later and joining them at the table or high chair to talk and dote on them. To explain that avocado may look weird but that it's jam packed with nutrients and pretty stinkin' delicious. Then add that they can wait to taste it but that they’re not getting up until they do. (insert horned emoji) Other times that love looks like putting my phone far out of reach or earshot and sitting with them on the floor. Designating thirty minutes to uninterrupted engagement in play. Some days, it looks like saying to my husband “I could really use a coffee shop quiet time by myself this week, is there a time we could arrange that?"

 

I love that our job as Moms can be overwhelming. (Sometimes so much so that we go into paralysis and/or the occasional break down) because all this does is showcase the importance of what we’re doing. SO… lets hold onto the positives in our interactions and push one another toward greatness and be mindful of our children's growing and learning brains, too!

One Red Balloon by Angelie Casey

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Our first baby is in Heaven with Jesus. 

I was so ecstatic to find out we were pregnant. Then days later to find out we lost our baby was devastating. It was the hardest thing for me. I'm tearing up just thinking about it. 

 

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This past year God has been working on my heart and teaching me and my husband so much. To lean on Him, to trust that His plan is for our best even though it may not feel like it at the time. To believe His promises and trust that He is faithful. And to sing His praises even in the midst of the storm. Then God blessed us with Kaleo Asher. That's ultimately how his name came to be. Kaleo means song/sound in Hawaiian, and Asher means blessing. He is a testament to God's faithfulness. He is our song of blessing. 

 

This month has been a bit tough for me. My heart has been heavy and I've been very emotional. I just blamed the wacky hormones not being "normal" since pregnancy, labor, all that jazz. Then I found out October 15th is pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. It still didn't really affect me until our last MOPs meeting. Nicole shared a bit of her story and how she will never forget the day she miscarried. While she was sharing I was hugging Kaleo so tightly and crying to myself. . . It's the same for me. 

 

I will never forget that weekend. I will never forget how excited I was to share with my family-in-law. (Little did I know I would miscarry before my husband and I got to tell anyone) I will never forget how scared I was when I knew something was wrong. I will never forget how heartbroken I was when I knew for sure I'd miscarried. I will never forget crying on the bathroom floor alone while simultaneously trying to keep quiet because others were sleeping. I will never forget how scared I was to wake my husband up to confirm our loss. I had been crying to him all day about what I thought was happening, and now I had to say it did. I will never forget how hard I tried to keep it together. We were there to celebrate a graduation not mourn a loss. I will never forget coming back home and telling my family. I will never forget how much my mom and I cried together. It was a heartbreaking loss I have never known before. 

 

At MOPs, they had a special time set aside to remember those little ones we've lost. It was beautiful. After MOPs, I've been thinking about it all again and felt like I should share my heart; the brokenness and the pieces God has put back together. 

 

Months after we lost our baby I began to feel a peace and comfort from The Lord. He was reaching out to me. Calling me to be with Him in my sadness. That even when I felt alone I never truly was. I wanted to do something as a symbolic gesture of my "letting go" and give that baby back to God. A funeral of sorts. I felt as though it may help me heal. 

 

So I decided I wanted to hike Mt. Bierstadt. It would be my first fourteener. My plan was to hike the fourteener with a balloon and when I got to the top to set it free. Let it go, and give that beautiful little soul back to Jesus. So my husband and I hiked. We nearly made it to the top and the balloon popped. (My spacey self forgot to account for altitude pressure) I cried. I did all this to try and have a nice ceremony and it doesn't go according to plan. Thinking about it later I felt kind of silly. I was so upset that my plan didn't work the way I wanted. Somewhat angry that God didn't let me have the funeral service I wanted, and then I got it. We have these specific plans for our lives, but God has a plan too and it doesn't always match ours.

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For instance, I found out later that I was 4 weeks pregnant when I did this hike.

 

The other day someone said to me... "I'm confused. Why are you still sad? You have a son now." And I replied, "I am so thankful and grateful to God for my little man. I love Kaleo with my whole heart! But even though I'm blessed with him, I will never not miss my first baby." Some days are still hard and I still cry, but I know that God is always with me. He is holding me in my sadness and I can still have peace and joy in Him. 

 

Having a child has helped me begin to understand The Father's love for His children. How much more does He love us when I feel like my heart will overflow and burst with love for my son? 

 

This may seem silly but I feel like God opens your eyes to things sometimes when you least expect it. Kaleo has been sick this week and we've had to give him baby meds, suck boogers, and wipe his face a lot. He's absolutely hated it! He screams and cries and will do whatever he can to stop it. Francis and I were talking about how we wish Kaleo could understand. If only he knew that what we were doing was to help him get better. It may stink, and he may hate it at the time, but it's ultimately for his benefit. 

 

I wonder if that's how God sees us sometimes. He gives us something difficult, or He allows something tragic to happen and we don't always handle it gracefully. He gives us things that are meant to grow us, to strengthen us, and to draw us closer to Him. It's ultimately for our best we just might not see it or understand it until later. 

 

We lost our first baby May 13th, 2016. 

God blessed us with Kaleo on May 12th, 2017. 

God is so good. 

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Week 3: Unpacked

Because of the AMAZING Nicole Espy, if you missed my talk last week on sex, she did a LIVE recording and posted it on our Facebook page! God bless her! It's under videos if you missed.

 

I said several things from the stage last week and followed them up by saying “if you remember nothing else, remember this” so I do want to go through and restate those things because come to find out, there were a LOT of things I wanted you to remember. :I

 

My talk could basically be summed up with the two main points being things that apply to WAY more than just sex in our lives and those things were:  

1) We are all broken

2) Our unwillingness to TALK about our brokenness is what keeps us from healing.

 

I went on to unpack four practical application points to help aide in healing our sexual brokenness or “limps” specifically, and those points were as follows:

1)    Cut the wound open. Be willing to go through the pain it might cause to sit your husband down and open up about what you see and feel when it comes to sex in your marriage and your past experiences with it. What holds you back? Do you have any past baggage you need to share with him? How do you feel about your body? How do you feel about his expectations? What are his needs? Etc. etc.

2)    Nike. JUST DO IT. Go against your nature and initiate or agree to sex in the times that you have been dodging it. When you feel upset, insecure, afraid etc. Be willing to take some risks. There’s no sense in going through our marriages on a hamster wheel if we are experiencing frustration- try something new. When it comes to fighting for your marital intimacy- you can’t really lose here.

3)    Know the enemy is waiting. Acknowledge that sex is of such importance that the enemy has been working to break your relationship with it loooong before you even met the man who became your husband and that he was influencing your husband in the same way. SO… know that wherever there is a victory in your marriage, in particular, your sexual relationship that because it’s the single most beautiful act of relational intimacy we are GIVEN- know that he is there. He is fighting in UGLY and brutal ways to keep you from having sex and to set you back anytime you make any forward progress.

4)    PERSIST. When it comes to any sort of brokenness- the more work required to heal it, the more powerful the result right? So, because healthy sex has the power to transform our marriages- know that the work required to take it back and honor it will be HARD. It will require sacrifice, love as a verb kind of action, time, and the willingness to PERSIST even if things feel hard or hopeless.

The last thing I really wanted you to take away was to stop yourself the next time you’re declining one of your husband’s advances and consciously think differently about what is going on, to reframe it. I said “I want you to HUMANIZE his need for you.” Now I repeat though, this does not mean just give in and have sex. What it means is to stop and think about what is happening. Recognize how you’re feeling, what you’re assuming his advance might mean. Is it kind of a like a, “great, this again?” or “as if I haven’t done enough today” or simply “I’m so tired.” Identify what you’re feeling and think for a second what he might be feeling. Could he be afraid you’re going to roll your eyes at him and say not tonight again but he wants closeness with you so bad that he’s putting himself out there despite the risk of being shut down? Could it be that his body is responding to the fact that during his lunch break he got a vision of you at the park from last weekend when you had no idea that he was looking but you smiled while swinging with your daughter and it was the most beautiful thing he’s seen for awhile? That he’s been carrying that image all day? Maybe it’s a perfect opportunity to say babe, what you said earlier in the kitchen really hurt my feelings and I have been holding onto it but I hate how things like this get between us so I want you to know that sex is the last thing I want right now because I’m still mad… but I want YOU. I want to fight for the health of our marriage so be patient with me, can we settle for cuddling tonight? Or like I said, rolling over and looking at him with a sweet smile and saying “I can’t get into that headspace right now babe, but I would love if tomorrow night after we put the kids down- we just go to town on each other.” And yes, you can still be a Christian and say that. ;)

Lets fight the cycle of wanting sex so desperately our whole lives just to finally get married, have children, and dread it.  

Now, I have to say that if any of this seems insensitive or impractical its because it lacks the meat that puts it in context so go watch the video!

I love that Nicole stood after me and said what she did about you needing to find a woman, NOW, who will agree to hitting her knees on behalf of your marriage. Who will tear the roof off for you and your husband both in an effort to push you closer to Jesus. Find a friend who agrees to pray not just over your marriage but over sexual intimacy specifically in your marriage.

 

 

I need to say this. When I stepped off the stage last week I was almost instantly attacked. I had been studying and praying, asking God to use me to speak what he wanted said- for the FIVE months leading up to those 40 minutes in front of you. In those five months, I felt in stride with the spirit and confident, not as a result of my own strength but alive and confident with what Christ was doing. I stood up there and poured out what God led me to and LOVED the gift of being able to do so for every single one of those 40 minutes…. until I sat down in my chair.

I came under FIRE. So much so, that I ended up crying which if you know me, is weird unless I’m watching “This is Us.” I instantly started backpedaling. Insecurity, fear, and twinges of regret began falling out of my mouth. The crazy thing is that because the enemy is so cunning, the way he attacked me was by saying “You said too much, you hurt someone.” Which seems kind of noble right? It could be healthy for me to feel sensitive and conscious that I may have reopened wounds or triggered some really hard things but not when it means feeling as if I shouldn’t have said the things that God led me to in the first place. I can be sorry for the pain caused while not being sorry for the content that caused it. I thank the Lord for the women who rallied around me afterward and said “No, you don't get to do that. You spoke Truth, don’t ever doubt when Truth is spoken.” 

I feel like God placed these blinders of sorts on me as I prepared to speak. He steered me away from my typical empathic and sensitive emotions and kept my eyes fixed on Him. He knows that had He opened my eyes to the potential of someone getting hurt, I never would’ve gotten on that stage.

If the enemy is alive and well within our group and we are worthy of being attacked- it’s because we’re onto something. The vulnerability that is being lived out, the risks taken and the all-out GUTS it takes to go first in our fight for freedom will always be something the enemy sets as priority 1 to destroy. So lets keep it up. I closed last week apologizing that my message wasn't warm and fuzzy. It wasn't the kind of thing where I stood and was able to say "You are doing exactly what you're supposed to do and you are exactly where you're supposed to be as a Mom" because I pray that you already KNOW that. In knowing your strength and power as a woman and mother already- THAT is was makes room for messages like this that can leave us with the audacity to want more. To go after the highest potential for those we love the most. 

 

So lets keep giving the enemy hell…  and improve our marriages and sex lives while doing it. ;)

PhotoCred the famous Bre Boyle

PhotoCred the famous Bre Boyle

Week 2: Unpacked

Katie Elizabeth Kemp. Goodness gracious ladies if you haven’t already sought her out please do so now at Katieelizabethkemp.com, follow her on instagram @katieelizabethkemp, and find her on Facebook.

 

Katie’s message about blooming in the midst of our messes has stuck with me since she spoke. So many pieces of what she taught and encouraged us with are relevant to our Mom journeys so I want to take this opportunity to rehash and expand on a few of the beautiful truths she imparted on us.

 

It is no joke that Motherhood tests us daily. As Katie said, we’re in a position that requires us to be pouring into our children constantly for a span of nearly 20 years and in the end we don’t even get to keep them! In the midst of this we’re surrounded by the toxic temptation to compare ourselves with other mothers while factoring in what the books are telling us, while listening to what the church says, what our mothers say, and what we ourselves criticize ourselves with. As a result, at the end of the day we end up exhausted trying to base our worth as mothers on the performances of our children- what we are producing. It’s just gross. It robs us of our joy and freedom. Katie showed us and challenged us to recognize that in the middle of the hamster wheel of believing our production determines our worth- we have been given an opportunity to draw nearer to our creator. She showed us that we can embrace the freedom God’s been offering all along if we’ll just stop looking side to side at others and begin looking up toward him…. even when we're smack dab in the middle of poop, vomit, and hormones.

 

 

I love Katie’s reminder that we were preselected for the children we've been given. God knew just who we would Mother and that there is no mistake in it. Katie’s sweet daughter Hallie stands as a testimony to how beautiful and challenging motherhood can be. Her daughter’s blindness has been a challenge so great that it has given way to a story equally as inspiring. One that left us all feeling empowered last Thursday.

 

What if in the middle of the diarrhea on the crib, the vomit and blow-outs, broken glass and blood stained ER visits, we could remember what the Lord spoke to Katie. “How much more do I take your messes time and time again. Hand them over to me; let me show you how I turn them to fertilizer.”

 

In this invitation Katie recognized that God had never tasked her to perform up to a standard, he never intended for us to desire to be “good enough.” These demands are not from Him. God showed Katie His upside-down kingdom; that in cleaning poop, in mothering a child with disabilities, in fighting illnesses, in the seemingly uninspiring and mundane- God hold us higher. He invites us nearer to Him. As Katie said “there is a place in us that cannot be measured, our foundation. From this place is where God sees us and from there is where He brings life.” God encourages us to give our messes to him, allow him to turn them to fertilizer and watch as they make us bloom.

 

As Katie painted in front of us, I watched so intently as she seemingly threw paint on the canvas and then followed behind it with a simple tool that transformed thin lines into flowers at full bloom. I watched as she shared such a vulnerable piece of herself in live-painting in front of 100 women and because she shared something that makes her feel alive, I left feeling more alive myself. Next time I am frustrated, knee-deep in my messes I will remember Katie’s daughter, joyful that milestones are reached period, regardless of their timing- set completely apart from pressure to perform or expectations of what things should look like. Since writing makes me feel alive, I will pull my journal out when I feel like crying and recall in vivid detail how gross my messes might feel in order to consciously identify the beauty God is inviting me to enjoy in the middle of it.

 

 

Our journeys may look differently than Katie’s but she challenged us to look at our messes and to seek God within them. To reframe what may seem hopeless and frustrating right now as opportunities to allow God to till our soil, turn our messes into rich fertilizer and to set us into full bloom.

 

What are your messes? What do you need to turn over to him? And what steps can you take toward feeling more alive?

WEEK ONE: UNPACKED

 

     MOPS has begun. I cried on my way in that first morning. (Thanks to the amazing build in “Closer than you know” by Hillsong.) I teared up and giggled more than a couple times while taking pictures and videos from that box in the back that I almost fell off of. Our first meeting was an emotional roller coaster and the culmination of a lot of prayer and excitement.

     

     We are all. finally. together. So many opportunities await us this year; some will be beautiful, others might stretch us in uncomfortable ways, but not a single one will you you have to face alone. We are actively building community and what a blessing it is.

     

     Mandy Arioto, CEO/Prez extraordinaire for MOPS International (based and operated out of DENVER C to the O if you didn't catch that) said a lot of sweet and funny things last Thursday in that video and I want to touch on something she said that was especially poignant to me. There’s a slight chance that as a result of my being knee-deep in PMS right now that this point isn't as powerful as I think it is, but because of said PMS, I don’t really care. ; )

     

     We have been beating the freedom drum as we’ve geared up for the start of our year. We’ve discussed what becoming free entails and what it requires from you in our blog posts, promo videos, and status updates. We’ve preached about being bold, going first and letting love be the loudest voice but it wasn’t until our first morning together that I realized the implications of that last part. When you think gutsy, boldness, going first - you think in terms of action right? In verbs. “What can I DO to be more bold or to go first?” So it makes sense that I took ‘making love the loudest voice’ and applied it only to my voice. I vowed to use this year at MOPS to challenge myself to begin using different language in my life. To watch my tone and attitude toward my husband, children and friends. To slow my anger and impulsivity, to hold my tongue and remember to breathe love all over the things I do and speak. As noble and beautiful as these challenges are: I didn’t consider for a second until Mandy said it, that I have a say in allowing love to be the loudest voice I HEAR on a day to day basis too. And it kinda floored me.

 

     

All too often we’re so busy listening to the voices of the world that we effectively mute the steady hum of Love that follows our every move. We harken ourselves to voices that say “you yell too much, you’re not a good mom” or “remember what your body looked like before kids?”  We’ve memorized the steady drone of “You. are. not. enough” and we’ve let these words sink in rather than attuning our ears and hearts to the still, soft voice saying “you are loved” “you are worthy” and “I will help you, you need only ask.”  The vibration we feel in our solar plexus when our Father’s authoritative love says “Come find me in the quiet my dear, and remember you ARE enough.”

 

 

     But if we thought breathing love into the things we SAY would be hard, then we’re in for an adventure when it comes to training ourselves to HEAR love first in our lives when it’s in competition with the volume of the world. Wanna know where we can practice? Here.

    If we will boldly speak love over one another at these meetings and in the conversations and growth that take place outside of these meetings, then maybe our ears will be familiarized with the sound of love, our hearts will recognize their subtle acceleration and our bodies can grow comfortable with the the warmth that comes from letting our Father's love be the loudest voice.

 

 

As Mandy said, “God is proud to be seen with you.” Practice first the sound of this.

Let's help one another elevate His voice over the world’s. love loudly today.

 Be Bold.

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THE STORY OF MOPS AT RRC.

I emailed Nicole Espy a while back asking her to jot down some of the bullet points of how MOPS came to be at RRC. I didn’t want to burden her with having to write it all out so I asked for the important bits with the intention that I’d just fill in the rest. When I opened her email, I laughed. . . HARD and then cried a bit at the end seeing God’s hand so clearly throughout the deatils. It hit me that I didn’t need to fill-in or edit a thing and that simply stated, this story wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t told in her voice, from her heart. 

 

So here you go, the story of how MOPS was brought to Red Rocks Church as a result of our girl Nicole Espy’s obedience and love for Mamas and Jesus:

 

“I had just had Evie, she was maybe 6 or 7 months old and I was doing a clients hair who ran the MOPS at Foothills Church in Arvada for 8 years when she said “How about you start a MOPS at Red Rocks?” Considering I now had a child and Jake had just gotten the job there earlier in the year it made sense but my first thought when she said this was “Ummmm, no thanks. MOPS isn’t that cool, and I’m like. . . way cool.” So I just said “Oh yeah, maybe” shrugged it off and changed the subject.

 

I went home THAT night and felt God speak to me saying that I should do this. I should bring MOPS to Red Rocks. I feel like there have been times in my life when I’ve clearly felt the Lord instruct me to do something and this was definitely one of them. Over the next few days I wrestled with it and prayed through it and ended up contacting that client at Foothills Church. I told her I wanted to do it and asked if she’d help me get some thoughts and plans together before I talked to the church. I remember bringing my daughter into her house with she was with her four kids. We’re sitting there as she’s trying to explain to me what all goes into MOPS in an hour long play date while kids are running around and interrupting us every two seconds. I remember leaving feeling more overwhelmed than I had when I walked in without any information.

 

A few weeks later at church I saw Jill Johnson. I didn’t know her well but I stopped to talk to her nonetheless and basically asked her what she thought about MOPS at RRC. She replied that it was one of the things that saved her life when she had just moved to Colorado to start Red Rocks and had young babies. She went to MOPS at a different church. She advised me to email BZ and that she would personally “help” get this moving up the pipeline, so to speak.

 

About a week after this I sat next to a girl in church at Littleton where Jake was leading. I’d seen her drop off her baby upstairs a few minutes prior so I knew she was a Mom and I thought she was adorable. Lol During worship I felt God leading me to ask her to help bring MOPS to RRC so after church I lean to this stranger, introduce myself and ask if she’d be interested. This woman’s name was Lindsey. She went on about how she’d been praying for MOPS at RRC and agreed to help. I find out shortly after this that she lives in Highlands Ranch which is a HIKE from Arvada but we started our “long distance” friendship anyway. We’d meet in the middle and spent some time getting to know one another and dreaming through all of the things we wanted to do while waiting on a response to the email we sent to RRC leadership. She had a friend who led MOPS at Cherry Hills in HR so she offered her as a resource. It dawned on me in this moment that I’d never even been to a MOPS meeting so I really had no idea what I was doing.

 

We got our response from Brian Zibell that he and the guys agreed to let us start it! They felt that this demographic had been hard to reach through life groups as a result of bedtimes and child care so they saw the need and wanted to meet it. They let us start one group of around 100 women and would see how it went from there.

 

At this point, I began stalking people on Facebook. Mom’s I’d seen at church with children, people I kind of knew the names of and just started cold messaging them asking them to form our steering team. Needless to say, I found a team, they just might’ve thought I was a crazy person. Lindsey and I met with Nat who was her friend in charge of MOPS at Cherry Hills and walked away feeling really confident that we could actually do this. We set up a meeting with BZ and JB and brought our ideas to the table. We discussed retreats, decor, the Mom-Con conference; the expensive details. The guys kind of stopped us and said “Yeah. . . we’re going to let you do this… but it’s going to have to be a little simpler than that.” I walked away feeling a bit defeated wondering how we were going to manage to do this.

 

God reminded me over and over that week that it wasn’t about those things, the bells and whistles but rather getting Moms together, providing community and encouraging one another through the journey of Motherhood. I recognized the need in myself for friends I could walk through this season with and I knew others had to feel the same. I also knew I couldn’t get through a single day of this Mom thing without Jesus and I just wanted to share that.

 

So, we scaled back. We created and invented ways to make this thing nice and classy without it being expensive. As a team we grew together and we did it.

 

We filmed our first promo and I remember asking a Mom of three, Kenna, what she does for herself and watching her start crying as Carson was filming because she couldn’t think of anything she’d done for herself for a long time. It clicked in this moment that this was going to be big. Moms needed this.

 

Registration filled up quick. We had to turn some Moms away. My heart broke but I was reminded that God works all things together for the good of those who believe in him and are called according to His purpose.

 

There have been additional hurdles since the inception of MOPS at RRC. Year two of MOPS,  the night before the first meeting (I was 36 weeks with Scar) my power went out before 7pm when it was a calm comfortable NINETY FIVE degrees. I packed my family up and went to my Moms to spend the night because Satan wasn’t about to stop me from sleeping and getting there semi-presentable without killing someone. Then I had Scarlett the day of our second meeting. Every meeting after for that second year of MOPS, I would nurse her in a little dark room before I went up to speak and after I got done. (Needy much Scar?) I went through MAJOR post-partum depression that year but I made it through that year as a direct result of my tribe and my Jesus and through sharing my misery that year with the women around me. I might’ve cried through every devotional but I made it.

 

Anyways, God has ALWAYS shown up and taken CARE of MOPS at RRC. I think that’s why my heart doesn’t begin to accelerate when discouragement knocks. There have been lots of hurdles but He crushes them every single time.” -Nicole Espy



 

Hear this. You wouldn’t be reading this right now, you wouldn’t have followed the link from the blog or Facebook page because it wouldn’t exist had Nicole not listened to what God was impressing on her heart. She answered the call boldly in starting conversations, stepping out in faith and spending special time with the Lord early in her motherhood journey. As a result, we are her, together growing and shaping one another’s lives for the better and giving Jesus a wider door from which to enter into our homes, marriages, and lives. Remember this the next time you feel stifled or intimidated that you don’t know someone well enough to approach them or that what you have to offer doesn't seem like enough. Your impact matters. You are fiercely loved and relied on by the Kingdom of Heaven. -MT

Welcome.

I pray that MOPS becomes more comfortable for you this year than your favorite leggings and broken-in Mom spot on the couch. More than the curl of your fingers around your favorite mug when you’re infrequently granted a few moments of solitude to contemplate and drink coffee at the temperature it’s supposed to be consumed (and not as a result of the microwave.)