Finding Your Tribe

This fall I started MOPS for the very first time. I am a married, stay-at-home mother of two girls, ages 7 and 4 and I CRAVE time with other mamas. I need it weekly (and in some seasons daily) like I need air, water, and coffee. Time in the trenches of motherhood is NOT meant to be done alone. Anything that leads you otherwise is straight from the enemy, ladies.

About 6 months after my first baby girl entered the world, the church we were attending at the time created a moms’ ministry called “Cradle Connection”, and a weekly play group. About 10 women at this modest-sized church had had babies for the first time, and all within about 4 months of each other. The Pastor leaned to a female mentor in the church and suggested that she get us all together, to meet and support one another, right away. PRAISE GOD for Pastor Mark and his foresight and wisdom. Because you know that these play-dates-to-be weren’t for the nursing babies who couldn’t even roll over.

Can anyone relate? Do you need play dates more than your kiddos do sometimes?

Pastor Mark knew we needed a community. We needed to be around other moms who were also dealing with midnight feedings, colic, pumping, diaper rashes, cold coffee, sore nipples, and new post-partum bodies. We needed “trench-mates” and women to join together as a tribe. 

Since my very first time of meeting with other post-partum-bodied, sleep-deprived, coffee-fueled, love-tank-emptied mamas, I have made it my passion and my habit to surround myself with them. I have never looked back. Let me tell you about my latest mama embark…

I was excited to start MOPS for the very first time this year because I knew it was the first event in years that I have not had to plan, host, lead, organize, find childcare for, or all of the above. I majored in Organizational Communications, and before the economy fell in 2008, I was an Event Planner at the Orlando World Center Marriott.

I am a planner by birth. I have a Mary heart with a Martha personality. I LOVE signing up for things and helping plan whatever it is you need planned. Especially when it comes to mom time. Room Mom? “I’ll do it!” Volunteer in the class? “When should I be there?” Baby shower? “I’ll make the diaper cake!” Bible Study Leader? “Here I am Lord, send me!” Need someone to host it too? “I can have my house ready by tomorrow!” Help in the children’s area? “We’ll be at church anyway!” Co-organizing a meet-up group and planning weekly events? “Please, I was born for this y’all. I’ll be at every single one.”

My deep down heart is to connect with other moms, with Jesus at the center.

I thrive so much on being around others that I will literally sign up for everything, until I find myself in a Martha breakdown where Jesus finally puts the smack down and says, “Robyn, Robyn, you are worried about too many things.” Then He reels me back in…and I remember that He needs to come first…and I remember to thrive on rest in Him and His Word.

So I set down my phone and calendar and planner and emails and coffee. No…wait… definitely not the coffee ;) I humbly come sit at His feet and wait for His direction. This is that season for me. Jesus has ever so lovingly said that He has other things in store for me this season.

I sometimes wonder if I let my gifting become and idol in my life.

SIDE NOTE: Last summer I read Lysa TerKeurst’s book, “The Best Yes”. Y’all, it liberated me. It gave me the power to say no, without guilt. I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. If you are stuck in a season of striving to do it all, STOP. You can and should say no to things. Everything can’t get your “best yes”, and that’s okay. Sometimes we are trying to be anything and everything so much for people, that we are in God’s way. Get out of the way ladies, He can do it way better than you can!

This year at MOPS will be different than anything I have ever been involved in, because it will be BIG. It won’t be 6-10 women in a home doing a bible study. There will be tables and speakers and leadership teams and groups and cups with church logos and microphones and music and a stage.

But, there will also be moments of vulnerability and hearing women’s hearts and testimonies. There will be prayer. There will be tears. There will be new, deep, friendships formed. There will be blessings. Things will happen that will change women’s views about themselves, their children, their friends, their husbands, their world, and Jesus. Will there be awkward moments? Of course. That’s life. Will there be differing opinions? Absolutely. Will there be women who are always early and women who are always late? You can bank on it. Consider it all joy, and give grace.

I am excited y’all. No matter which mamas show up each week, God ALWAYS shows up. God sure showed up during our first MOPS meeting. Tissues were being passed everywhere because His love and spirit were palpable. He always does more than we ever imagined or expected. He is the God of seeing around corners when we can’t, and He loves lavishing us with surprises and joy. Because He knows the plans He has for us. And they are GOOD!

So be encouraged! Like Brittany said during our first meeting.  You belong here and you are worthy. Each of you has been given a God story to share, to encourage one another. The Word of God says that we will ultimately triumph over the evil one by the blood of the lamb, and the word of our testimony. So let’s triumph over him together girls! I’m excited to get into the trenches and to experience the highs and lows of motherhood with you.  Let’s be tribe-mates together, ladies!

Hi, I'm Robyn. I am a daughter of the One True King, and a stay-at-home wife and mother. A Florida girl, married to a Colorado native, living in Littleton with my husband, Trevor, our daughters, Addison and Lucy, and our rambunctious dog, Tobin. Most days you can find us all outside enjoying God's glory called "The Rocky Mountains". I am an extrovert with a big smile, and an even bigger heart. I got saved at 24 years old and God has ROCKED my world ever since. There's nothing I won't do to make time for conversation with friends, coffee, and JESUS! I am a veracious reader and have an ongoing love affair with words. Proverbs 16:24 says "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones". I believe we as Christian women have the power to help heal one another with our words by telling our God stories. May God use my words (His stories) in these blogs to bless you, strengthen you, make you laugh, bring you JOY, and let you know you are NEVER alone!

Braving the Darkness for Light

I'm going to get super vulnerable here.  I suck at making girl-friends. It gives me anxiety. Women scare the bananas out of me. Girls can be so judgmental, passive aggressive and less than authentic. Trust me, I am one. But this fear of making girl-friends comes from a long time ago when, as a young girl, I was less than included in a group of girls that I desperately wanted to be part of.

These girls were already a group, bonded together by grade, age and church. I was, (only slightly) younger and they seemed wonderful. Always laughing together, doing fun things and just very close. I wanted that. I tried to be part of it.  I tried to attend some of the youth group gatherings where they were, but I just didn't fit. I don't know why, I never will, but I don't think knowing is that important anymore.

These girls were never mean or hateful to me, but not being able to "plug in" to that group shaped the way I saw, managed and made girl-friends. I was young, and back then I was unable to grasp the fact that sometimes you just don't fit into a certain mold, no matter how badly you want too.

Throughout my middle school and high school years I changed who I was to fit in with the girls I saw as my best friends. I wore clothes and shoes that made no sense to me. I spoke in ways that now seem ridiculous. I dated boys that I never would have given a second thought to-- because they were part of the group of girls I thought I wanted to be part of. 

And it didn't stop there. After the girl friendships heartbreakingly faded away, my pattern of changing who I was didn't change. I carried that pattern into college, changing myself into the girl I thought my boyfriends and girl-friends wanted me to be.

It was a bit of a wakeup call when, the first girl-friend I made, that didn't go to my high school, decided she was going to "break up" with me during my first or second year of college. I had blocked out the reasons why until my first week at MOPS. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

While watching the video with Jen Hatmaker talking about how real friends will confront you honestly, even when it hurts and how that may shake your relationship for a while but it will only strengthen it -- I realized I already had a friend like that. She'd been super honest, painfully so, in accusing me of changing who I was for every person I knew.

She didn't want to be friends with a fake person. That hurt, but thankfully, that friendship was saved and I began to allow her to see me.  The real me.  And whooda' thunk, she stayed.

But that still wasn't going to be the miraculous wakeup call I needed...

It wasn't until well into dating my now husband that I began to allow myself to be me. He is a brutally honest man and I am thankful for it. He helped me find me. He forced me not to allow myself to fall into the trap of faking who I was in order to be accepted.

So, who am I? I'll tell you.

I'm Jordan. I'm 31, born on my Mama's birthday. I'm a big sister. I am a full blown boy mom in a sea of moms who have only girls or one of each. I love superhero and medical tv. I love wearing yoga/sweat pants, or anything stretchy, and hoodies are my go to top of choice in the cooler months. I wear flip flops year round and I don't care what you say about it. I love to sing but won't volunteer to. I am a massage therapist and a volleyball coach. I hate my hair short and I rarely wear more makeup than mascara. I don't like coffee and I don't drink alcohol. I'm stubborn to a fault but will rescue you at 3am if you called. I'm a terrible housekeeper but I'm a great mom. Helping other new mom through pregnancy, labor and the early stages with their newborns gives me more joy than just about anything else, and my best friend lives a country and an ocean away from me. 

But I've begun to realize that none of this is enough. I need more of a tribe. I need women who aren't related to me. Women who will be just as much there for me as I am and will be for them. Don't get me wrong, and please don't misunderstand, I love the women in my life, all of them, but my heart needs something more. I need some mom friends that carry the same beliefs that I do.

 That is where Mops comes in. After joining, I vowed to be me -- the real me.

On September 8th, I attended my very first MOPS meeting and it took some serious nudging. Because of those past, painful, female relationships, I've developed quite a bit of anxiety about being around women I don't know and for that meeting I had to walk into a room of over 80 of them! Let me remind you, I don't do well with lots of new people. New situations scare me. I REALLY like having control over my environment.

I got everything ready the night before and was out the door on time, both boys in tow. Once in the car I began to have that inner shaky feeling. You know the one. That feeling you get right before you go on stage to perform? And the feeling only got stronger the closer I got. I pulled out my "Anxious Mama" essential oil blend that I had made a couple night back and slathered myself in it, all the while listening to Oli (Oliver is my oldest, 3) sing "we're going to mops school!" from the backseat.

I pulled into the parking lot and part of me almost pulled right back out. I gathered the boys and walked inside and thanked the Lord that I wasn't the only person in bright orange Bronco clothing. After a very tearful childcare room drop off (the boys, not me) I wandered back down to the main room, grabbed some food and picked a seat. 

It was tough. I was still shaking internally and couldn't stop. We were given a welcome and an overview and then we watched the video from Jen Hatmaker that basically made me want to cry. She hit the nail on the head with all my feelings about friends. Ouch. Thanks Jen, thanks... And then we introduced ourselves among our groups. Tough, again.  I, of course, waited until the last moment to speak about myself, just hoping I could keep it together. I did.

I guess this is all to say that I'm ready for this next phase. I'm mean, that's the point of MOPS, right? To meet new women, moms, and friends? To find someone you can be real, open and honest with? To find a common ground in your beliefs and to snuggle each other’s children when they fuss in the middle of the discussion while mama looks for the bottle?

I'm still scared and anxious, but I'm ready. I'm not a child anymore. I've been through a lot in 31 years and I have a lot to give. It's time I found my place, my tribe, and maybe, just maybe I'll be able to completely be myself without judgement, fear or anxiety that these girls will love me any less for it. Maybe, just maybe, I'll find where I belong.

Jordan Garner is a native of Colorado. As a married mom of two boys, her life is surrounded by all things superhero, cars and bouncy balls. She loves music and volleyball and has a black belt in taekwondo, but she mostly enjoys loving on women and their small children while helping them to know that they aren't alone and that they aren't ruining their kids ;)

Jordan Garner is a native of Colorado. As a married mom of two boys, her life is surrounded by all things superhero, cars and bouncy balls. She loves music and volleyball and has a black belt in taekwondo, but she mostly enjoys loving on women and their small children while helping them to know that they aren't alone and that they aren't ruining their kids ;)

The 28 Day Challenge

It's officially Fall Sweet Mommas! 

I can think of no one better to quote right now than the sweet and sassy red headed Ann of Green Gables when she says, 

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
— Ann of Green Gables

Can I get an Amen?

There are so many things that I look forward to in October -- Warm apple cider and cinnamon donuts, driving to the mountains to look at the changing aspens, tucking my jeans into my favorite pair of boots for the first time.  (How can something so simply make me so giddy?  Is anyone else with me on this one?)  And, of course, our annual family trip to Anderson Farms.  If you haven't been, GO!  Anderson Farms will quickly become one of your family's favorite Fall traditions!

Now, don't get me wrong, I am a Summer girl through and through.  But this year, I am especially thankful for FALL, for the anticipation of a new season of motherhood, to embrace a slower pace that will (hopefully!) include some rest and self reflection.

This past season of Summer has been one of GOING. GOING. GOING.  Don't stop.  Don't rest.  Get all the things DONE. 

And, if I'm being completely honest -- I am completely exhausted.  I have not been the best version of myself lately and my ability to mask this is getting more and more difficult.  There's a huge part of me that feels like somewhere in the hustle of all of the hats I've been trying to wear, I've lost a sense of who Brittany really is. 

This past week, I think I finally hit rock bottom when, at my lowest point, I found myself ugly crying at my kitchen table at 2 am. During a bout of pregnancy insomnia, I thought of the brilliant plan to organize my life and all of my "to do's" in one single overnight span. 

Thankfully and humorously, my husband came upstairs to find me at my worst.  He then lovingly and gently fired me (Donald Trump Apprentice Style) from some of the many jobs I've been trying to do.  We laughed in that moment.  And then I ugly cried some more. But the truth is, this 2 am breakdown of mine was the tipping point for me.  For the first time in a long time, I realized that this pace I've been trying to keep is for a crazy person.  It's not for me.  It's not for you.  There has to be a better way.

In her new book Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist shares the following words,

I’ve always given my best energy to things outside myself, believing that I’d be fine, that I was a workhorse, that I didn’t need special treatment or babying, or heaven help me, self-care. Self-care was for the fragile, the special, the dainty. I was a linebacker, a utility player, a worker bee. I ate on the run, slept in my clothes, worshipped the altar of my to-do list, ignored the crying out of my body and soul like they were nothing more than the buzz of pesky mosquitos.

Now I know that in the same way I’ve always believed God’s spirit dwells deeply in this world, it also dwells deeps in me. I’ve know that, cognitively, but my life spoke otherwise. Now I know that the best thing I can offer to this world is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise and brave soul. My regrets: How many years I bruised people with my fragmented, anxious presence. How many moments of connection I missed— too busy, too tired, too frantic and strung out on the drug of efficiency. Now I know there’s another way.
— Shauna Niequist (Present Over Perfect)

During October,  MOPS is encouraging us as mommas to take part in the 28 Day Challenge, This is an invitation to take a step back and to have some fun rediscovering the very best versions of ourselves. 

Each day we are invited to take up one truth or one dare -- and to really follow through. 

Today for October 1st the truth we are challenged to answer is "In what ways do you feel out of control in your life?"

Today's Dare is: Jump into some water.  Skinny dip in a pool.  Swim in a lake. Wade in a river.  Let your skin touch water that been coursing over the earth since the beginning of time." (For the rest of the month's daily truth or dares, see your MOPS Welcome packet).  We would love for you to share your truth or dare experiences on your respective RRC Facebook Pages this month as a way to join in community with other moms from your group.

Each of us is also being asked to choose "One Big Thing" to round out the month.  Choose something fun and exciting that maybe you've wanted to try but have been too afraid to do or just haven't carved out the time in your lengthy "to-do" list.  

Maybe you bravely go sky diving or you spring for a babysitter and take a cooking class.  Take up a new hobby that you've been intimidated to try. Surprise your husband after he's done at work, dressed up for date night and have a reservation at a bed and breakfast waiting for afterwards. 

Do something fun and exciting-- something that reminds you of the girl who has been lost in the chaos of day to day life. 

This month we have the chance to remind ourselves as Shauna said, what it really means to offer ourselves fully and whole, "A well tendered spirit, a wise and brave soul." (Page 28).

This 28 Day challenge sounds both exhilarating and intimidating to me.  It's an invitation to do something for myself, which if I'm being honest, is often something that gets pushed way to the back of my priority list. 

But in my heart of hearts, I know that self care is a good thing. I am a better version of myself, a better wife, a better momma and a better friend when I take care of myself.  I am excited this month for the chance to dig deep and remind myself of the dreams I've been putting on hold for so long. It's a chance to reconnect with the girl God created me to be -- the one I've been missing in a season that has been too fast paced and downright overwhelming. 

I'm so excited for you to join me as we discover how this month can help us to come more fully alive!

Brittany Baker is a big city girl turned little mountain momma!  Six years ago, she and her husband relocated from the big skyscrapers of downtown Chicago for life near the mountains of Denver and they have never looked back.  Brittany lives with her husband Jeremy, their two children Mackenzie & Levi, their hyper lab puppy Boston and a menagerie of bunnies! Brittany and her husband attend the Red Rock's Church Littleton Campus & Brittany attends the Littleton MOPS location.  Brittany is passionate about encouraging women to live authentically and abundantly.  She began writing as a way to heal from postpartum depression and continues to share her heart over on her blog Little Mountain Momma. 







Flourishing in Rest

I wake to writhing pain in my lower back. I sit up to look at the clock. 10:15 pm. My husband is sleeping soundly next to me and our six-week-old baby is in her crib in the next room. I lean back on my pillow and begin to toss and turn, breathing through the pain as it worsens. A half hour goes by. I climb out of bed and stumble to the tiny bathroom of our 500 square foot Chicago apartment.

The pain has moved from one side of my back and has taken over my abdomen in charley horse fashion.  I clutch my stomach with one arm while trying to rub out the cramping with my free hand.  I begin to gulp water only to vomit it immediately back up.  After an hour I crawl back to our bedroom.  “Babe.  We have to go to the hospital. I am so sick.” 

I don’t know who to call to watch our 6-week-old daughter but I’m able to remember a conversation had by a new friend from a few weeks prior. “I live right down the street.  If you need anything, don’t hesitate.”  I press the dial button and wake her up. “Lauren… It’s Brittany.  I know this is a strange request but can you please come watch my baby?”

In the emergency room I describe my pain as a 10, while I continue to dive for the nearest trash baskets.  My sweet husband holds my hair helplessly as we wait to be called back. 

After a CT scan and some heavy drugs, I’m told that I have kidney stones and am severely dehydrated with multiple infections. They plan to admit me.  In that moment, sweet relief washes over my whole body.  I recall having the thought, “Thank you!Finally, I can sleep.  I can rest!”  My thoughts of relief in that moment should have been a wakeup call to my postpartum self.  The first 6 weeks as a brand new momma had been incredibly rough and it was clearly taking its toll. 

I didn’t share this thought with my husband until years later.  At the time I was ashamed that I wanted to stay in the hospital rather than care for my newborn daughter.    

I share this memory to make a point -- often as mommas, we take on the role of martyr before we are willing to accept that we desperately need rest and self-care.  It took kidney stones and a forced hospital stay before finally waving my white flag of surrender. 

I wish I could say that in the seven years since becoming a momma, I’ve learned my lesson on caring for myself.  I wish I could share that I’ve mastered this “rest thing” and that I’m the poster girl for how it’s done well and balanced. 

But the truth is, I’m still awful at it.   On a daily basis I am physically tired and emotionally burned out from never getting it “right.”

You see, I can’t remember the last time I “slept in.”  I was blessed (ha!) with two early risers who are up with the sun most days.  The second their little feet hit the floor, my toddler demands a “snack” (also known in most American homes as breakfast).  I pack lunches, get kiddos dressed, drive to and from school.  During nap time I list on EBay and package shipments because that’s how I get to be a stay at home momma.  Except, I’m really not because twice a week I work outside of the home for a sweet little elderly woman who needs some extra help.  And then there’s school pickup, homework, dinner, bath, and bedtime stories.    

Does this sound familiar to any of you mommas?  How in the world would one even find time for rest and self-care?  In theory,this idea of rest sounds nice.  But in the real world, rest gets pushed to the back burner of my priority list. 

Last month I took a long weekend off from caring for my own family to fly out to visit a close friend Pam, in North Carolina.  Now, Pam has two children under three years old and a husband who works long hours.  I knew when booking my plane ticket that I would likely be stepping in to help wrangle toddler chaos.  I also assumed that I would be sleeping on her living room couch.  I was perfectly okay with this.  I resigned myself to write “rest” off of my personal agenda for the weekend and to just enjoy the much needed time with my friend. 

Upon arriving to her home, Pam showed me upstairs to a beautiful, newly remodeled guest room with a large bathroom and a king sized bed.  The view from the room overlooked the breathtaking countryside of the Smoky Mountain Foothills. 

If only you could have seen my face the very moment I realized that this would in fact be a weekend of rest.  It was like the relief I felt from that night back in the emergency room. 

The next morning Pam brought coffee to my room and I was able to drink it in blissful silence.  In the evenings I went running with no jogging stroller or children begging to get out of the mobile prison (as I’m sure this is how my children feel about my jogging stroller at this point). 

During nap times, Pam and I had a chance to sit for hours and talk.  During these hours I poured out painful details of the past year while my friend listened and offered wisdom. 

This past year in particular has been anything but restful.  After our second miscarriage in September I took up the task of “fixing” myself.  I’ve poured my blood, sweat and tears into charting temperatures, tracking hormones, timing sex perfectly and doing naked headstands.  You’re welcome, for that mental image.  I’ve watched dozens of women around me celebrate as they enter seasons of pregnancy and new motherhood while I’ve sat on the sidelines licking my wounds and wondering when God decided I was old news. 

Since September we’ve heard a dozen devotionals and messages at our MOPS meetings centered around flourishing in our present seasons and celebrating lavishly.  My confession to Pam that weekend (and my confession to you today) is this:  I have hardly felt the flourishing and I have done anything but celebrate this year.  In my deepest core I have felt like a scam.  I have felt beat up, angry and downright exhausted. 

There has been no rest because I wouldn’t have it. 

Resting would mean surrendering my agenda and my control to the God who failed me last September.  Resting would mean choosing to accept that my season of current heartache and brokenness was part of God’s plan. Why would God choose me to go through heartache I’ve been forced to watch so many women celebrate lavishly?

As I sat with Pam (who at the time was 4 weeks pregnant… God has a sense of humor, right?), Pam said to me, “Brittany, every single thing that God does is intentional.  It is no coincidence that you lost your baby while four women in your discussion group are now pregnant.  That is no accident.  That’s how he sanctifies you!  That is how He has chosen to sanctify these mommas!  God chose a season of mourning to sanctify you and to make you more like Him.”  

Thank you Lord…. I think? 

Pam’s words sunk deep.  It was as though a well of water was suddenly released over my dry and parched heart the moment I chose to listen and take hold of this truth. 

There are no accidents.  Every single detail of our lives are intentional and for the purpose of our sanctification.  The seasons of celebrating lavishly and the seasons of heartache and mourning. 

Maybe you’ve been in a similar season?  Maybe, you’ve shown up to MOPS this year and have sat bitterly fighting back tears as women around you have flourished.  As they’ve shared joyful news of new babies and of thriving marriages.  Perhaps, you too have left wondering, “How, God?  How do I celebrate with them when I’m just so sad?”  While I don’t know each of you individually, I would be willing to bet that I’m not the only momma in our MOPS group of 120 women who has battled these thoughts this year. 

The unexpected gift that I received during my weekend at Pam’s house was rest.  I left feeling more alive and more filled up in than I have in a long time.  I left with a deep sense that God is asking me to move with Him into a new season; a season of healing and restoration.  As Nicole Espy shared in her MOPS devotional recently, often it is the unearthing and the pruning of the soil of our hearts that must come before the flourishing.  God is teaching me that in HIS strength I must learn to celebrate lavishly with women who are in seasons of joy, even when I’m not feeling joyful.

It took a weekend of silencing the noise around me, of accepting rest as a good and necessary practice, for God to bring me into a new season of surrender and healing. 

I don’t know what’s in store for the future of our family.  Perhaps, we will glorify God best on this earth as a family of four, not five.  I may never experience another pregnancy or the growing of our family.

But this I do know – God loves me (and you!) deeply and fiercely.  He has not forgotten about you or me.  On the most painful days of this sanctifying journey, He is present.  Perhaps, in these particular seasons of pain and heartache, He does His best work when we rest into him.  When we surrender our weary bodies into the arms of a Father who hurts with us and wants to bring beauty from the ashes.  When we are still and silent and finally ready to listen. 

Jesus says in Mathew 11:28, “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.”  I humbly confess that I’ve never loved this verse. It’s always felt much easier said than done.  Come to Jesus and He will give rest?  Does Jesus really understand what my life as a momma is like?

I think I finally get it though.  It is through the surrender of our busyness and constant attempts to control life that we finally give way to rest.  It is how we open ourselves up to true healing and it is only then that the sanctification can take place. 

It is through the discipline and cultivation of rest that we discover how to truly flourish and celebrate lavishly.