One September Morning

I think my baby girl was about 6 weeks old when I first felt the itch to expand our world beyond the hammock in our backyard. While I loved snuggling my sweet newborn, I knew we needed a community. I was one of the first in our group of friends to have a baby and so I didn’t have a lot of stay-at-home girlfriends to lean on.

I remember typing in “MOPS near me” to Google one morning, knowing that an aunt of mine was a MOPS mentor for a group at her church in California. As little pinpoints filled the map on my screen, I wondered how I would pick one of the several groups that met within a couple miles of our house.

When my daughter woke from her morning nap, I closed my computer, packed a diaper bag with more essentials than I would ever bring with our second baby, strapped Bea into her car seat, clicked it into the stroller, and walked up the block on our first outing to our neighborhood library’s Book Babies hour.

Of course, we arrived late because that’s what moms of newborns do. As I unloaded and sat in the back of the group, a mom without a baby in her lap leaned over with a smile and welcomed me. Later, during “free play” time, she asked for my life story. Kathy is one of those women who probably knows details about everyone she’s in contact with––from regulars in the checkout line to those at her church. She has the ability to ask all the right questions and to make anyone feel safe and comfortable.

As we talked, she invited me to the MOPS group that had just started at her church. It was one of the farthest in my Google search but still only a five- minute drive from our house. I decided that this conversation was Divine Intervention. A few days later, I walked into a church and was greeted with coffee, muffins and women who wanted to know me. Kathy wasn’t there but she had told the leader about a new mom she had met at the library. This group was expecting me and I knew I had found my home.

As I sat at a table, holding my baby, watching the other moms work on a craft project, another mom asked if she could hold Bea so I could make my own craft. Before I knew it, April was bouncing her next to our table as I found myself with baby-free arms for the first time since giving birth.

It’s been seven years since that moment and I can now say with confidence, that morning was life-changing. These women have become our family’s close friends. We’ve celebrated birthdays and baby showers together, we’ve gone to each other’s homes for dinners and watch each other’s kids in a pinch. Recently, my family switched from our church of 10 years to fully commit to the community at our MOPS church. It has always been home, even though it took us time to realize that.

Looking back, that day in September seems so random. It’s rare when God speaks so loudly or so quickly to my questions. As school starts back, I’m looking for those nudges again. Where is God leading me? What relationships do I need to invest in? What volunteer opportunities will fit our family in this season? How will I look back on this season and recognize that God was speaking loud and clear?

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog:

The Joy of Newborns

We’re officially in the midst of holiday busyness – parties and shopping and December birthdays filled our week. All really good things, filled with the wonder of relationships and community. But busy, nonetheless.

Newborn Elle

Frank’s birthday was last weekend and, as has become our tradition, he took Friday off work and we spent the whole day Christmas shopping. We braved the mall. We went to Toys R Us. We were exhausted and overstimulated. But we also went out to lunch. And we chatted and connected. We found that it’s a good way to infuse the magic of Christmas into the chore of Christmas shopping.

This week we light the joy candle on our Advent wreath. (Though, in keeping with our theme of messy Advent, we didn’t actually light it on Sunday…) This week, we remember the shepherds awe and wonder and declaration of joy at the newborn king.

This week makes me remember the joy of the newborn phase. No matter how long or short or hard or easy labor is; No matter how fussy or happy newborns can be; No matter how we rank our newborn and new parent experiences – This phase is exhausting. They are up in the middle of the night; they are helpless; they are so needy.

And yet, when our girls were first born, I experienced joy in a way I could never have imagined before. In the midst of tiredness and overstimulation and fumbling through getting to know a brand-new human, there is an underlying joy that goes beyond happiness and contentment. It’s the joy I imagine Mary felt in those first few hours of new motherhood.

It’s, by extension, the joy that the shepherds experienced when they found this newborn baby.

This week, even in the midst of stocking stuffer shopping and pageants and more parties, I hope to keep that memory of newborn joy present. The joy that is so transformative and transcending. The joy that is Christmas.

How do you remember joy in the midst of this crazy time of year? How does joy differ from happiness for you?