Dear MOPS friends -
As I write this, I am a few hundred miles away from you all, as you dig into egg casseroles and sip hot coffee. I am missing being with you there terribly - the 'Tea and Testimony' meeting is by far my favorite of the year. What a treat that our amazing Mentor Moms lavish love upon us like that. Please enjoy, don't take it for granted.
I have been a part of MOPS for six years. In 2006 I had a two year old and an infant, when I saw listed in HOPE's Sunday morning bulletin, "Coming Soon - Mothers of Preschoolers will be meeting here!" I quickly shoved the bulletin in my tired husband's face, "This!! This is what I was talking about, a group! This!!!!" He nodded, not knowing the open door that invitation would bring. Neither did I. I had hoped I'd make a few friends, women in the same stage of life as I was, and perhaps we could even share a few playdates. Little did I know what MOPS would really end up meaning to me.
In 2006 I was 26 years old. My close friends did not yet have kids. We had just started attending HOPE in March, and I thought the women were friendly but I did not yet have friends. Wanting to get involved and do something other than change the 50th diaper of the day, I asked Heather Mandala if there was some kind of hospitality group at church, because I knew if nothing else, I could make a meal now and then or send a card. She had just started the planning of MOPS and so she "steered" me in that direction, and that is how I became a part of this MOPS group original steering team.
And so began my love affair with MOPS. Because I joined MOPS - and really, mostly because I was on steering - I developed wonderful, strong friendships. Over the years I have enjoyed countless playdates, park outings, and beach days. I was in a cooking club with a few MOPS friends for awhile, and although they have both moved away, I still make the clam chowder recipe we cooked one day, as our little ones played at our feet. Every time I make it I think of those mornings we had together. I still have a picture of my fridge from 2007, when a group of us went to Cape May and wore hats and had tea outside in a beautiful garden. MOPS meetings were something I looked forward to so much. Hot breakfast, sitting with women talking, learning something from a Mentor Mom or a speaker. Feeling understood, validated and encouraged. But truly, those few hours were only the beginning to what MOPS really offered me.
Friends are not to be taken lightly. The friends I have made while in MOPS are now some of the best friends I have. These friends screamed in joy as I shared with them that we were expecting a surprise baby, just weeks ago. They were the same friends who doubled over in grief for me when I then had to tell them that precious gift had been taken back. They were the ones who stocked my fridge with groceries, made meals, sent care packages, cards and flowers. They cried with me, prayed when I couldn't, and actually chased me down in the parking lot because they didn't want me to leave.
Girls, I pray you never have to go through what I just did. Really, what I am still going through. But odds are, you'll go through something during these preschool years. Don't you want some amazing friends to fall back upon? And when life is good - albeit full of sleepless nights, poopy diapers and temper tantrums - don't you want friends who really get you? Look around you. You might not know her yet, but you have a good friend in this room. The only way you'll find her is to put yourself out there.
When I realized I wouldn't be back yet from our family vacation to attend this year's last MOPS meeting, I was devastated. I wanted to tell you all how special I think this group is, and I wanted to thank Lindsey and the rest of the steering team for all of their amazing work this past year. But perhaps my emotions would have overcome me. After all, I think every time I have spoken in front of the group, except maybe when I talked about coupons, I cried! And I wouldn't have wanted my message to be watered down with tears -- and my message to you all is this - LOVE each other. Be there for one another. Please, trust me, it is a gift you give yourself when you love someone else. Be selfless and do things like pick up the Panera bread. Invite a mom you don't know yet over for a playdate. Take a chance and go to that MOPS outing, even if you don't know many moms yet. Don't just come to MOPS for the biweekly meetings - take advantage of the opportunity to make friends that will feel like sisters. It won't happen overnight. But it will, if you let it. And then those friendships will take you well beyond your MOPS years. Because even though it doesn't seem it, this time will go by. Some days drag - hours even! - but all of a sudden you realize you're peeing by yourself and there's not a pacifier, diaper or bottle to be seen in the whole house. You might be looking forward to that and you won't miss it maybe, but in the meantime, let MOPS make these years more enjoyable, filled with friends that are in the same boat and along for the ride.
My ride was certainly better because of all of you. And I'm taking you with me as I go towards the next leg of my trip. Thank you dear friends, for all you have given to me and my entire family these past 6 years. You don't know what this time has meant to me. Much love.