Lessons Learned

At First Free MOPS, we always give “graduating” moms a chance to say what MOPS has meant as a part of their life.  In the past when I have heard that moms who are not coming back are feeling reluctant to share, I have been confused.  How hard is it to get up and talk about MOPS?  But, now that I am one of those moms, I get it.  Putting into words how a time in your life has affected you can be challenging.  Plus while my days of being a mom to preschoolers have been full of sweet moments, this season has stretched me beyond my limits sometimes too!

I also feel a bit like the Wizard of Oz.  While the faces of many of you come to mind as I type my newsletters or blog entries, there is the safety of the screen that separates me from you.  Just like the Wizard who in his little room had been impacting his world while being strangely separate from it.  Being vulnerable through a keyboard is far easier than telling the truth face to face.  I can pretend that everything I write is resonating with you, and I do not have to see any looks of confusion or annoyance.  This blog has been a safe place for me, and I have grown through writing it.  (And who knows?  Maybe I will be asked back as a guest blogger on occasion – I am pretty sure the new publicity gal would let me write to you again.  I may also start my own blog someday.  If I do, I will bribe her with chocolate so that I can let you know about it  :-).)

I also am pretty sure that today will be an emotional day for me.    I do not mind people seeing me cry (which is probably good since I tend to respond emotionally), but I am not sure about trying to talk while blubbering.  While I was not actively involved in MOPS at the beginning, MOPS has still been a part of my life for ten years.  That is like 3rd grade to graduation in comparable time span.  No wonder I am feeling a bit of separation anxiety.  In turn, I think I also feel a bit of senioritis – while I will miss eating the egg casseroles, I won’t miss the stress of trying to be on time after making one.  🙂  (There is a reason why you want to take your friends with you and leave the tests behind!)  But, just as I left high school with an excellent education, I will also leave MOPS with many lessons learned.

One: Friends. I am panicking a little about not seeing your faces as frequently.  Especially the moms that I have been blessed to be on leadership teams with who I have seen even more often!  And so many of you who have sat around my table offering words of encouragement as a part of my friendship groups.  But I am thankful that many of my MOPS relationships have gone beyond this group.  While we do have a women’s ministry at our church, we do not really have weekday meetings during the day.  So, I dragged Suzy, Melissa & Alica to MOPS with me.  You three have no idea how glad I am that I will get to continue to see you every Sunday.  You may not always be happy to be stuck with me, but I am thankful for you!  (And Alicia – your egg strata would still be good before church – hint, hint!)  Others of you are now in my homeschool circle.  Lynnette, I have no idea how managed to effectively be friendship group co-cordinators while having having newborns but we did.  I am so glad that you joined our co-op!  Sarah & Anita, I am glad that you are also on the homeschool journey with me and that I will continue to run into you at different places!  And Tina, you have come to MOPS from my cooking club and have been a blessing to SO many people here.  (Glad I will be continuing to see you too!)  I could write on and on, but since this is really not supposed to be my memoir, I will stop there.  Thank you to all of you who have been my friends!

Two: My children have been loved on by many others in such a wonderful environment.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about our Moppets program.  These people have done far more than “babysit” my kids – they have imparted the love of Jesus into their lives.  By knowing that my kids have been cared for, I have been able to grow myself.  Rhonda – thank you for all that you did for the Moppets program the last 2 years – you have been fabulous and will be missed  next year!  We pray God’s best for you as you go in other directions!  And Mom – my MOPS experience has been that much sweeter because you have been a part of it!  The kids and I have loved getting to see you there!

Speaker Lessons: Many of the lessons that I have learned in MOPS meetings have merged into my life.

#1 At times communication with my husband needs to increase rather than my dose of Advil.  Jennifer Brown’s talk on “How Not to Have a Headache” was revolutionary for me.  I needed the reminder that all aspects of my relationship with my husband can and should be a blessing.  (No idea what I am talking about?  I can explain it to you later.  🙂  )

#2 Outlaws belong in the Old West, not in my family.  Jennifer’s other talk on how to not be outlaws with your in-laws has also continued to challenge me.  While I still have some growing up to do and need to learn to respond with graciousness more consistently, I know that I have made progress in these relationships.  I just keep in mind her illustration of cornstarch vs. flour in gravy.  Does it really matter in the end?

#3 Celebrating your children is what matters – whether your cake is from the bakery case or from your kitchen.  I have been inspired to continue to find ways to relish being a mom from many of our meetings.

#4 You are the perfect mom for you children – God has lessons that He wants to teach your children through you.  How we parent each of our children may not look the same, but God will give us wisdom.  (Thankful that that September  meeting allowed me to get in touch with you again, Tami!  The words that you spoke that day, that you share in your blog and that you have e-mailed me have blessed me heart.  Thanks!)

#5 We can be a blessing to those who are behind us on the journey, just as we can be blessed by those who are up ahead.  Many of my favorite meetings involved the mentors.  Not just because those meetings were filled with encouraging truths, but also because I have had the privilege of knowing these women behind the scenes.  If I could finagle a way to come back to MOPS indefinitely just for the steering devotionals, I would in a heartbeat.  Long ago I prayed for God to send a woman in my life to disciple me.  He did not answer in the way that I expected – instead He sent several women to build into my life.  I have been so blessed by each of you.  Thank you for taking the time to invest in my life and the lives of the moms at MOPS!  Since none of you probably hang out in the playground/zoo circles, I am hoping that you will randomly text and Facebook me or even just show up at my house unexpectedly.  I will miss all of you!

Unexpected Lessons

 # 1 Convention: I had debated on even going last summer.  I knew that we didn’t have the money, plus leaving the kids is complicated.  Due to fundraising opportunities, God provided the way for me to go with hardly paying anything.  (The fact that my mom helped sell Younkers Community Days coupons for me, even to people in line :-), probably helped!)   We arrived to the convention hall right before the evening session.  I remember being surrounded by other moms who loved Jesus in the beautiful environment and feeling so thankful for a time of refreshment.  As Christy Nockels led us in the song, “Waiting Here for You,” the tears began to stream down my face.  I felt God whisper in my heart, “Before you were a wife and a mom, you were my daughter.  I wanted you here for I long to bless you.”   And bless me He did over the course of those several days away.  Yes, I would recommend convention!

#2 Working closely with others stretches you.  I have been a part of the leadership team for several years.  I have not always agreed with every approach and every decision.  I think that is a good thing. for I have learned lessons of humility, patience and flexibility.  But when you all love Jesus, some of the tension can melt away!  So to those of you who I have spent time with on leadership, thank you for being a part of God’s refining process in my life.  May God continue to bless you.  I have loved our sweet times of fellowship and working together! This leads directly into the next lesson …

#3 Until you help out behind the scenes, you have no idea what is involved.  Being a part of  MOPS beyond just the twice a month meetings has caused me to realize just how much has to happen for an event to take place.   Many moms spend a lot of volunteer time to make MOPS happen.  A special thank you to Sarah – her position really needs to someone to work alongside, and she has to take the bulk of the load for the past two years.  She has done that with grace and a positive, encouraging attitude .  We are blessed to have her coordinating our group!  If you have a bit of time, I would highly encourage you to start helping behind the scenes.  That is the way to feel connected and more of a part of the group!   That is how many of us in leadership got started – in a small way at first.   I know that I am thankful for the leadership opportunities that MOPS has provided.  I am a stronger person because of my experiences!

Better moms make a better world!

(Insert “Pomp and Circumstance” here!)

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4 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. Barb Barber says:

    Gretchen–well done good and faithful servant! Oh my what wonderful use of your gifts! Thanks for including me in your blogs this year. I have been blessed and encouraged and challenged. Thank you for sharing your heart and your love for Jesus. Praying that many will see and hear and put their trust in the Lord. May the Lord strengthen you and encourage you in these days of transition. You are a good one! Barb

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  2. Denise says:

    Gretchen, it has been a privledge to know you, read your words, and serve beside you at MOPS. I am eager to see what God has in store for you! Thanks for using your talent toward kingdom building and community building for MOPS. Hugs!

    • firstfreemops says:

      Thanks, Denise! The same to you as well! Thanks for helping me this year, both with your words on the page and encouraging comments! Glad to see you serving MOPS in such a way!

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