Building community in the stages of life
I am in a season of life when it could be easy to feel like a lot of my community building and relational connection happens on the go. My life is marked by conversations on the sideline at soccer games, or in the middle of the cross-country field during the meet, before or after a workout at the gym. With two middle schoolers, a full-time job, a husband who travels for work, it is hard to fit in anything extra, let alone time with friends. So, a lot of that happens as I go through my day, intentionally involving myself in activities where I know I will see my people.
While there are deep and meaningful conversations about faith, life, and what to cook for dinner sprinkled throughout shouting cheers for each other’s kiddos on the sidelines, I don’t think those brief exchanges are enough. I recognize the need for those deep, interpersonal, and intentional connections with people who know me well, love me dearly, and know all my ups and downs. When I don’t have time with people who know me, I know something is off in my life. The poet David Whyte writes that “…a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities round in even the most average existence.” I know that diagnostic all too well.
This is why two of my most protected hours of my week are the two hours I spend with three close friends for coffee. Other fiercely protected hours of my week are the hours Joey and I set aside each week together. If you try to cut into those hours, I’ll cut you. I cherish my time with these friends. We’ve been meeting together for around seven years. We’ve been friends for over a decade. And while we all have other circles of friends that we’re in, we all have other groups that we’re a part of, these women are my ride-or-die, take-it-to-the-grave, probably-will-carry-each-other’s-casket type of relationships.
And we met at MOPS. In the Gathering Place at Chapel Hill every other week, more than 100 moms of little ones come together to eat a meal without having toddlers to wrestle, hear from a speaker, discuss as a table…and build relationships. There is something about the fog of early parenting that cries out for the clarity of a person sitting next to you saying, “You’re not alone in this.” You aren’t alone in the sleepless nights, the potty training, the constant questioning if you are doing things right or wrong. You are not alone in the joy of first steps, the bedtime snuggles, the sticky, wet smooches from small humans that God has given you to raise. There is nothing quite like those early days of parenting, and there is nothing quite like MOPS. It’s a place where lifelong relationships are forged in the refining fire of shared experience called parenting preschoolers.
This is a beautiful ministry. There is something about that stage of parenting that breaks down barriers. Of the 120 mamas who are coming to MOPS this year, only 20 call Chapel Hill home. That means MOPS is supporting 100 women in the community who don’t come to church here. Isn’t that incredible? It’s amazing what the offer of a hands-free meal and an opportunity to connect will do for a young mom. While here, our moms encounter friendship and faith.
Every week that I see the parking lot fill up for MOPS, I am reminded of those days of new friendships, the one day a week in that stage of life where I had time to myself, the season of life where I learned so much about who I am and what God has called me to through the reflection of the women sitting across from me at the table. I am reminded of my dear friends who I still walk with today. I am reminded of how my faith grew, how my family grew (I sometimes joke that we had a second child just so my MOPS table would provide a meal train), how my friend circle grew, and I am reminded of all the ways God is at work through this incredible church.
I’d love to invite you to pray for these 120 young families that are engaging with the church through MOPS. Please pray that these moms build those lifelong friendships. Pray that their relationships are strengthened, that their faith is strengthened, that their little ones would be introduced to faith through Moppets.
I’d also love to invite you to volunteer at MOPS. As you can imagine, 120 moms means a bunch of little ones. This is a great opportunity to show hospitality to our community, rock babies, play with toddlers. I promise you that it is great fun! We are hoping to grow the number of people who volunteer. I don’t use this language very often, but we NEED more volunteers. To serve, please contact Early Childhood Director Kim Hagey.
Finally, I’d love for you to think about your circle of people. Are you investing in community and close relationships? Are you talking to your friends inside and outside of the church about faith and life? If you aren’t, let’s connect you to a LifeGroup to build those relationships. If you are, send them a quick text to say that you’re glad they’re in your life.