(this is a lengthy post, but I encourage you to read through to the end!)
I was very blessed to have attended the annual MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Convention a couple weeks ago and have my "mom tank" refilled! I went with three incredibly FUN, amazing women who also happen to be awesome moms :) We laughed and laughed and enjoyed having some time away. It was a great reminder that we do have to take some time for ourselves once in awhile. If you haven't had some time with your girlfriends in awhile, make it a priority to take time and do it! It doesn't have to be a whole weekend...even an evening is helpful. We owe that to ourselves and it makes us better moms and wives too!
There were so many amazing speakers we got to hear, along with music artists Christy Nockels who provided worship music every day and Matthew West who performed that Friday night. Relating back to my last post about forgiveness, Matthew West wrote a song called Forgiveness based on the true story about a mom who forgave the drunk driver who killed her daughter. If you haven't heard it, it's on iTunes (and the christian radio station a lot) so check it out! It's a great song and an amazing story of forgiveness.
The theme of MOPS this year is Plunge (Risk.Real.Relatioships). The scripture referenced through the theme is 1 Peter: 4:8: Love as if your life depended on it. It's an encouragement for us to step out of our comfort zone and reach out to other moms and deepen relationships. We heard over and over the importance of being real with one another and admitting our weak moments and difficulties and showing grace for one another. We cannot go deeper in our friendships if we don't allow this to happen.
One of the speakers, Kay Warren, (wife of Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life) said a few things that really stuck with me. Here are a few things she said...
-You either choose connection or competition and comparison with other moms (and women).
-If you can't enter into someone else's pain when they are in pain, the friendship won't last (again, this calls for going deeper into relationships).
-Raise children to be aware of the world and the lives of others.
-Talk about the hard stuff. (I love this. Too many times we try and brush things under the rug and don't acknowledge there is an issue, whether it's a personal issue or an issue we have with someone else. Confronting the issue and talking about it doesn't come naturally for everyone, but we can choose to do it, and we need to. When we talk about the hard things, we can deal with them and it then allows us to move on. Doing this also creates a deeper relationship/friendship.)
-Embrace each other with grace. (Giving grace allows for mistakes, which we all make. I recently saw a quote that said "Don't judge others just because their sins are different than yours." Grace allows us to get past whatever it is and move on.)
-Enter into each other's shame.
-Help her find strength in God.
-Love each other's children. (For me, those that show my children the most love are the ones who I have deep friendships with. They are a present part of my life that are in the "here and now" and if something happened to me, I know they are here to help with my children in various ways. That brings much relief.)
I think of all the things I heard over the course of those 3 days, this was my favorite and stuck with me the most.
"The best friends are those who come looking for us. They don't wait until we come seeking help."
I absolutely love this quote! We've all heard the saying that true friends are those we can go awhile without seeing or talking to and once we do connect again, we pick up right where we left off. That's great, there is nothing wrong with that. I have some friendships that have always been like that and so we haven't known any different. But those friendships are hard to deepen when we don't invest the time into them. At this season in my life, I long for the deep relationships...friends that are a part of my life through the joys and challenges, the kind of friends who don't just show up when life gets rough, (like the quote above) they come looking for us! They are the friends who check in on us when it's been just a short time since we've connected because they've missed us!! They want to connect on a regular basis. They don't do it because they feel like they have to check it off their list of things to do. They are also the friends that love my children and share in my children's joys and challenges as well.
We are all busy and some weeks it's hard to reach out when we are so occupied with our own family and activities. But I was reminded that in order to deepen those friendships, we must reach out. We need to make it a priority. The good thing is most of what we 'busy our lives with' is by choice! I'm really trying to work on not using the busy excuse anymore. It's easy to say we are busy because we have 3 kids. Well, we have chosen to have 3 kids. We choose to put them in activities that make us 'busy'. We are all given the same amount of time in a day and we all choose what we spend our time on and who we spend it with.
This info Kay presented has me re-evaluating what my priorities are. It also reassured me that my desire for deep friendships is not unrealistic. But I have learned it is unrealistic to have a deep friendship with those that don't feel the same way. Likewise, if we don't invest the time to continue to deepen those already 'deep' relationships, they will begin to fade. Instead of being left hurt and feeling empty, we need to invest our time and energy into those who desire to have that deep friendship with us. When God puts that desire in our hearts, he also puts people in our lives to meet that need! Have you noticed that? Sometimes, those people show up in our lives before we even realize the need is there. I've recently had this happen and I'm so grateful God knows me even better than I know myself. He knows your needs to!
I believe the 'Risk.Real.Relationships.' comes into play when we step out of our comfort zone and extend ourselves to someone new. It's easy for us to get comfortable in the friendships that we have and not be willing to reach out and try to deepen our friendship with new people. It's worth the risk because we never know where that friendship could lead. We may feel like we have the friends that we need or we don't have time to deepen another friendship, but have you thought maybe someone else needs you and the gifts God has given you? Maybe it's only for a season, but it could be a critical season in someone else's life (especially for a mom). As a mom of young children, I can atest that there are daily challenges, some big and some small, but there are always challenges. Sometimes all is takes to get through it is having another mom beside you who can relate and share in your joys, pain, challenges, guilt, frustrations and whatever else you might be going through. Even though we walk through our own storms as moms, we need to be willing to reach out to others and go deeper in our relationships. I believe if we do this, we will all be better moms! I'm also a firm believer that when we help others, many times they end up helping us too when we least expected it.
I encourage you to think about a season in your life (maybe even before motherhood or maybe the one you're going through right now) and think of those who stood (or are standing) by your side and committed to a deeper relationship with you. Maybe they weren't a part of your life until that particular season. That was no coincidence. God put them there in your life when he knew you needed them the most, whether it was a rough season or a joyous one. Whoever it may have been (maybe several people), write them a note, send them an email, do whatever you'd like, but let them know how they made a difference in your life and how much you appreciated it. Sometimes people make a huge impact in our lives and they don't even realize it. Maybe you will help someone realize a gift they have because you took the time to share your joy and gratitude for what they did for you!
My prayer today for all of you is that you will open your heart to what God is asking of you as a friend. Look for the signs and listen for God's voice, even the quietest voice. There may be someone seeking you right now. Maybe it's just to provide a meal for a family going through a rough season or maybe it's going so deep as to share in another mom's pain and sorrow and be there to help her through it. Whatever it may be, I believe this precious gift of motherhood we've been given is meant to be shared.
God Bless :)