Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Fierce Flourishing

I joined MOPS* back in August and I was kind of stressed about the first meeting. It meant Noah was going to miss a nap. Let's just say that in general, I don't handle change well, and in the throes of postpartum anxiety and new motherhood, I REALLY didn't handle change well. But I went. And I haven't looked back once.

The MOPS theme this year was A Fierce Flourishing, and oh, how I needed to hear that was possible. Even though I'd had my child 15 months prior, I was really only just realizing the depths of my postpartum pain and anxiety. I've spent a lot of time and money since then, trying to make progress in both, and I've seen plenty of ups and downs there. But you know what gave me the most freedom this past year? The most relief? Being in a room full of other moms. Seeing that no two are alike but all of us love our children fiercely. All of us are horribly afraid of 'failing' as a mom, whatever that looks like. All of us have struggles. And never once did I feel judged when I shared heavy thoughts, or cried, or vented about having a strong-willed child.

When the leaders introduced the theme at the first meeting, they read this year's verse to us: "For you shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12

It took all my willpower not to start crying then and there. The relief was palpable. Like a weight had been lifted. These words were like a balm to my heart. When I heard this, I'd been waking up each morning with a feeling of dread. With a heavy heart and the assurance that I couldn't possibly do this day all over again. The racing thoughts, the heart palpitations, the frequent night wake-ups with insomnia in between, the baby nap strikes, and always, always, the pain.

To be reminded that God calls us to JOY, and that he promises PEACE was exactly what I needed to hear. It got me to come home and open up my Bible and look to all the places where God reassures us that his promises are TRUE**. That this word does not go out and come back empty. In fact, that same chapter in Isaiah says that!

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord.
'As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.'"
Isaiah 55:8-13 (emphasis mine)

I notice the twin threads of peace and joy everywhere now. The words stand out on any page. It's been funny to see how they've played out in the last 9 months. I got pregnant shortly after that first meeting, and when the panic overwhelmed me, I cried out, "how is this joy?!" I had just emerged from the newborn haze with Noah, I had a plan that felt manageable, and I was seemingly on the road to physical and emotional recovery. I was deeply fearful of how a pregnancy would impact that. But several friends were able to whisper, "there is joy here." And when I let go of my fear and my plans (again) and started to get excited about another baby, literally a bundle of joy from a good, good Father, we lost it. Again I cried, "how is this joy?!" And God rushed in with peace beyond understanding.

And now, as MOPS wraps up for the year, that's where I sit. Alternating between peace beyond understanding, and fear that I will do something to somehow ruin this peace. So yeah, I still have a ways to go.

This year, we focused on embracing rest, noticing goodness, and celebrating lavishly. Our devotional for the year notes that, "we become more ourselves when we celebrate, rest, and notice... and that looks a lot like flourishing." I LOVE that I can claim it fiercely. That I can take all my pent up anxiety and direct that energy into flourishing instead of floudering. Into activities that refresh me instead of drain me. And MOPS has absolutely been an activity that refreshed me from the inside out.

I'm so grateful to the MOPS ministry for reminding me of God's sovereign rule even as I adjust to this new role of motherhood. I looked forward to every single meeting, when I knew I would be able to rest in the presence of other adults and feel cared for. It has meant the world to me, and I'm so excited for next year!

*MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers, but is actually available to anyone with children under the age of 5. I wish I'd joined when Noah was a baby!

**See Hebrews 10, 1 Thessalonians 5, Deuteronomy 7, 1 Corinthians 1

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