I sat in the parking lot of the post office on a cold winter morning.I could see the long line from where I sat in my car and I was feeling grumpy about the anticipated wait.I had a heavy heart.Grey skies loomed overhead replacing the normal bright blue skies of Colorado.The whole day felt grey and heavy.
I was awakened that morning to alarming texts from friends who were sending out prayer requests for one of our friends who is battling cancer.The outlook felt grim.Then I received an email from another friend telling me of a friend’s child who was complaining of a stomach ache which turned into surgery which turned into another cancer diagnosis.These are wonderful families and I just felt plain sad on their behalf.
I walked to the front door of the post office and while opening the door dropped several of my envelopes.A young man stepped over the fallen mail without offering to help.My grumpy meter was rising by the second– that was until I got inline.
In front of me was an elderly man and in front of him was a young mom with her little baby.The elderly gentleman began playing peek a boo with the child and before you know it, the baby was laughing hysterically.You know what I mean, those baby laughs that are so full of joy they make everyone around them begin to smile and laugh too. We all were laughing until our sides hurt.We even clapped for the baby when she and her mom were leaving, and of course, on cue, she blows us all baby kisses goodbye.My spirits were lifted by the laughter of this sweet child and the response from all those around me.
The lady behind me started crying.She apologized for the tears and told me her husband had passed away earlier this year and she felt guilty for feeling joy and uncontrollable laughter.I gave her a hug and told her I was so sorry for her loss.I also probably over spoke and told her I thought it was ok to have joy.Her husband wouldn’t want her to be sad forever.She hugged me again.I left the post office feeling lighter and as I walked outside, the sun began shining through the clouds. I stopped and prayed for my friends who were deep in hardship.I prayed they would feel joy, that they would be able to laugh even when things were hard.
I think sometimes we are afraid to laugh while we are experiencing sorrow because someone might think our pain has passed or that our sorrow isn’t deep.Laughter seems off limits or inappropriate to shine where there is the darkness of grief and sorrow.My Christian faith tells me that because I place my hope in Christ, I can grieve differently from those who have no hope.There are times when grief will have a tight grip on us for sure, life can be brutally hard at times.Laughter gives us permission to say– grief may have a hold of me but all of the life has not been choked out of me. I think laughter lessens the sting that sadness can bring. It is a gift to feel joy.
Let’s all be people who give each other permission to laugh, to experience joy even when our world circumstances say otherwise.Let’s receive our joy from the Lord and encourage one another in this journey called life.
Not all mountaintop experiences happen on mountaintops. Some do – like the one we read about in Matthew 17. “Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led
them up a high mountain”. And there they had a “mountaintop” experience – we know it as the transfiguration. A beautiful moment that Jesus shared with his disciples. You know, the kind of experience that doesn’t happen too often, the kind that changes us forever and results in lasting transformation. Not all mountaintop experiences happen on mountaintops. Some happen in convention centers in the southern state of Kentucky. Some happen each year at MOMcon.
Those of us who attended MOMcon had various mountain top experiences. I am always moved to tears when worshipping with thousands of other women. When leaders are introduced to one another in what I believe are God appointments, showing them their abilities to work together through the MOPS ministry to further God’s kingdom. When I see moms crying and sharing with me their recommitment to the Lord, their deep desire to reach others for Christ.
I experienced many of those moments with many of you and I am thankful. This year, being a part of the baptism service was an incredible moment – a true mountain top experience. I had the honor of working with Pastor Ed Ollie that morning. I stood at the bottom of the steps and held the hand of each of the 42 moms as they entered the water. An ordinary hot tub on the rooftop of a hotel in downtown Louisville was transformed into holy water as each mom proclaimed her commitment to following Jesus in front of her peers and other MOPS family. Tears of joy, I have never been hugged so tightly. During one such baptism, as the mom was coming out of the water, I looked over to see her friends crying and above them was the steeple from the church across the street and it was illuminated by the street light. The cross shone brightly that morning. I felt God’s love and will forever remember that as a holy moment, a mountain top experience.
Back to the real world with laundry and real life issues and some minor complaints. How do we take those experiences at MOMcon and hold them tight so that we remember why we do what we do? It really is about perspective and the transforming love of Jesus Christ.
I am reminded of a hike I did this past summer and reaching the top of the mountain. It struck me how nothing really grows at the top – the trees and foliage are gone and are replaced by large rocks and gravel. The view however of the valley was breathtaking. The air was clean and crisp. It gave me an appreciation of what my everyday life looked like as I viewed it from afar. The beautiful trees and city. That is what I take from my mountain top moments at MOMcon. The view of our daily lives, the moments of clarity. Still doesn’t make re- entry easy but it makes it more special when we take those moments and bring them back with us excited and recommitted to serving faithfully together.
That is my prayer for each of us as we lead moms around the world. Think of the call of God leading you and me. Our mountaintop experiences of experiencing God in an intense way also calls us to return to the very real issues and problems of our MOPS groups, our cites and state, nation and world. And we are called back to proclaim that Jesus has called us to work together – as people of faith – to improve the lives of all moms – bringing healing and hope and abundant life into their realities.
May God lead us off the high mountain and into even the deepest and darkest valleys to
share God’s love in transforming ways.
God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Why is contentment so hard to achieve?A great question brought to my mind this morning as I was walking through my garden enjoying the beautiful roses that are still blooming.It is mid September here in Colorado and each year about this time, I get a second blooming season from my rose garden.Heavenly.
The temperature for the next week will be in the upper 80’s yet when I walk into the area stores it is all about the fall decor, pumpkin spice galore!I even heard a lady this morning say to the grocery store clerk, “ I wish this nice weather would hurry up and get out of here so I can put on a sweater and drink a pumpkin spice latte.”She wasn’t teasing. In Colorado the fall season is typically shortened by a snow storm so I plan on enjoying the sunshine and roses until then. Not wanting to wish away the last days of summer.
Why do we wish things away?When we are young we want to hurry up and be adults and then when we are adults we wish we could have some carefree days like when we were young.When our kids are toddlers we wish they would be potty trained and not so needy and then when we drop those kids off at college we long for the days when we could ready stories to them and snuggle on the couch.
My outlook on contentment certainly has been skewed by my experience of having breast cancer.It really gave me the gift of enjoying each day, each season of life – not only in nature but with my family and my work.Seasons are just that, temporary moments in time.Sometimes sunny and bright and other times dark and cold.Whatever season you find yourself in, my prayer for you today is that you will enjoy it, learn from it, embrace it , don’t wish it away.
Pumpkin spice lattes will be enjoyed soon enough, today is an iced tea, rose filled kind of day. I plan on enjoying it.
I spent last Friday at Disneyland with my husband and two of my four kids.What a fun day!We crammed as much Disney as we possibly could into about seven hours.Let me tell you a little more of the story…We arrived the night before in LA ready for a quick weekend get away.My luggage however didn’t arrive so off we went in the Uber to our hotel where I requested “ the bag”.You know, the hard toothbrush, paste, odd scented deodorant, and tiny black comb kinda bag.I must say I was feeling annoyed with myself for not just carrying on a bag.I was assured my luggage would arrive by 9 am the next day.9 am comes and goes and my son is flying in to meet us and so we need to go.I put on my jeans and shirt from the day before, brush my teeth with the bristle brush, borrow my daughters make up and throw my hair up in a pony.Sad my shorts, white shirt and tennis shoes are still in transit as it is going to be 90 degrees.
We arrive at the Magic Kingdom and I am determined to enjoy this abbreviated day of fun with my family.We quickly start hopping on rides and grabbing fast passes and walk for miles.I now have a blister on my toe because although my flip flops are oh so cute, they are not the best walking shoes.We enter “ Splash Mountain” and literally sweat to death for over an hour to be told the ride had a log jam and will be closed for the remainder of the day.Disappointed, yes!I was looking forward to being splashed by the cold water in the sweltering heat.We shrug our shoulders and walk to Indiana Jones where we had reserved our fast pass. “ Sorry folks, the ride is shut down,” says the very chipper Disney worker. We decide we are ready to leave the Magic Kingdom and head to our favorite place in Marina Del Rey for dinner.It did not disappoint, we laughed about all of our mishaps and adventures and deemed it a wonderful day!
We arrive back to the hotel, still no luggage.We take the stairs because the elevator has a sign… “Out of Order”.We burst into laughter and climb the stairs satisfied with our very fun day!
So what does my Disney day have to do with your leadership, your parenting? It’s all about perspective.The truth is we all are going to face disappointment in our life journey.Things don’t always work out the way we so meticulously plan them.The learning is this – just because there are a few bad moments doesn’t mean it is a bad day or worse a bad life. A few rides not working didn’t lessen our very happy day spent at Disneyland. Disappointment is commonplace, that however, isn’t the challenge.The challenge is how you react to disappointment.Disappointments give us opportunities to shine.They can help define us as good leaders/good parents.In fact, how well we handle disappointment can either hinder our relationships with our team/our family or can earn us respect and credibility for the challenges that will come in the future.
Here are some things to help when disappointment happens –
Remain calm and composed so those emotions don’t rule the response.
Look within– could your involvement (or lack of it) have prevented the situation?
Always give the benefit of the doubt – operate in grace.
Focus on the issue, not the person.
Ask yourself, what can I learn from this?
Be a leader – allow the disappointment to help you build better bonds with your family/your team.
Life is about enjoying the journey God has you on, learning to shine for Him, disappointments and all.
So excited to travel to Colombia.The idea for this trip began last September at Momcon while at a dinner we had organized for the Mission Hills Team and the Latin American Leaders.One of the Mission Hills leaders, Emerald Holden sat next to a lady from Colombia, Lorena Gutierrez. They began talking and found out they had so much in common. They were of similar age,they had kids that were similar ages and both shared the passion to help moms through the ministry of MOPS.
Lorena has a ministry where she sells used American clothing to help young moms and their families. She was the leader of her MOPS group in Cali, Colombia.A dinner conversation, a big dream and 9 months later I am taking off to the airport with Emerald, Jacque and Karissa.All leaders from Mission Hills.Ready and eager to join our Latin American leaders, Monica and Lorena.
We arrive after a quick stop in Miami and are greeted at the airport by Lorena and her husband, Andres.Monica Rovira, our Global Ministry Developer from Latin America, has joined them and I am so happy to see everyone. They take us to a local spot for dinner where we try coconut lime drinks, plantains, and an odd looking fruit called granadilla.Everything was delicious.We immediately connect with Lorena and her husband.Conversation is fun and easy.
They have secured a local hotel for us which is absolutely beautiful.A local Cali family owns it and we are greeted as if we are celebrities.Quaint, charming, perfect.
June 23, 2018
We start the morning sitting in the dining room of this old home that was turned into a beautiful bed and breakfast. Colombian coffee, fresh fruits, eggs, and the most amazing homemade bread.We are joined by a sweet mom by the name of Anjelica.She is a cousin to one of our MOPS leaders.She will be our interpreter for the day.
We walk across the street to the NOW Hotel where we will be staying for the rest of our time in Cali and where we are hosting an outreach event for moms in the Cali area.I am overwhelmed with emotions as we reach capacity and there is standing room only.So many moms interested in MOPS.
Lorena starts the day and I am so impressed with her ability to lead and to speak.We each take our turn explaining MOPS.We share vision, and our own personal stories of how MOPS has impacted us as moms and leaders.I am so proud of our team from Mission Hills.Each of these girls holds such a special place in my heart.They speak with confidence and what they say is very impactful.
We attend a luncheon for the MOPS leaders in Cali and then host a workshop for the leadership team.We brought gifts that we share and then stay to talk and answer questions.Their enthusiasm is so contagious and I feel so energized and so very thankful for the opportunity I have to work at MOPS International.
MOPS business is finished for the day and we head off to find Colombian soccer jerseys.We end up shopping from the vendor on the street corner and it is a blast.I purchase a jersey, a hat, and some very cute Colombian flag earrings.We hop back in the car and snack on homemade breads as we navigate the crazy traffic on our way to church.There are at least 5 lanes of cars and motorcycles weaving in and out.Fun to be out in the city.
We are attending a service tonight at a Cenfol church.I am so impressed with this organization and their commitment to reach the world with the love of Jesus.They are in a new building which is a beautiful home.I love the worship in Spanish and enjoy the teaching which we understand through Andres who is interpreting for us.We are invited to speak and share what MOPS is about with their church family.An honor to be able to speak to them about what MOPS is doing around the world.
After church we pick up the kiddos and find our way to another amazing local spot for a Colombian food called arepasThey are little pastries filled with meats and cheeses.At every meal we have the chance to try different fruit juices and they are delicious.The Colombian people drink a lot of fresh juice.I love it!
Our first full day in Colombia was very busy, very productive, and I find it hard to fall asleep as I am so excited about all I have seen today, the beautiful moms I met, and the experience of church in Colombia.
June 24, 2018
It is Sunday.We participated in church last night and have set aside today to have a little fun.We drive with Lorena and Andreas to their family home in the mountains outside of Cali.We first stop at a Walmart type store where we stock up on bottled water and snacks.We are dressed in our Colombian jerseys so obviously get a few looks at the store.Everyone is very friendly.
About an hour and a half later we have left the city behind and arrive in the beautiful countryside of Colombia nestled in the Andes mountains.The views are spectacular. The air crisply scented with the fragrance of orange, lime and mango trees. We are invited to go out into the yard and pick fresh limes off of the trees.We make it a team effort and begin slicing and juicing the limes.Lorena and Andres turn our little harvest into a delicious limeaide.Amazing!We settle in and start watching the World Cup soccer game.Colombia is playing Poland.So fun to share in the cheering of their team which by the end of the first quarter becomes our team too.They win and we jump and scream like we are locals.
Before we leave the mountain house we gather more oranges, limes, and avocados to take back to the city.We stop at an outdoor dining experience.It is a place where people come and enjoy birthday parties and family gatherings.There was a fun playground, trampoline and sledding hill.Of course we each took a turn in the plastic bucket sliding down the cement track built into the side of the hill.So fun.What a fun Sunday enjoyed with our Colombian family.
June 25, 2018
The day begins with a visit to the home of Pillar.She is a local pastor who will be leading a new MOPS group in the city of Cali.She is an incredible woman who loves Jesus and loves others so well. We get to meet her teenage daughter who is a delight and eager to practice her English skills.Pillar has set out a beautiful array of fresh fruit and we get the opportunity to learn more about her church and the way in which sees the opportunities to reach more young moms in her community through the MOPS ministry.She is full of love and hospitality and she sends us off with gifts.
Next stop – “ The Farm”.This stop was very impactful for many reasons.We enter an area known as the “ Agua Blanca” and we have the privilege of meeting an incredible woman by the name of Maria del Carmen.She is an attorney and an amazing advocate for the people of this area.She runs one of the clothing stores with the gently used clothing we have donated.
This place has been scarred by violence and poverty and the 52 year civil war.Her family has set up a small farm right next to the river that runs thick with human waste.She provides opportunities for people to begin again.They raise chickens and goats and employee locals to take care of the animals.She and her family have proclaimed this land that once was overtaken by the drug cartel and have cared for it. The budding trees and newborn animals were tangible signs of renewal, life and hope.
Maria del Carmen is an educated woman who could have stayed in the city after she earned her law degree but instead she chose to return to her home.She is a strong and determined woman wanting to help the people in her community including young moms who sell used clothing.She is making a difference in this world.It was a privilege to meet her.
Next stop –the first location of the clothing store.We drive down a very narrow and steep street and stop in front of a small door.Inside is a clothing store fully stocked with more of the used clothing from Denver.The two ladies who run the store are so sweet and eager to show us how they have things organized.Those of us from Denver step inside the shop and immediately recognize our own clothing hanging from the display.A full circle moment for sure.A green checkered shirt I wore to cheer on my boys while they played football is displayed and now a woman in Colombia will be wearing it.I pray for this woman never knowing who it will be, struck by the opportunity we all have to care for others around the world.Nelly and Consuelo run this store most days and they care for the women and families in their community so beautifully.
Next stop –We climb like mountain goats to get to the top of the hill where this next MOPS group meets.This home along with other make shift homes is where many displaced people from the war and refugees have settled.Her name is Leidy and she warmly welcomes us into her home where about 20 young moms and their kiddos gather once a month for a MOPS meeting.Our team joins in and we host the MOPS group.Monica and Lorena share a beautiful teaching time.Our team has brought a craft project for kiddos to make butterflies out of coffee filters, pipe cleaners, and markers.We join in the fun.One of Leidy’s neighbors is making homemade empanadas and I ask if I can join her.She teaches me how to stuff them, fold and mold them to perfection.She works the whole time we are meeting lovingly preparing food for these moms.The empanadas are delicious.I am struck by how normal this feels.Visiting with young moms and their babies.We offer to pray for these moms and they begin sharing their stories, their hardships.I am broken hearted and have a hard time holding back my tears.This is a hard life that they have yet they are finding community, strength and resources to help them be the best moms they can be.I have the privilege of praying with a young mom who has two small children, her husband is in jail, and she is looking for a job.She cried and told me she felt so hopeless until her neighbor invited her to MOPS.Her circumstance has not changed but she is being loved on so well by this MOPS group, she is learning about Jesus, she told me she now has hope.There were many heartbreaking stories that day, but there in this small house on the side of a mountain is a group of woman who now have true community.They are MOPS moms.
We end the day with Andres, Lorena and their three beautiful kids in their home.We sat outside and talked for hours.Some conversations were very deep and we covered all topics from politics to religion to our hopes and dreams for MOPS in Colombia.We then started listening to music which of course led me to sharing Spencer’s music with them and a spontaneous dance party began.We learned all sorts of latin dance moves and we laughed and danced with the kids for a long time until we all needed a break and then we ended up sharing stories of how we met our spouses.Our love for the Lord, for the MOPS ministry led to an evening that I will never forget, friendships I will forever cherish.
June 26, 2018
Our travel day to Bogota.We arrive to the hustle and bustle of Bogota.We are staying with Monica’s Uncle Reuben who greets us so warmly.They have prepared a homemade soup that is delicious.We sit at his dining room table with hand painted placemats from Monica’s grandma, Italian opera playing in the background.I feel like I am living in another world for sure.The latin culture is so good at the dining experience.Amazing food and even better conversation.
We freshen up and head off to meet with the MOPS leaders from Bogota and Venezuela.We refuel with caffeine provided by a cup of coffee at Juan Valdez. Monica’s cousin is our driver and he is pointing out interesting facts about the city to us as we navigate the traffic of Bogota.
A small gathering but an amazing group of women who will be ministering to a diverse group of moms.A wide socioeconomic range, single moms, women who are professionalsand work full time, homeschooling moms, moms who stay at home full time.We share ideas and have a great brainstorming session.Of course we are treated to more delicious food and sweets.I am so excited about the leadership team in Colombia and Venezuela.These women are amazing!
Monica’s cousin picks us up and takes us to the top of the mountain that overlooks the city.The view is spectacular.The city is illuminated and full of life.It is a city of 14 million people.We enjoy our time together and enjoy a local treat of aguapanela, cheese and bread.We place the cheese in the hot tea and allow it to melt and then dip our bread in the tea.A fun culinary experience. We pose for a selfie as we leave with the lights in the background.I can’t help but think of all the moms out there in Bogota who need to know that they are valued, loved, and seen.I pray for MOPS to grow in Colombia so more moms know the love of Christ, the value of community, the strength to raise the next generation.
June 27, 2018
We leave early and travel to the North of the City to experience the Catedral de Sal. (Salt Cathedral)North of the city of Bogota is a small town named Zipaquera where an old salt mine exists.In the early 1970’s miners began carving crosses into the walls of the mine and holding church services to ask for protection as they worked underground.What they created is incredible and even hard to explain.We went on the official tour complete with head phones explaining all of this in English.I was expecting to have a museum experience, a history lesson, but instead I had a very deep and meaningful spiritual experience as we walked the stations of the cross.We were 600 feet underground listening to Ave Maria surrounded by beautifully carved cross sculptures.We stopped to pray for MOPS and the country of Colombia as it continues to heal from the over 50 years of civil war.
We then began our trek back south.Monica as our driver and guide.She shared with us the rich history of her country and family stories and then we stopped for coffee and pastries at a local shop. “ La Vaca qui Rie”.( The Laughing Cow)I placed our order without Monica translating and was so proud of myself.haha
We then continued on the long trek through the mountains for several hours to Monica’s family home outside Girardot.We spent the night where she spent many summers with her grandparents and cousins.We had a few encounters with ghekos, spiders, and even a bat which is a little unnerving for a Colorado girl.The drive was priceless as it gave us many hours to be together and talk about life.
June 28, 2019
We wake early and head to the retreat center in Girardot.We decide to wear our Colombian jerseys again because Colombia is playing Senegal.We arrive and are greeted with music, and horns and flags.Ready for the game.We make the decision to wear our jerseys when we are introduced and I keep mine on as I begin speaking to the gathering of pastors.
What a fun experience to be in Colombia during the World Cup.Colombia defeats Senegal and the celebration is awesome!Luckily there is a man speaking about finances after the game and before my talk.The crowd is settled down.
I am nervous to speak in front of this group.They are distinguished pastors of the Cenfol church movement and are respected leaders in their countries.We meet for prayer before I start and my team assures me to just share from my heart my passion for the MOPS ministry.
Monica is my interpreter and we take the stage.It was a joy to share with them what MOPS is really about and how this is a wonderful strategy for their churches, for their moms, for their countries.I am honored to have this opportunity.We were met with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about what we shared.Later that afternoon we had a time where we could share more information for those who were interested.Monica did a beautiful job of leading this time and our team shared stories too.
We are thrilled that 30 new churches will start MOPS programs in the next few months.Excited for Lorena and the leaders of Colombia.Thanking God for our time.
We stayed for dinner where we had the opportunity to get to know Monica’s sister and brother in law and more of the pastors too.I was thankful for a little more time with Lorena and her family as well.Goodbyes are hard.Our time with Lorena, her family, and the MOPS leaders in Colombia is something I will treasure forever.I am thankful for our time in this beautiful country and the ministry we shared.We gathered in a circle, held hands and prayed for each other, for MOPS and for Colombia.We tearfully said our goodbyes and piled in the car for our return to Bogota.I felt relieved, thankful, and tired.
June 29, 2018
Monica and I shared a room so first thing in the morning we were up and chatting about the week we just shared.Hard to believe it has been six years since we first met at Momcon in Dallas.Our hopes and dreams to bring MOPS to Colombia came true.We give God all the glory!
Off to the airport, a little shopping for some trinkets to bring home.Our goodbyes are never easy.I am beyond thankful God placed Monica in my life and we have the opportunity to serve the moms in Latin America.We do believe better moms make a better world and we want to do our part in implementing this global venture.Returning to Denver with my sweet friends,thankful for the time we spent together in Colombia.The experiences, laughter and stories we will forever share, the new friends we have added to our lives and the excitement we share for all the moms who will bepart of MOPS Colombia.
I remember being pregnant with my first child and standing in line at the grocery store when the lady in front of me asked if this was my first baby. I replied with an enthusiastic yes and she went on to tell me everything negative about being a mom…You will never sleep again, your body is no longer yours and it takes forever to get the weight off.She told me about temper tantrums and potty training and then went on a long rant about teenagers.At this point, I was so annoyed and overwhelmed by her words, I just wanted to leave my cart full of groceries and sprint out the front door.At that stage it would have been more of a waddle but I was eager to get away.
I was thankful when it was my turn to check out and was given a reprieve from the barrage of nightmare mommy stories.I remember feeling sorry for this lady at the time and honestly in some strange way I owe her a thank you.I promised myself that day on the ride home that I would enjoy every step of the way in my parenting and that even when it was hard I would acknowledge it for what it was, a hard moment.
I must confess all those things that lady shared with me that day are mostly true.However, she only told a portion of the story.She left out the part of the story about how you can’t even imagine the love you can feel for someone until the second you lay your eyes on that beautiful baby placed in your arms. The tiny hand that reaches out to grab your finger for reassurance. The giggles and games.The bedtime stories and snuggles.Cheering them on at their games and concerts and the late night talks with teenagers are the best. Yes, being a mom can be hard, but being a mom has brought more joy to my life than I ever could have thought possible- It’s all in the perspective.
Enjoy this Mother’s Day with those who call you mama !