As a new year of MOMents begins, I find myself feeling a bit nostalgic. Well, let’s be real, I find myself thinking longingly about the past a lot these days. Do you remember when you could just call up a friend, any friend at all, and plan a playdate without having to do a cost-benefit analysis? Or how about the time when you could cough in public without getting glares? Ah, the good ol’ days… This summer, when faced with a sort of forced separation from friends and family, I have been reflecting on what a gift the church truly is.
My oldest kiddo is 3 ½ years old now, which means that this will be my fourth year attending MOMents. I don’t have the best memory for small details, so I don’t really know how or who invited me to join, but I do remember feeling pretty unsure that first day. It was a ‘get to know you’ meeting in the gym with everyone’s kids running around and all the moms splitting off to chat. I didn’t know many other moms yet, and I’m not a naturally outgoing person, so basically this was not an ideal scenario. Even though I hadn’t been sure that I would like this group, I had taken the liberty of inviting another new mom friend to join, too. She was equally unsure. The gist of this story is that we stuck it out and loved it. We came back the next week, sat down at our tables, ate warm food prepared and cleaned up by other people, listened to how the Gospel applied to our lives right that very minute, and left feeling refreshed. The free childcare didn’t hurt either.
I loved it.
I have a community here now, but that hasn’t always been true. Upon moving to Peoria nearly eight years ago, I was a newly-wed with a brand-new bachelor’s degree and no job offers, in a brand-new city, hours away from any family or friends. I struggled with loneliness, bitterness, and selfishness for a long time. I remember being confused, because I had never had trouble making friends before. I remember feeling disappointed, because I had envisioned my first year as a wife to be one of relative bliss, not isolation. I remember feeling disillusioned with the church because it wasn’t as easy to ‘plug-in’ as I had imagined. It was well over a year before I felt like I had a community to call my own. I experienced a similar, although mercifully shorter-lived, struggle when I transitioned to being a stay-at-home mom a little over two years ago.
I could say a lot about the lessons God taught me during those seasons, but my biggest takeaway was what a gift the church truly is. In Ephesians, Paul talks at length about the grace and privilege of having been joined to Christ and to one another. He explains that together we are fellow citizens, being joined and built together into a temple for the Lord. (Eph 2: 19-22) Paul goes on to say that the creation of the church as we know it is the mystery of Christ: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Eph 3:6) Wow! What a gift it is to have been brought near by Christ, knitted together with our brothers and sisters, and given access to the Father through the Spirit!The church is what enables and supports us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Eph 4:1) Living in community with fellow believers makes it possible to live out the ‘one another’ commands we find throughout the New Testament.
All of that to say: I love this ministry. I love that MOMents offers practical help that meets physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. I love that the Gospel is brought to where I am: sleep-deprived, short-sighted, overwhelmed. I love that the women I meet are in the trenches with me, sharing my burdens and my joys. I am grateful for this community. It looks different this year, but that’s okay. The church isn’t found in a building, and my community isn’t dependent on being physically close. By the grace of God, this sisterhood I’ve found is so much bigger and deeper than that.