Home Can Be Anywhere

I wrote this post a few months ago and had left it as a draft.  Re-reading it now, I needed this reminder.  The emotions continue to go up and down over our life here in Virginia.  I will admit to more discontentment than contentment.  But reading words like these remind me that I am getting there - working through the hurdles and learning to find joy wherever I am.  If you are struggling with the concept of home, perhaps this can be of some encouragement to you as well as to me.  To finding home wherever it might be for now!  (Some throwback pictures from our old house.  It is fun to remind myself of our home from not that long ago.)

One of the biggest thing I have learned in our move from California to Virginia is that home can be anywhere.  I love our home (past and present), I love spending the majority of my days at home, and I love making a house a home.  I was pretty in love with our last home.  We talked about how it could be our forever home.  We liked our neighbors and neighborhood.  There was potential to grow (remodel) if we ever needed more space.  We were pretty content.

I'll admit, my heart still yearns for California, but I have very quickly fallen in love with our new home.  While there are things about where we live that don't feel like home yet, our actual physical house now feels like home.

Because honestly, home is wherever my husband and son are at.  The thing is, I was so attached to the concept of home and our physical home in California.  Choosing on my own to just leave it sounded heart breaking.  And perhaps it was.  But now that I have actually gone through the large act of leaving what I considered home, the thought of doing it again (not that we are any time soon!) doesn't feel so overwhelming.

I am grateful for this experience.  I would hate to miss out on an important part of my life experience because I just couldn't leave a certain house or city.  While our move was a choice, it was highly impacted by job security.  But with how obsessed I am with "home" I am not sure I could leave it under other circumstances.

I was talking with a friend of mine who has made multiple out of state moves for her husband's work and all of her children and grandchildren live in another state.  She shared that it is hard to be away from her kids but that they look forward to retirement where they will simply move to wherever their children are.  They have mostly stopped traveling/vacationing and have instead used their time and finances to visit their family.

Not knowing where we will be when we have adult children, I still want to consider that there is no guarantee that they will remain in the same town or state.  I want to be the parents and grandparents who have the ability to visit as often as we would like.  I want my priorities to be able to shift to be able to be where my family is.

We live about as far away as we could get from California making it hard and expensive for our family to come visit.  But every visit that is made means so much.  The simplest things of having my mom come and help me paint or fold laundry is LIFE GIVING.  In this stage of life with a little baby, some days I just need that comfort in company.

I would like to continue to be wise with our finances and living within our means so that we have financial freedom as we get older to be where we need to be.  I would like to continue to live simply and being sensitive to what we put on our schedule so that I can be available to people first.  I would also like to continue to travel (even with a child) whenever we can.

Another friend of mine (who is near retirement) shared that due to some of her husband's health issues, this stage of life has been very different than what she had imagined.  His health keeps them at home as well as keeps her having to work.  She had hopes of traveling together which now is no longer an option.

Life happens and we don't always get everything we want.  But I want to learn from these stories and be intentional about living my best life now.

I am learning to be more flexible.  I am learning to not let life stop because it is hard.  Some of our days being away from "home" is hard.  But as we make a new home, there are so many sweet moments and adventures right in front of us.  In order to make our current life feel like home, I have had to let go of where home had to be.  Home can be anywhere and I am happy to have the chance to create that space for our family.

Starting a Moms Group

It has been about a year and a half now since I stepped down from coordinating the moms group at my church in California (both in preparation for my son's birth as well as our potential move at the time).  I am happy to report that the group is still going strong under the current leadership team who has done a wonderful job at continuing our original vision for the group.

When I first started sharing about our moms group here on the blog, I got a few questions about how we started the group from scratch.  So today I am sharing the background details of how we got it started.  While specific to a group for young moms, the same ideas can be applied to any type of small group or ministry.

The idea was first put on my heart when I was invited to speak at a local MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group at another church in my city.  I was not a mom at the time but I loved the experience of community that I gained from that morning.  I wanted that same style of gathering at my own church in hopes of finding friendship as well as building a stronger sense of community for moms of young children.  I wanted to get together with other women during the day and I found that stay at home moms were my go to niche!

After thinking, praying, and letting the idea set in for awhile, I finally sought out our family pastor to discuss the idea of starting a moms group.  I was watching my nephews at home part time so I often joked I had the life of a stay at home mom but I got to sleep at night!  My hope was to get a group going so that when the time came that I would be a mom, I would have an established group to belong to.

Our family pastor was very excited about the idea and asked me to create a team of women who would join me in starting the group.  I asked two mom friends of mine who shared a similar passion for gathering women and we met with our family pastor to brainstorm how we would get started.

In our meeting the first thing we established was a purpose statement.  I personally love this and encourage a purpose statement for your family, yourself, and blogging (or any other type of entrepreneurial work).  We landed on the following:

MOMS: Morning Out For Moms
Building community through a time of refreshment, encouragement, and creativity.

"We desire to create community by spending time with other moms, building relationships, equipping moms with tangible skills as a parent and woman, and providing a space to breathe.  Through relationship, creative activities, and faith based discussion, we seek to equip and encourage the moms of our church as well as reach out to the moms in our neighboring communities."

We felt like it was really important to be very clear about what our group was about.  There was no question to the attendees and it also helped keep us focused of our goal for the group.  We wanted the meetings to feel special - a place to socialize, relax, and find encouragement.  We also wanted to put a focus on creativity.  We believed that different personalities interact better in a variety of ways.  Having something to work on while talking provided a different type of atmosphere than formal discussion.  We also did not want it to be a Bible study.  Our church already had plenty of Bible studies for women to join so we wanted to make sure that we kept the spirit of the group light in the sense that women could just come and be encouraged.

From there we talked about logistics and how the group would run.  We followed the model of MOPS without being affiliated with the group to cut back on the yearly dues as well as leave it open to moms who have up to school age children.  We would rotate every other meeting with a speaker and craft.  We occasionally did special events instead of our normal meeting schedule.  We also had a hot breakfast each meeting jointly provided by the moms.

From there we started spreading the word about our moms group that would be starting in the fall (it was currently summer).  My other two mom visionaries helped with inviting women to our group.  We made flyers and handed them out to all the kids at the summer camps and programs our church provided.  We started a Facebook group and planned promotion to be done on Sunday mornings at our church.  Our family pastor arranged for me to also briefly share about our group to our church congregation during services one Sunday.  We had a table set up every Sunday where women could find out information about the group as well as a place for church members to sign up for donations to the group (financially, snacks for childcare, Keurig coffee pods, paper products for breakfast).

We were given a small stipend from the church but we would still need to cover the majority of our costs including childcare.  I ran the numbers based off of zero donations which would include crafts, paper products, decorations, and special events to come up with a cost per session.

Since we did not have a lot of help in the beginning, the cost to join was relatively high mostly due to childcare.  Our first session I believe we charged around $25 for the mom and $25 per child for an eight week session.  For a mom of three it would cost $100 to join.

In hopes of getting the cost down, I spent our entire first year seeking out financial support.  I went and spoke to different groups at our church, sharing our vision for the ministry and how they could help out.  I sent emails, friended people on Facebook, and created a relationship with others in order to bridge a gap to these moms.  Each session that passed we were able to reduce the cost just a little bit more.

I also sought out friends that I knew who were a part of moms groups before.  We met over coffee and I asked how groups were ran and took notes.  I learned from women who had already jumped through the hoops of getting a group established and I felt equipped to learn from their wisdom.

As for leadership, our goal was to have one mentor mom (an older seasoned mom) and one leadership mom per table.  We ended up having four tables.  We hand picked these women and wanted to find the right fit for our vision.  We wanted to make sure that we started the group off right with the best team we could find.  We really lucked out at an incredible team that helped our group grow.

I say all of these things like they came easily.  But they did not.  It took a lot of work, prayer, and working through frustration to get where we wanted to be.

Once we got our leadership team established we set up leadership meetings, at lease one per session (four sessions in a school year).

We had a schedule for each meeting in order to keep things moving.  We stuck pretty strictly to the routine as it is often tempting for women gathering together to lose track of time!  We started each meeting with a time to socialize followed by breakfast.  We then had announcements, I would share some kind of encouraging word (sometimes we would do an icebreaker), and then we would start our craft or welcome our speaker.

I felt it was really important as a leader from upfront to set the tone of the group.  If I was willing to be vulnerable standing in front of a group of women and a microphone, hopefully they would have the courage to open up to their table group.  I shared some good but hard things up there.  I cried when I shared about how we were in our sixth month of trying to get pregnant.  I asked the women to start hugging me because I felt like physical touch was a wall I was putting up that was keeping me from going into deeper relationship with people.  Uncomfortable and vulnerable stuff.  But it was my hope that these stories would be testimonies to what our group was for - to simply be there for one another and share our hearts.

Going into our second year, we had enough support from a handful of church leadership that were able to get us approval for the church to fund childcare for us.  We also had enough donation support to cut down our registration cost as well.  We went from charging anywhere from $50-$100 per session (depending on how many children) down to $20 for everyone!  Our hard work finally paid off and we were so grateful to get so much support!

We made a few changes as time went on to better serve the specific needs of our group.  We established a team format so that not all of the work was on one person's shoulders.  We had a coordinator for different areas of the ministry (craft, speaker, childcare, etc).  We ended up opening breakfast up from the beginning (versus waiting for people to arrive) which saved us quite a bit of time during the meeting (each table group took turns providing breakfast).  We kept the table groups the same for at least half the year to establish relationship.

The thing is, with any type of group, everyone has an opinion.  I truly believe that one of the reasons our group was able to continue to grow was because we stuck to a strict vision.  Not everyone is going to love every aspect of any group but there is also an aspect of meeting the groups needs.  This is a fine line to walk on.  But having a clear goal in mind for the group helps when it comes to making decisions of how the group should run.

And besides all the logistical stuff, there were a few things that I found important based off of my specific passions, gifts, and personality.  I loved creating different table decorations for each session.  We were able to use our budget to purchase cute containers and baskets to hold our coffee and breakfast supplies.

I can be kind of bossy (!!!) so in order to make sure my leadership knew how much I appreciated them, I planned in our budget small gifts and encouraging notes for the leadership team.  I am a big believer in treating the people who follow your direction very well.  I have been in many leadership positions before where even though I knew I was doing good things I did not feel appreciated by those above me.  It was really important to me that I poured into those women who gave up their mornings each week to serve these young moms.

I think that is everything.  If you made it this far, wow.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.  Creating healthy and fruitful ministries for women is a wonderful thing.  I hope that this can be of some sort of encouragement to those who might be at the cusp of something big (or small!).

One last thing - there is a season for everything.  Even if a group only lasts a year, it doesn't mean that it wasn't worth it.  Of the different ministries I have been a part of, some have outlasted me while others have fizzled.  They still serve the people that you ministered to.  Getting people together in a true and authentic way is really hard.  Not everyone wants it.  But it is still worth fighting for.

And to bring this long post to a close, I got pregnant during my last year as coordinator.  Then I was able to attend three meetings with my son before we moved.  It was definitely bittersweet to finally be a mom with this beautiful group I helped grow - only to have to leave it.  But once again, I am reminded it is not about me.  So though I got my moms group for a very short season, it is continuing to be that source of encouragement for so many other women.  It was a lot of work but it was worth it.

Below is a little promotional video we put together to thank our church for their financial support.  It was my first (and only) semi-professional styled video I put together so I am pretty proud!

Click here to hop over to the blog to view the video.

Click here for more posts about moms group.

What To Do With Margin

I recently accumulated a little more margin in my life.  Our house is unpacked and decorated.  We started using free Walmart online grocery pickup (life changer!).  Our son is a little older and is now up and awake longer times during the day.  And we have a few commitments in our routine that I feel good about but not burdened by.

So what do I do with this free time that was once spent unpacking, driving into town and grocery shopping, and run by a little one's multiple nap time schedule?  Let's just say time can be taken away very quickly if I am not careful. 

Just a small amount of time has been gained and I see how easily it can all slip away if I am not intentional with how I use it.  Simple things like social media or adding to our calendar start making me feel overwhelmed when I am not paying attention.

So I have been trying to take a breather, take a step back, and focus on how I want to move forward before I just jump into the next thing.

I'm all about lists these days and I started a simple journal this year where I keep all my thoughts.  It has been so handy to come back to things I wrote down so I can remind myself of my goals I have for myself and our family life.

Below my goal list were these two simple verses:

// Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no." - Matthew 5:37

// Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. - Proverbs 22:6

Right now I have a great sense in being very careful with what I commit to.  Over the past few months I have said yes to a few things that I later regretted.  I followed through with my commitments but I kept telling myself I needed to be more careful with how quickly I said "yes".

For now it is better for me to say "no" and change my mind later than to say "yes" and regret it.

The second verse was a reminder of my role as a mother to my son and to look at some of my day to day choices as a bigger picture.  Some of our choices of when and how we are doing things with him are reflective of our overall family goals we have and not just in the now.

Our priorities for our family are for our marriage as well as the raising of our son.  This helps to let go of small milestones he is going through - to not hold so tightly to them and him as a baby.  But to know that the choices we make today are for the benefit of our entire family and our future.

By clearly knowing our hopes and goals for our entire family I am less swayed by emotion, pressure, social obligations, or whatever else may get in the way.  I am not perfect at it, but the simple act of having it written down for me to come back to is huge in helping me follow through and focus.

So what do I do with margin?  I protect it.  I keep it.  I allow for a chance to breathe and rest.  And then I choose wisely what and when that time and energy should get filled.  

I want to be a present wife.  I want to be an attentive mother.  I want to be a faithful friend and daughter.  I want time to be creative.  I want time to learn and grow.  And I want rest so that I can be these things.

Realistically it is a challenge to be all of these things all of the time.  But I definitely can keep them on the forefront of my mind as a reminder of what my true priorities are.

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