For the last three years, I have been attending a group called MAPS at a large church in town. MAPS stands for Moms and Preschoolers. I remember when I first attended, I had never been to that church before (I still attend my home church, but enjoy the opportunity to attend this larger church’s program) I was in a group of almost 100 women, having not met even one of them. More importantly though, I was trying to talk to every girl I could. Because I was on mission to make friends with other moms who were like-minded.
Striking up conversations with random people? Wow… God must really be changing my heart.
This sort of behavior does not come naturally to me. It is truly from God. If I had it my way- I would stay at home with my daughter in my PJ’s. But I often feel God pushing my to break outside of my shell. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of my daughter. It pains me that we don’t have a little brother or sister for her to play with yet (although I’m sure God has a plan for that too.) It pains me that we don’t have many young couples in our church, especially with children her age. It pains me that I feel like she doesn’t have any friends, that *we* don’t have any friends that we see on regular basis. I was doing this so we could both form some sort of community of friendships.
As outgoing as I tried to be, it was clear to me that these girls were all friends and knew each other because they attended this large church together and had for years. They were nice enough. Sweet enough. Welcoming enough. But no lasting friendships came of it. The group was so large that each week I went, I would meet 10 new women, but never saw the women I had met the week prior. To top it off, since the church was in a high class neighborhood, every week felt like a fashion show. Even on pajama day, the women were more decked out than I was in my nicest outfit. Think: Adorable matching PJ sets with complementing jewelry, hair and make up. They were absolutely gorgeous housewives. I know it was my own insecurities, and not their fault, but I felt out of place- like I just didn’t fit. It felt exhausting, and toward the end, I just stopped going. As a result, I felt like I let both me and my daughter down.
Oh well, it was worth a shot!
I chalked it up as a good outside-of-my-comfort-zone experience, but not one that needed repeating. The next year, enrollment for next season of MAPS was coming to an end, and I felt the Lord pressing on my heart “Try it again. Just try one more time. If you still hate it- don’t go back.” It’s kind of funny- God knew his stuff by waiting until the end of the enrollment period to convince me to sign up.
By the time I got around to following through on the prompting and signing up for the MAPS group again- attendance was full. I noticed that they offered the same group on a different day of the week because the first group was such a wild success. I went back and forth in my prayer, trying to write off this feeling to try again. On the very last night of enrollment, I hesitantly signed up and on the very first day of MAPS, I hesitantly went back.
When I arrived to MAPS on the first day of my second year, I immediately noticed the group was pleasantly smaller, about half the size of the other group. The women were much more “come as you are” and more relateable in my stage of life. About half of the women held a full time job while others worked part-time to help make ends meet. It was crazy to me how much different the dynamic was. I made friends- and a lot of them. Play dates were made and friendships were formed. Lasting friendships.
Aside from friendships and punching my fear in the face, God has used MAPS to change my life in a big ways. Two of these ways are:
It strengthened my marriage.
I didn’t realize some of the work needing done in my marriage until other women started talking to me about theirs. It wasn’t that I was comparing marriages… it wasn’t *anything* like that. I just never had “girlfriends” to open up with before, so I didn’t share my struggles. At my home church, my husband and I were the only young married couple. Everyone was in a different life-phase than I was, therefore these topics never came up. As I opened up with these young, Christian women in prayer and confidence about my marriage, I realized there was so much God wanted me to learn from them. We bounced ideas off of each other, shared trials, and prayed for each other. Through this, God was able to show me how to love my husband more and serve our family wholeheartedly.
It opened up doors of income for my family.
One of the most unexpected ways MAPS changed my life was providing a steady stream of part-time income. The very sweet director of the group shared with me over Bunco that she was needing prayer for her cleaning business. One of her regular cleaners was getting a full-time job, and she wasn’t sure how she would be able to fill the gap for the work needing done. This conversation came right after my husband took a lower-paying job in his field. He and I were already concerned with how tight money was going to be and how we were going to get by. This part time income was just what we needed to fill the gap in income and build our savings. Best of all- I was able to practically choose my hours and take Alaina with me. Through my cleaning- I made even more friends with the people I was cleaning for! It was the perfect fit, and God certainly proved to me that He would always provide.
Why did I do it?
Aside from the spirit’s prompting, one of the biggest things that compelled me to go to MAPS was a blogger who said one of her regrets as a mom was not getting involved with community when her children were smaller. Instead, she shut herself in and blocked the world out, and came to wish she had chosen differently. Her words emphasized how important community is, and I knew God was pressing the same thing on my heart.
The program is truly well-thought out and organized. There is yummy food, digging into scripture, prayer, crafts, and more. If I had to step outside of my comfort zone, I wanted this to be it. It’s the perfect opportunity to bring a friend, even if they aren’t a Christian, because there is just enough scripture to witness but not enough to be pushy. The overall goal is relationships. While the moms get to do their thing, the children are being well-cared for: playing with each other outside, taking walks, learning about the bible, and eating snacks. Alaina is now to the point where she is really excited to go, even though there were a lot of tears from her the first several weeks.
Now I’m asking you…
If you are my local mommy friend, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to come with me to MAPS. Email me, tweet me, send up a flare- I want you to come with! Seriously, just do it! If you are a far-away mommy friend, I would encourage you to check out a local group in your area (and as you can tell, I would definitely encourage a MAPS group or bible study.) As stay-at-home moms and/or wives, I understand how easy it is to stay in our comfort zone and not fellowship, but God provides fellowship as a way to reach out to one another and recharge. I know it’s intimidating, but I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. You never know how God will use it to work in your life and heart.
Questions for You:
How do you fellowship with others?
Do you feel like it’s hard to make friends?
Have you stepped outside of your comfort zone lately?