When my oldest daughter was nine months old, an acquaintance at the gym invited me to check out her MOPS group. I looked at her with sleep in my eyes and coffee on my breath and said, “What is MOPS”? She explained that “Moms of Preschoolers” is a moms group that meets a couple times a month and provides childcare, breakfast, and coffee. As a new stay at home mom with little adult interaction during the day, she had me at childcare.
I tried the group for about a year as I halfheartedly attended the meetings and events. During that same year, my husband and I were entering the adoption process for the second time. We experienced a roller coaster year of emotions including several adoption losses before we were matched with our second daughter. She was extremely premature born at twenty–five weeks gestation with a three month NICU stay in her future. As you can imagine, life got more hectic with a toddler at home and a fragile baby in the NICU. Here is where I found my MOPS connections waiting in the background. Women I barely knew showed up with dinner for my family. Although I had little time to reciprocate or develop friendships, this gesture assured me that I was still on their minds and in their prayers. Shortly after, I was asked to share our adoption story with the MOPS group which became the first seed God planted.
Soon after our youngest daughter turned one, we made a difficult but joyful decision to move across the country to California. Once we were partially unpacked, my first task was to find a local MOPS group. I showed up with an arm full of babies and a bag full of diapers. The scene of women reaching to help me, a hot spread of breakfast, and a steaming cup of coffee were perfectly familiar. I didn’t try to hide the sweaty stains on my shirt as I collapsed into a chair at the inviting table setting.
For the remainder of the year, I popped in and out of meetings as time and energy allowed. My two toddlers battled every cold virus that came into a thirty mile radius of us including multiple ear infections. We also had the pleasure of moving to California inside its wettest rainy season in history. Once spring arrived I was able to show up to MOPS more regularly, physically, and emotionally.
By the start of the following year, I was asked to be on the planning committee for the group. I cautiously accepted as God planted another seed. I fell into the role quickly and found myself using my brain and creative side for the first time in years. I felt as though my mind, my emotions, and my body were emerging from a fog. As I got more comfortable, I began putting in more effort to seek relationships. When that year wrapped, I was approached by the current MOPS coordinator about stepping into the coordinator role for the following session.
Again, I was hesitant to commit but did anyway as God planted yet another seed. For the next two years, I made the MOPS Coordinator role my job. I woke before the sunrise to tackle my action items list and and plan meetings. I managed a team of twelve moms that had their own full plates at home. While out on my runs, topics and ideas for meetings would flood my thoughts as I rushed home to scribble them down. At the beginning of each meeting, I would share the topic, a piece of my heart, and usually a personal story. I received immediate and positive feedback on how entertaining and helpful my words became for moms in this season. Here was God again, planting more seeds that fueled me to dive deeper and create more. I felt on fire with ideas, topics, and words to write and share.
In the meantime, I was getting to know each of these ladies stories, struggles and joys. I continued to build even deeper personal relationships and friends. I learned to support each woman right where they were instead of judging them for where they weren’t. I developed enthusiasm for creating a genuine community of women who craved to be supported and to be seen. I loved speaking to them and for them.
And so the seeds that were planted continued to grow. First, MOPS started out as an invitation to childcare and hot coffee. Next, MOPS invited me to grow personal friendships and development in leadership. And finally, MOPS invites me to continue into my next season with a desire for a career in writing, speaking, and creating a genuine community of moms who need encouragement in this season.
I invite you to find my writing at www.lacirichter.com . I also invite you to join my FB community @refuelbyLaciRichter for encouraging words and parenting rants. And I am excited for you to read my upcoming book and devotion “Refuel Your Wait: Find Hope and Overcome Fear While Adopting” which will be in print at the end of 2020.