We arrived after a 12 hour flight and all the additional hours that accumulate when armed with four bursting suitcases and an active 11 month old baby. We opened the door to our new, empty home. With vision and dreams reignited, opportunities granted, and peace transcending through – my husband and I, with our daughter in tow, had moved back to America after living abroad for the entirety of our time together.
We moved back to a city that was new to me but was a slice of home for him. After six years, my husband was returning back to a place and to a community that he sincerely loved. I, on the other hand, did not know what to expect.
During our first Sunday service, I was carrying my daughter who was getting antsy in my arms. I stepped outside of the sanctuary when a sister walked up to me and gingerly asked, “Do you want to sit with us on the lawn?” I strained my neck to peek around the corner as my eyes located the lawn. The sun generously poured into a grassy area where I saw a few mamas sitting on picnic blankets. Some held small babies, some watched their squirming little ones while one mama comfortably leaned back with her baby snug in her womb. Grapes, cookies, and cheese found their place in between babies, diaper bags and shoes. Shyly, I shifted my eyes back to the sister who extended the offer and nodded. She led me to the lawn and immediately, I felt like I belonged.
This was just the beginning. A few days in our bare home with a single chair plopped in the middle of the living room, the doorbell rang and a family barged in with a box of pizza. They ate with us, kept us company, and celebrated our new season. The next weekend, a group of friends showed up at our doorstep. One arm carried flowers and strawberries while the other arm was kept empty for a hug. We ate pastries, breakfast burritos, laughed a ton, and they helped us build our furniture. They invited us to their homes and their gatherings. They doted on our little girl. In their actions and in their intentionality they locked eyes with us to say, “We’re here with you. We are family.”
There were locked eyes and then there were those that ushered me into their hearts by the hand – almost demanding that I come with them. This undeniable pull came from the community of moms. They showed up at my door to shower my daughter with hand-me-down toys, books, and other knick-knacks. They sat with me, marveled at my birth story and laughed at our shared day-to-day struggles. They showed me around the city as we attempted at mommy-daughter dates amidst interrupted conversations of babies grabbing our shirts and calling for us at the top of their lungs. I had a go-to mama I would ask questions to over text. She wouldn’t (note: couldn’t – she is a mother of two energetic toddlers, can anyone relate?) reply immediately, but within a few days I would receive a full, lengthy, thorough, and heartfelt essay. The essay always ended with a prayer she would lift up for me.
Mom guilt is a harsh reality that is itching to creep up on you at any given opportunity. Mom guilt is even more pronounced when well-catered and crafted mediums like social media allows you to, after 37 outtakes, post the perfectly posed photo of your angel (who never throws tantrums) with her darling outfit (which always stays in pristine condition). Mom guilt is available to surface in any granular detail – from type of diapers to approaches in discipline. But these moms shimmied to the side, away from these picture perfect moments. They met me in their honesty, vulnerability, and humility. They laughed over their dark moments whilst feeding in the middle of the night and asked for prayer when their toddler was, once again, sick and thus unable to come to church. Time and time again, in our shared anecdotes and conversations, we sought Jesus. We reveled in the honor it is to be a mother. To steward a soul God has entrusted us with. We were honest of our struggles, but because of the beauty of the gospel, we nudged each other to let out a sigh of relief in the deep rest that is our Savior. Far from perfect, fully flawed, but relying on His sure and daily mercies, we sought to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Philippians 2:2. In embracing their weaknesses and humanness but pursuing like-mindedness, these mamas pointed to a Jesus far greater than the community of Jesus.
When I linger upon my interaction with this community of moms, my jaws drop to the floor. My feet shuffle backward, my eyes peel upward to look at our good, good Father. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1. Unity, being richly knit together in love is repeated time and time again in the Bible. In this day and age when we see so much division, polarization and accusation, I can’t help but turn back to this community I’ve been immersed into and realize it is a gem of a slice; a glimpse of what Jesus intended when He hung on the cross for the Church. We are vastly different. The nuances in our political opinions and theological leanings vary. Our family histories come from all corners, our skin colors stretch across the color spectrum, our children’s temperaments are hot, cold and everything in between. But they, under the common thread of being genuine followers of Jesus, have loved and loved extravagantly. They have demonstrated the cross in the commonplace, in the minute ways that become grandiose. They have demonstrated the cross by laying down comfort and self-preservation for the sake of welcoming a friend, of extending hospitality, of demonstrating love.
We are mamas and we are perpetually tired. We feel like we are playing an unending full-contact sport and we crave luxurious moments of self-care. So how is it that, in the past year, I have experienced Jesus – the beauty of the unity of His people – so deeply? They pull, they plunge forth into, and they stay put in the inexhaustible source of our God. Here’s to you, mamas, who are in the thick of time-outs and tickle-fests but take a moment to look beyond yourselves and your child to emanate Christ’s love. Your love has changed me.