Finding Community Through M2O
“Grace Fellowship would be a good place to be new.”
Several other pediatricians around the dinner table nodded their heads. Grace Fellowship – we would try it out the next morning before boarding our flight back to Oregon.
That chilly February weekend was our first time ever setting foot in Tennessee. Everyone we met kept apologizing for the cold, but we assured them it was not a problem, because coming from the gray Northwest winter, we were delighted by the bright blue sunny skies.
I can honestly say that up until that point in my life, I had never really felt “led by God” in any of my life choices. It seemed like I was usually in the lead – what activities to be a part of, where to go to college, the decision to get married, choosing teaching as a profession, being ready to have children. I was making noble, respectable choices, and it felt like in my prayers God would sort of nod along and give me the thumbs up.
This was different.
As my husband was finishing up his medical training, doors closed and opened in such an unexpected and clear way, that for the first time we really felt like God was directing us down a path He had dreamed up for us. Our hearts felt prepared for this adventure, and we were giddy. But we had two young children we would be moving away from extended family, and as a stay-at-home mom my main worry was how I would find community.
That first Sunday visit as we scanned the faces of people heading into the sanctuary we felt a little bit like undercover agents on a mission. It was a big church, but people were smiling and chatting and waving. We saw all ages, and lots of families with kids. Some people wore pearls, and some wore jeans. We even heard a variety of accents. The childcare facility was welcoming, and despite our nervous glances to the monitor, the volunteers kept our teething 10-month old daughter happy for the full hour. We jokingly concluded that it indeed did look like God lived across state lines too.
When the official job offer arrived a few days later, one of the reasons we felt confident accepting was because we trusted Grace would be a strong church home for us.
That August we arrived just in time to introduce our son to fire flies. We began the blur of unpacking and settling in. My husband was learning the ropes at the Children’s Hospital, and preschool began. Soon there was a Sunday when it was announced that many of the church’s group ministries were kicking off for the year. I made a bee-line for the Women’s Ministry table. Kelly Ranson was standing there so confidently in her high heels, poised and smiling beautifully, so I felt embarrassed when I started to get choked up introducing myself and explaining that I pretty much knew NO ONE and would like to please sign up for EVERYTHING.
She not only gave me the brochure and information, she also gave me her cell phone number. A few days later we were getting to know one another over coffee at the Corner Cup.
I learned about M2O, Mom-to-Mom Outreach, that would be meeting once a month. On that first September Thursday, I was able to put my daughter into the arms of a capable childcare worker, and head down the hall for a delicious breakfast buffet, and a room full of chattering conversation as women greeted one another. Each table functions as a small group, led by one peer facilitator and backed up by a Mentor Mom –a woman with grown children who brings the wisdom of perspective. I met many transplants to the area, and we shared practical tips from swim lessons to restaurant reviews. Pretty soon every month, I’d have a post-it note in my purse of questions to ask my M2O table
We shared more than that too. My first table leader was Betsy Rannick, and that year we both lost people we loved to cancer. We prayed for one another, and discussed the messages from each month’s speakers. God started growing a garden of friendships.
M2O connected my family to a Community Group the next year, allowing our husbands and kids to form relationships too. Now I have the pleasure of serving on the leadership team and facilitating a table. When our third child, was born last summer, I was connected with a “Gracemother”, Joan VanBeveren, who organized meals for our family, visited with me, and even came over to rock my son for an hour so I could get chores taken care of.
God has loved me well through these people, and grown my faith. Now when I pray with my kids each night, and I tell them God is astoundingly bigger than we imagine, and cares for us with the best love there is. I’ve learned that when God asks us to step out in faith, that he can be trusted.