So I’m sitting at a conference table in the basement of a church in a Romanian town. Giurgiu, Timisoara, Albi Iulia; the experiences are beginning to blur together into a single memory of kind hugs, sweet snacks, and hospitality only mothers know how to give. I’m accompanying my own mother and a group of American women from my church as they give a nation-wide tour of conferences to teach other women how to create groups where mothers can empower and evangelize each other. I can give exactly zero input but I’m around to tote the baskets, hold some babies, and see more of the country I’d been living in for two and half months. I’m also all for empowering women and drinking tea simultaneously.
The MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) International’s theme for the year is “We are the Starry-eyed”. Every day at each of the five conferences, the American team slowly try to explain what “starry-eyed” means in painful detail while the Romanian translator nods politely although they had no equivalent of the term.
“Oh starry-eyed? You know, like stars in your eyes. Like you’re a dreamer?”
*Pauses as the translator smiles and shakes her head*
“Oh okay, ummm, it’s someone who is filled with wonder.”
“They find something magical in everyday. They have hope for the future. They’re…imaginative?”
*Finally, the translator comes up with the something and room of Romanian women all exclaim at the same time “ohhhh”*
Every time the term was broken down and dissected, and theme overly explained until it sounded ridiculous, I would kind of cringe and roll my eyes.
MOPS in America can be a wonderful resource for mothers and…..also kind of be a cliquey group of millennial moms trying to reinvent motherhood like it’s equal parts impossible and impossibly easy. Motherhood is now about organic breast-feeding mommy bloggers who are so judgmental, they couldn’t imagine another woman’s reality if they tried.
“We are the starry-eyed”, I thought exasperatedly. How…American? It was probably just an excuse to decorate with LED lights.
I’m sure the Romanians think the Americans are the starry-eyed. We’re a little naive, a whole lot of idealistic, and what the hell do we know about suffering on such a physical, emotional, and spiritual level? We haven’t lived thorough communism or a developing national economy like these women. How can we speak into their realities when it seems all we care about is the aesthetic of it all?
But then, like always, I forced myself to throw out my bias (which was only so bad because I was out of the country during the election build-up). Look again, Maggie.
Who are these starry-eyed? Who has vision? Who has overflowing love? Who is dreaming of a better future?
Surely it’s not me. I err towards the pessimistic side, I’m quick to make a snarky comment, and while I’m a dreamer, it’s usually about how to trap Tom Hiddleston into a green card marriage.
But these American women I’m with? They are the starry-eyed. They gave up time and money to come to a country that seems impenetrably foreign and made personal friendships. They are the young moms who have the determination to set up cross-cultural relationships that will span years of celebration, hardship, and obedience. They are brave enough to peak over their fences to engage with the world beyond, even in a world that tells mothers their role is insignificant.
But the starry-eyed are also the women sitting in this room who journeyed from their towns and cities to pursue their dream of reaching isolated women in their own communities. They all have stories; the mother who introduced herself as the mother of two “one in heaven and one about to be born” who had such hope in her newborn, the young mom who stepped up to be the country coordinator who has dreams of seeing MOPS countrywide, the adorable translator who uses her gift of technology to connect her fellow sisters-in-Christ.
My list begins to expand to every woman I’ve met during my time here in this country. The pastor’s wife whose gift is hospitality, the older mother who misses her grown children and just wants to mentor someone who will listen to her knowledge, the mother coming out of an abusive relationship who is fighting for her and her little boy’s futures. The foreign volunteer who has sold her old life to commit to her new service here. The beautiful sisters all studying hard to pour back into their community. The missionary who dreams of opening up a store that will employ women coming out of rehab. The young girl fighting an addiction who wants to reclaim her image.
These are the starry-eyed. They own the future, they will exceed our expectations. They will reunite, rebuild, reinvent and restore.
And I got to see them, in this church basement in this cold Romanian town, and hold their hands, and listen to them speak.
I got to see the stars.