Courage in Numbers
About the Guest
Don't be discouraged, Mom. This too shall pass. Veteran moms Tracey Eyster and Sherry Surratt encourage moms to break free from isolation and find other moms to link arms with. Tracey and Sherry share some funny antics from their own family histories.
Sherry SurrattSherry Surratt is the President and CEO of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International, based in Denver, CO. Previous to joining MOPS, Sherry served as Director of Innovation Labs at Leadership Network and as a staff pastor at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC. She is the proud mom of two brilliant children, Michael and Brittainy and a beautiful daughter in love, Hilary. She is ridiculously proud of her two beautiful granddaughters, Maggie and Mollie and lives with her pastor husband Geoff in P...more
Tracey EysterTracey Eyster is the Founder and Executive Director of MomLife Today. Tenacity and a passion for momlife has fueled her relentless pursuit of following God’s call to speak wisdom and truth into the lives of moms through writing and speaking. Tracey is the mom of two, a teen and a 20 year old and her home is regularly full of their friends as she intentionally invests into their lives. She delights in doing video interviews and exploring momlife with all types of moms. Her first book, Be The Mo...more
Tracey Eyster and Sherry Surratt encourage moms to break free from isolation and find other moms to link arms with. Tracey and Sherry share some funny antics from their own family histories.
Courage in Numbers
Bob: Do you ever feel like you just can’t do this mom-thing another day? Have you ever had a day like that? Tracey Eyster has.
Tracey: Do you know what it’s like to go through 24 hours a day, seven days a week—where you feel so responsible for another person—that you can’t just breathe, and just scream, and know that everything was going to be okay? Now, that may sound really dramatic, but that’s how we feel! [Increasing speed of talking] We constantly just feel like we have to be responsible for everything! [Sigh] Okay, I’ll calm down now.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Okay, “Every mom—take a deep breath; alright?—deep, cleansing breath.” [Deep breath] Hang in there. We’re going to offer some help today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.
I feel a little bit like—and see, I don’t even know if people know who Siskel and Ebert are anymore. We’re talking about movies this week. Young people are going, “Who are Siskel and Ebert?” But we grew up, watching them—
Dennis: —movie critics from back before the earth’s crust hardened. [Laughter] That was centuries ago.
Bob: That’s right!
Dennis: Well, we’re talking about Moms’ Night Out, which is occurring this weekend. We want to encourage listeners to go see that—really is a movie that has got some high-quality values. The thing I like about it most is it values moms.
And we have a couple of moms with us today. Sherry Surratt and Tracey Eyster join us again on FamilyLife Today. Tracey, Sherry, welcome back.
Sherry: Well, thank you. It’s great to be here.
Dennis: Sherry is—she is married to Jeff since 1982. She has two children, two granddaughters, and is the President and CEO of MOPS—which is not a cleaning service—but it works with mothers of pre-school children.
Tracey Eyster works here, at FamilyLife, with MomLife Today®.
She’s married to Bill since 1986. They have two children. And not too far off in the future, she’s going to be an empty-nester; but she’s kind of ready because she’s got something she’s birthed over the past half dozen years—MomLifeToday.com. Explain to our listeners what MomLife Today is all about because it’s one of the fastest-growing ministries, here at FamilyLife.
Tracey: MomLife Today is all about encouraging moms. We are a group of moms in every age, and every stage of mom life, with all different type life circumstances. We just want to provide help and hope to all those moms out there, but the great thing is we make it very clear that we don’t have it all figured out.
Tracey: We kind of talk about our own beautiful messes in motherhood—but just wanting to encourage moms and point them to the One who does have it all figured out.
Bob: And Dennis said that you’re all ready for this empty-nest phase; is that right?
Tracey: I really think I am. Dennis, I have to give a little bit of credit of that to your beautiful wife Barbara and her friend, Susan,—
—because they wrote the Guide to the Empty Nest. I read it four years ago because I thought, “Okay, if this is coming, I want to know how to be prepared for it.” Truly, reading it while my children were still in high school helped me be ready. I think I am. We can ask my husband—I think I have been a little bit more emotional lately—maybe, we shouldn’t ask my husband! [Laughter]
Bob: Maybe we should just check in about six months and see how you are doing then.
Tracey: Yes, let’s try that.
Dennis: I think we may do that, but MomLifeToday.com has bloggers from all walks of motherhood—mothers who are in blended families—single-parent families. Explain the topics that you’ll kind of talk about on MomLife Today.
Tracey: Our heart is for moms to all come together. Our tagline is “EVERY MOMent COUNTS!” or “Every Mom Counts!” We really want moms to share their lives. So, you’re right. We have single moms, blended-family moms—we have moms of children with special needs. We have adoptive moms;—
—foster moms; moms of babies, toddlers, teens, adult children, grandchildren. What we really want is for us to understand each other’s lives.
I didn’t know how to love on, or take care of, or spend time with a mom with a child of special needs until I started reading Jennifer Dyer’s blog posts. I started understanding her world and how she lived. It helped me to understand how to interact with her. That’s our hope.
There were a lot of blogs out there that were about one thing. So, when you went to that blog, you would just read that one thing. Well, we mixed them all up. Six years ago, that was unheard of. We all came together to share our lives so that we can be on the lookout for those other moms, different than us, and how can we be together in community to encourage each other.
Dennis: Well, you and Sherry found, as you pressed into the needs of moms, that they need to get together in groups and get together around the Scripture. You guys have collaborated to produce a study for moms of all walks of life—just like what you’re talking about Tracey—
—called Beautiful Mess: Motherhood for Every Moment.
Bob: And I’m just wondering if you guys had a posse when your kids were young. Yes, I’m thinking about the movie, Moms’ Night Out, because—
Dennis: There was a posse in there—four women.
Bob: Four women get together. They are in different age groups / different phases of life. There is a single mom. There’s a pastor’s wife—the whole thing. Did you have a group that you got together with regularly when your kids were growing up?
Tracey: Well, I would just like to say that I think the movie modeled it right because what the movie modeled was all those moms didn’t necessarily know each other real well. All of those moms were not just alike. They were from different walks of life. So, first of all, kudos to the Erwin brothers because the movie does do it the way we are supposed to do it.
For me, when my children were little, I had one really close friend. We would take turns watching each other’s kids. So, I always had that one really close friend. Then, I was always part of Bible study groups or play groups where you would get together with different moms.
I think, sometimes, we fear, “Well, I don’t want them to see all my uglies because then they won’t like me.” So, sometimes, we just stay back when we shouldn’t. So, yes, I’ve always had a posse and a group of moms through every stage—and maybe, as I got older, I did better of making it different types of moms and different ages; but I just want this to be sort of a rallying cry to all those moms out there: “Don’t just look for moms just like you.” No matter who the mom is—if you know that she needs encouragement, just be bold.
Did you find that to be true, Sherry, when you watched this movie—did it encourage you as to how it should be done?
Sherry: Oh, it absolutely did. It reminded me to look around for the mom alone. You know, that’s something we say at MOPS, “No mom alone.” It really should be our anthem cry. And there are moms alone, though. In fact, the statistics say, right down the street, within a mile of where you live, there is a mom that is sitting there wondering what she’s going to do about tomorrow. She doesn’t know how to face her situation, and she is feeling incredibly alone.
Reach out. Look for that mom, and they will surprise you in the type of friendship that you can form.
Bob: Did you have a posse? Did you have a group of moms?
Sherry: Oh, I absolutely did. Yes. And you know, as a young mom, I was a youth pastor’s wife. Sometimes, that can be a little isolating. Sometimes, you don’t feel like you completely fit with every other mom. I would try to just make myself forget that and look for a circle of friends who, number one, loved to have fun; and, number two, didn’t take their selves too seriously; and, number three, just loved me—warts and all. We would go out and just have fun and laugh about silly things. That’s really, really important. It makes you feel like a human.
Bob: Well, I have to tell you. When my wife would go out and do that—what I got back at the end of the night was a healthier, happier fresher wife—
Bob: —than I had before that. And you started to learn—giving up a night like that, and taking care of the kids, while she’s out having some fun—there is a payback.
Bob: I found there was a payback in those evenings.
Dennis: There is a lot of fun in being a mom, but you’ve got to kind of search for it at times. [Laughter]
Sherry: You do. I was talking—I love to collect mom stories. I was talking to a young mom who blogged about this; and then, she talked to me about it later. She said, one Saturday morning, her doorbell rang. She came to the door; opened it. There was a police officer standing there. He said, “Ma’am, we’ve had a report from a neighbor that you have naked people running around in your yard.” [Laughter]
Sure enough, she was the mom of four boys. Her middle son, at that moment, walked up right beside her, without a stitch on except his tennis shoes. He’d been running around in the yard. She said she was so frustrated and embarrassed. She just took the child by the arm, took him back inside—said, “Officer, I’m so sorry we had a neighbor who actually felt like they had to complain about that.” And she shut the door.
She said, that night, she had a night out with the girls. She was telling this story; and she said—
“They busted out laughing about the fact that a neighbor would call because your children are running around naked in the yard.” The police officer had said to the little boy, “Well, keep it up, son!” You know—just kind of laughing. She said she was able, at that moment, to remind herself: “You know what? That is funny. Sometimes, your kids will strip naked and do crazy things.” She said, “Sometimes, you just need to laugh about it, as a mom.” That’s the power of your posse because they can remind you, “Stop taking that so seriously and just laugh!”
Dennis: One of the legendary stories in my daughter, Ashley’s, life—who has five boys, ages five to fourteen—is finding one of her children on the roof. It’s a fairly tall house. So, if they fell, it would be—it could be trouble. Yet, she somehow has learned the art of maintaining laughter and finding fun in the midst of hare-brained—
Dennis: Yes—that’s exactly right. I’m wondering about you, Tracey.
You like to have fun. What was your favorite thing to do with your posse—the group of young moms that you headed out with?
Tracey: I would say the favorite thing is that it was the never the same thing. We never sort of let anything become kind of boring, and rote, and the same old thing. We would always look for something interesting.
I remember when I lived in one small town that shall remain nameless—that I said: “Let’s get together and go out of state. Let’s go.” We were actually going to a women’s event. Of the five women in the car, three of them had never been out of the state. First of all, that was shocking to me, as someone that had moved around a lot.
We get in the car, and we’re starting to drive out of town. I was like, “Okay, what do we all want to do right now?” Without checking each other’s notes and without wondering, we all just started screaming. We just started screaming that: “I’m free! I’m free!” Then, the music got really loud. [Laughter] I remember, when I told my husband that—his looking at me like I was a nut job.
He was like: “What do you mean you were screaming?! What do you mean you were free?!”
I’m like, “Bill, do you know what it’s like to go through 24 hours a day, seven days a week—where you feel so responsible for another person that you can’t just breathe, and just scream, and know that everything was going to be okay?” Now, that may sound really dramatic to Bob Lepine and Dennis Rainey, but that’s how we feel! [Increased speed of talking] We constantly just feel like we have to be responsible for everything! [Sigh] Okay, I’ll calm down now.
Bob: I think it’s interesting because even in Dennis’s question—and I’d ask the same question—“What did you guys get together and do?” As guys, we think about: “What are we going to do?” As women, you’re thinking about spending time with one another, talking. The doing is really secondary to just the relationship; isn’t it?
Sherry: That’s exactly right. It’s not really about what you do so much. Sometimes, we would just sit and just eat and just sit around the table and talk. I think it was more the connection of our hearts and sharing our imperfectness with each other, and it being okay.
I remember, one time, my friends came over for Chinese food over at my house; and we just sat around the table. The chop sticks on the table reminded one of the ladies to tell a story about how her husband had tried to fix the toilet with a chop stick. You know—how like the flappy ball-thing or whatever wasn’t working. So, he tried to prop it up. We just all got to laughing so hard. You know—“That’s life!” We didn’t do anything that night other than just sit, and eat, and talk. It was wonderful.
Dennis: I think God made us to laugh.
Sherry: I do too.
Dennis: And I think moms need to laugh. They need to get out with other moms and just let go a bit because there is a good bit of the job of being parents of children—as they go through adolescence—you’re going to run into some rebels.
Dennis: You’re going to run into some that push back against the standards and against how you’re trying to raise them. I’m going to tell you something. There is nothing like this—for a dad or a mom—like having a child who doesn’t like you; doesn’t want to be in your home, your family, your rules, your boundaries;—
—and frankly, wants out. Those moms need encouragement, as well.
Sherry: They do. They do—especially, for moms who have middle schoolers and high schoolers in that stage. Sometimes, their attitudes can be absolutely overwhelming; and you just want to run away from that. That’s normal. I think you need to look for another mom who might need encouragement and be able to invite her to step outside of herself and laugh.
I remember picking up my daughter from middle school one day. She was reminding me, in the car, of everything I had not done that day that I was supposed to do: “Where was her money that she told me she needed for her science project?” and, “Where was that note that she had laid on the table for me to sign, and I hadn’t put it back in her book bag?”
When we drove up to the house, it was her turn to go get the garbage cans and bring them back up to the front of the house. I reminded her of that. She slammed the door and stomped down the driveway. Pretty soon, though, she called to me. She said, “Mom, come here!” She wanted me to come out to the end of the driveway with her. So, I did.
There, lying at the end of the driveway, were some of my underwear that I had cleaned out the day before and bagged up in some bags and put it out in the trash can. Well, obviously, when the trash men had dumped it out, they had ripped the bags. Some had fallen out, laying there at the end of the driveway, all day long, for people to see.
I tried to explain it to my daughter. I said: “Sweetheart, I cleaned out my lingerie drawer. I had to throw this away. I double-bagged it—I put it in the can.” She did not want to hear it. She turned around, stomped back up the driveway; and I heard her mutter, “Now, we’re going to have to move!” [Laughter] She was just humiliated.
You know, it’s on those days, when you really feel like a failure, that you need another mom to come around alongside you and just say: “Yes, I’ve had something like that happen too. Yes, my kids have been disgusted with me; and it’s going to be alright.”
Dennis: I want one of you to talk about this because I think this is what’s missing today—
—that keeps this group of moms from connecting together and sharing life with one another. Talk about how it just takes one mom to initiate, and step out, and be courageous enough to say: “Hey, I’m starting a group. Would you like to join me?” Why is it that seems so bold and so courageous for a mom to have to ask? Is she afraid that everyone is going to say, “No”; or they’ll think she’s weird?
Bob: I was thinking of Mothers of Pre-Schoolers. I was thinking, as you were describing the moms who get together in MOPS, that every mom would go, “I would love to be a part of a group like that”; and every mom would go: “but I’m not leading a group like that,” because, all of a sudden, you feel like you’re saying, “Hey, I’m the mom who has got it together. You want to get together with me?”—right?
Sherry: Right; yes. You know, once you do get together with other moms, you realize, “There is no mom in this circle that has it all together.” There is no perfect mom. There is no perfect standard there. We have a book at MOPS, coming out this fall, called—
—Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears. We talk to Mom about taking just small steps—take a small step of just reaching out and inviting someone to come be with you—to be in a group. You know what, moms? If you don’t feel like leading a group, that’s okay. Just get together with another group of moms. I bet, in that group, there will be one mom who would say, “Yes, I’ll lead that.” Once you take small steps of courage, you realize, “Oh, this isn’t that hard.” And you are encouraged to do even more.
Dennis: Tracey, challenge that woman, who is listening right now, who is a mom who just needs an older mom to put her arm around her and say, “You can do this thing.”
Tracey: Most of us just don’t think that it’s us that are supposed to reach out. I have a classic example because we have moved several times. When we made our last move, I kept looking around me and seeing all of these great people that I felt like I wanted to spend time with; and I didn’t have the guts to reach out. I was kind of holding back for a while.
Then, finally, what I did—I kept praying about it and thinking about it—
—and the four moms that I called, they didn’t know each other. I knew each of them, sort of. They all showed up at my house. Even in that first meeting, each one of them—some of them that had lived in that community their whole lives / some that had been there a few years—each one of them said, “They had been waiting for someone to call.”
So, I don’t know what it takes for us, Sherry and I—I mean here Sherry runs an organization that has that figured out. They know that when moms gather, God can do powerful things in their lives. So, what I would challenge you is—to stop, think, look around you. Who else do you know needs a friend?—and just be brave and make that call. Because what I can tell you now—my relationship with Christ is fuller because of these moms that we have shared life with.
Again, it’s the uglies. I have wept with these women. I have learned things about them that help me know how I can minister to other people, and I have been vulnerable. I have shared things about myself that I’ve never wanted to share with people.
You never know who out there needs to be pulled in and spent time with.
If I can just touch on the fact—one of my favorite things about Moms’ Night Out is the way that young mom reached out to the pastor’s wife. I had a friend—when we lived in West Virginia—who was a pastor’s wife. She constantly talked about how much pressure she was under and how she never felt like she could be herself. If I feel it, how much more does a pastor’s wife feel it?
So, I want to challenge you: “What pastor’s wife in your church spends week after week, alone—who doesn’t get invited to go out to go bowling; who doesn’t get invited over to the house, just to chat? You know, if you are listening to this right now, I’ve got to believe that God wanted you to be the one to make that phone call.
Dennis: There is a phrase, used by an educator, back on the East Coast, that I’ve used many times to characterize where I think people are today. The phrase is: “We suffer today from crowded loneliness.”
We’re around a lot of people. We “know” a lot of people; but we’re not relating to people who know us, and who we’re transparent with, and they are willing to be transparent with us.
Everybody tends to think their mess is worse than other people’s mess, and those people are usually isolated. As I’ve looked at what’s happened in marriages over the past, almost four decades, I think one of the chief strategies of the devil of hell is to get followers of Christ isolated from other followers of Christ, who could encourage one another.
Hebrews, Chapter 10, talks about not forsaking the assembling together with other believers. And yes, I believe that’s primarily talking about church; but I think it also is talking about believers getting together with other believers, in the Bible,—
—and getting honest and real with one another about what they’re facing, and what’s knocking the props out from under them, and how they need help and hope in what they’re facing in life.
I just appreciate you ladies writing this Bible study, Beautiful Mess, and both your ministries. Sherry, Tracey, you guys are heroes. I appreciate your being champions of moms because I think that moms need champions today as never before.
Sherry: Thank you.
Tracey: Thank you. Amen.
Bob: Well, and I’m thinking how easy it would be and how much fun it would be for a mom to send an evite, or an email, or a text to a group of friends, who are moms, and say, “Why don’t we have a moms’ night out this weekend and go to the movie, Moms’ Night Out?” Then, after the movie is over—after you’ve had a good time together—just say, “What do you think about getting together six times this summer and going through the study I heard about on the radio called—
—Beautiful Mess: Motherhood for Every Moment?” It is six sessions. The material and the conversations that will take place, that are prompted by this study, will be invaluable to every mom who decides to do that. Find out more. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. In the upper left-hand corner of the homepage, you’ll see a link that says, “Go Deeper.” Click there. There is information about the Bible study for moms, Beautiful Mess. You can order the study from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
There is also a link to the Moms’ Night Out movie website. If you want to watch the trailer or find out more about the movie, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, click the link that says, “Go Deeper.” All the information you need is available there.
If you’d like to order the study guide for moms, Beautiful Mess, you can also call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329.
That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
I was having a conversation, earlier today, with one of the guys on the team here. We were talking about baseball because I’m a Cardinals fan; he’s a Reds fan. We always kind of compare how our teams are doing. Both of us looked at each other and said, “You know, it’s a long season—still a lot of games to play. I mean, it’s only May. We’ll see who is still standing in October.”
I was thinking about that. I was thinking, “It is a long season.” Summer is a long season. One of the challenges we face, here at FamilyLife, during the long summer season, is that folks are occupied with other things. As a result, we see the donations to FamilyLife decline a bit in the summer months.
Of course, we’re a listener-supported ministry. The cost of producing and syndicating this program is something that our listeners help us out with. So, when we see that decline in the summer—that can be challenging for us.
With that in mind, we’ve had some friends of the ministry who came to us recently and said, “We’d like to help out.” They have put together a matching gift. They’ve agreed they will match every donation that is sent to FamilyLife, between now and Father’s Day, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $350,000.
Of course, we’re hoping we’re going to take full advantage of that matching-gift opportunity. To do that, we need to hear from listeners, like you. We need you to call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and make a donation over the phone; or go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper right-hand corner that says, “I Care”—make an online donation. Or write a check and mail it to us. Our mailing address is FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And our zip code is 72223.
Again, any donation we receive is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, until we get to that $350,000 point.
So, we hope to hear from you. Just know that your donation is doing double-duty this month.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to go on location to talk to Andy Erwin, the director of the movie, Moms’ Night Out, along with Alex Kendrick and Kevin Downes. Hope you can tune in as we talk about the movie with a studio audience that has just finished screening it. Hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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