Focus On The Family July/August 2004

What Women Need
By Andrea Vinley Jewell

I hadn't laughed so much since.

On this blazing July afternoon, I was eating lunch with a group of ladies near Santa Clarita, Calif. Their depth of friendship and exuberance made me long for a similar group in my hometown. I longed for women I could laugh with, take a break with and play games with. I longed for friends with whom I could easily share my frustrations and struggles.

Their secret isn't mysterious or elusive, but the result of their intentional efforts. Connie, Valerie, Andrea, Shawn, Deb and Lisa-known as a MomTime group-have been meeting for lunch and games for more than six years. Connie, Valerie and Lisa started the original group more than 12 years ago.

MomTime gatherings grew from Lisa Whelchel's love of board games, something not shared by her husband. "I had to go outside our marriage to find game partners," she says. "So I invited Connie, Valerie, another friend an my mother over for an afternoon. It grew to once a week, including lunch. After that, it was more than just the games. It was the time to talk and build close relationships."

"I joined because I had young kids, and it sounded like a lot of fun," Connie says. "I love playing games, but it was unusual to meet [other] moms who were playing." Valerie joined for similar reasons. As a stay-at-home mom, she also needed a break from her house.

The weekly tradition became a turning point in Lisa's life. "Until then, I'd never had friends," she says. "My mother was always my best friend. That's all I needed. Then I got married, and I thought all I need was my husband. I resigned myself to the fact that I was the kind of person who had just one friend - until I started my MomTime group. I surprised myself, or God surprised me. I love having friends."

Lisa and the others enjoyed their get-togethers so much that Lisa took their idea, named and structured it and began encouraging other women to start groups. The friendships Lisa had developed, the fun they experienced and the break from busy life made such a difference that she knew other women needed the same things: food, faith, fellowship and fun.

"When we come to MomTime, we let go of the stresses of life," Valerie says. "In essence, we leave the world behind and go into our own world of renewal and joy."

"So many women, in order to process, need to talk out loud," Lisa adds. "This is a safe environment for that. It's a healthy place to talk."

"We all need moments to forget about our struggles or toddlers or teenagers," Connie says.

Like most moms, Connie would rarely see her friends if it weren't for MomTime. "With a busy family, it's hard to get together with friends on a regular basis. This commitment [to MomTime] allows us to keep in touch and enjoy each other's company." To Connie the most important aspect of MomTime is having trustworthy friends, especially when she recalls her life no too long ago. She spent most of one year in a hospital with medical problems. Her MomTime friends took care of Connie's kids and helped her through the touch situation.

"Those times are really important," Valerie says. "when someone is carrying something so heavy, then we put the games aside. It becomes a time of ministry."

But apart from serious matters, Lisa says that at the end of most MomTime meetings she's exhausted from laughing. "It's like the old pressure cooker thing. Touch any little tense spot, and you're ready to release. We release a lot through laughter."

Since my visit to Santa Clarita, I haven't found a MomTime group, especially since I have no children. On the other hand, I have found some wonderful friends to laugh and share life with.


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