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A Letter to My Village

In the spring of 2009, I was sitting in the library studying for my finals. Typical of a college senior, I was finding it hard to focus on my work knowing that in a few short weeks I would be graduating and moving on to the next phase of my life. The hangup for me, however, was that I wasn’t quite sure what that next phase entailed. I would be graduating with an exercise science degree, which could lead me in many different directions. I had completed my senior thesis on prenatal fitness and always had a love for kids, so I decided to search Google for mommy-and-me workouts. While I hadn’t yet experienced motherhood for myself, I had always dreamt of being able to stay home with my kids when that time came. My search brought up a company called Stroller Strides. As I browsed their website, I said to my friends, “THIS is what I want to do with my life!” Little did I know, this would be my first introduction to the company that would change me forever.

Just a year later, I met the owner of Stroller Strides in Grand Rapids (which I hadn’t even known existed) and started teaching classes for her! After two years of teaching, she approached me about buying the business from her. I agonized over this decision as it did not seem like a natural fit for me. I had no aspirations of being a business owner, and wasn’t sure if it was something I felt called to or even skilled in. I was also hesitant about owning a business that catered to moms when I wasn’t even a mom myself. When facing big decisions, my dad has always encouraged me with a verse from the Bible - “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21). He would remind me that oftentimes there isn’t a right or wrong decision to make, but head in a direction and God will direct you as you go.

I knew that one day I wanted to have a way to exercise with my kids and a community of moms to share life with, so I went for it! I still had no idea what I was getting myself into - forming an LLC, opening a business bank account, applying for insurance - but I was excited about this new adventure. It started off with a bang - my grand re-opening celebration brought in a solid group of members who immediately started to bond (you know who you are), classes were rolling, and even though there were bumps along the way, I was enjoying the ride.

But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Little did I know that new motherhood would be the biggest challenge of my life. After both Caden and Haddie were born, I suffered from postpartum depression. Instead of having a 6 week maternity leave and then business as usual (which is what I had envisioned), it turned into months before I could return to any work in the business and even longer before I could start teaching again. Everything was just too overwhelming for me, but my village was always there for support. Having somewhere to go in those early weeks that was away from the house and felt safe was a lifeline. Even when I wasn’t able to function in the capacity I wanted to, the business gave me purpose and motivation at a time when I so desperately needed it.

Throughout the next few years, our village grew and our team grew. I was blessed to be surrounded by amazing women all of the time. We exercised, we played, we shared heartaches and struggles, milestones and memories. I loved seeing connections made during our classes that lasted long after those classes were over. Not only was I creating connections but it became a community for my kids as well as they made their first best friends, sharing toys from their stroller. Through everything, I knew that these were my people and this was something I wanted to continue to pour my heart into. But there were also struggles - struggles to balance my time, understand the intricacies of business, and make hard decisions. While it was incredible to be at the helm of something I believed wholeheartedly in, there were also overwhelming demands.

I knew that there would come a day when I needed to hand over the reins of running my business. I just couldn’t see how that would be possible because I loved it so much. I could feel God slowly opening my clenched fists this summer. I heard Him saying, “It’s time now. You can let go.” What made that decision easier was having Sarah move back to Grand Rapids. Sarah has always had a deep passion for FIT4MOM Grand Rapids and a desire to see it grow and extend to all moms in GR. We had talked many times before about what it would look like for her to take a more significant role in the business, so when she moved back this summer, I felt it was another nudge from God to show me that my “baby” would be in good hands. I also started to see how I would be able to use some of my gifts in bigger ways if I had less responsibility in running the day-to-day.

As the day has come and gone to sign the final papers signifying the shift in ownership to Sarah, I have had so many mixed emotions. I have been excited about what this next phase of life will look like for me, but I’ve also been sad because of how much FIT4MOM Grand Rapids and my role in the business has meant to me over the years. I’m not stepping down because I’ve lost a passion for this business. If anything, I love FIT4MOM more now than I ever have. I’m not moving on to another job or a new career. I simply felt God calling me to let go and I am trusting Him now just as I trusted Him when He first gave this business to me.

To my village, past and present - thank you SO much for this incredible journey! These last 8 years have been blessed beyond measure because of YOU! I am so grateful for each and every mom (and her kiddos) I have met over those years. I feel so blessed that even though I will no longer be running the business, I still get to be a part of this team - teaching, coaching, and pouring into the lives of some of the most amazing women. YOU are the reason we are what we are today and YOU are the reason I can look back and say it was very good.

xo,

Marissa