MAMAS OF THE MONTH: LEIA JOHNSON & ERIKA WRIGHT

When we started Somebody’s Mama, we purposely relied on our friends to keep the party going—figuratively and literally.  The basic idea was that we could get together with our friends and change the world.  Over the last three years, our friends have invited their friends, and their friends have invited their friends, and because of social media, a bunch of other cool people joined the party.

In the meantime, we’ve been meeting and greeting and talking with new people every day about the magic that is Somebody’s Mama, and what we’ve come to realize is that this thing is big enough now that there are actually a lot of you who have never met the two women behind the scenes.

We have always and will continue to stand outside the spotlight as much as possible because everything good and fun and awesome about what we’re doing together is about so much more than two people. It will never be about us. That said, this little blog post…well, it’s about us.  For the benefit of all our new friends, we’d like to introduce ourselves formally.  We’re Leia Johnson and Erika Wright, co-founders of Somebody’s Mama.

’m Leia, and I’m the voice behind our blog and most of our social media efforts.  I am the daughter of the founder of our parent organization (4HIM), Steve Hollingsworth, and I initially started Somebody’s Mama as a way to stay connected to the world while I was chasing two littles around the house all day.

efore I was Somebody’s Mama, I traveled with 4HIM teams and aboard the Mercy Ship to Mexico, Jamaica, Honduras, Belize, India, Togo, and Sierra Leone.  My heart has always been a traveler, which is good because I married an Air Force pilot, who has kept me traveling for almost eleven years.

was motivated, in part, by the position in which I found myself as the mother of two small children and military spouse—I couldn’t travel as much as I had in my adolescence and college years, but I wanted to remain deeply connected to the friends I’d made around the world and to be a part of the solution in alleviating poverty, fighting injustice, and promoting long-term sustainability in the two-thirds world.  When I started talking to my friends about it, I learned that I was far from alone in my hopes and dreams to balance being a mom with being a global citizen.

My best friend, Erika, had been working in sales for over a decade, while raising her three lovelies, Madelyn, Charlie, and Vivienne (now 17, 6, and 2) with her husband, Matt, when Somebody’s Mama got the jolt of energy and passion it needed to truly become a movement.  Erika traveled with 4HIM teams to Mexico and Togo and knew immediately that she’d found her calling, that thing that Frederick Buechner refers to as the place where “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

More recently, our combined efforts resulted in the launch of our first quarterly Love Clubs to build a maternity ward in Sierra Leone.  This quarter, we've raised almost 25% of our goal to build a school in Togo. Erika frequently invokes the wisdom of Bob Goff in our conversations about the vision and future of Somebody’s Mama.  As Bob says, “I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.”

That is the heart of our motivation—we’re saying yes day in and day out—to living intentionally; to raising happy, kind, and brave little humans; and to loving our neighbors, whether we’re separated by a street or an ocean.

Each of our previous Mamas of the Month have talked about their mothering experiences, and we’re answering the same questions here.

What has been rewarding or challenging about motherhood?

Erika: I guess the most rewarding thing for me today is witnessing my oldest daughter transitioning into such a beautiful adult.  Parenting through the teen years can be tough, especially when there are new babies in the picture.  But when you reach the light at the end of the tunnel, to meet an amazing almost adult person emerging, it’s an affirming moment.  Knowing that I succeeded at raising a young woman that has got herself on such a great track feels pretty awesome.  To know that, as an older and wiser mother, I get to do it again with two more little people, is better than winning the lottery.

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Leia: Motherhood is the ultimate mirror. When I sew patience and kindness into their hearts, I see it reflected immediately.  When I sew impatience and selfishness, I see that reflected as well.  That is the daily challenge—being their first and most obvious example to follow. The reward is watching them become who they are outside in the real world, outside the soft space I try to be for them. Out there, among their peers, among other adults, they are sharers and givers.  They are people lovers.  They are live-out-louders, and they are brave in ways that I never knew possible.  They’re my heroes and who I want to be when I grow up.

What is the most valuable lesson you learned from your mother?

Leia: There are a few things that stick out from my childhood that have served me well to this day.  First, my mom taught me that to have friends, you have to be a friend. I have found myself in countless situations where I reminded myself of the importance of taking the first step in building relationships that matter. Secondly, my mom taught me to be aware of and include people on the fringes—the ones no one else wants around, the ones who may need extra help or attention, the ones who might fall through the cracks.  It’s hard work minding the gap, but there’s no other way of life more fulfilling.  And finally, my mom taught me how to be a mom—how to be present in their lives, how to be their biggest fan, and how to gracefully draw boundaries while encouraging independence.

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rika: The most valuable lesson I learned from my mother is the importance of taking the initiative to make your love an action unto others.  Long before Bob Goff ever wrote Love Does, my mother was an example to me of what it means to BE love to your family, friends, and community.  Showing up to cook for a friend with breast cancer.  Initiating and organizing the Food Pantry at her church.  Planting a sunflower maze for her granddaughters to play in.  She serves those around her with energy and passion, and doesn’t wait around to be asked to do what needs to be done.  She just does it.  She is Love in action.

Thank you for joining us on this journey—we’re so glad you’re here.  We hope this gives you a glimpse into who we are and why we do what we do.  The future is bright, friends. Let’s keeping moving forward together.