Emailing, telephoning, Facebooking, chatting in person--I used every mode of communication available to me to connect with nearly every mother I knew and attempt to drag her to the Mom Heart conference with me this year. The fact was, it made a life changing difference for me just one year ago, and I wanted everyone I knew to have that same refreshing and encouraging new perspective. I got a few takers. (Takers who became even sweeter friends, and who blessed me beyond belief by loving me and sharing life with me this weekend.) There were many more who weren't able to join me for various reasons. I'm going to go ahead and warn you all that after my experience this past weekend, I will now prove relentlessly annoying in my efforts to persuade you of the necessity of your attendance in 2014! My methods may involve force and kidnapping. Don't say you didn't expect it.
Listen, folks: the Mom Heart peeps? They pray. They humbly pray that God will do His work at their conferences. And, ohmystars, I think He really likes people who humbly pray for Him to work, because hetotallyshowsup.
Not only did I see God care for the hearts of the moms I knew personally at this conference, I saw a room of 400 women touched, inspired, and given courage to be mamas who make a difference. I saw moms arrive with very specific needs and hear very specific messages to meet their very specific needs. I saw God connect moms with other moms who were traveling a very similar road with very similar circumstances. Friendships were born, needs were met, courage was found, healing began...
The Mom Heart conference is special. It's special because it gives you new eyes to see your child. It's special because it not only helps you see your need for traveling companions along the motherhood road, but gives you connections and tools to help you create those connections. It's special because it reminds you that life is all about discipleship--the discipleship of your own heart as you follow Jesus and those who are following Him, too; the hearts of your friends as you walk the road together; and the heart of your child, as he follows the example of Jesus you place before him. It's special because they hand you chocolate the minute you register. Maybe I should have said that first?
There were some beautiful messages this weekend, though I would say that it was the message behind the messages as a whole that is stirring inside me. I often feel that I am very slow to synthesize new information. It takes me a long time of working with new thoughts to actually be able to explain them, and then to go live them! Sometimes it seems like I can mull over a concept for a good long while before some switch flips and it all becomes clear. Some of Sally's words this weekend were like that. I had heard many of the things she had said before (most of them from her own mouth--or her pen), but they weren't really getting into my brain in a way that I understood what she meant. I felt like something inside me switched on in a new way. One of the best ways for me to process things it to sit down and write them out. Over the next few days, I'll be doing just that--recording some of my thoughts on the things I heard and hoping that they continue to work into my fiber and become part of who I am.
While you're waiting (with bated breath) for my next posts, you can do the following:
Decide to attend Mom Heart 2014.
Put it into your budget and set aside a little each month to make it possible.
Almost a year ago, I made a journey several states away on a quest for some refreshment, wisdom, and courage. I was at a difficult place in my mothering role. I felt tired, weak, overwhelmed, and as though I were failing. My destination? The MomHeart Conference with Sally Clarkson. My first conference event was a morning tea where Sally shared her heart with us in an informal manner over sweet breakfast goodies and warm drinks to fill our hands. Near the end, she opened the floor for questions. It was my moment--my moment to seek some eternal wisdom to fight against all the chaos and disappointment and frustration that had been coursing through my heart of late. So, I raised my hand and began my question. But all I could really get out was a broken cry. A voice that cracked and stated that talk of beauty and lifegiving and teatime and storybooks and so on with our children was all well and good--but what about those of us who were struggling to just get.through.another.day? I was here, I said, because I was desperate.
"How interesting that you use that word. Because right now, I'm writing a new book with my friend Sarah Mae by that very title."
And so they were.
I have waited with great anticipation for this volume--a book written by two of my favorite authors--one who writes with the grace and wisdom of one who has lived to tell the story, and one who writes with freshness and openness so real and humble that the connection I feel with her heart stuns me. And now I've held the book and read it--twice. First with the eagerness of someone who was hungry and, well, desperate! And then after the initial dash through, once more with pen in hand and thoughtfulness of mind.
This book is a lovely marriage. I hear the voice of Sarah Mae so clearly echoing my own--a voice of desperation, fear, loneliness, and concern that she isn't measuring up to her ideals. And I hear the voice of Sally--a voice of calm, measured wisdom speaking truth and courage and assurance into her younger counterpart. While I have loved Sally Clarkson's works in the past, I have found myself thinking that Sally did sound so calm and measured and wise--all admirable qualities to be sure! But it made me wonder if she had ever truly been as haggard and confused and awkward and frustrated as I seem to be at times. With the addition of Sarah Mae's voice and the conversation between them, I began to see that, yes, even Sally had at one time been in my shoes--in Sarah Mae's shoes. Only commitment, faithfulness, obedience, time, and the power of the Holy Spirit had shaped Sally and her family into who they are today. I began to realize with increasing hope, that perhaps with the same commitment, faithfulness, and obedience, God could fashion me and my own family into something beautiful of His making as well.
This book is for every mother who has ever felt as though the circumstances of her roles as mama, homemaker, and wife would surely drown her. Everyone who has ever wondered if she truly has it in her to be the kind of mama she really wants to be. Everyone who is overwhelmed with just how plain hard mothering can be. This book is also for every mom who has walked through the years of raising her children and now stands on the other side. It's a call to reach out a hand of help and grace and challenge to those who are coming up after you--to walk alongside them and infuse them with courage and hope. It's about doing motherhood together.
I'm so blessed to have this book in my hands. To get some real, practical ideas, and some down to earth wisdom. To know that I am not alone! To pledge to one day be the woman who comes alongside the young mom I once was and give practical help and hope.
Several years ago now, I picked up a volume entitled The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. One chapter in, I set the book down and had to stop and reflect. My heart had filled with recognition--I had caught a vision of the kind of mama I knew I had always wanted to be, but didn't really know how to be. I've read that book three times now, and will probably reread it several more. It is, besides God's Word, my manifesto for mothering.
Last year, when life's pressures, coupled with my weaknesses and repeated failings, threatened to undo me, I would find myself escaping to the bathroom to "air scream" at God--"I can't DO this! Find someone else!" You know--when you scream, but you're doing it soundlessly so as not to frighten the children? Perhaps you don't know about that--but I was definitely at a place where I felt desperate. I felt worn out and tired. Unable to keep up with the demands that life placed on me. Unable to meet the needs of four small children who wanted to each be held and cherished and known. I wanted to be the mama who cuddled and took walks and baked cookies and responded with gentle tones and knew her children's needs and unique giftings. But I was having a hard time keeping up with the laundry and getting a shower. My priorities were often skewed, and my focus needed to be sharpened. It was time for some heart renewal.
Enter the MomHeart conference with Sally Clarkson. Apparently, the MomHeart conference had been in existence for many, many years. I had heard about it before, and had briefly considered attending, but last year...I knew that my survival depended on getting to one. God graciously opened doors to allow me to attend. He knew it was just the remedy I needed. Hearing Sally speak truths from God's Word about the gift and privilege of motherhood was exactly what I needed. Time with new friends, a fancy banquet in a fancy hotel, and plenty of chocolate didn't hurt either. One woman in particular, who had several more years of mothering wisdom behind her, reached out to me and cared for me at this conference. She encouraged me, prayed for me, and blessed me. By the time the conference was over, my vision had realigned. I was ready to take on the world--or at least my home--again.
I don't feel that same desperation anymore. Truly, my circumstances haven't really changed. I'm busy with four small children, homeschooling, and running a household. I'm still so far from being the mother that I really want to be. But, I am NOT the mother I was, either. I have a greater sense of purpose and destination. I feel more intentional about connecting to the heart of each child. I know the value of aligning my heart with God's priorities and setting aside the task list of busyness to pursue Him and His kingdom.
After that conference, I made a few decisions, two of which are these:
First, I will try to attend a MomHeart conference every single year. I will see it as my "inservice for motherhood" as I heard one new friend describe it. While it is difficult to consider the expense, the inconvenience, and the burden of leaving my children in the care of my husband for a few days, it is so, so, so worth it in the long run. My husband was the first to help me recognize the value this brought to our home.
Second, I will do what I can to lift up and encourage other mothers along the way. One day, when I'm past the season of raising children and I find myself with more time to minister to those outside of my immediate family, I can tell you exactly how I think I'll be spending it. I think God will have me seek out young mamas who are feeling that sense of desperation I felt, and lend them a helping hand. A listening ear, an encouraging word, an afternoon of babysitting. In the meantime, while I can't engage in very much ministry outside of ministering to my little ones, I can be on the lookout for friends and comrades along the way who need some encouragement. Part of that encouragement includes the urging to attend a MomHeart conference.
If it is at ALL possible for you to go, please consider it. I suspect that it may be one of the best mothering decisions you ever make. If you hesitate because you can't imagine being able to get away with the demands that are currently on you...you especially are in need of this. Children are naturally needy. There's nothing wrong with that. God designed them to need caring grown-ups to love them and minister to their many needs. As moms, however, we can only pour out so much without being poured into. This conference in a time of intensified "pouring" into you. Into your mom heart.
If reading this fills you with a sense of excitement, anticipation, or a longing to take the edge off a sense of desperation, I pray that God helps you to find a way to the MomHeart conference nearest you. May you know His refreshment! The link below will take you to more information about the dates and locations for MomHeart 2013.
One more month and then you'll be ONE YEAR OLD. I really cannot believe how quickly this time has flown by. Lightspeed, I tell you.
The biggest news this month...
Wait for it...
FIRST STEPS!! Yay!
June 17th, you took your first steps. Pretty darn exciting. Daddy wasn't here, so I had to call him right away and tell him. You've taken many, many steps since then, though you still crawl quite a bit. You babble more than ever and we love it when you nod your head at us. It's also pretty cute when you shake your head at us, though Daddy is discouraging me from encouraging it. ;)
Your hair is growing more and more, and I am more and more at a loss as to what to do with it. Daddy assures me he sees lots of little girls running around with crazy hair while it grows out. I have not seen them and suspect him of stretching the truth to make me feel better over my lack of skill.
You love Daddy. But you have decided there is something you do not like about him. You absolutely do not like the feel of his whiskers. So while you coo and smile and babble at him (and you will kiss him), you always, always turn your face away when he leans in to kiss you. This doesn't unsettle him in the least. He kisses you often anyway--sometimes a few times in a row just to see you grimace. You are his Princess, his Baby Girl, his Little One and he's not about to let your disdain for his whiskers get in the way of kissing you.
Guess what? You love books! You are enthralled with Goodnight, Moon, Time for Bed, and Eric Carle books. You point and smile and jabber. You will sit and listen while I read. Caden did this at your age, but it's been a while since I had a baby so young who would sit and enjoy a book on my lap. It's quite a bit of fun. Of course, you also love to get hold of the library books and tear pages. So, we'll stick with board books for a while.
You are a delight to us all, Anna Hazel, and we thank God for the sunshine you bring us every day.
That is the sound of me crying because your first year is almost over already! Yikes!
Wow, girlie. You are just booming with new developments! Guess who said, "Mama!" for the first time Mother's Day morning while she was snuggled next to me in bed? Yep--you, that's who! I thought it was the perfect gift. More recently, you've actually been saying "Mommy"--probably imitating Alec who picked that up even though no one else in our family uses that term. It sounds pretty sweet to me from both your lips and his.
You're enjoying rice, sweet potatoes, egg yolk, Cheerios, and a few other things, but Cheerios are really your favorite. I think you could eat them all day long! You've got drinking out of a sippy mastered now--no more rivers down your chest. You are now standing up on your own and you do it over and over and over. When I set you down, you prefer to stand up and then sit down. It won't be long and you'll be running all over this place. You're cruising a bit now, too.
You're saying more and more words and it often sounds like you are trying to copy the words that those around you are speaking to you. "Bracelet, pretty, Caden, jump" and many more. You've been a bit restless at night recently. I'm not sure what that's about, but I'm sure it will pass. You're still sunshiney most of the time. You don't want to be held still any more. You want to GO! Unfortunately, your brothers love holding you, so I often hear you screeching to be released because they are "loving" you.
Your hair has grown a few long wisps at the front (what do I do with girl hair?) and has starting curling the tiniest bit at the nape of your neck. I can't wait to see what you look like with more hair. You're beautiful and sweet as ever and we're so glad God sent you to us.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of meeting Misty Krasawski of Encouraging Beautiful Motherhoodin person at a MomHeart conference after corresponding with her a bit by email. Misty holds a special place in my heart because she offered me some serious encouragement when I deeply needed it.
Just recently, I asked Misty if I could preview her new ebook that she had coming out--Back to Homeschool: 23 Days to Preparing Your Heart, Home, and Homeschool Calendar for Your Best Year Ever. Misty is a gifted writer and I knew it would be good. She's the mama of eight children, she's been homeschooling for a loooooong time, and like I said earlier, if she is anything, she is encouraging! That combination made for a great little book. Her new book is full of encouragement for the mom who is looking ahead to a new year of homeschooling. Whether you're a newbie or a veteran, this little gem is going to give you the boost you need.
I've been homeschooling for a couple of years now--long enough to know that homeschool planning encompasses so much more than buying curriculum or making lesson plans. Back to Homeschool will walk you through the process of stepping back and evaluating why you're doing what you're doing, your relationship with your kids and husband, the state of your home (how well can you homeschool--or learn--in disorder and dirt?), and the planning of some of those other details that can trip us up like, "What will we eat every day?" and "What do I do with the little ones?"
As I head into my own planning session over the summer, I'm glad to have this book at my side to guide me through some things I might have skipped over or never thought about otherwise. I'm ready for a year with a little more purpose and order!
Here's the other awesome thing: Misty runs something called Titus 2 University. It's something I've wanted to be part of in the past, but, frankly, couldn't afford at the time. If you buy Back to Homeschool for $4.99 and send her a copy of the receipt before 9pm on June 8th (take a screen shot and email it to her), you get a FREE membership to Titus 2 University (an $80 value)! That, folks, is an awesome deal! I already OWN a review copy, but I'm going to buy a copy for my Kindle just so I can get that membership! :)
Check it out here, but be sure to also check her post of the day because she's giving away cool stuff each day of the this week to celebrate the launch! The book is available in PDF directly from Misty's site, Kindle from Amazon, and Nook from Barnes and Noble.