It was almost exactly a year ago that I sat at my desk, shoulders slumped, face fallen. My spirit had sunk all the way to my heels. I was hurt and confused, choking back resentment and anger. I’m not even sure who I was upset with or what exactly I was upset about.
But I know that I was afraid.
I was afraid that I was failing as a mom.
I was afraid that I was failing as a wife and as a friend.
I was depressed and I kept telling myself that these feelings would pass. Depression seems to sneak up quickly when I’m faced with the annoying cold of winter. February is the just the stupidest month, isn’t it? But this season was different and I knew my feelings weren’t from cabin fever.
I was overwhelmed.
I didn’t know how to be a mom… at least not a good one.
And I didn’t know how to be a wife… at least not a kind one.
As I sat at my desk sorting through emails that needed to be answered, work projects that were overdue, invoices that needed to be mailed, bills that needed to be paid… I felt inadequate. I felt like I wasn’t doing ANY part of life well.
“No More Perfect Moms”
This phrase was plastered all over the front page. It was the theme for the upcoming Hearts at Home National Conference and Jill had recently released a book by the same name.
This organization had been on my radar for a while.
Actually, I had known about Hearts at Home for probably close to ten years. I was living in a one-bedroom apartment when I saw staff carry boxes into their new office space only a block away from my building. I watched those ladies… envious that they seemed so happy and dedicated to their role as moms.
When I think back, that was a time in my life when I had zero intention of getting married. I was dating guys and getting myself involved in reckless relationships, but I certainly wasn’t interested in marrying any of them. I had watched too many relationships fall apart and decided I would just stay away from all that hurt.
It didn’t work.
And motherhood? Well, I certainly didn’t want THAT gigantic responsibility.
Funny thing is, I was now sitting at my desk realizing that I had a miraculous, strong, funny, beautiful little girl that I WANTED to be gigantically responsible for. That I WAS gigantically responsible for.
I had prayed and pleaded SO hard for her.
Truthfully… I had prayed that “she” would be a “he.” I desperately wanted some practice before messing up a little girl.
And I’m only kidding a little bit about that.
It is crazy how my life had changed so quickly. Now the biggest desire of my heart was to be a good wife and a good mom. I didn’t even care about being a “prefect mom”… I just wanted to be an “ok mom”. Mostly, I wanted to be a safe and loving mom.
Jill Savage is the founder and CEO of Hearts at Home, an organization that seeks to “encourage, educate, and equip every mom in every season of motherhood.”
The mission sounds pretty great, right?
As I stared at the website, pouring over details of the upcoming conference, I read and re-read the workshop descriptions and the speaker biographies. And I just kept thinking…
I want to be THIS mom.
I want to know what they know.
I need to go to mom-school.
But I also needed to talk to my husband about it.
Would he think it was silly… or even stupid? Would he think it was worth spending money on? Would he be okay staying with our girl for two. whole. days. so that I could run away?
And I just kept reading…
“How We Love: Creating Close Connections in Your Marriage”
I need some of that.
“Seven Habits of Highly Effective Moms”
Yes! Whatever that means!
“Loving Your Husband Towards Christ”
HE needs some of that.
“Are You Spiritually Fit?”
I’m not ANY sort of fit.
“Unpacking Childhood Baggage to Give Your Child Something Greater”
“What Your Man Most Wants You to Know”
MY man just wants me to know that I’m crazy!
I printed off the conference details. I approached my husband and remember trying to explain the conference to him. I told him about Hearts at Home. I tried to put into words WHY I wanted to go while also trying NOT to make him feel like HE was the reason I wanted to run away… he was only ONE of the reasons.
But after I finished talking, he said YES. And he told me that this conference might be good for all of us.
Just a few weeks later, conference weekend had arrived. I hadn’t told anyone that I was going. I think I had casually mentioned it to a couple of friends, but I hadn’t approached anyone about going with me.
Anxiety does weird things.
On Friday morning, I walked towards the conference venue, holding my nose very high in attempt to convince anyone who saw me that my insides were not trembling and terrified.
I had carefully chosen to wear a dress that was just casual enough to look like I wasn’t trying too hard… but just dressy enough to look like I actually knew how to dress myself in something other than yoga pants. I remember trying to focus on not tripping over my own feet.
And by the way… I DID trip over my feet… and down a couple of stairs about 10 minutes after I got out of my car. This was probably God’s way of telling me to get over myself.
I grabbed a seat in the auditorium, one face out of thousands… and listened as Jill set the tone for the No More Perfect Moms theme. She shared about hard seasons in her own marriage, struggles that her family had faced. She did an interpretation of her own inner “mommy monster”…. that ironically sounds very similar to mine. Jill talked about motherhood as the “ministry of interruptions” and the “ministry of availability”…
That morning, I think I exhaled for the first time in months.
I realized that it wasn’t just me. I realized that being a mom, a wife… that being a PERSON… can sometimes be full of joy AND junk all in the same afternoon.
I could share endless stories about how attending the Hearts at Home conference changed my life, marriage and our family dynamic. The workshop speakers gave me hope, but more importantly, this was the first time I felt like someone was giving me a PLAN for the lifelong journey of motherhood… and a plan for the days when I simply wanted to run far, far away.
THIS is what I wish every mom had.
THIS is what I wish MY mommas had.
I wish my moms—my birth mom and my adoptive mom—had been surrounded by more encouragers, more resources, more hope and more lifelines.
I recently read an article where Jill described Hearts at Home as a moms organization with a faith base… as opposed to a faith-based moms organization.
“If faith is not part of a mom’s life, she won’t be alienated at one of our conferences, but it is still an important part of the conversation. We talk openly about our struggles in marriage, our struggles in parenting, and women respond to that. On thing that is distinctive about Hearts at Home is honest, vulnerable content.”
I was so encouraged by the workshops, that I decided to buy the entire conference on CD—there were several sessions that I simply couldn’t fit in my schedule. In the weeks and months ahead, I listened to this CD in my car every time I had to commute somewhere. Tears would sometimes stream down my face.
Through Hearts at Home, God gave me a new hope for my little family.
I made a choice that weekend to allow God to do some serious work in my life. Instead of resisting deep friendships, I decided to build up my network of female relationships. I decided to take serious steps to move past the anxiety, hurt, and feelings of inadequacy… so that I could give my beautiful little girl a “whole” mom. I recommitted to working on my marriage. I wanted to be the kind, loving friend that my husband first met… and not the critical roommate that I had become.
So now, it has been a year since my first Hearts at Home conference… and what does life look like?
My marriage is healthier and happier today than it has ever been.
We celebrated five years of marriage in December. God is growing something beautiful out of the baggage that we both brought into our relationship.
My beautiful baby girl is now a beautiful toddler that will turn TWO in less than a month.
Jolie is the joy of my life and I want her to always look into my eyes and know that she is both emotionally and physically safe with me. God is using this little lady to do amazing work on my heart.
I’m intentional about developing new friendships.
I still have several very dear friendships with ladies who are not moms–either by choice or timing–but I become intentional about building relationships with other moms. These mommas truly are my safety net for the days when I feel like screaming.
I’m allowing God to stretch me in my role as an encourager.
I have a growing desire to connect with other women and other moms. Because Jolie spent the first three months of her life in a hospital, I desperately want to continue to be an encourager to moms going through a similar journey with their child. If I can walk alongside these parents for even a moment, I feel honored to be a resource for them.
Mentors and Truth-telling friends.
I am seeking relationships with women who are intentional about their own spiritual growth. While I have many friends in similar seasons of life… I felt I was lacking relationships with women who have been growing in their faith for decades. I am so thankful that more and more of these women keep coming into my life. Similarly, I have asked a few dear friends to speak truthfully to me… especially if (when) they see me acting like a jerk. Sometimes it takes another set of really caring eyes to help me see areas where I am messing up.
Being honest… even about the hard stuff.
Honesty and vulnerability invite honesty and vulnerability… which invites freedom. I went to another conference this past year and was moved by a speaker who encouraged us to break ourselves open and pour ourselves out for one another. When people look at me, I want them to see that marriage, life and motherhood aren’t always easy. Hard is just hard. My past isn’t pretty and sometimes neither is my present… but God is continuing the work He started in me.
My husband and I moved back to Bloomington-Normal. While, this is not directly related to my experience with the conference, a part of our decision to move was a desire to be closer to our church family. And the desire to be closer to our church family is the result of growth that has been stirring in us for the last couple of years. The conference probably overflowed my desire to get closer to the people and places that have become a huge part of our life.
Oh my Anxious Annie Nervous Nellie self.
Last year, I realized I was tightly resisting any and all opportunities to address my struggle with anxiety. And by not seeking help with this, I was keeping my husband and daughter from having the very best version of me.
The funny thing about anxiety is that it isn’t sensible. I experience anxiety over things that should be insignificant. For the longest time, I listened to a voice that told me that I actually didn’t have a struggle with anxiety, but that I was just very self-absorbed. I started to believe that I MUST be hung up on myself to let worry steal so much of my focus.
I could tell lots of stories about how anxiety impacts my daily life… and my relationships… but the important part here is that I finally decided to get some help. And my life is all around better because of it.
Becoming a Hearts at Home volunteer.
And finally, after my conference experience, I became so passionate about the work of Hearts at Home that I told my husband that I really wanted to get more involved with their work. But, because we lived an hour away from Bloomington-Normal, I couldn’t justify adding another volunteer commitment that would require me to commute.
Within three weeks of moving back to Bloomington-Normal, a volunteer opportunity opened up that I thought might be a good fit for my skill set. I nervously applied for the position and before anxiety could steal me away, I accepted an offer as a volunteer on the Hearts at Home Creative Services Team. And I absolutely love serving in this way.
If you read any part of this and thought you might be interested in attending the Hearts at Home National Conference (March 14 and 15)… there are still a couple of more days that you can receive the Best Value Registration price. Late registration will continue for a while longer, but either way… I would love to see you there!
I have this numerous times… attending last year’s conference was hands down the best money I ever spent on myself. If you are a mom and have never been to a conference, I truly believe it will be a life changer for you.
If you would like to find out more about Hearts at Home… please ask me about it! You can also find full conference details here!