Thankfully I woke up on the last morning of MomCon pain free. It was Saturday, so Chris decided to explore some of the city while I headed off to my last few sessions. The morning session featured Jen Hatmaker, a writer and blogger who truly lives out honest transparency (if you’ve never read her blog, I highly recommend you start with this one – worst end of school mom ever. It’s absolutely hilarious!!).
Jen’s message was a powerful one. I don’t know that I agree with everything she said, but she made a very strong “anti-sheltering” case. She tempered her message with statements like “I’m cut from a weird parenting cloth,” and “When you put your car seat in my car for your eleven year old, that stresses me out. Stop it.” She talked about her own parenting journey, from a worried, over-protective mommy guilt sufferer to a place of release and trust in Jesus. “Our goal should not be a safe and happy life for our children,” she said, reminding us that “Jesus’ disciples learned through risk, struggle, and loss.” She maintains that “Our job is not to shield our kids, but to parent through the hard.” I will admit her some of her words made me uncomfortable. My first instinct as a mom is to protect my child from evil and harm. But I know that there is a fine line between protecting and rescuing (preventing our kids from suffering and learning from natural consequences). Jen fully admitted that the only way we can take this stance as parents is by fully trusting and obeying Jesus Christ ourselves. I must say that Jen certainly practices what she preaches. Her family adopted a seven and five year old brother and sister from Ethiopia a couple of years ago, and she is very blunt when she talks about how hard it’s been. Her words prickled and prodded, but they have definitely stuck with me!
The rest of the day consisted of two more workshops and an afternoon session. I chose “MOPS Group Essentials” first, which was a good overview of the true purpose of MOPS and how to lead a MOPS group more effectively. I’m excited about putting some of their suggestions into practice! The second workshop was led by Caryn Rivadeneira, author of Known and Loved, which is the MOPS devotional curriculum for this year. She talked about how she found herself in the Psalms, and gave four specific ways the Psalms reflect who we are as women and moms. I think the one that struck me the deepest, at least in this season of life, was #3, “I am made to make life count.” She encouraged us not to “float” through life, but instead to find ways to use our passions and gifts even in the difficult season of mothering young children. The way we do this is to intentionally be more aware of God in our lives. This message is one I’ve heard a myriad of ways from several different sources over the last few months, so I figure I’d better pay attention to it!
For the very last session I ventured closer to the stage then I ever had before. In the previous sessions I’d been intimidated by rows of empty chairs that were being guarded by one or two members of large groups, sure I couldn’t find a spot. But I finally decided to be brave. I was turned away by a couple of chair-savers, but finally found an empty seat next to three ladies from Idaho. As we chatted and shared what we’d gotten from the conference it was evident that we had all been touched by the message of connection and authenticity. I shared a bit about my struggles attending alone, and they shared some of the challenges their group faced. We were women from very different places, but with so much more in common than not.
This last session featured Kathi Lipp, MOPS International veteran, speaker and author of several books. She did a great job of wrapping up the “Beautiful Mess” message that the whole conference was built around by sharing her own story of how brokenness became evident in her own family. She made the assertion that “A pretty, perfect life is useless to God.” !! What a statement! It flies in the face of the world’s philosophy, and offers such relief and joy when you really think about it. All the dirty, messed-up parts in my life are what God wants to use! She went on to remind us that “The thing that almost killed you can save someone else’s life.” Wow. If only I would let that perspective change my point of view for good, I might finally allow God to heal my perfectionist tendencies so that He can really use my life for His glory! There is such hope and joy in that simple statement.
By the end of this last day I was utterly spent. I’d been filled and challenged and prodded and encouraged until I couldn’t take any more! I bid my new friends from Idaho an affectionate farewell and gratefully found my way to the car where Chris was waiting. Back at the hotel I fell asleep until my hubby gently woke me for our dinner reservation. It was October 19th, so he had made special plans. Back in the early days of our marriage we’d been avid Food Network fans, and he’d found a restaurant in Kansas City that was run by one of the chefs we’d seen on several of our shows, Celina Tio. The restaurant was surprisingly unpretentious, and food was of course delectable (sadly Chef Tio had already left for the evening, but her recipes were superb!)
It was a lovely end to a very full three days.
Now I’m back to the daily realities of parenting and dirty diapers and a busy schedule, but I am working on remembering the lessons I learned at MomCon. Micah 6:8 sums them up nicely – “…Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.”