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Jill Savage faced a dilemma. Formerly a full-time music teacher, she was plunged, overnight, into the unknowns of a brand new occupation, one for which she had no training: motherhood. After four years, she felt confident and comfortable in her role as an educator of the arts, but where was the mommy university? Where were the conferences on motherhood? In 1994, Jill found no equipping.
“I couldn’t find anything,” she recalls. “So I took my idea to the growing moms group I was leading in Bloomington, Illinois, and asked them what they thought about organizing a one-time conference for moms. They liked the idea, and there was a real sense of excitement about our undertaking.”
With an ambitious goal to rally 400 women to attend the first event, the women were astonished when 1100 registered. “We thought: wow, the need is much bigger than we thought. And we realized that God had a bigger vision for this thing than just a one-time event for local moms.”
The women stepped out in faith and rented a large part of the Illinois State University campus for the second year. Their faith was rewarded and 2800 moms came together. Then 3400, then 4500, then 5400 and the sixth year there were 6300 women in attendance. This was the birth of the Hearts at Home conference series. Now in its 22nd year, the conference is coming to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the first time in November.
“Hearts at Home is all about training, equipping, encouraging moms because mothering doesn’t come with a manual. We provide that manual,” explains founder Jill Savage. “We want to meet moms where they’re at. We want to join the conversations where they are. We know that conferences continue to be a part of that, but we know that moms learn in lots of ways and they have needs more than once a year at a conference setting. We are building up our website with content so women can go and find the answers to their questions and continuing to use tools that today’s moms are using.”
Hearts at Home has achieved tremendous success because it works with women in an honest way. In her recent book No More Perfect Moms, Jill Savage voices a call for authenticity. “Moms are more connected than they have been in the past. In one sense that is good and we can learn from each other, but it can also result in pressure to compare ourselves to others. I see moms feeling guilty or inept because they are comparing their private lives to the outsides of others and that leaves them questioning their own skills,” Jill explains.
In an effort to encourage transparency and authenticity, she shared her reality with those who follow her on Facebook. She had been on several consecutive trips, never fully unpacking form any of them. When it finally became too much, she snapped a photo of her bedroom inviting other women to share their ‘real lives’ as well.
“And that was just a wonderful, honest, authentic sharing experience! Women took pictures of their kitchen counters, bathrooms, kids’ rooms and it was just so honest,” she laughs.
This type of real-life encouragement is what Hearts at Home is all about. “We have received emails, letters and comments from women who came to conference ready to throw in the towel. They were at the end of themselves in at least one area of life. But they attended workshops and learned new ways of seeing things, of relating. That gave them the courage to grow in the ways they realized they needed to. They remembered why their work was important.”
In addition to equipping women, Hearts at Home opens with Mom's Night Out, an evening of laughter, music and fun specifically designed to lighten hearts and lift spirits.
Jill shared a bit of her own journey as well. As a mother, she prioritized family and parenting, not writing her first book (of 11) until her children were all in school. She didn’t start working full time until her youngest entered college, and the Hearts at Home offices officially close at 2:30pm so mommas can be there when their children get off the bus.
“There is no woman who is trying to find balance in her life who doesn’t have weeks where she feeds her family too many frozen pizzas. I didn’t always get it all done!”t
To find out more about Hearts at Home, please visit www.heartsathome.org. Use the coupon code HEARTS10 to save $10 on registration on any conference between now and Nov 12!
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Cornel Warren, Managing Editor of Live with Heart & Soul, shares her heart as she reaches Christian women with timeless, beautiful content to encourage and inspire their walks with God, themselves and those around them.