I just got back from a fantastic weekend. Everything I’d hoped it would be...it was. I learned, worshipped, and hung out with one of my favorite people.
Last year I decided I wanted to go to this dot mom conference put on by Lifeway. When I asked what some of the other ladies thought, several of them felt that since we’d seen Beth Moore in the spring, it would be too much to ask the ladies to pay for this conference, as well. I knew that it looked sooooo awesome though (especially for a young mom), and I desperately wanted to go. Lacey expressed an interest in going with me, so we just did it. We left for Chattanooga yesterday morning and made the EASY 2.5 hour drive. Now, let me just tell this. I have never been the “driver” on a real trip. I was driving a pregnant woman – which makes me beyond nervous, AND, it was our first trip together so I was afraid Lacey wasn’t going to say what she really needed (i.e. bathroom, something to drink, snack) when she needed it. We arrived in Chattanooga in plenty of time to get parked at the conference center downtown and eat some lunch before the thing started. Lacey and I decided that we would drive through downtown and find some lunch after we located the convention center. I was so nervous about all the parking and directions that before I realized what I was doing, I had already driven into the convention center parking garage. I was so thankful it was easy to find that I just busted up in there. Well, we all know that when you bust up in a parking garage, it’s not easy to bust out...so...we stayed. That was my first failure for the pregnant woman. I promised lunch – which clearly growing babies need – and then instead I ducked into a garage to park our car. Luckily (sarcasm), there were absolutely no restaurants around the convention center to eat at. It’s the first downtown area I’ve EVER been to that didn’t have just random restaurants all around. Weird. So, we had a lovely brunch in the Marriott hotel restaurant. Weird. The conference began. I will address some spiritual stuff that I learned later. Lauren Chandler was leading worship and it was AWESOME. Good night. We did the Explicit Gospel series at church and loved hearing her husband, Matt, preach. What an incredibly gifted couple!
So, yada yada, the evening ends and we are ready to head to our hotel. Let me tell you what would have been ideal. If we had been staying at the Marriott – which was attached to the convention center – that would have been ideal. Then, my car could have STAYED and we could have just brought some luggage in and up to our room. HOWEVER, that was not the reality. The reality was that I waited too late to book a hotel room and all the Marriott rooms were booked. Someone at the dot mom table at the Beth Moore conference told me there was a really nice Hampton Inn within walking distance and that I should check that out. Perfect. After checking it on Trip Advisor to make sure it was not disgusting (and it wasn’t), I booked a room. The GPS told me that walking distance was half a mile from the convention center. I asked Lacey (who brought her stuff in a backpack) if she thought she could walk to the hotel or if she wanted me to drive us. She was game to walk. Now, at this moment, I knew it was not a good idea. I knew that asking a pregnant woman to strap on her backpack and walk half a mile in the dark in an uncharted territory of a downtown we’d never been to was not fantastic. But, I thought....just half a mile...SURELY we can make it. Well, wouldn’t you know it. Here’s Lacey with her conference bag in one hand (with her purse stuck inside) and her backpack strapped on. Here’s me with my purse, my conference bag (my purse was too big to stuff inside), and my big monogrammed carry around bag (um, why didn’t I choose something with WHEELS???) with my pillow stuffed down in it so it can’t even zip. I have to keep switching arms because the bags keep making a red mark on my arm. I have the phone out with the GPS (walking directions) and we ride the elevator down from N6 and head the right way. Well, let me just tell you, Ms. little Siri, sometimes you are not helpful. When you keep saying “Proceed to the route” that is NOT helpful. When you keep calling out 20 different directions at once because you can’t figure out where I am...that’s unhelpful. We get like 1 block from the hotel, and I just can’t tell if the arrow’s moving the right way toward the Hampton Inn or the wrong way...away from it. Then, some guys get out of a car and start walking toward us. At this point I am MAD that I did not bring my gun with me just in case, but hello, I would have had to say, “Oh, excuse me boys, before ALL three of you rob us, could you let me put my things down so I can get out a gun and be ready to defend us?”. Nope. They go ahead and pass us and we are safe. Sigh of relief. And then, my bag weighs like 100 lbs, and poor Lacey is out of breath (as is my ownself), and I can’t tell which way the arrow is moving...and I am starting to panic. Where in the world is my ex-surveyor husband (um, I just mean ex-surveyor, not ex-husband...he is my current husband) when I need him??? Oh, right, not at a conference for moms. At home keeping our sweet boy. Right. So, I say to Lacey, “Look, I think we should go back to N6 and get in the car and drive to the hotel.” Lacey is awesome and says she’ll do whatever I want (and is thinking in her mind that she will never travel with me again since I am putting her life and her unborn child’s life at risk on the downtown streets of Chattanooga). What’s so funny is that I had been so worried about getting to the hotel all day. I wanted to go when it was light but there just wasn’t time. I wanted to check in before the conference started but it wasn’t check in time yet. So, we booked it with our stuff...red marks on both arms and now arms shaking...back to the car. Now we are safe. I get the A/C on (clearly the most important thing) and lock the doors. We finally get to the hotel – after having to get on the interstate again. Which I find highly interesting since that was where the walking directions were taking us, as well. So, yeah, I guess we would have been booking it with our stuff walking down the interstate in Chattanooga downtown. Perfect. We get to the hotel and it’s a parking garage situation like any downtown hotel. I pull into a parking garage for the hotel and think it’s going to be a “take a ticket” deal. Nope. You have to have something special. Then, I look and there are people pulling in behind me. Of course there are. I am able to finagle the car and get us parked in a handicap space. I NEVER park in a handicap space because I am not handicapped. But, let me confess, that I did park there last night. I was stressed, there were no more spaces, and I needed 10 min to go check us in. I made Lacey stay in the car, which was weird in itself, in case someone tried to tow us.
I get into the Hampton Inn. There’s a family in front of me. They are paying in cash and they have refreshments from the little store. The hotel clerk is calculating their charges on a little calculator – like the first kind of calculator you ever had to take to school. He is taking forever, and then finally, their total is over $600. Fine, whatever. (Lacey’s still in the car). Well, they are paying in cash. The lady gives him 6 $100 bills, and he proceeds to lay them all out on the counter and mark all of them with a marker to make sure they are not counterfeit. I’m losing it....I’m tired, stressed, worried about my friend I’ve left out to dry in the car in a handicap space, and I just need my room key. But, I’m deep breathing and trying to just be calm. Then, the man disappears – the hotel man disappears. He finally arrives back about 100 hours later and keeps going in and out with these people’s bags. They had dropped off their bags before check in and went sight seeing and then needed their bags back. Oh my heavens. None of this is a big deal except that I feel I am responsible for Lacey since I brought her and I am tired and I just want us to get up in our room and be safe and go to sleep. Finally, I get checked in, go out to the car where, thank goodness, Lacey is still there, and we park in the underground dungeon-ish parking, which is fine. Great. Our room was fabulous (except that it was a king bed and I really thought I requested two doubles but when I looked at my receipt...WRONGO...apparently I wanted Lacey and me to sleep together), and when we woke up this morning it was raining. Aside from the trekking down the interstate issues, thank goodness we did not walk because both of us had just fixed our hair the day before – duh.
1. Don’t count on Siri for the GPS walking. She can’t handle downtown areas very well.
2. Get with my ex-surveyor husband and have him help me look at a REAL MAP and map out my route from conference center to hotel before I go on a trip like this.
3. Never, just don’t, ask your friend to walk when it’s dark in a downtown you don’t know anything about.
4. And, if you’re going to have to drive anyway, stay somewhere that has a Starbucks close by.
Now, for the spiritual side of things. This will be a jumbled mess, but I want to write what I learned while it’s fresh.
The first breakout session I went to was on Marriage & Sex. It was just fantastic with a couple that had a story a lot like ours. Not only did they talk about marriage and sex, but they also talked some about having sons and safeguarding your home. In their home, they have a rule that they collect the boys’ electronics (like access to the internet stuff) at night before bedtime. It’s just a routine they have, and I thought it was awesome. They talked about creating a safe place so that your son would want to talk about sexual struggles – when a life leads with grace, not judgment, it makes the home a safe place. And, that it’s our job, as his parents, to help him guard his heart and mind. Goodness. Fantastic.
The evening big session was taught by John Croyle. He was awesome – soooooo from the South. He wasn’t trying to politically correct and mousy about everything he said, and it was just great. Really refreshing. He talked about loving and believing in your children. That we as moms are queens and we need to teach our daughters that they are princesses. He said something like we need to teach our sons what to look for in a woman – in a wife – and that it’s not to have on short shorts with “pink” written on the butt. I thought that was AWESOME. He said God is faithful when you teach your child character. He said you should know who your child’s five best friends are and if you don’t, that’s a problem. He talked about daddy’s serving mommy’s and vice versa so that the children could see what a marriage looked like – because they most likely WILL model the marriage they’ve seen.
Another impactful session to me was by Angela Thomas. She said,
1. I am called to keep Christ at the center of my home.
2. A home where children are growing up where the spirit of God hovers – hovers while they brush their teeth, eat their cereal, etc., and that I should be asking God to fill my home with His presence. I am responsible to build the boundaries that keep evil out of my home. She only allowed games rated E – no teen or mature – in her house. I will have to give an account to the Lord for how I took care of the children He entrusted me with. And, try to be fun – if you are going to have tough boundaries, at least be pretty fun to hang out with.
3. My laughter and joy is a ministry to my children. she talked about being on the phone with a friend and being invested in the conversation and excited about her chat and kept telling her children, be quiet, wait a minute. She said she realized she had it backwards. She should have been excited to be with her children. WE should treat our family like friends and our friends like family – ha. I think this is so true most days. Minister to your children like you would your friend. She said one night when she woke up because her child was crying, she felt so angry, and then she realized, why are you so mad about being a mom? How convicting. She wasn’t mad. just needed an attitude change.
4. There’s no more life impacting picture than my kids watching me be changed by God.
I went to two awesome breakout sessions today, both by David Thomas (I think), a counselor with Daystar, located in Nashville. The first one was Understanding the Emotional Development of our Kids.
He went through numerous instructions and examples that were really insightful – too many for me type out. About needing a safe place to channel anger and emotion – and if they don’t have it, that’s usually the kids who end up having a substance abuse prob or internet porn problem. At the end he gave ideas for furthering emotional development:
1. Games (the UnGame, Chit Chat)
2. Imaginative play/Role play – let our child dress us up
3. Books/Media – Kevin Henkes, Eric Carle, Cynthia Rylant, Max Lucado, movies like Toy Story 3 that show emotions we can discuss with our children
His second breakout was on Wild Things – about having a boy. I had tears in my eyes through nearly the whole thing because I am just so privilege to be a mom. I am so privileged to be raising a son, and I am so thankful to have tools to hopefully help him become a godly man. And, just thinking about the daddy James has - I am so thankful! Landon is a wonderful daddy for James - knowing his own brokenness and faults and willing to learn and LOVES James. Anyway, he broke the stages of development down and then talked about how to handle them. It was fantastic – talked about what James needs at his age – boundaries, open space, consistency – a multisensory approach when giving instructions. And not too many words! I loved when he got to the 9-12 year olds because he talked a lot about preparing for adolescence. He talked about dad and son taking a trip to talk – and having an open dialogue – even reading Preparing for Every Man’s Battle together...and then, as things started to happen – celebrating those events. Celebrating that he was becoming a man – nothing to be ashamed of, but exciting – exciting to see that God was developing him into a man just like it’s supposed to happen. I loved some of the guidelines he gave about supervision and guidance at this age, about asking good questions to a friend’s mom before he’s allowed to go to their house, and about talking openly about certain issues. And that most of the time, doing an activity while talking about serious stuff makes it way less awkward for a boy to talk.
The last speaker was Jen Hattmaker. Are you kidding me? I had heard of her, but I had no idea how gifted she was. She talked about how all we are doing in this society is being afraid. Being so fearful that our children will be hurt or discouraged or rejected or will fail. She said I want to raise kids who will GO FOR IT – not who are afraid of what’s under every rock. The world is not safe. Our kids have to be prepared for hardships and suffering. Are we raising them to be safe or to be disciples – are you kidding me?????????????????????????? So convicting. Parent diligently, not fearfully. I don’t want to be the reason my children choose safety over courage – if my child says he’s called to Ethiopa then I want to be his biggest supporter. I’m behind you and you can do it! Scared moms raise scared kids. Disciples raise disciples. Someone’s gotta do the work to save this planet. We weren’t saved to serve saved people. Live it or you have no hope of leading it. We are called to imitate Christ. Say to our children, “Follow me as I follow Jesus.”
It was beyond fantastic. It was refreshing – and such wonderful music – and such great teaching. Whew! I am tired, but I am so glad we went. Planning already for next year when they’ll be in Nashville. Don’t worry dot mom, I’ll be there – with hopefully more than just one next year!!
Thanks, Lacey, for hanging in with me. I hope you had a good time. I hope you weren’t too terrified of walking in the dead of night in an unfamiliar downtown, not being close to any restaurants at all, having to sleep with me in a king sized bed, and I could go on. Thankful for times when God allows friendships to grow closer. So thankful God brought Lacey into my life as a friend and allowed us to experience dot mom together!