May 2008 – “I am so grateful for all the years you have invested in my life. Thank you … for taking care of me when I was sick … for crying with me when I needed to cry … for loving me even when it was incredibly hard … for being patient with me when you probably wanted to yell at me … for spending time with me when I needed it most … for listening to me when I felt like no one could hear me … and for not giving up when times were hard.”
These words were printed on a picture Jill Savage, mother of five, received from one of her daughters following an incredibly hard season of the teenager’s life. The picture was of her daughter with her arms spread wide and is what Savage considers one of the best Mother’s Day gifts she’s ever received.
Why? Because it sums up the essence of motherhood.
“It made all the challenges of mothering in that season worth it,” says Savage, founder and executive director of Hearts at Home.
“Hearts at Home is a Christ-centered organization designed to encourage, educate, and equip women in the profession of motherhood,” she explains. “We offer encouragement through our conference events, Web site (www.hearts-at-home.org), published resources, bi-monthly magazine, and our newly launched radio program.”
Hearts at Home also hosts an annual national conference with 5,000 moms from over 30 different states in attendance.
The organization acts as a cheerleader for mothers, particularly women who consider motherhood their profession. Hearts at Home helps mothers love their lives, especially in a society where motherhood is looked down upon in terms of being a valid profession.
“I think we associate money with value,” Savage says. “When a mother contributes to the family in a non-monetary way, we [society] have wrongly assumed that the contribution isn’t as valuable as a monetary contribution.”
Such an assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth considering the eternal impact a mother can have on her children.
“A good mother recognizes the value of what she brings to the family. She keeps the perspective of this fleeting season at the forefront of her mind,” Savage says. “And she understands that a mother’s number one job is what I like to call the ‘ministry of availability.’ She’s available to nurture and guide her children through the twists and turns of life.”
And the way she does this depends upon her view of motherhood. For example, Savage explains how most mothers answer the “what do you do” question with the “I’m just a mom” statement.
“That answer alone speaks volumes about the lack of value she feels about what she does every day,” Savage adds.
Yet, when a woman views motherhood from a professional perspective, she carries herself differently and values her responsibilities differently.
“A professional sets goals, seeks out continuing education and sees her contribution to society in a positive way,” she says.
Savage believes it should be the same with motherhood. After all, there are more mothers with college degrees now than those of preceding generations. However, Savage wants the educated woman to realize that staying at home for a season doesn’t mean she is throwing away her education.
Instead, to quote the founders of a former Mothers at Home group, Savage believes a mother is “‘simply applying her good mind and exceptional skills to the nurturing of her family,’ and that is valuable.”
Honing hearts for home
While Hearts at Home makes no judgment call on mothers who work outside the home, the organization does encourage women to keep their hearts at home.
“There are so many good things that a mom can do – not just in the workplace but also in the volunteer arenas,” Savage explains. “Before we know it, our hearts are tugged in so many different directions.”
Therefore it is important for women to make their family top priority since parents only have a one-shot chance to raise their children.
“Most of us don’t realize just how fast our kids grow up,” she admits. “In the blink of an eye your kid moves from a Happy Meal to a Value Meal #9. When you keep your heart at home, you make the most of this unique season of motherhood.”
But Savage is quick to say that motherhood can’t be all about the children. Being a successful mother involves, first and foremost, finding one’s value in Christ and maintaining a healthy marriage in which a woman must be a mom second to being a wife.
“If a mom is trying to find her value in how her children look or behave, she’ll always come up short. Children change all the time, and that’s like building your life on sinking sand,” Savage says. “However, if a mom understands that her value is determined by the God who created her and loves her more that she can imagine, she has a firm foundation.”
Savage knows from first-hand experience that finding her value in Christ rather than her children is a lot easier said than done. She and her husband Mark have been married for 25 years with only 15 of those years being happy ones.
“That’s because we made a mistake in the early years that many couples make. We wrapped our lives around our children … and just about ruined our marriage,” she admits.
Through counseling and healing, the couple learned that a strong marriage was the best gift they could give their children.
“This gives our kids the stability they long for and assures us that our marriage has more in common than our children who will someday grow up and leave home,” Savage adds. “We’ve come to learn that taking intentional time to nurture and grow our marriage away from the children is the most loving act of parenting we can actually do.”
In fact, this lesson has become a passion for Savage and her husband who now encourage other couples through their “ABCs of a Healthy Marriage” seminars they present in various churches and communities.
Both marriage and motherhood involve intentionality. There is not an overnight formula for having a successful marriage or being a successful mom. Both are a process.
“I’ve made many mistakes over the years,” Savage admits, “but grace and forgiveness allow me to learn from those mistakes and move forward. I don’t think we ever arrive at being a ‘Godly mother.’ It’s a continuum of learning about ourselves, our children and our God.”
That’s why Savage and Hearts at Home provide a host of resources for cultivating such growth. Savage has written several books, one of those being My Heart’s at Home: Becoming the Intentional Mom Your Family Needs. In this book she discusses the various roles a home is to play in the life of a family. She writes that a home should be a safe house, rest area, trauma unit, church, pep rally and playground.
“My Heart’s at Home provides a visionary blueprint to moms for understanding the value of home for every member of the family,” she explains. “It’s also incredibly practical on how to make home all that it can be! [Because] we can’t go back and raise our kids again. We’re presented the opportunity just once. Use this season to the fullest and keep your heart at home.”
Don’t worry … Savage, a mom who ministers to moms, is the first to heed her own advice.
“Fifteen years ago when Hearts at Home had our first mothering conference, we were expecting about 500 moms to attend,” she recalls. “When 1,100 mothers from 10 states showed up we realized that what we meant for a one-time event, God meant for the birth of a ministry.”
Early on, Savage asked the Lord to send her co-laborers to keep the workload light if this endeavor was going to be larger than her vision. He did just that.
“We have over 150 moms and about a dozen dads who serve Hearts at Home ministry year-round. They each take one little piece of the puzzle and do their job well,” Savage says. “I may be the most visible voice of the ministry, but home is still my priority” – from one season of life to the next.
HEALING A HURTING HOME
My husband and I both carried a lot of baggage into our marriage. Mark had been exposed to pornography at a young age. … When Mark became a Christian, he left the world of pornography
But seven years into our marriage we found ourselves sitting in a marriage counselor’s office trying to find out how our relationship was falling apart. That’s when we realized that even though Mark hadn’t seen pornography in over seven years, the lies of pornography were still in his mind.
The next year was spent in a “renewing of the mind” process, replacing the enemy’s lies about sex with God’s truth about the sex. … In time, God’s truth became the default in his mind rather than the lies of pornography.
— JILL SAVAGE