The Voyage Part II

Walking inside the conference room at the Mantra, there was a soft gold glow in the atmosphere. It was immediately soothing. Each table had a gorgeous shabby chic red-and-white lighthouse in the middle. In the top of each lighthouse was a tea-light candle. It never ceases to amaze me how much serenity candlelight emits, no matter how few of them there are and no matter how big the room is! Around each lighthouse was an array of shells and there were two sweet sailing ships made from a stub of stick, wire and newspaper. I was also rather pleased to discover that there were Mentos in dishes, too - perfect for the post-lunch-session-pick-me-ups.



The whole effect made me feel like I was drawing into a safe harbour with a lifeline. The rush of the previous 12 hours slipped away and a great sense of safety and calm flooded my soul - I was with people just like me and I knew that I would receive nothing but good advice and encouragement to re-stock the cargo on my pathetic little vessel!

There were two stalls at the conference, one was the lovely Michelle Morrow from Homeschooling Downunder and the other were women from Southern Cross Educational Enterprises. One was sure to get LOTS of ideas from these areas! Seeing Michelle's stall made me feel like not so much of a newbie-girl, I've been receiving her Blinky Bill Bulletin for months now and have made use of her Homeschooling 101 and homeschool planning resources.

Helen and I chose a seat at a table near the front because a) we had no babies and prams to wrestle and b) sitting close to the front helps with concentration! It was a bit of a novelty, actually - how sad is that! A lady sat beside me and we introduced ourselves. After a brief introduction, she said she wanted to let us know, just so that we knew - she was having a miscarriage. As in, experiencing loss right then and there.

Having suffered a miscarriage in late 2013 myself, it was easy to empathise with this dear lady, who had one child in kindergarten and was obviously a doting mother desiring more babies. My heart broke. I was amazed that immediately this woman was sharing her heart and pain with us so we didn't worry about her when her friend turned up and she had to tell her friend the sad news. What a wonderful connection women share with each other!

But if you think about it, how long does it take for women in a 'safe harbour' - at Bible study, meeting for coffee, at an activity day or sporting event - to start sharing about our birthing experiences, complete with torn perineums, the condition of our nipples during breastfeeding and how big/long/cute/hairy/quiet/loud the little creatures that came out of our vaginas or via an incision in our lower abdomens were? Not long! A safe harbour is a safe harbour and we women know how to unload details of our ship, captain and crewmates without much encouragement at all!

The women at our table immediately got down to business: "Where are you from?", "How old are your children?", "How long have you been on this wild journey of homeschooling?", etc. Cargo flew off the vessels and nets were loosened and unknotted.

Corinna and Julie (daughter and mother respectively) introduced the theme of MumHeart: sailing (if you haven't figured out what the theme is by now, I'm a bit worried!). Julie went from farming to living on a yacht, ministering to the people of the Pacific Islands..........with three young children in tow - one of whom was Corinna. An amazing story.

"Raising Children Who Give Hope to the Next Generation" was the topic of Jacinta's talk. It's a subject close to my heart - I see my children as future burden lifters, not as a burden on society. It saddens me that people see me with my brood and immediately claim that I'm wasting my brain or having children so I can live on government benefits. It's simply not true - not to mention disheartening. Jacinta shared how her family and her live simply so that they can share as much with others as they can. I found her talk to be encouraging, but a bit bored with the popular focus on refugees. Now, don't get me wrong: supporting refugees is a very important ministry. But it's not the only one and it's also quite trendy to be focussed on refugees. If you mention unborn babies? Whoa - sorry, that's a private issue between a woman and her doctor. It's not fashionable to advocate for babies and children. I admire Jacinta and her family for what they do - it's just that I'm not as focussed on the same ministry as they are. And that's OK.

Morning and afternoon teas at the Mantra were AH-MAZ-ING. For a start, I didn't have to prepare it! Secondly, they were healthy with a sweet option if you wanted. Multiple teas to choose from......mmmm, heaven!

The sessions after morning tea were encouraging. The first speaker after morning tea was Kyra. She had thrown in her notes on a sermon she preached to the women at her church previously as a last-minute thing. Lo and behold, she was needed! I can't remember what her talk was on, to be honest. But I do know that Kyra radiates joy, purpose and energy wherever she goes, which is so inspiring considering she has nine children!

We had electives on Saturday which were wonderful - specific to the needs of particular families. I chose to attend the workshop on managing different age groups and a workshop about self-care. Betty and Kyra, with eight and nine children respectively, were a great source of information!

The best thing I learned from Betty is that as women, wives and mothers we are not one-dimensional, we're like a gem - lots of different facets. We're nuanced, unique and different and we need to feed our souls in different ways to keep ourselves sparkling.

After dinner on Saturday night, we had a blast colouring in and enjoying the giveaways and chatting. I really enjoyed that the organisers of MumHeart allowed for such a relaxed session. That and the fact that Helen and I disappeared to get ice cream half way through. Yes, it was rainy and a bit chilly but HELLO - an ice cream enjoyed without interruptions or sharing? It would have been remiss of us to not purchase ice cream!

Sunday morning brought another delightful, filling breakfast and great company. We then heard from Renate, a home schooling mother-of-five with stage-4 breast cancer. I'm not an emotional person, but to hear from Renate about her journey through diagnosis of cancer initially seven years ago to being in remission and then re-diagnosed and now faced with the reality of no cure for her was simply heartbreaking. Renate shared how she initially asked her family, friends and church family to pray for her healing, but now she simply asks them to pray that God's will be done. She's decided that God's ways are best, even when it seems so wrong and hard and sad.

She told us of one day when she was sitting on her bedroom floor crying. Her daughter (around late primary school age) found her and asked her why she was crying. Renate said, "Oh, I'm just sad the cancer isn't going away." Her daughter replied, "Mum, this is God's will for your life!" - Renate and her family are a testimony to trusting God even when it's breaking your heart. The power of this testimony had almost all of us crying. My heart broke when she encouraged us to let go of hurts and anger and bitterness - it only spoils the precious days you have to live on earth. I often have thought about Renate since conference and tried to embrace each day as a gift and leave my baggage behind. Her testimony was so powerful. I wish that she wasn't able to share it and her precious family wouldn't be losing their precious wife and mother. But it's God's will, Renate says.

She's right.

Helen and I both had a little cry into our cuppas at morning tea - being mum to six children with another one on the way (although Helen's baby has arrived in the past week!), home schooling them, managing a household and our marriages is so often overwhelming - usually heartbreakingly so. Renate's testimony really challenged us about living for Jesus and what He wants to do - even if other people think it's wrong and even if we're struggling.

The last two speakers, Anna and Amelia, were gentle and encouraging after such an emotional session with Renate. Anna lives in far north-west NSW on a property and Amelia is a home schooling mother towards the end of her home schooling journey with her eight children. Both offered practical and spiritually practical ideas for coping on this crazy voyage on the seas of home schooling. Amelia particularly, provided a soothing balm for my soul.

All of a sudden, the weekend was over. We packed up and zipped home in my in-laws little car to our lovely chaotic homes, greeted with lots of squealy hugs and shouting (and that's just our husbands!). While at conference, I had time to repair the spots in my worn vessel that were leaking. I took on board amazing useful cargo to help me on the next leg of my journey into semester two of DE (Distance Education).

The organisers even provided directions to the next safe port - MumHeart Conference Newcastle in 2017! It will make the next twelve-month leg of my journey easier knowing that I'll be able to rest and restore for another weekend in June 2017.

I can't recommend the MumHeart Conference enough. If you're a home schooling mum or thinking about home schooling your children, you need to attend MumHeart - it's that simple.

Until next time my friends, bon voyage!


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