Yesterday I opened the fridge, and my toddler’s sunglasses were inside. I am pretty sure that was where my son just decided they were to be kept. But to be fair, it very well could have been me that put them there. I have been running on between 2-6 hours of broken sleep per night for the last four months. My son is two years old, and my daughter is four months. Let’s just say my mind is hazy. The other day I put milk away in the cupboard.
I have been running on between 2-6 hours of broken sleep per night. Let’s just say my mind is hazy
My days seem long, stressful, wonderful, and absolutely crazy. Sometimes, I am able to reply to text messages, sometimes I totally forget. Sometimes, I manage to push through my toddler’s tantrums without yelling. Sometimes, I lose my cool. Sometimes, I am able to breastfeed my baby while I play cars with my toddler on the floor. Sometimes, my baby cries, waiting for me to wipe poo off my toddler’s bottom.
At this stage of life being faithful means seeking to love my kids with all that I have; crying out to God in prayer for patience and self-control; seeking to show compassion instead of anger; pushing on in the day when all I want to do is go to sleep; loving when I feel disrespected. And it means thanking God for those spectacular moments that fill your heart with absolute joy.
Beyond that, my capacity for much else is small. I can’t remember last time my husband and I had a date—let alone when I had the time to do my hair and make-up on the same day (the gym is totally off the cards). If I have enough energy to read the Bible in a day that is excellent. If I make it to Bible Study without one of my kids being sick or without being delayed by a baby vomit, emergency feed, or poo explosion, I am winning.
If I have enough energy to read the Bible in a day that is excellent. If I make it to Bible Study, I am winning.
Yesterday, after a delayed morning routine following my toddler’s tantrum (I wouldn’t let him wear his pyjamas to day-care), and then an earlier-than-expected feed for my baby followed by a last minute poo-explosion, I managed to get to Bible Study an hour late. But I was inwardly cheering because I made it.
That particular day, one of the group was interviewing a godly Christian woman about how she manages to keep mission on the forefront. We were encouraged to discuss what we could practically do to help connect those around us to Jesus. Ideas included: running some kind of evangelistic course in your home; inviting non-believers over for dinner with believers; deepening existing friendships, and praying that God would open the door for you share Jesus in the context of that friendship.
When I came home, I felt defeated. Not because they weren’t all wonderful things to do, but because I thought, ‘I can’t do it all! To honour Jesus I need to love my kids well, I need to keep investing in my relationship with my husband, I need to read my Bible, pray, maintain my friendships, turn up to Bible Study, get some more sleep … How am I going to make more time for mission?’
After I let my feeling of exhaustion and inadequacy subside, God bought to mind a way forward; a way to do mission in this season. Because, the truth is, I always need to be prepared to share the hope to which I have been called. And if God has called me to this season, and to this hope, then he will provide a way.
1. Remember Grace
It was the grace of God that led me to Jesus. It was grace that gave me life in him. It will be grace that gives me everything that I need to live for him this day. The reality is, I will not be enough or do enough today. But by God’s grace, my inadequacies do not threaten his love for me. Furthermore, whilst I may not do enough—and I certainly won’t do everything—he empowers me each day by his Spirit to do something … and something worthwhile. So I must pray for grace: grace that God will help me to do whatever of the many things that would be good to do (that I am able to do) and do it in his strength. Grace to remember that, just as I am saved by grace, so I continue to be secure in his grace—whatever my day brings, whatever my wins, and whatever my failing.
2. Be Faithful
God hasn’t called me to do everything, but he has called me to be faithful. For each of us, the season of life that we are in shapes the nature of that faithfulness. As my husband reminded me this evening, much of me being faithful with the mission of Jesus in this season involves sharing the gospel with our son every day. And he is right. I may not have time to host dinners for many of my unbelieving friends. I may not have the emotional or physical energy to organise additional social times to invest in new friendships. But each day I have the opportunity to read the Bible with my son. Each day I have the time to pray with my children, and for those who don’t yet know Jesus.
I may not have the emotional or physical energy to organise additional social times to invest in new friendships. But each day I have the opportunity to read the Bible with my son … to pray with my children, and for those who don’t yet know Jesus.
At the moment my two year old is obsessed with ascension of Jesus. Every time he sees a cloud he says, ‘Jesus up heaven!’ He knows this because we read about it in his kids Bible before bed. As I read it, I make a ‘whoooooosh’ sound and point my finger up into the sky. Now he does that everywhere he goes. A two-year-old on mission.
But being faithful also means just taking small opportunities to witness to Jesus when they come. I failed at this the other day. I went into a shop with my baby. The man asked, ‘How has your day been today?’
I said ‘Good. Just hanging out with this gorgeous girl.’ That is true. I could have said, ‘Great—I went to a Bible Study this morning’. I didn’t say that. Disheartened by my own lack of faith and courage in that moment, I prayed for courage and faithfulness. I went from that shop to my son’s day-care. As I walked in the supervisor asked: ‘How was your day?’ I said: ‘Great! I went to a Bible Study group this morning.’ ‘Oh that’s lovely’, she replied. Small wins.
3. Be Friendly
The older I get, the more I realise that good old-fashioned friendliness is rare. It is a rare thing to come across someone who prioritises cheerful, friendly interactions rather than asserting their own needs. And when it happens, it makes an impact.
The other day a woman came up to me on the train while I was feeding my baby and simultaneously reading to my toddler. She said, ‘I just wanted to say you are doing a wonderful job!’ And I burst into tears. The poor woman had to get off the train and I didn’t have time to explain that they were tears of thanks (by a sleep deprived woman!) The simple power of her acknowledgment of my efforts to love my children were huge. I have come to realise that friendliness in the most simplest of moments and the everyday interactions of life are an incredibly powerful way to witness the love of Jesus.
The older I get, the more I realise that good old-fashioned friendliness is rare. Friendliness in the most simplest of moments and the everyday interactions of life are an incredibly powerful way to witness the love of Jesus.
I was reminded of this the other day. I got a phone call the other night from an unknown number. It was my obstetrician. She had been on long-service leave for my six-week post-partum check-up and had only just got back. So she called to see how I—and my daughter Chloe—were doing. During my pregnancy, every time I went for an appointment, we had a friendly chat. She knew I was a Christian minister and so she saved up her religious questions for my appointments. We had incredible conversations about same-sex marriage, George Pell and the church; about being a woman in ministry and, of course, Jesus. I loved our chats, and so did she it seems.
At the end of our conversation she said: ‘Steph, I really enjoyed our chats. I really mean that. If you’re ever in the area please come and say hi.’ I was friendly in my appointments, and I tried also to be faithful. Perhaps it made in impact. I will go and say hi. And perhaps I can be friendly again. Perhaps I can offer her my number in case she ever wants to catch up and keep chatting. And perhaps that might just lead to an opportunity to keep sharing Jesus.
The reality is, mission for the sleep deprived mumma may not be grand. It may or may not involve courses, or strategic dinner parties. But I am grateful that we have a God who takes what is ordinary and makes it grand. I am grateful for a Saviour who says: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).