Staying Close to God as a Parent
One of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced was trying to maintain a relationship with God once I had a baby. I had a bad pregnancy and was sick for the whole 9 months, so I wasn’t very good at keeping up my Bible study then – I was either asleep, at work or being sick.
I thought it would be easier with a baby, because they’re always asleep (!?). Anyway, that didn’t happen. I remember asking my mum for advice, and she said to make sure I got up an hour or half an hour before Isaac to get jobs done and read my Bible.
To be perfectly honest, I thought she was crazy! Who in the their right mind, with their first baby, gets up BEFORE the baby??? Didn’t she remember that every second of sleep is precious? She had 4 children, so I think she’d probably forgotten what it’s like with the first one.
Anyway, I totally didn’t do that, but tried to read my Bible when I was breastfeeding or instead of watching TV. I also started to pray just randomly when I was doing housework, and talking to God all through the day. That helped, but it was still sporadic if I’m honest, and this definitely got harder the more mobile my baby became, and again, when 1 baby turned to 2 babies.
I’d grown up with the notion that spending time with God had to be done in the morning, in the quiet, for a set amount of time. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in front of the fire reading my Topz Bible reading notes, with my uniform spread out warming by the fire, and mum sitting next to me reading her Bible. (https://www.cwr.org.uk/store/t-topz.aspx)
I felt guilty for so long that I didn’t feel able to do this, and therefore my relationship with God was somehow suffering as a result.
The thing is, my relationship with God is just that – a relationship. And you will notice that once you have children, all your relationships will change in some way or another.
Some friends will disappear out of your life, new friends will emerge, and the ones that stay constant will evolve as your life changes to accommodate a new life. Throughout all the changes you experience in parenthood, your relationship with God will evolve too. There are no rules to say that we have to have a set time that we spend with God every day, or what it has to look like. We assume we have to be quiet, and on our own, and it has to be for at least 30 minutes.
The important thing for me is to keep in mind that it’s a relationship, therefore the key is to keep talking. I talk to Father God every day, about everything, and I keep the conversation going.
When my children were little, we had a group at Church called Tiny Church. There were a few of us who met up once a week and had a toddler-friendly ‘service’ in church, which consisted of sitting in a circle, playing some children’s worship on a CD, bashing various noisy instruments, then having a Bible story and finishing off with a craft activity relating to the story. Then we all had a drink and snack, and the Mums got to chat and support each other. To be honest that was more valuable than the usual Sunday service to me, because I wasn’t stuck in creche entertaining children – we were all growing and learning together. Tiny Church has now been replaced by BIBS (Baby interrupted Bible Study), which works for the Mums who are around in this season.
Things are a bit different now that my children are older. I do try to read the Bible in the morning before they get up. I still talk to God about everything all day long. But I also try to have regular ‘devotional’ times with the children. We’ve tried lots of different ways of doing this. I bought a book called ‘I can remember the Bible’, which has a memory verse each week and a bit of teaching about it. We did that for a while. Then I bought ‘The Family Reading Bible’, which has teaching bits in the margins of each page with questions to talk about.
Then I bought them a subscription to Topz (https://www.cwr.org.uk/store/t-topz.aspx) for the youngest, and YP Every Day with Jesus (https://www.cwr.org.uk/store/t-yps.aspx) for the eldest, and they kept that up for about 8 months before letting the habit slip. It’s easy to feel like we’ve failed when we realize that good habits like this have somehow slipped, but rather than try to force it back again, maybe it’s time to take a fresh look and discuss together what will work in the season you are currently in.
In this season we all sit together in my bed, read YP Every Day with Jesus and pray. Just before you start feeling inadequate….. it might seem like we have it all together and it’s a lovely thing to do…… the reality is that most nights one or other of the boys start being silly and provoke each other, and start giggling, and interrupt… It’s really frustrating! But I press on hoping that some of it is going in. And to be fair, they do ask me every night to say prayers and to read, so I suppose that’s something!
No doubt in a couple of months, it will change again and we’ll think of something else to do. It’s okay for things to change and evolve, to keep things fresh and interesting.
The one thing we’ve consistently done is say prayers together before bed. That is the only non-negotiable part of the bedtime routine (along with teeth brushing!). Because we’ve done it since they were babies, they are both confident to pray out loud and still say prayers even when their friends are there.
The most helpful resource I have found to help me grow in my relationship with God, is You Version app on my phone. https://www.youversion.com/
There are endless different studies you can do, that vary from a few days long, to a year or more. I have completed lots of different devotions so far and have just started reading the ‘Bible in a year’ again but in a different version. You can change the version to anything you like to get a fresh slant on verses you may have been reading for years. You can set reminders and it has a verse of the day. You can highlight verses and even create beautiful images of verses to share or keep for private use. Plus, because it’s on my phone, I can read the Bible whenever and wherever I like.
One of the things I like about this is that you can add your friends and you can opt in to let your friends see what you are studying. This is optional for each study you do (some I keep private and some I share). I love the level of accountability it brings to know that my mum can see if I’m regularly reading the Word! Some people would hate this, and that is fine, you can keep your reading private.
I love to have UCB radio on during the day, which is punctuated with Bible verses and prayer, and I love the words of the songs as they are so up-lifting. It reminds me to ‘pray the news’ and not just feel helpless or despondent with I hear about the terrible atrocities and tragedies around the world.
If I’m not listening to UCB, I like to put on podcasts from various churches and ministries from around the world. I know that I can’t grow from one Sunday sermon a week, I need regular, quality, spiritual ‘food’ to keep me encouraged and going strong with God. If you need any suggestions of good podcasts, drop me an email and I’ll let you know some of my favourites.
There is a level of discipline needed to maintain, or better still, deepen our friendship with God. It is so easy to just mindlessly scroll through social media sites, wasting hours of time, but there are loads of great online Bible studies we can do if we have time to sit and scroll.
One of my favourite sites is www.timewarpwife.com. You can find loads of resources for Bible studies and prayer journals. Darlene Schacht has created an abundance of beautiful resources that appeal to my creative, artistic personality. The Prayer Journal, which is available from Amazon has space for daily gratitude, what Bible passage you are reading, a bit of doodling and colouring as well as space to write your prayers. I have a couple of different ones that I used in conjunction with the Bible study guides that you can download for free and print out. I found them really helpful to breathe some fresh air back into my devotional life.
Joanna’s website www.mumskidsjesus.com has some very helpful articles that will help you in your journey, like, http://mumskidsjesus.com/how-to-stay-close-to-god-as-a-mum/ and http://mumskidsjesus.com/the-cultivate-love-challenge/
I musn’t forget to mention 2 of my favourite things! My Inspire Bible (which is the most beautiful Bible I have ever owned!), has a colour illustrated edge printed onto the pages; gorgeous illustrations and artwork in the pages for colouring in, and space in the edges to create my own designs and artwork or to journal. It really is a creative-persons dream! Plus I got it half-price, so that’s an added bonus. There is a relatively new craze around at the moment for Bible Journalling, which is basically covering your Bible in artwork. I love the idea but haven’t got round to it yet if I’m honest. There’s a whole network of people who do it and share their designs: http://timewarpwife.com/category/bible-journaling/
We go through many seasons in our lives, and by the very nature of life, things change. It is good to have the same flexibility with our relationship with God. There’s no point feeling guilty or embarrassed that we have let a habit of spending time with God slip. The important thing, is to start again with something that works for you in the season you are in. You will get the most out of your devotional time when you do something that reflects your character and your learning style. God will speak to you in a way that makes sense for you. If you are an extrovert, having to spend half an hour in silent contemplation is probably not going to excite you, and therefore, you’ll never keep it up. You need to find something that works for you, that you will enjoy and you’ll therefore look forward to doing. Here’s an idea – ask God for inspiration! He may very well surprise you with putting an idea in your heart that very much appeals to you. Enjoy your time with Father-God. x