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Many, many years ago, way back in what my children call The Olden Days (2012), I decided to jump on the blog-wagon and self-indulgently write about myself.
Why did I call it ‘Desertmum’? Being totally honest, if I thought the blog would last as long as it has done, I might have spent more time coming up with a better, catchy title. Maybe a pun.
But I’m no good at that, even at the peak of my mental capacities, and 2012 was certainly not my intellectual peak – preoccupied, as my brain was back then, with a baby and a two year old.
So I landed with ‘Desertmum’ and this is why: I’d heard several people refer to the early years of parenthood as being a ‘spiritual desert’.
When you have kids, church services go from being a fairly sedentary time with God (and, occasionally, the odd nap) to a full physical workout, where you chase your offspring as they run laps round the building.
Uninterrupted ‘me’ time becomes about as likely as Bear Grylls taking the lead in The Nutcracker, making any sort of prayer or Bible study near impossible.
Any evening group you were once part of becomes much harder to attend, as the post-7pm slot is now largely taken up by falling asleep as you tell your other half how knackering your day with the child has been. (Or falling asleep as you listen to your other half tell you how knackering their day at work without the child has been.)
In short: all those opportunities which had previously provided spiritual food for your weary soul are now not so easy to find. You’ve hit something of a spiritual desert, dry and parched, with not a lot of sustenance.
It can be tough to keep learning, keep growing, keep drawing closer to God through the haze of nappies, tantrums and vomit – but this blog was always, and still is, my motivation to keep trying to grab those moments when I can think clearly, or where I see a new truth about God revealed through the wonder of being with my kids.
Rather than see our faith as a small seed in a glass jar, merely being protected while we just survive the early years of parenthood, why don’t we set that seed outside, where it can grow and be nurtured – yes, even in the desert of sleep-deprivation and interrupted quiet times?
Do you believe that if you pursue God through the haze of parenthood, He really will show up? I do. Not because I’m anything special, but precisely because I.Am.Not. Most of the time my life resembles a collision between Mr Messy and Quentin Blake.
In April 2019 I actually got to visit the desert for the first time in my life.
It was enlightening. When I called this blog ‘Desertmum’, my impression of a ‘desert’ was arid and dry and a rather negative place to be.
In reality, although the arid/dry bit was right, I was wrong about the negatives. I found the desert hugely peaceful, quiet and calm – one of the most tranquil places I’d ever been.
There were also terrific views across to the village where we were staying, and the sea. Not all deserts are flat, and this one had hills big and small to climb and explore.
And lastly, I found the desert to be an incredibly generous place. We received some amazing hospitality from three welcoming Bedouin men. They showed us around the area (including taking us up the hill to get the amazing view), took us camel-riding, and prepared one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in my life: beautiful chicken, rice and vegetables, cooked over the rocks, flatbreads and tahini, which we ate from one communal dish as we reclined on the rugs laid out for us.
Friends, we may be in a spiritual desert. Nourishment may be hard to come by. The landscape may look dull. We may not quite know what we’re doing here.
But we can find peace, generosity, hospitality and amazing views of God if we know where to look.
By His grace, I am learning and growing and drawing closer to Him during this season of full-on parenthood. And you can too.
Those of you who aren’t parents, or aren’t Christians, may find nothing of interest in what I write. But I want you to know you are very welcome, none the less. There’s space at the table, there really is.