by Sarah Condie
How’s your soul today?
I’ve asked that question to many young mums over the years and almost without fail I get the same answer: My soul is empty.
Little wonder. A typical morning in the life of a young mum, described for me recently, went like this:
I fought with my three-year-old over a plate, of all things. She decided it was not okay when I told her she had to choose between a plate or a bowl for breakfast. Then my one year old hurled his bowl from his highchair, mushed milk flew through the air, creating more chaos. I yelled at my husband, who was only looking for a clean pair of socks, and then at God, “Help!” as I tried to juggle two screaming children, a part time job and now a husband working from home.
Sound familiar? Most mums I speak to often feel discombobulated, guilty and stretched, believing they’ve failed before the day’s even begun. And then, there’s the rest of the day! It’s like their inner being is worn down and they’re losing their zest for life, a bit like an orange that’s been juiced, leaving a discarded skin. No wonder so many young mums tell me their soul is empty.
I can relate. One of the hardest jobs I’ve had was raising my children. It sometimes seemed thankless, relentless, and like there was never time for me or for God. And yet, it was also one of the greatest privileges I’ve ever known, an opportunity that God used to shape me more into the image of Christ as I tried to love my children.
So how can mums fill their soul? As I’ve worked with young mothers at a local church, listening to them talk about their thirst for God’s word in this busy season of life, I’ve shared with them the following ideas:
Find a time of day that works when you can make a cup of tea and drink it undisturbed. This is your time to spend with God. Start small – the time it takes to drink your tea. If you need reminding, set an alarm. Have your bible or devotional books sitting near the place you like to sit while you drink your tea.
This prayer from Psalm 138:3 is one He will answer: “On the day I called, You answered me; My strength of soul You increased.”
I was inspired when I learned that this verse was what Susanna Wesley used as her call to prayer. She had a husband who was hardly around, raised ten children (including John and Charles who went on to write some of the church’s most loved hymns), worked outside the home and still managed to find time to pray. She used to cover her head with an apron to pray and her children knew not to disturb her! You too can have that determination and grit, following her example to pray (apron optional!).
You could also start with Psalm 23 when you sit down with your tea. Read it slowly and notice the details: The Lord is my shepherd.
David used the image of a shepherd caring for his sheep to describe the relationship he had with God. The shepherd is everything to his sheep: guide, provider and protector. And David uses a beautiful word here, my shepherd. He is your shepherd. He loves you enough to care for you 24/7. You may not have time for a leisurely feast, but that's okay. Bite-sized spiritual nutrition can keep you nourished.
When we intentionally notice the details in a verse, use our imagination and dig deep into what it says, our souls are nourished. We remember that in Jesus we have a shepherd who leads us beside still waters. As Psalm 23 says, God is with us when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death or midnight parenting, His rod and staff comfort us. We remember that one day we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. This is a wonderful promise, and if we fill our mind with it, we’ll experience the next beautiful verse: He restores my soul.
In other words, if your soul is empty, let God’s word fill it and restore it. Being a mum full on is enough to knock the stuffing out of you. Yet these words He restores my soul remind us that the Great Shepherd can restore the soul of every weary mother. As we return to the truths of Scripture each day and pray, if only for a few minutes, we’ll see a new truth slowly soak into our lives, a new nugget to enjoy and sustain us through another day.
So in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea, we can let God’s word fill us with its sweetness, learning about God’s character, reminding us that He loves us so much that He wants to fill souls with goodness‚ even when your three-year old is screaming about a plate.
Sarah Condie is the co-director of the Mental Health & Pastoral Care Institute at Anglican Deaconess Ministries in Sydney, Australia, and developer of the Resilient Parents and Building a Safe & Strong Marriage courses. For a number of years, she has also worked as a Women’s Pastor in a church and encouraged many women to find food for their soul. focusing on supporting new parents as they transition to parenthood. Sarah has three adult children, enjoys reading, walking and being creative.