Nothing can prepare you for the way a new little person impacts your heart, soul and strength. It changes everything forever. This tiny person whose entire life is dependent upon you taking care of them. It is so wonderful and yet so exhausting all at the same time.
My group of friends all started having kids around the same time. It felt like the conversation changed dramatically overnight. Where once we were sharing stories about the gospel conversations we'd had on the street with the youth outside our house, now we were talking about which cloth nappies worked best for our babies. It was a whole new world and one that I loved and hated all at the same time but one that I certainly wasn't prepared for.
God was being squeezed out and replacing him was this precious little gift that seemed to sap all my energy, time and thought life. And surely this was right, my purpose now to pour my everything into my family? God would have to take a back seat for a while because frankly keeping this little one alive was all I could manage.
It didn't take me too long to realise though that I had got it wrong in so many ways. I had swapped my identity as community worker for a new identity as a mum; mothering was my new purpose but the real reason there was tension here for me was not just because I was learning to sacrifice to a whole new level but because with or without children, unless my identity was rooted in Christ, there would always be a tension. I'd been looking for purpose and fulfilment in the wrong places.
We have been created to live with Christ central in everything we do, whether that's being a student, working full time or being a parent. We flourish when we live in relationship with Jesus. We flourish when all we are flows out of all He says we are.
I spent many hours pondering 'but what the heck does that look like now I'm a mum?' As a student I'd been to numerous conferences and meetings encouraging me to keep Jesus central while at Uni. Now as a mum, we were trying to work it out by ourselves but with sleepless nights and pure exhaustion to contend with too.
It was during this season that the idea was first birthed for a conference that would encourage mums to keep pursuing Jesus. I shared these thoughts with a few friends and a growing Facebook community of other mums. It seemed to be that so many other people felt just like me. Together we were out of our depth in this parenting lark and desperate for more of Jesus. The Captivated Conference and community was born. Now eight years old, with a community of nearly 5,000 mums we are seeking to encourage each other daily to love God, love our families and love our communities. It is messy and real but hopefully Christ is being pointed to as the real source of everything we need in this season of having little ones. Annually, more than 300 of us gather together - young mums and Grandmas - seeking to encounter God through the word, worship and ministry time. Next year we move to a bigger venue as God continues to grow this work.
I have heard many conversations over the years about how family life has meant that Christ is put on the back burner. Nap times trump church. Let's be careful that as we seek to love and serve the precious little ones we have been given that we always make life with God a priority and that everything else flows from our relationship with Him. Let's remember that in God's topsy turvy kingdom to love God first and foremost will actually help us to be the best parents we can be to our children. With more of God, we will love those around us with a far greater and deeper love than we could ever muster up on our own. To love God first and to linger in His truth, His Word is all we need to find our true purpose and fulfilment. Kids are a massive blessing but the biggest blessing of all is a life walked with Jesus Christ.
Lizzie Bassford is a wife, mum and missionary living in inner-city Manchester. Follow her on Twitter @captivated01.