Who even am I? And other urgent questions asked by a new mum during a pandemic  – Roanna Day

Over the last six months nearly every part of my identity has been challenged, destroyed or removed. 

My identity as a successful editor in London? Maternity leave and moving to Monmouthshire effectively ended that. Gone are the glamorous lunches, dinners and parties. Gone is the confidence gained from my job title when introducing myself to people. Gone are my free beauty products, connections and, well, gone is one of the main reasons people used to want to be my friend. 

My identity as an attractive, fit, young woman? Somewhere between my abs separating and forceps pulling me apart my self esteem was brutally exposed. Am I still beautiful if none of my old clothes fit me anymore?

My identity as a teacher and leader in church? Gone, when we decided we wanted to push into church around the dinner table here at Great House Farm. I’m no one’s leader, no one wants me to teach at their church, no one tries to grab me for a coffee after a meeting. Am I even a good Christian if no one is listening to me?

My identity as a cared for, carefree daughter? Seriously challenged by my dad’s fight for his life. Suddenly my parents were not just a resource, a support, a place of retreat – they were something in threat, something I had to look after. 

My identity as a wife, sister, friend? Rocked, by the arrival of my daughter and my whole purpose shifting to being about serving, loving and raising her. 

Whether it’s becoming a new mum, living through a pandemic, changing jobs, moving house, leaving a church (or, if you’re a mad woman doing all those things at once!) a big shift in life can mean facing up to who we are and how we define ourselves. 

It’s only now, after much processing with Jesus, that I realise how many parts of my identity I had created to serve me and not God.

The question I’ve been trying to answer during lockdown, and the one I’d like you to ponder too, is; who are you when no one’s watching? 

Who are you when your calendar is completely empty?

Who are you when you’re not working?

Who are you when you’re not going to church?

Who are you when it’s just you and God and all you’ve done is baked, watched Netflix and walked once a day? 

Who are you, when your life is reduced to the four walls of your home? When your circle of influence is just your family? 

In short, who even are you? 

It’s in thinking through all of this, through wondering who I am when so much of me and my life has been changed, that I realised that this crisis of identity is part of the purpose of this time. 

Let me put this another way. Imagine you’re a bulb, a bulb that’s just been planted deep into compost. It’s hard to tell what sort of plant the bulb is anymore, with last year’s growth cut off and the foliage died back. The bulb has been plunged into darkness, given water and fertile soil and then, for the coming months, it’s a waiting game to see whether it will grow again or not.

That’s how I feel right now; like I’ve been plunged deep into the earth, it’s dark and any growth that’s happening is invisible. Can you relate?

I feel this lockdown period is a time of deep planting. We’re in the dark, soggy compost stage now. Last year’s growth has been pruned off and now all we’re left with is the beginnings of ourselves.  

Through the gentle sway of these lockdown days Jesus has shown me that everything that matters about who I am is bedded deep within me and what counts, in these times of deep, dark, planting, is just that I grow towards the light. 

I believe this season is a ripe opportunity to let old growth die back, deadhead false identities and be planted again with purpose.  

“…What counts, in these times of deep, dark, planting, is just that I grow towards the light.” 

It doesn’t matter that I don’t have any social plans. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have a job title other than mum. It doesn’t matter that my church now happens in my kitchen, not in a big building. It doesn’t matter that no one is seeing me be a Christian other than my family.

All that matters, about who I am, is what God says matters. I am who He says I am, and nothing else. 

This is a season, in my life and I believe in yours too, of being deadheaded, planted and watered. Jesus is cutting off old, no-longer-helpful identities and chucking them on the compost heap. Now is the time to rest and reset in the darkness, preparing for next year’s growth. 

Let’s make sure we grow towards the light. 

A fearless pregnancy – Roanna Day

I met our children long before I got pregnant. It’s not the norm for many, I admit, but I’ve been practicing listening prayer for a long time now and sometimes that means meeting Jesus at a river or walking through a field with him, other times that means him asking me if I’d like to meet my children while we sit on a bench. 

I said no, for the record. 

When he first asked I was far from ready to consider who my children might be or to even think that God might be ready for me and my husband to welcome the kids he’d set aside for us.

Jesus had to ask me two more times, over a period of roughly a year, before I agreed to meet my children with him. This was after a conversation with my husband, Owen, where we discussed why we weren’t trying to get pregnant yet. Our reasons included, but weren’t limited to:

  • We don’t have any savings or surplus income right now
  • We’re in the middle of buying an enormous farmhouse that needs a huge amount of work
  • We’ll be responsible for the enormous mortgage on said enormous farmhouse
  • Owen has a new job to start and settle into
  • I will have to commute from Monmouthshire to London for my job
  • Our headspace won’t be able to stretch to moving from London to Wales, renovating a house, a new job, building a new community and saying goodbye to our friends and church etc
  • We’re not sure we ready to give up our regular long-haul travel just yet

Then, just as the conversation was wrapping up Owen said: “But, they’re all fear based aren’t they? And we don’t make decisions based on fear, do we?”

He’s right. We don’t, or at least, we try really hard not too. Because to be afraid of anything more than God goes against who I believe God is. Even more so, it actually makes our faith smaller and most importantly it makes the part God plays in our lives smaller. 

“We don’t make decisions based on fear, do we?”

So, we reframed the conversation. Do we think God wants us to try for a baby now? We asked. The answer? Yes, we did. 

In my mind the timing couldn’t be worse but isn’t it funny how God’s time often doesn’t feel like the “right” time to us? 

The next morning I said yes to Jesus when he asked if I’d like to meet my children and in my prayer encounter he passed a baby into my arms. 

By the next week I was pregnant. 

Since finding out I was pregnant God has said the same thing to me, over and over again: he’s asked me to have a fearless pregnancy. What does that mean? Well, for me, at 35 weeks pregnant, it’s meant trying to take every worry and fearful thought captive and replacing it with a promise of God. 

It’s meant declining every additional screening and test the midwives have offered me. 

It meant telling people I was pregnant before I reached 12 weeks. 

It’s meant drinking some wine.

It’s meant eating the same meats, cheeses and fish I normally would. 

It’s meant planning a home birth. 

It’s meant only talking about the pregnancy, the birth and our baby to come with confidence and hope. 

It’s meant that for the last 35 weeks I have engaged in the toughest battle for my thought life possible. Why? Because as soon as you see that positive line on a pregnancy test you are assaulted with fear-based thinking, people overstepping with well-intentioned, but anxiety-inducing advice and the challenge of staying peaceful and trusting as your body changes quickly and furiously. 

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Matthew 6 v 25

I believe the enemy loves that pregnancy, for so many women, has become a season of restlessness, fear and worry and I believe God wants to put an end to that. 

It wasn’t long after finding out I was pregnant that we found out my Dad had blood cancer and the task of remaining fearless suddenly seemed impossible. How do you walk out a pregnancy with peace and hope as your own parent fights for their life? I asked God again and again, he simply smiled.

A couple of months ago a good friend’s little girl said to them, out of the blue in the car, that she thought our baby should be called ‘Rindi’. We’re not going to use the name, but when we looked it up we discovered that it means “walks without fear”. It served as a timely reminder from God of what he was calling us and our baby to. 

If I manage to have a fearless pregnancy, I realised, just imagine the heritage that will create for our first born. I was starting to understand why God was asking me to do the impossible, why God was asking me to live fearlessly in the midst of so much to be afraid of – I would need to be a faithful and fearless mother to be this baby’s mother.

In the next few weeks we’ll find out whether my dad will be scheduled for a stem cell transfusion, involving an extended isolated hospital stay, directly over my due date. It’s yet another thing that threatens to take me out of peace into fear. It would manage, if I wasn’t 35 weeks into exercising my now bulging fearless muscle. 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14 v 27

While God has done deep work in me through this pregnancy, he won’t set the same challenge before all other women because he works in so many ways. So, while my journey into fearlessness has been through pregnancy, yours might be something quite different. 

God won’t be calling us all to reject screenings and ignore disapproving looks while sipping wine at 8 months pregnant. But he is, I believe, calling all of us into a life of peace not worry and into a life where no matter the fear, God is always bigger. 

Kris Valloten does a simple exercise where he asks you to write down, in a list, everything you would do tomorrow if you weren’t afraid. Everything you would do if you didn’t worry about the mortgage, or the kids’ schools or your job or what people would think. What would be on that list? 

After giving you a minute to write down a few things he then says: “Now, look at your list. If you’ve written anything down, even one thing, then your life has already been compromised by fear.”

A stirring thought. There’s so much to be afraid of, if I let myself…

  • Being an isolated mum in the countryside.
  • The fact we can’t afford to pay all the bills and also afford food etc once my maternity money runs out. 
  • Having a painful, dangerous birth. 
  • Loosing my identity as I become a mum.
  • Never having time to be just me and Owen. 

But instead I choose to focus on the promises of our good God. A God who works all things together for my good. A God who tells me to rejoice in every trial because it increases faithfulness. A God who can calm the storm and help me sleep through it. A God who tells me not to worry, a God who is the very person of peace. A God who tells me to store up my treasures in heaven. A God who has more thoughts for me and plans than I could ever count. 

He is, I believe, calling all of us into a life of peace not worry and into a life where no matter the fear, God is always bigger. 

It doesn’t have to take a pregnancy to journey into fearlessness. All it takes is you giving God permission. Permission to come into your life and shake stuff up a bit. The result? A life lived knowing the goodness of God outweighs any threat and any worry the world could throw at us.

Finding God in the madness of motherhood – Roanna Day

The story of Mary and Martha has held a particular resonance for me recently. For the first time, after years of reading the story, I totally sympathise with Martha instead of Mary. Right now I’m team Martha through and through. Because, well, I get it. I am so jealous of people who get to spend unending hours with my Jesus. I listen to great prophets and teachers and feel anger and jealousy rise up because they have the precious gift of time to spend with the God I so desperately want to carve out quality time with. But, I can’t. Not at the moment. 

There’s laundry to do, a daughter who won’t be put down, a house to clean, land to look after and two new businesses to run. When I think about Martha, desperately trying to feed her guests and keep her house clean and then her oblivious, self-indulgent, passionate sister ignoring all that needed to be done and just wasting her time and money at the feet of Jesus I totally get it. It’s so hard to be around Marys when you’re in a Martha season. 

And let me tell you, motherhood is a Martha season. Boy, is it. I’m afraid my grace isn’t deep enough, nor my kindness rich enough to listen to my baby-less friends talk about being tired, or being too busy. I have to quell the storm of laughter that rises up when I hear people without babies say they didn’t sleep well. It’s not nice and it’s not pretty, I know. But, it’s true. Being a mother to a baby who doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat well and doesn’t nap well leaves you with absolutely nothing, nothing besides the hollow wreck of your body which has changed beyond recognition and no longer feels like your own.

Let’s spend a moment with two other biblical inspirations, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus. These two women went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body with spices. It was an essential part of the burial process. It was part of a woman’s role to do this for her deceased family members, so in journeying to his tomb, after observing the sabbath, they were merely walking out their womanly roles. I can’t begin to imagine how they felt as they gathered and ground the spices and packed them up for the journey to the garden where He was buried but I do know that the job itself would have felt familiar, it was a practised, domestic process for them. 

Of course, we all know what happened next; instead of a body to anoint they found a risen saviour to embrace. 

The key point here, though, is that in living out their domestic duties, in serving their family, right in the depths of that servitude, they discovered Jesus. In the familiar, seemingly unimportant, seemingly uninspiring role that was theirs because they were women, they found themselves at the crux of the most important revelation and encounter in history. 

Mammas, I’m talking to you now. In our day to day juggle of cleaning, cooking, nursery drop-offs, e-mailing, earning and organising we can find ourselves nose-to-nose with our risen saviour. He meets us in the domestic, He reveals Himself to us in the mundane, He came back from the dead to be with us as we WhatsApp, as we email, as we online shop. He met the women, with their ground-up spices, in the garden, before He met the men who were waiting on Him. I am not making a feminist point here, I promise. I’m stating an extreme in order to redress an imbalance – Jesus is as comfortable revealing Himself to us during the busy and the mundane as He is in the set apart and the sanctified. Mammas, we have to know this, we have to believe this, and we have to change our posture so we expect revelation and encounter even if all we’re doing is gathering spices. 

Now, back to Martha for a moment. She has my total sympathy but I know that in that moment Mary was the one with the correct response. As much as my soul rejects that fact, my spirit knows it to be true. The only place to be, in that moment, was at the feet of Jesus giving Him the most extravagant worship that you can. 

The thing is, Jesus has moods and moments and our job is to discern the time and respond appropriately. If Jesus comes to your home, sits down and invites connection then we need to drop everything to be at His feet. But, if He’s walking with you, chatting as you work and plan and do, then you need to turn your ear and invite Him fully into the intricacies of your day.

There are times to be with Him and then there are times to do with him and it’s the discerning of these that is the key to finding God in the madness of motherhood.