I love Tory Stirling‘s voice – both at my kitchen table and on the internet. Tory responds to life with her whole heart, and mind. I was so glad when she started writing earlier this year – I see so much of myself in her honesty, yet Tory doesn’t leave you in her messy kitchen or anxious mind, she is always listening to what God would say, instead. And I always need to hear that. I’m excited to share this post from her for our ‘Small Things’ series:
My mum called round quite early one morning this week. Two of my kids were sick and so she kindly offered to take my eldest girl to school. We were enjoying some idle chit-chat when my little boy Noah knocked his bowl of CoCo Pops right off the table. It smacked against the wall and hit the floor with a splat. Chocolate milk and little smushy puffs of wet rice – everywhere.
And I tried really hard not to freak out or go mental, because my mum was there and I want her to think I’ve got this, that I’m in control. I want her to think I’m not a nutcase who wails like a banshee at her kids first thing in the morning. But it’s really hard. Because I’m tired, my very bones feel sore from lack of sleep. There’s runny noses and coughs and dirty school jumpers and sticky floors and my slippers have giant holes in them…
And that’s when I hear it – perhaps I feel it – the darkness settling into my heart and mind.
‘Is this really good enough? Is this the best you’ve got? This job you are doing, this morning, today – it’s not really good enough is it?’
And yeah, my husband is a fireman, which in the most part is really great. The shift work means he’s off a lot and we have time to hang out. But the pay-off is the night shifts.
There are times I really enjoy the quiet and the space and my own company. But mostly, I sort of hate it.
I miss the presence of having another adult in the house. I miss the noise he makes (so much noise!). And sometimes when his night shifts approach I feel a fear creeping up on me. It’s not really a fear of intruders -after seven years of weekly night shifts I am kind of over that now.
It’s actually a fear of having the three kids on my own.
See, I worry about them wakening up. And never going back to sleep. I worry they’ll get really sick and I won’t know what to do. I worry they’ll have a full hissy fit or total meltdown during the night and wake up our neighbours. I worry about how all this lack of sleep will ruin the next day and how it’ll all be my fault.
I have a fear that anything less than a full night’s sleep will mean my performance as a mum is flawed, rubbish, poor. So I need everyone to sleep. All night. Which, based on the ages of my three kids, is a tough order, not to mention absurd! I know this!
But when you start to believe the lies that fear and insecurity whisper in your ear, this is what happens – you go a little bit nuts. Rational thoughts leave you and they are replaced with the crazy.
Whilst out running the other day (totally! – it’s like Forrest Gump with pink Nikes and a swishy ponytail) I saw this billboard for McCain Oven Chips with a tagline reading ‘Teatime – where the good stuff happens’. There’s this teenager whispering something to his mum at the table and the scene looked quite jolly and meaningful and civilised. And as I ran on I thought – Mr McCain, teatime in our house is NOT where the good stuff happens. Teatime is often a battleground, willing everyone to just stay on their chairs or eat just one more pea. It’s where the main aim of the evening becomes keeping our juice in the cup or to just stop the banging, stop squirting red sauce on absolutely everything, stop spreading dinner on the table, stop making each other cry.
And yes, of course I know the reason for this behaviour. I know this is not a reflection on my inabilities as a parent. I know ‘this too shall pass’ etc etc. But still, the fact remains, as I ran along that road these are the words I carried with me – ‘Teatime in your house is not good enough’.
So these little events seem like nothing but actually they culminate in a self-pity bender and I wind up thinking like this;
I am only as good as the teatime bliss I can pull off.
I am only as good as the peaceful night’s rest experienced in my house.
I am only as good as my accident prone son allows me to be.
The question ‘Are you good enough?’ can really mess with my head. I can literally wake up in the morning and feel the weight of it. Before I even put my feet on the floor. On the outside, I look no different. But inside, in my innermost being, there is a battle taking place, where the darkness is trying to wipe out the light
I’ve heard the question enough times now to recognise it, I know it’s out to steal my joy, stop me from flourishing and destroy me.
And it seems like there’s a choice. A choice to agree with the darkness or to choose to walk in the Spirit. It’s a Spirit of love and power and freedom. When I walk that way, there is such light and God reigns supreme and even at my very worst, when the failure and flaws are so very blatant and ugly – God says I still belong, God says I am held and loved and this, my friends, can outshine any darkness. The words of God can speak louder than any of the lies I encounter.
The words of life and freedom are spoken over me everyday.
But often I have to make a choice to lean in and listen. I have take steps to cultivate a rhythm that enables my heart to be receptive. And this is the tricky part, there is no doubt. Some days it’s like a fog descends and it’s lonely, stumbling around and straining for the truth. But even then, I’m not on my own- the Spirit always comes, always whispers, is always for me. And this is the heart of a Father who loves his daughter, in all of her mess– relentlessly whispering the truth, repeatedly extending His hand of grace and lovingly inviting her to walk with Him.
What good is this truth if I don’t choose to embrace it? In James 2 he talks about learning all the right words but never doing anything, ‘just merely talking’. I read somewhere that most good things have been said already- you just need to live them.
I don’t want a faith that knows the light, has experienced the light and yet allows the darkness to get a foothold. I don’t want a faith that reads the books, writes the articles, listens to the podcasts and just absent-mindedly nods along.
I want a faith that when faced with a battle it declares the truth.
I want faith that walks into a room and the atmosphere changes.
I want a faith that lives what it sings.
I want a faith that outshines any darkness.
Tory Stirling is an ordinary mama finding extraordinary freedom in being honest. Motherhood has taught her to recognise the value in small things and celebrate the small victories- that maybe a life of faith that finds significance in the small, is no small thing at all. She blogs at shelivesloved.wordpress.com
(Read the series so far here)