It was the second Sunday in a row that I'd spent the early morning hours tending to a toddler with an upset stomach.
I remember vaguely my husband - a police officer - crawling into bed around 4 a.m. only to dash out three hours later for another tour.
Then the alarm clock went off for church. And I fought back tears. I was beat and the only church I even wanted to think about was Bedside Baptist.
My Spirit wanted to go to church. "Forsake not my assembly" tumbled through my heart while my daughter's voice asking, "Aren't we going to church, Mommy," echoed in my ears.
I reluctantly tore myself from my bed, slowly and clumsily going about the routine of preparing myself and my three little ones - ages 5, 4 and 2.5 - for church.
My unemotional, robotic movements outside only thinly veiled the heaviness and sadness welling up inside. I wanted to go, and I knew I needed to take the kids, but I was so tired. And the minutes on the clock just kept ticking by.
I recognized the heaviness and sadness to be a tremendous feeling of guilt. Guilt that I was somehow impairing or negatively impacting my children's spiritual development all in the name of a few extra winks.
Silent tears rolled down my cheeks as I combed my daughters' hair. They laughed and joked with one another as I wept.
Realizing I couldn't shake the feeling, I texted my prayer partner. I told her how lonely, mad, overwhelmed and tired I was feeling. How at odds I was within myself about staying home. How I missed my husband and needed help.
She called me and prayed for me. As she prayed, I heard her thank God for the message He was going to give me. Then she thanked God for showing me how to minister to my kids at home.
At the end of her prayer, she said, "Safiya, have church at home. You told God you wanted to excel in your home ministry. You have God in you. Minister to your family."
The peace that fell upon me in that moment I can't describe. The relief from the pressure of trying to get it all done, and do it according to some unspoken rule of what you should do on Sundays, was tangible.
I smiled as I hung up the phone, wiped my tears, and exclaimed to the kids, "Who wants to have church here?" Choruses of "Me! Me!" followed me downstairs to the dining room.
They sat excited and studiously at their little table. I said a prayer asking for guidance. We sang a few songs together. Then I expectantly opened their preschool bible and began talking about the importance of prayer. We wrapped our "service" by drawing pictures and making lists of our prayers and then thanking God for our time together.
It was perfect.
Look, I still know and understand God's command to go to His house, to be among the assembly. But today my revelation was that sometimes the God in you is all your family needs.
I hope this is an encouragement to that mom or dad who, from time to time, finds themselves so physically tired that they can't even will themselves to church or bible study or prayer meeting.
The God in you is the same God your pastor or bishop or apostle has. God is no respecter of titles. And as we're each called to disciple others, surely that can begin at home. You can minister to your family and yourself to the glory of God and the edification of all in your pajamas.
Moments like this remind us all why we make the sacrifices we do for our children. It's why we work long hours or choose to work from home. It's why we pay tuition for private schools and childcare. Because, at the end of the day, our families are our first and most important assignments. And their spiritual needs are no different.
I posted all of our "home church" art on the refrigerator. And though we've made it back to church since that revelatory Sunday, every time I see our pictures and prayer lists, peace falls on me. Because if the old adage that charity starts at home is true, moms and dads -- let's start by giving ourselves some.