It’s partly the expression of my inner rebel; partly the rewards reaped from such an endeavor. This thing Cyrus and I did last year, having an UNword – a word we were diligent to delete from our vocabulary – well, we’ve found it to be a positive, beneficial, forward moving practice for us each individually and as a family.
Our UNword for 2018 was the word busy. I lost count of how many times I was on the brink of using the word in everyday conversation and had to bite my tongue. Not for the sake of an arbitrary challenge, but in an effort to think more precisely, better understand the motives of my heart, and to communicate more clearly. If you’d like to read more about how we decided on the word busy, click here.
We will continue to be careful in our use of the word busy. And since we valued this challenge so much, we’re at it again for 2019!
So, drumroll please, our UNword for this new year is the word bad.
This short little adjective, we’ve come to recognize, can do a lot of harm to our thought processes, our perspectives, our attitudes, and our relationships.
Our kids are quick to label foods they don’t care for as bad.
We call circumstances bad and color the whole day bad because of a few moments.
We judge others as bad, attempting to remove their speck before we remove our log.
We name ourselves bad, in direct opposition to the names God has given us.
This word, bad, is a dangerous word because it covers a multitude of issues with one vague, imprecise, gray colored brush stroke.
Using the word bad doesn’t help us to get to the real problem, and therefore it prevents us from getting to the real solution!
If I am having a bad day, what else is there to do besides wallow in my circumstances and seek some sort of temporary relief? But what if, instead, I more precisely declare: “Today I was hurt by someone’s untrue and harsh words towards me.” I can do something with that! I can seek restoration in the relationship, or I can pray for that person, or I can bolster myself by renewing my mind with what I know IS true according to our Heavenly Father. Calling a day bad will never bring me to this place.
Bad can be an adjective that leads us to cowardice, apathy, and having an unhealthy victim mentality. It doesn’t acknowledge responsibility. If it’s that thing or person or situation outside of me that is bad, then certainly I have no responsibility toward it.
When I use the word bad, it tends to reveal a heart that elevates myself above the Living God as judge and determiner of value. I see pain as bad, while all along God is using it for my good! Some of my kids view a bedtime as bad, but it is ultimately for their benefit! Throwing around this label of bad onto things and people, skews my perspective and can harm my desire to Aim at Heaven.
I believe that a healthy and God honoring perspective seeks to be honest and to bring all things into the Light. I can do that by being specific rather than vague. Instead of calling things bad:
I will call sin, sin.
I will call hurt, hurt.
I will call pain, pain.
I will call conviction, conviction.
I will call sorrow, sorrow.
I will call injustice, injustice.
I will seek to call all things by their true name so that the truth of God may minister precisely and effectively in my life. I will seek to do the same in the lives of those He has placed before me to minister to. To Him be the glory!
These are a few of the reasons Cyrus and I are choosing to UNword bad for 2019. Truth be told, I’ve already said it a number of times accidentally. This is going to be a much harder word to remove than busy! But, we look forward to how this practice will refine, challenge and teach us this year.
Do you think this is a practice from which you could benefit? We invite you to join us in UNwording bad. Perhaps this has sparked an idea for a different UNword for your year. Ask someone to join you and give it a try! Let me know if you do, and what your UNword is for 2019 if it’s not bad. I’d love to hear from you so that we can encourage one another in this goal!
My first instinct is to apologize for a late Christmas Greeting, but don’t you think this is a season meant to linger anyway? So, here is our family’s Christmas greeting to you (the digital version, since there was no paper version this year).
We started a new tradition this Christmas season – puzzles! We worked on and completed (!) two, 1,000 piece puzzles as a family. I was pleasantly surprised by how much we all enjoyed this slow and simple activity. Also, I’m so thankful to be in a season of family life where such an activity is possible (no more toddlers of destruction running around the house 😉 ).
Anyway, I mention all this because doing complicated puzzles is a fitting picture of what it means to be a member of the Kingdom of God’s Beloved Son – Jesus Christ. Each piece of the puzzle looks strange and indiscernible on its own, seemingly useless and out of place. But once it is placed within the context of the entire puzzle, its purpose and the beauty of its presence becomes clear. So it is in God’s reality. We are pieces of a bigger picture. We are meant to fit in with the bigger plan, not to be independent. The beauty of the Grand Design is only seen once each component is in place, and the beauty of each component is only fully realized as it serves the Grand Design.
So here’s a look at our family’s piece of the puzzle for 2018. We are grateful to be loved by the Father and Architect of all reality, and hope and pray that you know and receive His great love for you too!
I (Cyrus) continue to serve as the Associate Pastor at Willamette Community Church. August marked my first full year at this ministry and the relationships with the staff and congregation continue to grow and become more pleasant. I am thankful that I have been used by God to minster to people in many different capacities – men’s ministry, community groups, a trip to Sierra Leone in April, leading a Bible Conversations hour, marriage ministry, and the list goes on! It is such a blessing to use my God given gifts to serve the Lord and minister to His people. Another blessing has been the participation in some activities that had been set aside for many years – fishing and hunting! The whole family has enjoyed the benefits of these adventures :). Being in creation is refreshing and I look forward to sharing these experiences with my all my adventurous kids.
I (Kim) am experiencing a new stage in life. Now that the youngest of the family is five years old and in Pre-school every morning, life looks much different than it did even a year ago. I have had the privilege of being involved in women’s ministry at our church in some leadership and teaching capacities. I help lead our Moms group, helped lead our fall Bible study, and am also continuing to gain experience in Biblical counseling. Through these activities, I am discovering more and more about who God is and who He made me to be for Him. I continue to blog occasionally (though I have sort of a love/hate relationship with it), which is where you are right now, in hopes of encouraging others as I have been encouraged in the Lord!
Ruth is eleven years old and started Middle School in the fall. Can you believe it!?!? Though life has it’s challenging at this age, Ruth is making it! In the spring, Ruth participated in Track and Field and was finally old enough to give the hurdles a try. I think she’s hooked. She continues to play the violin in a local youth orchestra. Probably the most exciting thing for her right now is that she earned a part in her school’s musical – Alladin Jr.!
Lydia is ten years old and in 5th grade. Lydia also did track in the Spring and is really beginning to excel at the High Jump. And since Lydia is a kid who NEEDS to have a physical outlet, she is currently giving swim team a try. She’s seems to be enjoying it for the most part. Lydia is currently in her second year of learning the Cello. We love listening to her play and she is improving so much!
Charis is nine years old and in 3rd grade. The biggest milestone for Charis this year was that she finished eye therapy!! Almost two years ago, the eye doctor discovered that Charis had several issues with her eyes. But, after a lot of hard work, she is done. And she actually enjoys reading now. We are so thankful that these issues were caught early and resolved completely. Charis also did track with her sisters in the spring and her specialty was the long jump. She showed a lot of promise in sprinting as well. Like Lydia, Charis is also learning to play the Cello. She started in the fall and has hopes of eventually transitioning to the upright bass.
Caleb, seven, is now in 1st grade. He is excelling academically and he loves his teacher! Caleb also gave Track and Field a try in the Spring, but he was much less enthusiastic about it than his sisters. He continues to surprise and delight me by breaking some of those ‘boy’ stereotypes I held. Though he can be rough and tumble, he is also very sensitive, expressive, and cerebral. We often refer to him as our “little professor.”
Lukas, five, is in Preschool this year. He is enjoying the new friends he has made at school and church. As much as Caleb didn’t want to do track in the Spring, Lukas wanted to do it! He’s just not quite old enough yet. We see Lukas’ personality develop more and more these days. He is energetic and stubborn, but also has some of those ‘baby’ of the family traits – like trying to get out of trouble by being super sweet. The girls have started calling it ‘cute-ing.’ “Mom!” they say, “Lukas is ‘cute-ing’ me to try to get what he wants!” Mostly, he makes us all smile and laugh 🙂
We’ve been privileged to have a couple family adventures this year. In March we went to Disneyland with my parents and had an absolute blast! It was the first time for the kids and we have great memories of our time there. Right after Disneyland, we joined up with a group from our church for a mission trip to Mexico. This trip was such a blessing. We met some fellow ministers of the Gospel and were encouraged by them and sought to be an encouragement to them. Another exciting thing about the trip was that our kids were able to be immersed in the Spanish language. Our kids attend a dual language school and have been learning Spanish since kindergarten. I was amazed by how fluently they were able to converse with native Spanish speakers and I think our friends in Mexico were equally surprised. As a parent, it was just amazing to be able to watch our girls serve others by translating and building relationships with other kids. What a gift it is to be bi-lingual!
Whew! If you’ve made it this far into the letter, thank you for loving our family and having a genuine care and interest in us! We are so thankful for all the beautiful cards and letters that were sent our way this Christmas.
We love you!
P.S. – I’d like to offer you a little gift, straight from my heart. The most life transforming thing I have ever experienced is getting to know the Love of God better and better. It was with great trepidation that I agreed to speak at our church’s women’s retreat back in April. I was able to share more specifically about how learning of God’s love is so simple yet so profound. The retreat theme was “Rooted and Grounded in Love.” Unbeknownst to me, a couple of the sessions were recorded! So, I’d like to share them with you because I think we can all always benefit from a reminder of God’s love. The two recordings below are sessions two and three out of the four sessions I taught. May you be blessed and drawn closer to your Creator and Savior!
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
The attack assailed me – swift and unexpected. I was turned the other direction, fortifying different strategic locations. A word. A thought. A deception. It sneaked in and lodged itself in a vulnerable and fatigued corner of my mind. Fiery darts robed in questions. Questions craftily construed by the Enemy.
They say there are no dumb questions.
But I say there are downright evil ones. Questions meant to condemn, not to bring to light.
These are the questions upon which our Enemy relies.
Who do you think you are? He taunts me.
The burning interrogation paralyzes me. The Accuser knows only a question is needed, not a blatant accusation. He needn’t condemn, only touch a nerve that triggers self-condemnation. He knows how my flesh will answer. I’m nobody, not worthy, arrogant to think I should attempt anything, others despise me and look on me with disgust. I should stay home, say no, retreat.
Only a second and a half does it take for my mind to be lit ablaze by my own untrue responses to ill-intended questions. I am overcome.
But I’ve been here before, Enemy. And I’ve learned. It may take an hour and a half to stand firm against what you started in a moment, but you won’t overcome this time. I don’t have the answers, but I know Who does. I have an Advocate.
I’ve attempted a steel-hearted approach before – sticking my fingers in my ears and turning my face away, hardening my heart with self-willed firmness against your blows. But my self-made shield is like jello compared to the defense I’m learning I already possess!
My heart is growing softer, and softer is stronger.
Softer surrenders to what is Truer and Stronger than you.
A softening heart toward the Omnipotent One is my greatest defense.
Go ahead and try me, Deceiver.
Who do you think you are, to counsel others?
I am one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. I am one to whom the wisdom of God Almighty is available. I have been justified and taught of Christ. I am a vessel through which God’s wisdom can flow.
(James 1:5; 2 Cor. 1:22; Romans 5:1; 2 Timothy 2:21)
Who do you think you are, to teach and write?
I am one who believes the truth and listens to the truth. I am one who is supernaturally gifted to build up the body of Christ. I am one who is obedient to the call of God.
(Proverbs 21:28; Romans 12:6-8; 1 John 2:3-6)
Who do you think you are, to lead?
I am one who was created to do good works. I am one who has been given the truest example of leadership in my Savior – becoming a servant of all. He teaches me that leading isn’t about becoming greater than, instead it’s about becoming less than. You tempt me to pride, but God guides me to humility.
(Ephesians 2:10; Mark 9:35; James 4:10)
Who do you think you are, to walk in confidence?
I am one who stands perfect and spotless in Christ. I am loved. I am sealed for eternity. I am never forsaken. I have Christ in me, the hope of glory.
(Romans 5:8; Colossians 1:27; Hebrews 13:5; Ephesians 1:13)
The fiery darts of the Enemy assail me, but I know where my protection is. It’s not in a hardening heart, buffeting itself from destructive blows. No. My protection and salvation comes from letting an ever softening heart settle into an armor form-fitted to me.
When the fiery darts would burn me up and destroy me, I am untouched. Because my faith-shield was forged by the Living Water. His is a pure and powerful water able to extinguish in a flash the scorching arrows of the enemy. I am unscathed because I brandish Christ. He is the answer to all the Enemy’s questions. He gave an answer for us once and for all at the cross and when He rose victorious from the grave. A soft heart knows it is powerless to fight alone, so it robes itself in the strength of God’s might.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10
Her presence reaches beyond the bounds of her physical body. At least it seems from where I’m sitting, a few chairs over at our shared round banquet table.
We share a table at dinner. We share a similar height and hair color. We share the role of mother and the desire for work for the Kingdom of God.
But I don’t see those obvious similarities in this moment.
When I look at her I see what I long for. I see what I crave but don’t have.
She holds a doctorate. She runs a ministry. She teaches at a university.
I compare and consequently fall prey to jealousy. I see what she has and call it ‘good,’ ‘admirable,’ altogether better and more desirable than my lot in life.
Jealousy is twisted admiration.
I must leave. I flee to the ladies room to grapple with my feelings. To tame my jealousy.
I fight the tears. God! Let this pass quickly – don’t let my face turn crying red! I don’t want to have to explain myself when I finally go back out there!
But I don’t want to go back. I want to run away. The longing is too deep and the NO from God is too painful. And I don’t understand why it’s a NO for me but a YES for her.
As I sop up my tears with a rough paper towel, and pat my face with cool water, the Holy Spirit impresses upon my heart two words – move closer.
Everything within me wants to run far away from this woman, to flee my jealousy instead of deal with it. But God tells me to move closer to her; to move closer to my internal battle.
So I do.
The redness begins to fade; it’s safe to return to the table. I sit in emotional shambles for the remainder of the program. The program is over and mingling begins. There she is, a couple empty seats over, and I force myself to speak. I move toward her, ask her about herself, pretending I’m fully engaged in trying to get to know her. Pretending I truly care about her, even though I’m still absorbed in my own misery.
A subtle shift begins to take place in my heart. No longer am I pretending, forcing myself to converse. I genuinely begin to feel a connection to this woman, to see her as a child of God, not a threat. She’s a lovely person. She’s not my problem, I am.
The source of my discomfort and pain is not her success, rather it’s my failure to see and take delight in the unique ways God is at work in both our lives.
God unlocked a new way of perceiving to my heart that night. He graciously revealed another dark place in my heart and prompted me to move toward the pain, jealousy, and unfulfilled longings.
In moving toward it, I found correction that led to a softening heart and to peace.
Is there is something you need to move closer to today, instead of fleeing? You might be surprised by what happens when you choose to move closer!
Thanks to the kind working of God in my heart, that evening I experienced a glimpse of what it is to take delight in another person’s achievement. To be sincerely thankful for what God is doing in their life.
I also came face to face, again, with the fact that maybe my desires don’t always reflect God’s desires, or at least not His timing. The same God that is working in others is working in me. When I trust HIS work, I learn to be satisfied with my portion and find Delight in my present circumstances. When I trust HIS work, I learn to rejoice with those who are accomplishing great things for the kingdom of God, even it’s something I wish I could be doing too. Because it’s ultimately all about His kingdom and His praise and His glory!
God is slowly turning my twisted admiration into true appreciation.
“But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”
More than ever, I am persuaded that the only endeavor of true value in this life is Aiming at Heaven – pursing a loving and obedient relationship with our Creator and Savior. It’s my goal for this blog to share with you how God is continuing to teach and transform this life of mine that it might be an encouragement as He teaches and transforms you too! If you would like to receive an email when a new post is published, you can sign up below. It only takes a moment.
Sometimes I feel left behind. Many times, especially when my kids were younger, I felt like my Pastor husband was on the front lines of ministry – going on trips, attending lunch meetings, responding to church member’s emergencies – while I was left back at home to ‘just’ take care of the kids and the household.
A few Sundays ago, a woman in our congregation shared her testimony during our morning worship service. Part of her testimony included my husband, Cyrus, coming to help her family in a time of need and ultimately leading her father, who was on his deathbed, into a relationship with Jesus. This was such wonderful news, and I am still praising God!
But, there’s this little part of me that wishes I could have been there too. I want to join Cyrus on the front lines. I want to be involved, to be used by God in incredible and life-changing ways. I want a piece of the action.
Maybe it’s a terrible confession to make, but this call to be a stay at home mom can feel insignificant at times; like I’m missing out on the really important things in life.
Though I am able to be involved in ministry more now than ever, I know that a huge part of my calling at this season is still primarily to focus on loving and serving my husband and family. Our culture may scoff at this, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that wives and moms have tremendous opportunity to make a difference in the kingdom of God, simple and as unseen as it may be.
So I’ll keep watching the baggage.
Go back a few thousand years with me and I’ll explain.
The Old Testament book of First Samuel recounts a select few conquests and failures of David and his mighty men. They spent years together battling, on the front lines, to protect what God had given the nation of Israel. On one particular occasion, while the men were away battling, the Amalekites raided David’s camp and took everything: livestock, gold and silver, women and children. So after one long, hard battle, the need arose for the men to go once more into battle – to retrieve what the Amalekites had stolen. God told him to go and promised David that every single thing taken from his camp would be recovered.
So it was time for battle once more. The problem was that many of these mighty men of David’s were exhausted. So David decided to leave 200, about a third, of his warriors to stay behind and guard the baggage.
When those who went to battle with David returned with all the recovered belongings, the fighting men decided that those who stayed behind didn’t deserve any of the recovered goods, except for their wives and children. It’s how we often function too. Finders, keepers.
But David recognized the truth: all that the men had won back in the battle was ultimately a gift from God. God was the great deliverer, not this rascally group of fighters. So David declared, “For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.” (1 Samuel 30:24)
The baggage watchers played an integral role in the safety of the whole group. Someone needed to stay behind to care for the baggage – to make sure even more wasn’t stolen! David recognized this, and he also recognized that it is God who decides what each person receives.
EVERYONE is significant in His sight.
Are you starting to see the connection?
Yes, I suppose I am comparing my children to baggage…. but just go there with me for a minute.
I often succumb to the Enemy’s lie that I have to be on the front lines to be worthwhile, to deserve some sort of reward or recognition. That staying put, being a caretaker, is a waste of time and effort.
But the truth is that no single part in the kingdom of God is more valuable than another. No calling is more spiritual than another.
And the truth is that God gets to decide how each will be rewarded in eternity. Who is to say that a devoted wife and mother who seeks to love God by loving her family won’t be rewarded just as much, if not more than a missionary or a pastor?
Our Heavenly Father regards the attitudes of our hearts and our Spirit led actions, more than He assesses the product of our self-willed hands.
All of us are “baggage watchers” in some way. Maybe you are busy working behind the scenes in order that someone else will shine. Maybe you are in a season where, because of physical ailments, you actually can not do the things you wish you could. Maybe, like me, God has called you primarily to a support role for a season, rather than a front-lines action role.
If you feel stuck watching the baggage, remember that your role is still important. Your joyful “baggage watching” will be rewarded by the One who knows hearts, sees all and gives generously. Standing guard over the baggage, whatever that looks like for you, can have eternal impact. It can be another way we all Aim at Heaven.
Keep watching that baggage faithfully and joyfully for the Lord!