Baggage Watching

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.

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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!

You Have Done Well

Some days I pause to read God’s Word, expecting great new insight or encouragement, only to finish without receiving such things. Though I never regret investing my time this way.

Other days, I pause to read with few expectations, only to be met by the most intimate communication from my Creator. Such was Thursday morning – Praise the Lord!

On Thursday mornings we have three get-the-kids-to-school shifts. Lydia needs to be to school by 6:45 AM for orchestra; Ruth, Charis and Caleb by 7:40 for their school day to begin; Lukas to pre-school by 9:00.

Like many other early Thursday mornings, I made Lydia’s lunch and fed her breakfast, then my husband Cyrus took her to school and headed for the YMCA to get some exercise. Between their departure and the waking of the next round of kiddos, I had a few moments to dip my mind into the renewing water of the Word. I’ve been reading through the Psalms and Thursday’s chapter was 110. It’s a shorter Psalm, a messianic one too, but I honestly don’t remember much of it’s content even now. I figured it must just be one of those days where reading the Word was more of an act of diligence than an experiential delight.

After that initial dip in Scripture, it was time to reenter the reality of getting cranky sleepy kids out of bed and ready for the day. Then came more lunches and more breakfasts and a drive to school and back (all while still in my PJs). At home with only one child, I found a few moments to eat my breakfast, sip my tea, and drink in more of the Word. Mercifully, Lukas occupied himself quite nicely for twenty minutes or so – hallelujah!

Philippians chapters three and four were next on my agenda. Powerful messages can be found in those words, phrases, sentences. And powerful was the whisper of the Lord as I journeyed through these familiar pages.

Our great Author used two particular verses to speak to my heart in ways I wasn’t even aware I needed! And what He spoke to me in those heavenly moments, He may want to speak to some of you.

It’s a message for the mothers, the servers, the helpers, the caretakers. It’s a message for all who lay down their lives for another.

In Philippians 4:10-13, Paul reveals to us how he manages to be content with little or much in this life, and that the secret is Christ’s strength. But then he adds one more short verse, sort of a tagline to the paragraph: “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” (verse 14).

Those few words washed over my soul as a much needed affirmation, and tears of relief and peace began to trickle down my cheeks. It was as if the Lord was saying to me, “I see you, you are doing well!”

In my minds eye, I saw my husband, my children, friends, specific people whom God has called me to walk with through this life. And they were saying to me, through the movement of the Holy Spirit, “Thank you. You’ve been by my side. You’ve walked with me through shadows. You’ve shared my pain, my affliction. You have done well.”

Though most of the faces I saw in my mind may never actually say such things, God said them to me in their place.

And that’s the message I want to pass on to you too. How rarely we as moms or caretakers or counselors or helpers hear these words from those we give our energies to. But regardless of others’ recognition, God sees and He knows. God sees when we join our lives with the afflicted; whether it’s a band-aid on a skinned knee, a shoulder to cry on when pre-teen friendships wreak havoc, hours sacrificed to walk alongside a friend in pain, or money given to protect the ‘least of these’ in a foreign country.

Just as Paul recognized the great love of the Philippians toward him in their sharing of his afflictions, God sees you when you give of yourself for the sake of another. And you are doing well to do so!!!

But that’s not the whole message.

I grabbed a nearby napkin, dabbed my eyes, wiped my nose. Feeling enveloped in affirmation, I continued to read the rest of chapter four. And it only took a few more verses before the Lord struck my heart once more. I read, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (verse 19)

In my teary eyed, pajama clad moment with the Lord, this verse became a more personal promise to me than ever before. God knows I’m in need of His help as a mother, wife, and minister in His kingdom. And not only does He see and affirm my service to others, but He has and will continue to provide the love and wisdom I so desperately require in order to carry on.

As we continue to help, to mother, to care for, to stand with the afflicted, we can rest in His resource, in His rich supply. We can bear one another’s burdens because Christ has borne ours on the cross of Calvary.

So, my fellow laborers (pun intended :)), remember today that your God sees you, is pleased with you, and will continue to strengthen you! No matter what anyone else says or doesn’t say, you can rest in knowing Your Creator knows all.

May this truth envelop you in God’s love and affirmation the way it did me this past Thursday morning.


We can rest in God’s estimation of us rather than other people’s opinions when we work as unto the Lord. Our service to others is a means by which we ultimately serve God, so it’s His opinion that matters. In this, we are Aiming At Heaven.

Thank you for stopping by today and I pray you are encouraged by what you’ve read! If you’d like to subscribe to Aiming At Heaven and receive email notification of new posts and content, simply sign up below.

God Bless!

… but He can

Seven words at the heart of the issue. You can’t do it, but He can.

I was surprised when the words, ‘you can’t do it,’ left my lips headed for my kids’ ears. Surprised, first because of their contradiction to cultural messages, and second because I had not premeditated the utterance.

The message we are culturally expected to convey to our children is: ‘You can do it!’ ‘Work hard and you will accomplish all your dreams!’ ‘Look inside of yourself and you’ll find all the strength you need!’

But this was not the message my offspring needed that day. And it wasn’t the message I needed either.

After a morning of siblings fighting and yelling, my heart was growing weary and my tendency toward frustration was simmering beneath the surface. I was about to cross the line into disciplining out of anger rather than out of love.

So I did the only thing I could at the moment – I sent the culprits to their beds and walked away. I knew if I didn’t take a break I would become a culprit too, like I have many times before. I knew I was at the end of my power and resource.

As I descended the stairs into the kitchen, I lifted my heart as a child to my Perfect Parent, to my Heavenly Father. I laid my weakness and inability at His feet and asked in return His wisdom, power, and creativity. I knew I could go no further on my own.

And ever so gently the thought seeped in: your children need from Me the same thing you need from Me.

When I spoke with my children several minutes later, I asked them if they recognized their wrong choices and sin in the morning’s uproar. They both did to an extent, and we talked about confessing and repenting, though they weren’t as engaged in the process as I hoped.

And then the heart revealing and life giving question that God had prompted me to ask spilled out, stopping them and me in our tracks:

‘Do you have the ability in and of yourselves to make right choices, to be obedient to God?’

They paused, thinking. Part of me assumed that of course we’ve talked about this before, surely they know that God is their only true source of hope and help.

But answers came in the form of tentative affirmations. They thought they could do it on their own.

Initially, it saddened my heart to know that these precious gifts from God, whom Cyrus and I have been tasked with the responsibility of parenting, carry this burden and lie around with them. The same burden I’ve often carried. The lie of self made righteousness.

But, I was thankful that God prompted me to ask such a revealing question – a question that laid bare their hearts and opened them up for seeds of truth.

My husband and I want our children to grow to be completely dependent on their Creator. We want them to experience the rest and peace and joy of not being able to do it all, but of being hidden in The One Who Can. As they grow in independence from their parents, we want them to grow in dependence on God.

We want to replace the world’s messages of self empowerment with the true messages of Christ empowerment.

I want instead to tell them, as I must daily remind myself, “you can’t do it, but He can.”

 

I hope these words have encouraged you to look up, to Aim at Heaven. To receive Aiming at Heaven posts and updates sent directly to your in-box, simply scroll down and click the subscribe button.

Thanks!

A Mother Marked By Christ

Everyone has an opinion of what it looks like to be a good mom. You’ve probably heard all sorts of different, maybe even contradictory, advice. You’ve read some parenting books and practically memorized “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “What to Expect the First Two Years.” (I might know this from experience) 😉

But as Christians, we have something in common that is very different than the rest of the world. We have Christ. We enjoy His salvation. We hope in His coming.

But how does this impact our mothering? How does is mark our motherhood?

I want to share with you four ways that I am learning to let Christ mark my motherhood and I hope it’s an encouragement to us all to be Mother’s Marked by Christ.

First and foremost, a mother marked by Christ fixes her mind on eternity.

Our Young Married’s group recently went through a book that confronted us with a question I will never forget: “Whose kingdom are you building?”

A mother marked by Christ doesn’t get caught up in building her own perfect kingdom – with the perfect décor, paint colors, cleanliness, the perfect vegetable garden, organically grown and locally sourced menu……. or the perfectly behaved children.

A mother marked by Christ has her hope fixed on God’s kingdom and uses her time and energy to witness to, disciple, teach, and encourage her children and those God has put around her. She loves God more than she loves this world and she urges others to do the same.

She knows, in the words of C.S. Lewis, that she has “never talked to a mere mortal.” We are all destined for eternity, it’s the type of eternity that we have the power, in Christ, to impact in the lives of our children and friends and acquaintances.

A mother marked by Christ heeds the Word of the Lord form Colossians 3 that says:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Second, a mother marked by Christ firmly trusts in the Lord.

Because she loves God and his kingdom more than anything else, she trusts Him implicitly. That trust results in supernatural confidence when life is utterly uncertain and supernatural peace when circumstances are utterly chaotic. A mother marked by Christ entrusts her children to the Creator of us all and teaches them to trust Him more than they trust and rely on her.

A mother marked by Christ “Trusts in the LORD with all her heart and does not lean on her own understanding. In all her ways she acknowledges Him, And He make her paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

And since she knows the beauty and hope of trusting in God alone, she is compelled to teach her children to do the same.

Francis and Lisa Chan say this about teaching children to trust:

“We want them to trust Him more than us, to enjoy Him more than us, to find more security in Him than in us. And we are convinced that the best way to teach this is to demonstrate it. We have to make it clear to our children that we love God more than we love them.”

Thirdly, a mother marked by Christ dwells in grace, NOT in self-condemnation.

We all fail as mothers at times (well, maybe more like every day), and we will continue to experience failure until we are face to face with Christ. But, a mother marked by Christ doesn’t get stuck in failure; instead, she clings to God’s forgiveness and grace and relies upon His strength to carry her through her weakness.

In her book “Missional Motherhood,” Gloria Furman reminds us that, “motherhood isn’t an exercise in muscling up strength to do stuff for God. Missional motherhood is a walk of faith where the weak (that’s all of us) must keep before them the scenic view of the cross.” She goes on to say, “Distinctly Christian mothering is done from a posture of weakness and dependence. We nurture life in the face of death by grace through faith in Jesus.”

This is grace in motherhood – His strength in exchange for our weakness.

The apostle Paul concurs:

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

A mother marked by Christ knows that she is insufficient in and of herself, so she throws herself into the arms of her gracious Savior and relies on His strength to empower her.

And in realizing that she is fully dependent on God’s grace, she is able to share that grace with her children.

Lastly, a mother marked by Christ finds true refreshment in her relationship with her Heavenly Father. (You can read more of my thoughts on this topic here.)

A mother marked by Christ gets tired, overwhelmed, and stressed-out – just like any other mom. But she knows the solution. She knows where to turn for true refreshment and peace and comfort. She sees through the world’s lies that a mani-pedi, massage, Netflix binge, chocolate, or coffee can offer the cure to a stressed-out day, week, or month. She knows self-love is perhaps the deadliest lie of all.

A mother marked by Christ knows and experiences the true refreshment and comfort that only comes from her intimate relationship with the Lord – dwelling in and enjoying His love for her.

A mother marked by Christ obeys His command to:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

She humbly learns from and leans on her gentle Savior.

 

As the rest of you moms know, this just scratches the surface of this beautiful and challenging, exhilarating and devastating thing we call motherhood.

But I hope this encourages us all to do motherhood, or any kind of nurturing, in light of our relationship to Christ.

Dear Tired Mom,

I’m tired too. I can’t remember the last night I slept through without waking up to tend to a child. I’m worn out by the emotional demands of trying to do what’s right when all my kids do is what’s wrong. I understand the non-stop demands of nurturing and caring for your family. And the sheer business of it all. Some days I still wonder what we were thinking having five kids in the span of six and-a-half years!

I’m guessing what you want is the same thing I want: Rest. Peace. A deep breath.

Fortunately, we live in a society that encourages moms to take a break; to take care of themselves so that they can better care for others. Even this fallen world recognizes that we all need rest – it’s the way God created us.

But, that’s where the wisdom of the world stops. In fact, I think even us Christian moms have bought in to some serious lies about self-care and rest from this world.

This is what a mom’s day off – or ‘rest’ – looks like in the world’s eyes, just to name a few:

A day at the spa

A girls night out

A Netflix binge

A glass of wine

A pedicure

A massage

A shopping spree

A cup of tea and a good book

Or for stay at home moms like me, even the thought of a part-time job out of the house, with adults, sounds refreshing!

Don’t get me wrong, most of these things sound like heaven on an average crazy day in my home. And I’ve sought some of these out as a source of refreshment, relaxation and rest on numerous occasions.

I bought into the need for ‘me-time’ earlier in my motherhood years. I craved moments when I could do what I wanted to do. I believed the lie that gratifying my own desires would rejuvenate me and make me a better mom.

But that rejuvenation only lasted about three minutes into my kids’ bickering. And what’s worse, I started getting bitter toward my kids. Because of my responsibilities toward them, I couldn’t do what I wanted to do more of the time. The problem was that the more I was concerned about my own desires, the more and more I thought about trying to fulfill them and the more I resented the obstacles in my way – usually my kids. And then I felt guilty for feeling this way about my kids. It was an awful cycle to be caught in.

Are you caught in this cycle too? Do you find that self-indulgence (sometimes conveniently labeled self-care) has left you bitter and resentful rather than refreshed? Angry at the very ones you love?

Consider this – we might be rejecting the true physical, mental, and emotional rest we so desperately need because we aren’t filling our God given need in the way He intended.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

The world says, come, tantalize your senses, fulfill your desires, indulge. The result will be a temporary satisfaction that leaves us dissatisfied and longing for more.

Jesus says, come to Me. The result will be a deep running, long lasting, supernatural rest for our souls.

I was convicted by this truth a couple years ago. I realized I was seeking rest and refreshment outside of God. I was chasing what the world told me would satisfy.

Though I still do enjoy some Netflix favorites, I’ve been filling more of my spare moments during the day with God – in His word and in communication with Him and learning from Him. And I’ve begun to experience that deep soul rest that He promises.

But here’s one of the other fantastic benefits of choosing to be refreshed by Jesus: the more I am learning about Him and about who I am in Christ, the more I am becoming Spirit controlled throughout my days. And the more I am becoming Spirit controlled, the better mom I am becoming! No other worldly indulgence can give me rest and lead me into more successful mothering at the same time! Jesus’ offer is the best by far.

Fellow moms, can I exhort you today with something I wish I’d learned years ago? There is true and deep rest to be enjoyed! Even in the most difficult seasons of life. Please don’t make the mistakes I have made of seeking rest in all the wrong places. I know that reading the Bible and praying doesn’t always sound like it will feel refreshing in our moments of thorough fatigue. But, will you heed the call of Jesus and come? Will you give Him a chance? Will you put the temporary pleasures on the back burner for a few minutes and lean on the Gentlest of all Teachers? I promise it will make all the difference – because that’s His promise.

“Work is not always required of a man. There is such a thing as a sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.” George MacDonald