Head Above Water


Sometimes I feel like my purpose for the entire day is just to keep my head above water…to keep my kids from injuring themselves, keep myself from yelling at them constantly, keep the house from being destroyed or set on fire, keep the electricity on by remembering to pay the bills, and keep food in everybody’s stomachs.

Most days, this is a major challenge in itself. If I accomplish this, I feel like I’ve done pretty well at fulfilling my purpose for that day. Avoiding disasters in this crazy house deserves a merit badge, in my humble opinion.

I wipe down the countertops, take a shower, and jump in bed for the night, feeling pleased that my day was relatively productive.

And then I read passages in the Bible like this:


“Pure religion that God our father accepts is this:  To care for the widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” -James  1:27


Or this:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”  -Matthew 25:34-40


I close my Bible, feeling like my aim of “keeping my head above water” is no longer good enough. Obviously, God has called us to way more than just feeling like we’ve made it through another day with everyone alive and relatively well.

He has called us to take care of the needy in this world and to be a light to those around us.

But how exactly does that look when you’re trying to take care of your own family? When I don’t even feel like I can keep my head above water most days???

I have been wrestling with this for the last several weeks, especially as I’ve been working through the Beth Moore’s new Bible study on James. James, the half-brother of Jesus, is a no-nonsense, no excuses type of person. Or at least it certainly seems like when you read his book! Take this passage for example…

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” -James 2:14-17


I can’t really hop on a plane and go and take care of orphans in Africa…I have a God-given purpose right here in my own family that I must fulfill first and foremost (and that I LOVE). Motherhood is a ministry in itself, after all! But that doesn’t mean that I am off the hook for other good deeds either.

But how in the world do we find a balance between taking care of our own families and serving others who are less-fortunate?

I certainly don’t have the answers, but here are two ideas I’m hoping to implement:

1)  Start small.  I keep waiting on God to call me to do something really BIG. But what I don’t realize is that, the little things can often matter even more than the big things. As Mother Teresa said, “No one can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” That’s what I’m aiming for these days. Taking meals, visiting the elderly, and writing a card are just a few examples that come to mind. To be honest, sometimes even these “little” things seem more than I can handle on most days…which is probably why God hasn’t yet called me to something really big because he knows that I couldn’t handle it just yet. :)

2)  Involve your children.  We just got home from a parenting seminar where the speaker told a story of when he was five-years old. His dad had taken him with a group from his church to paint someone’s house (at the age of five, mind you). His dad gave him a small ladder, a paint brush, and a small bucket with instructions to “paint this board right here.” Not only was his dad including him in an act of service, he was also affirming to his son that he knew he could do it.

It is so easy for me to brush my children aside while trying to “serve”. But what I really need to be doing is including them in whatever it is I am trying to do. My husband is much better at this than I am, so I am quietly embracing and learning from his leadership. Yes, making cookies for the neighbors will be much messier and time-consuming with two clumsy boys helping…but part of our purpose as parents is teaching them how to serve, both through our example and by including them in the process, even if it takes twice as long!


When we feel like we can barely keep our heads above water…maybe what God is really calling us to is to reach over and prop up the person next to us. Perhaps we can’t throw them a lifeline, but maybe it will be just what that person needs to keep pressing on.


(Isn’t the picture at the top of the post amazing? My dad took this photo of a hippopotamus on his last trip to Zimbabwe.)



  1. LOVED this post! Thank you so much for sharing your heart and for the inspiration to do more than just keep my head above water…something I’ve been doing for awhile now.

  2. This post was perfect for me to hear. I think many of us moms struggle with the same thing. I know my primary job is to care for my sweet Littles, but I often wonder what else God is calling me to. I am learning that listening to His still small voice is the only way I can fulfill what he has for me. I can not be left to figure out his will. I will mess it up. He knows what fits in my life. He knows who I need to minister to. I just need to be walking close enough to him to hear what that is.

  3. Thanks so much for this! I feel like most days are just surviving and getting dinner on the table. I have two toddlers and a baby on the way, and it’s exhausting. Thanks for encouraging us all to listen for Gods voice and looking for little things to do or give.

  4. Oh girl! I feel you on this one. I have been thinking a lot lately about this. very. thing. I’ve been thinking about how at the end of my life what do I want to have spent the most time on and one of the things on my list is sharing Christ with those around me and teaching my boys to do the same. I’ve been putting off doing anything because I feel like there are limited options with a 2 and 3 year old in tow. I love your encouragement to start small and remember that I’m not only sharing Christ’s love with someone else, but I’m showing my boys how to do it as well… even if it does take twice as long. Thank you for the kick in the pants I needed to read today. Looks like I need to get some cookie supplies at the grocery store this week!

  5. “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass”… And NEVER underestimate the important work you are doing every single day at home with your kids. You ARE building the kingdom of God every day.

    But, I understand the desire to do more and help and be involved and I think your ideas are a great start!

  6. I love this post! I am in the deep in the trenches of parenthood myself and also just started the James Bible study. What a great study!! And it has really caused me to pause and consider how I am carrying out the work of Christ. I always enjoy your blog posts — and they are a huge encouragement to moms and women, so that is a ministry all in itself!! Keep up the great work!!

  7. I have felt that way often myself. The very small things were even too much for me two years ago. But now that my kids are older the simple things we do are: when we make cookies, we make a big batch and deliver them to widows on our street, sometimes with a card and verse or tract, but often with just smiles and 10 minutes to chat. Also, watching the children of a friend who’s overwhelmed. I tell the kids beforehand, “we are going to serve Jesus today by serving ___, so we are going to be sweet and look for ways to serve them, instead of thinking about what you want.” Sometimes I realize we ARE serving, I just forget to tell my kids about it. So, you can tell them the next time you work in the church nursery, or post something that encourages someone’s heart how you are serving Jesus and how can they do that too? Thanks for being real though–I struggle many times too feeling like I need to do more, but I try to do what I can for this season and talk to the kids as we go.

  8. I feel like this is EXACTLY what God has been whispering into my heart for the past few months. Thanks for writing this – you put words to it more beautifully than I ever could.

  9. i have been struggeling w/these same issues! after reading tim keller’s a generous justice and now the book radical, these issues keep coming up- specifically serving and loving the poor. in our city, st. louis, we have a huge refugee population. i hope to get more involved in sm ways like you’ve mentioned. thank you for sharing:)

  10. Don’t be too hard on yourself–after all, you are feeding two hungry little boys (and a hungry husband) and clothing them too! Yes, we need to reach out to others around us as we are able (usually in simple ways), but we also do a ton of service in our families, especially as mothers. I recently heard a quote that said something to the effect of “religion is best practiced at home” –meaning at home is often the hardest but most important place to develop and act with Christ-like love and attributes.

  11. I hit this point about four years ago. With my 3 and 1 yr old. I decided to start small. I donated blood, donated my hair to locks of love, gave up my garage sale items to the mission store, got a $5 gift card here and there for homeless holding signs. I think God really blessed the little things. I found the more little things I did the more I felt capable to do. Now four years later the little things have snowballed into bigger things. We are smack-dab in the middle of our second overseas adoption. So, take heart, start small…you never know were God will lead you!

  12. Hi! I came across your site and I can truly relate with you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your message of involving the kids is really important. There are really times I wish I did not bring them along when we serve, because the preparation I have to do is so much more than if only I will serve. But you are right, they would learn so much and appreciate it in the long run if we can show them what helping others is truly all about. Please continue to write… you uplift and inspire and give us something to smile. God bless!

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