Of Ministry and Mom Guilt: Getting Over What Others Think

She strode up to our prayer gathering, her gray curls beautiful. The group stopped for greetings and her update on the situation across the border. Backpacking alone across Central America, helping out at missions along the way, Nicaragua’s political unrest had sent her doubling back to the children’s home where our family serves.

We hadn’t met, so after a while in the background, I asked her name and introduced myself: I’m Kris, Matt’s wife.

Her response stunned me. Yes, she knew my husband. With him so involved at the Home, she thought I’d be on-site helping more. She hadn’t seen me the whole time she’d volunteered.

The assessment burned. For a moment, I had no words. Matt explained that I homeschool our three children and have a full plate running our household.

She wasn’t impressed. Again it came; she thought I’d be there more.

I jumped in to list my efforts: cooking team dinners, communication for our family ministry and the Home, the longer process of doing cross-cultural life.

Shrug.

There it was out on the table. I disappointed this interesting, brave soul. My labor didn’t count—to her.

I’m not sure what was going on in the heart of that purpose-driven woman, but I can describe a little of the turmoil inside this one. I tried to shrug, also, to nudge her opinion off of me. Instead, it stuck.

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After spending most of the day spinning the scene in my head, I started asking questions and listening for the truth.

Am I spending my time where I’m supposed to?

There are likely as many types of missionary mothering as there are mission families. One feeling we probably all share is wondering if we do enough. Like moms everywhere, we teeter on a scale that almost defies balance: if we work out in the world a lot, we should focus more on home. If we pour into home, we should use our talents outside it more often. Stir in some “cross-culture” and “serving the Lord” status, and things get even stickier.

When I first landed in Costa Rica as a missionary, I thought I had to be perfect. I believed serving in a new culture meant I couldn’t have any of my own. I shouldn’t have preferences or needs. It was all dying to thyself. When I was served inedible food at a restaurant, we didn’t dare complain. When the taxi driver’s cologne cloud and speed-stop-turn combos set me sick and trembling, take up thy cross. For shame, you a) brought so much Tupperware from the states, b) skipped voluntary chapel to give your overwhelmed introvert self a breather between classes, c) used your clothes dryer when it wasn’t raining. And so on, forever and ever, amen.

The strain outpaced my weight-bearing capacity. To keep from being crushed, I had to give up trying to keep up with what I thought people expected of me. I had to find my own scale and sense of balance for the calling God gave me.

What is my calling?

Long before I ever signed up for this surrender, I felt the press of expectations. Our family came for 5 weeks in 2008 to get a taste of mission life without the team experience bells and whistles. Just us conquering the grocery store, bribing our kids with new flavors of jello for patience while we translated packaging. Just me figuring out exactly how short my Rosetta Stone work measured up. When our son’s 3-year-old, out-of-his-element wails sounded once again from the play area chaos, a different single woman from the states had words for me.

You know, to serve in this place, your kids have to toughen up. They have to live like these kids—without parents. We share everything here.

I was still on job interview behavior, trying to say the right thing, go the extra mile, make a good impression. But the rebuke knocked the people pleasing right out of me.

That is not what God is calling us to do.

My bold declaration surprised both of us. I knew it without question, though. God was not asking us to make our own children orphans so we could minister to orphans. Each family has a unique assignment; that was not ours.

My calling, God revealed over time, is to make home for our family. This safe, snug nest is the landing and launchpad for my husband’s full-time leadership at the children’s home. It’s the education of our kids, equipping them for whatever the Lord has for their future. It’s modeling a healthy family for precious hearts waiting to find theirs. It’s cooking up the taste of love for teams and making relationships from afar with words. What God asked of me is not just my contribution, it’s become my joy.

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Each of us has special set of gifts and a call to use them, whether on the mission field or off. We each serve and grow the kingdom in a way only we can. Everyone hears the “not enough” message from some stereo system. It’s time to cut the power on that soundtrack.

We shouldn’t have to look like one another. Life’s canvas is richer if we don’t. Let’s embrace the spectrum of colors each brings to the table and fully enjoy painting our own.

As for me and my house, it’s picked up, but not dusted. In a culture where value is earned by the shine of your tile, I choose to set priorities in line with my calling and trust the Lord for my worth.

In a land full of expectations, the best path is freedom.


How about you? Do you struggle with what others think about what you feel led to do? You’re not alone. Share your thoughts and encouragement in the comments below.

Family Waves Photo by Natalya Zaritskaya & Piggyback Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash


27 comments

  1. Oh my goodness Kris! Once again you have spoken to my heart! This post had me laughing (at the dying to thyself paragraph) and crying and the expectations of ourselves and words of others that I allow into my heart and let lead me alot of the time! I’m shutting it off as well. I’m beginning again, today to listen to what God says about what I am to do and I don’t want to look like anyone else! You’re so right! The canvas is sooooo boring if we all look the same! We need to embrace differences in all areas! Once again, beautifully written by a beautiful woman of God! Thank you for sharing your heart!!

  2. Kris
    You are doing a GREAT job with those 3 kids. They are well behaved, educated and wonderful reflections of the love of God pouring through you to them. It is because you are doing what God has called you first todo, which is to be mom. It is because you do what you do that Matt can do what he does. Don’t let the words of a well meaning, but somewhat unknowing person make you feel bad. You are a wonderful help mate to Matt and the entire team at Hogar de Vida. I am certain that when God was listening in on the conversation that he thought “Kris, don’t let this woman’s disappointment steal your joy. I am proud of you, my good and faithful servant.”

    Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you for sharing. “”” I choose to set priorities in line with my calling and trust the Lord for my worth.””” This spoke volumes to me. I like your attitude, sometimes I feel so bad especially when people place a value to your life. You are an amazing inspiration Kris.

  3. I believe that we should always look at what’s best for us, and what are our priorities, and act based on that. Doing what other’s expect us to do and trying to please everyone only brings disappointment to us. Why should we live our lives based on other people’s belief. Your attitude is totally right. That’s how it should be. 🙂 Great post! 🙂

  4. It can be so hard to shrug off what others say about us! I fall into that trap too of thinking I need to please everyone around me. But God knows your heart and that’s who you need to please and impress. That audience of one is a great phrase but it can be hard to live up to. Thank you for writing this and reminding us who we need to be most concerned about.

  5. I love this. The line between working and mothering is so thin..We all know that motherhood is in fact a ministry, but how much of that ministry does God want to stay in our household? And how much time does He want us to spend ministering to those outside of our household? Whatever the answer, it’s between us and God – no one else. Kudos to you for sharing a very personal experience so that we too can learn to discern God’s will for ourselves.

  6. You are so brave, Kris! You keep on being the on-duty mom with more on her plate than that driven woman could ever hope to understand. I remember those years and I’m grateful that I set aside my counseling practice to raise my boys to teenhood. I don’t regret a single accomplishment I might have made outside of the homefront. And I have to say that it is the best calling! Thanks for sharing so vulnerably about an issue so many grapple with.

  7. Thank you Kris for sharing this beautiful writeup with us. You have certainly blessed a number of souls with this message. It resonated with me a lot. Sadly the woman that made that comment to you does not have the right knowledge. I pray the Lord opens her eyes of understanding. One lesson that I picked which I always implement is for us not to judge others and condemn others. It is only God that knows the hearts of those that are serving Him.

    • You are right, Mysses. I pray for the hearts behind the words that were hard for me. God used them for good, and I’m thankful his great recycling plan never fails. Thank you for your encouragement.

  8. Pingback: Nose Chicken: Dealing with the Battles You Can’t Win « The Good News Family

  9. I know I struggle with what others think, even more so being in the glass house known as ministry. It seems as if everyone knows how we should live our lives. I have had to learn to ignore the thoughts and opinions of others. My first ministry is to my family (a constant self-reminder). I’m thankful to pastor people who understand that. The expectations upon the minister’s wife seems much worse. The wives are most definitely considered heroes in my book. Thank you for serving our Lord and your family!

    • Wow, Matthew, I so appreciate your validation and encouragement. It’s a tough balance to strike: to serve people we have to love in a way that connects and yet also stay true to our calling. Blessings on your ministry and your family, too.

  10. Kris
    Thanks so much for all the encouragement you’ve provided through your blog!! It’s such a blessing seeing what you’re family is doing in a country where you may not always feel comfortable; to find comfort only in what God has called you to do is such a testimony! Thanks for sharing the words He lays on your heart!

    I’ve nominated you for a Blogging Recognition Award, the link can be found below:
    https://forhispurpose.blog/2018/09/17/blogger-recognition-award/

    Or you can click my flower icon or profile name to read the post at the top of my blog titled Blogging Recognition Award!


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