Her House, My House

Every room in her house could be featured in Better Homes & Gardens in an article entitled “Pinterest Meets Reality.”

My kids, however, are randomly inspired to create art projects with shreds of paper, sparkles of glitter, dots of glue and Popsicle sticks, so my house hovers under a perpetual cloud of sparkles and the art work generally involves hand prints.

Cleaning her house probably means dusting the magazines.

Cleaning my house involves wiping down fingerprints from walls and scrubbing toothpaste splatter from inside the sink and all around the bathroom counter twice every day.

My furniture is worn and stained and scratched to shreds by cats.  My floors could be an archeologist’s dream—the interpretation of an ancient artifact to determine what every stain and tear reveals about its history.

She had collectibles and antiques.

I have toy bins, overflowing bookshelves, and craft supply buckets.

She had perfectly matching, expensive China dishes for entertaining.

I have a mishmash of plastic princess bowls, fairy mugs, cartoon character cups, and bent silverware.

When she needed to find something, it took her less than a minute to pull it from the appropriate folder.

Ask me for a particular piece of paper and it will take me two days of alternating frantic searches with desperate prayers for God to help save my sanity before I (maybe) can find it in the one place I never thought I would put it….ever…but probably seemed like such a safe spot at the time.

I have kids, three of them, what can I say?  I live a slightly disheveled life in a perpetually imperfect house.

And as much as I feel like “just a mom,” more than slightly nervous sitting in her Ethan Allen furniture surrounded by breakable objects, still I know that we aren’t better/worse or right/wrong.

We aren’t in competition and we don’t need to be the same.

I reminded myself all that day, after I returned home and spotted the streaks on the dining room windows and the smudges on the refrigerator door handles, as I sighed over the clothes that needed sorting and the school papers on my counter: I’m happy to be a mom.

And I am.

I might have slight twangs of jealousy over exotic vacations and perfect hair-styles, designer outfits and picture-perfect houses.

I might feel awkward and out of place in discussions about career success, financial affluence, and the three fancy restaurants others ate at just this past week.

But these three daughters of mine, this precious family, this messy home where we live this busy-crazy-funny-life of love and seeking God, is a gift.

And while I’m worrying over my life and feeling “less than,” maybe she’s looking over the grassgreenerfence of her own yard and thinking my grass looks slightly greener.

The world shoves arbitrary standards of success on us, labels we attach to our foreheads, categories we sort women into (working and stay-at-home), and hierarchies of value.

And the thing about God is that He isn’t interested in any of it.  He’s utterly uninfluenced by the way we determine “success” or “failure.”

He’s got a way of turning all these systems of judgment upside down.  Like how He uses the least of these or blesses the poor and gives the Kingdom to the meek.  Or how He gives the foolish understanding and defies the analysis of the self-declared “wise.”

That’s why Jacob, an aged man who raised sheep and unruly sons, stood in Egypt before the throne of mighty Pharaoh and “Jacob blessed Pharaoh again before leaving his court” (Genesis 47:10).

Pharaoh could raise a mighty army, commission massive pyramids, and alter the economy of the known world.

But Jacob closed tired eyes and prayed a blessing over a king.

We compare bank accounts, careers, clean houses, decorating skill, cake-baking ability, creativity with crafts, personal style, husbands and kids, haircuts, parenting choices, churches, ministries, Pinterest and Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and blog subscribers.

Yet, all that pressure you feel to be the same as her, to achieve as much, to own as much, to be gifted in the same way and called to do the same thing—that breath-stealing stress isn’t from God.

God is just looking to see if we’re obeying what He asked us to do.  Just as Paul commissioned Timothy, so God asks us to “fully carry out the ministry God has given you” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Not her ministry or her calling or God’s will for her or her gifting or her family or career or home…No, the one God has given you.

Just breathe.  Just serve.  Just minister.  Here and now and today and tomorrow, carry out this ministry un-distracted and unhindered by endless comparisons and value judgments.

And then let her do the same thing.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Setting Up Chairs and Why This Matters

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9)

“Who helped lead you to Jesus?”

It was part of the Sunday sermon at my church, our pastor opening up the floor for answers from the congregation.

There wasn’t even time for a more formal pass-the-microphone kind of testimony sharing.  People popped up their hands all over the church and some just called out their answers in tribute to those who carried them to Jesus.

Some mentioned sisters or friends, several Sunday School teachers, a school teacher, pastors and grandparents who had taken them to church.

But overwhelmingly the answers were “My parents.”

In Scripture, that’s part of Timothy’s testimony, too.  Paul writes:

 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you (2 Timothy 1:5).

If he sat in our church on Sunday, Timothy would have thrown up his hand and said, “My mom and grandma taught me about the Lord.”

It’s one of those moments in life where everything freezes for the slightest breath and you realize something deeply true—“This Matters.”

It’s not always so easy to persevere and keep on keeping on.  When you’re prepping the Sunday School materials week after week …when you’re grading papers and writing lessons….when you’re asking your friend to church for the hundredth time… when you’re just driving kids to church.

Then there are those daily tasks, seemingly unimportant, easily overwhelming, when it’s hard to feel like you’re having any significant impact at all beyond washing clothes and cooking meals.

Most of the Mom-life isn’t deep spiritual lessons and massively important character lessons for our kids.  Most ministry isn’t radical and miraculous transformation.

My children don’t sidle up to me around 4:30 each day, ask me what’s for dinner and hear me preach on the feeding of the 5000 or the Bread of Life or how we should hunger after righteousness.

Usually I just tell them chicken or spaghetti or something I’m going to make up in about 15 minutes that I haven’t decided on just yet but will surely be awesome.

I once heard a youth pastor say that “90% of ministry is setting up chairs.”

Isn’t that true of what we do as well?

Sure, God gives us these perfect moments when our kids ask the deep question and we need to know how to answer with the Bible and with prayer.  Of course, our lives need to be an example of personal faith in Christ.

Other times, though, we’re ‘setting up chairs.’  We’re washing mounds of clothes and matching the socks not devoured by the dryer monster.

We’re filling the cart with groceries and cooking those dinners night after night.  We’re packing lunch boxes day after day and bending over a child’s shoulder to watch her put the final touches of paint on a school project.

It’s jumping up every five minutes when a child calls out, “Mom!” or “Help!”  It’s standing outside waiting for the bus even in the cold and the rain and chasing down children who’ve forgotten their mittens or hats on a frosty day.

It’s losing sleep because of illness, bad dreams, night owls and early birds.  It’s foregoing any attempt at an uninterrupted conversation and occasionally hiding in the bathroom with the telephone just so you can hear what the person on the other end is saying.

It’s shuttling children here and there, cheering from the sidelines of a field on Saturday mornings or snapping photos at a ballet performance.

Setting up chairs–that’s what we’re doing day after every single day.  We’re serving in our homes and communities, schools and churches in hundreds of hidden ways.

Because we love.

We do it because God Himself, the Savior of us all, stooped onto a knee and washed the dust and grime off the feet of His own followers. Then He said, “since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow.  Do as I have done to you (John 13:14-15).

We do it without recognition most of the time.  No onlooker cheers you on for spending your day changing diapers, making meals and giving baths.

There aren’t enough ceremonies to thank the faithful servants who “set up chairs” in our churches every week.

But we can remember in this moment that “This Matters.” We can fold those clothes with a little more joy and prepare that lesson with a renewed sense of purpose.  Because every moment that we’re serving others is part of leading them to Jesus and there’s no greater ministry than that.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: The Competitive Edge

Several of my college professors sauntered into class on the first day of the semester, dropped their oversized literature textbooks onto their desks and announced, “If you expect to get an ‘A’ in this class, you can forget it.  I don’t give ‘A’s.’  At best, most of you will get a ‘C’ out of me.”

I took that as a personal challenge.

In fact, my irrationally competitive spirit can sometimes be a good thing.  Sometimes we accomplish more because of the adrenaline of the challenge, the race, and the competition.  That usually works for me.

And yet sometimes it’s a terrible addiction.  Like when you’re compelled to do the best, be the best, be the fastest, the first, the most impressive, and the most accomplished—even when it really doesn’t matter.

Or maybe one day you “fail” or come in second or make a mistake.

Or when you’re so focused on lifting yourself up, that you fail to come alongside others and give them a boost when they need it.

Or like when you’re a mom and you’re telling your child all the time, “You don’t have to be the first, the smartest or the best.  You just need to try your hardest and use the gifts God gave you to be who He called you to be. And I love you always.”

But deep down you want them to totally leave other kids in the dust.  Then your children start suspecting that when you tell them you love them and you’re proud of them, really there are some conditions attached.  Maybe they know that the deep-down hidden message in all this is to “Achieve.”

Or like when it’s time to throw a birthday party or be the classroom mom and an ordinary cupcake isn’t good enough.  You have to personally bake and decorate the kind of product that could land you on Cupcake Wars.  Your personal life goal is for all the other kids to say, “I wish my mom were as cool, fun, creative, and wonderful as you are.” (Throw in “beautiful” for good measure.)

Yes, that competition trap is a doozy.

All week long, I’ve been praying about killing the competition between my kids, encouraging them to be each others greatest cheerleaders instead of ultimate rivals.

Then I started thinking maybe my own drive for competition could use some killing.

In fact, maybe we all need the reminder in the body of Christ to unite for one purpose—the glory of God and the truth of the Gospel—rather than competing for attention, success, praise, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and number of people in the seats.

Here’s a verse I’m meditating on all this week, to remind me that ultimately all this striving matters very little and while it might spur you on to earn good grades or throw the best birthday parties, Christ would rather see us cheerleading than competing.

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4 HCSB).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King