How to know what really matters

Not just choose to give grace, but choose to receive it, take it in, soak it up past the superficial skin and let it seep down deep into your soul, into the places of self-condemnation.  Let it erase the records of wrongs, mistakes and imperfections.

Like when you shop at at the grocery story and you forgot your coupons.  And they don’t have the chicken you need, which messes up your meal plan for the week.

So you skip out on exercise because you had to trek to a second grocery story to find said elusive chicken.

And during the rush to put away the groceries, all you can see is the dirt in the corners of the kitchen floor, the apple juice splatters, the toothpaste splotches in the bathroom sink, and the laundry piled in the basket.

At the end of the day, what’s on your mind is mess and failure, what you didn’t accomplish….how your kids didn’t practice the piano, your toddler threw a tantrum every hour, and you didn’t finish the project you’re working on.

I collapsed onto the sofa after having that day and read to my daughters quickly.  When we finished the chapter, my daughter reached over and turned down the corner the page to hold our place.

And I felt the full rush of failure.

I’m a page-turner-downer from way back.  Despite a lovely, inspirational, unique and extensive collection of bookmarks, I fall back on a long-established bad habit.  I just dog-ear my page and snap the book shut.

Unfortunately, it’s a bad habit I’ve unwittingly passed along to these daughters of mine.  In fact, it’s so extreme they’ve even coined a term for it, transforming the word “chapter” into a verb.

“Mom, don’t close the book until we ‘chapter it!” they say and I dutifully slip the corner of the page down.

Watching my daughter turn down that page without hesitation, I heard that voice in my head: I’m passing along my bad habits to my children, handing them down like ill-fitting jeans and worn-out shoes.

Unfortunately, some of them aren’t as immaterial as dog-eared book pages–like stressing perfection too much, having too little patience with ourselves and others, always wanting to be in control, and not accepting grace in the wake of messy failure.

Don’t we all have days where it seems we meet with more failure than success? Where Satan can barrage us with reminders of the mistakes from long ago and the crazy mishaps of today?

Where every mom on Facebook seems to have it all together: gourmet meals for their family, a spit-n-shine house, Martha Stewart-like crafting ability, time to bake, snazzy Scrapbook pages, award-winning kids, and time for family service projects….”

Or maybe you feel it at your job or in your ministry or with your friends.  What you should be doing.  What you failed to do.  What you said that was wrong. How you fall short.  How you could be better.

The pressure of perfection is far too much for our imperfect selves tripping along in an imperfect world.

And that’s the point, sweet friend.  It’s not to get everything right.  It’s to get what really matters right.  It’s to do our best and just lay it all out, insufficient as it is, as an offering before a gracious God who just wants our heart anyway.

Paul told Timothy:

“The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God” (1 Timothy 1, MSG).

Sometimes we have to stop and ask, “What’s the point?  What is it that really matters here?”

Is it a chicken? Missing coupons?  Apple juice splatter or the pages of a book turned down at the corner?

What matters is living “a life open to God.”

So, we choose to receive that grace and rest in it.  We silence that self-condemning prattle in our mind and heart and decide:  it’s okay if we didn’t get it all perfect today and if our life got a little bit messy.

Doesn’t God love us?

Didn’t we try our best to walk in that love?

That’s the point and that’s enough.

Now, it’s your turn: Do you have any bad habits?

Originally posted November 2, 2012

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

Praying with a Penny Cup

penny cupThe penny plinked into the cup and I walked away.

It was such a simple thing.  The penny pressed into the palm of my hand and then a quick release, a letting go, and I was done.

Before my penny cup, I thought that I was just persevering in prayer like Jesus told His disciples to do in Luke 18.

There was the widow who came before the unfair judge day after day to demand justice, and finally he gave in because he was annoyed and tired of hearing her complain about it.

There was the neighbor awakened in the middle of the night by obnoxious and persistent knocking at his front door.  He finally opened up the door and stood there in his pajamas listening to his neighbor’s plight—an unexpected guest, no bread in the house, could he share?  Yes!  Take it!  Take anything as long as you stop that knocking, knocking, knocking so I can get some sleep already.

So, Jesus tells us, if an unrighteous judge and a sleep-deprived neighbor gave into requests just because of tenacity, wouldn’t God who loves us respond when we pray and pray and pray and don’t give up praying?

Don’t stop praying.  Even when you’re weary and exhausted and hopeless and think it doesn’t do a bit of good, keep pushing and pushing on in prayer.

But my idea of persevering in prayer wasn’t really prayer any more.  It was more like fretting in front of God’s throne and worrying about a problem before a divine audience.

All night long, I mentally paced in prayer: Lord, here’s my problem and here’s what I need You to do to fix it.  

I plead and argued and orated and then when I’d run out of things to say, I started all over again.

Hour after hour ticked by on my bedside clock and still I continued.

God loves when we pray. We can bring anything and everything to Him in prayer and He never tires of hearing us and never turns us away.

But I never released my need to Him.  I was talking at Him without ever letting go or pausing for even a second to listen or be still.

I was wallowing in anxiety and putting a holy ‘stamp of approval’ on it by calling it prayer.

John wrote:

 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for (1 JOhn 5:14-15 HCSB).

I was praying as if He couldn’t hear me.

….as if my will mattered more than His will.

….as if only my solution to the problem was acceptable.

….as if He wasn’t sovereign or compassionate—wasn’t able or didn’t care to rescue me.

… as if He was against me instead of for me.1 john 5

It was a prayer of unbelief.

Then, I read the idea in a discipleship magazine: a penny cup.

It’s not the cup that mattered or even the penny.  Writing a prayer on a slip of paper and slipping it into a prayer box would do just as well.

What matters is a physical reminder to release my white-knuckled grip on my problem and give it over to the God who loves me so.

Every time I  found a wayward penny on a dresser or on the floor, I picked it up and prayed with a quick whisper, “Lord, please take care of this need.  I trust You to deliver me.” Then I released the prayer to Him as I dropped the coin into my penny cup.

I didn’t tell Him how to fix the problem.  I didn’t wrestle with Him for hours every night over the need.

I prayed day in and day out (you’d be surprised how many pennies you find when they become part of your prayer life), but always I gave the problem to Him instead of holding onto it myself.

When the penny cup filled to the brim, I poured out the coins and started again.  For years, I prayed about this one issue, giving it over to God one…..penny….. at….. a….. time.

For the first time, I really prayed.  I didn’t fret and argue and run endless circles of desperate pleading around God.

I persisted in prayer by expressing my need while leaving the solution in His hands.

And God rescued me.  Not in the way I expected.  Not in the timing I expected.  Not without hardship and hurting or obedience or faith in the hard places.  But the deliverance was miraculous and beautiful and perfect in the way only God’s deliverance can be.

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

What Can Make You Lose Every Time

I watched as this college friend pulled clothes from her suitcase and packed them into a duffel bag for the Thanksgiving weekend at home.

She still had an empty dresser and a full suitcase 3/4 of the way through the college semester.

I am not like this.  I am an insta-unpacker.  The moment I arrive at a hotel, I nest.  I empty every bag, tuck every item away, fill the mini-kitchen and set up the bathroom sink.

When we return home, I’m going to unpack no matter how late it is.  I’m going to start that load of laundry and pull out the toiletries because it cannot wait until morning, not if I want to get any sleep.

Maybe I looked lost in confusion as I watched my friend move clothes from one bag to another because she stopped to explain it to me.psalm16-11

It wasn’t procrastination or laziness.

It was perfectionism.  It was that ugly enemy that paralyzes us with the lie:  If you can’t do it perfectly, then why do it at all?

“I was so busy,” she said, “I knew I didn’t have time to put my clothes away just right, so I left them in the suitcase.”

Beth Moore wrote:

Perfectionists always lose (Esther).

It’s the same way my son chose to crawl rather than walk for weeks and weeks.  People asked me, “Can he walk yet?”

Yes, he could walk.

Did he always choose to walk?

No.  It amused him to walk a little from room to room or place to place.  But when he wanted to get somewhere with certainty and with speed, he dropped to all fours and crawled like a rocket.

Perfectionism does this; it paralyzes us into this one place of development.  We’re comfortable here.  We move along well enough.  This is what we know.

Why choose stumbling?  Why choose uncertain steps and potential embarrassment?

This is what we lose when we demand perfection from ourselves:  We lose the journey of grace, the way God walks alongside, the way He steadies us with His strong hand and smiles at our progress.  The way He cheers us along and encourages us on the weary days to persevere and not give up, to get up and try once more because He is with us, after all.

Jesus said these words to His disciples and it could have broken over their weary souls like the cracking of a whip, so they felt trampled and beaten and hopeless:

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 ESV).

Be…..perfect?

It’s tucked in just one tiny verse after the beatitudes and after Jesus tells them not to retaliate against their enemies, not to get divorced, not to lust, not to sin when they’re angry, and to love their enemies.

Yes, do all this.  And be perfect.

That would have caused me some religious whiplash.  If I were taking sermon notes on that hillside, I’d have written it down on my bulletin with exclamation marks and references to look up later in case the preacher was wrong.

Hadn’t the Pharisees preached legalism and works-based faith?  The religious elite told them to be perfect, be perfect, be perfect and if possible, be more perfect, because that’s what it took to please God.

Here I am at the end of my 12-month pursuit of the presence of Christ, and I’m ending the year with this: Abandon Perfection.

But how do you move on past a verse like this?

Be perfect?  That’s impossible.  I’m a mess some days, broken and faulty and prone to sin.

So, Jesus, does that mean we’re hopelessly blocked from Your presence and Your favor because this perfection just trips us all up?

Oh, but here’s the grace we perfectionists need.

Ravi Zacharias writes:

Perfection, then, is not a change in the essential character but the completion of a course...We can never be who God is, but we can complete the task he assigns us to do” (The Grand Weaver).

Jesus didn’t mean we had to attain that holiness on our own or get everything right and never falter or sin.  He knows we can’t.

He asks us, though, to move forward.  Take those steps.  Make progress.  Obey Him.

When He tells us to move, move.  When He plants us, bloom.  When He leads us, follow.  When He prompts us, go.  When He nudges us, yield.

Perfectionists lose because we get so focused on the end that we despair in the middle and simply give up.  Or we never begin in the first place.

But God asks us to just take a walk with Him, rest in His presence, trust His direction, enjoy His company.  Then we’ll be where He wants us to be, with Him….and that’ll be perfect.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Abandon Perfection?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Christmas Devotions: Try Not To Gash Your Head Open on the Kitchen Cabinet

I found a $1 treasure at a summer yard sale, an oak step stool to solve my problem.

christmas12

Picture by daphoto; 123rf.com

My kids had been scaling the counters to reach cups and bowls from the cabinets, a heart-stopping feat if ever there was one.

They carried the bathroom stool out to the kitchen and left it there where it didn’t belong.  It was a step stool in demand, actually.  Every time we needed the stool, it was inevitably hopelessly lost in whatever room in the house we didn’t think to look.

I spotted that “new-to-us” wooden stool in that yard sale and my heart skipped happy beats of victory and accomplishment.  With just a simple coat of paint, I’d have a sturdy new stool that belonged in the kitchen, kept my kids off the counters, and matched my home décor.

Score!

The first time it wobbled, we dismissed it as our own clumsiness.  That’s easy to do in our house.

But the offending stool failed us again and again, causing bruises, bumps, scrapes, tears and accusations.

I gave lessons to my kids on how to keep from smashing your head on the kitchen counter. Surely, they simply needed to know “How to Stand on the Stool” and “How Not to Stand on the Stool.”

The problem, though, wasn’t our technique. The stool itself was faulty in a way a coat of paint couldn’t cover. It was treacherous and off-balance.

Finally, I admitted defeat and threw it out with the morning garbage before I added an emergency room visit to my daily agenda.

This year in our church cantata, we sang that “Christmas Makes Everything New.”

More than that white covering of snow that sparkles in the moonlight and hides the wilted grass and un-raked leaves, Christmas offers us a fresh start.

But do we believe it? Do we treat ‘newness’ as little more than cosmetic refurbishing? A coat of paint, perhaps, and God sends us on our merry way with a façade of Christian niceties covering over a truly treacherous human condition?

Scripture is radical in its promise:

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come(2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV)

God’s work in us isn’t just life with a Christian ‘varnish.’ He promises to remove the diseased and petrified heart that plagues our life with sin and transplant in us a new heart of flesh, a heart where His Spirit dwells.

It’s complete.  It’s not refurbishing a $1 step stool and hoping you don’t gash your head open when you use it.  It’s not ‘settling’ for a little bit of God in a big pile of mess.

More than this.  Oh, so much more.

It isn’t God handing us a 12-step instruction sheet with complicated diagrams and a paint kit and telling us to go make a new heart.

That’s the law.  That’s us trying to get it all right.  Trying to be perfect.  Trying to reach heaven on our own tip-toes (maybe with a faulty step-stool).

That’s us landing on the ground again, worn and weary, exhausted from trying so hard to stop the wobbling, the failure, the mess the brokenness.

That’s us trying to hold it all together and still finding that it falls all apart.

I’ve been spending this month learning to Abandon Perfection in my 12-month Pursuit of the Presence of Christ.  And here’s what I find while standing on a church stage with a choir singing away:

Christmas is God come down; not us reaching up high enough to touch Him. Christmas is God’s gift, God at work, God-with-grace, God-with us.

Too often, we make it all about us.  What we have to do to make Christmas perfect.  What we have to accomplish in our homes and in our hearts.  The projects, the parties, the get-togethers, the programs, the traditions, the attempts to pack more meaning into something so deep-down meaningful.

And we almost miss it.  For all the to-do, we almost miss this:

Christmas is about Him.

He will take us as we are and He will make us new.  It’s all in His big hands, big enough to hold us all together, big enough to heal, strong enough to carry us right on through.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Abandon Perfection?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!
To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Christmas Devotions: How many ornaments have we broken so far?

The first crash of that shattering glass hit and it was just the day after Thanksgiving.  We were only one day into the Christmas season and only about 1 hour into Operation Decorate the House.

‘Twas an accident of course.

The penguin soap dispenser hit that floor and ended in a puddle of hand soap and broken glass.

Photo by jeka81, 123rf.com

Photo by jeka81, 123rf.com

That’s decorating with kids.

Accidents happen, you know.

An hour later, another crash.  Our box of special, keepsake, treasured ornaments hit the floor and a daughter cried with remorse.

Still, a little sweeping, a little mopping, a little gluing, a little comforting and we slipped back into the decorating groove, crooning along with Bing Crosby to White Christmas.

Stuff is stuff.  Things break (especially when you’re clumsy like me, especially when you have four kids like us).

Look at our Christmas tree from afar and it still has that glow of perfect.

Look up close and you’ll see the ballerina’s feet are glued on, Noah’s ark is missing a dolphin leaping up out of the ocean waters, and the three kings no longer carry a sign: “Wise Men Still Seek Him.”

Brokenness can still be beautiful when we look with eyes of grace.

But when we squint up close to critique and criticize….when we look right past the glory and seek out the flaws…..suddenly that’s all we see.

Perfectionism is a bully.

It muscles in and takes over our perceptions.

It demands that we see only brokenness and faults.

It insists that we remain chained to the past, obsessing over mistakes, battering us over past sin, beating us up with shame.

Lysa TerKeurst writes:

My imperfections will never override God’s promises (The Best Yes).

The promise of Christmas is “God with us.”  The promise is that when we were farthest from Him, He came to us.

The promise is that we didn’t have to get it right on our own or check the boxes of the law until we’d met some prerequisite to grace.

We didn’t come worthy.

We came needy.

And He came down.

Our imperfections never negated the promise of Emmanuel’s presence.  Not then.  Not now.

He still promises us this, “And surely I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).

He is with us always, but not to leave us there in the brokenness.

Sometimes we stop right there at this thought: “Beauty in the brokenness.  We’re all a mess in need of a Messiah.”

Sometimes we stop right there and, dare I say it, glory in the broken?  We cling to our mess instead of releasing it to Him.

But the glory is in the Healer.  The glory is in the redemption.  The glory is in the One who puts His own pure robe of righteousness over our shaky shoulders.

He doesn’t leave us naked and ashamed.  He “has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10 NIV).

We’ll never be perfect in our own striving and strength.  True.  But we don’t have to remain stuck there in the mud.  He grips us with the hand of grace and pulls us out of that pit so we can move forward with Him.

Those disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection didn’t have it all right.  They didn’t have perfect understanding.  Their belief was delicately trembling and about to topple their whole foundation of faith.

They thought Jesus had been the Messiah, yet He had died.  These rumors from ‘crazy women’ about an empty tomb left them confused and alarmed.

But Jesus walked alongside without them recognizing him, going back to the beginning, telling the story start to finish.

When He was about to leave, “they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.”

There at the dinner table, He broke the bread and their eyes opened wide to the truth: This was Jesus.  This was God in their midst.

I’ve spent a year pursuing the presence of Christ, and as I “Abandon Perfection” this month I’m reminded of this:

God’s presence doesn’t hinge on perfection.

God’s presence doesn’t demand perfect understanding or faith without fail.

But if I want God’s presence, then I have to invite Him in, urge Him strongly, “stay with me…..”

He can only make us whole when we trust Him with the pieces, all of them:

God made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him. Psalm 18:20 MSG

We bring all the pieces.  We don’t hold any back.

We lay them at His feet, not running away or hiding from Him.  We come into His presence, broken as we are, and He makes us whole and holy, and He stays with us.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Abandon Perfection?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

 

My kid found the kryptonite to bring down Supermom

My daughter climbed into the minivan after school and nailed me with Mom-guilt before she even sat down and buckled on her seatbelt.

“Mom, why didn’t you come to National School Lunch Day and have lunch with me like all the other moms?”

2 corinthians 12

photo by Nataliia Kelsheva , 123rf.com

I sucked in my breath and battled the personal demons of fear of failure, perfectionism, and people-pleasing like I was fighting a sneak attack from a three-headed monster.

This beloved child of mine was essentially throwing kryptonite at me and bringing Supermom to her knees.

We had talked about this.  I had sat these girls down at the kitchen table and explained to them that I didn’t like to come on the ever-popular National School Lunch Day when the cafeteria was crowded and loud and it wasn’t a good day for me to come this year, anyway.

I have lunch in the school cafeteria with each of my girls every single month on our own ‘special’ day of my own choosing when it fits with our schedule and when we can actually sit and enjoy each other’s company without shouting over the ambient noise of 150 kids plus their parents and grandparents.

In fact, it was on my calendar to have lunch with this very same child just two days later.

But she nailed me with disappointment anyway.

It nagged at me persistently all afternoon even though I knew what she wanted of me wasn’t fair or right or true.

Still I felt the weight of condemnation:

A good mom would have gone to National School Lunch day.

You disappointed her.

You just need to try harder, do more, be more.

Few things cripple the heart of a perfectionist like fear of disappointing your child.

(Or fear of messing them up so much they’ll spend their entire adult life in counseling.  Or never move out of your house and lead a healthy adult life.  There’s that.)

We’re desperately terrified of failing at this.  We know God gave us these precious gifts and from the moment that pregnancy test line appears, we feel the full weight of this responsibility.

Then you hold that newborn life in your hands in a hospital room in the dark of that first night without sleep and you know how desperate you are for God’s help to do this right.

But I read this in Courtney DeFeo’s book, In This House We Will Giggle:

“I don’t want to be Jesus for my kids; I just want to draw them close to Him. I don’t need to be perfect, because He already is… I have to remind myself daily that God offers grace.  Yes, we are going to mess up.  We will not, cannot, get all this parenting stuff just right.  But God fills in the gaps and gives us tremendous grace and mercy along the road.”

That grace fills up my mercy-starved lungs so I can breathe again.

Sometimes I need to let the guilt go.

I need to let the perfection go.

I don’t need to be Jesus for my kids.

In fact, if I try to be Jesus to them, I’ll block their view and they won’t see Christ at all ’cause my bumbling shadow is in the way.

I’m spending this month pursuing the presence of Christ by learning to Abandon Perfection.

Because as long as I keep up the pretense of being perfect, I can’t collapse into the grace-filled arms of my Savior—not as a woman, not as a mom.

And grace is what I need.

I read in Scripture about the woman who splashed that expensive perfume all over the dusty feet of Christ.  Those self-righteous men at the table criticized her offering and mocked her worship.

But Jesus said,

Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to meShe has done what she could (Mark 14:6, 8).

All those Pinterest boards tell me hundreds of ways I need to be a better mom.

The blog posts overwhelm me with plans and programs and ideas.

The parenting magazines show me everything I’m doing wrong.

The Facebook pictures show everyone else doing it right.

But that’s not life.  That’s not real life anyway. That’s the suffocation of perfectionism, impossible standards, guilt and failure.

Ann Voskamp says:

Perfectionism isn’t a fruit of the spirit…Joy is.

Oh, if there’s anything I want it’s the Joy of Jesus in this home.

And here’s the joy I find:  I don’t need to be perfect.

I just need to give what I have and do what I can and bring these kids to Jesus.

I’m not enough.  I’m not perfect.

But He is.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Abandon Perfection?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

 

 

I am not a Perfectionist….most of the time

I’ve always said, “I’m not a perfectionist; I’m a pragmatist.”

My goal is usually to get things done. I’m willing to let some things go as long as I have a viable product by the deadline.

That’s what I say.

ephesians2-8b

by daphoto, 123rf.com

Mostly, it’s true.  Pragmatism trumps perfectionism for me in a million ways every single day.

But I stood there in a bustling classroom on Open House Night and realized that maybe perfectionism has been lurking its ugly head in my heart after all.

Turns out, you don’t have to be a perfectionist about everything to struggle with perfectionism in some things.

My stuff doesn’t need to be perfect, but I need to be perfect.

(And maybe I want my kids to be perfect, too.)

I chatted with my daughter’s teacher and loved her.  She has this elegant air of grace and gentle wisdom.

But I’m nervous around teachers.  They are like superheroes to this teacher’s pet of a neurotic straight-A student like me.  So, I found myself just saying things without thinking.

She said she enjoyed teaching my girl.

I said something about my daughter enjoying the year so far, but how sometimes if she gets a B on a paper that’s still a little hard.

She said in the quietest of ways, “Really, I don’t see that about her at all.  She seems to be so well-adjusted and not overwhelmed by things like that.”

Oh, right.

My daughter is the well-adjusted one.

It’s me with the problem.  It took a near-stranger to see right through me and call out the ugly I’m still holding onto like a security blanket.

She didn’t realize it, of course.  Yet, one simple conversation like that keeps nudging at my heart.

It turn out I have areas of my life where I accept imperfection and areas where I expect to meet impossible standards that set me up for failure and leave me desperate for grace.

You too?

Messy closets…..I can let that go.

Messing up with my kids, with my husband, with a friend…..unacceptable.

I

must

be

perfect.

Do not lose your patience.

Do not forget to sign the school agenda or the reading log or the quiz or the behavior sheet for any child.

Do not neglect or overlook anyone or anything.

Always say the right thing.

Always be there for everyone with wisdom and grace.

Yet, here’s the truth of the Gospel: Perfectionism keeps us from Christ.  Jesus came for the imperfect.

Perfectionism feeds into that prideful self-righteousness that says I can be right without Jesus.  I can be good enough.   I don’t really need a Savior.  Only sinners and mess-ups need rescue.

And while I say it:  “I need Jesus,” what I really mean is: “I need Jesus in a thoroughly acceptable and comfortable good-Christian girl kind of way.”

That rich young ruler found Jesus walking along the road and knelt before Him.  He made a show of humility: dropping his knee before a dust-covered-carpenter-turned-wandering-rabbi.

The man asked: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17 NASB).

And when Christ listed off the commandments, the man said, “I have kept all these things from my youth up.” (Mark 10:20 NASB).

He’d spent his entire young life striving within himself to do and do and do the right thing, never breaking the rules, never faltering.

Yet, he still missed out on Jesus.  He couldn’t give everything up to follow after Christ.

And that’s what Jesus wants, not perfect self-righteous rule-followers who focus so hard on taking the right steps that they never walk forward.

He just wants our heart.

I’ve spent this whole year pursuing the presence of Christ, and here I am in December: the month when I “Abandon perfectionismPerfection.

It’s fitting really.

Too often we stress over Christmas, the busyness, the rush, the show.  We need to fulfill every tradition.  Create beauty.  Teach our children about Jesus and about giving.

Pinterest tells me I need to make Christmas ‘magic’ for my children.

Yet, too often we make Christmas about do and do and do.

What if this year we Abandon Perfection and simply make Christmas about giving Jesus our heart?

I want Jesus.  I want His presence.  And that means coming now, before I’m perfect.  Coming as we are.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV).

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Abandon Perfection?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Sabbath in the Busy Season

My husband shoos me away from the kitchen.

A teething baby had me up and down most of the night, so my husband tells me to go get some rest.

In a bit….

When I finish….

I still have stuff on my to-do list…..and then maybe….psalm 116

The problem is the to-do list keeps growing because I have eyes that see mess and clutter and projects everywhere I look.  I’m trying to clean while my kids are home and we all know how that goes.

He says it simple: You’ll always have things on your to-do list.

That’s life-changing wisdom that bounces around in my head all this week and settles in my heart as I prepare for the holiday rush of an overstuffed calendar.

This busy life, this busy season and yet still I try to live a lie: that at some point I’ll finish the list, the busyness on the calendar will end, and then I can rest because every single project and chore is done, done, done.

And since that never happens, rest never happens.

I learn from Priscilla Shirer’s book, Breathe, that the word for Sabbath (Shabbat) means:  “to come to an end, to cease, to stop, to pause” (Priscilla Shirer, p. 42)

Sometimes that pausing and ceasing and stopping is a choice that you have to make.  I don’t have to finish what I’m doing.  I just need to press pause and rest anyway.

Leviticus 23:32 says:

“It will be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must practice self-denial

Self-denial.

That’s what Sabbath requires.

But not the kind we law-loving humans tend to push down on each other’s shoulders.

We make self-denial about do’s and don’ts.  We make regulations.  We make rules.  This is what Sabbath should look like.  This is what rest has to look like.  This is what you can do.  This is what you can’t do.

We wring the joy right out of the Sabbath with our Pharisaical attempts to make holier what God has already made holy.

Not, it’s this: Rest is self-denial.

It denies that compulsion to work and work and do and do.  It declines to base our identity on performance and accomplishment and forces us to rest in His love for us.

Adrenaline is my addiction.  The rush and stress of it all pushes me along and when it’s removed, I’m a nervous, jittery, restless soul not sure of what to do or how to be.

Sabbath is the rehab my soul needs.

Sabbath sets me into the rhythm of rest and re-sets my life on the foundation of grace instead of the shaky ground of works and law and self.

In my 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, I’ve spent this month Practicing Sabbath Keeping and I’ve met Him here in this holy space.

Just like Moses did on that sacred mountain:

“The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days.  And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (Ex. 24:16, ESV).

God called to Moses on the seventh day….

That glory lingered in preparation for six days, but on the seventh day, God’s voice boomed out of that cloud and called Moses close for intimacy and revelation.

In Breathe, Priscilla Shirer writes again:

“I’m praying that the Lord brings all of the glory held in the arms of the ‘seventh day’ to you and me. I’m asking, of course, that we’ll see His presence and sense His favor in our every activity, every day of the week.  But in those spaces and margins–those ‘seventh day’ borders–that our ‘no’s’ create, may we hear the voice of God and experience nearness of fellowship with Him like never before.

The holiday season presses in and threatens to overwhelm us with expectations and perfection and activity.

But isn’t Christ what we want in the midst of it all?  Don’t we want His glory more than tinsel and lights and His voice more than presents with ribbons and bows?

And if I want Christ more than this, more than it all, then I begin right here.  I deny self.  I press pause on the to-do list.  I cease the activity.

I find room to breathe.

And I ask Him to show me His glory here in the seventh-day spaces I create in my life.  That’s His invitation to invade my life with His presence.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Practice Sabbath-Keeping’?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

You Can’t Move On if You Never Stop Moving in the First Place

By Monday, I already feel behind for the week.

The laundry is spinning, shushing it’s way through washing machine cycles and dryer loads.

The dishwasher is halfway empty.  I’ve been grabbing clean plates and cups all morning as I walk by.  Grab and stash in the cabinet, go about my business and return for more on the next pass.

My daughter’s arts and crafts from Sunday afternoon have left a Monday morning mess.  Scraps of paper and felt dot the living room and dining room carpet. Popsicle sticks are scattered here and there on desks and tables in the playroom.  There’s a pile of papers topped by markers and scissors, and glue sticks overflow onto the floor.

And the glitter.  Oh, the glitter.  The playroom is aglow.

I’ve been fielding phone calls and catching up on e-mail messages and social media all morning.

And I feel the crunch of time, the deadlines and the to-do list, and part of me feels frustrated and maybe a little breathless.

Deep down I want to blame the Rest.

Why am I behind?  I reason it out.

Because yesterday I rested.

Because I didn’t do any laundry on Sunday.  Because I made origami cars instead of vacuuming.  Because I read my book instead of writing.  Because I take a break from social media and don’t answer emails and now they’ve piled up on me.

I unplugged from busyness and plugged into family and soul and beauty and joy and God…and rest.

Of course, I’ve thought it before.  I probably will fight the lie for a long time: If I just didn’t take that break once a week, I wouldn’t be so busy and so behind now.

That’s the struggle.

This resting is counter-intuitive.  It isn’t what makes sense to me in my self-focused, rational way of looking at life.exodus14

And yet, it’s necessary.  This walking away, this stepping back, this slowing down, this breathing in and out, this ceasing activity, this stopping the rush, this halting of busyness….it’s worship.

It’s obedience.

It’s humility.

It’s trusting God to take care of my little world and the whole wide world without me, and realizing just this: the world spins on and moves along even when I take a break.  This is the shocking revelation that I need. It’s God, not me, that keeps it all going.

Without the rest, we wouldn’t really get very far anyway.  Oh sure, it seems to make sense.  Do laundry on Sunday so the basket isn’t so full on Monday.  Write on Sunday so Monday morning there’s less pressure to rush to the computer and type away.

And yet, how far would we really make it before we crashed?  How long could we go before our pride exploded and we forgot that God is really the one in control, so we ended up on our face in a forced and painful humbling?

The truth is that moving forward doesn’t require perpetual movement.  It demands moving when God says, “Move” and resting when God says, “Stop.”

After all, how far would Elijah have managed to run without the food, drink and rest the angel brought him before his journey?  (1 Kings 19).  How long could the disciples have ministered, traveling on foot and mobbed by crowds, without time away with Jesus?

How could Israel have made it to the Promised Land without seasons of rest by the mountain of the Lord, beside clean water, and with peace from their enemies?

Even when they were pursued by the Egyptians, facing opposition and recapturing, still God didn’t tell the Israelites to grab their handmade weapons and armor and strive against the enemy.

Instead, “Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.’” (Exodus 14:13-14, NLT).

Stand still.  Just watch.  Stay calm.  Let the Lord fight for you.

Just rest in Him.

But they couldn’t stand there forever, looking at the Red Sea and never crossing over.  They had trusted God in the waiting.  Now they could trust Him in the moving:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!” (Exodus 14:15 NLT).

So it is for us.  We trust Him in the waiting and in the resting.  We trust Him in the moving and the battle …. and the laundry, the dishes, the to-do lists, the emails, the phone calls, the meetings, the appointments, and the deadlines.

Originally published 1/14/2013

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Practice Sabbath-Keeping’?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

 

Why I Am Blaming Gloves for Missing the Bus Twice in One Week

We missed the bus two days in a row this week.

Yes, we did.

I think we typically only miss the bus once or maybe twice in a whole school year.  If that.

So, twice in a week like this?

That’s crazy talk.

I know what you’re thinking—-that mom is seriously failing at getting her kids out the door.psalm 62

Maybe so.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the bus showed up early.

Or that it’s absolutely beyond all limits of seriously c-c-c-c-cold here in Virginia for November (all those of you from the north can pick on me for whining later), so it takes us like 20 minutes longer to get ready in the morning than it did when the kids could just pick up their backpacks and head out the door in short-sleeved shirts.

We missed the bus the first day because, after just a few times of needing to wear gloves this year, my kids had already lost every pair of gloves we possessed.

I drove them to school and then spent the rest of the day digging out purple, teal, black, white, and pink gloves from every crevice, cranny, and pocket of my home.

So the next day, I laid out their hats, coats, and gloves in advance.   That’s wisdom: learning from your mistakes when your kids missed the bus last time (as in yesterday).

Then we had a miss-hap with the gloves.

Seriously, who designed these things and why do children’s fingers always stick together like they’ve been drizzled with crazy glue when they need to go into gloves?

The bus drove past our house while I stood at the front door trying to push my five-year-old’s fingers apart so they would fit into the frustrating finger holes.

Please can it just be spring already?

The truth is, I am a slave to the bus route.

And I am a slave to the school bells.

Also, the after school activity schedule, the church service and meeting times, my infant son’s naps, my kids’ bedtime, the alarm clock, doctor’s appointments and meetings.

My life is shackled and chained by the calendar, the agenda, the to-do list and the daily schedule.

I’m a slave to the expectations and needs of others.

I’ve spent this month studying about the Sabbath, reading about the Sabbath, and changing my life so I actually keep the Sabbath.

I’ve focused completely on how God created the Sabbath on the seventh day.  Rest is part of the perfection and completion of His creation.  It is a way for us to re-connect with our Creator God.  That’s what God said in Exodus 20:8-11.

But I read this also and find there’s something more:

“Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.  That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deut. 5:15).

In her book, Breathe, Priscilla Shirer writes that:

The Israelites had never developed the discipline of declining.  They had been trained to acquiesce and comply.  But now the Sabbath would help them remember they were free.  Free to say ‘no.’  Free to rest.  Free to no longer be controlled by that which they were previously mastered.  Free to enjoy their relationship with Yahweh.

The Sabbath reminds me that Christ also has set me free from slavery.

For one day a week, I choose to please Him and Him only.  I remember that my value isn’t based on productivity.  I am not what I do.  I am who He created me to be.

Priscille Shirer also writes:

He loved them simply because they were His.  He had chosen them.  That was enough.

Egypt demanded performance.

God offered rest.

It doesn’t matter how many times my kids missed the bus this week.  Or whether I caved in and bought my child mittens instead of gloves.

I will never perform enough, produce enough, or be enough to earn His love and affection; but He gives it to me abundantly anyway.

Sabbath reminds me of this: He loves me.

Sabbath speaks to a weary heart and says, “You’re free.  You don’t have to do and do and do. Just rest in Him.”

Do you ever feel like a slave to the to-do list, the calendar, the schedule or other people’s expectations?

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Practice Sabbath-Keeping’?

 

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King