In His Time

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
Psalm 90:12

The day has finally arrived!  I’ve iced cupcakes, wrapped presents, and filled goody bags for my daughter’s fifth birthday party.  She has been asking me when this day would come every single morning for 9 months.  I’d show her on the calendar how far she had to go and she would sigh and whine with frustration.  Her birthday simply would never come.  She would never ever be five years old.  Everyone would always be older than her. Surely she would stay four years old indefinitely.  I’ve held her as she sobbed out tears of disappointment only one week ago because her birthday was just too far away.  Seven days was an impossibly long time to wait.

I, on the other hand, feel as if this day has come so quickly.  How is it possible that my gorgeous, brilliant, quirky little one has been with me for five years?  For these past few months, I’ve been telling her to wait, just wait, it will come and it will arrive sooner than she realizes, but those words felt empty and meaningless to her.

Impatience weighs heavy in this house.  My older girl has been telling every stranger in town, “Hi, my name is Victoria.  I’m almost seven.”  Sometimes, she even pads her age a bit and tells them she’s almost ten or almost 12.  And so I lean down and whisper to her that her birthday just happened; she’s still eight months away from even one more birthday, much less four or six!

“Mommy, I want to be in kindergarten.  Mommy, I want to be in first grade.  Mommy, I want to wear point shoes in ballet.  Mommy, I want to be a teenager.  Mommy, I want to be old enough for a house of my own so I can have a dog.” Even my baby toddles around after older sisters trying to do the same “big girl” things they do.

No matter how old they are, they always want to be older.  I try to tell them truth—that one day they will pay bills, and go to work, and care for sick children, and will long for the preschool days when they worried only about show and tell and their snack choice for the day.  Please enjoy this moment right now, I beg.  Please don’t let it pass by you unnoticed and unvalued because you are too busy looking ahead to the next step.

And I have been there.  I have trekked across a college campus and longed for graduation.  Married and been asked by family when we’d have a baby.  Had a baby and contemplated what it would be like to have older kids, and sleep, and no diapers, and no need for babysitters. Worked a job and longed for retirement.   Always too busy thinking about later to actually enjoy now.

Solomon told us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven . . . He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11, NIV).  No amount of rushing or anticipating or worrying will change God’s appointed seasons in our lives.

I love to visit Colonial Williamsburg and walk the gardens surrounding the palace and I long to stroll through the local botanical gardens and enjoy the color and scents and hovering butterflies in a place of beauty.  But, if I travel there before they are ready, before the flowers have bloomed and while the bulbs still lie dormant beneath cold earth, I would see death, not life, brown dirt instead of the brilliant hues of tulips and daffodils.  “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” and so we must cultivate, plant, and tend as God calls us to so that we can enjoy life in its proper season.

Of course, sometimes we feel as if the season we are in has lasted forever and that surely God will never release us to newness and fulfillment.  We remain dissatisfied with the now He has given us as we dream about the future we imagine. And what happens, then, if the next season bears no resemblance to the goals and dreams in our heart?  I know a couple who planned retirement with excitement and anticipation, but the reality wasn’t travel, relaxation and golf.  No, it was stroke and poor health and a future not at all what they had envisioned.  They can’t go back and enjoy the time before caregiving and doctor’s appointments.  It is now a season past.

In Psalm 90, Moses challenges us to keep the proper perspective about our life’s circumstances.  He says, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night . . . Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures . . . Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:4, 10, 12, NIV).

We all feel stuck sometimes and without hope that we’ll ever overcome our difficulties.  My mom’s greatest advice was to remember that “this is only a season and won’t last forever.”  There were struggles and stresses that consumed my thoughts in the day and kept me awake at night, now long since resolved and in the past.  Sleepless nights with a newborn, a teething infant, terrible twos, potty training, juggling college and work, unemployment—all seasons that seemed interminable when I was in them, but now appear so brief as I scan back over my life history.  Even our entire lives, the seventy or eighty years Moses thinks we have on this planet, constitute so little of the human history God has witnessed and walked through.

So then, we ask that God “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  It is wisdom indeed to realize that the circumstances we are in are a passing season and hope can carry us through to victory. A new season will arrive at just the right moment and it will be beautiful in its proper time.

But, it is also wisdom to number our days, making each one count.  Not letting a single calendar square go by without us valuing it for what it is–this is our life in the here and now and God is present in it. What would it look like if we lingered here in this place, finding the beauty God has created in this time rather than straining to see what lies ahead?  It would be a life of glorious contentment and peace, restful and unrushed as we take the time to look, really look, at the beauty all around us in the reality of our now. Even in the difficult times, we learn to see the beauty in dirt turned over, weeds pulled, seeds planted—the work God is doing in our lives this moment, the beauty of Him active in our lives, cultivating our hearts in this season, knowing that in His own perfect timing He will bring forth growth, shoots of life, and a harvest plentiful.  So much beauty all in His time.

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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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Explaining a Mystery

A neon green Post-It note appeared on my counter this morning.  On it is sketched a smiling girl in a floor-length dress and matching cape, a three-spiked crown on her head and long, flowing, hair pulled into a ponytail.  The note reads, “I am gong to be a prinsess wun I groe up.”

Clearly the work of my oldest daughter.

Princess fever runs high in my house.  Recently, my two older girls had their first true playdate when a good friend visited our house.  Within moments, all three tiny ladies had stripped their outer garments and were frantically donning ball gowns and slipping into plastic high-heeled shoes that clicked on the kitchen linoleum (and scared me to death for fear they might slip!).  They adorned themselves with long beady necklaces and bangles around their wrists.  Atop each head sat a sparkly princess tiara complete with pink hearts and diamonds.  Grabbing purses and mirrors and other accessories, these stylish princesses sat daintily around a little table and sipped tea and lemonade from tiny plastic teacups, of course holding their pinkies out like all true princesses do.

This is a mystery to me.

I did not twirl around in princess skirts as a girl, decking myself out in finery to await the prince’s arrival.  I did not host tea parties for my teddy bears or clip-clop around the house in deadly high-heeled shoes as a child (or as a grown woman).  Nor did I set out to turn my three daughters into pink-and-purple-loving, dress-wearing, nail-polishing lovers of all things fancy, sparkly and feminine.  This has somehow been innately placed into their tiny hearts by a God with a sense of humor.

My daughters arrive at my feet some days with dresses from my closet hanging over their arms.  “Mom, why don’t you ever wear this dress?  It would make you look pretty.”  Because of course the most appropriate attire for folding clothes and cleaning toilets is in fact a black dress with a swirly skirt.

Frequently, my oldest princess wannabe—with some exasperation—explains to me that she simply cannot wear pants because “pants are for boys.  Princesses don’t wear pants.”  At which point, I look down at my jeans and sneakers and trudge back to her room to exchange her playclothes for a dress and stockings.

And so I am a mystery to them.

Sometimes I look deep into their flashing blue eyes and explain to these precious girls that they will always be amazingly beautiful on the outside, but what is so much more important is the inside of their hearts and how they love God and love people.  I say this to them because I know “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30, NIV).

I want them to know that they are not merely external creatures, striving to meet arbitrary standards of perfection.  Instead, I tell them “let not yours be the merely external adorning of the hair; the wearing of jewelry, or change of clothes, but let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which is not anxious or wrought up, but is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4, AMP).

And while I so often fail to display for them a “gentle and peaceful spirit” that isn’t anxious (read here stressed and freaking out), it is nevertheless my true desire to show them a woman who is at least trying to be “very precious in the sight of God.”

This is the mystery I explain to them.

When my oldest girl prayed her little earnest plea for Jesus to come into her heart and forgive her sins, we told her the most amazing thing had happened to her.  She had become a daughter of the King of kings.  “Do you know what that means?,” I whispered into her ear.  Slowly I could see her piece it all together and she announced with pride, “I’m a real princess now!”

She takes that very seriously.  To her friends, she explains, “I’m not a pretend princess like the ones in the movies.  I’m a real princess of God.”

It’s an amazing gift—this role as princess.  It means she is dearly loved and given a place of blessing and honor by the holy and awesome King who watches her with love.

It’s also an amazing responsibility.

A princess is kind to others (and talking animals) and always serves and shows concern for the feelings and well-being of those around her.  A princess works hard at her chores and doesn’t shirk dirty work (like caring for seven men who sweat all day in a mine while whistling). A princess develops and uses her gifts to bring glory to her King (like singing songs in the forest and reading books from an enchanted library).  A princess is beautiful inside and out and always strives to find the good and beautiful in others (including beasts and little old women).  A princess has good manners and is modest and virtuous, with beauty of character and strength of mind.

These are the mysteries they explain to me.

We princesses and daughters of the Most High King don’t all emerge from our houses each day with long, flowing hair, pink ballgowns, glass slippers, and multi-colored accessories.  Some of us head to work in power suits or rock sick babies in our pajamas or shop at Wal-Mart in our jeans and flip-flops.

God’s creativity knows no bounds and we are a daily display to the world of God’s heart for beauty and variety.

Yet, to all of us, He can say, “The King is enthralled with your beauty; honor Him, for He is your Lord” (Psalm 45:11, NIV).

That is a gift.  It’s a special role He’s given us, to reflect His aesthetic flare, to represent grace and beauty to a world that is sometimes so harsh and cruel.

But it’s also a responsibility.  We are to “honor Him” for He is our Lord.  I ask my daughters at times, “Would a princess behave that way?  Would a princess hurt someone else’s feelings?  Would a princess say those mean things?”  And so we can ask ourselves, “Would a Daughter of the King make those choices, use those words, hurt those people . . . ”

There are detractors of course.  Those who try to convince us that we simply fall too short of God’s standard to be a princess.  Others who point to our outward appearance and question our unique beauty.  A world that constantly reminds us we are not enough.

However we are dressed, no matter our outward appearance and regardless of our hairstyle, God draws us close and whispers truth into our hearts: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3, NIV).  Uniquely created by a God of infinite imagination.  Specially designed to be loved by a King.

This is the mystery He explains to us.

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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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

God’s Love Letter

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion (Isaiah 30:18, NIV)

The other night I was fluffing my pillows before I turned out my light and I felt paper where pillow should be.  A card!  And inside, a love letter from my husband.  I cried as I read it and cried more the next day when I read it again. (No one reads love letters just once, right?!)

Everyone receives love in different ways, but words are precious to me.  Whether they are written or said, words are the most powerful way to show me love and the most potent weapons used to hurt me.  That’s because they rumble around in my head and heart and echo back to me over time.

Still, spoken words and written words aren’t equal.  Yesterday, I wrote that humans are forgetful creatures.  We so easily forget what people say to us and sometimes we mis-remember and distort conversations.  Written down, though, the words became more concrete and able to withstand time, changing circumstances, and shifting emotions.

Unfortunately, I do sometimes forget.  The other day I had a breakdown while doing my hair.  I was getting ready to go out with my husband, so I thought, “I’ll try to look nice.”  So, I painted my nails.  I’m the worst ever at painting my nails.  I’m never patient enough and always touch something before they’re dry.  In fact, it’s pretty impossible to meet the needs of three little people without touching my children, so I had to re-paint this one fingernail FOUR times!!!  At that point, when my daughter asked me, “Mommy, can you . . . .” I gave in and just took the nail polish off completely.  Then, I decided to work on curling my hair.  I love curly hair.  But, alas, I was the kind of girl who read books as a child and not a little girl who played with hair.  That means that I am now a totally clueless grown woman when it comes to curls and blow drying and styling.  After just a few attempts at curls resulting in frizz and disaster, I washed it all out and just left my hair the way it normally is.  So much for dressing up.

At that point, I forgot.  I forgot my husband loves me the way I am and he thinks I’m beautiful.  Inside, I heard the lies—“You aren’t pretty enough.  You’re a plain Jane and always will be.  You’re surrounded by women with better hair, skin, nails and clothes and you just don’t measure up.”

I need the reminders that I am loved.  Imagine if a married couple said, “I love you,” on their wedding day and then never again expressed love for each other.   Years later, the wife complains, “You never tell me you love me” and the husband answers, “I showed you I loved you when I married you.”

God showed us His love clearly and completely through the cross.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV).  That sacrifice should serve as concrete evidence of love.

The world tells us, “Look at these bad circumstances in your life.  God doesn’t love you.”   We sin and we think, “No way can God forgive me or use me or love me.  I’m too messed up.”   We feel distant from Him, and we think, “God’s left me.  He’s no longer here by my side.”  But, we look to the cross and we remember, God loved me enough to die for me even when I was still rejecting Him.

Christ’s death on the cross was the most perfect expression of love, but God knows us.  He knows our fickle and forgetful hearts.  He knows that—like a wife in a marriage—we need reminders and expressions of love over time.   So He gives us the Bible, His love letter to us.  We don’t need to seek affirmation and fulfillment from other people or accomplishments.  At any time in a day, we can meet with God and be reminded of His great love.

I tell my two daughters at least once a week, “No matter what anybody says and no matter what happens, remember that you are loved, you are beautiful and you are smart.”   Then, they roll their little eyes at me and sigh, “I know, Mom.  You tell us all the time.”  And I do.  I tell them all the time because the media, culture, mean girls, and Satan will fight hard to tell my girls lies, to convince them that they are ugly, fat, unloved, and not good enough.  I give my daughters truth over and over again, hoping that they can identify and reject the lies.

It is in Scripture, that God expresses His love over and over again, so that we don’t forget it.  In Hosea 2:19, we read:

And then I’ll marry you for good—forever!
I’ll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness.
Yes, I’ll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go.
You’ll know me, God, for who I really am (MSG).

Stressed out about work?  Read God’s Word and be refreshed.  Feeling like a failure as a parent?   Let God’s Word encourage and strengthen you.  Not sure that God can take care of you?  Dig deep into the Bible and remember His promises.  Struggling with feeling like you aren’t beautiful or loved?  Take down God’s love letter from the shelf and be reminded of how He cares for you and longs to lavish you with affection and blessing.

Sitting on the shelf unread, God’s love letter to us might look nice and serve as a memento.  But, it’s only when we take God’s Word down and read and re-read it that the words regain their power and become an effective arsenal against the lies we face every day.

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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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King