Just This and No More

My older girls picked up their knitting needles this week.

They have big plans of what they can make with one ball of yarn and two thick needles: Hats with pom poms to match stripey scarves for every family member and friend.

For now, I tell them: Keep it simple.  Practice the steps, row after row.  No need for fancy patterns or agendas.  Just stitch after stitch until they are even and right.026

We’ve corrected our fair share of lost stitches, tangled yarn and strangely elaborate knots.  Mostly, though, we’re fighting against extra.

I started my oldest girl out with 15 little loops and within 3 rows, she’d nearly doubled the length of her project.  I counted them out—27 stitches now. We counted out 5 stitches for my next daughter and she immediately increased that to 10.

How do they do this?

It’s not purposeful, of course.  Just an inadvertent grabbing of yarn in the wrong place, slipping on two loops where there should be only one, until finally their project has doubled in size.  And if I let them continue unhindered, it’d triple and more.

So I pull out the row and  start them again.

This is how you grab just one loop at a time.  This is how you count your stitches after each row.

But it’s just so easy with momentary distractions and the way we pick up speed to do this, too.

God starts me out with 15 simple loops of yarn.  He establishes the rhythm and the pattern, and He measures out the resources so I’ll have enough for all I need.

I focus at first and watch each stitch carefully.

Then I begin to rush and think about other things.  People ask me questions.  I look away instead of on my project.

Somehow I’ve slipped on extra stitches.  God asked me to do 15.  Just 15.  So simple.  He gave me enough.

But now I have 30 and I’m frantically working, trying to keep up with it all.  I’m running out of resources and fretting over how I’ll ever be sufficient for all this need.

When I finally hand over the tangled mess to this patient and gracious God, He takes me back, eliminates the excess and starts me over again.  Just 15 stitches, Heather.  I only asked You to do these.  No more.  Nothing extra.  And I’ve given You all You need, more than enough, for this alone.

It’s busyness, of course, that rushes us into grabbing more.  We say “Yes” when He wants us to say “No.”  We feel pressured into volunteering and there’s the pride that convinces us that we can save the day and make it successful.

Usually, it’s all good things: Bible studies, meetings, committees, volunteering and relationships.  Then we find ourselves doubling up those stitches again, and when we read those words of Jesus, they don’t even make sense.  How could He promise us this when we feel so worn?

 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)

There’s another way, though, that those stitches slip right on and we don’t even know it. It’s not busyness; it’s expectations.  We tell ourselves what a Good Mom, a Good Wife, a Godly Woman and a True Friend does.

We’ve condemned ourselves right there, always trying to measure up to some perfect standard, tossing on stitches until we just collapse in failure and then we feel it: I’m a failure and a mess. I can’t keep up with it all, even these 15 stitches.  Not like “her,” so perfect and together.

But God didn’t ask us to be perfect.  He doesn’t impose impossible standards or withhold grace.

In the Message, the same verses in Matthew say:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

It takes purposeful determination to protect the few stitches God’s entrusted to us, to fall into those unforced rhythms of grace rather than frantic rushing and condemnation.  No slipping on extra loops of string, not with busyness and commitments or expectations and burdensome requirements.

Protect what He’s asked You to do and do it well, with all Your heart and mind, knowing that He’s given you all you need for just this much and no more.

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 © 2013 Heather King

How Was Your Day?

“How was your day?”

It’s my husband’s first question to me at the end of his work day every single evening.

This answer used to be easier.  How was my day?  Mostly that depended on work.  How much I accomplished, how difficult the tasks were, how successful I was, how many goals I’d met, and how well I juggled Mom-life with the job.

But now he asks, and I stumble and stutter.  How to answer a question that’s always been objective and quantifiable?

What makes a day good now?  Do I share my excitement over a new homemade bread recipe or the smell of the from-scratch spaghetti sauce bubbling away in the crock-pot?  Does vacuuming count as an accomplishment (it is, after all, on my to-do list)?  Do grocery store savings and coupon clipping validate me as a home manager?  Should I count the number of socks I matched and folded?

And beyond that, beyond all the tasks and tedium, how was my day relationally?  How many squabbles did I break up between my daughters?  How many lessons did I teach, conversations did I have, kisses did I bestow, Barbies did I undress and dress?

And even beyond that, if I close my day without any measurable way to evaluate my productivity at all, could the day still be “good?”

If I’ve listened to a hurting friend spill out all the ugly and the pain on the phone or if I’ve collapsed at the kitchen table with tea and my Bible and lingered there out of desperate dehydration and an aching hunger for His presence….does this mean today I have failed?

This slide into a works-based life tricks and deceives.  I don’t feel the gradual move from grace to law, don’t sense that I’ve shifted from relational priorities to measurable productivity.

But then someone asks about me, about my day, and I hear my own words and I know it for what it is:  My value has become dependent on the items crossed off my to-do list.

It’s the pitfall for working moms, the trap for single women in the workforce, and the snare of stay-at-home moms whose identity becomes tangled up with their children and the cleanliness of their home.

We all fall in the pit some time.stumblingintograce

In her book, Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper reminds us that God “cares far more about the posture of our hearts than our productivity.  Even “good” things can become the enemy of God’s best for us” (p. 114).

It’s not that busyness itself is sin.  Sometimes busyness is just life with a job, a ministry, a husband, or kids.  Chances are you’re busy.  Chances are you get tired sometimes.

When Jesus commissioned the disciples for activity, they traveled for weeks of uncomfortable, on-foot missionary service to towns where they weren’t always well-received (Luke 9).  They weren’t overloading themselves with busyness; they were serving in obedience, following Jesus’ specific instructions about the journey.

Yet, they were tired.

When they returned home, “Jesus took them away, off by themselves, near the town called Bethsaida” (Luke 9:10, MSG). He knew they needed time away, alone time with Jesus.

Our need is the same.

But it begins here.  Not what did I accomplish, do, or achieve?  My good day begins with simply this: Did I do what God wanted me to do today?

The Lord promised, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), but if we just keep throwing on the same burdensome loads, we’ll never feel truly rested.  That’s the weighed-down fatigue we choose when we do and do and do rather than obeying Him whether He’s sending us out or asking us to rest.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

An active Christian worker too often lives to be seen by others, while it is the innermost, personal area that reveals the power of a person’s life.

We must get rid of the plague of the spirit of this religious age in which we live.  In our Lord’s life there was none of the pressure and the rushing of tremendous activity that we regard so highly today, and a disciple is to be like His Master.  The central point of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship with Him, not public usefulness to others

God alone can determine the value of our day, the need for productivity at times or the requirement of rest in other seasons.

If He has told you to rest, are you resting?  If He has asked you to work, are you working?

Others might glance at your calendar and think, “She’s too busy” or “She’s such a slacker.”  But it’s not up to them.

It’s up to Him.

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 © 2013 Heather King

How Was Your Day?

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her tenth chapter, “Busyness Isn’t a Spiritual Gift.”

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“How was your day?”

My husband asks me that every evening as we chat on the phone while he commutes home from work.

It used to be easier to answer.  How was my day?  Well, it seemed mostly dependent on work.  What jobs I did that day, what doctors had I transcribed for, how difficult the task was, how productive I had managed to be, and how well I had juggled working from home with being a mom.

But now it’s more difficult to respond.  Do I share my excitement over the homemade bread recipe I discovered or the smell of the from-scratch spaghetti sauce bubbling away in the crock-pot?  Does vacuuming count as an accomplishment?  What about how much I saved at the grocery store with my coupons or how many socks I matched and folded?

And beyond that, relationally how was my day?  How many squabbles did I break up between my daughters?  How many lessons did I teach, conversations did I have, kisses did I bestow, Barbies did I undress and dress?

And beyond even that, without any way to measure my productivity at all, could my day still be a success?  How do you value listening on the phone to a hurting friend or spending  extra time at my kitchen table digging into God’s Word?

There’s a simple slide into a works-based life where measurable productivity is all that matters.  Where our success and value becomes dependent on the items crossed off our to-do list.

It’s the pitfall for working moms, the trap for single women in the workforce, and the snare of stay-at-home moms whose identity becomes tangled up with their children and the cleanliness of their home.

We all fall in the pit some time.

In her book, Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper reminds us that God “cares far more about the posture of our hearts than our productivity.  Even “good” things can become the enemy of God’s best for us” (p. 114).

That doesn’t mean busyness is sin.  If you have a job, or a ministry, or a husband, or kids—any of those or all of the above—chances are you’re busy.  Chances are you get tired sometimes.

We have a way of judging that in the church.  “If you’re tired, it means you aren’t doing what God called you to do.”  “If you’re worn out, it’s because you’re not relying enough on God’s joy.”  “If you just lead the simple life, you’d be fine.”

Jesus didn’t throw those judgmental millstones around the neck of the disciples.  He commissioned them for activity, sending them out for weeks of uncomfortable, on-foot missionary traveling to towns where they weren’t always well-received (Luke 9).

Were they busy?  Yes, absolutely.  Every day they moved to another place to tell others about Jesus, sleeping in who knows what conditions and eating anything they were offered.

Were they doing God’s will?  Surely they were.  Jesus had sent them out with specific instructions about what to take with them and what to do on their journey.

Were they traveling alone?  No!  They went out in pairs so that they had the support and encouragement of a Christ-following companion.

They did everything right, and yet they were tired.  When they returned home from their journey, “Jesus took them away, off by themselves, near the town called Bethsaida” (Luke 9:10, MSG).

He knew they needed time away.  Alone time with Jesus.  That’s what we need to refresh our busy souls also.

But first we also ask ourselves—are we doing God’s will?  Here we pause.

The Lord promised, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), but if we just keep throwing on the same burdensome loads, we’ll never feel truly rested.  That’s the weighed-down fatigue we choose when we do and do and do rather than obeying Him when He tells us to act and obeying when He asks us to rest.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

An active Christian worker too often lives to be seen by others, while it is the innermost, personal area that reveals the power of a person’s life.

We must get rid of the plague of the spirit of this religious age in which we live.  In our Lord’s life there was none of the pressure and the rushing of tremendous activity that we regard so highly today, and a disciple is to be like His Master.  The central point of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship with Him, not public usefulness to others

The bottom line question for us remains, “Are we doing God’s will?” God alone can determine the value of our day, the need for productivity at times versus the requirement of rest in other seasons.

If He has told you to rest, are you resting?  If He has asked you to work, are you working?  Are you serving in the ministries to which you are called and caring for your family in the way He has instructed?

Others might glance at your calendar and think, “She’s too busy” or “She’s such a slacker.”  The only One who really knows, though, is the One who commissions us and then offers us the rest we need exactly when we need it.

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