The perfect gift

christmas12

My youngest daughter scanned the book fair shelves with care, looking intently for one particular book in a whole wide sea of books.

She wasn’t shopping for herself, though.

Our kids draw names for Christmas every year and each one excitedly plans out what gifts to give to their “chosen” sibling.

So, my youngest girl was shopping for her oldest sister, and she was doing it with great intentionality.

A few days previously, we had all come looking through the book fair goodies to see what was there and what we might like.  That’s when she watched as her big sister, Victoria, made a huge pile of Christmas book requests.

Then, we took pictures of every single book Victoria asked for so we’d remember.

Now, here we were on present-buying day, with a seven-year-old looking for one book in particular from her sister’s epically long list.

She felt exultant when she found that perfect gift for her sister.

But I felt deeply sad.

Because her older sisters did not know and did not see how much attention she paid to the wishlist, how hard she looked for the right present, and how excited she was to finally find it so she could make her sister happy.

In fact, they didn’t trust her.

I’d heard them whispering with disappointment when they found out she was buying for one of them.

Finally, my older daughter confessed the day before that she just knew she’d get a rotten gift this year since her younger sister was picking it out.  Why couldn’t someone else be buying for her this year, someone who would pick a good gift?

These older sisters cruelly discounted her without giving her a chance.  They judged her gift without ever even opening it.

They did not believe any gift she could give them would be good.

Still, whether it’s deserved or not, on Christmas morning, a seven-year-old girl is going to give her oldest sister a wrapped gift that she picked out herself.  And it will be a good gift, a perfect gift. It will be a gift of grace.

I might even cry a little.

After all, we also have a way of doubting our own Good Giver at times.

James tells us:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17 ESV

The book of Matthew also says:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11 ESV

God gives us good and perfect gifts.  Not only that.  He doesn’t give begrudgingly or out of obligation. He loves to bless us.  It brings Him joy.

I don’t always feel that.  Sometimes I feel like I’m begging for scraps of blessing from beneath a heavenly table.  Don’t forget me, God!  I’m here, too!

God’s heart isn’t to ignore us or bless everyone around us and give us the leftovers of his favor and attention.

We just don’t always see or recognize or take the time to be grateful for the gifts He gives.

Christmas reminds us that God gives perfect gifts to His children, even if they are unexpected or packaged in disguise.

Jesus Christ, the “indescribable gift,” came in humble wrappings.  It wasn’t fancy packages, ribbons or bows that caught the attention of the shepherds or touched Mary’s heart (2 Corinthians 9:15).

It was God giving Himself.

And while many expected a Messiah to have worldly position and power, God’s plan overthrew expectations.  He came low.

Isn’t this the most precious part of this gift?  That Jesus came down to us, He came to be accessible and within reach.

He was the gift no one fully expected, but all of us truly needed.

Max Lucado wrote:

There was not a hint of one person who was afraid to draw near him. There were those who mocked him, were envious of him, and misunderstood him. There were those who revered him. But no one considered him too holy or too divine to touch. There was not one person who was reluctant to approach him for fear of being rejected (In the Manger)

Maybe we’re doubting God as a giver this year.  We wonder about His timing.  We wonder about His plans for us.

We may question His heart and struggle to feel loved.

But God gave us a Good Gift and God still gives us good gifts.

We can trust Him.

God and Cupcake Sprinkles

Today is my “baby” girl’s fourth birthday and we’re off celebrating as a family.  Hurray!  I’m sharing with you my post from last year’s celebration, a reminder of how God loves us and gives us good gifts.063

Originally posted July 23, 2012

I was sorting cupcake sprinkles . . .by hand.

Really.

I removed all of the pinks from the mix and took out some of the oranges and yellows, too.  The color combination needed to be mostly blue, white, and green with some hints of yellow and orange.

But you can’t buy a sprinkle mix like that at Wal-Mart, so I bought the colorful star-shaped sprinkles and sorted them by hand.

And I thought, “God loves me enough to do this.”

Let me explain.

My baby girl turned three years old yesterday.  For weeks, my older daughters and I had enthusiastically reminded her that her birthday was coming soon.

We pestered her with questions.  What do you want for your birthday?  How old will you be?  What do you want on your birthday cake?

Then she made her declaration.  She wanted Octonauts presents and an Octonauts birthday cake.

Now for the uninitiated among you, the people who don’t live and breathe and move children’s television programming: The Octonauts is originally a British children’s show about undersea explorers and the oceanic animals they discover and assist.  It’s only recently appeared on American television.

That means that if we lived in the United Kingdom, we’d have no problem popping out to the local party store for supplies.  But here in the good old U.S. of A. the store shelves aren’t exactly stocked with Octonauts toys and party favors.

So, I did what any reasonable mom might do.  I walked my daughter down the party aisle at Wal-Mart and showed her the many wonderful birthday decorations there were available in America.  Mickey Mouse.  Princesses.  Fairies.  Strawberry Shortcake (my favorite).

She settled on Mickey Mouse and we headed home with a relieved Momma in the driver’s seat.  Yet, less than a week later, she made another announcement.  Mickey Mouse didn’t cut it.  She did in fact want Octonauts.

I had tried to convince her to accept less than her heart’s desire.

What’s a mom like me to do: A non-crafty, not particularly creative, cake decorating failure of a mom?

I’ll tell you what.

We took our Play-Doh ocean animal cutters, washed them well, and used them to cut sugar cookies in the shape of lobsters, dolphins and starfish for her friends at church.

We had yellow cake mix already at home, but she asked for chocolate.  So, we made chocolate cupcakes.

I printed out pictures of the Octonauts and created our own cupcake toppers

.

I bought the aforementioned color mix of sprinkles and then pulled out the unwanted ones so the color combination could be perfect

.

I waited in line at Wal-Mart to have a bag of Octonauts colored balloons blown up (three year old birthdays must involve balloons) only to have the lady at the desk tell me, “We no longer do balloons.  There’s a national helium shortage.”

Really?  A national helium shortage is going to stop me from giving my girl balloons?  Not hardly.  I bought the helium balloon kit for $20 so we could inflate them ourselves (with helium to spare for family birthdays for a year or two).

Then we put it all together.  A family dinner of the birthday girl’s choice.  Singing happy birthday, blowing out the candle, balloons, chocolate cupcakes with Octonauts toppers and sprinkles all to celebrate my baby.

 

(Although, why she needed chocolate cake when all she did was lick off the icing is beyond me.)

So, why?  Perhaps she’ll never remember her third birthday and maybe over time her interest in ocean animals will fade.

But she’ll remember being loved.  And I do love her.  I’m crazy, head-over-heels, over-the-top, absolutely in love with this sweet gift from God.

Matthew 7:11 tells us:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

This verse never becomes more real to me than when I’m picking out good gifts for my daughters.

God loves you enough to pick through sprinkles for you and to find a way to defeat a national helium shortage.  He’s a God of attentive, detailed affection for each of his beloved children.

We may assume that coincidence, chance, luck, good fortune, Mother Nature, friends and family, a congenial boss or even our own effort and ability are responsible for the blessings and benefits we experience.  That’s not true.

All the gifts we receive, tied in bows and placed into our hands with joy, come from a God who is crazy, over-the-top, head-over-heels, absolutely in love with us.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). 

This week, let’s be aware of the many ways God showers us with good gifts, even the smallest reminders of His providential care, and remember to give thanks.

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

God and Cupcake Sprinkles

I was sorting cupcake sprinkles . . .by hand.

Really.

I removed all of the pinks from the mix and took out some of the oranges and yellows, too.  The color combination needed to be mostly blue, white, and green with some hints of yellow and orange.

But you can’t buy a sprinkle mix like that at Wal-Mart, so I bought the colorful star-shaped sprinkles and sorted them by hand.

And I thought, “God loves me enough to do this.”

Let me explain.

My baby girl turned three years old yesterday.  For weeks, my older daughters and I had enthusiastically reminded her that her birthday was coming soon.

We pestered her with questions.  What do you want for your birthday?  How old will you be?  What do you want on your birthday cake?

Then she made her declaration.  She wanted Octonauts presents and an Octonauts birthday cake.

Now for the uninitiated among you, the people who don’t live and breathe and move children’s television programming: The Octonauts is originally a British children’s show about undersea explorers and the oceanic animals they discover and assist.  It’s only recently appeared on American television.

That means that if we lived in the United Kingdom, we’d have no problem popping out to the local party store for supplies.  But here in the good old U.S. of A. the store shelves aren’t exactly stocked with Octonauts toys and party favors.

So, I did what any reasonable mom might do.  I walked my daughter down the party aisle at Wal-Mart and showed her the many wonderful birthday decorations there were available in America.  Mickey Mouse.  Princesses.  Fairies.  Strawberry Shortcake (my favorite).

She settled on Mickey Mouse and we headed home with a relieved Momma in the driver’s seat.  Yet, less than a week later, she made another announcement.  Mickey Mouse didn’t cut it.  She did in fact want Octonauts.

I had tried to convince her to accept less than her heart’s desire.

What’s a mom like me to do: A non-crafty, not particularly creative, cake decorating failure of a mom?

I’ll tell you what.

We took our Play-Doh ocean animal cutters, washed them well, and used them to cut sugar cookies in the shape of lobsters, dolphins and starfish for her friends at church.

We had yellow cake mix already at home, but she asked for chocolate.  So, we made chocolate cupcakes.

I printed out pictures of the Octonauts and created our own cupcake toppers.

I bought the aforementioned color mix of sprinkles and then pulled out the unwanted ones so the color combination could be perfect.

I waited in line at Wal-Mart to have a bag of Octonauts colored balloons blown up (three year old birthdays must involve balloons) only to have the lady at the desk tell me, “We no longer do balloons.  There’s a national helium shortage.”

Really?  A national helium shortage is going to stop me from giving my girl balloons?  Not hardly.  I bought the helium balloon kit for $20 so we could inflate them ourselves (with helium to spare for family birthdays for a year or two).

Then we put it all together.  A family dinner of the birthday girl’s choice.  Singing happy birthday, blowing out the candle, balloons, chocolate cupcakes with Octonauts toppers and sprinkles all to celebrate my baby. 

(Although, why she needed chocolate cake when all she did was lick off the icing is beyond me.)

So, why?  Perhaps she’ll never remember her third birthday and maybe over time her interest in ocean animals will fade.

But she’ll remember being loved.  And I do love her.  I’m crazy, head-over-heels, over-the-top, absolutely in love with this sweet gift from God.

Matthew 7:11 tells us:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

This verse never becomes more real to me than when I’m picking out good gifts for my daughters.

God loves you enough to pick through sprinkles for you and to find a way to defeat a national helium shortage.  He’s a God of attentive, detailed affection for each of his beloved children.

We may assume that coincidence, chance, luck, good fortune, Mother Nature, friends and family, a congenial boss or even our own effort and ability are responsible for the blessings and benefits we experience.  That’s not true.

All the gifts we receive, tied in bows and placed into our hands with joy, come from a God who is crazy, over-the-top, head-over-heels, absolutely in love with us.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). 

This week, let’s be aware of the many ways God showers us with good gifts, even the smallest reminders of His providential care, and remember to give thanks.

You can read other devotionals on this topic here:

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 © 2012 Heather King

Mom Guilt, Part I

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
(Matthew 7:11)

Mom Guilt.

That’s what had me standing in the Christmas lights aisle at Wal-Mart two days after Thanksgiving.  I squinted and stared at the options before me.  Icicle lights.  Blue, green, or red lights.  Sparkly, flashing lights with 12 different settings.  Heavy duty lights.  Mini lights.

Then there were clips and clasps of every variety to attach the perfect lights to your house.  Did I need these things?  Wasn’t there a way to hang lights sans gadgets and gizmos?

I grabbed plain white mini lights from the shelf, thinking my first attempt at decorating the outside of our home should be simple.  “Start small,” I thought.

For years, my oldest daughter had begged me to decorate the outside of our home for Christmas.  This year, her pleading had reached a new level of intensity.

She took one look at the homes with Christmas lights already gleaming in mid-November (insert looks of disgust here!!!) and whined from the back of our minivan, “Mom . . . . . . . .Everyone’s house is so beautiful for Christmas and ours is just DULL.”

I threw angry glances at the decorated houses as we sped by.  Even if they didn’t know I was mad at them, at least I felt better getting the feeling off my chest.

Still, I get it.  I remember being a kid and pestering my dad to hang Christmas lights on our home for years.  I remember taking the lights tour in the family van and oohing and aahing over the decorations and thinking it’d be great to add a little Christmas flare to the outside of our house.

So, there I was buying lights from Wal-Mart.  And there I was starting simple, stringing them up the steps to my home and around the door frame.  And there was my daughter exclaiming how beautiful it was.

She actually had asked for one of those giant blow-up Snow Globes for the front yard along with a massive Frosty the Snowman and maybe some lighted reindeer figurines.

But there are limits.  Mom guilt only gets you so far.

When I’m praying, I wonder how many of my requests to God make it to His throne room sounding like the high-pitched whine of pouring on “God guilt.”

“God, all my friends have their careers all set and know what they want to do with their lives, but I’m floundering around waiting for some direction here!”

“God, You thought everyone else deserved a husband to love them and tell them they’re beautiful.  What’s the deal with me still being single?”

“God, how come everybody else is financially secure and has a savings plan and we’re struggling paycheck to paycheck and never truly making it?”

Lesson One: God’s Gifts Always Show His Love

God doesn’t bless us or rescue us out of guilt, though.  Not now.  Not in the past.  Not ever.  He’s not guilted into love and He wasn’t guilted into the cross.

Deep down, me stringing lights across the front steps of my house wasn’t truly about guilt either.  It was about love.

My daughter had made a request.  Not a ridiculous one, all motivated by greed or pride or selfishness.  It was the simple desire of a child’s heart.

And I love her.

So, I gave in.  I spent less than $10 for some lights and garland and took a tiny piece of my time and gave her the desire of her heart.

I can’t always give her everything she wants.  She can’t have every toy or outfit or trip her friends have.  She can’t do every activity she wants to do.  Nor would that be good for her anyway.

Still, I give her what I can when I can because I love this beautiful daughter of mine.  I love to see her react with joy, love to see her know she’s loved, love to show her that I listen to what she says.

God loves you.

He loves to see you react with joy.  He loves to see you when you know you’re loved.  He loves to show you that He listens to what you say.

God’s intention is always relational, though.  He isn’t just dishing out answers to prayer requests like some sort of holy vending machine.

The Psalmist tells us, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Take delight in your relationship with Him.  Linger in His presence.  Make Him your first priority.  Allow Him to re-arrange the furniture of your heart and match your desires with His.

And when you begin to feel the frantic panic of need, remember that God tells you “do not worry about your life.”  Not about having food or drink.  Not about having clothes to wear.  He watches over the birds of the air and the flowers in the field and He values us so much more than them.  He surely can handle our every need.

So, keep your focus relational.  “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Then when He pours out blessing on you, when He loads your arms full of good gifts, when He grants the simplest petitions of your heart—even the whimsical longings you are too embarrassed to actually ask for—accept it as a reminder of His love.  He wasn’t coerced or guilted into giving you amazing grace.

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

A Week of Thanks: God’s Indescribable Gift

Thanksgiving week has arrived and I’m so excited about the holiday itself plus a week with my kids while they have a break from school!  In the spirit of that, I’m going to take a few days off from writing new posts and share some of my posts from the past on thankfulness all week long.

Looking back through these months of devotionals blessed me and reminded me of what God has done.  I hope this does the same for you!

God’s Indescribable Gift
Originally published 04/11/2011

“He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things”
Psalm 107:9, NIV

There’s that moment on every Antiques Roadshow when the appraiser pushes his glasses back on his nose and leans in with excitement.  “So, as to value . . .” he starts.  And the item’s owner looks up with humble and cautious anticipation.

This expert, who has spent all day telling people their precious items aren’t really rare or one-of-a-kind, that their genuine treasures are copies and fakes, that grandmother’s fascinating brush with fame never really happened—this expert places a breathtaking value on an object.

A thing.

A material substance made a treasure because it is unique, somehow special because of the famous person who owned it, or so wrapped up in story and history that the ordinary, everyday is transformed into a retirement fund.

I’ve seen rugs on that show worth more than my house.

At times, I watch that “thing” now deemed priceless and I wonder—what is hidden in my garage and stuffed in my closets?  What bookshelf conceals my children’s college education?  In what closet could I discover my dream home?

But, I’ve been through all my stuff and it is actually just stuff, perhaps priceless to me and valuable in my life for its utility or the way it connects me to the past, but nothing an appraiser would lose his breath over or call his buddies about.

So then I wonder, how is it that we human creatures can look at tangible objects formed of wood or stone or cloth and so arbitrarily place on them a price tag?  This one picture costs as much as feeding a village of people in Africa.  The cost of this antique toy could build a well in a village with no clean water.

Seems like something’s wrong here.  Seems like the way we assign value is a little off.

That’s one of our problems, really.  We don’t really know value when we see it most of the time.

And so when God pours Himself out for us and blesses us with good gifts, we sometimes mistake them for not enough and seek out everything that is “other” to fill us up instead.  We keep telling Him we are empty and hold our hands out to Him for more, more, more.  He offers us all that is good and true wrapped up in His presence, but it seems so simple and plain.  Not enough.  Meanwhile, we gorge ourselves on everything we believe will satisfy the deep yearnings and cravings in our hearts.

We pour into our hearts:
success
possessions
romance
position
friendships
successful kids
knowledge
food
entertainment

And it just seeps out of our souls, flowing out as quickly as we can dump it in.  We don’t value what God offers as much as this worldly buffet of good eats around us.  It’s ingratitude.  It’s sin.

Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts:

Satan, he wanted more.  More power, more glory.  Ultimately, in essence, Satan is an ingrate.  And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden.  Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity – the sin of ingratitude.  Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave . . . Our fall was, has always been, and always will  be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives.  We hunger for something more, something other.

It’s like the Israelites trekking through the desert.  God rained down on them wafers of honey they named manna,  miraculously, faithfully and abundantly every night as they sleep.  It’s tasty and satisfying, nutritionally able to sustain them through long desert marches for 40 years.  He graciously provides all they need and more and all while they rest.  No toil involved.  No effort on their part.  All part of God’s generous provision for His people.

And yet, they complained.  “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted” (Numbers 11:5, NIV).

Nothing they owned, used or ate in Egypt was free.  Everything came at high cost to them–they exchanged hard labor and 370+ years of bondage in slavery for fish and a salad bar.

Seems like something’s wrong here.  Seems like the way they assigned value was a little off.

Adam and Eve were not satisfied with the fruit God had given them for food.  The Israelites were not satisfied with the manna God miraculously laid at their feet every day.  We aren’t always satisfied with God’s Word, with His promises to us, with His provision, with His direction.

Yet, Scripture assures us that God is fully satisfying.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work”  (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV).

“These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things” (Psalm 104:27-28, NIV).

He “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5, NIV).

Have you felt empty, thirsty, hungry, plagued with holes that never allow you to be filled—not with joy, not with peace, not with hope?  We are offered the Bread of Life and buckets of Living Water drawn up from a well that will quench our thirst eternally.

We are offered Christ.  Christ abundantly sufficient for our needs.  Christ the once-for-all sacrifice to cover all our sins.  Christ our Peace.   “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV).

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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