Take My Picture!

Originally published 1/12/2013

“Take my picture, Mommy!  Take my picture!”

In the middle of Sunday morning chaos, pulling on stockings, buttoning dresses, clipping on bows and tying on ribbons, my three-year-old twirled in her dress and posed for a Kodak 015moment.

And I clicked the camera.

I don’t ever remember being this way, so eager to say, “Cheese.”  I’ve always been the one declining photos, offering to hold the camera, tossing into the trash any pictures of me I don’t like.

But when I’m out and about with my daughters (or even just running around the house frantically trying to get four females ready for Sunday morning church service)… they want to stop and take pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.  Not of the scenery.  Of them.

It takes us three times as long to walk down the Main Street of our town and probably twice as much time on location on our family “field trips.”  But I don’t mind.

I love that they feel beautiful enough to want to pose.

There was a day I stepped into the bathroom to put away a stray toothbrush, and I caught one of my girls watching herself in the mirror.  She smoothed her hair and glanced up at her reflection, pleased with what she saw.

How beautiful is the girl who feels beautiful in her own skin.

This rare gift, how do you teach it?  How do you help them keep it for life?

Somehow, most of us grow out of it.  We glance in the mirror and critique the image or sigh in frustration.  We step on the scale and slander ourselves with our thoughts.  We pose for that picture and know we won’t be happy with it later, not with the smile or the hair or the wrinkles or the chin or ….

Even my husband, in the early days of falling in love, would sit across me from the table and I could feel him watching.  I didn’t know where to look.  I was uncomfortable in his gaze.  What imperfections would he see in me if he looked too closely or watched too long?

Later today, I’ll take my seat at a piano and offer up the music for a wedding ceremony.  There will be a moment at that wedding when the soloist will sing, “How Beautiful the radiant bride who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes” (How Beautiful, Twila Paris).

The beauty of the bride isn’t so much the hairdresser and the hair spray, the makeup, the gown.

It’s that she walks down that aisle feeling loved.  In a moment, she knows she is wanted, precious, and she radiates the joy.

And it’s beautiful how she loves him.  So we, thinking of another, run out of time to be so self-analyzing, so self-criticizing, so self-condemning—so “self.”

It’s a verse for meditating on all week, with a reminder of how beauty is looking to God–our Groom–thinking of Him and less of me.  Beauty is caring for others.  Beauty isn’t feeling shame, but feeling redeemed, feeling precious, feeling loved.

“Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5).

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

Feeling Unloved

She was sobbing next to me and finally put all those unmanageable, messy feelings into four words.

“I feel so unloved.”

One fight with her sisters, one afternoon of correction and quiet discipline….and this totally loved daughter of mine told me she didn’t feel loved at all.

She sat with her tissue, snuggled against my side, my one arm hugging her shoulder, my other arm smoothing her wild hair that had been mussed by all the emotion.

But she felt unloved.

I had packed her lunch for the day, putting in her favorite snack and slipping a tiny paper with a joke on it into her bag of pretzels so she would smile and laugh and think of me.

She was wearing the outfit I had bought her and a ribbon in her hair that I (yes, the mom recovering from an allergy to crafts) had made for her with my own two clumsy hands.

Her favorite dinner was simmering on the stove.

Before bed the night before we had studied her Bible verses for the week and read together from books I ordered used online because they were out-of-print.  But they were her favorite, so I had happily spent an afternoon performing Google searches to find them.

I had combed out her long blond hair after her bath and sprayed it down to ease out the tangles and reminded her to brush her teeth.

And I had told her I loved her often, hugged her and kissed the top of her head throughout the day, then tucked her into bed under the blanket I had made for her myself.

But still she felt unloved.

I just finished reading an article about prison ministries and how many of the inmates come from homes where no one bothered to make sure they weren’t starving or had warm clothes to wear in the winter or a place to sleep.

No one really cared about them at all, but my daughter didn’t know the horrors of need and desperation.

So I told my crying girl how loved she is and how even when her emotions push their faulty lies into her heart and mind, she can shut them down with truth.

Doesn’t my Mom care for me?  Doesn’t she tell me she loves me?  Doesn’t she take care of my needs and even those extra things that I want?

We’re just as forgetful as my daughter is at times, feeling unloved because of a circumstance, a correction, a trial or sadness.  And we sit among our piles of blessings, of salvation and daily grace, and think, “God, don’t You love me?”

We meditate on the lies and feed them with our feelings, just like the Israelites did in the Old Testament.

Psalm 106 follows their long journey through forgetfulness and betrayal…

they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses (verse 7).

But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold (verse 13).

They forgot the God who saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt,
miracles in the land of Ham
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea (verse 21-22).

They didn’t just forget minor provisions of lunch box meals and some new outfits for school.

They forgot miraculous deliverance out of slavery in Egypt, the parting of an entire body of water so they could cross on dry land, daily provision of manna from heaven and the protection from war-loving enemies on every side.

But always God was faithful:

Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known…

Yet he took note of their distress
when he heard their cry;
 for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented (Psalm 106:8, 4-45).

They forgot.  He remembered.

“Yet, He….” it says in each verse. In my NKJV Bible, it says, “Nevertheless…”

That’s what God is...never at any moment less than good and powerful, mighty and merciful to us.  He is never less than His character or His faithfulness to His promises.

Even when our feelings tell us otherwise.

Even when we’ve believed the lies.

Beth Moore writes, “To live some semblance of victory, I’ve had to learn to be intentional and determined about where I would “set” my mind.  We can’t just depend on a good mood to get us through” (Esther).

That’s what I quietly tell my girl–how she’s always loved, even when she doesn’t feel like it, and how to conquer the lies by remembering the truth.

And that’s what I remind myself on the bad days and in the hard times, when I’m annoyed, frustrated, tired, or overwhelmed…that God loves me and cares for me.  Even when I mess up, never-the-less He is faithful.

That’s the truth.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

 

Passionate Pursuit

The other night, I poured myself a cup of hot tea, kicked off my shoes, picked up my knitting and settled deep into the sofa to relax with a movie.  Something about fall reminds me of the scenes in Anne of Green Gables as she strolls along the tree-shaded pathways and the leaves reflect the changing seasons.

So, I put in the DVD of the Anne of Green Gables sequel and watched one of my favorite stories play out on my television once again.

As I sipped my tea, I realized that what seems so romantically endearing and compelling about her love story with the straight-talking Gilbert Blythe is his willingness to pursue her.  He may have fallen in love with her in grade school when she broke her slate over his head after he called her “Carrots,” yet he waited for her.

And waited.

And waited.

He cheered her on and encouraged her success, asked her to marry him, was rejected, waited some more, got sick and nearly died, and asked again.

Maybe that’s the great romance we’ve all dreamt of or longed for as school girls or teens or even grown women.

And even while part of me wants to scream at Anne through the television to drop all of her “high-faluting’ mumbo jumbo” and just realize already that love is right there in front of her, part of me is entranced.

It’s true in all my favorite stories, every book I own with its cover falling off and the pages worn from me turning down the corners for want of a bookmark: Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, Emma . . .

In each story, the theme is the same.  The girl remains comfortably clueless that a man is in love with her, but he is captivated by her beauty and strength of character, her wit, her capacity to change and grow . . . and he pursues her relentlessly until she finally discovers she loves him in return.

In her book Captivating, Stasi Eldredge says:

“We desire to possess a beauty that is worth pursuing, worth fighting for, a beauty that is core to who we truly are. We want beauty that can be seen; beauty that can be felt; beauty that affects others; a beauty all our own to unveil.”

Perhaps many of us do long for a beauty that captivates—-a beauty worth pursuing. Like Anne or Elizabeth or Emma, we want to know that we are worth noticing, worth waiting for, worth sacrificing for, worth fighting for . . . just worthy.

So that when the world beats us down with reminders of standards we can’t meet and the girl next door makes us feel ugly and clumsy with her model-like beauty and when we’re run-down from dishes and laundry and carpools and mess . .  .we still feel that message deep down that we are captivating and we are loved.

Yet, no matter how lovely we may be, with the God-beauty of our character inside where it counts or with sparkling, head-turning physical beauty, we aren’t always pursued.  We don’t, after all, live in a historical romance novel or in Jane Austen’s world of matchmaking and marriages.

It just doesn’t always turn out that way.

And yet pursuit is always part of our Great Romance.

Psalm 45:11 says,

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
    honor him, for he is your lord.

God doesn’t have to romance or woo us.  He could remain distant and unmoved.  Surely the beauty He sees in us isn’t really so worthy of His attention and He could toss out a marriage proposal and conclude with, “take it or leave it.”

Yet, He bends low and tenderly calls, He watches as we trample after worldly enticements and then calls us back time after time.

Like Hosea relentlessly chasing after his wife, the wayward Gomer, so God says:

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.

And more than any of that, God Himself laid aside the glories of heaven to walk among us, to live for us, to die for us, and to make a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

That’s love.  That’s pursuit in the most wildly passionate and extravagant way, more than any bouquet of flowers or poetic marriage proposal.

Stasi Eldredge reminds us that:

“The story of your life is also the story of the long and passionate pursuit of your heart by the One who knows you best and loves you most”

Remember today that, while you may not be perfect or totally worthy, still God loves you and is enthralled with the beauty He created in you.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

When I Fell In Love

I can’t say exactly when I fell in love with this man.

He was on stage the first time I saw him, portraying Mr. Elton in a production of Jane Austen’s Emma (my favorite), and I was an audience member.   He delivered the first line of the whole play while pretending to read from a book:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Immediately, I laughed aloud, until I realized that no one else seemed to get the joke.  More than a little uncomfortable, I slumped down in my chair.

(The first line of Pride and Prejudice was ‘read’ by a character in Emma.  There now, aren’t you laughing?  This is the kind of thing that strikes me as hilariously funny.)

I actually met him a week later after a college worship service.  Someone in the crowd pointed to the guy up front with the guitar.  “See that guy,” he said, “You just saw him on stage last week.”  I think I even confessed to being the girl who laughed at the first line of the play all by my lonesome self.

Unbeknownst to me, this young guy who led worship and the drama ministry and acted on stage in productions based on my favorite literature had just prayed a daring prayer two weeks before.

He told God he wasn’t looking for a relationship any more.  He was content to be single until God hit him over the head with a 2 x 4 and told him “Thou shalt marry this girl.”

There I was two weeks later being introduced to him.

And a week after that, I was the new pianist on his praise team (and he’s still my worship leader nearly 15 years later).

I fell in love with the way he used his gifts and talents for God’s glory.

There was his calmness, too.  I loved my dad, but life with him wasn’t calm; it was loud much of the time and sometimes downright volatile.  This man, though, measured his words with wisdom and careful thoughtfulness.

And the first time he dropped the word “obsequious” into a sentence effortlessly, I think I experienced whiplash. (I’m a sucker for SAT words).

Add to that his quick and witty humor that kept me giggling endlessly in the corner of the praise team section, and I realized that he was smarter than me and that was okay.

We’ve never been an opposites-attract kind of couple.  We’re probably two of the most alike people who God matched together.

Except for the fact that he only cares about doing what’s right and not whether it pleases anyone else while I’m a people-pleaser.

And the fact that he can rest and take time (perhaps . . . dare I say it . . .procrastinate) and I’m neurotically pushed to do and do and do relentlessly, first, fastest, and rest when you die.

I can’t say when it happened, but at some point I fell in love.

I can’t speak for him and say exactly why he fell in love with me.  Nor can I say exactly why God loves any of us either, surely not my awkward, nervous, uptight, worrying self.

Amazingly, though, this isn’t a “fall in love” kind of love at all.  God doesn’t grow to love any of us over time or awaken one morning and realize how much He cares.

He loves us.

It really is the beginning and the end of our story.

Like the first time I saw my daughters, I loved them in an instant.  I didn’t slowly grow to appreciate their character or develop feelings for them over time.

In Jeremiah, God declares, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you”  and David similarly prayed, “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).

God loved you before you squinted your eyes at the first burst of light, screamed out and got cleaned off, bundled up and handed to your mom.

He loves you when you feel loved and when you feel overlooked, when you received a blessing and when you endured a trial.  This love of his doesn’t wax or wane, change or alter or depend on us and what we do or say or feel or think.

We’ve never been good enough, pure enough, beautiful enough, or wise enough to earn it.

But even though we’re unworthy, even when we’ve strayed, even when we’ve felt that seemingly incurable distance from Him or poured out in painful honesty what’s troubling us…

Still He loves.

He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

And what can we do with this everlasting and unfailing love, so amazing and confusing because it’s far more than we deserve?

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

How can you respond to God’s love today?

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King