The Craziest Thing Anyone Has Ever Said to Me In Target

I’d been married a week.

A week.

We visited my great-grandmother and she asked me, “So, when are you going to give your mom some grandbabies?”

A week.

I thought the question was mildly shocking, moderately annoying and mostly downright crazy talk.psalm 30

But, you know, what can you do?  So, I giggled awkwardly or something and dodged the whole wildly uncomfortable conversation.

Not long after that, I was having dinner with a dear friend in a crowd of other friendly folks and someone asked her the question.

“So you’ve been married for a few years now.  When are you going to have kids?”

I thought the question was mildly shocking, moderately annoying and mostly downright crazy intrusive….

It was so much more than that for her.  It was deeply painful, treading like heavy steel-toed boots all over the most tender places of her broken heart.

That’s what she told me later.  How no one ever thought before they asked her that question…and people asked her ALL the time.

When are you having kids?  When are you having kids?  When are you having kids?

The truth was that she was desperate for a baby and yet it isn’t just that easy for everyone, is it?  Hadn’t she prayed and prayed?  Hadn’t she tried and seen the doctor and then had to answer the clueless questions of nosy onlookers?

We just think we’re making conversation and we’re really battering and bruising the sweet soul we’re chatting with over dinner.

Sometimes, it’s ridiculously comical.  Like when I stood in the shoe section at the Target with my three blond-headed beautiful daughters, my youngest at the time less than 2 months old.  Such precious gifts to me.

And this random lady waltzed right on over and gave me creepily personal tips on how to have a boy next time.

In the Target.

With my kids there.

And I didn’t know her.

Good gravy.

Or when people see my beloved baby boy and say right there in front of my three precious girls, “So, you finally got your boy.  I bet your husband is happy.”

Like my daughters were just three attempts at having a son gone wrong.

We just say things, don’t we?  We aren’t meaning to be mean or hurtful.  We just say….stuff….  It seems innocent enough and we just don’t think maybe there’s a world of hurt left trailing after our destructive conversation.

It doesn’t get any harder than when we see a loved one grieving. We want so much to say the right words, soothe the hurt, ease their throbbing pain because we love them so.

But sometimes we get it all wrong.  We try to cover over their hurt with platitudes that sound so right, “It’s God’s will.  It’s for the best.  He always works everything out for the good” and yet what we’re essentially saying is, ‘Suck it up and get over it.  You’re a Christian so you shouldn’t be sad.”

Holley Gerth says in What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days:

While we mean well, comments like those are like stripping off someone’s sackcloth. Instead of helping, we leave their hearts even more exposed. What our hearts need is something new to cover them in hard times. And that’s what God offers.

We leave their hearts raw and exposed, open to further wounding.

Yet, God, such a gracious God, covers us with protection and love.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever” Psalm 30:11-12

It takes time, yes, it can take so much time.  But he does this—he removes our sackcloth and clothes us with joy.What-Your-Heart-Needs-for-the-Hard-Days

And what I want to be is the kind of person who shares this grace with others.

We won’t get it right all the time.  We’ll say the wrong thing and maybe mess it all up.  Maybe we just don’t even know what to say when we are eyewitnesses to the hurt inflicted by a sin-stained planet.

But we can start here.

Dear friend, I don’t even have the right words, but I love you.  I am praying for you.  I am here for you.

And we can start here—-thinking through our questions before we ask them, so we don’t leave a hurting heart raw and exposed after what we just thought was casual, totally normal small-talk.

And we can start here, praying this:  Dear God, May we be wise and grace-filled in our conversations with others today.  May we speak the words that show Your love—and nothing less than that.—Amen.

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

5 Things This Introvert is Teaching My Extroverted Daughter (and 5 things maybe she’s teaching me)

My daughter is an extrovert-to-the-power-of-1o.  At 18 months old, I realized she could not have a day at home and be happy.

Could.  Not.

If I did not put that child in the car seat and drive her somewhere every single day she would end up a screaming mess of frustrated babyhood and I would have a mom meltdown.introvert

Now, I’m pretty sure she goes through withdrawals the first week of summer vacation because she must see friends every day and if she’s not seeing them in person, could she please call one of them on the phone?

I, on the other hand, like home-time, family-time, quiet-time, me-time, creative-time, thinking-time, and I hate the telephone.  I pretty much disintegrate emotionally if I’m out of my house too long more than two days in a row.

But God made me her mom, so we’re in this together and maybe we’re both better because of it.

5 things This Introvert is Teaching My Extroverted Daughter:

1. Be comfortable with who you are when no one is around: If you’re uncomfortable with yourself when you’re on your own and it’s quiet, then something’s wrong.  You need to know who you are and like who you are even in the silence.

2. Family comes first: Sure, it’s exciting to go to your friend’s house, swim in their pool, tag along when they go to day trips and play with their toys and eat their food.  But family always comes first.  It’s too easy to be nicer to those outside your home than it is to be kind to those you live with every single day all up close and personal.  Don’t take family for granted and don’t treat them worse than you treat your friends or even strangers.

3. Sometimes it’s better to think about what you’re going to say before you say it: Pause.  Think.   Then Speak.

4. Quiet is not the enemy and boredom is just fuel for creativity:  If you’ve squeezed out all opportunities for quiet, rest, and unscheduled time, then you’ve squeezed out time with God and time for God to speak to you.

5. It’s okay to say “no”:  You don’t have to answer the phone every time it rings.  You don’t have to do everything you’re asked to do or go everywhere you’re asked to go.  Sometimes saying “no” is the healthiest and wisest thing you can say.

 

5 Things My Extroverted Daughter is Teaching Me:

1. People matter more than to-do lists and tasks.  It’s okay to leave the to-do list tomorrow and spend time watching a movie or sitting with someone, playing a game, or just talking.

2. Ministry always means loving people.  It’s not possible to be a vessel fit for God’s service if I fail to love people.  Being an introvert is not an excuse for being self-focused or for acting like the world is all about ‘me’.  Ministry requires compassion, unselfishness, kindness, generosity with time and resources, and absolutely requires loving others—whether you’re an introvert or not.

3. Most things really are better with a friend.  Sharing experiences with others opens you up to new perspectives and ideas.

4. If you’re always worried about what people think, you miss out on a lot of fun.  Sometimes you just have to risk it and put yourself out there, even when it’s uncomfortable or unexpected or unknown.  Be silly.  Have fun.  Do something new even if you won’t be great at it.  Learn to laugh at yourself.

5. A room full of new people is just a room full of potential new friends.  So don’t be afraid; just enjoy the adventure!

 Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him (Psalm 127:3 NLT)

 

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

 

 

It Would Be Easier if We Didn’t Have to Love Our Enemy

My daughter was about 3-1/2 years old when she made this enemy.

After a week of summer dance camp, she declared that she absolutely did not want to take ballet in the fall.

Did she enjoy dance?

Yes.

Did she have fun at the camp?

Absolutely.

Did she want to try the dance classes?

No.

End of story.  No explanation.  I plied her with Mom-questions.  She stuck to her decision without explanation.

In October, we sat together on one of the benches in the dance studio waiting room watching the tiny dancers file out after class.  We picked up my oldest daughter and headed out the door.1corinthians13, photo by Cora Miller

That’s when my girl said it: “I didn’t see Madelyn in the class.”

Madelyn?  Who are you talking about?

Then she exploded with the report that Madelyn always wanted to sit on the triangle at dance camp even when other kids wanted to sit on the triangle and she wouldn’t let anyone else sit there no matter what.

She sucked in one big breath, harumphed, and tossed her arms criss-cross around her chest while stomping her feet for effect..

Well, babe, Madelyn was in dance camp, but she isn’t in the regular dance class.

“Oh.”  Long pause while 3-1/2 year old process new information.

“Well, I want to take ballet then.”

All this time, territorial conflict with another preschool child had dominated her life choices.

Territorialism, jealousy, just plain old being annoyed with another person….it doesn’t get much easier handling all that mess as a grown-up.

We’ve all been there, forced into relationships with folks that drive us insane maybe with their negativity or pettiness or meanness, maybe insecurity, pride, constant bragging, insistence on arguing with everything you say, trying to compete with everything you do.

But I tell my girls this:

You don’t have to be best friends with mean kids, but you have to be kind and loving to everyone.

1 John 4:20 says it this way:

“If anyone says, ‘I love God’ yet hates his brother, is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom He has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

I quote it at my kids, but taking it to heart?  Practicing what I preach?  That’s a little harder.

Sometimes I want to edit the command, soften it a little, make it fit a little more comfortably instead of stepping on my toes.

Maybe:  “For anyone who does not love his brother….when his brother is a pretty nice person….cannot love God, but when his brother is annoying, a jerk, mean, or immature, then it’s fine not to love that guy.”

Of course, that’s not Jesus.

God is love, and Jesus showed that best by loving the unlovely, by loving the enemy.

So, I could pit myself against the ‘unlovable’ or I could choose Jesus and the discipline of kindness and sacrificial love.

It starts with prayer, but the temptation is there, too, to pray that God change them when what I need to pray is that God shows me His love for them.

Because maybe, just maybe, the person who needs changing is me.

Paul wrote this to the Thessalonian church:

 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NASB).

Love itself is part of the labor.

As Beth Moore says,

Sometimes loving comes easy.  Other times it nearly kills us (Children of the Day).

This is at work and it’s at church.  It’s with the annoying mom in the PTA and the gal who drives us crazy on the sidelines at soccer.

It’s in our own homes, too.

Sometimes love is hard.  It’s labor and toil and discipline to believe the best, to serve and feel like you’ve given all and then given some more.  It’s looking past imperfections and choosing to focus on the good and lovely and of good report (Philippians 4:8).

Love means choosing to give grace and forgive.  It means not keeping score and a list of wrongs.

Love

….is

….patient  (1 Corinthians 13).

I think of a favorite promise:

 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6 NLT).

God’s not finished with me yet and He won’t give up on me.  I cling to that.

Yet, here’s the challenge, too:  He hasn’t finished with others either.  He hasn’t given up on them.

So, maybe I need to give them the space and the grace to let God continue that work because, after all, He’s given that space and grace to me.

In June, I took time for friendship and learned that God uses others to bring me into His presence, sometimes in unexpected ways and sometimes through unexpected people.

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 ‘Invest in Friendship’?

 

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

14 Bible Verses on Loving Others

  • Matthew 5:43-44 NIV
     “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”verseslovingothers
  • Mark 12:29-31 NLT
    Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
  • John 13:34 NIV
    A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
  • John 15:12-13  NLT
    This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
  • Romans 13:8 NLT
    Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
    If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV
    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
  • Ephesians 4:2 NLT
    Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
  • Ephesians 4:31-32
    “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
  • 1 John 3:18
    Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
  • 1 Peter 1:22 NLT1john4
     You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.
  • 1 John 4:7-8 NIV
    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
  • 1 John 4:11 NIV
    Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
  • 1 John 4:19-21 NIV
     We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

VBS for Grown-Ups: Even When You’re Afraid

Vacation Bible School.  That’s just for kids, right?  Silly songs.  Silly skits.  Silly costumes.  Kids stuff.  Sure.

But is there any message in Scripture that God delivers just for people 12 and under? We older and ‘wiser’ ones sometimes make faith so complicated when the simple beauty of truth is what we really need.

This week, I’ll be singing songs and doing those silly skits from Group Publishing’s Weird Animals VBS at my own church.

Here on the blog, I’ll be sharing with you those same stories, the same lessons, the same truth, but for grown-ups.

***********************************************************************************************

I wish I had my four-year-old’s bravery.

She’s this tiny powerhouse of courage, stepping onto roller coasters and water rides that drop you straight down and splash you in the face as you land.

She handles shots, injuries, and dental repairs without tears or drama.

But me?

I’m tossing and turning at night, not thrilled at the thought of food, outright terrified, edgy and far too prone to cry, and I’m wondering how I can bottle up this tiny daughter’s courage to fill up my own wimpy soul.matthew14, photo by Decha Thapanya;

Funny how trying to obey God, trying to step out and do what He’s called you to do can be exhilarating and frightening at the same time.

Sure is like a roller coaster, I guess.

But you know what?  I hate roller coasters.

Maybe that’s what makes this so difficult.

In one month almost exactly, I’ll be swimming in a huge ocean of other writers at my first ever writer’s conference.

It may be a month away, but the battle is here and now.

What if everyone is better than me?

What if every woman there looks more polished and more confident and has all the style and pizzazz that captures attention and I’m the easily overlooked tag-a-long that no one remembers?

What if I stumble over my words? 

What if everyone hates what I write or hates my ideas?

What if I’m just not good enough?

What if I make all the sacrifices to be there and walk out with nothing more than capital F Failure and capital R Rejection?

God calls us to daily obedience.  That’s hard enough some days.

Then sometimes He calls us to all-in, risk-everything, put-yourself-out-there, this-is-crazy kind of vulnerability and trust.

It takes courage.  That doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid.  Courage means you obey Him even when you’re terrified because you trust Him with the results.

The disciples had that courage.  They walked right away from their fishing nets and steady paychecks.

The prophets spoke up for right against all that was wrong despite raging kings and queens and the bounties on their head.

Esther stepped into a throne room not knowing if the king would kill her or lower that scepter and hear what she had to say.

Paul strode into city after city and taught in the synagogue every time, knowing he faced the possibility each time of stoning, imprisonment, beatings, death.

And here I am, doing what I’m supposed to do to get ready:

Write the proposal. Come up with a tagline. Pack a briefcase.  Print business cards.  Connect with other authors. Build a platform.  Choose a snazzy outfit.  Get your hair cut and colored or at least maybe some highlights (maybe that terrifies me more than anything).

Most importantly: Pray.  Pray some more.  Pray every single day.

Here’s what I need:  Holy Spirit courage to do what He’s called me to do and leave the rest up to Him.

Like it says:

But Jesus spoke to them at once. Don’t be afraid,” he said. Take courage. I am here!” (Matthew 14:27 NLT).

Take courage because He’s here, right here with you, present with you, not abandoning you, not sending you out all by your lonesome self.

Ananias needed courage like that, too.  The Lord called Him to seek out a man from Tarsus named Saul.

Not any Saul from Tarsus either:  THE Saul from Tarsus, the notorious Christian-persecutor and murderer.

He had to choose.

Risk it all, even death, and obey?  He knew the cost.  Ananias recited the risks for God, as if God clearly didn’t know the details before sending down the divine orders.

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13-14 NIV).

“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go….” (Acts 9:15 NIV).

Maybe God has called you out, asked you to do something that takes true courage and your heart just trembles at the thought of the call.

Yet, He says, “Go….”

Take courage, dear one.  He is with you.  Even when you’re afraid, Jesus loves you.

He knows the risks.  He knows what makes your heart quake.  He knows the results.

And He promises to be with you.

May I ask this of you?  Would you pray with me and for me this month as I prepare to go to She Speaks in July?  I am so blessed by your prayers for me!

 

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

 

He’s Got It, All of It–Yes, Even this…

My times are in your hand
(Psalm 31:15 ESV)

It all started two months ago with a casual conversation.

A friend of mine said, “Oh, if you ever need a good piano teacher, we found one that we love.”

Now, the conversation struck me as funny.  We had never talked about piano teachers before.  I personally teach my own kids piano lessons and really didn’t need a referral to a piano teacher.

Still, I jotted the info down.  You never know, after all, when someone might ask me for a referral.

Fast forward about four months.

I’m chatting with this lovely Christian mom who has a special needs son with an affinity for music.  He’s lost most of his vision, but he’s captivated by song.  She tells me how she teaches him through music and how he picks out the tunes he hears on their piano at home.

She wants to reach this part of him, this music-place, this God-gift and passion.  But how?

A traditional piano teacher all rigid with method books and recitals wouldn’t help him.

Wait, though…..hadn’t that friend given me the phone number of a piano teacher months ago?  Hadn’t she mentioned the teacher’s flexibility, her gentleness, her faith, her willingness to work with each individual student?

Two weeks later, I’m hearing the testimony of God’s goodness.  How the piano teacher lives on the same road as this family.  How they walk past her house on family strolls.  How she’s patient and perfect for this little boy.

How God is so good.

All the time.

And all the time, God is good.

It’s the reminder our souls need because life sure is ugly sometimes.

You know what God’s Word says and You know it’s truth.

He works everything out for the good of those who love Him…. (Romans 8:28).

He makes all things beautiful in His time…. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

No plan of His can be thwarted…. (Job 42:2).

Yet in the here and now of today and this very moment of disappointment, hurt, and maybe even anger, well trusting is a choice, and not always an easy one.

So I marvel at this: Our God, who is “so big and so mighty there’s thing our God cannot do,” chose to send a little boy the perfect piano teacher.

What love is this, so amazing, so divine?

Our grand God never sits stony and unmoving on a ruthless throne of indifference, apathy and boredom.  He’s a hands-on God.  He’s involved in the details.

This morning, I read the prayer letter of a young missionary couple in Madagascar.  They tell how one unexpected circumstances has them moving to another city just two months after arriving.

Still they declare that they trust God.  He is sovereign.  They know He is good and He is with them no matter what.

Right there in their email I read: “This news came as no shock to Him.”

Hadn’t I just typed out that same thought just days ago to a friend?

The thing I need most to remember about His sovereignty is that even what surprises me and throws me into frantic turmoil does not surprise Him. He doesn’t need to scramble to ‘make-do’ with tough circumstances or react to them with second-best answers. I forget too often that He knew and He knows and He’s got it.

It’s me that forgets how He cares for us.  I scramble to react, stumble at news, and try to plant my feet firm again on that solid ground.

That’s what Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church:

 Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, either by our message or by our letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 HCSB). 

I read this in The Message version:

 So, friends, take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head high. Keep a tight grip on what you were taught, whether in personal conversation or by our letter. May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech. (emphasis mine)

God wasn’t surprised by Jonah running away from Nineveh, or by slavery for Joseph, the lion’s den for Daniel, the stoning of Stephen, or imprisonment for Paul.

He knew.

He knows.

He’s got it, all of it, the smallest details, the biggest needs, the obviously beautiful and that which takes time and His hand to transform into beauty from ashes.

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

 

14 Days of Prayer for Your Marriage with 1 Corinthians 13 (plus a Free Printable!)

When I was a girl earning my badges in the kids’ program in my home church, I had to memorize the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 in the King James Version.

It’s stuck.  I can still rattle off bunches of it.marriageprayer

But I hope it really stuck…you know?  Not the rote memorization, but the revelation of what love is.  God loves us this way.  And He says even if we’re performing the most outrageous acts of self-sacrifice and service and we’re not doing it out of love, then it’s just meaningless drivel.

So, I’m praying for the next two weeks through this “Love Chapter” for my marriage because I want it to be meaning-full and I want it to reflect God’s love to the world around us.  Perhaps you will be praying for your own marriage, too?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NIV).

Day One, Love is Patient: 

Lord, today let us respond with patience and show each other grace.  We know that no one changes over night and none of us is perfect.  We make mistakes.  We forget, we grow careless, and we become distracted by life and stress.  Please let us be patient with each other, with our marriage, with our circumstances, just as you are so patient with us.  Help us not to push, nudge, or give up on each other, but instead may we give each other room and grace to grow more like You.  

Day Two, Love is Kind:

God, it’s too easy to forget the simple beauty of kindness.  We can neglect courtesy and consideration.  Help us to be thoughtful and kind to one another, showing each other respect and attention in our words and deeds.   Stir our hearts to remember the small things like holding doors, making phone calls, performing acts of service, putting the other’s needs above our own.  As it says in Ephesians 4:32, may we “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave You.”

Day Three, Love Does Not Envy:

Lord, As it says in The Message, “Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.”  Let this be true of us.  Help us appreciate the gift you’ve given us in this marriage and in each other and cultivate contentment and gratitude in our hearts. We don’t need to compare our spouse or our marriage to anyone else’s.  Instead, thank You for the marriage You’ve given us.  Please remind us throughout the day of all the reasons we fell in love in the first place.

Day Four, It does not Boast, it is not Proud:

Jesus, at that Last Supper with Your disciples, You bent so low and You poured that water over their grimy feet.  You, Our Savior, came “not to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).  May we never be too proud to serve one another in the humblest of ways.  We might think, “That’s his responsibility; that’s her job.”  In our selfishness, we might feel like we’ve given so much already and how could we give any more?  But we bend low today.  We lay down our rights and our pride and choose to serve our spouse just as You served us.

Day Five, It does not dishonor others:

God, may we show each other honor in all we do and say.  Guard our mouths.  May our words be used to encourage, praise, and build one another up, not tear each other down, find fault, or trample all over each other’s feelings.  When we’re with others, don’t let us fall into those traps of complaining about marriage or our spouses, but instead let the way we talk about one another help others to know the beauty of marriage the way You designed it.

Day Six,  It is Not Self-Seeking:

Father, we live in a “me first” world.  We’re told to “look out for number one” and to take care of ourselves above all.  But that is not Your way.  Jesus “made himself nothing” and humbled himself, choosing “even death on a cross” for us—for me (Philippians 2:6-8).  Today, let us choose Your way over the world’s way:  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Day Seven, It is Not Easily Angered:

God, forgive me for the times I’ve reacted in anger instead of responding with grace.  And so often, too often really, we can make the smallest issues into the biggest deals.  Help me not to be easily angered.  Today, may we overlook petty offenses and minor bothers.  Redirect our vision to focus on what is good rather than what we think is wrong.  Remind us of what is important and learn to let the inessentials pass by unnoticed.

Day Eight, It Keeps No Record of Wrongs:

Lord, if You kept a record of all my sins, I couldn’t stand up under the weight of them all.  I’d be buried in accusations and proof of my failures.  But You show grace.   May we likewise extend grace to each other, as it says in 1 Peter: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love coves a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).  If we excel at anything in this marriage, may it be at forgiveness.  When Satan tries to drag all that trash up from the past, we ask that You help us choose forgiveness instead, choose to let it go, choose to move toward one another instead of apart, choose to rebuild trust, choose moving on.

Day Nine, Love Does Not Delight In Evil, but Rejoices With the Truth:

God, help us rejoice with our spouse when they rejoice and mourn when they mourn.  Let us be a place of refuge and safety for them when they share their struggles, fears, emotions, hopes and dreams.  Help us to “have each other’s back” all the time and to be such a team that we delight and take pleasure in what is good and true and battle together against what is evil and wrong.

Day Ten, Love Bears All Things (ESV, NKJV):

Lord, we are so thankful that when there are burdens to bear, You’ve called us to bear them together.  As it says in Your Word,  “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).  May we bear all things together.  May we carry each other to the cross and help each other each day.  If one of us is weak, may the other be strong in You.

Day Eleven, Always trusts:

God, build trust in our marriage.  Create that environment of honesty and truth.  But more than that, may we always trust You to care for us and to guide us.  We know that start to finish, this marriage, our lives, our family is in Your hands.  We know You are trustworthy, so faithful and full of merciful, loyal love for us.  We pray that our home and our marriage reflect that to those around us.

Day Twelve, Always hopes:

Lord, we don’t want to ever lose hope.  We know that You have a plan and a future for us as individuals and as a couple, and we thank You for that.  Thank You that You never give up on us and we pray that we never give up on each other.  Each morning, let us wake with hope for a new day, for fresh starts, and for the work that You want to do in us.

Day Thirteen, Always Perseveres 

God, remind us during the hard days, when we’re hurt or angry, tired, frustrated, or broken, that You are with us.  Help us to persevere through every season of difficulty.  Draw us together during those times instead of letting circumstances drive us apart.  Where there is distance, bring intimacy.  Where there is bitterness, bring reconciliation.  Where there is coldness, bring passion.  Where there is pain, bring healing.

Day Fourteen, Love Never Fails

Father, Your love for us doesn’t fail.  You just never give up on us.  Thank You for that unfathomable and astonishing love when we are so unworthy.  We pray that our marriage will grow ever more beautiful each day, not fading, not failing.  In every single season, we pray that You will help our relationship thrive.  Teach us how to avoid the pitfalls in communication, in intimacy, in finances, in conflict, in friendship, in parenting and in every way so that we will always be putting on love, which binds every other virtue together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14). 

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.Photo by Cora Miller

Will you join me in praying for your marriage for 14 days?  If you would like a printout of these prayers to place in Your Bible or journal or maybe on your fridge or bathroom mirror, you can click here for the free printable!

If you’d like to see the 12 Verses I pray for my husband, you can click here!

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

Dear Lauren…On Your Birthday

Dear Lauren,

You have been growing.

I didn’t need you to step up into the measuring booth at Busch Gardens to tell me that.  No need for a doctor’s statistics, a growth chart, or a scale to verify what I’ve known all year.

I’ve seen it.

This one day we celebrate another year of you, but I’ve seen God-at-work not just one magic day, but day-by-day, tiny changes, tiny steps, signs of the Holy Spirit at work.laurendaffodil

And I’ve been celebrating all along because oh, how I have prayed for you.  I have sunk right down onto my Mom-knees and prayed for you.  In that minivan in those rare moments when I am all alone, I’m praying for you.  And when I push that stroller down the Main Street of our town, I’m praying then, too.

Praying that God digs the roots of faith deep in your heart and mind. 
Praying that He helps you make wise decisions and that you choose good friends.
Praying that you use all those many gifts for His glory and that with discipline and self-control you excel like I know you can. 
Praying that you overcome paralyzing fear and the emotions that overwhelm. 
Praying that you willingly choose Him and His Word over every worldly distraction.

This spiritual journey, this maturing and growing up, it’s full of stepping forward and then stepping right back at times, full of a million right choices and then those times when we get it wrong.

But we’re growing all the while.  Mistakes can often be better teachers than successes.

So, we rejoice because we see how you’ve chosen excellence, responsibility, discipline, and giving it your best in school.

We celebrate how you’ve gotten up early all year long to get ready for school on time without those morning breakdowns.

We marvel at how you sang those solos and stood on the stage and didn’t give in to fear or stage fright or excuses, but you did what we knew all along you could do.

And even on the days when maybe you don’t get it all perfect and right, remember this:

We love you.

You bristle at words like, “I love you” and don’t often let me just hug on you like this momma longs to do.

But in the million tiny ways I try to say it, I hope your heart knows the truth.  Picking out those perfect gifts, slipping jokes into your lunch box, sitting across the school lunch table with you while you munch on carrot sticks, taping balloons and streamers and wrapping paper to your door the night before your birthday—-that’s “I love you” without the words because sometimes words fall short anyway.

We love who you are—that way you have of telling jokes, making those funny faces, sending your baby brother into hysterical fits of infant giggles.

We love your quick mind and the way you respond to praise, like the spring flowers reaching to the sun and blooming with all their might.  Your teacher this year tells you all the time, “Great day today, Lauren.  I’m proud of you, Lauren” and you just open up in her class.  She has helped you shine.Photo by just2shutter

The way he gives you these perfect teachers, it reminds me over and over that you are in His hands.

You’ve always been in His hands.

Way back when you were just this tiny squirming baby inside me and those doctors told me you were too small, you were high risk, maybe you weren’t growing as you should, even then God gave me one promise to hold on to:  He’s got the Whole World in His hands.

And baby girl, that means Your World is in His hands.  Even then when I couldn’t see your face save for a blurry image on an ultrasound screen, I knew His hands were big enough to hold you.

Now you’ve grown so much, but His hands are still just the right size to pick you up, to protect you, to guide you, to rescue you, to lift you high.

On your eighth birthday, I pray this for you:

 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19 MSG).

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

Our Family Valentine’s Tradition….

It started on February 1st at dinner.

A construction paper heart sitting next to each plate on the dinner table.

Just a simple thing.  After all, I’m no Martha Stewart of crafts, but snipping red, pink and white construction paper into hearts  I can do.valentine

Fourteen days of hearts x 4 people = 56 hand-cut paper hearts.  Then, project complete, I laid the first heart out on the table and waited.

“What’s this?” my daughters asked and then turning it over they found the note: Fourteen things I love about you…

And there it was, the first of fourteen days’ worth of things I love about my husband and three daughters.

My middle girl figured it out first.  “You mean we will get 14 hearts with 14 things you love about us?”

Yes, baby girl.  One for each day of February until Valentine’s Day.

Soon, they were trading hearts, swapping them around the table to read what I wrote about others.  Sometimes what I said made them giggle:

How you love to laugh and tell jokes….

The way you collect fun and unique objects like your rock collection….

The way you an talk in accents and mimic characters’ voices and make funny voices of your own….

And others made them grin a little sheepishly, a little precious, a little sweet, a little blessed to know someone sees beauty in them.

You are such a good friend, kind and compassionate….023

You are so good at teaching others.  It is one of the amazing ways God has gifted you….

You are great at encouraging others and telling them that they are doing a great job….

Within a few days, I was swatting hands away from the kitchen counter before dinner.  They hovered around the kitchen, not to sneak a bite of food, but to sneak a peak at those love notes.

This joy, this privilege, this responsibility of loving these daughters of mine means I have a job, not to spoil them like unsatisfiable princesses, dooming their marriages by giving them unreasonable expectations of romance and fulfillment from their husbands.

Not that.

But this.  Telling them—you’re precious and totally loved.  I see Jesus in you and He made you beautiful and valuable.

So, don’t let your head be turned by any scruffy teenage boy who looks in your eyes for more than 2 seconds.  You’re not some cheap thrill, there for his amusement and enjoyment, available for use and abuse so he can get what he wants without giving you some basics like respect, compassion, service, self-sacrifice, commitment, honor, and the like.

You don’t need to throw away your own identity and bury your amazing self in order to get the slightest second of attention from some guy who can’t even be bothered to hold the door open for you, or call me “Yes, ma’am,” or listen to what you have to say, or put God first in his life, or make you a priority.

My girls may be so far away from middle school drama and the high school years of emotional pitfalls and relationship crises.

These lessons, though, start here and now.  Eight, six, three years old—you are a treasure.  Thirteen, eleven, eight—-you are worth God’s very best.  Sixteen, fourteen, eleven—-you deserve to be treated like a lady.

This is what you are: “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12).

This is what we are.

So all that fulfillment we seek in habits and praise from people, from attention and temporary happiness, from worldly success and stuff—just stuff, it’s all nothing more than a pimply faced teenaged boy who doesn’t care about us at all.  It’s all just unsatisfying time-wasting and inevitable emotional vomit.

All of it.

But we’ve been given these love-notes from God:

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:16

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God…
1 John 3:1

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— Ephesians 2:4-5

Knowing how we are loved, knowing the price He paid and the extent of His sacrifice, reading these love notes and knowing He prizes us and treasures us,  surely then we can cease the worrying and striving and searching for fulfillment.  Surely we can trust Him.
After all, see how He loves us.

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

“The Bad One”

“I’m the bad one in the family.”

She announces that at lunch as she munches on some strawberries.

I lean in close, thinking I misheard.  We were, after all, sharing this deep, meaningful moment in a crowded school cafeteria with the background noise of about 80 other second graders.

“The bad one?”

Who has ever called her this or slammed this ill-fitting and utterly cruel label onto this beautiful and loved daughter of mine?  Like an over-sized dunce cap on a child in the corner, this identity reeks of shame.

I wait for her to identify the name-caller, the bully that’s been filling her head with these lies.  Surely, it’s not me.  I review seven years of my Mom-speeches and Mom-conversations to see if I’m the culprit.

But she claims that role for herself, telling me, “I’m the one who gets the most punishments.  I don’t have self-control.  So, I’m the Bad One.”

It’s little more than a logic exercise for her as she shrugs her shoulders and delivers the explanation all matter-of-fact and void of any emotion.

This is the internal dialogue she’s been having, the way she has accused herself, identified herself, classified and labeled herself, gathered the evidence and declared herself guilty all on her own.

What’s a mom to say?  I feel the pressure of a moment, how to explain love, grace, discipline, and salvation all right then and there as she unwraps her granola bar?romans8

But I can’t.  I can only start the dialogue, open it up right there and begin the surgery, then return to that wound over and over to clean out the infection, the festering pus of lies, until she’s healed and whole.

So I begin.

No more calling yourself “The Bad One.”  You are loved, totally loved, no more or less than any other member of this family.  You sin.  We all sin.  You need to be disciplined sometimes.  We all do.  But Mom and Dad always, always love you.

I consider the self-condemning lies and slander I fill my own head with and I think about the whispered and anguished confessions of my friends struggling with their own self-hatred.

You’re the Flaky One.

You’re the Stupid One.

You’re the Ugly One.

You’re the Fat One.

You’re the Mess-Up.

You’re the Failure.

You’re the Awkward One.

We shackle ourselves in this way even though:

“There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NLT).

Christ offers us the freedom of grace and we choose the imprisonment of self-hatred.  We are, far too often, are harshest critics.

How Satan loves to use that against us, keeping us from obeying God’s call and preventing us from resting easy in grace by preying on our weaknesses.

As Mary Demuth writes in The Wall Around Your Heart:

It’s time to recognize, stark as it may seem that when you abuse yourself, you participate in the same kind of destruction that Satan wants for you (p. 73).

And, just like the conversation with my daughter, this isn’t something fixed in two minutes, five, or an hour or more.  It takes time, this gradual healing and move toward wholeness.

It begins by rejecting the labels we’ve placed on ourselves and the lies Satan has shackled us with, choosing instead to accept that Christ calls us:

Friends…His Children…and Beloved.

We’re not worthy.

Maybe that’s what we think.

Yet, even as Judas trudged into the Garden of Gethsemane and betrayed the Savior with a kiss, still Jesus said:

“My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for”  (Matthew 26:50 NLT).

Even then, He chooses “friend”–not “betrayer,” or  “backstabber” or “The Bad One.”

Later that evening, I scan the aisles at a thrift store and stop periodically to remind this child:

Don’t take your shoes off and try on the 50 pairs of high-heeled shoes.

Do not crawl underneath the clothes and skip from aisle to aisle.

Do not pounce on the couches and jump on the cushions.

Do not touch every ceramic, glass, crystal, porcelain, or other thoroughly breakable item you see on every shelf we pass.

I tell her the truth: This behavior is unacceptable and I will discipline you if it continues.

BUT….

I love you.  I want to help you learn to make better choices because of that love.

I try to teach this to my daughter, beginning right there at a school cafeteria table.

I try to teach this to myself.

Sometimes we mess up, make mistakes, and sin.  But we are saved, redeemed, transformed and wholly loved by the very God who created us and uniquely designed us for a calling and a purpose.

God doesn’t label us, abuse us, condemn us, shame us, or hate us.

He made us.

He calls us.

He equips us.

Yes, He loves us.  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 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 © 2013 Heather King