“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

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

The Answer We’re Seeking…And The FaithDare

I failed my driver’s test at least twice.  I say “at least” because I might have blanked out and actually failed it three . . . possibly four times.  It’s hard to say.  It’s enough to tell you that I still refuse to parallel park even now.

So, when a friend of mine in college said that sometimes he just needed to drive, I didn’t get it.  Driving was stressful for me, parking even more so.  For him, though, it was like therapy.  Overwhelmed and overcome, he’d just cruise down the highway with an unimportant and undefined destination.

Today, for the first time, I understood.  Kissing my older girls goodbye and waving to them as they left on the school bus, I walked my toddler to the minivan and helped her into her seat. Then we drove.

As a mom, I’ve generally lost all control over the music in the car, so I let my two-year-old sing for a while about numbers, pirates, monkeys and queens.

Then I announced, “Mommy’s turn” and flicked a switch, only to hear:

Shine Your light so I can see You
Pull me up, I need to be near You
Hold me, I need to feel love
Can You overcome this heart that’s overcome?
{David Crowder *Band singing SMS (Shine}

That’s when I knew why I was driving.  Just like my friend, I was overwhelmed and overcome.

It’s been one of those seasons of ministry and of life when you’re surrounded by death, cancer, divorce, adultery, abuse, child custody battles, the loss of babies, alcoholism, financial Silhouetted female in front of sunset skycrisis, and unemployment.  I’ve been praying for many miracles these days.

In her book, Knowing God by Name, Mary Kassian wrote about El Oseh Phela or The God Who Works Wonders, focusing on the fact that “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders” (Deut. 26:8). 

She notes the phrase “outstretched arm . . . implies a work not yet fully completed–a work in progress.  The image of a mighty hand and an outstretched arm illustrates that God is intentionally involved in history on an ongoing basis” (p. 66 emphasis mine).

It’s part of God’s character, His name, a promise based on who He is that He sometimes chooses to deliver us with all of the glory of signs and wonders.  And it’s now, not just thousands of years ago for Moses or Joshua, for Elijah and Daniel.  It’s for us, too.

Yet, at times we’re looking for the fireworks, lightning bolts, and parting seas of miraculous intervention, only to overlook the answer He’s already given to our prayers of desperation—through the ministry of others.

That’s why God fed Elijah once miraculously with food carried in the claws of ravens and then fed Elijah miraculously through the generosity of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17).  It was God’s way of meeting Elijah’s needs and blessing the widow at the same time by allowing her to be part of God’s activity.

Sometimes we are the miracle God is sending to another. 

We are the blessing He has offered; we are the provision; we are His answer to the tearful prayers in the night.

Not that it’s because of our own ability or volition.  It’s God’s generous way of allowing us to be used in service and His gracious method of linking people together, knowing that we need the connection and relationship that it brings.

The Message says it this way:

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out” (Romans 15:1-4 MSG)

In The Faith Dare , Debbie Alsdorf writes:

We were created to connect, to do life together, to bear each other’s burdens, to care with our whole being for those whom Christ loves (p. 191).

Maybe we’re praying for God’s intervention in situations and it really is going to take His mighty hand and outstretched arm to deliver.  But maybe we’re praying for the miracles and God’s already given the answer . . . and the answer is us.

You can watch the video for SMS (Shine) by clicking here or by clicking on the image from the blog.

Originally posted as “And the Answer Is…,” on May 18, 2012

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

Magic Tricks, The Family Calendar and Radical Obedience

He made rabbits appear out of nowhere.  He seemed to read minds.  He pulled colorful bouncy balls out from behind children’s ears.

The magician at our local library amazed my kids, particularly my middle daughter who checked out four books on magic that day and altered her future career plans.

“I want to be a magician who tells jokes,” she declared.

Today, I am feeling a little like a magician without the recognition and the jokes.  No fabulously mysterious cape, no collapsible magic wand hiding a bouquet of flowers, no long flowing sleeves to stash cards and colorful scarves, and no top hat from which bunnies appear.  My Mom-attire is much less impressive.

And yet, every year at about this time, I perform a seemingly magical feat that defies all explanation, a trick that doesn’t necessarily astonish audiences, but probably should.

I set the family calendar for the new school year.8496988_s

Astonished? Amazed? Flabbergasted? Speechless?

Maybe you should be.

Even those of you without kids or with grown children can easily find your calendar as overstuffed as ours.

Of course, there are things outside of my control, like the school schedule and when ballet classes are offered.  So, I wait for official announcements and postings, hoping God performs the necessary miracle to make it all fit just right.

Then I sit down and scan the mess.

There are non-negotiable activities that instantly earn a place on the weekly agenda.

There are the things I believe God has asked me to do this year, which I choose to obey.

There are the “Oh please, mommy . . . .” activities like gymnastics, soccer, swimming lessons, 4H, Girl Scouts, fencing (yes, fencing), art and sewing classes.  This we carefully narrow down.

Then there are the 50 other possibilities that are wonderful and good: The Bible studies, prayer meetings, committees, volunteering, and classes.

When we think we’ve made it all fit, unexpected birthday parties and get-togethers, after school activities, and events squeeze into the corners of Saturdays and evenings.

Of course, it’s all good.  And maybe, just maybe, if I don’t let my kids take swim lessons every time they are offered my daughter won’t make it to the 2024 Olympics.  That would obviously be the world’s loss.

But today, as I was reading in 1 Corinthians, I was reminded of the one thing that sometimes gets nudged out of our lives by the incessant activity we magically jam, cram, and squeeze into our calendars until they burst.

Paul wrote:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV).

Even if we invest our time in everything good and noble, we might be mis-managing our calendars.

Ultimately, speaking God’s language, knowing God’s Word, giving away to the poor, and sacrificing our very lives are all worthy, but even they are utterly meaningless if we don’t do them in love.

So then, what about committee meetings and weekly groups and gymnastics lessons?

Yes, meaningless without love.

Thus, I’ve been praying this year about leaving room for God’s love in our family calendar.

We’ll do what is necessary, what God has asked us to do, and we’ll love our children by allowing them to (within reason) develop gifts and talents God has given them.

And then I’ll refuse to feel guilty for declining to do every other good thing that comes my way.

Sometimes radical obedience is missions trips, quitting jobs, massive moves, full-time callings, speaking up, reaching out.

Sometimes what’s radical is obeying the smallest promptings of His Word, and this is how I determine to obey God, asking for His direction and choosing not to commit or promise or enroll until He confirms His will for our year.

May my agenda be His agenda.  My plan, his plan.  My schedule, His schedule.

I’m instantly challenged—an activity I planned on for the fall may not happen.  I think of ten things I could do to replace that on my schedule.

I pray instead.

And I hear this prompting, “Embrace rest.”

That’s a radical call for a doer like me and it takes radical obedience to let it go and enjoy the breathing room over the suffocating schedule.

After all, in the end, Paul tells us that “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13) and love doesn’t require magic, but it does require time.
P31 OBS Blog Hop

 

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

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

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

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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

VBS for Grown-Ups: God’s Love Helps Us

Every year at Vacation Bible School I watch as adults lead the excited children around the church from station to station, sing the songs (maybe we even do the accompanying motions), shout and laugh. kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res Do we also, though, compartmentalize? Do we box up the VBS messages and declare they are just for kids and not relevant for us?

But is there any message in Scripture that God delivers just for people under 18? We older and wiser ones sometimes make faith so complicated and fail to recognize or really consider the beautiful truths in these simple messages. So, this week, I’m thinking about VBS and what the lessons for children mean for you and me.  Our church is doing Group Publishing’s Kingdom Rock VBS, so that’s what I’ll be sharing about here with a mixture of old devotionals and new ones on the theme for each day.

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Originally posted as “Feeling Unloved, January 4, 2013
“I love you, Lord; you are my strength” Psalm 18:1

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.

She didn’t know that some people grow up without the kindness, the physical provision, the confidence that they are loved.

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.

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.

Paul writes to Philemon:

I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ (Philemon 1:6 NIV).

His prayer was that the church would “get it,” would deep-down understand the blessings of God and the totally undeserved, thoroughly unconditional love of our so-gracious Father and the Savior who died in our place.

If we really believed that God loved us, we would have confidence for the bad days and strength for the hard times.  We’d have the help we need when we’re annoyed, frustrated, tired or overwhelmed.

Even when we mess up we’d remember the truth: never-the-less He is faithful.

It’s God’s love that helps us stand strong.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Loving with Kisses, Band-Aids, and so much more

I fought the good fight.

I lost.

Every one of my daughters went through the Band-Aid stage and maybe still haven’t outgrown it.006

They fall for the magic of the Band-Aid for all bumps, bruises, minor aches, pains, and scratches.

I gave speeches and endured the tantrums.

You don’t need a Band-Aid for any casualty that doesn’t involve an open wound and significant blood loss.  That’s what I tell them in my all-knowing Mom-voice.

But still they cried and screamed about the unendurable pain and suffering with all the logic and reasoning of a thoroughly traumatized two-year-old.  Finally, in exasperation I handed them what was essentially a sticker to pop over a bruise.

They were miraculously cured.  No more pain or sobbing.  In fact, the impact of the Band-Aid was immediate.  It didn’t even need to contact their skin; the simple sight of me snatching the box down from the cabinet calmed them down instantly.

Maybe it wasn’t the Band-Aid they needed; I know this.  Perhaps it was the acknowledgement: I see you hurting.  I’m tending to this need.  I’m not going to leave you here aching alone, wounds sore, pain throbbing. 

This is, after all, why Mom-kisses on the tiniest of boo-boos are where the miracle cures begin.  Because the love and attention and the simply doing something–anything– says, “I love you,” louder than any three words can.

And this is the Mom-life, the life of nurses, care providers, teachers,  grandmas, and true friends.  It’s saying, “I care about you,” and meaning it at night when it costs you sleep and during the day when it costs you patience.

It means never pouring a cup of tea or a soda and drinking it all down yourself.  It means spending all day putting other people first and scheduling every moment of your life around the schedules of other people.

“Motherhood is the big-leagues of self-sacrifice.” That’s what Rachel Jankovic wrote recently.

And this is the sacrifice, she tells me, that God finds such a sweet-smelling aroma.  It’s when we’re laying ourselves down and offering that life to others, burning up selfishness on the altar as our worship to Him.

Really, in the end, shouldn’t I rejoice over those moments when a kiss and a Band-Aid are all it took to comfort and assuage?  This world pesters and pounds, and wounds aren’t always so superficial and easy-to-heal.  Sometimes they dig deep.  Sometimes they fester and infect; they spread and ache long after we’ve bandaged over them.

So our calling becomes this: loving others enough to care about the depth of the pain and not just covering over with a Band-Aid when they need so much more.

Sure, we could snatch that trusty and true box down from the cabinet shelf and toss a sticky bandage over a hurt.  We could rush this and move on.  All better.  Stop your crying.  No need to fuss.  Don’t you see the Band-Aid I’ve slapped on your skin?

This is what Queen Esther did, unknowingly, of course.  She heard of her cousin Mordecai’s distress.  How he had torn apart his clothes and now sat at the city gate, covered over with burlap and ashes, wailing with loud bitterness.

She responded with concern, but without listening and understanding.  Yes, she essentially snatched down the box of Band-Aids and sent one his way:  “She sent clothes for Mordecai to wear so he could take off his sackcloth, but he did not accept them” (Esther 4:4 HCSB).

That’s what she thought would help, just superficial care.  Change your clothes.  Stop that mourning, Mordecai, and everything will be well.

But he needed so much more.  He needed her to put her life on the line for her entire people by interceding with the king.  Mordecai needed self-sacrifice, unselfishness, and humility.  A change of clothes simply wasn’t enough.

When we love, we’re willing to tend with care also: to take the time, to make the time, to thrust our hands into a hemorrhaging wound, if necessary, and become a right bloody mess in order to stop the bleeding out.

Jesus didn’t leave us desperately sick and dying.  If he had only healed some physical hurts, if he had simply taught some important truths, if he had solely righted a few social injustices, he would have given Band-Aid care for a terminal disease.

Yet, Jesus did more, sacrificing His life for ours, because he knew we needed radical intervention to save our dying selves.

And then He asks us to live this life of love:  

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV).

Loving with Band-Aids some days.  Loving with time and attention on others.  Loving with messy healing and laying ourselves down at times.

But loving like Jesus always.

Happy Mother’s Day, National Nurses Week, and Teacher Appreciation Week to all of you!!!
Thank you for all your care and sacrifice for others.

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

Bad Habits, Hand-Me-Downs and Choosing Grace

Some days, you must choose grace.

Not just to give, but to receive it, take it in, soak it up past the superficial skin and let it seep down deep into your soul, into the places of self-condemnation and records of wrongs and mistakes and imperfections.

Like yesterday.

It was a day of frustrating grocery shopping with lost coupons and a store that hadn’t stocked the chicken that I needed for almost a week’s worth of family meal planning.

And having to skip out on my exercise because I had to trek to a second grocery store to find said elusive chicken so I could feed my family more than one meal in the next seven days.

Then I finally unloaded it all at home, over-budget, discouraged, and frustrated with my non-exercising self for messing up my fitness plan.

As I sorted the groceries onto shelves and into drawers, I noticed the dirt in the corners of my kitchen floor, the apple juice splatters, the toothpaste in the bathroom sink, the laundry piled in the basket.

Wow, I just can’t ever keep this house clean enough.

And that writing project I planned for the day…didn’t get done.

There were the three tantrums from my preschooler at the school library and the devotions I put off until 9:00 that night.

At the end of the evening, after dinner and bath time, and after my kids didn’t practice the piano, I read one chapter in a book to my daughters and sent them off for “independent reading” before lights out.

It had rumbled inside me bit by bit all day, but as we finished up that little bit of reading time together, my daughter reached over and turned down the corner the page to hold our place.

And I felt the full rush of failure.

I’m a page-turner-downer from way back.  Despite a lovely, inspirational, unique and large collection of bookmarks, I fall back on a long-established bad habit.  I just dog-ear my page and snap the book shut.

Unfortunately, it’s a bad habit I’ve unwittingly passed along to these daughters of mine.  In fact, it’s so extreme they’ve even coined a term for it, transforming the word “chapter” into a verb.

“Mom, don’t close the book until we ‘chapter it!” they say and I dutifully slip the corner of the page down.

In that moment I thought: I’m passing along my bad habits to my children, handing them down like ill-fitting jeans and worn-out shoes.

Unfortunately, some of them aren’t as immaterial as dog-eared book pages–like stressing perfection too much, having too little patience with ourselves and others, and not accepting grace in the wake of messy failure.

This is why my oldest sobbed in frustration as we studied for her big science test the other day.  Because she forgot the definition of one term among 30 and felt like a big horrible failure.

I assured her with a hug and an uplifting of her chin so her red, swollen eyes looked up to mine: “Baby girl, you’re doing awesome.  It’s okay to make mistakes when we’re learning!  And even if you get it wrong, you’re doing your best.  You’re working hard here.  Isn’t that what counts?  Isn’t that the point? And don’t you know that I love you no matter what?”

Oh, but I recognize the source of her hand-me-down of perfectionism in my own mirror.

Don’t we all have days where it seems we meet with more failure than success? Where Satan can barrage us with reminders of the mistakes from long ago and the crazy mishaps of today.

Where every mom on Facebook seems to have it all together, gourmet meals for their family, a spit-n-shine house, Martha Stewart-like crafting ability, time to bake, snazzy Scrapbook pages, award-winning kids, and time for family service projects….”

Or maybe you feel it at your job or in your ministry or with your friends.  What you should be doing.  What you failed to do.  What you said that was wrong. How you fall short.  How you could be better.

The pressure of perfection is far too much for our imperfect selves tripping along in an imperfect world.

And that’s the point, sweet friend.  It’s not to get everything right.  It’s to get what really matters right and doing our best and just laying it all out, as insufficient as it is, as an offering before a gracious God who just wants our heart anyway.

Paul told Timothy: “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God” (1 Timothy 1, MSG).

Sometimes we have to stop and ask, “What matters here?”

Then we have to choose to receive the grace He offers, deciding it’s okay if we didn’t get it all perfect today and if our life got a little bit messy.  Doesn’t God love us?  Didn’t we try our best to walk in that love?  That’s the point and that’s enough.

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

Sandals in the Grass: Time for a Change

“It is well for us that, amidst all the variableness of life, there is One whom change cannot affect; One whose heart can never alter, and on whose brow mutability can make no furrows.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

The weather changed in the night.

I mistakenly threw on sandals in our mad rush out the door on Sunday morning, not expecting frigid droplets to seep over onto my feet from the damp grass.  Climbing into the mini-van, I tucked my feet under me and pulled my arms through my “sanctuary sweater.”

My heart has always done cartwheels at the first signs of fall.  As a school girl walking home from the bus stop, I’d pass neighborhood porch displays of scare crows, pumpkins and bales of straw.  The lawns would be dotted and then covered with leaves turned gold and red.  The breeze carried the scent of fireplaces lit, perhaps for the first time of the season.

It’s the oddest thing about fall.  Even as everything moves inevitably toward the frozen death of winter, it feels like all is alive and fresh and new and wildly open to possibilities.

Maybe it’s the student in me, who still sees fall as a time of beginnings rather than of harvest.  Maybe it’s just that I hibernate in the summer when the heat of the day is suffocating.  In the fall, it feels like you can breathe in deep for the first time in months.

And that’s not the only oddity about the season.  How can I, someone who resists all change and dreads it as much as a boogeyman in the closet, revel in a season that is all about change?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Yet, there it is.  I love fall.  But I’ve also tossed and turned these past few weeks over my kids getting new teachers (I liked the old ones); about their new lunch schedule (I liked the old one); about my new weekly calendar with kids’ activities, and church meetings, and the like (the old one seemed to work so well.)

Maybe if I had sought these changes out, if I had felt stuck and needed rescue, if I had been languishing and needed new life, then I’d be celebrating instead of whining.

But as it is, I’m feeling like I was kinda happy back there and this change, well I just wasn’t ready for it:  No more ready than I was on Sunday morning when my feet froze in my sandals.

Life forces change on us, though.  God’s goal of transforming us into His Son’s likeness, of making us new and new again, requires constant life-revolutions and world adjustments.

In his book, The Seasons of God, Richard Blackaby wrote:

“Newness is God’s specialty, a trademark of the abundant gifts He gives us—and as we traverse the unique succession of seasons He’s designed for us, we’ll find our way marked by fresh adventures, surprising encounters, and unprecedented fulfillment.”

So, it should be no more surprising than the cooling of the weather in September that God shakes things up in my life.  Yes, change is one thing in our lives that’s constant.

Unlike Blackaby, though, I’m less inclined to call that an “adventure” or look forward to “unprecedented fulfillment.”  I’m more likely to worry all along the way about what’s new and different and therefore out of my control.

Why is that?

I was reading this morning in 1 Corinthians 13 and noticing perhaps for the first time that love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Always.

I may adore my daughters and love my husband, but I can’t say my love for them always does anything.  Sometimes I lose my temper or forget or say the wrong thing or see the negative instead of the beauty.

But God’s love, that agape, holy and pure, tried-and-true, never-changing love of His is an Always kind of love.

Even the rays of the sun filter through my window in different ways on different days at different times, but God “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

So all this fearful anxiety over the newness of it all is foolishness really, because even when every tiny thing in my life changes:

God does not. 

His love does not.

So, I pulled on one of my favorite sweaters this morning and opened the windows of the house to enjoy the breeze.  I’ve lit my pumpkin spice candle and readied my recipe file of Crock-pot soups and stews.  I’ve taken down the marriage prayer plaque and replaced it with my sign: “Bless This Harvest.”

I’ve settled in to enjoy the fall and maybe, just maybe, the change it brings.

What do you love about the fall?  How do you feel about change? 

You can read more devotionals about this here:

Christian Writers Blog ChainToday’s post is part of the September topic ‘Change’ by the ChristianWriters.com Blog Chain. You can click on the links on the right side of this page to read more articles in this series.

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