Captivated

Sometimes you have to fight for the glory and squint your eyes tight to find the wonder.

Like today.

My daughter woke me up early.  She was ready for the day; I wanted to enjoy a little more night, and so the morning began with a headache, fatigue and maybe a not-so-cheerful attitude.

Then, just as I began to settle into the day, I glanced up at the calendar at 7:58 and realized the heating and air conditioning repairman was coming between 8 and 8:30 a.m.  Oops, forgot that one.

He came at 8:20 and normally that time for me is for morning tea and long devotions, starting the week with God and then writing.

But how to be inspired and still with God, how to type out these words on the computer when he’s banging parts and dismantling pieces?  Then he calls out, “Ma’am?” and I flinch because I know it’s not to tell me good news.

My to-do list was long.  The laundry piled high.  The sink stacked with morning dishes.

But I’m fighting for this, so I open to the first day of my new Bible Study, Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg:

“God desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with Himself–displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness” (11).

Captivate me, Lord.  Right here, this tiny person in this moment when all the mundane is pressing heavy on my heart and I’m just about suffocated from the stifling weight of it all.

Feinberg tells me that this is what God desires and I wonder: If I’m not feeling it, is it because I’ve shut Him down and crowded Him out?  Is He willing to reignite me and I’m unwilling to notice

I flip through my Bible to Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

It starts with thanks, gratitude that anything that shakes apart the foundation of my day can’t touch the foundation of His kingdom, my faith, or eternity with Him–Not early mornings, interrupted routines, home repairs, not even the incessant grinding of the daily.

It requires worship grounded in reverence and awe because my God, Savior, Friend, and Lover of my Soul, is a Consuming Fire, and even on days when I’m just seeing the tiniest ember and flicker of that holy flame, He remains the same.

In Scripture, Elisha stood with his prophet-mentor, Elijah, and asked so boldly for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  So, when I read Elisha’s story, I expect the miracles all to be earth-shattering, all fire from heaven with awe and wonder.

It was Elijah, after all, who staged the showdown with the prophets of Baal, who predicted a long and devastating drought over the land and then foretold the rain that started as one tiny cloud as big as a man’s fist.  He went head-to-toe with Ahab and Jezebel until he was whisked away to heaven in a flaming chariot.

The double-portion of that Spirit must be pretty spectacular.

But when I read Elisha’s story, he made foul water fit to drink.  He cursed a group of taunting boys who called him “baldy.”  He gave oil to a poor widow, made some poisonous stew safe for consumption.  And when an ordinary worker dropped his ax in the lake, Elisha made the ax head float on the water.

It was everyday stuff, most of it.  He had a few moments, like raising a boy from the dead.  Overall, though, it seems so mundane.  So everyday.  He helped people eat and drink.  Helped them work and not have to trek to Home Depot for some new tools.

And maybe that’s the reminder here.  Maybe it takes even more faith to look for the power and spirit of God at work in the smallest of needs and the most everyday of circumstances.

Swamp milkweedI look out of the window over my kitchen sink while I wash the last cereal bowl and see the plants we bought the day before, still waiting to be planted in the dirt of our garden.  We went on a hunt for milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and came home with these two green pots.

They look like the smallest and plainest of dead sticks.  My daughter was skeptical.  Could this brown spindly stalk grow anything beautiful?  Is it even alive?

But today I’ve fought for the wonder and the glory.

Today, I’ve determined to plant and nurture the pitiful, the brown, the spindly, the weak, the seeming lifeless–and wait for God to cultivate and grow the glory and the beauty.

Yes, in my garden.  Yes, in my life and heart.

Captivate 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 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

When You’ve Become the Diaper

I’d been a mom for just under two years when I got pooped on for the first time.

It turns out new babies can’t quite tell when the diaper is on and when Momma has removed it for bath time.

This is one of those things you just never anticipate happening to you.   You go to college, study hard, earn a degree in British Literature.  Go back to school and earn a Master’s degree in Educational Administration.  Teach highly intelligent senior high students Advanced Placement English classes.

Then two years later you’re cleaning yourself up after being mistaken for a diaper.

Every mom has Kodak moments of familial perfection.  For a few minutes, it’s domestic tranquility.  Kids are healthy.  They used their manners at the dinner table.  The homework is done.  The laundry is put away.  You cooked a delicious and healthy dinner in your Crock Pot, made homemade bread, and no one complained about it at the dinner table.  Your chore chart and behavior reward system are working.

You are, in fact, Super Mom.  You are June Cleaver, Betty Crocker, and even maybe Mr. Clean in one grand super hero package.

Until noses start running and children start fighting when you have a headache.  A stomach virus shoots through your family.  You realize that “dressing up” now means wearing the jeans without the worn knees and Sharpie stains from your child’s experiments with permanent marker.

Are you less of a Super Mom now?

Partway through last week when the stomach virus hit my home, the cleaning up of bodily fluids was beginning to wear me down.  It was like being pooped on . . . all day . . . every day.

I needed a good cry, a scented bubble bath, a cup of hot tea, some rich chocolate—maybe hot fudge on an ice cream sundae, a hair cut, some time to myself, someone to tell me I looked beautiful even on a day it couldn’t possibly be true because of the aforementioned bodily fluid clean-up.

Without any of those indulgences readily at my disposal, I prayed the only prayer I was feeling at the moment, “Can you help a girl out, God?  It’s pretty hard to feel like the yucky humiliation and selflessness of this job has any eternal significance.  Do you even know what it’s like to put other people first all the time?”

I forgot who I was talking to.

Oh, sure, Jesus was the Savior of mankind.  He had the power of divinity at His fingertips.  He could multiply the bread instead of having to kneed it by hand and let it rise on the stove.  He could command the fish into the nets instead of pushing a cart around Wal-Mart with a shopping list, a budget, coupons, and a toddler.

And yet.

When we over-romanticize the life of our Savior, we forget the utter humility and selflessness of Jesus, who:

“though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV).

Jesus emptied Himself for us.  He took the form of a servant for our sake.  Stepping down from a heavenly throne, for a little while He “was made lower than the angels” all because He loved us (Hebrews 2:9).

The writer of Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just that He died on the cross for us—although that is more than enough.  The sacrifice began the moment He confined Himself to flesh and submitted Himself to a life of hunger, fatigue, and pain.

He suffered in this way so that He could understand our suffering:

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”  (Hebrews 2:14-18, ESV).

and

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV).

Jesus sympathizes with us on our hardest days.  He loves on us and showers mercy down on our lives when He sees how we struggle.  Christ bends Himself low to wash our feet and heal our hurts.

This is never more true than when we’re covered in mess because we’ve been serving someone else.  Before Paul writes in Philippians 2 about Jesus’ humility even to the point of death, he first challenges us to “have this mind among yourself which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

We are supposed to humble ourselves in the same way Christ did.

This, to me, means that the most beautiful moments of my motherhood to God aren’t the ones when the family is clean, happy, eating my perfect food, at peace with one another and I look like a fashion model.

Instead, it’s when I’m serving even though I’m tired or sick myself.  It’s getting up early even when you were up in the middle of the night.  It’s cleaning up messes and assuring sick children that it’s all okay.

This isn’t just for moms either.  God has called us all to a ministry of self-emptying, of inconvenience and mess, so that we can share His love with others.

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

The Big Anniversary Giveaway!!! and “I Needed That”

Today, is a day of celebration for us!!  It is the one-year anniversary of this devotional blog.  You can even read the original post here, The Reluctant Blogger, written on 02/10/2011.

Can you believe it’s been a year?

An anniversary like that seems like the perfect chance for a giveaway to me!!!  It’s also a great time to say, “Thank you!”  Thank you for the many, many emails and notes and even gifts you’ve given me this past year to encourage me to keep this blog going and not give up.  I’ve gotten special surprise hugs in stores and beautiful emails in my inbox on some tough days.

You bless me all the time.  Thank you!

My friend, Rita Taylor, has made this fabulous necklace and bracelet set for the giveaway. Isn’t she incredible?!  If you’re interested in seeing more of her creations, check out her Etsy page here: http://www.etsy.com/people/bigmomma4542

A huge thanks also to Ana Isabel for the photos showcasing Rita’s jewelry designs!

Also, to celebrate the new series of Devotions from My Garden, I’m going to give away a gardening gift basket with some spring-time goodies for you!

So, that’s two great gifts up for grabs!!

Here’s how it works.  Every time you do one of these things, you are entered to win one of the two prizes:

  • Comment on any page in the blog or on the Facebook post from now until next Friday at noon.
  • Become a follower of the blog (Go to the Homepage and enter your email address in the box to the right).
  • Share this page on Facebook and then leave me a comment on this page telling me you did.

Easy peasy!  I’ll pick a winner in one week—on Friday, 02/17, at noon and then post the winner announcements to the blog that day.

Now, onto today’s devotional!

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

My middle daughter had the middle child blues.

Over Christmas break, my older girls and I discovered a new-to-us series of books by Daisy Meadows about fairies.  There was a fairy named after every girl on basically the whole planet and a book about any possible interest or hobby she may have.

Poppy the Piano Fairy
Samantha the Swimming Fairy
Cara the Camp Fairy
Ally the Dolphin Fairy
Heather the Violet Fairy
Stacey the Soccer Fairy

We practically did a jig in the middle of the library when we discovered a book named after my oldest daughter, Victoria the Violin Fairy.

And then we scanned the shelves for a book for my middle daughter.  Lauren the Lollipop Fairy?  Lauren the Lilac Fairy?  Lauren the Crazy Fairy with a Wacky Sense of Humor and a Love of Stories?

Nothing.

Mia, Juliet, Holly, Kate, Helena.  A hundred girls’ names on that shelf and yet no Lauren.

It was the total middle-child disaster.  How come Victoria has a book named after her, but I don’t have one named after me?

She cried.  I tried to console and comfort.  I searched Google and Amazon for any book named after a girl named Lauren and failed.

Then I gave up and hoped her five-year-old heart wouldn’t suffer permanent damage landing her in a pyschiatrist’s office some day.

Almost two months later, I was driving in my car and praying for a gift of grace.

My husband and I were preparing for some upcoming medical testing for him.  Finally, after wrestling with God and throwing a few “righteous” tantrums, I prayed with submission.  “Thy will be done” and “thank You for the assurance that You’ll be with us in all things.”

The day before the testing, I drove around town, running errands with my two-year-old strapped into her car seat behind me.  I was praying and trying not to cry so I wouldn’t walk into stores and the library with red eyes and streaking mascara.

Dear Lord, we’ve submitted to Your will in this.  We’ve asked You to be glorified.  I’m not fighting You or Your plan for us, even if it’s hard and even if I don’t like it. But I’m asking for some extravagant grace and mercy today.

Then I made a request—that God would protect the hearts of my children.  They are so blessed by their Daddy.  By his faith and example of Godliness.  By his Christian leadership in our home and church.  By his firm, but loving discipline.  By his prayers for them every night and the crazy rides to bed he gives them—on his head, on his back, carrying them upside down, flying them through the air.

Lord, please take care of my daughters if their Daddy is sick.

The library was my next stop.  I checked my face in the mirror to examine it for signs of red, splotchy tears.  It wasn’t great, but oh well.  Who needs to look like a super model at the public library?  (Not that I ever look like a super model!)

We had participated in a book exchange program at the start of the year, bringing in books we no longer wanted and then picking out new ones in February.  Today was the big day we could choose new books, so splotchy face or not, we were going in.

My two-year-old and I jumped right into the goodies.  I glanced at the stacks on the tables and in the piles.  Then, in a box on the floor I glimpsed the wings of a fairy on a book cover and picked it up.

I expected a fairy named Abigail or Ava or Gabriella.

Instead, I held in my hands Lauren the Puppy Fairy.

I did another little jig in the library.  They must be quite accustomed to my praise dancing by now!

I rejoiced, not just because I found a book named after my middle daughter that I didn’t think existed on this earth.

I rejoiced because God gave me the grace I needed at the exact moment of my need.  It was a reminder to me that my daughters’ hearts are in His hands.  He cares about them enough to let me find a second-hand book with one of their names on it at a library exchange program.

Surely He will care for their every need, walk them through every hurt, and show them the fullness of God’s great love and compassion for them.

The day before I had copied this verse into my journal:

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Do you realize what a promise is in this verse?

It means God invites us into His presence. We aren’t unwelcome intruders there.

We don’t have to crawl in with our face to the ground either, waiting for condemnation or banishment.  He says we can come “boldly to the throne of grace,” knowing that we will be received.

Then, God promises to extend to us the very mercy and grace we desperately need exactly when we need it.

I didn’t find Lauren the Puppy Fairy a month ago or a week ago.  If I had, it would have been fun, but it wouldn’t have shown me God’s incredible grace.

No, within moments of my prayer for my daughters, I reached into a box and found a sign of God’s grace and mercy for me and my family.

That’s the promise for you, as well: He will give you the grace you need when you need it most.  Don’t be afraid to ask Him for it.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King


I Know What You’re Talking About

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6

Sending my oldest daughter to first grade has been a daily exercise in navigating cutthroat competition.

It’s a compulsion.  An insatiable need to be the best, the smartest, the fastest, the first.

So, when choosing books at the end of the day, she stressed over whether anyone else had a higher reading level.

It was tragic when the girls in her reading group lost the spelling competition to the two boys.

There were the races at recess, how many beads they had earned for their Accelerated Reader necklaces in library, and who was on the highest level math timed test.

For weeks, I gave my daughter profound words of Momly wisdom.  “You don’t always have to be the best, babe.  You just have to try your hardest and that is always good enough.  Don’t worry about anyone else. You are smart and capable and you should be proud of what you can do and be thankful for the way God has made you.”

She would nod, hug me and then run off to play, seemingly receiving the full weight of my words.

But no matter how good my speeches were, they didn’t really change her–even the ones I felt could have been scripted into TV sitcom about a perfect mom in one of those heart-to-heart mother-daughter moments.

She still felt both compelled and destroyed by competition.

Then there was the day when I finally looked at her and said, “I get it. I know what it’s like.  I have spent most of my life feeling like I needed to be the best, the fastest, the smartest, the most capable, the most responsible, the kindest, and just generally the most perfect person there is.  And I am telling you now that doing your best is good enough and that you need to be comfortable as you.”

She looked back at me a little befuddled, as if it never occurred to her that maybe this neurotic need to be perfect was genetic.  And while her character didn’t change in a revolutionary moment, she seemed to listen more closely to what I had to say.

Because I have been there.  I have lived that.  I do actually know what I’m talking about.

In the same way, it comforts me somehow to know that when Jesus asks me to endure, to be patient, to withstand trials and suffering, to love my enemies, to speak truth, and to show love, that He knows what He’s talking about.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

“Lord Jesus Christ, how grateful I am that You have entered the arena of suffering and hurt and evil.  If all I had were words spoken from a quiet hillside, I would not have what I needed most — Your victory over the worst, Your presence in time of need.”

Jesus could have preached “Blessed are the merciful and the meek and the pure in heart” for His entire ministry.  Those messages would have been challenging and beautiful, but lacking in impact.

Thankfully, He didn’t stop there.  He showed mercy.  He displayed meekness, even choosing to intercede for those crucifying Him as He labored to breathe on the cross.  His heart remained pure, even as Satan tempted Him in the desert.

Jesus didn’t just say it; He lived it.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews reminds us that:

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

How precious is Christ’s mercy for us!  He never stands poised from a throne of judgment, hurling down condemnation at us for messing it up sometimes or falling short of perfect every day.

He is a merciful High Priest, who bends down low and helps us overcome.

In the same way, Jesus asks us to do more than just make speeches at people and proclaim truth.  He asks us to live it and then share it.

Paul wrote:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).

So, when we share with someone what it’s like to overcome the sin of gossip, it’s because we ourselves have been there and done that.

When we watch a stressed out young mom’s children, it’s because someone watched our little ones for us.

As we place our arm around the woman diagnosed with breast cancer, as we make a meal for a new widow, as we sip coffee across from the wife who’s husband says, “I don’t love you anymore,” we give to them the same comfort we received in our own lives.

Jesus asks us to live it and then share it.  That’s what He Himself has done for us.

What comfort has Christ given to you that you need to share with someone else?

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.