Halfway through the Big Clean I’m ready to give up

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It’s about halfway through a “Big Clean” that I feel like giving up,.

That’s because Big Cleans always make things look way worse before they ever get better.

I’ve been pulling out every scrap of trash from every corner cabinet in our home recently, taking every toy out of a toy box, dusting every book on every shelf.

It seems like such a good idea when I begin.  I am energized and enthusiastic.  This is the day I conquer the cabinet under the bathroom sink and I determine to declare victory.

I begin by taking everything out of the cabinet and that’s about when it hits me:  This is a big job.  This is probably a bigger job than I ever anticipated.

Dealing with all the mess is inevitably exhausting and discouraging and a little disheartening.

And maybe I don’t feel like doing it after all.

But at that point, of course, it’s too late.  I’m surrounded by piles of “stuff” and it has to  be dealt with because there is now no path to the door.

Unless I shove all the mess right back in there, making things worse than they ever were, I simply have to dig deep, take some big breaths of courage and just do it.

Throw out the ancient and the dirty.  Donate the never-used.  Reorganize the keeps.

Then at the end of the day, my kids come home from school, open the cabinet to grab something and they give me the victory prize:  “WHOA!  Mom has been cleaning in here!”

This type of roll-up-your-sleeves Big Clean is no easier in our hearts and our minds than it is in our homes.

It’s deeply humbling when the Holy Spirit reveals those hidden, dark corners of sin where trash and refuse have piled up over time.

And this is true, too, sometimes it gets far messier before it ever gets better.

Somewhere in the process, we might want to yell, “Stop!!  Just put everything back in the cabinet because I don’t want to deal!  It is too painful!”

Maybe that’s what happens when we submit our short tempers to Him, or our impatience, or our worrying, or our judging others, or our need to be in control, or any habit, any sin, any distraction that draws us away from God.

It’s easier to leave it be, but oh, it’s so much better when the Holy Spirit has completed the work and we can come to Him with the ancient things trashed, the dirty things cleaned, and the good things reorganized.

The prophet Hosea wrote about returning to the Lord, about giving up our waywardness and following God with all our hearts.

That’s revival, and personal revival is what I want and need.  You too?

Hosea said:

“Come, let us return to the Lord;
    for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
    he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him.
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
    his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
    as the spring rains that water the earth.”

When I’m knee-deep in a Big Clean in my home and I’m surrounded by books, toys, and the fifty million papers that my children have accumulated, I need these reminders likes Hosea’s.

I keep going because I know it’s worth it.  Because there’s no turning back now.  Because even if it’s exhausting in the moment, at the end of this, I’ll be better off.

I’ll have neatly stocked cabinets, less overflow of “stuff” in my home, and fewer junk drawers!

In the same way, when God calls us to a hard work, we keep going because He assures us of what’s ahead if we don’t give up:

Hosea promised:

He can heal us.
He will revive us.
He will  raise us up.
We may live before Him.
He is as faithful as the rising sun and He will come to us like the spring rains.

But here’s the most beautiful thing about the revival God does in our hearts.

He does the work.

I’m the one wiping cabinets down with Lysol at my house.  I’m the one filling up trash bags and taking boxes of donations to the local thrift store.

But it’s the Holy Spirit who does the work of renewal and revival in us.

We submit.  We grant Him access.  We acknowledge our sin.  We pray for His help when we’re tempted or weary or we want to give up.

We yield and we yield again, but the work does not depend on us.  It is His and I am grateful.

Muffin Mission: Complete

Today, we have transformed our kitchen table into a muffin station: Blueberry muffins, pumpkin muffins, cinnamon streusel muffins, and triple chocolate chunk muffins.

Our teachers and school staff head back to school this week in order to prepare for the start of a new school year, so we decided to bless them with a little muffin treat.

The thing is: my kids love muffins.

Love them.

But they each only want to eat their own personal favorite flavor.

So, we are making about 24 muffins of each variety, and then each kid needs to sample at least one, maybe two….four?…to make sure they are teacher worthy.

Mom needs a taste, too, of course.

As my five-year-old says, “Muffins are too much delicious and we want to keep eating them and eating them before we run out.”

Then we will package those we haven’t eaten up and take them into the school office for teachers and staff to munch on while they clean classrooms, move desks, prep paperwork, put up bulletin boards and oh so much more.

We are doing this because we love muffins.hosea6

Well, more importantly, we love our teachers.

And love takes effort.  Loving someone means sacrificing for them, maybe some time, money, effort, or muffin batter.

Somehow, I get this when it comes to people.   Being a wife, being a mom, being a friend, being in ministry means giving to others.

But I read this today:

So be very careful to love the Lord your God (Joshua 23:11 NIV).

Joshua, the well-loved leader of Israel, had long since brought God’s people into the Promised Land.  Now he was old, preparing to die, and he gave a farewell address.

He reminded them of God’s provision and promises and the consequences for disobedience.

That’s where this one sentence is tucked in, just a small thought in a grand speech.

Be careful to the love the Lord.

I feel that nudging of the Holy Spirit, that gentle pressure as He treads on the tender places of my heart.

Am I careful…attentive…thoughtful… purposeful in the way I love Him?

Or can I sing about loving Him or talk about loving Him and keep it all so simple and without effort?

Maybe sometimes we all treat loving God as our prerogative.   How much we choose to give is up to us.  Anything we give should make God happy.  He should be content to fit snugly into our agendas, schedules, budgets, and thoughts.

What, after all, should carefully loving God look like?

It means tending that relationship.  Choosing Him over all else.  Giving up this and that so He comes first.

Loving God well means loving God wholeheartedly, not giving Him halfhearted praise and emotionless obedience.

It means speaking His love language and and worshiping Him the way He wants to be worshiped, rather than in whatever way feels comfortable and non-embarrassing to me.

It means desiring with desperate and passionate longing to know Him, really know Him, and to pour our lives into that one grand effort to be with Jesus.

Like Hosea wrote:

“Oh that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him.  He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring (Hosea 6:3 ESV).

What hope!  Just as assuredly as the sun will rise with each new day and that April showers will bring those May flowers, so we can trust that God will answer us when we call.

When we press on to know Him, He will meet us in that place.  He will make Himself known.

As Chris Tiegreen says:

Press on in whatever way you can think of, knowing that God longs to share who He is. When your heart is pressing in to Him, His response will be as certain as the dawn.

May we start this week….may we start even today, right this moment:  to be very careful to love Him.

May we learn to love God actively and wholeheartedly instead of passively and complacently.

May we press in to know Him in any way we can, in every way we can.

Then, may we look forward with expectant hope and the confident assurance that He will respond to us.

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 ‘Learn to Say, ‘No?’

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

Going Back to a Broken Heart: Inspired by Obedience

She told us she didn’t think she could go back.

But there she stood on our church’s stage, holding the microphone in one hand and lifting up letters, prayer cards and gifts in the other to show us what happened when she returned.

The year before, she had traveled to Honduras with a group focused on blessing orphans and she’d shared her testimony then with questions:

How could these little children be so in need?  Was there any hope for them at all?  Where was God in this?  She knew He was there, but it was hard to see.

That’s what she asked then and her heart had been so broken by what she saw there….could she endure the breaking again and return a year later?

Perhaps she shouldn’t go.  Perhaps it was too hard, just too heavy, too much, too sad, too overwhelming.

I understand the compelling lure of self-preservation, the way we can choose distance and the safety of objectivity, of statistics, of pictures someone else displays and the testimony that someone else gives without wading into mess ourselves.

I’m willing to engage this far….but no farther.

I am willing to give or serve or care until it hurts, until my heart cracks open and I’m clinging hard to faith when the world beats so hard with evil on the innocent.

I can sit in the balcony of a church sanctuary and tearfully listen as she describes the orphanage facilities, the care (or lack of) for the children, the danger and the hurt.16954296_s

But she stands there with the microphone and I see the beauty of one who was called and equipped and one who went not once, but went again.

She holds up a tiny pink fuzzy toy, an elephant I think.  A little girl with one leg from cancer in an orphanage had given that to her as a memento, “so you won’t ever forget me.”  That’s what motivated the gift of her only toy.

And there are other gifts.  Trinkets to keep at home on her dresser.  Beaded bracelets dangling from both her arms.  Notes and cards from children and teens.

They say it over and over in their messages, “Don’t forget me…..Always remember me….”

Children unloved, unnoticed, rejected, abandoned, betrayed, tossed out, sold, used and abused, and what they most want is for someone on this planet to remember they exist.

My own unborn baby kicks and rumbles and I lay my hand on my pregnant belly as I listen to her talk about the unwanted ones while responding to my own very wanted child.

She says the teen girls have one outfit of clothes that they wear every day and I think of the closet bulging already from gifts of baby blue sleepers and hats, blankets and bibs, outfits we oohed and aahed over together as we pulled them out of the bags sent home with us from church.

The beauty of her testimony, though, is that she put her heart on the altar and willingly went back to that place of brokenness, and this time she can say where God is at work, where there was hope and grace despite the pain.

Foster moms tell me it cuts deep wounds in them to love a child and then release him to biological family, but they choose to love anyway.

And I see a picture on my Twitter feed, a young boy about eight years old standing in a store posing for a picture while his adoptive mom clicks the camera.  He’s showing off his new clothes and she’s thrilled.  Orphaned at one years old, growing up on the streets of Africa and now he is home….chosen….loved, but it’s been a journey.

It’s not that God calls all of us to this same ministry, but He calls some to have hearts willing to be broken.

He told His prophet Hosea not just to marry a prostitute, but after she left him to pursue her lovers,  to “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress”  (Hosea 3:1 NASB).

God told Ezekiel not to mourn his wife’s death: “but you shall not mourn and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come. Groan silently; make no mourning for the dead…”  (Ezekiel 24:15-17 NASB).

Their hearts broke in obedience.

If that’s God’s calling, then we can trust Him with our own hearts, trust Him enough to obey even when it’s hard and our instinct is to snatch our hands back from the hot stove and cradle our hearts to protect them from pain.  We can trust Him enough to go and to go again and enough to sing,Break my heart for what breaks yours” and mean it (Hillsong United).

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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

Sorrow, Disappointment and Leaving the Valley

She had bounced out of bed that morning and sprinted across the house to tell me the news, “It’s morning time!  And I feel all better!”

I scooped her up in a hug and felt her forehead.  The day before, my three-year-old had spent all afternoon on the sofa, mostly asleep, periodically waking to chatter cheerfully and then drifting back into dreams moments later.

Now here she sat on my lap a day later, placing a headband in her hair and showing it off so I could tell her how pretty it looked.

And she said, “This is what I’m going to wear to the birthday party.”

That’s when I had to tell her the news.  Yesterday while she had been sleeping away the sickness, we had slipped out the door quietly for the birthday celebration.

And she had missed it.

I broke it to her as gently as I could, explaining how she had been sick, reminding her of other special days.

Yet, disappointment is full of sorrow, even when it makes sense, even if you understand why it all happened, even if you know there will be other days and other opportunities, even when you’re deep down truly okay.

Still we feel the sadness over loss.

For a three-year-old, it’s missing out on a birthday party because of a fever.  She covers her face with her hands, crying to me as I comb my hand through her hair and gently pat her back because she “really wanted to go.”

For us, it could be that or so much more.  It’s disappointment in ourselves and the mistakes we make, so much foolishness, words that we speak without thinking, sins, habits, failings, misjudgments and mis-steps.

Or it could be disappointment in God for not sticking to THE plan (AKA “our plan”) or for the deliverance that delays or seemingly doesn’t come.

Or maybe it’s disappointment with others and how they’ve let us down or wronged us or hurt us in ways we carry as scars long after the initial injury.

Disappointments can’t be erased completely.  My girl missed that party and there’s no conjuring it up again or transporting through time to relive the moment.

So it is for us.  The past is the past and there it is.

Yet, God is a redeeming God: Redeeming our circumstances even when it’s our own foolish fault for being in this ugly mess….reminding us of His perfect plans far surpassing our imperfect schemes…renewing our hope even when all we see at the moment is hopelessness.

This is what God promised to do for His people in the book of Hosea, as they wallowed in this disappointment—knowing it was their own disobedience that led to captivity, feeling hopelessly lost and uncertain about the future.

God said:

Therefore, I am going to persuade her,
lead her to the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
  There I will give her vineyards back to her
and make the Valley of Achor
into a gateway of hope.
There she will respond as she did
in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came out of the land of Egypt.
(Hosea 2:14-15 HCSB).

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That Valley of Achor is something we know; all of us have walked those paths of shadows.  It means “Valley of Trouble,” the lonely walking beneath the mountains, barely touched by light, unable to see over the peaks, feeling oh so very far from rescue or escape.

Yet our God so gently promises to take that Valley of Trouble and do what our transforming, redeeming God always does—make it “into a gateway of hope.”

After all, He knows the pathway out of disappointment.

He knows what encouragement our hearts need.

He knows sometimes we need to sob for a moment and express the sadness and then move on with our day, looking for new joy rather than dragging along that regret like a chain holding us captive to the past.

He knows we may need to shake that burden of shame, recrimination and regret right down off our back and to just let…it…go already.

Yes, God can transform whatever valley of trouble or disappointment you find yourselves in.  He is indeed always a God of Hope (Romans 15:13).

But we have to look up to see the change. 

If we’re trudging along with our eyes fixed on the ground of the valley, we’ll never see it become a Gateway of Hope, never see that there’s a way out, never notice that suddenly it’s beautiful and freeing and maybe not the end of the world it felt like just a moment ago.

Valleys always look like endless valleys until we look up and notice we’re free.

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