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

Remembering: Back to School Lessons, Part Two: Love is in the Lunch Box

Originally posted on September 7, 2011

Sandwich, fruit, snack, drink, napkin.

Check, check, check, check and check,

Two Hershey kisses and a note saying, “Kisses from me to you.  Love, Mom.”


It really doesn’t matter whether we packed the lunch bag or sent the money in for the lunch line, whether we wrote a note or didn’t, if we enclosed a fancy napkin or sent in a folded paper towel, still we moms likely thought of lunch.  We made a plan to provide for our child’s nourishment.

Not all kids have a mom or dad who lives out love every day through simple acts of kindness and provision.  That makes it easy to forget that a sandwich for lunch and clean clothes for school are an expression of love.

The people in your life, whether they are your children, or your grandchildren, or your aging parents, or a sick friend, could say you love them because of your words.  When I grab my girls in a surprise hug and whisper, “I love you,” my girls always sigh loudly and say in exasperation, “We know, Mom.  You tell us all the time!”

Maybe you tell your loved ones that you care all the time, too.

But there are depths of love that remain inexpressible in words and are only made clear in our actions.  No one may even recognize the love while it’s ongoing, but they would miss it in a heartbeat if you weren’t there.

It’s the fact that we’ve provided for their lunch.  It’s being there to meet the bus at the end of the day.  It’s sitting at the table and patiently working through math problems.

And so much more.

It’s smoothing back hair and bringing juice to a sick child.
It’s reading a book by a nursing home bed.
It’s holding a hand in a hospital room
It’s toting a meal to a recovering neighbor.
It’s washing bed linens soiled by sickness.
It’s writing a note to a friend.

In our everyday lives, our love doesn’t matter much if it’s expressed in words, but never in deed.

God’s love would be a bunch of meaningless words on a page, too, if He didn’t lavish us with grace every day.

There in His Word, He tells us that He loves us.  We most likely read it or say it or hear it everyday and twice on Sundays.

As adults, though, it’s so easy to become blase and apathetic about God’s love for us.  It’s a children’s concept.  The Sunday School theme.  We define God’s love by nursery songs like “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

And so over time, it seems we picture God as loving us, but not passionately loving us.  It’s more of an unemotional general concern for our well-being and maybe more for the condition of the planet rather than for us personally.

We’ve even confined one of the most powerful Scriptures in the Bible to a kid’s memory verse and little more:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish and have eternal life” (John 3:16).

But did you see that in this verse His love has legs?  He didn’t just say, “Those people I made, they sure are great!  I like them a whole lot and care about them a bunch.”

Oh no.

He put His great love into action.

He loved the world, not just the human population, but you and me and each child on a school bus and each person on your street, individually, uniquely and passionately enough to sacrifice His own Son for our eternal destination.

He wants to spend eternity with you.  Now that’s over-the-top passion.

Why do we sometimes picture God as sitting relaxed on His throne, watching impassively as life bombards us with strife?  Why do we acknowledge that He sacrificed His Son for us and then treat that as “no big deal?”  Or perhaps we fail to recognize the millions of ways He sends gifts of love and grace to us every single day.

In Psalm 136, the worship leader engaged his congregation in responsive praise.  He sang out what God has done for them and the people answer in return, “His love endures forever.”

Twenty-three times they sing back the refrain, declaring that God loves them and always will.

Why?  Just because He said the words, “I love you”?

No, because He “made the heavens” and “set the earth upon the waters.”  He brought Israel out from slavery in Egypt and “divided the Red Sea asunder and brought Israel through the midst of it, but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.”  He struck down enemy kings and gave the Hebrew nation the Promised Land.

It’s a litany of God’s love.  “His love endures forever” and we know it because of all He has done for us.

There at the bottom of the long list of reasons to give thanks: “He gives food to every creature” (Psalm 136:25).

Oh, yes, He packs our lunch.

How has God shown you His love today?  How can you give Him thanks?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for 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