That Would Have Been Stupid

I could have done it by myself.

But that would have just been stupid.

Not that I didn’t think about it . . . a lot.

I awoke this morning to the sound of my two-year-old slamming open my bedroom door. Then my oldest daughter emerged from her room wrapped in her fleece blanket and looking for breakfast.

That’s when I heard it: my middle daughter scratching out the first words of her day.  She sounded like a desert travel who has gone too long without drink or shade.  “Mom,” she whispered, grasping at her throat, “water.  I need water.  Can’t . . . talk . . . . can’t . . . swallow.  Water.”

And so it began.  It’s the moment you look at your massive to-do list and the calendar showing all the places you need to be and then you glance at your child’s thermometer and you realize it ain’t happening the way you planned.  And that’s okay because she’s more important than checking off tasks on a piece of paper.

I started mentally moving activities around on my week-long chart of things to do and considering creative menu planning to help me stretch the food we had for four days, my next chance for grocery shopping.  Except we didn’t have bread.  And only a day’s supply of milk.  This could be a problem.

I called the doctor’s office and they kindly gave me the only appointment open that day, which sadly was right in the middle of nap time  Still, I was grateful they squeezed us in at all.

After I called the school, I glanced back at my calendar and remembered that I had to lead worship for a women’s Bible Study group the next day, a commitment I had made over two months ago.

Then I came up with a masterful plan.

I’d just make my two-year-old skip her nap today and drag her to the doctor’s office for my other daughter’s Strep test.  Then I’d cart them both, sick child and no-nap child, through the grocery story because without bread I couldn’t even feed my family sandwiches for dinner.  After that, I’d take them both by the church and clean up and prepare the Bible Study room for my small group.

Then the next day, I’d bring my toddler and my sick daughter, along with a cup of water and a throw-up bucket, to the ladies’ group where she could sit next to the piano while I led worship.

Why not?  I’ve done crazy stuff like that before.  It could work.

Maybe.  But it would be stupid.

So, I emailed a friend and asked her to lead Bible Study for me that night and she even offered to clean up the room after our project from the week before.

Then I called my mother-in-law and asked her to watch my girls while I led worship the next day.  She asked if I needed help with the two-year-old during the doctor’s visit in the afternoon during nap time.  No, of course I don’t need help, no way, I can do it . . . Well, actually, to be honest, help would be really nice.

I can’t be the only one who does this, practically killing myself at times all to avoid asking others for help.  Somehow, requesting help from others is always more difficult than asking God for a hand.

Because I am Woman, hear me roar!
Because I hate to inconvenience others who are also busy.
Because it feels really good when you’ve practically killed yourself doing things on your own to survey the results of the stress and realize “I Did That Myself.”

Stupid pride.

Yet today when I made my calls and emails to ask for help, guess what?  People were happy to help.  Not only that, they even heaped on all kinds of blessing and grace, helping me in ways I hadn’t even thought to ask.

This is what we are supposed to do for each other, loving one another with self-sacrificing, abundant-blessing love. In fact, Paul told us this was part of fulfilling Jesus’ instructions:  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV).

Sometimes that means we’re the ones stooping down to lift the load of another to carry it a while on our own backs.  Sometimes we’re the one others lean on, the person others call in times of need and distress.

And that’s a joy to do.

But then there are those days when our own load is pushing our shoulders low to the ground or we realize that short of cloning ourselves, we just can’t get it all done.

When someone notices our burdened limping and asks to help us, we too often reject them.  We deprive them of the blessing God would give them for pouring themselves out for another.

Instead, we stress ourselves and our families out when we pridefully insist on doing it all ourselves.

This isn’t about taking advantage of friends and family out of laziness or selfishness.  It’s about the mutual bearing the burdens of “one another.”  I’m part of the “one another,” and so are you.  God didn’t design anyone to be the burden-bearer for others all the time.  He designed us to have times to carry and times to rest, times to give help and times to receive it.

After all, even Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus during the walk to Golgotha (Mark 15:21).

Today, I just needed a little help with my load.  Instead of pretending I didn’t, I needed simply to receive that help and be thankful.

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

Christmas Devotions: Easy Bake Faith

Last year during the week before her birthday, my oldest girl was asked one question repeatedly by friends and family alike.

What do you want for your birthday?

I grimaced every time I heard her answer, which was exactly the same for everyone who asked.

An Easy Bake Oven.

It was the one true desire of her little girl heart, an oven all her own to create delicious treats, host tea parties and open restaurants.

This mystified me.  I am a baking mom.  We often huddle around the kitchen table taking turns pouring ingredients from a recipe into a bowl, mixing and stirring, filling trays and pans and then licking spoons.  We’re the four musketeers of cooking, a team of kitchen queens.

Why, I asked my girl, did she need a mini oven of her own?  Why did we need to spend $6 on a mix that produced two sugar cookies of doubtful quality when we could bake dozens of scrumptious cookies for less money in our own regular oven?

My logic was impeccable, unanswerable, indisputable.

But the commercial conspiracy defeated me.  Any time the television was on, advertisements sang the praises of the Easy Bake Oven and she plead with me for the one gift that would please her little heart.

I couldn’t bring myself to buy the Easy Bake for her, but a sweet friend did. It made my daughter’s day and proudly assumed its place on our kitchen counter.

I know what you’re thinking.

How long before the precious Easy Bake Oven joined the rank of unused toys shoved in the closet?

Never.

She still loves her oven and is inspired to create with it as often as I give into the whining request to use it.

It still confuses me.  Yet, all I have to do is provide some safety supervision and guide the creating process.  She pours in her teaspoonful of water.  She eases the cookie tray into the oven.  She pushes it out the other side when the timer goes off.  Fortunately, she also eats the cookie since I consider them inedible.  Then she declares that it is in fact the best thing she’s ever eaten.

I try not to be offended.

So why does this Easy Bake Oven bring her so much joy?

It’s the independence of it.  The feeling that she made this cookie herself.  The power of self-determination and personal creation.

It’s the speed of it.  The longest amount of time is simply spent warming up the light bulb.  Mix in a little water, plop the batter on the tray, push the tray into the oven.  It’s a matter of minutes before her own personal cookie emerges fully cooked.

And who can blame her for loving this?  Aren’t we so often entranced by advertisements for the perfect “toy” that will bring us independence and speed?

In just two easy steps you can have fantastic creations just like this!  You can look like this!  You can make your own!

Anna and Simeon, though, knew that God mostly desires dependence and patience.

Simeon was “righteous and devout” (Luke 2:25) and he spent his life waiting for “the consolation of Israel”—the Messiah.  Even more amazing to me, is that “the Holy Spirit was on him” (Luke 2:25).

Pause there for a moment.  The Holy Spirit didn’t live in each and every Christian on the earth at that time—because Christians didn’t exist yet.  Jesus was still being rocked to sleep at night by a doting mother.

Yet, Simeon walked so closely with God that the Holy Spirit found a unique dwelling place in him and revealed that Simeon wouldn’t die without seeing the Messiah’s face.  Then, “moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts” (Luke 2:26).

Most of us would be honored by a special, intimate relationship with the Lord, but we might balk at surrendering all of our independence in order to receive the fulfillment of His promises to us.

Simeon did just that.  He moved into the temple and, as a result, was in exactly the right place at the right time when Mary and Joseph carried Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

Anna, a prophetess, had moved into the temple also.  She had been a young widow after only seven years of marriage, but instead of remarrying and settling into the busy life of a wife and mom, she instead “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37).

Anna surrendered everything in order to devote herself to her relationship with God.  And He blessed her willful dependence on Him.

She was there that day also when Jesus entered the temple for the first time.  Simeon lifted baby Jesus into his own arms and praised him and prophesied over him. Anna walked over to them just at that moment and “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

Just like Anna and Simeon, we can devote ourselves to seeing God, but we can’t pursue our own independent, quick-solution agendas in order to achieve spiritual growth, answers to prayer, fulfilled promises, or the revelation of His will.

We can’t have Easy Bake faith.

Instead, we must abandon our own course and commit ourselves to a patient and passionate pursuit of Him.

That’s what Anna and Simeon did.  They didn’t run after every false Messiah that the world touted and promoted.  They fasted, prayed, and worshiped in the night and in the day for decades.  They made their relationship with God their highest priority and their only true desire and thus they saw God.

How is God urging you to be both dependent and patient in your faith for the new year?

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.

I Can Do It Myself

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her fourteenth chapter, “Carrying Home a Giant.”

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I headed into the store with three kids in tow and heard the dreaded words, “I can push the cart by myself, Mom.”

“By myself.”

These are words we hear often around here.  One of our favorite children’s shows, Charlie and Lola, featured an episode where the younger sister Lola announced she could “do everything that’s anything all on my own.”

That’s become the catchphrase of all three of my children, from my baby needing to buckle her own seat belt to my older daughters needing to pour their own milk.

It’s hard to navigate that world of growing independence as a mom.  When do I allow for their mistakes and overlook the messes of first attempts?  When do I step in and help out?  How do I let them learn to handle their own problems?  When is prayer my most important weapon on their behalf and when do I need to step into the ring and fight in their place?

It was difficult even that day in the store.  Every time we turned a corner, I unwittingly grabbed hold of the cart’s front and guided it around the turn.  And every time I did, my daughter quickly swerved to the side and declared (with increasing frustration), “I can push the cart by myself.

As parents, our goal is to foster independence, giving our kids both the skills and the confidence to make it on their own.

But as children of God, the one hand on the cart that we should never wish away is God’s. 

Dependence feels so uncomfortable, so helpless, so out of control, so uncertain.  Allowing Him to guide our turns and determine our pace can be frustrating at best.

Can we go down that aisle?  No; it may look like what you want, but I know best.
I don’t want to go there.  But that’s where I’m leading. 
Can we go faster?  This is taking forever.  No, let’s slow down.

Sometimes we have no choice but dependence.  We’ve exhausted ourselves in independent efforts and faced the fullness of our weakness.

Most of us have been there.  The stress of overwhelming circumstances breaks us down and we know that what we face is simply too much, too impossible and too weighty to handle on our own.  We’d be crushed.

So, we turn to God.  That’s all that’s left to do.  As Paul said, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  We declare dependence, we trust in His strength alone to help us through, and for a brief time we have no choice but to rest in Him.

It’s in those moments that we understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Apart from me you can do small things, but not the big stuff.”  Nor did He say, “Apart from me you can be okay, but with me you can be extraordinary.”

He said that without Him, we can’t do a thing.  Anything.  Not the big stuff.  Not the small things.

In the same way, Lisa Harper says, “We can become more dependent on God by trusting Him with the full weight of our lives” (165).

When I consider the “full weight” of my life, I realize just how often I stroll along carrying most things on my own.  It’s only the big cumbersome packages of circumstances that I hand over to God.

We have a way sometimes of confining God’s direction to “important” life matters.  When it comes to where to live, our job, our relationships, our marriages, our health, and other huge life decisions, we pray frantically for God’s will and for direction and wisdom.

But when it’s a matter of those everyday life details like our schedule, our eating and spending habits, our conversations, and our tasks at work or home, we tend to think we can handle that “all by myself.”

Yet, while our goal as parents is to create independent children, God’s goal for us is to encourage dependence on Him in the big things, in the little things, in all things.

Recently, I’ve been struck by how many times a day I have the opportunity to bring Christ into the middle of my decisions.  How often I feel a quiet nudge on my heart to act or not act—and how often I ignore it out of busyness or stubborn pride

I’m not perfect at this, but I’m learning.  “Don’t watch TV right now.  Don’t go in that store today.  Talk to her.  Don’t send that email today; wait until tomorrow.  Give that away.  Put this away or you’ll lose it (wish I listened to that one more often!).  Do this now, not later.  Call her.  Pray for her.  Come spend time in My Word. Don’t buy that.  Don’t take on that project.  I have a plan for you here and want you to do this.”

All day, I feel urged, reminded and encouraged.  All day I should listen.  All day I should surrender independence, stop declaring that “I can do it myself,” and voluntarily choose to let God guide me in the way I should go.  Because apart from Him, all by myself, I make things more difficult, I make a big mess, I miss out on blessing, I reject obedience, and I can do nothing.

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 © 2011 Heather King