My perfect future

 

At least eight of them were going to live in big houses.

One of them wasn’t going to have a big house.  His house was going to be BIG.

They would compete in the Olympics, be world famous surgeons and vets and carpenters, play professional sports, write books, run businesses, and make a lot of money.

They would drive Jeeps or a Ford or a convertible.

They would all marry, have several children (whose names they already knew) and live incredibly happily ever after.

These were the futures my daughter and her fellow fifth graders described during their DARE graduation last year.

We parents in the crowd smiled and laughed and probably some of us cried.  What a wonderful, beautiful, sometimes humorous thing it is to hear eleven-year-olds dream.

My daughter jumped right in there, dreaming with the best of them about education, career, marriage, having kids, and making a difference in the lives of others.

Lovely thoughts, all of them.

But when they read her “My Future” paragraph at the graduation ceremony, I finally succumbed to the tears when I heard her concluding words: “My future is in God’s hands.”

Whatever happens…

Even when the plans don’t turn out the way she hoped or expected….

Even when life gets crazy or even just slightly uncertain…..

“MY FUTURE IS IN GOD’S HANDS.”

I take this to heart.  Shouldn’t we all?

My eleven-year-old self never planned or expected all that God has done and all that He has planned for me.  My life has twisted itself up into a thing of beauty that I never could have created on my own.

There were seasons I thought God was messing it all up.

He told me ‘no.’

He changed my direction.

He made me wait ‘forever.’

He carried me through valleys of darkness when I couldn’t see the next step right in front of my face.

Maybe now I already know the answers to the questions these kids were asking:  Where would I go to college? What would I study?  Who would I marry?  How many kids would I have?  Where would I live?  What would I do?

Yet, still there’s that constant compulsion to lay the future all out clean, perfect, organized, and bullet-pointed with measurable goals and a five-year-plan of how to make it all happen.

My own daughter’s wisdom brings me back.

Do I need to know all that?

Or do I need to just know this:  ‘My future is in God’s hands’?

I think of Joseph, the perpetual Old-Testament dreamer.

God gave him so much more than a fifth-grade perfect-life wish-list.  God gave him prophetic visions of his parents and brothers bowing down to him in homage and respect.

Then he was trapped in a pit while his brothers plotted to murder him.  He was sold to slave traders and carried off to Egypt.  He was falsely accused and thrown into prison.  He was forgotten and left to rot in the jail while others were freed.

It might have looked like one great big hopeless mess.  How could Joseph ever make those God-given visions work out?

The truth is he couldn’t.

And he didn’t need to.

HE JUST NEEDED TO KEEP LIVING, DAY AFTER DAY, MOMENT BY MOMENT, OBEDIENT TO GOD, TRUSTING THAT GOD WAS IN CHARGE OF HIS LIFE STORY.

Louie Giglio writes in his book The Comeback:

Maybe your dream is to go to school or get a degree or accomplish a certain task or find a certain spouse or start a business or move to a certain place or create a movement or carry the gospel to people who’ve never heard it before. Those may be great dreams, but there’s a bigger dream that overrides everything else: it’s that your life counts for the glory of God.

THIS IS THE CONSTANT DREAM WE CAN CLING TO AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL SITUATIONS:  MAY OUR LIVES BRING GLORY TO GOD.

Yes, in the prison.

Yes, in slavery.

Yes, even when all the dreams come true.

Ultimately, Joseph told his brothers:

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5 ESV).

Joseph knew nothing happened just for his own benefit, personal comfort or ultimate happiness.

Everything he endured was so God could ‘preserve life.’

HIS LIFE WAS TUCKED INTO THE GRANDER STORY, THE GOD-STORY, THE STORY OF SALVATION.

That’s true for us, as well.

We can dream, plan, plot and strategize, but ultimately we return to trust.

WE TRUST THAT OUR LIVES CAN GLORIFY HIM. WE TRUST THAT HE HAS A GRAND, GOD-STORY FOR SALVATION, AND WE HAVE A PLACE WITHIN IT.

WE TRUST THAT OUR FUTURE IS IN HIS HANDS.

 

Originally published 1/15/2016

My perfect future

Psalm 31-15

At least eight of them were going to live in big houses.

One of them wasn’t going to have a big house.  His house was going to be BIG.

They would compete in the Olympics, be world famous surgeons and vets and carpenters, play professional sports, write books, run businesses, and make a lot of money.

They would drive Jeeps or a Ford or a convertible.

They would all marry, have several children (whose names they already knew) and live incredibly happily ever after.

These were the futures my daughter and her fellow fifth graders described during their DARE graduation this week.

We parents in the crowd smiled and laughed and probably some of us cried.  What a wonderful, beautiful, sometimes humorous thing it is to hear eleven-year-olds dream.

My daughter jumped right in there, dreaming with the best of them about education, career, marriage, having kids, and making a difference in the lives of others.

Lovely thoughts, all of them.

But when they read her “My Future” paragraph at the graduation ceremony, I finally succumbed to the tears when I heard her concluding words: “My future is in God’s hands.”

Whatever happens…

Even when the plans don’t turn out the way she hoped or expected….

Even when life gets crazy or even just slightly uncertain…..

“My future is in God’s hands.”

I take this to heart.  Shouldn’t we all?

My eleven-year-old self never planned or expected all that God has done and all that He has planned for me.  My life has twisted itself up into a thing of beauty that I never could have created on my own.

There were seasons I thought God was messing it all up.

He told me ‘no.’

He changed my direction.

He made me wait ‘forever.’

He carried me through valleys of darkness when I couldn’t see the next step right in front of my face.

Maybe now I already know the answers to the questions these kids were asking:  Where would I go to college? What would I study?  Who would I marry?  How many kids would I have?  Where would I live?  What would I do?

Yet, still there’s that constant compulsion to lay the future all out clean, perfect, organized, and bullet-pointed with measurable goals and a five-year-plan of how to make it all happen.

My own daughter’s wisdom brings me back.

Do I need to know all that?

Or do I need to just know this:  ‘My future is in God’s hands’?

I think of Joseph, the perpetual Old-Testament dreamer.

God gave him so much more than a fifth-grade perfect-life wish-list.  God gave him prophetic visions of his parents and brothers bowing down to him in homage and respect.

Then he was trapped in a pit while his brothers plotted to murder him.  He was sold to slave traders and carried off to Egypt.  He was falsely accused and thrown into prison.  He was forgotten and left to rot in the jail while others were freed.

It might have looked like one great big hopeless mess.  How could Joseph ever make those God-given visions work out?

The truth is he couldn’t.

And he didn’t need to.

He just needed to keep living, day after day, moment by moment, obedient to God, trusting that God was in charge of his life story.

Louie Giglio writes in his book The Comeback:

Maybe your dream is to go to school or get a degree or accomplish a certain task or find a certain spouse or start a business or move to a certain place or create a movement or carry the gospel to people who’ve never heard it before. Those may be great dreams, but there’s a bigger dream that overrides everything else: it’s that your life counts for the glory of God.

This is the constant dream we can cling to at all times and in all situations:  May our lives bring glory to God.

Yes, in the prison.

Yes, in slavery.

Yes, even when all the dreams come true.

Ultimately, Joseph told his brothers:

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5 ESV).

Joseph knew nothing happened just for his own benefit, personal comfort or ultimate happiness.

Everything he endured was so God could ‘preserve life.’

His life was tucked into the grander story, the God-story, the story of salvation.

That’s true for us, as well.

We can dream, plan, plot and strategize, but ultimately we return to trust.

We trust that our lives can glorify Him. We trust that He has a grand, God-story for salvation, and we have a place within it.

We trust that our future is in His hands.

What to do when you don’t find money in the girls’ bathroom

Psalm 20My daughter exited the girls’ bathroom at school looking disappointed.

We were there for an after school program and I was ready to rush on home, but I stopped the frantic backpack grabbing and asked her what was wrong.

“I was hoping I’d find some money in the bathroom.”

Now, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this.

Was there typically money in the girls’ bathroom at school?

Was this an income source I wasn’t aware of?

Did the child so desperately need money that she actually searched public restrooms for stray dollar bills or coins?

No, it turns out she wanted to win the Citizenship Award at school and this particular month’s award was on the character trait: Honesty.

So, this girl of mine thought the best way to win an award for Honesty was to find money in the school bathroom and hand it in.  This seemed like a sure-fire strategy.

Only, no one seemed to be losing their money in the bathroom that month.

Now, I totally applaud the singular focus of this child and the strategic way she was thinking about her actions and how they fit (or didn’t) the character trait of the month.

But at the same time, I feel like our character should be honest, respectful, or kind with or without an award.

If a teacher notices that, then great!  A button and certificate are a special honor.

Yet, Jesus is watching always.  No need to force this or manipulate it into happening.  No need to plan out possible award-winning scenarios or plot out the best avenue for success.

I’m taking this to heart really, because I feel nagged by my own ambition and the expectations of others to force my future.

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Yes, there is wisdom in working hard and working wise.

How often, though, am I trying to force God’s hand?

Am I working myself right out of dependence on His favor and His blessing and right into self-made me?

I have one definition of success: God’s pleasure.

I have one strategy for achieving that: Obedience.

In the Bible, Rebecca knew all along that her younger son (Jacob) would topple the natural order of things and receive his father’s blessing and birthright instead of the older son (Esau).

But she didn’t trust God to make it happen.

Instead, she tricked and lied and cheated her way into “success.”

Oh, Jacob is no innocent, of course.  He was old enough to stand up to his mom when she told him to put on goat hair and his brother’s clothes, take in a meal she had prepared and deceive his blind and aging father into blessing him as the firstborn.

Maybe he remembered what these deceptive tactics cost him.

After all, decades later, Jacob was the aging father blessing his own sons and grandsons when Joseph brought in his two boys, Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48).

And old-man Jacob kept getting it ‘wrong.’

He treated the younger son like the older son and vice versa.  It was backwards and mixed up.

So, Joseph tried to correct his dad.  “No, dad, this is my oldest son and that one is the younger.”

Jacob wouldn’t budge, though.

See how God did that?

God spoke and it was.  The younger son received the older son’s blessing without props, costumes, a grand deception or Rebecca’s elaborate schemes.

God just did it because He wanted to do it.

Beth Moore says,

The significant point is that when God seems to be prompting something out of the ordinary, we don’t have to manipulate things to make it happen and cause people to accept it. (Believing God, p. 96).

What freedom is this?

If God has declared it, He will do it. We can be part of that plan, but the plan never depends on us to make it happen; it all depends on Him.

If God has called you, obey by taking the next step and stop worrying about the end destination.

Our job is simply obedience, the beautiful call to trust and obey.  We take those steps of faith, we give our every effort to answer His calling, but we leave the results in His hands.

If we see money in the bathroom, we hand it in.  But we don’t stress over it if the money isn’t there!

We write.  We work.  We minister.  We stay faithful.  But we don’t try to manipulate results or manufacture ‘success.’

We just live honest.  Live faithful.  Live disciplined.  Live holy.  Live with compassion and mercy.  Live humbly.

Live for Jesus.

And leave our lives and our future all in His quite-capable hands.

ShabbyBlogsDividerJ

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 © 2015 Heather King

 

Praying What You Really Don’t Want to Pray

Psalm 56-3

Afraid.

Sometimes I’m afraid to pray those ‘dangerous’ prayers even when I know deep-down that’s what I should pray for.

But it’s like giving God permission to interrupt my life, letting Him move on into my heart and mind with cleaning supplies and uncover all the dirt I’ve hidden away.

So, I sat there holding the prayer card, debating whether to write the truth down.

I’ve been making these prayer cards for my family, friends and others I pray for.  I have a card for my husband, for each of my children, one for the unsaved, one for church and another for Bible study, and a card for me.

The cards are growing over time.  I scribble down my requests for my kids and then the next day I find the perfect verse to pray, so I jot it down on the back of this 3 x 5 white index card with a Sharpie marker.

I’m not writing the little requests that change day-to-day:  a fever, a bruise, a big math test.

These are the prayers about character and life, big decisions,using their gifts for God’s glory, spiritual growth and their future.

For each child, I know what I need to pray.  One needs to grow in forgiveness.  Another in self-discipline and overcoming fear.  Another in being teachable and accepting grace.

But I pause, my hand hovering over the card.

Do I write down’forgiveness?’  What if God allows my daughter to be hurt because of my prayer?  What if He allows pain so deep that she has to fight through bitterness to choose to forgive?

What about “teachable?”  Do I dare write that down?  What if God humbles my daughter through excruciating failure, brokenness, and the lessons of humility?

We Christians have joked about it so often, “Don’t pray for patience!!!”  That’s what we remind each other and then we laugh in agreement because, truth is, God has taught us all some of those painful lessons in patience.

And we didn’t like them.

So, we’re afraid to pray.

Yes, I am afraid to pray, too.

I know why.  It’s a trust thing.  I’m not believing the best about God.

The truth is that God won’t bruise or break if  a gentle lesson, a sweet whisper could change our hearts.

He never answers our prayers for patience with trials just because He’s mean like that.  Or He likes to hurt us.  Or He can’t come up with another way to teach us.

If I pray for my daughters to grow in these areas, I can trust Him to teach them in the best way, the perfect lessons at the perfect timing, and if their hearts are yielded and moldable clay, He’ll use the gentlest touch to fix the imperfections He finds.

And the truth is that if it’s breaking we need, He’ll allow the brokenness so that He can reshape us and form us into something beautiful: into the image of His Son.

But even then, I can trust His hand.  I can trust His love for us and the grace He pours out and the way He never gives up.Praying with prayer cards

As I read in Genesis, I think how Jacob must have been so afraid.  I recognize it now as I look at him: one fear-filled human looking into the heart of another fear-filled human.

Jacob lost his son Joseph.  So, when his remaining sons trekked off to Egypt for food during an intense famine, he had one demand:  They had to leave his youngest son, Benjamin, behind.  He couldn’t lose another son.  Not ever again.

It seemed to work at first.  The boys brought home grain from Egypt and the youngest son stayed home.

But the food ran out again and Joseph had made it clear—-no younger brother in Egypt, no more food.

Jacob either needed to trust God or his whole family would starve.

And God let Jacob reach the very end of all his resources so that Jacob would finally let go of control and send all his sons back to Egypt, Benjamin included (Genesis 43).

This was God at work.

Jacob was terrified, but God was in this.  He was working for the reconciliation of Jacob’s family and the preservation of the entire nation of Israel.

But as long as Jacob held on tight to control, not wanting the possibility of pain, he missed out on God’s best.

We can trust God with our hearts, with our lives, with our children, with our marriages.  We can trust Him with all of it.

So, I write down those prayer requests on the prayer cards and I entrust my children to His care.  I tell Him that I’m afraid.  I tell Him the truth about what’s in my heart.

But I trust Him and I let go.

 

 Want to learn how to pray with prayer cards?  I first read about them in Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life.

 

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, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

If I Put a Spoon Under My Pillow, Will It Snow?

“This is it.”

My kids are desperate for snow.  More specifically, they are desperate for a snow day.

Apparently, so are their teachers.

In early January, the tiniest picture of a snowflake appeared on my weather forecast.  The details said wintry mix overnight, no accumulation, yada yada yada, blah blah blah.

My kindergartner arrived home from school that day with specific instructions from her teachers.

Place a spoon under your pillow.

Wear your pajamas inside out.

Flush an ice cube down the toilet.

Her older sister calls out, “And do a snow dance!  You have to do the snow dance.”

It was simple math to them.  Do this + this +this + this = guaranteed snow day.

It did not snow.

This week, snow was again in the forecast.  My Facebook filled with chatter and pictures of weather maps all foretelling the great snowstorm of 2015.

It snow-dusted, just enough to turn the world a little white.  Not enough to cover the grass even.  Not enough to delay anything, much less close it down.

I don’t mind really.  I enjoy snow well enough, but only when it’s outside and I’m inside with a book and a cup of cocoa.

But my kids mind.  A lot.  They are Virginia girls, desperate for at least a few sizable snowfalls a season.

Every single time there is a whisper of a snowflake or two falling in the night, our town is abuzz, the Wal-Mart shelves clear out of milk and bread, and my children brace themselves for a real and true snow day.

“This is it.”  That’s what they think.

Maybe Joseph felt the same way.

All those years, he waited and waited, holding on perhaps to a distant memory of those visions from God of his family bowing down to him.

He waited in a pit while his brothers plotted his death, and then settled for selling him into slavery.psalm 62-5

He waited as an Egyptian slave, working faithfully and with integrity for his master.

He waited when he was falsely accused and thrown into an Egyptian jail.

So many times, he might have thought, “This is it.  This is my big moment of rescue and redemption!!”

But it wasn’t.

There was the night in the Egyptian prison when Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker came to Joseph with dreams they couldn’t understand.  Joseph interpreted the dreams, but then asked for help, saying to the cupbearer:

But when all goes well for you, remember that I was with you. Please show kindness to me by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this prison. 15 For I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should put me in the dungeon (Genesis 40:14-15 HCSB).”

This is it.

That’s what Joseph thought.  “Here’s my chance!”

Then the cupbearer forgot about Joseph for another two years.

Waiting is hard enough.  But getting your hopes up and then discovering disappointment, is even harder.

Joseph could have given up. Maybe he did.

Years later, though, that cupbearer finally did remember Joseph.  And, perhaps when Joseph least expected it, God came through.

In God’s perfect timing.  In God’s perfect way.  God came through.

Had the cupbearer remembered Joseph years before like he had promised, Joseph might have made it out of prison.  Maybe.  Perhaps.  We’re not really sure.  Pharaoh could have just dismissed the cupbearer’s story as little more than a novelty.

But in this precise moment, the Pharaoh needed someone to interpret his dream, and Joseph was the one to do it.

Interpreting that cupbearer’s dream had seemed like a wasted opportunity, yet years later that is what God used to rescue Joseph from prison.

What we do today might not seem to matter, but God doesn’t waste our faithfulness.  

His timing is precise and perfect, even when it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, even when disappointment presses in, and even when the waiting feels like it can collapse your heart.

We can’t place our hope in circumstances or people like a forgetful cupbearer.

We can’t always decipher God’s plans and predict when “this” really is it.

We can’t make it snow despite all of our snow dances and inside-out-pajamas.

We can, however, live God-glorifying lives day-in and day-out, being faithful even to the most mundane tasks that earn us no worldly recognition or honor.

Our hope, after all, isn’t in circumstances or people or ‘connections’ or our own abilities.  They will take us on an endless emotional roller-coaster of misplaced expectations and inevitable disappointment.

Our hope, though, can be rock solid, unshakeable and steadfast when we place it in Him and Him alone.

 “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him”  (Psalm 62:5 HCSB).

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 © 2015 Heather King

Christmas devotions: Consider the Hockey Puck

I’ve been hit in the face with a hockey puck.

A basketball bounced off my head a few times in elementary school and broke my glasses at least once.

A softball came hurtling at me when I was about 13 or so and slammed into my side.

Most people, you know, see balls zooming through the air straight toward their face and do smart things like step aside or jump out of the way or duck.

Not me.christmas3

Given the choice between fright or flight, I just choose freeze.

It’s pretty much a guarantee that if forced to make a decision in a moment of pressure, I’ll choose the most stupid thing you can possibly do.

Now you know not to pick me for your kickball team.

I need time, lots of time, to ponder and consider a response to any situation, question, or problem.  I can’t just hit that reply on the email message and I generally avoid the phone which requires instant feedback.  A comfortable phone conversation for me would look like this:

“Heather, what do you think about _______?”

“I don’t know.  Let me think about it and I’ll email you back later.”

That, of course, defeats the whole purpose of the initial phone call, which was to handle the problem quickly.

But I don’t do quickly.  Quickly for me results in broken glasses, a hockey puck in the face and a sore back where the softball slammed into me.

Quickly results in foolish decisions, words I wish I hadn’t said, poor judgment, and costly mistakes.

The world pushes and pressures with this relentless rush and my heart bruises easily from all the battering.

Yet, I read this Christmas story and see God choosing a carpenter—not a CEO, not a king, not a go-getter or an up-and-comer—to participate in this miracle of God-in-human-flesh.

This simple man named Joseph, surely he knew so well not to rush the measuring, the cutting, or the smoothing of the splintered surfaces on his workbench table.

Choose your wood wisely.  Go with the grain.  Etch out the plan before carving.

Long-learned lessons of the carpenter seeped into Joseph’s soul.

In Scripture, he doesn’t talk, not once.

He doesn’t whine to God and lament the news that His fiance was mysteriously and scandalously pregnant.

He doesn’t bully Mary into confessions and repentance and demand an explanation.

He takes his time, this Joseph, and doesn’t spew words out thoughtlessly and apologize for them later.

When he hears the news of Mary’s pregnancy,

he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:19-20 NIV).

In The Women of Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs writes:

“Joseph did not act in haste.  He thought things through.  Prayed things through.  He ‘contemplated’ (NET); he ‘pondered’ (MOUNCE).  When at last Joseph decided to sleep on it, ‘God graciously directed him what to do'” (The Women of Christmas, p. 105).

Joseph considered, contemplated, pondered.Wreath of Snow_cvr.indd

He gave God time to do the work.  He didn’t let circumstances bully him into a corner.

He didn’t react.  He responded.

I’m the reluctant student learning this same lesson at the feet of my own Carpenter.

For this is what God, is:

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything (Hebrews 3:4).

Our Father is building and He’s working slow and never rushing.

He’s asking me to ponder, consider contemplate:  ….choose the wood wisely, go with the grain, measure and plan before cutting and shaping.

We try to rush the process.  We toss out solutions as fast as the projects pile up at our feet.

And we make a right awful mess.

Yet, He teaches us the rhythm of His grace.  The rhythm of His will.  The rhythm of His strong hands working slowly, masterfully, carefully…stroke after stroke on the raw wood that is us.

This season, let us slow the rhythm of our breathing to match His.

Refuse to be rushed.

Protect the process.

Take the time.

And consider this…..consider Christmas…..consider the wonder of a Savior come and a God at work and a perfect plan and the God who is the builder of everything.

Originally published 12/13/2013

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

 

 

 

 

Reflections from a mom who is elbow-deep in glitter

I’m not a crafty person.  I’m not a craft project blogger or an Etsy addict. Oh, I admire the creativity of others (okay, perhaps ENVY their artsyness), but I’ve accepted my limits and stopped trying to feel comfortable in the aisles of Michael’s and Joann Fabrics.

Yet today I sit at my table with glitter, craft foam, stamps, stencils, markers, colored paper and scissors to complete one item on my day’s theatherckingo-do list: Make personal Valentine’s for my three girls.

Years ago, a man from our church told me that you can do many great things for daughters, but there are only two necessary things: Let them know they are beautiful and let them know they are loved.

At least for today, this thought has inspired me to turn my limited crafting skill into the most basic of all art projects: a handmade card.  It’s not because I think the final outcome will be displayable or frameable.  I could buy a better-looking card for a few dollars off the Wal-Mart rack.

It’s because I know that my daughters feel special when I make things for them and I want them to know they are loved.

As I sit making a mess out of glue and paper, I think about a biography I’ve been reading of E.B.White, the American essayist and author of Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan.

In the summer following college, White grabbed a friend and a car and drove completely across the United States—before highways existed to make this kind of national crisscrossing an all-American past-time.  They stopped in small towns and performed odd jobs or sold bits of White’s writing to local newspapers so they could buy food and gas.  They slept outside or in the car or wherever they could.  Arriving on the West Coast, White then hopped on a ship bound for Alaska.

Elbow deep now in glitter, I marvel that a human being would take off across the country without a plan, without connections, without a return date.

We’re so often like that, looking for purpose in life.  We want a grand vision, a neon sign.  We want impact.  We want to know the one reason we exist on this earth.

Yet, as much as we overlook the beauties of the everyday, I wonder if they are truly the key to God’s greatest plan for us.

Instead of always ignoring today for the sake of the grand design of tomorrow, we give God glory in our jobs and our homes and relationships and churches. 

We do what He has called us to do here, now, in this moment–no need for a cross-country adventure.  We do it faithfully.  We work at it with all our heart.

God had a great plan for Joseph’s life, yet it was worked out in days, months and years of serving as a slave in Potiphar’s house and then, as a prisoner himself, overseeing others locked in Egyptian jail cells.

Joseph’s ministry all that time involved washing dishes, working fields, carrying messages, figuring accounts, and managing property.  It was his integrity and faithful hard work in the everyday tasks that allowed God to use him more and more.

Genesis 39 says:

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man. . . . His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.  colossians3So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had” (Genesis 39:2-4).

Had Joseph balked at the menial tasks of slavery or begrudgingly gave second-best efforts as he served in Potiphar’s house, he might have remained a slave or a prisoner his entire life.

Egypt may not have survived the famine without Joseph.

Joseph’s father, Jacob, and his ten brothers and their families—the entire nation of Israel—may also have starved as the famine reached their land.

At least two nations depended on Joseph’s daily faithfulness to the tasks at hand.

Paul wrote:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

and

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”
(1 Corinthians 10:31)

This is how we bring glory to God.  It’s in the making of a Valentine’s card and the packing of a lunch.  It’s in the shuffling of the wet laundry from washer to dryer.  It’s in the standing at the stove to prepare a meal.

It’s you at your desk.  It’s you in the classroom.  It’s you teaching Sunday School.  It’s you on your knees.  This is what brings Him glory.

Originally posted February 13, 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 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

Why I Can’t Mop My Floor Today

It’s all part of the plan, my strategy for party preparation.

With visitors expected, I’ve engaged in a running dialogue with the mess in my home.

All week long I’ve glanced at the kitchen floor with juice spills and mystery splatter and thought….”If I mop you today, I’ll just have to do it again on Friday.  Someone will surely spill as soon as you’re clean.”

And to the dust gathering on the television stand in the living room, I promised a wipe with a soft cloth Friday evening.

I interrupted my normal vacuuming schedule earlier in the week so that I could zoom through the house just hours before the company’s arrival.

This has been my strategy of preparation.  Knowing as I do exactly when those first little knocks on our door will occur, I can target the precise moment when my house is the cleanest and shiniest and in most presentable shape.

I hope.christmas10

Being prepared for visitors is no exact science, you know, and it’s even less so readying ourselves for God.  Christmas, after all, focuses so much on preparation. 

The Jewish people, after waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah, the savior of their people–and the world— felt more than ready, perhaps even impatient, for His coming.

But they weren’t.  Not really.  So God sent a messenger, John the Baptist, who shouted out the news to prepare, get ready, make yourselves right before God because the Savior was coming.

Still, when Christ came, there was no room, no readiness.  Instead there was debate and jealousy, hatred and power plays.

Only a few men and women willingly allowed God to interrupt their lives and their personal agendas in order to make room for His Glory.  Only a few were ready for obedience.

Mary, bowing the head in submission, doing chores one second and carrying the Son of God in her womb the next.

Joseph, heeding the dreams God gave Him, marry this virgin with Child, take her to Egypt to save the baby from a murderous king, travel back home when King Herod had died.

Shepherds, tending sheep in the night, earning a living, toiling as usual, following the instructions of angels to a baby in a manger, worshiping, and spreading the news across the countryside.

Sages from the East journeying for years, far from their homes and their prominence and wealth in order to lay at the feet of a child gifts of honor and adoration.

Their readiness wasn’t that of twiddling their thumbs, idling their time so that at the slightest move of the Holy Spirit they could jump up in response to His command.

Instead, they were all busy, actively serving in their jobs and homes, doing the daily thing with faithfulness, attention, and care.  And then God spoke.

An angel’s voice.
A dream.
A heavenly choir.
A mysterious star.

And they laid it all aside to follow after God, wholeheartedly, passionately, abandoning everything in order to be present and part of His plan.

May we be so ready this season and every season for God’s movement.  We don’t want to miss it! Even more than that, let us not be an obstruction or hindrance to the miraculous wonder of God.

God always knows the exact moment to move; His timing is relentlessly perfect.  Let us, then, be expectant and ready to obey Him regardless of our plan or agenda or expectation:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

When the time has fully come, may our hearts be ready and our lives prepared for the movement of God.

How are you preparing for Christ’s work in you in the new year?

Originally posted December 8, 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 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

Christmas Devotionals: Always Expect the Unexpected

My schedule is a delicate balance.

There’s a shopping day.  A scrub the bathrooms and the floors day.  Laundry days (one doesn’t cut it!).  Ballet day and another ballet day and yet another day at the dance studio.  Volunteer day.  Eat lunch with the kids at school day. Writing day.  Bible Study prep day.  Prayer meeting day.  Homework day and library day.christmas9

It’s an intricate design that took effort and some trial and error to develop, but by October it all settled into a perfect rhythm.

Then December arrived and stomped all over my perfectly balanced schedule like a giant through a flower bed.

Suddenly, my calendar has arrows swapping events in my week, items written in ink now crossed out and rewritten on different days and at different times.

Oh yeah, can you fit in a class party?  And a holiday concert?  Could you make gifts for teachers and stop by the Christmas get-together?  Mom, what are we doing for my birthday?  Can we have an extra cantata practice?

Onto the calendar it goes.  I’ve begun color-coding the items. Red is for the really super important things that I absolutely cannot forget, but am certain I’m going to miss.  I add dark circles around those also.  And some stars and exclamation marks.  You can’t go wrong with stars.

Now my calendar has become illegible.  So, I switch to the daily agenda plus master to-do list that spans the next two weeks.

Add in the meal plan for family dinners up through Christmas and the shopping list that I had to restart the day after I just went to the grocery store, and the planning is complete.

How euphoric it would be to keep the schedule in balance at all times and for the expected activities to happen on the assigned days!

No doing laundry on shopping day.  No extra trip to the store when it is supposed to be writing day.  No third trip to the school on a day I’ve scheduled for cleaning house.

It would all be so expected.  So perfectly planned.  So in control.

That’s the problem, though, isn’t it?  I have a certain capacity for juggling and as long as I’m tossing around the same few balls, I’m a fairly competent performer.

But when God tosses an unexpected ball into my rhythm and routine, I’m liable to drop them all on the ground.

To a certain extent, I need to practice the “no” and guard the schedule.  Keep it simple.  Don’t try to do too much.  Don’t over-commit.

At other times, though, the schedule just is what it is.  The lesson isn’t about eliminating activity.  It’s about allowing God to shuffle our expectations and disrupt our plans so that we remember how much we need Him.

It’s His reminder that we can’t always package up our days with decorated wrapping paper and a shiny bow, oh so neat and perfect.  Life is messy at times.  Chaotic in some moments.  Fairly unexpected so many days.

The one constant is Him and even He has a way of surprising us.

I think somehow it’s appropriate that December is the month when my calendar is left in tatters and all my perfect plans are shattered.  It’s a reminder that God has a way of shaking us up, mystifying us, and going far beyond our imagination.

Like the fact that the Savior of us all, the long-awaited Messiah, entered this world as a baby.

In Nativity scenes, we usually see the pristine image of well-groomed stable animals, fresh hay, perfect baby wrapped in bright white cloth.  Mary is already back to her pre-pregnancy weight and looking like she didn’t just labor and give birth.

But God chose to come to this earth the messy way.  It was childbirth.  It was pain.  It was blood.  It wasn’t even in the sterile white setting of a hospital, but all smelly and oppressive like the barn it was.

A newborn, a little Child came to save the world.

The Light of the World entered in darkness, while nocturnal shepherds kept the night-watch over their sheep.

The King of kings arrived in a stable.

The Eternal God, the Word who in the beginning was “with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning”—lay in a manger with baby dimples and the red skin of a newborn (John 1:1).

Have you settled into a routine and rut with God?  Have you figured Him all out?  Have you gotten comfortable with what you can do and with what you believe He can do?  Have you scheduled Him and assigned Him portions of your life?

Don’t be too sure!

Just when we figure everything out and fit everything in, God often will interrupt and amaze, befuddle and change your direction.

As Paul writes: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes” (Ephesians 3:20-21, MSG)

Originally posted on December 14, 2011

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

Devotions for Christmas: Joseph teaches me to pause, count to ten, pray and pray again

I’ve been hit in the face with a hockey puck.

A basketball bounced off my head a few times in elementary school and broke my glasses at least once.

A softball came hurtling at me when I was about 13 or so and slammed into my side.

Most people, you know, see balls zooming through the air straight toward their face and do smart things like step aside or jump out of the way or duck.christmas3

Not me.

Given the choice between fright or flight, I just choose freeze.

It’s pretty much a guarantee that if forced to make a decision in a moment of pressure, I’ll choose the most stupid thing you can possibly do.

Now you know not to pick me for your kickball team.

I need time, lots of time, to ponder and consider a response to any situation, question, or problem.  I can’t just hit that reply on the email message and I generally avoid the phone which requires instant feedback.  A comfortable phone conversation for me would look like this:

“Heather, what do you think about _______?”

“I don’t know.  Let me think about it and I’ll email you back later.”

That, of course, defeats the whole purpose of the initial phone call, which was to handle the problem quickly.

But I don’t do quickly.  Quickly for me results in broken glasses, a hockey puck in the face and a sore back where the softball slammed into me.

Quickly results in foolish decisions, words I wish I hadn’t said, poor judgment, and costly mistakes.

The world, though, is in a rush and I feel the pushing and the pressure like everyone else to respond, decide, make things happen, be a mover and a shaker and a go-getter!

Yet, I read this Christmas story and consider anew what God can teach me from a carpenter and a teenage girl called out by God to participate in this miracle of God-in-human-flesh.

God chose a simple hard-working man named Joseph, maybe one who knew so well not to rush the measuring, or the cutting, or smoothing over of the splintered surface.

Choose your wood wisely.  Go with the grain.  Etch out the plan before carving.

Perhaps those are the lessons Joseph knew from years as a carpenter.

In Scripture, he doesn’t talk, not once.  We never hear him fret to God about the news that his fiancee was pregnant and not by him….or ask Mary to explain herself ….or welcome shepherds and kings to the Savior’s birth…or even spill out words of wisdom to the little boy named Jesus.

He takes his time, this Joseph, doesn’t spit out words right away and apologize for them later.

He’s the strong, silent type.

And when he hears the news of Mary’s pregnancy, he doesn’t rush to accuse or punish.  Instead,

 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:19-20 NIV).

In The Women of Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs writes:

“Joseph did not act in haste.  He thought things through.  Prayed things through.  He ‘contemplated’ (NET); he ‘pondered’ (MOUNCE).  When at last Joseph decided to sleep on it, ‘God graciously directed him what to do'” (The Women of Christmas, p. 105).

Joseph considered, contemplated, pondered.Wreath of Snow_cvr.indd

May we do the same.

And, while I fail and fail again at making quick decisions, still I balk when God asks me to wait and whine about the uncertainty of next steps and needed direction.

I hate to be pushed and pressured, and yet I push and pressure God.

Quickly, Lord, faster, faster.  Show me, move me, use me, deliver me….now, now, now!

Pause.

Count to ten.

Pray and pray again.

Ponder, consider, contemplate….choose the wood wisely, go with the grain, measure and plan before cutting and shaping.

That’s what He says to me as I tap my foot impatiently.

He is, after all, a Master Carpenter:

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything (Hebrews 3:4).

The Nazarene carpenter named Joseph teaches me more about the Heavenly Carpenter who builds and shapes my very own life into the masterpiece of His own choosing and planning.  And it requires patience, so much patience.

I must take my time to respond to others, breathe in before answering, consider before replying.

and

I must trust the timing of my God, trust His touch, the way He sands down my roughness and slices off those unwieldy edges with patient care.

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