Unsweetened Iced Tea

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2  Corinthians 5:17

Unsweetened iced tea.

That’s what the quiz said my personality resembled.  Not sweet tea or peach tea or even a little wild raspberry tea or health-conscious green tea.

Unsweetened iced tea, as in bitter, plain, strong, and unfriendly.054

During our family trip to Pennsylvania, we spent a morning at the Turkey Hill Experience where my kids learned how to make ice cream, created their own flavors, starred in their own ice cram commercials, sampled some of the delicious treats, and more.  It was a great family day.

Before we left, though, my oldest daughter discovered a touch screen display with a little personality quiz.

What flavor of tea are you?

So, I gave it a little try, just for fun.  After a few questions about what I liked to do in my free time, how I handled conflict and what I was like around my friends, it made its deep psychological assessment of my character:

Unsweetened iced tea.

Underneath that was a paragraph about how I’m blunt and can hurt people’s feelings, but I get the job done no matter what the cost.  I sounded a little like Donald Trump.

I turned to my husband with a questioning look and he shrugged it off.  “Nah, that’s not you.”

Silly machine, I thought.  It’s just a foolish test that probably isn’t ever right about anybody.

So, of course I made my daughter take it just to prove my point.

She read through the questions and gave her own answers, and then it popped up with her flavor personality.

Peach Tea.

The read-out said she is smart, creative and a kind and compassionate friend.  They even recommended she pursue a career in making greeting cards.

That is so her.

If I had to write up my own assessment of this child, that is exactly what I would say about her, and this machine figured her out with only about five questions.

Silly machine?

It seems like it should be so much easier to ignore the accusations and judgments of just-for-fun personality games or even those of other people.

So what if they think we’re unsweetened iced tea?  Does it really matter what they think?  Should I care about what a machine says based on my answers to a few multiple choice questions?

It’s not rational or logical, but it did matter to me a little.  Unsweetened iced tea….that’s who I used to be.

Sixteen years ago, I was bitter and hurtful, strong, unrelenting, and essentially unconcerned about who got knocked over or bruised when I focused on accomplishing tasks and reaching goals.

Maybe I was a miniature Donald Trump without the hair-do or bank account.

But God.

God took that teenage mess of a girl, who seemed so in control and together, and broke her in ways she needed to be broken.  He shattered pride and the hardness I had built in my relationships with people.  He reached in and kneaded my heart until it became soft and pliable in His hands.

He taught me how to receive grace…and then how to give it.

Yes,  He re-formed me.

Maybe in seasons of pressure or stress, I still have that capacity to revert to who I used to be.  Maybe my tongue can still slash through people like the sharpest of weapons.

But today I am thinking as I cut through the butter with the tines of the fork and smash it to the bottom of the bowl, crack open the eggs, and watch the sugar pour in grain upon grain.  I mix with the spoon at first and then finally reach in with my hands to do the work needed.

And as the dough pulls together, I realize—hadn’t God done this to me?

Paul wrote:

 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you (Romans 12:3 NIV).

That means seeing the truth about me—not who I was, not who others say I am, or how I measure up on personality quizzes.  It means looking deep and seeing “this is how God has made me and this is who I am in Christ”—no better or worse than that.

If God’s grace did this, smashing and breaking me until I could be pulled together again into something He could use, then why still think of myself in that old way?  Why hold myself to labels from the past and an identity formed oh-so-long-ago before grace bruised me and healed me in the way that grace does?

Some machine still saw me as unsweetened iced tea.

But God’s sweet grace had poured into my soul and I’m not the same.

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

Weekend Walk, 04/21/2012

Hiding the Word:

We made it a late night for the sake of theater.  The girls and I, along with Grammy and Grampy, went to see the local community theater group perform Treasure Island.

I was nervous about the night since the show didn’t start until their bedtime, but my daughters were entranced by the sea shanty-singing, sword-slinging, parrot-toting pirates, who scaled the heights of the ship, leapt overboard, and shot at each other in an attempt to capture the treasure.

From the moment Billy Bones dropped his treasure chest onto the floor of the inn, the girls were intent on classifying the pirates into two types:  Good pirates and bad pirates.  I heard my middle girl loudly “whisper” (she doesn’t really know that whispering involves lowering the volume of your voice) several times at the beginning, “Is he good or bad?”

Long John Silver, in particular, puzzled them.  Was he good, the way he was nice to Jim Hawkins and saved his life?  Was he bad, the way he led the mutiny against Captain Smollet?  He killed some and protected others.

This one-legged renegade was a moral enigma to my daughters.  They couldn’t box him up and fit him in a nice ethical category, so we talked about him and life and right and wrong most of the way home from the play.

Sometimes we too are intent on shoving people into ill-fitting categories and assigning them superficial labels.  We think we “know” someone as soon as we decide they are good/bad, smart/dumb, nice/mean, right/wrong, funny/dull . . .

I’m so thankful that God knows us as more than just a number, a nameless face in the crowd, or little more than a resume of good or bad deeds.

I’m choosing to meditate on this for the week, the promise that God knows me truly and deeply—no matter how complicated I may be.  It’s also the assurance that He loves others in the same way and challenges me to take the time to know them and love them without labels, boxes, and categories.

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
   you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me (Psalm 139:1-5)

Weekend Rerun:

Where is the Whole World?
Originally posted on 07/22/2011

 

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

During my second pregnancy, I went happily to my 20-week ultrasound and learned we were having another girl (the joys of pink!) and that she was healthy and developing well.

Except she was small.  They said smaller than she should be and I’d need to go get a 3-D ultrasound at a specialized neonatal center.  But, not to worry, they were sure it was okay.  This was just to be safe.

One 3-D ultrasound later, the technician sent back the report.  She was healthy.  Good heart.  Good blood flow.  Organs just fine.  But she was small.  Too small.  It was probably okay, but just to be safe I had to go for weekly stress tests for the remainder of the pregnancy and some more ultrasounds.

Every stress test was fine.  She was moving (boy was she moving!) and she was growing, but not fast enough.  She was just too small.  But, no need to worry, they said, because she was probably just fine; it’s just that they needed to induce her a week early so they could figure out why she was so small (under 5 pounds they said) and help her grow outside the womb.

We packed a bag for the hospital and let the Pitocin get to work.  Induction was terrible; the worst of my three deliveries.  In the end, though, Lauren was born.  I didn’t have my glasses on.  I couldn’t see her.  Was she okay?  Was she too small?  Was she in danger or sick or worse?

My husband served as my eyes for me.  At first he said nothing; she was purple they told me later from the chord double-wrapped around her neck. But then she cried.  And my husband said, “She’s beautiful.  She’s perfect.”

The NICU pediatrician who had been on call to assist at the delivery of this at-risk baby peeked over the nurses’ shoulders and left the room without a word.  The nurse laid her on the scale.  She weighed 6 pounds 13 ounces, my one-week-early little one, too big for the preemie outfits we’d picked out for her.  God had brought her to us safe, healthy, and gorgeous and we praised Him, so tearfully thankful for His protection over our baby girl.

Between that first announcement that our baby was too small and the moment we saw her, we fought against fear.  My husband and I held hands and prayed for her each night.  We calmed our fears and shrugged off ultrasound results.  Then I’d sit at the next appointment and be told once again that she was just too small. All the anxiety we had kept at bay rushed in with renewed strength.

Someone asked me during that time, “You’re not freaked out about this, are you?”

I didn’t know.  Was I freaked out?  Was I okay?  It wasn’t the same from day to day or minute by minute.  I was fine.  I was scared.  I was trusting.  I was fearful.  I was relying on God.  I was unbelieving.

At that time, Tim Hughes was singing on the radio:
When all around is fading, and nothing seems to last
When each day is filled with sorrow
Still I know with all my heart
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
I fear no evil, for You are with me
Strong to deliver, mighty to save

The whole world is nestled in the safety of His hands.  My world that I saw every day.  The world of my unborn baby girl, whose somersaults I could only envision and whose face I couldn’t wait to see.  Yes, her world was in His hands, too, and so I had to trust her to His care.

Isaiah wrote: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Held in His hands as I am, still there are so many reasons to tremble.

For bills and jobs and relationships, for school, health, my kids’ friendships, safety and their faith, for my daughter not getting lost, for school bus rides and mean girls, for conflict, for things I forgot to do, for the decisions I make as a mom and how often I mess it all up, for the future, for the unseen, for the nosebleed that I’ve blown up into a brain tumor, for what’s happening tomorrow and what’s happening ten years from now, for the divorces I’ve witnessed and how did it all happen anyway, for the things I said and the things I didn’t say.

But when I’ve lost my breath because of worry and fretted over a solution only to find no visible answer, nothing I can do, and no way to fix the problem or avert disaster, then I remember hope.

Oh yes, now I remember hope.

Fear says, “There is no way out of this.”
Hope says, “God is going to make a way.”

Fear tells me “You’ve messed this up so badly there’s nothing that can fix it.”
Hope says, “I have a Redeemer who can heal and restore even what is dead.”

Fear whispers, “What you can see is all there is and that’s not enough.”
Hope shouts, “The Lord created the universe with His words.  He can create something out of nothing.”

Fear argues, “You’ve been abandoned.  God doesn’t even care that you are under attack.”
Hope assures me, “You are held in His hand, carried through hardship by His open palm.”

This world, my life, the daily schedule, the care of my children, the bills and the doctor’s appointments, and all there is remains outside my control.  That’s why there is fear.  It’s ridiculous pride and foolish unbelief that makes me believe God can’t possibly care for me and that I could do better on my own.  So I worry because I’d like to control the uncontrollable.

Fear isn’t an enemy you defeat once and then mount on your wall like a trophy.  It’s a sneaky foe, inching it’s way into your life at the slightest provocation.  It creeps into your thoughts at night and asks to be your companion as 3:00 a.m. and then 4:00 ticks and tocks by on your nightstand alarm clock.

In the night as you rumple the covers with your constant turning, when the bill comes, when your child steps onto the school bus, when you sit in the doctor’s office, when the lawyer calls . . . remember hope.  It’s the ultimate weapon in this battle against fear.  We have hope because we’re in His hands and so is our whole world.  Our kids in His hands.  Our finances in His hands.  Our jobs, our marriages, our friendships, our ministries, our careers, our future—in His hands.

We say with the Psalmist, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

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