The Letters You Are Writing

I wonder what she would have called my baby boy.

Peanut.

That’s what I decide.

My youngest daughter would approve.  She likes to call him Andrew “Peanut” King and whenever she does I think, “Yes, Ms. Shirley would like that.”

Ms Shirley called my first baby, “Princess.”  It was premonition, I think, knowing this tiny newborn would be a ballerina princess who only wore dresses from the ages of two to six.

Week after week, Ms. Shirley spoiled my daughter rotten in our church nursery, earning her own nickname: “Church Grandma.”Victoria Picture 001

Later, when I gently handed my second daughter to Ms. Shirley at the nursery door, our Church Grandma announced that her name would be “Precious.”

Then one Wednesday night my oldest daughter clung to Ms. Shirley while screaming in hysterics, wanting to stay in the nursery with her rather than come home with us—her very own parents!

That was the last time we really saw Ms. Shirley other than a hospital visit after her car accident on Veteran’s Day weekend all those years ago.

I guess Victoria knew in her Spirit that God was calling her Church Grandma home and didn’t want to leave her side one second too soon.

I think of Ms. Shirley all the time, certainly when I walk away from the nursery door and always on Veteran’s day weekend…

And when I held my third daughter as a newborn and thought, “Pumpkin.  Ms. Shirley probably would have called you Pumpkin.”

Now my son.  Surely she would have called him “Peanut.”

She left this deep imprint on our lives, so deep I can still feel the tenderness of her memory years after she last held my children and gave them nicknameLegacys.

This is the power of legacy.

And I think, as I sit here now, that legacies so rarely involve fame on a grand scale or power or high position.

They involve people.

Ms. Shirley loved my children.  That’s how she poured out a generous abundance of blessing on me, a young mom trying to serve in the church.

Yesterday, I sat in our church library overwhelmed by God’s goodness and the sweetness of our church family.  Next to me sat a pile of my very own books on a table.

I signed copy after copy of that book for others, fully aware each time as I put the tip of that pen to the paper to sign my name:

How humbled I am.

How this is God’s grace.

Writing a book is a special God-blessing, but I fully realize as I cuddle my baby boy and as I kiss my daughters as they head off to school:

I’ve been writing all along.

The apostle Paul told the church in Corinth:

 Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.  (2 Cor. 3:2-3).

No matter how much I write in my life, no matter how successful (or not), no matter how much or how little impact my words may have, my greatest writing is written on human hearts.

So it is for you, as well.

Anne Ortlund wrote:

You know, the longer I live the more I realize that all that’s important in this life is God, and people, and connecting the former with the latter.  I’m willing to shed a lot of things to strive after the Important (Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman).

I read this, too, in The Love Dare for Parents:

Your body will age.  Your clothes will become dated…..But the waves of your life and influence will continue to live on and ripple through the hearts, minds, and faith of your children (p. 198).

We are so often glorifiers of fame and students of worldly success, but impact always trumps personal glory.

Ms. Shirley taught me that by serving in a church nursery.

I’m learning that every day as a wife, mom, and friend.

We all are writers on human hearts and the messages we imprint on the lives of others are the greatest ‘work’ we will ever produce and the most beautiful offering we could give to God.

Never forget what matters, not while you care for a newborn, potty train a toddler, answer a preschooler’s questions, help a child with homework, love them through the difficult days and the joyful moments.

Never forget it as you serve in the church for little glory or recognition that the letter you are writing is beautiful, precious to God, and worth more than any bestseller.

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

Storytelling

It takes an entire day for the job, but finally it’s done.

That morning I had dashed out in the cold to the garage and opened several huge Rubbermaid bins to find the sealed bags of clothes I needed.  Having three girls means we own girls’ clothing in every size for every season and when it’s time to transition from size to size it’s a chore.

Oh my, is it a chore.

I sorted through the dressers and in the closets.  I pulled out piece by piece of clothing from the bins and covered my living room and kitchen in piles for this size and that season and this child and that one.

Then I washed all of the “new” clothes, dried them, folded them and hung them on hangers.

Packing away the old size, I dashed out to the garage once more and then returned inside to collapse on the sofa with a cup of tea.

Done!

It isn’t without its share of memories, this sorting through old clothes.

I pulled out the outfits and remembered my middle girl’s preschool program when she wore this green dress….
…and the wedding that my oldest daughter had worn this to….
….and the birthday I had given this outfit to her….
…and how Grammy made the older girls these sweaters with the special buttons and they had worn them to the parade on Main Street.

Sorting these clothes is like flipping through the pages of a photo album and I find myself telling the stories to my daughters and to my husband as I fold them or pull out the hangers.

I tell them how I know exactly at what age my oldest daughter decided she had to wear dresses, all dresses, all the time—even nightgowns instead of pajama tops and bottoms.

I know it because in the size 4T bag of clothes I find dress after dress after dress.  You’ve never seen so many dresses: Dresses for play and for church and for school and for special occasions and everything in between.sewing-button

I think about it as I sit stretched out on the floor of my living room, sewing a button onto a shirt.  My preschooler fingers the buttons in the tin, choosing the one she likes and counting them.

There I sit telling a story again about visiting my great-grandmother’s house when I was a girl and how she was a seamstress, so I played with her leftover buttons all collected into metal tins and how I stacked her empty spools into towers.

I realize: We moms are storytellers so often, the caretakers of the family saga, the ones who remember grandma, great-grandma, and the babies, the births, the marriages, the days both joyful and hard.

So I take time to give my daughters this heirloom: these memories, these stories, these word pictures from the past.

But later I wonder: What stories will they tell about me?

I think of Tabitha in Scripture, a woman who followed Christ in her city of Joppa and “was always doing good and helping the poor.”

When she died, the people called for Peter to come and as he stood there in the room with her body: “All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas (Tabitha) had made while she was still with them” (Acts 9:39).

I think of this as I stand in front of my own piles of clothes and remember the stories.  That’s what the widows did.  They held up physical reminders of Tabitha’s past, of her kindness and self-sacrifice, of her service, of the way she used her gifts to glorify God and bless others.

So Peter called for Tabitha to come back from the dead and even this became part of her story, her testimony to God.

Amazingly, “she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.” (Acts 9:40-42).

The miracle started with a woman serving others in the simplest of ways.

It continued with the women in her town telling this story to Peter.

And it ended with God’s glory and with many people believing in Him.

We also are storytellers about the heroes of faith from the past and about the God who does wonders.

And we also are forming our own story, serving, loving, giving and trusting that the legacy we leave is one that gives glory to the God who saved us, even if it’s as simple as buttons and sashes and the stories we told our children.

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

Packing Up the Tent, Part I

Tents and forts.  What mom doesn’t love these?

Yeah.  That’d be me. The mess and disorder of it all.  The amount of space they take up!  The fights that occur when little people occupy too small a space. The clean up afterwards.

Whenever my girls pop up the tent, they seem to think every book and toy they own must join them inside.  Then, they drag all of the blankets and pillows off their beds and stuff those in also.

So when it comes time to clean up, it’s not just disassembling the “east to assemble” toy tent that actually requires an engineering degree and an Einstein intellect.  Oh no, it’s re-ordering my entire house.  Replacing bedding, re-shelving books, re-sorting toys.

But my girls have a renewed interest in tents and forts this month.  That’s because my oldest daughter spotted a pink teepee set at our church’s Awana store and plopped down the money she had earned saying verses so she could tote that tent right on home.

Nevermind that it didn’t come with instructions.  Seriously.

Nevermind that Momma starts hyperventilating at anything resembling a tent.

After extreme stretching of the intellect and me audibly huffing out huge sighs to remind her of what a self-sacrificing mom she has, we finally popped the last piece of the teepee into place.  She took up residence as if it were a palace.

So, this Mom has tents on the brain.

The apostle Peter did, too.  When he wrote the letter that would become the book of 2 Peter, he was nearing his death.

He wrote to his fellow Christians:

“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body,  because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.  And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (2 Peter 1:12-15).

A tent.  That’s all Peter’s body was to him.  A temporary residence he would soon abandon for a permanent abode in heaven.

Knowing that he was about to pack in the earthly tent, he decided to focus his teaching on a few lessons that he wanted people to remember after he was gone.  After he was gone, he wanted his fellow Christians to “always be able to remember these things.”

Sometimes we need that kind of focus.  Sure, we give our kids a million pieces of glorious advice every day:

Brush your teeth.
Yes, you need to take a bath.
Eat your sandwich before your Doritos.
Say, “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am.”
Chew with your mouth closed.
Choose good friends.
Do your homework.
Don’t beat your sister over the head with a naked Barbie doll.

You get the idea.

But what matters?  When we toss aside this tent, what will they really remember?

And for those of you without children, what about your friends, your students, your co-workers, your family, your church.  What’s the lasting message they will take away from your tent?

Tabitha (also known as Dorcas) had the rare opportunity to discover her post-tent legacy.  She was a disciple of Jesus who lived in Joppa and Scripture tells us that “she was always doing good and helping the poor.”  But she grew ill and died.

The people in the town sent word to Peter to hurry on over to Joppa.  When he arrived and walked into the upper room where Tabitha’s body had been prepped for burial, “All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas (Tabitha) had made while she was still with them” (Acts 9:39).

They held up the outfits Tabitha had sewn for them.  They laid out the sashes that she’d stitched and the robes she’d crafted and they said to Peter, “You’ve got to bring her back!”

At Women of Faith, my friend and I had a special opportunity to sit in a small room with Sheila Walsh, one of the speakers, and she shared from this passage of Scripture.  She challenged us to live in such a way that our presence makes a difference.

When we pack in our tents, will people lay out physical reminders of the impact we made in their lives?  Will they point to tangible evidence of our kindness?

Will they, as the apostle Peter desired, be able to tell simply and clearly what life message we shared with them?

I don’t mean, “She was a nice person.  She was friendly.”

I mean, “When you saw her, you saw Jesus at work.  You couldn’t know her without getting to know Him.”

That’s what Tabitha’s life and death meant to others.  In life, her acts of kindness to widows gave them enough faith to call for Peter to raise her from the dead after her illness.

And after her death, Peter—sent for by those Tabitha had helped—-called for her to come back and “She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.  He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.” (Acts 9:40-42).

In life, in death, Tabitha brought people to Jesus.

In life, in death, Peter encouraged the believers to follow Christ.

In this tent and out of it, how are you impacting others?

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