Living the “Real”

Her “Other-Grandma” had a purple house.

That’s what my three-year-old told me, not just once, but all through the day.  Her Grandma had a purple house and her Grandma’s cat had shimmied up a tree and needed firefighters to rescue her.

My preschooler’s imaginary friends expanded over time to include an imaginary “other” family and that “other” family now includes grandparents…and their pets.

I just nodded and “mmm-hmmmed” and let her create.  No need really to dispute the existence of the purple house.

But then, as we drove along a winding road with scattered houses, she saw “it.”

The house.

Yes, the purple house…more like mauve, perhaps.  Close enough.

My daughter erupted, pointing and practically trying to leap out of her five-point harness seat.  “There it is!  My grandma’s purple house!  It’s there!  I see it!!”

There in that moment, nothing could be more exciting, not a circus or Disney World or the largest ice cream sundae, than her imaginary creation becoming “real.”

I wanted that.  Not a purple house or a cat awaiting rescue.  I wanted “real” and the excitement of discovery, that total awareness of this moment and God at work and how it’s not just words on a page or another’s testimony or a video, or a Facebook post, or a Pinterest pin, or a blog.

Real in me, real in my life, so real I sense it in every way, so real I’d be jumping out of my seat to share with others.

Living in the “real,” though, that’s so hard, that takes effort to fight for it, to insist on it, to discipline ourselves for it.

So much more tempting to live in a world of “what-if’s” and worry, hypothetical tragedies and made-up fears that paralyze us in this moment.

So much easier to pin 50 Pinterest activities to do with our kids than live in the simple and the now, push a swing, swash a paintbrush of watercolors on a white paper, bake the cookies.

So much more inspiring to rejoice in the testimonies of others and what God is doing in them than open our eyes wide to what God is doing here in us.

So much less effort to read someone else’s thoughts on the Bible than turn its pages ourselves to read those God-breathed words and pray, “God, speak truth to me.”

So much more fun (less depressing?) to read the blog posts of Mom-tips, wifely-advice, decorating and fashion pointers than look at our own carpets and curtains and push through the clothes in our own wardrobes.

Truly, how did our moms do this?  Do life without online advice and helps?

I love it; I do. I find so many activities I do with my kids, so many teaching tools and home strategies, recipes, and spiritual object lessons online.  I’m a better mom for it…..as long as I do them, as long as I really take the time with my family, not just immerse myself in someone else’s perfect mom moments.

But all those online people with all that online expertise have to live out the Real, too.  They have to wash the dirty dishes, vacuum the stained carpet, break up sibling spats, and yes, surely their lives have mundane and ordinary.  We might only read their highlights and see the pictures of their successes.  Yet, bad days and stress happen to all of us.

So much potential for good here.

And so much potential for discouragement, dissatisfaction, insecurity, uncertainty, jealousy, laziness, and for missing out.

When the captives returned to Jerusalem in the book of Ezra, they personally rebuilt the crumbled remains of the temple and one day they stood before the finished work, amazed:

But many of the older priests, Levites, and family leaders, who had seen the first temple, wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this house, but many others shouted joyfully. The people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shouting from that of the weeping, because the people were shouting so loudly. And the sound was heard far away (Ezra 3:12-13).

The way those shouts of joy mixed in with the weeping, that’s the power of the Real.  All those years of talking about the temple, telling stories about the temple, and imagining the temple transformed in that moment when they saw it with their very own eyes.

They saw God’s glory, His mercy, His capacity to redeem and restore His people.  They knew for themselves that God had chosen them, loved them, and wanted to be among them.

It was Real and Real overcame them.

I want to be overcome.

This husband, these children, this home, this garden, this day with this weather, this God at work in this very life, this Real is where I can be amazed by God at work if I will open my eyes to see Him right here in my own Real 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, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

A Stranger in a Bookstore

He had a scraggly brownish gray beard and glasses and wore a faded t-shirt with worn-out jeans.

I was about 17 at the time, and I had stopped into the tiny used book shop not far from my home.  It was a regular haunt of mine, this book shop where I’d scan the shelves, moving past best sellers and romance novels and looking for the classic treasures that I loved and could pick up for a dollar or less.

It’s been so long ago now.  I can’t remember how the conversation started or even why.  Knowing me, I certainly wasn’t the one to initiate a chat with a stranger, especially as a teenage girl with a unknown guy in a store.

But this I remember so clearly.

For some reason, he asked me what I wanted to do.

And I said, “I want to write,” in a whispered confession kind of way, the kind of admission you make in embarrassment because you know what you just said was crazy, impractical and surely impossible.

In fact, I couldn’t believe those were my words.  I didn’t know at the time why I said something so foolish and frantically searched for ways to escape the conversation.

After all, I’m a practical person.  I may have majored in English in college, but I wasn’t silly enough to think that meant writing.  I told people maybe I could edit, or work in publishing, or go to law school, or teach…..all more logical options than dreaming the impossible dream.

But I had said it, “I want to write,” and I didn’t know why or where it had come from or what it really meant, and I didn’t know how to take it back.018

This I remember, too.  He said, “Well, what you have to do is read the best and just write and write and keep on writing.”  Then he handed me a book called Seize the Day, which I took home with me and still have on my bookshelf, and then he walked away.

I get emails now a few times a month from ladies asking me how to get published and could they do what I do, and I give them all the practical information I possibly can.  Unfortunately I can’t give them “Ten Steps to Publishing Success” or “The Five Things You Need to Know About Christian Publishing” and I wish I could—really and truly.

After all, I’m just a humble girl still plugging away at writing myself.

All I can say is just obey and trust God and start small.  Don’t dream about bestsellers or fame or personal glory or royalty checks.

Ten years after a chance meeting in a book shop, I was a mom with two kids and a job working from home, a job at the church, and ministry responsibilities, and I felt like God was telling me I needed to be writing….in my “free time.”

I started as that tired out mama typing away devotionals and articles in a word processor after my kids went to bed at night.  I didn’t think anyone in the world would ever read them.  Maybe one day I could print them off my own printer and slip them into a three-ring binder for my daughters to enjoy.

Then someone asked me to edit for an online Christian women’s magazine.  And then she allowed me to start writing articles.  Then I felt like God wanted me to write devotionals and publish them online, so there was this blog….and then a book idea that took discipline to write in the middle of crazy busy days….then there were some other articles….

I didn’t think this was ever possible and it certainly wasn’t on my own.

But God.

I have to tell you this secret—I cry every time I get the email: “We’d like to publish….” because I just know that it’s God’s grace and I can’t miss it.  I didn’t plan for this, didn’t expect it, don’t deserve it…. I’m just amazed by it and so humbled by the reminder of how it’s all about Him.  So, I stretch myself out face down on the floor every…. single ……time and cry out thanks to Him for grace like that.

Maybe we all have “but God…” moments.  They so rarely start with a grand vision of success in any worldly way.  They start with the smallest steps of obedience, humbly just doing the quiet things and being faithful in the here and now, and then one day we look up and wonder how in the world all this happened—-and know it can’t be anything but Him.

That’s the beauty of the “….but God” testimony; He gets the glory.

Like Asaph tells us in the Psalm:

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever (Psalm 73:26 HCSB)

And it’s the testimony of David, who “stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul searched for him every day, but God did not hand David over to him” (1 Samuel 23:14 HCSB).

It’s impossible.  We don’t deserve it.  It’s hard and we’re weary. Maybe there are enemies; surely there are obstacles.

But God….He is our Strength, our Hope, our Deliverer.

******************************

May I take the time to humbly share some of these blessings from God with you?
If you’re looking for ways to find some of my writings online or in print, here’s when and where to look….

I’ll have articles in both the May and June issues of P31 Magazine by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  This gem of a magazine offers encouragement, Scriptural principles, and practical wisdom for Christian women.  What an honor to be a small part of this ministry!  Proverbs 31 Ministries is in the middle of moving offices and re-designing the magazine, so they aren’t open for new subscribers at the moment.  Hopefully, though, they’ll be open to new subscribes again soon and issues are available for purchase individually online.

My book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening our Lives to God’s Questions will be published by Discovery House Publishers in November 2013!

You can find my articles every month at http://www.myfrienddebbie.com/ and Ruby for Women, two online magazines for Christian women.

I also have the honor of serving as a small group leader for online Bible studies for women at Women’s Bible Cafe (new studies starting in April!!!) and you’ll find me sharing book reviews there, as well.

And of course I’m also on Facebook and you can find me on Twitter (@Heather_C_King) for Scriptures and quotes from Christian authors, and on Pinterest.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Dealing With Gnats and Other Problems

She stood at the top of the slide pointing them out to me and I stood at the bottom of the slide smashing the gnats.010

When it’s over 70 degrees outside in the middle of winter, you play hookie from chores and pop your preschooler into the minivan for an afternoon at the park.  We had rushed up the hill to the playground and she tried the swings and the sandbox and the seesaw (which exhausts this mommy who has to do all the see-sawing with my own muscles).

When she climbed to the top of the slide, though, she complained about all the bees…or were they ants?

“Gnats,” I tell her.  Fifty of them at least dotted all along the yellow slide.  The closer you looked, the more you saw.

“They’ll bite me,” she whined.

I reassured her.  Gnats are a pesky, annoying nuisance, but hardly a health hazard or a reason to fear the slide.  But she stood there paralyzed, so I wiped them away.

When she climbed up again for another slide down, though, they were back.  Or, to be more accurate, fifty other gnats had landed.

We repeated it relentlessly.  I smooshed bugs.  She slid down.  She climbed back up.  I smooshed more bugs.

In between, I swatted the pests away from my face.

Like most kids, I spent a week during several summers away at camp and the line for the dining hall there at this camp along the Potomac River stretched outside.  We lined up morning, noon and night for our meals, knowing one thing for sure:

The gnats would drive us crazy.

They swarmed in tiny black clouds around us.  Some of the other girls started walking around with one hand raised up on top of their heads, looking like a rooster with feathers all fanned out.

“Gnats always go to the highest part of your body,” they explained, all-knowing as sixth grade girls always are.

I never was sure if walking around with a hand on top of my head really kept the gnats from swarming around my face.

Perhaps it really was as ineffective as squashing the gnats on the playground slide over and over again only to watch more land within seconds.

But when you’re bothered or stressed, anxious, annoyed, pestered, worried and troubled, solutions are what you seek–no matter how ridiculous or sane.

Unfortunately, sometimes God is the last solution we seek to the messes we find ourselves in.

Certainly for Pharaoh, the pattern of the plagues was clear (at least to us) and yet he was desperate to find a solution outside of God.

Over and over, Moses asked for the deliverance of God’s people.
Pharaoh refused.
A plague of boils, blood, frogs, gnats or worse descended on the Egyptians.
Pharaoh asked Moses to pray.
The plague ceased.

So, when “gnats infested the entire land, covering the Egyptians and their animals.  All the dust in the land of Egypt turned into gnats,” the solution to us seems obvious (Exodus 8:17).

Pray Pharaoh.  Pray hard.  Step down off that mighty Egyptian throne, throw yourself on God’s mercy, so abundant, so longsuffering.  Bow that head and bend that knee in humility to God and God alone and obey His Word.

But that turning aside from self, that relinquishing of personal programs and plans and the solutions you’ve charted out so carefully takes humility.  It means confessing the hard-to-swallow truth.

I can’t do this on my own.

God, please help me.

Even Pharaoh’s magicians exclaimed, “This is the finger of God!”  But he resisted.  That proud earthly king would rather breathe in gnats and swallow gnats and swat gnats away from his face and sleep with gnats rather than rely on the mercy of a Merciful but Mighty God.

Oh, the humbling.  For Egyptians who prided themselves on hygiene and personal cleanliness, the perpetual buzz of pests must have been the ultimate pride destruction.

Still Pharaoh resisted.

Still we resist at times, too. We’re puzzling out our problem and feeling the shame of broken relationships, broken marriages, broken finances, broken lives, broken ministries, broken hearts, brokenness.

And what God wants is for us to just ask Him, to turn to Him first, to confess that we’ve messed up and to do things His way this time.

To pray and pray hard.  To bow that head and bend that knee.  To lay it all out at His nail-scarred feet and say what’s true:

I can’t do this on my own.

God, please help me.

Oh yes, we pray: “Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You” (Psalm 33:22 NKJV).

Kyrie eleison.  “Lord, have mercy.”

Amen and amen.

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

The Big Reveal

I feel a bit like the owner of an art gallery standing in front of a veiled portrait, ready to yank off the cloth and reveal the painting underneath.  I know I’ve been waiting expectantly to see what the art designer came up with as a cover for my book, and I finally got the email this week with the attached picture.  Apparently, they hopped onto the blog and used the content here as inspiration.  I have to say, I think it’s very “me!”

Ask Me Anything Lord_KD

It’s an amazing thing, once again a moment that I’m in awe of God and His grace, to see a physical reminder of this blessing He’s given me.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers.  I feel them and am blessed by them.  Discovery House Publishers is currently selling the book to bookstores (essentially taking orders in advance for when it is published) and I’m praying for God’s hand on this and His favor.

And now, I can officially say—-Coming (hopefully to a store near you) in November 2013 (just in time for Christmas shopping!!!) : Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Lives to God’s Questions.

God is so good!

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

What if I Mess this Up?

“Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:5).

Years ago, a mom-friend of mine sat on the big blue couch in my living room and confessed, “I feel like all I do all day is tell my kids what to do and how to do it. I’m constantly in teaching and correction mode.”

I nodded my head knowingly and sympathetically and absolutely had no idea what she was talking about.  At the time, I had a baby less than a year old.  Our conversations usually went like this, “Momma loves you.  You’re so sweet.  Where’s your nose?  Oh, you’re so smart.”

And then she’d respond with, “Mama” or something else equally superior and I’d just know we had connected and that she was a genius bound for great things.

But now I’m older and my kids are older.  One day at dinner I remembered the words of that mom and realized that she could be describing my life.

Wash your hands before you eat.  Use soap!  Sit like a lady.  Talk like a lady.  Eat like a lady.  Chew with your mouth closed.  Use a napkin.  Don’t spill your milk.  Clean up the milk you spilled.  Clear your place when you’re done eating.

Brush your teeth.  Up and down.  Front to back.  Don’t forget your tongue.  Brush every single tooth.  Don’t leave globs of toothpaste in the sink, on the wall, or on the floor.  Hang up wet towels; towels can’t dry all crumbled together and thrown on the counter.

Don’t hit your sister.  Don’t yell at your sister.  Don’t manipulate your sister.  Don’t push your sister. Don’t boss your sister.  Don’t roll your eyes at your sister.  Don’t tattle on your sister.

Do your homework . . . neatly.  Take pride in your work.  Practice the piano.  Study your memory verses.  Put your shoes away—shoes and socks do not live in the middle of the kitchen floor.  A place for everything and everything in its place.

At times it feels like we’re prepping kids for the standardized tests of life and that means covering table manners, relationship skills, character issues, faith lessons, and more.

This isn’t just about the Mom-life.  Teachers, church leaders, aunts, grandmas, big sisters, small group leaders and more all have speeches we’ve mastered and a curriculum to cover.

But what if we miss something?  What if there’s a question we don’t know how to answer?  What if we get it wrong and miss out on cultivating one of their gifts or fail to correct a character weakness?

What about the fact that I can look at my daughters and marvel at how God has made them and yet be scared out of my mind when I think of the herculean responsibility of molding their character?

This week, I was praying for the summer plans for my daughters, for their next school year and the teachers they will have, for how to connect with them and how to be the mom God wants me to be in their lives.

Then I read the account of Samson’s birth in Judges 13.

In true Biblical fashion, Manoah and his wife hadn’t been able to have kids.  And, just as you might expect, an angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and told her she would have a son and he would be set apart for God from the very beginning as a Nazirite—no alcohol, no cutting his hair, nothing unclean.  From before conception, God had a plan for Samson: “He shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).

What an honor for Manoah and his wife to parent this future leader of their nation!

And what a huge responsibility!  It must have been overwhelming as parents to wonder if they could mess this up.  What if they parented poorly?  What if they failed?  Could their mistakes prevent God’s plans?

So, Manoah “prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born’” (Judges 13:8 ESV).

The truth is that God has given all of us ministry and responsibility and it’s all too much for us.  In our own strength and ability, we’re absolutely not enough to parent our kids, teach our students, run that ministry, serve the needy, organize that relief effort, instruct that class, write that devotional, lead that worship, speak to that hurting friend.

We’re just not enough for any of this.

Manoah, however, set an example for us by asking God for help.  He turned to God, His Master, and asked, “teach me how to do this!”

And God did.

We serve that same Master, our Lord, our Adonai.  When He assigns a task, when He places these children in our lives, when He puts it on our heart to start that ministry . . . He doesn’t just dump it on us and run.

As our Master, He commissions us, directing us where to serve, assigning us ministry, determining our life-effort.

As our Master, He trains us, guides us and instructs us.  He gives us the tools we need, equipping us for the job He’s assigned.

When it all seems too much for us and we feel overwhelmed by the task, we can pray with honesty:  “God, I’m clueless.  I don’t know where to begin.  I don’t know how to get it all done.  I don’t know where to go or how to make this happen.  Please teach me.”

And He will.

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