Cue the Jeopardy Music

She announced that her stomach hurt and she was too sick to go to school about ten minutes before the bus pulled up in front of my house.

“Announced” perhaps isn’t the right word.  It was more like “groaned” or “moaned” or “whispered in agony.”  Something like that.  And there were tears and clutching the hands to the stomach and doubling over in pain.  That kind of thing.

I’ve always been paralyzed by decisions under pressure.  I’d be an utter failure on Jeopardy (besides not knowing anything about pop culture or sports) because whatever I do know flies out of my head stopwatchthe moment someone clicks on a timer.

In college, I studied all week before the test, but tucked my books and notes away the night before the exam.  The stress of cramming made my brain shut down.

And procrastinating makes me hyperventilate.

When you have a problem like mine, the utter inability to think under pressure, sometimes you say silly things just because you need to say something.  Sports are dangerous for me, too, because I can’t be trusted to react well when a hard object comes hurling at my face.

So, if my daughter had decided she was sick an hour before the bus arrival, I might have been wise and calm, but with ten minutes to go, I was a frantic mess of paralyzed mom-ness.

I grabbed the thermometer to gather objective evidence.  When I announced that no fever meant going to school, though, she collapsed onto the sofa underneath her blanket with a bowl held up under her nose.

What if I let her stay home and she wasn’t really sick and she used up an absence for no reason at all and then she thought it was okay to skip school any day her stomach felt a little bit ache-y?

She was going to school.

But what if I sent her to school and she really was feeling bad so she threw up in the middle of the classroom and someone had to clean it all up and she infected other students and it was all super embarrassing?

She was not going to school.

Finally, I made my decision:  I would keep her home for two hours and if she wasn’t really sick, she’d go to school.

Suddenly I felt so much better because I had two hours to consider the matter, weigh the evidence, and make another choice.  And at just after 11:00, I walked her into the school building with her backpack on and sent her off to her class.

Maybe it’s the fear of making a wrong decision that troubles me so.  Or perhaps it’s that I like to weigh the evidence, all the evidence and how do you know when you have all the facts?

It may be paralyzing at times, but perhaps there’s at least one good thing about this need to pause and think after all.

I wonder, as I read the book of Joshua, what would have happened if the nation of Israel had stopped for a single moment to consider the choice set before them, instead of rushing in all bold and blustery to a decision while ultimately remaining deep-down uncommitted.

Joshua said:

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

Absolutely we want to serve the Lord!  We know what He’s done for us and we’re going to serve Him!

They didn’t consider, though, that the commitments we make in life aren’t just one time choices.  They are the guides we use for the daily choices and the moment-by-moment decisions that require self-denial and self-discipline.

The choice to spend time with God despite busyness and distractions–that’s daily.

The choice to deny self and serve—that’s every day any time of the day.

The choice to submit to God and the leading of the Holy Spirit—that’s every second.

In the end, for all their shouting about how they would serve the Lord, the Israelites chose day after day to disobey Him and to pursue their own agendas, to worship false gods and break all the commandments He had given for their protection and purity.

Today, let us pause, taking the time for just this moment, first to listen.

What, God, are you asking of me?

And then before we rush into commitments and assurances, we consider the cost, we determine in our hearts, and then—only then—we make the choice.

But it doesn’t stop there.  The day after that and the next day and the next, we choose Him, choose to follow, choose to obey.  Sometimes we mess up, but we thank Him for fresh mercies and try again with choice after choice, showing that yes, we will serve the Lord.

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

An Origami Failure Learns to Fold

I am a failure at origami.

My oldest daughter, crafty soul that she is, begged me to help her with some origami projects.  Knowing my handicap for all things artsy, crafty, and based on following a pattern, I decided that our best option was to purchase an origami book for kids, complete with simple step-by-step instructions and special papers.

Surely if children can supposedly follow these directions and magically fold panda bears and peacocks, I in all my grown-up wisdom could also understand and succeed in folding a paper zoo.  I can, after all, read, and that seemed to be the minimal requirement here.

I was wrong (of course).

Our origami sessions together typically go like this:

Open book, choose the simplest pattern we can find and then select an appropriate paper.

Fold the paper in half.  Then open it back up.

Fold it in half the other way.  Then open it back up.

Crease here, flip the paper, crease there.

Smile in confidence at one another in the assurance that we have finally mastered this whole origami thing.  Look at us!  Our paper absolutely totally matches the diagram in the book.
We return to the instructions with renewed confidence.

Reverse internal fold, flip, crease, outside reverse fold, open up, fold to center, reverse, flip, spin around, repeat, pull out the flap, push in and squash, inflate, rotate, fold and unfold, mountain fold.

Wait, what?

Pretty soon I’m sputtering in frustration and my daughter is just randomly folding and flipping her paper.  I’m talking to the book as if it could answer me, “What does that mean?  How do you do that?  How come you don’t show a picture of the step in between this and that?  Is this what it is supposed to look like?”

I begin sighing those deep-shoulder heaving sighs that say, “Oh, I should never have bought her this origami book for Christmas.”

Then I declare with supreme Mom-wisdom that what we really need here is a YouTube video with step-by-step instructions.  We Google search.  We find a video.  We pause it after each step and make our paper look like the paper on the computer screen.

We fold.  We create.  We conquer (sort of).

The fact is that I’m not adept at following picture patterns in books and matching my every move to the instructions given, not with origami, sewing, knitting or crafts of any kind.

I have too many questions that the pattern doesn’t answer and too many places where I can go wrong.  I can’t visualize the finished product and the steps needed to get there.

What’s true for me in arts and crafts is sometimes true in life also.  We all can choose the patterns for our lives and then we make continual choices, daily decisions, to yield, bend and fold . . . or not.

Paul tells us:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2 NIV).

The pattern of the world isn’t meant for us.  The world’s priorities, its pursuits, its dialogue and messages, and its destination all fold us into a crazy mess of disorder and frustration.

We can choose instead to “follow the pattern of the sound words . . .in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:3 ESV) and to “obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” (Romans 6:17 ESV).

Yes, Scripture is our pattern to follow and Christ is our model: the picture in the book that tells us what we should look like in the end.

Yet, while we may choose which pattern to follow, the world or the Word, God Himself takes a hands-on approach to our lives.  “We are God’s handiwork,” after all—the result of His efforts, the creation He forms and reforms daily (Ephesians 2:10).

So, He is at work folding and unfolding—sometimes moving us forward and then back again.

He creases us now, teaching us and working on us in ways that we won’t understand until years later when He uses those grooves as part of His plans for us and our ministry.

He flips us around.  He pushes us beyond what we thought were our limits.  Sometimes He trims our edges.

Sometimes we complain and balk at the confusing pattern as it unfolds.  We look at the folds He has made in us and think He must be getting it all wrong.  Surely this can’t become that.  It’s confusing and we don’t see and understand.

But He does.  He knows what it takes to transform a piece of paper into a penguin or a peacock.  He knows how to conform us “to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for 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