Praying for Our Kids Around the Clock

News reports and tears.  How could they not go together at times?

I don’t think my momma’s heart can handle watching the live footage of Oklahoma after a tornado, not when it crushed a school with other women’s babies inside.

Still I wake up this morning and the next and the next and I rush my children through the routine and watch the clock count down the minutes to the school bus’s arrival at the end of our driveway.  I kiss blond heads and say the simple things: Have a good day.  Behave.  Learn lots.  I love you.

The temptation is always there to snatch them up and try to hide them from a world out of control and full of so much evil and such pain.

But here is my daily choice: To parent in Fear or to parent in Faith.

It’s prayer that faith-parenting demands: this incessant and heart-all-in-it intercession for our kids because we just aren’t enough to protect them from everything and we can’t ever do it all right on our own.

Today, I’m choosing to pray around the clock for my kids:

7:00 a.m., before they wake–For Me:

Lord, please help me be the mom You want me to be today.  I give this day to You right from the beginning.  Forgive me for yesterday’ s mistakes and give me grace for a new day.  I trust You for the wisdom, strength, grace, patience, and energy I need to do this most important job.  Thank You for trusting me with the care of this family.

7:30 a.m., as they wake–Praise and Thanksgiving:

Thank You for these children, Lord.  They are so unique.  I see how this one hops out of bed with joy and how this girl drags her blanket and stumbles out to the sofa for a slow move into the day. Help me remember how they are each a precious treasure.

8:25, the school bus arrives–For Safety. 

Lord, I trust them into Your hands today and ask for their safety.  Please watch over them.  Even when they are with me, I can’t get it all right and don’t know how to protect them from 007everything.  Your hands are so much bigger than mine, Lord. Please hold them in Your hands today.  Keep them safe from evil and those who want to hurt them.  Protect them physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

8:50, school begins– For their school (or work);

God, please help my children be seekers of truth.  Grow in them the skills, the knowledge, the abilities they need to fulfill Your plans for them.  I pray that You will choose the perfect teachers who will be an encouragement to my kids, will help them discover the joy in learning, and will know exactly how to guide, direct and care for them today.  Thank You for these teachers, school staff and administrators.  Please give them wisdom, strength, energy, and joy.

12:00, lunch time–For health and physical disciplines:

Lord, I pray that You will be the healer and protector for my children.  Help them to make wise choices about eating, exercising, and their bodies.  Show them how to say “no” and stand firm against addictions and harmful substances.  Give them a healthy body image so they will care for the body You’ve given them, but they will not fall for the lies of this world about beauty.  Remind them that they are beautiful the way You made them.  Please protect them from any struggle with eating disorders.

1:00, recess—For friendships and relationships:  

Father, Proverbs says: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Prov. 13:20 NIV).  Help my children make wise decisions about their friendships and relationships.  Show them how to love others, be kind to all, reach out to the ignored, the ostracized, and the downtrodden.  Give them compassionate hearts.  But please help them choose close friends who will lead them to Jesus and not encourage or dare them to rebel and walk astray.

For their future dating relationships and marriages, I ask now for wisdom and purity.  Let them be passionate about pursuing You above all and let a passion for You be what attracts them to others.  Prepare them for their future as friends, wives, and moms and give them the relationship skills they need now to fulfill those roles later.

3:45, school ends and afternoon and evening activities begin—For their future:

Lord, You know the exact plans You have for each of my children. I ask that You will reveal their gifts and hone each of their talents so they can use them for Your glory.  Give them hearts that are passionate for You and Your will and help them choose to walk in Your ways in all things.  I ask that You will teach them discipline, faithfulness, and hard work so they don’t give up too soon, but instead always strive for excellence, giving their very best offerings as praise to You.

8:00, bedtime—For their salvation and their walk with God:

Above all, Lord, I ask that You draw the hearts of these children to You.  Help them to know You as their Lord and Savior and let that be personal, real and life-changing.  Stir up passion in them for Your Word, for worship, and for the things of God.  I place them into Your hands again this night, trusting them to Your care.  Please don’t let them be afraid, but to learn to trust You and turn to You for whatever help they ever need.

In Jesus’ name….Amen.

Interested in learning more ways to pray for your children?  My favorite resource is Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying® ParentShe also wrote a book specifically for parents of adults: The Power of Praying® for Your Adult 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

The Quest: Teaching Kids What Easter is About

I’ve been on a bit of a Mom Quest these past few years.  We’ve never been an Easter bunny family who lines up for pictures at the mall or decorated the house with rabbits, chicks and eggs every spring.

Our goal as parents is to keep the focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection.  That’s what we want our kids to remember, ask questions about, investigate and take to heart this season.

But when you bypass the bunnies in the Wal-Mart aisle, you can end up with Easter looking something like this:

Go to church in a pretty dress.  The end.

I want to teach my kids that Jesus is the Reason for THIS Season, too, and that needs to be a big deal.  Not just preaching at them; engaging them.

So, I’ve collected ideas that we do, some every year, some every few years to keep things new and interesting.  Here are some of our favorite ways to focus on Jesus this holiday:

Resurrection Eggs:  It’s an oldie but a goodie, a classic that’s been around since I was a kid.  I love the fact that the children drive the discussion in this activity. They open 12 eggs in a specific order.  Each egg holds a symbol of an event in the Passion week.  My kids tell what they think it might be about (the praying hands for the night Jesus prayed in the garden or the coins that Judas received to betray Jesus), and the booklet directs us to Scripture to fill in any blanks.003Empty Tomb Snack: This was so fun and only took a few minutes.  Each of my kids could basically put the pieces of the snack together.  I didn’t tell them what we were making, just gave them directions along the way.  Once they put the Oreo in place, they knew we had made the empty tomb.  Added bonus: Eating a yummy Entenmann’s chocolate doughnut (a secret passion of mine).  You’re supposed to use shredded coconut dyed green for the grass, but coconut isn’t my favorite.  So, I opted for green icing.

011Butterflies: I order a cup of painted lady butterfly caterpillars every year from Insect Lore.  We learn about how butterflies transform while also talking about a long-standing symbol of the resurrection—how the caterpillar goes into the chrysalis and seems to be dead, but then emerges with new life even more beautiful than before.  It’s science and Scripture together at its best.

butterflyResurrection Rolls: This was a new discovery this year and what a treat!  It’s especially good to do on Holy Saturday, talking about preparing Jesus’ body for burial, placing him in the tomb and sealing it up tightly.  When you open the rolls, they are empty inside.  A great surprise for kids.  It’s easy, too, with crescent rolls, melted butter, marshmallows, and cinnamon and sugar.  Bam!  Here are some great step-by-step directions.Resurrection RollsLamb cupcakes: These cupcakes aren’t just cute, they remind us that Jesus is the lamb of God.  Just top a cupcake with white icing (I’m a cream cheese icing fan, personally) and cover with mini marshmallows and one large marshmallow cut in half for the lamb’s head.  The kids mostly love the cupcake, but it’s also a great opportunity to talk about the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and why Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.

Lamb cupcakesJelly Bean prayer: This is simple and sweet—literally.  I put a handful of jelly beans in a baggie (at least one of each color) and include this little poem to walk my kids through the Gospel.  And I sneak a few of my favorite flavors to eat while I’m packing the bag.  That’s a mom bonus.  Here’s where you can find a free printable for the prayer.013

Easter garden:  This idea went viral on my Facebook and Pinterest feed this year and instead of just looking at it, I did a unique thing.  I decided to actually make it.  Shocking, I know!  My daughters and I had the best time setting up our little potted garden.  After all, it feels good to get your hands into a some potting soil in anticipation of spring!  The grass grew very quickly, though, so I’d likely wait until closer to Easter to plant our garden again next year.  I loved that my kids were asking questions about the three crosses, about the size of the stone covering the tomb, and how it was rolled away.Easter Garden

Of course, we don’t miss out on the basics.  We go to church and worship on Easter Sunday.  At night, we read from different children’s devotionals or the Bible, walking our kids through what Scripture says about the week of the Passion.

So, how do you teach your kids about Jesus’ death and resurrection during this season?

Setting Up Chairs and Why This Matters

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9)

“Who helped lead you to Jesus?”

It was part of the Sunday sermon at my church, our pastor opening up the floor for answers from the congregation.

There wasn’t even time for a more formal pass-the-microphone kind of testimony sharing.  People popped up their hands all over the church and some just called out their answers in tribute to those who carried them to Jesus.

Some mentioned sisters or friends, several Sunday School teachers, a school teacher, pastors and grandparents who had taken them to church.

But overwhelmingly the answers were “My parents.”

In Scripture, that’s part of Timothy’s testimony, too.  Paul writes:

 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you (2 Timothy 1:5).

If he sat in our church on Sunday, Timothy would have thrown up his hand and said, “My mom and grandma taught me about the Lord.”

It’s one of those moments in life where everything freezes for the slightest breath and you realize something deeply true—“This Matters.”

It’s not always so easy to persevere and keep on keeping on.  When you’re prepping the Sunday School materials week after week …when you’re grading papers and writing lessons….when you’re asking your friend to church for the hundredth time… when you’re just driving kids to church.

Then there are those daily tasks, seemingly unimportant, easily overwhelming, when it’s hard to feel like you’re having any significant impact at all beyond washing clothes and cooking meals.

Most of the Mom-life isn’t deep spiritual lessons and massively important character lessons for our kids.  Most ministry isn’t radical and miraculous transformation.

My children don’t sidle up to me around 4:30 each day, ask me what’s for dinner and hear me preach on the feeding of the 5000 or the Bread of Life or how we should hunger after righteousness.

Usually I just tell them chicken or spaghetti or something I’m going to make up in about 15 minutes that I haven’t decided on just yet but will surely be awesome.

I once heard a youth pastor say that “90% of ministry is setting up chairs.”

Isn’t that true of what we do as well?

Sure, God gives us these perfect moments when our kids ask the deep question and we need to know how to answer with the Bible and with prayer.  Of course, our lives need to be an example of personal faith in Christ.

Other times, though, we’re ‘setting up chairs.’  We’re washing mounds of clothes and matching the socks not devoured by the dryer monster.

We’re filling the cart with groceries and cooking those dinners night after night.  We’re packing lunch boxes day after day and bending over a child’s shoulder to watch her put the final touches of paint on a school project.

It’s jumping up every five minutes when a child calls out, “Mom!” or “Help!”  It’s standing outside waiting for the bus even in the cold and the rain and chasing down children who’ve forgotten their mittens or hats on a frosty day.

It’s losing sleep because of illness, bad dreams, night owls and early birds.  It’s foregoing any attempt at an uninterrupted conversation and occasionally hiding in the bathroom with the telephone just so you can hear what the person on the other end is saying.

It’s shuttling children here and there, cheering from the sidelines of a field on Saturday mornings or snapping photos at a ballet performance.

Setting up chairs–that’s what we’re doing day after every single day.  We’re serving in our homes and communities, schools and churches in hundreds of hidden ways.

Because we love.

We do it because God Himself, the Savior of us all, stooped onto a knee and washed the dust and grime off the feet of His own followers. Then He said, “since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow.  Do as I have done to you (John 13:14-15).

We do it without recognition most of the time.  No onlooker cheers you on for spending your day changing diapers, making meals and giving baths.

There aren’t enough ceremonies to thank the faithful servants who “set up chairs” in our churches every week.

But we can remember in this moment that “This Matters.” We can fold those clothes with a little more joy and prepare that lesson with a renewed sense of purpose.  Because every moment that we’re serving others is part of leading them to Jesus and there’s no greater ministry than that.

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 © 2012 Heather King

Bad Habits, Hand-Me-Downs and Choosing Grace

Some days, you must choose grace.

Not just to give, but to receive it, take it in, soak it up past the superficial skin and let it seep down deep into your soul, into the places of self-condemnation and records of wrongs and mistakes and imperfections.

Like yesterday.

It was a day of frustrating grocery shopping with lost coupons and a store that hadn’t stocked the chicken that I needed for almost a week’s worth of family meal planning.

And having to skip out on my exercise because I had to trek to a second grocery store to find said elusive chicken so I could feed my family more than one meal in the next seven days.

Then I finally unloaded it all at home, over-budget, discouraged, and frustrated with my non-exercising self for messing up my fitness plan.

As I sorted the groceries onto shelves and into drawers, I noticed the dirt in the corners of my kitchen floor, the apple juice splatters, the toothpaste in the bathroom sink, the laundry piled in the basket.

Wow, I just can’t ever keep this house clean enough.

And that writing project I planned for the day…didn’t get done.

There were the three tantrums from my preschooler at the school library and the devotions I put off until 9:00 that night.

At the end of the evening, after dinner and bath time, and after my kids didn’t practice the piano, I read one chapter in a book to my daughters and sent them off for “independent reading” before lights out.

It had rumbled inside me bit by bit all day, but as we finished up that little bit of reading time together, my daughter reached over and turned down the corner the page to hold our place.

And I felt the full rush of failure.

I’m a page-turner-downer from way back.  Despite a lovely, inspirational, unique and large collection of bookmarks, I fall back on a long-established bad habit.  I just dog-ear my page and snap the book shut.

Unfortunately, it’s a bad habit I’ve unwittingly passed along to these daughters of mine.  In fact, it’s so extreme they’ve even coined a term for it, transforming the word “chapter” into a verb.

“Mom, don’t close the book until we ‘chapter it!” they say and I dutifully slip the corner of the page down.

In that moment I thought: I’m passing along my bad habits to my children, handing them down like ill-fitting jeans and worn-out shoes.

Unfortunately, some of them aren’t as immaterial as dog-eared book pages–like stressing perfection too much, having too little patience with ourselves and others, and not accepting grace in the wake of messy failure.

This is why my oldest sobbed in frustration as we studied for her big science test the other day.  Because she forgot the definition of one term among 30 and felt like a big horrible failure.

I assured her with a hug and an uplifting of her chin so her red, swollen eyes looked up to mine: “Baby girl, you’re doing awesome.  It’s okay to make mistakes when we’re learning!  And even if you get it wrong, you’re doing your best.  You’re working hard here.  Isn’t that what counts?  Isn’t that the point? And don’t you know that I love you no matter what?”

Oh, but I recognize the source of her hand-me-down of perfectionism in my own mirror.

Don’t we all have days where it seems we meet with more failure than success? Where Satan can barrage us with reminders of the mistakes from long ago and the crazy mishaps of today.

Where every mom on Facebook seems to have it all together, gourmet meals for their family, a spit-n-shine house, Martha Stewart-like crafting ability, time to bake, snazzy Scrapbook pages, award-winning kids, and time for family service projects….”

Or maybe you feel it at your job or in your ministry or with your friends.  What you should be doing.  What you failed to do.  What you said that was wrong. How you fall short.  How you could be better.

The pressure of perfection is far too much for our imperfect selves tripping along in an imperfect world.

And that’s the point, sweet friend.  It’s not to get everything right.  It’s to get what really matters right and doing our best and just laying it all out, as insufficient as it is, as an offering before a gracious God who just wants our heart anyway.

Paul told Timothy: “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God” (1 Timothy 1, MSG).

Sometimes we have to stop and ask, “What matters here?”

Then we have to choose to receive the grace He offers, deciding it’s okay if we didn’t get it all perfect today and if our life got a little bit messy.  Doesn’t God love us?  Didn’t we try our best to walk in that love?  That’s the point and that’s enough.

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 © 2012 Heather King

One Week Without a Voice: Lesson Three

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame”
(Proverbs 18:13 ESV).

Everyone has a particular Mom-style and special God-given Mom-talents.

I do, too.  I have a talent for Mom-speeches.

There’s the “Your sister is your best friend.  Other friends will come and go, but God gave you a sister for life” speech.

The “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” speech.

There’s the “Behave like a lady, talk like a lady, eat like a lady, sit like a lady” speech on manners and the “Don’t embarrass me in public” speech for family outings.

I give an “Always do your best and strive for excellence so you can be proud of your work” speech and the “God gave you special talents for you to develop and use” speech and also a “The best things in life are worth working hard for, so don’t ever give up” speech.

Also the “You made a commitment, so you have to fulfill your promise” speech for when my kids get tired out half-way through activities.

My kids also know the “I love you no matter what, even if I’m disappointed in you” speech and a “you’re totally beautiful inside and out—and the inside is what matters most” speech, which is often followed up by a discussion of boys and the “you are so smart and so talented and God has such big plans for you; worrying about boys is just a distraction (and no dating until you’re 30)” speech.

We also have the “You are a King girl.  You represent our family and you represent God, so keep that in mind in what you say and do” speech and a speech on “You don’t have to be best friends with everyone you meet, but you do have to treat others with kindness.”

Yes, I can hop up on a Mom soapbox at the slightest provocation.  Fortunately, I have one daughter who seems to listen.

And I have one that. . . well, doesn’t.  By the time I am finishing up one of my epic declarations, she’ll look me in the eye and ask something totally random, like “Why does Batman wear a mask?” or “Can I have ice cream now?”  Clearly the whole time I’ve been waxing eloquent she’s been thinking about superheroes and dessert.

Last week, I could barely tell my kids it was time for dinner much less deliver one of my famous orations.  My throat was a scratchy mess and the loudest I sounded was when I was coughing.

And a week without speechifying was good for me.  It’s not that any of the things I say are bad.  Who knows?  Maybe my girls really do hear me and take my treasures of wisdom to heart.

Maybe when they are 35 and looking in the face of their own daughter, they’ll find themselves repeating the speeches they learned by heart from me.

But just as important as what I say . .. probably more important really . . . is whether I’m listening to what they have to say.

A lady in a Bible Study with me years ago said, “Listening is an act of love.”

This is true for us; we can show love to others by listening, really listening, to what people have to say.  It’s looking them in the eye when they talk rather than shuffling papers, multi-tasking, glancing at our watches and texting on our phones.

It’s asking deep questions to show we care and want to hear more and are interested in their thoughts.

It’s controlling our own thoughts—our own tendency to think up things to say while they “chatter”—and instead actually focusing on what the other person is expressing.

It’s redirecting conversations to be about them instead of always us.  Yes, we all have “stuff,” we all have life to share and stories to tell.  But for a few minutes, you can make another person feel loved just by letting them be the one to talk.

Then there’s God.  Listening to Him is an act of love also.  It shows we value what He has to say and aren’t rushing through our time with Him, dumping our problems at the altar and rushing off into our day like He’s a personal assistant.

Instead, we can pray that, like He did for Isaiah, God “wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed” (Isaiah 50:4).  He can tune our hearts and our ears to listen to His voice and the hearts of others all through our day.

Partway through my week without a voice, I loaded my daughters into the mini-van with a whispered, “Let’s go somewhere” and drove them to the movie theater to see Brave, the story of a Scottish princess trying to escape arranged marriage.

There in that darkened icebox of a theater, I watched a mom make speeches to a daughter who was tired of hearing them.  Both of them were talking; no one was listening and understanding.

But then the mom couldn’t talk at all.  Her only form of communication was a pointing finger and some pantomime and charades.  Yet, somehow mother and daughter never understood each other so well as when there was forced silence and purposeful listening.

As I sat there watching an animated Disney/Pixar film, I thought of James’s words: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19 ESV) and I remembered that speeches are fine, but I’m too quick to make them.

It’s much better to be quick to hear, prone to listen, talented at understanding . . . and slow to speak.

Who needs you to listen to them today?

You can read other devotionals on this topic here:

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.

It’s A Dirty Job, But Somebody’s Got to Do it

It was as exciting as Christmas morning.

Our girls had been asking us for a Wii since last summer.  So, when a friend from church said he was selling his used Wii system, we knew this was too good an opportunity to pass up.

We surprised our daughters with it as a way to celebrate the end to their school year and my husband explained to the girls how proud we were of their hard work and their many achievements.

The girls jumped around the living room squealing and hugging us.  My oldest announced, “I just can’t stop thanking you enough!”

Giving good gifts to our children brings me incredible joy—to see them so excited, so grateful, so delighted to have the desire of their little hearts placed into their hands.  Matthew 7:11 tells us, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

If giving the perfect gift excites me, I can only imagine those moments of divine anticipation as God prepares to bless us.  Does He laugh as we dance around the room, full of thanks and praise?  Does He hug us as we humbly bow, so aware that we don’t deserve His gracious blessings?  Does He wipe away the tears of overwhelming gratitude?

We enjoyed just a taste of that pleasure as our girls popped in the first game and began to play.

Then the whining began when they couldn’t make their guy jump high enough after just one try.  The frustration kicked in when they didn’t know how to move their hand to make their bowling ball slide just the right way down the electronic alley. There were angry grunts and declarations that, “it’s too hard.”

Even worse, when the girls played a game together, there was the inevitable struggle over winning and losing graciously.  Apparently, kids are not innately “good sports.”  At first the winner was kind and encouraging; the loser begrudging and complaining.  Then the winner gloated.  The loser started declaring, “it’s not fair.”  It was war.

Overall, the girls still love this gift and they are getting better at it all the time.  As parents, though, there were some moments when we weren’t so sure this was such a good idea.  Our gift seemed to be bringing out the worst in them.

But the reality of parenting is that it’s a messy job.  And I’m not talking about potty training, dirty diapers and sickness.

We could shuffle along on the outskirts of our kids’ character and life would be pretty easy.  If we closed our eyes to their weaknesses and ignored their mistakes, this would all be more “fun.”

We’d be failures, though.

Sometimes we have to put on the big muddy rubber boots and wade into the mess in order to pull out the gunk that is sin and human nature and weakness.

We have to buy one toy and insist our kids learn to share.  We have to play games and teach losers how to lose and winners how to win.  We have to look in the face of a defeated child and remind her that the best things in life are worth working hard for and that giving up simply ensures failure.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it—and that someone is us.

In the same way, the circumstances God gives us, the jobs He calls us to, the ministries He lays in our hand, the responsibilities He entrusts us with and the relationships He places in our lives often bring out the worst in us. They certainly do for me.  There are times that I am shocked and embarrassed when all my “uglies come out” (to quote Lysa TerKeurst).

God’s not surprised, though.  Our heavenly Father never shirks His parental job and uses these opportunities to deal with the sin that is bubbling to the surface of our hearts.

This is why “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).  God uses conflict to mature us.

This is why we should “count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-3).  Trials mold our character and make us more like Christ.

Spoiled children that we often are, we might think God always needs to give us the gift we so desire, the blessing we’ve been longing for, and the success we see others enjoying.  Yet, we’d never grow, never mature, never get one tiny bit closer to Jesus in a life free of conflict and trouble.

Proverbs 30:12 says, “Don’t imagine yourself to be quite presentable when you haven’t had a bath in weeks” (MSG).

We might at times do just that, walking around without any awareness of our own mess.  Then something like a Wii brings out the worst in us.  We want to give up.  We fight with our brother or sister.  We whine about how hard it is and how unfair.

Sometimes that’s a good thing–as long as we’re willing to let God scrub at us for a while and deal with the sin that surfaces.  Then we can enjoy the gifts He’s given fully and completely and He can laugh with us in delight and bless us with His favor.  It’s a dirty job and He’s just the One to do it.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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

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

Weekend Walk: 05/12/2012—Mother’s Day and a Trophy

Hiding the Word:

In preparation for Mother’s Day, my daughters have been sneaking home crafts and cards for a little over a week.  Immediately after our welcome home hug, I hear, “Don’t look in my backpack, Mom,” or “There’s a big white paper in there that you can’t look at, Mom!”

It’s not difficult to figure out which papers are the surprises.  My oldest prints across the back in all caps: DO NOT OPEN UNTIL SUNDAY.

In honor of such a special day when we recognize and honor moms and all of the grace, love, and selfless service they give, I thought it’d be a perfect week to reflect on Paul’s definition of Love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

I love this passage in The Message for the way it describes what love actually looks like; it’s a test, in a way, a checklist I can use to determine whether I’m living out Christ’s love to others.  Let’s meditate this week on God’s love for us, the way others have shown us His love, and how we can share this love, as well.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG).

Weekend Rerun:

Do I Get A Trophy?
Originally published 07/13/2012

The kids piled onto the stage for the practice before the big program.  At first, I arranged them like carefully planned chess pieces—tallest in the back, little ones up front.  Brothers not next to other brothers for fear of poking and other tomfoolery.  Eventually, though, the kids just kept coming and shifting around and they ended up in no particular order.

However it happened, in the very middle of the stage in the very front row was the most precious little boy you could imagine.  He sang.  With all his might, he sang.  You could hear his voice in any place in the sanctuary and those passing by the closed doors could hear him singing down the hall.  His sister poked him during each song and whispered to him, “Don’t be so loud!” Those watching us practice from the pews couldn’t help but smile as he made a “joyful noise.”

Then, the practice done, each child climbed down the steps of the stage and filed into the back room to wait for the actual program.  Except for this one singing boy.

He took hold of my hands and asked, “Ms. Heather, did I do a good job?”
“Oh, you did a great job. I love how you sang with all your heart.”
“So, do I get a trophy?”
“Well, I don’t have trophies, but I have candy!”

He seemed happy with the alternative and ran off with the other kids.

We Don’t Serve To Earn a Trophy

For most of the truly important things in life, we don’t get trophies.  Coaches hand them out for playing on a soccer team, but no woman polishes the brass trophy on her shelf for enduring labor and having a baby.  There’s no “stayed up all night with vomiting children” trophy.  No trophy for “visiting the nursing home without anyone else knowing you did it.”  No plaque for “spent hours on knees praying for wayward child.”

We don’t serve for awards that will hang on our wall or adorn our bookshelves.  Other than an occasional mug from our kids saying, “World’s best mom,” we go through our everyday acts of ministry without recognition.

Sometimes our motives twist and need readjusting.  Deep in our heart, we occasionally slip into acting out of a desire to be seen, noticed and praised.  Or we take on a task because it feels good to be needed and asked.  We fear that no one else could possibly do it, so we sign on the dotted line.

When others are looking, we sometimes put on the voice and physical appearance of “Super Christian,” and then snap at our family, grumble and complain, and gossip about others as we sink into the seats of our cars and drive from church to home.

Then there are those moments when we shove the dishes into the dishwasher and slam the pot down on the counter wishing that someone would recognize what we do.  It may not be Nobel prize worthy, but this is our life’s service we’re talking about!  This is self-sacrificing.  This is humbling.  This is always putting others first!

It’s not always articulated in our heart and mind that way. It’s not something we always admit or even recognize.  But our motives are distorted and we’ve begun to serve for trophies–polished brass rewards of attention, praise, personal pride and recognition from others.

Jesus warned: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

We shouldn’t serve in any capacity to get a trophy.  If we do, we’re forfeiting heavenly reward, trading eternal glory for a temporary self-esteem boost.

But We Serve As If God Was Handing Out Trophies

Here’s the challenge, though.  With pure motives and sometimes hidden service, without seeking praise and recognition, we can still serve with all our heart as if we would get a trophy.

We don’t seek the prize, but we strive with all our might to be worthy of it.  Because even when we are invisible to everyone else, God sees us.

He sees you.  All of your effort, your service, your laying down of self, your sacrificial giving, your stepping out in faith, your steady faithfulness, your lack of sleep, your soul emptied out.

Just like my singing friend.  Fully knowing that he wouldn’t get a trophy, he still sang loudly and enthusiastically during the program.  He gave his best effort anyway and I’m positive that God was beaming at every word he sang.  God didn’t miss a single second of his heartfelt praise.

In the same way, we worship wholeheartedly, we serve menially, we act selflessly not for our own glory, but for the glory of God.

We pick up toys for the “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  We work at our jobs not so we receive promotions, but so that our “light (will) shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  We walk away from gossip.  We take a meal to the family who needs it.  We write the note of encouragement.  We pray for our friend.  We teach the Sunday School class year after year after year.  We rock the baby.

Because God sees and cares.

We sing with all our hearts not because some human being is going to hand us a physical trophy, but we’re singing for God, so that He will be pleased.  This is our worship, the offering we place before Him.  When we grow weary or frustrated, feeling annoyed or walked all over, pouring out our very soul for the sake of others, we do not give up and go through halfhearted motions of service.  Our motivation remains the same, to serve God, to bring Him glory, to give Him praise.

Because even when no one else notices, we know that God sees.

We remember what Paul wrote:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

and

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith (Galatians 6:9-10 MSG).

For those who feel invisible at times, here’s a video from Nicole Johnson on The Invisible Woman.  I hope you are blessed by it as much as I was:

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

Weekend Walk, 05/05/2012–Stressing Over Stupid Stuff and an Undivided Heart

Hiding the Word:

It was all stupid stuff and it all stressed me out.

That afternoon, we spent too much time in the school library during the family reading time because my kids wouldn’t stop reading, which normally makes me grateful, but that afternoon made me a bit frustrated.

Then, while changing into her ballet clothes, my oldest daughter asked me to help her untie the knot in her laces.  “Sure,” I said, holding out my hand for one ballet shoe.

Instead, she plopped two ballet shoes into my hand that she actually had tied together last week because “it looked like fun.”  She was still giggling a week later.  I was not.  Now the slender laces of her slippers were pulled together in a knot that would have made any sailor or Boy Scout proud.

Zooming out of the school bathroom, across the school parking lot and into the mini-van, I still picked at the knot on the shoes unsuccessfully.  When we arrived at ballet, I reached into the bag to pull out the bobby pins and hair net and the other jumble of hair accessories we tote around in order to pull my daughter’s mass of princess-like hair into a perfect ballerina’s bun.

They were gone. We had left them all piled on the bathroom sink at the school.  I tugged a ponytail holder out of another daughter’s hair, made the messiest bun of all time on my oldest girl’s head, and ran into the ballet studio.

I asked the lady at the desk for scissors and held up the attached ballet shoes apologetically.  She haplessly searched for scissors—which she couldn’t find because of course most people don’t need to cut the laces of their ballet shoes before class.  Fortunately, a nice man with a pocket knife slashed the laces apart so I could run the shoes into my daughter, already poised at the barre and pointing her toes.

And so it went.  There were bigger stressors that day.  There were other petty annoyances still to come.  The crazy whirlwind of it all left me dizzy and exhausted, but I knew one thing was true:  Nothing that day was worth the frustrated attention I was giving it.

Nothing there was life-threatening or mattered in the eternal way that some things matter.  They were silly and foolish worries, just pests that nipped at my heels and made the simple treading through my day difficult.

Would less stress have made it all better?  Would untied ballet shoe laces or un-lost hair accessories have improved my day? Perhaps.

But what I really needed, what I usually need, isn’t a more smoothly running life with less obstacles and bothers.

I need the eternal perspective that only Christ can give, the reminder of what really matters now, what will still matter 20 years from now, and what God and I will agree matters when I’m hanging out in heaven and worshiping at His throne.

That’s the perspective Paul writes about in Colossians and it’ll be my verse for the week.  I encourage you to copy it down, pray over it, meditate on it, memorize it and ask God to help it change your perspective this week when life gets hard or even slightly tiresome or stressful.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2).

Weekend Rerun:

One Heart And Mind
Originally published April 21, 2011

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name”
Psalm 86:11

Multitasking is my spiritual gift.  Somehow the Apostle Paul left that off of his lists in Romans, Corinthians and Ephesians.  Even if it didn’t make the Biblical list, some of you share this gifting with me.  You mop the floor, do laundry, type emails, care for children, talk on the phone and make dinner all at the same time.  What can we say?  It’s a talent.

Usually my multitasking works quite well for me and truthfully I am sometimes bored when I am simply keeping one ball up in the air instead of juggling several.  But there are those moments, I’ll confess, when I open my pantry cabinet to find that I accidentally put the frozen broccoli away there and when I open up the freezer, there are the spaghetti noodles.  It’s a sure sign that I have too much going on and things are starting to fall apart.

Multitasking may work for me (most of the time) as I clean my house or plunge through my to-do list each day and yet its a choking hand of death on my quiet times with God.

This morning I sat at my kitchen table, my place for meeting with God every day.  My Bible was open and ready, my journal and pen set to the side waiting to be used.  My cup of tea was steaming hot, strong and sweet.  Everything I needed to spend some focused time with my Savior was at my fingertips.  Everything was prepared—-except my heart.

I was distracted.  Distracted a little by projects and to-do lists, the phone and the emails left unanswered.  Distracted by my children asking and asking for help.  Distracted a little by frustrations and situations needing to be handled.  My thoughts drifted to all of those things as I read the words on my Bible’s open page.  Words that normally hold power and relevance for me, the living and active Word of God, now made dull by a scattered heart and an unfocused mind.

Not wanting to give up, I prayed over Psalm 86:11.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (NIV)

and in the Message:

“Train me, God, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path.  Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear” (MSG).

I prayed, “Lord, create in me an undivided heart.  Put me together, one heart and mind—wholly focused on you.  There are so many things vying for my attention, captivating my heart, stirring up my emotions, and setting my thoughts wild.  Please fill me and focus me so that You alone are my heart’s desire.”

It’s not a magic formula, a mystical incantation that somehow brought clarity out of chaos.  No, it was a confession of desire.  A request for God’s strength in my weakness.

I am a forgetful and distracted creature, and I need the help of my God to cut through the clutter and noise so that I can pay wholehearted attention to Him.  That’s why David writes this verse as a petition to God.  He knew He needed heavenly help also.  He asks for God to “give” Him an undivided heart or, as the message says, to “put him together” so that he can be receptive vessel, prepared to hear and receive God’s teaching and training.  David knew He couldn’t achieve an undivided heart on His own.

And yet, I didn’t just pray this prayer and then sit down to the best quiet time ever, full of revelation and inspiration.  It took effort on my part to reject and discard the jumble of thoughts that kept popping into my mind.  I had to stand guard over my heart and not allow it to take my focus off God’s Word.

When I suddenly remembered an item for my to-do list, I jotted it down on a piece of paper and returned to Scripture.  When I started rehashing what was frustrating and upsetting me, I cut off my thoughts and whispered a quick prayer that God would take care of that situation.  And I returned to Scripture.

It was work, but it was worth it.

Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  By asking God to give me an undivided heart, I was making a similar petition.  I was allowing Him to sanctify me (make me holy) through and through—spirit, soul, and body—and this brings me peace straight from the God of peace.

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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

The Winners Are. . . and Devotions from My Garden: The Storms May Come

Well, it’s the big giveaway announcement to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the blog!!!

I used a random number generator (random.org) to select two winners.  The winner of the amazing necklace and bracelet set from Rita Taylor is: Lynn Holt!!!!

The winner of the gardening gift basket is:  Theresa Nunn!!!!

Congratulations!!!  I’ll privately message each of you with more details about getting these prizes to you.  Thanks so much to all who commented, shared, and posted as part of the contest!

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Devotions From My Garden:The Storms May Come

My daffodils were a pitiful sight to see.

Duped by unseasonably warm weather, including a smattering of 70 degree days in December and January, they had poked their little green stems out of the earth early.

Too early.

By the second week of January, their yellow buds were eagerly waiting to open.  Now it’s mid-February and these early spring flowers have been in bloom for almost a month.

All this time, my daughters have been waiting, hoping, and even calling in requests to God for snow.  Our nightly family prayer time has become more like petitioning a weather man than a Holy God.

“Dear God, please let it snow and please let it be a really good snow and please let us have no school tomorrow because there’s so much snow.”

My seven-year-old explains the intricacies of the snow dance to me as taught to her by her teacher.  Apparently it involves dancing in the shower and singing at the top of your lungs for snow.

I told these snow bunnies of mine that winter weather at this point would be devastating to my lovely daffodils.  How could they survive February frosts much less the blizzard my daughters wanted?

I said, “We can have snow or we can have a pretty spring garden.  Not really both.”

They thought snow was the better option.

Meanwhile, I mourned my daffodils when a few mornings of thick frost left them wilted and droopy.  Then it snowed, a small, one-inch dusting, and I thought my flowers were doomed for sure.

This afternoon, I plodded past them on the way to the mailbox and felt the warmth of another spring-like day . . .  in February . . . and noticed that my daffodils were standing a little stronger and straighter.  They hadn’t died after all.  They hadn’t wilted away or rotted back into the ground.  They were lovely, bright, and cheerful, just as they should be.

I didn’t know how hardy they were, how strong and and able to withstand difficulty.

Sometimes we don’t know this about people, either.  We try to shield them from trials, hard times, or tough situations.

I do this with my children.  I know it.  I try to step out of the way and let them develop character and learn lessons without my intervention.  Yet, it’s hard when rescuing seems so easy.

We do this as Christians, too.  We pray away difficulty for others and ask for safety, health, blessing and goodness.  It’s not that the asking is wrong.  Jesus tells us we can ask. But, perhaps our prayers on their behalf would be more effective if we asked God to strengthen and encourage them, to walk with them through the difficult times, and to reveal Himself to them along the way.

Perhaps that’s why Paul tended to pray for the spiritual life of his fellow believers and not for their material well-being or comfort.  He didn’t end his letters with prayers for financial abundance, a new house or a better job.

Instead, he prayed, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

He didn’t pray away hardship.  He prayed people through it.

In a similar way, we so often try to make the Christian walk sound easier than it is.  We want it to be appealing and simple.

So we sweep Jesus’ assertion that “in this world you will have trouble” under the rug and hope people just pay attention to lovely thoughts like “Jesus loves you” and “Ask and you will receive.”

It’s our Gospel filter.  We tell the stories about compassionate-Jesus, meek-and-mild-Jesus, “Blessed is everyone” Jesus, the great teacher Jesus and the famous healer-Jesus.

Jesus, however, tended to tell people the cost of discipleship.  He always knew the root issue, the stronghold, the one thing someone wouldn’t be willing to give up—and He asked for it.

Like the rich young ruler.  Jesus could have said, “Just believe in me.  You’re a great guy.  This step of faith is just going to seal the deal.”

Instead, Jesus saw the materialism in this seeker’s heart and “looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'” (Mark 10:21).

It says that Jesus “loved him” and out of that love, He asked for the hardest sacrifice, the one idol that would keep Christ from having lordship in his life.

In the same way, Paul and Barnabus assured early Christians that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

It’s our way with people, usually, to try to shield them from frosts and from snow storms.  We think, “Surely this weather will kill their buds and destroy their blooms and their stems will rot into the ground.  They’ll never survive.”

Jesus, though, told people in advance that tough times were coming and that the Christian life was no guarantee of perpetual blessing, prosperity, or comfort.

Yet, He assured people that the sacrifice was worth it.  Yes, it might be tough, sometimes requiring the painful laying down of idols in our lives.  But Jesus would be with them, He would strengthen them, He would take them through it all and there was eternity to gain and God’s glory as a result.

It’s not that it can’t snow on the daffodils.  It’s that Christ will strengthen them for every storm.  This is true for our kids, learning tough lessons.  This is true for fellow believers, facing hard times.  This is true for non-Christians, learning the cost of discipleship.  God can care for them, even when the storms may come.

More Devotions From My Garden:

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