Magic Bean Plants All Start Small

Magic bean plants.

All four of my kids have brought home this same preschool project:  a tiny bean planted in a cup of soil.  They planted,  they watered and then they carried it home.

We always place the bean plants on our kitchen window sill and a few days after arriving in our home, they sprout.

What a day!  We marvel and ooh and aah.

And those beans grow.  They grow and grow.

When my youngest girl watched her bean grow, I teased her about her “magic beanstalk.”  Every few weeks, it might produce a bean, which she picked, washed, ate, and pretended to like (raw).   That plant was hardy and so tall.

I’d ask her about the giant at the top and would Jack be visiting any time soon.  Maybe she got the magic beans from good-old Jack.

They are just a wonder,  though. One simple bean and it shoots up like a ladder to the sky.

One simple bean.  One small seed.

It’s a wonder, isn’t it, when we take the time to notice the small?  When we marvel at the beauty and strength and wisdom hidden in the tiniest and most overlooked things?

How beautiful, too, when we content ourselves with small instead of pushing, fighting, striving, duking it out for something grander or louder or more visible.

I read this  in Proverbs this week and it re-set my heart a bit:

Four things on earth are small,
but they are exceedingly wise:
25 the ants are a people not strong,
yet they provide their food in the summer;
26 the rock badgers are a people not mighty,
yet they make their homes in the cliffs;
27 the locusts have no king,
yet all of them march in rank;
28 the lizard you can take in your hands,
yet it is in kings’ palaces (Proverbs 30:24-26 ESV). 

What is it that we learn from the “weak” and the “insignificant?”

Be prepared

It’s the working in advance that sets the ants apart, how they toil in summer, setting aside the food, getting ready for a season of want by storing up during the season of plenty.

They don’t waste the bounty of now and they keep the future in mind.

Find a safe place

The rock badgers hide themselves away in cliff crevices, finding the safest places to escape from prey and withstand the weather.

They know what is needed–a refuge.  No one can fight and fight all the time.  No one is mighty enough to  withstand every foe.  But we can still find rest if we have a safe place.

Have a team

The locusts march together.  They aren’t ordered to do it.  No king sets them into battle formations and sends them out.

They choose cooperation because they are better together.

Stay humble

Even the lowliest lizard can be found in a palace and treasured by kings, but you could catch that same lizard outside and hold him in your hand.

They aren’t different lizards.  They aren’t putting on a show.  They aren’t dressed up in frills and diamonds.  They are simple and lovely,  God-designed and just doing what God designed lizards to do—no more than  that.

What is it we learn from magic bean plants…and from ants, rock badgers, locusts and lizards?  

To praise God in the here and now of our simple, beautiful life.   To raise our heads, our hands, our voices high in worship, honoring Him simply because He made us.

We learn to  find our safe place in Jesus, our Rock, our Redeemer, the Refuge we run to when people are hurtful and life is hard.  We hide ourselves in Him and let Him cover us and give us rest.

To treasure peace with others.  To cover tension and disagreements with grace and forgiveness.  To realize that the people we make our enemies aren’t really our enemies.  Disagreements don’t negate love.  We still love because they are beloved and treasured by God even if they don’t know it.

And not to go it alone and strike out all independent and determined to  live off our own strength.  We are weak.  That’s the truth.  God makes us strong in Him and He gives us strength with each other.

Also this:  God made us.  He loves us.  We can come into the presence of the King of all kings, lowly as we are, humble as we are, small, insignificant, tiny and weak as we are.  It’s not because we are worthy.  It’s because Jesus covered us with His worthiness.  He invites us right in and welcomes us into His presence.

We. Are. Small.

And, friend, let’s be small.  Let’s honor Him with all  that is in within us because we are oh so very loved by our very BIG God.

Dear daughter, what happened to the 90 pencils I already sent to school?

Seventy-two pencils.

That is how many pencils we carried into her classroom the last week of August.

We placed 72 yellow, No. 2 pencils into the communal pencil bin in the classroom where all the pencils go to be happily shared among the entire fourth grade classroom.

That’s how it really works.  You don’t buy the supplies for your own child.  You buy them for the classroom.psalm19-14

In years past, I didn’t know that top-secret information and I had foolishly assumed that when my kid needed a pencil, she would use one of the pencils I had sent in for her.

But now, armed with the full insider’s knowledge of a truly experienced Super Mom, I had stocked her own desk this year with about 15 or so pencils as a secret stash.  These were the rainbow-colored, glittery, fancy pencils I had purchased special, just for her, unique, not-for-sharing.

Not only that, we had sat on the couch the day before and hand-sharpened that secret stash of super-cool pencils so that she wouldn’t be caught with an unsharpened pencil, thereby ensuring her success in fourth grade.

This is in addition to the 72 pencils we bought for the actual, official school supply list.

So, what is that?  Something around 90 pencils placed in her classroom the week before school started.

Maybe that’s why I went a little Mom-crazy when she announced she didn’t have any pencils she could use just three weeks after school started.

This precious child climbed into the very back of the minivan after school and hollered up to me in the front, over top of the ambient noise of three other children,  “Mom, do you think you can get me some mechanical pencils?”

Wait, what?

Didn’t I just buy you 72 pencils?  And then another 15 or so on top of that?  Hadn’t we both pre-sharpened pencils to put into your desk so you would have a supply of ready-to-use writing utensils?  Hadn’t I ended up with blisters on my hands from said pencil sharpening?

What happened to the 90 pencils we’ve already sent?

Honey?

Dear?

Sweetie?

I ask her to explain the deep mysteries of this Bermuda Triangle of school supplies.  How can 90 pencils go into the classroom and disappear within about 20 days of school?

Now, I am fully aware as I totally overreact in the driver’s seat of my minivan that I could purchase the requested mechanical pencils for her for about $2 at the Wal-Mart without any commentary about the injustice of the entire pencil supply situation.

However, I feel a Mom-Speech coming on and I feel powerless to stop it.

I mean, it’s the principle of the thing.

Can I get an Amen?

As I pepper her with questions, zinging them at her one after another, I think that I should have been a lawyer.  My logic is impeccable.  My persistence unmatched.  My sense of justice praiseworthy.

I am on the roll of all rolls.

But I stop.

I suck in my breath.

I never meant this to turn into a cross-examination with my poor child on a witness stand defending her history of pencil use.

And yet it has.

So, the prosecution rests.

Later, she tells me that she has some of those pencils still in her desk, but they just don’t sharpen well.  The lead continually breaks on her, even while she still has the sharpener in her hand.  It takes so much time, she tells me.  She thought some mechanical pencils will be easier.

I admit.  They just don’t make pencils like they used to.  These cheap pencils might look so glitzy on the outside, but that lead is always breaking and they never seem to sharpen just right.

I go to the store.  I pay $2.  I buy mechanical pencils with extra thick lead so they don’t break all the time.

I bring them home.  She finds them on the counter after school and thanks me with a hug.

Mom crisis ended.

But I think…

How many of my mistakes as a mom and as a woman would be avoided if I responded instead of reacted?

Even if she was tossing those pencils into the trashcan and wasting them out of foolishness and irresponsibility, surely my best response would be quiet grace and gentle correction, not a tidal wave of Mom-justice.

He who has knowledge spares his words,
And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit (Proverbs 17:27 NKJV).

Less words….more understanding….more calm, that’s wisdom and wisdom is what I want.

Lord, help us to respond and not react.  Help us to take time for wisdom-seeking and prayer instead of saying whatever comes into our head right away.  Forgive us for the times we’ve hurt others with our words.  May “the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight” (Psalm 19:14 NKJV).  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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

 

A Reflection of Faith

He wasn’t but a few hours old when the questions began.

“Who does he look like?”

I wonder.  These eyes, this nose, his little round face and fuzz of light brown hair…do I see a reflection of me or are these my husband’s features in our newborn son?069

The debate is familiar.  I’ve swaddled three daughters and one son in hospital blankets and visitors have glanced into their faces and declared each time:

Just like dad.

Just like mom.

The opinions differ, this person…that person….there’s no consensus here.

So they ask me and what to say?  I fail at this every time, not seeing all him, all me.  Seeing only “our baby.”

That’s what we decide, not so much that my son looks like dad or mom.  Instead, he looks like a “King baby” and the comparisons are less with his parents and more with his sisters—these sibling counterparts with shared DNA.

I think of my own reflection and how people have told me my whole life that I look exactly like my mom.

But this light brown hair, my blue eyes, my fair skin, my (unfortunate) chin….those aren’t my mom’s features.  Those belong to my father.

What they see in me isn’t a physical copy of my mom, but a personality, a laugh, a voice and a spirit that make me her “spitting image.”

So maybe the essence of who we are truly overcomes the external and influences—maybe even determines—the way others see us.

People can look right at me and yet see past all that is physical to the spirit within.

And so the apostle Paul could see past body frailty to find faith in a man.

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk (Acts 14:8-10). 

How many people had looked directly at that man and seen only external limitation?  From his birth, he’d been crippled and all through childhood he’d been defined by disability.

Yet, his faith was so great, so overpowering, as to be his greatest noticeable characteristic when Paul looked his way.  How could it be so clear, so definitive in one lame man among a mob of many?2corinthians

What does such faith look like?  What are its features?

If someone looked at me in a crowd, would they see this faith above all else in me?

It must have been mountain-moving faith the man had.  The kind that makes room for miracles and doesn’t crowd them out with doubt rooted in practicalities and self-reliance.

Me?

Could I have faith so bold?

And daily faith, what about that?  Would Paul have seen faith in me amidst the most minor of daily annoyances, the stresses of the schedule, the disappointments of the moment and the way I have to face up to my very own mistakes and failings?

Doesn’t that take faith also?

To choose not to make a forgotten phone call a crisis or a lost library book or the 5 minutes on the clock screaming at me that we’re late or my mistake from rushing too much (yet again).  How we react in the most mundane of stressors reflects our faith or lack of it.

Do we trust that God has everything under control?

Everything?

Yes, the overwhelming issues we can’t possibly handle, but can we trust Him even with our calendar and our kids’ homework and our grocery bill?

And, if He is so trustworthy, why then fret and fear instead of relax easy into the trust that is faith in a God so mighty and so merciful?

The Proverbs 31 woman “can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25).

She has no fear of tomorrow or any days after that and no worries over what-if’s and hypotheticals.

She has faith.  And it shows up in her demeanor, in her belly of laughter instead of a wrinkled face of worry.

Proverbs also tells me this:

As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person (Proverbs 27:19 NLT).

This reflection of mine should radiate faith, confident assurance that God is who says He is and He will do what He says He will do.  It’s the firm, unshakeable belief that whatever I face any day in this world is in His hands and never beyond His control or His caring.

Who do I look like, then?

Oh, I hope it’s a woman of deep, unshakeable faith and that it’s written all over my features and in every part of my being so you could pick me out in a crowd and know I belong to my God.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is now available!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

What I’m Pondering

Maybe it begins in the hospital, that first moment you see this little life and she blinks her eyes in your direction because she’s heard your voice, un-muffled for the first time by the sound of your heart beat and the shushing of your womb.

Maybe, if we’re being truthful, it begins before that.  We moms analyze morning sickness, aerobic kicking routines versus squirmy tummy rolls, a baby sucking his thumb on the ultrasound or another one turning somersaults and having to be chased around by the technician to keep him on the screen.

We think about our children, consider their character, who God has made them and how He has gifted them.

We think about what they like to eat and why, whether they keep to the schedule willingly or fight it all the way.  We consider whether they are spontaneous, creative, artistic, apassionatemomnalytical, strong-willed, stubborn, articulate, shy, introverted or extroverted.

And then we ponder what to do about it.

Like how I still remember the first time my middle girl handed me a fistful of air and asked me to eat the “sandwich” she had made for me when her older sister had never yet cooked up a pretend meal for me to taste.

Or how I watched as one of my daughters played with her toys by lining them all up in one straight line, categorizing the farm animals into groups.  And my second daughter played with the same toys by creating elaborate story lines and interactions like, “Hi, what is your name?  I’m here to see the farm!”

And how two of my daughters can play for hours on their own without any need for outside conversation or stimulation and my oldest daughter can’t survive 15 minutes without someone to do things with her.

I ponder all this because God has given me these gifts, these children, and being a mom means engaging in the discipline of pondering, taking the time to listen without speaking, watch without intervening, evaluate, assess, and yes, even marvel.

Sometimes we miss it.  We’re busy; they’re busy.  They struggle and we don’t realize it.  They needed us and we failed to see.  They hurt and we were distracted.

But our desire, our goal as moms, is to mother like Mary, who

“was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them” (Luke 2:9 HCSB).

We do this because want to get this right.  We want to parent these blessings with wisdom, making the right choices for their benefit and for their future.  God teaches us who they are only when we take time to pay attention.

In her book, The Passionate Mom, Susan Merrill writes that a mom must

ponder everything she learns about her child so she can truly know her child.

This in turn becomes a spiritual discipline all its own, because pondering is the call of every mom.

More than this, it’s the call of every Christ-follower.

None of us can randomly and haphazardly scramble through this life maze and find wisdom without hunting for it or choose to turn here and there correctly without actively pursuing direction.

The Psalmist challenged us:

Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord (Psalm 107:43 NIV).

Wisdom comes from heeding…from pondering.

And what do we meditate on?  What do we watch so carefully and take our time to consider, churning it over in our mind, thinking of the implications and action steps?

We ponder the “loving deeds of the Lord.”

Not just skip right over them in haste and busyness.  Not shout back a hurried “thanks, God” as we tumble on our way headfirst into another crisis.

No, here we pause and take the time to see and to say, “Look how God showed His love for me…what does this mean for me now and tomorrow and every day to come?”

Solomon assured us that attaining wisdom is an active pursuit:

Tune your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding.  Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.  Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures (Prov. 2:2-4)

Tune in.

Concentrate.

Cry out for it.

Ask for it.

Search and seek like it’s the greatest treasure and you the Indiana Jones in this adventure.

Knowing our children doesn’t happen accidentally.  We don’t become the expert on our baby instantly at birth or know all we need to know to parent them into adulthood before the nurse rolls us out of the hospital in the wheelchair.

We learn through pondering.

And this God of ours…who He is and how He works, what He desires and plans for us…we can’t fathom without the wisdom that comes through pondering His loving deeds and pursuing wisdom actively, passionately, constantly, and even patiently.

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

Summer Grace

My daughter asks, “Why is it so much easier to get along with friends than with sisters some times?”

Four days into summer vacation and she’s already pleading for more time with friends and less time with siblings.

But here’s the truth I tell her….time with others destroys masks, facades, and fake perfection.  It has a way of dragging all of those sins and faults, all of that selfishness and the bad attitudes from where they stay safely hidden during play dates and public outings.

Anyone can behave for a few hours on a play date.

That’s what I tell her.

Then I remind myself: Any mom can respond sweetly to her child who is having a meltdown in the Wal-Mart aisle five minutes into your shopping trip when there are people around who might overhear you.

And those TV moms—sure, any of us could be super creative, fun, and even-tempered enough to fill 40 minutes of film footage once a week.

God isn’t satisfied with superficial sweetness, though.  He wants genuine transformation.  He wants the world to look deep and long at us and see the reflection of Christ, not some plastic Jesus or some temporary super-Christian persona.

It’s part of His design with family and others to wield us as tools, chipping away at one another, breaking off the pieces that simply need to go, and  masterfully forming us little by little into tried-and-true, walking and talking, in-season and out-of-season examples of Christ in the world.

Proverbs tells us:

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).

So He places us in families and in community with one another.

And then He gives us summer seasons…when we’re up close and personal and with each other all day instead of scattering away to schools, activities, and our own busy lives.

It’s so much time so close together that causes the explosions….when she won’t share the game, and she says something unkind, and she makes annoying noises, and her piano playing is too loud, and she’s hungry and impatient, and she wants to go to the library when she wants to stay home in her pajamas all day…when all this “self” collides with the “self” in everyone else, that’s when He reminds us of grace.

Maybe that’s the lesson in summer, after all.

Grace to rest.

Grace to stop the frantic running from school pick-ups to evening activities, tossing back granola bars to your kids from the front of the mini-van while you rush to ballet where you yank hair back into 8117936_mbuns and push in bobby pins before class begins.

Grace to linger over the cup of tea in the morning instead of putting on the drill sergeant hat and barking out commands to children to get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair, find shoes, pack lunches and then kiss them on the cheek and send them out the door just in time to rush onto the school bus.

Grace to skip the chores and pack the car for the beach.

Grace even that I need to extend to myself—to not adhere completely to the writing schedule, to post late to the blog or even miss a day—because we’re out enjoying the summer and I’m taking this time I’ve been given with my kids for these few short weeks and I don’t want to miss it.

And grace for each other.

This is the mom speech I make for my daughter after a sibling melt-down.

In this family, we give grace because we need grace. When someone makes a mistake, we don’t mock, or point fingers, or jump up eagerly to show off how they were wrong.

After all, we need grace.  We receive grace, so we show grace to others.

We need grace.

We receive grace.

We show grace.

Paul wrote this:

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ (Ephesians 4:32 HCSB).

And that’s how we breathe in and breathe out when daily annoyances and mistakes, sins, and forgetfulness, bad days, troubles, and trials threaten to consume us.That’s what we do when others step on our toes and bruise our feelings.  We forgive because we’ve been forgiven.

This summer, we lean back full into this grace and rest.  Choosing not to be stressed over the schedule, but to relax in relationship.  Choosing to forgive the hurts and cease the fault-finding as Christ uses this season together to transform us.

That’s the grace that is summer.

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