After 9:30 p.m. Mommy Needs a Time Out

My daughter emerges from her room at 9:30 p.m.

It is now more than an hour past bedtime.

Showers have been taken.  Teeth have been brushed.  I have reviewed my daughters’ Scripture memory verses for the week, prayed with them, read them the Bible passage for the night, kissed them on rosy cheeks and sent them merrily to bed.

Or something like that.Photo by Ruud Morijn;

But she re-emerges at 9:30 to tell me a play-by-play account of the book she is reading.  She is a detail person.  I’m pretty sure she is telling me exactly what occurs on each page of this 200-page book.

At first, I nod patiently and politely.  I do, after all, love her.  And, I do share her passion for reading.

Moms should be good listeners.  Moms should make sure their children feel heard and understood.

After a while, though, I hug her close and slowly nudge her back to the bedroom while she is still giving a steady stream of book-narration, and I promise to listen more tomorrow.

Because seriously, it has been loud in my house tonight.

I have helped with homework for 3 children, fed and diapered and carried the crying baby around the house, made dinner, cleaned up dinner, packed lunches, supervised piano practice for 3 kids, sent 3 daughters in for showers and bathed one baby, combed tangles out of hair, folded laundry, read books, brainstormed ideas for a project on Ponce de Leon, prepped backpacks for the next day, laid out the outfits for tomorrow morning, signed agendas and math logs and reading logs, and threatened older children with punishment for any further bedtime delays.

You know, what moms do at night.

At one point, I had a baby crying, a child watching YouTube videos with bracelet-making instructions, one child practicing the piano, and one child asking me to quiz her on Life Cycles because her science test is in two days.

I know you all probably think when I’m in my minivan, I like to blast that worship music right loud and sing at the top of my singing lungs.

But you’d be wrong.

If I have the luxury of just 10 minutes in a car without a child talking to me, I turn the radio off.

O-F-F

Off.

Because, some times, a soul just needs some quiet.

Jesus knew it.  After days of constant ministry, a needy mob following them around incessantly, clamoring for help and help and help all the time help, the disciples needed a change:

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31 NIV).

A quiet place.

Jesus knows we need that some times.

And it’s not just a break from noise we need.

We also need to come away with Him.

We need to not answer those e-mails, or check that Facebook, or answer that phone.

Our souls need beauty and filling up after relentlessly pouring out to others.  We need Jesus and yet so often we choose to fill that void with anything and everything else.

But as Shellie Rushing Tomlinson writes in Heart Wide Open:

He will ruin you for anything else this world has to offer.  However, it is a sweet ‘ruination,’ because the weaker the hold temporal things have on us, the freer we are to lose ourselves in the One who placed eternity in our hearts.

And here’s the hard discovery, that sometimes when I finally sit in relative silence, it rocks my restless soul more than any amount of noise.

That’s when I know I’m an addict, needing that next fix of adrenaline as desperately as others feel the shaking need for another drink.

I’ve become addicted to the rush of activity, addicted to the pride of feeling needed, addicted to the super-hero powers of rescuing people from crises all….day….long, addicted to noise and distraction and busyness.

So, that quiet falls uncomfortably on my shoulders.  I fidget.  I feel the need to hop up at the slightest distraction.

In my 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, I am taking time to Unplug in March, taking days off of Facebook, off of Twitter, and away from television, and this takes discipline.

I find sometimes that the quiet (in the rare moments when there actually is quiet) is awkward and uncomfortable.

And I find some times that the quiet is refreshing like an ice-cold lemonade after a couple of hours of yard work.

Either way, this is what I know—the quiet is what this soul needs.

Are you taking time to Unplug in March?  How is it going?

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Unplug’?

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

 

Does prayer really have to be that complicated?

I don’t remember the first time I talked to God, but I remember the moment I decided prayer was personal.

It’s funny how you don’t recall most of life when you’re three or four years old, but you can have these few vivid memories that play back like a well-worn movie.

I don’t remember how I knew my father had left us.  I don’t remember how I felt about the whole ordeal of divorce.

But I sat on a swing-set in my backyard one day when I was about four and I said this,

“God, You’ll have to be my Daddy now.”

That I remember.

And prayer’s always been that for me, not some awkward attempt to wax poetic before a stern God.  I’ve never felt like my prayers have to ‘measure up’ or ‘sound holy.’DSCF2151

Because it’s always just been me, a simple girl talking to Dad about life on a swing-set, about making tough decisions, about life as a mom, about life….

I found a prayer journal years ago with categories and lists, a calendar of prayer planning, verses and notes, bookmarks, quotes, all spiral bound for easy writing.

I’m a little surprised that it didn’t light up or play music.

But the thing about that super-duper-deluxe journal is that I never could use it.  All those bells and whistles complicated prayer, made it so cumbersome and bulky.

I’d been chatting with God all day, every day for decades, and I couldn’t cram all that intimacy into a multi-step method in this how-to of prayer.

Maybe formulas and fancy systems work for you.

Or perhaps you’re like me, who simply wants prayer to be communion with God, the recognition of His presence here in this place.

Samuel Chadwick wrote:

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray” Samuel Chadwick

There’s such power in this prayer, and yet too often we avoid it and neglect it because we over-complicate it.

We act as if we’re not really praying unless we pray for two hours straight, on our knees, in a prayer closet, with a prayer journal, and maintain an adequate ratio of praise-to-petition.

And, since we can’t do all that, we simply don’t pray at all.

But God doesn’t regulate prayer with some hierarchical system of holiness.

That’s Satan, complicating things so that we give it all up all-together, feeding us the lies:

Prayer is too hard.
Prayer is for the holy.
I get bored.
If only I could pray like her.  I guess I’m just a failure.
Surely God hears her prayers, but not mine because I don’t know how to start or what words to say and what if I get it all wrong?
I don’t have anything to say that’s important enough for God to hear.

Perhaps that’s how the disciples felt, when they overheard the Pharisees praying Shakespeare-quality performances every time they bowed their heads in the synagogue.

So, they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray….”

Maybe they expected a formula or a long lecture about the process of prayer or a complicated prayer  cataloging system.

But Jesus did the opposite.  The Lord’s Prayer fits into five simple verses, which Jesus prefaced with this:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:5-8 NIV).

Don’t pray to show off. 

Don’t feel like you need to pray for a long time.

Keep it simple.  Pray what’s on your heart, because God already knows what you’re thinking and feeling.

Over the years, I’ve kept prayers on Index cards, prayers in beautiful journals, prayers on my fridge, prayers in a Word Processor on my computer.

And you know what?  All of them were prayer.  All of them helped me rest in the presence of God, learning to trust Him with my needs and learning to listen to His voice.

As I continue this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, I choose this month to linger here:

In the end, what matters about prayer isn’t how we pray, it’s that we actually do it.

That’s what I’m thinking….Now it’s your turn:

Has prayer ever seemed complicated or difficult to you?  What do you want to learn most about prayer?  What’s the best advice about prayer you’ve ever been given?   What have you found that works?

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me next month as I focus on Praying Simply?

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

Pursuing His Presence: Because Being Still Is Not Enough

I found her with untied tap shoes on her feet and eyes red from crying.

We zipped into the ballet studio, one mom and three girls (plus one baby boy) on a mission.exodus33

Three daughters in four back-to-back and sometimes overlapping dance classes during observation week.  This means instead of huddling in my minivan or zooming around town doing errands in between classes, I sat in the corner of class taking pictures.

We all piled into my youngest daughter’s class except for my tap-dancing girl who left to change into her tap-tap-tappy shoes.  I watched the clock carefully and slipped out just in time to check on her before her tap class began.

She wiped her eyes and explained, “I couldn’t get the ribbons on my shoes tied and I didn’t have anyone to help me….”

I tie the ribbons swiftly and then smooth down her hair with my hand.  Then I say it so she knows it’s not just about shoes anymore:

You didn’t trust me to come help you.  I knew you’d need help and I came just in time.

She’d been frantic and upset and all along I had a plan for her rescue and I was right on time, not a second too late.

So, all her fretting had been unnecessary drama.

And when is fretting not?

I started this year with intentionality: 12 months of pursuing the presence of Christ in the middle of the noise, mess, and busyness of life.  Today, I finish January’s journey, learning to be still and know that He is God.

For months, I dreaded this start to the year, knowing it would be the busiest and craziest of our busy and crazy schedule.  I feared the stress—-as in, tearful eyes, breathless suffocation just thinking about it.

But here we are.  We made it.  God is gracious.  When I felt that familiar strangulation of fear, I heard that still and small reminder: Don’t worry about that.  Just think about today.

So I did.

And, as much as I whine perhaps about winter, the overload of snow days has given me unexpected rest when we needed it most.psalm46-10

God planned the perfect rescue at the perfect moment for me all along, but I had been fretting and worrying.

Why?

Because I didn’t trust Him.

So often, we read that familiar Psalm—-BE STILL and know—and we focus on the stillness (Psalm 46:10).

Yes, stop with the flustered activity, the desperate attempts to fix things on our own, the frantic search for help from everyone except the only One who can truly save….

“Cease striving” it says in the NASB.

So, for a moment we pause.

Here’s what I’ve learned this month, though—“Being still” is not enough. It simply tells me what not to do.

I can’t forget that after I’ve ceased that striving and calmed my heart, God tells me what I should be doing in the stillness:

Know Him, Know He is God, Know that He’s got this under control and I can rest in the knowing that He cares for me.

Ann Voskamp reminds me of this….to remember He is I AM.  His very name is the reminder of His Presence here in this present moment.

Like Moses, I’ve asked in the boldest of ways that God will show me His Glory this year.  And, like Moses, I’ve told God that I don’t want to move from this place until His presence will go with me.

So, like Moses standing there on a holy mountain before a Holy God, I pray this also:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you (Exodus 33:13).

Because, God, in order to dwell in Your presence day after hectic day, I must be still and know You more, know You as I AM, know You as God present with me.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me next month as I focus on Praying Simply?

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

Why I’m Serving Up Spaghetti and Brownies for Three Kings’ Day

I’m slipping ornaments and lights into Rubbermaid containers and packing the Christmas village into Styrofoam and cardboard today.

On the kitchen table, though, I place the three wise men from our nativity scene.

They aren’t glass or hand-carved from precious olive wood.  I have four kids, after all.

Instead, they are three little plastic figures that my daughters have been playing with for five Christmases at least, reenacting the birth story of Jesus with unbreakable Nativity toys.

Tonight, the wise men take center stage.006

My middle daughter announced this year that we should celebrate Three Kings’ Day on January 6th.  That it was important.  Necessary even.

She instructed us:

  1. We must leave our Christmas decorations up until then.
  2. We must have a special dinner with a special kingly treat.

I tried to ignore the pleading at first and then made futile attempts to explain that since January 6th was the day we return to the insane schedule we call everyday life, that perhaps we could skip Three Kings’ Day.

But no.

I did what any mom might do after that.  I Googled it and Pinterest searched and Facebook asked about how to make this happen.

I read about traditional dishes like “pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with grouts drizzled with water and sauerkraut juice, ” “broccoli accompanied by crostini with chicken liver pate” and “stuffed ravioli with rich duck or rabbit ragu.”

I’m not loving this holiday.

But a friend speaks truth to me.  It’s not about the menu.  It’s about the family time and the celebration.

So, I let my daughter plan the feast: Spaghetti with King’s Hawaiian bread and brownies.

Slowly, this Three Kings’ Day or Feast of Epiphany captivates me as we celebrate men who abandoned it all to seek truth—to seek Christ.

I read that it’s not just the celebration of “three kings,” but the rejoicing in the Epiphany, the humanity of Christ, God in flesh. It’s the reminder that He’s not a cold and impersonal deity too far out of photo by Ruud Morijn reach to care about the passions of my day-to-day heart.

He’s God come near.

God bent low.

God of compassion, who knows what it’s like to be hungry, tired, hurt, broken, sad, joyful, loved, and hated.

And I marvel at the magnitude of this, that when God’s infant Son cried out in a hay-filled manger, right there at the beginning of the salvation story, God sent the birth announcements to the whole world.

Not just to the Bethlehem natives.  Not to the religious elite or the most righteous among them.  Not even just to Jewish shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.

For God so loved the world….

The whole world.

He sent a Messiah to the Jewish nation, but then announced redemption for us all with a star that Gentile sages could see and follow to find their Savior, as well.

These men, these watchers-of-the-sky, not so much kings as bookworms, as astronomers, as students and sages, they remind me to pursue the presence of Christ.

How long had they been seeking?  They knew the prophecies, knew that a Messiah would come, knew where He would be born.

They knew when they saw that star in the sky that God was at work.

How hard it must have been to explain to wives, to family, to employers, to friends, to the people in their hometown that they needed to journey far in pursuit of a newborn King.

Sometimes I’ve imagined them following a star without really knowing why, without knowing what it could mean or where it would take them. Yet, when they arrived in Jerusalem, they pestered Herod with questions:

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

They couldn’t understand why everyone else could continue on life as usual when they were willing to rock their entire lives in radical pursuit of the Messiah.  It was so clear to them.  So simple.

See the star.
Follow it.
Find the Savior.
Worship Him.

Reality, though, can complicate the simple too often.  Life gets busy.  Radical seems too hard.  Maybe the journey will cost too much.  Perhaps I forget along the way whatever it was I was seeking to begin with.

Or maybe I’m too busy and distracted to seek at all.

The wise men saw that star because they were actively looking.  Too often, I’m missing God’s presence because I’m not bothering to look.

But I’m reminded tonight that God comes near and wise men seek Him.

Tonight I celebrate these magi who pursued the presence of Christ with wild abandon and focused determination. And I celebrate the God who promised this:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV).

Have you ever celebrated Three King’s Day?  How do you make it special?

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King