What matters more than age

My son says he is “five-ish.”

He’s actually four and his birthday  is in October, so it’s not that his birthday is coming soon.

He’s simply feeling five, so  this is his new token answer.

“How old are you?”

“I’m five-ish.  I actually look five.  Actually.”

It’s because of a little playground encounter a few weeks ago  with two little boys who became his insta-best-playground  buddies.  They climbed all over the pirate ship together, took turns on the zip line, and then spun in the tire.

Finally, they exchanged names and ages.

That’s when my son realized these other guys were five and they were shorter than he was.  So, therefore, he must look five, or at least “five-ish.”

Maybe it’s the  fact that my baby is trying to age himself or the fact that my girls all finished off another  school year and are off to bigger, higher grade levels, like finishing up middle school of all things–maybe it’s me nearing 40 and feeling all the weight of what that means and how that  looks on me….

Whatever the reason, age is on my mind.

I’ve been thinking how age is inevitable.   Growing older just happens, even if we’d rather it didn’t.

Maturity, on the other hand, is not guaranteed.

In her book Unseen, Sara Hagerty says it this way

We’ll mature without effort into  wrinkles  and gray hair, but our hearts won’t mature deep  into God by default.

But what is this maturing, this  growing up  in Jesus?

It doesn’t come by default, so then it must take discipline.  Yes.  Spiritual disciplines.  Digging into  prayer and digging into His Word and serving and listening to the Lord and worshiping.   Yes and yes and yes and again.

It’s not all so  concrete and straightforward, though.  It  isn’t just about studying and reading and knowing what God’s  Word says.

There’s the discipline of repentance and humility.  It’s stumbling our way through living out faith.  It’s getting it  wrong, humbly confessing that and asking Jesus to  renew, revive, refresh and redeem.

There’s the discipline of weakness, maybe that’s the hardest for me.  When I  am feeling most  dependent on Jesus because I’m not strong enough or capable enough on my own,  I  have to lean.  Leaning can feel like so much brokenness and that’s hard, but it’s also sweet because that is exactly when I know Jesus more.

Failing, messing up, making mistakes, feeling frazzled and overwhelmed:  It’s all my weakness on display, but  I cannot pull away from the hard season, from the difficult or the wearying or the unknown or even what I just haven’t mastered yet.

Christianity isn’t about being perfect; it’s about being transformed.

Then there are the quiet seasons, when life seems to just roll  along day after day, seemingly stagnant, same-old, same-old.

Restless.  I can be so restless.

I want to see big results.  Big change.  Big impact.

Then I read the reminder in Isaiah of how to grow in the discipline of waiting:

but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31 CSB).

I love  this verse in all of the nuances in each translation.

“Those who TRUST in the Lord”  (CSB).

The NIV says “Those who HOPE” and the ESV says “those who WAIT.”

We trust Him.  We hope.  We wait.

The discipline of waiting tucks itself into seasons of quiet and of hiddenness and of not knowing.  It’s about lingering for direction and looking forward to  seeing God at work, but not seeing that work just yet.

When we trust and we hope in Jesus even in the discipline of waiting, we can soar and we can run,  but oh friend,  we can also walk.

Somehow that walking seems  like the greatest feat to me.  Soaring can be exhilarating, running shows great power,  endurance and strength.

But walking takes unique courage.  Walking takes persevering hope.   We’re not seeing leaps of progress, but  we will  not give up.  We aren’t quitting and setting up camp in a land of complacency or dormancy.

We’re being steady,  daily, consistent, steadfast, and faithful.

When the soaring is done and the running is finished and we’re feeling  bone-tired, still  we walk with the Lord today.   Then the next day, we get up and we walk with Him again, and we will not faint nor fail.

I remember that it takes discipline to repent humbly, to fail graciously,  and to wait patiently.   That means I can buck less against what feels uncomfortable or hard and instead embrace what God is doing in me right here and now.   I’m not just arbitrarily aging; I’m maturing in Christ.  Lord, be at work in me.

Maybe the No is really just Not Yet

This week, we are teetering on a seesaw, trying to balance two things:

Squeezing out every last drop of summer fun

and

Getting ourselves prepared for school to restart.

That means letting the kids sleep in and finalizing reading logs one day.

It means final trips to  the water park  and the beach and getting back-to-school hair cuts.

Today, my son hopped up into the chair for his trim and the lady cutting his hair asked, “Are you going to preschool soon?”

He said, “No.   They don’t have preschool here.”

This is not  a good sign since he is in fact going to preschool for the first time ever and it starts in just two weeks.

At first, when  we had conversations with him about preschool, he seemed pretty excited.

We bought him a Lego Batman backpack and, after all, what more could you need when heading to school for the first time?  A favorite superhero on a backpack pretty much guarantees academic success.

But when we talked about school, I’d say, “You get to go to preschool this year! Yay!

He’d nod his head knowingly and say, “Yes.  I am.   I’m going to ride on the bus with Catherine.”

At which point, I would backpedal for some clarification.

His heart has been longing to get on that big yellow bus with his sisters for all his little life.   He’d sit on the front porch and cry and cry after his sisters left for the day.

Not just on the first day of school.

Not just for the month of September.

But months and months into the school year our mornings would still be a little sad.

And now, it’s finally his turn to go to school.  Hurray!

Only, not with the girls on the bus.  No, Catherine will go on the bus to  her school and Andrew will ride in mom’s minivan to his school.

After a few weeks of repeatedly having this exact same back-and-forth conversation, he finally came up with a new answer.

“Are you ready for preschool?”

“No.   They don’t have preschool here.”

He thinks that’s the end of the whole deal.   There’s no preschool, which means he doesn’t have to  go  anywhere different from where his big sisters get to go.

What this really about, of course, is timing.

To him, it feels like he’s waited an eternity for his chance to  ride on that bus and two more years of waiting is just too  long.

For  me, it feels like he should still be sleeping in a crib and drinking  a bottle.

How in the world is my baby going to preschool?

The truth is that his time will  come.  The season of bus rides and elementary classrooms, homework and  reading logs will be here.

It’s just not yet. 

And we all can probably relate to feeling oh so ready for the future promise that will indeed come, but is frustratingly not yet. 

We can strive and work our hardest to make the “not yet” happen right now.

We can do everything right.  Do what the “successful” people do.  We can check every checkbox and fulfill every requirement.

But:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV).

There is a season for rides to  preschool in the minivan and there is a season for bus trips to the elementary school.

It takes so  much pressure off of us when we accept our “now” and stop pushing for the “not yet.”

We don’t stress in prayer or nudge God repeatedly trying to get what we want.   We don’t have to feel inadequate, like we’re  not measuring up or accomplishing enough for our families or for our faith.

 

Even Jesus always walked carefully in God’s will and also in God’s timing.

When pushed to minister ahead of schedule, he’d say,

My time has not yet come (John 7:6) or “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4)

Jesus knew that the when of God’s will is as important  as the what.

Maybe God has indeed told us “no.”

Or perhaps what He is saying is simply “not yet.”

Knowing the difference can change our heart.  We needn’t mourn or grieve.  We needn’t stress or grow weary fighting.

Instead, we  can rest and relax and allow God to give us the beauty of “now” while trusting Him with what is still  yet to come.

 

Well, that was a failure

lamentations 3-22

Our morning routine on that first day back to school after winter break went flawlessly.  My kids were up, fed, dressed, and packed for school 20 minutes before the bus’s arrival.

We even added in the coats, hats, and gloves for the first time this winter and my kids still walked out the door early that Monday morning.  Someone pin a medal on us or something!

And then.

Only one word describes that afternoon: STRESS.

Before Christmas break, we had those Monday afternoons down to an exact science: Forty minutes between the time we get home from school and the time we need to walk out the door to ballet.

No problem.

In those 40 minutes, my kids changed out of school clothes and into dance attire.

I emptied the backpacks and lunchbags.  By the time we left for dance, I had their school folders cleared out; reading logs, behavior logs, agendas, and take-home folders signed; lunches packed for the next day and dinner made.

Wham.  Bam.  Thank you, ma’am.

But not this week.

Oh no.

We were a right awful mess.

Over the break, I washed all the dance clothes and thought I put everything back in the right dance bags.

On the contrary, my six-year-old couldn’t find her tights.

No problem, I found them.

Then, she had the wrong leotard in her bag.

A little more of a problem, but after some searching, I found it.

Then, her dance shoes felt tight and didn’t fit anymore.

Okay, I pulled down our bucket of dance shoes (I have quite the collection) and resized the child’s foot.

She put on her dance clothes, but forgot to take off her underwear first.  (For those who are not dance moms, underwear under your leotard is a no-no because it shows and looks embarrassing. I actually Googled that once to find out how ballerinas kept their underwear from showing.  Seriously.)

My baby girl and I had a good laugh at how much we’ve forgotten over the break and I asked her to change again.

Only then she put her stockings and leotard on inside out.

Bless her heart, I thought she’d cry for an hour over that one.  She was just so tired of changing her clothes already.

This time, I helped her into her dance clothes myself.

I loaded everyone into the minivan with five minutes to spare, plopped into the driver’s seat and realized I didn’t have my key.

Then I spent the next five minutes searching the house for the missing key only to find it on the key ring exactly where it’s supposed to be so I don’t lose it.

For real.

It was an all-out miracle because I didn’t lose my temper or explode.

But I did cry.  I sobbed a little around the house as I hunted for that key and called out a desperate cry over and over, “Jesus, help me.  I know I’m a mess and I’m just not making it today.”

But here’s the thing:  We arrived at the dance studio on time.

My daughter looked perfectly cute in her shoes, leotard, and tights (sans underwear).

I even remembered my checkbook to pay the tuition for the month.

It probably looked like we had sailed through that afternoon of craziness just fine.  Maybe it looked like I had it all together.

Nevermind that internally I had one grade to give myself for my afternoon’s performance: F as in Failure.  F as in good grief, Mom, could you possibly get yourself together already?

But oh such grace is this: We can try again.  I know we’ll get back to that smooth routine and it will go better next time.

And, even if it doesn’t, Jesus isn’t giving up on me because of a lost leotard and foolishness over my car keys.

I read this promise in Scripture:

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Genesis 8:22 ESV).

The rhythms of creation itself are a reassurance of the rhythm of grace.

Day and night come ceaselessly.  I will wake up to a new day, a fresh start, an opportunity to try again and maybe even get it right this time.

More than that, whole seasons come and go with certainty.

One bad year of planting isn’t the end.  Spring will come anew and I can plow the field fresh, drop the seeds into the earth, and look forward to a better harvest.

I can count on it.

The failures of one day, one moment even, are only permanent if I choose to give up instead of going forward.

Fresh starts and new beginnings: That’s what God promises us, season after season, day after day.

 

The Post Where I Finally Cave and Drink the Pumpkin Spice Tea

Psalm 68

I’ve finally caved.

I held off as long as I could, longer than I ever have before.

But I’ve done it.

I’ve taken down the summer wreath from my door, the one in nautical blue and white stripes with seashells and an anchor.

In its place, I slipped up the fall wreath, a sign to everyone who comes to my door that I’ve finally accepted the end of summer.

Mostly.

Usually, I’ve baked two or three batches of pumpkin bread, ginger spice cookies and pumpkin pie by now.  Maybe I’ve made baked apples in the Crock-Pot.

Not this year.  Not one pumpkiny, gingery, cinnamon-heavy, apple-based dish so far.

But I did finally pour the steaming hot water into my mug with a pumpkin spice tea bag as a treat before bed.

pumpkin spice

And, I’m stocking up on baking supplies and the chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallows we’ll need for S’mores.

I stopped burning the honeysuckle and wildflower scents in my wax burner and pulled out ‘cashmere’ and ‘apple spice.’

Maybe I’ll even make this all official by unpacking my leaf-and-pumpkin decorations and dotting them around the house.

Fall is my favorite season.  I could be happy in sweater weather all year long.  The pumpkin patch is my happy place.  Baking season is heaven to me.

Walking among the crunching leaves, tucking away acorns and pine cones as treasures, smelling the scent of fireplaces carried by the wind, is deeply healing to my rushed soul.

But this year, unlike any year I ever remember, I’ve been holding onto summer with both hands, my feet firmly planted.  The calendar is all-out dragging me along and you can see the grooves in the dust where my feet refuse to move.

School is in session, but I’m pretending it isn’t. I’m going through the motions: homework, agendas, reading logs, packing lunches. But my brain is still thinking beach, daytrips, rest.

I can’t recall any time I’ve gripped so desperately to a passing season.

And there’s the thing, the essential truth in all of this: These seasons, they do pass.  It’s this inevitable moving on in life.

Usually, I’m a move-on kind of girl.

Sometimes, though, we are so trapped by looking back that we’re missing the beauty of now.

Maybe that’s me.  Yesterday, it was 66 degrees outside for my morning walk.

Perfection.

Yet, what if I stubbornly refused to enjoy it, whining and complaining all the while about the lack of bathing suits, a water park, and the long summer nights?

Well, I’d miss this, of course.  I’d wake up one morning to temperatures below freezing, I’d be hurled into snow days, icy road conditions, and the layers and layers and layers of clothing I’d need to put on my children before sending them out to the school bus in the morning.

Maybe we hold onto seasons because we don’t like change.  Any change.

Maybe we just ‘know’ that what’s coming isn’t as beautiful as what’s been.

Maybe I woke up one morning after my oldest daughter’s ninth birthday 9 and realized I’m halfway to her leaving my home and heading off into independence and college and a world with less mom in it.

So, what mom wouldn’t want summer to last just a little bit longer when that same girl is now starting her last year in elementary school?

But I read this in the Psalms:

May the Lord be praised! Day after day He bears our burdens; God is our salvation. Selah (Psalm 68:19 HCSB).

Day after day, God is at work in me. Day after day, He is bearing burdens for me, lifting me up, helping me forward, walking alongside me.

This daily gift tells me that anywhere I go, any season I’m in, every time I leave something behind and begin anew, He is right there with me.

The blessed place isn’t where I’ve been; it’s anywhere He is.

I’ve been re-reading the story of Ruth lately, how she left her home in Moab and traveled to Bethlehem, to a foreign nation and a strange people with her mother-in-law after the death of her husband, her brother-in-law and father-in-law.

She could have stranded herself in mourning or imprisoned herself in the past.

She could have arrived there with Naomi and holed herself up in her room, crying from homesickness and wallowing in loneliness.

Instead, when she arrived in Bethelehem, she asked Naomi:

“Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain…” (Ruth 2:2 ESV).

She fully engaged in the act of living in this place at this time in this very season.

She basically pulled out the pumpkin spice tea, nailed up the “bless this harvest” sign, and baked a loaf of pumpkin bread.

So, that’s what I’m doing, too.

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 © 2015 Heather King