Abracadabra: The Magical Mom Trick

He made rabbits appear out of nowhere.  He seemed to read minds.  He pulled colorful bouncy balls out from behind children’s ears.

The magician at our local library amazed my kids, particularly my middle daughter who checked out four books on magic that day and altered her future career plans.

“I want to be a magician who tells jokes,” she declared.

Today, I am feeling a little like a magician without the recognition and the jokes.  No fabulously mysterious cape, no collapsible magic wand hiding a bouquet of flowers, no long flowing sleeves to stash cards and colorful scarves, and no top hat from which bunnies appear.  My Mom-attire is much less impressive.

And yet, every year at about this time, I perform a seemingly magical feat that defies all explanation, a trick that doesn’t necessarily astonish audiences, but probably should.

I set the family calendar for the new school year.

Astonished? Amazed? Flabbergasted? Speechless?

Maybe you should be.

Or maybe you’ve been waving your own Mom magic wand over the calendar and performing your own special trick for years.  You deserve a round of applause, too.

Even those of you without kids or with grown children can easily find your calendar as overstuffed as ours.

Of course, there are things outside of my control, like the school schedule and when ballet classes are offered.  So, I wait for official announcements and postings, hoping God performs the necessary miracle to make it all fit just right.

Then I sit down and scan the mess.

There are non-negotiable activities that instantly earn a place on the weekly agenda.

There are the things I believe God has asked me to do this year, which I choose to obey.

There are requests from my kids like, “Please will you pick us up from school each day so we don’t have to take a 45-minute bus ride to our home, which is only 7 minutes from the school.”

There are the “Oh please, mommy . . . .” activities like gymnastics, soccer, swimming lessons, 4H, Girl Scouts, fencing (yes, fencing), art and sewing classes.  This we carefully narrow down, allowing each child one activity at a time.

Then there are the 50 other possibilities that are wonderful and good: The Bible studies, prayer meetings, committees, volunteering, and classes I’d do.

When we think we’ve made it all fit, unexpected birthday parties and get-togethers, after school activities, and events squeeze into the corners of Saturdays and evenings.

Of course, it’s all good.  And maybe, just maybe, if I don’t let my kids take swim lessons every time they are offered my daughter won’t make it to the 2024 Olympics.  That would obviously be the world’s loss.

But today, as I was reading in 1 Corinthians, I was reminded of the one thing that sometimes gets nudged out of our lives by the incessant activity we magically jam, cram, and squeeze into our calendars until they burst.

Paul wrote:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV).

Even if we invest our time in everything good and noble, we might be mis-managing our calendars.

Ultimately, speaking God’s language, knowing God’s Word, giving away to the poor, and sacrificing our very lives are all worthy, but even they are utterly meaningless if we don’t do them in love.

So then, what about committee meetings and weekly groups and gymnastics lessons?

Yes, meaningless without love.

Thus, I’ve been praying this year about leaving room for God’s love in our family calendar.

We’ll do what is necessary, what God has asked us to do, and we’ll love our children by allowing them to (within reason) develop gifts and talents God has given them.

And then I’ll refuse to feel guilty for declining to do every other good thing that comes my way.

I want to leave some breathing room for taking meals to the sick and for hospital visits.   Nights off as a family so I can enjoy my kids’ character, not just their hobbies.  Time in my day for last-minute ministry opportunities and helping a friend.

I want the freedom to love others without it destroying a to-do list or rigid schedule.  I don’t want official “ministry” to prevent me from ministering to those in need.

After all, in the end, Paul tells us that “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Love doesn’t require magic, but it does require time.

How do you manage your busy calendar and decide what to do and what not to do?

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.

Weekend Walk, 04/28/2012

Hiding the Word:

We had plans. Big plans.

It was pirate weekend in Yorktown Virginia and the annual book sale at our public library.  Add in my niece singing the lead role in an opera, church, and a birthday party and you had a full weekend.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that after two of my daughters spent time on the couch this week with fever and vomiting that the third would get sick, as well.  I sent her to bed Friday night with the beginnings of a fever.

This morning, she emerged looking bedraggled and ill and asking, “Do you think I’m better yet?”

Her skin, fire to the touch, clearly said otherwise, but I humored her with a thermometer test.  103 degrees.  “No, babe,” I said, “you’re pretty sick.”

Then there were the tears of disappointment, trading in a weekend of fun for a weekend of ginger ale and napping.

It’s one of those lessons you just can’t learn often enough in this life–that you can plan and schedule and postulate, but God has the prerogative to interrupt your agenda and alter your plotted course at any time.

Even when you know it’s for the best, that His design for you is better than you can imagine and what ultimately comes to pass is for your good, still it’s nonetheless disappointing in the moment.

For us, these interruptions are sometimes minor losses and daily annoyances; sometimes they’re the source of great sorrow and bitter grieving.

Regardless of their magnitude, we can all learn to pray as Jesus did, kneeling in the garden and submitting His will to the Father’s.

“Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42b).

It’s the verse for this week, to contemplate and memorize.  Maybe it seems short, but it’s truth is powerful and perhaps a little painful.

Weekend Rerun:

He Rested

Originally Posted on April 26, 2011

“And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done”
(Genesis 2:3 ,NIV).

For months, one week in April glared off my calendar menacingly.  My husband and I focused all of our attention and energy on getting to that week and getting through that week—appointments, birthday parties, wedding, special church services, meetings, and holiday activities piled on top of our normal schedule.

I had the individual events in my calendar circled in different colors multiple times so that I wouldn’t overlook any one of them.   When people asked us about May, our eyes glazed over uncomprehendingly.  May?  What’s May?  As far as we were concerned, finishing April was the goal.

I’m sure you have weeks on your calendar that look like that, too, an overload of busyness, and you hold your breath in anticipation of it, stress when you think about it, and dream about making it through.

But then our week was done.  The last event finished.  We survived.  We drove home.  We rested.

It sounds so easy, really, to say “rest,” and yet for me rest takes great effort.

I’m physically incapable of napping.  Instead of sleeping, I lie awake thinking about all the things I should be doing instead of sleeping.  By the time I finally give up and throw back the covers in defeat, I’m frantic about the wasted time and move faster through my to-do list to make up for it.

I feel guilty for leisure, embarrassed by free time, and apologetic for fun.

Accepting help or taking a break feels like failure and an admission of weakness.

There’s something else at work here beyond just an addiction to adrenaline.  Oh, how I hate for it to be true, and yet digging down deeply enough reveals its ugly presence—-pride.  Truly, it feels good to be needed.  It feels important to be so busy.

When I run around in a breathless pace, doing, doing, doing all the time, I act as if the world depends on me to function, as if me sitting down for 15 minutes would create cosmic meltdown.

And that’s why God, from the very first week of creation, instituted a Sabbath rest.  It wasn’t for His benefit, as if the Almighty God who created a sun, moon, and planet with the power of His words grew weary and needed to sleep.  No, the Sabbath was not for God.  Instead, Jesus “said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).

He created a day of rest for you and me.  It’s a reminder that the universe can exist without our involvement and labor.  It’s a re-ordering of our perspective, so that we remember it is God who is essential and not us.

So often, we forget that our jobs, our families, our ministries, our relationships, our everything depend not on our ability, but on God’s power.
We stress about meetings because we think everything relies on how well we present ourselves.
We plot out conversations because we think the outcome depends on the words we choose.

We think.  We plan.  We do.  We fix.  We busy ourselves.  We worry.  We analyze.  We lose sleep.

God knows the pride that burrows itself into our hearts; the tentacles it wraps around us as we seek fulfillment in accomplishments, in tasks completed, in people depending on us.  I’ve written it before and yet need the reminder of my own words:

I’ve seen many women engage in Busyness Battles with each other.   We ask each other what seems like such a simple question, such as “What have you been up to lately?” or “Have you been busy?”  Then, like a Wild West shootout, we breathlessly list our every activity in an effort to “out-busy” the other woman.  The prize?  The personal pride that we are more stressed than the woman we are talking to.  Don’t be embarrassed to concede defeat and say, “Well, I’ve been focusing on de-stressing. On Sunday, I watched a movie with my family and then read some of my book.” You may have lost the shoot-out, but who wants the title of “Most Stressed Woman” anyway?

I read this week that Craig Groeschel, in his book Weird, recommends a to-don’t list.  It’s a tool for those like me who find inactivity takes effort, to help me choose sitting on the deck while my daughters color with sidewalk chalk over doing laundry or choose pushing my baby girl in her swing and listening to her giggles turn to belly laughs over planning church programs.

This isn’t about rules, regulations and law.  It isn’t about Pharisaical hypocrisy and legalism.  It’s about rest and rest is about a humble stepping aside and the placing and continual re-placing of God in control of our lives.

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For further thoughts, check out:

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

 

In His Time

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
Psalm 90:12

The day has finally arrived!  I’ve iced cupcakes, wrapped presents, and filled goody bags for my daughter’s fifth birthday party.  She has been asking me when this day would come every single morning for 9 months.  I’d show her on the calendar how far she had to go and she would sigh and whine with frustration.  Her birthday simply would never come.  She would never ever be five years old.  Everyone would always be older than her. Surely she would stay four years old indefinitely.  I’ve held her as she sobbed out tears of disappointment only one week ago because her birthday was just too far away.  Seven days was an impossibly long time to wait.

I, on the other hand, feel as if this day has come so quickly.  How is it possible that my gorgeous, brilliant, quirky little one has been with me for five years?  For these past few months, I’ve been telling her to wait, just wait, it will come and it will arrive sooner than she realizes, but those words felt empty and meaningless to her.

Impatience weighs heavy in this house.  My older girl has been telling every stranger in town, “Hi, my name is Victoria.  I’m almost seven.”  Sometimes, she even pads her age a bit and tells them she’s almost ten or almost 12.  And so I lean down and whisper to her that her birthday just happened; she’s still eight months away from even one more birthday, much less four or six!

“Mommy, I want to be in kindergarten.  Mommy, I want to be in first grade.  Mommy, I want to wear point shoes in ballet.  Mommy, I want to be a teenager.  Mommy, I want to be old enough for a house of my own so I can have a dog.” Even my baby toddles around after older sisters trying to do the same “big girl” things they do.

No matter how old they are, they always want to be older.  I try to tell them truth—that one day they will pay bills, and go to work, and care for sick children, and will long for the preschool days when they worried only about show and tell and their snack choice for the day.  Please enjoy this moment right now, I beg.  Please don’t let it pass by you unnoticed and unvalued because you are too busy looking ahead to the next step.

And I have been there.  I have trekked across a college campus and longed for graduation.  Married and been asked by family when we’d have a baby.  Had a baby and contemplated what it would be like to have older kids, and sleep, and no diapers, and no need for babysitters. Worked a job and longed for retirement.   Always too busy thinking about later to actually enjoy now.

Solomon told us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven . . . He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11, NIV).  No amount of rushing or anticipating or worrying will change God’s appointed seasons in our lives.

I love to visit Colonial Williamsburg and walk the gardens surrounding the palace and I long to stroll through the local botanical gardens and enjoy the color and scents and hovering butterflies in a place of beauty.  But, if I travel there before they are ready, before the flowers have bloomed and while the bulbs still lie dormant beneath cold earth, I would see death, not life, brown dirt instead of the brilliant hues of tulips and daffodils.  “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” and so we must cultivate, plant, and tend as God calls us to so that we can enjoy life in its proper season.

Of course, sometimes we feel as if the season we are in has lasted forever and that surely God will never release us to newness and fulfillment.  We remain dissatisfied with the now He has given us as we dream about the future we imagine. And what happens, then, if the next season bears no resemblance to the goals and dreams in our heart?  I know a couple who planned retirement with excitement and anticipation, but the reality wasn’t travel, relaxation and golf.  No, it was stroke and poor health and a future not at all what they had envisioned.  They can’t go back and enjoy the time before caregiving and doctor’s appointments.  It is now a season past.

In Psalm 90, Moses challenges us to keep the proper perspective about our life’s circumstances.  He says, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night . . . Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures . . . Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:4, 10, 12, NIV).

We all feel stuck sometimes and without hope that we’ll ever overcome our difficulties.  My mom’s greatest advice was to remember that “this is only a season and won’t last forever.”  There were struggles and stresses that consumed my thoughts in the day and kept me awake at night, now long since resolved and in the past.  Sleepless nights with a newborn, a teething infant, terrible twos, potty training, juggling college and work, unemployment—all seasons that seemed interminable when I was in them, but now appear so brief as I scan back over my life history.  Even our entire lives, the seventy or eighty years Moses thinks we have on this planet, constitute so little of the human history God has witnessed and walked through.

So then, we ask that God “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  It is wisdom indeed to realize that the circumstances we are in are a passing season and hope can carry us through to victory. A new season will arrive at just the right moment and it will be beautiful in its proper time.

But, it is also wisdom to number our days, making each one count.  Not letting a single calendar square go by without us valuing it for what it is–this is our life in the here and now and God is present in it. What would it look like if we lingered here in this place, finding the beauty God has created in this time rather than straining to see what lies ahead?  It would be a life of glorious contentment and peace, restful and unrushed as we take the time to look, really look, at the beauty all around us in the reality of our now. Even in the difficult times, we learn to see the beauty in dirt turned over, weeds pulled, seeds planted—the work God is doing in our lives this moment, the beauty of Him active in our lives, cultivating our hearts in this season, knowing that in His own perfect timing He will bring forth growth, shoots of life, and a harvest plentiful.  So much beauty all in His time.

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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 © 2011 Heather King

The Reluctant Blogger

I have been putting this off for such a long time and now that I’m here, blogging away, it is almost as if I have stage fright.  That’s surprising because I’m generally more comfortable talking to a group of people from a stage than I am chatting with someone one-on-one.   I’m envisioning Winnie the Pooh calling out, “Hellllllllo.  Is anybody there?”  And hearing crickets.

But then I realize that whether someone is there or not is irrelevant.  I’m blogging now because I’m being obedient to a burden God placed on my heart, to write and share with others my devotional journey with Him.  My goal here isn’t really to write about me at all–not my daily activities or deepest dreams.  Not my beautiful kids or wonderful husband.  I’m not in the middle of any life adventure that I want to share with the world.

This is essentially about what happens when an insanely busy woman takes the time to meet with God at the kitchen table.

And you know what happens when I sit down with my Bible and my journal and my cup of tea . . .

I breathe.

It used to confuse me on exercise videos when you’re in the middle of your 20 lunges or 15 leglifts and the instructor says, “Don’t forget to breathe.”  I’d think, “Well, yeah.  Of course I’m breathing.”

But, usually when the exercise lady tells me to breathe and I’m resenting her perky condescension, I realize I’m really not breathing in and out.  I’m kind of gasping for air and holding it in.

My daily life isn’t much different.  When I answer the phone, people ask me all the time, “Have you been running or something?  You sound out of breath.”  And I realize, I haven’t been running; I just haven’t been breathing.  The phone usually rings when I’m making dinner and racing around the house cleaning and supervising homework and breaking up fights and sending emails and finishing work.  I’m juggling everything and keeping every ball in the air, but the one thing I’m forgetting to do is to just breathe.

So, most days I’m really too busy to enjoy the luxury of a quiet time.  I’m certainly too busy to put those thoughts together into a blog.  In fact, my lack of time has been one of my biggest excuses for not blogging.

I don’t have the time, but I make the time.  Because without my kitchen table moments with God, I’d die.  I’d slowly suffocate from my lack of breath.

So, in the middle of this “discussion” with God over whether or not I should even write this blog, I went to a women’s conference at a local church and they chose as their theme verse:  “He’s solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul” Psalm 62:1-2 (MSG).

It made me think that maybe it’s not just me who needs the reminder to breathe in and out.   If anyone reads this and realizes you’ve been holding your breath, let me encourage you—“Don’t forget to breathe!”  And, that’s essentially what this blog is about—me taking time to breathe and reminding you to do the same.

This is an excerpt from a poem they tucked into our bag at the conference:

Breathing Out and Breathing In
by: A.B. Simpson

Jesus, breathe Thy spirit in me.
Teach me how to breathe Thee in,
Help me pour into Thy bosom
All my life of self and sin.

I am breathing out my own life
That I may be filled with Thine;
Letting go my strength and weakness,
Breathing in Thy life divine.

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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 © 2011 Heather King