Dear Baby Boy, You’ve Been Teaching Me A Bunch This First Year

Dear Andrew,

Tomorrow is your first birthday.  This means nothing to you, of course, but your sisters have waited impatiently for the ‘real’ birthday with actual cake and actual presents.

We’ve spent a year celebrating milestones and ‘firsts’ and you’ve been growing all along, learning little by little:  Smiles, chattering, crawling, clapping.  We cheered you on all the way.

And here you are, a year old.  One year since I first saw your little face in the freezing cold operating room where you were born.Andrew

It seems like yesterday.

One day you’re a tiny bundle of baby perfection snuggled into my chest, swaddled tight in blue blankets, wearing your baby hat….

And the next day you’re all energy, zooming across our living room to chase after three sisters and two cats, almost never sitting still long enough to snuggle, ripping off hats as soon as I put them on your head and wriggling out of blankets.

Oh, we love you so.

You’ve taught this momma (who thought she’d only ever have daughters) that God loves to surprise us and that He equips us for our calling.

You’ve taught me to change diapers quickly so I don’t get peed on.

You’ve taught me that sometimes one bath a day isn’t enough…three might be necessary.

And you taught me that it’s okay to say what I need sometimes.  I feel so often that I need to do everything, be everywhere….and yet, you remind me to say, “I’m at my limit.  I need a rest.  I need some food.  I need a break.”

And just as you’re teaching me, I hope I’m teaching you even now what you really need to know in life:

Oh sure, what you probably need right now are lessons like don’t play in the litter box, don’t take your diaper off while you’re napping, and food is better when you eat it than when you wear it.

But here’s some deeper truth to tuck away for the future.  You’ll need it.  I promise.

Your sense of humor and your joy are a strength and a treasure.  Never lose that.  You have this deep, deep belly laugh that shows up in your eye photo 1s, and the tiniest things will send you into fits of giggles.  You squeal in delight over toys.  You explore the window, the cat, the book, the table, the tiniest specks on the floor, and the piano.  This big world is a wonder.  Always look wide-eyed.  Don’t miss out on the joy.  And laugh.  Laugh often and laugh hard.

It’s okay to know what you want, but make sure you want the right things.  I’ve had go-with-the-flow babies and I’ve had know-their-own-mind babies.  You are the latter.  It’s a strength that I love about you.  Stand up for the right things even if no one else does.  Be honest.  Fight for justice.  But if you’re going to pursue what you really want in life, make sure what you want is good and true.  Be passionate about God’s Word, about truth, about the Gospel, about compassion.  And know that the best things in this life aren’t just worth waiting for; they are worth working hard for.  Make the sacrifices.  Choose discipline.  Commit your way to the Lord and walk in obedience…

Leadership begins with serving others.  Our family attracts comments everywhere we go—-how you’ll be so spoiled by three older sisters.  How you “don’t stand a chance.”  How you’ll be “mothered to death.” My son, you are the baby in this family with three big sisters to dote on you and brag about you and treat you like the center of the universe.  Know how much you are loved, but don’t be fooled into thinking this world should serve you.  Instead, serve others.  Be humble.  Put other people first.  Christ didn’t lead by demanding attention or through selfishness and abuse.  He led with humble self-sacrifice and compassion.  “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 ESV).

Know beauty when you see it.  I’ve spent years teaching three daughters that “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting” (Proverbs 31:30).  I tell them that true beauty is Jesus in you; it’s strength, gentleness, wisdom, discipline, honesty, kindness, and Christ-like love.  They need to know how to be truly beautiful.  You need to know how to see true beauty.    By the time you start building up real memories of me, I’ll be about 40 years old and have birthed four children.  But, dear son, may you still see beauty in me: the real kind, the kind that grows with time instead of fading.  The kind that sacrifices self to pour out for others.  The kind of beauty that isn’t defined by a number on a scale or the color or style of my hair, but that comes from wisdom and grace.  You’ll find tons of girls who know how to do their hair, put on their makeup and choose the perfect outfit.  Don’t be deceived.  Don’t look for someone whose beauty peaks at 22 years old, before kids, and depends on products, expensive clothes, and hours in front of the mirror.  Look for someone who will be beautiful at 40…at 60….at 80. True beauty isn’t how you look at any given moment; it’s always about who you are becoming.

And know this….

I am so deeply thankful that God chose me to be your mama.  What an honor and a joy.

Love,

~Mom~

 

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

She Was a Beautiful Woman

“For the last twenty years of her life, she refused to have a mirror in her house…”

That’s what John Piper tells me in his book, Future Grace.

He writes about Evelyn Harris Brand, the mother of a famous hand surgeon and leprosy specialist, who served as a missionary to India with her husband.  When he died, she returned to  future graceIndia, spending one decade after another caring for the malnourished and starving, the neediest among them, the least of these.

What could a mirror matter to her?

Would pearls or fashion help her give?

Would hair-dos and makeup allow her to love?

At 67, she broke her hip, one injury in a long history of sacrificing her body for others.  There was the time she broke her arm, the vertebrae in her back that had cracked, the recurrent malaria.  Her son begged her to retire and return home for some rest and relaxation.

She refused.

When she died at 95, still on the mission-field, still getting up each morning, preparing for the day, and heading right on out the door without primping and preening in front of the glass, her son said:

with wrinkles as deep and extensive as any I have ever seen on a human face…she was a beautiful woman (quoted in Future Grace, p. 295).

What is this beauty, I wonder?

I need to know for my daughters, how all the hair brushing and braiding, the outfit matching and shoe styles don’t create this radiance.

All that outward show can temporarily hide soul disfigurement.  It can fool strangers from afar and win superficial praise.

But when others step in too close, lean in enough to see what’s beyond all the external costuming, they’ll see the ugly underneath.

And God, after all, sees the motives, the selfishness, the sin, the blemishes of vanity and pride that concealer and foundations can’t cover over no matter how thickly applied.

I need to know for my unborn son, so I can teach him to be a man who sees when beauty is real and when it isn’t.

And I need to know this for myself.

One month of pregnancy left to go….thinking now about the days post-delivery when my eyes ring purple and are rubbed red with fatigue….when none of my clothes fit just right and I’m feeling like a stranger in my very own body…. when physically I have others needing me, needing me all the time…

When giving my body for others becomes a moment-by-moment reality.

And this is the message I hear: Motherhood is beautiful.

Well, Motherhood is hard.

It’s the down-and-dirty of self-sacrifice, when you’re not just giving because it’s convenient or you have a little extra to spare for another.

Even my kids laugh now, how before I’ve even eased myself all the way into the dining room chair, someone else needs more, needs another, needs different…..and I hop up to grab a napkin, or stir the milk, or dish out the seconds.

That’s what they can see.

But how much more they don’t even know yet.  How for nine months your heart expands all the while you’re throwing up and not sleeping and carrying more weight than you’ve ever borne on your frame before.

You can hope you aren’t left with stretchmarks after you’ve delivered, but you can’t really tell because your skin is so stretched over this human being.  Of course, they are there in the end, permanent markings that you’ve carried the life of another.

And, it’d be nice if the weight was ALL baby, but of course it isn’t, not all of it.

Yet, you’ve traded in physical vanities for this reality:  You gave of yourself, your very own body, for the sake of someone else.

And who needs a mirror to see the beauty in that?

Physical motherhood, spiritual mentoring, missions, service:  Any time we stop staring at our own reflection critically, vainly, selfishly, obsessively, and start looking out to see the need of those around us and then we stoop down and give—not because it’s easy, but because Christ is in us—that’s when beauty shines.

His beauty.

Nothing compares to the radiant beauty of Christ shining in us, not the flashiest of fashions or the most glamorous hair styles.

This is a mystery.

Paul called it a:

“mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints….which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27 NASB).

Christ in us, the hope of glory, transforms and radiates in a way undefinable, inexplicable, and we can’t comprehend how He could fill us up and shine on out of our too-frail, too-broken, too-imperfect lives.

Yet, He does.

And no mirror accurately reflects the beauty of a woman who lives and loves sacrificially, who lives and loves Jesus.

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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

Weekend Walk, 1/12/2013: Take My Picture

“Take my picture, Mommy!  Take my picture!”

In the middle of Sunday morning chaos, pulling on stockings, buttoning dresses, clipping 006on bows and tying on ribbons, my three-year-old twirled in her dress and posed for a Kodak moment.

And I clicked the camera.

I don’t ever remember being this way, so eager to say, “Cheese.”  I’ve always been the one declining photos, offering to hold the camera, tossing into the trash any pictures of me I don’t like.

But when I’m out and about with my daughters (or even just running around the house frantically trying to get four females ready for Sunday morning church service)… they want to stop and take pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.  Not of the scenery.  Of them.

It takes us three times as long to walk down the Main Street of our town and probably twice as much time on location on our family “field trips.”  But I don’t mind.

I love that they feel beautiful enough to want to pose.

There was a day I stepped into the bathroom to put away a stray toothbrush, and I caught one of my girls watching herself in the mirror.  She smoothed her hair and glanced up at her reflection, pleased with what she saw.

How beautiful is the girl who feels beautiful in her own skin.

This rare gift, how do you teach it?  How do you help them keep it for life?

Somehow, most of us grow out of it.  We glance in the mirror and critique the image or sigh in frustration.  We step on the scale and slander ourselves with our thoughts.  We pose for that picture and know we won’t be happy with it later, not with the smile or the hair or the wrinkles or the chin or ….

Even my husband, in the early days of falling in love, would sit across me from the table and I could feel him watching.  I didn’t know where to look.  I was uncomfortable in his gaze.  What imperfections would he see in me if he looked too closely or watched too long?

Later today, I’ll take my seat at a piano and offer up the music for a wedding ceremony.  There will be a moment at that wedding when the soloist will sing, “How Beautiful the radiant bride who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes” (How Beautiful, Twila Paris).

The beauty of the bride isn’t so much the hairdresser and the hair spray, the makeup, the gown.

It’s that she walks down that aisle feeling loved.  In a moment, she knows she is wanted, precious, and she radiates the joy.

And it’s beautiful how she loves him.  So we, thinking of another, run out of time to be so self-analyzing, so self-criticizing, so self-condemning—so “self.”

It’s a verse for meditating on all week, with a reminder of how beauty is looking to God–our Groom–thinking of Him and less of me.  Beauty is caring for others.  Beauty isn’t feeling shame, but feeling redeemed, feeling precious, feeling loved.

“Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5).

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

More Than Snapshot Faith

Originally published 10/21/2012

“Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”
(1 Peter 3:4)

Today is picture day at school and I may need a vacation to recover.

The aftermath of this morning’s preparation is like an explosion in a boutique.  I returned to the house after waving goodbye to my daughters on the school bus and surveyed the damage.

Headbands, combs, clips and ribbon left a trail from the bedroom to the kitchen and the living room.

Pajama bottoms and tops and rejected dresses were strewn across every piece of furniture in sight.

A pile of not-good-enough shoes sat beside one dresser and a stack of pink and white stockings next to the other.

The morning’s activities had tired me out.  Even though we had planned their outfits for a week and carefully laid out their chosen wardrobe the night before, the morning had still been crazy with changed minds, fresh inspiration, and forgotten items.

And then there was the meltdown over the headband.  It involved many tears, angst, stubbornness, threats of punishment and varying opinions about the definition of “matching.”

I imagine my house this morning looks a little like King Xerxes’ court appeared as he searched for a second wife.  It was the biggest beauty pageant of all time and after 12 months of preparation (“six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women”), it all came down to one night (Esther 2:12).  One chance to knock the socks off the king and be chosen as his bride.

Yet, Esther was not dependent on beauty treatments, over-the-top jewelry, and exotic perfumes.  Hers was the beauty of consistent character and long-term loveliness of the heart and so she found favor with the king and became queen of the Persian empire.

Like the other women in this great Persian beauty pageant, we Christians sometimes focus too much on dressing up and dousing ourselves with perfume.  Our emphasis is often on the “picture days” of the Christian walk, on the posing, the practiced smile, the activity, the special occasions.

But our faith isn’t about snapshots.

We don’t prep ourselves for five minutes in front of a camera.  Did we greet everyone with joy on Sunday morning?  Did we say the right things in Sunday school?  Did we wear the right clothes?  Did we know the words to the songs and nod our heads at appropriate points in the sermon?

Our heavenly king isn’t making judgments about our beauty based on one night’s impression. That means mistakes don’t determine the rest of our lives.  If you’ve blown it this morning with your kids, made some bad choices, or messed up how you handled that situation, God’s grace provides you with restoration, renewed mercy and the fresh start of a new day. 

That’s why Moses is about more than his disobedience when bringing water from a rock (Numbers 20).  It’s why David’s ministry didn’t end with adultery and murder or why Peter wasn’t cast off forever after denying Christ.

It also means the moments of triumph don’t set us up on permanent religious pedestals.  God isn’t deceived by the external beauty treatments we apply.  Peter wrote, “Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4).

The beauty of our faith isn’t determined by those extraordinary seasons of spiritual victory, crisis or sin.  God is far more interested in the daily wardrobe of our soul and what happens when the cameras aren’t turned in our direction.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

“it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four house of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus.  It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God—but we do not.  We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people.”

My oldest daughter’s goal for picture day was to look just like a real princess.  My middle girl wanted to be “as cute as can be.”  And they succeeded. This one picture, though, won’t make them beautiful or ugly, cute or goofy.  They are always lovely and always loved.

It’s the same with us.  What’s far more important than how we look in a posed portrait is the ordinary, unnoticed, unexceptional holiness that we live out day after daily day. 

It’s the praying in the prayer closet, the doing dishes and washing clothes for your family.  It’s the ministry to a friend and your faithful, hard work at your job.  It’s responding with kindness and having patience with your spouse.  It’s putting the mistakes of the past behind you and it’s obeying God today with a cheerful heart.

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.  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