When you can’t keep up with it all…maybe you’re not supposed to

My older girls picked up their knitting needles this week.

They have big plans of what they can make with one ball of yarn and two thick needles: Hats with pom poms to match stripey scarves for every family member and friend.

For now, I tell them: Keep it simple.  Practice the steps, row after row.  No need for fancy patterns or agendas.  Just stitch after stitch until they are even and right.026

We’ve corrected our fair share of lost stitches, tangled yarn and strangely elaborate knots.  Mostly, though, we’re fighting against extra.

I started my oldest girl out with 15 little loops and within 3 rows, she’d nearly doubled the length of her project.  I counted them out—27 stitches now. We counted out 5 stitches for my next daughter and she immediately increased that to 10.

It’s not purposeful, of course.  Just an inadvertent grabbing of yarn in the wrong place, slipping on two loops where there should be only one, until finally their project has doubled in size.  And if I let them continue unhindered, it’d triple and more.

So I pull out the row and  start them again.

This is how you grab just one loop at a time.  This is how you count your stitches after each row.

But it’s just so easy with momentary distractions and the way we pick up speed to do this, too.

This month, I’m learning to create in order to draw near to the presence of our Creator God.  As I pull out these knots of string, I think how God is at work in me.

He starts me out with 15 simple loops of yarn.  He establishes the rhythm and the pattern, and He measures out the resources so I’ll have enough for all I need.

I focus at first and watch each stitch carefully.

Then I begin to rush and think about other things.  People ask me questions.  I look away instead of on my project.

Somehow I’ve slipped on extra stitches.  God asked me to do 15.  Just 15.  So simple.  He gave me enough.

But now I have 30 and I’m frantically working, trying to keep up with it all.  I’m running out of resources and fretting over how I’ll ever be sufficient for all this need.

When I finally hand over the tangled mess to this patient and gracious God, He takes me back, eliminates the excess and starts me over again.  Just 15 stitches, Heather.  I only asked You to do these.  No more.  Nothing extra.  And I’ve given You all You need, more than enough, for this alone.

It’s busyness, of course, that rushes us into grabbing more.  We say “Yes” when He wants us to say “No.”  We feel pressured into volunteering and there’s the pride that convinces us that we can save the day.

Usually, it’s all good things: Bible studies, meetings, committees, volunteering and relationships.  Then we find ourselves doubling up those stitches again, and when we read those words of Jesus, they don’t even make sense.  How could He promise us this when we feel so worn?

 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)

There’s another way, though, that those stitches sneak right on. It’s not busyness; it’s expectations.  We tell ourselves what a Good Mom, a Good Wife, a Godly Woman and a True Friend does.Picture by Vicktor Hanacek of PicJumbo

We’ve condemned ourselves right there, always trying to measure up to some perfect standard, tossing on stitches until we just collapse in failure and then we feel it: I’m a failure and a mess. I can’t keep up with it all, even these 15 stitches.  Not like “her,” so perfect and together.

But God didn’t ask us to be perfect.  Or to be like “her.”

He doesn’t impose impossible standards or withhold grace.

In the Message, the same verses in Matthew say:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

It takes purposeful determination to protect the few stitches God’s entrusted to us, to fall into those unforced rhythms of grace rather than frantic rushing and condemnation.  No slipping on extra loops of string, not with busyness and commitments or expectations and burdensome requirements.

Protect what He’s asked You to do and do it well, with all Your heart and mind, knowing that He’s given you all you need for just this much and no more.

Originally published May 31, 2013

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 ‘Create Beauty’?

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

Just This and No More

My older girls picked up their knitting needles this week.

They have big plans of what they can make with one ball of yarn and two thick needles: Hats with pom poms to match stripey scarves for every family member and friend.

For now, I tell them: Keep it simple.  Practice the steps, row after row.  No need for fancy patterns or agendas.  Just stitch after stitch until they are even and right.026

We’ve corrected our fair share of lost stitches, tangled yarn and strangely elaborate knots.  Mostly, though, we’re fighting against extra.

I started my oldest girl out with 15 little loops and within 3 rows, she’d nearly doubled the length of her project.  I counted them out—27 stitches now. We counted out 5 stitches for my next daughter and she immediately increased that to 10.

How do they do this?

It’s not purposeful, of course.  Just an inadvertent grabbing of yarn in the wrong place, slipping on two loops where there should be only one, until finally their project has doubled in size.  And if I let them continue unhindered, it’d triple and more.

So I pull out the row and  start them again.

This is how you grab just one loop at a time.  This is how you count your stitches after each row.

But it’s just so easy with momentary distractions and the way we pick up speed to do this, too.

God starts me out with 15 simple loops of yarn.  He establishes the rhythm and the pattern, and He measures out the resources so I’ll have enough for all I need.

I focus at first and watch each stitch carefully.

Then I begin to rush and think about other things.  People ask me questions.  I look away instead of on my project.

Somehow I’ve slipped on extra stitches.  God asked me to do 15.  Just 15.  So simple.  He gave me enough.

But now I have 30 and I’m frantically working, trying to keep up with it all.  I’m running out of resources and fretting over how I’ll ever be sufficient for all this need.

When I finally hand over the tangled mess to this patient and gracious God, He takes me back, eliminates the excess and starts me over again.  Just 15 stitches, Heather.  I only asked You to do these.  No more.  Nothing extra.  And I’ve given You all You need, more than enough, for this alone.

It’s busyness, of course, that rushes us into grabbing more.  We say “Yes” when He wants us to say “No.”  We feel pressured into volunteering and there’s the pride that convinces us that we can save the day and make it successful.

Usually, it’s all good things: Bible studies, meetings, committees, volunteering and relationships.  Then we find ourselves doubling up those stitches again, and when we read those words of Jesus, they don’t even make sense.  How could He promise us this when we feel so worn?

 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)

There’s another way, though, that those stitches slip right on and we don’t even know it. It’s not busyness; it’s expectations.  We tell ourselves what a Good Mom, a Good Wife, a Godly Woman and a True Friend does.

We’ve condemned ourselves right there, always trying to measure up to some perfect standard, tossing on stitches until we just collapse in failure and then we feel it: I’m a failure and a mess. I can’t keep up with it all, even these 15 stitches.  Not like “her,” so perfect and together.

But God didn’t ask us to be perfect.  He doesn’t impose impossible standards or withhold grace.

In the Message, the same verses in Matthew say:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

It takes purposeful determination to protect the few stitches God’s entrusted to us, to fall into those unforced rhythms of grace rather than frantic rushing and condemnation.  No slipping on extra loops of string, not with busyness and commitments or expectations and burdensome requirements.

Protect what He’s asked You to do and do it well, with all Your heart and mind, knowing that He’s given you all you need for just this much and no more.

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 Rerun: Marthas Anonymous

Originally posted on October 26, 2011

Fourteen years in women’s small groups and I’ve never once heard someone confess to being a Mary rather than a Martha.

We sit around the table at what might as well be Marthas Anonymous and confess, “Hi, I’m Heather, and I’ve been a Martha now for as long as I can remember.  I’m always busy, can’t seem to sit still and don’t enjoy resting.  I don’t watch TV without something to do at the same time and feel best when following a to-do list.”

I’ve heard the same confessions for years.  What I’ve never heard is, “Hi, I’m Jane and I’m a Mary.  I have no trouble at all dropping whatever I’m doing just to hang out with Jesus.  I’m totally fine if others are working in the kitchen while I sit at His feet.  Priorities for me are never a problem–Christ always comes first.”

That’d be the day!

And while we confess to being Marthas as if we recognize it’s a problem, at the same time, there’s a little bit of pride there.  Pride at being productive and busy.  Pride at being the one to take care of others.  Pride at the fact that people can depend on us to get things done and that we’re necessary to others.

That’s what the busy life does for us—feeds our self-esteem and reminds us that we’re important.

Yet, while we always pick on Martha as she grumbled to Jesus that her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping enough in the kitchen, it’s not Martha’s activity that was the problem. Someone did in fact need to feed Jesus and the disciples lunch and some Ramen noodles or boxed macaroni and cheese wouldn’t really cut it when feeding a crowd of at least 13 traveling evangelists.

Busyness in the kitchen wasn’t necessarily Martha’s issue and it isn’t always ours either.  It’s fine to dream wistfully of hour-long quiet times, but reality doesn’t always allow for that.

Someone has to do your job.  Someone has to mop your floors, do the dishes, make the phone calls, cook the dinner, fold the laundry, play with the kids, read the bedtime stories, and direct the homework.

No, the problem isn’t always a matter of what we’re doing.  It’s a matter of the heart.

For Martha, the first stumble came when she complained about someone else’s lack of activity.

Oh, how often we take it upon ourselves to judge the choices of another, making us angry accusers and our target the burdened recipient of our disapproval.

Imagine if Mary had hopped up at Martha’s griping and headed begrudgingly into the kitchen.  She wouldn’t be serving dinner because God had instructed her to do so.  She would have been serving out of arm-twisted obligation rather than answering a divine call.

There’s no blessing, no peace, and no rest when we serve outside of God’s will.

Jesus asked, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG).

When we walk in step with Christ, trodding only where He is leading, we can feel the true rest of dependence on Him and the freedom from performance and accomplishment.

Martha’s next problem was thinking that it was all or nothing.  You either work in the kitchen or you listen to Jesus.  You can’t do both.

Surely, though, she could have been listening to Jesus while she stirred the soup at the stove.  We also can bring Jesus into the moments of our day.  Pausing for five minutes to breathe deeply and utter a prayer of need.  Singing praise to Him while we drive and meditating on Scripture as we wash dishes.

In the same way, even when we don’t have time for Jesus, we make time.  No one is too busy for God.  We choose to make His presence our priority, even if it means shutting off the TV, not answering the phone, taking a “Mommy time-out” for 15 minutes, reading the Bible during our lunch break, or delegating tasks to others.

Life crowds out time with God.  It always does.  We must be vigilant to demand those moments with Jesus. They will not happen by accident.

In Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper wrote, “He teaches us . .  to slow down and recuperate after giving our all for the sake of the gospel.  To find a balance between going out and doing and being still and knowing” (p. 119).

Are you a tired Martha? Accept the rest that Christ offers you in His presence.  Return there as often as possible, taking a minute when you need it and an hour when you can. Don’t expect to be energized for eternity.  He gives you enough for today, for just this moment, and we bring that renewal back into all of our activity.

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.

Marthas Anonymous

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her tenth chapter, “Busyness Isn’t a Spiritual Gift.”

************************************************************

Fourteen years in women’s small groups and I’ve never once heard someone confess to being a Mary rather than a Martha.

We sit around the table at what might as well be Marthas Anonymous and confess, “Hi, I’m Heather, and I’ve been a Martha now for as long as I can remember.  I’m always busy, can’t seem to sit still and don’t enjoy resting.  I don’t watch TV without something to do at the same time and feel best when following a to-do list.”

I’ve heard the same confessions for years.  What I’ve never heard is, “Hi, I’m Jane and I’m a Mary.  I have no trouble at all dropping whatever I’m doing just to hang out with Jesus.  I’m totally fine if others are working in the kitchen while I sit at His feet.  Priorities for me are never a problem–Christ always comes first.”

That’d be the day!

And while we confess to being Marthas as if we recognize it’s a problem, at the same time, there’s a little bit of pride there.  Pride at being productive and busy.  Pride at being the one to take care of others.  Pride at the fact that people can depend on us to get things done and that we’re necessary to others.

That’s what the busy life does for us—feeds our self-esteem and reminds us that we’re important.

Yet, while we always pick on Martha as she grumbled to Jesus that her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping enough in the kitchen, it’s not Martha’s activity that was the problem. Someone did in fact need to feed Jesus and the disciples lunch and some Ramen noodles or boxed macaroni and cheese wouldn’t really cut it when feeding a crowd of at least 13 traveling evangelists.

Busyness in the kitchen wasn’t necessarily Martha’s issue and it isn’t always ours either.  It’s fine to dream wistfully of hour-long quiet times, but reality doesn’t always allow for that.

Someone has to do your job.  Someone has to mop your floors, do the dishes, make the phone calls, cook the dinner, fold the laundry, play with the kids, read the bedtime stories, and direct the homework.

No, the problem isn’t always a matter of what we’re doing.  It’s a matter of the heart.

For Martha, the first stumble came when she complained about someone else’s lack of activity.

Oh, how often we take it upon ourselves to judge the choices of another, making us angry accusers and our target the burdened recipient of our disapproval.

Imagine if Mary had hopped up at Martha’s griping and headed begrudgingly into the kitchen.  She wouldn’t be serving dinner because God had instructed her to do so.  She would have been serving out of arm-twisted obligation rather than answering a divine call.

There’s no blessing, no peace, and no rest when we serve outside of God’s will.

Jesus asked, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG).

When we walk in step with Christ, trodding only where He is leading, we can feel the true rest of dependence on Him and the freedom from performance and accomplishment.

Martha’s next problem was thinking that it was all or nothing.  You either work in the kitchen or you listen to Jesus.  You can’t do both.

Surely, though, she could have been listening to Jesus while she stirred the soup at the stove.  We also can bring Jesus into the moments of our day.  Pausing for five minutes to breathe deeply and utter a prayer of need.  Singing praise to Him while we drive and meditating on Scripture as we wash dishes.

Martha also had an issue with making time. Setting aside the dishes for a half an hour, she could have lingered at Jesus’ feet and then returned to her labor when He had gone.

In the same way, even when we don’t have time, we make time.  No one is too busy for God.  We choose to make His presence our priority, even if it means shutting off the TV, not answering the phone, taking a “Mommy time-out” for 15 minutes, reading the Bible during our lunch break, or delegating tasks to others.

Life crowds out time with God.  It always does.  We must be vigilant to demand those moments with Jesus. They will not happen by accident.

In Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper wrote, “He teaches us . .  to slow down and recuperate after giving our all for the sake of the gospel.  To find a balance between going out and doing and being still and knowing” (p. 119).

Are you a tired Martha? Accept the rest that Christ offers you in His presence.  Return there as often as possible, taking a minute when you need it and an hour when you can. Don’t expect to be energized for eternity.  He gives you enough for today, for just this moment, and we bring that renewal back into our all of our activity.

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.