Perhaps one of the biggest struggles I constantly admit to battling is HEARING GOD. I'm a HIGHLY emotional, extremely tender-hearted individual. It is sometimes hard to differentiate from when God is leading and when my heart is leading. Many times it doesn't matter because they line up. Other times, it isn't so good because I can't remove my "heart" from a situation enough to know if God is truly speaking. The other problem in the way of hearing from God is the periods I think we all tend to go through at times---those times that we feel disconnected and feel like God is so out of reach.
As a family, we've really been changing our direction in recent months. Actually we began the journey last fall, but when our world was turned upside down with everything concerning Dad, we somewhat lost track temporarily. Though we have many various reasons for those changes in direction, two main ones have been our driving force. One, we realize that our time as a family is LIMITED and we value how those fleeting moments are spent. Two, I feel like we were missing out on so many "God moments" because our heads were too full of other junk to hear God speak. Though we began evaluating things last fall and made some initial changes, it's been the recent months that have REALLY brought about amazing changes.
Attending Hearts at Home a few weeks ago helped to solidify the importance of the direction we were going. I learned so many tools in reaching our goals, of ways to connect deeper with God (as well as with my husband and children), and most importantly ENCOURAGEMENT on a road that easily gets overwhelming and lonely. One of the workshops that I attended was "God Infusions" with Michelle Cushatt (I touched on her workshop slightly in this post.) It was while listening to her speak that I KNEW what we had started as a family, and especially in MY life, had us heading in the perfect direction.
In all of the noises of life it gets nearly impossible to HEAR God. It's possible, but difficult. Many of the times that I have felt disconnected from God were of my own doing. I let his voice get drowned out by the noise around me and that in turn caused me to build walls of confusion, doubt, and even bitterness and anger. We can't easily hear God when we are rushing around. We can't hear God when our hearts are hard. We most especially can't hear God when we don't really know how to listen. It takes pulling away from the rush of life and it's demands.
The first step (according to Michelle) has been the most profound for me. It has been where the real changes were already beginning to take place months ago, but are REALLY taking shape now. It's all about MARGIN. Margin was my weak point. I had not created enough "white space" around me. It's about simplifying EVERY single aspect of your life. Basically, get rid of "stuff". Get rid of the junk that crowds your brain. Get rid of the the "stuff" that crowds your home. Get rid of the "stuff" that sucks up your time. Simplify. Simplify more. Toss more "stuff". Toss even more. Resist the urge to join the rat race of climbing the ladder or keeping up with the neighbors. Your kids don't need tons of activities to be well-rounded. It may feel like you are swimming upstream against the world's expectations, especially in the beginning. If that is how it feels, then most likely you are heading in the PERFECT direction.
The other important parts of allowing yourself to HEAR God and having Him infused in your life are solitude, seeing His beauty and practicing gratitude. Though I believe those are extremely important and I learned many things from them, it was the margin that I struggled with the most. However, one particular statement struck me when she was talking about solitude. Many of us are hard-wired to multi-task, ESPECIALLY moms! Without that valuable skill, we can't keep up with the demands placed on us! However, you CAN NOT multi-task your relationship with God. He has to have your FULL attention no matter what that means you may have to give up. She encouraged us to think of it terms of intimacy. Physical and emotional intimacy with our spouses can't be multi-tasked and there be a healthy, whole relationship. It's impossible. God expects no less of us when we are spending time with him. WE have to turn off the outside world and the noise around us, whether that is in our own brains and our own voices or if it is ACTUAL physical noise. Granted, I know how VERY monumental of a task that is but I've seen the rewards begin to happen with each step I take towards the QUIET!
Just yesterday, I had one of those hearing God moments. I still have those "holy ghost goose bumps" (I am from the south you know!) just thinking about it. For the past six weeks or so with the last week having a heavy focus, there has been an issue that was weighing heavy on my heart. There was something that I wanted to do and I felt like God was supportive of the endeavour. It was constantly talked about, prayed about, and considered from every angle. Pros, cons and what-ifs flooded my brain. This last week culminated in deep stress because "it" was something I really desired, but yet the waiting to see if others were on the same page just about flipped me out. Patience during decisions is not quite my strong point! Feeling like God had placed this on my heart and knowing He would work out the details wasn't my strong point either. I trusted him with my desires, but not so much about the details!
Because I've been actively working towards silencing the noise and creating margin, I finally had my moment of hearing God. I woke up yesterday morning literally singing a song in my head that I hadn't heard in probably 25 years. "Turn it over to Jesus (clap, clap), Turn it over to Jesus (clap, clap), Turn it over to Jesus and smile the rest of the day" (I'm not sure if the last word should be way or day, but day is the word in my memory......it's just been too many years!) It came out of nowhere and it RAN ALL OVER me. It wasn't just words in my head, it was penetrating every portion of me. You see, I was a nervous wreck the previous days and suddenly I had my answer. Not only did those words flood my heart straight from God, He also blessed me with a few more minutes of solitude. Though Bradlee was snuggled in bed with me, he was amazingly still sound asleep. I was able to spend much needed time in prayer and solitude and in those moments I completely and thoroughly turned the issue over to Him. I gave Him my desires and gave Him full authority to accept or reject them. I no longer was trying to convince Him to make it happen, it was truly a moment of YOUR will, NOT mine. My prayer continued to the point that I surrendered it all. I accept the results fully, no matter the answer. Every emotion, concern, feeling involved was poured out. It literally was "turned over".
Later in the day, a situation came up that "tested" that "turning over". I could have easily become nervous, anxious,or even agitated with worry about how things were going to turn out. Instead, I was overcome with peace and calm like never before. Adriana happened to be the one that I was having a conversation with at that moment and she immediately noticed the difference in my response. I had heard God and even more importantly, I had listened. Because my ears were open to His voice, I was able to hear him when he talked. It's not always audible! It's usually in the quiet recesses of our heart that He chooses to speak.
It wasn't three hours later that the "discussion" and "waiting" for answers ended. I received confirmation that He had worked all the details out and the six weeks or so of tossing and turning were over. The "desire" of my heart was granted. He answered "YES". He was just waiting for ME to say YES to Him! Not just "yes" if you do things MY way, but "yes" to "whatever your WILL is". He just needed me to be willing to accept His authority and sovereignty. He just wanted me to turn my control over to Him. HUGE lesson learned in those moments!
OK---so IF I had any doubt that God had spoken to my heart in the words of a song out of the blue, confirmation came in yet another way. It leaves ZERO room for doubt. Just a few short minutes after hanging up the phone from getting my "yes", I picked up a devotional book that a friend passed along to me JUST last week. It's one of those daily dated ones and it takes just a few seconds to read.
The entry for March 29th:
STOP TRYING TO WORK THINGS OUT before their times have come. Accept the limitations of living one day at a time. When something comes to your attention, ask ME whether or not it is part of today's agenda. If it isn't, release it into My care and go on about today's duties. When you follow this practice, there will be a beautiful simplicity about your life: a time for everything, and everything in it's time.
A life lived close to Me is not complicated or cluttered. When your focus is on My Presence, many things that once troubled you lose their power over you. Though the world around you is messy and confusing, remember that I have overcome the world. I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have Peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1; John 16:33)
Coincidence? No way. God's voice. His message was very clear and confirmed. For that, I'm very thankful. I'm also very excited about hearing Him speaking again and having my ears open to hear Him. I think it's almost like a craving now!