Hearing God in the Quiet

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

 

Work and life can become so busy and overwhelming. The other day I felt the Lord nudging me towards spending some time alone with him, a time of solitude, but you know how that goes—things were BUSY. And loud. And moving fast. I can get really comfortable with that fast pace because busyness covers a bunch of stuff.

We’re all sprinting from one thing to another—running around in a frenzy, stacking our calendars—the busyness can become an escape. And it’s easy to excuse our disconnect with God by falling back on how much there is to do!, which makes this all so sneaky. I am guilty of this. But I made the time to get away and I’m so thankful I did.

Silence allows all that noise and chatter that’s deep in our souls to surface.

I didn’t even realize some of the fears and anxieties I was using busyness to shove back down until I unplugged for a time. I began journaling about all the things I sometimes make my refuge: relationships, social media, financial security, personal devices, entertainment, my career (false security)… It took the quiet to reveal my fears and the quiet to reveal the Lord’s remedy for those fears.

And while I’m still working through them, they’re out in the open before the Lord now, as opposed to being covered up by a packed schedule.

The Lord LOVES when we set aside time to seek Him.

I’ve been spending time in various parts of the Old Testament recently and am reminded continually that God desires His people to love Him with their heart, soul, strength and mind. For me, stepping away from the normal routine, daily relationships and too many iPhone checks was a way of showing God that I love Him. That He is worth my attention and affection. I went into that time with the Lord truly expectant to spend time in His Presence, even if I wasn’t sure what to expect. And as I journaled and meditated on Scripture, I sensed His pleasure.

It is so important to spend some time of solitude with the Lord, even if it’s for an hour or two. We just have to make a plan and stick to it. Set aside the time to pray, read Scripture, worship and journal what the Holy Spirit reveals to us. Find the quiet. Make the quiet.

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Finding the Friendships You Deserve.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17b-18)
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Last month, I was feeling so insecure and discouraged about friendships. I ended up calling one of my best friends in tears, feeling so vulnerable and in need of advice.

I had been feeling like as soon as I would get close to a friend, we would grow apart. Or that they would find other, cooler, more fun friends and suddenly vibes were weird.  I honestly couldn’t figure out if something was wrong with me or if I did something to screw up friendships. I’d look online and see pictures of cliques and feel even more isolated. I would hang out with friends and watch groups of girls taking selfies, but usually would be the one taking the photo. It would hurt, it would make me feel insecure, and discouraged.

There have been times in my life that I would try to bend and contort myself in whatever way I could just to fit into a group. But no matter how many times I tried to bend and contort, it never really seemed to work.

Friends, if you are struggling to feel like you belong or if you’re having trouble with friendships, I just want to encourage you.  God did not design you the way He did just for you to bend and contort His design to fit into some group or clique it wasn’t designed to be a part of. And you’re not weird or strange and there’s nothing wrong with you if you grow apart from women you have cared about for awhile.

Because you know what? All things are redeemable. And at the end of the day, God delivers who you need, right when you need them, to stand by your side. Some of the girls I honestly thought would be life-long friends (maybe even in my wedding one day) have been some of the friendships that drifted apart. Some of the girls I thought I would grow apart from years ago are the same girls that have invited me to be a part of their special wedding day. And often, those  friendships that continue to build and last throughout the years are not friendships you can fake. They’re disorganized and crazy and a little bit messy — but they’re real. They take time to build.

I think, sometimes, we avoid friendships that require much of us because we are afraid of the risk. When we’ve been hurt or walked all over, we begin to close up and control our environments. I mean, who wants to be hurt again? Trust me, there’s wisdom in guarding our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in isolation. Though isolating can be tempting to do when friendships haven’t gone our way in the past, there’s a problem with that logic. The truth is, the greatest satisfaction comes from the greatest sacrifice.

Although I haven’t solved the friendship puzzle, I do know that REAL friendships can empower us and bring out the best of who we are.  Real friends won’t judge you for your messy hair days, they encourage you, challenge you, make you better, push you closer to Jesus, support your dreams, they love you through the hard times, and they pray for you. Life is so much better, and easier, and certainly more fun when we walk through it together. I am so grateful for authentic friendships. For raw, real, tough but gentle love.

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Obedience. Not An Easy Thing.

Truth Moment: I’m a procrastinator.

I know the things that I should or need to be doing, but I always put it off- at least for a little while. I have even learned how to procrastinate while I’m in the middle of procrastinating (pretty sure that’s a talent). 

Over the years of growing closer in my relationship with Jesus- I have learned that He is not a dilly-dallier. One thing that accompanies being a follower of Jesus is a little thing called ‘obedience’. Real obedience, like immediate response type of obedience. Not the kind of obedience that you put on the shelf until you can get around to it.

I have learned over the years that our obedience to God is not optional (even thought at times we would like it to be). The more we grow in our relationship with the Lord, the more we see His greatness, and then our response to His commands become more immediate. Obedience to Him becomes a reflex. It becomes who we are, not what we do.

Obedience can begin to feel like a burden if it’s just something we have to continuously stay on top of. But obeying Jesus isn’t about making sure we do one thing and don’t do another. He tells us in John 14:15 that obedience is the result of time spent with Him and flows naturally from our love for Him.  He says, “If you love Me, you will obey Me”.

Over the years I’ve learned that there are different stages of obedience.

First, submitting our lives to Jesus.

This is the start of our relationship with Jesus. Of course, submission is always voluntary. Jesus does not force us to follow Him, but He invites us. And what I love most is that He will never stop inviting us to have a close, intimate relationship with Him. But in order to have that relationship- we need to be willing to submit our lives to Him and His will for us.

Secondly, getting to know Jesus.

A strong relationship with Jesus can’t be built overnight. It takes time. And we get to know Jesus by spending time with Him in prayer and in reading His Word. Even when times are tough and uncertain, the Holy Spirit is there to remind us of how much Jesus had to endure on earth; how He dealt with all life’s struggles and decisions. The more we get to know Jesus, the clearer we can hear and understand His desires for us.

And thirdly, obeying Jesus.

As much as we try to be consistent, we will continue to find it impossible to obey Jesus in our own strength. (Trust me, I have tried). It’s Jesus and His strength that does it for us. Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Our life of obedience is the result of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the fruit we bear from our relationships with Jesus. This fruit shows everyone around us that we belong to Him.

As long as we (the branches) remains in Jesus (the grapevine), we receive the nourishment we need in our lives to produce fruit. Obedience is supernatural evidence of what abiding in Jesus looks like. All of our good deeds and true successes come from His nourishment, not from our own natural abilities, good sense or cleverness.

In John 15:1, Jesus calls His Father the gardener. While I don’t know much about gardening, I do know that a good gardener reaps a good harvest only after putting in hours and hours of work. Rocks need to be removed, weeds pulled, and plants watered. But then there is also pruning. Pruning is when the gardener has to cut away all the dead and overgrown branches. Jesus goes on to say in John 15:2 that “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Pruning can be painful, but it’s necessary in our walk with the Lord.

Obedience was honestly a tough lesson for me to learn; and immediate obedience even more difficult. We all have our moments and seasons of rebellion.We yell out when God wants to get rid of something we are holding onto so dearly; whether pride, relationships, dreams, etc. But God’s ultimate goal is for each and every one of us is to be fruitful. So when those tough lessons, moments, and seasons arise- remember to submit, listen, and obey.

God’s grace is abundant and it’s through His grace that we experience the fruit of immediate obedience.

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Is a Less Hectic Life Possible?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  John 10:10

For the past couple years, I took pride in being overly busy. Between the needs of  work, friends, home and church my days were filled to overflowing. Although my schedule felt chaotic and I felt like I was going crazy, I preferred to think of myself as a “highly productive person.”

Friends and coworkers would ask, “How do you manage all you do?” And I’d respond “I guess I’m just wired that way.” I know, it’s a humble brag- not something I am proud of. But I honestly thought it to be true. Maybe I was wired differently. Maybe I could handle more than others. Sadly, my heart enjoyed the recognition of all the work I was able to accomplish and I hungered for that type of response; it fueled me to keep pressing on.

But, at the end of the day when it was time to relax, my to-do list whispered another truth. The truth that I haven’t done it all, that there was more to do. My friends don’t see that side of me. They have the advantage of seeing all the things that I am able to accomplish; not all the things left undone. But I do. Its there staring me in the face.

Perhaps I’m not alone in this feeling. Perhaps you feel it too? That no matter how much you accomplish, what bothers you most is that you weren’t able to finish all the tasks. That long to-do list keeps you up at night. You sit there thinking of all the things yet to accomplish and mark off the to-do list.

It’s not all the undone work, but those everyday tasks like cleaning the house, laundry, making a menu for the week, and paying bills. But there’s even more. There are the dreams that seem too far out of reach. Like taking a vacation. Or making the time we want to be intentional with those we love, including God, but can’t seem to manage.

Recently my ulcers started to act up more often than usual, and I slipped back into losing large amounts of sleep each night. A couple weeks ago, as I was sitting on the couch, I found it hard to breathe and anxiety arose, but there was no apparent threat- just a lot of stress. The looming deadlines, the demanding work load, and mounting emails beckoned. My life felt completely out-of-control. I was burned out from having too much to do, and always feeling behind.

The fear of disappointing someone chased me constantly. I was busy, but simply didn’t know how to stop the endless cycle. Turns out I didn’t have an anxiety problem. I had an over-commitment problem. I committed to almost everyone and everything.

In order to start making changes, I had to honestly face some hard things about myself. My hunger for significance drove me to take on more than I could handle.  Before I could live the less hectic life that I desperately longed for, I had to address the root issue of my heart’s need. And part of that was identifying the lie that drove me to overwork myself.

Jesus promised an abundant life, but also told us there is an enemy plotting our downfall. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Our enemy, “the thief,” is also a liar, always twisting the truth. So while Jesus promised an abundant life, Satan spins it so we think that life is found in an abundance of activity and commitments. And before we realize it, life has stolen from us what’s best…room to breathe, time to focus, and space in our schedules to fulfill our God-given priorities. The abundant life Jesus offers isn’t filled with to-do’s (even though I believed that to be the case for far too long). Tasks and commitments only satisfy us from the outside in, never reaching the core of who we are. However, Jesus’ satisfies us from the inside out, as we experience the depth of His love, His purpose and His peace.

This is no easy change- and I know it won’t just happen overnight. But each day I am learning to trim my responsibilities so I can experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. Jesus promises a less hectic life, and it’s a promise He can fulfill when we look to Him to fill our days, instead of an endless to-do list.

  “May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!”   Psalm 29:11

GLYNNIS WHITWER

My Future Is In God’s Hands.

It can be so hard to trust God with my future because I have no idea what’s going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely trust God in so many OTHER areas, but when it comes to my future- I struggle. I don’t think I am alone in this. Anyway, the other day I was thinking about the fact that I would be turning 31 soon and was really struggling to trust God with my future, but more specifically my love life.

I decided to set out on a ‘Trusting God’ Mission. I wanted to trust God MORE and I wanted to completely surrender to Him my future (and my love life). I had no idea what this journey would look like, where it would take me, or the emotional roller coaster I was about to embark on, but I was excited. Excited to see what truths He would reveal to me. While trusting God with my future was one of the hardest things for me to do, I was tired. Tired of trying to do it all. Tired of thinking that my plan for my future was somehow better than God’s plan for my future.

When I began to think about my future, and why it was so hard for me to completely entrust it to God, my mind immediately started listing off all my “what if’s”.

“What if I never get married?”

“What if my best friend moves away?” 

“What if God calls me to do something I’m not good at?”

“What if…?”

“What if…?”

“What if…?”

Worrying about the “what if’s” can be the biggest enemy to our peace and our joy. I know this first hand and it’s definitely no fun. In fact, I have several “what if’s” in my life right now. Life is full of unknowns and unfortunately I don’t think that will ever change. But instead of fretting and worrying over my future, I’ve come to understand some amazing truths that have given me the confidence to totally trust God. (yes, even with my love life).

God brought me to the book of Genesis, and it was there that He encouraged my spirit. It was from an unlikely place in the Bible and from an unlikely man.  I came across a familiar story of a man who was facing a lot of “what if” questions, just like me. And you know what? This man was also struggling to trust God with His future. (God certainly has a sense of humor).

The story about about Abraham. At the age of 75 God told Abraham to pack up his stuff, move away from his family and friends, and live in a completely foreign land. Crazy, I know! But what is even more crazy to me than God asking him to do this, is that Abraham actually did a pretty good job at trusting God and obeying Him. The Bible says, “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him…” (Gen. 12:4a).

I think at this point it was easy for Abraham to trust God. Life seemed to be going exactly as planned. Plus, he was probably super excited about God’s promise: “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great…” (Gen. 12:2). So off he went.

Not bad if you ask me!

Lets fast forward a little- it’s now that we begin to see Abraham struggling to trust God and His promise. He starts asking some “what if” questions about his future. Abraham is getting older and so is his wife. She’ s getting to the age where having children might be physically impossible for her. (this is not looking too good).

So what does Abraham do, he starts to question God. In Genesis 15, Abraham starts reminding God that he is still childless. (as if He didn’t know). I’m sure Abraham was like “Hello, God? Did you forget about me? Did you forget about Your promise? I kind of need a son if I’m going to have all those descendants you mentioned…”He was worried about his future. Let’s be real, I think most of us would have been. Abraham started losing faith in God. At this point, Abraham’s wife also began to lose faith in God. So they decide to take matters into their own hands. You know the story (Ishmael, lots of drama, etc.).

Now lets fast forward even more, at this point it’s been 24 years since God’s initial promise with Abraham, and guess what? Abraham still does not have his son. He is 99 years old- and I am sure he’s about to have a panic attack thinking about being a father at the age of 99. He is worried. He is old. His wife is old. But God sees the worry in Abraham’s heart and reminds him of the promise. Genesis 17:6 “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you”.

Abraham was struggling to see the big picture. He couldn’t see down the road of his life and that worried him. He couldn’t imagine that nations and kings would come from him, considering the circumstances! He struggled with trust. Just like me and you often times do. Abraham had no idea how his future would pan out. The amazing thing is, God did.

What Abraham forgot – and what we too often forget – is that God sees the bigger picture. That He holds our future in His hands. God knew that nations and kings would come from Abraham. He just needed Abraham to trust Him. Just like He desires us to trust Him.

I love this story. It’s an amazing reminder to me to trust God with my future, no matter the circumstances. Life will be confusing, my circumstances will seem impossible at times, my future may continue to be unknown to me. But God is in complete control and regardless of how “uncertain” your future may seem, God is faithful.

We all have those “Abraham moments” in our lives, when we lose sight of God’s faithfulness. However, we can learn from Abraham’s life. We can learn the importance of trusting God with our future and yes, that even includes my love life.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

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Plug Into Your Joy.

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“…Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Sometimes I think I’m Superwoman. I try to do it all. I tend to just keep moving until I pretty much just keel over. Well last week wasn’t much different. It was a long week, so walking into church Sunday just felt like another thing to mark off my to-do list. I had been running on caffeine and no sleep. My mind felt overly exhausted, and I had no expectations to be able to take away from the sermon what I am sure the Lord wanted me to. I was running on fumes. And unfortunately when I’m running on empty, I’m a complete mess!

I was feeling exhausted, irritable, I was probably insensitive and stubborn, frustrated. Not at all characteristics of Christ or the woman I strive to be each day. I have fallen into trying to be Superwoman for years, it almost just feels like second nature to attempt to do it all. I’ve learned over the years that more often than not the reason I end up feeling so exhausted and empty is because I stop plugging into my Power Source. It shows me that I didn’t make time to spend time in the Word, that I didn’t set aside quiet time with God, and that I didn’t get refilled spiritually. And when I don’t plug into God, I’m bound to start running on fumes (which isn’t good for anyone).

It is so essential to spend daily time in God’s presence if we’re going to live with the joy of the Lord. The more intimate our personal relationship with Him becomes, the better our fruit will be. Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.  Those are definitely all fruits that I want to be growing; not exhaustion, irritability, stubbornness, or insensitivity. 

God wants us to stay joyful even in the midst of the difficulties we face in life, because His joy is our strength. It’s the fruit of joy that strengthens us to go through whatever we have to deal with and make it to the end result. Plugging into His strength is so important, it allows the fruits of the Spirit to grow within us and our lives.

So what happens when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed (because we all have those mornings). The mornings when we feel low, irritated, discouraged or frustrated. That’s when we need to plug into God. If we aren’t living with the joy of the Lord, we need to examine the root of our fruit. We need to be spending more time with God, studying the Word, doing what He tells us to do by His grace, and soon our joy and strength will return.

The key is to lean on Jesus. He has the ability and strength you need.

 

Ladies, Don’t Get Lost In His Mixed Messages.

There was a time when I spent months waiting, and wondering, and hoping for a relationship to move to forward, I spent so much time trying to figure out what the heck his mixed messages were trying to tell me, and hoping beyond hope for a happy ending.

There were so many questions that seemed to replay over and over in my mind:

  • If he doesn’t like me, why would he flirt with me so much?
  • If he does like me, then why no commitment?
  • I’ve prayed over and over again, “God, if we’re not supposed to be together, take away my feelings for him.” But God hasn’t. Is that supposed to be telling me something?
  • If this isn’t supposed to happen, then why do so many of our friends tell me how perfect we are together?

I felt like a detective, I was piecing together all these different clues. It all felt so complicated, and so entirely uncertain. I looked at relationships around me wondering how the heck they made it happen. I wondered how they figured out the whole puzzle to such a stunning result.

 I decided to ask my close friends about their relationships and how their husbands pursued them. I wanted more insight. They told me how they each started talking in the beginning of their relationships, how their husbands were friendly and kind, how they pursued them. They told me the different stories about how they became ‘official’ (yes, we are even talking Facebook official). It was so simple! Their husbands met them, got to know them, liked them, pursued them, asked them out. My friends didn’t have to make it happen, or pin down their husbands, or decode what they were thinking, because they told them. Plain and simple!

After listening to their wonderful stories and talking through my track record with these amazing ladies, I decided that I needed to change some things up, because clearly my way wasn’t working for me. I made a decision that I wouldn’t give my heart away again until it was truly asked for. I realized the importance of Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” and allowing a man to pursue me correctly. And until a man told me how he felt, showed me how he felt, and made a commitment to me, I decided that mixed messages just weren’t enough anymore.

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Everyone’s story is different. But in every story, if the relationship is going to happen, there’s a point when the man has to make his intentions clear,  when he has to make a commitment and follow through with it. And until that point, we can’t give our hearts away.

Now, this is hard because we are such lovers. We have such huge hearts. We want to love and care for and connect with people. And I love this about us. But if we aren’t careful, this gets us in trouble. It lands us in positions where we’re fully invested when we maybe shouldn’t be, hurting, and feeling powerless as we wait for him to make the next move.

I know y’all have all the hope in the world that this guy is going to get it together, realize what he has, and run to you like he absolutely should. And maybe he will. But here’s the deal, until that happens, until he comes to you telling you how much he likes you and asking you to be his girlfriend (committed, exclusive, and public)- he has no business being in your heart.

He cannot have you (or your heart) until he is willing to pursue you and commit to you, in the way you deserve. And so that’s what I hope you hold out for because that’s what it should take to catch an amazing woman like you.

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