When All You Can Do is Pray

November 30, 2016

This is not the blog post I intended to write this week.

I’ve been working on a post about Hagar’s story in Genesis for a few weeks now and I spent time this week putting the final touches on it.  But as I tried to craft the final sentences, nothing was coming together like I needed it to.

The truth is, my heart is elsewhere.

Perhaps you have heard of the horrific wildfires spreading across the Western part of my beloved state of North Carolina.  The wildfires have now made their way into a place that is near and dear to my heart, Gatlinburg, TN. 

You see, my husband and I spent our first week as husband and wife walking those precious city streets.  It is a place full of culture, warmth, and love.  I feel it every time I visit.  Its beauty is prestige and unmatched for me.  

But things have taken a horrific turn.  People are losing their homes, losing everything they own.  It is simply heartbreaking to see.  I sat at my desk looking at image after image of this beloved city burning to the ground.  I thought about all the people having to leave their homes knowing it wouldn't be there when they returned.  I thought about the emergency personnel who are literally risking their lives to help.   With tears in my eyes I thought, what can I do Lord?  What can I do?

The only thing I knew to do was pray.  Pray, I thought.  Right now that is all I can do.

Sometimes all we can do is pray because there is simply not anything more we can do.  Sometimes the only thing we can do is put our knees on the floor, clinch our hands together and cling to God's promises through prayer.  We pray for whatever hurt is happening, whatever destruction.  Pray for whatever situation there seems to be no end to.  Pray for resolution.  Pray for peace.

When all you can do is pray, that is what you do friend.  You pray.

I know it sounds cliché, even silly to think that the words we pray during these desperate times and situations will do anything to help.  But let me tell you, they do.  I believe in the power of prayer.  With every fiber in me I believe in it.  I’ve seen its effects firsthand. 

There have been times when I’ve witnessed very dear friends walk through unbelievable hurt and pain and I wanted nothing more than to take it away from them.  I would have given anything to do so.  As time wore on, I had nothing left to offer them.  No more words of encouragement.  No positive outlook.  No silver lining. 

But I could pray.  And so, I did.  I prayed prayers I have never prayed before in my life.  Prayers of questioning.  Prayers of unbelief at times.  Prayers of hopelessness on their behalf.  But then came the prayers of power.  Prayers of understanding.  Prayers of trusting and believing. 

Sometimes all we can do is pray and we must believe in the power of that

I am a doer.  I am a take action kind of girl.  So let me be transparent here, this is hard for me.  Sitting still, not having a plan, not helping someone, is really hard for me to bear.  But sometimes God doesn’t need us to take action.  He needs us to rest in Him and trust in His promises. 

God is still on the throne.  He is still in control.  We may feel helpless but God is not helpless.  We may feel weary but God is not.  He is our stronghold.  We may feel desperate and broken but God is the sculptor, The One who puts us back together. 

There may be a situation in your life right now where you feel utterly helpless.  Powerless.  Unsure.  Fearful of what’s to come.  Everything seems out of your control and you don’t know what else to do.  Friend, you keep praying.  There is power in prayer.  There is power when we lift up one another in the name of Jesus.

 “Never stop praying”

1 Thessalonians 5:17

There is certainly a time and a place to take action.  But there is also a time and a place for us to let God work and do only the things God can do. 

And so we pray.   And we keep praying.  In the mighty name of Jesus.  Amen.

Friends, will you join me in praying for the many things that I’m sure are heavy on our hearts? 

Pray for rain and relief for the wildfires.  Pray for the people who are losing everything precious to them.  Pray for our nation and the division that only seems to grow with each passing day.  Pray for peace.  So much peace. 

How can I pray for you?

To the One Running from God

November 8, 2016

I can’t get you off my mind.

I’ve tried for weeks to push this message out of my heart and file it under things to write on in the future.  I’ve put off writing these words for many reasons.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear you won’t hear my heart and won’t understand where I’m coming from.  I wanted to leave this alone.  Truly I did.

But it doesn’t always work that way.  There are some words, some messages that won’t leave me alone and friend, this is one of them.  I can’t promise that these words won’t stir up something inside of you, I actually hope they do.  Maybe these words aren’t meant for you at all.  Maybe they are meant for someone you hold close to your heart.  A family member.  A beloved friend.  A co-worker.  

Friend, please hear me when I say, these words of mine come from love. Such a deep love for you.  There is no judgement.  No malice.  No ill intentions.  I need you to know that so when you move down the page of my heart on this screen, you know that my words come from me wanting you to know you are cherished.  Loved.  Worthy.  Magnificent.  So with that, I need to tell you something hard but something ever so important.

Stop running from God. 

I’m sure it feels like life is just a giant question mark sometimes.  You struggle to know who you are, where you’re going or what the next season holds for you.  Maybe you find yourself looking in the mirror at yourself and wondering when you changed.  

I know it’s an uphill battle.  Sometimes the pain is just too great and there are too many questions unanswered.  Perhaps you’ve asked some of these questions before:

If God is such a good God, then why did He let this happen?
If God really loves me, why didn’t He save me from this?
If God is real, then why is there so much suffering in the world?
If God…
If God…
If God…

Those are difficult, valid questions.  Questions I won’t pretend to know the answer to.  But I do know that God uses our trials and struggles to draw us closer to Him.  I know that if He brings us to it, He will more than bring us through it.  In this way, we learn our desperate need for Him, for a Savior.

Maybe it’s not questions that plague your mind.  Maybe it’s simply that sin feels better than repentance and change.  Satan is so good at making us a slave to our sins and the things of this world draw us in like moths to a flame.  They fulfill us, for a short time.  They feel good.  They give us what we want, what we desire.  Whatever it is- drinking, sex, partying, gossip, lying, greed.  But none of it compares to Jesus. 

Friend, I've been there. I've turned my heart away from Him before.  It was easier to go through the motions of life and pretend my sin didn’t exist.  To look for value and acceptance from others instead of letting Him blow my heart wide open with His truth.  It was easier to pretend that He was some distant God in the sky more than a personal Savior.  It was easier to push the pain down than to allow Him to do the work He needed to and heal me.

God is a fierce pursuer of our hearts and He doesn’t stop pursuing His children.  “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Deuteronomy 4:24 (NIV).  I’m so glad He never stops pursuing us.  Aren’t you?

I need you to know this.  You are never too far gone for God to reach you.  To see you.  To work in your life.  To love you.  Never.  God’s love is never-ending, never ceasing.  You see it doesn't matter what you've done or where you've been. It matters that you return and that His arms are wide open ready to receive you.

What if, just for a brief moment, you stopped and sat still with Him.  You let your shoulders relax and your breath slow.  You focused your mind simply on Him, on His peace.  There is no agenda there, from you or from Him.  There is simply stillness.  I think in those still, quiet moments God would whisper to your heart, come home child.

I love you.

I miss you.

I cherish you.

Nothing you do will stop me from loving you.

Do you believe that?  Do you know how much He loves you?  How much you matter to Him?

You matter.  Your life matters.  And if it sounds like I’m being overly dramatic and too serious, I’m okay with that.  That’s how serious I take this.  Because I want you to know just that badly how much God wants you to stop running from Him.

It’s okay that you messed up.  It’s okay that you don’t have it all together.  Welcome to the club!  We’re all broken and in need of a Savior.  You think you’re too messed up for Him to use?  Look at the people in the Bible-Noah, Moses, David, Rahab, Mary Magdalene, and Paul just to name a few.  They messed up, but God used them in mighty ways.  Ways that brought Him glory; that fulfilled His promises and purposes.

If you need healing, who better to heal you than Jesus?

You need acceptance?  Who better to accept you than The One who was rejected by man.

You need love?  You’ll never find anyone who will love you more.  I guarantee it.

You want to know there’s something beyond the life you’re living?  That God has a plan for you?  You bet.  1,000% He does. (Jeremiah 29:11)

But you have to stop running friend.  You have to let go of the things that have held you captive and release them to God.  There is nothing too dirty, too painful or too burdensome that God can't handle or that you cannot be forgiven and redeemed from. 

What if today, you stopped running, stopped pursuing other things and gave yourself back to Him? 

You are never too far gone for God.  You can always come home.  Will you come?

Lord Jesus,

I don’t know why we run from you.  I don’t know why we think our ways are better than yours. Forgive us for turning away when what our hearts need most is You.  You give us this beautiful parable in Luke 15.  A story of the prodigal son returning home.  He thinks he will be met by his father with haste and anger, yet he is welcomed with open arms, a celebration of return.  You give us this beautiful example of your love for us in this story.  Thank you for your unending patience and grace with us.  Thank you for open arms and unending love.  You are the only thing that can truly fulfill us.  Draw us closer to you and help us to run fast to you.  Fast to your everlasting arms. 

In Your Name, Amen. 

I Feel Called...Now What?

October 19, 2016

They’re there.  You want to push them away and pretend you don’t constantly feel them.  You can’t quite seem to figure out why they won’t leave you, why you can’t stop them from happening.  You make a lot of excuses for why you don’t acknowledge their presence.  But you can’t deny them, even if you tried.  These feelings, these heart tugs, these constant nudging’s that won’t go away, want you to finally surrender.   Give upPut up your white flag.  Answer the call. 

You’re scared.  You wonder if you’ve heard God correctly.  You don’t even know where to begin.  To put into motion all of these things He has laid so heavily on your heart.  But you want to.  You want to be obedient, willing. 

Oh friend I have been there many times.  I have felt the heart tugs, the Holy Spirit’s constant nudging to obey the call He has given me.  But fear gripped me.  Satan’s lies about my inabilities and unworthiness called louder than ever before.  I stood frozen, unsure of what to do next.  Have you been there?

This past weekend I had the privilege of leading a breakout session at our women’s event on calling and purpose.  I titled our session, “I Feel Called…Now What?” because so often we feel a call that God has laid on our hearts, but we aren’t sure what to do with it.  

I want to take a few moments today to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way to encourage you.  Now hear me out, I’m no expert on this.  I come from a place of personal struggle on the topic and as I shared these resources with our group on Saturday, I noticed it was something many of us deal with on some level.  

Find a mentor.

Surround yourself with like-minded passion people.  I know it sounds strange right?  But that’s no typo.  Look around you. Who is doing what you want to be doing?  Who can help you navigate your calling?

Years ago I was with our Acteens group at a teen conference and I spotted a fellow writer and blogger in the crowd whom I had long admired.  I waited around for the right time to go up and introduce myself to her.  The opportunity finally presented itself and I briefly talked with her about how much I enjoyed her blog and how her posts spoke to me.  Then I confessed to her that I felt God calling me to begin writing again and perhaps start a blog too.  With excitement on her face she encouraged me to go after that call, then gave me a few helpful startup tips.   

I would never have expected it, but right then and there we formed a relationship.  Months later after I had started blogging, she asked me to guest post on her blog.  I was elated!  She introduced me to other writers with similar callings and I found myself in the midst of a wonderful community of women who helped me flourish as a new writer.  In that season I was blessed with several new friendships and several mentors who helped me grow and have a better understanding of my calling.

Is there someone that can help you grow in your calling?  Is there someone who is already doing (in some form) what you feel called to do?  Someone you can look to as a resource?  If you don’t have this yet, pray that The Lord will put these people in your path. 

Some of my mentors have been in my life for a short time while we worked on a project together. Some were my age, some older, some through an online community.  Mentors can come in a variety of forms and seasons of life. 

Let me also stress this: find a biblical mentor.  Someone who is in The Word and can speak encouragement and life to you based on the foundation of God’s word.  This will help immensely as you figure out and pursue your calling.

Equip yourself.

Part of pursuing your calling involves knowing your strengths and weaknesses.  What are you really good at or what have people told you are good at?  Perhaps you are talented in music or making things.  Maybe you are a great writer, teacher, or organizer.  Maybe you are someone who is great at recognizing other’s needs.  If you're not sure, let me encourage you.

Grab a spare sheet of paper next to you and jot down 3-5 strengths you have.  It doesn’t have to be formal or fancy.  It can look like this:

Strengths I have:
1.       ________________________
2.      ________________________
3.       ________________________
4.      ________________________
5.      ________________________

Now take a few minutes and think of 3-5 of your greatest passions.  These are the things that set your heart ablaze.  They give you those heart tugs we talked about earlier.  Serving, human trafficking, children, discipleship, youth, music, missions.  It can be anything. 

My passions:
1.       __________________________
2.      ___________________________
3.       ___________________________
4.      ___________________________
5.      ___________________________

Take a look back over your lists.  Do you see similarities?  Do you see where some of your strengths collide with your passions? 

If you’ve never done so, I highly encourage taking a spiritual gifts test. Spiritual gifts are different in that they are gifted to us by God when we become believers.  The tests don’t usually take a lot of time and can help guide you as you assess your strengths and gifts.

Keep in mind.  Passion is a wonderful thing, but it must be met with skill and purpose.  If I don’t put the work in and equip myself, I’m like an artist who wants to paint a picture but doesn’t know how to hold her paint brush. 

Equip yourself and evaluate yourself.  What areas do you excel at?  What areas can you improve on?  Ask yourself these questions often. 

Attend conferences, training's, or read blogs that relate to your calling.  If you want to run your own non-profit one day, you could take a class on obtaining a 501(c) (3) status or go observe other non-profit directors at work.  Whatever this may look like for you, find those helpful resources, do your research, and prepare yourself as much as you can to serve in the way you desire to.

Gather your army. 

A little backstory to share with you.  Before our women’s event this past weekend, I found myself full of nervous energy.  I was anxious of how everything would turn out.  I felt prepared but also nervous about leading a breakout session and I just needed someone to speak encouragement and pray over me.  I texted my sister in law and told her how I was feeling and asked for prayer.  She not only prayed for me, but shared some reaffirming words that my soul needed to hear.  She is in my army. 

An army includes people who can pray specifically for you and for your calling.  It can be family members, friends, church community, and mentors.  It will look different for everyone.  

These are the people that help you, encourage you, and go to battle in prayer for you. 

Do you have people around you that lift you up?  Pray for you?  Pray for your ministry?  Do you have people that help you with projects, events, etc. that are in this work with you?

I know some of you may be thinking, why do I need an army?  How can that really help me?

You need an army friend.  Because there is a real live enemy out there waiting to derail you, waiting to shift your focus off of God, off the Kingdom work He has called you to.  He is ready and more than willing to attack.  Gather your army, your spiritual army, and be ready to fight back. 

Gathering your army is important because at some point, you’re going to want to quit.  You’re going to want to throw in the towel and give up.  Your army can give you that encouragement to keep going and keep pursing what God has called you to do.

It’s important to have an army of believers around you, and it’s just as important to be in someone else’s army.  Be that person who is praying for other ministries, other callings of the women around you.  If you haven’t experienced some of these relationships yet, pray that God will reveal these people to you. 

Stay disciplined.

I know you've heard it before but it's worth mentioning over and over again.  It’s going to be very hard to pursue your calling in the fullest sense if you are not in God’s word.  As believers and followers of Christ, we need to be in the Word of God.  We need to continue to learn more about God and who He is.  We need to continually have a relationship with Him that includes letting Him speak to us and through us from His Word. We also need to be able to recognize Satan’s lies.  We can only do that when we are grounded in the foundation of God’s truth.

Some final thoughts on calling.

It’s not going to look like everyone else’s and often we want so badly for it to.  We want to model our calling after what others have done or the ministry they have.  And while many of us will share the same passions and similar callings, each of us has a special calling that is unique to the work God wants us to do.

Your calling will probably lead you to some scary, messy places.  But that is how we reach others for the sake of The Gospel.  At times it will push you out of your comfort zone.  It will take you places you never imagined.  Isn’t that scary and beautiful all at the same time?

Pursuing your calling is a life-long process.  God gives each of us purpose, but He will continue to call us deeper in our relationship with Him. 

Maybe for some of you, you aren't sure what God is calling you to do.  Maybe for some of you something is holding you back from pursuing your calling.  Don't worry friend.  Keep being obedient, it will come in His timing.  

Whatever stage you are in with your calling, I hope you are encouraged to keep going.  I would like to end with three simple questions that I think can help you no matter what stage you’re in with your calling. 

What’s stopping me from pursuing my calling?

I think God is calling me to:

One way I can pursue my calling is:

So you feel called and you wonder, now what?  Now my sweet friend, you begin.  You take small steps.  You reach out to someone, share your dream.  You take a class, attend that conference or retreat everyone is always raving about.  You center yourself on the foundation of God’s truth, His word. 

You just start.  It doesn’t matter what you do really, just that you start.  It’s not going to be perfect and it’s not going to be easy.  But you can trust that God is going to work it all for good and for His purpose.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

What My 3 Year Old Taught Me about Bravery

September 23, 2016

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked my three year old as we waited in line.

“Yes, mama. I wanna ride that thing.” She could hardly contain her excitement as she pointed to the ride and looked up at me with fearlessness in her big brown eyes. 

We were at our local county fair when she spotted the kids trampoline jump.  Kids were placed in a harness and attached to these rubber band like strings that would allow them to jump on the trampoline and catapult them into the air, flipping back and forth.

She had ridden the small children’s rides; but a little car that goes around in a circle for a minute and a giant kid bungee are two different things.  At least for my mama heart they are. 

I didn’t want to discourage her from trying something new, but I also wanted to make sure she knew what she was getting herself into.  So I asked her again if she wanted to do it, just to make sure.  She jumped down out of my arms and ran inside the jumping zone to claim her spot.  Go with her, I motioned to my husband.

As the ride worker put her harness on and began to attach the rubber band strings, I stationed myself near the exit gate because I was sure at any moment she would realize what was happening and bolt.  As the machine came on, sending a loud buzz signal to the jumper to start jumping, there she went.  She started off lightly bouncing.  And then the ride worker, who meant no harm, gave her a startup pull-sending her flying into the air.  Shock and panic immediately came across her face. 

I was ready to fly past everyone and get her down myself.  There’s nothing like your baby being scared to enact that mama bear response.  And mama bear here, who had not had a single bit of funnel cake yet, was ready to get my baby down and quickly.

“She’s fine.  Let her be. Give her a minute on it.” My husband said as he walked over to me.

I wanted to smack him for saying that.  Not really.  But you mama’s know how that goes.  I saw the panic on her face.  I knew she wanted off.  But He encouraged her to stay on. 

Here’s the amazing thing.  She did stay on.

She stayed on that trampoline bungee-they make these to scare the mama’s-ride and she started to enjoy herself.  My husband was right.  I needed to let her be and let her experience something that was a little scary but fun at the same time. 

As she finished her ride and ran out to greet us on the other side of the gate, I couldn’t help but tell her how proud of her I was.  She had done something out of her comfort zone, something scary and she ended up loving it. 

As we walked away I realized how often I run when things get scary or when I’m pushed out of my own comfort zone.  She had no idea, but my daughter had just taught me two valuable lessons about bravery.

Don’t be afraid of the ride.

When I was about fifteen, my youth group took a trip to an amusement park.  Everyone was so excited to ride all the rides; especially the roller coasters.  I shared a smile with everyone else and pretended to be excited to ride all the coasters.  But the truth was, on the inside I was completely terrified.   

My palms started to sweat and my heart began to race as we all got in line for the first coaster.  One of my friends took my hand and encouraged me to get on.  “You’ll love it if you just try it,” she said.   And I did.  Oh how I loved that feeling of my stomach flipping and the air coursing through my hair. 

But facing my fear of getting on a roller coaster and facing my fears when it comes to my dreams is a little bit harder for me.  At times I’m afraid to ride out my dreams, to see where they will really take me.  Where God will really take me.

I let the fear of failure stop me from trying.

I let the fear of rejection keep me comfortable in my own safety net.

I fear my abilities aren’t what I think they are.

I fear it’s not what God has planned for me, so it will never happen.

Walking away from the fair that day I realized how much I let fear stand in the way of my dreams.  There have been many times that I’ve let fear take over my desire to pursue something. Perhaps you’re like me and you’re doing the same thing.  You’re afraid to even get on the ride. 

Satan loves to use fear to stop us from fully seeking God’s will for our lives. If we’re too afraid to pursue what God has put on our hearts, then we can’t do the Kingdom work He has called us to do.

And doing real Kingdom work is scary.  But oh so worth it. 

Sometimes pursuing our dreams can be terrifying, just like getting on a ride.  Sometimes it feels like your stomach is going to fly out of your mouth.  Sometimes it takes every ounce of faith to keep going. But we must keep going.

Stay. Even when things get scary. 

I saw the panic spread across Brooke’s face in the instant she went flying up into the air.  Suddenly she was out of control, experiencing something unknown to her.  There were a few split moments when fear took over, but she stayed on and kept jumping.  I could take a note or two from this. 

Stay.  Even when it’s scary.  This one is so hard for me.  Maybe it is for you too.  Releasing control, releasing hopes, dreams, desires, even fears to God-so that He can take us into a deeper relationship with Him, well that takes a certain amount of faith. 

I want so badly to say I do this but the reality is, when things get hard or uncomfortable or scary, I want to run.  I want to do the comfortable Jesus thing. 

If we can learn to hang on during the times when things seem crazy.  If we can learn to lean on the everlasting arms of our sweet Creator, to trust that when He brings us to things-He will bring us out of them.  If we can learn to use fear in a good way, to push us farther, deeper, then we will reap the blessing of that relationship with God.  

It's not easy to stay when things get scary.  Most of the time our natural response is to do the thing that isn't scary to us, that isn't uncomfortable, the thing that keeps us at a safe distance.  

But I don't want to be at a safe distance from God.  I want more.  I want to keep going even when everything in me tells me not to.  I want to keep chasing Him, knowing He will put me places that feel out of my comfort zone, out of my safe place. 

But there is purpose in all of this.  Yes, this dreaming thing is hard.  This faith walk is hard.  It takes guts.  It takes bravery.  It takes humbleness. It takes an unending amount of grace and love that only The Lord can provide.  But I'm ready to be brave.  

So how bout it?  You want to be brave with me?  

Do you want to stay on even it's scary?  Even when you're afraid to get on the ride in the first place?  Do you dare to go deeper with God, to see where He really wants to take you?

"Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen."

Ephesians 3:20-21 (The Voice)

We're in great company with this bravery thing. Did you know?  Check out some of our Bible brothers and sisters brave moments below.  

-Deborah & Jael (Judges 4)
-David (1 Samuel 17)
-Daniel & his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Daniel 1) *one of my favorites!*
-Rahab (Joshua 1-3, 6)
-Moses (Exodus, Deuteronomy)
-Ruth (Ruth)
-The Disciples (Gospels of: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
-Our precious Jesus
-Paul (much of the New Testament letters to the churches)

Do You Even Hear Me God?

September 9, 2016

I have a certain spot on my couch where I like to sit with Jesus.  I snuggle myself into the corner spot of our sectional and I barricade myself in with about three or four throw pillows.  Let’s face it, five would be overkill.  I love this spot. It's super comfy and inviting and I feel like there’s plenty of space for me, Jesus, and all the junk I’m bringing to Him. It’s ours.  

One recent night, I went into my quiet time with a mission.  I needed to hear a word from Him.  Things were stirring inside of me that I couldn’t quite make sense of and I needed help sifting through it all. 

I decided to spend a few moments reading Breathing Eden because this book has just been wrecking me in all the good ways I need it to.  One of the reflection questions at the end of the chapter centered on the frustrations we have when we can’t hear God.  Oh my goodness do I struggle with this.  There have been so many times I have cried out in frustration and desperation to hear Him more. 

Back when I was brand new mama of two and I felt like I was hanging onto life by the skin of my teeth, I had one of those raw honest moments of frustration with God.

My two year old was screaming in the next room in a battle cry against bedtime with my husband and my newborn started to stir in her bassinet in the corner of our bedroom.  I was overwhelmed and exhausted and felt like I couldn't do anything right. I needed to feel God’s presence in that moment so badly. I laid down prostrate on the floor and buried my face in the carpet. 

God, I know you hear me.  Please speak to me. I need you to speak to my heart in this moment.

And nothing. 

God I know you’re there.  Speak please.

The silence mounted with every passing moment and I only grew more frustrated.

God I know you hear me.  I am not one of those people who doesn’t believe you are real.  I know you can speak to me. I know you feel the weight of my tears. I know you see how much I need you in this moment.  Why?  Why won’t you speak to me?

After some time passed with no word from Him, I got up and wiped my tear-stained cheeks with my old faded t-shirt.  I wondered, do you even hear me God?

Sometimes I get so envious of my brothers and sisters from back in Bible times. Some of them talked to God and had fellowship with Him. Heck, Adam and Eve got to talk with God every evening as they walked around the Garden of Eden.  And I often think, I want that closeness too.

Instead I am left lying on the floor feeling unheard or sitting in my cozy nook of the couch feeling unsettled. And I find myself shrugging it all off, the whispers of my heart speaking so loudly.  Do you even hear me God?

I’m wondering today how many of you are asking the same question.

Do you even hear me God?

You want answers.  You want to know why things are the way they are.  You want God to speak to your heart.  You want to understand him more, know his will.

Some of you may be looking for confirmation for something.  Some of you need to release some pain to Him, but don’t know how.  Some of you question if you even are His child.  

And what I've learned about God is that he's more than willing to handle our questions. So give it to Him.  Every bit of it.  He can take it.  He hears it all.  The praise. The frustration. The anger.  The uncertainly.  The prayers of unbelief. 

We are not alone in this.  Elijah experienced much of what you and I do when we struggle to hear God.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
1 Kings 19:11-12 (NIV)

Elijah waited for the Lord to speak to him in a big way, but God chose to come to him in a gentle whisper.

A lot of times we expect God to speak to us in these mighty big ways, but sometimes God appears in subtle ways, in the little things and moments. God speaks to us in so many forms-through music, other people, through the beauty of His creation, through His grace and protection.

Our task, much like Elijah’s is to open our hearts and listen through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  

If you find yourself really struggling to hear God, try asking yourself some of these questions to help guide your time with him:

Am I open and ready to hear God with my heart AND mind? Because sometimes our focus lies elsewhere, preventing us from hearing him.

Am I only being open to what I want to hear?  
Am I expecting God to tell me something that I want to hear, therefore shutting out his real response to my heart?

Is my prayer life reflective of my relationship with God? Am I having time with him everyday? Am I reading His word? 

Is there an unconfessed sin in my life?  It can be hard to open up ourselves to God if we are holding on to past pain or sin. If you're not sure, ask God to reveal this to you.

If you have gone through these questions and still feel like you're struggling to hear God, know that you are not alone.  During the times when you find yourself wondering if God even hears you, go back to the things you know to be true of Him. 

God is a good God.  He will work all things together for a purpose and for good (Romans 8:28).  He has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).  He will help you overcome whatever obstacle you are facing (John 16:33). 

As frustrating as it can be to have more questions than answers, there is one thing I do know is certain.  He is there with me.  While I can’t hear His voice, I can feel His presence.

I felt His presence that night when I fell to my knees and sobbed into my bedroom carpet.
I felt His presence the night I sat on my couch wondering why I felt so screwed up if I knew I was deeply loved by Him.

I feel it when my questions for Him far exceeded His answers for me.

I feel it on the days when I feel I am not enough.

On the days when it seems I can’t bear one more burden.

And I have learned that that must be enough.  God absolutely hears our prayers, our outcries of desperation and need for hope. He is there with me and he is there with you too.

Yes, God hears your prayers sweet friend. He may not always answer you, but absolutely He hears them.

To the woman who longs to cradle her belly in joy, wondering why you haven’t see those two pink lines yet, God sees you and He hears your desires.

To the stay at home mom who stands at her kitchen counter surrounded by screaming little ones and cheerios on the floor, who worries if she made the right decision in choosing to stay home-He hears your cries of uncertainty.

To the young girl who cries in her bed late at night because she doesn’t look like the other girls in her class, sweet girl He hears you.

To the mama who spends her nights worrying about her older children-where they are, what they’re doing, just praying they make good choices and decisions-He sees your weariness, He hears you too.

To the woman standing in front of her bathroom mirror, pointing out every imperfection she sees, wondering if He hears the longing in your heart to be loved, to be wanted. He hears you beautiful sister. 

To the woman sitting in her car, gripping her steering wheel because it’s the only thing she has control of at the moment-God sees your fears, your anxieties.  He hears you friend.

Keep seeking Him. Look for Him to speak to you in the less than obvious ways. He is there. He always will be friend. 

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