I posted this picture on Instagram/Facebook last week.
It still makes me giggle.
My youngest got out the rarely-played game of Twister and set it up.
No one actually played. She just thought the big dots were funny.
But who DID take advantage of it?
Hope. Our dog. I don’t know why. It’s not like it was comfortable. But she walked back and forth over that thing for a few minutes, probably a little confused by all the dots, then plopped right down on it and sprawled out. Maybe the dots made her dizzy. I dunno.
But the image stuck with me. Of her collapsed there among all the dots.
It reminded me of all the times in my youth that I DID play a mean game of Twister.
Someone calling out colors and body parts and commanding you to go until you’re so entangled with yourself and the other people playing that you end up falling into a big, giant pile of failure. Usually, there is a lot of laughter at that point.
A few years ago, my life resembled that game of Twister. Except there wasn’t a lot of laughter when the collapse happened.
Somedays, some YEARS, it just gets to be too much. People are screaming out commands of all the things we should be doing and we try SO STINKIN’ HARD to get it all right that we end up collapsing, and we feel like such a loser for not being able to keep up.
For me, sometimes the voices are my kids. “MOM! I need you to do THIS, THIS, and THIS.” and multiply that be four, and it makes this momma dizzy.
Sometimes it is my husband. Because he’s allowed to need me too.
Sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s church, sometimes it’s a day job.
Sometimes it’s mom guilt from seeing all those Pinterest posts or other moms totally rocking it with their spotless houses and well-mannered children.
But most of the time, if I’m honest, the loudest voice is actually my OWN, shouting out overzealous expectations that I was never made to fulfill.
So I found myself in a position a little like that dog.
I was done.
And when I was done, EVERYONE suffered. McDonald’s was a WAY too frequent meal because I couldn’t muster the strength to make dinner. My kids were fishing dirty laundry out of laundry baskets on a regular basis (like… weekly instead of a more reasonable monthly…) Every word I tried to write on a book was pure and utter drivel.
I cried a lot. I yelled a lot.
It wasn’t a pretty place to be in.
But then this funny thing happened.
And in that low time–when I just quit everything and lay there in my state of surrender, I was finally able to hear God’s voice again.
That voice that told me that his expectations were the only ones I need concern myself with.
That voice that told me that his commands were the only ones I need listen to.
That voice that told me how much he loved me, regardless of my faults. That those places where I fall short are the exact places where his strength can shine the strongest.
And it’s when I started tuning out the other voices and listening intently for God’s that I was able to get back up, dust off the dirt, and start playing the game again.
I still get tangled up sometimes. But I’m earnestly, every day, seeking the voice of the One who knows exactly the placement of where I should be in order to be successful. Not MY version of successful, but HIS version.
He can even help me get untangled when I mess up! How about that!
I wanted a share a few tips with you that I’ve learned along the way. Tips for helping to shush the voices we don’t need to listen to and tune into the One we should. These aren’t all-inclusive. I’m still learning. But if you’re struggling with this as well, I wanted to share what I’ve learned.
1.) Time-with-Jesus. I used to think that, as a young working mother who balanced a TON of hats, I didn’t have time to read my Bible every day. I went to church. I prayed… little prayers thrown out when I needed something… but Jesus and I didn’t have much quality time. I figured when the kids got older, then I’d be able to sit down and devote more time to it, and that God understood. I’m here to tell you: I was WRONG. Dead. Stinkin’. Wrong. I now am fully aware that I can’t afford NOT to set aside that time. The difference between the day I start with Jesus, the day I GIVE to Jesus at the very beginning, is so. much. better. than the days I spend trying to “do” for everyone else. It took a few months to really get in a groove. And I didn’t always see the difference in the moment. But hindsight is an amazing thing. I see the before-and-after difference so clearly. And I now crave my time in the word and time in prayer every morning.
2.) Obedience vs results. I could probably write a whole blog post just about this. And I might someday. But God has been drilling into my head that he wants me to focus on walking the path he has for me and being obedient, and trusting HIM with the results. If I gauge my success based only on what I can see, my perspective is narrows and selfish. Focusing on obedience and not results also takes a LOAD of pressure off, the pressure that tends to crush us after a while.
3.) Bye-bye fear. Fear is a nasty thing. Fear of failing as a wife, as a mother, as a writer, as a friend. Fear is what kept me frantically listening to all the voices telling me what I should do to be good at each of those things. A few years ago, I may have said in my anguish, “I KNOW I need to listen to God more. But doesn’t he WANT me to be a good mom? Doesn’t he WANT me to be a good wife? Doesn’t he WANT me to write books for him? Doesn’t he WANT us to do crazy things like pay our mortgage and feed our kids? Telling me to listen to God doesn’t change any of the other things I have to do and am failing miserably at!!!” Fear, y’all. It was fear talking, plain and simple. The fact is, God DOES want me to be a good mom, wife, writer, and all the other hats he’s blessed me with. But He knows that I can’t do it on my own. Listening to him will help achieve all of those things MUCH better than when I go it alone.
4.) Repent. The word that we don’t really like lately. GUILT is another taboo word. “No one should make you feel guilty”… I hear that A LOT. And stinky mom-guilt others try to put on us is totally a thing and I’m not a fan, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above. But on the flip side, if I’m paying more attention to all these other mommas and feeling jealous that I don’t have it all together instead of focusing on God and what HE wants me to do. I SHOULD FEEL GUILTY. It’s called conviction, y’all. And it is a good thing. Because conviction can lead to repentance which leads to freedom from the chain of our sin. One of the most freeing things I’ve done lately was to get on my knees before my Holy God and repent. I asked forgiveness for wanting to do my own thing, for not listening to Him, for putting my own desires before His. And God met me in that place. When I look back, I no longer am overwhelmed with the sorrow of what I’ve done (or not done), but am overwhelmed with thankfulness for how far God has brought me. God doesn’t just hide our guilt, he frees us from it!
And hallelujah for that!
Do you struggle with hearing God’s voice amidst the chaos? Any tips you’ve learned over the years on how to focus on God’s voice instead of all the many other ones crowding in, including our own?