I have been buried in journals of all shapes and sizes the past few weeks, pulling out the beautiful words that God has spoken over the years. There were definitely certain journals I kept in a less dusty place so I could reread the words that mean so much, but never in my deepest imaginations did I understand the absolute beauty and love story that has been penned over the course of many years. A love story from God to me.
I had seen the ups and downs, the triumphs and defeats and the blank pages of missed days in the chaos of life as all disjointed and held together by the bindings and rings of each journal. Instead, I have found that my story has been held together by Him. Yours is too – even if you are unaware. His movements in our lives don’t depend on our awareness. When we are aware though, we will want to join Him in what He is doing. We will have a bigger vision than what we are eating, wearing or facing that day. Journaling His words helps us get the bigger picture. We see that we fit into a much larger story that He is writing and our little one doesn’t matter as much.
Over the years, a journal would be completed and up it would go on the highest shelf of my closet in the 2001 Shredded Wheat box. I’m fancy like that. That big box has survived many moves and bears the scars with masterful and poetic words like ‘Master Bed’ or ‘Hall Closet’ scrawled across it in black Sharpie and packing tape hanging from the sides. That Shredded Wheat box perhaps contains the biggest treasure of my life – the words God has spoken to and over my life and those I love. I knew enough treasure was there that if there was ever a fire at our house, that box was going with me. Perhaps it’s time to get a better box or I risk being the frantic lady running around in a robe, carrying an old, vintage Shredded Wheat box.
What prompted me to go through these old journals that contain the scribbled notes of my life were really two things. 1) I turned 40 and since I am feeling more oldish than youngish, I decided that now is the time to get my things a bit in order. I mean, who wants people going through their personal journals when they’ve moved on from here? Not me, I tell you, definitely not me. 2) I was asked to share a story on journaling at the women’s event at our church.
I suspect that these two reasons were only a set up by God so I could see in a very real way, His love and His passion for not only me, but for you and for every human that walks this planet. This God loves extravagantly and is actively involved in our lives – all the time. We may not be able to see it, but it doesn’t make it any less true. You see, I knew He was moving, but I was still largely unaware of just how much. I still am, I’m sure, because we can never quite understand just how much He loves us or how much He is doing around us. He is always orchestrating our lives and moving us towards Himself. Our job is to respond to Him.
I have been asked how we can know that God is really speaking. The truth is, it can be a bit scary at first, but here is what I have found. God wants to speak to us even more than we want to hear Him. The desire that we have to know Him was put there by Him in the first place.
What follows is what I shared at the women’s retreat, which is why many of you have landed on this blog.
For me, journaling is a large part of the process of hearing Him. I usually read my Bible and then stop when I hit a verse that seems like it is jumping out at me. I write down some thoughts and what God is speaking to me through that verse. I then start to write out what is going on in my heart to the God. I write the good, the bad and the ugly (if it’s about people, I usually switch to just talking to Him or I tear it out after – that is the stuff you definitely don’t want people reading after you die). After this, I sit and am still(ish). When I start to hear what I believe is Him, I just start writing down what I am hearing. When it is Him it typically flows very freely. If it is me, I get hung up on words etc.
People journal in all different ways. My husband says to me that God says to him in one word what He says to me in paragraphs of poetic language. He speaks to my daughter often in pictures. Some people like to use bullets and incomplete phrases. Sometimes it’s a quote that jumps out at you or something that is said everywhere you go. It doesn’t really matter. The part that matters is tracking what He is speaking and doing in our hearts. He has spoken to me in all those ways at different times. That is why my journals look like chaos sometimes.
What follows are some things I keep in mind when I am journaling:
- God wants to speak to me even more than I want to hear Him. He may not speak every single day, but He does have things to say that He wants me to hear, know and understand. He speaks often if I will listen.
- I need to be okay with the fact I will not always hear perfectly. Especially in the case of a big life change, sickness, job, something with our kids, our future etc, we sometimes don’t hear as easily because there is a lot of emotion involved. Personally, when I believe that God is speaking with a direct word about one of these types of situations, I will write it down with a question mark and pray. I will hold it somewhat loosely and with open hands. If it does not turn out like I believed it would, He did not lie. I did not hear and that is okay. With those kinds of words, I have often heard correctly and it is a huge faith builder, but sometimes I have not. If you do not hear correctly, it does not mean you cannot hear. It means you didn’t hear that time.
**Often in these situations, He will give words that comfort and bring hope centering on who He is. Those words are always true and we can ALWAYS rest in those.
- What He says will ALWAYS line up with His Word. His words will always push towards forgiveness, hope, wholeness and holiness. He will be compassionate, kind and gentle, but never will He feed bitterness, hopelessness or fears. He will not feed fears of not measuring up either. His love drives out fear (I John 4:18).
- His words are not driving. They may and should be corrective and instructive at times, but will always cause us to want to be near Him – not hide from Him. They will not bring shame, but conviction that leads to a deeper walk with Him. His words will never lead us away from Him or His heart towards us. It is important that when He convicts, we repent. He is trying to pull out those things that separate us and hurt our intimacy with Him.
- Learning to hear His voice is a learning and growing process and that is okay.
Along with the amazing things God has spoken over the years, I have also found other things.
-blank pages where I didn’t hear anything (either I was in a hurry or He just didn’t say something)
-many missed days or weeks depending on the season of life (pre-kids I had 3-4 journals a year; when I had 3 kids in 3 years, I had one journal for two years)
-Veggie Tales drawings surrounded by scribbles
-pages (and pages and pages and pages) where I want to throw my hands in the air and ask my younger self why I just couldn’t see what God was trying to tell me
-things that I thought were God that now I clearly know were not
Hopefully, that takes any pressure off that journaling has to be a masterful art. Maybe some people’s journals are, but mine more resemble a disaster area interlaced with God’s beautiful words. It is a place to bring my heart to God and let Him show me His.
Words from personal journals shared at the retreat:
*My purpose in sharing these is to show just how intimately God is involved in our lives and that He is constantly working. This is true for all of us whether there is written record of it or not. When we respond to Him, He does amazing things. The response is up to us.
He goes before us, preparing the way; He goes behind us, restoring and healing broken places; He is with us, giving us everything we need for the present day. He wants intimacy and desires rest for our souls no matter what we are facing.
He goes before us preparing the way.
Story: This was given one year to the day before we had a very disorienting and devastating circumstance hit our lives. It literally changed our future, our friendships, made us feel as if we couldn’t hear God and was extremely difficult on our marriage. When reading these words, keep in mind that I had no idea that this circumstance was coming.
In this next year, I am going to build your confidence in Me so that you will not be easily shaken. I am going to intensify your love for me so that no matter what, you will not turn your back. I am going to impart things to you that are important for the things to which I have called You. I am going to teach you to hold my hand in all kinds of places. (Psalm 27:5; Psalm 139:10)
I am separating your feelings from your walk so that you will be steady through thick and thin and so that you will not doubt my love for you even when you feel that I am hostile towards you. I am strengthening you so that you will be able to stand on the truth regardless of the things that are thrown at you. I am making you secure in your walk with Me. (Psalm 18:32; 2 Samuel 22:33)
He goes behind us restoring and healing. He heals broken places and reminds us of who we are. We are His.
Story: I had a lot of inner struggles like depression and things I just couldn’t get around. 2014 was a year of profound healing in my life. My journal from 2014 is filled with the process of Him freeing me.
I am the God Who heals you. I am healing your heart in layers. Complete freedom is coming. Embrace Me, embrace My process. Cling to me tightly every day and My life will flow out of you. Keep your eyes on Me, not on your emotions. Give those to Me. Your tendency is to focus on what is going on inside of you and try to figure it out, but I know the source of all things. Only I see all of the places that need restoration and healing. I am the God Who heals you. I am not scared of your brokenness. I have come to heal you. I see all of your fears and misgivings. Do not be afraid. Cling to Me. I am life. You cannot have life without Me.(Isaiah 61:1; Psalm 147:3; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:2)
He is in our present day.
Story: We had just found out that John has a serious genetic condition. At the point that this was written, we had been told that he may need a liver transplant and were waiting for the biopsy. God had me in a process of learning to trust His goodness no matter what the outcome. John also owns a business and at this point it was really struggling, so this was also a major stress at the time. We were also recovering from the devastation of having a stillborn daughter.
*He did not need a liver transplant and his condition has not gotten worse which is a miracle in itself and his business turned around.
I’ve got the whole situation in My hands. I know the beginning and the end of all things. Put your trust in Me and know that whatever life has in store I am trustworthy. One word uttered from My mouth can change an entire situation. I have your life perfectly orchestrated according to My purposes. The enemy has been trying to get you to doubt My character and goodness. I want to demonstrate who I am to you through this entire situation. You will see facets of me that you can only see when pressed by trouble and fires. I love you. Put your trust in Me. I am good and I have not left you.(Joel 2:11; Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 136:1)
Intimacy with Him is what He desires for us
Story: This is a common theme throughout all of my journals.
I love you. Seek Me, seek Me, seek Me. There is no end to my depth and you can have as much as you desire. When your desire wanes – ask Me. When you are tired – ask Me. I will pour myself out on you. You will be overrun with my blessing. Even when walking through adversity my children cannot outrun my blessing. (James 4:8; Psalm 23:6; Psalm 41:10)
There is alway refuge under my wings. Come to me ALL who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. My rest isn’t necessarily that the situation stops, but that instead there is rest even in the center of it. I pour out my grace and my glory on the one who stays in my presence. In My presence is where you find the grace to go through situations in total peace. I am a burden bearer, a load lifter. Happiness is not your strength, but my joy is. This joy is found in My presence alone. Wrong paths are followed when man does not stay in My presence. My presence provides protection. It is in my presence that provision comes, understanding comes and peace comes. (Psalm 91:4; Matthew 11:28; Psalm 16:11; Psalm 28:7; Philippians 4:19; I Peter 5:7)
Happy journaling, friends!
*I’m sure many of you have your own stories also! Please share in the comments. Hearing how God is moving in lives is so encouraging!