Wow. So, since deciding to actively listen for the voice of God in my everyday life, I've realized He talks to me all the time. I'm pretty sure He has been trying to communicate with me for my whole life, but when I'm tuned in and listening it's like wow, He has a lot to say about every detail of my life. :) He really does care about the details. And He wants absolute surrender and obedience in every one of those details.
I've been dealing with one "big" detail for awhile: boot camp. Or more accurately, my relationship with the gym. I've been working out with weights, running and doing aerobics for nearly 18 years. I love it. I love challenging myself physically, I love sweating a lot (I know, I'm weird :)), I love being fit and running faster and pushing myself harder and upping my weights and giving a little bit more when I think I don't have anything left to give. So I've seriously been enjoying boot camp the last six months. Boot camp is a very hard core workout with a personal trainer at the Y. In six months of boot camp, I've lost 8 lbs and 4% body fat. I've gone from working out with 8 lb dumb bells to using 15 pounders, and from doing all my pushups (we typically do 100 each time) on my knees, to doing all 100 on my toes. Yes, I actually enjoy the torture. :) But God has been asking me some tough questions about boot camp. Why are you working so hard to stay the size you were in high school? Why do you have to be the fittest person at boot camp? Why do you want the recognition for being in good shape? As I've realized the answers are pride, pride, and more pride, I've wrestled with whether or not I should even be doing it. For months I've rationalized it. Surely God doesn't want me to be out of shape, I've reasoned. The Proverbs 31 woman has strong arms, I've read it in my Bible! Isn't it just godly stewardship to keep my body strong? A month or so ago, I was sprinting at boot camp while my children were in the childcare and Allie was working on her math in the lobby area. I literally saw Jesus' face in my mind. He was smiling at me, and with a little laughter in His voice, He said, "What are you doing here, Julie? Where are your children? I've given you a task: go do it! Why are you carrying around those weights and running so fast like you're sixteen? Go be a Momma!" Like I said, He had a smile and was totally non-condemning. But I knew what He was saying. So I stayed home from boot camp a couple of times, but just went right back shortly after. Finally last weekend, I couldn't stand the tug on my conscience anymore. Okay Jesus, I surrender boot camp to you, I said. I'm not working out again until You give me the go ahead. I know You are trying to teach me something here. I'm listening. I'm available. Teach me, Lord. Your servant is listening. And that is the place I am still in regarding boot camp. Last week wasn't as rough as I thought it would be. Already I am seeing that we are enjoying our mornings a lot more, getting a lot more done, and stressing a lot less without having to rush out the door to get to boot camp in time in the mornings. God is blessing me with peace. Every day I am asking Him to teach me the lesson so I can get on with it. :) Somehow I think this one may take a little more time. . . working out for me has been an idol in so many ways. Not just the obvious one, where it's my identity. It has also served as a mood lifter and stress reducer and release. God wants to be all of those things for me. He is showing me that HE can lift me up and relieve my stress and that I can run to Him when I need reassurance of my worth.
Then, I have heard a few seemingly random promptings from Him lately. He's asking me to declutter and simplify. When I first heard Him say that we should get rid of half our stuff, I thought, yeah, that's right, the kids have way too much stuff. But then He said, "I'm talking about your stuff too, child." Oh. You mean my clothes? "Yes." Literally, I've been told to condense my closet to less than half of what it is right now. And today He said, "Four pairs of shoes. Just four. That's it." REALLY? FOUR?? . . . uh, okay Lord. I'll do it. I think He's getting ready to do something awesome in our lives. We've put our house on the market in the hopes of downsizing. Yes, you read that right. Downsizing. Yes, we are still hoping that our family will grow larger. And yet we are looking at smaller houses than the one we are in now. We've found that it really doesn't take that much square footage to raise children- at least not inside the house. I don't believe that children have to have their own rooms and I'm finding that they don't need all that many toys. Each of my children is happiest when they are in my lap, being read a book. They each zero in on two or three toys or gadgets and ignore the rest. We just don't need this much stuff. So we are slowly getting rid of stuff we don't use and paring down to the necessities so we can be ready to move into a tiny house. We found a perfect tiny little house- a log cabin, actually- on TEN ACRES of land that's a ridiculously low price because it's a foreclosure. I've fallen in love. I could just totally see us there. We could have a huge garden, and chickens, even cows. I could sell milk and eggs. I SO want to live there. I've given it to God and keep giving it back to Him every time I try to take it into my own hands, but I really want this tiny little house out in the middle of nowhere. :) It's motivation for me to keep on this simplifying project because I know we can't take all the stuff in our current house to the log cabin with us. I told Brian we will feel like those people who moved out west and could only take with them what would fit into their wagons. :)
God has put faithfulness on my mind. His faithfulness, and the faithfulness He expects from us. "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." -1 Corinthians 4:2. I am a steward of so many things. I've been asking myself, what does faithfulness look like in my stewardship of this and that and those? What is my "acceptable service" (Hebrews 12:28) in each of these areas? I was reading an article about faithfulness in homeschooling recently and wrote this quote from it in my journal to remember: "Simple faithfulness in a God-given calling- no matter how small or how big- elevates the mundane to the holy. Our flesh says, 'I'm tired of doing this.' Faithfulness says, 'This is what God has given me to do, and I'm going to do it whether I feel like it or not.'" I love that. Also, on Wednesday night Bro. Greg said, "Do what you do, that the name of the Lord may be hallowed." Wow. How can I homeschool in a way that hallows the name of the Lord? How can I reach out to my friends in a way that hallows the name of the Lord? How can I hallow His name in my church, my community, in everything I do?
He has also put obedience constantly on my mind. That's really what He wants. Obedience to the commands that are obvious in black and white in my Bible. Obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that I can't see or touch but I know in my heart are Him. Obedience when I feel like it and when I don't. When I understand it and when I don't. Obey, obey, obey. God said through the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament (Samuel is now one of my favorite people in the Bible :)) that obedience is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. Jesus said in the book of John that we are His disciples if we abide in His Word and obey. Deuteronomy 28 lays out a long list of rewards for obedience and consequences for disobedience. I don't know about you, but I want to have the favor of God. I want to live the abundant, full life that is open to blessing. I don't want to just survive or just do the status quo. I want to really live. God says that way to that life is through obedience. One-step-at-a-time obedience. Even-when-I-think-I-need-more-than-four-shoes obedience. Even-when-I-really-miss-boot-camp obedience. I believe God will show up and bless me with His presence and His fullness so much more when I am walking in step-by-step obedience to Him. It is a place where I may be out of shape and wearing old worn-out shoes, but it will be a place of blessing indeed. :)