Discerning God’s Voice: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Discerning God’s voice, finding the whisper in the storm, is not always easy. It can be especially difficult when choosing between two apparent goods. For me, this difficulty is multiplied again when the decision to leave involves walking away from a need that I could fulfill, a service that I could provide.

With only a week left in Chicago I find myself at one of those very crossroads. Packing has begun, not that there’s much to pack, and Ava’s new nanny, Miss Vivianne, arrives for a trial run this Friday. These past two months have been filled with such unexpected treasures. When I think of the weeks I spent here, I’m not reminded of pull out couches, tiny closets, or city driving, but rather, the many evenings spent talking with my brother, my sister-in-law’s sage advice, building deeper friendships with them, and the countless moments shared with Ava watching her grow and change, as she becomes her own person, full of personality and an independent spirit. Knowing their need for someone to continue caring for her during work hours, it is difficult to not want that person to be me.

How are we called to decide? Staying to care for my niece would not be a bad decision. I’d argue it would be a good one, but are we called to make good decisions, or to dig deeper, quiet ourselves, and inquire as to God’s decisions? When facing a similar situation many years ago, as my time in New Zealand neared its close, a very dear priest friend said to me, “Danielle, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that you should.” This simple, yet profound statement has served as my pause button on a myriad of occasions: deciding whether to stay or to go, take this job or that one, where to give my time, what relationships to pour into, what ministries to take on. In such situations, repeating that simple phrase, helps me to slow down and place the decision back in God’s hands, asking Him to reveal His Will for me.

Practically speaking, how do you go about letting God make your decisions? I’ve been asked this question so many times. For me, it involves being in a quiet place, where I can still my mind and heart, and listen for God’s voice. Once in that state, I begin to envision whatever situation I’m trying to make a decision about. I picture myself, where I would live, what I would be doing, who I would be surrounded by, the good I see coming from it, any difficulties I foresee, etc. As the vision of whatever I’m placing before the Lord washes over me, I find that I am almost always filled with either a sense of peace and joy or a sense of unease. For me, when the peace comes, I know I have found God’s whisper.

And so it is, that as much as I would love to stay and care for my niece because it would be a good thing, it seems God is calling me elsewhere. The peace of my heart currently rests in Norfolk. And so, I prepare to journey south, knowing that God is not in the business of willing my good at the expense of another. Trusting in this knowledge, and my many experiences that support it, I know that my decision to leave is also the best decision for my brother, sister-in-law, and Ava. Though I can’t see His plan, God has a perfect plan for them, just as He does for me. I don’t know where this stage of the adventure will lead any of us, I can rarely see beyond the next bread crumb, or the next sign on the road, but I trust in the One who’s guiding me. He has never steered me wrong. True happiness lies in Him alone.

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Tiny Closet

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Featured above is the whole of my material existence for these two months. To some this may still seem like a lot, to others it may seem like nothing. Either way, I am in love with my tiny closet. I have some clothing, books, toiletries, and my guitar. I find opportunities to simplify my life exhilarating, as they teach me of life’s truest priorities. My tiny closet reminds me a great deal of a tiny backpack I once carried across the gorgeous, though sometimes brutal, Spanish countryside. That pack contained two tops, two pairs of shorts, one dress, a sleeping bag, and the necessary items for a days journey. How I miss that pack! In it’s absence, my tiny closet serves to remind me of the perspective gained when one’s possessions are minimized. Suddenly, time that would have been spent sifting through a wardrobe to pick an outfit is spent enjoying another precious snooze on the alarm, a good book, a great conversation, or simply reveling a few minutes longer on the final sips of coffee in my cup. Sometimes I think it can be easy in our culture to become enveloped by our things. And even if not entirely engulfed, we are often distracted by the many possessions which fill our lives. They steal away our attention and our time. Tiny closets transport us back to less complicated times, when people, not things, were priority. For all that it teaches me and for the ways it frees me, I just love my tiny closet.

Three Adults and a Baby

**Prelude: More to come on the reasons behind my two year disappearance from the public blogging world. Also, a potential url move for Abundant Life in the coming months!

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What happens when you move into a 420 square foot apartment in downtown Chicago with your brother, sister-in-law, and four month old niece? I’m about to find out. That’s right, my newest adventure has begun and while it may not be off in foreign lands, I think it may be the most daring yet. When my brother and his wife found out they were expecting their first little bundle of joy, they began, like all good parents, to plan for the future. They knew the day would come sooner than they’d like that Megan would have to return to work after four months of maternity leave. I was honored by their request for me to come and live with them for a few months as Ava’s (my niece) nanny.

That was six months ago. Today, I can’t believe the insurmountable insanity which must have overcome each of us when we agreed to this arrangement! And yet, as I look around the new apartment I now call home, my brother and sister-in-law asleep in their bed, my niece in the crib next to them, and me on the sofa bed, having successfully survived our first day, I can’t help but think that this just might be crazy enough to work! I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I hope you’ll join me on this crazy ride.