I've tried to deny God many times in my life.
More times than I'd even care to admit.
But thankfully for my ever-doubting brain, I have been given some pretty distinct answers to prayers in my life---and sometimes I've been given answers to things I didn't even pray about.
The most significant spiritual experience I've had was the day before my husband left me.
I was driving my kids to my parents house and heard a voice---clear as day---that said, "Just remember that you have a really good life."
I kind of chuckled and thought, "Duh!", because at the time, I felt like my life was pretty incredible.
But as I sat there, I took an opportunity to count some of my most cherished blessings.
And the next day, as I was driving away from the home that my husband had just let me know he was moving out of, I was hit with the previous day's experience. "Just remember that you have a really good life." And all of the things I had counted as blessings the day before? I still had them. They still existed and separation/divorce could not take those things away from me.
Did that stop me from struggling or becoming angry or feeling betrayed? No. I still had to keep my head barely above water throughout the divorce process and the years since then.
Some days, I'm still barely keeping myself and my family afloat.
Another significant experience I've had with God came at a time in my life when I was in a pit of despair and struggling through some very private and horrific events that had occurred in my life. I was so angry and although I did not deny God in that moment, I was angry at Him. I yelled at Him. I didn't deny His existence but I denied His glory and love for me.
I was laying on my couch, yelling at Him at the top of my lungs, telling Him that if He wanted me to trust Him, he'd need to hit me over the head with a ton of spiritual bricks because I was done!
And although I was not handling things in a very productive manner, He still sent me exactly what I had demanded. Instead of a clear voice in my ear, He used another person and sent me a text with a scripture from a friend that had no way of knowing just how significant that scripture was in that moment.
It was kind of incredible.
In fact, not kind of.
It was truly incredible.
Since then, my journey of faith has not been easy, nor has it been very steady.
At the beginning of this year, I chose to focus on authenticity toward myself, in hopes that I could learn how to shut out my fears of what other people think of the life I'm living.
I wanted it to matter to myself and to God. I didn't want input or opinions on what I should or could be doing. I wanted to figure it out on my own.
My people have been incredible through this. They have watched me make choices that don't align with theirs and they've just loved me unconditionally. That alone has been one of the sweetest parts of my journey---the love that I've found in places I was afraid it wouldn't exist.
It's funny because as I sit here tonight, I'm realizing just how much I still haven't figured out and yet, I have learned so much in the past 18 months. I have grown so much. I have been so brave and have tried to be as authentic as possible.
One mantra that I've really tried to adopt in those moments where life just feels like too much to handle is stated below.
There have been many times in the past year and a half where I've wondered what I was supposed to be doing. I'd look at the future as one big picture and get overwhelmed with how hard it all looked.
And so I started doing "the next right thing".
When I get overwhelmed or I feel like I cannot make big decisions, I listen to my heart and follow what feels like the next right thing in my life.
This might sound simple but it really isn't.
Sometimes I'll feel like something is "the next right thing" and it still looks or feels too hard.
But I've tried really hard to stay true to that motto.
I have learned a lot through the perspective of "the next right thing". I have made some really brave, scary decisions because of this promise that I made to myself. I have taken steps in directions I didn't necessarily want to go because, when praying, I discerned that those decisions were my next right thing.
And I'm so grateful that when my "next right thing" feels to scary, I have supporters to lean on.
As this year comes closer and closer to ending, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for my New Years goal of confidence and authenticity in 2016. I think I've stayed true to that goal more than any of my previous ones---and that's saying a lot because I really do feel like I've done well with my goals for 3+ years now.
I've already prayed about my word for 2017 and chosen a path but we will get to that in a different post.
In the meantime, I will continue living my life, choosing the next right thing.