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Hearing God

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to "hear God." 

I've heard spiritual leaders in my life say before that they can only count on one hand the number of times they can say with certainty they know God spoke to them. I found that surprising because the spiritual world I came out of most recently was filled with people constantly sharing what God was saying to them. Lengthy and specific dialogue, words of encouragement, short answers to prayers and reminders of truth that pointed back to scripture. Stories of healing and praying and faith that would make your hair stand on end. And I connected with that, because God has always talked to me. 

So lately I've been thinking and wondering about how different people have such different experiences with God. My next blog post will most likely be about my spiritual journey in the last three years, and that will go into more detail about what my experiences with God have looked like over time, but this is something that has really been echoing in the back of my mind lately so I wanted to go ahead and get it out. 

What if "hearing God" is really just trusting ourselves to recognize truth that is within us? Because God is truth, correct? And if we hear the truth resonate in our bones and connect with it and follow it, I am beginning to realize you can call that hearing God. 

I'll give an example. In the post titled "An Ode to Holy Quitting" I shared how I heard God say, "I never told you to start a business." And I did. I was standing in the shower, I was listening to worship music and I was contemplating where I wanted this Enneagram thing to go and I felt deep in my bones and in my mind and my heart and my gut - everything in my felt it at the same time - that now wasn't the time. It's not what I was supposed to be doing. I heard a voice in my head say "I never told you to start a business." 

It was so impactful that I literally had to steady myself on the wall of the shower. It resonated so deeply that when I told the story to people over the next several days that I had to swallow hard when it came out of my mouth because I was getting choked up.

So, was it God? I think so. I'm pretty sure.

Was it true? Absolutely. 

So, I'm pretty sure it was God. Since God dwells in my being I'm confident that my body physically and spiritually can recognize Holy Truth when it hits me, or when I hear it. I believe that the spiritual leaders who have made comments about hearing God are referring to something different than what I'm talking about when I say I hear God. I believe we all "hear God" regularly whether we acknowledge it or not. 

Have you received an encouragement from a friend when you most needed it? 

Holy Truth. God.

Have you stared at nature and felt physically affected by it's beauty? Taken in the patterns in nature that directly reflect the truths in the Word? 

Holy Truth. God.

Have you read a piece of fiction that struck you so deeply that it literally changed your life and how you live?

Holy Truth. God.

Have you seen a piece of artwork that communicated something that you could never articulate but know at a bone deep level? Heard a piece of music that did the same? Watched two people dance and walked away stunned by how connected to humanity you felt in the moment? 

Beauty. Truth. God. 

I am trying these days to slow down and notice the God around me. I was raised in a faith tradition that says if it isn't biblical it isn't truth and these days I wholly reject that idea. How can God be contained in anything? God is everything. 

So when my kids are yelling and crying and I'm on the verge of tears and I want to punch a wall and my house is a mess and I'm completely losing my mind ......

it is a gift to take a deep breath

welcome my feelings

and then meditate for seconds at a time on the feeling of my body against theirs, the heat in my ears from the anger bubbling to the surface, the sound of the wind chimes outside my door, the wind rustling the leaves in the trees surrounding my house, the air going in my nose and out my mouth. 

God is in this beautiful and devastatingly hard life and talking to us each minute of each day, we just have to decide to enter the beautiful flow that is Spirit and listen and take it in and receive the holy truth that is being offered to us this day. Here. Now.

Amanda Steed Comment
The Pace of Making Bread

In the past week I have watched an entire season of The Real Housewives of Potomac. I've never watched any of the Real Housewives shows before now, but my brain reveled in the petty drama that ultimately had no real consequences in how the world works. It's almost like my brain got to take a nap while I was awake. 

The last year of my life has been one of the most challenging in a long time, but it's been very manageable and hasn't registered as hard in the moment.

I started doing some community organizing and it felt like the hits wouldn't stop last year - every single day there was a new issue to add to the list. On top of learning a new trade (organizing) it felt like really really important work to get right. I also made friends with people who were and are directly affected by the issues I was working on, which had more of an emotional impact. 

I also did months of training for the Enneagram, hours upon hours of reading and writing a presentation, prepped everything to start a business and then felt called to pump the brakes on that. I applied to Suzanne Stabile's cohort program certain that it was the next step for me only to find out I was not accepted into the program. 

I had 3 very close friendships change a lot last year. They went from relationships that were strong tethers in my life to people I barely speak to. There weren't any big falling outs or hurt feelings, but it still left a gap that I felt like I didn't have the bandwidth to bridge. I started new relationships and grew others that mean a lot to me - that has been emotionally and mentally demanding while also being exciting and life giving. 

In the past two years Kyle and I have had to relearn how to be married to one another, going to couples therapy every other week for several months and individual therapy weekly for years and using dozens of new tools that were unfamiliar and daunting. I am full of hope for my marriage and am learning to be vulnerable, intimate and connected to my husband in a way that is foreign to me. This has been the heaviest of everything on my plate in the last year. I would do it again every year for a decade if it meant we always got back to where we are now, but it took a lot out of both of us to stand and fight for each other when things got hard. Life is still life and sometimes hard but it feels like we were finally able to come up for air. 

As if that weren't enough to hold we also walked through cancer with some of our closest friends last year, after 2016 had left our friend group wearily hoping for a year of calm, and most of us are going through a deconstruction of our faith that is creepily peaceful and unsettling at the same time. It has been incredible to have our core group walk through this process at the same time as us because it is far less lonely than I imagine it would be without them, but it also has been unsettling after being so sure of where I stood spiritually for years and years to suddenly find my questions aren't answered and that God is much much much bigger than I ever imagined possible. 

Did I mention I still have two kids? This last year my kids may have been my saving grace. They still drove me crazy but they also represent innocence and love and kindness in a way that nothing else can. Watching them fall in love with each other and bond makes me so joyful and hopeful that they will have a lifelong friendship. They show me grace when I don't deserve it; when I yell or snap at them or am too quick to firmly grab an arm they are so quick to accept my apology and freely forgive. 

Y'all.

I am weary. 

Last year when I realized I wasn't ready to start a business yet Rachel Triske asked me, "What are the holy desires God has placed in your life?" and my answer was, "to slow down." 

When thinking about that the last six months I keep coming back to the idea of making bread every week. Taking the time to be present and feel the dough and relax and soak in the moment. Breathing deeply and meditating in the beauty of a simple loaf of bread and everything God can say through it. 

And so, I am taking a sabbatical. I'm taking the month of April to rest. I won't be listening to political podcasts or keeping up with the news or planning any Enneagram workshops or planning any events or registering any voters or teaching any essential oils classes. I'm planning to write through the process, and I'll push my posts to social media in order to invite you into the process with me, but I will be fasting from social media during the next month. 

Instead I'll be making bread, drinking wine with friends, smelling the top of my kids heads as much as possible, picking up my guitar and sitting down at my piano more often, reading soul feeding books and writing about what matters most to me. I'll be soaking up conversations and moments with people that I love and I hope to find new rhythms that carry past this period of rest. I'm excited to slow down and listen and recharge. 

If you've read this far, thank you. It means a lot to me to know that there are people who are journeying with me through life. Please leave a comment, even if it's just a wave to say hello.

Have you taken a sabbatical before? What do you feel like you learned during that period? Were there any spiritual practices you took into the process or away from the process that you found helpful or life-giving? 

Amanda Steed Comments
Piers of Truth

Well here I am again staring at the cursor and feeling it in my bones, it's time to write. 

I just got done playing my guitar for a little bit. Most people don't know this about me, but I have played the guitar for 17 years now (WHAT?!), and I love to sing and play piano and I was kinda a huge happy band nerd in high school. Music is something that has always brought peace and joy to me and it's the number one way in which God connects with me.

I've been thinking of trying to join our church's worship team, but there's one thing that keeps stopping me. It's that I cannot make it through some songs without tears pooling in my eyes and my voice cracking. This is so interesting to me because I'm in a place spiritually where things have been thrown in the air and some are on their way back down while others have been obliterated on the ground. Some theologians or spiritual people call it deconstruction. It feels closer to destruction because I didn't slowly take my faith apart and examine it, it all just crumbled slowly around me. I always thought that if something like this happened I wouldn't survive it, but I've been okay. I've been okay because for the five years before this happened I'd been praying a very simple prayer to God and it was, "I surrender, I'm yours, do what you want." So I trust that while God may not be who I thought he was, he certainly is still who he has always been. The rubble that is airborne isn't God, it was what I'd been handed over time by people who thought they knew who God was. Among the airborne debris and smashed pieces on the ground, though, there are piers of truth that remain solid, I know they can be trusted. The explosion felt like a supernatural experience - as if God said, "come with me, trust me, leave what you know behind."

So I have.

I've had conversations with people who used to mentor me, people who I used to mentor, people who used to be my peers in bible studies and d-groups and all sorts of church experiences and they seem concerned that I've lost my way. This reaction is confusing to me, but I understand it. My experience doesn't match up with theirs or doesn't match up with what we've been sold that our experiences will look like. It's been hard to realize that my experiencing God in a new way has driven a wedge in some friendships. I'm still sorting through how I feel about that. Mostly sad and disappointed, and also trying to continue to pray that simple prayer that gives me a peace. "I surrender. I'm yours. Do what you want." 

Whew. Deep breath.

Back to music.

It's confusing to me that these songs that have meant so much to me over the years still mean so much, sometimes even more than they meant before this process began. It's not all songs - but there are some that crumble me from within. After thinking about it and examining the words of the songs that have this effect I've realized that there are themes in them or prayers within them that I've prayed over time that resonate so strongly with those piers of truth that it shakes my soul. Here are some of the lines:

"I reach out and you find me in the dust; you say no amount of untruth can separate us." (Simple Gospel, United Pursuit)

"Spirit lead me where my faith is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you will call me" (as if you need the title but it's Oceans by Hillsong and honestly if everyone who sang this song would live it, including me, we wouldn't have any problems in the world)

"Heaven taunts the hearts of men / We can feel it from within / The beauty of it all / The mystery / The swelling of a voice / A rising sea" (Vapor, Gungor - really this whole song slays me, it's so beautiful and full of genuine praise and awe)

"There is a strength that rises up in me, to know that you've been here before me; a strength beyond what I can see, Jesus your love, Jesus your love" (Jesus Your Love, Kristene DiMarco)

I cannot sing these lines in these songs without tears running down my cheeks. God finds us in the dust, calls us out on scary waters, is a great mystery and beauty and goes before us into unknowns we're called to enter. 

If you are in a space of wondering what happened to the faith you knew, or maybe you've lost it completely or maybe you just can't feel God anymore - find a simple prayer that resonates in your being and pray it daily, and ask to be shown the piers of truth you can depend on. You are not alone, you are not alone, you are not alone. Most of us are more uncertain than certain, a lot of people are just afraid to admit their uncertainty. It's okay, you're okay.

An Ode to Holy Quitting

"I never told you to start a business." 

I was in the shower and stopped. I stared at the tile and tears filled my eyes and I thought, "now you tell me." 

God has always spoken to me in clear and concise ways, but only when I'm asking questions. To be honest I haven't been asking questions for a while. Maybe a year. Maybe more. And god is gracious because I still did not ask a question in the shower that morning. I took a breath and opened up space and god took the moment.

"I never told you to start a business."

That afternoon I had a conversation with my pastor and she said, "I want you to think about what the holy desires god has given you are." The only thing I could come up with was, "I want my life to slow down." 

Have you ever started a business? There is nothing slow about it.

The truth is I have been going back and forth for the last month about what I really want. As an eight on the Enneagram I am feeling repressed, which means that out of the three stances (doing, thinking and feeling) I use feeling the least often. I have to ask myself what my feelings are because, unless it's anger, it takes time for me to figure it out. It turns out that after making the space to feel my feelings I have some clarity.

Teaching the Enneagram is a CALLING from god, and not one I'm meant to monetize. Sigh. My North Oak Cliff friends will totally get this, but this is not a popular direction to take in our hood. For those of you who don't live in Dallas, I am part of a community that is highly entrepreneurial. If someone has an idea they typically can figure out a way to turn it into a side hustle or a hustle hustle. It makes it really hard to not take every single idea and start brainstorming on how to make money doing it. When I take a step back I realize that making money is not a priority for me, and it actually stifles the passion I have for the Enneagram because I get caught up in, "is this thing going to pay for itself?" instead of "am I transforming lives and helping people grow?" THESE ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE, I have a friend (shout out Rocky) who does this brilliantly, but in this season I have realized that turning my passion into a business is not what I'm being called to do. I will still be teaching around the DFW area, but it won't look like I thought it would.

I do not want to run my own business. Working for myself is a dream; working by myself is my nightmare. I need a team of people around me to work with. I have been doing some work with a local organizing group and it has been energizing and exciting. A big part of that is my passion for the work we are doing, but another significant part to it is the door it has opened to work with some really smart, fun and inspiring people. Running a business by myself and working out of a coffee shop is not where I get excited and thrive. I am excited to see where god places me in the years to come, because I have faith that it will be with an amazing group of people.

I miss my kids and my kids miss me. I don't have to elaborate on this, it is what it is.

God has placed me in a space in a time for a reason. My faith community is amazing. We have been a part of the church for about three and a half years and I am still meeting people who are inspiring and funny and who challenge me. I am excited to start with my faith community and share the Enneagram and see where it leads. I believe this is part of a larger calling on our faith community to deepen our relationships with one another, and what better way to deepen relationships than learn the Enneagram together? 

I want to thank everyone who has been supportive of this endeavor. Some of you have spent time texting and brainstorming with me, drinking coffee and listening to my passion and excitement. Others of you have been pillars in the last week as I have processed this realization, and your encouragement was perfect. Thank you for your friendship and comradery and honesty.

I'm ready to see what this next year holds. If you were excited about attending a workshop, shoot me a message and we can work something out. I'll still be teaching, I'm just not making it a job. 

Cheers to holy quitting. 

Amanda Steed Comment