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Making Big Decisions: Letting People Speak Into Your Life

Anyway, I digress. Back in February I posted this picture on my Instagram and later alluded to some life changing conversations. That's because the day that picture was taken was the day that this lovely lady, one of my best friends, all but convinced me that I should go back to grad school. 

Now, it has been my dream to go back to graduate school and become a nurse practitioner since I was 15 years old. But with my hubby applying to physician assistant school and us continuing to live off of a single income, the time just didn't seem right. My dream had gone to the "someday" realm. My dear friend brought it back into the "maybe today realm". I don't think that conversation was an accident, nor was my reaction to it. 

You see, I think a huge part of life is letting others speak into our lives. Sometimes this is challenging when they're speaking to us about something we need to work on. Maybe it’s challenging because they're not doing it in love. Or maybe it’s challenging because it's just not something we want to hear at that moment. But I think our challenge is in paying attention to the words others speak to us because God speaks to us through others. 

Sometimes we don't always recognize it as God speaking through our friend, but this time it was so crystal clear that God was moving in my heart. After spending three hours talking about going back to graduate school, I went home feeling energized and excited- something I hadn't felt in months. I no longer dreaded going to work; instead I looked forward to it because I saw it as an opportunity to keep learning as much as I could. At work I started to explore as much as I could- reading doctors' notes of my patients and googling words I didn't know, and seeking out opportunities to listen to a heart murmur or other abnormalities. I'm not saying that every time you feel excited about something, that it's from God. But I do think that passion and energy can be signs of the Holy Spirit. 

Even though I felt excited and passionate after our conversation, I continued to pray about what we had talked about. Just because someone speaks into your life, doesn't mean that it's automatically from God. Therefore, we always have to pray for discernment when the Lord speaks to us through others. In this situation, the more I prayed, the more peace I felt. Throughout my life, I know that my spirit will sense peace when it's the way of the Lord. I've always been pretty receptive when things don't feel right, and the peace is almost always overwhelming when I know I am following God's will. That's not to say that I don't have doubts (that's the post coming up next), but I believe that the Lord grants peace when you are in His will. 

So, what are the take home points from our first lesson in decision making? 

Listen to those speaking into your life, because often that can be God's way of reaching you. 

Pray for discernment in your conversations with others. 

Be attentive to your spirit- passion, peace, and energy are all things of God and can often indicate the will of our Father. 

Please don't take this post as one that is saying "do whatever feels right". There is so much more to decision making than what you feel, and I hope that through this series you've come to understand that. But do pay attention to your spirit because often the Holy Spirit does move through emotions. Listening to others that you trust and praying for discernment regarding these conversations can play a huge role in helping you make big decisions. 

Do you find it hard to listen to others speaking into your life? Do you have a hard time trusting your feelings when it comes to making decisions?

Miss earlier posts in the series? Go ahead and check them out: 
Making Big Decisions 101
Four Practical Steps to Wisdom
3 Questions to Ask Yourself
Overcoming Doubt
Examining Your Motives

Making Big Decisions: Examining Your Motives

One of the big fears and things I prayed about from the beginning of my journey to graduate school was for pure motives. I have wanted to become a nurse practitioner since I was 15. I wrote all my college and scholarship essays about it during my senior year of high school. During college as I interviewed for more scholarships, I remember having a hard time answering why I wanted to become a nurse because I had a much easier time articulating why I wanted to become a nurse practitioner. 

When I started applying for graduate school a year ago, I began to question if I was doing it for the right motives. Part of me has always been a little lot competitive, and I knew that I would potentially feel inferior if Alex had a graduate degree and I didn't (silly, I know). 

I love my job working as a bedside nurse that spends 12+ hours with the same patients... would I really like the NP role where I see patients for a 15 minute visit and that's it? 

I liked the idea of the salary that nurse practitioners make, but I had more than one coworker look me straight in the eye and tell me that if I was to go to NP school, don't do it for the money (several of them have friends that are making less as a nurse practitioner than they did as a nurse). 

All this to say, I really needed to question my motives. If I was going to spend the next three years and a nice chunk of money pursuing my dream, I wanted to do it for more than a name and a paycheck. 

From the very beginning my prayer has always been (and continues to be): 

"Grant me purity of heart [Lord], so that I may honor You." - Psalm 86:11

One of my favorite songs ever is "Create in Me a Clean Heart" by Keith Green. I often sing this song during my prayer time in the mornings because I long for a pure heart in everything I do, whether it involves my marriage, my work, or my relationships.

In every big decision there are underlying motives. Whether it's a job change, a decision to go back to school, or the decision to start a family, there are reasons you either do or do not want to pursue a certain avenue.

I think it's important to examine ourselves in these situations and ask why we want to do the things we want to do.

Do we want to go back to school because we're bored with our current situation and/or want to keep up with the Jones' (or my own husband in my case)?

Are we looking at moving solely because of money, without examining the toll it might take on our family?

Are we looking to start a family because everyone else is and I want to be part of the "mom club"?

Now hear me out, none of the motives I've mentioned are inherently wrong. But I think in any big decision, taking a closer look at our motives is always worth it. Perhaps it's not the graduate degree or the baby you want... perhaps you're trying to find contentment in something other than Jesus (been there, done that friends). Maybe you're equating the idea of more money at a new job with more happiness (we and the million studies that have been done on this know that this isn't true).

So what can we do about it?

Well the first step is to pray for a clean heart and pure motives. It seems like a vague concept, but just like asking the Lord for wisdom (LINK), I truly believe that God will reveal to us impure motives if we let him. No matter how many people I talk to, blogs I read, or podcasts I listen to, the biggest revelations of my heart always come through prayer. And from personal experience, those revelations are usually the icky things that the Lord brings to mind that I try to ignore. Being receptive to those promptings can go a long way into teaching you more about the state of your heart.

Next, we can seek godly counsel. As always, talking through your situation with someone who loves you, loves Jesus, and has your best interests at heart can prove to be invaluable. Often they can see things in us that we ourselves can't see. In a joint decision (one between you and your spouse), I find it helpful to seek godly counsel from someone that isn't my husband. He provides wisdom a lot of the times, but sometimes his proximity to the situation allows him to be blind to certain things as well.

Ultimately, give the Lord control over your heart and your situation. This sounds trite, but what I mean by it is be brave enough to ask the Lord to close doors that need to be closed and open doors that need to be open. I've prayed that the Lord would place a stumbling block in my path if I lose track of my heavenly purpose and start focusing on earthly motives- it's a scary prayer to pray, but truly it's what we want right? We want our motives to be pure, and if we can't discern them then we want God to step in and nudge us to the way He has for us.


As I prayed about graduate school, the Lord revealed some pretty ugly motives I had. I continued to pray and found the true reasons that I am motivated to go to school. I believe the Lord gave me the dream to become an NP when I was 15, but it was for reasons other than prestige and salary. It took a few months for me to truly set my heart and motives in the right place, but it was incredibly freeing when I finally got to that place.

Examining your motives is often hard and ugly. But ultimately, it's so worth it because not only will you be following the will of your creator, but you will be following His will with the right heart.

What are other ways that you have found to keep your motives in check? 

{If you missed earlier posts in this series, be sure to check out Making Big Decisions 101, 4 Practical Steps to Wisdom, 3 Questions to Ask Yourself, and Overcoming Doubt .} 

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Making Big Decisions: Overcoming Doubt

As I've made big decisions over the past year, I have learned that despite prayer, asking for wisdom, and seeking godly counsel, I still struggle with a fair amount of doubt . I think doubt and its partner, fear, is the enemy's way of trying to lead us away from all the great things God has planned for us. 

From the moment I decided I would pursue graduate school, through the application process, and during the time I was praying about accepting the position offered to me by my university, I had my doubts. The what-ifs seemed endless, and would sometimes keep me up at night. 

I wondered if I should be doing this because financially we didn't (and still don't) have all the answers. 

I wondered if I should be going through school instead of working and supporting Alex through his journey through graduate school. Would it be too taxing on our marriage? 

I wondered if spending the money and time on this degree would even be worth it if I decided to be a stay at home mom later in life. 

I even wondered if I had the wrong motives. Did I want to become a nurse practitioner simply because of the title, prestige, or the feeling that I was keeping up with Alex?

As if my own doubts weren't enough, I had to consider opinions of certain trusted friends. I had close friends tell me that going to school at the same time as Alex wasn't a wise idea, and had more than one coworker caution me against graduate school and the nurse practitioner field in general. My own doubts and the doubts that came through conversations with others were overwhelming at times. I felt frustrated with myself for doubting and with God for not making the answers clearer.


So how do you overcome doubt?

Pray against Satan and his schemes. I firmly believe that large scale doubt that frustrates and overwhelms is part of Satan's plans to thwart God's plans in our lives.  I believe that small doubt is healthy and can often be the Holy Spirit's promptings in our lives. If your doubt is overwhelming you, pray first and foremost that Satan has no part in it. You want to be able to distinguish doubt from the enemy versus a healthy nudge from the Holy Spirit.

Focus on the truths of God. There are so many promises outlined in the Psalms and throughout the Bible that we must cling to in our day to day lives. The promise that I cling to when I'm making decisions is Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." I have to be careful with this promise- I need to make sure that I'm delighting in the Lord and not my desire

When I was doubting whether or not I should even chase my dream of becoming a nurse practitioner, I came back to this verse. I have dreamed of becoming a nurse practitioner for almost 10 years and I don't think that's an accident. If you have a dream that's deep in your heart, chances are it’s not an accident. I knew full well that the desire could be there yet the Lord would direct me to another path. I chose to shift my focus from my desire (becoming an NP) to delighting in Him. This meant that I made a conscious effort to praise Him- during my prayer time, in the car, as I spent time in nature. As I focused on Him, I began to have less doubt regarding my decision. I felt the reassurance that this dream was from the Lord, and this reassurance made all the difference in the world.

Seek godly counsel. As always, this is a vital part of making big decisions. It is so very important to get input and prayer from those that are wiser than you but we must also remember to take this counsel to the Lord. No matter how godly your person is, they are still human and can make mistakes. In my situation, I had sought godly counsel and the wisdom I got was conflicting. That meant that it was my responsibility to take this advice to the Lord. Even if the advice hadn't conflicted, it's always our responsibility to take counsel to the Lord and pray that He helps you discern it.

Don't forget your common sense. This is very important step in decision making and overcoming doubt, yet it's last for a reason. I'm a total pros/cons list-think everything through kind of gal, but practical thinking isn't where I stop. I look at the practical aspects then pray about it and then decide. I'm a head over heart person so this comes easy to me; if you're a heart over head person this may take some practice.

Recently I turned down a job offer that would have paid me more than my current position. But despite the pay raise, the hours and type of work didn't make much sense with my current situation. I wanted the job and could have prayed my way into it, but I knew that it was a bad idea. Once I accepted in my heart that the job was a bad idea, it became clear that the wise thing to do was decline the offer. I would be the first to say that God's way doesn't always fit common sense, but that doesn't mean we throw it out either. There's a place for both, and I just encourage you to think practically, pray about it, and then see where the Lord guides you.


From a practical side, I know that my doubt and fear regarding big decisions is much much worse when I'm tired, hungry, or upset. Make sure that when you're making big decisions you take care of yourself- eat enough, sleep enough, and take time to do something fun. This will give you a lot more clarity regarding the decision you need to make and will help eliminate doubt.

What are other ways that you overcome doubt? 

{If you missed earlier posts in this series check out Making Big Decisions 101, 4 Practical Steps to Wisdom, and 3 Questions to Ask Yourself}

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Making Big Decisions: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

I mentioned in my previous post that a lot of things I am discussing in this series come from the book "The Best Yes" by Lysa Terkeurst. The three questions I'm discussing today are probably the most practical piece of her book. 

When facing a big decision, how many of us feel paralyzed by the thought of needing to follow the will of God? I know I sure do. The thought of trying to dig around and find the Lord's will for my life is exhausting and fear-filled because... what if I don't hit the mark? What if I don't make the right decision? 

What if I told you that the will of God for your life could include a couple different paths and Jesus loves you so much that He's letting you choose? Many people may not agree with this logic, but hear me out. 

I think as women we can analyze something into the ground (#overthinking). I can convince myself for or against just about anything if you give me enough time. Sound familiar? This "analysis paralysis" as Lysa Terkeurst puts it can really be debilitating in our spiritual walk. Jesus never intended us to be so incredibly intent on following His will that it just freezes us in our steps. So that's where these three questions come in. 

When you're facing a big decision, ask yourself: 

1. Are you consistently spending time in God's Word? 

2. Are you applying the truths you read in God's Word to your daily life? 

3. Are you seeking godly counsel from those that know the specifics of your situation? 

If the answers to the above questions are "yes", then you need to trust that you will make the right decision. If the three answers are "yes" and you have a gut feeling about something, dare I say that that gut feeling is actually the Holy Spirit guiding you to a certain decision? Sometimes the Holy Spirit is leading you to something that you'd rather not do and you choose to ignore Him for a time (been there, done that). Or maybe the Holy Spirit is leading you to the answer you want but you're afraid that you're choosing it out of your own desire and not God's. 

I think Lysa says it best when she writes: 

"If you desire to please God with the decision you make and afterward it proves to be a mistake it's an error not an end." 

How many of us know that God often teaches us more through our errors than through our successes? And it may be trite but it's 100% true: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them."

Sister, that's you. God's plan for your life is not dependent on your decision making capabilities. He uses absolutely everything to work together for His ultimate plan. He knows and expects us to make mistakes. That's not to say that we shouldn't try to make wise decisions, but we shouldn't feel so pressured to make the "right" choice every single time. God uses all of our decisions for His good, and He generously may give us more than one choice that would glorify Him.


When I was praying about graduate school, I felt an incredible pressure to make the "right" decision. I struggled with trying to decide between pursing the dream I've had for 10 years and the desire to possibly be a stay at home mom when I have kids. I was paralyzed with fear thinking that I could potentially waste three years of my life and buckets of money on a degree that I may not use five years from now. But when I realized that perhaps God's will for me included roles as a nurse practitioner and a stay at home mom, I felt like a million pounds lifted off my shoulders. I no longer felt the pressure of making the absolute "right" decision for my future, because I knew that God would use whatever I decided (potentially both) for His glory. 

Friends, I hope you realize that God does not intend for us to be paralyzed in discerning His will. He gives us wisdom and discernment to follow His will without needing to send us a neon sign from heaven every single time we are faced with a choice. The Holy Spirit often comes in the form of gut feelings or a sense of peace. The Lord may set before us two paths that are inline with His will, and loves us enough to give us the freedom to choose. 

Realizing these things and using the questions above as a guide will free you from your fear. You may still have doubts (which I'll talk about in the next blog post), but don't let yourself be paralyzed. 

How do you go about making big decisions? Do you think God's will for us may include more than one thing? Do you think the questions above will help you in your decision making process? 

{If you missed it the first two posts in this series, check out Making Big Decisions 101 and Making Big Decisions: 4 Practical Steps to Wisdom}   

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Making Big Decisions: 4 Practical Steps to Wisdom

If you missed the first post in this series, I hope you'll go back and get a little introduction to what we'll be talking about for the next month. 

About a year ago, a friend mentioned to me the book, "The Best Yes" by Lysa Terkeurst. I had heard of it and decided to put myself on the wait list at the library so I could read it. A few months later when it was my turn to get it at the library, I read it and my life was changed. I don't say that lightly at all, but I can tell you that it is the single most influential book I've read in years. I am so thankful that I read this before I entered this season of decision making, and a lot of the concepts I'm going to talk about in this series comes from her book. I make no money off of promoting this book, I just can't tell you how much it's helped me learn to make decisions. The last thing I'll say about it is GO BUY THIS BOOK NOW.


Great, now that we have that cleared up we're going to talk about this thing called wisdom because, after all, it’s what you need to make good decisions, right? My mom likes to say that there are two things that take time and cannot be sped up: grief and wisdom. I think there is so much wisdom to be gained simply by living life and making mistakes. But I also know that God will give me wisdom for it if I ask for it (James 1:5), so I ask for it all the time!

I know that I can gain wisdom a few ways:

1. Asking for it (James 1:5)
2. Fearing the Lord (Proverbs 15:33)
3. Seeking/listening to wise counsel (Proverbs 19:20)
4. Life experience

Gaining wisdom does not come overnight, and often we may not realize that we are becoming wiser. I don't know about you but I don't go around thinking, "Wow what I just said is really wise!" That's the hard part- we have to trust that we are gaining in wisdom even when we don't feel like it. By continuing to grow in wisdom and understanding, we will be able to make the decisions the Lord has placed before us. Seeking and growing in wisdom is the ultimate foundation for making big decisions, so lets make praying for that our priority today. Next up, we'll be talking about 3 practical steps for actually making the decision.

How do you seek wisdom? Do you ever get the reassurance that you're growing in wisdom even if you may not see it?

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Making Big Decisions 101

I’m going to be doing a February series called Making Big Decisions. 2015 was a year of really big decisions for my husband and I as we both prayed about graduate school, applied all over the country, and had to decide on our respective schools. In having to make what felt like one big decision after another, I feel like we learned a ton of things along the way. The Making Big Decisions series is a 6-part series covering everything from overcoming doubt to attaining wisdom. Whether you’re facing a major life decision or struggle with day-to-day decisions, I hope that there will be something you’ll gain from this series.

Throughout my Making Big Decision series you’ll start to see a pattern of things I suggest. Things like praying about it and seeking wisdom are two of the themes that are repeated over and over. If you’re anything like I am, these two ideas can be a little vague. I’m the kind of person who wants to leave every sermon with a series of bullet points instructing me how to implement the lesson I just learned. The more I grow in my faith and progress in life, I'm learning that the ways to wisdom and knowledge aren't necessarily a nice numbered list (believe me, I'm as bummed as you are).  

The past year I’ve realized that making big decisions often comes down to seeking wisdom and a lot of prayer. This intro post is to share some ideas that I’ve learned along the way of how to go about these two concepts that often seem really vague.  

Pray about it. Okay this is such an easy phrase to fling around but let's be honest, it's My prayer life is growing and changing every single day and I really struggle some a lot of the time. I have a short attention span and find my mind wandering after just a few minutes of prayer. 

Think about when you feel most connected to God- I'll bet that for most of us that isn't necessarily during our morning quiet time. Many times I feel more connected to God when I'm driving or holding a baby at work than I do sitting with my Bible on my lap holding my morning coffee. 

Get rid of the notion that prayer is to be done with hands neatly folded, on your knees, and done in hour long marathons. God calls us to pray without ceasing, but also calls us to be lights to the world and that means that prayer-on-the-go is not a bad thing. Figure out when you feel like you are most connected to that and capitalize on that time. Even if it's just "Hi God, thank you for that beautiful sunrise." I find the more I involve God in day to day moments, the easier prayer comes, and the easier I'm able to hear Him speak. 

When it comes to praying about big decisions, I usually do try to carve out a specific time to sit and pray about it. A lot of times it works better if I pray on a walk, a run, or while folding laundry. Doing something active helps me get a lot less distracted. 

When it comes to big decisions, it can be hard to know how to pray. 

God doesn't want to simply hear what we think he wants to hear, or some pase like "Your will be done Lord." He wants to hear how much you don't want to move, or how much you want that job, or how you don't know how to deal with certain relationships in your life. You can pour out your heart to Him- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Friend, He knows it all anyway so don't hold back

More than once, I've been so overwhelmed or frustrated that I don't even know what to pray. In those moments I read/pray one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible: 

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words." - Romans 8:26

How awesome is it that even when we don't know how to pray, all we need to do is ask the Holy Spirit to pray for us and He will? I will read this verse over and over and simply say, "Lord I don't know how to pray. Holy Spirit come."

Prayer is a practice and it just takes simple day to day moments like grace before meals or thanking Him for that delicious coffee. So when I mention in this series to "pray about it" or "take it to the Lord", all I mean is to go and talk with Jesus. Explain to Him how you're feeling, what you're concerned about, what you're excited about. He will meet you where you're at. I promise.

Seek wise/godly counsel. In non-christianese terms this means to seek out advice/opinions from you trust. 

Now if you're like me in many stages of my life, you're thinking "Um yeah sure that's a great idea Sarah... if I had someone I could ask." I've been there sister. I grew up in a town where I felt like I was the only Christian under the age of 30 and it felt very isolating. In this situation, I would tell you pray (there's that prayer thing again!) and ask for someone to be brought into your life. Seriously though, I've prayed (cried actually) for the Lord to bring a wise woman into my life and He has done it... more than once. I will say that it took awhile at one point (like a few years) which isn't the best when you're trying to seek godly counsel now. If that is your situation, then continue to pray for someone you can go to. If the Lord doesn't reveal anyone to you don't despair. Continue to go to Him with all your requests and trust that He will guide you; after all, His counsel is better than the counsel of the godliest 1000 men or women on this earth. 

If you do have a person (or two) in mind, a few things to consider. Just because someone is your friend doesn't necessarily mean that you should go to them for godly counsel. In fact, I've found that my most trusted "advisors" in life have been several years older than me and not necessarily my best friend that I invite over for movie night. 

Some qualities that I've prayed for in a godly mentor/advisor/counselor are: 
-Someone older than me. I think life experience is absolutely invaluable, and I believe that certain wisdom is only gained by living life. (This isn't something set in stone, but I value age so much that for me it is a non-negotiable).

-A Jesus lover. I want someone who is seeking the Lord daily to be the one I go to for counsel (this constitutes the "godly" part of "godly counsel").

-Someone I get along with. This seems sort of ridiculous, but lets be honest. Are you going to take advice from someone that you don't even really like? I've been there done that; it didn't go well. 

-Same gender (I think this is non-negotiable. Seems like that should go without saying, but you'd be surprised.) 

I think parents can give great godly counsel (I mean 50+ years of Jesus seeking- how great is that??) But I also think in certain situations parents can be biased in their counsel. I've found that it often helps to have someone that is not related to me give counsel. If you're in the situation I mentioned above where you don't have someone in your life that you can go to for godly counsel, then by all means ask your parents! But I would encourage you to seek someone else that is not a relative to impart their wisdom. 

When I mention later in the series to "seek godly counsel", what I mean is go to the person you've identified and ask for their wisdom. Sometimes I will tell them the specifics of my situation and ask what they think (basically asking for advice). Sometimes I won't share specifics and instead simply ask them for prayer. If you do receive advice from them, always always always take it to the Lord in prayer. The person in your life, no matter how godly, is still human and they can and will make mistakes. Just because they say it, doesn't necessarily mean that it's right. So remember to always pray and be discerning about the counsel you receive. 


You will see pray about it and seek godly counsel over and over in this series. I hope the above helps give you some practicality behind what I'm talking about and I hope you'll refer back to this post as much as you need to as you seek the Lord's guidance in making big decisions. 

Tell me about your prayer life. What things have worked for you? What hasn't? What parts of prayer do you struggle with? 

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