Month: January 2020

110 – Hearing God, Part 1

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Hearing God part 1 Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungEver spent time praying and doing everything you know to do so that you can hear God speak to your heart? You listen and listen and…silence? Join us as we dig into the obstacles to hearing from God––and how to overcome them.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Today we want to talk about hearing God. We’re Christians, we’re followers of Christ, yet many of us struggle to hear God. To know where God is leading us. To know God’s will for us. Maybe we’ve got a big decision to make, or we simply need direction, or we want a closer relationship with Christ. We hear others say things like “God told me…this or that.” We ask, we pray, we seek, and yet we hear…nothing. Why?

Reasons we may struggle with hearing God
1. We don’t know how to listen

What is listening?

One of Webster’s definitions says:

  • to hear something with thoughtful attention

We would say listening is a state of thoughtful, receptive focus; sincere engagement. You’re focusing your mind AND your heart to give something your attention.

We live in a noisy world bombarding us every day. We’ve lost the ability to stop and focus, we’ve lost the ability to give quiet attention to anything, or careful consideration.

This is a skill many of us need to practice. Start by listening to people. You probably have co-workers, family, friends, who all want someone to listen to them. This will help you learn to listen to God.

There’s a difference in how I listened to tornado sirens in Oklahoma. Every Saturday at noon they tested them. When the sky was blue and the sun was shining I ignored their wailing for 5 solid minutes.

But when the sky went dark and the wind was whipping through my backyard trees swirling in scary circles, I tuned in to those sirens because they’re going to communicate when and if I needed to take shelter. Because in less than a minute, a mile-wide F-5 tornado could form and head straight for my house.

This is the kind of listening we need to do all the time. Someone might be telling you something––reaching out for help, or sharing wisdom you need. Or God might be speaking to your heart and you’re not tuned in. You’re too distracted.

2. We know how to listen, but we just don’t do it

Have you ever had a conversation where you know the other person is not listening, not considering anything you’re saying? They’re just waiting for their turn to talk? Have you had a friend who never lets you get a word in? That friendship doesn’t last long. It’s too one-sided. Sometimes we’re not hearing God because we’re too busy talking.

Or sometimes we’re too focused on our own worry. Have you ever tried to talk to someone who’s hysterical or anxious? They’re in no frame of mind to listen.

Or maybe we’re too focused on our own agenda. We come to God to give us a holy amen to our plans.

But God is about relationship, not feeding you step-by-step directions for your plans. When our attitude is that we just want an answer to our question right now, or help with a particular decision, that doesn’t build relationship. We’ll be talking more about this as the podcast goes on.

Dallas Willard’s book, Hearing God, gave us a lot of material for this podcast. We highly recommend you read it.

Willard gives an example in the book about how we can be so focused on simply wanting to follow directions that we miss the thing God wants with us: relationship.

I can fall into this because I’m duty oriented. I’m hyper responsible. But––and this is a paraphrased example from Willard’s book––imagine if you had a child who wanted to please you all the time and was constantly asking, “What do you want me to do next?”

Your joy as a parent isn’t about giving that kid orders all day long and watching them follow each one. Just as God’s delight in us is relationship. It’s in us knowing him, and in him watching our character grow so we know what pleases him. It’s in us participating with him in the work of his Kingdom.

3. We want or expect to see the big picture all at once

We want God to unfold the grand plan all at once so we can see if we like it, or so we know exactly where we’re going. If he did that, first of all, that grand plan might terrify you in its bigness and you’d run away.

Consider how Moses felt when God told him to go to Pharaoh in Egypt to lead the Israelites out. That was big enough, and it was terrifying. How much more so if Moses had known about all the plagues and that he’d be leading a rebellious multitude of Israelites around in the wilderness for 40 years?

What would become of your relationship with God if you had the grand plan all at once? Think about the other relationships in your life. They’re a process of getting to know each other, spending time together, going through a variety of experiences together. When we’ve been through tough situations with friends at our side, that’s when we develop trust and learn to appreciate each other. That’s where love for one another grows.

God wants relationship with us. He wants us spending time with him, talking to him, crying on his shoulder, rejoicing with him. He wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives, not just a master planner who gives directions and leaves us to it.

4. We’re seeking God’s direction because we want a guaranteed outcome

We think that if we’re sure God told us to write, then it’ll be worth it. It’ll be “successful.” Or if we know he wants us to go with agent A over agent B, or if he’s given the stamp of approval to a certain marketing strategy, or whatever, it’ll go well.

There again, we’ve lost the idea of hearing God in relationship. He doesn’t need our marketing success. That’s not his ultimate agenda.

5. We don’t expect him to communicate with us

We don’t expect that he’ll actually talk to us. Maybe we think we’re not important enough, or that it’s just for the extremely holy people, or leaders, or only the people in the Bible.

But in Mark chapter 10, Jesus rebukes the disciples because they were hindering the little children from coming to him and talking to him. But Jesus wanted that connection.

That’s not a random story in the Bible, that’s a picture of how God wants it to be. Every child of God is just that––his child. God sent his son to die for you so you could be in the family. There’s a bond, a communication that takes place in healthy families.

If you come from broken or dysfunctional families, or terrible parental relationships, you may have a hard time picturing this. If so, maybe it’ll help to think about Jesus as your shepherd, leading you, as it says in Psalm 23, beside quiet waters, refreshing your soul, guiding you in paths of righteousness, and in verse 5:

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

There’s an intimacy of relationship in this whole psalm. Think of a quiet dinner for two at a nice restaurant, and it’s just you and God. Even in the midst of a noisy world, even with enemies around you, no one can intrude on your table. He’s focused on you and you alone for communication, for relationship.

6. We’re looking for big flashing signs rather than a still small voice

It’s true that God has used, and can use, many different ways to communicate with us. For example:

  • some type of big phenomenon like Moses and the burning bush, or Paul with the blinding flash and audible voice
  • dreams and visions
  • visits from angels

We can see this in the Bible and some of you may know people who’ve experienced things like this. But we tend to overvalue those things because they seem larger than life, and somehow more “spiritual.” As a result, we undervalue simple, direct communication.

However, God communicated to Elijah in a gentle whispering in 1 Kings 19:11-12, at one of the most terrible times in Elijah’s life. Also consider how God speaks to Samuel in 1Samuel 16, when he tells him to go anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king after Saul.

God and Samuel have a whole conversation as each of Jesse’s sons are paraded in front of Samuel. And Samuel is thinking about the first son, Eliab, “This must be the guy. He’s big and handsome.”

God’s like, “No, I look at the heart. This isn’t the guy.”

This isn’t communicated in a big flashing sign. It’s not like they have an audible conversation that Jesse and all his sons can hear. This is God speaking in Samuel’s heart and thoughts. It’s clear, easy to understand communication. And Samuel’s had a lifetime of experience listening to God’s voice, and becoming familiar with it.

This is probably the most common way God communicates with us. Through our own thoughts and words that we grow to recognize as his and not ours. There’s a different quality to them.

We’ll talk more about that, but let me also say that God speaks to us through others as well. Be tuned in to that possibility. Consider who the truth speakers are in your life. Consider how sometimes even a stranger says something that hits you hard. Helps you see something more clearly.

Friends, when that happens, it’s God. Of course, we always have to test these things, because people are fallible. But it does happen. Maybe a friend shares the perfect Scripture to minister to you, or a sermon, or book, or article, hits home in some particular way for you, in a way you feel is meant for you. It has a special emphasis, an authority that strikes home in your heart.

Or maybe––and this happened to me when I first met Karen and she was giving me feedback about who I was as a writer––it was like God was ringing a bell in my mind telling me, “Pay attention this is important.” And it was. He’s like, “Hellooo, this is what you need to hear.”

This is one of the things the body of Christ is all about. Speaking words of exhortation and encouragement from God to each other like it says in Colossians 3:16: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

7. We may be walking in sin of some sort

Sin separates us from God, and therefore from his voice. We see examples of this in Scripture and in our lives today.

Isaiah 59:1-2 (NIV) says, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

James 4:4 (ESV) says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

God’s people, again and again, turn to idols. An idol is anything that we value or treasure more than God. That comes out in subtle, or not so subtle, ways.

Are we truly asking for God’s direction because we want what HE wants, no matter what? That requires some soul-searching. I can guarantee that what God wants isn’t going to be about our glory, it’s going to be about his glory. And about how we can become a better servant, a better reflection of who God is.

Hearing God in Relationship with him

One last thought on listening to or hearing God. We’ve talked some about relationship with God, but some of us may have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to listen to God and hear from Him. We see it as something we do, or need to do better.

But it’s far more about being. Being with God. Savoring time with God. Building relationship with Him. All of which we’ll dig into in our next podcast: Hearing God, Part 2.

We encourage you to ponder this prayerfully before going on to the next podcast episode where we’ll talk more specifically about how we recognize God’s voice.


Do you ever struggle to hear from God? What has helped you?


Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our January sponsor of the month, Bobbi Updegraff! You can find out more about another important cause she sponsors at It’s a wonderful organization that’s impacting the lives of children in Honduras.

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous sound editing!


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109 – Make Your Life Matter with Guest Laura McClellan

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Make Your Life Matter with Guest Laura McClellan on the Write from the Deep Podcast

It’s 2020! Now is the time to ask yourself what you want this year to look like? What do you want to accomplish––and why? Guest Laura McClellan, a productivity pro, joins us to talk about that. But here’s the beauty of what Laura does: she doesn’t focus on “getting things done,” but on being productive so we can have a life that matters. Join us for a great start to the new year!

About Laura McClellan

Laura McClellan is a lawyer, a writer, a productivity enthusiast, and a tech geek. Married for 40 years to her high school sweetheart, with whom she’s raised five amazing kids, she’s passionate about encouraging women in their individual journeys as people, wives, mothers, citizens. Laura has been published both in professional publications and inspirational magazines and has been a contributor to the popular Stepcase Lifehack blog and she hosts a weekly podcast, The Productive Woman. Find out more at

Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!

Karen: Hello, everyone, and welcome into the deep with us today. We are just delighted to have a guest who is going to talk with you and help you as you start into a new year.

I cannot believe it’s 2020 already, can you? It’s crazy how fast time is going, but we have a wonderful guest who’s going to help you make the most of this new year. Erin, tell us about her.

Erin: Our guest is one of my good friends. I get to introduce her. Her name is Laura McClellan. Laura is a lawyer by day and a lover of the written word since childhood. Laura has been published both in professional publications and inspirational magazines, and she’s been a contributor to the popular Stepcase Lifehack blog.

She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and she’s a past women’s fiction category winner in the Phoenix Rattler Fiction Contest and the Olympia Fiction Contest. But she also hosts a weekly podcast called The Productive Woman. I love this podcast, you guys. The purpose of the podcast is to help women find the tools and encouragement they need to manage their time, life, stress, and stuff so they can accomplish the things they care about most and make a life that matters.

I’ll tell you, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Laura for a couple of years now, I think. I have to say, not only do I value her friendship, but I find her to be one of the most purposeful, intelligent, insightful women I know, seriously. I’m just delighted to have her with us today. Welcome, Laura!

Laura: Well, thank you, Erin. The pressure is on now.

Karen: We see each other on video while we’re talking and I’m watching Laura’s face as Erin is introducing her and she’s like, I’m being so set up here.

Laura: Hopefully I can sound intelligent and articulate.

Erin: Well, she does on the podcast and she does in person, so there you go. On her podcast, The Productive Woman, again, I’m going to encourage you guys to listen to that one. We’ll have a link in the show notes for that.

Karen: Laura, as you know, when our victims, I mean our guests come onto our podcast with us, we always ask them what the deep means to them. So Laura McClellan, what does the deep mean to you?

Laura: You know, I have been thinking about that ever since you all asked me to join you here. I know people have different takes on that. To me, the deep means that place, obviously beneath the surface, so that when I am in the deep, or, you know, if we’re writing from the deep, we’re going beneath the surface to––it’s hard for me to articulate this and I probably should have written it out––but it’s the more real place. Getting beyond the surface and the superficial into the depth of who we are, who God is, whatever it is, that deep place is there.

Karen: I like that. There’s way too much superficiality in the church, in Christian writing, in the Christian market. It’s hard because if you’re not authentic, if you’re not vulnerable, if you don’t go beneath the surface, our work really isn’t going to accomplish much of anything.

God is all about being authentic and vulnerable. So I really like that.

Laura: I guess that’s what I was trying to get at. I think for us to accomplish anything, for us to––and I guess we’ll get into this––to make a life that matters, we have to get to the deep. We have to go beneath the surface, beyond the superficial, to the reality of who we are.

I think a lot of that superficiality you mentioned came because going beyond that is scary.

Karen: Yeah. I was texting with a good friend of mine a couple of days ago who was talking to me about something that God had confronted him on and how he needed to confess to God the places that he had gone in this wrong thinking.

He said, “I had to tell him everything I’d been thinking and feeling. Everything.” Then he said, “But it’s not like God didn’t know it, and it’s not like I needed to say those things so that God would know them. What I needed to do was surrender those things and lay them before God, and in doing that, I realized the depth of God’s love for me and the freedom that comes from unburdening yourself from those things that you’re ashamed of.”

Erin: Yeah.

Laura: Yeah. I love that. And it’s so true and so much of what goes on in our world today, whether it’s fiction or in writing or in politics or anything, so much damage I think is done when we stay on that superficial level. We make judgements on other people based on superficiality, instead of going deeper with them. Trying to understand people that maybe have a different perspective than we do. We look at the outside and say, “They’re not like me. They’re wrong.”

Karen: Right.

Laura: “One of us has to be wrong. It must be them.” Instead of taking that space and that time to look inside more deeply and ask God those questions like your friend was talking about and confess to ourselves, first of all, what the truth is.

Erin: As we’re thinking about going deep and we’re thinking about the new year, let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about one of the reasons why I really wanted you on the show, Laura: to talk about your definition of productivity and what it’s all about as we’re thinking about this new year. Why don’t you share with us your philosophy there?

Laura: Sure. It has changed a lot over the years. I’ve been a productivity nerd since I was a kid. I’ve always liked checklists and charts and calendars. I’d go to the library and pull all the books about time management out and organization, all that stuff. To me, that’s just fun and it always has been.

As I’ve gotten older, and especially as I’ve looked into this more and more to make sure that when I put an episode of my podcast out, I’m adding some value in producing some content that’s going to be worthwhile, so there’s that piece of it, but also just my own life. I’ve come to go a little deeper in the concept of productivity, and I don’t believe anymore that it’s about how much you get done.

It’s not about getting more stuff done. It’s about getting the right stuff done. And how do you determine what that right stuff is? Because it may be different for everybody.

Productivity isn't about getting more stuff done. It's about getting the right stuff done. #amwriting @LauraMcMom Share on X

The definition that I’ve come up with that I think you were referring to is what is a productive person? We’re three women on this conversation, but it applies to guys too. That to me, a productive woman, a productive person, is a person who orders his or her life in such a way as to maximize his or her positive impact on the world.

A productive person is a person who orders his or her life in such a way as to maximize his or her positive impact on the world. @LauraMcMom @KarenBall1 #amwriting Share on X

To me, when you’re being productive, that’s what you’re doing. You’re ordering your life in such a way as to allow yourself to maximize that positive impact.

Because we all have an impact on the world around us. Whether it’s the people in our household, the person in the grocery store, or the world at large. And if you want to have a positive impact, there are things you can do to make that more likely.

Karen: I love that.

Erin: I do too.

Karen: I’ve never been a productivity person. I have a great poster in my office I’ve had for years and years. It says: I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by.

I make lists and then I lose them. It’s that whole idea of productivity being about completing the to do list. I’ve never connected with that, but what you’re saying, that definitely is something that would motivate me.

Erin: How does someone go about figuring that out?

Laura: That’s a great question. It’s a question that gets asked a lot, and the question I’ve been asking myself for years. To me, it started with reading books about how to do a good to do list and that sort of thing. But you have to go beyond that if you want to maximize your positive impact on the world. If that’s the goal. So it’s not just about being able to check things off a list, however satisfying that might be.

The instinct––especially if we’re overloaded, if we have too many things going on in our life and we’re feeling overwhelmed––the instinct is to find a tool that’s going to fix that, so we’ll make the perfect list, and then get all that stuff done.

But I think you have to take a breath. You have to take a step back. And again, not to be too cliche here, but you have to go deeper. You have to go beyond that superficial level of “How do I get all this stuff done” to “What is it I’m trying to accomplish here? What kind of life do I want to live? What kind of person do I want to be?”

And it goes beyond that. “What matters most to me?”

There are lots of questions you can ask yourself to get to that point, but I think if you want to be that kind of productive person, you want to maximize your positive impact on the world, then you have to start with asking yourself those questions.

The end of the year, the beginning of a new year, is a great time to do that. To take some time and sit down with a cup of tea or coffee or cocoa or whatever your choice is there, and a notebook and a pen, and do some thinking on paper about that. “Who do I want to be in this world? What difference do I want to make?”

Because we all make a difference. We can either just wing it. You know, be reactive to what’s coming at us and hope that we make the right choices and that our impact is positive, or we can be intentional about it. That requires some thought and prayer and all those sorts of things to get to the heart of “Who are you?”

“Who do you want to be in this world? What kind of life do you want to be living and what needs to change in order to be that person with that life?”

Who do you want to be in this world? What kind of life do you want to be living and what needs to change in order to be that person with that life? @LauraMcMom #amwriting @karenball1 Share on X

Karen: And I think for our listeners and for all three of us, that the primary question too is, “God, who do you want me to be? God, what impact do you want me to have on the world?” And submitting it to his guidance and to his truth. Everything that we think about what we want to be and how we want to impact the world, and then measuring that against the truth of Scripture and letting God give us that inner amen from the Holy spirit.

If you can have a––I’m doing the quotation marks in the air––a productivity list that you’ve gotten that holy amen on, imagine what we could accomplish and how we would not be thrown off by things that come in and seem to be sidetracking us. You know?

It’s so easy to look at those unexpected things that happen and you’re thinking, “Oh, there goes my list out the window.” But instead say, “Okay, Lord, if you’re bringing this into my day, if you’re bringing this situation into my life, what do you want me to be in this and how do you want me to impact this?” Like you said, Laura, not being reactive, but instead submitting it all and then moving forward in the plan that God helps you develop.

Laura: Yeah. I mean, any of us, those of us who are people of faith, who have staked our life on the truth of God’s Word and who he is, that is the starting point. He doesn’t leave us blind in terms of what he wants from us in general. Then we take the time to go into those deep places and get quiet. That’s hard in the 21st century society to just be quiet enough to hear. “I’ve read your Word, I know what it says. What do you want me to do with it today? Right now?” We can get all big picture and come up with big plans, which, you know, who is it that said we make plans and God laughs?

But to get into the nitty gritty of ordering our lives in such a way as to maximize our positive impact, the question has to be, “Where do you want me right now? How should I spend my time and my energy and my attention today to maximize that positive impact?”

Erin: What I like though is that we’re really talking as much or more about being than doing. It’s so interesting when you think about the people who have affected you the most and have had the most positive impact on you. It isn’t always because, “Oh, they did this.” It’s more because they were this, they represented this, they lived this. It’s more about character and I really love that philosophy when we’re talking about productivity. It’s a radical paradigm shift.

One thing, though, because it’s the new year, I know that people are going to be thinking about priorities as we’ve been talking about maximizing your impact. Do you have any tips maybe on how to set priorities?

Laura: Oh, that’s such a loaded question. We can get all philosophical about the word priority as a singular or a plural word. At any given moment there can only be one priority. And it may be different because we really can only do, in any given instant, one thing. We think we can do more than one.

But I think as far as setting priorities in the way we use that in the world––and this is just my philosophy––that has to come out of your values and who you want to be in the world. So it goes back to the things that we were just talking about.

I think on a practical level, as part of your kicking off the year and trying to make the year the best that you can, to make the year that you want to have, you can sit down in that moment with your coffee or tea or whatever and your notebook and think about “What are the roles you play in the world?”

For me, I’m Mike’s wife, and I am the mom to five adult kids, and the grandmother to eight little kids. And I’m a lawyer and I am a podcaster, and I’m a friend to certain people.

Looking at all those roles, think about what you would like to accomplish in each of those and––I’m hesitating here because the sort of traditional productivity discussion about that is ranking them, and I don’t know how you can rank them. Y’all may disagree with me on this, but you know, the traditional sort of party line Christian approach is it’s God first and then, you know, I don’t know, my husband, whatever. Well, this is just my philosophy, but I don’t see anything that says that God wants to be first in my life. What I see is he wants to be my life.

Karen: Yeah.

Laura: And everything else flows out of that. I don’t know that I’m answering your question, Erin, because I struggle with the idea of how do I rank those roles and those commitments I’ve made and those goals I’ve set for myself. To me, it’s not this one, two, three, four, five, six, and I’ve got to figure out where each of those things I talked about fits into that list.

It starts with––and I’m not saying I’m really good at this––with always trying to anchor our life in God and having him be our life and having that listening ear. For me, part of the issue is about––and again, I’m not saying I’m really good at this, but it’s something I do try to get better at––about always having my life ordered enough that I can be quiet enough to hear that voice. That voice behind me saying, “This way, this way, turn here, go there. No, this is the way. Walk in it.”

I know that’s not very practical and I can’t write a book about that. But when I think about priorities, that’s what I think. There are the roles I play, the things I need and want to do in each of those roles, and then moment by moment trying to listen to the direction that I’m getting as to where my attention and my time and my energy should be going right now.

Karen: I think it’s a lot more practical than you realize. I knew, a person once who said to me that she made out a list of the things that she wanted to be or that she wanted to do, but each day she would have that quiet time and she’d say, “Lord, what do you want to accomplish today?”

Sometimes she felt the sense that it was on one of those lists, but sometimes it was something completely different. And as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking a good thing for someone who’s my personality, who’s just off the scale right brain, doesn’t believe in linear thought, who will sit down to make a to do list and completely forget why I’m doing it and what I wanted on it.

But to figure out my priorities based on who I want to be as a believer, who I want to be as Don’s wife, who I want to be as a podcaster or a writer.

What the impact is that I want to have and how will my life matter in the context of each of those things. And then to have that kind of figured out, and then again submit it every morning and say, “Okay, Lord, is today a day where we refine Karen as a believer? Or do you refine Karen as a dog owner? Or what do you want to do today?” Which to me, adds an element of adventure to the day.

Laura: Sure.

Erin: I think you’re both right in terms of focusing on listening. Productivity is so much more about simply listening to God and we’ve lost that in our culture. We’ve lost the ability to listen, to sit still. I mean, nobody seems to listen very much on social media. It’s more about talking.

Karen: No, it’s not about talking, it’s about yelling.

Erin: So yes, that’s in our culture right now. It’s very difficult to battle.

One other thing I wanted to cover, because we’re running out of time here. The three of us have been talking a little bit beforehand about pruning. When we’re thinking about priorities, it may come to pass that we have to prune some things.

Any thoughts on that, Laura? Any tips on pruning or what that’s like? I know you’re going through a little bit of a pruning process––as I have recently in moving––and you’re moving as well.

Laura: Yeah. Pruning as a concept, you could get into the whole thing of why pruning happens in gardening, for instance, and the parallels there in our lives. It can apply to our stuff. It can apply to our commitment. It can apply to our attitudes. All sorts of different things.

We were talking earlier about pruning our belongings because you’ve just moved and, as we were talking, we’re in the process of packing up and getting ready to move to a new home.

To me, it’s really helpful to keep in mind why we would be doing the pruning. We’re not getting rid of stuff just to get rid of stuff. That to me is part of ordering my life in such a way as to maximize my positive impact on the world. The more stuff we have, the more time, energy, and attention we have to spend on cleaning it, moving it around, taking care of it, all of that kind of stuff.

I’ve been trying over the last two or three years to little by little whittle down the amount of stuff we have. Some of that is harder for me than others. We were talking this morning about books. I love me some books. My mother said I came back from the first day of kindergarten just disgusted and said I wasn’t going back because I went there to learn to read, thank you very much, and they were wanting to talk about colors, and I already knew all my colors.

I’ve been collecting books since then, at least, and I have lots of them, but we went through this morning and boxed up a whole bunch of them that we’re going to donate for somebody else to enjoy.

Why do you do that? Why do you consider pruning something? Not just to be doing it, but this again goes back to being purposeful and intentional about it. What is this adding to my life to have it and what would be a good reason to get rid of it? Well, so that I don’t have to take care of it and I can put my time, my energy, and my attention on other things that matter more to me. If there are things that matter more than books, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that on this podcast.

Karen: Of course you are.

Laura: I think it’s a matter of looking at the belongings you have and thinking about why you have them.

Karen: Right.

Laura: And do you like the reason you have? I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer, but the question you ask yourself is, “Why am I hanging on to this and how do I feel about that reason?”

If you like the reason you’re keeping it, then keep it. But if you go deeper, “I’m keeping this because I’m afraid I’ll need it some day and I won’t have it.”

Karen: So are you keeping it out of fear and if so, then what’s the fear? And dig deeper into helping God prune you on those emotions that can be damaging.

Laura: Exactly. Because a lot of what we keep, you know, everybody knows the statistics about how much stuff, especially we in America have, and how many households can’t park their car in their garage and they’re paying for outside storage. And I’m not condemning anybody for that. But the question is, if you are wanting to be intentional about living a productive life in that sense of making a meaningful life, a life that makes a positive impact, then maybe you want to think about it.

“All these things that I have, are they adding value to my life? Could I do something better with my life if I let some of this go?”

Karen: And, “Are they adding value to the impact that I’m having?”

We have some antiques that came from my husband’s family years and years ago. But the memories that they carry with them are not positive memories. They’re memories of the abuse that was also handed down from generation to generation. Whenever my husband sees them, he thinks of his grandfather, but those are not happy memories.

We are out of time. Laura, it’s been so much fun to talk with you and I think that we have so much more than we need to talk about, so we’ll look forward to maybe having you on again to dig deeper into all these ideas. Thank you so much for being here with us, the beginning of 2020, for being our first guest, who is helping our listeners to decide how to go into this new year and how to have a life that matters and what kind of impact they want.

Friends, as you’re thinking about those things, as you’re pondering that in relationship to your family, to your writing, to those people that you encounter in whatever role you play, remember the first and foremost thing to do is to ask God who he wants you to be and what he wants you to do. Then you can move forward in real freedom doing those things that help you to develop a life that matters in an eternal sense and not just a temporal sense.

So thanks again, Laura, for being here and getting us started off right for the new year.

Laura: My pleasure.

Erin: Thank you, Laura, and we’ll have a link, everybody, in the show notes to that podcast, The Productive Woman.

we want to hear from you

As you think about the new year, in what ways would you like to maximize your positive impact on the world? What steps can you take to help make that happen?


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