Friend, this one is my favorite one.

Before I write anything at all, I want to share a few truths with you:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a FREE life. – Galatians 5:13
There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. – 1 Cor 14:33

Let those words of truth sink in a little bit. Read them and re-read them. If you have been feeling disconnected from God, lost, or like you’ve been very scattered and disorganized spiritually, it is OKAY. I’m going to humbly share practices and rhythms that have helped my relationship with the Lord, but I want to be clear:

We can never, EVER earn it.

WE, You and Me, can never do anything to earn or perfect or organize our spiritual lives, our relationship with God – Jesus did all of that for us on the cross.

So if you’ve failed at keeping this part of your life consistent, or if you’ve had regular rhythms in your faith – WONDERFUL. He did it all, hallelujah! These words are for all of us.

To catch anyone up who is joining us: My friend Emily Thomas and I are writing an eight-part series every Tuesday in January and February covering “how we do it” in eight different areas: the rhythms, habits, and routines that help us get things done and make the space and time for what matters most. You can read more of the backstory here! (And yes I totally stole this intro from her because it’s quite perfect.)

Time: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Home: Emily’s post and Nancy’s post
Personal Life: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Work:: Em’s post and Nancy’s Post
Relationships: Emily’s post and Nancy’s post
TODAY: Read Em’s post on Spiritual Life
March 6: Kids

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My faith backstory: I’ve been a follower of Jesus since I was 11. I was raised in a Christian home, but one summer on June 22, it became vividly real to me. I knew Jesus died for me and that He was perfect, but I didn’t think that it was a very loving thing to go and die for someone. I didn’t understand that at all as a kid. When I attended camp with my best friend, one night the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the truth that Jesus actually died in my place. The verse that made it all clear: “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.” THE WAGES OF SIN is death. I knew I had done wrong, and that Jesus was perfect. It clicked – He died on the cross so that I wouldn’t have to.

I crawled up in the top bunk and cried myself to sleep, overwhelmed by the love of God. I invited Him into my heart and my life as Lord and have been following Him ever since.

Through the years, I have learned and practiced so many ways of connecting with God. My rhythms looked different in every season, and I want you to know that it’s very important for you to connect with God in the best way for what season you are in.

In middle school and high school, I loved journaling and reading my Bible at night before bed. In college, I grew most studying scripture alongside friends in a girls Bible study. The first 7 years of marriage (before babies), I nailed down a morning routine that was life giving, full of prayer and scripture and meditation.

Now, I am learning to walk with Him throughout my whole day. I have rhythms I put rhythms into place that will help my spiritual growth (which I will share below), but more than anything, I am learning to ABIDE. To “keep in step with the Spirit” as Galatians 5 says to do. To talk to God and check in with Him throughout my day.

This shift began when my babies were newborns, and there wasn’t as much of a cadence or difference between day and night. My morning routine got thrown out the window, and I was desperate to connect with God however I could. I missed my time with Him every morning. I have since learned this way is much better – to have a morning routine, but to truly connect with Him throughout my days!

Take a moment to read these words below. This is my heart behind this post and the importance of organizing your spiritual life. Taken from one of my favorite books, Ordering your Private World, p. 273:

Thomas Kelley says, “We are trying to be several selves at once, without all our selves being organized by a single mastering Life within us.” Again he says, “Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center. Each one of us can live such a life of amazing power and peace and serenity, of integration and confidence and simplified multiplicity on one condition – that is, if we really want to.” And that is the condition with which we must finally deal. Do we really want order without or private worlds? Again, do we want it? If it is true that actions speak louder than words, it would appear that the average Christian does not really seek an ordered private world as a top priority. It would seem that we prefer to find our human effectiveness through busyness, frantic programming, material accumulations, and rushing to various conferences, seminars, film series, and special speakers. In short, we try to bring order to the inner world by beginning with activity in the outer one. This is exactly the opposite of what the Bible teaches us, what the great saints have shown us, and what our dismal spiritual experiences regularly prove to us.” (p. 273)

With that perspective, I humbly share my current faith rhythms and habits (that I don’t do perfectly), hoping it will be an encouragement to you in your faith, too!

1. Meditate on Scripture daily

Throughout the years, I’ve done this so many different ways. I’ve read through the Bible 4 different times, reading about 4 chapters a day. I’ve read the same book 3 times in a row. I’ve read 1 chapter a day, asking the Lord to guide me in which books He wants me to read. And more recently with nursing babies, I’ve read 1-3 verses a day, meditating on them throughout the day. The point is this: get Scripture in your mind and heart every day. Let it be your guiding truth. It is POWERFUL. And if you want to take it a bit deeper, there’s a great chapter on Meditation in one of my top 5 books ever: The Celebration of Discipline. It’s incredibly helpful!

2. Talk with God

Otherwise known as prayer ;). But I like to think of it more as talking with God. Take the religion out of it! It’s more like sharing. Listening. Drawing close to Him. I aim to talk with Him 3 times a day: as part of my morning routine, in the afternoon, and in the evening before I sleep. I love the example that Shauna Niequest provides in Present over Perfect: approach prayer like Vinegar and Oil:

“When you pray, pour out the vinegar first – the acid, whatever’s troubling you, whatever hurt you, whatever is harsh and jangling your nerves or spirit. You pour that out first – I’m worried about this child, or I’m hurt from this conversation. I’m lonely, I’m scared. I don’t know how this thing will even get fixed. Pour out all the vinegar until it’s gone.

Then what you find underneath is the oil, glistening and thick: We’re going to be fine. God is real and good and present and working. … This is the grounding truth of life with God, that we’re connected, that we’re not alone, that life is not all vinegar – pucker and acidic. It is also oil, luscious, thick, heavy with history and flavor.

But you have to start with the vinegar or you’ll never experience the oil. Many of us learned along the way to ignore the vinegar – the hot tears banging on our eyelids, the hurt feelings, the fear. Ignore them. Stuff them. Make yourself numb. And then pray dutiful, happy prayers. But this is what I’m learning about prayer: you don’t get the oil until you pour out the vinegar”

3. Journal

My journals are some of my post precious possessions in my home. I have a cabinet filled with completed journals from the time I was 11. I have prayers, sermon notes, thoughts, and scripture written down from so many seasons of my life: when I just started following Jesus, when I gave up dating for a year in high school to strengthen my relationship with the Lord, when I graduated, when boys broke my heart, when my parents got divorced, when I fell in love with Will, when I went to college and was very homesick, when I became a wife, when we lived in Boone, when we moved to Raleigh, when I grew as a business owner, when I became a mother. Both of the girls’ birth stories are journaled in vivid detail, too. I wouldn’t trade these journals for anything. Here are a few of my journaling practices:

– When I start a new journal, I write the month and year inside the front cover (ex: March 2014). When I finish a journal, I put the month and year on the back inside cover. This allows me to glance at a journal and know the season of life in which I was writing.
– I always write my name and phone number on the front page, so it will (hopefully) be returned to me if I misplace it.
– I keep a cabinet in my home only for my used journals. I call it my Omer of Manna! Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.’” So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come. As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony, that it might be kept.” Exodus 16:32-34
– If I attend a conference or workshop that offers its own small notebook or journal for note-taking, I choose not to use it. Instead, I bring my own journal with me and keep all notes from every sermon / conference / workshop in the same place.
– I often will take meaningful notes, letters, or post its and tape them inside the pages of my journals. It’s the best way to keep those words that I never know what to do with!

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So, what do I write daily in my journal? I often begin by writing the following at the top of the page:

– The date
– My current location
– The weather
– My scripture reading of the day
– What I am feeling / my current emotion

After my detailed heading, which some days I skip because I want to, I just write. There is no particular formula to this part, but it usually includes a combination of 2 or 3 of the following:

– My favorite verses from that day’s Scripture, written out (not just the references)
– A written prayer
– “Count the Fruit” section: what I’m thankful for and what’s going well right now
– A description of the big events of my upcoming week
– My feelings on life or life events
– My goals: short term and long term
– What I’m looking forward to or dreading about the day ahead
– Notes / quotes from the book I’m currently reading

I get messy and let the words come out. I process my deep heart dreams on these pages. I connect with the Lord as I write, and it’s GOOD! Journaling helps me process, connect, and listen to the Lord in a very tangible way.

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4. Listen to the Holy Spirit

I get asked this question so often: “How do you hear God’s voice? How do you know it’s God’s voice?” For me, God’s voice is like a strong impression on my heart, or it sometimes comes like a spontaneous thought that isn’t from me. He often speaks to me in pictures too, where I’ll get a random picture of something in my mind. Two resources that have helped me through the years: The Holy Spirit book by John Bevere and this teaching that is super old and dated, but also very helpful!

5. Attend and serve in our church

We’ve been attending our church for 12 years now! Will was on staff there as the youth ministries director for 5 years. We love it. This is simple, but an important part of organizing our spiritual lives: being part of the local church. We try to attend every Sunday we are in town and are healthy. I also serve on the Worship Team as a vocalist, and I love it so much. We practice 1 – 2x a month, and I sing on the team 1 – 2x a month. I say that Will serves our church by taking care of the girls the nights I practice and the mornings I lead worship, haha! It really is a commitment, but it’s so fulfilling and worth it.

6. Learn and Study

As you know, I love reading. I always endeavor to keep the books that I read based in a Christian perspective, so that I can learn from authors and experts who know much more than I do. This year I am excited to read The Road Back to You and Lioness Arising. I also do occasional Bible studies (Beth Moore, Well Watered Women, and ALL Good Things are great resources). I did more Bible studies in high school and college, and now I read more books. It all depends on the season I’m in!

7. Memorize Verses

There’s nothing better than having a verse come to mind when I need it most. Memorized scripture can be a lifeline in life’s darkest moments. That doesn’t happen by accident either. It takes time and effort to commit scripture to memory, and often times we don’t feel like doing it because it’s not important today. However, we don’t know when it will be important to us!

Confession: I really desire to be better at this. Memorizing verses is a beautiful tool to allow God’s word to pop up in your heart and spirit at any time – whether you have your Bible or not. Last night as I was praying with Will, I quoted 3 scripture in my prayer, and it made it so powerful because I knew I was speaking TRUTH. The best ways I love to memorize scripture: writing them on my chalk wall and reading them outloud, notecards on my bathroom mirror (or in a ziploc bag in the shower!), and the app Verses.

8. Practice the Daily Office

What is the daily office, you say? Great question! This is new to me in my Christian walk. I learned all about it when I read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality 2 years ago. Instead of having a morning devotion, then forgetting God the rest of your day (which was what I have done for years), it’s the practice of taking time to stop and be with God at least twice a day. Breathing deeply, having a moment of silence, meditating on a verse or a teaching, talking with God. It’s the practice of truly connecting with Him throughout the day. I use this book as a guide, and it’s wonderful.

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9. Honor a weekly Sabbath

This has been something that I completely disregarded for years of my life, but more recently it has been incredibly life giving. I started on this journey when I began speaking at Return to Rest – a small Christian retreat for women – 3 years ago. I researched the Sabbath and came to the conclusion that the Sabbath was intended for our lives as a rhythm put in place at Creation! It didn’t ever go away. Jesus practiced the Sabbath. God tells us to honor the Sabbath. It is NOT about legalism, but FREEDOM. This sermon rocked my world this year on the true meaning of Sabbath rest. Sabbath literally means to cease work, so when I take my weekly Sabbath, I do the following:

– Cease work (or anything that feels like work to me, including laundry)
– Remember what God has done – take time to dwell on His work for us
– Enjoy life and creation by doing something fun and lifegiving (this past Saturday I took the girls to a farm and then went on a two mile walk)

Imagine if you did this once a week. AMAZING, right? Well I’m here to tell you it IS amazing, and it’s part of God’s plan for you! It’s not to be legalistic, but life giving and restful. Side note: I also use paper plates every Saturday because I hate doing dishes, haha!

10. Tithe and Give

The word “tithe” means 10%. Scripture tells us to bring our tithe – 10% of our income / increase – to the Lord. An offering is anything above that 10% tithe. Notice I said “bring” and not “give!” We are bringing the tithe and returning it to the Lord, for it’s already His. We cannot “give” something that is not ours to begin with, so we bring our tithes to our church.

Money is such a personal thing, y’all. Sadly only 10-25% of a normal congregation tithe regularly, and Christians on average are only giving 2.5%. This is a big part of organizing our finances, too. It has to be the FIRST thing we do, or we won’t do it. Just think of what we could do for God’s kingdom if we yielded our finances to Him in obedience! Side note: anything above a tithe is considered an “offering” – and we aim to give much more than our tithe each year! It pumps us up and gets us excited to see God’s kingdom expand in the earth!

•••

That was… a lot. It’s a bit difficult to be brief when something means so much to me, has changed me so deeply, and has been a part of my life for 19 years. This is an ongoing journey, isn’t it? The beautiful thing about the Christian walk is there is ALWAYS more to learn, always more to God, always deeper truths to discover about Him and yourself, always more areas of life to grow in. Even as I’m wrapping up this post, I’m remembering things I could have shared: the importance of missions trips in my life, my contentment journey, our life in full time ministry, the important role my youth group played in my life… it goes on and on.

If you find yourself at the end of this post wondering – “How do I get that peace and faith?” I want to tell you something that seems too good to be true, but it’s not:

It can be yours for free.

Just as I said earlier – Jesus died the death you should have died, and purchased life for you. A FREE, beautiful, whole life. All you have to do is choose Him. “Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the grave, and you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

•••

I would love to hear some brave, honest answers in the comments. What do you have questions about? Where have you struggled? What about this post was new or interesting to you? I’m all ears and would LOVE to know! And if there’s enough comments, I’d love to do a follow up post to answer any other questions too.

Don’t forget to read Em’s blogpost today, too!

And if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a cookie. Like FORREALL. That was a doozy of a blogpost!

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COMMENTS

Nancy, I love this blog post! It’s so good! Before having Graham I was very faithful about having morning quiet time but like you that morning routine has gone out of the window. Truthfully I am currently struggling to get back in my groove of spending time with God. During our season of waiting and infertility I felt the most connected with God than I ever had before. Unfortunately, it almost feels like the opposite is true now that we have been blessed with Graham. You would think that having Graham would have brought me closer to Him. However, I always find excuses to not spend the time …too tired, too much to do and so on. You inspire me and give me hope that I can get my heart back on the right track!

I love this post so much Nancy! I also read “the original” post on how you organize your spiritual life back in 2014 and learned so much from it.
In my current season as a university student who is writing her thesis and working full time I struggle most with honoring a weekly Sabbath. There never seems a day in the week that I can truly stop working. Thankfully, my thesis will be done in a couple of weeks and the plan is to claim a day back in my week that is my Sabbath. I cannot wait to see how the Lord will use that day for His glory.

Ohhh wow! This is so helpful and eye opening.
Thank you sooooo much for sharing this!

I love this post Nancy; your faith and love for the Lord radiates through this space of yours! Thank you for always sharing your heart here and on your social media, the world needs more Nancy Rays! :)

Also…if you haven’t already, you should really consider writing a book. This Mississippi gal would be first in what I’m sure would be a long line to get it!

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences, Nancy! I love the daily office concept. My lifegroup is currently reading & studying the book “Sacred Rhythms.” It talks about incorporating these rhythms of solitude, silence, prayer, etc. into our lives in order to grow in our relationship with the Lord. My faith has mostly been built around community and bible studies over the years (i.e. very social), but I’m learning how important, even necessary, it is to have those still and quiet moments between just me and the Lord. The moments where words aren’t necessary and I can just sit and rest in his presence.

I have a question about tithing: in order to count as a tithe does it have to go to the church or can I bring my tithe to the Lord through charities, or helping others, in ways that I can feel as though I have made a bigger and more direct impact?

All the praise hands for this post, Nancy! I love learning how others organize and practice spending time with the Lord, and your rhythms and habits were so encouraging! The Lord has grown me so much over the past couple years, and I have grown to love spending time with Him and in His Word every morning. However, sometimes I trip myself up with legalism. If my Pastor says his quiet time looks like x, and my friend says hers looks like y, and neither of theirs look like mine, I struggle with feeling inadequate. Surely I can’t be a good-enough Christian if my quiet time doesn’t look like my Pastor’s does! I have been learning recently to combat these legalistic thoughts. While I do think there are certain habits and practices that are important and necessary for growth in the Lord, I have tried to remind myself that my time with the Lord is personal and unique, and it doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. It also doesn’t have to look a certain way or even look the same from day to day to be “good enough.” Because really, there is no “good enough.” We will never be good enough, and that is the message of the Gospel! I am a Type A, organized, creature of habit, so often I find myself thinking my time with the Lord should be identical each day. I am learning the beauty of relinquishing control and allowing the Spirit to lead me, rather than thinking my time with the Lord has to follow a certain format. I loved how you explained that your spiritual life has looked different based on different seasons of your life. I think there is such beauty and comfort in that! I really enjoyed this post and would love a follow-up! :)

Hello! I”ve been following along on your site for awhile now and it truly bring joy to my heart to see how you share your gifts and knowledge with the world.

This post comes at such an interesting time for me. Im making some big decisions in my life and honestly think the LORD placed this post in my path for a reason.

Something new that I LOVE is the “vinegar and oil” style of prayer. I had tears in my eyes thinking about approaching prayer like this and it truly left me thinking and my heart yearning for time with the LORD.

Id love to hear more about your journaling practice and how you fit that time into your day. Is it journaling at a certain time? Or just when your able to find it? And without the specific structure time how do yo make sure to stay true? Do you have someone who helps hold you accountable to your faith?

This comment is far to long, but thank you so much for the post. Blessings!

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