The Discipline of Listening {When I First Heard Him}

The familiar buzz rings loud and I scurry to respond. An 8am class was one thing, but to wake hours before was another burden entirely. One I didn’t want to subject my roommates to.

Cedar fills my lungs as I descend down each rung of my grandpa’s handiwork. The scent never gets old and I smile wide as I think of him sanding this loft down for me. It’s still dark as I tiptoe to the walk-in-closet and turn on the small light overhead. My Bible and journal in hand, I’m ready to begin the day.

I learned quick in college that sacrificing a bit of sleep was worth it if I could start my day out right. With Him. And I’m so grateful I did. When I manage to look beyond the expense of it all, I realize the most important lessons I learned in college were found during my mornings nestled down in the closet atop the multi-blue commercial carpeting.

For that’s where I learned
to carry on a conversation with Him.

Friends, that’s where I learned to listen.

It all started when I read this:

To those who listen to my teaching,
more understanding will be given,
and they will have an abundance of knowledge.
But for those who are not listening,
even what little understanding they have
will be taken away from them.
That is why I use these parables,
For they look, but they don’t really see.
They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.
Matthew 13:12-13

They look, but don’t see. They hear, but don’t listen… I repeated that for days, hoping the sting of reality would go away.

At this point, I had been a Christian for fourteen years. I’d read the Bible through multiple times. I knew every Sunday School story, every Bible verse response for most situations…

I knew Him, but didn’t know Him.
I was still seeing in parables.
Still hearing formalities.

I was a part of a religion, not a relationship.

Weeks followed and I struggled to figure out how to overcome this. I read commentaries on the passage. I prayed slower. I asked more questions. And I waited. Even when it got awkward.

Today, I laugh when I realize how difficult I made it and how simple it could have been to transition into this love affair I’m now captivated with.

All I had to do was ask.

It went something like this:

Lord, You’ve been a part of my life since I can remember. You know me down to how many fibers are on my head. You see the parts of me that make me blush. The dark corners I intentionally hide from everyone. Yet You love me. Relentlessly. And You died for me to prove it.

Father, I want to know You like that. I want to see the fibers of You and how they intertwine into my days. I want to feel Your touch and experience the kind of peace only You can bring.

Holy Spirit, can You help me? Can You tune my heart to His voice?

Speak to me, Lord. I’m listening. Show me, Father. I’m looking. Lead the way, Jesus. I’m following…

And I sat there cross-legged on the blue nylon fibers. My palms opened, ready to receive. My eyes closed to the world, anxious to see beyond it. My ears waiting for the silence to break.

I’m not sure how long it took for my heart to truly open, but it happened.

Friend, He asked for my hand. I gave it to Him. And He’s never let go.

He explained communion to me in ways I could understand. As time passes, as I grow closer to Him, He reveals more.

For fourteen years I followed Him in silence.

I’ve had seventeen years now of learning to listen. And still I strain some days.

But now I know His voice when I hear it. When I discipline myself to listen.

I hear Him in His living Word. Through my husband. My son. You.
I see Him all around me. The fibers of His being wrap me each day.
And I feel His embrace when I close my earthly eyes and allow myself to be swept up by His love.

Friends, I’m not a part of a religion anymore.

I’m in a relationship with the King of Kings.

I pray you can say the same.

How about you, friend? Do you hear Him? How do you listen? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Growing in Silence {Come to Me}

Her kind, age-softened hand secured my forearm. Our eyes locked and I tried to brace myself for what was to come. Once satisfied with the attention, she asked how my prayer life has been.

Relief followed as I mentioned my prayer journal. My daily routines surrounding it. And I even joked about how it is the only thing that keeps me sane most days–my daily pleadings of rescue. I may have compared it to a laptop, using words like restart…reboot…

She intently listened. Patiently waiting until I was through. When the silence lasted long enough to appease her, she clarified her question:

“How have you been hearing Him lately, Nikki?
What has He been saying to you during your prayer time?
That’s what matters to me most.”

Thankfully, I have heard Him lately and was able to share with her what He wants me to dwell on. But when I laid my head down that night, I began to ponder her question further.

It’s true. What He says matters most.

And I began to wonder how well I listen.

I mentioned it briefly last week, this portion of Henri Nouwen’s A Cry for Mercy I’ve been praying lately:

“You, O Lord, will give me all the attention I need
if I would simply stop talking and start listening to you.
Give me, O Lord, that silence.
Let me be patient and
grow slowly into the silence in which I can be with You.

And when I heed His invitation to simply be. To bask in His Glory, soak in His grace, reside in His arms, I hear words like these:

Come to Me ~ Bethel Loft Sessions

featuring Jenn Johnson

I am the Lord your God
I go before you now
I stand beside you
I’m all around you
And though you feel I’m far away
I’m closer than your breath
I am with you
More than you know

I am the Lord your peace
No evil will conquer you
Steady now your heart and mind
Come into my rest
Let your faith arise
And lift up your weary head
I am with you
Wherever you go

Come to me, I’m all you need
Come to me, I’m everything

I am your anchor, in the wind and the waves
And I am your steadfast, so don’t be afraid
Though your heart and flesh may fail you
I’m your faithful strength
And I am with you
Wherever you go

Come to me, I’m all you need
Come to me, I’m your everything

Don’t look to the right or to the left, keep your eyes on me
You will not be shaken, you will not be moved

I am the hand to hold, I am the truth, I am the way
Just come to me, come to me
Cause I’m all that you need

You may listen to “Come to Me” by clicking here.

My apologies for not having the video linked here directly (technical issues…)

How about you, friend? What do you hear when you stop talking and start listening? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,