Living In The Fog: Three Ways To Live Well When Life Has You Wandering

I looked at the clock.

It was 6:00 a.m.

I thought about going back to sleep. My eyelids were heavy, my body was relaxed, and I knew more sleep would come.

If I would let it.

It was peaceful in the cabin — all my chicks were in the nest, and I could hear each of them breathing to their own rhythm. I could smell the cool mountain air.

Family camp. In Colorado.

It’s my favorite place in the world, and my favorite week of the year.

And it’s moments like these that set it apart from any other vacation we could take.

But I also love the quiet time I get with the Lord, right there on that mountain, if I can muster the strength to will myself out of bed early and take the brief walk up to the front porch of the lodge, where coffee, rocking chairs, and hummingbirds are waiting to greet me.

It’s in this place that I hear God speak.

So I drug myself out of bed, dressed, grabbed my Bible, and walked out the front door.

My family didn’t stir.

I was surprised by the blanket of fog that had settled over camp. It enveloped me as I stepped off the porch and onto the path up to the lodge.

It was so dense that I couldn’t see more than about 10 feet in front of me. And though I’m sure it was my imagination, everything seemed quieter in the fog.

When I got to the lodge, I was disappointed because the fog had stolen my view of the mountains. A view that I had counted on to set the backdrop for my quiet time.

IMG_4573

IMG_4574It was also colder than I expected, which drove me off the porch, and into the lodge.

A disappointment that made me think I should have stayed in bed.

But I settled in, opened my Bible, and turned to the book of Exodus.

And on that mountain, in that fog, God began to speak.

The first half of the book of Exodus is a gripping narrative. It’s the story of the Israelites, shackled by the bonds of slavery in Egypt and yet claimed by God at the same time. It’s a story where we witness God free the Israelites from slavery, deliver them out of Egypt, and set them out on their journey to the promised land.

Yet their journey is long. We find them wandering in the wilderness for forty years.

The Israelites didn’t know where they were going.

They didn’t have a map or itinerary.

All they had was a promise from God:

… [T]hen you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord. — Exodus 6:7-8

The thought of that.

Taking a road trip with no plans goes against every cell in my body. Because I’m a planner. I like plans. I like maps. And I don’t like getting lost!

Yet I can relate to the Israelites. I’ve been wandering in my own “wilderness” for over two years now. But when I speak of it, I haven’t referred to it as a wilderness.

I’ve referred to it as a fog.

Two years ago, I knew exactly who I was.

I was a passionate leader in the church we served.

I was active and connected in the school our kids attended.

I had lots of friends.

And I had people who I counted on and who I knew counted on me.

Life was comfortable. And my roots were deep.

But then we moved. And so many of those things I clung to as part of my identity vanished. It was a figurative death for me. A death of the life I knew. And loved. And counted on.

The loss of the parts of my life that brought me joy and fulfillment was hard. But that loss also exposed, for the first time, other areas of my life where I was barely hanging on. Those vulnerable places became the “elephant in the room” I could no longer ignore.

I lost my purpose.

My passion.

My vision for the future.

A fog had settled in.

I found myself turning in circles, going this way and that. I tried to find a path, but like a pen in a Spirograph, I kept coming back to the same place.

Over and over again.

The thoughts in my head ran wild and incomplete, to the point that their voices became constant white noise in the fog. I felt distracted. Frenetic. And anxious.

Yet I felt God tugging.

I felt God nudging.

I felt God speaking.

I just didn’t know what He was saying.

I wandered for a long time, pleading for God to lift the fog. Over time, though, I noticed that, while my vision was impaired, my sense of hearing began to improve. And I considered the possibility that the long-term vision I had in my “old life” cast a shadow on the subtle ways in which God may have been speaking to me during that season.

With my vision gone, I had no choice but to focus only on my very next step. And, then, I began to hear God’s quiet voice in the fog:

Start writing.

Read this book.

Support this cause.

Make this change.

Reach out to her.

Volunteer for that.

Go to this conference.

I had a choice to make.

Obedience.

Or my own way.

So I made a commitment. To respond. To follow. And to obey. And like the markers on a hiking trail, God’s voice began to lead me to a path, one step at a time.

Through the fog.

I’m still in the fog. And in many respects, I’m still wandering.

Because I don’t have a long-term vision.

I don’t have a long-range goal.

But my senses of sound and touch are heightened. I’m hearing God more clearly and feeling His presence in a more tangible way.

My vision is sharpening, and the fog is lifting.

Because I know what my very next steps must be.

IMG_4577Are you in that place? Do you feel that you are living in a fog? If so, my heart is with you. And I want to cheer you on. So here are three things I’ve done to help me thrive in the fog:

Be Still

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God…”

This seems so simple, but it isn’t an easy scripture for me to embrace. I’m a doer and nothing feels less helpful to a journey out of the fog than to “be still”. But learning to embrace the heart of Psalm 46:10  has been a critical step for me. God will meet us where we are. If we’re running around in circles, though, we may miss Him pass by.

So be Still.

And know that He is God.

Seek God

Based on past experience, I know that the quality of my relationship with God directly correlates to the amount of time I spend in prayer, worship, and study. Yet this has been an ongoing struggle for me the last two years.

When I finally found the resolve to seek God first daily, it began to change everything. And I’ve realized that seeking God first is the key. Because when I give God my first moments, I give Him the rest of my day to work out those things He is speaking to me. So seek God. Give God your first moments. And do it every day.

Choose Obedience

While I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, I’ve had many experiences where God has “spoken” to me very specifically. The first few times this happened, I wasn’t sure whether it was God or my own subconscious thought. But as I stepped out in obedience and received God’s confirmation through my experiences, I began to learn the difference between God’s voice and my own.

I don’t always get this right. And it’s not always easy. But each time I choose obedience, I get better at it. So when I hear God prompting me to do something in the fog, I’m choosing obedience. Even when it doesn’t make sense. I encourage you to do the same. When you hear God speaking you into action, take a leap of faith. And see what happens.

Your journey through the fog will certainly be different from mine. It may be longer or shorter. And it will be borne out of a varying degree of difficulty. But I believe this to be true for all of us. While we can’t control the circumstances that brought us to this place, we can choose how we will live while we’re here. And I’m finding that life can be well-lived, even in the fog.


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20 thoughts on “Living In The Fog: Three Ways To Live Well When Life Has You Wandering

  1. Thank you so much for this! I’m in the fog and have been for a few years. If you lead a group related to this topic, please let me know. Also, any other resources you can recommend would be great. We miss your family at AUMC.

    • It’s so good to hear from you. I’m glad the post touched you where you are. Being in the fog can be a lonely, overwhelming, and unproductive place, so I hate to know you are finding yourself there. Praying that the suggestions I shared may bear some fruit for you. If I can help, let me know. A resource I would highly recommend is The Best Yes, by Lisa Terkeurst. This book spoke to me in a way I haven’t experienced in a long, long time. It has sharpened my focus to the things that are really important, and I’m finding that when I honor those priorities, the fog is much more tolerable! Many blessings to all of you. We miss you like crazy!

  2. What a great read to start my day (albeit not at 6am!). Your writing just gets better and better and you truly touch my heart each time I read your thoughts. Thank you for always sharing from your heart. It makes the journey feel less lonely to know someone experiences the same peaks and valleys. Asking God to bless you richly today, Jennifer!

    • Ha! Not an early riser are you? Thank you for being such a cheerleader of my work. I appreciate your willingness to join the conversation and to give me your thoughts. You are definitely not alone in the valleys, my friend. Thank you for the prayers!

  3. Jennifer, thank you so much for your writings. We are so glad to have you and Pastor Kory with us at CRUMC. Come and visit us sometime at Hilltoppers Sunday School Class and tell us some of your wonderful experiences. I told Kory last Sunday how much I have enjoyed your writings. This one is perfect.

  4. I’m so glad God lead you to wright. That is not my forte but i so enjoy reading your posts. I’ve just retired and could relate to your fog story. I feel I have a lot of life left and I’m listening for God to direct me!

    • Toni: I bet retirement does bring the fog in! What a huge life transition. You absolutely do have a lot of life left, and I’m guessing God is going to give you some mighty opportunities to serve with this extra margin you now have. My mother-in-law retired two years ago, and it’s been big a huge blessing for so many people, including our family! Please come back and let me know how you see God working in this new season. I’d love to hear from you!

  5. This is good, and what perfect pictures to accompany the message. I think everyone can relate to this “fog” as the seasons of life change. Being still and obeying is one of the things that I found in my battle with infertility. I always thing of God whispering and me needing to take the time to be still enough to listen.

    • Amber, you are so right! A whisper is what I usually hear — and we miss the whispers when we’re running around like crazed people. It’s so hard to be still, particularly when we don’t like our circumstances, but I’m learning that this is the first thing I must do! I can only imagine how difficult your fertility battle was, but I am so thankful that in hindsight, you are able to see the ways in which you grew through it. I always find that to be the case in my own struggles. In hindsight…

  6. Great writing. Very moving. I can absolutely relate. Special needs is all fog, and then you pile life on top of that. Thank you for the arrow in the fog this morning pointing me back to Him. Thank you, God, for blessing me through Jennifer’s words this morning. 🙂

    • Karen: Thank you for your sweet words. I can only imagine the complexities of life with a special needs child. I’m sure you don’t always feel this way (because my experience shows we are our own worst critic), but from an outsider’s perspective, you handle those complexities with joy and grace. I’m so thankful you received a word of encouragement through the blog this morning. God is so good like that! Many blessings to you and your family.

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