The Four Streams That Help Me Discern

Four years ago, I was in a season of discernment that involved clarifying my yeses within ministry. Up to that point, I had been involved in several arms of ministry: youth ministry, young adult ministry, adult faith formation, and retreat work. My vocation as a parent was growing as our family grew. Writing was emerging as a new piece of my call. I felt stuck between trying to hold on to what I once did and embracing the new invitations in front of me.

Clarity came through prayer one morning. The image of a river came to mind, and I stood on the banks of the river surveying the landscape. This was the river of my life, and its energy and current were vibrant that day. I wondered where the river began and where it got its fuel to sweep along.

Suddenly, I felt a presence next to me; I turned and saw Jesus standing by me. He, too, was noticing the surroundings, appreciating the river of my life. Then he began pointing to the streams that fed into my river—the things that, at that moment of life, were my greater yeses: motherhood and family, retreats, spiritual direction, and writing. These things brought an increase of faith, hope, love, energy, and passion.

Jesus also pointed out the streams that were drying up, mere trickles into the great river of my life. Many were once rushing streams, but now they no longer seemed a necessary part of my landscape. It was then I had permission to let go of what I once did through calls that I once had. That letting go would allow me to embrace fully the new invitations God had in store.

The four streams feeding the river of my life are not equal by any means. Motherhood and family hold their rightful place together as the stream that matters the most to me. I evaluate invitations to new opportunities against this primary stream. Does this invitation honor my call to marriage and motherhood in a way that supports it? Or will saying yes to it take away too much from this primary call?Prayer that morning helped me across a threshold in understanding my greater yeses and set me on a new path of ministry work. The four streams still are checkpoints for me, ways of discerning new invitations. Does this invitation flow into the four main streams or does it not fit at all? The streams help me refine and clarify my understanding of what God is inviting me to today.

What would you and Jesus name as the main streams, your greater yeses, that flow into the river of your life? How might naming these help you in discerning?

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Becky Eldredge
Becky Eldredge is a writer and spiritual director in Baton Rouge, LA. The author of Busy Lives & Restless Souls and The Inner Chapel, Becky holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Education from Louisiana State University and a Masters in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University New Orleans. She has her Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Spring Hill College. Becky has been involved in ministry for more than 15 years, with the majority of her work in retreat ministry and adult faith formation. While ministry is one of her passions, her greatest joy is sharing life with her husband, Chris, and her children, Brady, Abby, and Mary.


  1. Wow! It’s like this article was meant for me right at this moment!
    I too have been involved heavily in YM over the last 20 years or so but have felt so burned out that I had to leave. I’ve felt guilty, like I should’ve made it work, but having little parish support made it seem like I was flogging a dead horse. So my SD and I decided YM had reached its expiry date.
    It’s tough though because the Passion Play we used to do on Good Friday, and going to Steubenville burn in my heart as things I have not been happy giving up.
    I can identify so well with you because having done something for so long, how does one move beyond it into something else? What is life after YM?
    I’ve had another calling though, almost my entire life, that burns brighter all the time and I can’t rest until I achieve it- and that is to be a worship leader for Adoration. My desire to play and sing and my yearning for Eucharist and the Holy Spirit are so strong I can’t even think straight.
    I am figuring out ways to move to the next level of this ministry, beyond doing it just occasionally- that’s the hard part, but with the support of my family ( they, too, come first) I pray I will get there!

  2. My many and greatful thank yous. I came across this writing while searching for ways to help my 12yr old son prepare for adoration today and through the grace of God this gift was given to me. I say this because I’ve been struggling with my purpose in my journey as a cathecist and my yeses to continue. It is truly amazing how God is guiding me and through my meat search to bring my son closer to him, he draws me closer to him and finding my calling. God bless you, you are amazing

  3. As I read these thoughts I am overwhelmed with the presence of Christ and his care for me.. as a 72 year old mother of 11 and Nana to life is full! I am grateful … as summer approaches and the pace slows down, I am trying to but I get anxious my prolife work in the parish, my Sunday Children’s liturgy of the word, my Kairos prison ministry, my monthly Ignatian classes. All good but is it my work or Christ’s work? I’ll reflect.

  4. I can share that Take Lord Receive sincerely and interiorially transformed my life direction in helping people draw closer to God!

  5. I have always struggled with discerning God’s will for me and my life choices. I found your small, but powerful phrase to be the most helpful tool for discernment: “Does this invitation honor my call to…”
    Thank you!

  6. I’m in a period of discernment and I appreciate your words. I am a spiritual director and am drawn to more retreat leading and writing, but my other “yeses” are creating chaos in my calendar. I am also called to be home and with my family now. I’m sorting through the no’s that I must begin saying so that I can have more margin in my life. Thanks-

  7. What a great and helpful image to use in order to better see and understand my own life. The rivers shift on source and intensity as time goes by. But this will help me understand and manage the shifts happening in my life as things unfold. Thank you, Becky for your wisdom.

  8. This is so helpful & a beautiful gift
    For you; THANKYOU for sharing
    From my little prayer room in Queensland
    Australia at 5am! Another mum working all that out. Great imagery. Glory to God & Jesus for showing you such help!

  9. Becky, I know exactly how you feel. At the age of 75 I had a very similar experience. I had not done anything for God for many years but someone suggested to me that I write a Christian devotional blog! At my age can you imagine it? After much prayer and discussion with my family I sat down to write my blog which I called Reflections in the water since I felt that at this stage of my life I was sitting on the bank of the river of my life and recording my reflections upon it. Only they were not my reflections were they? They were God’s words. So often I have a piece planned but when I come to write He gives me something entirely different to say! He really does work in mysterious ways!


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