Tag Archives: parenting

Are You Listening?

“Part of doing something is listening. We are listening. To the sun. To the stars. To the wind.”  ~Madeleine L’Engle, Swiftly Tilting Planet

As the mother of two very talkative sons, sometimes I don’t quite listen. Several years ago they were very, very interested in Star Wars. It was the only thing they talked about at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And being stuck in the van with them meant being captive to their incessant light saber, hero, super-powers talking. Finally, I told them I would not listen to it anymore.

The thing is. . . I hadn’t been listening for a long time already. I had tuned out what they were saying because I didn’t want to hear it. I wasn’t interested in what they were discussing. I had more important things to deal with. I couldn’t be bothered.

Somehow that attitude transferred itself to other areas of my life. I half listened to friends while I thought about what I needed to be doing next. I “mm hm-ed” on the phone as I washed dishes and wished the speaker would hurry it up. I planned dinner while the kids told me the latest news, worked on plot twists while Matt unwound by telling me his own stories, and typed out a blog while my mother talked on the speaker phone.

So a few weeks ago, I decided it was time for me to start listening. People all around me have things to share, and I can be the ear they need to listen. I had no idea where I was about to be lead.

A few days into the “listening experiment” I asked God if he could help me to slow down and be an ear to someone who needed it that day. Then I headed into my busy day- drop Amos off at the orthodontist, stop by the dump to get rid of the recycling, head to the grocers, check at the pet store to see how my book is selling, and then back to get Amos. Forty-five minutes? No problem!

I dropped Amos off, stopped by the pet store- the owner was in a meeting, so I said I would come back- and then headed to the dump. On the way there I had to slam on the brakes, and recycling with a lidless kefir container in it went spilling all over the back of the van. I cleaned it up as best I could and thought I would stop in the restroom to wash at the grocery.

A shopping cart with a small girl, perhaps two years old, was parked in front of one of the stalls. I used the other and then went to wash up. A woman appeared out of the other stall and as the child cried, the mother exclaimed, “I just don’t get it! What do you think?” I looked over, and she held a positive pregnancy test. She went on to tell me that she had had an ultrasound that morning and was told the baby had died. The doctor prescribed a medication to help her get rid of the fetus, but she was afraid to hurt the baby if a mistake had been made. What did I think she should do?

Really, God?  I stayed with her a while, listened, offered my advice, and prayed for her. Then I headed  off to the pet store again.

There I discovered that the owner’s husband had had a heart attack and died the week before, her aunt had also died that week, and her son’s pet had died that morning. OK, God, I get it.

I realize that people are hurting around us all of the time. The woman in the stall next to you. The cashier at the pet store. People everywhere need a listening ear. But busyness and lack of interest turn down the volume so that we don’t have to hear what everyone else needs to say.

And then Matt preached it on Sunday. God wants to speak to us, but are we listening? Well of course I’m listening! I mean who wouldn’t want to hear God, right!?

Only maybe I am listening like I used to be listening, not noticing the woman next to me crying over the loss of a wanted child, not hearing the pain and fatigue in another’s voice who is struggling with loss. What if I am ignoring God because what he has to say isn’t easy to listen to or I don’t particularly want to hear what he has to say?

So now I add to my prayer, God let me be an ear to those who need to talk AND let me have ears to hear you, no matter what you have to say, — even if I have to listen to Star Wars.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 NIV

Christmas Traditions

advent-15187__180A cup of paper strips sat in the table centerpiece while Jonathan and I shared a lunch break. “What’s that?” he asked.

“It was to be an activity for the Ladies’ Breakfast last week, but we didn’t need it,” I answered.

He chewed a little longer and then pointed at the cup. A man of few words, I knew what he meant. I pulled out the first strip and read it off to him.

“What is your favorite Christmas memory and why?”

He started laughing. His favorite memory, believe it or not, is that we did NOT have a Christmas tree. You see, every year we packed up the kids and took the interstate north to West Virginia. They always wanted to spend Christmas with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. After several years of decorating a house, leaving it empty on Christmas, and then returning to clean up the decorations AND unpack from the trip, I had had enough. I declared if we were going home for Christmas, then Christmas would stay in WV.

I have taken a lot of flak for that decision. Don’t I miss looking at the tree? No. Don’t I feel like I am depriving the children of the holiday spirit? No. Don’t I wish we had family Christmas traditions? No, because we do.

We go home for Christmas. We visit our loved ones that we only see at Christmas. We go to church together on Christmas Eve. We unwrap presents at particular times, set out cookies for Santa, throw oats on the lawn for the reindeer, and make cookies together.

Today at lunch I was finally affirmed. “People always said what a bad mother you were because we didn’t have a Christmas tree. The truth is I never cared. We always went to the grandparents for Christmas and that was all I cared about,” Jonathan grinned as he shared his secret. “But I still thought it was funny that people said things about it.”

Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
Ezra Taft Benson

Great Dad?

jail cellLittle Al was the typical five year old child. He had cherubic cheeks, liked to play cops and robbers, and adored his parents. One day his father called Al into the study.

“You know how to get to the police station. Do you not?” His strict father asked.

“Yes,” Al quickly answered.

“Good. Take this note to the police chief. Make sure to wait for an answer.”

Young Al grasped the note tightly in his fist and ran all the way to the police station on the most important errand of his life. He arrived out of breath but certain of his task.

“I’m to wait for an answer,” he told the police chief.

The middle-aged man opened the note, read it, and then looked down at little Al. He read the note again and then looked intently at the small boy. “Follow me,” the police chief beckoned with a bewildered grin.

The two walked through the labyrinth of offices and jail cells until they reached the furthest cell. Before Al knew what was going on, he found himself locked inside the cell and the police chief walked away.

Al’s cries echoed throughout the empty chambers. No one came to help. After a ten-minute eternity the policeman returned to release the frightened boy. “That’s what happens to naughty boys,” he said as Al ran down the hall and out to the street.

Al never knew what it was that he had done to deserve the frightening punishment. He spent the rest of his childhood lonely and friendless, haunted by fears and phobias.

Perhaps some of you had a father like Al’s. You feared him. You were unsure of his motivations, unsure of his love. Father’s Day is not a holiday of happy remembrances for you. Then to make it worse, you are told that God is your father.

I don’t have any words or strategies to help you. My own father was nothing but loving and kind to me. But this I do know: my father failed me on many occasions. Not because he was a hateful, strict despot, but because he was an imperfect human. All fathers, no matter how good or how bad, fail their children.

Except, of course, for our heavenly father who is perfect in all of his ways. His love and protection, and even his discipline, are exactly what we need. Be sure to tell him Happy Father’s Day and thanks for being such the perfect dad.

And what about Al? Well, he grew up to put to use all of his childhood experiences. He was Alfred Hitchcock.

 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6