It was after hours at my internship trying to get some paperwork done when I heard it for the first time. I was working on my clinical counseling license at a mental health facility, and I had on about five bajillion sweaters as my back corner office had the unfortunate full blast of the air conditioning. There were no actual windows, but there was plenty of posters that I joked were windows into the soul, ie "how are you feeling today?" cartoon faces that clients point to in order to depict where they were at on the emotion range that day.
The janitor had come around to turn the white noise machines off.
I was so shocked. I stared, mouth agape, at the small machines lining the walls of the facility that I had never noticed before. The environment of the entire hallway changed. I could hear everything so clearly that the little machines so efficiently snuffed out. Truthfully, it gave me the heebie jeebies. I felt so duped! I didn't. even. know. How long had they been there? Always?
The truth is they worked like a charm. They blocked everything. Nothing a client told a therapist could leak out into the hallways. But what else had I missed? Coworkers laughing? Dance parties in the break room? Birds chirping?
Okay, there probably wasn't any of that happening. But I guess I wouldn't know because I WOULDN'T HAVE HEARD IT!
I felt truly robbed of one of my senses.
This week, I heard the white noise machine turn off again. And I began to hear things I haven't heard in a very long time.
This past May, many things shifted for Tim and I. There are many factors at work that I know only God could be orchestrating for us at the same time. Tim turned 3-0. My dad turned 6-0. Milestones like this have a way of making you reflect upon how you are using your time, if you are using your vapor well, if you are truly fulfilling your purpose in life to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."
Tim and I both had less responsibilities in May. The DWITW podcast went on a break from recording and Tim had a break from class. Little by little I felt like I began to hear more clearly again with this margin. Tim and I had a meaningful, needed weekend away together without our kids to reconnect.
Tim and I started blocking out all our time together. In a sense, we decided to name every hour with a purpose like we name every dollar in our budget with a purpose. We intentionally blocked off time for our priorities: for God, marriage, kids, church, work, play and even rest. I can't tell you what a gift being on the same page with our time this past month has been, although it is really hard for me to say no sometimes to ALL the things. I do realize I am saying yes to the exact things God has set before me, however, so saying no to other things is easier every day.
In preparation for an intense teaching season this summer with Dayton Women in the Word, I took a weekend to pray. I know I can't do this thing on my own. I need the Rock higher than I.
Oh God, how I need you.
The final white noise machine turned off this weekend, and praise the Lord, I heard God's voice again. I deleted all social media from my phone and didn't listen to audiobooks or podcasts for an entire day (big deal for me) so that I could pray in the quiet. I realized I've been muffling his voice with the mass consumption of allllll the other voices. And I didn't just muffle God's voice, but Tim's and Titus' and Matthias'.
Oh God, how I've missed them.
Oh God, how I've missed you.
Sometimes, we don't realize how deafening the noise has become because its volume is increased so subtly. Decibel by decibel, we drown out both good and bad until we are just sort of "ho-humming" through life. We are dispassionate, apathetic, bouncing along, making thoughtless decisions, and not knowing how to answer the question "How are you doing?" because we ourselves don't really know.
For me, this looks a lot like posting pictures of my kids and not being with my kids. This looks a lot like answering text messages while my toddler colors permanent marker on my expensive goal planner and then yelling at him, when one of my goals on that planner is to become a GENTLER MOTHER! Seriously! *Face palm* This looks like being shocked to find my phone saying I've spent 6.5 hours on social media last week, even after deleting it for the entire weekend. And here I feel like I don't have time for another thing.
I'm convicted. I'm embarrassed. I'm sad.
But. I heard Him. I hear you God.
I'm hopeful. He's turned it off. He's been turning off one machine after another this month, slowly reawakening my senses so that I can hear my sin but hear His voice all the louder. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:19
In parenting, there are many transitions that scare me because I know there is temporary pain and discomfort before the great reward. It begins with a bang: childbirth itself! But! It is followed by the greatest of gifts! Your child! But then, there is sleep training, which for us has meant a few weeks of really painful nights and no sleep followed by the blessing of full nights of rest, which if you are parent you know, this is a game changer. And one by one, the trials and milestones hold hands until they are suddenly heading to college.
Two parenting transitions have been on the horizon for awhile now and I have been putting them off because I figured they would be painful: moving Titus to a big boy bed and potty training him.
Truthfully, I've dreaded these things because they would inconvenience me. They would throw off my groove.
This weekend, with all the white noise gone, I just felt God saying, "It's time." So we adjusted the old crib to become a toddler bed and bought some big boy underwear.
And I don't feel inconvenienced or frustrated. To my surprise, I feel sadly proud of my first baby boy who isn't a baby any more. And I feel humbled that I get the privilege of being his mom and that God would choose me to teach him how to grow up.
I don't feel the need to condemn social media or smart phones. They are such gifts in so many ways. Many of you are reading this because I shared it on facebook and you are scrolling on your phones. But I do believe I need to steward these things better, so I don't miss out on God's voice when I really need to hear from him or miss the opportunity to be Titus and Matthias' mom, Tim's wife, and the other beautiful roles God's given me to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."
So, adding to my little time blocked schedule is now a time to respond to text messages, interact with social media, and check my email. And it is relatively small, but I don't even care, because it is worth the trade.
SO, sorry not sorry in advance if it takes me a day to get back to you.
I'm looking forward to a summer of hearing from God.
And sharing what I'm hearing.
And listening to how others are hearing from God too.
What are you hearing? Do you hear Him? Maybe, like me, you feel a little hard of hearing.
Lord, turn off the white noise. Clear our hearts of the distractions that are coming between us and you. Help us focus our eyes on you and throw off every weight and the sin that so easily entangles. Help us to prioritize hearing from you first and foremost. Be near to us, Oh God! Turn up the volume on your voice! Press the mute button on everything else. I've never heard anything sweeter than your voice. Nothing comes close. Thank you, for hearing me and helping me to hear you!