Archive for December, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

“Who have you listened to carefully?”–another of Jon Swanson’s questions for reviewing 2010.

I try to listen carefully to the people who are closest to me, the people to/for whom I have responsibility:  my husband, my children, my grandchildren, my friends, my students.  What has that looked like in 2010?

Those of you who know me/our family know that my husband Michael lost his job when Taylor University closed its Fort Wayne campus in May 2009.  His unemployment is still a reality, despite multiple job apps and several interviews.  Listening carefully to Michael’s mind and emotions and spirit in this part of the journey is one of the hardest “listenings” I’ve been called upon to do in my life.  I have learned that there are limits to which one can get inside another’s mind and heart and that sometimes just walking alongside, listening, seems like a very unhelpful partnership indeed.  Beyond that, we have both tried to listen carefully to what God is saying about this season; there have been many, many times when that effort has seemed to yield silence.  But, as 2010 draws to a close and the calendar turns to the first days of 2011, we will continue to listen with hope and trust.  God, adjust our hearing if we are not tuned in at the right frequency.

A mother listens to her children even before they are born.  What mother of the modern age hasn’t thrilled to hear that first swish-swish-swish sounding heartbeat detected at a pre-natal visit?  When our children are with us every day, we hear a great deal, but may listen less if we let life’s stresses separate our ears from our hearts.  When our children leave our homes, we don’t hear them as often or as much; does that make listening easier?  My children are at threshold stages of life: young motherhood and grad school, about to be married, senior in high school.  It is so tempting to talk, talk, talk, but I am painfully aware that my best mothering at this stage may come in the form of being a better listener.  Part of listening is pulse taking–I’ve been trying to do better at hearing hearts when it comes to my kids.

I teach college students.  They come with stories.  Class time doesn’t give much opportunity for them to tell them.  But those stories give shape to their lives, and it is that shape that determines their successes or failures as students.  I try to hear the pieces of their stories that come through in every conversation or email or response to a question.  I’m discovering that at the point of their story bits, we connect most and best.  My philosophy of education is that teaching, if it is nothing else, is relational.  Listening well helps me be a more effective teacher.

I would like to say I have listened carefully to God in 2010.  But, if I am to be honest, I know there are far too many times that I’ve been in another room when He was speaking.  God, just as I am drawn into a room where a fire is blazing in the hearth and lights twinkle welcome, let me quickly and always draw near to the irresistible light and warmth of your voice to me in the cold and dark of my sojourn apart from your presence.

My prayer is for clean ears.


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My friend Jon’s blog, Levite Chronicles, is very inviting.  Not just in the sense of being a place one wants to be, but he literally invites thinking and reflective writing from his readers.  I have not spent much time in the blogging world since I returned to the work force in August 2009 as an instructor at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast.  However, when I do blog hop, Jon’s place is always one of my stops.

In a recent post he listed “20 Questions for Reviewing 2010”.  I find in that list enough thought provocation to keep me thinking and, if I choose to take the time, writing for a long time.

The first question on the list is “Who do you know better than you did at the beginning of the year?”  The first person who comes to mind in answer to that question is Rachel.  She is the young woman who will become my daughter-in-law in just 10 days. She has already established her special place in my heart.

When I think of what I love best about Rachel, four things pop out immediately.  The first is one of the first reasons I heard from Gabe about why she is so  special.  “She really cares about people,” Gabe replied in answer to my early queries about this young woman who had caught his eye and was capturing his heart.  He obviously judged her aright.  Always ready with an offer to help after a family dinner, giving up her time and her possessions to help a co-worker who comes up a little short on both from time to time, not wanting to put anyone out during the process of wedding planning–those are just some of the evidences I’ve seen so far.  When we opened gifts at our family Christmas celebration this past weekend, I could see the “I have paid attention to who you are” stamp all over the gifts that were given by Rachel and Gabe.

The next two things I love about Rachel have to do with laughter.  I love her laugh.  If it was translated into words, one of the adjectives one would have to use would be “delight”.  When Rachel laughs, it’s as if she is just so tickled about something she can’t keep it in.  It always makes me smile.  And, when Rachel laughs, very much of the time these days, I hear my son’s laughter too.  This special girl has the ability to make my son smile and laugh in a way that I’ve never seen in all of his fun-loving twenty-six years of life.  That is something a mother has to love.  May the two of them always together find something in life to make them smile and, even if they have to deal with dark days along the way, always be able to return to the laughter of their early love.

Finally, I love to watch Rachel the mom.  With this marriage, I am gaining not only a lovely daughter-in-law, but an all-boy, cute-as-a-button, smart-as-a-whip, four-year-old grandson.  I love to see Rachel interact with Ethan.  She does not let him get away with murder, which would be very tempting when he looks up at you with those big hazel eyes in his little elf-like face.  She is tough and tender, and it is clear that they have a very special relationship.  She is very nurturing and in her quiet way she teaches and trains him as they interact.  And, best of all, it is clear that she truly enjoys her son.  I am happy to see Gabe and Rachel in their parenting roles for this little guy, and I hope that he will someday realize how blessed he is to have two people who love him so deeply.

I will always remember the first time Rachel stopped by the house on her way to work and Gabe simply introduced her with, “This is Rachel.”  Indeed.

This joyful journey of knowing has just begun.  The beginning has been one of the riches of 2010.

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