Ears Attuned

I have had the privilege of driving an older friend of mine to her monthly chemotherapy infusions. She has advanced MS, and she gets her treatments at the same infusion center that my twin sister attends.

D has not been around Rhema much because Rhema is always at school during D’s all-day stay at the infusion center. This past week, however, I needed to get D to the center first and then drive Rhema to school.

As we drove into Boston, Rhema made her usual “noises” in the car. I don’t quite know how to describe her noises, but it’s a mixed bag of hums, high and low-pitched vocalizations and sing-songy babbling, sometimes urgent in tone, sometimes relaxed. We have grown so used to her “noises” that I am not even aware of them most of the time. Only when we’re out in public or in a quiet place, do I realize that her sounds may seem strange to others.

It was early in the morning and D was tired, so we drove along in silence except for the sounds of Rhema…

“She said Mom.”

“Huh?” I looked over at D.

“She’s saying Mom.”

“Oh yeah?” I said patronizingly while thinking No, she’s not. But whatever.

Moments passed.

D raised up a little in her seat (which was an effort for her) and leaned toward me.

“Answer her.”

“Oh, O.K…. Um… Yes, Rhema?”

Rhema, without missing a beat, continued to gaze out the window and make her happy little noises.

Was she saying Mom? No. I didn’t hear Mom. Besides if she were going to say it, she would say Mommy or Mama. Not Mom. I never go by Mom. People are always telling me what they think Rhema is saying. But if they knew her like I knew her they would know that she’s not saying anything…

But are you listening?

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Oh Lord, did I stop listening? When did I stop expecting to hear words? Could it be possible, remotely possible, that my baby has been calling my name and I have not been listening?

Just in case. Just in case. I’ve tuned my ears. I’ve got my answer ready: Yes, Rhema! I am listening. In fact, I’m answering her (stooping, looking in her eyes) whether she’s calling me or not. (I remember being taught to assume she’s saying something even when/if she’s not. To answer her as if she is speaking, and in so doing, model and reinforce language). It reminds me of the “Do It Anyway” mantra of Mother Teresa: The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

On the flip side, Rhema may be “doing it anyway” for me. My mother is not going to answer me, but I’m going to keep calling anyway…

My thoughts are drawn to a loving and long-suffering God who does it anyway. He calls out to us to know Him, to seek Him, to trust Him with our lives and receive salvation. In the busyness and the striving and the hoping and the hurting, He is calling. Waiting for us to hear. Waiting for us to answer…

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:2

Update on Hope’s Birthday Cake:
The cake was very well received… until she tasted it.
But she was sooooo excited when she first saw it (and that made it all worth it). She kept saying ‘Oh! Oh! Oh! My Happy Birthday Cake!!!’ After she plopped a spoonful in her mouth her face spoke volumes: What in the world is this??? She won’t be asking for “happy birthday cake” for at least another year. 8)

13 thoughts on “Ears Attuned

  1. It’s totally normal to tune the kids out (the noise will drive you crazy, whether it’s talk or noise) and it’s totally normal to feel a little guilty when you realize you’ve been doing it.

    Love the Mother Theresa quote. Wow.

  2. Our ears need breaks, and I too find I often just listen anymore. That’s why I cherish my friends and family, who can hear the music I otherwise might miss.

    Hugs to your friend and to you.

  3. Wow, Jeneil, what a powerful post. My spirit jumped all over as I was reading it, and I was reminded of the hundreds of times we are exhorted in the Scriptures to “Listen carefully …”!

    How wonderfully discerning of your friend to hear the meaning in Rhema’s words, and how wonderfully discerning of you to acknowledge that Rhema is persisting in her efforts to communicate with you.

    Poor Hope. Isn’t it interesting that our taste buds are so programmed with the pleasure of sweet/fat tastes that even a toddler with relatively “pure” taste buds knows the difference? Sure was a pretty cake, though … and made with lots of love, too. 😉

  4. I always love how your heart shines through each of your posts. I needed to be reminded today to stop striving and just listen…to my children and to the Lord. I always purpose not to get “caught up” in the business of this season. It is subtle though and I needed the reminder. Thank you!

  5. I should say that I don’t really feel guilty about tuning Rhema out. It was just startling to realize that there could be words in the babble… so I’m trying to pay better attention and *expect* and assume that the words are there.

  6. “To those of you, family and friends and neighbors of Rhema, thanks for being brave enough to let your words hang unrequited in the air. I always appreciate you when you say hi anyway. When you ask questions anyway. When you high-five anyway.

    Because you’re still expecting an answer,

    It encourages me to keep asking questions.”

    ~ sometimes we all need a reminder, even if it comes in the form of our own words. often, for me, the reminders come from you.

    i am so blessed to have found you.

  7. Thanks for another beautiful post and the reminder that there may be words in all that chatter. I tend to tune out the “happy screaming” in our house most of the time. I will tune in more often to listen to what’s really there…

  8. Don’t feel bad. I tuned Natalie’s babbling out a LONG time ago and then felt terrible when a friend brought up that she heard her saying “I’m sorry”. So I listened closely and she DOES say that appropriately; it just sounds like “I Shawww, I Shawww” when she’s done something wrong. I also heard “I love you” for the first time a few months ago but it sounds like “Eeee OOOH uuuu”, but I know she said it because *I* had just said it myself. I always think of “talking” as CLEAR words but they aren’t always. That’s why it is hard to remember not to say “oh, she’s just babbling”.

  9. I have just passed on a blog award to you on my blog…thank you for sharing your “lemonade” with all of us through your blog!

    Grace & peace to you tonight!

  10. Wow!

    Here’s a guy with a misty eyes. Thanks Jeneil! Thanks for letting “your words hang unrequited in the air”. I’m blessed and encouraged with your humble spirit.
    (Oh, thanks for that visual of Hope with birthday cake in her mouth-I could so see her expression, and Rhema with more words?…no doubt!)

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