NOISE. That is the one word that describes my life right now. It’s summer, and all 3 of my kids are home from school. Last summer wasn’t so bad because they took naps every day, but this year my 5-year-old is really fighting it. So that means from sun up to sun down, I am constantly bombarded with NOISE – voices chattering, feet running and stomping, somebody whining about something-or-other, giggling and laughing, screaming and crying, balls bouncing, cars zooming, even the restless pre-kindergartener tossing back and forth on my bed while I pray he sleeps next to me. It’s nice to think things will settle down once school starts back and we all get into a routine again. However, we will be welcoming another baby the week before school starts, and since my 3-year-old will not be returning to pre-school, he’ll be around to make sure I don’t get to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” that classic new-mom advice that is next to impossible to follow.
A few years ago, when I was mom to a 3-year-old, 1-year-old, and a newborn, I heard someone describe this stage with small kids as “in the trenches” of parenting. Usually I avoid appropriating military verbiage so as not to devalue the original context; however, this one really stuck with me. Being “in the trenches” with little ones can feel like a mental battle zone – especially when you run out of diapers and have to make a Walmart run with all 3 in tow… That’ll get you plenty of stares!
The endless diapers were probably my biggest struggle at that point, but now that we’re all potty trained (for now!), I have to say it’s the constant noise. There are several times every.single.day and sometimes entire days when I don’t even know what I’m thinking, or if the thoughts I think I’m thinking are really mine or if I’m just repeating some jumbled mess of whatever my kids have been thinking out loud all day long. I do try to find quiet time every day, but usually those moments are quickly interrupted by someone needing something, and I’m back on mom duty. One of my biggest concerns in this is that if I can’t hear myself think, how will I be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?
He’s Still Here
In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness, You are there…”
Sonicflood, “I Want to Know You (In the Secret)”
I have always heard it said that we hear God in the quiet moments, when we get alone and in peaceful solitude, there we can truly hear his voice. Believe me, I know this to be true, and I cherish the quiet moments I get with the Lord. Lately, though, I feel discouraged, because there are literally almost no quiet moments. If I wake up early, the kids hear me and get up too. When I try to escape to the bathroom or send the kids outside to play, they are constantly coming back demanding my attention. My chaotic life is filled with noise, and I have been complaining to God that I can’t be with him without the quiet.
But you know something? God is not confined by our chaos or our expectations of when and how he should speak. In fact, just as clearly as he calls to us in the quiet, he can certainly speak out in the noise.
I’m not saying quiet time is unimportant – we all need to schedule regular time to be still and listen. But when you’re in the trenches of parenting littles, it often feels completely impossible to achieve that. Don’t let your circumstances lead you to feel like a failure or that you can’t be intimate with God. He is here with us in the LOUD just as he is in the quiet… And he still has a word for you.
Hearing God in the Noise
The other day was one of “those days” for me. I had stayed up until 3 am the night before trying to meet a writing deadline. Then morning came, and with it were 3 little people needing breakfast made, shoes tied, and had stories to tell. I drug through the morning, mentally counting down every minute until nap time.
Finally that glorious afternoon routine rolled around, and I couldn’t wait to finally enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. But Sweet Prince had other plans. Bless his heart, he really did try to sleep, but he just couldn’t settle his little brain down. He was back and forth from his bed to the bathroom to his bed to my room to the bathroom again and back to his bed and…. Finally I gave up. I sent him to his sister’s room (she had requested to nap on the trundle bed in the boys’ room) with a book and instructions to please just leave me alone for a few minutes. No sooner had I gotten him settled, the other two were up, and Little Man needed help because the blinds were stuck and he couldn’t see to change clothes for the 50th time that day.
I surrendered and gave them my iPad so they could watch a movie in their room while I had quiet time in mine. “But we don’t want a movie!” Squealed the boys. “We want to plaaaayyy!!!” No matter of begging or bribing or threatening could convince them to sit quietly for a few minutes. I turned on the movie, shut the door, and within a few steps down the hall I could hear them giggling and jumping on the trundle mattress.
All evening this went on, and I was so tired, so mentally exhausted from the NOISE, of course I vented to my husband about it. As I was complaining about the incessant and intense volume of my day – all while my boys were making flatulance sounds and “Frozen” was playing in the back of the van for Princess – the Lord suddenly spoke to me so loud and clear I repeated it out loud to my husband. He was surprised at the sudden change in my tone, but it was so distinct, the words came out as though I had thought them myself.
Isn’t that what I always pray, that my thoughts would be his thoughts, and my heart would echo his?
Suddenly I was so thankful for all the noise in my life. The constant noise usually means constant playing, constant laughter, constant memories being made. My children are best friends, and I have the privilege to stay at home with them and watch their relationships develop. My children love me, they love this family, and they love their lives. Their constant motion shows that they are constantly seeking out new experiences and trying to live life to the fullest. Sure, they break things and make messes and annoy myself and each other along the way, but they are looking for life, and life abundantly.
It is my responsibility but also my honor to guide them in this journey and point them to the one who truly gives abundant life. One day they won’t bug me all the time because they will have friends and cell phones and social media or whatever other technology is all the rage then. One day their lives will be filled with influences that are not me, and I will look back on these days of parenting in the trenches and realize that I really was waging war. Only it was not a battle for my sanity, it was a battle for their souls, making the most of every opportunity to pour truth into their lives while I have their undivided attention. What am I doing with my time?
So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors.”
In the Trenches
In the middle of the frustrating, exhausting, mentally-draining noise of my life, God undeniably spoke to me. He could have said anything, but on that day when I was feeling the most stressed and inadequate, my Father gave me just what I needed – encouragement as a mom.
Right now, you may be in your own trenches. It could be the stress of parenting, or a job, or an illness, relationship, whatever. You may feel like there is no quiet to listen to God, but let me tell you, friend, that doesn’t mean you can’t hear from Him. God loves you in the noise, and he will call out to you with just what you need… and just how you need to hear it.