To Fully Attend
"To attend" can mean to be present, to deal with, to occur alongside. Often I am concerned with the first definition, being fully present each day so that I can better teach my children as a profitable moment arises or giving my undivided attention to the particular moment which enables me to see beyond myself to the needs of others.
But tonight as I am digesting two days of instruction on education after our Classical Conversations practicum and one day of training in PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), a system of communication for those with expressive disorders, I am thinking of the sense in which attend means to listen.
I listen to my children differently on different days. Sometimes it takes much concentration and focus to listen to the story of an imaginary character and his numerous escapades. Other times, I delight in the creative details. Sometimes I hear the frustration and pain behind the complaint. Other times, I am annoyed by the complaint and can't muster the care for the causation.
But one thing that I always hear happily because it comes from a place of profound joy is D's praise in song. I may be weary, grumpy, full of self-pity, or cynical, but his rejoicing is contagious. D can't sing words--his utterances are not lovely by conventional standards. But his expression involves his whole being. And witnessing this changes me. As a character writes in one of my recently favorite TV shows (When Calls the Heart): "The light of love restores every lost voice." I may have momentarily lost sight of my joy, becoming entrenched in circumstances rather than lightened by my heavenly Father's love, but D's praise helps to restore my focus.
D, however, is literally losing his voice by losing vocabulary each year. The word list that I compiled for him when he went to camp when he was 9 years old has been condensed from four pages to one page. A common word, "pweese" for "please," has vanished. Part of the reason I am attending this PECS training is to help D find his voice, to get past the "heys!" He can say, "HEY!" again and again and will because his communication is so limited that though he wants to connect, his verbal vehicle for so doing is limited to "Hey!" And because his discourse is repetitive and indiscriminate (he will speak to anyone, anywhere, anytime), he often doesn't get acknowledged. When that happens, my husband likes to say, "Well, D, some people just aren't as friendly as you are."
Ninety percent of the time when I speak, my family hears me. But that ten percent. . .when I tell the boys to do something (usually a chore) and they don't even look up from what they are doing or conveniently leave the room, I tell you I can think of few things more frustrating. When my husband is preoccupied and doesn't listen to my admittedly somewhat overly detailed account of my day, I feel invisible and it is no fun. Well, D only gets responses about 25% of the time when we are out in public. I'm sure people don't know how to respond or why he is even speaking to them or even sometimes that he IS speaking to them. But oh, in that 25% of the time when his greetings elicit a response, his eyes light up, his face is enlivened, his back even straightens. He has been heard.
This past Special Olympics was THE most fun we have had at the games in North Carolina. During the victory lap at the beginning when the athletes are following the torch and the schools are being announced, D waved his arms to the crowd and when he received applause, he responded with applause which elicited more cheers. The exuberance in his face and in his gestures as his arms reached higher and higher reflected the joy he was experiencing inside. Not only was he being heard, he was being acknowledged, and even better, he was being celebrated.
Oh the joy on his face. . . and the tears streaming down mine.
And you know, what is even more wonderful than this is to think that God takes delight in us, He celebrates us, He rejoices over us in singing. A friend shared this verse with me years ago and it is still a favorite:
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
God in his mercy and loving kindness has forgiven me through Jesus, and that is cause for His rejoicing over me with his thunderously loud singing. How marvelous!
I pray that I will fully attend to His Word and to His voice in prayer so that He might take delight in me as he did of Israel's obedience. And as I told D the other night after he had celebrated his favorite gospel quartet during our revival service, "You made God happy, D, when You praised Him with the music last night." God likes your praise and fully attends to it.