By Ashley Veneman
I’m sitting in a Birmingham, AL hotel room as I type. After three days at a conference in South Carolina, I’m stopping over for the night before making the final drive home tomorrow. I’m alone with one (ok maybe two) of those awesome hotel cookies they offer you upon arrival, and my mind is full after a few days away from my normal routine.
My road trip has consisted of quality alone time. I’ve listened to audiobooks, as well as an eclectic music selection that would make you either proud to know me, or worried about my incoherent musical stylings. If you passed me on the road you no doubt had a front row seat to a one-woman show of epic proportions (I can car dance with the very best of them). I love to control the car volume and playlist, but perhaps my favorite thing to do, is to turn the audio dial all the way to zero. Silence.
I’m making this trip on my own. Once a year, my saintly husband takes a couple days off work, has some valuable daddy time with the kids, and I go on a literal road trip with God. My destination changes each year. Sometimes I head to a conference, other times to visit a friend, but it always includes a significant amount of alone time with the Lord. It’s wonderful!
This is the fourth year I’ve made such a pilgrimage. Before Justin and I were married, I lived alone, in a city far from home and was a pretty adventurous and independent person. Thankfully, I married someone who appreciates that quality in me and encourages me to still kindle that part of my spirit. Although in a very different season than my days as a single adult (mothering little humans rarely makes you think of the word “independent”), I still know time away with my Father is vital to the very nature of my being.
Most would call me an extrovert. I love my people and meeting knew faces, but when “our people” surround us all the time, it’s so easy for those to be the first voices to which we go. It’s a very valuable thing when we realize we don’t need to hear from them, we need to hear from Him!
A week ago before heading down I-40, I was sitting in my usual place early in the morning to meet with the Lord. I was going through the motions and reading words without taking the time to let them settle. When I saw that four pages of reading had passed me by, I stopped. In the morning quiet, I said out loud, “I can’t hear You.”
The last few weeks have been noisy. I don’t mean so much the traditional type of noisy (I have two children; that is my life!), but instead the kind of noisy that reaches out to you even in silence.
“I can’t hear You.”
I knew He was there. I knew He was speaking. He’s always speaking, but He won’t yell over my noise.
In an age when everyone seems to have something to say, whether through podcasts, blogs, social media “personalities and influencers,” phone calls, “likes and followers,” tweets and stories; we need to retreat and figure out what God wants to say. Everyone is vying for our attention and asking us to be their audience, but only one message truly matters, and His will not broadcast over our noise.
I know a literal “roadtrip with God” is rarely possible when we have young children, but we need some kind of figurative form of this on a regular basis, a daily basis, and on certain days an hourly basis. In just a few short hours I’ll enter my normal routine once again and my elongated time with the Lord will be over, but I can still get away with Him! I must. Trips away like this make me even more determined to carve out noiseless periods of time in my day-to-day.
Turn off the noise. I realize I’m ironically writing these words on a blog – which, if we’re not careful, can become external noise. Good blogs, podcasts, books, etc, may be good resources, but too much of it is still just noise! If this is the main place you are going to hear from Jesus – stop. If some podcast is your daily dose of encouragement you can’t live without – unfollow it. If some social media platform eats up precious time in the day because you feel you can’t miss what’s happening next – delete it off your phone!
What do we reach for when the room goes silent? Is it our phone to fill the stillness? I know I’m guilty of that! If we’re not careful, we will turn on the noise of others and shut out the voice of our Father, our friend, our King.
In Madeline L’Engle’s book, “Walking on Water,” her opening chapter highlights two messages she pays heed to: “Listen to the silence. Stay open to the voice of the Spirit,” and “Slow me down, Lord.” She says, “When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening.”
So this week, find some noiseless time away with the Lord! If you have tiny ones and you can’t leave your house, then go into a closet, or better yet the pantry, grab a cookie and pretend it’s one from a hotel (I’m raising my hand as one who has done this). As you quiet the noise and listen to the stillness, let the following words of our Savior pour over you. Remember, He’s always speaking, but He will not yell over our noise.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10, ESV)
“My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.” (Psalm 62:5, NASB)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8, ESV)
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:17-19a, NIV)
Ashley lives in Memphis, Tennessee and is the wife of Justin, her best friend, and mother of Cole and Norah, her two amazing little ones. She is a work-at-home mom trying to soak up all the little years as much as possible since she has yet to find a way to pause time. Ashley is a wedding photographer with her husband, and is so thankful for the ability to do a profession she loves, while at the same time making PB&J sandwiches, building Lego towers to the sky, and setting up the perfect princess tea party. She loves women’s ministry, a good one-on-one conversation, and being a part of a community of women running hard after the Lord.