One day I was busy cleaning and folding laundry. The phone kept ringing and my list of things to do kept growing longer by the minute.

Justin, our second son, was about five or six years old, and he was telling me a story about something that had happened between him and his older brother. The television was on, the dishwasher was roaring, and I asked him to repeat what he had just said. "I didn't hear you," I said. "Speak up."

He sat down in the middle of the floor, folded his arms and stuck out his bottom lip. "I'm talking loud enough; you just aren't listening hard enough!"

Wow, that was an eye opening experience. Even a child knew that a conversation between two people involves talking and listening. Most of us do really well with the talking part, but often we fail when it comes to listening.

Remember Jesus' visit to Mary and Martha's home? (See  Luke 10:38-42) Mary sat at the Lord's feet listening, while Martha devoted herself to all the preparations that had to be made. In their culture, hospitality was a social requirement and Martha was obviously concentrating on fulfilling those obligations while Mary was enjoying her guest.

The Bible says, "She [Martha] came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

That sounds like a sister telling on a sibling, doesn't it? There probably isn't a mother alive who doesn't have some "Martha" in her, but notice Jesus' response to her plea for help.

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her."

What a wonderful lesson for mothers! Do you consistently choose what is better, or do you stay worried and upset over many things? Do you spend the majority of your days and nights trying to clear clutter, do laundry, and scrub floors instead of taking walks with your children or reading to them bedtime stories or from the Bible or just listening?

It wasn't that Martha did anything wrong. It was probably her nature as the older sister to be the one in charge, to see that things got done. That's fine, of course, as long as it doesn't interfere with what is really important — spending time with our Lord, our families, our children.

While we're on the subject of listening, remember the one to whom Mary was listening ... the Lord. Do you spend time communicating with him daily? Do you listen hard enough when he speaks to your heart?

God listens when you speak to him. The Bible tells us over and over that he hears our prayers and responds. God speaks to us through the Bible and we listen by studying his word. How can we know his will for us if we don't take the time to read ... to pray ... to reflect ... to listen?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)

What a wonderful lesson for mothers!
Listening involves more than our ears. When you are really listening to someone, you are still; your eyes are focused on them. They have your full and undivided attention. Too many mothers make the mistake of thinking they are listening when all they are really doing is hearing words. A child's body language often can reveal what words don't say. If you are busy cleaning, talking on the phone, or driving your car, you may miss what your child is really trying to tell you. Likewise, too many of us read the word of God, but we're not really listening to what He's saying to us. Our minds are a million miles away instead of focusing on God's words for us that day.

We need to make sure we listen hard enough to our children and hard enough to God. It's the first step to being a good communicator.

"He who answers before listening — that is his folly and his shame." (Proverbs 18:13)

(This article is an excerpt from Theresa Bell Kindred's new book, Mom PhD.)