After the Waiting Time
The house is quiet. All on the farm are sleeping - children tucked in beds, goats and piglets buried under hay in shelters. No creatures stirring, as I sit here with the coffee cup warming my hands and a candle burning on the window ledge. Practice the slow so you can love the much (not the most or the many). I typed those words nearly six months ago. And even longer before that, I asked the question: Can you pause in the middle of your hurt, your barren time, the aching wintery gap that you stand in and believe that our God waits with you? What does God have for you while you're waiting?
For nearly four months I've watched the slender, sky-stretching trees from our windows and I've felt the hush they offer. While nearly every part of me has wanted to get back to this thing of writing, I have accepted their invitations: Just look simply - what do you see? Walk among us without want for direction - what do you hear? Stand, with us, and know of deep roots - who are you? These are important questions.
In the February that I wrote of waiting with expectancy, I did not know what was next to come. At the time we had moved into a rental home with four bedrooms for us, our six children, my father and my brother. I remember looking out the window from a kitchen crowded with un-settled furniture and moving boxes, and making a commitment to start writing again. Then, with kids growing older and a new farm only a handful of months away, with a new pastor and with things finally falling into place, I could make space for words. I woke up before the sun and watched it rise while I considered blue chicken eggs and what their simple story might have to offer.
I could not have known that a beautiful baby was one month from coming into this world. That on an ordinary Friday morning I would answer the phone, and that evening hold a daughter.
Everything is fast, isn't it? So swiftly our world sweeps us along or passes us by, and I fear we don't even see ourselves. See how we are meant to show up each day. Everything was interrupted by the arrival of this baby - from the very plans of the day to the dreams we were dreaming for life. Yet how precious and un-wasted were the hours I spent rocking her against my skin that first night and every night after. I would trade all the fast in the world to help write her love story well.
I visited those February words recently in preparation for a sermon. Shaking my head, I smiled to myself and the baby girl in my bed as I read, "We have a Lord who yearns for us to wait well. To return again and again to His word, even when we feel bone dry and emptied, and the things we’re after just don’t give us what we’re hoping for...there may be things coming to you that you’d never imagined..."
Things coming to us that we had never imagined.
Oh, God. What He must have been thinking as I wrote those words so abundant with promise. His father's heart for the soon to be mother of seven.
Early mornings were no longer observed over slowly crafted words. Nine, midnight, three'o'clock, and every three hours after were consumed with the adoration and care of this tiny baby girl. When bleary eyed and very sleep deprived, I offered up any fears and doubts to God and I felt an assurance that greater things were yet to be done in us, through her, through Him.
Practice the slow so you can love the much. Most days I can no longer create much of a list of my accomplishments. We woke up, we took care of our animals, we ate all three meals together around the same table. Some dishes were or were not done. We laughed and whispered. We spoke with frustration and asked for forgiveness. We read some books and talked about lots of things and drew simple pictures of the creations our land has to offer.
These and all of the common, in-between things are unremarkably ordinary. Moments and conversations arise that require more of us, but mostly, they are ordinary. It has been a long and continuing road of learning how to be slow. The road has been more difficult and uncertain that I imagined. Sometimes it feels as though I've lost much - until I consider what I've gained. I know these children, my children, well. I know the rhythms that are life giving and from that life, I am renewed to give back and not from a shallow pool, to others. I am coming to really know myself.
So why do I tell you this story? The one where the waiting was finally over, and I found myself waiting again?
I share this story because I know in my heart that I'm not the only one waiting. Waiting for an answer, waiting to feel something, waiting for the right time, for someone to come along, for this season to pass. I write about waiting after waiting because this is advent, when we remember the stories of those who ached and groaned and waited for someone to come and save them. And don't we ache to be saved even now, as we look at all of the violence, the blatant racism, the exclusionary posture of the majority towards anyone different from them? It's too much.
What I'm learning is this: In order to wait well, we must first be willing to wait. Like the pace of the rushing world, I like to keep moving quickly, motivated by what comes next. It's only a few more months. It won't last forever. Tomorrow will bring something new.
One recent fall afternoon, no matter how much I tried, my day felt more like an uphill battle than not. I couldn't complete any one thing and yet the chores had to be done. So, with all in boots, I took the kids outside to run while I milked the goats. I brought one onto the milking stand and sat on the old tree stump, milk pail ready. My hands set to the rhythmic chore, and my attention was free to observe the land around me. I listened to the laughter of the kids pretending to be horses as they circled the house at a distance. I breathed a little deeper, and noticed that a few more trees had begun to take on crimson and mustard hues. I watched a single leaf let go of a branch, and slowly find its place on the ground. Forced by the necessity of chore, I sat. The wind became audible. I could see everything.
If we can pause for the smallest of moments and let ourselves be wide open, we make space for the ordinary-holy. As I return to writing this is what I hope to articulate and invite us into - an observance of abundance in a falling leaf, the wide open spaces in a silent pause, the entire kingdom in one burst of laughter. It's okay to go slow, sometimes.
We can rush and rush. We can set our sights on the end. But I wonder, when we do that, what do we hear? What do we see? I wonder how God is showing you how to return, always, to His rest.
Waiting has become a familiar companion. And rather than resist it, I've found an invitation there to observe gently and walk slowly.