Hey, Hey!

I’ve been part of a new (and beautiful) site you should know about. There is a cool group called ALL IN, and I’ve been invited to join the exciting happenings over there. If you haven’t visited, you might check it out. Pretty neat stuff!

In any case, here’s a link to my first contribution over there. Take a look at my early 2015 ponderings…

Going All In — All In in 2015

Hope to be back here at Fragrant Grace soon, too.

Jennifer

Waiting: on the Way to the Big Reveal

Hi, everyone! Remember me? *Sigh*  My last post was much too long ago.

My family was in a season of waiting, if you remember. While a little longer than my impatient self wildly embraces, it was graciously brief in retrospect. A few months feels so long. Eyeballing the last of “normal” becomes overwhelming, if we let it.

But our waiting wasn’t devastating. We know the “pressured in every way but not crushed” part of life, really (2 Corinthians 4:8, CSB). Even that is an overstatement, I suppose. I know families waiting for things—no end in sight, no relief from the stress that accompanies uncertainty, no solutions to the problems invading their daily lives, their minds constantly battling for sanity and rest. There’s always a little perspective available, if I’m open to taking a good look. Circumspection begins with families I know and wings out to my state, nation, and (if I’m really lucky) something global.

It’s only when I measure the wait after the fact that something comes to light: perspective in the waiting room matters. Why is that? It always concerns me that big picture point of view seems easy to grasp when everything is said and done. I have so much to learn when it comes to an eternal perspective in the waiting room. Things I want to remember for the next waiting opportunity I’ll face have been bubbling to the surface. It’s the difference between thriving and merely surviving, I think. Some of what I’ll share seems to be the grace I’ve been given to embrace next time. And there will be a next time.

I want to remember….

I’m Being Watched
Okay, so that sounds a little strange, maybe even creepy, but listen to what I’m really conveying. We all have eyes on us all the time, and I’m not referring to “Big Brother.” If the Bible contains pure truth (and my biased opinion is that it does), then I’ll run there for some perspective. That’s when I encounter things I have to contend with in my heart and mind while I’m waiting.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. 2 Chronicles 16:9a

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help. Psalm 34:15

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good.  Proverbs 15:3

because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.  1 Peter 3:12

Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us,  Hebrews 12:1

Scripture suggests life is not lived unobserved. Maybe social media plays into the cultural perspective. Any one of us could promote the best and worst of moments in a status or tweet. It’s easy to exist in virtual, carefully managed reality, isn’t it? We’ve bought a lie. When I remember my life choices are casually (or scrupulously) watched, I begin to think about the audience.

God is not fooled. He is not judgmental by the culture’s broad brushstroke definition, but He is watching and aware of every detail. When the stress of waiting caused me to reduce to a salty puddle, He was aware. When I allowed the circumstances to become an excuse for my angry, sharp attitude, He was there. My pain was never too much for Him to handle, but I suppose I wish I’d managed a quicker attitude adjustment in my weak moments. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have more trust to fight the emotional battle next time.

I am a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend—you get the picture. My home, the neighborhood, a store, the doctor’s office, and the church lobby are filled with people. If I believe no one sees me, I’m probably delusional. If I’m a “people watcher” in almost all of those scenarios, who else around me is doing the same thing? The “great cloud of witnesses” is often connected to the Christians before us who have passed into eternity (see “The Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11), so I’m aware of the context of the verse I’ve selected. I ask your permission to break a bit of a Bible study rule. Can we say there are two realities (the here-and-now and the hereafter) that fit the bill? Our lives are observed, or we would not be referred to as “witnesses” so frequently in Scripture.

What Does It Mean?
If our lives are genuinely closely watched, I want to think carefully about my waiting room experiences. The God who loves and sees me is more than the culture’s benevolent, omniscient Santa Claus. Holy God, who cannot coexist with sin, sent Jesus (John 3:16) for me. If that’s true, and I advocate that it is, then how I handle waiting in front of the “eyes of the Lord” is a more precious thing than what I’m waiting for. What do you think?

If people are watching my choices in life, listening through thin walls, or observing a snapshot of my day is that important? I may be tempted to think it’s only critical if observers have made a connection between me and the Christian faith, but is that the truth of it? That’s when behavioral management becomes a danger. I might even be tempted to be on my best behavior when I’m “on” in front of certain friends, family members, or public audiences. (That triggers thoughts about key differences between spiritual formation and transformation, but I’ll save that for another time.)

I’m not certain of what all this means to me right now, but I know I’m walking down the road kicking the can, as it were, thinking about it as I plod along. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, if you have some. I’m aware this is a tricky place to land, and it could end up leaning toward freedom or legalism. Friends who know me are aware this very thing troubles me more often than I can say.

I have more thoughts to ponder on this topic, so it looks like a series may be in the making. These are the other things rambling around in my mind when I think about the path to the “Big Reveal” in the waiting room:

Time Passes

What will be…

He is Good!

Thankfulness!

Let’s see if I get to these….  ;)

Thanks for reading along! Be blessed as you live your “very closely observed life” today!

~Jennifer

Questions to Think About:
Have you considered the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of God?

What does it mean to you when you hear “God is watching every moment”? Does that have a positive or negative emotion associated with it?

Have you wrestled with the observed life, too? If so, where do you rest when it comes to God and others watching your life?

Knowing that God and others are watching, do you feel a particular pull in any area of your life? It might be a call to change, but it could easily be conversation with God or others.

What might look very different in your life if you considered the observed life more frequently?

How might you walk the line between awareness of others and the warped “chameleon behavior” that results from “fear of man” (Proverbs 29:25; Isaiah 51:12)?


Scripture sourced from http://www.crosswalk.com.
Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
Images sourced from http://www.morguefile.com.

Waiting…

My lovely friend, Kelli at This Odd House, began a theme at her place. I shared her piece, and you may have read it. I’ve had time to gather my thoughts on waiting, and this is my contribution to the collective.


 

The world we live in relishes instant everything. American culture, in particular, moves at breakneck pace. We have instantaneous communication, fast food restaurants, and microwave ovens. It’s highlighted in our food, actually. Breakfast is nonexistent, grab-n-go, or drive-thru. Is there really time to pour cereal, walk to the refrigerator, and add milk? A cast iron skillet on the burner is a whole other arduous preparation. Our kitchen cabinets speak volumes. Boxed foods. Add water or less than four separate ingredients. Heat ‘n eat. Speed is of the essence!

And since I’m on the topic, we need two other ingredients in our lives: to be known…and to know. We want a strong circle of influence, and we want to know all about our world and the hurried events that will take place in it. Expectations factor in more than we might think, at this point. Too often, knowing has more to do with our previous experiences. It’s natural to surmise an outcome based on our observations and expectations, isn’t it? More “instant” floods our lives: the Internet, social media, and apps on smart devices of all kinds. If our own information isn’t enough to develop perspective, we borrow others’.

Contrast all of that with—

Waiting….

Nothing about waiting is instant. Plus, the delayed outcome is uncertain.

That’s when I decided waiting is like an ellipsis. Those three or four little ink dots on the page carry the heft of time delay. Simultaneously, ellipses waft with breezy, ethereal qualities as they fade into the unknown. They connect, but those tiny dots can feel like stepping stones just out of reach without a big, scary leap from one to the next.

Waiting is an ellipsis—or a string of ellipses, one right after the other.

My whole family sits together in a waiting room right now. My wonderful husband waits as patiently as he can for the right, God-given work to appear on the horizon. Two and a half months have passed since the transition period began. One thing about family: what affects one member nudges the others close by. He waits, and we wait.

How time passes in the waiting room relates to the ingredients I mentioned. Our attitude about the instant, being known, and knowing are key elements in waiting well.

The Instant…
Waiting well means embracing a basic, practical reality: there’s nothing instant about it. When we expect a long delay, we’re prepared. If it turns out to be short, that’s a lovely surprise, even a blessing. If it’s a long, drawn-out experience, our expectations more closely match reality, and the disappointment (while still there) is managed better, isn’t it? Somehow hope travels over more miles this way, in my experience.

We can build practical “waiting skills,” too. It makes sense to consider what to do with the time. What do people do while they wait? Some thumb-twiddle. Some are paralyzed. Others make good use of the time. If time is what you’ve got, embrace reality and make the best of it. I notice my husband, Tony, has spent significant time discovering more about his identity. Who he is as a follower of Christ comes first, but getting in touch with his talents and skills, preferences and priorities, interests and passions has made the wait productive. He has reaffirmed his relationship with God and rediscovered the way he’s wired. That has helped to make the waiting bearable.

Being Known…
Another important element in waiting is being known. One of the best parts of waiting with my husband during his transition has been the “with” part. When he describes the discovery of new things about his personal identity, it’s precious. I’ve enjoyed listening to Tony’s excitement when he receives important affirmation: his interests and passion lie squarely with his internal wiring. I feel his joy and smile. It’s a privilege to know my husband more intimately as he discovers the deeper things in his soul, the way he is hardwired. He has navigated this part of the waiting process well, and I can learn a few things from him.

Tony might say the best part of the waiting room is the extra chairs filled with family and friends next to him while he’s waiting. I know it’s mine. When a friend sits next to Tony, my whole family is encouraged by the support he receives. When someone sits next to me, I am thankful. Time passes better with good company. Some of the friendships developing in this waiting room have become the most precious we’ve known. Those walking this road with us are pure gold! (I hope they know that.)

Knowing…
Then there’s the knowing. The fight of our lives lands smack-dab in this arena. The best plans trail off into the unknown….

Sometimes the way is so dimly lit we proceed slowly, carefully, almost by Braille Method. Graciously, God allows “just enough light for the step we’re on,” and that’s where we learn to trust God (Stormie Omartian). If embracing reality is important at the start, it’s critical here. What we think we know, what we actually know, and what we choose to believe are essential. Truth is easily obscured in the observation-expectation fog. Unmet expectations can form crushing disappointments.

By nature, Tony is an optimist (I love that about him!). A lot of our friends are optimists, and they encouraged us. “It won’t be long,” they would say, “Everyone loves Tony, and someone will scoop him up immediately.” Hopeful perspective is contagious. (I know I hopped on the positive outlook bandwagon.Who wouldn’t?) We learned to define “immediately” differently.

My husband is wise and realistic in his faith-filled optimism. He knows his knowledge is tiny in comparison to All-knowing God. Tony also has an Accounting degree, and he accounted for things I didn’t. He knew the road to selecting work would be God-directed and travel through self-discovery.

Did I mention Tony is wise?

My husband was prepared for a longer wait and could make good use of the time because he was aware of the process ahead of him. Because he was willing to walk through the process with God, Tony has been able to wait well, even with the open-ended time frame stretching out into the unknown. He invited others into the waiting room with him, and that infused the time with precious friendship and wise counsel. I’m so proud of him! Others barged into the room and boldly asked to take a turn in the chair next to Tony and our family. I’m so proud of them!

And now that “broken bridge” of an ellipsis makes more sense to me than ever. Waiting is a faith-filled experience, if we infuse it that way. In the delay and the unknown, it’s little faith steps along the way that change us. (And that is God’s priority, isn’t it?) We learn where ultimate control lies. We also come to know the character of God in new ways. And, we just might find community to sustain us in weakness or need.

Interestingly, it also means I begin to look more compassionately at others’ lives punctuated with an ellipsis….

Thanks for reading along!

~Jennifer

Questions to Think About:

What was your experience in the Waiting Room?

What did you find most helpful to you during that time? (Favorite spiritual and practical things?)

Who would you ask into your waiting period with you? Will you tend relationships for such a time as this?

Have you considered others you know who are in a time of waiting? How can you “sit in the chair next to them” while they wait?


Photo Credit:
Photos sourced from http://www.morguefile.com
Photos edited at http://www.picmonkey.com