“My mother taught me, when I was a little girl, that when anything very dreadful happens, I must think of what I would be doing if it had not happened, and then do that.”
This excerpt comes from a World War II story about an Englishwoman who greeted her minister at the door when he showed up to let her know about her husband’s death. The woman interrupted his news and invited him in for tea. He was astounded by her hospitality in the midst of sorrow.
My wish isn’t so much about receiving bad news with grace, although I want that too, as it is about waiting with that same grace. It’s about waiting well.
Since last October, I’ve waited on Hurricane Matthew to come and go close by our beach house; the fires to extinguish at Table Rock near our mountain house; news about my car’s engine that quit running; my son’s cancer diagnosis and surgery and follow up; a scare related to he and his wife’s unborn baby (he’s just fine, by the way); my father-in-law’s brain injury and imminent death; and negotiations and paperwork on property we ended up buying. Before we build on it, we have to sell the home we’re living in now.
A couple of weeks ago, my daughter-in-law labored over their first baby for 30 plus hours. If not for my anxiety, it would have been comical how our phone calls and texts fit the theme of my year …
Wait and wait some more.
Along with tens of thousands of other Southerners, I’m watching and wondering about Irma, a category 5 hurricane that threatens our beach house with storm surge and both our beach and mountain houses with high winds and flooding.
I’ve cared about friends who’ve gone through similar ordeals this year. Several waited for results from medical tests. A couple of them received unwanted and downright scary news. Two friends waited on knee surgeries. They’re now working through and waiting on recovery. One friend waited for months on funds she’s been promised again and again. Another waited to find out if her husband would ever coach again. He won’t, at least not at the high school where he dedicated his time, talent, and care for 34 years. Then there are my two mom friends who haven’t heard from their sons in a while, one who’s fighting fires and one who is fighting addiction, so they wait.
Sometimes we get our way after all the waiting like when we were approved for a loan to purchase the lot we stumbled on and fell in love with. Sometimes we don’t, like my husband’s dad dying even though we hoped he’d bounce back like after his heart attack and cancer. This is when we wait to find the good in what didn’t go our way.
Because waiting is inevitable and results are unpredictable, the best we can hope for is to wait well.
I’m aggravated by how much time Hurricane Irma has already taken up and without one iota of anything productive to show for it. I’ve checked her path too often, but not as much as I would have if it hadn’t been for y’all. I’m more accountable when I’m writing about how I act. However, I’ve still squandered time on The Weather Channel and Facebook to get updates that are speculation.
So, what does it look like to wait well?
Martin Luther said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
Isn’t his quote beautiful, full of grace and faith, and an exemplary example of waiting well?
And hard … isn’t it hard?
It is for me. It’s easier to wait until life gets easier. It’s hard enough to do my own life under ideal circumstances, much less high winds of stress. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, I’ll wait until things settle down and then I’ll take care of _____ (fill in the blank with whatever is my next project).
I’m almost 60 and guess what? Things aren’t settling down, so I need to. I want to.
I’ve gotten into the habit (again) of holding my breath and waiting for “this too shall pass.” I noticed I’m mostly waiting instead of living. When I quit teaching, I promised myself I’d never live like this again, waiting all week and every week for Friday afternoons so I could breathe, only to dread Sunday evenings because it meant going back to work on Monday.
But I didn’t make a plan. I didn’t ask, “How can I wait well?” So, I’m asking now.
For today, instead of checking The Weather Channel 13 dozen times, I can finish writing this blog post, find images to post with it, and maybe help one other person change their focus too. It’s already helping to change mine.
For today, instead of fretting over “what ifs,” I can hang artwork I recently bought as a focus for decorating the home we plan to build. I’d hate for the painting to be ruined during a storm, though, but it won’t fit in my car anyway, so hang it.
For today, instead of calling my husband with my concerns, I can settle my soul by reading and saying a prayer like “God, help us.” Besides, John’s busy helping customers secure their properties. He’s already found a way to wait well.
I could go on and on comparing less productive scenarios to more productive ones, but I’ve made the point. We can live today or waste it. We hear “today is all we have,” but we don’t live like we believe it. Even though I’d appreciate living under less stress than that of the past year, I believe the answer isn’t in wishing my circumstances were different, but in being different myself. As I practice waiting well, life will be well.
I’d love to hear from you about ways you wait well. It’s another way we can help each other with “getting your own life while loving the people in it.”
Praying for Houston and all who are in Irma’s way. Be safe and know I love y’all dearly.
In This Together,