I remember being a kid let out of school for summer and feeling like the grains of sand at the beach would warm my toes forever and set me free. I can do whatever I want! I would exclaim to my friends on the bus as we high-fived our way into summer vacation.
Then it became the end of July. And it got hot. And the sand at the beach burnt my feet and I started longing for the academic rigor of school. (Yes, I was one of “those” kids.) My parents constantly told me: “Jonna, you have to wait.” I hate waiting! was always my response. But somehow I made it to the end of August, with lots of bike riding and DQ stops I suppose, and found myself school supply shopping at Target. You would think this action would cease my complaining but it didn’t. My doubt in my parents, coupled with my impatience, caused my school-anticipation to be so salient I could sharpen it with my #2 pencil. I just didn’t believe that what I was waiting for would actually happen!
Flash forward 25 years later, and I’m now a mother to three little girls whose doubt and desire for change hasn’t *changed* all that much. I feel like I’ve been in the early wake-up call cycle forever — a place where the kid energy is hot but the Caribou coffee is cold (or thrice reheated). My eyes are strung out and my hair is a mess and my place often smells like poo. I know this phase of life is limited and precious, but the last few months have left me feeling whipped. Hung out to dry, actually, and I find myself asking in my best 10-year old voice: “Are we there yet?” Because I really really hate waiting. I feel like I’ve pressed pause on my dreams since 2009, and sometimes in my darkest, most frustrated moments, I wonder if God has forgotten about me.
You see, I had big plans for myself before having children. I wanted to travel the world, really help people, learn other languages, write books, become a professor, and feel adventurous! Yes I wanted to have kids too (that was always part of the plan) but I NEVER imagined I’d have three of them (!) OR that my travel radius would shrink to Wisconsin. I guess I just thought what every parent originally thinks: not much will change once I have kids. And for me that meant that I’d still travel internationally or move abroad. In fact, my husband and I bought our first house on this pretense: that we would one day rent it out and travel the world. Never once did we think about what school district the house was in or what kind of neighborhood our unborn daughters would play in. All we saw was FUTURE RENTAL PROPERTY FOR WORLD TRAVELERS (at a low price!). So we bought it…and got very very lucky. Our school district happens to be amazing and our neighborhood is a coveted one. God has blessed us infinitely with this house, and yet I still try to run from it. Why?! When manna rains down from heaven aren’t we supposed to eat it (and NOT complain about it)??! I am plagued by my own forgetfulness and how thick my selfishness can be.
This selfishness has caused me to apply to countless jobs overseas. Some of those jobs never called me back, but some of them did. Yet always at the very last second I knew something was wrong. There was often a tug on my heart saying: Stay, Jonna. Don’t run. And that tug was God…keeping me here, against my heart’s desire…telling me to wait.
So I have chosen to wait, which has NOT been easy. And while I consider myself a forever-student and pursuer of knowledge, I am NOT always a quick study when it comes to matters such as this. No, I’m like most Americans who struggle with overcoming our cultural victimization of NOW. But even still, I know that if I wait, I will be given a fruit much greater than Now. I will be given self-control.
Self-control isn’t a popular topic in our culture. It’s much sexier to talk about what you’ve bought right now than what you’re saving for. Our society has made us believe that there is power in the NOW because this fuels our economy or makes us feel good, or it means you’re “following your heart”, which is a classic American trademark. But the NOWs never really make us feel better, do they? They just temporarily cover up our impatience.
My parents never said that waiting for school to begin would be enjoyable OR easy; they just said it was part of growing up. So why has that been so hard to accept as an adult? Probably because the stakes are higher now, which sometimes causes me to panic and give in. And I know I’m not alone, for waiting on physical healing is excruciating, isn’t it?! Or what about waiting for a job offer that just won’t come yet the bills certainly do! We are forced time and time again to wait throughout our lives, but because waiting isn’t fun or applauded we often stop before reaching the finish line. We say we’re not good at it, or the pain is too great, or that we’re just not “cut out” for waiting. Whatever the excuse may be, succumbing to the NOW is just another way we’re being robbed of our freedom. So I say we take our JOY back and ACTIVELY WAIT instead! (which sounds like an oxymoron but let me explain…)
Being active requires movement; waiting requires pausing. Therefore, in order to actively wait we need to MOVE IN to the waiting with intentionality. The moving in part intentionally is what makes waiting “active”. I have found that if we do FOUR things (which are all verbs – wink!) our journey when waiting will seem more bearable:
1) SURRENDER. Let go of your situation and surrender it to God. This step is extremely hard, especially if you’re not sure God exists, but regardless you can do something concrete and start a “Surrender Envelope”. For me, mine looked like this:
Every time I started feeling trapped by my current reality and the dreams I felt would never manifest, I wrote them down on a piece of paper and “surrendered” them to my envelope. This may seem silly, but by releasing my angst, it allowed me to stop obsessing over my circumstances. This simple act has worked wonders for me!
2) TALK. Don’t wait alone. Tell others what you’re waiting on and invite them into your journey or struggle. This isn’t a “misery loves company” kind of scenario, but rather a “build each other up” suggestion. Have your friends text you encouraging quotes or verses throughout the month. Maybe even ask them to set reminders on their phone so they don’t forget! You will return the favor too, I promise, because everyone the world over is waiting for something.
3) PRAY / MEDITATE. Pause each day to reflect or meditate on the blessings you have in your life. Start a gratitude journal. Pray the hours of the day. If we press pause within each day and mindfully turn our attention to all of our blessings, we will feel more at peace. (Need I say more!).
4) JOIN IN. This is where the fun begins. Whatever you’re waiting on, JOIN IN that area of your life instead of running from it. If you’re waiting to lose weight, contribute to a local food shelf or join a healthy-living cooking class. If you’re waiting for financial freedom, start a clothing swap (or attend one!) and download a budgeting app. For me, I have decided to make “travel boards” with my family. We will visit India first by reading books on India, eating Indian food, learning about their religions and languages, and then writing all about it on our travel boards. We will also save our money and donate it to organizations that will help Indian people; then we will pray for the people who need it most.
My hope is that if we do these four things we will develop the self-control needed to change our current realities. We also will begin to realize that the control we seek to have over our lives really is pretty limited, and that realization is the first step toward reaching our destinations. So instead of saying “Are we there yet?”, let’s surrender, talk, give thanks, and join in while we ACTIVELY WAIT!