Learning to Wait

To wait: to remain stationary in readiness or expectation, to look forward, expectantly, to be ready and available

Psalm 130:5 NIV

Waiting is no fun, unless you know a good surprise is coming.  Even then it’s really difficult, isn’t it? Waiting for the small things in life is a nuisance:  for your favorite show to start, for the work day to be over, for the waiter to serve your food.  Waiting for the bigger things in life can be nerve wracking: planning for a wedding, finishing a college degree, or waiting nine months for a baby to be born. All of these times of waiting have one thing in common: the knowledge that something good is on its way.

How then does waiting change when we’re not guaranteed a reward or a happy ending?  This form of waiting requires hope and faith, and that is no easy task!

I have spent the last six years learning about waiting. due to our foster care and adoption journey as well as experiencing ongoing health issues.  I know of many people who could speak to the topic of waiting better than I.  Six years of discomfort is nothing compared to the 51 years that Joni Eareckson Tada has spent in a wheelchair.  Noah spent 100 years building an ark, believing in faith that the rain would come.  Then there was David, the Psalmist, who waited much of his life: first to be saved from his enemies and then to finally be crowned King.  The Psalms are full of verses about waiting.

Waiting is just tough all the way around. However, during the interim a lot is happening,  because while we wait life keeps moving.  At first our response to waiting is an attitude of expectation, but then we become frustrated as the answers do not come.  This frustration may soon dissolve into doubt. After all “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  (Proverbs 13:12a)

There is a helplessness in the waiting, but in this helplessness we learn humility, the extent of our own ability, and our ever-needed dependency on the Lord.  We can feel His comfort in greater measures. What, then, besides comfort, are the benefits of having to wait on the hard things?

Patience.  Patience is a fruit of the spirit, but it is not an attribute that comes naturally.  It certainly takes refinement to produce this fruit.  After all, in our culture, we can have practically anything delivered to our doorsteps in two days or less (thank you, Amazon Prime).  Everything is instant. The problem is that immediacy does not grow character, and character is hard-won. Patience is defined as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay or suffering without getting angry.  It is in places of waiting that the Lord helps us learn the gift of patience.

Endurance.  Have you ever watched the track events at the Olympics?  The sprinting events are so exciting and powerful!  By contrast, the marathon is slow and methodical.  It takes more time – more sustained effort – to watch and to run. Even the athletes’ bodies look different. Sprinters are thick with muscle, full of power, while marathon runners are thin, with long, lean muscles. They have conditioned their bodies to sustain the long-distance effort.  Unfortunately, the Christian life is not a sprint full of power.  It is a long race full of endurance.  It’s in the seasons of waiting, where we seemingly can’t escape, that the Lord sharpens our resolve, teaching us how to pace ourselves and breathe.  He conditions us so that we can make it through the long race ahead.

Listening.  When we tire of crying out for help and beating the air in frustration, we get quiet enough to listen. What is God speaking in the waiting place?  His still, small voice is often quite active during the lulls in our lives.

Pause: Sit quietly and take a deep breath.  Contemplate one area of your life that you are currently waiting and pray about it.  Be attentive to what the Lord may be speaking to you.

Renew: Reflect on a time in your life when you had to wait.  What did you learn during that season?  How did it refine your character?

Next: Pray for someone in your life that you know is currently waiting.  Think of a way that you can offer them encouragement this week.

May we all learn patience, practice endurance, and attune our hearing during our seasons of waiting.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Apples, Field Trips, and Pruning Tips

This week three of my children and I ushered in the fall season by taking a field trip with our homeschool co-op to an apple orchard. All of the kids and adults had great fun, particularly during the apple and cider tasting!  The last part of our tour included a tractor-pulled wagon ride: all the fun of a hay ride without the scratchy hay! (Added bonus: My three year old was in a particularly cuddly mood and wanted me to hold him in my lap for the whole ride!)

We were pulled through rows and rows of apple trees, up to the top of the orchard.  When he had reached a good vantage point, the farmer stopped the tractor and taught us pertinent facts about growing and maintaining apple trees.  When he began to teach about pruning, my ears perked up, because we own a plum tree.  I was interested to gain any tips.  I made a mental note to come home and teach my husband what I had learned.
The farmer informed us that there are two main objectives to pruning apple trees:

  1. Take all underlying branches which are growing downward, and turn them upward
  2. Prune all vertical growth

As I listened to his advice, I realized that these pruning tips mirror spiritual principles that Jesus taught his disciples:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15: 1-2  NIV

If the heavenly Father is the gardener, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches, then the pruning Jesus is describing is about us!  Ouch!  How then can these pruning tips be translated into spiritual truths that apply to our lives?

Take all underlying branches hanging downward and face them upward.  

What is the purpose in changing the direction of these downward facing branches?  The branches will grow stronger this way as they mature and will be able to withstand more pressure without breaking.  Low lying branches will bend to the ground as they grow heavy with fruit, and this can cause the fruit to rot.   Also, what branches wouldn’t want more sunlight?  Up is always best!

How does this apply to our lives?  As the Gardener realigns our branches in the Vine, He is strengthening us, making us better able to withstand greater loads.  He is maturing us to hold more fruit without breaking.  He is keeping us from dragging to the ground and constantly realigning us towards His light.

 Prune all vertical growth.

Why would a gardener cut off the vertical growth?  These are the new shoots that the tree has produced this year.  The new growth shoots upward, reaching for the sky.  Apple trees put a lot of effort and energy into this new growth.  Farmers purposely prune that growth, because the tree’s energy is going towards the new vertical growth, which takes away from its fruit-producing energy.

How does this principle apply in a believer’s life?  The Gardener knows just what He is trying to achieve in our lives when He is pruning, even when it appears He is pruning the new, healthy growth on our vine.  He is trying to achieve the ultimate harvest of fruit for His kingdom.

Ironically, an apple tree’s whole objective in life is to achieve its purpose: producing apples.  However, on its own, an apple tree can’t figure out where it should expend its energy to best achieve its objective.  While it’s busy growing random branches as fast as it can, it’s losing energy towards its very purpose – growing apples!  Doesn’t this sound familiar?  I’ll be honest, this is one area of my life with which I struggle – discerning where to place my energy, time, and resources.  How thankful I am for a Gardener who can see past the present circumstances, to the harvest He wants to produce in our lives!

Pause:  When you have a few quiet minutes, read John 15:1-11.  What verses stand out to you?

Renew:  Ponder/Journal/Pray: When are the times in your life that you’ve felt the Lord pruning you?  Was it a painful process?  Have you been able to see the fruit in your life, or are you still waiting to see the results?  Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t yet seen the fruit – it might still be growing.

Next:  Make a list this week of your priorities and responsibilities.  Where are you spending your time and energy?  Pray about which of these the Lord would have you spend less time and energy (vertical shoots) and which areas He would rather you prioritize.

May we grow some beautiful fruit for the harvest!

Pause, Renew, Next!

The Birth of a Blog

How does one begin a blog?  I have so many fantastic ideas burgeoning for future posts, just waiting to be written.  However, when it was time to begin this post I found myself in a quandary.  Where to start?   My husband sensibly suggested that I share what led me to begin a blog.  That seemed a reasonable idea.   So, this is the story of how PRN came to be.

Recently, I was thinking about starting an Etsy store.   Last spring I was absorbed in thoughts of selling my vegetables at a Farmer’s Market.    I frequently come up with ideas like these, as I am a rather impulsive person.  Usually, these ideas wither on the vine rather quickly once I’ve considered the logistics (for instance, without Pinterest I cannot craft…bye-bye, Etsy).

Pause – be still; Renew -meditate and find perspective; Next – put it into action

This week I was inspired to start a blog.  I thought to myself, “I may not be gifted as a crafter, but I am gifted in the areas of feelings and words.”  Would this be one more random idea that I concoct only to quickly fizzle?  There are so many blogs out there already!  What can I offer that is different than other blogs?  Is there a reason to make one more webpage for people to scroll through?  I began to pray and ask that if the blog was God’s will that He would lead and guide me, giving me ideas and allowing the blog to prosper.   I considered it from all angles, with growing excitement.  Within a few hours, I had a name: PRN: Pause, Renew, Next.

Immediately, I knew my target audience: women of all ages, the same population I serve as a counselor.  What the average woman needs more than anything is rest, renewal, and encouragement (and of course lots of hugs and baby snuggles, but I can’t provide those essentials on this blog).

The format of each post will consist of varying subject matters, but at the end of each post there will be three sections listed: Pause, Renew, Next.  These sections will encourage the reader to absorb, engage, and act out the subject material.  As a counselor, I’ve learned that if my clients are not given homework, there is a good chance they will forget what was discussed during the session.  So it is with digital interactions.

I recently listened to Brené Brown speak in  Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice.  Her research demonstrates that the way to help people transfer information from their heads to their hearts is through their hands: in other words, through behavior and action!  In this way, my blog is designed to minister to the head and the heart, as well as provide an action step.  That’s where lasting change occurs!

Please know, it’s up to you how many of the exercises you want to engage in. Do as much or as little as you like.  In this blog, I’m focusing on the pause verse, Psalm 46:10.  Let’s give it a go, shall we?

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10 NIV

Pause:  Breathe deeply.  Read the above verse to yourself a few times.

Renew:   Try to really be still.  Is it difficult for you?  Is it hard in your body or in your mind?  Close your eyes and think about a place that you feel peaceful and imagine trying to be still in that place.   Now meditate (concentrate deeply) for a few moments on knowing the God that is exalted among the nations.

Next:  Write down this verse and carry it around with you this week, or open your Bible and read it once each day.  Try to carve out a few minutes each day to really allow your body and mind to be still and focus on who God is.  Can you try one more minute each day?  1 minute the first day, 2 minutes the second day, etc?

And that’s it!  Not too hard, right?  This was a simple exercise, but by choosing to meditate on Scripture, you not only spent time with the Lord, but also made a positive impact on your emotions and your health.

I look forward to continuing this journey together!

Pause, Renew, Next!