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Tag: patience

Mess or Masterpiece?

One evening this week, I found the living room floor covered with toys.  It was late, I had been at work all day, and I was exhausted.  Briefly I considered telling the boys to pick up the toys, but I was too tired to care. So, I planned to do some general clean up in the morning.

A messy floor or a form of art?

I tucked my three year old into bed, and, when I returned, I found my 7 and 10 year old huddled around a pile of toys. They were exuberantly moving them around to make patterns on the floor. “Come here, Mom; look what we made.”  I came closer and looked.  “Cool, that’s very creative,” I praised.  “What is it that you’re trying to make?”

My seven year old responded sagely, “Art, Mom.  Art can be made of anything, you know.”

Now, if the situation had been slightly altered, say, we had guests coming over or the boys had already tried my patience throughout the day, then my response to their creativity would certainly have been different.  I would not have stopped to notice what they were doing before I commanded them to put up all of the toys and clean up their mess.

A similar scenario happened earlier in the week.  I have one child that learns through hands-on experience.  Although in some ways this makes him incredibly creative and an out-of-the box thinker, it also means he often makes messes and is impulsive.

One evening we had guests for dinner, and plastic cups were left on the counter overnight.  The next morning, I sat down to start homeschool with the boys, and they were all gathered around the counter in the kitchen.  I came over to find that this child had taken two cups, stacked on top of one another, and had poked a hole with a toothpick in the bottom of the top cup.  He had filled the cup with water, and it had begun shooting water like a fountain.  He even had the foresight to put a cup and pan underneath it to catch the excess water.

Again, my first reflex was to tell him to clean it up and yell at him for making a mess when it was time to start homeschool.  Instead, I admired his invention, telling him it was really creative, because honestly, it really was.  I would never have thought to do that.

Much more frequently than I like, I find myself stifling my children’s creativity, telling them to wait when they have something important to tell me, and barking commands while trying to maintain some kind of order and control.  It makes me wonder how many times I have missed little sparks of joy and creativity because of my own grown-up agenda.

Proverbs 14:29 says:

A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered one promotes foolishness.

Proverbs 14:29 HCSB

Patience is not my strong suit, and I have had plenty of “quick-tempered” moments with my children. Those moments usually result in bad attitudes all around. However, when I am not rushed and when I have time to observe and listen to my children, I do find myself understanding their motivations. I am better able to appreciate their ideas and their exuberance for inventing and creating.

Pause: Are you feeling tense or stressed today? Stretching can relieve some muscle tension.  If it is comfortable for you, stand up and reach your hands towards the ceiling, stretching out your back muscles. Take a moment to stretch any other muscles that are feeling tense.

Renew: Now, read over the Proverb above. Think about a time that you were patient, and it produced understanding in your life.  What is it that you better understood?

Next: Think about a relationship or a situation in your life in which you find it difficult to be patient.  In fact, you might even find yourself feeling “quick-tempered.”  Pray, think, and journal about ways that you can work towards more patience in this area. Then, put one of your ideas into practice.  Observe whether you gain any new “understanding” in this relationship or situation as you practice patience.

May you (and I) be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger today.

Pause, Renew, Next!

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!

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