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The Wait You're In
Name the Longing
There have been seasons in my life when the waiting felt like it would be the end of me. When the waiting was a suffering all its own.
When my sons were five and three years old, their dad died very suddenly. Robb was sick for only twelve hours. The doctors thought he had the flu, and they sent us home from the ER with instructions to keep him hydrated on Gatorade and popsicles and settle in for the ten-to-fourteen days this bug would take to run its course. They said, "He won't die from this, but he will feel like he's going to."
They were only partly right. He had the flu, but those symptoms masked a septic infection in his bloodstream that attacked his heart and lungs. He died in our home the next morning.
I was with him in his final moments, and I tried to save his life with chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on our bedroom floor, with screaming pleas begging him to stay alive. But his spirit slipped right through my fingers before the paramedics could arrive. He went from very healthy and completely with us to very sick and suddenly gone. He died just two days before Christmas. In a single hour one morning, everything changed. I became a thirty-one-year-old widowed single mom to two little boys who were fatherless and not yet in kindergarten. It felt and truly was as horrible as it sounds.
When other families were wrapping gifts and hanging their stockings on Christmas Eve, we were meeting with the funeral director for the final arrangements. I used words like eulogy and cremation. On Christmas morning, we each opened gifts that Robb had chosen and prepared, wrapped just a few days before, when everything still felt right in the world. The boys opened a battalion of army soldiers and remote-control cars from their daddy. I opened a pair of red satin pajamas, wrapped, tagged, and perfect.
That week between Christmas and New Year's is a foggy blend of images in my mind. We hosted Robb's wake and visitation hours at the coffee shop that was our favorite spot for a Friday-night date, and we had a memorial service at our church, appropriately ending with the Ohio State fight song. My children and I were surrounded and held in every single way. In the weeks to come, as relatives and friends went home and everyone else went back to their lives, a thick darkness settled over me. I couldn't know it then, but I had entered a winter that would last for two years. Everything looked familiar, but nothing felt right. Robb didn't come home from work anymore.
Tucker, only five years old, became fiercely independent and determined to need nobody. He spilled milk as he poured it into cups, determined to get better fast at this big-brother role. He had lost one parent overnight, and he became compulsively aware that if I should die just as quickly, he might need to take care of himself and his brother at any time. Tyler, my baby at just three years old, controlled his world by refusing to change his clothes. Because when you're three years old, what you're wearing is the only thing you're in charge of. So, his wardrobe consisted of his Thomas the Train jammies or his Lightning McQueen T-shirt. My children each had their way of making sense of a loss too deep to explain.
My world got very small. I slept for two-thirds of every day, but the traumatic details of Robb's final moments played on a loop in my mind each time I drifted into any sleep that could bring rest. I didn't know how to see the path to the next day. I measured every victory in meals and moments and baths and bedtime stories. I saved a few ounces of energy for the end of the day, just to do something silly to make my children laugh, so they could know their mommy was still there, behind those layers of sadness. I waited and waited and waited for the depression to lift, for the sun to shine, for the winter to give way to spring.
In that devastating season of waiting, I learned that the unknown is the hardest part. I found myself wondering how long this would go on and just how much worse it all could get. But there was a strange comfort in the fact that, though my story was uniquely my own, I wasn't the only one who had walked this path of searing heartache. Others had felt invisible pain that seemed it could break them in two.
Certainly, when the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church of Corinth, he was experiencing his own grief, uncertainty, and impatience, the sort of suffering ache we who have walked through dark seasons know all too well. I don't know the details of his pain, just like I don't know the excruciating nuances of yours. Still, his words comfort me. Because that's what the Bible does for me.
Paul wrote about his experience in Asia —
We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
Yes. That. Everything that. I have a sign in my stairwell that says, "You never know how strong you are until you have no other choice." I'd like a second sign to say, much more importantly, "You never know what God can do until nobody else can do it."
* * *
Dear friend, as you are holding this book, please know this: You are very real to me. How I wish we could sit together over coffee in a couple of my favorite mugs. I'd ask you to tell me your story. What is happening in this season of your life? What are you waiting for?
Maybe you're single in a world that seems tailor-made for couples, and you're unspeakably tired of hearing the question "Why aren't you married yet?" at family reunions and Christmas dinners. The subtext of that question is actually "You look like a reasonably desirable person, so why hasn't someone snatched you up? You must have some hidden baggage or issues that only emerge when you're in a relationship long enough for those skeletons to step out. It's probably that. I mean, you look like someone who should be married, and yet you're not, so it's probably just that I can't see what's wrong with you." It's a terrible question without a real answer.
Maybe you're facing a health crisis. It's not going to kill you, but it's not going to go away either. You're going to have to live with it, and there seems to be nothing you can do to fix it. You can only manage the many symptoms.
Or maybe you're in a professional crisis. Maybe you planned to invest a lot of years in this line of work with this company, but now it seems you must make a change. Someone has attacked your character with rumors about who you are and what you're about. Or there's a new boss in town and the new leadership structure is toxic and dangerous, and there seems to be nothing you can do about it. You thought there was a chance to advance, but as my friend Phil says, "The ladder you were climbing was leaning up against the wrong wall."
Maybe you're in a marriage that's not what it used to be, not what it's supposed to be, not what you want it to be. Neither of you wants a divorce, but the way you're living isn't working, and you feel like such a cliché. You didn't intend to become strangers sleeping in the same bed, but here you are. And there doesn't seem to be anything you can do to change it.
Perhaps you're in a parenting crisis. Maybe you have a child who's an absolute puzzle, or a child who's gone off the rails. You look at Facebook pictures of families with babies and small children, and you remember when you were in that life stage. You thought you could teach and train them enough in the early years to keep everything under control, but now you're wondering if any of your teaching landed anywhere at all. You miss the days when the hardest parenting challenges involved the cost of diapers and power struggles over fruit snacks.
Or maybe you're facing years of infertility. Your spouse doesn't want to adopt, and you can't afford fertility treatments; your options are few and your answers are fewer.
Maybe you're in a financial crisis. You're trying to "Dave Ramsey" your way out of it, but every step in the right direction feels like a raindrop in the Grand Canyon. This isn't going to change — or get better — for a long, long time.
When I've been in any of these situations, I've begun to wonder if God is even aware of my plight. Is he paying attention? Is he listening? And if he's listening, why isn't he answering me? Why isn't he speaking? And most importantly, why isn't he doing? I've been tempted to think either he must be unaware or he doesn't care at all. I mean, let's be honest. Everybody's waiting for something. I must be pretty far down on his list.
I'm a firm believer in giving people the freedom to feel how they feel. Telling someone how to feel is like carrying a birthday cake into a gorilla cage: Everything is about to get messy, a fight will break out, and you're just asking to get your nose bitten off. I'm not about any of that. I promise not to tell you how to feel while you're waiting, and I won't rush you to a place of patience either. That's the whole thing about waiting: We can't change it. And the helplessness is what makes it so miserable.
I'm inviting you to name what you're waiting for, so we can keep it in front of us while we journey this path together. I'm in it with you. I'm so familiar with the ache of longing, and in this very moment, I'm still waiting on a good number of things. There's strength in numbers, and you're not alone. I believe we can do this. We can survive the wait with a handful of wildflowers named hope, courage, and laugh lines. Hear me on this: We don't have to like it. But we can learn a whole lot about who God is and what we're made of as we wade through the murky waters of waiting.
* * *
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
Excerpted from "Just. You. Wait."
Copyright © 2019 Tricia Lott Williford.
Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Hurry Up and Wait xiii
Part 1 Longing 1
Chapter 1 The Wait You're In 11
Name the Longing
Chapter 2 The Great Waiters 19
Waiting Is a Big Deal to God
Chapter 3 Ridiculous Waiting 31
In Line at the DMV
Chapter 4 Longing to Begin 41
Waiting to Create
Chapter 5 Where Is the Sunshine? 51
Waiting to Heal
Chapter 6 Walkie-Talkie Theology 61
When Ifs Not about You
Reflections on Longing 71
Part 2 Becoming 75
Chapter 7 Honesty in the Waiting 85
When Truth Is All You Have
Chapter 8 The Frat House, Meditation, and Testicles 95
The Best Strategy for Waiting
Chapter 9 Passing Time with a Pen 111
The Beauty of Writing It Down
Chapter 10 Stop Looking at the Clock 123
When Time Stands Still
Chapter 11 Sparrows and a Tattoo 129
Build Your Altar
Reflections on Becoming 137
Part 3 Awakening 141
Chapter 12 A Game of Catch, a Lavender Shirt, and Root Beer Floats 151
Waiting for Jesus
Chapter 13 Seeds in the Ground, Butterfly in the Cocoon 163
The Gifts of Waiting
Chapter 14 The Answer We Don't Want 173
Chapter 15 Just You Wait 183
As You Go
Reflections on Awakening 191
What People are Saying About This
Modern Western culture, with its blurring advances, has tried to jettison our need to wait for anything. That’s why this book is so important. By bringing us into her own family’s story, Tricia Lott Williford reminds us that waiting is a good thing. With candidness and humor, Just. You. Wait. points the way to the many hidden treasures that lie ahead for those who embrace a lifestyle of patience, hardy laughter, and stubborn hope.
Tricia’s ability to simultaneously strike and soothe the human heart is nothing short of extraordinary. I wasn’t particularly struggling with impatience when I turned to the first page of Just. You. Wait.or so I thought. But I needed this book. With raw authenticity and quirky humor, Tricia avoids offering trite answers to unanswerable heartaches and instead shares quiet, poignant insights that make you suck in your breath deeplyand ponder and wrestle and shift. As I face my own season of waiting, with patience and hope sorely lacking in my own soul, I am grateful for the gift of Tricia, who has gone before me and paved the way. I am not the same for having read these pages.
When Tricia’s book found me, I wasI am!in a season of waiting. Unexpected, unchosen, unwanted waiting. And in the pages of Just. You. Wait., I discovered a good guide who’s weathered waiting with God, in all its comfort and discomfort. This book is a gift to all of us who are a little peeved and disheartened by the wait, because in its pages, we discover we’re not alone.
Tricia Lott Williford has created something special here, something true. If you have ever been in a difficult waiting season or are walking with someone through a painful life stage, you will find a soul companion here. With her signature humor (yes, testicles are mentioned more than once) and vulnerability, Just. You. Wait. is not a how-to book or a book of trite answersas we see so often from books in these categories. Instead, Lott Williford holds raw courage in one hand and real heartbreak in the other, while offering it all as a gift to the reader. Unwrap this gift, reader. You will be grateful you did.
Tricia is the most compassionate writer I have ever read. She forges a sincere friendship with the reader, writing as a tender survivor of waiting rather than an expert on it. Somehow, Tricia manages to strike the perfect balance between consolation and hope, nudging us forward without hurrying us along. For those who feel stuck, sidelined, or distracted by the ache of longing, Just. You. Wait. offers the solace and perspective you need. That’s exactly what it gave to me.
Reading Tricia’s writing is like sharing a cup of coffee with your best friend or sisterher experiences speak wisdom into your own. Waiting is a natural part of life, but it’s one that we don’t like. We pretend that it doesn’t existbut it does, and we must be ready for it. In Just. You. Wait., Tricia beautifully and winsomely shows us the value in waiting.