This Waiting Made Sacred

We all go through times of waiting.
Perhaps all of our lives are spent waiting.
My waiting usually looks impatient and discontent.
My waiting usually is spent trying to arrive.
If all of our lives are supposed to be made sacred, how can this waiting become sacred? How can this waiting become beautiful?
If all of our lives are meant for God’s glory, how can we lean into this waiting instead of resisting and pulling back?
Lean in
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch theologian, writes about waiting as an active kind of waiting.
He speaks of those at the beginning of the Gospels (Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, Anna) as waiting with a sense of promise. A promise that allows them to wait. Nouwen says that the secret of waiting is the faith that something has already begun.
Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it. ~ Waiting for God
It is a waiting that knows the waited-for thing has already begun.
Like planting a seed and waiting for it to emerge. Like seeing the plus sign on the pregnancy test and waiting to hold the baby in your arms.
It is a knowing that there are beautiful things happening in the darkness. It is a knowing that even though you cannot see, it is growing.
It is a giving up of control because none of us quite know what we are waiting for when God is involved.
Rather than waiting for a job or a baby or a spouse, we are waiting for whatever God chooses to give. We hold our expectations and dreams lightly, with cupped open hands, knowing that whatever comes is ultimately the best thing of all.
It is a giving up of control but it is a gift of surprise and adventure, of something even better than what you had imagined.
Eyes wide open
It is a waiting with eyes open and breath held in expectation. Expectation of beauty and excitement.
Sacred waiting
This is a waiting I can lean in to. A beautiful, sacred waiting that glorifies God.

Art credit: Final photograph of crab apple blossoms by Kirk Sewell

What I Want from God

I expect God to reward me.
Perhaps that is a bit candid, but I suspect I am not the only one.
I expect that when I do something for God, give something up for Him, that He will reward me appropriately.
I think that I can control His response by what I do.
Perhaps this is extreme, but I don’t think so.
Before our children came along, my husband and I went to China for a year to work with a house church that had been established the year before.
When we came home, we didn’t have jobs.
A month went by and we still didn’t have jobs.
Our savings started dwindling, and another month passed with no sign of gainful employment.
When work finally did come? It was a temporary position at a university. Not exactly what we had dreamed and hoped.
Through all of this, there were a lot of prayers hurled at God.
There were a lot of accusatory, “we served You!”, and “why are You deserting us?” sorts of prayers heaved toward God.
We think that if we do something for God (give up our life, give up control, do x number of acts of service), we should gain something from God (love, happiness, more than enough to live on).
Yet if God is holy, if He is worthy, if He is perfect beauty, than to see Him is to bow, to worship, to understand my own unworthiness.
God is offering us so much. He gives us His Son. He promises to make us like Him, into who we were created to be. He promises us His presence, promises to be with us, to never leave us.
So I suppose we do gain when we give up something for God.
Not houses and travel.
Not adoring family and deep friendships.
Not healthy body and intelligent mind.
None of this is promised.
What, then, do we gain?
Nothing less than God Himself.
Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ~ Revelation 21.3

Outside the World

We stand outside the world.
We dance and dream and die, and through it all we long.
We long for something else, for something more.  We long for something bigger, for something more real.
Some understand what they long for and others do not.  We long for what is true.  We long for a world that is fully real.
We catch breaths of the morning air, fresh and clean and pure.  We catch glimpses of the morning light, startling and bright and glorious.
Yet we stand outside the world and these hints of morning air do not change us.  We do not become pure or glorious.
We stand outside the world and we hear a Word.  We hear a Word that spreads a rumor.
It is a rumor that this shall not always be so.  It is a rumor that one day we will be allowed to walk through the door and stand on the right side.  On the inside.
It is a rumor that one day we will finally be changed by the Morning.  Through the Morning Star we will become pure and clean, bright and glorious.
We will be as we were made.  We will become as we are remade.  Remade into the very image of the Word.
And by moving through the Word we will be allowed to stand.  To stand in desperate gratitude.  To stand covered in another’s glory.
We will dance and we will dream, but we will not die.
We will stand inside the world.

Photographs of Love

I have a photograph that sits on my dresser. In this photograph, my then-two-year-old daughter is giving an exuberant hug to my crammed-full-of-baby-sister tummy. Her arms are wrapped around my belly as far as they will go, her sweet face is all squashed up against my belly and I am laughing with joy at her excitement.

I have another photograph that could sit beside the first. In this photograph, my then-two-year-old daughter is lying on top of her now-two-month-old sister, trying to squash her and steal her pacifier, while baby sister is crying with pure frustration. Ah, the fickleness of a child’s love!

My eldest daughter was so excited about becoming a big sister. She talked for months about how much she loved her baby sister, how she couldn’t wait for baby to arrive and how she would give baby sister so many hugs and kisses. Then her baby sister arrived and reality came crashing into her world. The first time I gave baby the attention that my eldest claimed for her own, that previously professed love disappeared as quickly as a child when bedtime is near.

I like to think that I, as an adult, am able to show a much more pure kind of love to all those around me. I want to believe that I am capable of giving true love, a perfect sort of gift-love, if not to everyone, then at least to those who are most important to me. Like my eldest duaghter, however, the gift-love I am capable of giving shines best when captured by photographs.

SnapThere I am making my husband’s favorite meal for supper tonight. Snap Look at me! There I am taking the time to walk with my kids to the park for a fun morning of play time and a picnic lunch. SnapIn this one, I’m making a meal for a dear friend who just gave birth to a baby boy. 

If you look at me in the space between those snapshots, however, I’m ignoring my husband when he gets home from work, snarling at my girls when I am tired and avoiding the friend who is struggling with her past for the pitiful reason that I don’t know what to say. Ah, the fickleness of an adult’s love!

I struggle to understand the true nature of gift-love. Ask anyone on the street and they would say that they desire to be loved. I don’t really comprehend what that means, though. I don’t know what that looks like. What doesit look like to be loved beautifully, perfectly? I begin to look around me for insight, for glimpses that will help my heart to know what love really is.

SnapMy husband gives up certain advancements in his career in order to give me and his daughters more of himself and his time. SnapMy parents give up a needed vacation so that they can support their son as he grieves for his wife. SnapI watch my brother love and care for his young wife who is dying of cancer, giving up all thought of doing anything for himself.

As I watch and tuck away these photographs of memory, I begin to see a strand that connects them all. Each of these moments of perfect love seem to involve sacrifice, a denying of self. I start to wonder: is this what is required for love to be real, for love to be true? For love to be perfected, must the lover give up something of great importance?

The truth of this seems a little clearer when I think about my children. Other than my love for my husband, my love for my children is the closest thing to a perfect gift-love that I am able to give. With my children, I do not expect anything at all in return for my love, my service. Especially while they are young, I know that I must love them even when the gratitude I receive in return for my love is a tantrum in the supermarket. It is when I start expecting something in return from them, when I expect obedience or even a simple “thank you”, that my gift-love fails and those photographs of love turn into the blank in-between space of ugly actions and thoughts. Still, I do expect something in return. I expect to be loved in return for loving them.

I begin to think that perhaps this is why it is so hard to love consistently. I need love for myself too much to be able to give love perfectly to anyone else. Authentic love is unconditional yet I can’t live without the love that I receive from those around me. Those snapshots of perfect love that I tucked away seem to include a forgetting of self, a giving without expecting anything in return, an open-handed gift even if a close-handed gesture is the return. The imperfection of my love creeps in when that cannot be sustained. It seems that, as much as we may desire otherwise, we can only have snapshots of that real love because we all must receive as well as give. We need to be loved in order to give love perfectly. It seems that what we need is someone to love us who doesn’t need us at all.

Perhaps this is why those photographs of perfect love are so beautiful, so cherished, so longed for…because, at least among humanity, they are the exception rather than the rule. They draw us out of the smallness of ourselves and into something bigger, something greater. Those momentary photographs show us a glimpse of the joy and contentment that could be ours in a perfect sort of gift-love. It seems a difficult thing, but perhaps with time, more of the pages of my life can become filled with those beautiful photographs of perfect gift-love with less blank space in between.

Poor Expectations

“Ten more minutes and then it’s time to go home.”


“When I say ‘it’s time’, what will you say?”

(shouted in a happy voice) “Yes ma’am!”

“Good girl.”

I’ve learned the hard way that if my eldest girl is expecting to stay at the park and I suddenly pronounce now to be the time to go home, meltdowns and tantrums ensue.

If, however, I give her warning and help her to rehearse what is coming, peace and joy are retained. Mostly.


Just as they color the relationship between my eldest and me, they determine the state of my relationship with God.

As I wrestle with this cancer that is threatening to overtake my sister, my brother’s wife, this 26-year-old mommy of a 15-month old, I am forced to look hard at what I expect from God.

I expect to grow old with my love. I expect to watch my children grow up. I expect to meet my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren. I expect that my parents will dance at their grandchildren’s weddings. I expect good health and more than enough to live.

This is what I dare to say I think I deserve.

When I, or those I love, don’t get what I expect, I am left with anger and resentment.

I am reading One Thousand Gifts: “Expectations kill relationships – especially with God…Is it only when our lives are emptied that we’re surprised by how truly full our lives were? Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing – and are filled. This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This work! This sky! These people! This place! This day! Surprise!…Are there times that a sense of entitlement – expectations – is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy? And what do I really deserve? Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved, but instead, God graciously, passionately offers gifts, our bodies, our time, our very lives. “

The idea leaves me whirling. Can I truly live like that? Can I be grateful for every moment that I have with my family, knowing that each moment is a gift, something that I don’t deserve? Can I live grateful for every small gift that God gives?

Can I live without expecting God to give the gifts I think He should give?

I ponder this thought throughout my next days.

Then I see it. I see it in a passage that I have read so many times that I now tend to skim.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. ~Rom. 5.3-6

Yes, I know. Suffering produces hope.


A niggling in the back of my brain stirs up the idea of a meaning behind hope. I go to my Strong’s.

The word translated “hope” is from elpis (elpizo or elpo): to expect, to anticipate (usually with pleasure), expectation or confidence.

Suffering produces confidence, expectation, because of God pouring out His love, because of Christ dying for a sinner. For me.

My heart longs for more and so I search.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. ~I John 3.1-3

This hope. The same word. Elpis. Expectation.

Expectation of lavish love, of being made children of God. Expectation of knowing, seeing and being made like God. Expectation.

This. This is what I should expect from God.

I weep, ashamed that I demand such small things from God, ashamed that I expect such fleeting gifts when He is promising such riches, such beauty.

Living without expectations.

I will try. I will try to be surprised by every gift that God decides to give, knowing that He has already given me the most beautiful and exciting gift of all.

Road to Emmaus.
Luke 24.