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April 4, 2009

The Waiting Place

In his book, Oh, the Places You'll Go, Dr. Seuss writes about something he calls "a most useless place:" The Waiting Place. It is "for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting."

While I'm not waiting around for public transportation or a new hairstyle, The Waiting Place is where I find myself reluctantly lingering these days. Ironically, I've been waiting to snap out of it.

I'm waiting ? for that place called "Home."

I've found it difficult to call any place home since my husband's ministry has required several moves. Home suggests roots and community, not a fleeting affair.

As I wade through my 40s, that obscure thing called "home" beckons me. I wish to spend more time with my parents and sisters. Our twice-a-year visits are simply not enough. My heart desires more.

I'd like to see them often enough that we no longer clean our houses as we prepare for the other's arrival. I'd like our visits to stop feeling like an event - like we must suck the life out of one another while we're together, because one of us will need to leave again soon. I'd like the opportunity to be bored of them, to run out of things to say.
And I wonder if it's wrong to wait for home when I have a family of my own.

I'm waiting ? for that big break.

There are days I fantasize about becoming a barista at Starbucks instead of being a writer. For over a year now, I've checked my email (obsessively, at times) waiting to hear that the project I've been working on will be accepted by someone who sees its potential. Writing can be exhilarating - and absolutely tormenting.

Sometimes, I say no to the voices that call me to the page and tell them to leave me alone. I tell them they're failing me. I reason with them, telling them there's no future in them.
"Don't you realize that The Tribune Company has filed bankruptcy?" I ask. "No one wants you!"

On my most discouraging days, I tell the voices that, when I write them, no one reads them anyway. Fortunately, they know better. They keep speaking and I am compelled to keep listening. I jot their ideas down and massage them on a black and white screen. I write ? I edit ? I press send ? I wait.

I'm waiting ... to get into shape.

It's a purely ridiculous notion, but I'm waiting to get my butt in gear. One day, I hope my body will refuse its default, sedentary self (the one that prefers to be loosely wrapped in flannel, huddled on the left side of my couch clutching a handful of cookies) and move toward health.
Like most, I have many good excuses against exercise. Mine include: my running pants are too tight (go figure). It's cold outside. I'm under deadline. I have children. I'm having a good hair day. I don't wanna.

But my mirror reminds me that, unless I want my thighs to look like someone smacked them around with the bumpy end of a meat tenderizer, I had better get going. When I do, I momentarily leave The Waiting Place and am always surprised to discover the creativity and joy that loiter in the fresh air.

If I were to rewrite Seuss' description of The Waiting Place to reflect my present condition, it would sound something like this:

I am ?waiting for home to feel like Home
or vigor to come and inspiration to flow
or the email to come and say, "It's a go!"
or my athletic self to re-emerge with gusto
or waiting for the economy to finally blow
or waiting for my kids to grow.
I am just waiting.

Christians can be guilty of tossing scripture at those who find themselves in The Waiting Place. "Wait on the Lord," we say. "Be content in all things." I think we sometimes use these verses to plug up our whining and shove us toward (halfhearted) acceptance. Then again, there are times I pretend to be "waiting on the Lord" when I'm actually electing to be a slug.

Rather than settling into our discontentment and hoping we can somehow get comfortable in the prickly place, perhaps we should allow these seasons to spur us into action. Is it possible that God wants us to figure a way out of The Waiting Place instead of merely accepting it?

This morning, I set aside my slug-like self and dug my jogging bra out of the drawer. It wasn't a long run - and it certainly wasn't pretty - but for a few miles I simply placed one foot in front of the other.

It was cold. My running pants were still too tight. I still had deadlines. I still had children. And I still didn't wanna do it.

But I spent the next half hour doing something I haven't done in a while - moving forward. Though I literally ran in a giant circle, I momentarily left The Waiting Place. My thoughts turned to God and I considered the places we might go.


Are you my alias? Sounds too much like my story. By all accounts - you are normal.

This moving around and living away from family and missing them is pretty common, even if your immediate circle seems to all have their families in town. There are sacrifices we make like you have mentioned, not being able to just pop over to sis's for a chat. Instead we spend Easter hunting for eggs in our own home instead of in Grandma's back yard back home.....we have our lovely turkey dinners with just the 4 of us....

Sometimes it means grieving the loss of our "ideal idea of life" - often the kind of ideal we have seen on tv or we imagine our friends live. Truth be told some of those friends have expressed to me so much entaglement with extended family, it makes me glad I'm not in their position.

It takes trust that God really has placed us where it is best for us.

I think there is value in learning to "live in the present" which doesn't man cowing down to complacency, but asking what those prickly places are urge us to do, change or give up.

Eileen, this is a beautiful piece. It resonated deeply with me.

I, too, remember reading Oh, the Places You'll Go to my kids one day, and when I got to The Waiting Place I found it really uncomfortable to read. At first, I thought Seuss had just gotten it wrong. That he simply didn't understand the "virtue" of waiting. But as I sit here, months later, still waiting, not moving, just...waiting... while life is passing me by, I'm thinking that maybe there's more to his interpretation of The Waiting Place after all.

All this reminds me of the Switchfoot song "Dare You to Move."

I just recently began to move forward.

For me it was my kids going to college. As they left (despite missing them terribly), I realized how unfocused and stuck in "busy" I had been.

God had been working to prepare me for what was next. I am still discovering how and where to move. But opportunities are beginning and by His grace I am ready and willing to follow Him anywhere!

This is a time that will pass quickly I promise, even when it feels like forever. He will lead you - meanwhile running is good!

I loved this. Can totally relate.

"Faithful" is a beautiful song by Brooke Fraser about waiting.

And then I'm currently reading, "Chasing Daylight" by Erwin McManus which is totally about tearing down walls for His Kingdom instead of always waiting for an open door or window! :)

I'm reading. And I'm loving it!

Keep writing, Eileen. You have expressed so much about so many areas that I can identify with...especially the tendency to toss out those scriptures at people who are in the waiting place without really listening and being transparent enough to admit that we all have these feelings in the waiting place. The first comment..."You are normal." Those are sweet and encouraging words for anyone who is discouraged. That gives us hope that we, too, can move forward as we walk in the company of "sisters" who are stepping out to move forward. That we're not beyond help and hope.
"Dare You to Move" has certainly been a sweet and creative call which draws me on toward what feels risky and sometimes difficult, but truly good things God has for me

I think God's timing is perfect in me reading this article. I live in Alaska and got stuck out of state due to a volcano erupting, I was stuck for a week. During that week I found I missed home; I for the first time have a home to miss. For the first week of being back home, I was content. Until I began to want more. I want a husband, children... I lost my contentment and am not satisfied. Yet God has given me so much, so I wait and want more. Thank you for the reminder I desperately needed; to go forward out of my waiting place and to live for right now.!

I just want to walk closer with Jesus. I am just so hungry, and thristy to be in the presence of the Lord. I am not getting what I need in the church right now. My health is a concerned to me at this time. I am in a place in my life, where i have to call upon the Name of the Lord, as in Jer. 33:3 where He can show me the great and mighty things that I know not. I need the Lord, in every area of my life. I love My Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ.

I liked it. So much useful material. I read with great interest.

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