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Sometimes God asks us to be brave. Sometimes God asks us to stand up for what we believe in. Sometimes God asks us to show mercy to those who don’t deserve it. There are many difficult things God asks us to do but sometimes, all he asks us to do is wait.

Waiting can feel more challenging than being brave or forgiving something awful. There is often inaction when we’re waiting and somehow this “doing nothing”… it feels painful. It can be lonely. It can be confusing. We feel like we’re getting it wrong even though we’re not exactly sure what it would look like to “get it right.”

There are two times recently in my life where I have wasted the wait. God asked me to wait patiently for an answer and instead I spent the time pouting, fretting, stomping my feet, and trying to force a resolution to my problem faster than God had planned.

It never works when we do this. Our way is never smoother or filled with more peace.

The first time this popped up was when my husband and I were trying to decide if he should leave his job in Portland and whether or not we should relocate to another city. I talk about this whole story in my book Catholic Mom Challenge but the short version is that we wanted God to point us in the right direction. Not only did we want clarity but we also wanted expedience.

Lord, tell us what to do and please, could you do that by tomorrow morning so we could efficiently arrange all of our plans? K, thanks!

Looking back, God did guide us to leave that job and move and retrospectively…. I guess…. He gave us enough time to pull it off but it certainly didn’t feel like that when we were waiting.

We didn’t use the transition time, at least three weeks of which my husband had off of work, to go to Mass, say extra prayers, or spend more quality time as a family. We spent it making pro/con lists, attacking our problem from every angle we could think of, constantly worrying that we were going to make the wrong decision and trying to come up with back-up plans for our back-up plans.

We wasted the gift God had given us.

Looking back, there was nothing we could do to speed the process up of finding a new job, finding a new home, and getting to our new life. Instead, we could have soaked up the extra time to be peaceful and present in the moment of the unknown trusting that God would take care of us. He always has a plan.

The second time this happened was merely a year later and almost under the same circumstances. You’d think we would have learned the first time around. My husband left his new job to help me run a company we had purchased. We didn’t know if he’d stay working for our new company or if he’d get another traditional job. We fretted over this decision for four months! For three whole months, he was home with our family and instead of using that time to draw closer to each other and closer to the Lord, we again pouted, fretted, strategized, planned  and made so many lists!

We basically wasted a three month vacation with our lack of trust in God.

Now, I want to take this moment to acknowledge that it is genuinely stressful to not have a job and to not know if you can pay your bills. It’s not intuitive how to spend three months of family time when you have no money to spare. It’s not as if a few well timed rosaries will suddenly make these big and real problems disappear.

As I approached the end of my pregnancy, knowing I’d spend most of it on bed rest, I knew I didn’t want to waste this time. I made a list of five ways I wanted to use this time wisely.

  1. Pray the rosary every day. You know, it’s a silly thing to have to write down. Praying the rosary only takes 20 minutes so you’d think it’d be a slam dunk to get it done every day. And yet, there’s something about having an endless amount of time that makes it impossible to get anything done. I wanted to get this done no matter what. No surprise, it’s easiest to do it first thing in the morning and yet most days… I do it right before bed. I’m still working on being an adult about this and not putting it off to the last minute but no matter how tired I am, I do it before the day ends.
  2. Read for 20 minutes. Again, I’m a big reader but I tend to want to read when there are other, more pressing things to do. When I don’t have anything to do, suddenly reading sounds boring, even if it’s a book I’m really excited about! But tried and true, reading is one of the best ways to get me out of a funk or keep me from being depressed. Reading a good Catholic book is uplifting and challenging to my default mode of laziness and apathy. Once I get 20 minutes in, it’s easy to keep going but I knew if I made my goal an hour, I’d probably never start.
  3. Keep a gratitude journal. When you’re in a waiting period, it’s so easy to be gloomy about everything. You feel stagnant, grumpy, and down on yourself. Instead of looking at the challenges, make a list of all the blessings. Don’t just list the blessings that you have all the time, but specifically list the blessings you’ve received because of this waiting time.
  4. Give yourself permission to have fun. Often when I’m in a time of waiting, I feel like I should be using that time to be productive… to get extra projects done or to catch up. Instead of staying in work work work mode, give yourself permission to have some fun and be silly. Put a time limit and a spending limit on your fun. You don’t want to take advantage of this time by only playing games but it’s dangerous to only get caught up in worrying and never letting your hair down.
  5. Put a time limit on planning! This last one is so important for me! I want to plan, plan, plan and make lists and spreadsheets. I want to out think the unknown to create a false sense of comfort. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing that could keep me from doing this BUT I do put a time limit on it. I will say that I only have 20 minutes a day to budget/worry/brainstorm/plan and then I have to close my notebook and leave it alone. Whew, it’s tough! But it also helps keep me humble that God is in charge and the amount of time I spend chewing on my problems, doesn’t really solve them.

Be not discouraged by these trials that involve waiting. There is nothing we can do to hurry a resolution when God is asking us to be patient. Instead, don’t waste this time like I have so often. Embrace it, offer it up to God and use the time to grow in holiness. In the end, that is all that matters.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

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