Tag Archives: patience

Paths

crosswalk in parking garageThe other day I was waiting to get out of a crowded parking garage and idling at a pedestrian crosswalk. An older couple caught my eye as I watched them navigate through parked cars to get into a medical building. The wife was all-business, clearly focused on the task ahead as she walked briskly with purpose. Her husband had a marked limp and was making use of each vehicle he passed as a respite to catch his breath. He was looking all around, taking note of his surroundings before he took a steadying inhale and propelled forward in his teetering gait, aiming generally in his wife’s direction. She paused several times to cast a glance back over her shoulder to make sure he was still following.

She came to a determined halt at the entrance, sending the whooshing automatic doors into a tizzy of confusion. Open-close-open-close-open… Her waiting stance became very intent – yet not quite impatient. Although this pair was obviously together, each of them was approaching what lay beyond those insistent doors in very different ways. She was charging forth while he labored with each step.

I wonder how long they have been doing this hurry-wait dance together? I’m curious when they were last side-by-side, slipping into a natural cadence as their footsteps marched in tandem.

sidewalk with brickI’m not sure what awaited this gray-haired couple in the doctor’s office that day, but their disjointed progress made me think about how often we can be in misstep with our people we are doing life with each day and how off-kilter our different paces may be in our personal journeys.

We all have different paths in life, which we walk in our own rhythms and progress at our own unique pace.

Sometimes the journey is expected and the path unfolds in an unwavering straight line before us. We feel focused and confident.

Some days we are eager to see what awaits around the next bend. Our steps may be light and energetic as we embrace the anticipation of what is to come.

curvy path

Other days we drag our feet, weighted down by uncertainty about what we may face. We have to dig deep to take the next begrudging step into a novel experience, tentatively exploring an unfamiliar path we have not traveled before. We steady ourselves with a brief prayer, a whispered plea of trusting God to hold us fast on His path for us.

In this season of graduations and life transitions, you may be facing the challenge of embarking upon a fresh path or launching a family member on a new journey. As you tentatively approach this unknown doorway, may you have the courage to reach forward and lean in to a new venture…knowing that someone is tenderly looking over their shoulder to make sure you are on your way.

doorway in brick wall



“My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.” Psalm 17:6



Side-by-Side

mom tackleWhen your kids are little, they are all over you. Literally. A human jungle gym…they climb, writhe, wriggle and squirm all over, covering you with earthy hugs and sticky kisses. They share every single teeny tiny detail of their days even though you were right there navigating it all. They start conversations voluntarily with you.all.the.time.

I remember one of my preschool-aged sons asking me, “Mommy, do you like khaki socks? I like khaki socks.” I responded to his random question and he fired off another one without skipping a beat, “Mommy, do you like blue socks? I like blue socks.” I will spare you the details of this lengthy conversation and remain grateful that he didn’t have full knowledge of a 64-color crayola box at that tender age. Yet I hold dear the memory of that conversation because he was trying to connect with me, exploring things we might both like that mashed us together in his little mind. He wanted us to share every daily experience and talk about it over and over and over again.

When kids start school, all that sharing is spread out among more people…teachers, buddies, and neighborhood friends. You still get a good dose of after-school details, though, and you get conversation starters cued by art projects and smiley-face stamped papers they bring home.

Then your kids have the audacity to grow more. All of a sudden mini-adults are sparking out of them as they navigate the world of middle school and high school. Their minds are extremely busy places and they are doing a lot of internal processing. All of this chaotic brain activity shorts out their verbal processing and those sweet little childish conversations become more like staccato grunts and groans. I have boys, so plenty of bodily noises accompany their one or two-word responses. Although I’ve become quite adept at reading facial expressions and body postures, my mommy-brain is still curious about their experiences in those boys walking with backpacksbusy school hallways and classrooms. I still like to hear in their own words what impacted them in the course of an ordinary day.

I’ve embraced the subtle strategy of the Side-by-Side conversation. Most often this occurs in the car as we are driving to an activity or returning home. After an initial greeting and brief run-down of “how was your day?” type conversation, a natural lull fills the car.  I try to wait patiently while my son decompresses in his own way. Sometimes it’s through music; sometimes it’s a snack. Gradually some wordy tidbits start to fall out. I try to not scoop them up too hastily, but allow them to linger between us…because sometimes those few phrases turn into an avalanche of words. Suddenly I’m hearing a funny story about a new friend or how a teacher brings day-old bakery goodies to class, endearing him to this mass of hungry adolescents.

bedhead boys together on couchDuring this season of March Madness, I join my son on the couch and absorb a litany of sports statistics of his favorite teams. I’ve learned to ask specific questions about a few key players so I have a storyline to follow-up on each game. Sitting side-by-side, my son overlooks my lack of “fervor” at his level and seems to appreciate my tentative participation in his world of sports. We are training together in this new language of ours, connecting through the excitement of buzzer beaters, the disappointments of tough losses, and the shared eye-rolling at inane remarks offered by the color commentator.

These side-by-side moments are indirect and nonthreatening. With our eyes focused ahead on the road or a basketball game, our bodies are little more relaxed and the words come out a little more freely. We are aligned in a mutual activity. Somewhere in the midst of the drive or the time-outs in the game, I pick up nuggets about social interactions that would not have been shared directly in a face-to-face Q & A. I savor these and add them to my mommy collection of these brief moments that weave into the fabric of their childhood.


“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19


I’ve learned that by coming alongside my boys in whatever they are doing or simply making myself present in their spaces, that something beautiful begins to unfold. A few words are batted between us. Sometimes I lob them too far and they miss their target entirely. Sometimes I come too close and they are returned with a solid shot. Timing is delicate. We tiptoe around, exploring neutral territory or trying a humorous diversion. Awkward moments are all too frequent, but we keep trying, side-by-side, because there’s a lot more than khaki socks out there, folks…but at least it’s a place to start.Tacosaurus socks

Sprintering

blossoming pear treesHeading out for my morning walk, I was besieged with the aroma of budding pear trees all over the neighborhood. I glanced down and saw all the blossoms that had been whisked out of the trees and pelted by cold rain.blossoms washed away

Spring is trying sooooo hard to break out and assert herself, then a push of winter comes back through and surprises us with its briskness.

In much the same way I often start feeling energized with the hopes of spring, trolling through garden centers and jumping into visions of green and color all around, then I’m reminded by the “helpful” cashier that there may still be a freeze which would knock out my pretties. Drat.

I may have a lot of creative energy bursting with ideas one day, then a restless night comes and the next day I’m muddling through mental fog. Or I may start the week with an ambitious gameplan, but midweek something unforeseen occurs and I’m practicing my adaptability again, forging through the weeds to find beauty in the dailyness of responsibilities. flowers vs weedsI have a hard time sorting through all the random fluctuations in my mind and body at this time of year. The mix of spring and winter features outside somehow mirrors my unsettledness…I can’t quite put my finger on how to explain it, but when I talk to others, they seem to feel IT, too. It’s like we’re Sprintering: we want to be in the robustness of spring, but winter still nudges in.

The passage in Ecclesiastes 3 about there being “a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” keeps coming to mind. It’s all about the transition — the Sprintering– between big seasons in our lives. When we are fully planted in a season, it’s easier to embrace all that particular season encompasses. Often we even have some social protocols to follow in certain seasons, clinging to these guidelines with all our might. The transitions in between are trickier, though, especially if others around you are not in your season. It’s squishy ground and we don’t like that sinking feeling of ambiguity.

So, if you’re feeling a bit unsettled or you’re having an off day, consider this: you may have a touch of Sprintering, too. Hang in there: Spring is knocking. Perhaps we have to acknowledge a few lingering lessons from Winter we still have to tuck in before we’re fully prepared to welcome Spring wholeheartedly.

blossoming redbud

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Patience…a little at a time

Patience plateWhen my son was 4, his definition of patience was “waiting my turn.” Kids get a lot of practice with this at school, at home, at church, and on the playground. The adults around them encourage and reinforce taking turns.

As adults we probably get more “practice opportunities” than we would like…waiting our turn in traffic or in the grocery store line, being on hold, listening to toddler-babble all day long, waiting for news of a loved one’s life event, or biding our time until it’s our turn for a promotion. Sometimes we even have designated places to practice patience: those chilly waiting rooms outside of surgical suites and doctors’ offices–where time becomes squishy with an unusual mixture of uncertainty and hope. All these practices without a designated coach…it can get a little tricky with all of us out there trying to make the big play yet committing countless fouls in the process. This road to Patience is bumpy.

I asked Siri for a definition of Patience. In her all-knowing tone, she told me that having patience is to “remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.” Geez! It’s probably good that we don’t have visible cartoon thought bubbles broadcasting how we reealllly feel in these daily situations of stress. Misplaced keys, a cracked phone screen, getting cut off in traffic…we face frustrations each and every day hour. How we respond to these hassles reflects upon how deep our level of patience is and how quickly we can tap into it. And all of us know that our darling children are watching, always watching.binoculars

Somehow the “big” trials seem to ramp up my patience and I churn out the calm vibes at warp speed. On the other hand, those little daily hassles can trip me up. Running late can zap my patience with my kids super fast. Those last five minutes exiting the house can be quite dicey as I’m calling out reminders in my not-so-calm voice: “grab-your-jacket! Got-your-water-bottle-for-practice?Remember-we-have-your-music-lesson-right-after-school-so-bring-your-instrument-now-so-it-will-be-in-the-car-later.Did-you-turn-off-the-lights?Your-shoes-are-in-the-family-room-where-you-left-them.Come-on-we’re-runninglate.Put-the-sword-down.Don’t-forget-your-backup-soccer-jersey.Get-out-of-the-fridge-we-don’t-have-time-for-a-snack.Oh-and-bring-out-the-trash-as-you-come-please“…[just insert all those “Mommy messages” here because it’s exhausting reliving those moments; oh, and remember to add “please” at the end of the monologue–gotta keep it “nice”–ha!] Needless to say, countless apologies have been made in the car as we’re scurrying to a soccer game, violin lesson, or (gasp!) even to church.

To get better at patience, we probably have to know our “buttons” – our stress points. If we aren’t sure, our spouse and/or children will be able to provide us with some quick insights. (ouch!) Patience can be quite a strength if we practice and build up our ability to use it consistently and effectively. Maybe one way to “bulk up” our patience is to spend a little time trying to deepen our sense of calm.

crayons

I have a friend that loves to color. It’s soothing and helps ground her. After a coloring session, she has more mental clarity and is more prepared to tackle her next challenge. Coloring books for adults are now marketed everywhere, so go for it! It’s not just for kindergarteners anymore; it’s “socially acceptable” for grownups!

Coffee cakesAnother friend of mine likes to bake.

I tend to find myself cleaning out closets or my car just to have a sense of control over something tangible when life circumstances are off-kilter.

For others, taking a walk to burn off nervous energy might help restore calmness.

one foot in front of the otherPerhaps in the heat of the moment, you’re a “count to 10” person…or a “3 deep breaths” type?

The beauty of being unique individuals is that we can each have a different arsenal of responses to any given situation. Whatever flavor of calmness technique you adopt, it probably works best if it “fits” and feels natural to you.



“A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” Proverb 19:11



 

Patience may be one of the Fruits of the Spirit that we need more time to develop. It’s about being patient, not doing patient. It’s not a one-time “I’ve got it!” experience either. It’s an on-going process that we continually have to reboot.  Patience is tough. It keeps us on our toes. As with many things that are difficult, though, it is so worth it. Just wait, and you’ll see.

Patience

A couple weeks ago I found a small pathetic-looking amaryllis bulb planter waiting to be claimed in the clearance aisle. The earthy bulb was trapped inside its packaging, yet trying to grow anyway. It had pushed against the paper sack so hard the stalk was bent and forlorn. I adopted it out of a mixture of pity and curiosity. My son helped me plant it when we got home, both of us a bit skeptical when we saw how bent and stunted the stalk was.

“Will it straighten up?” became a common dinner conversation. There were bets on when the stalk would straighten up strong and tall so that it could support its notoriously large bloom. We were all wrong: the stalk remained firmly bent over and remained height-challenged. The bloom, however, was determined.

Amaryllis bent, but starting to bloomAmaryllis ready to bloomamaryllis bloomingAmaryllis full bloom

What had been a dilapidated little plant the week before, turned into a gorgeous bloom…or dare I admit three blooms all squished into one beautiful burst of color. Quite lovely. We just had to wait for it to blossom in its own way.

Similarly, God waits for us to grow in Him and blossom in our own unique way.



“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18



Patience plate

Life is indeed a waiting game. Our patience is tested with our growth process. Some of us are early bloomers while others are late bloomers.  We may have to wait a little longer than we’d like for an answer to prayer or a specific direction for our lives. We are not alone; God is waiting with us.

Many of the Fruits of the Spirit seem to be qualities we get to experience or savor. Patience is more like a discipline. It requires some intention, having a “game plan” when something goes awry. Many things push at us and box us in. We bend under the weight of all types of stress, but do not break. We often grow in unexpected ways. God is betting on us to be strong and tall in the face of our challenges.