We all spend time waiting – for the train, for the phone call, for the tickets, the bathroom, the bell, the lights, the dinner, the news that might change everything. Right now I’m waiting on two emails. They’re to do with two of my creative projects… and I wish they would come. I’m trying not to check the emails every ten seconds. So instead of checking the emails every ten seconds, I’m going to write out my 12 top tips for waiting, in no particular order.
- Try and be productive, if you can
Even if everything else is on hold, I try and have at least one other creative project on the go. I call this the ‘Thing-I’m-writing-when-I’m-not-writing-anything-else’. At the moment, it’s the devotions I started in Israel three years ago. I pull them out whenever my other projects are on hold, and they haven’t complained once, about being my last resort, so that’s nice. One day I might even finish them.
- Be fresh, or at least uninhibited
Alternatively, I find a blank piece of paper, or notebook, and I sit outside and write anything at all. I tell myself that the best thing is that no one is going read it, or publish it, or talk about filming it. That’s good!
- Find your old self
After writing anything at all, I go inside and re-read a book that I loved when I was 12 years old. I tend to find that I still love it and it helps me find my younger, dreamier, hopeful self in between the pages.
- Notice the sunset
It happens every day, but it’s easy to miss the sunset, so my new, autumnal resolution is to head out on to the back deck every evening and lean over the railing and actually watch the sunset, paying attention to all the colours and saying thank you, even though the thing I was waiting for didn’t happen today.
- Rearrange the furniture
This is one of my favourite things to do while waiting. I tend to start with the living room, because it’s the easiest and it includes my writing desk. Then I have a new view!
- Watch the dog sleep
Sometimes I go back outside and watch the dog. I notice the way she finds the sunniest spot in the garden and simply lies down and goes to sleep.
- Weed the garden
While I’m outside, I weed. The best thing about gardens is that they grow weeds all of the time. So I begin weeding the tiniest section near the front door and before I know it (or before the email arrives), I’ve accidentally weeded half an acre.
- Re-read your old journals
When I’ve finished weeding, I sometimes re-read my old journals. In particular, I read the sections where I learnt all about patience last time. Remember?
- Be healthy
Then I go back outside and puff myself out completely. I jump on the trampoline for half an hour, or chase the dog around the yard, or run up the back stairs, as if there’s something unbelievably surprising at the top. Maybe there is?
- Be useful
Even if there isn’t anything surprising at the top, don’t worry, do something useful. For example, ring a friend or teach the teenagers to cook. They’re much older now, and they’re much hungrier, so it may even work.
- Try and absorb patience
Every day, Darren sits on our back deck and reads the Psalms in Nepali. I try and join him and I notice how incredibly, painstakingly patient he is with every single word. Yesterday, I asked him how long it’s taken him to read Psalm 119 in Nepali. A week. So I attempted to absorb some of his patience.
- Find a bigger perspective
And then, while sitting with him, I re-read Psalm 130 for myself, in English. I noticed verse 5. “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” I closed my eyes and remembered that I’m not actually waiting for the email, at all. I’m waiting for the Lord, for his timing, for his plans, for his word, for his strength to do the next thing, whatever it is. I smiled, and gave thanks, and went back to number 1.
1. If there are any around I like to try and identify the plants and closely observe them.
2. Especially when I am ship visiting I will resist the urge to check my phone and spend the time in prayer, pray I another language if nobody else is around.
3. In some other situations, eg on the train, I use an app that uses flash cards to help me memorize Chinese characters.