Worth the wait

Tugging at the tape ever so slowly and pulling back the wrapping paper, the present beneath gradually revealed itself. In a dark living room with only the aid of the soft glow of Christmas tree lights to illuminate my mischievous task, I spotted a length of hot pink nylon fabric with lime green plastic piping. It was a duffel bag, and it spoke to me of future slumber parties and sleep-overs and fun. But the joy I felt was tinged with feelings of guilt and remorse, because it wasn’t Christmas yet and I was sneaking a look at my present a few days early and without permission. I re-taped the package and slid it back under the tree.

 

Though this was nearly forty Christmases ago, I still remember that feeling—the wicked thrill of doing something that was obviously wrong for which I might easily get caught, my only companion a miniature version of Baby Jesus in a Manger in ornament-form dangling on a tree branch just above my head.

 

Now, as the wrapped presents pile up under our tree, my youngest son is faced with the same temptation. I see him hungrily eyeing those presents with his name on them, wondering what joys lie just beneath the candy cane wrapping paper. He asks me almost daily, “When can I open them? Why do we have to wait?”

 

It’s a logical question: There’s the present. He wants the present. I bought him the present. So what’s the point of waiting?

 

This is one of those universal human dilemmas with which we all must struggle—waiting. It’s why people say things like “Good things come to those who wait.” It’s an attempt to mollify that nagging frustration we feel as we are forced to wait for something. Our consolation that the prize had better be worth the delay.

 

If you’re looking for an example of Championship Waiting, check out the Prophetess Anna in Luke 2. Scripture tells us that she had been a widow for most of her life and spent all of her days and nights at the Temple worshiping God and fasting and praying and waiting for the Promised Messiah.

 

I can imagine her there, standing in the courtyard, perhaps busying herself with sweeping or tidying up. She notices a commotion. A young couple has brought in their baby to be circumcised and dedicated to God. Simeon, another Temple Frequenter, has spotted the family and snatched the baby in his arms, jubilantly. Simeon tells the mother that her son is the One he’s been waiting for.

 

Anna hears bits of their conversation, words like salvation, lightand glory. Heart pounding and legs like jelly, she rushes over. Seeing Jesus for the first time, Anna doesn’t feel her 84 years as all of those sorrow-filled nights spent asking why she was alone melted away. She is joyful to be present for such an occasion—the arrival of her rescue.

 

My experience with waiting has been up and down the spectrum, from Peaceful Patience to Raging Lunatic. I’ve felt it all. But, in the end, nothing beats the Big Reveal, when the time is just right to open up the gift you’ve been anxiously expecting for so long. It can come in many packages—big and small—like it did so many years ago in the form of a baby boy.

Summer Time (and why it shouldn’t be wasted)

Yesterday my 15-year old daughter approached me in the hallway of our home and asked me a question. With utmost sincerity and concern, she said, “Mom, are we having money problems?”

 

“Money problems? No. We’re not having money problems,” I answered. “Why are you asking me that?”

 

“Because I noticed that this week you keep turning off all of the lights in the house.”

 

“Like in the rooms that no one is in…in the middle of the day?” I asked with utmost sarcasm and cynicism. “Of course I’m turning them off. IT’S WASTING ELECTRICITY!”

 

I couldn’t believe she had asked me that! I mean, she’s lived with me for 15 years so even if I had only said, “Don’t leave the lights on. That’s wasting electricity!” once a week for the entirety of her lifetime that’s 780 times! And I know I say it more than once a week. (It’s from my Mom Playlist which is on constant rotation. Others hits include: “For the love of air conditioning, close the door!” and “Why are there so many shoes in the living room?” and “This is my drink. Get your own.” and for our youngest family member: “Are you wearing underwear?”)

 

There’s just something hardwired in me that can’t stand to waste things—electricity, water, food. It feels so extravagant (not in a good way) to dump half of a casserole in the trashcan because you forgot it was there and now there’s a gray fur growing on it. So much time and effort and cream of chicken soup to be discarded as if there aren’t starving people all over the world! It bothers me to no end.

 

Even Jesus saw the value in leftovers after He fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. He told the Apostles to wander all over their mountainside picnic area and collect what wasn’t eaten. I’d like to think every bit of the contents of those 12 baskets were eventually eaten and savored for the delicious, miraculous leftovers they were.

 

Now that I’m in the slow, sweet days of summer break—a place that really only feels different from the rest of the year if you’re a teacher, a student, or a parent of a student—I feel extra motivated not to be wasteful, and I don’t want my kids to waste this time either.

 

I want them to play in the rain.

I want them to catch lightning bugs.

I want them to lose track of time while they read good books.

I want our family to do things after 8:00 pm on weeknights: start a movie, go get ice cream, play Frisbee or freeze tag or some game we invent on the spot in the backyard and commit to it until it’s too dark to see each other’s faces.

 

We are so often warned to be good stewards of all the blessings we’ve been so graciously given. Perhaps the most abundant yet most wasted gift is time. I will try—starting with the months of June and July—to make the most of what I have.

A good laugh

The following is a recent conversation with my 6-year old son, a newcomer to the English language:

 

Ezra (from the backseat): Mom, konk konk.

Me: Um…

Ezra (a little louder): Konk! Konk!

Me: Okay. (feeling defensive)

Ezra: No. You talk “what?”

Me: What?

Ezra: Hamburger.

Me: Hamburger.

Ezra: Hamburger stinky on a bus. Ha, ha, ha. Now, you turn.

Me: Oh! (just beginning to figure out what he’s talking about) Knock, knock.

Ezra: What?

Me: No. You say “who’s there?”

Ezra: Who there?

Me: Boo.

Ezra: Boo what?

Me: No. You say “boo who?”

Ezra: Boo who?

Me: Boo hoo? Hey, why are you crying?

Ezra: Me not crying. Me not laughing either. Boo Who not funny. Stinky Hamburger is funny.

 

I’ve never been all that great at remembering jokes. Usually, if someone puts me on the spot and asks me to tell a joke, I draw a blank. And anyway, who really laughs that hard at a knock-knock joke or a posing of the eternal question about the chicken who crossed the road? To me funniest material is anecdotal. True (and probably exaggerated) stories about people in familiar but absurd situations. Anecdotes just close enough to my own reality to be applicable delivered by a true storyteller are comedy gold.

 

I don’t mean to give the idea that my brand of humor is overly highbrow and intellectual. Years ago, my husband, sister, brother-in-law and I laughed like lunatics for half an hour just by blowing into our hands to make tooting noises in their living room. It was a magical recipe of exhaustion, late night, funny sounds, and adults acting like kids. We’ve never attempted to recreate the situation again.

 

A keyword search of “laugh” in the Bible reveals a mostly not-so-funny picture. Several references are from Abraham and Sarah’s exchange about the improbability of them becoming parents at such an old age. Then there are the “We’ll become laughingstocks” references in the Old Testament made by the Israelites questioning their obedience to God in all things. Surprisingly, the overall depressing book of Job has a sizable share of laugh verses along with Ecclesiastes’ “a time to weep and a time to laugh.”

 

All in all, it doesn’t reveal that God has a particular fondness for laughing. In other words, we may not have Open Mic Nights in Heaven for rising comedians. In spite of the lack of comedic evidence in the Bible, just knowing that we’re made in His image makes me believe that God loves a good chuckle. (Plus He makes us go through puberty. Surely He cracked up when He first invented that one.)

 

There’s nothing quite like a hearty, tear-producing laugh. One that makes you have to cross your legs so you don’t wet your pants. One that lasts longer due to your company of fellow laughers. One that makes your abs hurt like you’ve been doing 100 sit-ups. One that makes you sigh satisfactorily when you’re finished, wiping your eyes and rubbing your sore cheeks.

 

We may not find humor in all the same things, but I feel pretty confident in saying that all of us love a good laugh.

My favorite stand up comedian taking a bow.