I carry a brown leather bag with me at all times. It is filled with the collection of nonnegotiable items that I must carry with me—like I said, at all times. If you peek inside my bag, you’ll find two or three books, a notebook, a handful of colorful pens, and a Ziploc bag of 3 × 5 cards. There is a reason I carry all of these so habitually (sometimes obsessively): It’s because I hate waiting.
Few things feel more futile to me than a break in my day with nothing to do. So I carry this emergency kit with me, just in case the day opens up in an unexpected way. When I have my brown bag with me, waiting becomes a joy. I call it Found Time: The few minutes I have found in the corners of my day.
When my children were small, I felt like every moment of my life was accounted for, and it all belonged to someone else. (Two someones.) I couldn’t find much time for myself, and that made me feel like I wasn’t spending much time with God. I know now that mothering small people is a spiritual practice of selflessness all its own, but I didn’t get that when I was in the throes of it. I just felt busy with things that never stayed finished, and I felt guilty for never getting the right things done.
Reflecting on life “in the edges of the day”
Toni Morrison, a prolific and award-winning novelist, once wrote of her experiences as writer and single mom of two young boys. She said she found time to write “in the edges of the day.” There is gold to be found in those stolen moments, and the key is to be ready. Have a plan for your Found Time. Waiting doesn’t have to feel like sand slipping through an hour glass. It can feel instead like treasures falling into your open hands.
One day, I wrote one verse on a 3 × 5 card. (3 × 5 cards are a few of my favorite things. “Raindrops on roses / And whiskers on kittens . . .” and colorful pens and 3 × 5 cards.) I put the card in my back pocket for the day, and I pulled it out when any unexpected moment of freedom crept into the day. I read the words aloud to my children when we waited at stoplights, the two of them riding along in their car seats, holding sippy cups and pacifiers. They were probably too small to understand, but I wanted to believe in the tender soil of their hearts, ready to receive these truths. I read the card silently to myself in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office. In line at the grocery store. On a park bench during a playdate. Any time I had a few moments to wait, I was ready with my waiting plan.
A collection of these cards began growing, and I gathered them in a sandwich baggie.
On the morning when my husband, Robb got so suddenly sick, I waited in the kitchen while my bedroom was crowded with paramedics working to restore his heart, his lungs, his life. It was the longest wait of my life. But I had my waiting plan. I got out my Ziploc sandwich bag, and I read through my verses again. When they delivered the news that he had died, the card in my hand read,
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
–Psalm 121:1-2, NIV
In the coming weeks, I held tightly to those words. They began coming to mind in the active moments of my life, not just the still ones. The words came to me when the cards weren’t in front of me. My waiting plan had allowed these words to take root—and not like fragile flowers. More like oak trees.
Memorization allows us to meditate because Scripture soaks into our bones. When we are stuck in the waiting, when truth seems hard to find, we can draw on what we’ve written into our minds in preparation for this very season. It’s a bold statement, but I dare say it’s true: Scripture is the best strategy for any wait in front of you, whether you’re facing a few minutes, a few months, or a whole lifetime.
I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your counseling will be in demand. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.
Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life
You’ve been reading with Tricia Lott Williford from her book Just. You. Wait. Read the first chapter for free here. Get your copy of Just. You. Wait. at Navpress.com. Tricia also wrote You Can Do This: Seizing the Confidence God Offers. Check it out here.