Waiting is hard. You have no control. There’s nothing you can do to make it better.
And in those moments, how do you stay close to your spouse?
I invited Joanna, who works for me, to write a post today on how she and Josiah have handled waiting in the last year, because they’ve been through so much with infertility, illness, job stress, moving, and more. And as you will read, she’s just received a difficult health diagnosis. Joanna is from Pennsylvania, but she now lives in my hometown of Belleville, Ontario (because through networking with me her husband found a great job in a local law firm!). So she’s part of the area now. She wrote this last week on American Thanksgiving, and I thought it fit this time of year:
As I’m writing this, it’s Thanksgiving season in the USA.
The US is my “home and native land,” to use a phrase that always makes me feel like I’m lying when I sing the Canadian national anthem.
Like many of you, I’m planning on taking my turn in the annual tradition of sharing what I’m thankful for alongside my extended family. And, honestly, this blog post is part advice-on-waiting and part Joanna-processes-her-life-so-her-sharing-time-isn’t-30-minutes. It’s been a big year for us. I’ve never done the newsy Christmas card letter thing before… but I’m actually considering it because between the three of us, we’ve had so many life changes.
January: Josiah starts his work as an articling student
February: We had a baby! And I finished my Masters in Public Health
March: Josiah took the bar exam over two weekends
April: I started working at To Love, Honor and Vacuum
May: Josiah became a lawyer and we took the baby to Saskatoon
June: Packing because in July…
July: We moved an hour down the road into our first house, got a bunny, and the baby started experiencing food allergies
August: Josiah’s sister got married back in Saskatchewan so we flew home again
September: Baby had a major allergic reaction to eggs
October: We prepared for the siege to come because in November…
November: I had surgery and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer
Simply put: it’s been a lot!
But despite the year looking hugely overstuffed, it feels a lot like we’ve bounced from waiting for one thing to waiting for the next. We’ve waited for diagnoses, for exam results, for closing day, for the baby’s due date.
I’ve reflected before about how I’m confident our hearts were prepared for this season by our time of waiting in the desert of infertility, when Josiah was struggling to find work after finishing law school. We’re definitely using the spiritual muscles we built then. But honestly, we’re entering the holiday season this year stronger than we were last year. In preparation for the big holiday this week, I’ve been thinking about why (other than the sheer grace of God) we’re doing as well as we are.
1. Count your blessings
This is nigh unto trite. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t lead with it. Veggie Tales taught us that “a thankful heart is a happy heart” and it’s true. When I stop and think about how I’ve seen God’s hand of providence move in our lives over the last few years, I can’t help but be thankful. An easy example: Josiah and his boss are both Christian men whose wives are going through cancer. Now, obviously, we wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, and my cancer is mild. But still. What a gift for my husband to have a mentor who totally understands the world of tests, diagnoses, uncertainty, and waiting that is inherent in cancer!
2. Be vulnerable and allow your village to help you
Two weeks after I delivered our daughter, I had a secondary postpartum hemorrhage. Josiah was supposed to take the bar exam the next day and I called my family doctor as we pulled out of the driveway, headed to Toronto. Instead of going to Toronto, I got to go to the ER. As I held my precious baby in the exam room and my husband prepared to leave on his own, a kind doctor looked at me and said “today, you are going to need your village.” Sheila and Tammy tag-teamed a rescue mission. But I think that this whole year, I’ve needed my village. I spent many afternoons on Sheila’s couch as I managed trying to build a life in Belleville while living an hour away. My mom’s bible study of 100+ women has been faithfully praying for me. I’ve had weeks and weeks of help from family as I adjusted to being a new mom, moved, and recovered from surgery. Allowing other people to love me, pray for me, and help me is humbling. It’s also been a balm for my soul and it’s a major reason we’ve come through this year stronger and not utterly defeated and overwhelmed. We all need a village and our family network and church families are often God’s instruments in our hardest moments.
3. Talk to each other
Okay, sorry, you knew I was going to go there, right? But, in all seriousness, talk it out. We have our best conversations while walking together and while driving. We talked about hard things and easy things, we dreamed about baby names for #2, should we be so blessed, we talked about decisions we had coming, the things we were waiting for, and processed together.
4. Have fun together!
Josiah and I have invested in a bunch of new board games this year because we both enjoy them and they’re an easy fit for young parent entertainment. We’ve had a blast together after putting the baby down (and sometimes while she watches from the carrier, if we’re being honest). The first part of the year, when Josiah was working an hour away and studying for the bar and I was doing umpteen edits to my master’s thesis while dealing with a high risk pregnancy was really hard for me. And so Josiah decided we were going out every week for a date. I looked forward to it constantly and it was such a gift to get out and spend time together.
5. Find soul food
I’ve done a deep dive this year into some amazing theology books and podcasts. In the dark moments after the failings of the Catholic church in Pennsylvania, where I grew up, were revealed, I turned again to my dear friend Dr. Kenneth Bailey’s work. He died two years ago, but his writing on The Good Shepherd was the only comfort I could find as I grieved for the many children who were hurt. We all need hearty food for our souls in difficult moments.
6. Find mind candy
The opportunity to laugh, relax, and think about something that isn’t the craziness around us has been a huge gift this year. Josiah’s family have been huge Survivor fans since the show premiered and we’ve had a blast following the exploits of the castaways, discussing who was doing well strategically, and trying to guess the winner. It has been a welcome distraction.
7. Recognize if you need to dump social media
I got rid of my facebook when my baby was born because I didn’t care to put a birth announcement on there and I figured that if a person doesn’t want to put a birth announcement on Facebook, it’s time to dump it. I reactivated my profile to send a message to someone recently and I enjoyed the forbidden fruit of Facebook lurking… until I didn’t. A college friend’s insanely successful career left me feeling insecure about my life choices and another friend’s pregnancy announcement sent me spiraling into a “woe is me, my life is so hard” mood that I knew was counterproductive. I am deactivating again because in this season I clearly am not emotionally able to deal with social media. And guess what: that’s TOTALLY okay! I don’t need to have Facebook and my ability to passively scroll through my social media feed is not a good indication of my emotional health.
8. Resist the urge to throw a pity party
My grandmother, who lived with my family from when I was 6 until she died when I was 10, was very sick for most of her adult life. She was a person who had many limitations because of her illnesses, but she didn’t use her sickness as an excuse. Instead, she did her best to participate in whatever activity was on the go, despite never feeling well. The truth is that hard things and busy seasons happen to everyone: we live in a fallen world. Remember the stories of the heroes of faith highlighted in Hebrews 11:37-38a “They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them.”
9. But recognize that this season is hard
So this sounds like a contradiction to the point above. But I think there’s a huge difference between a “poor me” pity party and a recognition that you’re doing a hard thing and maybe, in this season, it’s okay to have an extra cup of coffee or a nap. This year has felt at times like we’re just trying to survive our blessings and at other points I’ve felt a bit like I’m living in a Shonda Rhimes show with way too many subplots. Giving myself permission to find it hard has been surprisingly helpful.
10. Put your trust in the Lord
I KNOW you’ve known this one since you were knee high to a grasshopper. I have too. But I find that lessons in trusting the Lord are lessons we come back to again and again. He has always proved himself faithful to me. I know that he will again. The stories are true, there is going to be a happy ending.
Have you had to go through a waiting period in your marriage? What did you learn from it, do you have advice for other couples going through the wait now? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!