For When We Find Ourselves Waiting

 

Snowshoeing: Observation Point

Bundled against the sub-zero temperatures, we left the cozy warmth of our cabin to brave Yellowstone’s deep winter chill. At twelve below zero, the temperature was up seven degrees already that morning from the previous afternoon’s negative nineteen. After fumbling over my own thick, clumsy fingers to fasten snowshoes to boots, I wondered what kind of people would take their children into the woods in such weather.

My husband and I, apparently.

We set off across the expanse of barren parking lots and abandoned roads toward the pines on the other side, snowshoes slapping the ground under our feet. As we approached the Visitor Education Center, we saw Old Faithful’s crowd dispersing and a ranger posting the next predicted eruption.

We had time.

We walked against the crowd and followed the boardwalk as it curved around the geyser. On the back side, a narrow trail slipped into the woods. We followed it, pausing on the Firehole River’s wooden footbridge to search the water for otter and trout. We didn’t stop for long. Our object was to reach Observation Point before Old Faithful’s eruption, to see it within the context of the Upper Geyser Basin and the sloping mountains which cradled it.

Firehole Winter

 

Before long, the trail began to climb. And not long after that, it took a sharp right turn. We’d arrived at the switchbacks.

By this time, our youngest daughter had ditched her hat and her hood and the rest of us had unzipped the top few inches of our coats. It wasn’t the temperature that had changed. It was us, and the heat generated by the energy it took to keep us moving. It came from within.

We plodded on in the silence forged by the thick blanket of snow and the shelter of the trees until we reached a place where the pines fell away, creating an opening which showcased the valley below and the sky above.

A few people stood on Old Faithful’s boardwalk and a thread of steam rose from its cone.

J checked his watch. “Let’s go. We want to get to Observation Point before the eruption.”

Old Faithful Winter

We turned and climbed the last section of the trail, arriving—judging by the filament of vapor and the cluster still waiting on the boardwalk below—before the eruption. We stood alone at Observation Point and watched the steam dissipate into the clouds.

One by one we pulled our zippers back up and began to shift from side to side, our inactivity revealing just how cold it was. J checked the time. We were at the tail end of the predicted eruption window.

Down below, more people advanced toward the geyser. We kept shifting and shivering and trying to keep warm. Old Faithful continued to do nothing but release a little steam. And the crowd on the boardwalk continued to grow.

“Daddy, I’m cold. When are we going back?” our little girl–the one who’d been first to feel too warm–asked.

J looked at her and at me and at the geyser. “Let’s give it a couple more minutes,” he said, knowing that Old Faithful is predicted, not scheduled, and that it sometimes is—according to our way of thinking—late.

A minute passed. And then another. Minutes in which the profound cold worked its way through the slim shield our down and Thinsulate layers provided against it.

“Let’s head back,” J said, reluctance heavy in his voice.

When we turned and descended the trail, the movement warmed us. And more quickly than it brought us up, it returned us to the boardwalk where we found the gathered crowd still waiting.

We joined them for as long as inactivity allowed. Eventually, though, we had to move on, to accept that the adventure that morning was not seeing what we wanted to see; it was the wandering, the watching, and the waiting in the wilderness in a way we’d not done it before.

It isn’t only in Yellowstone that I set off with specific ends and expectations in mind. I charge into my actual, everyday life that way, too, and I would guess I’m not alone. We set off down our life’s road for destinations we occasionally reach without incident, sometimes not at all, and often after a series of detours and delays.Old Faithful Sign

That’s the thing about destinations. We’re always finding our way and, almost as often, waiting for something. There’s an art to knowing when to stop, how long to stay, and when to move on. I’d prefer a map–one to specify the exact way, pinpoint road closures, designate the fastest detours, and predict my exact arrival time.

But that’s not how walking by faith works. Walking by faith includes, among other things, waiting for what we can’t see.

“Have you been asking God what He is going to do?” asks Oswald Chambers. “He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do–He reveals to you who He is.” These words help me when I’m impatient to find my way. My hope is that they will encourage you, too.

These still-early days of the new year are often accompanied by the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s a good hope, one not reserved for a particular day.  Morning brings the promise of God’s new mercies, a fresh beginning for every single day, even–or perhaps especially–when we find ourselves waiting.

And you, Fellow Traveler?  What does pressing on look like in the midst of your waiting?

 

 

Beginning Again

Oh, I have something special to share with you today: a guest post from one of my favorite writers on the internet: Tresta Payne. I was encouraged and challenged by what she’s offered here, and I hope you will be, as well.


All creation groans for a new beginning, and here we have January–the clean slate of new calendars and new planners and new expectations. The two-week period after Christmas, when we take down the tree, pack away the Christmas decor, give everything a good cleaning and prepare for a new year, is my favorite.

Often my own groanings are more about regrets and missed opportunities, though, rather than an earnest expectation of glory to come, and a new year can look like the false hope of The Year We Finally Do Things Right.

The trap is in thinking that new equals better, that starting over fresh will create an opportunity to live failure-free. When I wake in the night with the crushing burden of all my shortcomings–some of which are real and true and some of which are just the enemy’s rummaging through my garbage–the way out of the trap is not to develop a new plan or system or list, though I try.

The way out is only ever through Jesus.

If everything had gone perfectly this last year, my eyes would not be refocused on the Jesus Who takes me out of the wilderness where I wander. I would be tempted to think my plans had succeeded, my ideas were brilliant, my life was under my control.

This means that failure is actually a gift to me.

For every time I have asked the Lord to remind me of HIs presence in my life, failure has been readily available to do the work. I am only just beginning to see it that way, and certainly the Lord has given successes and blessings beyond measure; but when I wake in the night under the heavy oppression of failure, I can sometimes manage to turn that sword of accusation back on itself and proclaim the goodness of a God Who even gives a crown to losers.

When all else fails: God is my hope. When everything is a success: God is my hope.

What I always need this time of year is some truthful reflection. Some things worked for me, some things didn’t. In the end, did I learn some lessons and draw closer to Jesus, or did I strive and micro-manage a life that had no margin for error?

Big-picture living keeps me sane in the moments when life wants to boil me down to This Most Important Event or Thing or Success or Feeling. I can pull back from all that and rest, again, in the work that is already finished on my behalf. I can rest, even in my failed attempts to do better and be better and live better, knowing that Jesus is loving me just the same and giving me the strength to begin again.

I am more likely to make a “more/less” list than a particular set of goals for the new year. It will inevitably look something like this:

  • more printed pictures
  • more whole foods
  • more Sunday dinners with the grandparents
  • more nature in the house

 

  • less clutter in the living room
  • less sugar and bread
  • less spending
  • less mindless internet

I do have actual, real, tangible goals to accomplish this year, and I am making plans for them, but these general guidelines of more/less are simple enough to be reviewed monthly without making me feel overwhelmed. Because there are no specific quantifiers, I can adjust expectations according to the need of the moment, rather than trying to live by some lofty ideals I set in January when the whole year was nothing but blank pages and possibility. And when I’ve added the right things and subtracted the wrongs things, I have more space for those goals.

Beginning again is the story of my days: each January, the change of every season, the first of every month, every Sunday, every morning before the sun–and if I’m careful, even every first minute of the hour–I can recalibrate my heart and mind to the work that is already done and the gift I have to spend in this moment.

It is too easy to be tied down with the pursuit of more and better, even in our quest for godly living. But God has sent Jesus into the world that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9), not that we might strive endlessly to do more and be better for Him. All creation groans for the new world of kingdom-come when things will be set right, but we also have the kingdom-now, Christ in us, the hope of glory and new life. Every moment we surrender can be a relief of the burden of our failures.

This very moment is new and Christ gave His life so we could live it through Him. this is the best beginning ever, and it’s endless and always available.


Tresta is a lifelong-learner who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and 4 kids, surrounded by mountains and rivers and the best little community one could ask for. She writes about balance, perspective, and simplicity at trestapayne.comInstagramTwitter and Facebook.