Preparation in the Waiting

I came back to my Nebraska, USA home from my Asia home for a few months of rest and refreshment this fall, depleted both physically and emotionally. I’m not even sure how to describe this last year, but I know I’m preaching to the choir when I tell you that there have been those days when I thought I couldn’t keep going, when the heat pressed in and the ants poured forth.

I moved to a new house yet again, trying to figure out a new rhythm in a new setting. There were disappointing relationships, all the creatures you could possibly imagine, and bouts of parasites of various kinds. Yes, I know you get that, and the toll it takes on us. As I soaked up sweet family time this fall and the chance to wear cozy sweaters, I also pondered what is next. Am I still called to the same place? To do the same thing? For how much longer? It feels like I’m hanging out in the waiting room as the answers are slow in coming.

I have been so thankful for these months of rest and refreshment, for input spiritually, emotionally and physically. Now it is time to prepare to return, the countdown is on and my trip itinerary is all loaded in my cool travel app. I’m gathering all the vitamins, dried fruit, chocolate chips, gluten-free items and other precious supplies that cannot be found anywhere in my country of service, or at least not in the town in which I reside five hours from the nearest Starbucks. I am waiting to put things in suitcases, but my mental list is growing as I try to figure out what all I can fit in.

I’m a girl that likes to prepare. I generally have to-do lists a mile long, and my teammate can tell you about all of the times I have tried to think ahead to all the possible worst-case scenarios. “But what if…” is the beginning of many conversations in our day-to-day interactions, and she’s good about responding with this: “Yes, but what if it doesn’t… (insert whatever catastrophe I have concocted in my head)”. So what does preparation look like in this season of waiting? How can I prepare not just my suitcase but my heart for my return?

Right now, preparation looks like grace, allowing myself to feel all the feelings, being kind to myself in the ups and downs of another transition, finding ways to breathe and slow and relax.

It looks like freedom to let go of expectations: my own that often pile up in my heart like the snow drifts that threaten my Midwest home, and those of others who might have their own ideas for what my return should look like. This freedom allows me to set goals for the next six months and make decisions based on those priorities.

It looks like keeping Truth in front of me when I start to dread over twenty-four hours in planes and airports and various modes of transportation, when the thought of speaking a language and thinking in a language I haven’t heard in over three months feels overwhelming, when I start believing the lies of the Enemy of my soul yet again.

This fall my counselor taught me about four-count breaths- inhaling and exhaling slowly, repeating a centering phrase. My breathing phrase comes from Psalm 28:7: “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” When my heart threatens to spill over from the pressure, I stop and breathe slowly, whispering to my soul and to the Father, “I trust You with all my heart.” I have to remind myself of this truth as I prepare to launch yet again.

Preparation looks like embracing the fuzziness, the messiness, the waiting for clarity and direction. I am much more apt to fight and resist the uncomfortable parts, to stand defiant as the waves crash in instead of letting go and surrendering to wherever those waves wish to take me. The fighting is exhaustive and unproductive when there is more that needs to be learned.

Finally, preparation looks like resting, trusting in the One who sees the future and holds it all in His hands even when I’m staring straight into the fog.

How has God worked in your heart to prepare you in the midst of seasons of waiting?

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  1. Margaret December 29, 2016

    So apt as I transition from one location to another in just a few weeks. There’s a waiting and wanting to be in my new location, but at the same time there’s a reluctance to finish all that needs to be done. God continues to hold me through all the uncertainty and yes Sarah,, to breathe, breathe deeply of his love and of his word.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 29, 2016

      Margaret, praying for you as you get ready to transition as well!! So lovely to hear from you. 🙂

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