My mom has this funny prayer she prays whenever she comes for one of her always-too-short visits: “God, please make this visit feel like a long time.” At first I laughed—my delightful mom has the most faithful prayer life, and she prays about everything—but then I was like, “Oh, why not?”—and I started borrowing her prayer.
But you know what I’ve found? There’s something to Mom’s crazy prayer. Whenever we pray those words, time somehow moves a bit slower. Her visit, however short, feels long enough. Even if we only have hours together—a layover between flights—every minute feels fulfilling. Meaningful. Rich. When she leaves we may cry, but still we feel satisfied, knowing we made the most of what time we had. In the mysterious ways of God, he helps us stop and savor and be fully present in our fleeting, priceless moments together.
Sometimes we want time to slow down . . . but when we’re waiting, we want it to speed up and slow down at the same time. We want the wait to be over now,with no more time lost. We feel this pressure most acutely when we’re in the middle of one of those life-altering waits: The wait for a husband. For a baby. For a healing. Tick, tick goes the clock; flip, flip goes the calendar page—and you’re still stuck.
You feel your twenties passing you by, and you’re still single…
Your fifties are coming to a close, but still your adult child wanders . . .
And if you’re like me—always watching the clock, painfully conscious of life’s brevity—you can start to get paranoid: My life is wasting away. I’ll never get back this time. These are lost years.
But guess what? God is more powerful than time. Listen to this beautiful prayer:
“Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.”
Psalm 90:14–16 (emphasis added)
Do you get what the writer is saying here? He’s asking God to redeem lost time. To make up for lost years—to make Israel glad for as many days, as many years, as they have suffered.
Who wrote this prayer? Moses—Moses who spent forty years wandering in the desert, waiting for the Promised Land. Moses understood the pain of lost life and wasted years better than anyone. And yet he saw that God could still redeem that time, those desert years. In Moses’ eyes, it wasn’t too late. All was not lost. He knew the power of God—God who rained plagues and parted seas, God who appeared in cloud by day and fire by night, God who dwelled on the holy mountain. God could transcend time. God could make up lost years. God could make His people glad, so glad they couldn’t help but sing, for as many years as they had suffered.
We see God do this often in the Bible, showering suffering people with later-life blessings: Joseph. Naomi. Job.
I have seen God do this in my own life more times than I can count. After a tumultuous time in our church life, God provided a way for me and my husband to live in the same town as both our parents—we had never believed it possible, but we got to share eight happy years with both our families. We felt as though God went out of his way to comfort us after a time of trial.
After two years and nine months of infertility, God gave us three babies in…wait for it…two years and ten months. I can hardly see my computer screen for the tears filling my eyes—tears of gratitude, wonder, awe. It’s been eleven years, but still the joy of this blessing staggers me. Even now I ask God, “Why us, when so many others are still waiting?” I can’t answer that question, but I celebrate his gift even as I pray for others still awaiting theirs.
If you’re stuck on pause, mourning a delay, borrow Moses’ prayer. Remind God of the pain you feel watching time pass you by, and ask him to redeem the lost days. Ask him to restore joy. To make you glad for as many days—as many years—as you have suffered. I don’t know when or how God will answer your prayer, but I know he is listening. He is listening, he is concerned, and he is able.
When God Says “Wait”hits bookstore shelves today! (Here’s where I stop typing and indulge in an embarrassing jig that can only be described as “Riverdance meets Rhythm Nation, but without the rhythm.”) I am SO EXCITED, but wow, what a long journey it’s been.
Fourteen years ago, a vicious case of jet lag kept me up all night and gave me a strange gift: an idea for a story I had to tell about characters I met that night, but felt I’d known always. By the time sunrise set the Atlanta skyline ablaze, I had penned the first two chapters of a novel and outlined the entire plot. By the time my fellow Atlantans were stumbling to their coffee makers, my career path had changed; life had changed. I was going to become a writer.
If you had told me that night that I would spend the next fourteen years pursuing that crazy dream (and seriously, writing is a crazy dream), I don’t know what I would have done. I suspect a truckload of chocolate would have been involved.
In the past fourteen years, I have written more hours than I could count (I suspect the hours actually add up to years of life at this point). Spent thousands of dollars on coffee and conferences. Run over one laptop with my car. (ACCIDENT. Seriously. I can explain.) Worked another laptop so hard it finally just choked and died.
Along the way I have indie published two books, The Thirteenth Summer and The Tender Years: Parenting Preschoolers (coauthored with my wonderful mom, Geri), and those valuable experiences taught me so much about hard work and the joy of simply sharing words, and life, with readers.
Meanwhile, after an agonizing struggle with infertility, Kevin and I had three kids in less than three years and lived to tell the tale. (The tale involved more poop and vomit than one sentence can describe, but even so, it was a life worth living. A tale (mostly) worth telling.) After a while we had a fourth child, because hey—what’s one more?!
Along the way I have discovered that my husband is THE BEST HUSBAND IN THE UNIVERSE. I always knew that, but now I know it more. He loves all of my work—even the stories aimed at twelve-year-olds. He has always taken this writing thing seriously, long before anyone besides him was ever reading my words. He generously gives me writing time. He sends me to conferences and views every dollar spent as investment, not expense. He tolerates my coffee habit, having accepted that creativity requires caffeine (and occasionally champagne). He doesn’t get hurt feelings when I trail off mid-sentence, lost in a sudden plot-twist revelation. When I get manic, he takes away my coffee and makes me take naps. And all the while, he’s just so daggum cute and funny and faithful.
Along the way I have found the greatest BFF-slash-writing-partner any writer could have, who knows what I want to say and how I want to say it better than I do; whose soul-stirring writing takes my breath away.
This is my writing partner, Emma, in Barnes & Noble yesterday, with copies of my book! This is the same B & N where we met and have shared countless happy writing hours! Also, I helped her pick those fabulous boots. 🙂
In the past two years I have discovered the joy of connecting with people through words and scripture and silly stories right here on Lizzy Life. I cannot describe the joy this community has brought me. How I have loved sharing life with you here—giving you glimpses into our wacky world and hearing how our stories intersect with yours. You have helped me not write alone, not learn alone, not live alone.
Along the way I have found joy in writing with God. I cannot describe the intensely intimate and transcendent spiritual experience it was to write When God Says “Wait” with God. Every day writing was a day spent in constant communion with Him. Every day I prayed, “Fill me up and empty me out.” Every day, mystical as it sounds, He whispered words.
Along the way I have had the privilege to work with godly people whose courage, excellence, and giftedness blows my mind: my agent-slash-book-warrior Jessica Kirkland, who fights on no matter the odds. The entire team at Barbour: Kelly McIntosh, who is ever encouraging; Shalyn Sattler, whose heart and talent echo through every email; Mary Burns, who laughed and plotted with me and Shalyn and helped make marketing fun; Liesl Davenport, whose gifts for detail and design had me nearly weeping with gratitude; Laura Weller, copyeditor and comma-wrangler extraordinaire; Ashley Schrock, who designed the brilliant book cover; Jeane Wynne, publicist, cheerleader, and inspiring go-getter; my book launch team, who have made the “preseason” of the book launch such a joy with their enthusiasm and generosity.
Amazing friends have taken time out of their insanely busy lives to read and endorse the book—their generosity with their time and words has meant the world: longtime friends Chip and Pauli Wade, who we met when we were newlyweds and they were both cheerleaders at Georgia Tech; now they serve God in multiple capacities, as talented designers and HGTV stars; Lara Casey Isaacson, a writer friend whose ministry, example, and transparency are inspiring; Andy Lee, a local writer friend whose book, A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called is a beautiful blend of Bible and storytelling; beloved friend Laura Whitaker, who has shared so many waiting seasons with me, and whose work with individuals with special needs is heroic; and devoted friend Marilisa Schachinger, who has also shared my waiting seasons (she was even brave enough to babysit the three-under-three, way back in the day!), and now honors God with her work as a business owner and entrepreneur.
And then there are our parents, Sam and Geri and Bill and Glenda, and our delightfully quirky family members, who have not just tolerated, but supported and encouraged, from the beginning. They have fasted, prayed, babysat, read drafts, given ideas, and picked me up off the floor a thousand times over. My sister Alexandra was enduring a horrific waiting season of her own the entire time I was writing, and her struggle inspired and guided me as I wrote—her spirit, too, is on every page. I could go on for pages about every single family member, but I am every day thankful for every one of them.
And my fiercely loyal friends, who have prayed with me and chosen to walk this journey with me even when the whole process was just so weird and confusing, and they secretly thought I was nuts (and of course they were right). Every girl should be so lucky to have such friends.
And my church family, who have prayed and listened and cheered me on for years, who have not made comments when I showed up to midweek wearing sweatpants, a hat, and crazy eyes. (Sorry about that.) They even let me share their poignant waiting stories in the book.
Much as it pains me and humbles me to say it—this is me, eating my words; Father, are you reading this?—these past fourteen years have taught me the value in waiting. I have seen that good things—maybe even the best things—truly come to those who wait.
The victory is all the sweeter for taking so long. The joy all the richer for following so much rejection, heartache, and doubt. The satisfaction all the more meaningful because it has been shared by so many—and it would not have been shared so meaningfully had it not taken so long. I recognize that; I celebrate what unparalleled joy it is to share joy. The thousands of prayers others have willingly offered on my behalf are staggering. Humbling. Overwhelming. I owe a prayer debt I could never repay.
Above all, I am so grateful to God for allowing me to write this book with Him and for Him. It’s all for you, God… do with it as you will.
Want to check out the book trailer, starring my beautiful friends, and put together by my brilliant brother-in-law? Here it is!
Want to order the book? It’s available anywhere books are sold: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, even in your local Lifeway. I’d love to hear what you think when you’re through—I deeply appreciate every response, every story, every word you send my way. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
Need a family devotion to help your kids understand God’s love for them? This devotion is simple, brief, and meaningful, and is appropriate for kids of all ages. (Confession: I totally cried when we did this devo with our kids. )
Start by reading Zephaniah 3:17—I love the old NIV version (NIV 1984):
“The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
(This is where the waterworks started for me. I just can’t. It’s so beautiful. So overwhelming. So comforting. It sets my heart to singing every time.)
Explain to your kids that God takes great delight in them. Just as Mommy and Daddy put them to bed each night with a song, so God, our Heavenly Father, sings over us. Then tell each child one thing in their character that brings God great delight—be as specific as you can be. For example, with our four kids, we shared:
Kid 1: Your compassion, kindness, and concern for others’ feelings
Kid 2: Your soft heart towards God, the way you are always seeking Him
Kid 3: Your amazing patience and kindness to your younger sister, even when she drives you crazy
Kid 4: Your deeply loving spirit—you give affection so generously to others, and make us all feel loved
Talks like this are a wonderful way to encourage our kids and show them the height and depth and breadth of God’s astounding, mind-boggling, often undeserved but absolutely devoted love for all of us.
This image is taken from my new Instagram account, @elizabethlaingthompson, where I am posting scriptures, encouragement, and humorous thoughts to help you through your waiting journey. I’d love to see you on Instagram!
I sink into my friend’s cushy new loveseat with a grateful sigh. The eight-hour drive from my house to hers has left me exhausted—I don’t have great stamina as a long-distance driver, but today Cassidy and I have braved the long country roads between North Carolina and Georgia, just the two of us, for the rare treat of a mother-daughter trip to visit friends.
With a smile, my friend’s husband presses a steaming mug of tea into my hands. “You are the best,” I say. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for at least 200 miles. For a few seconds I cradle the mug, savoring the way warmth travels through the pottery, into my fingertips, down into my soul. My friend asks what I want to do tomorrow. I lift the mug to my lips, gathering thoughts.
In the silence between sentences there’s a strange little crunching sound, and suddenly I’m burning. Scalding tea is everywhere—drenching my hands, spattering my arms, filling my lap, soaking the chair. I yelp and leap to my feet. In one bleeding hand I hold the mug’s handle; in the other, I’m struggling to balance the now half-empty mug. My friend and her husband come running, our daughters come running. The next moments are a blur of shrieks and towels, Band-aids and blood. When pain stops and chaos settles, we register what happened: The handle separated from the mug, sending tea flying and pottery shards digging into my hand.
Eventually, when we realize that there’s more blood than actual injury, that my thick winter clothes have protected me from true burns, and that my friend’s forethought in stain-protecting her new loveseat has kept the furniture from total ruin, we dissolve into relieved and shaky laughter.
I change clothes, we clean up, and after a while we are back where we started, settling in to chat on the couches. My friend’s husband brews a fresh cup of tea and holds it out to me. For a heartbeat I hesitate—a hitch of anxiety stops my breath—and I slowly reach out to take the mug. As my friend launches into a story, I find myself holding the mug tighter than I should be, pressing it hard with both hands. I cast nervous glances at the handle, studying its width, weighing its strength. In spite of the rational voice in my head insisting, “This is so stupid, hold the dang handle,” I can’t bring myself to let go and hold the mug by the handle.
The next morning, my friend offers me coffee. Coffee, beloved coffee, sweet nectar of life. She pours me a cup and holds out the mug. A fluttering starts in my gut, and I find myself swallowing hard as I reach for the mug with my still-bandaged hand. She looks at me funny. “Are you okay?”
I nod my head yes. Shake my head no. Set the mug down. Confess with a laugh, “I’m afraid to pick up the mug!”
My friend laughs, then looks slightly wounded. “You don’t trust my mugs anymore.”
“Not just your mugs,” I say with a guilty grin. “Mugs in general.”
She assures me that the mug in question has been a reliable vessel for coffee and tea for many years and is worthy of my full trust. She holds it herself, waves it around to prove it. We laugh, I pretend to feel better, and I pick up the cup, hoping she doesn’t notice that I’m using two hands, unwilling to risk the handle.
Several days later I return home—home to my own coffee pot, my own familiar mugs, dear companions who have faithfully served me coffee and tea during countless prayer times, phone calls, and writing sessions. But even so, when I pour my first cup of coffee into my favorite mug, the “Our nest is blessed” bird mug my mom gave me, I find myself staring it down with eyes narrowed, suspicion rising: Are you going to fail me too? Are you hiding some unseen crack, some weakness in construction? We’ve lived a lot of life together, shared a lot of coffee and good memories, but now…I’ve been burned. I’ve changed—have you changed too?
Over the next few weeks, I keep drinking coffee, but always with two hands, just in case. It’s weeks before I can lift a mug without pause. Months before I can enjoy coffee or tea without a twinge of bad memory pulsing somewhere in the back of my mind. The two-hand mug-hold becomes an unconscious habit. Even though logic tells me I’m being ridiculous—In all your thirty-eight years you have had three million positive experiences drinking from mugs, and only one bad experience with mug malfunction—the odds are totally in your favor!—every time I lift a mug, some primal instinct rises up to defend me. Keep me from getting burned. Keep me using two hands.
After a while it occurs to me that I’ve done this before, only not with mugs. With people. With God. Most of my life has been filled with love, kindness, grace—ten million wondrous memories—but along the way I’ve also experienced a few shocking hurts and disappointments. Wounds I didn’t see coming, from places I’d never doubted.
Sometimes things break on us—not just mugs, but things that really matter: Health. Friendships. Finances. Churches. Parents. Marriages. Families.
Things we thought were a given, things we trusted without question—my mug will always hold my coffee, my friend will always be there, my church will always be a safe place, my parents will always love each other, my guy will always be faithful, my body will always be healthy—suddenly let us down. They break without warning. One minute we’re sitting on a couch with a friend—happy place, familiar comfort—the next we’re gasping in pain, world spinning, and it’s ages before we can even register what happened.
When we’re surprised like that, when things break on us, sometimes we break too. Trust, overcome by fear. Love, overshadowed by suspicion. Openness, overwhelmed by hurt.
We don’t want to be broken. We’re not doing it on purpose. Logically, we tell ourselves that our newfound fear makes no sense—in neutral moments we even laugh at ourselves—but every time we face situations that somehow remind us of that one terrible time, the fear comes roaring to the surface. Taking over. Commandeering our thoughts, our feelings, our reactions. Making us curl into a self-protective cocoon where we can hide safe inside, safe all alone.
Fear does this to us even when we are no longer in any real danger—it takes over based on mere memory. We may be sitting safe and snug—different chair, different day, different mug—but if our mind flashes back to the one bad experience with the one evil mug, suddenly we’re right back there, in danger, and it’s time to flee. Or time to fight.
We who used to live free, love hard… we become guarded. Protective. Isolated. Maybe angry.
We’re not crazy, not making it up. Some broken things, like my friend’s mug, are beyond hope and have to be thrown away—those losses hurt beyond words.
Other broken things can be repaired, but repair is scary. Imperfect. Risky. Even if we manage to glue the handle back onto a mug, we still see a seam. A scar. A weak place that, if we prod it and test it too much, we fear could break again.
Friend, if things or people have broken on you, if you yourself are broken, these words are for you. You feel pain, suspicion, fear—so do I. I’ve felt it in my own ways, through the lens of my own experiences, my own people. I understand the deep, visceral spring of pain that gives fear such ferocity, such control, such long life.
I understand it, but from one burned person to another, one broken soul to another, I’m asking you to let it go. I’m telling you that with God, through Christ, it’s possible.
I’m asking you to take away the power of fear—fear that warps and cripples and binds—by seeing through it. By seeing it for what it is: a fear that wants to distort the way you view people, do church, trust God, experience life, face the future. It is a hurt that wants to haunt you. An injury that seeks to change you. A wound that wants to keep wounding you—not with realities from the present, but with memories from the past. A fear that wants you to live trapped in an invisible box of your own creation. The wounds may have come from others, but the box you built and locked yourself—and friend, you still hold the key.
I’m asking you to use that key. Climb out of that box. Stand free in God’s sun.
I pray you find a way to heal. To forgive, as many times as it takes. To give your hurt and fear to God, and to trust that his hands are big enough to hold them. That Christ’s blood is thick enough, pure enough, to cover all and wash it clean.
I pray you find courage to breathe through the panic, reject the memories, reach out your hand, and take hold of that mug once more. To lift it up and drink it down.
I’m proud to say I have learned to trust mugs again. (Now there’s a sentence that’s never been said before!) It helped when I realized: Sometimes memory distorts reality. Inflates horror. Exaggerates pain. Over time, my memory of the heat and pain became more powerful, more dramatic, than the actual incident itself. Yes, for a few seconds I was uncomfortable, but I wasn’t truly burned! The cuts were mere scratches! Some experiences truly are as awful as we remember, but other memories grow over time—taking on heavier weight, accruing pain like interest.
Either way, isn’t it time to reach out and hold that handle again? The first few times will be the hardest. You might find your heart racing, palms sweating, head spinning. But with time it will get easier. And easier. Still easier. The more often you push through, the more quickly you will overcome. You may relapse every so often, but with focused effort you can keep moving forward. You can enjoy the things, the people, you used to enjoy. You can trust again. Love again. Live again. Yes, you may bear scars, but they need not define you.
My two-hand mug-holding habit took a while to unlearn, but over time, I have. (Mostly.) I now hold mugs with one hand, by the handle, the way normal, non-mug-ophobic people do, and most days I don’t think twice about it. (Although honestly, now that I’m writing this, I’m starting to feel a bit twitchy. Don’t judge me if you catch me relapsing with the two-hand hold for a few weeks.)
Now I’m grateful for the lessons the broken mug taught me:
Most of the time, life is wonderful. But sometimes life hurts. People disappoint. Things change. Mugs break.
But you and I… we can move forward. With God’s help, we can heal. Forgive. In time, maybe we can even forget.
And you know what? Even if we can’t forget, even if we still bear the scar, it’s worth it, reaching out and taking hold of that mug once more. Scar or no scar, bad memories and all, the tea, the coffee, this life… they taste as good as ever.
Want a simple family devotion that will build your kids’ faith (and your own)? This makes a great family devotion for Christmastime, but of course you could do it any time of year.
Start by reading Isaiah 9:1–7. (Try reading the New Living Translation version if you have younger kids—it’s a little easier to understand. I’m quoting the NIV here.)
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
You might need to take a minute to give a BRIEF, basic, broad-strokes explanation of the meaning of the passage after you read—it is an earful. Our 9- and 10-year-olds grasped it pretty well on their own; the 8-year-old was a little confused and needed more explanation. We explained that this was written during a difficult time for the nation of Israel, and it was meant to comfort God’s people by predicting the end of fighting and war. This passage tells us that a special child would be born to save God’s people.
Once you’ve clarified the meaning, ask:Who do you think this scripture is talking about? Our kids immediately shouted, “Jesus!” From there, ask why they think it’s about Jesus. (Details you can draw out: Jesus came from Galilee; he was a special child even when he was first born; he brought us peace with God through his death; he now reigns over God’s kingdom. If your kids’ attention span allows it (ours didn’t!), you can briefly touch on how Jesus was a wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and prince of peace.
Hold that thought…
Next read Isaiah 7:14:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Again, ask:Who is this talking about? Why do you think that? Take a few moments to draw out the connections in this verse to Jesus’ birth. Even if they don’t understand the word “virgin,” most kids already understand that Jesus’ mother, Mary, wasn’t married, and it was impossible for her to be pregnant, but she got pregnant anyway. Jesus’ birth was a miracle. Kids also understand that Jesus was a special baby from the beginning, and that his birth was a sign of God’s love for us.
Hold that thought again…
Then ask them:When do you think these passages in Isaiah were written—before or after Jesus was born?
Here’s the part where you blow their minds (and maybe your own, too): These words were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born! (Without getting too technical here, scholars date these chapters in Isaiah to somewhere between the 500s and 700s BC!) These passages are prophecies, telling us what God had planned for the future. Isn’t God amazing? He knows everything! He can plan things many, many years before they ever happen. Scriptures like this strengthen our faith in God, Jesus, and the Bible. They show us how powerful God is, and that the Bible is true.
Simple devotions like this are powerful because they expose our kids to basic apologetics, and give them strong, concrete evidence for their faith besides just “take my word for it; believe it because I tell you to.” Devotions like this also introduce kids to the Old Testament prophets, and help them make connections between all the different parts of God’s story.
If you try this devotion out with your family, I’d love to hear how it went! Feel free to post in the comments below!
Hi! I'm Elizabeth, and Lizzy Life is all about clinging to Christ in the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist (The Thirteenth Summer), I love finding humor in holiness, and hope in heartache. I live in North Carolina with my preacher husband and four loud children. I believe the recipe for a happy life is simple: laugh-cry daily, pray continually, caffeinate constantly. My new book, When God Says "Wait," is now available from Barbour Publishing. READ MORE.
Sign up here to receive my quarterly newsletter, and your FREE GIFT: seven two-minute devotions!
Great food for thought, especially for parents with older children: "I wish we could all focus on the victories that we scored during each season. Mistakes and down times seem to pull at our memories so often. And if at some point our kids don't embrace the good teaching we tried to instill, we can be drawn even more toward the trap of guilt." ... See MoreSee Less