10 Ways to Stay Close When You’re in a Period of Waiting

by | Nov 27, 2018 | Faith, Marriage | 9 comments

How do we keep our marriage strong while going through tough seasons of waiting and uncertainty?
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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.

To recap:

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 Bare Marriage
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.
How do we keep our marriage strong while going through tough seasons of waiting and uncertainty?

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!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Bethany

    Thank you, Joanna. I’m just…tired and spread thin this week, and this was encouraging.

    • Joanna Sawatsky

      Glad it helped! Hope you’re able to find some refreshment in the crazy of the holidays.

    • Brievel

      I totally understand the “spread thin” feeling, that’s one I have often. Hugs to you, Dear Heart.

  2. Lucy Rycroft

    Wow, Joanna, you’ve had a year! Such wise lessons, learned from experience – thank you. We are in a period of ‘waiting’ too, but not quite to the same extent. These were helpful reminders for me. And – an aside – I always really like your guest blogs for Sheila – thanks for writing! xx

    • Joanna Sawatsky

      Thanks so much! None of what I wrote is “rocket surgery,” as my husband likes to say. But I think most of life gets learned in kindergarten… after that it’s just application 😉
      Glad you found it helpful!

  3. Anon

    We’ve been in a rough period for about 5 years now. A period of waiting and struggling. And every time I claw my way back to a standing position, getting smacked back down by another of life’s “gifts”. Literally, every time I determine to be positive, some new calamity befalls us.
    I’ve given up on praying because God already has His plan. I’m just along for the ride I guess. I really have no village because of the nature of our life. I’m so weary.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I’m so sorry, Anon–and I’m so sorry you’re feeling alone in this, too.
      Being without community during times of trials is really difficult. I hope you’re able to find some community–even if it means thinking outside the box or it isn’t a large one, being part of a small group of believers can be a huge encouragement. Even if it means making a sacrifice somewhere else–the payoff can be worth it.
      Praying for you and for encouragement for you today.

    • Joanna Sawatsky

      Hi Anon,
      I just want to chime in with Rebecca to say how sorry I am that life’s been difficult for you. We moved midway through this year after just feeling like we’d begun to develop a church family (we also moved mid-2017 from Saskatoon, where we were really connected at our church). Having a baby and not having a meal train from our Saskatoon church family was something I grieved, and we were so tired of church shopping after we moved this summer. In some small way, I understand where you’re coming from, though it sounds like you’re feeling super isolated.
      If you don’t mind a few pieces of unsolicited advice: 1) ask people to do things one on one! I’ve often gotten my feelings hurt because no one asks me to do things… but then I haven’t asked them! And if you plan one thing, don’t feel they necessarily have to plan the rest. It’s vulnerable to put yourself out there, but it often (but not always, that’s the risk) pays off. 2) Find a knitting group or story time at the library or another pre-planned place for you to meet new people. I have some lovely friends I met at a come and go mom’s group with our babies. 3) Try to find community online if there isn’t an easy physical way to connect with others. 4) Try volunteering at your church. It’s essentially the same advice as 2… but with your church family. I found that really helped when I moved to Canada – it gave me people to talk to and a place to belong.
      May the Lord grant you community and refreshing as we move into the Christmas season.

  4. Colleen huston

    Hi joanna. I want to let you know how encouraging this is to me.
    Waiting is hard! There is nothing we can do about it! So thank you for reminding me again of those simple truths. We are also in a place of waiting. I believe it is a trick of the enemy to cause us to feel that things need to be more complicated than they are. At least for us. These are simple truths with huge deposits into our lives in how we respond d to life challenges. God brings huge power and strength when we trust Him. Thank you for your raw honesty, my sister.


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