in praise of waiting

truth and beauty

In her memoir documenting their friendship, Ann Patchett shares a letter Lucy Grealy wrote to her after she (Lucy) had a particularly moving experience in Prague.

Dear Ann, An important thing happened to me a few days ago in Prague, though I haven’t yet reached a point in time at which I can know how it was important.

The story itself is deeply moving, but this line at the beginning is what caught my eye when I read it yesterday. As a writer I often feel like I haven’t truly learned something unless I’ve written it down, figured out how to put my experience into my own language. But this line from Lucy’s letter in Truth and Beauty reminds me – we are always taking life into ourselves, both our own experiences and the experience of others.

But decoding those experiences takes time. Sometimes the most important things that happen to me are those that take months or even years to unpack. I would do well to wait and give it all some room to breathe.

That’s where I am today. I’m finally home after nearly a week of traveling. I have a sense that important things are happening within me, but I don’t have English words for them yet.

I have a book releasing next week and I’m feeling grateful and also small. A book release is something to celebrate and is to me deeply important, but it is not the axle upon which life turns. It is a spoke, but it is not the wheel.


When our plane landed in Charlotte yesterday, I felt a physical sense of relief. Even though I had one short flight left until I made it home, this skyline was familiar. These roads were familiar. North Carolina is home and I felt her there, the ground wide to receive that fast moving plane.

Today I’ll begin to return some email, try to finally connect with our Barn attendees (hello you!) and begin to make sense of my travel receipts. I’ll also sit in the silence of home and actively give myself permission not to figure things out today.

Maybe you need that permission too?


  1. says

    I’m glad you’re home! I also just had that sigh of relief last night after being away 4 nights & 4 days from my family at a Young Life camp called Malibu—up in British Columbia. It was glorious. I wrung the weekend OUT! I had little time to process, so that’s what this week is for, along with catching up with laundry and jumping back into homeschooling from our previous week’s break.
    I read Truth & Beauty about two years ago and it’s still one of my favorite memoirs. I liked it so much I put Bel Canto & State of Wonder on my list this year. I’m half way through Bel Canto now. Patchett is a really wonderful writer.
    I can’t wait to read your book, too, and it’s on a topic very close to my heart; has been for at least six months if not more. I need permission to be brave and try and fail, and to keep trying.
    Sarah M

  2. says

    I constantly find new things to learn from experiences that may be weeks, months, or even years from when an event happened. Many times it feels like I peel back layers, I may find some significance in the moment only to find even deeper truth later.

    Waiting is hard because our culture is incredibly focused on instant results. Thank you for the wonderful reminder that it’s okay to process at a different pace.

  3. Jessica says

    Thank you for writing this post. I recently discovered your blog and am looking forward to reading your new book. I was really struggling last night with this aspect of waiting. I have so many plans for what I really want to be doing right now, but the reality is I must wait. I know God is trying to tell me that through your words. Thank you.

  4. says

    I so appreciate this post. I look back at so many things in my life that I had no comprehension of at the time they were happening, yet looking back I can see God’s purpose in them. It is hard to remember that with things that I don’t understand in this moment, though. And, I do need permission to sit and figure things out today. As a bride to be in December, a foster mama who recently said goodbye to a baby I had for 8 months, and a full time middle school teacher, I have so much going on. It is easy to stay busy and not deal with my emotions . It is so difficult to “be still” with so many demands on my time and attention. Thank you for this reminder.

  5. says

    I’m with you today, having just come back from a writing retreat I facilitated and with edits due next week. I’m letting today be a transition day — time to process, breathe, and live. It will serve my writing, too.

    All best in the weeks ahead, friend.

  6. says

    I can relate to all of this, even just finished Truth and Beauty, haunted by that story. Just picked up Lucy Grealy’s book, Autobiography of a Face at our used book shop because I’m so intrigued. And I have so much good stuff happening in my life, I feel like my brain is on fire and my chest is a big well of hope. I’m done trying to figure it all out. I’m just going with it and enjoying the ride. Excited to be a part of that book launch next week.

  7. says

    I SO know what you are talking about! I feel like my blog is where I “work it out” the things rattling around my brain that I can’t seem to forget. I read somewhere that when you are in Paris you can’t write about Paris. But when you are back in Michigan, Paris becomes more alive.

    • says

      Love this……”But when you are back in Michigan, Paris becomes more alive.” Thank you!!!

      I got back from Ukraine 9 weeks ago and I tried to finish writing about it yesterday, as if that’s one little bit possible. It feels so much more alive in my soul than it did then. I can’t capture yet the ways I’ve been changed.

  8. says

    What wonderful ways of expressing the feelings behind those incubation periods – both Ann Patchett’s and yours. I too need to “actively give myself permission not to figure things out today” (thanks for the beautiful phrase!) and to just let myself steep in God’s embrace. He’ll let me know when He’s ready to share the lessons and next steps with me. I just need to get comfy with not trying to run ahead of Him. Thank you!

  9. Kimberly Hill says

    Emily, I have been following your blog for about 2 years and I have never commented. Today I choose to be brave :)
    I am so excited about your new book. I am always excited to see a message from your blog in my email box, and I wait to read it until I have enough quiet in my surroundings to hear Jesus in you. He shines beautifully through you. Thank you for being brave enough to share yourself with the world :)

  10. says

    Hi Emily (: Welcome home!

    This: “sit in the silence of home and actively give myself permission not to figure things out today”

    How this touched my heart today! I am thanking the Father for His grace and for the fact that He has long had things figured out. So many bits of news pouring in here today, so many breaking hearts and struggling hearts.

    Hugs to you & love & blessings for a wonderful week ?Q

  11. says

    I need the permission to not figure it all out as well…thanks! Congratulations on your book! I am getting back to the “work” God has invited me to do…writing and creating art to express my created self… I look forward to reading your book…I published a little book two years ago and today I’m having a giveaway if you want to check it out :)

    Happy Creating! Kel

  12. says

    I hope you can breathe deeply and enjoy much space for your soul today. I love Lucy’s quote and I can relate to it entirely. Some of us are more aware than others of the life we are always taking in. I think that’s why we need a bit more space and quiet and deep breathing than others might. : )

  13. says

    I am in the process of finding me. Like literally find me. Stripping off all the layers and seeing what God placed in me. I found that what I had been looking for was already inside of me. Now, I have to go and make things happen.

    I see now that even little things have an important meaning. I wonder how many things I overlooked before but I guess if it was for me I would already know it or would have seen it. We have understand God is in control and we have to trust him to guide us.

  14. says

    Thank you for saying this important message in a blog – as its bloggers who so need to hear this. There is something precious in not always rushing in to publicly process something you’ve experienced that is deep and esoteric, or ‘important’ without an important label yet. We need to let things sit in our hearts and minds for a time sometimes don’t we? I recently went on a retreat that fits this example completely. I started writing a post about it and then stopped, knowing it needed the currency of time before I could explain what it really meant to me…..thank you Emily!

  15. Korey says

    Thank you for the permission. I can’t seem to give it to myself – ever. A silent home for me means having time to figure things out and get some things done since the hubby and kiddos are absent. But tonight, I need the permission, and the silent time, to not figure anything else out.

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