Move over, Erma Bombeck. Make room for Eileen Button. Button has, indeed, been compared to the late Bombeck, and for good reason. They share the same wit, warmth and writing skills.
Button is a pastor's wife and mother of three from Flint, Michigan, where she is a columnist for The Flint Journal. She's gone through many heartbreaks and challenges in her lifetime, but not only has she maintained her sense of humor, she has learned to appreciate life's delays --- those times when it seems the pause button has been pushed, preventing us from experiencing the life we long for. She gives us a few examples of waiting places where we might find ourselves: "While waiting to grow up, we forget to embrace our childhoods; while waiting for true love, we forget to relish our freedom; while waiting for our children to grow, we forget to notice their beauty as infants, toddlers, children and teens; while waiting for a loved one to get well (or to die), we fail to appreciate the days --- even those filled with sickness and medications --- we have with one another."
THE WAITING PLACE begins by telling us about the day when Button's daughter made a comment that flipped the light switch for the concept of this book. What follows is a collection of essays recounting memorable moments from the author's life --- moments she defines as waiting places. Each essay is brilliantly written and brought me to either laughter or tears (or both). Button takes us through the times when she was waiting for a place to call home: Waiting for her grandpa's funeral. For a sign for love. For a miracle. For her husband to come home. For her children to grow up. For her mother to accept her. For a breakthrough. And several more...
Although each essay stands alone, for the most part they are written in chronological order. Maybe you're thinking that following along the trail of a stranger's life doesn't seem all that exciting. But the stories shared are ones you will likely relate to --- maybe not the exact circumstances, but the emotions evoked, the attitudes expressed and the lessons learned. By book's end, I predict Button will no longer feel like a stranger to you. You'll consider her your best friend.
If there is one word to describe Eileen Button, it's "real." She doesn't hold back, but offers a candid glimpse into her not-so-perfect life. Raised Catholic, there are many references to Roman Catholicism and the traditions she experienced growing up. Now the wife of a Free Methodist pastor, Button also talks about her current faith. THE WAITING PLACE is not preachy or judgmental; in fact, it's just the opposite. Grace is poured out in these pages, reminding us that we all fall short and need mercy. It also reminds us that we don't have all the answers --- and that's okay.
THE WAITING PLACE is not a "self help" book. It does not include a formula for learning how to get through the waiting places in our lives. What this collection does offer is not only a beautiful and heartfelt read, but also the opportunity to reflect on our own experiences and recognize that the most difficult times we've faced in our past were simply delays that eventually brought us to where we are today.
While there is something to be taken away from each individual essay, they all work together to offer a deeper message: Life is short and not to be taken for granted. There are many times when things seem impossible and you wonder how you'll make it through. But by taking time to appreciate --- yes, appreciate --- life's inevitable delays, we may just find there is something to learn in that place. And we'll certainly discover that God has been there all along, waiting beside us.
Reviewed by Lynda Schab on June 7, 2011