Pausing

For the first time since I started this blog in August 2008 I skipped one of my monthly masthead updates (the March 2011 masthead). I won’t describe what this does to my obsessive-compulsive nature; I had to volitionally exhale, meditate on the true things that matter in life, and let. it. go. I traded in that masthead — and many, many other things — for doctoral candidacy. Not a bad trade off. The process of creating a dissertation prospectus, presenting the proposal to my committee, and getting approval for the project was the hardest step thus far in my PhD experience, and I will even go so far to say that it was one of the more challenging feats in my life. By the grace of God, I have finished that leg of the race.

Because most things in life can be analogized to triathlons, I think about the finish trusses that some races have for each triathlon leg.

At this point in the race, there is no medal for your neck and no formal finisher’s ceremony. But there is celebration. Family and friends congregate at these finishes. Triathletes smile as they pass through (you don’t always see the smile through pain-filled grimaces or tears, but it’s there). Whatever fear that was associated with that leg has been overcome and, whether the greatest challenge lies ahead or not, there is an unmistakable opportunity to celebrate.

Similar instances occur in life, so take them. Take those opportunities to celebrate the smaller victories along the journey, especially if the greatest challenge lies ahead. Even if it is an ever so brief moment allotted to pause, put hands on knees, take a few recovery breaths, and say “Wow, I did it!” before turning full stride again, soaking in the victory helps to fuel us for the legs that lie ahead.

My PhD program is a pentathlon. The dissertation proposal was the 4th leg. There was no blue inflatable finish truss for this stage (though one would be a welcome addition to the department), but seeing my committee’s signatures on the doctoral candidate form was a rite of passage in itself. So I celebrated, albeit briefly, and am already full stride in the final leg of the program.

The April masthead — what I really wanted to write about in the first place — is an example of nature doing its own celebrating as it survived the winter leg and welcomes spring. The trees with these blooms line the streets of our neighborhood and they humbly proclaim, “Wow, we did it!” Because this kind of celebration is so inspirational and contagious, every time I step outside of my house I briefly pause to join them in the celebration. Yes, we did do it. We survived a rough season, a challenging leg of the race.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Aaahh.

Okay, now back to work.

Making Room for Truth

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-talk lately.  I’ve been more sensitive to the lies I let in about my capability and my worth, and have realized how poisoning these lies can be.  I like what others have said about this issue…

A college friend, Sarah (Gale) Evers, wrote sort of a New Year’s resolution in January, 2009 on Facebook:

I’m calling 2009 “The Year of Kindness.” What could life look like if I treated myself with kindness? What if I worked out not because I ought to, or as punishment, but because I wanted to, or it was the kindest thing to do for myself? What if my self-talk was more kind and gentle? What if I relaxed in my expectations for myself and lived in grace? And what would happen in my relationships as that sense of freedom and KINDNESS overflowed from me?

***

myjoy, a commenter on the Stuff Christians Like website, wrote:

My anthem right now is Ephesians 4:29, it’s everywhere around me, in sermons, in studies, on TV, everywhere! God is clearly trying to tell me something.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

God is challenging me to have everyone be better off than before they talked to me.

And today I just had a revelation. It’s not just directed at other people. It’s also about what I tell myself. Is my internal dialogue helpful for building me up? Or am I tearing myself down? Am I better off after hearing my own voice, than when I started? Or do I remain dejected, discouraged?

So I pray God will use this verse to change my heart, to tame my tongue, that the same mouth I use to bless His name I do not use to curse others or myself.

I too am challenged to add more kindness, more grace, and more truth to my internal dialogue.  When my head hits the pillow each night, I want to look back over the day knowing that I was better off after listening to my own voice all day long.  After all, if the God of the Universe can forgive me, love me unconditionally, and see me as completely worthy in his eyes, surely I should do the same.