You've Got to Go Through

I spoke with a friend at the gym this morning who's going through a hard time. The details she offered weren't overly specific, and they didn't need to be. In between our sets of TRX mountain climbers, rowing, and sit ups, she simply told me the bare bones of her complicated and challenging circumstances.

I mostly listened. At the end, I offered a comment which felt rather lame it was so obvious. "I'm so sorry that you're facing these challenges. You're really in a tunnel right now."

She nodded and shrugged, then said, "Well, when you're in a tunnel, you've got to go through."

Such true words. I sometimes wish they weren't, but I think we've all found that we must walk through some long, dark tunnels before we see light again. We have to go through.

Not around. Not over. Through.

Later today I thought more about her statement. A verse from a beautiful psalm rose to my thoughts: "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Tunnel. Valley. What-have-you. The exact type of cavernous route doesn't matter. What matters is that even if we feel alone, we're not. God is with us. He's there in the tangled circumstances. He's there when we feel weary and confused. He's there when we're in need of comfort. He's there with his rod and staff, those kind offerings of his support to lean upon and his guidance to direct our steps.

When we're in a tunnel, we have to go through. Thankfully, we never have to go through alone.


Not Instant, But Definitely a Mood Changer

I just finished cutting the grass. Some people dislike this task, but I revel in it. I'll gladly walk our property for 90 minutes behind our push mower so that, once finished, I can stand with utter satisfaction, admiring the perfect lines and order left behind.

I've loved lawn-mowing for years, maybe decades at this point. I love mowing in the spring when the world is fresh and newly green. I love it in the heat of summer as I wipe my brow and soak in sunshine. But I've come to increasingly appreciate cutting the grass during the fall, knowing that September's hint of color will lead to October's riot of hues, and all will fade into November's earthy rusts and browns before settling into the sleepy cold winter when the lawnmower will finally rest.

But (thankfully) we're not there yet. Right now, we're immersed in such autumn beauty that I sometimes have to pause to take it in.

I wasn't in any particular mood before I cut the grass today. Nothing was inherently wrong. Nothing was especially right. It's just a random Thursday. But while I cut the grass, the day took a different shape. I passed the time as I paced the ground with quietness of heart, even as the engine droned. I prayed. I admired the blueness of the sky, the reds and oranges and yellows of leaves, the not-yet-dormant green of the lawn, the earthy aroma of grass clippings and a hint of gasoline. (Don't judge. No huffing, kids, but I love a good whiff of that gasoline smell.)

It wasn't instant, but my time cutting the grass today was a mood changer. It always is.


Beating Yourself Up Over an Unproductive Day?

I've been productive the past few days. In the late evening hours, I've folded laundry when I rather would have gone to bed. I've tamed the beast of my email inbox. I've graded speeches like it was my job, which is useful, because it is my job. Today, I even took a break from grading by emptying the dishwasher.

If you just look at a snapshot of this singular day, I've been a medalist in the To-Do Olympics, a machine, a girl on fire.

But there are plenty of days unlike today. There are days when my greatest accomplishment is reaching the end in one piece, days when I don't have much to show for myself.

When I'm firing on all cylinders, I keep a mental tally of hurdles jumped and tasks completed, no matter how insignificant. I finish the day satisfied: "Look at how much I've accomplished!" Subconsciously, I almost automatically couple this thought with another: "Aren't I a good person?"

This is a problem. If I feel like I'm a better human on productive days, the logical corollary is that I feel like a worse human on unproductive days.

And as we all know, unproductive days are like bad pennies. They periodically turn up.

This afternoon, I'm making a choice not to link my worth with my level of productivity. I'm more valuable than just my output, and the same goes for you. Your worth can't be lessened by an unfolded basket of laundry, or an unfinished project, or that kitchen sink full of unwashed dishes unless you let it.

If you're beating yourself up because you haven't been productive today, would you be kind and let yourself off the hook? You're worth more than your output.

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