Last week I realized with sadness that it was finally time to throw away a favorite mug. “Pause if you must,” said the bold black words beneath the badly cracked rim, “but don’t stop believing.”
That mug – a gift to myself three years ago – had gotten me through the not-so-best and worst of times, always by my side, filled with delightfully warm, milky tea or decaffeinated coffee, when I arose early each morning to write or (too often) to skeptically stare at my computer screen wondering whether to climb back in bed.
Unhappily, after one too many dings at the bottom of the dish pile, my faithfully encouraging workmate had become too hazardous to use. So I laid it in the garbage, pulling it out only once before resigning it to its undignified grave.
Often, over the past two decades making a living as a writer, I have been forced to pause along the lengthy road of the book publishing dreams I am pursuing to meet family and financial needs.
Few people can forgo life’s primary responsibilities to single-mindedly pursue their individual desires. Yet setting hard-to-reach dreams and investing the time and energy to meet them are invaluable – particularly when the work emerges from your deepest beliefs and gifts and callings.
When interrupted, I’m often irritable and frustrated (just ask my kids). Daily, other’s needs seem to drain time and energy away from what I hope to accomplish. Projects take longer than I wish. The secret to continuing, I’ve discovered, is in pausing. For me that means learning to relax and enjoy the unexpected blessings, challenges and opportunities God brings my way each day rather than seeing them as obstacles.
While I frequently crave quiet and solitude, my house vibrates with noise and interruptions. Yet, when I pause to listen, my family’s conversations, concerns, and activities enrich my work. What I could discard as a distraction, God means as an opportunity.
It is frequently amazes me how God guides and provides for those who seek him. God promises to supply our deepest needs, not necessarily in the same way or as rapidly as we want. But in the pausing – and praying – and participating in the life and needs of those around us, we grow.
The result of pursuing artistic work at a slow simmer rather than a rapid boil is that in the end what we create is usually far richer, more complex and satisfying: a feast for the soul. The trick is to be patient – not passive but at peace – as we continue on the journey, trusting that God is in control.
Imagine my surprise, when the same week I buried my mug, I received a belated birthday present from my mother-in-law, Patricia. Having never seen my mug, she’d bought one from the same company after finding it nearly five months past my birthday.
“Savor every moment,” it said, along with new words of encouragement. “Every day I will bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever,” Psalm 145:2.
I can’t think of a better way to begin each morning.