I slid into the water between the lane lines at the pool, ready to start my workout. In the lane next to me, a woman was taking a lesson from a private instructor.
When I swim laps, I only go four lengths at a time. After that, I pop up for a fifteen second breather before pushing off the wall to start the next set. So I couldn’t help but hear bits and pieces of the exchanges between instructor and student. It was obvious that the swim lesson was very difficult for the middle aged student. I heard the instructor calmly encouraging her, giving her lots of praise for her short strokes and flailing kicks.
What really impressed me was something the instructor said to boost her student’s confidence. “You’ve come such a long way. You used to be afraid to get into the water. Now you can float and swim a little on your own too. That’s great progress! That should be celebrated!”
I couldn’t help but chime in after hearing that wonderful bit of wisdom. I said, (a little breathlessly), “You’re impressing me, that’s for sure.”
The instructor gave me an appreciative smile, and the student let out a shy, little laugh. I could tell she was proud of herself, and I was proud of her too. But even more, I was struck by the instructor’s words.
We really should celebrate our victories, no matter how small they may seem. This new swimmer was doing great things, but she thought she wasn’t doing well at all. How sad is that? I wanted to tell her that every time she overcame her fears, or got even a step further toward her goal, she was victorious.
Why is it so hard to accept that we are capable of doing good things?
As I continued swimming, I wondered about that question. I had to admit, I often fail to recognize or celebrate my own achievements too. Instead, I’ll think, “Yes, I did that. But I could have done it better. Or faster. Or thought of it sooner.” It’s like I repeatedly light the candle of victory in my mind, and then turn around and blow it out with self-defeating criticism.
That little swimming lesson really helped me realize how important it is to recognize personal growth, no matter the size. We all need to experience the encouragement and joy of our personal achievements. A little happy dance, or a small giggle of delight doesn’t mean that you’re prideful or refuse to see that you could do better. It just means that you appreciate the grace and goodness of a work that’s been well done.
In this season of Advent, the weeks before the celebration of the birth of Christ, let’s make a pact. Every day, let’s promise to catch ourselves doing something well, and then stop for a minute to soak that in.
For these next few weeks, let’s claim our daily successes, without exception. All those victories are joyful, encouraging gifts from the Lord, who loves to make his children happy.
Let’s honor our personal daily victories with a little happy dance…or maybe pie?
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I will be taking the month of December off to prepare for Christmas in my home and in my heart. I wish you all a blessed Advent and Christmas celebration, and I look forward to seeing in January. May God bless you and yours with his peace and joy!