Saturday, January 31, 2009


Don't you love those "aha!" moments in life when something suddenly makes sense? In my last post (I know, it was like, ages ago) I said I'd share an "aha!" moment I had while practicing self-discipline.

First, an update. When the votes were tallied that Sunday night, the verdict was in and I could not spend any money for the entire week. It was really close (thanks Ashley, for voting for all three...I thought we were friends). Anyway, I was hoping you all would choose #3 - not spending money, because I figured it would be the easiest. (See why I lack self-discipline?) But as it turns out, it was quite difficult at times. On Tuesday morning, I got my weekly email from Southwest Airlines about their deals for the week. Trips to Seattle were featured and what do you know, my husband is going to Seattle on business soon. I thought, "What a great opportunity to get away!" I had already made sure my husband had his own room for the trip and made arrangements with my mother-in-law to keep the girls when it dawned on me...I can't buy a ticket to Seattle, I can't spend money! Of course, my sinful self tried to think of some loopholes around this rule. If I had my husband get online and purchase the ticket then technically I wouldn't be spending money...right?

There were other challenges as well throughout the week. Ashley offered to pay for my parking when we took the girls to the Nashville Public Library. I had to plan meals strategically a couple of times so I wouldn't be tempted to stop and get something on the go. And we ate everything in the refrigerator and pantry which made for a couple of interesting meals. All in all, it made me realize how much I can live without.

This leads me to my "aha!" experience. What these exercises in self-discipline have taught me more than anything is to be mindful. I am reminded of a verse from Beth Moore's study on Daniel. It has always stuck with me. Daniel 10:12 says
Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since, the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them."
You have to "set your mind" on the right things. That's what these exercises are doing for me. As a mom of such little ones, there have been days where I'm on auto pilot and realize when I lie down at night that I haven't thought about God ONCE. (Except maybe, "Lord, help me!") But busyness is an excuse. Since the Garden of Eden, Satan's greatest trick has been to set our minds on something and someone else. For Eve, it was the forbidden fruit and what was in it for her if she ate it. For us it is a million things. Worry about our kids, the stresses of our jobs, what to make for dinner, our appearance, the big football game, all the mysteries of LOST :), and on and on and on. (Maybe that's just me) We are a culture, much like the Babylonian culture Daniel lived in actually, that fills our minds with so much...junk.

So how do we live a life of self-discipline? How do we live by the power of the Holy Spirit? How do we love God? We've got to "set our minds" first. On the right things. On the right One. Romans 8:5 has been a key verse for me.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Could it be more clear? Living by the sinful nature? Then I've got my mind set on what that nature desires. Living by the Spirit? Then you've got your mind set on what the Spirit desires. I also love 1 Peter 1:13
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
I love that verse because it reminds me that while I must "set my mind" and "be self-controlled" that my hope is not in those things. My hope is not in me. My hope is set "fully on the grace to be given [me]". So while I practice self-discipline, while I set my mind in the right place, my hope is in Christ alone. Remembering that is the only way to keep these exercises from turning into the legalism I loathe. So as I continue to "set my mind to gain understanding and to humble [my]self before God," I am encouraged to know that my "words [will be] heard, and [He will] come in response to them." And may my "Aha" moments always lead me back to His amazing grace.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cream, Glorious Cream

I made it through the week of black coffee and have really been savoring drinking it the way I like it again. I hate to admit this but it really did require some self-discipline for me to drink it black. A couple of times I really thought, "This is stupid. Who cares about cream and sugar? This is a dumb exercise, I'm going to do something else." But that's what I always do. I'm very persuasive when I want to talk myself out of doing something I don't want to do.

My favorite thing about this exercise was that it started my day. First thing every morning I was reminded that I desire self-discipline. It made me think about how I need to rely on the Lord for everything in my day. I would wake up and before I ever got out of bed I would first think, "coffee" and then my next thought would be, "Lord, I need you." I'd spend a few minutes talking to God about my day and then roll out of bed to get my cup of hot dirt.

But it's not about the coffee. It's about developing self-discipline and I've had an "Aha!" moment that I'll share in my next post. The coffee was the specific challenge but I've been trying to exercise self-discipline in many areas. For now, I figure it's time to up the ante and do another, slightly more challenging, exercise. I've struggled to think of something good. I really want to do something this time that matters. Something that might stick or at least be a baby step in the right direction. Something that will get me what I really want in the long run. So I'm asking you to vote. I'm not sure if there are enough of you reading to make this work but I'm going to throw out three ideas and have you vote. Whichever exercise gets the most votes will be the one I tackle. So here it goes...

1. Leave at least one bite of anything I eat. (I'm a plate cleaner so this could be a real challenge)
2. Get up at 6:00am whether anyone else is up or not...and NO NAPS. (I'm a night owl)
3. Spend NO money for one week. (Not even $1 for coffee at the church's coffee stand)

Okay, so my parents are laughing right now. Which give me another good idea. As a second part to the challenge, I vow not to matter least not out loud...or at least not about the exercise anyway. Can you see why I need this self-discipline? Anyway, voting will end on Sunday night (in case I need to get up at 6:00am Monday) and then I'll get started. Thanks for your support. I love hearing your words and how you are being challenged. Hang in there!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The First Day...In One Word


Today was my first day of really focusing on my "one word" for 2009...self-discipline. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm convinced that self-discipline is a muscle (a much atrophied muscle in my case) that needs to be built up over time. For my first wimpy workout, I gave myself a little, meaningless, yet attainable task, to begin to build my confidence. I decided to choose an exercise that didn't matter at all, but would be uncomfortable enough that I would actually have to be mindful and make a choice, the choice to follow through. What is my exercise this week?

Drinking my coffee black.

I know that sounds ridiculous. Who cares how you drink your coffee? It's not like it's a bad thing to use a little splenda. It's not like I can't count a few creamer calories into my diet. It's just that I don't really like it that way all that much but I can do it. My desire for caffeine is motivation enough. Or so I thought. I could drink no coffee. I could have a coke instead. But that's not the point. The point is to do something I prefer not to...just to prove I can.

Well, I did it. I drank two cups of coffee (again, my desire for caffeine is great) and no sweetener or creamer. It wasn't entirely terrible after a while although I know now why my husband hates coffee and refers to it as "hot dirt". It is better hot though. The temperature is much more important with black coffee. I'm a girl who likes splenda and flavored creamer and a starbucks peppermint mocha is my favorite...but I did it. And I will do it until Friday. After that, I will resume drinking coffee the way I like it. (It's not about the coffee in case I haven't made that clear) Starting next Friday, I will attempt something slightly more difficult. I have some ideas. I'm not looking forward to any of them. But as I begin to build confidence, as I begin to strengthen this muscle, I know it will feel waaaaay better than my life right now. I'm not doing this to torture myself, after all. I'm doing it because I know that in the end it will put me in the center of God's will for my life, it will bring me more peace, more joy, more faith, more hope...I will be stronger, smarter, more healthy, a better wife and mother, a better friend and family member, and more like Jesus.

That's what I'll think about while I'm drinking hot dirt in the morning. Gotta love it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My One Word 2009

In my last post, I wrote about the concept of ditching new year's resolutions and instead, choosing one word. So I've thought long and hard about my word this year. It was actually pretty easy to choose. What I need to work on is clear. My word for 2009 is self-discipline. Do hyphenated words count as one word? Anyway, every frustration I have with my life all boils down to one thing...a lack of self-discipline. My budget, my weight, my spiritual growth, my unfinished projects, my yet unreached name it.

I'm pretty sure I know how I got this way. I have such an aversion to legalism that I have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. More on that later though.

When I looked up the word self-discipline at, here are some of the definitions I found:
-discipline and training of oneself, usually for improvement
-Training and control of oneself and one's conduct, usually for personal improvement.
-the trait of practicing self discipline
-the act of denying yourself; controlling your impulses
Compare that to the definition for self-control:
-Control of one's emotions, desires, or actions by one's own will
-the trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior
Seems to me, self-control is something people have...self-discipline is the training you need in order to develop self-control. And training means exercise. Speaking of exercise, many things I've read on self-discipline compare it to a muscle that needs to be built up little by little. I need to lift some small but challenging weights to build a little muscle in order to handle some heavier things over time. In other words, it wouldn't help me to set a goal of "run a marathon". It's impossible, I haven't trained to run a marathon. I already believe I can't do it. It makes more sense to set a goal like "run for 20 minutes 3 times a week". Start specific...set attainable goals and meet them. I need to prove to myself that I can follow through on the little things and build on that.

Now, I have no desire whatsoever to run a marathon...EVER...but there are many things I would like to do...achievable things...things I don't have now because of my lack of self-discipline. I'm ready to start training. So many things have been written about self-discipline, I feel like I have some good ideas about how to get started. I'll keep you updated as I begin my training.

Meanwhile, my first exercise, and the real foundation of everything, will be to be mindful each morning of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline." He has given me all I need. Now I must submit to his will. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will." I will definitely do some tangible, hopefully life-changing things along the way. But I won't do it alone.

I've come up with a pretty good first challenge starting Monday. Tune in to see how it goes and feel free to share your "one word" if you like. Happy New Year!