Friday, January 11, 2013

One Word: Discipline

Have you heard of One Word 365? The idea is to pick a word for the year that encompasses your goals, a word that will guide your year. My friend Felicity did this last year, and as she wrapped up her year of "dare," I was intrigued.

What would my word be, if I were to choose one?

I thought and thought, and nothing came to me. Well, a few things came to me, but they were just . . . not quite right.


As 2012 wrapped up, I considered buying the Jesus Calling devotional for my kids. I've been trying different things to get them to develop their own relationship with the Lord. I've tried creating packets of Bible verses for them, leaving space for them to write their thoughts. They literally wrote "I don't know what to write." Hmm.

We've tried doing something in the mornings, evenings, afternoons (during the summer). Nothing has really stuck, nothing has felt quite like it would work on a long-term basis. We did a Jesse Tree together during Advent (until the flu hit our house) and that went moderately well. So I was looking for a way to continue something into the new year.

A few families I know have kids who've read through the Jesus Calling for kids. I liked the idea of something that would guide my kids in their time. Reading verses on their own with no explanation or direction seemed to leave them frustrated (see above). So I checked out the book for kids, and then because I thought the girls might balk at being called "kids," I looked at the one for teens, too. I actually much preferred the version for kids. (Can I take a moment to tell you how much I love the preview function on Amazon? I've bought two books in the past 2 weeks because I was able to read through it before buying. Love.)

I also picked up the original version of Jesus Calling that a friend gave me a few years ago. I felt like I should work through it alongside the kids, fully understanding that I will not do all 365 devotionals, but also enjoying the ability to pick up with the current date should I miss some days. I haven't used a devotional in years, but as I was reading through a few pages, it felt relevant and right.


Over the Christmas break, I began formulating a few New Year's Resolutions in my mind. Most of them had to do with eating and exercising, mainly because I knew I was doing far too much of one and far too little of the other during the break. At the same time, I and my family were sick off and on for the last 3 weeks of December, so I was able to cut myself a little slack. And nurse a little more to make up for the summer sausage, cheddar cheese, and Ritz crackers that composed most of my lunches. Oh, summer sausage, how I love thee. And yet why are you mostly available in the winter?


I went out to eat with some girlfriends the other night and we closed the joint down. Ok, so the joint was Chili's, and I was home by 11, but 5 hours of talking and laughing and eating was utterly fabulous. One of the things we discussed was freedom. We talked, and I've since thought further, about how the essence of freedom is not "freedom to" but "freedom from." Too often we think about being free to do something. When we were young we used to talk about all the things we would do when we were old enough. Old enough to drive, go to college, drink, vote, get married, buy a house, etc. We would finally be free to . . . . And yet, how often does our "freedom" to do something lead to enslavement of another kind? Not always, of course. But even when our freedoms to do are healthy things, we often end up just longing for the next thing, never content with where we are. And so freedom is not about what we get to do, but about what no longer holds us captive. Very often we need freedom from ourselves.

As I was mulling over these things, I came across a quote from C.S. Lewis on Twitter that said, "Obedience is the road to freedom . . . "


On January 5, the one-year anniversary of my father's death, the house was quiet. Some of the kids were still at sleepovers, another was at a movie with Aaron, one was down for his nap. I spent some time reading through the devotional for that day, reading some Scripture, praying, writing in a journal. It was my first time of quiet contemplation in this new year. And through writing down and refining my "resolutions" for the new year, I came to see them not as obligations, but as steps of obedience--the obedience that leads to freedom.

As I worked through the devotional over the next couple of days, those steps of obedience, and the reasons behind them, coalesced into a single word.


This year, I am working toward physical, mental, and spiritual discipline. Too often I am enslaved to my desires. I don’t want to make dinner, I want to eat 73 cookies; I don’t want to exercise, I want to sit on the couch all night; I don’t want to engage my brain, and I don’t want to get off Facebook; I want to write but I don't want to put in the time and brainpower required to actually do it. Too often I give in to the whim of the moment and, by so doing, I sacrifice an ultimate happiness, an ultimate satisfaction that I know would come by doing what I ought. And it’s not about the ought—it’s not about a checklist or following some rules. It’s about doing the things within my power—the things I am called and nudged to do—to help bring about good in my life.

It's about developing discipline. Pardon me as I slip into valedictorian speech mode, but Webster's dictionary defines discipline as "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character." That is what I want: to mold and perfect my actions, attitudes, and thoughts. This year, I am expecting to move toward a more fulfilled life as I work out some specific disciplines. I may write about some of it here, and I may not (although one of my disciplines does involve carving out writing time in my day). Either way, I look forward to what this year holds.

What about you? Do you have any resolutions or disciplines you're working on this year? Is there a word you want to live by in 2013?

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