It’s a new year, y’all. Actually, we’re two weeks into a new year. Crazy.
I welcomed the new year at work, cradling a miserable tiny human. Said tiny human had good reasons to be miserable, and was pretty alone in the world. Cradling that little one moved me in ways I’m still thinking about.
Generally I show up on my blog on the first of the new year with a declaration of my “one word” for the year. It’s a practice I started quite some time ago, and one that continues to mold and shape me each year. Most years God and I have a conversation on New Year’s Eve, after I’ve tossed words around in my thoughts for a week or two, and together we settle on the word that will be my guide for the year. This year wasn’t quite like that.
Somewhere around late summer a word started coming up a lot as I was praying and contemplating next steps in various areas of my life. It was a word I didn’t like, so I rather pointedly ignored it. Apparently that word was important, because starting in early November it seemed that Jesus was shouting it at me every time I prayed, every time I had a conversation with a friend, every time I stopped to ponder what the next things in my life were going to look like. He was making certain that I couldn’t keep ignoring it, and more than that, basically made it clear that I should feel free to kick off this new word with the beginning of the church year and the advent season at the end of November, rather than waiting for the new calendar year. Feel free. Ha. (Insert wry face of experience here – knowing that ignoring Jesus’ suggestions is a bad idea doesn’t make for much of choice on those rare occasions that he forcefully suggest something.)
The word he gave me was “discipline.” Discipline, y’all. I honestly cannot think of a word I would have been less impressed to hear as a guide post for the year.
I have a long history with the word, and a lot of personal baggage that goes with it. For me it’s always been a sort of dirty word – a word that certain people in my life threw around as a reason for various failures – as in “if you’d just been disciplined”. It symbolizes all the things I didn’t really want in my life, and always seemed to me to only be in lives devoid of fun.
Discipline wasn’t exactly a welcome word, but it wasn’t one I could deny the need for either.
I kicked off the advent season with a strong discipline game. It lasted about a week, and since then I’ve been mostly cataloging the areas where I’m failing at discipline.
I’m succeeding in a couple of areas:
- I’ve managed to do a spanish lesson on the duolingo app for something like 35 straight days now.
- I’m all caught up (after getting a slow start) on a “read through the bible in a year” reading plan
- I’m ahead of the game on a goal of reading at least 100 books this year.
- I made the really hard decision to put some disciplined choices in my finances ahead of traveling to be with heart friends this month.
- I’m making it to mass on a regular basis even with my crazy work schedule (every weekend, plus usually one or two daily masses a week)
- I’m reading some good sources about discipline
- I’ve started making daily thankfulness lists again, and managed to keep up the habit for a couple straight weeks
I identified three key areas of life that needed to be addressed with discipline: diet, exercise, finances. So far I’ve had some success with one (and occasionally two) of those three. So there’s lots of room to grow.
And I’m also learning about the ways discipline impacts my spiritual life. I had to laugh when my acupuncturist asked if I do the new year’s resolution thing and I explained that I choose a word for the year and that this year’s word was kicking my butt. After hearing the word she was excited “but you can’t make any progress on any spiritual path without discipline!” Right. Okay Lord, when even my acupuncturist points this out, I’m inclined to stop and listen.
When I went to confession during Advent, the priest I met with gave me a helpful image – the idea of discipline being a bank account. He suggested making regular deposits in the small areas of discipline, so that when the need to be disciplined in a large area arises, there are “funds” to draw on. This has been helpful for me, especially as I’ve only seen discipline success in small areas thus far. I’m reminding myself that by making small deposits, I’m building something to draw on as I begin to push into the larger areas of discipline that I’m needing to focus on.
My sister-in-law commented the other day that it will be interesting to see how my relationship with this word changes over the course of the year. That’s also a helpful thought for me – to think that the wounds of discipline may be replaced by joys from seeing resulting growth in my life.
So, here’s (slightly grudgingly) to a year of discipline, and all that it carries with it!