The Safety of Self-Control

Self Control. Whoa, what an annoying word, right?

Our culture has painted the picture of self-control as something ridiculous. You would never see on the front of a magazine, “5 Steps to Practice Self-Control!” but rather something that look more like, “5 Steps to the Life You Deserve.” Am I right? Usually we grudgingly look at self-control as something that restrains us, binds us, and keeps us from the things we love. And in a way some of those descriptions might be true. But a proper view of self-control is necessary to appreciating it and understanding what God intended for us when He instructed us to live self controlled lives.

Titus 2:3-5 says,

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderersor addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

If someone challenged you to go without one thing for a week, what would it be? How long could you last? Social media? Sweets? Cell phone? TV?

Better yet, have you ever set goals for yourself in January (aka ‘New Years Resolutions’) and by February forgotten what they were?

“Self control is what we need in order to say no to sinful desires and what we need to follow through with godly desires” (64). Scripture is very clear on self-control. Its a fruit of the Spirit living within us. Paul emphasized it in Titus 2 as he directed every single group; older women, younger women, older men, and younger men. If Paul required self-control, that must mean it is attainable. So why do we struggle with it SO much? Self-control requires effort. It doesn’t come naturally or easily. We continually fail because we are attempting to accomplish such a grandiose task in our own strength. Mahaney reminds us that, “It is only as we cooperate with the power of the Holy Spirit that we will achieve self-control” (65).

God’s Word likens self-control to that of a protective wall. Just like in history when massive stone walls were built around cities for protection from the enemy, self-control protects us from the attacks of our enemy who would love nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy us.

But why is self-control SO hard? To put it bluntly, because sin is enjoyable. We have selfish natures that are inclined to sin. The Bible is very clear that sin is enjoyable for a season. However, Proverbs 16:25 makes it clear: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Not exercising self-control in our sleeping habits (whether too little or too much), eating habits (making poor food choices, indulgence, or vanity), our thoughts and our behavior all reflect selfish motives and leads to regret and destruction. But by practicing self-control in these areas, we are protected from the ill effects of poor decisions and poor time management. Mahaney states, “When we recognize self-control as the virtue that spares us from sin’s negative consquences, we will welcome it eagerly as our friend.” (67)

In the book, Carolyn covers 4 areas where self-control is vitally important: Our Appetites, Sleep Habits, Our Thoughts and Feelings, and Our Behavior.

1. Our Appetites:

Whether eating too much, too little, or making unhealthy choices, our eating habits say a lot about our ability to control ourselves. A quote from Elisabeth Elliot ends with, “We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies to ourselves.” (68). It is undeniable that undisciplined use of our bodies will hinder our service to God. When we don’t eat healthy, our bodies reflect that. The less healthy our bodies are, the less able we are to serve the Lord physically. On the other hand, eating too little or obsessing over our health is also not glorifying God with our bodies. The sin of vanity is no less serious than the sin of gluttony (71).

2. Our Sleep Habits:

Sleep is a gift from God. It restores our physical strength and resets our emotions. “God has designed our bodies to require sleep, and to cut corners may be expression of pride–an arrogant disregard of our God-given physical limitations” (71). But we can also love sleep a little bit too much (I might fall into this category!)  Proverbs 20:13 is clear that loving sleep too much results in laziness and poverty. We must make the most of our time. A lot of women  classify themselves as “night owls,” making excuses for their choice to stay up late and sleep in. But rather than using our evening hours for personal pleasure , we need to use that time to prepare for the next day and to go to bed early enough to rise ready to serve God and our families.

3. Our Thoughts and Feelings:

In our feeling-obsessed culture, we MUST develop a proper understanding of feelings. They are a gift from God! Life would be amazingly bleak if we could not feel. But because of sin, the way we think and feel is often contrary to what Scripture commands. We often need to tell ourselves how to feel instead of letting our feelings tell us how to think. Sinful thoughts and sinful feelings lead to sinful behavior. We must exercise self control in this area. 2 Corinthians 10:5 commands us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Remember: Just because we feel something doesn’t make it true. Our feelings are either ruled by truth or ruled by sin (75).

4. Our Behavior:

There are tons of areas where our behavior needs self control. But there is one that affects all the others. One behavior, if diligently pursued, will promote self-control in every other area. What is it? The daily practice of meeting with God. Call it a cliche, but cliches are cliches because they are true. By meeting with God every single day, we are acknowledging that we are totally dependent upon His grace. No matter what our circumstances are, intimacy with God in His presence is the rock that will empower us to fight our battles every day. We should eagerly and consistently respond to our Savior’s invitation to come and meet with Him. What a privilege!

All of this probably sounds overwhelming. Our temptation is to muster up new resolve and get to work. But just like New Years resolutions tend to fall flat when we try and try and try, so will our efforts in the area of self-control. That’s why we have to surrender ourselves again to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to accomplish it through us. John 15:5 makes it clear: “Apart from [Jesus] you can do nothing.”

Homework:

  • Think about the one area where you are most in need of self-control. What is one way you can apply what you’ve learned in this chapter before our next meeting? (Remember–not “all by yourself!”)
  • Make a plan to meet with God every day this week. Acknowledge your dependence on Him for self-control.

My First Half-Marathon

Well folks, I can’t believe I did it. I actually ran a half-marathon. A whole 13.1 miles. Whoa nelly. Talk about one of my farthest fetched goals. It was amazing and I am SO glad I did it. I would definitely do it again!

The Rock ‘n Roll half-marathon was in Nashville on April 28th (I realize I’m pathetically behind in blogging.) All my months of training were coming to a rapid close as that weekend approached. One side of me couldn’t believe it was here and the other side of me couldn’t wait for it to be over! After 4 months of difficult training, random injuries, and more achey muscles and joints than I’ve ever experienced, I was ready to get it behind me so that my body could actually get a chance to rest and heal. So needless to say, when the weekend did finally come, I was ready.

When we finally got to Nashville, we headed to the Expo to pick up my race bib and my fancy schmancy “swag bag” with a bunch of goodies in it. I had just bought some KT tape the day before to try to use for my feet and my IT band on race day. I’ve heard amazing things about this tape so when I saw the KT tape station at the expo, I jetted over to them so they could teach me how to tape up my body before the race. This tape is unnecessarily expensive but definitely worth it.

After we left the expo, we headed out to dinner at Caesar’s Italian Restaurant to grub up on some carbs. I must say, carb loading my have been one of my favorite parts of training. Sooo yummy!

 

I’m so glad my parents got to come with us. They were so supportive and excited for me, so it was so much fun to have them there to experience the whole thing. Not to mention my dad using Marriott points for our hotel was a HUGE bonus. Thanks again Dad!

Then we headed back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep before my alarm would go off at 4:30 the next morning. When I woke up, I couldn’t believe it was actually time to start gearing up for THE RACE. The actual race. Not just a long Saturday run, but the long Saturday run. And thankfully my nightmare about oversleeping and missing the whole thing didn’t come true. That would have been a disaster. After about an hour of calmly getting ready, stretching, eating, H2O-ing, and taping up, I was ready to go.

We walked about a half a mile to the start line where I was to report to Corral #27. That’s right, the SLOW-poke corral. But I didn’t even care. My goal was to finish. Once it was time for the race to start I hopped into the massive herd of people and began my trek.

I would say the first 3 miles were the easiest. Praise the Lord I didn’t have any pain in my feet like I had been experiencing the week before. They were sore, but no sharp pain. So I was able to get swept up in the adrenaline of it all and keep a very nice pace for the first 5k portion of the race. And honestly, I feel like I don’t remember too many details of miles 4-9. It was very hilly and very sunny. I was sweating like crazy, and definitely taking advantage of the water/gatorade stops. It’s amazing what hydration will do for your energy level.

I was so excited to look over and see Matt jogging beside me on the side walk at mile 9! He and my parents made it to that point to meet me and cheer me on. It was so refreshing seeing people cheering specifically FOR ME. Especially since Matt ran the majority of my training with me, it felt a little strange to be “all by myself” running in a sea of strangers. After I saw them, I had another burst of energy for the next 1.5 miles.

I’ve told people who’ve asked, and it may be TMI, but the last part of the race was not enjoyable AT ALL for me. For some reason, I get CRAZY stomach problems after about 8 miles. Like, sweating, make-you-wanna-throw-up digestive issues. NOT FUN when you decide to bite the bullet and attempt a visit to the porta potty mid race to find out there is NO TOILET PAPER! In any of them! Absolutely ridiculous. Note to self: put tissues in waist pack for future races. So with that being said, for about the last 3-4 miles I was desperately trying not to have an accident. I had to walk a good bit which was a bummer, but it was definitely better than the alternative.

But I did eventually make it to the finish line and got my medal! It was SO exciting having accomplished something that I never believed I could do. I would definitely do it again. Especially if I can figure out these stomach and foot issues.

 

 

When we finally got back to the hotel I showered and then we ALL completely CRASHED. It was probably the best nap I’ve ever taken. Besides the fact that I was achey and sore like no other! Literally, I felt like an old woman every time I moved.

After we rested for a couple of hours, we found a steakhouse to go to for an early dinner and then enjoyed ourselves some Maggie Moos ice cream. It was definitely the way to finish the day. Because seriously, after you burn 1,300 calories, you pretty much give yourself a little grace when it comes to the eating department (at least I did anyway!)

It was a fantastic weekend spent with my favorite people. I am so thankful for their support (as well as all my other family and friends who have encouraged me along the way!) You all believed in me more than I believed in myself and it definitely made all the difference.

Now, who’s signing up for the next one with me?!

Run with Endurance

Many of you have been periodically checking on me, asking me how my training is going for my half-marathon that is coming up in April. I can honestly say that training is going very well! Thanks to the SmartCoach Training plan by runnersworld.com, it has been such a do-able training plan. It has been very gradual, very consistent, and yet still challenging enough for me to feel like I’m pushing myself without overdoing it.

As many of you have probably know from my numerous tweets and facebook status updates, I have run (no pun intended!) into a few set backs physically. First, my left foot starting causing me a good deal of pain about 4 weeks into training. It was progressively getting worse so I eventually went to the doctor. I had a pinched nerve. Ouch. So I had it adjusted and then got a cortisone shot in it for the inflammation. Talk about painful. But it really did help tremendously. Just recently I’ve felt like the pain has been slowly creeping back, so I might have to get another shot before the big race. Ahh hopefully not though. That was painful enough, I’d hate to subject myself to that kind of pain again..but I will if I absolutely have to.

Then I started getting blisters. Not any kind of normal blisters that I’ve had before. But huge, painful, nasty blisters that KEEP COMING BACK! I’ve done Vaseline, moleskin bandages, blister bandaids, and specialty running socks. It’s gotten better. But those suckers are relentless. I am eager to get the race completed just so my feet can heal and look feminine again!

And the most recent injury? Self-diagnosed Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Basically it’s the inflammation of the band that runs from your hip to your shin and feels like it’s affecting the outside of your knee. Poor Matt has been feeling it for a few weeks now, and I had my first experience with it on Sunday when we up’d our mileage to 8 miles, but thankfully I’ve read that it backs off with rest and strength training. Hello, lunges.

Speaking of 8 miles though, 8 MILES!! Are you kidding me?! I never never never would have believed I could possibly endure for 8 miles. Literally, the beginning of January I could not run 1 mile without stopping. This is a HUGE accomplishment for me! And let me just add here, I am so thankful for my husband for training with me. He really does push me and encourage me SO much along the way. He deserves a HUGE amount of credit for me pushing myself this far. And he also deserves a round of applause for building up his endurance as well and running every step of the way with me. (Well, poor thing couldn’t run the last little bit of the 8 mile run because of his knee, but other than that…EVERY STEP OF THE WAY!) He is such a strong supporter and encourager to me. I’m so thankful for him 🙂

Anyway, I thought I would share a little bit of what I go through mentally in a long distance run. Obviously as you can tell, I’m not doing this for speed. Farthest thing from it. I really don’t care how slow I go as long as I’m enduring and putting one foot in front of the other. So because I’m not the fastest runner on the planet, I get some good solid time to think in my runs, especially the long runs on the weekends. It has become such a precious time for me to pray, think, and rehearse Scripture to myself.

It has been my prayer from the beginning that doing this half-marathon and training for 18 weeks would teach me discipline and perseverance more than anything else has before. Wow, the Lord sure has been answering my prayers. When the run starts to get really tough, the Lord quietly reminds me, “Keep going, Beloved. Use this as practice for real life. When things get hard, you must persevere. Look to Me for your strength. Put one foot in front of the other and realize that you are more capable than you realize.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

These verses run their course through my mind quite a bit while I run. I repeat them over to myself, reminding myself that this physical act of running and enduring is a small picture of such greater things. It prompts me to pray about those sins that are so easily entangling me, keeping me from enduring in my walk with the Lord. I confess those things He brings to mind so that I may continue to endure through the trials of life, this race set before me. May I ever fix my eyes on Jesus, keeping Him as my prize. He gave me the prime example of enduring the cross, despising the shame, and sitting down at the right hand of God when His work was done. I cannot sit down until His work for me on earth is finished. I must keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep enduring, and keep looking to the JOY set before me. When my race of life is finished, only then will I have permission to sit down and enter into my inheritance.

That same chapter goes on to talk about the discipline of the Lord. He disciplines us for our good so that we may share in His holiness (v.10). Verse 11 is a constant stopping place for me, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

This half marathon that I’m doing on April 28th is just a TINY picture of the REAL race that I’m in. All discipline that is required of me to finish the race will train me, leading me into that peaceful fruit of righteousness! I thank God for that. It makes every step of the way worth it.

January Summary

I know, I know, I’m a little bit behind on my “blogging once a week” goal. So in this post I’ve decided I’m going to cover the content of two blogs. Sorry ahead of time for any excessive information 🙂

The Bible study I’ve been doing has been great so far. In my earlier post I said it covered 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles, but its actually 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. My mistake. But it has been challenging me, to say the least.

Our study began with the succession of Solomon as king after David, as well as the events and details of him building the Temple for the Lord. One of the most challenging things the Lord has brought to my attention is the wisdom of Solomon. The Lord told Solomon that he could ask anything of the Lord. Solomon asked for wisdom and discernment. Because God was so pleased with Solomon’s request, God granted it and so much more.

James 3:15-17 says,

“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

I’ve been so challenged to pray for godly wisdom, no matter what it may look like to other people. I’m beginning to understand that as I seek the Lord’s face, He very well may give me wisdom from above that does not match up with what the world would say is wise. And that’s okay. That’s exactly where I need to be. Any wisdom that I seek that has an underlying motive of selfishness is completely of the world. And that’s why I have been praying differently since this has been brought to the forefront of my attention. –This is the tip of the iceberg of the depth of this study so far, and I know I’m going to learn much more as I yield to the authority of God’s Word.

Next, my January book: So Long Insecurity

I got this book from my mother in law when Matt and I got engaged. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t start it until October 2011, but then even more embarrassed to say that I just finished it at the end of January. Either way, it was fantastic.

Beth Moore has such a way of writing to the female population. She is witty, authentic, and BOLD. And we women need someone to get in our face and tell us like it is. I’m positive that this issue speaks directly to the core of every woman who is breathing, especially me. Several years ago I had a moment that I distinctly remember after a big heartbreak. I sat in my car and asked myself, “Who am I now?” And that was the beginning of the Lord really bringing to light this deep seeded issue in my heart. Can I be completely open and transparent? One of my biggest fears is to be found boring, for my husband to lose interest in me, and to find myself alone. However, all too often the enemy takes hold of my fear and wreaks havoc with it. This is when I learned that I need to CONTINUALLY speak truth to myself, to rehearse Scripture and preach to myself daily. A secure woman rests in the confidence of Christ. She fully defines herself by the description God has for her and the price that Jesus paid for her. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” (Proverbs 31:25). That means that she is confident in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting Him with all aspects of her life, even her biggest fears.

I highly recommend this book. Seriously, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy, or ask to borrow mine. It is a necessity in order to bring to the surface the issues that we so often try to hide and forget. Instead of trying to put a bandaid on them, it is worth it to let the Cure do His work and allow us to live in the secure freedom of Christ.

Last but not least…my running has been going great! I’m not going to lie, the training is HARD. But oh my word is it worth it. The feeling of accomplishment after running my route for the day is more than I’ve experienced in a very long time. Right now I’m up to 4 miles, moving up to 5 next weekend, and my pace is on track and about 2 minutes better than what my training plan has me at. Needless to say, I’m not a speed demon, but I’m still SUPER proud of my progress so far!

And just for fun, my twin Kelsey came into town for a good 48 hours this week on her way to Arkansas to see her fiance. They’re getting hitched March 16, so it was a nice little visit before she runs off and gets married, moves to Arkansas and I never see her again. Just kidding. Hopefully 🙂

Haha I can’t get it to save turned the right way! Weird…oh well. Do some neck stretches while you’re at it.

Have a happy weekend!

New Year, New Goals.

Well with every new year comes a new set of goals. Some people like to call these “New Years Resolutions” and they usually primarily revolve around losing weight, getting into shape, yadda yadda yadda. But also attached to new years resolutions is the fear and predictability of breaking those resolutions, once again. That’s why I’m pushing myself to a new journey of not making “resolutions,” but of setting goals. I want to see things accomplished in my life. And I want to see them tangibly, year by year.

So with that being said, if making resolutions and setting goals wasn’t scary enough, posting a picture is pure suicide. Or you can call it accountability. Whichever you prefer.

These are my broad goals for the year. And as you can see, the things I want to accomplish by the end of the year actually stop in April. So as time passes, I plan to continue to add to this list.

1. Daily Goals

  • 30 minutes in Bible Study every day. I’m starting a new study with my Bible study group called “A Divided Heart, a Divided Nation.” It’s a study that takes you through 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles, learning about the kings and prophets of the Old Testament. I’m SO excited about this study. I know it will be a rich study in the Word.
  • Spend at least 20-30 minutes in prayer. Call me a baby Christian, but this one is still really hard for me. I get so busy, just like everyone else, and put concentrated prayer on the back burner. But I know you can only truly grow to be more like Jesus if you have a heart like His and He was known for going away to a secluded place to spend time in prayer with the Father.

2. Weekly Goals

  • Pray with Matt 3-4 times a week for an hour at a time. I am so blessed with a godly husband who leads me and really has a heart to love Jesus and strive hard after Him.We pray together every day, but want to dig deeper in our prayer life together, spending quality time going before the throne together.
  • Run and train 3-4 times a week. This one is completely related to training for the half marathon I’m running in April. Thankfully, I have a training schedule that is going to keep me accountable. Staring at me from the dresser.
  • Blog once a week. This one is mainly for fun for me. I love writing and expressing myself through words, so I’m going to do my best to make myself sit down once a week and work on this blog. And its YOUR responsibility to keep me accountable for that one!

3. Monthly Goals

  • Read one book a month. Many people have this goal. And I’ve made this a goal many times before. NEVER STUCK TO IT. So since lots of people make this a goal for the year, and I’m doing it again, let’s just make it a reality together.
  • Memorize Colossians 3. I was supposed to memorize this my junior year of college. And being honest, I got bits and pieces. So I’m determined to commit this to memory once and for all. Matt’s going to memorize it with me so we can hold each other accountable! Accountability = more likelihood to accomplish anything in life.

4. Year-End Goals

  • And last but not least (for now) my goal is to run the Nashville Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon on April 28th. This goal is probably pushing me the hardest out of my comfort zone than any of my others, but I’m praying the Lord allows me to learn discipline through training, and accomplishment through crossing that finish line. I. Can’t. Wait.  http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/nashville 

Those are my goals so far! What are some of your goals for this year? How are you planning to make them a reality? I would love to hear about them so that I can be encouraged that I’m not alone!