Gathering Self Control (and an announcement)

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It was one of those rare days when I went to bed having accomplished all I wanted to accomplish during my day.  I spent time with an old friend, played with my kids, read scripture, spent time in prayer, connected with my husband, cooked a healthy dinner and walked/jogged over three miles.  I felt healthy, happy and connected to God and his purpose for me.

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When I gave up sweets for Lent, I lost 9 lbs.  After a few days of serious withdraws, it was smooth sailing.  I didn’t crave sweets anymore, and I naturally started making healthier food choices.  My head felt clearer, my body lighter and my spirit edified.

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Yesterday I had a talk with Ava about spiritual growth.  We discussed how once you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, it is our responsibility to nurture the spiritual man in order to experience spiritual growth.  We talked about the fruit of the Spirit being evidence of that growth.  We pulled out a list of the fruits of the Spirit and I asked her to mark the three she felt she needed to work on developing with the help of God.  #1?  Self-control.

Join the club, sister.

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Last year I was talking with my pastor-brother about how I struggle with discipline.  His response was basically something along these lines….. “Rachael, the root of the majority of our problems is lack of discipline and self-control.  Join the club.”

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I think of Paul’s words to the Romans…..

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.  For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate……. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members…..”

I highly recommend studying Romans chapter 7.

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So, here I am, making a declaration.  I know that my works do not save me, as I know that my righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy Savior.  However, I also know that there is something powerful in denying the flesh and feeding the spiritual man.

I am cutting out sweets and soda for the remainder of the year as a small part of my plan to deny my flesh and feed my spirit.  

I am doing this for many reasons.  I am a sugar-addict.  I want to be healthier and I want my family to be healthier.  Cutting out sweets has proven to radically change my diet for the better.  Cancer and heart disease run in my family.  Diabetes runs in Jimmie’s family.  I am reading more and more about the long-term dangers of drinking soda.  My friend just had a baby and is attempting to lose the extra baby weight and I want to be supportive.

Mostly, I am doing this to deny my flesh, making room for my spiritual man to grow.  Through prayer and fasting, I want to be an example to my daughter of what the fruit of self-control looks like when developed.  I fear I have been a poor example to her.

So far I have five other adults joining me.

I am making a little wiggle room, in order to remain flexible.  I will allow myself one day a month to eat sweets if I so desire, mainly for the purpose of enjoying holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas).  I will occasionally use sugar in my coffee, I will allow myself to occasionally eat Nutella and syrup on my pancakes and I will use honey to sweeten smoothies and such on occasion.  Otherwise, no soda, cookies, candy, cakes, shakes, pies, ice-cream (yikes!), cupcakes, and anything else obviously considered to be dessert.

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Does anyone want to join me?  Maybe for you giving up sweets wouldn’t be difficult or meaningful.  Maybe it is television, social media time, potato chips, smoking, alcohol, inactivity, or something else entirely.  But maybe you feel a nudge to deny the flesh and feed the spirit?  I would love to have others on this journey with me.

Even if you don’t join, would you mind sharing what you would give up IF you participated?  I think it would be a positive activity for me and all of my readers to identify some of the areas in our lives where we lack self-control.

And forgive me in advance if you cross my path in the next week or two.  This fast starts tomorrow.

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I am blessed to work with a kind-hearted, God-loving and FUN woman.  She also happens to be Catholic and we enjoy our daily talks about God, what it means to serve Him and how to stay positive when challenges come our way.  We also share another passion: chocolate.

I know, I know.  Lots of people say they love chocolate and sweets.  I choose to believe that my love beats yours, hands down.  My chocolate-loving ways have evolved over time.  Once upon a time I enjoyed chocolate.  Then I began craving it.  Now, it is nearing obsession level and I must confess…. My name is Rachael and I am an addict.  Naturally, when my co-worker told me she was giving up sweets for Lent, I felt betrayed.  I mean, she was my partner in crime, eating cookies meant for the kids at snack-time and pilfering M&Ms from the “potty reward” jar.  Me?  Give up chocolate and sweets?  She must have been crazy.

She planted a seed.  It grew.  I took a good hard look at myself and realized I have a problem.  If gaining ten pounds since fall wasn’t a good enough indication, all I had to do was look in the eyes of my ever-so-loving husband who frequently makes sweet-tooth craving runs for me after the kids are in bed.  So last night, while slurping my cookies and cream shake, I made the decision.  This non-Catholic would give up sweets for Lent.

The idea behind Lent is similar to the Protestant practice of fasting.  It is a time of self-denial leading up to the recognition and celebration of Easter.  It begins on Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) and ends, for many, on Good Friday.  Lent is approximately 40 days, parallelling the period of time Jesus fasted in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry.  Sounds great, right?

Funny thing is, the moment after I decided to participate in this 40 day fast, I told myself I would cheat on Valentine’s Day.  Then I proceeded to tell two other friends I was doing it, but cheating on Valentine’s Day.  It IS Valentine’s Day after all and what is Valentine’s Day without chocolate?  Thankfully, my loving Savior knocked me over the head with the metaphorical 2×4 and pointed out my tendency to MAKE EXCUSES and my LACK OF DISCIPLINE. When we take a hard look at our lives, aren’t those always the two things that keep us from reaching our life goals?

I want to work out -> I don’t have time.  I am lazy.  It is cold outside.

I want to be a better parent -> My kids are disrespectful.  I never have any time to myself.  Someone else can teach them about Jesus.

I want to eat healthy -> Healthy food is expensive. Spinach doesn’t taste as good as chocolate. I don’t like to cook. My body is craving carbs.

I want to pray -> Time just got away from me today. I would rather watch TV. I’m mad at God.

I want to study God’s word -> Deuteronomy is hard to get through. I’m tired. My kids take all my time.

I want to forgive -> They really hurt me. I’m still mad. They deserve to pay.

I want to give up sweets to show some discipline in my life, dedicate myself more to God, identify with His suffering in a small way -> Valentine’s Day is coming up.  Giving up something else would be easier. I will physically go through sugar withdrawals.  I won’t be able to feed the bitter things in my life something physically sweet in a useless attempt to mask my pain when I should be running to God in the first place.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?  I so easily talk myself out of what is good for me, settling for less than what God wants for me.  I so often fail to recognize that the scripture I have heard my whole life is actually TRUE:  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

So, tomorrow I start Lent.  I will not be cheating on Valentine’s Day.  I’m glad to be on this journey with my friend as well.  As my co-worker said to me today, “Misery loves company”. Using my power of persuasion, I have also successfully talked my husband and another friend (both enablers of my addiction!) to join me.  What about you?  Have you ever given something up for Lent?  Did you just finish a Daniel fast?  In what ways are you disciplined? In what ways do you lack discipline?  I would love to hear from you.