Encouragement Life

Learning to Practice a New Lifestyle

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I arrived at my Extreme Novelist Class only to discover that I hadn’t received the advance “contract” and rules for the class. The first line read:

1) All participants will agree to an intense personal writing schedule of at least 90 minutes per day, 6 days a week, in addition to the time spent writing in class. (Kathryn Johnson – Author of Extreme Novelist)

By taking this class, I had committed to a long drive and tuition, but I didn’t know there was also this multi-point contract. However, as that first session proceeded, I realized the class was a perfect fit. I liked a challenge, having an assignment, goals, accountability, learning to practice a new lifestyle.

My clothes, however, were not a perfect fit. Seemed my weight had gone up with my age. Goodness, if I live to be 200, I might weigh it. So I joined Weight Watchers to knock off the 15 pounds I needed to lose (would I grow younger, too?). Not exactly, but I appreciated the challenge, having an assignment, goals, accountability, learning to practice a new lifestyle.

Exercise is also about fitness and a new lifestyle. When my doctor reminded me I needed more weight-bearing exercise for my bones, and a friend was doing a Facebook Wednesday Weigh-In Accountability group, I asked if I could commit to four days of exercise per week. I liked this third challenge, having an assignment, goals, accountability, learning to practice a new lifestyle — and so did the others in the group.

Then it hit me. Shouldn’t I feel the same sort of commitment to knowing God? A commitment to embracing the challenge of an assignment, goals, accountability while making it a natural discipline every day?

 The Writing Contract read: “When you choose to write each day is up to you, but you must make and protect that time…We are creating writing muscle and building strong writing habits….”

Isn’t that exactly what I could do in my walk with the Lord?

I could rephrase the goals to read, 
”When I choose to read the Bible each day is up to me, but I must make and protect that time. I am creating reading and prayer muscle and building stronger and more disciplined study habits…”

My Bible study group met the next week and I shared my answered prayer: I loved the writing class.

I also shared what I had learned about discipline.

As a group, we were challenged to write down our goals, our commitment to spend time in the Word. Now we are excited to build spiritual muscle as we grow in 2018! And we appreciate the challenge, having an assignment, goals, accountability, and learning to practice a new lifestyle.

Shouldn’t I want to RUN to the Word and spend hours in it? Ideally, yes. But I should also want to run on the bike path, eat healthy foods that make my bones strong, and write for hours without having to sign a contract to make myself do it. Sometimes we just need to get our muscles warmed up and get into the routine until we want to run on our own!

Perhaps one of the greatest helps in this discipline has been my trusty egg timer. At the beginning of each day, I write down my tasks and a reasonable amount of time for each. Maybe 30 minutes for cleaning the kitchen, 30 minutes on the upcoming taxes, and perhaps 30 minutes for this column. Surprisingly, I now seem to have more minutes each day! Now I focus on one task at a time and if I absolutely MUST be interrupted, I stop the egg timer, knowing I will return to the interrupted task. But when the timer dings, I’m done–whether I’m truly done or not. And that is a motivation! It also helps me to define my priorities.

Psalm 90:12 says, Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

If we are to number our days, it begins with our minutes. Take five right now and list your priorities and commitments for 2018. Tomorrow break them down into daily tasks with how long you’ll spend on each. May you use your talents and time for the glory of God, disciplined in your commitments. And may you gain a heart of wisdom.

Today’s post is part of MMCW’s mentoring series, Choices. Following are some questions to ask yourself or discuss with your mentor / mentoree regarding accountability.

  • Do you set aside daily time for Bible reading and prayer? How do you / how are you protecting this time? If you do not have a consistent habit of daily Bible reading and prayer, discuss with your mentor or an accountability partner how you can develop one.  Anchoring Deep in God’s Word Facebook Group is a wonderful accountability partner — other sisters in Christ reading and discussing God’s Word in a non-threatening way. This is an excellent mentoring opportunity for those who may not currently have a mentor.
  • Write out Psalm 90:12 on an index card and memorize this week. Ask for the Lord’s help in planning each day for His glory.
  • Ann uses an egg timer to help keep daily commitments on track. When the timer dings, she is done with that commitment. Do you schedule time for your commitments / priorities? If not, try it this week. Discuss with your mentor and us (through comments) ways to stay on track and recognize divine interruptions.

About Ann Stewart

Ann just won the Christy Award for Best Debut Novel of 2017 with Stars in the Grass, originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, and writes “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register. When she's not writing, she's waving her arms directing musicals, teaching middle schoolers, or watching UVA Basketball, This is Us, or Madam Secretary. In her free time she hangs out with her husband, raising two lovely daughters and a whole flock of fuzzy sheep on Skye Moor Farm, in Virginia--where unscripted drama provides plenty of entertaining material.

Encouraged? Share this post...

Ann Stewart

Ann just won the Christy Award for Best Debut Novel of 2017 with Stars in the Grass, originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, and writes “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register.

When she's not writing, she's waving her arms directing musicals, teaching middle schoolers, or watching UVA Basketball, This is Us, or Madam Secretary. In her free time she hangs out with her husband, raising two lovely daughters and a whole flock of fuzzy sheep on Skye Moor Farm, in Virginia--where unscripted drama provides plenty of entertaining material.

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