Friday, March 23, 2012

Hello Mornings - Messy Middle

I think I have referred to the "Messy Middle" before.  It is a term I first heard from Donna Otto at Homemaker's By Choice.  She described how she likes to start something new - it is fun and you are full of anticipation.  She also likes to finish something - it brings the sense of accomplishment that you have achieved something.  But, the phase of hard work in between the starting and the finishing is the "messy middle."  It is that place where things are not so fun or exciting, that place of monotony and challenge that you have to work through if you are to reach that place of finishing strong.

This is exactly where I have found myself in the Hello Mornings challenge.  I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person.  So when I jumped into this challenge, I did so with complete abandon.  I was surprised how good it felt to be getting up in the morning, reading my Bible and exercising. When I faced the kids in the morning, it was with a cheerful attitude - even if they interrupted me or were misbehaving.  The afternoons were not so pretty, as I was exhausted from poor discipline in the evenings.  I was still staying up way too late.  Still, I felt I was succeeding. 

Then, my knees started hurting from the morning exercise...

Then, I gave myself the weekend to recover from my late nights and lack of discipline... 

Then, I got sick...

The days I made myself push through and get up, I ended up feeling ill the whole day - dizziness, headaches, nausea.  So, I let myself have a break; but I felt like a failure.  I did not give up on the idea, and still have not.  But my momentum is gone.  I am starting over.  Only this time, I am missing that sense of starting something new, and instead have the discouragement from my failure to perform.  This has been really difficult for me, and yet I am so thankful I "failed." 

Why?  Well, if this is going to be a long term change, I will fail.  I will have times when I cannot find the strength to do what I know I want to do.  And during these last few weeks, I have received so many encouragements from unrelated sources that show me that I can survive the low periods and NOT GIVE UP.  That is the only thing that can  stop this positive change God wants to perform in my life - if I give in to the voice of the accuser (did you know that is what Satan means?) telling me, "You failed.  It is over."

Here's the thing.  God hasn't given up cheering for me from the sidelines.  He is still there supporting me.  And He doesn't care if I win or lose this "game".  If I "fail" at this Hello Mornings Challenge, He still wants me to try.  What he cares about is how I play.  If it were just my efforts that mattered I may win the game, I may lose it, but the Hello Mornings Challenge is not what matters.  The character that God wants to work in my life is what matters.  Jesus paid the price for my life.  I will NEVER perform well enough or consistently enough to win every challenge.  I will NEVER be righteous enough to make it into heaven on my own merit.  I need Jesus to play the game for me.  That doesn't mean that I just don't try anymore - it means that I try my best and allow Him to pick me up when I fall.  That is hard for me.  I want to do it on my own.  I want to perfect my game and succeed on my own terms.  If I could do that, though, I would not need Him. I don't ever want to get to the place where I believe that I don't need Him.  I want to get to the place where I am absolutely dependent on Him.  For that reason, I am so glad I failed.  So glad that He has continued to encourage me when He knows I would rather quit and accept defeat.

There are also reasons that I hate that I failed, so I will talk about those next time.  But I will leave this time with one of the encouraging words I read that came from a discussion about budgeting, of all things. 

"Victory Over the Lack of Discipline

  Discipline and self-control must be applied one day at a time.  If you can establish one daily discipline and stick with it for three weeks, you will form a new habit that will lead to the ability to become more disciplined in every area of your life.
  A spiritual battle will be waged to keep you from believing that you can be disciplined.  The Enemy wants to rob you of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and cause you to constantly feel defeated when it comes to areas of weakness.  Make this a matter of daily prayer, asking God to help you live one day at a time, to give you self-control and perseverance.
  Like any endeavor, you may experience discouraging setbacks, frustrations or obstacles.  That is when you must not give in to the temptation to quit.  It will be far more encouraging at the end of the year if it simply takes you longer or a few more attempts to achieve your goals than if you had quit early on."

Chuck Bentley, Crown Do Well Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 1, article Stay the Course, italics added.

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