In the online world, it’s trendy to choose a word for the year. This word should guide your aspirations for the coming days, a daily reminder rather than a resolution. In the past, I’ve chosen content, hope and new.

My husband chuckled when I told him that because, this year, new definitely happened. Maybe because I was open to embracing it—or maybe because the Lord prepared my heart for the first six months of the year, so I would last the last six months. When I told him what I wanted to choose for 2017, he sobered up and agreed wholeheartedly, letting this word stake a claim for our family and not just my blogger ramblings.

The English nerd in me has been studying my word’s origins, because I’m convinced we’ve let parenting books and inadequate schools define discipline as a negative consequence rather than a positive action. I pulled the word apart by its syllables in the way I taught my seventh graders. Dis— is a Latin prefix meaning “apart” or “a reversing force.” Paired with its middle, you get disciple—one who is a pupil. (Jesus knew what he was calling his followers—they would be students of his teaching whose convictions would set them apart from this world.) Finally, when tacking on a suffix, -ine, which means “having the nature of”, the word comes to mean training for those who are set apart to learn.

Webster’s offers up seven different varieties of that definition, but the one I like best says “the rigor or training effect of experience.”
I have no idea what experiences 2017 will bring our way, what I’ll be writing about having learned one year from now. But I do know what 2016 has given me: a clear understanding. I’ve spent far too many years wavering and wallowing and whining as I wait for the world to offer up what I think I deserve.

Discipline reminds me of all the time I waste because I treat my writing schedule with a great deal more fluidity than it really has. This worked fine before I had an audience and multiple deadlines each week, plus a novel with a marketing plan that needs a lot of attention. In the past year, writing has become my job, not my hobby.

Discipline makes me think of our finances and how often I cave to convenience when I know we need to be saving for a new car, the basement remodel and the week at the beach I want every year.

Discipline enters our homeschooling venture because they have to learn math whether I like it or not. We can’t participate in every activity that’s offered every day, because my kids need a few set hours dedicated to the disciplining of their minds.

But mostly? Discipline nudges me toward the realization that I am a student of life, and all its glorious, messy experiences are training me up for something greater than I could ever sum up with only one word.

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