Sharon Scogin and I met in college and taught for a short time together in Springdale. Life took us in different directions until eventually I was reunited with her when my daughter, Caroline, began kindergarten where Sharon’s girls were enrolled. Life has once again shifted us, but we share the desire to share our stories. Sharon’s heart for the Lord and how He is working in her life is obvious to anyone who meets her. I’m honored to share her encouragement for us all today.
I guess it all started at the beginning of the new year. I’m not big on resolutions because I’m not good at keeping them. I do like a fresh start and think of it as time to push reset and get moving on whatever it is that I need to focus on. Most of the time it is food/diet related, but also other things as a mom I want to get refocused on like praying more for my girls, organizing our schedule, doing a better job of cleaning, etc. However, this past January when everyone else was pushing reset, I didn’t want to. I just didn’t. I didn’t have a good reason and I just moved on not making a big deal about it. It was nothing that needed to be said, but I battled my thoughts with it a lot. “It” being that I knew I needed to focus on my diet/food/health, but I just didn’t want to have to change anything and I wanted to just keep doing what I was doing…whatever that was or wasn’t.
Fast forward to middle of January when I started a new Bible study by Priscilla Shrier called “Breathe”. It’s all about creating a Sabbath margin in our lives—leaving time for God in our lives, which sounds simple or like something I have heard before for sure. Not an “ah ha” moment really. But as she taught, it was getting deep and we were learning to think about something that was “too much” in our life; something that didn’t have margin at all. The “something” might not be “bad,” but God intended it for good and it may be the thing we needed to refocus. As I learned, and God showed up, I realized the place I needed margin was in my eating. Remember when I didn’t want to push reset? Yeah…
So all of the sudden God continued to press on my heart the words DENY SELF. I knew that verse in Matthew (16:24) “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” And there are times as a mom I feel like that is all I do… I didn’t want to play that game for the 200th time, but I did. I denied myself. I don’t want to discipline that action again…but I do. I don’t want to sit at softball practice, but she wants me to stay, for an hour and a half, so I deny self and sit there. I could go on, but I think you get the point. There are times I DO deny self. But that wasn’t the deny self God was talking about this time.
All of my close people (you know those people that are in your circle and influence your life the most) were all of the sudden focusing on healthy stuff. Yes, all 5 of those people I talk to daily and who know every secret about me. All of them were suddenly changing eating habits. Now they were exercising, where just last week they were like me and they weren’t exercising at all and they weren’t focusing on better eating habits. All of them were encouraging me to do the same…”But I don’t want to, God.”
I was supposed to go watch one of those people run her first marathon. We had it all planned out to surprise her. We had signs, shirts, hotel room, major plans for a girls get away for a good reason. God had other plans and where some would just see it as the way things fell, I knew it was deny self moment/time for me. I couldn’t get to Little Rock to watch because of the weather. To say it ruined my day is an understatement. I was sad not to see my friends. I was sad not to get to be part of the surprise. I was mad I was the only one out of the group that was stuck at home. I was mad that I never get away as a mom and the one time I plan something, this happens. I was just mad. I cried. My husband, Ryan, teased me and looking back he was right. What was the big deal? It wasn’t worth risking my life on icy roads and I made the best decision. But, “deny self” was what I thought of. I was mad my plans didn’t happen and I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do. I wasn’t mad I was home, I wasn’t mad that I had extra time with my sweet family and husband on the weekend. I was mad I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do. Deny self.
So as I learn this lesson, I am realizing it is all of the time, daily, and sometimes moment by moment. There are times denying our self is easier than others. There are times it is so very hard. I think what I have learned the most is denying self isn’t just selling all of your possessions to move to Africa. It is in our daily lives wherever we are Arkansas, or Africa, or China. If that isn’t what God is asking me to do, but He is asking me to deny myself something to eat, then I should do that. If God is asking me to deny self, and get over the fact I don’t get to go or do something I want, then find joy where I am.
What is God asking you to deny yourself that maybe seems small to you, but really is a step of obedience that God is calling you to?
God wanted me to push reset in some areas of my life in January. But I didn’t want to do that. I was being selfish. Thankfully God loves me enough to put reminders and encouragers in my life in the areas that I need it most. So as these people in my life were changing their ways, I finally said okay. I started making changes in that area of my life. It has NOT been easy. Satan knows where and how to attack me. I have struggled for sure, but I am reminded again of Jesus words:
Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (NLT) (emphasis mine)
I want to follow Jesus. Deny self.