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Joy of the Disciplined Woman

  • Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre Contributors
  • 2007 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Joy of the Disciplined Woman

Carolyn: Recently, we wrote about three biblical truths related to time management and organization: the source of our justification, the source of our ability, and the source of our motivation. Starting this week, we want to consider seven practices to become more diligent and efficient in managing our time and organizing our surroundings.

Now, it was no accident that we discussed the biblical truths before the practices. That’s because biblical truths must govern all of our time management and organizational practices. For example: I do not earn God’s approval by getting up at 5:00 AM every morning to pursue the spiritual disciplines (a practice); I’m accepted by God only because of Christ’s finished work on my behalf (a biblical truth). I can only organize my closet (a practice) in a manner that honors God by looking to Him for guidance and strength (a biblical truth).

See, practices alone, though a means of grace, do not transform us. My life is not ultimately changed by becoming more disciplined or getting more organized. Rather, I am changed as I grasp the truth of justification, depend on the Lord throughout the day, and do whatever I do for His glory. Hence, anytime we seek to implement a new practice, we must always revisit these biblical truths; otherwise, our practices will become new forms of legalism.

So with this in mind, I came up with a list of 7 Practices of the Effective Woman. We will consider these 7 habits over the next few months. This list has evolved out of my years of personal study on this topic. It certainly is not an exhaustive list; however, I hope it will be helpful. 

7 Practices of the Effective Woman:

1.    She rises early
2.    She maintains the spiritual disciplines
3.    She focuses on relational priorities for every season
4.    She sets up regular times for planning
5.    She develops an effective to-do list system and calendar/planner system
6.    She establishes an efficient routine for managing her home
7.    She organizes her house systematically

Now please do not try to apply all of these at once! That wouldn’t be wise. And remember that only God manages His time flawlessly. Only God is perfectly organized. Only God completes His to-do list. And we are not God. We are finite creatures and we might as well get comfortable with our finiteness.

Let me suggest you isolate one to three habits for application. David Powlison encourages us similarly: “Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t swallow all of truth in one gulp. We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing…you’d be different.”

So, in humility, let’s take a single sip of truth. And that one sip, if truly digested, will affect many other areas as well.

The 5:00 Club 

Nicole: The 5:00 club is a Mahaney-family club. Mom is the founder, chairman of the board, and the secretary. Without her, there is no club. This club has very few members (only six); no chapters to speak of. It is extremely unpopular from about 5-6 each morning and very popular every hour after that.

Actually, the 5:00 club is all about The First Practice of the Effective Woman: She Rises Early. In fact, Mom would say that this practice BY FAR has been the most helpful in seeking to fulfill the other six practices on the list. I wholeheartedly agree.

The 5:00 club began a few years ago while Mom was writing Feminine Appeal . The only way to meet her deadline was to get up at the insanely early hour of 4:00 a.m. Then, when we were writing Girl Talk , I reluctantly joined the 4:00 club. That was painful. When the books were finished, Mom realized that all that extra early-morning time could be put to good use for her family. And so the 5:00 club was born.

Every morning, Mom wakes up at about 4:30 a.m. She makes her coffee and then she makes phone calls—to the Bradshaw, Chesemore, and Whitacre homes. We all answer in our groggy voices—“thanks, Mom” and then roll out of bed sometime between 5:00 and 5:30.

I have to say for the record, that after Mom, Janelle is the most consistent member of the 5:00 club. This should give women around the world hope for rising early, because until this past year, Janelle would have been the champion sleeper of our family. If Janelle can do it—anyone can.

So why should you join the 5:00 club? For starters, getting up early ensures you get a quiet time each day. If you have children, you know that “quiet time” after they are awake is something of a misnomer. If you work a job or go to school, being on time is usually non-negotiable. Waking up late means your quiet time is probably the first to go.

Referring to Bible reading and prayer, John Piper says: “I earnestly recommend that it be in the early morning, unless there are some extenuating circumstances. Entering the day without a serious meeting with God, over his Word and in prayer, is like entering the battle without tending to your weapons.  The human heart does not replenish itself with sleep.  The body does, but not the heart.  We replenish our hearts not with sleep, but with the Word of God and prayer.” 

A second reason for getting up early is that you are prepared to serve your family’s needs. Rather than be awakened by husband or children and expected to meet needs before you are fully conscious, you are ready to serve your family when they arise.

Now that you have two good reasons for rising early, I want to stress that this will look different for everyone! The point is not that really godly women get up at 5:00 a.m.! Nowhere in the Bible will you find such a principle. The point is that there are great benefits to rising early—both for your spiritual life and the good of your family. And there are Scriptures that encourage this practice (Psalm 5:3, Prov. 31:15, Mark 1:35). But “early” will look different for every woman reading this post!

Also, this practice may not be realistic for moms with young children who still get up at night. You are already a part of the midnight club and the 3:00a.m. club, aren’t you? No mother of an infant should be condemned by this post. This is a time management principle to consider in the future. 

At this point you might be saying, this sounds like a great idea, but how do you do it? I’m just not a morning person and I’m not sure I can get up early! Here’s Mom’s strategy, and her sleep-loving children can testify that it works:  

  • Set my alarm for the same time everyday.
  • Get up. Turn off alarm, which is strategically placed on the other side of the room.  (I’ve learned this is my most critical moment in getting up early. It is crucial that I never, never, never, hit the snooze button or lie back down to catch a few more winks.)
  • Head straight to bathroom and then proceed directly to the coffee pot.
  • Be prepared to feel absolutely miserable for about 10 to 15 minutes. (But the feeling of misery turns into pure gladness as I soon experience the delight of having that alone time and as I reap the benefits all day long. It is totally worth feeling miserable for about 15 minutes.) 
  • Your body responds to a regular wake up time. In other words, it gets easier.

So, do you want to join our crazy club? Try it for a week, and if it doesn’t work for you, well, at least there wasn’t a membership fee.

For a more in-depth read on this topic, check out the Mahaney's newest book: Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and NOT be Overwhelmed (Crossway, 2007)


This article was adapted from "Girl Talk" - a blog kept by Carolyn and her three daughters for women in all seasons of life.

Carolyn Mahaney is a wife, mother, homemaker, and the author of Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother, Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood and Shopping for Time: How To Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed (written with her daughters) due out in July. During her more than 30 years as a pastor’s wife, Carolyn has spoken to women in many churches and conferences, including those of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which her husband, C.J., leads. C.J. and Carolyn have three married daughters and one fourteen-year-old son, Chad.

Nicole Whitacre is the oldest daughter of C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, as well as a wife, mother, and homemaker. She assisted her mother with Feminine Appeal, and is the co-author of Girl Talk. Nicole and her husband Steve—who is a youth pastor at Sovereign Grace Church—have one son Jack, 4 and a newborn daughter Tori.

Kristin Chesemore and her husband Brian are the busy parents of three boys. Andrew is seven, Liam is four, and Owen is three. In the little spare time she does have, Kristin supports Brian in his role as a pastor in Family Life Ministries at Covenant Life Church.

Janelle Bradshaw has been married to her husband Mike for four years and they have a beautiful daughter Caly, 1. Mike serves as a pastor in Children’s Ministry at Covenant Life Church.  

Pictured above, left-right: Janelle, Kristin, Carolyn, and Nicole