Every Tuesday in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.

I wrote my first piece for Christ and Pop Culture just over three years ago, and while I guest-authored that article, I quickly agreed to a weekly column. Nearly every week since, I’ve written something for “The Kiddy Pool,” some of it inspired and some of it—not so much. I expected to enjoy the work as a kind of ministry that fits my gifts and my season of intensive care-work, and I appreciated the break from the academic writing the make up my profession. “The Kiddy Pool” specifically, and the community of CAPC more broadly, have granted me that vocation and its pleasures, and then some.

As I come off of a month-long layoff from my column, I’ve had the time to reflect on the discipline of submitting an original text week after week. The demands of the deadlines force me to focus, to find material, refine my thinking, and produce something even if it feels lackluster. The best way to grow as a writer is to write. And behind the scenes of those published pieces, there is a community complete with raucous, sometimes silly, sometimes irreverent, but ever-thoughtful people of faith. Just reading the threads bolsters my faith and draws my attention to issues about how to live in the world while reflecting Christ’s light. Iron sharpens iron.

I am thinking through the same issues of discipline with my running, as I work toward my twenty-first marathon. Except this time (unlike the last three, the ones since I had children), I’m trying to do more of the little things. It’s like the older I get, the less optional yoga becomes. If I don’t do plyos several times a week, a decades-old hip injury starts acting up. And though I ran my first after children when my eldest was only nine months old, it’s not a feat I recommend. I was so eager to return to “normalcy” (which I still find elusive) that I put all my attention on the long run and neglected my training the rest of the week. I simply lacked the resources (physical and temporal) to do it right at that time, and the result was a painful race that nearly injured me.

I’m at the stage now, though, where I’m less interested in proving myself and more interested in improving myself—holistically. Experienced runners know to race according to the tangents of the course; it’s how the distances are measured, and over a distance like a mile or a marathon, each small step out of line adds up. I’m looking at my whole life that way right now, with attention to detail and emphasis on the small things that turn out to not be so small after all. Every choice matters every day, because minute by minute I am shaping the person I’ll be tomorrow and a few days and a few years from now. I want to be intentional, not running off on some tangent.

And really, it’s no surprise that a mother of a preschooler and a toddler thinks about the word discipline a lot. I love discipline. I think it’s one of my strengths as a parent (hey, we can’t all be fun), and I think the word gets an unfair poor reputation. I don’t see discipline as synonymous with punishment, though I think that should sometimes play a role in parenting too. To me, discipline means practicing the values that matter to my family—things like kindness and soft words, gentle actions. Discipline is really another word for self control, for choosing a path and sticking to it. I want to discipline my children to daily acts of kindness, to treating other creatures with dignity, to self respect and love for God. That means a lot of reminders, a lot of practice, a lot of failures—for me probably more than for them.

I know, from my writing and from my running, that behind every achievement is a whole lot of work. I really want to say drudgery there, but there’s beauty in it, in each step whether we walk or crawl or stumble. I get it that I’m going to be that parent who shouts out the car window “Make good choices!” And I really really hope that they do. In the meantime, I’m trying to model those good choices and the humility that comes from failing or falling short. But it doesn’t matter if I’m struggling, because I know now what I’m really striving for, and I know where to fix my eyes.