Thoughts on Habits and Ants

I have a long history of making declarations (drink more water, eat more produce, exercise regularly, read scripture daily). I follow through for a short time and then quit. I hear I may not be the only one who does that.

Last summer I helped our daughter and her husband move and settle into a new home. Even though we didn’t have their belongings in and beds made until late Monday night, Caitlyn was committed to teaching her regularly scheduled spinning exercise class the next morning at 6:45 a.m. “Of course, I’ll go with you!” I said.  (We moms do things like that.)

Getting up early and going to the class bleary-eyed brought back vivid memories of Caitlyn’s senior year of high school when she and I regularly attended a 5:15 a.m. spinning class together. Together was great! If one of us wanted to opt out, the other one would encourage and we’d end up at class. As much as I liked the class and getting my exercise done before coffee, my consistency with Caitlyn became inconsistency on my own.

22317_imPOSSIBLEWhen I returned home after their move, I laid out my clothes, set my alarm and made it to the spinning class the next morning. And then I did it again. And again.

A few weeks later, Gary joined me and kept going. I had a spinning partner again!  A lot of times we were both ready to get up and go, but if one didn’t feel like it, the other one would hold the line.

Then January came.

And there went our attendance at the spinning class.

Oh, we talked about it, as in, “Are we spinning tomorrow?” “We should.” “So are we?” “I don’t know.”

(We didn’t.)

We recently found our way out of bed and back to the class – a great start to the day.

That evening I asked rhetorically, “Why is it so much easier to break a good habit than to develop one?”

It’s an age-old question, but that evening I heard it, really heard it for the first time.

The truth is, our habit was developed AND  was broken by the answer to a simple question: are we spinning tomorrow?

Before January, we answered yes. After January, we answered no.

Building the exercise habit was neither hard nor easy. It was answering the question with a yes. Breaking the habit was neither hard nor easy. It was answering with a no. The habit was established — and then broken with a single word. What our minds set on, our bodies did.

Hmmm… What other things have I deemed difficult, that may simply need a different answer?

For me, writing falls in that category. I want to write and like to write. In fact, I believe God asks me to write. However, without deadlines, or an editor breathing down my neck, it’s easy to distract myself with some other task or diversion when writing gets difficult or a little too personal.

Is there a question being asked for me to answer?” I think so: “Will I write today, put some words – ANY words – where that blinking cursor is?” Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.”

I have to admit part of being mature is making the decision that will move me forward – even if I can’t see very far down the road.

Our few months of spinning before Christmas did not result in either of us replacing our wardrobes for smaller sizes, but I had more energy and Gary enjoyed skiing in Colorado more than before.

Not everything I write will be published – even on my own blog. But if I keep writing, I’ll find some kernels to build on.

Donald Miller, author and founder of Storyline, suggests making better decisions by imagining ourselves a year removed from a decision we need to make. As we look back at it from a year down the road, how do we want to see it? For example, if someone hurts my feelings today, what actions do I want to see when I look back on it from next year– revenge or forgiveness? When we remove ourselves from the immediacy and emotion of a situation or decision, and, instead, see it from a year down the road, the perspective changes.

A year from now, I don’t want to say, “I really should get back to an exercise program?” I want to look back and see a year of exercising fairly regularly 3-4 times a week!

Likewise, I don’t want to look back and see I wrote very little in 2016. I want to see a writing routine I can build on for the NEXT year!

When life gives me a bump in the road, I can wonder what the God’s word says, or I can KNOW what it says because I’ve been reading it.

While establishing good habits and practices is important, I have to admit it may not be as difficult as I’ve believed. Rather, it’s a pattern of small decisions – the next best decision I can make to move my life forward.

Proverbs 30:24-25 calls ants wise, “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.”

I hope I’m not aiming too high, but I’d like to be at LEAST as wise as an ant. How about you? Maybe together we could become an Army of Wise Ants. (AWA – maybe?)

Can we encourage each other to exercise maturity, act with wisdom and say yes to the things we can do, or say no to the things we can give up to take a step forward in life?

We can do this.

What is your next best decision?

Let’s not let ants give better answers than we do.

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Why I talk to myself

I talk to myself. I have for years. I used to try to hide it. Maybe I still do.

When my children were preschool age, I was home with them give or take a part time job here or there. Do you remember what that’s like? Some of you are still in that place. I remember it well.  It was a lot of noise, but not a lot of conversation.  Those years were a great time in the life of our family, but they didn’t provide me with a lot of opportunities to exchange information interesting to someone over the age of 4. So, I would sometimes “practice” what I would tell Gary when he got home after work. I clearly remember times when I would say something out loud and then edit it – saying it different ways. I would repeat this process until I had it nailed solidly in place – exactly what I would tell him.

Two things happened. First, as soon as he walked through the door, I started in on the soliloquy I had practiced and perfected throughout the day. I’m sure he loved that. Or not.

Continue reading

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Listening, not listening and God-given opportunities

My husband and I have selected a “word for the year” the past few years.  Hospitality was our word in 2014; discipline was 2015’s choice.  While it’s easy to focus on the times we weren’t hosting people in our home, or the times we  weren’t disciplined, I think we made progress each year.

Our word this year is listen. Our main objective is to really hear what God is saying to us and to genuinely hear each other.  Our daughter Caitlyn cautioned me saying, “Be careful you don’t use the word against each other, as in, ‘Our word for this year is listen, but you’re not listening to me!'”

I laughed, but shouldn’t have.  I wanted to say THAT EXACT SENTENCE to him yesterday. Because she had cautioned me, I held my tongue. (Does that count in the “Yay, me!” column for discipline?)

Continue reading

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Book Review: Home is Where My People Are

I decided I would read 24 books this year.  One would be the Bible in its entirety. The other 23 were not determined ahead of time.  I’m on pace to do this, but many of the books I want to read are not available through my local library.  A lot of my book recommendations come through other blogs I read or through the instagram accounts of authors/bloggers/speakers I love.

A couple weeks ago I attended the Influence Conference in Indianapolis with my friend Jen and 400 of our closest friends. Well, we hadn’t met them before, but now that we have, I’d love to BE friends with all of them.

While there I attended a breakout session for writers. (Technically, it was called a revival session — but if you weren’t there, it seems difficult to try to explain why it was called a revival. Especially since it wasn’t in a tent, except that there was one tent — technically a yurt.) So… we’ll just call it a breakout session.

Anyway, I attended a breakout session for writers.

Sarah Martin, author of Just RISE UP!: A Call to Make Jesus famous, led the workshop. It was sponsored by Tyndale, and because Tyndale sponsored it, they shared information about their program called Tyndale Rewards. (More on that below.)

AND Tyndale gave us an opportunity to pick one of four books they had with them (for FREE), take it home, read it and write a review of it.

book-lgI chose Home is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson.  I read (and loved) her first book, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet earlier this year, so Home is Where My People Are was definitely on my list of “Books to Read.” (Yes, I really have a list called that — it’s on page 7 of my journal.  Page 8 is “Scripture to Memorize.” Let’s just say I’m making more progress on page 7 than 8.)

Sophie Hudson, who blogs at, is a Mississippi born and raised (or “reared” as her mother-in-law, Martha would say) girl. She has an engaging way of drawing me into her circle of friends and family in both books.  And just when she has me laughing out loud — and I mean literally laughing out loud, not the lol that doesn’t mean anything — she flips a switch and has me contemplating a big life-truth, or near tears.  Or IN tears, as I was while reading chapter 19 of Home.

In Home is Where My People Are, Sophie Hudson shares her personal spiritual journey of growing up in the church to drifting away from the church to contemplating a return to church.  She also tells her physical journey from growing up, going off to college, and entering the grown-up world by chronicling the cities and homes she’s lived in through the process.  She weaves the two journeys together very well for the reader. And, as the title suggests, she gives a lot of attention to the people in her life along the the way.

I love her writing.  I’ve never heard Sophie Hudson speak, but she has a distinct voice in my mind as I read her.  Most of her characters end up with their own unique voices in my mind as well.  That’s a gift she has.

If you’re looking for an easy-reading book, I really recommend Sophie Hudson’s Home is Where My People Are. (I also recommend A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet). You’ll enjoy meeting the people in her life, and along the way, she’ll get you to think about some very substantial parts of your own life. She’s entertaining and thought provoking at the same time. You can learn more about Sophie Hudson and order the book here. (For the record, I’m recommending, simply to recommend.  I don’t make any money off your purchase of the book through this link.)

tyndale-house-publishers-rewards-store-logoIf you’re interested in Tyndale’s Rewards Program, you can check out more information by going to this website.   If you’d like to sign up for the program yourself (you don’t have to have a blog), I invite you to sign up, and if you sign up through this link, you’ll get 25 points to start off and I’ll get 10 for referring you!

Please let me know if you read Home is Where My People Are. I’d love to know what you think of it.


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O God, I Want…

This past April I admitted something to God I hadn’t really admitted before.  I’m sure it wasn’t news to him. (smile) But, in some ways, it was news to me.

I was reading the story of Hannah in I Samuel.  While I have loved that story for years, it spoke to me in a new way.  In April when I read the longing in Hannah’s life for a son, I felt a longing in my own life.  Not for another child, but for God to use me in a new way.

A full 8 months into my retirement, I was finally feeling rested and, in fact, energized.

And confused. Continue reading

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Is Spring Break Over?

Please tell me you can relate to this.  I’ve had times where I know I *should* talk to someone.  But I put it off.  And the longer I put it off, the more *awkward* it can feel.  So I put it off some more.  And then I have to decide if I’m going to buck up and start the conversation or just let it go.  Maybe forever.

In my experience, starting the conversation, no matter how awkward, is always the right decision.

That’s what I’m doing.  Right now.  With you.  I’m starting, or rather, re-starting a conversation. Continue reading

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“Sticks & Stones…”

BandaidWe tell kids things like, “A lot of times someone puts others down to make himself feel better.” Or, “It sounds like he exaggerated to build himself up.

The adage “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a lie. Wounds from words can hurt more and longer than a physical injury. And sadly, it isn’t only kids who do it. We adults can be victims of family members, friends or acquaintances making us feel less than good enough.

But we would never do that to someone else. Right? Continue reading

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Good news, parents — you’re qualified

“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”          Philippians 1:6

Last week I challenged all who are parents to be the first and most important spiritual teachers to their kids.  It was old news to some and alarming to others. I, too, am sometimes alarmed by the enormity of the task we’ve been given.

I have more history of messing up God’s plan, or at least rerouting it at times, than carrying it through to completion.  At least, when left to my own abilities.

Today, I have a good comforting word for you:  God is okay with your having the task of teaching your kids about him and his goodness.  He designed the process, knows us deeply and somehow is still willing to let our inadequacies work alongside his sufficiency.

Our job is to walk with our kids, train them as we know how and tell them about our faith while demonstrating it.  But we can relax in knowing the Savior is Jesus Christ.   Continue reading

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That’s my job?

“And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road,, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Long, long ago when our son Andy was born, our church’s nursery had an area where moms and babies were always welcome.  But, before we could leave Andy in the nursery while we attended worship or Sunday school sans kiddo, we were required to take a class called First Teachers. We met one hour a week for 2 weeks during Sunday school.

During week one the instructor said we parents are the first teachers for our kids in spiritual matters.  She said the church was there to support us and walk with us, but the first and primary responsibility of teaching our kids belonged to us. Continue reading

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It’s Good to Have Options

Once upon a time, many, many moons ago, Gary and I were newly married.  In the spring of 1985 as we were approaching our 1st anniversary, we were ready to buy our first house.

Like most house-hunting couples, we discussed what we each wanted.  Well, we discussed it like people did in the mid 80’s. House Hunters wasn’t on tv yet.  We both wanted a back yard.  We didn’t know to call it “outdoor space.” And, thankfully for our budget, granite countertops were not necessities at that point in history. Continue reading

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