replacing habits

My daughter has a horrible habit of chewing on her hair. It’s a coping behavior that has come and gone and come back again over the past few years. While we spend a fair amount of time asking her to take her hair out of her mouth, I’ve recently started talking to her about replacing that habit with another one. When she picks up her hair to put it in her mouth, I’m trying to train her to put it behind her ear instead. Replacing the one habit of chewing, with a somewhat better one of putting it behind her ear. It’s a crazy hard thing to change a habit.

The same goes with us and our mental or spiritual habits. Back when I was struggling significantly with anxiety and fear, I went to see a biblical counselor. He called my anxiety and fears what they were: sin issues. My anxiety and fear, specifically of thunderstorms, stemmed from my inability to trust God. It was me moving into the future and forecasting what I predicted might happen (which usually wasn’t positive), which was in essence me attempting to be bigger than God. But when my mind started to wander into those predictions, I had to learn how to replace that habit with another one. For me, that means when my mind starts to go to that place of presumption I first start replacing my fearful thoughts with the verse from Philippians:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition present your requests to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

But to be honest, it took weeks and weeks and even into years before this became embedded into me. Habits are not easy to replace.

There’s a great book, that sadly I only made it partly through, about habits called The Power of a Habit by Charles Duhigg. While it’s not written from a Biblical perspective, there is so much of it that speaks into our spiritual lives. There are so many things we can change and improve in our lives merely by realizing our habits and replacing them with another one.

I really feel like this is the success of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts campaign. Choosing to see the blessing, choosing to count the gifts is a habit. When I take my pessimistic oriented mind and choose to see the glass half full instead of half empty, I am changing the habit of my negativity.

I’m sitting at a red light frustrated with the person in front of me who didn’t move fast enough and now I’m stuck at the red light again. In that moment, instead of getting angry and bitter about it and spending that red light fuming over the car in front of me, I change that habit and choose to find the blessings. I choose to find something to be thankful for. I choose to replace the habit of my anger with thankfulness.

There’s a great verse in 1 Corinthians: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. I think I’ve known that verse for years, but never really understood what it means to “take every thought captive” for in reality that’s the battle we are in. Taking every single thought that we have captive. But it’s not enough to just become aware of those thoughts, we also have to replace them.

It makes me think of the verse from Colossians:

“Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

 

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living a level life

We bought an antique kitchen table this weekend. We had been using the one left from the previous owners of our house and while it was definitely functioning, it wasn’t what we really wanted. When we bought the table, it was outside in a tent on a hill. It seemed really sturdy and my woodworking husband checked it all over and it seemed all in check. We brought it home, set it up and we loved it. A couple hours later, I looked at it again and noticed the top had a bit of a lean to it. Not enough to spill food or anything, but enough to aggravate the perfectionist in me.

I looked at my husband and told him, this is my life. I long and strive daily for everything in my life to be level. I don’t want even the tiniest lean or tip. It stresses me out. But when I’m so focused on making everything level, I miss the beauty. Before I noticed this table was a bit out of whack I would walk into the kitchen and thing, wow! what a beautiful table and what great memories we are going to make on it. But after I looked at it again and noticed the lean, that is all I could see.

It’s all about my perspective. When I’m looking for all the things in my life that are crooked, that’s it; nothing but the crooked. But when I change my perspective; when “I lift up my eyes to the hills, I see my help” and the stress melts away. I begin to enjoy the lean.

Today, I am counting the blessings of my imperfection:

281. a leaning table
282. the walk to school this morning, remembering all the fun we had on our fall break
283. the space of a quiet morning
284. the $16 in my pocket and the $15.99 grocery bill
285. a full saturday with lots of memories
286. watching my son get pummeled in football, and then go back in again…oh his strength and courage and perseverance
287. waking up to a crazy bird outside our window who keeps chirping a nutty song
288. the blessing of an opportunity to write here and all the amazing, encouraging comments
289. hopping up from the dinner table to dance to a favorite song
290. reading a chapter, listening to a sermon, “hearing” the writing stirring in my heart and seeing God move all that together as one

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what’s your melody?

What is the melody of my heart…
When I’m driving home from the grocery with a nearly empty budget envelope on the third day of the month?
When my children are so quick to frustration with themselves, each other and me?
As I see the projects pile and pile up and the time just slip away from me?
When I continue to get sucked into the cyber-world, ignoring the family behind me?

All these things, and more, offer and opportunity for me to change the melody of my heart. There is a song that my life flows to, but it’s a human song and many of the notes are sour or missing.
It’s a broken world and I am fallen.
But He offers an opportunity for my melody to be changed.
He adds notes that are missing.
He fixes the notes that are broken.
He wants to change the melody of my heart, but I have to participate.
It’s like He is writing the music, but I’ve got to be brave enough to sit down and hit the keys.

…making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father…
Ephesians 5:19

I’ve got to play His version:

271. for the abundance in my trunk as I drive home from the grocery
272. for the little bit of money left in my envelope
273. for the lesson that I learn from my children
274. for the opportunity to show grace and mercy, even in the midst of frustration
275. for a couple of “free” hours on a Sabbath afternoon to catch up on some sewing orders
276. for my family, who loves me even when I do ignore them
277. the Amazing Race is back on 🙂
278. extra snuggles from an 8 year old boy who still wants to try and sit in my lap
279. a husband who persists and persists and finally fixes the very, very clogged sink
280. the anticipation of another week for all of us at home, to move slowly before school starts again

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an unfolding reality

I am reading Invitations from God by Adele A. Calhoun and it has already been such a blessing and changed so much of my thought processes.  The first chapter asks us to participate. It is a reminder that God doesn’t just wave a magic wand over us and “poof!” we are changed. It is a process that we must be a part of daily. My transformation isn’t complete because I said “yes” to God in tenth grade. It was merely the beginning. Jesus didn’t just say “yes” to the cross, He actually had to carry it and hang on it. The same is for me. I must continue to die daily to the things in my life that make me less like Him.

God invites us to change… “He works in our choices and desires as we respond to His invitation.”
He invites us to a life that is:
free
not static
a new start
lived in an unfolding reality
filled with taking up our cross and following Him.

Part of that daily cross for me is looking for the blessings, instead of the frustrations…

257. the choice of following Him
258. forgiveness when I don’t
259. campfires and smores
260. time with friends unknown
261. minnows caught by a little girl
262. crickets chirping at night
263. picking out paint colors for a house that is starting to look like a rainbow for all the choices
264. fall breaks from school
265. tiny dogs that we meet at the park
266. this amazing place that I live
267. tiny footsteps upstairs
268. extra time for snuggles
269. expectation
270. watching an embroidery “come to life”

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finding a place to fit in

I had one of those weekends where pretty much every where I went I didn’t fit in. I either didn’t know anyone, my kids were consuming every bit of patience I had and/or I was in the middle of conversations with people about things I didn’t do.
It was a weekend where it was very easy to sink into a pity party.
A weekend that I felt wide open for attack.

I tend to run fast in the other direction when weekends like this happen.
I tend to hole myself up in my house and take pleasure in just being alone.

But the truth is, if I’m walking with Him, I can’t.

There is an invitation extended to me to love and to love well…no matter what.
To love those that are different.
To love even when I feel depleted.
To love even when I don’t “fit in”.

So every time that pity party started and I began to go down that trail of tears, I began to praise.
To count the blessings, instead of the pain.
To count the good, instead of the hurts.

242. the reminder that “we are strangers and aliens in this world”
243. the space in my life to be there
244. talking with a new friend outside of our son’s school
245. coffee with a friend on a monday morning
246. new mornings
247. little girls who wake up pleasant in the morning
248. AAA for a husband who has locked his keys in his car
249. friends that are different than me
250. space, I am just so thankful for the space given to me right now in my life
251. the opportunity for healing in a relationship
252. the strength to head into ventures that are hard
253. the dustbunnies that grow under my bed
254. icing covered biscuits
255. cool mornings
256. finishing up a big project

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