Habits: Like well worn paths…

It’s times like this when I wish I had more habits under my belt. I feel overwhelmed and out of sorts. Not sure which way to turn or what to do first. Habits make it possible to just act without much thinking. Habits are like well worn paths to get you where you need to go when you can’t see the forest for the trees.

I don’t have to think about getting up in the morning and getting dressed. I don’t have to think about flossing and brushing my teeth at night because they are habits. Thankfully I have the habit of making my bed each morning—it took me about 25 years of marriage to get that one under my belt. I don’t seem to have too much problem washing the clothes and putting them away anymore.

I have a few habits in my life that are still “in process.” Setting aside a special time for prayer and Scripture reading are foundational to my well-being, but I still struggle with consistency in these areas. I’ve got feeding-the-dog down now and am working on mastering cleaning the kitchen sink each night before bed.

Habits which have been particularly hard to nail down are ones like putting the dry cleaning outside for pickup every Monday and Thursday, exercising everyday, and writing my World Vision children on a regular basis. I sent them Easter cards—the ones provided by WV—but have not written any letters since Christmas.

Two of the most stubborn habits for me to master are keeping up with my email, keeping my inbox to zero (don’t tell my husband but I have 1459 messages in my inbox), and blogging regularly. I really would like to be blogging more. There is a lot of fascinating things I know would make great blog posts, but I just can’t seem to get off the dime. I just don’t seem to have the energy to get started. I haven’t developed the habit to see me through.

When life is interrupted, becomes very stressful, and your “reserves” are spent, habits come in very handy.

Everything for me, right now, seems like such a major effort. A lot of challenges have come my way all at once. (For some reason the Lenten Season is often filled with an extra dose of trials.) Many of my friends and some of my family are going through very difficult circumstances and I want to be there to support and encourage them as much as I can.

I also have two sick children at home who’ve needed a lot of extra attention. My husband‘s been traveling a lot in the last month, so my backup hasn’t been here. It seems like I’m the one shouldering the load. It’s really beginning to drain me. Our youngest, Marissa, has a horrible case of Mono. She came home from college for Spring break and should have gone back on March the 13th. Here it is the 26th, she is still home and I think she’ll have another week here, at least. Our second youngest, Madeline is having major surgery this coming Monday. The two of us have gone to doctor’s appointments, one after another, for several weeks now. Talk about exhausting.

I’ve noticed that when my resources are depleted I fall back on my habits, the good ones and the bad ones. It’s in times like these that I wish I had a lot more good ones. I’m glad for the good habits that are well engrained. As for the others, I must pay attention to how I feel right now knowing that they COULD have been available to me IF ONLY I had been more faithful to develop them. For now, all is not lost however. I have my family and friends to gently prod me to do the things which need to be done. (I hope it’s gentle)

My Twitter friend, Peter Pollock, has nudged me from time to time to keep blogging. Today he gave me a BIG push by mentioning me on his blog. I was honored but simultaneously embarrassed because those who will come to my site through his will not see anything new I’ve written since March the 1st—except, now for this post. Truth is, I want to do better, not because I’m succumbing to peer pressure but, because writing/blogging is something I really do want to do. I wish the habit of writing was already well rooted in me. But … it’s not.

So, I’ve been gently prodded to post today. That’s OK. Whatever it takes, for now. Thanks for your encouragement, Peter. Maybe someday I won’t need to be prodded. Maybe someday it will be a habit.

“Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them either. They keep you.”
Frank Crane

QUESTION: What habits do you know you should be working on, but keep avoiding? Which ones will be the best, well-worn paths to help you get where you need to be?

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36 Responses to “Habits: Like well worn paths…”

  1. Wow…I just started a post for my blog on this very subject. I have read research that shows that people who develop habits/routines they do daily (outside of the necessary habits, ie, brushing teeth) are better able to deal with all of life’s ups and downs. For me the most important habit is Bible reading and time in prayer…I am making a greater effort to make this so routine that it is on my mind every morning when I begin my day.

    Bless you…keep writing, you have a gift.

  2. Hi Linda,

    Oh, my. Well, not only have I not written to mine, I haven’t even thought about it once.

    With Madeline recovering from her surgery and Marissa still with mono I have been nurse and that’s all.

    I want to thank you for remembering. Let’s keep reminding each other and get it done!!


  3. Hi Gail,

    I’m going to ask you for a little grace 🙂 I haven’t written my letters to our World Vision children yet. Might I ask to have until monday? I promise to get them written by then. Life has been just a tad full these days.

    Praying your daughter is doing well. I imagine your days have been rather full too.

    Thanks much,

    See – I really do have a terrible problem with procrastination and am in desperate need of some good habits.

  4. Thank you Gail for your thoughts on habits. Great habits are choices we make…only a whole lot faster! I appreciate what you shared, thank you! I’d love to share my blog with you…
    http://www.searching4sunshine.com I hope you enjoy it!
    Linda Hoffy

  5. Ah. Thank you so much, Bonnie. Hope your day of the Resurrection is glorious. Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

  6. Hi Gail! Good morning! I saw you tweet with Peter just now.. and a friend of Peter’s is a friend of mine… 🙂 … What a heart opening post. May God breathe freshness in you this morning.. and may it seep into your words on this blog — and to your children. As you care for them and share your life.

    Happy Easter, Gail!

  7. Thanks, Gail, for your thoughtful and open post. I appreciate the quote you included, from Frank Crane. Don’t know the man, but those are true and hopeful words.

    What habits should I be working on but seem to keep avoiding? Going through piles of papers! They’re things I want to get to, but . . . “Clutter is the result of unmade decisions.” I don’t know where I read that one, but it seems to be true for me.

    Which habits are the best, well-worn paths to get me where I need to be? I’m thinking of two habits I wouldn’t want to live without. Like the quote from Frank Crane, they keep me. Years ago, I started reading through the One-Year Bible each year, and BINGO! The habit has worked so well for me that I look forward to the next morning’s reading before I even go to bed at night. I combine my early morning reading with another habit – coffee with vanilla creamer. Keeps me coming back each morning.

    Blessings to you and yours,

  8. Dear Gail,
    Your post was touching and your vulnerability speaks volumes to me about what a high profile mother and wife is like. Gratifyingly, a lot like the rest of us. What a relief!
    Illness can knock you off your pins, and yet it is God’s appointment as sure as the rain. From the window of your post you let us peek in, and we see that you are a godly, thoughtful woman who loves her family. Many are following, and it is do much easier to follow when you see your mentor has the same struggles!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to post. Whenever you do, I am blessed!

  9. Hi Gail,

    That’s a wonderful idea. I will commit to write by April 9th. Somehow I do infinitely better when I know someone is holding me accountable. I’ll check back with you.

    Thank you so much. We’re off to bring a spaghetti dinner to my Mom at the rehab center. She has a craving for spaghetti with clam sauce (we are Italian through and through).


  10. Gail,

    Thanks for your honest post. I think we all struggle with forming habits. Some we have, and others we need to keep working on. I find that I can get overwhelmed if I try to change everything at once. A wise friend keeps reminding me that it’s about “progress, not perfection.” I also try to be gentle with myself and encourage myself to keep going, especially when I fail.

    I do encourage you to keep blogging. It’s so important to use the internet to share the gospel. Keep up the good work.


  11. Would you let me hold you accountable to something, and you hold me accountable?

    Let’s commit to each other to write a one page letter to each of our World Vision children by April 9th. What do you say?

    My heart goes out to you with your parents. Both of mine have passed away. My mom in 2002 and my dad in 2005. I really miss them. Their last few years were really hard. What a blessing you are to them. Just keep loving them, cherishing every minute you have with them, no matter how hard it is.

    Thanks for commenting.

  12. Congratulations!

  13. Hi Andy,

    Thank you so much for the encouragement. Your words are very timely.

    I look forward to reading some of your writings.

    Warm regards.

  14. I’m not kidding that it took me almost 25 years to get those down. As far as the bed, it was really silly. I timed myself on making the bed and discovered that it takes me 1 minute and 27 seconds to make my king-sized bed. Good grief. And I LOVE having a made bed. It makes all the difference in how I view my day. Silly but true.

    Thanks fo your prayers.

  15. “You need to take care of you now, and conserve your energy. Cuz the girls need you.” I needed to hear this. I think you are so right. The next week will be pretty challenging I’m sure.

    And … “time for you and time with God” … I know this is essential. Thank you for giving me permission for “everything else to wait.”

    The email … well, I thinking that maybe while I’m sitting in the hospital I can focus on that and see if it really is possible to get the inbox to zero. … I’m not so sure

    Thanks for your prayers.

  16. Oh…there it is!

  17. Whoops – didn’t work. Figures….

  18. Just me again. I did that gravatar “thingy” and I think I have a thumbnail now. I’m not very computer savvy either:-)

  19. With a few minor changes, I could have written this very post Gail. For some reason I tend to associate the word habit with bad things. It is true that some habits are very good. I need to work on those. My word vision children haven’t gotten anything from us but those cards either, and my Quiet Time has never been consistent. I just think I need the habit of good balance in my life. I can tend to get so single-minded.

    I am also experiencing one of those overwhelming seasons. My 90 year old father is on dialysis, and my 86 year old mother just fell and broke her hip. Life has gotten rather stressful…

    I love what you have said about good habits standing us in good stead during these times.

  20. Hi Gail,
    I’m encouraged by your post with the hopes that one day I too will master the habit of making the bed daily and putting the laundry away. I’m joining your friend by encouraging you to write more as well. Your posts are great. Thanks! Praying for Monday.

  21. A couple of years ago I practiced “free writing.” I found it very revealing and very energizing. Until you had mentioned it, I had forgotten about that practice. Thanks for the reminder. I would like to get back to it.

    Since you can relate to lack of focus on blog posts, you’ve got to read what my daughter wrote last night:
    I have to say it’s really good.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  22. When I learned the phrase, “Wait to worry,” it changed my life. I say it to myself all. the. time. So glad it’s been helpful to you.

    Thanks for your prayers.

  23. “… I really believe that forming good habits is often harder than breaking the bad ones!” I’ve never really thought about that one. I think you’re exactly right and breaking bad ones is pretty darn hard.

    “if my personal relationships with my loved ones have no variety, then they have the potential to become stale.” This is very true and sometimes that variety comes in things we don’t choose, like being sick. As hard as it is to nurture sick children, I am treasuring this time with them.

    Thanks for your wisdom.

  24. Thank you for these encouraging words! And thank you most of all for praying for me. It is a crucial mission and an incredible privilege and I feel blessed beyond words to have been given the opportunity to bring these precious ones to Jesus feet. It is a nagging feeling we have as mothers that whatever we do it is not enough — not as much as we could have done had we been better managers of our time or made better choices. But I do know how to undo the striving and rest in God’s good, pleasing and perfect plan! I just have to remind myself of His truths — maybe that’s the only habit I really need right now!

    And thanks for the quote, I love it. It paints such a vivid picture.

    Hope you have a restful weekend!

  25. I love it when you blog. I miss it when you don’t blog. I love this blog. I love that you dumped it all out there.

    I know from experience (I wish I didn’t) that stuff seems way worse when we’re tired. You need to take care of you now, and conserve your energy. Cuz the girls need you. Keep the habit of feeding Nelson, though. Probably not a good thing to break that one.

    Other than that, you need time for you and time with God. Period. Everything else will wait. Just a brief update so we can pray effectively would be nice, though. 🙂

    So rest in Him and let Him carry you. The other stuff will fall into place in its time.

    As far as the inbox–I declared bankruptcy several months ago–4,538 emails still sitting in the processed folder. I could probably dump them altogether. I’m back up to 885 in my inbox. So take heart!

    I have a bad habit of putting off bill paying. Not a good thing to procrastinate on!

    Praying for you and the girls. Hugs.

  26. Hi Gail,
    My heart goes out to you…. Remember, there are times in all of our lives when things will be out of balance, it is, just as it is; you are you and that is more than enough… There is a lot on your plate right now.

    That said, once the children are well and things around the house have evened out you will have plenty of time to write and develop some of the habits you’re heading towards.

    Free writing (about anything) for just 15 minutes in the morning can be a great start….

    Personally, I can relate to your lack of focus on blog posts – I’m working on that one too!

  27. Gail…I’ve been following your blog and your husband’s for a few months and have been blessed by both.

    Your recent post on “Wait to Worry” has actually helped me take steps toward changing my bad “worry” habit. I have been a worrier for as long as I can remember – even as a child raised in a God-centered home, I worried. Through the child-rearing years, the various career stages, and now as a first-time “Nana”, I worry. It’s extremely frustrating since I know that as a mature Christian woman, I should trust the Lord more and overcome worry.

    Since reading your post, I have started saying to myself and aloud to others, “I’m going to wait to worry about this.” It truly has helped me get through the moment – and the sky has not fallen! My friends are even starting to quote me (but I tell them I’m quoting you and refer them to your blog)!

    I appreciate your transparency, and am praying for you and your family.


  28. Rachel Wojnarowski March 26, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Your honesty and transparency is so refreshing. I really believe that forming good habits is often harder than breaking the bad ones! At least it is for me. But, some encouragement I cling to: if my personal relationships with my loved ones have no variety, then they have the potential to become stale. God knows all the craziness of your life right now; He is in control! Spending time with Him is so much more important than when we spend time with him. 🙂 Looking forward to reading more on your blog.

  29. Thanks again, Peter. 🙂

  30. Gail, I know EXACTLY how you feel and my heart goes out to you.

    I hope my gentle prodding has not become too much of a hard push – don’t burn yourself out unnecessarily.

    On the other hand, of course, I and probably many others had no idea what was going on with you and taking the time to do blog updates every now and then is so good because we now know how to pray for you!

    I appreciate you, Gail.

    May God bless and restore you and your family.

  31. “…Keep pressing in … ” I LOVE that. Thank you.

    To God be the glory.

  32. I’m proud of you. You have the most important job in the whole world – raising children. And I do mean the most imporant job. And boys, nonetheless. Talk about a crucial mission. Saying a prayer for you right now.

    As Patricia said to me above: Please don’t be hard on yourself–right now your priorities are with your [sons]

    The joy of the Lord will be your strength and in His presence is fulness of joy.

    May God richly bless all that your hands find to do.

    Just remember:
    A small but persistent discipline is a great force; for a soft drop tailing persistently, hollows out hard rock.~St Isaac the Syrian (7th century)

  33. Great post! I feel the same way about many areas in my life. I am one of those “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of gals…and it hasn’t always been a pretty flight path! 🙂

    The Lord is working on me in areas that might be “easy” for other folks. This was a great reminder to keep listening – and keep pressing in.

    I look forward to more posts. And there will be more – right? 🙂


  34. I’m embarrassed by how few good habits I keep. I read my Bible and pray pretty regularly but never at specified times. Although I have three boys (8,6 and 3) who keep me happily hopping I need to establish some good habits and routines, so thanks for this important reminder.

    Also may the Lord fully heal your girls and use these days to further cement in their minds your great love for them.

  35. Patricia, your words are timely. Just what I needed. I will take them into my heart. Thank you very much.

  36. Because of a lack of administrative oversight in the past few years, I have developed some bad habits in teaching my students. Our new principal, who used to teach with me and who is my friend, called me on those bad habits. But, she didn’t leave me hanging–she is more than willing to help me overcome. I can see myself growing because she is involved in my life.

    Please don’t be hard on yourself–right now your priorities are with your daughters. They need their mother and everyone else can wait. And, while your life is extra busy, rejoice that God is walking with you with His arm around your shoulder.

    My prayers are with both girls, you, and the rest of your family. I’ll be thinking of Madeline on Monday.

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