Habits: the Good & the Bad

Habit [NOUN]: A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

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Habits.

We all have them. Some are good, others are bad.

A couple of mine? I pick at my lips and stay up waaay too late.

One of my sons never, ever, ever closes drawers. And my other son is a dirty clothes artist–aka, he leaves his school clothes in rather artistic piles… always on his bedroom floor.

❤ (But on the flip side, one of them gives warm, fuzzy hugs regularly and the other reads whatever and whenever he can.) ❤

Often, we agonize over breaking bad habits.

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Recently my younger son stumbled into our bedroom at 2am. He’s eleven, so unless he or his brother are sick, they’re tucked in their beds between 9:30pm and 7am.

If you’re close to me, you know that I’m 95% human and 5% beast. My beast mode kicks in between midnight and 7am. No joke, my sister had to {carefully} wake me up on Christmas morning when we were kids. I do not do mornings unless provoked and/or coerced.

Anyway, Chase stumbles into our bedroom at 2am. “Can I sleep with you guys?”

“Grfghrgrlk?” We’ve never been big on the boys sleeping with us. As babies they did occasionally, and during illness as toddlers, but overall we keep our bed ours.

He tries his dad, who thankfully remains human in the deep, dark hours of the night. “Can I sleep in here?”

“Did you have a bad dream?”

“No, I just want to sleep in here.”

My wonderful human husband climbs out of bed, guides Chase back to his bedroom (which he shares with our older son), and lays down with him for several minutes. Thankfully Chase remains asleep and the night continues as normal.

Until the next night.

And the next night.

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“Waking up at 2am has become a habit.” I mention gently on the third day. He nods in understanding. He didn’t want to wake up, but couldn’t help it anymore.

At bedtime on the fourth evening, I asked about bad dreams again. None, he reassured me. We prayed and they got an extra long back scratch. Just as my hubby and I walked out, Chase unraveled from his blanket cocoon.

“Can you lay the clock down? It’s too bright and when I wake up it reminds me that I’m sleeping.”

Ah. The proverbial lightbulb flashed on.

A few days earlier, I purchased a small silver alarm clock for the boys’ room. Huge green letters filled the screen so that Cole could see it on his bookshelf, from his bed (his eyesight isn’t great, and he takes his glasses off at night).

So I laid the clock on its back, and sure enough, Chase slept through the night. And again the next night.

The bad habit was broken.

The situation got me thinking about habits. Bad ones, and good ones.

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NaNoWriMo 2017 has begun.

For those who don’t know, it’s a write-a-thon set during the month of November. “National Novel Writing Month.” Thousands of writers across the country (world?) pound out 50,000 words of a story by November 30th. You don’t have to finish the story, just the 50k words.

Some make it, some don’t. The point is to Write. Every. Single. Day.

I enjoy the camaraderie on social media and the internal & external incentive to get words on a page. NaNoWriMo always readjusts the good habit of writing every day.

{NO EDITING ALLOWED}

If you’re on this NaNoWriMo journey, best wishes on adjusting to this new, good habit. Figure out what helps you write better and faster (plotting beforehand, writing at night when your house is silent, consuming nine cups of coffee & an entire bag of M & M’s, etc…)

Then write. Because writers write.

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YOU. CAN. DO. THIS!

 

 

 

 

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Most Memorable Reads of 2016

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As we close down another year, I love looking back on the fabulous books I’ve read over the past 365 days. Each January on Goodreads I set up my goal of 52 books, and do my best to meet the goal (while squeezing in as much writing and real life as possible).

Choosing my top five or ten favorite books feels too much like choosing a favorite child or favorite chocolate. I can’t! Each story I read leaves a mark on me in its own way, through the gift of story.

So I decided to list my most memorable reads of 2016–the stories that lingered with me, tugged my heartstrings, gripped my emotions, made me laugh (or cry), and inspired my own writing the most.

(These are in no particular order.)

 

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Shadow of the Storm is book #2 in the Out of Egypt trilogy (book three releases in May), and I loved this and Counted with the Stars equally. Beautiful writing, tender romance, and life-like characters struggling to trust God and survive amidst the turmoil of the Exodus–what’s not to love? A winner for fans of historical and biblical romance.

***

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I read The Girl from the Train last year and was quite moved by Irma Joubert’s (American) debut, so I quickly picked up Child of the River when it released. I finished the story a few weeks ago and still think of the characters. Her writing is somehow both simple and powerful, the images startling. Many scenes I reread just to soak the words in. This author has a gentle, probing hand with human emotion and a vast understanding of South Africa’s (WWII-era) history, giving readers unique stories that long stay with you.

***

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Because I’m also writing a middle grade/YA trilogy, I read this genre once or twice a month. Last in a Long Line of Rebels was humorous and touching for kids and adults alike. Strong-willed protagonist, Lou, and her best friends are determined to solve a centuries-old mystery that threatens her family. Though my boys are getting pickier about “girl stories,” they eagerly snuggled into bed at night so I could read another chapter of this southern story chock full of mystery and family drama–and laughs.

***

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Author Brandy Vallance’s sophomore novel is just as delicious and lovely as its cover. Though quite different than her dazzling debut, The Covered Deep, Within the Veil spills over with beautiful prose and riveting emotion, never giving the reader a chance to pause and catch their breath (which is of course, a good thing.) The romance is both fiery and tender (but remains appropriate), and the fascinating Scottish history fills the pages to the brim. Even better? The sweet salvation message threaded throughout.

***

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If I were to choose a book that racked up the most tears per page, this one wins the blue ribbon. Not that I cried a lot, just one good, solid time. Oh…the end. That scene. A Flight of Arrows is Lori’s second book in The Pathfingers series, and I recommend reading The Wood’s Edge first to better understand this stunning story. Lori’s breathtaking prose and meticulous research frame a story so spiritually moving that I used at least three tissues. While I loved all of her books so far, this one. Just. Moved. Me. So. Much.

***

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Such a fun and heartwarming story! I read Rachel McMillan’s debut in one wonderful day, reclining in my comfy reading chair, and I loved every moment of it. Part mystery, part historical, and threaded with sweet romance, The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder delivers lovely prose, witty footnotes, and lively dialogue that captivates readers. It’s just a unique story, and I still gaze fondly at this adorable green book gem, set on my ‘favorites’ bookshelf.

***

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This book still makes me sigh. Author Joanne Bischof is so gifted at creating beautiful scenes and a tender romance. Oh, that Charlie! I dare you to read this and not fall a little bit in fictional love. But The Lady and the Lionheart is much more than a romance–it’s a redemption story with abiding themes of forgiveness and grace. SO beautiful. (Sigh. See?) For fans of inspirational historical romance, The Lady and the Lionheart is a Must-read.

***

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I’m always on the lookout for appropriate, exciting books for my voracious 12-year old bookworm, and Jill Williamson’s books are just about perfect. Replication is Young Adult,  clean and exciting for ages 12-17, boy or girl. I enjoyed this action-packed story of clone Jason 3.3 (Martyr) and his journey to find out whether his life counts. Humorous and poignant dialogue with new friend Abby mixed with a little bit of romance and lots of action make for a fantastic read for teens.

***

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It was difficult to choose between author Jody Hedlund’s two phenomenal historicals this year–Luther and Katharina (about Martin Luther and his wife Katharina Von Bora), and Newton and Polly (about Amazing Grace composer John Newton and his wife Polly Catlett.) Both stories are touching tributes to the faith and resilience these four historical figures lived. Polly and Newton’s story in particular grabbed me, the stark but grace-filled portrayal of a likeable, proud young man running from God. Redemption abounds, of course. Hedlund’s meticulous research, vivid characters, and lyrical prose are a well-loved gift to her readers.

***

These book beauties are my Most Memorable Reads of 2016. I’d love to know what your most memorable read(s) are from 2016.

I wish you and yours a safe New Year’s and a blessed and healthy 2017! Happy Reading, friends! ❤ 🙂

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” Phil. 1:3