Habits

New Season. New Ingredients.

This isn’t a post about cooking. Or food. Well, maybe a little. But mostly not. The weather is changing, finally. Buds are breaking open. The lawns are growing in uneven mounds. The sun seems to stay around a little longer every day. And the sunsets are less buried behind mounds of grey clouds. Spring is showing her face, and she’s grinning ear to ear.

Suddenly I’m in the mood for green bean salads, corn on the cob, peaches, and anything accompanied by charcoal smoke. I want cocktails laced with mint and blackberries. I’m craving lemon bars and strawberry shortcake. These are the vittles of spring and summer, and the sunshine makes me want them.

Only in the last couple years have I begun to enjoy cooking. (What really happened is that I stopped being intimidated by the stove and cookware and kitchen timers.) But one of the things I love most is how new seasons bring new ingredients. You wouldn’t make peach cobbler in the winter. Who would prepare pumpkin pie in July? No, each season has ingredients that are best in that season.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was picking produce, and the thought suddenly struck me: When was the last time I changed my life-giving ingredients? When did I last stir up the things I use to give life it’s flavor?

I’m a big believer in having disciplines. Our home is often chaos with three kids running (or crawling… or falling) amok. My work is a brand new challenge nearly every day. So my habits, my practices, they keep me on the level. But I recently wrote about how I feel like I’ve been waiting on spring to spring up in my own heart, and now I’m thinking that one way to help that along might be to change up the ingredients a little bit.

I’m looking at each of the things I regularly do and asking:

How can I mess with that?

I’ve been reading mostly non-fiction. I need to read some novels.

I’ve been watching mostly TV shows. Maybe I need some movies.

I’ve been listening to podcasts. Time to find some new music.

I’ve been keeping a journal. Tomorrow I should take up drawing again.

I’ve been diving deep into just a couple verses of scripture at a time. Maybe it’s time to take in whole chapters or books.

A couple weeks ago, when spring was still unsteady on her feet, I jumped the gun and started cooking up spring-like things. I laid out the welcome mat for her, and now she’s at the door. Whose to say we can’t hasten our hearts toward the next season of life too with a little precocious planning?

A Forced Habit

I have been out of practice. Any and all practice of any kind. And practice is important. Without practice we have a snowball's chance at perfect.

Many of the things that have been most important—to my soul, my marriage, my parenting, my work, my everything—have become conspicuously absent.

Space.

Word.

Reflection.

Health.

Writing.

These were habits of mine. I want these habits back because the force of them once shaped me into the me I recognize.

Have you ever sat in your car and turned the key only to find that the battery is dead? You always turn the key again. And again. And then again. There's this little noise, this clicking and whirring, an indefinite sound that—in my personification of all automobiles—I assume is a feeble yet determined effort to spark some life. A mechanical, "I can do it!" I find myself turning the key again because, well, that last time sounded a little more resolute.

The last few months have been like this, little sparks but too little.

What the car needs is a jump start.

For the next week and a half the calendar is cleared. There will be no alarms, only the sun shining through the window to wake me. No meetings or strategy sessions unless they include board games at the kitchen table with the kids. And no Netflix.

My only constraint is that I need to establish some constraints. Over the next week and a half it is my mission to intentionally form the habits that wrangle the rest of my time and priorities into rightness.

Because for something to become a force of habit I suppose one must begin by forcing the habit.