I sighed deeply as I walked around my house that morning, opening blinds and gathering my supplies. It was still dark outside, it was cold, and I was tired. Oh, I’d had plenty of sleep- thanks to an early bedtime the night before. But my soul felt tired- drained of life and energy.
Where is my zest for life, my joy? Why have mornings become such a drag to me?
I am an early bird. I love starting my day with routines- making the bed, eating a big breakfast, sipping hot coffee. I’m usually willing to get up early to accomplish those things before heading off to a busy day of teaching.
So why this apathy? Why this growing discontentment with life?
My eyes fell on the framed picture on the bookshelf, and my fingers brushed lightly against the photo as I remembered.
How has this been seven years already? It feels like a different lifetime, and yet as though it just happened last year.
I don’t understand it all, Father. Why were we foster parents for such a short time before it all came crashing down? Why haven’t You given us a family?
While I no longer grieved for our foster son who had been taken, or the years of appealing false accusations, I did still wonder some days why it had all happened the way it did.
Father, I long to be a mother. I love my students and the work I do, but I just want to stay home, and be momma to my own little tribe. The older I get, the more that reality seems to be slipping away.
And so I headed out the door, fighting the unease and restlessness that seemed to pop up more frequently than before. I wrestled and journaled and talked to my husband, to my friends and to Jesus. But I also, without realizing it, was focusing on the one thing I didn’t have, more than on my Father.
You know how God has a way of opening our eyes to something that we had been clueless about? That happened to me when a friend gently pointed something out- a bad habit that had ended up affecting her life. I had fallen into the habit of allowing my introverted tendencies to become an excuse for condoning selfishness and not serving others. How did I get there? It certainly didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t my intent. It just…happened. But did it?
I love my routines. I like the comfort of knowing what to do and what to expect. When I’m put into a new situation, I’ve found that I will automatically turn to certain habits to help bring comfort and familiarity into my life. Sipping hot coffee while standing in the front door, watching the sun peek through. Making the bed before leaving the house. Playing classical music while writing. Turning off the overhead lights, and switching on lamps after supper.
The mind and body like routines. It’s been shown that about 43% of activities done each day are habitual while we were thinking of something else entirely. In fact, there are easy to miss actions called “hidden habits”. We cross the same leg, answer the phone with the same hand, and sling our purse over the same shoulder. Try crossing your arms, then recrossing them opposite- it just doesn’t feel right! A theory called Wolff’s law states that our body tissues respond to the load that is placed on them. Our bones and muscles respond to habitual postures, causing problems like poor posture and “text neck”- where our necks are constantly forward flexed if we spend too much time on our phones. On average it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic. It also doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building habits is not an all-or-nothing process.
What habits am I building today that I will automatically turn to in the future? Because I know my body turns to routines and uses them frequently, especially when I’m uncomfortable, I realize the seriousness of my daily decisions. Physically, that means I want to get into the habit of reaching for food that nourishes my body, so that when I’m stressed I’m not reaching out for the sugar that will wreak further havoc.
Even more seriously, what are my spiritual disciplines? What is my thought life?
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
If I want good habits, I have to recognize that it starts with my heart and mind. I so easily forget how powerful our minds are, and the ability we have to allow it to influence our lives. I had allowed the thoughts of, I want to be a mom, to linger and permeate my mind and heart. I know this isn’t a bad thought- it’s a natural desire that God places in us women. But instead of taking it to Jesus, talking to Him about it, then surrendering it to Him, I let it sit. That thought, after a while, began to consume me. And when I looked at my life, the underlying theme was- This is good, but I want what I think is better. It wasn’t intentional, it was habitual. My focus was no longer on my Father and His good gifts, but on the one thing I thought would give me joy.
It was only after that tough conversation with my friend, that I took a good look at my habits. I was surprised to see the selfishness that had crept in so easily. When I traced it back, it pointed to my focus on myself and the habits I had created to indulge that focus.
Are we forever straddled with the burden of self? What’s the anecdote?
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…2 Corinthians 10:5A
I love that we have the power of Christ ready and available to help us! We can try all day to think positively, or try to ignore ugly feelings or thoughts, but that’s only a temporary measure. I don’t want to muddle my way through life, reaching desperately for peace, trying with all my might to fix my thought life or stamp down my desires. Instead, I can bring them to The One Who created me, Who has saved me, and Who longs to see me surrender all to Him. He knows my heart. He knows my mind. He also knows what is absolutely best for me, even if I don’t understand it. I want the daily habits of prayer, reading Scripture, and listening to the Holy Spirit built into my days, for that’s where I find my mind renewed and my heart refreshed.
Do I still long to be a mother? I do, and I suppose I always will to some degree. But it’s ok- I keep bringing it to my Father. I’ve found that when I focus on Him, I’m able to have those longings, and still live out my days with joy, for He is where my joy is.
Author Bio: Kendra Horst lives in Lancaster County, PA, with her husband, Jay, of 15 years. After more than a decade of infertility, a few short months of foster parenting, and a history of health issues, she is grateful for the precious gift of being loved by her Abba Father. She spends part of her week in the classroom as a learning support teacher, where she enjoys working one-on-one with students. Kendra loves spending time outdoors, watching the birds at her feeders, and making memories with family and friends. You can reach her at or on Instagram @kenjhorst.