“August 1,” Ruby mumbled to herself. She flipped over the pages of her journal. “It’s been exactly 3 months since my birthday. A quarter of a year gone, and what do I have to show for it?”
Discontentedly she stared at the page she had written on her birthday. ‘Goals for this year of my life,’ looked back at her in big letters from the top of the page. Then followed a long list with everything from ‘Read my Bible and pray first thing every morning,’ to ‘exercise routine,’ to ‘write in my journal every day.’
Ruby didn’t have to flip back through the pages to know that she had not journaled even half of the days since her birthday. And, she had done worse on some of the goals than on that one. A few hadn’t even been started.
With a sigh, she snapped the journal shut. “That’s discouraging,” she said aloud.
Amber was making her bed. She looked over to where Ruby was stretched out on her own bed. “What is?”
“Making goals. It seems like no matter how many goals I make, I never can change and develop good habits.”
“Maybe that’s the problem.” Amber set the throw pillows on her bed as a final touch. “Maybe you set too many goals at one time. I know I do that a lot.”
Ruby sighed again. “Probably so. But there are so many things I should be doing different.” She stood up. “Anyway, sitting here sighing over them isn’t helping. I can at least make my bed today.”
* * * * *
As Ruby walked by the boys’ room, staring at the floor, Sterling stopped her. “Come here a minute, Ruby.”
“What?” She stepped into the room.
“It’s been a few weeks since the camera incident. Here is how my part of the room looks and has stayed looking ever since.” He waved his arm toward his made bed and tidy desk, then turned back to Ruby. “How is it going for your room, Ruby?”
Ruby let out a heavy sigh for the third time that morning. “Terrible. I just can’t seem to keep my stuff picked up. I added ‘keep my room clean’ to all of the other goals I wrote down on my birthday, but I can’t seem to keep any of them done regularly.”
“Oh.” Sterling looked surprised. “I thought I would have more trouble keeping a clean room than you.” He thought for a moment. Then he pointed at a sticky note stuck to the wall beside his bed. “See that note?”
Ruby looked more closely and read, “Clean my room and pick up after myself.”
“I see that several times a day,” Sterling explained. “When I see it, I also say it aloud to myself. If I walk in the room and start to pile things on the desk, that sticky note stares holes in me until I put them away. When I read it aloud, I also add ‘By God’s grace,’ as a reminder that I can’t change my habits in my own strength.”
For the first time since she opened her journal that morning, Ruby was smiling. “I’m going to try that! I think it might help me.”
“Another thing that might help would be to only work on that habit and not try to do more than one,” Jasper put in from the top bunk.
Ruby’s smile widened. “You sound like Amber. She told me the problem might be setting too many goals.”
Jasper nodded. “It’s true. I find that if I work on a lot of things at once, I get nothing done. If I just work on one thing at a time, I make slow but steady progress.
Ruby looked at her watch. “Well, it’s time for me to go make slow and steady progress fixing breakfast. Thanks for the suggestions!
* * * * *
Three weeks later, Ruby went in search of Sterling. She found him in the living room reading a book.
“Got a minute, Sterling?”
“One minute. This book is pretty exciting.” He shut the book, keeping his finger at the place he was reading.
“Come to my room for a minute,” she invited.
On the way to Ruby’s room, they passed the boys’ room. Ruby peeked in at Sterling’s made bed and clutter-free desk.
“Yep, still clean.” Sterling grinned at her.
Ruby led the way into the girls’ room and waved her arm around the room with a flourish. “What do you think?”
Sterling looked around. “Looks good. Have you been cleaning this morning?”
“No more than usual. This is pretty much the way my room has looked every day since we talked about the sticky note method.” Ruby pointed at the wall above her bed. A dozen colorful sticky notes were stuck at all angles all over the wall. Some said ‘Clean my room and pick up after myself,’ and others added, ‘By God’s grace.’
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Sterling laughed. “Well, those are pretty hard to miss.”
Ruby laughed with him. “I wasn’t taking any chances. I’ll leave them up a few more weeks until I’m sure it’s really a habit.”
Sterling held out his fist, and Ruby returned the fist bump.
“I think we are building good habits for the rest of our lives,” Ruby said. “Thanks for helping me. I plan to keep adding new habits one at a time.”
“Not a problem. Someday we may be known for having the cleanest bedrooms around!”
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Do you have some habits that you would like to change? Why don’t you pick one to work on in the Lord’s strength this week? If you want, tell us what the habit is. Or, you could just tell us how you plan to learn the new habit and make it consistent. I’d love to hear about it!