Enjoy Your Life More: Add one good habit

A recent study showed that Americans spend eight minutes a day looking for their keys. Sound familiar?

If that’s you, it could be easy to berate yourself for that reality. When we think of habits, we tend to think of the negative – like a bad habit of losing things.

But I find it much more encouraging to think of the positive side: what good habits would I like to add to my life? Just as bad habits can drag us down, good habits can point us in the right direction.

Good habits can save us time if we want them to. If a homeschool mom could get back 40 minutes a week by cultivating the habit of hanging her keys by the door – or figuring out why she loses her keys and changing it – wouldn’t that be a good thing?  

Homeschool moms carry so much responsibility. If we can put some of that on autopilot so we just do it automatically, it can really make life easier. When it comes to dishes, laundry, cleaning and cooking, could a few simple logistical habits make your life easier? Could you put something on autopilot so you just do it automatically and don’t have to fuss about it?

Or for more inspiration, try this. Answer these questions to help you clarify a good habit you might like to add to your life:  

Dream about what you want to do with your life. Consider:

  • What you want a good day to look like?
  • What do you want a good week to look like?
  • What does a good month look like to you?
  • What about a good year? 10 years?

For me, a good day includes a 30-minute walk and a quiet time. It includes a few minutes at mid-day to listen to Christian music, which helps refocus and reset my day. And of course a good day for me includes reading. If I don’t read, I feel like I had a terrible day!

A good week for me includes a Sabbath rest. A few weeks ago, John and I were at a conference that lasted all day Friday through Sunday. When we got home I felt like I’d never catch up. When I take a day of rest the entire week goes better. I feel more focused, more energized, more able to meet life with perspective. A good week for me also includes time at church, which is so good for my soul. It includes time for John and me to sit under the tree talking with the kids as we laugh and eat together. What does a good week look like for you?

A good year for me includes two opportunities to get away and gain perspective on my everyday life. One of those is a week of fun with all the kids and grandkids, and another might be a trip to visit ministry partners in another part of the world and see what God is doing among them. Even if you can’t get away twice in a year, does a good year for you include some sort of intentional family week?

Ponder those questions and see what you might want to add. For me, that was adding a walk every day. I had wanted to do this for a while but I’d leave it to the evening and then feel too tired to go out and do it. So now I get up first thing in the morning, throw on yesterday’s clothes, run a comb through my hair and go walk. If I do it first thing I actually get it done. Plus, the beauty of the mornings has really surprised me – the sky, the air, it all has such a special quality first thing in the morning.

I also added a green smoothie for breakfast every day – I just fill the blender with greens, throw in a protein, some juice, some fruit and some coconut oil. What an easy way to honor my body and get more vegetables in my life! My daughter Jonelle started cleaning up her room every evening. It gives her a brand-new start on the day in the morning.

Experts say it takes 30 days to build a habit. It seems so easy to us. Just decide to do something and then do it. But it’s always an uphill climb. We are creatures of habit, so to build a brand new habit takes incredible perseverance and push. You have to plan to say every day “I’m just going to grit my teeth and get it done.” And eventually it’s almost automatic.

Experts also recommend just adding one habit at a time. I recently added five, and I’m here to tell you it felt like my efforts were going to take over my life. It was too much to think about, too much will power to exert every day in addition to my normal tasks.

Of course, we shouldn’t let habits rob us of our ability to be free and flexible. But I actually think many habits allow us more freedom in the world. Here’s an example. We used to camp a lot as a family. Camping, as you know, is a messy and dirty business. You come home and the temptation is to just throw all the equipment in a corner to deal with it later. But I got in the habit of taking the tub of cooking equipment and setting it on the kitchen counter as soon as we got home. I’d refill the salt and sugar containers, clean everything, change out the dirty towels for clean ones, and repack it all. Then when someone suggested we should go camping, I’d give the kids their packing checklists and we could get out the door surprisingly fast. Because of some good habits we were free to be flexible and go camping more often.

As another example, keeping your house a little cleaner (or accepting a lower standard of cleanliness) can mean you feel free to invite company over more often. Likewise, meal planning can help you feel free to play with your kids outside more afternoons instead of scrambling to pull something together for dinner at the last minute.

So dream about how you want your life to look and pick one new habit to start today. Don’t overwhelm yourself with five new habits like I did. But enjoy the freedom your one new habit provides!



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Watch #5: What Is a City?

This is, perhaps, less practical than the previous messages. But this is one of my favorite insights in the last ten years, and I pull this insight out on occasion to give me a thrill of what I'm looking forward to.

You know how the Bible begins in the Garden of Eden and ends in the New Jerusalem? How the Bible starts in a garden and ends in a city?

This has always made me a little sad. I think of a city as a strip mall or a big box store. And, yes, heaven has gold streets and presumably no graffiti, but it is still hard for me not to think of rebar, red lights, and cracked concrete when I think of a city.

Then I heard a preacher ask, "What is a city but a lot of little gardens?"

And that, to me, was a game-changer.

Because I live on some acreage. And after seven years, it still has no trails running through. Our vegetable garden was overtaken by taller-than-me weeds.

Untended land is not much more attractive than untended city.

But if you've ever walked around a wealthy community: this is beautiful! The space is harmonious, peaceful, creative. Different fences, sculptures, flowers and trees. Edible plants, flowering plants, shade plants, nice smelling plants. Beautiful.

That is what I was hoping for, here on our family's land. It hasn't happened yet.

But I love the promise of tended gardens, together. Community, peace, beauty.

Neither you nor I live in the fulfillment of all things yet.

But Jesus was mistaken for a gardener after his resurrection. I trust that he is at work on tending the garden of your life, as he is at work in mine.

Thanks be to God.


Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

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Help Children Succeed in Their Careers: Teach them with an international focus

What kind of a world will your children inherit? One thing seems certain: it will be a world more interconnected and globalized than ever before.

Your children will interact – whether virtually or in person – with people from vastly different cultures than their own. They will have friends, neighbors and coworkers from other cultures. Your children may study, travel or even live in another country. They may use email and Skype (or whatever technology we’re using then!) to collaborate with colleagues who live on the other side of the world.

So how should we prepare them to succeed in this world? Should their education focus almost entirely on the U.S.? Or should it be a truly international education that opens their eyes and hearts to the people of the whole world, even as we study and honor our own nation?

Most homeschool curricula spend up to 80% of their history or social studies time studying U.S. history and culture. Think about that. That leaves 20% of study time for over 95% of the world’s population.

I think Sonlight has a better approach. We start with world history, and incorporate an international perspective throughout the school years. That doesn’t mean we neglect U.S. history. I do think the U.S. has a unique story and holds a unique place on the world today. I am certainly grateful to be a U.S. citizen. I think students should get a rich education in U.S. history. But we don’t need to study it 10 out of 12 years of their schooling to accomplish that. Sonlight spends 4 very robust years on U.S. history, and the rest on other periods and regions of the world.

This global approach carries many advantages. But one aspect we don’t emphasize as much is this: the Sonlight approach to world studies prepares children to be successful in their careers. Whether they go into business, medicine, ministry, public service, you name it – their perspectives and skills will be sharper for having a firm grasp on world history and the current state of the globe.

Sonlight students graduate having practiced walking in the shoes of other people and trying to understand what the world looks like through their eyes. Employers want people with that skill! 

Sonlight students are not relying on textbooks to develop this international perspective. You can read about a different culture in a textbook, and get some information. You might know what many people in that culture like to eat, where they work, what they wear and believe. But you don’t know anyone from that culture. You haven’t seen inside their hearts and heard their dreams, fears and joys.

Sonlight lets you do that. We obviously can’t introduce you to a real-life friend from each culture we study. But we can give you a literary friend (or several) from each culture. When you read these stories, you get to see the world from others’ eyes for a bit. You see what they’re scared of, what they look forward to, what the world looks like through their eyes.

Building these emotional connections with characters from around the world (and throughout history) prepares students to expect that people from different cultures all share a core humanity, but that they also may have vastly different understandings and perceptions of the world. This is a helpful starting place for humble curiosity and respect when interacting with people from other cultures.

And again, this is a key skill in working in a globalized world. Employers want people who can respectfully dialogue with coworkers/customers/clients/leaders from different cultures. Employers want people who have a general working knowledge of world cultures and world history. That’s part of being culturally literate, and I think it will be more important for the up and coming generation than it ever has been.

So yes, I can say confidently, Sonlight’s international approach helps children succeed in their careers.

But of course, let’s stop and consider what we mean by success. Clearly, it’s more than making a lot of money or becoming famous. I’d say that your children’s career success is defined by whether they’re living out the calling God has for them – whether that’s staying at home with children, starting a company, serving overseas, or working in any number of jobs. I think giving our children broad horizons prepares them to think big and have the courage to live out their calling.  

So let’s introduce our children to the people of the globe and help them see the nations as God sees them – diverse peoples with real gifts whom He loves immensely. Let’s help our children join God’s mission to spread His love and truth to every corner of the globe.

We are here to help your do that!

God bless,


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Watch #4: How Is the Past Being Used in the Present?

I had probably been a Christian for 25 years when I really thought about what Moses' life looked like. Forty years trained in Pharaoh's court. He knew court protocol! Then forty years of survival training in the desert, keeping sheep alive.

And when he was 80, God took both those halves of his life, and used them both. (Do you think there were many court-trained shepherds? He may have been the only one.)

This fascinates me. It's like God is the world's best recycler, taking random pieces of our lives and using them, repurposing them, for his glory.

What does this look like?

A minor example: my love of baking, developed in elementary school, spilled over into monthly gatherings with a lot of home-cooked food. I am comfortable in the kitchen.

Or a more serious example: I have a friend who says, "My bout of post-partum depression (PPD) helps me enter in to the pain other PPD moms might feel. I pray better, and am a better friend, as a result."

Can you think of some examples in your own life? Ways that your life and experience in the past is being used in the present?

Maybe a better word than recycler would be redeemer.

Thanks be to God.

In Thanksgiving,

Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

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Watch #3: Random People Coming to Mind?

I received this from a godly mentor, and I pass it along to you.

Have you ever had someone totally random come to mind? Like your best friend in kindergarten who moved away and you never spoke to again?

I encourage you to pray for those random people who pop into your brain.

I expect we're all in need of prayer, and I suspect that God brings those people to mind specifically because they need extra prayer.

Of course, because these are random people, it's really hard to know how to pray, but if I think of something specific, I pray for it. Otherwise, I pray that God would be close to the person, that they would be open to what he's doing . . . something general like that.

And because these are random people, you might never know what these prayers do.

But I have one specific memory where my suspicion (that God brings those people to mind) was confirmed. I had a high school friend that I lost touch with after a school transfer. Twelve years later she randomly came to mind, and I prayed for her. The next week, I heard that, around that time I prayed, her family was going through a really hard time.

From my perspective, as much as I can acknowledge the upheaval in her life, I am incredibly thankful to be part of the body of Christ, and that I was permitted and called to pray for her. It is astonishing to me to think that God would interconnect us all so beautifully. That as sad as she might have felt, God was supporting her, through the body of Christ.

This is not meant to be a guilt thing, like, "these random people need prayer!" For me, I can easily fall into the self-condemnation of, "I was ignoring the prompting of the Holy Spirit!" And that makes me feel like a failure, and I shut down and don't want to pray at all.

Rather, this is meant to be an invitation thing. Because even if I don't always remember to pray, if I remember once this month, that is once more than I might have otherwise.

And it's a way that I can see God at work, and participate. Because, busy as I might be, I can take 15 seconds to pray.


Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

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Watch #2: How Does God Speak to You?

I know that we are all different, and the ways that God speaks to me are probably different than the way that he speaks to you.

But I encourage you to be alert to the ways he is at work in the world.

For example, one of my friends sees the sunset and remembers the things of the Lord. My house is at an angle where we don't see the sunset, and I am almost never out and about at that time, but I like that the sunset, a daily recurrence, has meaning for her.

For me, I see God at work in the chance occurrences that have personal meaning. (Not that they are really chance, of course.)

One example: When we moved to unimproved land, we were living in a construction trailer. It was so small, there was no way to keep all our books out.

One son asked one day for Greek Myths. It was in storage, in some box amid 30 or 40 other boxes. I faced the mountain of stuff without any confidence of success. These boxes weren't all even labeled correctly. How could I find the one book that was missing?

I think I poked around for a bit, without success, and as I was about to leave, defeated, I glanced up, and there was the box that I knew had the book.

It was like the palpable presence of God fell on me at that moment, and I sat sobbing, because God cared about me, in my constrained space, and about my son's wish to read pagan tales of false gods (of all things).

I was known. My son was known.

It still brings me to tears.

And maybe it doesn't sound very dramatic in retelling (I found a book I was looking for!), but it was meaningful to me.

On another occasion, I was at Disneyland. On the last ride of the day, I heard my name called very quietly--and there, sitting behind me in Star Tours, were some of my dearest family friends that I knew from another state. Their family had been dealing with hard things lately, and to see them, so unexpectedly . . . what a gift.

In the scheme of life, and in the face of deep hard times, a five minute unexpected meet-up for greetings and hugs and a bit of tears . . . this is hardly anything. A wisp.

And yet, in that moment, for me, it felt like the gratuitous gift of God, that among the 44,000 people who were at Disney that day, and despite all the wrong turns and child swapping that had to happen for me to be on that ride at that specific minute, I got to see my friends.

This is my testimony that God gives good gifts to his children.

My prayer for you is that you will be on the watch for his handiwork, and that you will recognize it when you see it, whether in sunsets, or chance events, or however God speaks to you.


Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

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Watch for God at Work in Your Life

I feel like there have been many emails that encourage you through the hard(er) parts of homeschooling lately. In this series, I am hoping to do a more positive series, on ways that you might be able to glimpse God at work in your life and the lives of your family members.

These are not practical like, "Now my morning routine is so much more smooth!"

Instead, I hope that, in your life, these might be practical in the sense of, "I have a new view of how God is at work in me and my family."

To begin:

A Tale of Two Plane Trips

Six or seven years ago, I had taken my youngest when I went to visit my family. He was a free lap child, and on the flight home he was not a happy camper. He probably didn't actually cry and scream the entire four hours, but that's how it felt.

I knew it had been a rough flight when another passenger from a few rows back stopped after the flight to say, "Don't worry about it. I have four children of my own, and sometimes this happens. If people make comments, just let it go."

I appreciated the encouragement--sort of--but it was quite embarrassing, to realize that we had been so disruptive that a man several rows away felt the need to tell me not to worry about being disruptive.

Now it's some years later. That crying baby is a pretty independent 8-year-old. And when we took a family trip recently, a woman leaned across the aisle to say, "You and your husband must have this parenting thing down. I've been watching for the last hour, and your spouse has been doing a crossword, and you have been reading a book, and your children just happily do their thing."

This is not meant to be self-congratulatory. After another flight, a few sons shoved each other on the gangway as they were leaving the plane. So if you happened to catch my family at the wrong moment, you would not think that we have "the parenting thing down."

But when this woman said that my children were independent, I realized that is mostly true. I hadn't noticed, because the youngest still needed attention at times, and sometimes children asked for snacks. But compared to a four hour cry on the plane, my normal has shifted.

So my family had changed, but I hadn't noticed it because that change has been incremental and gradual. (And, obviously, remains incomplete.)

But I suspect that, if you think about your life, you may have some area in which you, or your family, have grown in grace, perhaps without recognizing it.

Maybe it's not that years of training start to pay off with self-sufficient children on plane flights.

For me, for years I would pay the bills and be super grumpy, thinking that maybe this would be the month that God would not provide. And then at some point, that grumpiness went away. God has been faithful through the years, and that is no longer such a struggle.

My hope is that you can think of something in you or your family that God has changed.

And if you can't think of a way that God has been at work? Ask him! May he bring something to mind, so that you may be encouraged in your journey.


Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

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