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Isn’t that a true statement? Tools are great, aren’t they? But the right tools are essential for getting the job done efficiently. Nearly 15 years ago, Chad and I bought a home in Temecula, California. We were house poor leaving very little money for any suggested upgrades. Consequently, we were content with the builder grade flooring that consisted of a mix match of tile, carpet and linoleum . . . at least for a while. Then the day came when it was time to take out the linoleum and install matching tile. We first had to remove a metal transition strip between the different flooring. And so with tools in hand (safety glasses, flat head screw driver and a hammer) we sat crossed legged, facing each other and began the task of chipping away at the grout and glue holding the transition strip in place. Forty-five minutes later with little progress made, Chad says to me, “Want to just hire this out?” Of course my answer was an enthusiastic “YES”! The next week a gentleman enters our home and within seconds . . . seconds mind you, the strip is removed! What? How? He had the right tool, not a flat head screwdriver but a small hand held jackhammer – I was impressed! And I’ll never forget that lesson – the right tools make all the difference!

It’s the same in our relationships. We need the right tools to help us live our lives effectively for Christ. What are some tools that will help? Well, I’m certain there are several but I will list four that help me personally; knowledge, friendship, prayer, and God’s Word. Now you can chew up the meat and spit out the bones on any number of these suggestions, however, tools are important and they can make the labor of living more productive and rewarding.

Knowledge is key and on a recent outing with our oldest, she suggested I take a personality test, the Myers Briggs personality assessment to be specific. So, as she drove, I took the test and received my results. Results that my daughter would laugh and say “these are spot on, mom!” Turns out, according to Myers & Brigg, I’m an ISFJ personality (“The Defender”). She would say . . . “mom, this is best played out at the dinner table with someone’s getting in trouble”, and I have to laugh because it is true! Conflict is the enemy in my mind and is to be avoided at all costs! Why is a personality test listed as a tool? It gives me knowledge! Knowledge about what makes me, and those around me, tick! This knowledge brings light to strengths and weaknesses, helping build into my heart compassion and appreciation for differences that are housed in our home. If you’re curious about your own personality you can find the test at https://www.16personalities.com or you can just ask your kids!!

Friendship is another tool I use to help me on this journey. Friendships push me out of my comfort zone; probably because I’m an ISFJ – HA!! But really, they do . . . they push me to stay focused. I have one such friend who on a weekly basis we seek the LORD on behalf of each other. We don’t really spend a lot of time together physically however we share each other’s burdens and praises in prayer, on which I place great value! Find that friend, dear reader! God’s Word commands it in Proverbs 27:17, as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Prayer is the connection to

  • our Creator,
  • our Savior,
  • our Lifeline,
  • our Hope,
  • our Breath
  • our Purpose

I lift my eyes unto the hills,

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

Maker of heaven and earth! From Psalm 121:1-2

I love the LORD, because He has heard

My voice and my supplications.

Because He has inclined His ear to me,

Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-2

We sing it in worship and God desires it in our communication through prayer. He desires that we cast our cares on Him because He cares for us! Just like I desire for Chad to tell me how his day went at the office so that I might carry his hurts and worries and his joys. God not only wants to carry our burdens, He wants to see us through them so a lost world will see His Grace. Prayer is pivotal and powerful, being quiet before the LORD, lifting up our praises and problems.

And finally, where would we be without God’s Holy Word? One place we will find ourselves is “without excuse”. We have the WHOLE Bible, in it’s entirety from beginning to end and we (I) will be without excuse if I chose to avoid its wisdom. On the bright side – what a fantastic tool and oh so necessary for life! Just listen to what He said today from Proverbs 18 . . . death and life are in the power of the tongue!! My words have power and that makes me pause. Am I an encourager to Chad? Do I respect the men in this family; all three, Chad, Colin and Dylan? Do my words bring life or am I full of nagging death? See the power in God’s Word to change us? Now that’s an effective tool!

Cause me to hear of Your loving-kindness in the morning,

For in You do I trust;

Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,

For I lift my soul to You. Psalm 143:8

As I think about working on that transition strip with a flat head screw driver, making lots of effort and having very little success; I want to be intentional with the good tools God has given. It can be the key to living the labor of life with power and purpose.

 

Posted by Tracy Smith with 0 Comments
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Birthdays always bring about a lot of reflection in my heart and mind. Each year, I can’t help but think over the past 12 months and contemplate life and the person that I want to be. This is especially true this considering I turned twenty this week (wait what?!) and I feel like entering a new decade of life is a big deal! Ten years holds a lot of change. The past ten years have shaped who I am as a woman and the next ten years will continue to shape the course of my life. I’m realizing more and more as life goes on that I am small. I am one, tiny person on this earth that will be here for just a blink of time. But the choices I make during this gift of time on earth can have impact – and that, my friends, is something to consider. If there’s one piece of advice the world throws at people my age, it’s that these years don’t really matter. As in, somehow they have no affect on my future - therefore, I should do whatever makes me happy and call it good. But what I’ve come to realize is this – every choice I make shapes the person that I am becoming. My decisions and the character of who I am are in direct correlation with one another. Every time I choose to workout, I’m choosing to be the grandmother who is strong enough to play with her grandkids. Every time I choose to read God’s word, I’m choosing to build character and wisdom for the life situations I don’t even know are coming. Every ten minutes I spend scrolling are ten minutes of life – gone. Every time I choose to buy a Starbucks, I’m choosing to spend five dollars that I could save/give/spend elsewhere (or maybe I’m choosing to invest in my sanity – who knows;)).

It’s weighty, though, when you really stop and think about it, isn’t it? What am I doing today that is shaping me into the person I desire to become? There are a lot of days that I’m ashamed to answer that question, but more and more I’m realizing and striving to form habits that shape me into a vessel of honorable use – ready and willing for every good work. We can always grow + change and it’s never too late to take that step forward. I wholeheartedly believe these years are made for cultivating. Hosea 10:12 says, “Break up your fallow ground – for NOW is the time to seek the Lord.” My ground was MADE to love Him. My dirt was crafted to serve Him. And building habits that honor Him… is there any better way to live?

“What you do every day matters more than what you do every one in awhile.” - Gretchen Rubin

So here are five (out of many) truths I desire to hold fast to and carry with me into this next decade of life. But the great thing about truth is that it’s always relevant – so I hope this blesses you no matter what season of life you’re in.

- Only Two Things REALLY Matter

When we boil down our entire existence, all the fluff that fills our every day lives – we end up with two things – God and people. God matters – who we believe Him to be and who we are in light of Him. And people matter. The way I make people FEEL matters. I’m learning that people are difficult, because people are broken (and I’m one of those people). BUT, the experience that people have with me can have a profound impact on their entire day. Same for you! ;) Sometimes a coffee date is more important than work. Treating people with kindness and a heart of joy is more impactful than almost any words I could ever speak. We all desire to be valued and treasured – and making an effort to affirm that other’s lives is powerful.

- God is Forever Faithful

Spiritually. Mentally. Emotionally. Financially. He is FAITHFUL. When life is impossibly hard and devastatingly broken, He is faithful. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us! Never once has he failed to carry me through. This past year has held a lot of change. A lot of hurt, a lot of mourning, a lot of GROWTH. Psalm 119:68 says, “You are good and you DO good.” What sweet words to my ears! By grace You have carried me here, and by grace I will carry on. If you seek the Lord – you will find him. I’ll stake my life on it. I only know this because He does it for me every day.

- Sin Destroys More Than Ourselves

Oh friends… I just wish there was a way to see God’s perspective in the midst of difficult situations! It hurts, you guys. I’ve seen the devastation of sin in my own life, in the lives of others, in the life of our country. You know all those people who are in prison for WRONG and hurtful acts? Every one of them stemmed from sin - most likely the sin of someone before them. Isn’t that so sad? That the sin of owning slaves in America’s past STILL directly impacts our society today? That drinking one beer too many and getting behind a wheel causes lives to be ripped out of this earth and people to face forever disabilities… because of that one choice? One person’s sin. One person’s choice. I’ve been devastated by one person’s sinful choice, as have other’s been impacted by my own. Isn’t that enticement enough to seek something greater? Think of the impact you could make on this world by choosing a different path. It’s inspiring and it’s humbling.

- Obedience is for our GOOD

I think one of my favorite things that people say about the Bible is that it’s restrictive. I say favorite because I love to share the awesome news that it’s quite the opposite! Oh how Satan strives to warp our perspective – and he’s good at it too! Yet obedience brings LIFE – and life abundant! Obedience to God’s word brings freedom and fullness of joy. God’s commands are not burdensome! In fact, the only reason they are there is because He loves us with such infinite depth. Because He knows the stove is hot, you know? I’ve touched the stove before – it hurts. It burns, and it heals; yet it always leaves a scar. In all His Sovereignty and goodness, the Lord teaches and grows us through those stovetop moments. But just as a momma hates to watch her child in pain, He aches to see us hurt and desires the very best for us. Obedience is difficult (or we would all be perfect) but its blessing is far greater than our comprehension.

- Life is not About Me

I have to remind myself of this far too often, because it’s easy to forget, isn’t it? I want my way. I like doing things my way, so cultivating a heart of selflessness doesn’t exactly come easy. But I really believe that the more we train ourselves to act in selflessness instead of reacting in selfishness – the more at peace our hearts will become. When you get a bunch of selfish people together – it brings chaos. (Oh hey, check out our world right now.) But a bunch of people looking out for the good of those around them - believing that the world doesn’t revolve around them - but in something (Someone) greater? Now that is where real peace lies. I want to work on this trait in myself – becoming someone who exudes Jesus because life isn’t about me, and in turn, about HIM and loving people like He would. It just gets me all excited to think about!

I want to carry these things with me. Through my 20’s, 30’s 40’s… or however long the Lord gives! I write things these to remember. For myself primarily – to keep myself accountable. But also because I believe there is power in written words. Thoughts aren’t meant to stay bottled up, and maybe – just maybe – they can make an impact when released. So here’s to an incredible next decade of life – and whatever the Lord may have in store. Not my will, but Yours be done, Oh Lord.

 

Posted by Jessica Smith with 0 Comments

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