Roll Up Your Sleeves!

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed---not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence---continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."--Philippians 2:12, 13 Wouldn't it be nice if our dream kitchens or bathrooms or bedrooms materialized just by thinking about it? Poof! Just like we imagined it! That would be so much faster and we can enjoy the results sooner.

However, I have a hunch that things that come easily aren't as valued. As I sit in our office space, I am so thankful for what we have. It's not much as far as offices go, but it is special because it was something we counted the cost and paid the price for.

Yesterday, we talked about brainstorming ideas, selecting one that we can start with and counting the cost. We do this in our home remodels---poring over our options for tiling, fixtures, and appliances, weighing the pros and cons of each. We then pick one and purchase it. But it doesn't do anything unless energy is exerted (either yours or someone you hire) to install it.

So it is with the other remodels in our lives. Things don't just happen because we pray about it. Sometimes God's answers come in the form of our own sweat and effort. Most of our brainstormed ideas will require some kind of implementation in order for us to see changes. If the Lord has been guiding us through this process, we can trust Him to provide the strength, energy and perseverance to do the task set before us.

One of the "remodeling" projects this year involved my older son, Matthew. I struggled with his messy habits---not that I'm particularly neat myself, mind you---but I found myself getting increasingly irritated about the trail of mess all over the house. I'll tell you that brute strength, threats and the like did not work. After figuring that out again, I spent some time with the Lord praying for Matthew.

In that time with Him, I realized that a neat house is not the goal. The Lord had to redirect my focus to deeper issues, namely character ones. He had to show me that I needed to train his heart, not just get him to clean up. I shifted my vision from a clean house with no nagging to training my son in being a good steward of his possessions and consideration of others. I also had to evaluate where Matthew was at. Unlike his sister who naturally liked to keep things neat, he is missing that gene. He usually had a story running through his head, and he would just keep pulling out whatever he needed to finish that story. After all, you can't put the castle away when it's the base of operations in your battle!

As I prayed about it, the Lord showed me several things about Matthew that he did have. He was always up for a challenge and motivated by rewards. I have already tried the negative ways of motivating him and they did not work. The light bulb went on! How about finding a positive motivator that he would have to work towards?

And so that was exactly what I did. I sat down with Matthew and shared with him what I wanted him to learn. We agreed on a prize that was worth something to him. The next Saturday, he and I went to purchase a special Star Wars Lego set he had been eyeing. We set it up on a shelf so he could see it. In order to earn the set, he needed to daily complete a series of tasks. I made a list of things I wanted him to do every day, including clean up.

If he did the job, he would could check off a box. When he completed the chart (which was designed to take at least 6 weeks to finish), he earned his prize. If he messed up, he didn't get penalized. He just had to wait another day before he could get his reward. That was enough to keep him going. By the time the six weeks were over, the routine was firmly a part of his daily habits, which was what I wanted. Now, I am happy to say, he is very reliable and conscientious in taking care of his things and has even been known to clean on his own. (More than I ever imagined!)

Both of us had to roll up our sleeves and work. My job was praying, seeking the Lord's guidance, making a plan, explaining things to him and keeping tabs on him. He had to work hard to remember to clean up before starting something new. From this experience, I learned a lot about how God inspires and helps us to come up with ideas that move us towards the changes we desire. His way worked so much better than my own, and with much less tears, anger and frustration on both our parts.

What is the Lord calling you to remodel? Let's get to work! You'll be glad you did.