Tool belt

I had some tools to work with now, where before, my tool belt felt empty. Different sized hammers and nails, various types of screwdrivers, pliers, and a tape measure now jingled loosely in my pouch. Trusted authors, wise and loving friends, and an honest heart provided the initial weight to my heavy-duty, time-for-a-change, do-it-right-or-don’t-show-up, double-threaded priorities tool belt. 

My first tools came from my reading, which confirmed that reordering my focus and activities would improve my health, bring peace to my life, and benefit my family and community. The second stash made my hands a little greasy. These tools were already used and the black marks reflected the importance and usefulness of them. Women who already had peace in their lives and families showed me with their actions and words the day-to-day, ordinary choices that made all the difference. These women are not perfect and their families are not perfect. These women had already made a choice to order their lives in such as way as to bring about the greatest joy and they were now simply living in those choices. The last tools to join the belt were the stiffest, probably because they were not used often. It took a while to feel comfortable using them, but now they are easy to handle. 

I’ll talk about my shiny tools for the rest of this post. By now you know that I love to read and ponder, so I really enjoyed learning and thinking about what the authors had to say. A theme for ordering priorities kept popping up the more I read and searched for wisdom: Put God first, respect your husband, love your children, offer your talents to the church and community, and enjoy life with friends and family. 

Great. So my life wouldn’t be perfect until I joined a convent, became monk, read the Bible each waking minute or went to seminary, right? How in the world was I supposed to put God first when I couldn’t cram one more person into my schedule. Instead of waking up at 6 am, I should wake up at 5:30? And do what? Pray? I’d probably fall back asleep! And this was only my first priority. My husband was next. Really? You might be able to sense my defeat already. I was completely overwhelmed and this new knowledge wasn’t helping any. 

Having this knowledge and then talking with women who had implemented strategies for keeping peace in their lives only made me feel worse about my current situation and guilty for letting it get this way. It was like deciding to sign up for a 5K, reading all about running, showing up the day of the race, and then find yourself surrounded by lean muscle, new tread, inspirational playlists, and the cutest jogging outfits you’ve ever seen. I felt SO intimidated by the changes I was trying to make. 

After the hissy fit/panic attack subsided, I knew I couldn’t make a bunch of changes at once and see results. I knew I’d have to do this a little at a time. First the God thing. My reading suggested I rise when it is still dark and my family is soundly sleeping and pray for them and the activities of our day. It would also be helpful if I read a chunk of the Bible and reflected on how it applied to my life. Memorizing scripture verses would help me recall promises later in the day. Then, if I could confess my wrongdoings and shortcomings before sunrise, that would be good, too. 

I know I’m being cheeky, but I’m also trying to give you a glimpse of where I was in my thinking a few years ago. I was determined to do the right thing and do it right. I had lived my life the best way I knew how, and was still not satisfied. Maybe carving out time for the maker of the universe would help bring order to my chaos. 

The morning Survey of the New Testament and Tricia didn’t match up with my recent research, but it was taking on a form of its own. I’d pray in the shower and ask God for the strength to get through the day. While matching my earrings with my sweater, I’d think of something I remembered from the Bible or I’d learned in church. I’d try my best to remember a verse while pouring my coffee. A daily devotional made me feel better about my efforts to “put God first” as I sipped my second cup. On the way to work, I’d ask God to forgive me for all the mistakes I made yesterday and help me not to make as many today. 

It was a start. 

I began to realize that having God as my first priority wasn’t something I was going to be able to check off and then go to the next thing on my list. Rather than a set activity, it was a mindset to be mindful of the Lord throughout the day. I praised him for my family, marveled at the natural beauty of the earth, looked for opportunities to show kindness and compassion to people and thanked God for my job and all the things I called mine. Working full time, cooking dinner, attending ball games or folding laundry became opportunities to memorize a meaningful verse or talk about the goodness of a situation or relate a struggle to one I just read in the Bible or thank God for meeting a need. 

The more I focused my attention on God in my daily activities, the more I wanted to understand him more. My husband introduced me to YouVersion, so now I could read the Bible on my phone! I began to journal whenever I had time and asked God questions about the Bible as well as my life. I signed up for Bible studies through my church and shared my mess with loving ears. I didn’t fit the mold for the early-riser-super Christian woman, but I knew I loved the Lord and wanted to give Him first place in my life. 

It felt good knowing that I was putting my reading into action. It was a tiny step forward in my quest to simplify my life and reorder my activities and attention. I prayed I wouldn’t flip out when I reminded myself that this was only my first area I was working on!