Laugh if you want. I think I was in college when I first realized “elbow grease” wasn’t something you could purchase in the cleaning aisle at your local supermarket. It was one of those expressions that must’ve gone in one ear and out the other for a while.

The only job I ever held in high school was working as a lifeguard at a nearby swimming pool in the summer. Working on my tan, twirling my whistle around my fingers, and keeping an eye on the kids jumping off the diving board didn’t take a whole lot out of me. If I’m honest, when it came time to do the work of scrubbing the toilets or tidying the picnic area, I was lazy.

My elbow grease quotient was really low.


The jobs that followed, working in Media Relations at my university, waitressing at a Chinese Restaurant, sandwiching at a sandwich spot, assisting in the Honors Office as a graduate student, didn’t do much to teach me about elbow grease either. Of course there were occasional moments where more than the minimum was required of me, and I rose to the challenge, but for the most part I was, as they say, pretty good at {barely} gettin’ by.

Perhaps it wasn’t until my studies were {temporarily} finished and I landed a job at a Pawn Shop just off the belt line in North Carolina’s capital that I finally learned a bit about elbow grease and a hard day’s work. Mopping the floor of the storage area where aisles and aisles of things people had pawned were being held and scrubbing the grub off chain saws and old TVs was exactly what I needed to understand the meaning of hard work.

We returned to North Carolina about four months ago, and we’ve been blessed with a lot of gifts since then. Some of those gifts, like my wonderful new crock pot, have been fresh-out-the-box and ready to use. Other gifts have required more of that good ol’ elbow grease.

I mentioned here before that we’ve been blessed with a place to stay on this homecoming. While we save up and look for a place to live closer to the Hubs’ workplace, we’re in my aunt’s house in my hometown. It’s a wonderful home and we are very thankful.

However, this gift does come with a little work. No one lived here for close to four years before we moved in. And I’ve been helping my cousins go through some of their mother’s things, and it turns out she was a bit of a collector. The collections have collected dust. The floors have collected muck. The drawers need un-packing in order to be re-packed and the closets need cleaning out and wiping down before anything can be put back in. We are waging war against bugs.

This is an absolutely wonderful gift to us — and, it is a gift that requires some elbow grease.

I scrubbed the kitchen floor this morning and pondered the gifts God has given me lately, how many of them are fresh-out-the-box, while others have required some work.

And I stopped to consider how much of life this Truth applies to:

A person with the gift of a beautiful voice still spends hours learning and practicing in order to use their gift. A person with the gift of writing still reads and works and practices to hone their craft.

Whether you’re a gifted clothing designer, a jewelry maker or a bread-baker, receiving your gift will rightly mean elbow grease. Practice. Diligence and hard work.

And wait — couldn’t that be so for our salvation?

The gift of God — the finished work of Jesus on the cross, which was set before Him even when He was swaddled and lying in that manger — our bought and paid in full salvation: it is completely a gift we can only but receive with open hands.



And yet, somehow this gift of Grace Amazing also requires elbow grease in its receiving. The call to follow Jesus is a call to come and die, a call to take up the cross.

There is no disciple without discipline.

We could choose to move into this home and leave everything as is — never pack or unpack a box, never clean or sweep or scrub or rearrange — but we wouldn’t really be receiving and enjoying the gift we’ve been given. We wouldn’t truly be living in our gift, we would just be biding our time.

There was this beautiful beach a few miles from our home in Gordon’s Bay. It required a bit of a hike along a steep path to get down to it. It wasn’t an exceptional amount of effort, but we visited once or twice while I was pregnant with Blake and I found it a bit of a strain.

When we arrived at the bottom, overlooking the rocks, the gorgeous craggy cliffs, the raging surf and sparkling sand, I was always thankful I made the effort.


How sad would it be to wait in the car? Sure I’d hear the ocean — but I wouldn’t feel the grains of sand between my toes, the sun warm on my skin, the spray of the surf tickling my face.

Fully entering into the goodness of our gifts requires more from us than waiting in the car.

The Elbow Grease of discipline — the discipline of keeping one’s heart thankful, one’s mind on the matters of the kingdom, one’s feet walking in the ways of Jesus — will ensure that we don’t just see the beach from a distance.

For humble and mustard-seed efforts there are mountain-top rewards. And there is much fruit in the discipline of abiding.

Have you been waiting in the car? Are you receiving the gift of Grace — or any other gift — without exercising the elbow grease necessary for truly receiving it?

Somehow in God’s infinite wisdom, He has given us a gift that costs us nothing and everything.

The choice is ours to unwrap it.