Lessons in Building Bookshelves

Hey, look! Check out what we did! My Dad and I built these bookshelves.

Those have been my welcoming words to anyone that has stopped by our house lately. When my Dad visited last month, we built (I got to help do everything, but use the hand saw!) a big set of bookshelves for our home office. Not the Ikea bookshelves, but the saw-the-plywood-from-scratch kind of bookcases. It was an incredible labor of love as it was the last few days of Dad's summer break and he chose to spend it with us!

Three years ago, our family had a big life change as my mom died unexpectedly as a result of a car accident. Within that moment, our world was turned upside down and our lives changed forever. Later that summer my dad was offered a job at our local high school to help launch the school's new student media and broadcasting center.  One of the perks to this new job was a "summer break".

Dad's summers are filled with projects around the house, traveling, camping and fishing, floating the river, and spending time with us kids. (Just ask him about meeting Captain America and Spider-Man last summer!) He loves it and we do too. 

As a family, we've learned that when life throws you a curve ball (or doesn't turn out like you have planned or wanted!) you have a couple options: 1) Be mad and miserable. 2) Be hopeful and make the most of it.

We chose number two. We chose hope. We made the decision to put our hope in the promises of Jesus Christ. It's taken our family a lot to lean into this new normal of life without Mom, but even after the worst of circumstances, we still believe God is good.

The old adage is true: "We can't always control our circumstances, but we can control how we react to them and what we do with them."  Our choice was to believe that God still had good plans for our lives and that we would make the most of life while we still had breath. And, that's what we're trying to do! As we spent the last of Dad's summer vacation building bookcases, I want to share with you a few lessons I learned.

Lessons Learned from Building Bookshelves with Dad

  1. Have a plan. Before starting a big project, take time to properly prepare for it. Make sure you have what you need to start and finish the task.
  2. Find the right tools. When you have the right tools and strong support from others, it makes a difference. If you don't have what you need to get a job done, ask for help from someone who does.
  3. Measure twice, cut once. If you don't take your time to do it right the first time, you'll end up having to do it over again. Patience > Hastiness
  4. Time is of the essence. Time is something you can never get back. It is a gift; make the most of it.
  5. Put down the phone. Texts, emails, photos, videos, and Instagram can wait. Be present and pay attention to the work at hand. It's important not to miss what's right in front of you.
  6. Make some room. Sometimes you need to clear out some space to make room for something new.
  7. Take a break. When you're tired and worn out or beginning to get frustrated, it's time to take a break. Walk away, rest, and figure it out later. The work will still be there when you come back to it.
  8. Two are better than one. A team can balance the workload. You don't have to do it all by yourself, all the time. Find someone who can cheer you on or help carry the burden.  
  9. Don't throw it away yet. Scraps can be repurposed into something new, helpful, and really cool. Nowadays, it's called upcycle. Sometimes the scraps in your life need to be "upcycled".  
  10. Finish what you started. There's value in completing a task. Whether it's a promise to yourself or to another, do what you say you would do.
  11. Celebrate success. Take time to celebrate your success and the hard work it took to get there. It's worth your time to reflect on what when well, lessons learned, and enjoy the accomplishment.

Although my dad never said any of this to me or gave me a list of tips, he demonstrated these things through his actions and love. What about you? What's your favorite lesson learned? Does anything in your life need to be "upcycled"?


"May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands." Psalm 90:17

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." Jeremiah 29:11-12

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up." Ecclesiastes 4:9a