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Warning: Hot Button Topic Ahead. 

When loading utensils into the dishwasher, do you place them handle side down or handle side up? 

Call me crazy, but I just realized why my father would load the dishwasher so that all of the utensils would be handle side down. With the handle side down, the part of the utensil that is sticking up is the part that touches the food, the person’s mouth, and needs most of the cleaning. By loading the dishwasher this way, MORE utensils can be loaded and fit into the basket! This makes each wash more efficient and effective. No longer will I empty the clean utensils only to find a dirty fork that didn’t get washed because it was stuck in the basket, or find a spoon that still has dried up cereal on it because it was hiding amongst a bunch of other spoons. 

BRILLIANT! (Not me, the dishwasher.)

You may be wondering: does this really have anything to do with my spiritual life, or have I just spent 10 seconds getting a silly dishwasher planning lesson? 

Hang tight, sister, I got you! It dawned on me—right there while loading dirty dishes into the dishwasher—I AM THE DIRTY FORK. 

I am the dirty fork that is not placed correctly and doesn’t get fully clean. And when I don’t get cleaned, I don’t get used.

Who else feels like a dirty fork? 

My life needs to be put in the right order! Just like utensils facing the right way in the dishwasher allows for efficiency and effectiveness, so does rightly ordering my life. Placing everything in its rightful place will allow me to live more effectively and efficiently, so that I’m not wasting my time on the wrong things.  

How many of us wake up in the morning and automatically think of the always growing list of things that must be accomplished in the next 18 hours? How many of us soon begin to divide our list into sub-categories? 

When asked, “How are you doing?”, how many of us think for a split second, If only you knew how I was really doing, you wouldn’t want to ask me how I was doing. And then actually answer aloud, “I’m fine. How are you?” 

God created the sea, the stars, and land out of nothingness. He made every animal that crawls on the earth, swims in the oceans, and flies in the air. He created man and woman in His image. And then, on the seventh day, did He look at everything He had created and say, “Meh, it’s fine”?

NO! That is not what happened, my friend! 

God did not create you, the only YOU that will ever grace this world, just so that you can be fine! God did not create you to check boxes, make never-ending lists, and just get through life.

“I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

We just celebrated Our Lord’s birth into this world—the One who came so we could have an abundant life. And let’s remind ourselves that Jesus did not come as a powerful ruler or majestic king that had everything all together. Rather, He arrived here as each of us does: a helpless, dependent, defenseless baby. A baby’s survival is completely dependent on his parents. If a baby had to rely fully on himself to be fed, to sleep, and to clean himself, then he would surely not thrive.

Are you thriving? Or are you striving?

Could it be that our Good Father knew that in our humanity, we would have a hard time relying on Him? In His Divine Wisdom, He gave us His Son to use as a model. Jesus was born completely and solely dependent upon His parents. Are we solely dependent on God the Father? 

A sure sign we are relying more on ourselves than we are on God is when we feel overwhelming exhaustion—mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. We may feel as though we are just on the outside of our lives looking in, that we are checking out or numbing out rather than being an active participant—when we are that upside down fork and we are striving instead of thriving.

I don’t want to numb out or check out from my life! I want to live effectively, as a wife, mother, sister, and friend. Effective living means I’m utilizing my time well. Effective living means creating a rightly ordered day. Rightly ordering my day means first seeking the Kingdom of God. FIRST. Jesus gave us these words in Matthew 6:33 as a guide, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” In the previous verses, Jesus tells us what “all these things” are: food, drink, clothing, our body. Jesus continues, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34). 

Do you see what He did there? He rightly ordered our to do lists for us. 

Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, and everything else—our things to do, our families, our worries, our future—will fall into its rightful place. Everything else AFTER the Kingdom of God is a bonus. 

If you, like me, are the dirty fork desperately needing to be placed handle side down in the dishwasher, and you are unsure where to start, then I want you to read this next sentence carefully:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

And then read it again. 

The first step to rightly ordering your life and shedding ungodly self-reliance is to read the truth of who God is and have faith that this truth pertains to you. You are not left out of the salvation equation! God did not forget to add you in! And if even one ounce of you doubts this everlasting love of our Father, then open your Bible and read Psalm 139 or Isaiah 43:1–5 over and over again.

When we believe who we are and who we belong to, we can hand over our to-do list to Him, and allow Him to rightly order our day. Seek Him first, sister. I do not want to let one more day go by and not experience life how the Lord intended me to live it. I don’t want to be a dirty fork, and I don’t want you to be either.

Let’s ring in this new year with clean forks and a rightly ordered to-do list: 

  1. Seek first the kingdom of God. 
  2. Everything else. 

Blessings,
Jeannine

Our newest Bible study, Ordering Your Priorities, is an immensely practical study that helps us rightly order our lives. Let’s begin by paying attention to the One who made us, because He can best tell us what we need for our lives to run well.

Ah, summer 2021. A time that will forever be remembered as the post-quarantine summer. The world is opening back up again, and some people are making up for lost time as soon as possible.[1] Others are experiencing what some experts are calling “re-entry anxiety.”[2] 

I wonder where you fall on this spectrum as things begin to return to normal. Statistics have shown that women were especially hit hard during the pandemic with rates of depression, anxiety, and alcohol consumption skyrocketing.[3] For me, I’m somewhere between making up for lost time (“Hello, live music—I have MISSED YOU!”) and experiencing re-entry anxiety (“Do I need a mask in this store?” “Can we hug now?”). Our lives look different than they did a year ago, and our habits have likely changed as we have learned to cope with All. The. Things. 

In John 10:10, Jesus told us, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” I feel like my life during the past year definitely wasn’t abundant, but that this year has potential. How about you? Do you feel like your life is abundant right now? 

So, what is an “abundant” life? I think having an abundant life means having a life you love, not one that you want to run away from. I also think the abundant life Jesus spoke of is offered to us here and now, and isn’t related to our state in life or how much we are “making up for lost time” post-pandemic. This abundant life is one of peace, joy, and grace. It sounds lovely, in theory, but how do we attain it? I believe it requires a choice—a conscious decision to get back to the basics.

“Do the work you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5)

In his message to Ephesus in the book of Revelation, John praises the members for their works and virtues, but admonishes them to repent and return to their former devotion. 

This makes me think that the abundant life (having a life that we love) and doing the work we did at first (getting back to the basics of our faith) are intrinsically linked. Will you take a moment and pause with me to reflect on the last time your life felt full and abundant? What were you doing then? When was the last time you felt close to God? What are you not doing now that you were doing then? What habits have you dropped? 

Summer is a great time to reset our calendars and our priorities. Here are some basic things I’ve consciously decided to re-focus on in order to live the abundant life Jesus promised us. Will you join me in getting back to the basics this summer? 

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” —St. Francis of Assisi

As we re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have some choices to make. Don’t be swept back into the hurried life you had before, and know that you don’t have to carry bad habits from quarantine with you. You can build a life you love—starting now—one step at a time. The abundant life Jesus offers is waiting for you. 

 

[1] Jordan Valinsky, “7 signs that summer is about to be lit,” CNN Business, May 29, 2021,  https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/29/business/summer-2021-back-to-normal/index.html.
[2] Maya Kachroo-Levine, “How to Work Through Your Re-entry Anxiety, According to a Licensed Therapist,” Travel+Leisure, May 28, 2021, https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/covid-reentry-anxiety.
[3] Dawn Sugarman and Shelly Greenfield, “Women, alcohol, and COVID-19,” Harvard Health Blog, April 6, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/women-alcohol-and-covid-19-2021040622219.

 

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