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:
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.
As I navigate a long suffering as a result of loving a wayward child, it is not uncommon for well-meaning friends to assure me that, “This too shall pass.”
But I have to wonder... will it?
I think we say this out of the goodness of our hearts. No one enjoys seeing a loved one suffer. It is good to offer encouragement to a weary soul. However, it is important to note that “this too shall pass” is not in Scripture. It is up there with “God won't give you more than you can handle.” While we say these things out of compassion, they are actually not biblically correct. According to Saint Paul, God absolutely gives us more than we can handle so that we stop relying on ourselves and rely on Him (1 Cor 10:13). According to every Bible…. nowhere will you find the phrase “this too shall pass.” And I don't know about you, but when I am suffering, I need to stand on Truth.
There is a verse that I cling to that could be misinterpreted as “this too shall pass,” and that's 2 Corinthians 4:17: For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. Saint Paul isn't simply stating that we shouldn't worry because eventually our trouble will go away. He is declaring something far more powerful and essential to our understanding, our faith, and the role suffering plays in our lives. He is sharing, quite possibly, the very key to the door that unlocks all of that grace-the grace we need to endure our trials and tribulations. How do I know this? Well, when I feel like I am getting anxious and too much up in my own head, I dig even deeper into God's Word. Something that has helped me tremendously is to meditate on a verse by reading all of the Biblical translations. I did this with 2 Corinthians 4:17, and when I read the Common English Bible translation, light poured over my blindness and a deep peace rushed in:
Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.
You see, our sufferings are not something to wish away but something to embrace. Why? Because they are necessary! In suffering them well, we gain eternal glory. In this short time of distress (which I know hardly feels short), the result will be God's richest blessing upon us... forever. So, that thing you are struggling with? That circumstance that has had you on your knees for years? Those millions of tears shed for the one that you love? Every single painful thing is meant to be endured for everlasting life. I know this isn't easy, but I promise you... your present trouble is preparing you for a glory that is incomparable and immeasurable. Rather than praying for it to pass, thank God for entrusting you with it instead. It is your golden ticket. Your “admit one.” Your Disney Fast Pass. Don't lose it.
Saint Louis De Montfort writes, “It is no small matter to lose or gain the Kingdom of God.” And I know that the only way to the Kingdom is by way of the cross. If “this too shall pass” implies a desire that my suffering be removed here on earth, dare I say... no, thank you. My suffering is preparing me for glory. It will all pass soon enough; in that I am confident. But I've got Jesus on my heart and my eyes on that eternal stockpile of grace. As De Montfort encourages and reminds me, “At the hour of death, what shall we not wish to have done, to have suffered, and renounced for the sake of Heaven?”
With confidence in the hope of good things to come,
“How can you all have so much joy when you are going through something so painful?” That's the question the new face at my support group asked last night. Followed by, “I want what you all have!”
As I have mentioned before, this group I attend is not faith-based. Of course, if I were to personally give witness to where I have found such joy, all fingers would point towards God. And yet, there is more to it than faith.
It's also about community.
I have always known that God did not create us to be alone. Genesis 2:18 clearly lays this out for us: “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” But this isn't just about man finding woman. This is about man not having to go it alone.
And we do this, don't we? We try to go it alone. Be it out of shame of our circumstance or fear of rejection, how many of us choose isolation over connection? How many of us stop reaching out, strap on our masks, and white knuckle through the day, relying on our own strength? Maybe this sounds familiar to you. And if so, I ask. How's it working for you?
You see, I have recognized an undeniable truth. When I am connected to community I thrive. I become inspired and animated. Notice, I did not say, “when life is smooth sailing, I thrive.” My life circumstance is not what controls me. Only Jesus controls me. And when I immerse myself in community; be it a coffee date with a friend, a Wednesday morning at WWP Bible Study, attendance at weekly Mass, or going to my support group, loneliness loses its grip, making way for joy. The truth of “me too” wipes out the lie of “no one understands”, and like a Gospel miracle, I am healed. No doubt, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. No question that when two or three are gathered in His name, He is there. (Matthew 18:20) And in the most beautiful way, this overwhelms me.
If you read this and feel sorrow because you do not have a community to run to, I am here to say...you do. Walking with Purpose is not about selling Bible studies and throwing pretty pictures up on a website. Walking with Purpose is about handing out life vests and anchors to women struggling to keep their eyes above the waves. Women who are swimming into a storm believing they have to go it alone. We are about sisterhood and support and encouraging one another. If you do not have a parish program near you, please reach out to us. Let us help to connect you someway, somehow. And no. I am not working on commission nor was asked to say this. This, sweet sisters, is so ridiculously heavy on my heart, because my Walking with Purpose family is what gave me the strength to walk into that other support group. In her Netflix special, Call to Courage, researcher and storyteller Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” I learned how to be vulnerable from my WWP community. And I do not exaggerate when I say, it has saved me.
When searching for Scripture verses that best describe community to me, my eyes fell upon Hebrews 10:24-25, and a smile spread across my face, and truth be told, it is still there. “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Something about we should not stay away grabs me. It is how I feel about my support group. It is how I feel about Walking with Purpose. It is how I feel about a certain friend who calls me in the middle of the day to shout, “I know you are writing and I hate to interrupt but I have to talk to you about the Holy Spirit!” When you encounter people who allow you to be vulnerable and encourage you to be the best you can be, how can you stay away? And when you find friends with a common thread, who weep when you weep and rejoice when you rejoice, how on earth can you not be encouraging?
How can there be joy in the midst of so much pain? Because “two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Praying the Holy Spirit fills us with the desire to step out into community, to supply us with Sisters who are eager to love us and lift us should we fall. Grant, I pray, all our shame of not being worthy be destroyed, as we courageously step into our place, advancing the Kingdom of God.