Begin today's devotional by reading Philippians 1:1-11
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "blood is thicker than water." This phrase means that when it comes down to having to choose loyalty or make a decision, family is chosen above anyone or anything else. Maybe you've felt it in your own life. I know I've had various situations where I wish I could be in two places at once, but honestly, the family choice is the only answer.
I also have some friends who may as well be family. We have been friends for so long, and will be for the rest of our lives. Even if we see each other once a year, we pick up right where we left off, know what each other is thinking or feeling, and are so close that other people assume we are cousins or related somehow.
I love this section of Philippians where Paul is so thankful for the church in Philippi that he says, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy." (vs. 3-4). Are there people in your life that make you feel the same way? Every time you think of them, you are thankful to God and filled with joy? I hope so! If not, I encourage you to pray that God would surround you with family and friends who love you with an inexplainable unending love.
In addition to family, and close friends who could be family, have you ever gone on a mission trip or traveled somewhere and met other Christ-followers? Did you have that instant connection or that feeling like you've known each other forever? I know it's happened to me throughout my life.
Several years ago, my husband and I went on a mission trip to Mexico. There were two host missionary families that we connected with and still stay in contact with today. When we met them, it seems like we skipped right to the "we're family now" feeling before the week of serving even started. And we aren't family, we're not blood-related...or are we? We are blood-related. And that blood is the blood of Christ!
The blood of Jesus has given us each grace and hope and true meaning in our lives. And God has given us countless brothers and sisters, blood-related family, that we should love and encourage with everything we have. It is unfortunate when petty issues divide us, and unforgiveness reigns. We need to rise above whatever differences are going on and realize that blood is thicker than water. Right now, is just a breath of time, we have all eternity to spend together so let's start the healing process.
Spend some time thanking God today for those He has put in your life. If there is anyone you need to forgive, ask God to help you. If there's anyone who you need to ask for forgiveness, ask God to help you.
I encourage you to pray the last verses of this passage over each of them.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (vs. 9-11)
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7
As I'm writing this, there are about fifteen days left of 2020. Hooray! There are no promises that things will be easier at the beginning of next year, but won't it feel good to just be done with 2020? But, I want to encourage you to not waste these last few days! It might be tempting to write them off, knowing that the holidays will be different than any other year, or maybe you're disappointed as you look back and see all the goals that you didn't reach. Keep going strong!
When I was a teacher, one of my mottos at the end of every school year was "Finish Well." i was always exhausted after teaching for so many months with only a few breaks, and the end of the year meant finishing grades, cleaning the classroom for the summer months, finishing the yearbook, graduation, and more. I didn't want to do anything except relax, but I had to get things done, and I wanted to get them done well!
Maybe as you look back at 2020, you see all the bad, all the negativity, but take some time to focus on the positive things that happened. There has to be something good that happened in your life. You may have to dig deep, but look for the good.
As you look back, you may also see goals that you didn't reach. I know I set goals last January that with the stay-at-home orders, I honestly could not achieve. But, don't dismiss your goals! You have a few days to start on them or simply put them on your list 2021.
In a few months, let's look back at 2020 and say, "we have fought the good fight, we have finished the race, and we have kept the faith!"
December is here! No matter how you're spending this holiday season, you're probably feeling a little overwhelmed with the anticipation of everything that has to get done. Shopping, cooking, cleaning, and more! Throughout my life, I've often been asked how I stay organized and how I can accomplish as much as I do. I know that part of it is my natural tendency to stay organized or maybe it's from the years of planning seven lesson plans per day or multiple Sundays of worship sets at a time. However, I think I've developed a few basic tips that can help anyone keep their sanity this holiday season and throughout the year too!
Step 1: Make a List
One of my personal rules is that if I write something down, my brain is not obligated to remember it.
This is why I always have my phone or bullet journal with me. If I run out of something or need to get something done, it goes on a list. Then, I can refer to the list instead of struggling to remember if I am doing everything I should in a timely manner. And, it's also gratifying to cross things off as they are completed!
So, go ahead! Grab a notebook, find an app on your phone and start writing things down! You can have one giant list or lists for different categories. Either way, give yourself a little freedom and give your brain a break.
Step 2: Make a Daily Reachable List
The next step is to take your long list or lists and make a daily reachable list. I know you have to get a lot done, but don't try to get everything done in one day! If you try and fail, you'll end up disappointed and focusing on what you didn't complete rather than what you did. I've been trying to improve this step in my own life. Instead of making a ridiculously long list for the day, I just pick out a handful of things depending on how much time I have. If I finish the list, great! I can always do more and get ahead, but it's not as big of a deal if things take longer than expected.
Try this, today or tomorrow. Look at your long list, pick out some things, complete them, and check them off. And, don't forget to congratulate yourself for your accomplishments!
Step 3: Do One Thing at a Time
I know it's tempting to start your entire list at once or bounce around from task to task, but sometimes, this ends up with everything being started and nothing being finished. Sometimes, there are exceptions, like laundry or if you simply need a break from doing the same thing, but do your best to focus on one thing at a time. Right now, this one is difficult for me because I'm in the middle of unpacking. Our house feels like a giant Tetris puzzle and some things have to wait for other things to get done, unpacked, sorted, etc.
Another tip for this step is to clean one room at a time. Instead of having "clean house" on your list, write "clean living room" or "clean upstairs" so that you focus on one room or area at a time. Chances are, you may not have enough time or energy to clean your entire house, but if you clean one room, then you can decide if you need a cleaning break or can handle another.
Step 4: Finish What You Start
I touched on this in the previous step, but I strongly encourage you to finish what you start. Obviously, finishing something allows you to cross it off your list, but it also allows you to cross it off in your mind. I know there are limited hours in a day, so don't stress yourself out and deprive yourself of sleep by thinking of everything you have to do the next day. And, if you didn't finish something, remind yourself that you wrote it down and you will finish it!
I hope these steps help you this holiday season! Feel free to share in the comments if you have any other helpful tips on staying organized.
What are your priorities?
I think this year has been good at reminding us to prioritize. What are the non-negotiables in our lives? When almost everything closed down, most of us had a chance to have a clean slate schedule. We didn't have to choose.
But, now that things are opening back up, what are your priorities? What have you put back on your schedule? Have you put anything back solely based on habit?
We have a unique opportunity to keep examining our priorities and schedules. It's okay to say 'no.' It's okay to say 'not now.'
What are your excuses?
I know that there are some things in our lives that we just don't want to do. Maybe someone asks us to help with something or we have to go to an event, and we just simply don't want to. But, instead of being honest and saying so, we often come up with an excuse of why we "can't." Wouldn't it be easier to just say what we're thinking instead of a white lie?
I think it's very important to prioritize, especially during this time, when we want to keep ourselves, our families, and others safe. We want to make wise decisions. The problem comes when we make up an excuse or use our circumstances as a scapegoat.
Unfortunately, hasn't COVID provided the perfect scapegoat if we don't want to do something? I know some people are honestly concerned, but let's not pretend we are concerned in order to back out of doing things, interacting with others, or just simply living.
My challenge for you is to start thinking of the real reasons, the honest truth reasons, before you say no to something, and communicate that reason instead of making up an excuse.