One of the most important (if not *the* most important) "thing" that I need to keep in perspective is the people that the Lord has placed in my life. It is so easy to find myself focusing on other things besides relationships and putting those priorities above people, as well as putting (how can I say this?) "wrong" people before the "right" people the Lord has put in your life. Figuring all this out takes careful prayer and much thought.
Who is in my "backyard"?
We often miss very clearly the people the Lord has asked us to minister to. They are most often the people we see on a regular basis, yet if we do not take time to think about these things, we could miss the very people the Lord has asked us to serve.
If we are walking in the spirit, we will begin to see how the Lord uses everyone for His glory. We begin to see how I might be the finger for someone else's hand. We were not created to live life alone. We were not created to go on without the support of family and community.
Each Christian is a dispenser. God has supplied each one with gifts He has selected (He does not offer an array of options), with the good of all in mind. When we imagine that these gifts are for our own mere satisfaction, we are forgetting they are intended for service. All that I have is meant to contribute to the needs of others, and what I need will be supplied through God's dispensers. Thus He unifies and harmonizes the whole church, which is his body, making each dispenser indispensable, for each dispenses a grace which is peculiarly his. ~Elisabeth Elliot
Where do I start?
"We'll start at the top: the first thing we need to do is ask ourselves whether we are being obedient to the call of God in our lives. Are we faithfully working at what He has assigned us to do? The reason we want to ask ourselves this is because we are going to do a little spiritual de-cluttering. I'm just going to leap ahead here and state this as plainly as possible: if you are married and/or have children, your very first calling is to your spouse and those children. A spouse must be nurtured, supported, listened to, cared for, served. It is the same for children, but they must also be brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. If you have a special needs child or ongoing health issues or unusual circumstances in your home, this is going to take an even larger portion of your priorities. Are you obeying God?" ~ Tonia
This quote from Tonia is a good place to start. What I've started with is a group of concentric circles, quite like this. Who is in your "inner circle"? If we start with the basics, and "declutter" like Tonia suggested, we find that our husband and our children are in the innermost circle. They are the people we come into contact every day, they are the people the Lord has placed in your life on a daily basis, these are the people that you live with.
How do I minister to these people?
"Unless the Lord build the house, the work of the builders is wasted." ~Psalm 127:1
"Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit." ~Leviticus 26:20
The message is simple. If you try to figure this out on your own, your labor will be in vain. We need the Lord's help to open our eyes and hearts to understand how we are to minister and serve others in our lives. Set aside time to pray for these people in your inner circle. What are their needs? How can you best serve and minister to them? Are you doing too little? Are you doing too much? Be open to what the Lord says, not your own thoughts (Proverbs 3: 5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.... In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.)
A special thank you to Kari Jo for the concentric circle thoughts. And a disclaimer: this is a huge work in progress for me. I do not have it all down. Just me organizing my thoughts here and preachin' to myself. Let me know if you've done anything similar to this and how it works for you.