“Mama, if you’re going to use a planner, you really have to keep it open on the table where you can see it!”
It was over two decades ago, maybe twenty-five years, that I heard those words spoken so gently to me by my son. I wonder if he was, in his heart, sort of feeling sorry for his Mom. If he was, he never let on.
Here it is many years later, and I can hear him saying that to me like it was yesterday. Did he see how “my plan” didn’t ever seem to change anything on a day-to-day basis? Maybe your story is similar to mine.
Each year I’d buy a planner, then take the day to go to Starbucks or the library to “set my goals for the year”and fill out my planner. I was also a home-schooling mother at the time, (though my planning for that was always kept separate) so setting goals and having a plan in motion that made those goals a reality to me was critical.
I remember loving this time; it was my own. It gave me great vision for the year ahead, and I always looked very forward to it. But who was I kidding? I was (and still am) a “sprinter” by nature and I got (and still can get) easily side-tracked.
I think the last thing that was evident in my character at that time in my life was “FOCUS”! How does one set goals and work out a plan without the very needed character quality of FOCUS? My family was so large, the demands so great. As I think back, it felt like there were many days when there was no time to do anything but just try to stay afloat! Can anyone relate to this?
Reflecting back to that season of my life, I remember that each year I’d launch off with great enthusiasm and work in my planner for a few weeks. Then in my busyness, it would get left in a pile on my desk or stuffed in between the books on my bookshelf; it was as if some “invisible planner stasher” would bury it in a pile that would mysteriously begin and continue to grow. How does that happen?
Occasionally I would remember how much I loved it and I’d dig it out of the pile and open it, glancing through it wistfully. But mostly…I’d pull it out at the end of the year, and pack it up to bring it to Starbucks with me for a closer review, hoping that, as I read, I’d see that maybe I had reached some of the goals I set. But alas, I’d have to admit to myself that, indeed, once again, I had failed at reaching the goals I was so sure I’d fulfill. Sometimes, as I reviewed them, I realized I had forgotten some of the goals I set! What’s wrong with that picture?
Here was my dilemma: What I’d written so meticulously never seemed to get worked into my day-to-day, already full plate. One BIG reason why I think that was true was because I set lofty goals, unreachable and somewhat unreasonable.
Possibly, as I think back now, they may have been goals I chose because I thought every home-schooling mother and wife should have them in place. But of course that was a wrong assumption; the truth of the matter is that every family is unique and needs to create a family life and household that fits their own specific needs.
I set goals that didn’t necessarily fit in with our values as a family. I set goals that didn’t really matter in the overall scheme of things.
My eyes hadn’t yet been opened to the significance of “living deliberately” and “cherishing ordinary days,” so life had the tendency to feel rather scattered and haphazard. Busy! Fleeting! They were fleeting days. Life was passing me by, as were the precious years of having a full house, and I so wanted to “get it right” before those days were behind me. Have you ever had a sense that there should be more…that something just isn’t as it should be? Well, to my surprise God had something wonderful in store for me!
Around that season my husband, Bobby, planned a two-week trip to Florida to visit his parents. It was early January when we left, and of course I was concerned once again about getting my plan together and yearly goals set. Not really sure why…I just always felt better when that was completed.
I remember sharing that concern with Bob and I was blessed that he understood when I mentioned to him that I’d be needing to slip away to a quiet spot and begin my yearly task of organizing the months ahead. I felt more determined than ever that particular year.
As I was praying early in the morning, shortly after we arrived in Florida, I felt the Lord whisper a life-changing concept to me.
What I felt He said was this: “Are you willing to let Me set your goals this year?”
I was stunned! I remember being SO EXCITED! It was a clear-cut invitation! I was so drawn in by the concept of having the Lord show me His specific plans and purposes for me personally; to know what mattered to Him regarding how He would have me ( and us as a family) live out my days as His daughter, wife to Bobby, and home-schooling mother of many children brought great joy.
In His goodness the Lord gave me precious goals that day. For the sake of time I’ll share three that Jesus gave me; the ones I chose to share have had a profound affect on my heart, the way I see my days here on earth, and how I was to live them out from that time forward.
1) Learn to Love!
2) Live deliberately!
3) People before projects!
These goals, written on my heart so many years ago, are still with me today and have affected the way I love, the way I live, and the way I value those Jesus has given me to invest in.
I still cherish that season of my life because He taught me such wonderful truth and showed me how to navigate through those years with so much love. Truly, I have to say…it was love that wasn’t my own. I knew the Lord had worked His love deep down into my heart. I don’t want to paint the picture that we were without hard times; oh no, we certainly were NOT without hard times! But God is still our God, even in the dark days of struggle. Grace was poured out and still is in every season we have found ourselves.
Grace: “God enabling me to do what I could never do on my own.”
So if you find yourself already trying to find your planner in the pile on your desk, or wondering if the things you're working so hard to accomplish even matter in the overall scheme of your life and your family value.
Then, I encourage you to pause and pray…
Ask God if He’d whisper to your heart about what matters to Him.
Ask Him what it is He’d have you focus on…
You may be surprised at His answers.
Of course it’s important to keep our homes tidy, to be good stewards over everything He’s given us, and to have a plan for an overall, smooth-running household. But never does it say anywhere in the Scriptures that we should make our homes, our children, and our schedules our #1 priority! Really that truth should be a great relief to us all! JESUS wants to be our #1 priority!
With Jesus being our FIRST priority it will then be an easy thing to let Him lead us into what matters to Him and how to fill in our planners each year, each month, each week, and each day. We’ll never be sorry we did!
I use a planner every day now at this season of my life. First, after spending much time seeking the Lord for the days ahead, I set goals for my year. My monthly goals are then chosen at the beginning of each month and are carefully crafted to assist me in reaching my goals I’ve set for the year. Weekly is the same; I look at what I’ve planned for the month and break it down into smaller, weekly chunks and from there prioritize into daily tasks according to importance: “Must do”, “should do”, “would like to do”.
This system has worked wonderfully for me and all my goals for this past year have been accomplished except one, which I’m rethinking and have assigned to a different time. I realize now that this isn’t the season for that goal. I tucked it into a “future goals” category.
But in all of my busyness (and yes! I am still very busy) I will always cherish that day so long ago when Jesus spoke to my heart…the goals He whispered to me have been woven into the tapestry of my life and for that I am most grateful. These goals remain the framework for the other goals I set for my days ahead.
I long to continue to learn to LOVE
with His love that never fails or falters and His grace, again,
enabling me to do what I could never do on my own.
I long to live deliberately each moment of my day for what truly matters to God
~remembering that the days are fleeting~
~though I recognize that it doesn't feel like it in the midst of a busy household~
~soon our homes may be empty~
~ and soon we, ourselves, will be gone~
We can’t call back a day, so I encourage each of us to ask Jesus now about “living deliberately.”
That is one of the most precious gifts He ever gave to me!
The heart to live deliberately for what matters to Him!!
And lastly, people before projects.
In recognizing that people are real and eternal and living here and now…
I have to remind myself that my projects, though important, can wait! They’ll always be here tomorrow!
And honestly, the next day, sometimes we may find that those projects may not even matter!
Oh, but those dear ones the Lord has given to me…they’ll always matter to His heart and to mine!
On this journey together,