THE PLAN

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Do the next thing.

Elisabeth Elliot introduced me to this phrase that continues to give me direction in chaos and confusion. I don’t need to formulate a complete plan. I just need to do the next thing. One thing. And then, do the next thing.

This is not an easy concept for a slightly OCD person like myself who really wants to start EVERYTHING new in January. The idea of starting a new habit or routine in April just seems wrong to me. But I have found that I can only change so many things at the same time and maintain those changes over time. For me, small changes over time produce big results in the future. After all, raising children isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. 

You need a bite-sized plan for a God-sized goal. 

As Harold and I were setting goals for our young children many years ago, I ran across I Thessalonians 5:23-24: “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. the One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” This one verse helped us to categorize the goals we set for our daughters’ lives: Spirit—how they related to God, Soul—how they related to others, and Body—how they guarded themselves. My husband and I talked about the behaviors and heart attitudes that we believed were critical in the godly character formation of the girls and then created a list of goals for each category. 

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. ~Tony Robbins 

Achieving a goal begins with putting it in writing and breaking it down into smaller action steps. THE PLAN outlines the character trait goals that we chose for our family. I wish I could say that the girls mastered every one in the span of a year. The truth is that we’re all still a work in progress, but we look more like Jesus that we did when we began this journey. 

There is more than one way to raise a godly child.

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution to raising children who love and honor God. THE PLAN is only one tool in the sea of many options that helps parents to be intentional about raising godly children. (Click here for a printable copy.) It is a simple chart that suggests one or two character traits to focus on throughout the month. I’ll be posting scriptures, activities and ideas from our family that focus on that particular trait. You may choose to focus on one or both of the traits for the month, or you may focus on one trait for several months. You’re the parent and God will give you wisdom about what is best for your family. The goal is not a number completed; the goal is a changed heart. 

The first change starts tomorrow—PERSPECTIVE.

Be Intentional

Some may call me crazy, but I thrive on organization and planning.  I used some sort of “day planner” since I was a young girl.  In middle school my homework planner had Snoopy on the front, in high school it was a notebook of sorts, and in college a calendar held the due dates of my assignments.  After I graduated from college, I needed only a calendar and a wedding planner since most of my free time was spent with my husband-to-be.  I worked as a teacher after our marriage and found that my lesson plan book suited my need for organization.  But when the children came… Victoria arrived the day after the last the day of school.  No transition time between teacher and mother.  I was blessed to be able to stay home with her, but our days were like the wind—wherever, whenever, and if.  I found myself turning on the TV for news in the morning and leaving it on for hours in my day while I went about my business.  I dreaded meal time because I generally had no idea what we would be eating.  I was sporadic about cleaning, using the “if there’s a ring in the toilet, then it must need to be cleaned” philosophy.  I did laundry when someone was about to run out of something.  There was no order in my home.

Proverbs 29:18  Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

At a trip to the local Christian bookstore, I discovered a Christian woman’s planner—not for the business minded, but for homemakers.  (I am sad to say that this particular planner is out of print, but you can make your own planner with printable pages at www.organizedhome.com.)  The book literally saved my life.  It helped me to make a reasonable list each day (when the block was filled, I couldn’t add another thing!) and to plan my meals and a coordinating grocery list.  The best part was a section on the side with a list of priorities and space to record how I would bless my family that week.  As I began to use this tool, I found more time than I knew I had!  (I still maintain that I get more done with four children than I ever did with only one!)  I found I could focus on what needed to be done today, knowing that I could wait until tomorrow or next week to do other things.  Meal time was a joy since I wasn’t frantically trying to come up with a recipe to suit my meager stash of ingredients.  I discovered I actually liked to cook!  Our home became much more peaceful and I personally was more at peace, as well.

Proverbs 14:15 A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.

Years later, I still have a planner on my kitchen counter.  It has my list of to-do’s, my meals for the coming week, a list of books I’ve loaned out, and a running list of Christmas gifts I think of throughout the year.  I find that having this system of organization helps me have a plan.  I become intentional.  Since I know what we’re eating, I know what groceries to buy.  Therefore, I’m not wandering in the store searching for what looks good.  I save time and money.  I also group my errands together on the same day and by location, saving time and gas money.  I set goals and accomplish them—well, most of them.  Making a plan gives me a sense of purpose, keeps me focused and helps me accomplish the things I value.

Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

My intent is not to sell you on the usefulness of using a daily planner, but I find that this same principle of intentionality works with raising children.  As parents, it is our responsibility to seek God for His plans for our young children and later to partner with our young adult children to discover God’s will.  (Isn’t that taking control of your life?  No, God is always in control and may override our plans and readjust our goals at any time He chooses.)  If my husband and I have no goals for our daughters and they have no goals for themselves, it is easy to aimlessly wander and fill up time with activities of little value.  But if we set clear goals for our daughters’ spiritual lives and for their character, we can make wise decisions about how to use our time, money, and energies (and which homeschool curriculum to use!) to meet those goals.

Action Steps I’m probably preaching to the choir, but it is my heart’s desire that parents seek God and hear His goals and His heart for their family and for each of their children.  Here are some suggestions for a process of establishing goals.  If you are married, whether your spouse is a believer or not, please work together in this process.  You each bring a different perspective and it will help you understand each other better. (Since marriage is the foundation of family relationships, you may want to use this process for your marriage first.)  Pray for God’s wisdom as you set goals for your family.

  • Ask God for His vision for your family (Ex.  This is what God wants our family to look like.)  Write your family’s vision statement.
  • Record what needs to happen in order to meet those goals.
  • Make a list of the personal character traits that you desire your children to have.  (The list may be the different for each child or the same for all of them.)
  • Of the listed character traits, choose one or two to focus on each month.  It doesn’t have to be formal (with a curriculum), just intentional (reminders, scriptures, prayer, and heart-to-heart talks).
  • For each child, write down future goals for them based on their gifts and calling.
  • Evaluate all of your family activities in light of the goals for your family and children.  Are your extra activities helping you achieve those goals?  If not, you may need to make some changes.  Which activities need to go?  What activities can you add to support your goals?
  • With children’s goals in mind, what activities would encourage their gifts and callings?

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of steps in your planning process, but I hope it will inspire you as you begin or refine the process of being intentional as you raise sons and daughters who will know Him and make Him known.