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.

God Has a Plan

We’ve started 2010 with a bang.  Literally.  Today was the beginning of our vacation.  We spent yesterday packing and cleaning and preparing everything we’d need for a week away.  We were not yet two hours from home when a doe darted out in front of our van.  (We later heard that it was the last day of hunting season and the hunters were chasing the deer out of hiding.)  The deer slammed into the front of the van, disabling the radiator and rendering our vehicle undrivable.  We stopped to thank God for safety and then asked for wisdom.  With lodging reservations at a location seven hours away, we needed a plan.  And God had one. The 911 operator gave us the name of a towing company that was open on New Year’s Day.  The company was only minutes away.

We stopped on the side of the road right in front of a church.  While we were waiting for the tow truck to arrive, someone from the church came to turn on the heat and allowed us to use the bathroom and the phone.  (Because we were in the middle of nowhere, Harold’s cell phone was not getting reception at the moment.)

The tow truck driver was a kind Christian man who owned a gas station/auto repair shop.  Harold asked him, “What would you do if you and five members of your family were in a disabled van on the side of the road?”  He said, “Read some good scripture and pray.”  “We already did that!” Harold said, laughing.  Brad was able to give a basic assessment of our vehicle and guide us to the right body shop in a town nearby, even choosing a hotel for our family within walking distance to restaurants and a discount store. He helped us carry our luggage to our second floor room, took Harold and the van to the body shop, and brought him back to the hotel.

When we checked into the hotel, the front desk even gave us the stranded motorist rate—a welcomed deal since we had to have two rooms to sleep all six of us.  Not two hours later, someone flushed one of the toilets in our room and it began to overflow.  I couldn’t believe it!  Harold called the front desk and a maintenance man came to fix the toilet and clean up the mess.

God had taken care of repairing our van, but we were still without a vehicle for the remainder of our vacation.  After many phone calls and internet research, we discovered that there was only one car rental place open on Saturday, but it was more than 30 miles away and there was no guarantee that it had a mini van available.  Our church generously allowed us to use their 12 passenger van and our dear friends, Sharolyn, Blaine and Jarrod, drove 120 miles to our hotel to deliver it.  We had a sweet time together for dinner and they drove another 120 miles back home.  I don’t know what other people do without a church family.

And so here I am, in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere.  It’s not the way I planned to start my vacation--or my year for that matter.  This certainly wasn’t my plan.  But how can I complain?  God is faithful and He had a plan.  Not that He planned for us to hit a deer, but even in the midst of a difficult situation He cared for us.  He sent the right people at the right time to provide for just what we needed.

When circumstances don’t follow our plans, we can choose to pout and complain or we can choose to trust God.  God always has a plan.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)  No matter what happens in 2010, trust in God who has a plan.