Don’t Plan Your Week, Guide Your Week

I love organization:  calendars, baskets, hooks, notebooks, planners, colored pens, labels, label makers… the list goes on.  It is in my DNA.  The first born.  Type A.  Disc profile C.  Perfectionist.  Scheduler.  The list could go on, but I am sure you get the drift.

My bent towards organization hasn’t always been my friend.  In fact, it has often been my enemy.  I may appear on the outside to have it all under control, to be gifted and skilled at juggling life’s demands.  On the inside though, it has often been a different story.  The expectations grow and with them the voice in my head pushing me to perfection, telling me “I am not enough”, “do more”.  The anxiety driven by the fear I won’t keep it all together.  The laser like focus keeping me from seeing opportunities and moments around me.  The pursuit all consuming and confining, leaving little room for vulnerability, allowing others to help.  It can be and has been exhausting.  It can be and has been my worst attribute.  But, it is also a gift.

So how do I keep the gift from becoming my demon?  I embrace who I am.  I am created in God’s image, to serve Him and to be reconciled to Him, engaged in the daily ministry of reconciliation.  He is a God of order (simply read the story of creation).  His Word provides a road map.  I am bent towards organization and in His sight that is good, it is just as He desired it to be, just as He created me to be.  However, I have to remember, managing my life:  my things; my activities; my people, is simply a tool to be used to serve Him.  I can’t let it become about CONTROL.  Yes.  Too often  my pursuit of organization is more about my attempt to CONTROL, than to be and serve.  I have to remember He is in control, and my attempts to manage are simply a part of a process.  He teaches me, He guides me, He directs my paths.  CONTROL is the demon.  When I use my talents and my gifts to follow His direction, I relinquish CONTROL, and He is in control.

Maintaining the balance isn’t easy.  The past has taught me.  I have learned to spend less time planning, and more time simply developing a road map/a guide, full of white space, breathing space.  The white space and breathing space give the opportunities to stop, to pray, to listen, to adjust.  My life is fuller.  The pursuit is no longer for perfection or control.  Instead, the pursuit is for relationship, obedience with the One in control.

If you, like me, struggle with this balance, here are a few tools and tricks I use.

  1. I LOVE my Cultivate What Matters planner.  This is not a weekly or daily planner, but a great tool for setting yearly goals, determining what matters most and then cultivating habits to bring it to fruition.  If you haven’t checked this resource out, head over to https://cultivatewhatmatters.com/.  I am not paid to endorse, this product.  I genuinely LOVE and USE this product.
  2. I am a recovering planner addict.  I have spent more money on planners than I ever care to disclose.  Seriously, it is an addiction!  I still struggle.  Each November my Facebook and Pinterest feeds fill with cute images of beautiful planners, stickers, pens etc.  My heart races and I begin to think, “what if…”  I am pleased to tell you though, going on THREE years strong, I have stuck with my Planner Pad planner.  It isn’t all sparkly and cute.  It is practical.  But the layout works for me.  It is a weekly planner format that allows you to “funnel” your tasks, beginning with broad categories, moving to daily priorities, and ending with time specific tasks.  You can find out more by going to https://plannerpads.com/.
  3. I set aside about an hour every Friday to create my road map for the following week.  This helps me focus on the critical and important Friday and keeps items from falling off my radar, as they get moved to the following week.  I am able to assess how much white space I have and make necessary adjustments.  A packed schedule only leads to stress and stress minimizes productivity.  Leave room to breathe, to be the boss, wife, mom, friend you need to be in the moment.  Leave room to run back into God’s presence, seeking His guidance.
  4. Pray.  Years ago, while reading an Emilie Barnes book, I began to practice the habit of praying over my calendar daily.  I am not 100%, but the weeks and months I am faithful to this habit, I am amazed at how my plans change, the resources that come my way or the amount I am able to accomplish.  I am able to view the items in my planner as simply a guide for my week and the unexpected aren’t viewed as distractions, but as opportunities.
  5. Last but not least, I remind myself the goals I have written, the filled in to do lists, are simply guides.  I can’t plan for the future, for I am not in control of the future.  I can establish guides for myself and I can take one obedient step at a time.  When things go awry I remember I am not in control.  When tasks build up or remain undone, when there seems to be no movement toward a goal I step back and reassess.  More often than not, I simply need to make an adjustment, either in my routine or my schedule.  However, sometimes the pause, the prayer helps me see the goal was something birthed out of my desires, and is not a part of His plan.  Sometimes the goal needs to go away.  Sometimes I need to scale back and focus on some small part of the larger goal.  Sometimes I need to ask for help.  Adjusting is better than quitting.  Adjusting is better than making futile plans in pursuit of perfection or control.  Adjusting is bending to His will, growing in faith, growing in relationship, growing in His image.

 

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Battling Failure

It is Monday.  Yep, it is a Monday.  I had big plans for today.  A great blog post, clean house, some advanced cooking for the week completed, research for an organizing project…  Big plans for a big week.  Instead, I literally got knocked off my feet and my day derailed at 6:00 a.m.

I have two dogs.  We have a love hate relationship.  Most days I love them, but Monday and Thursday when I am cleaning and handling home maintenance I hate them.  This morning, the cute white one, decided to attack the front window with vengeance and bark her head off.  Now mind you, I had yet to get my first cup of coffee drunk.

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I ran to the window, sandwich bread and knife in hand, to politely “shoo” the dog away from the window.  About the moment I took my last step toward the window, the “lovable” black and white, thirteen year old, I guess now partially blind, dog decided to join in on the barking chorus and lunged straight through my legs.  The leg already in mid air was propelled into the air forcing my other leg up off the floor.  Sandwich bread and knife went flying, as did the rest of my body.  I have a bulging disc in my neck which I am acutely aware of.   In a moment of panic I decided it would be best to try to twist my body, as if at this age I have any control, and land on my side so as to avoid any further neck injury.  I have no doubt it looked as ugly as it felt.  I landed instead flat on my side, elbow and knee slamming into the hardwood floor.  My neck popped as I tensed the muscles trying to keep my head upright.  All I can say is that in an instant I became aware of every muscle in my body.  Throbbing pain.  I really didn’t want to cry.  I wanted to fling two dogs out the window.  Instead I cried. Mostly because I had fallen and couldn’t get up.

Have you ever been there?  That moment in time when something bad happens, a mistake, a misspoken word.  You go straight to negative, angry, bad.  The hopes of the previous moment are gone.  Your confidence, your strength.  It flees. It so often amazes me – how quickly I can go from good to bad, how quickly I can begin to feel like a failure, the one person who can’t get it together, get the tasks done, spare the moments for the friend, laugh, find time for the hobby that feeds my soul.  Been there?  How is it I can get there so quickly?

I have battled the pain all day.  Truth be known I have battled the ugly thoughts all day – not about the dogs, not about anyone, just about me.  I have battled the urge to give in, to declare defeat.  I have battled the tears of physical pain, mental fears and heartfelt hurts that Satan so quickly reminds me of in these moments.  But I chose to push through today. I didn’t get it all done.  The exercise meant to help me push back on the infringing age 50 got set aside.  I could have stopped and stayed right there.  There have been times I would have.  Frankly it is easier.  It’s not beneficial though.  No, giving in to the fear of failure, the lost hope, the darkness never helps.  How do I push through?  I focus on what I can do.  It wasn’t a lot today, but it was something.  I made those calls to friends I knew were struggling needing a word of encouragement.  I read back through the cards and notes I keep in my “special box”, words of encouragement from friends,clients and acquaintances.  It’s hard.  Pushing back, pushing through takes strength, commitment.  The pain is still here.  The tear still appear in an instant. But, the darkness is lifting.  The lies brought on by thoughts of failure I are pushed back.  Truth sets in.  It slowly heals, like a salve gently pouring over the wound.

Friend, if you have had a terrible, no good, very bad day, stop and regroup.  Remember who you really are.  You are here for a purpose.  Mistakes will happen.  Falls will occur (let’s just hope not brought on by a dog).  You learn.  You keep going.  It will hurt, it will be hard, but you are worth it.  You were made to make a difference.  You were made in God’s image, His child.

I am probably going to hurt more tomorrow.  And I have a feeling I am still going to be thinking negative thoughts about these two stinking cute dogs.  But the darkness of failure has passed.  I’m learning.  I’m gonna keep going.