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  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
  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.



How to…

I am often asked how I get done what I get done.  Let me first say, I honestly don’t think I get more done than most people.  I think it often appears that way because I hold my emotions close, am fairly private and try to maintain my composure.  I fear I sometimes appear “all together” and that is often far from the truth (just ask my family!).  I will admit though, that I have also been a student of time management for as long as I can remember.  I was that child in elementary school who wanted to work my way through every SRA test seeing my name rise on the chart.  I was the high school student who wanted to make good grades, play sports, serve on student council and earn spending money.  I was the college student who had to work her way through college, so I needed to be able to balance studies with work.  I was the young wife who wanted to work, cook fabulous meals, entertain friends and business partners and create a “Southern Living” style home.  And then I became a first time mom to not one, but two beautiful baby girls and I wanted to be present in every way, have our home continue to be a haven and place for gathering, and I desperately wanted my girls to see me serving in the community.


I have have learned a lot about managing my time along the way.  Some lessons were learned through painful mistakes, while others were learned as doors opened and new opportunities presented themselves.  I am still learning.  I have revisited many of my favorite tools and books as I have re-entered the workforce after 16 years as a stay-at-home mom.  I have given a lot of thought to what advice I would share with others as I prepare to send my girls to college next year.  Here are a few of my favorite tips:

  1. Choices:  We all have the same amount of time.  We have to make choices.  Anything we choose to do fills our time and requires we say no to something else.
  2. We all need help.  Even the Proverbs 31 woman had help.  She had maidservants.  We cannot keep our homes, do all the shopping and all food preparations, volunteer at our children’s schools and at church, work, serve our friends and maintain our sanity.  We have to allow others to help.  If our budget allows that may mean a hired housekeeper.  If not, it may mean our children have chores and our husband helps. We may need to swap childcare services with a friend.  When I chose to go back to work this year I knew it would require budgeting for a housekeeper and passing off some of the household shopping to my husband and girls.
  3. We need to know our personal rhythm and build our schedule around it.  I am a morning person.  I do my best thinking in the morning.  I have energy in the morning.  As a result I make it a habit of setting my work hours early.  While I would love to be one of those people who goes to the gym at 5:30, it doesn’t fit my rhythm. I do much better jumping right into work and then fitting in a workout on the way home late afternoon/early evening, giving myself a time to transition and a little energy boost.  My natural rhythm also means I need to go to bed early.  I am usually in bed by 9:30 and try to have lights out by 10:30.  I have tried many times to adjust my schedule, to be more like someone else, but in the end my natural rhythm is a part of my DNA and there is no fighting it.  I am a better version of me and am able to perform better when i embrace my personal rhythm.
  4. I live by the 15 minute rule.  Any time I feel stuck, am dreading an assignment or find myself with some extra time I employ the 15 minute rule.  You will be amazed at all you can do in 15 minutes.  Giving your undivided attention to something for just 15 minutes can be the difference between never getting a task done, never starting on a project or complete success.  Here is a list of just a few things you can tackle in 15 minutes:
    1. Empty the dishwasher
    2. Clean out your purse or car
    3. Make your bed
    4. Respond to email
    5. Update/sync your calendar
    6. Create a work plan for a project
  5. Always build in white space.  I always add 15 minutes to the front end and back end of appointments.  This allows me some buffer, keeps me from running late, and is often a source of some 15 minute blocks to tackle some of the daily tasks.  I also leave at least two weeknights open.  This means I have seldom joined a book club or a Bunko group.  This means my husband and I say “yes” to very few charitable events.  (we will pay for a ticket and gladly give someone else our seats)  Early on in our parenting my husband and I made a decision to not let hurry and events run our lives.  We have chosen instead a slower paced way of living, making certain we AND our girls were at home as often as possible.  To some this may have meant keeping our girls from opportunities, denying them the chance to be popular, the best at their sport.  All I can tell you is I have well-rounded, happy girls.  They both have activities they love, lots of friends and our home during these years high school years has been the gathering place.  They would tell you they didn’t miss out on a thing.
  6. Use a calendar.  I am a list maker, but that is not why I advocate use of a calendar.  No.  My advocacy for calendars stems from my desire and intent to be aware of where and how I spend my time.  I want to make choices and know what choices I am making.  Life can and will quickly take control if we allow it.  By using a calendar (which for me is still a paper version) I see how our schedule looks, I know what I have planned for the day, week, month.  I become more conscious, more aware.

I do get a lot done.  However, there are also a lot of things I don’t get done, and most of those are by choice.  I try to extend grace to myself.  I try to maintain discipline without being rigid.  The “how to” is a lifelong learning experience and each season brings new challenges, new lessons, new methods.

If you are struggling to get things done, to get our from under the weight of your calendar I hope a few of my tips will help.  Most of all, I pray you will find some time this week to step back from your life, your daily routine and give it some thought.  Take a leap of faith. Say no where you need to.  Make the desires of your heart your priorities.  Reset your schedule and live your life, not someone else’s.

Over-Complicated Life, Over-Simplified Faith

I fear we have over-complicated life and over-simplified faith.  The result?  More young adults leaving the church than ever before.  Why are they leaving?  Research says they are leaving because they have no real theology and do not see the church to be authentic, do not see their parents as authentic.  Ouch.  This has happened on my watch, my generation seems primarily responsible.  Could it be in our abundance, we failed to focus on the important?  Could it be that as we were caught up in the “good life”, the church sought to make itself appealing to us through music, watered down sermons, worship centers that look more like gymnasiums than the House of the Lord, espresso to see us through a one hour service, and church names that bare no sign of any particular affiliation or theology, and so it all became nothing more than one more activity on the calendar?

The simple message sounds good-believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, that He was born of the virgin Mary and died on the cross to atone for our sins.  He rose on the third day, victorious over death.  All you have to do is believe.  You believe and you’ve got a seat reserved in heaven.  Simple enough.  Sounds great.  In our over-complicated lives, an over-simplified faith sounds appealing.  We can get people to make that kind of decision. We can make that kind of decision.  But once our seat in heaven is reserved does all else in scripture falls by the wayside?  That’s just it.  It’s an over-simplified faith.  Christ didn’t just come that we might be saved.  He came that we might be saved and have life abundant.  One in two marriages ending in divorce.  One in six men in the church addicted to pornography.  In other words, things that were more prevalent outside the church and its members, are now as prevalent within the church and its members.  That’s not life abundant.  That’s not life that reflects a living faith.

I am convicted.  I am saddened.  Is it enough though to feel those emotions?  I do not write to judge, but I write out of conviction, out of a desire to spur myself to change and accountability.  I am but a fool if I do not give thought to the research, to what my own girls have seen lived out, heard from the pulpit and understand from their friends.  I am a fool if I think, “But never my child.”  The wise heed instruction.  The wise allow God to instruct, prune and rebuke.  I want to be wise.  I have three more years with my girls-three more influential years before they are set free to fly, to discover, to choose for themselves.  Will they do as their father and I have done?  Will they choose, “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord?”  I pray they do, but if they do it will not be by chance.

I have given a lot of thought lately to “what else” I want to implant in my girls’ minds.  I have given a lot of thought to my own choices and daily conversations, wondering if they ring sincere to my girls.  Am I authentic? Am I willing to be authentic?  It’s not easy.  I don’t want to get caught up in the past, falling into despair over mistakes made.  I want to look back just long enough to know what needs to change.

I need to get back to or begin the following:

Prayer time with my girls’.  Those were treasured evening rituals when they were younger.  We’ve let it slide out of our habits.

Letter writing to each other.  We used to leave each other little notes or letters.  Not daily, not even weekly, but at least once a month.  I keep a journal for my girls-prayers, scriptures, thoughts…  I have kept it since before their birth.  It will be theirs when they leave for college.  But the letters, the letters were just little extras that opened the door for spiritual discussions.

Less complaining and worry.  This is a big one for me.  My greatest sin is worry.  Lately I have let it become a major stumbling block.  That is not faith-it is the complete opposite.  That is not what I want to be remembered for, nor is it the pattern I want to teach my girls.  I am convicted.  I am working diligently in this area.

Joy.  It’s hard to have joy, when you are full of worry.  But joy is what we need.  Even when life is hard.  Even when we have no idea how college will be paid for, or how medical insurance will be paid for… there  is much in life to be thankful for.  Out of thankfulness grows joy.

Most of all, I want us to have conversations about faith-that it is complicated, hard, but oh so worth the perseverance.  I want our lives to be simpler and our faith to be more complicated.  I want us turning to His word, trusting His word and living His word.  We are going to turn it upside down.  The Chaplin home is going to have over-complicated faith in an over-simple life.

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