Write Or Type Up A Plan

Write or Type Up a Plan

You knew it was coming, right? We can’t just dream big dreams, write out our perfect day, the rewards we will receive for living our purpose, and not have a plan. Tommy Newberry in his book, Success is Not an Accident says:

“Investing the time and brainpower to set meaningful goals in each area of your life will produce internal, permanent, motivation. You’ll become inner-directed rather than outer-directed or other-directed.”

We want to be inner-directed, right? Outer directed is reactionary. We can live our lives like a ball in a pinball machine, getting bumped, hit, and sometimes hitting a random goal. Or we can have a plan.

Remember your perfect day?

  • What would it take to make that happen?
  • What habits would you need to form?
  • What kinds of things would you need to do differently?
  • How can you break those goals down into easy to accomplish objectives?
  • How will you handle obstacles?

There will be obstacles.

Yep. Writing down our perfect day doesn’t mean we won’t have things to overcome. You can’t be an overcomer if you have nothing to overcome.
Often we don’t set goals because we are afraid we can’t achieve them. Other times we set super safe and easy goals because we know we could probably do them in our own strength. Neither of those options will get us where we want to go.

A Simple Goal I set

I’m going to share a super simple goal I set years ago that seemed impossible to do with seven kiddos. Our food budget was tight. I couldn’t spend all of our grocery money on cereal. I also didn’t want my kiddos eating cereal for breakfast often. Remember my perfect day included cooking breakfast? I needed to move from scrambling in the morning to get my kids’ food to sitting down to a hot, healthy breakfast. I decided to make a repeating breakfast plan. French Toast, Oatmeal, Eggs and Bacon, Muffins or frozen waffles, Cereal, Pancakes. We had cereal on Fridays because that was our busiest day and I knew I would peter out towards the end of the week. Saturday was pancakes or homemade waffles because we had the time. Once I had the plan written down, it was easier to implement. I didn’t stress in the morning because I knew what we were going to eat. Did we do this perfectly? No. Did I have opposition or obstacles? Yes.
Maybe you’re wondering why I’m talking about breakfast as a goal or vision. Guess what, whatever makes your life easier, more manageable is a great place to start with measurable goals. Maybe after you have developed some baseline habits, you can pursue those other things you wrote down in your brainstorming session. Maybe now you can add half an hour of sewing, quilting, photography, art, writing, home design, baking, playing games, reading a book, or fill in the blank.

Not sure where to start? Check out Ruth Soukup’s article –

Another Example from my life

Here’s an example from my life. When I’m writing a new novel, I set a goal for when I want to finish. Then I break down the steps.

  • Brainstorm mind map
  • Outline
  • Character sketches of all characters
  • Defining traits of the main character
  • Plot and Subplot

After I have those down, I decide how many chapters the book should be, break those down into writing times.
I schedule writing times on my calendar.
After I finish the first draft, I print the book and move to another set of goals!
Do some of my deadline dates change? Yes. Does that mean I failed? No. What I used to do is not write at all because I was living an outer-directed life. I didn’t have a plan. I just hoped one day I would have time to write. That didn’t work. It took me 12 years to write my first book because of that “hoping” sort of philosophy (plus I was homeschooling). Now, I make writing a priority just as I made finding some breakfast options all those years ago!
Take some time today to write down one goal then break it down into simple achievable steps. Then make sure you write down what you will do when you (and you will) run into an obstacle.

List The Rewards

List the Rewards

Yesterday, we planned our perfect day. Wasn’t that fun to write down? Maybe you included some of the same things I did the first time I tried this exercise. Or maybe yours were totally different because you are in a different age and stage of life and that’s okay. My perfect day exercise looks totally different today then it did all those years ago. We all go through different seasons of our lives. Our seasons lead us to new purposes.
You may be ready to break down your perfect day into habits and goals. It’s not time for that yet. We can’t skip the important step of writing down the rewards of living the way we envision. If we skip this, we will lose our motivation quickly.

Don’t skip this step!

For instance, getting up before our kiddos get up to do Bible study yields the reward of more peace in our day. If our perfect day includes time for exercise, then the reward is a more healthy and energetic body. Right now, part of my perfect day exercise includes writing first thing in the morning after my Bible study. I wake up at five and then begin writing at six. The reward is, I get the most important thing about my purpose finished first. I am a writer. Writing is what I do. If I have my writing time accomplished, the reward is I have more articles, books, and content available to help others. What rewards will you receive if you live life the way you envision it? Will you have more peace? More satisfaction? A cleaner house? More free time to play with your kids?

the Problem with Just Hoping it works out.

When I have presented this material to women before, some say they aren’t organized and don’t want to be. Others just tell me why they can’t do what they want to do. Some people like to fly by the seat of their pants and hope it works out. I was listening to a teaching by Isabel Price about time management today. She shared that putting your workout clothes on in the morning and hoping you might workout without putting it on your schedule is just wishing it would happen (my paraphrase). This post isn’t about time management, but you know it’s coming. If you stop after you dream out your vision on paper, you will never get where you want to go. If you don’t list the rewards for living out your vision, you’ll be less likely to even try.

Ruth Soukup sums up the good life we seek well:

“The Good Life to me is this: a life rich in faith, family, friends, and creativity. It is a life full of the richness that God has to offer; a life spent building treasures in heaven rather than here on earth. It is not a life of laziness and greed, but one of discipline, hard work, and self-reflection. It may not always be easy or comfortable, but it is always full in abundance and completely secure in Christ.”

Take a few minutes today and write out your rewards for living out the day you envision.

Brainstorm Your Dreams/Vision

Brainstorm Your Dreams/Passion

If you read and did yesterday’s assignment, you’ll have at least one of your passions pinpointed. Today, I’m going to list some questions to help you do some brainstorming. Brainstorming is a no-judgment activity. When brainstorming your passion, write down your ideas no matter how crazy they sound!

“How you see yourself on the inside sets the ceiling for what God can do with you on the outside. Your life here on earth is your special, unrepeatable opportunity to magnify the greatness God has placed within you.”

Tommy Newberry, Success is Not an Accident

We are designed to have a deep sense of purpose. When we live contrary to design, we end up feeling frustrated and lost. The problem is, most of us don’t take the time to dream. We don’t take the time to write or speak what we are called to do. We can get so caught up in living other people’s God-sized dreams that we don’t even acknowledge our own.

Here’s an example from my own life. I dug out an old journal to find this just for you!

You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.

– John 15:16

“Thank you for your Word. Thank you for the word “steadfast” (my word of the year in 2017). Thank you that even though my body is tired from this new schedule, I can remain steadfast and form new habits that make things more manageable… Thank you that this whole thing -writing-is not about me or how much I can do or how organized I can be, it’s about You, Your plan, Your ways.”

I was in a major transition in 2017. My homeschooling career had come to an end and I was transitioning into becoming an author. I had a new purpose but it took my habits a while to change. My body had to adjust to my new purpose. If you are wondering if I stayed the course, yes, I have. I wake up early to write with no problem now.

If I can do it, you can. Take some time today and brainstorm your dreams! (Don’t worry about goals and objectives right now, just dream!!) Below are the questions I promised to get you started!

What have you secretly always wanted to pursue?
What is the one activity you immerse yourself and lose all track of time?
What does your heart yearn to do more of?

*This one may take some quiet time. Block out what you see on social media or even what your church friends are doing. Looking at what others are doing can cloud our vision. Step away, find somewhere quiet, and be honest with yourself.

Plan Out Your Vision/Goals Through Journaling

*Week 2 of a month of journaling

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

-Psalm 127: 1

Before we even start with this week’s topic, I wanted to share the scripture above. Planning a vision isn’t about exotic vacation homes or thousand dollar purses. It’s about what your purpose on this earth is. It’s about building a life that will bless others. Having a God-sized dream is all about God, not us. He has given us gifts, talents (see Matthew 25: 14- 30), and life experiences. He wants to use them in a specific way. This also doesn’t mean you’re going to be Insta famous (unless God wants you to). This is all about where ministry, mission, and motivation all intersect. Think about this for a moment. With no time constraints, financial constraints, or health issues, what would you do? I’m not talking about vegging in front of the tv, I mean what would you work at? What excites you? Home design? Baking? Photography? Writing. Homeschooling? Organization? Running a food pantry? What is the thing you do which makes you lose all track of time because you are so into it? This can be different for each season of your life. And here’s the kicker, it should be something that lines up with the Word of God. Right now, where do you park your passion? Take a moment and write down the answer.

My Word for 2020

I started choosing a word a year many years ago because some friends told me about it. Actually, God chose it for me. Some years it took months for me to hear it. Some years I tried to reason it out of existence. The word would sneak into my thoughts again. The word would suddenly appear in my Bible reading, in conversations,  and on signs. Then I wrote it down in my journal. (You can read about last year’s word here). About four years ago, I found out Debbie Macomber wrote a book –


I checked out of the library on cd and listened to it on a solo trip to South Carolina. I had lots of “aha” moments during the listen and wished I could write and drive. If you are wondering what all this “Word of the Year” stuff is, I recommend you read or listen to her book! On to my word. 

My Word for 2020

In September I attended Winsome Retreat for women at White Sulphur Springs. I really needed some time with the Lord. My stress level was on overload. I needed to make some drastic decisions or my body would go into full-on CFS crash mode. I’ve been there before (almost bedridden) several times. I know the signs. 

My problem? I like to work. Really. I do. I like to do good things that help people. I like to do ALL the things. What happens is I treat life like a buffet, I put all the good things on my plate, I try to do them all well and I get sick. Literally. Then one by one or all at once, I have to quit, I have to scrape all the things into the metaphorical trash.  My body crashes. 

My Vision

I was really hoping for an angel appearance at the retreat. I wanted an angel to show up and read a list of items to “scrape off my plate” followed by a “thou shalt do this.” I didn’t get one. What I did get was a tiny vision in my minds-eye during a worship session. I was suddenly a freckle-faced toe-headed little girl with my hair sticking out on the sides. The table was laden with food and adults were sitting around it. I heard a voice say, “Act like you are chosen, come to the table.” I walked to the table and climbed up on a stool. I was grinning. That’s it. 

As I drove home, I kept thinking of the word chosen as I listened to Taylor Leonhardt’s “Diamonds.” Here are some of the lyrics:

Shadows can speak louder than anything

And you believe the lies they’re saying

You are not an afterthought, love himself dreamed you up

Dressed you in diamonds, called you his star

Been hiding all this time, your hands over your eyes

I see you, darling, you have my heart

Not good enough, that’s what you tell yourself

Invisible, nobody notices

You are not an afterthought, love himself dreamed you up

Dressed you in diamonds, called you his star

Been hiding all this time, your hands over your eyes

I see you, darling, you have my heart

I see you darling

You’re a precious thought hidden in the heart of God

How good it is to know you

You became a word none of us had ever heard

How good it is to know you, how good it is to know you

I cried as I listened to “Diamonds” over and over the hills and around the mountains. I often think of myself as an afterthought and truth be told, I hide behind work. 

With all this talk about self-esteem and the Christians yelling things on social media, “Don’t talk about self-care or self-love, just talk about Jesus.”

Before you pick up a stone and pelt me with it, may I point out that being chosen was God’s idea. Not man’s. The whole reason we live and breathe on this blue and green orb is that God chose to create us. He chose to love us. He chose to adopt us as His own because it was his kind intent.

Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love.

For He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will [[a]because it pleased Him and was His kind intent]—

– Ephesians 1: 4,5

I’ll end with the above Scripture which is one of my favorites! Make sure you read it a few times and let it soak in. Did you chose a word for 2020? Feel free to share it in the comments! Join me here next time for “What Chosen-ness Looks Like in Daily Life.”

Gearing Up for the New Year: Renewing Your Mind

Many of us start each new year with a plan. We have clear goals in mind, and we know what it will take to accomplish them. But then that initial burst of enthusiasm we felt on January 1st wears off. The year doesn’t feel bright and shiny and new anymore. We gradually lose our motivation and slip back into our old patterns. We forget about our goals or despair of ever reaching them. We encounter some difficulty and give up.

To follow through and reach our 2020 goals, we must constantly renew our minds. We must wake up each day and recommit. After a setback, we must pick ourselves back up and keep pressing on. When achieving our goals seems impossible, we must keep going.

That’s why we focused on mindset this week. In the daily devotionals, I highlighted verses that can help you maintain your faith and resolve throughout the year as you pursue your goals.

Here’s what we talked about:

Rejecting the Spirit of fear

We all have fears. It is inevitable that you will, at some point — or, more accurately, several points or even during long periods of time — feel fear. But we do not have to be controlled by our fear. 

The voice inside you that whispers fear and doubt into your heart is not from God. The voice that tells you you aren’t good enough. The one that says you can’t do big things. The one that discourages you from setting goals and going after them with everything you have. The one that urges you to avoid all risk. The one that keeps you from being real and vulnerable. The one that constantly worries what others will think. The one that is terrified of failure. 

That voice is a liar. It may seem like it’s building a wall between you and the world to keep you safe, but it’s really building a wall between you and God to keep you stagnant. As soon as you put your fear in the driver’s seat, you’ll start drifting away from the path God has laid out for you.

Action step: Refuse to be ruled by your fear. Instead, allow God’s spirit of power, love, and self-control to guide you.

Building With God

There are two ways to pursue your dreams: with God, or without Him. Obviously, the latter is the wiser choice. Why? Because any happiness or success we achieve without God will be fleeting.

This truth brings to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27, where he speaks of the wise man who built his house on a rock and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. After the storm, only one house was left standing. The other builder, as it turned out, had labored in vain.

Your foundation matters. That’s why Proverbs is full of exhortations to seek God, trust Him, and align ourselves with His will. When we take that advice to heart, we can labor confidently rather than anxiously and find rest even as we work hard.

Action step: Instead of making your plans first and then asking God’s blessing, invite God into the planning stages. Ask Him for wisdom and guidance.

Taking Care of Your Soul

As Christians, we know the here and now isn’t the whole picture. We know that below the surface, we each have an internal life — a soul — that needs God in the same way our lungs need air. And we know it is our souls that will endure long after our earthly achievements have been forgotten. Our souls are eternal.

It can be so easy to neglect your spiritual health when you’re chasing after physical, professional, or financial goals. However, our soul should always be our top priority. In both the Old and New Testaments, Scripture reminds us that when we focus on our spiritual growth, everything else tends to fall into place.

Action step: Take time to care for your soul. (I also highly recommend reading Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg.)

Having Faith

To accomplish big goals, we must have faith. You have to step out in faith, and you have to follow through in faith. 

Scripture is full of stories where, in His name and through His power, God’s people accomplished big, impossible things by faith. Think of David defeating Goliath, Elijah calling down fire on Mount Carmel, or Gideon’s army routing the Midianites. These people certainly felt fear, but their faith was strong enough to overcome it — and that didn’t happen by accident.

You’ve probably heard the saying, often attributed to Sitting Bull, that compares “good” and “evil” to two dogs fighting inside us. The lesson is that the dog we feed the most will win. This principle applies to the struggle between fear and faith, as well. If we don’t feed our faith, it won’t be strong enough to overcome our fear when we need it to. 

Action step: Be intentional about nurturing your faith, and see what you can accomplish.

Remembering the lord and fighting

We serve an awesome God. The same God who parted the Red Sea. The same God who toppled the walls of Jericho. The same God who made the sun and the moon stand still. The God who fights for His people and keeps His promises.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of just how great and awesome our God is — not so that we can feel warm and fuzzy inside, but so that we can push through our fear, doubt, apathy, or anxiety and FIGHT.

We can find several examples in Scripture where God worked miracles for His people. Time and again, we witness God working miracles, removing obstacles, and leading His people to victory against seemingly insurmountable odds. He fights for us and with us — but only when we step out in faith. 

Action step: Whatever goals you set for 2020, step forward in faith and fight for them. When you feel like giving up, remember how great and awesome your God is and KEEP FIGHTING.

As we conclude our Gearing Up for the New Year Series, I wanted to leave you with one final challenge: 

Make your relationship with God your number one priority. Don’t leave your faith on the sidelines or turn it into just another item on your to-do list. Instead, make it a central part of your plans. Commit to taking care of your soul, growing your faith, and seeking God in everything you do.

Gearing Up for the New Year: Accepting Help

We all need community, both with God and with others. For our mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well as for practical reasons. We aren’t meant to do life alone.

This applies to your goals and dreams as much as anything else. Many of us (perhaps all of us) feel uncomfortable asking others for help, though our reasons may vary. Pride, fear of rejection, not wanting to feel like a burden, sheer stubbornness — whatever is keeping you from letting others in, it’s time to let go of it.

In Galatians 6:2, we are encouraged to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul reminds us that we are all part of the body of Christ. In keeping with that metaphor, he declares “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you” (v. 21). Indeed, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (v.26).

In this week’s devotionals, we explored other verses that discuss where, why, and how to get the help you need to succeed. Here’s what we talked about:

Looking to God

As Christians, we know our primary source of help, support, guidance, and encouragement should be God. Again and again, Scripture underscores that our strength and wisdom come from God.

Of course, it’s easy to forget that. The people of Israel — who witnessed miracle after miracle on their journey to the Promised Land — forgot too. Psalm 106:10-13 recounts the parting of the Red Sea and Israel’s persistent lack of faith: “So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy. And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise. But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.”

As 2020 approaches, let’s determine not to make the same mistake as Israel.

Action step: Look to God first for help, seek His will, and follow His counsel — remembering what He has done in the past and trusting Him to continue providing the strength and wisdom we need.

Learning to Delegate

In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro observes Moses spending an entire day judging the people and asks what he is doing. Moses answered, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 

Sounds good, right? The problem is, Moses was only one person — a real, human person with physical limitations. Knowing this, Jethro bluntly declares, “What you are doing is not good.” He knows if Moses continues this way, he’ll burn himself out, so he tells Moses to find some good men and make them judges. “So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace” (v. 22-23).

I promise, when you do it well, delegation isn’t laziness. It’s an investment in yourself and in others, and it frees you up to focus on the things that only you can do.

Action step: Look for things you can take off your plate. Some things you may be able to drop entirely. Or you may just need to find some help. It could be as simple as assigning your children a few extra chores or asking a friend to co-lead a ministry you’re running. 

Finding Community

After calling down fire from heaven in 1 Kings 18, Elijah receives a threat from Queen Jezebel and flees into the desert, where he asks God to let him die. Why? Because he felt alone: “The people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Elijah felt alone. But he wasn’t. Not only was God Himself with Elijah, but the Lord assured him that there were 7,000 other people in Israel who had never bowed to a false god. In fact, a few verses later, God brought Elijah to the man who would become his friend, helper, and spiritual successor — Elisha. Not only did God give Elijah direction when he needed it, but he also pointed the prophet toward something we all need: community.

Action step: Ask God to show you others who have walked or are walking the same path. Find a Facebook group, an in-person support group, a mentoring program, a life group, a club, or a Bible study group. Plug into your local church. Be intentional about finding people who can empathize, challenge, and support you. Find community.

ASking For ADvice

Just before reminding us that “with God are wisdom and might; He has counsel and understanding,” Scripture declares that “wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days” (Job 12:12-13). We are encouraged not only to ask for God’s guidance through prayer but also to seek counsel from wise friends.

Sharing our dreams and goals with other people and asking for advice can be scary, but we cannot afford to skip this step. In Proverbs, we are told that “without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” When we dream and plan in a vacuum, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. 

Action step: Push past the discomfort and do the wise thing. Bring in some counselors — from close friends and family to a professional life coach, therapist, or mentor — and ask for advice when you need it (and even when you think you don’t).

Bringing a Friend

You’ve heard the saying, “That’s what friends are for.” But how often are we tempted to go it alone anyway?

None of us wants to feel like a burden, but friends who disappear during hard times aren’t friends at all. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Give your friends a chance to show up for you. Include them in your goals and plans.

It’s important to choose your friends wisely, but then once you have, it’s equally important to let them help you. Invite them to walk alongside you. Let them be there to cheer you on, offer advice, and lend a hand. Plus, working towards your goals — like many things in life — is just more fun with a friend.

Action step: As you chase your goals, bring some friends along for the journey. Ask for help when you need it, and trust them to support you.

As you work toward your goals, it’s important to actively seek and accept help — whether that means asking someone to babysit your kids for a few hours each week while you work on your novel, asking someone you admire to be your mentor, or asking a friend to be your gym buddy or accountability partner.

This weekend, think about what kind of help you might need to reach your goals in 2020. What can your friends and family do to support you? Who will you ask for help? What resources are available to you? What tools and strategies can you use to make life easier? How can you make sure you’re regularly inviting and accepting God’s counsel and strength?

Foster/Adoptive Parents – It’s Okay to Ask for Help

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

I’ll be the first to admit, this is difficult for me. I struggle with perfectionist tendencies which translated means – I want to do everything myself and I want it to be perfect. This doesn’t work well in reality. 

You may wonder why I’m talking about asking for help when this month’s theme is goal planning. The idea our American culture puts forth is you can do it all and you can do it all by yourself.

That’s just not the way God designed us. He designed us to be in community. We are all part of the body of Christ (if we are Christians).

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

-I Corinthians 12: 15-20

To take it a step further, as this set of scriptures does, we are part of a body. Each one of us is a part. If we don’t do our part, the body doesn’t work properly. And if we don’t let someone else do their part, the body doesn’t function well.

I said on the podcast this week my husband is a servant. He is totally focused on serving more than I am. That’s his part. 

When we don’t let people do their part, we are robbing them of the blessing.

The first time in my adult life that I really had to ask for help was when I was pregnant with my third child. I went into preterm labor at twenty-eight weeks, which was stopped. The result was I was on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. I was only allowed to walk to the bathroom. That short walk caused contractions. My church set up a rotation of ladies to check on me and prepare meals. I hired a college student to help with the other two kiddos. It was one of the hardest things for me to do. 

Fast forward to our adoption journey.

We were in Poland on our first trip of the adoption for five weeks. We left before Thanksgiving and returned five days before Christmas. During those five weeks, a good friend came and cleaned and cared for the house (my step-father, Bud lived with us). Another friend set up the Christmas tree and decorated it. Another friend who owned a bakery made us some cookies. We came home after about twelve hours of flights to find a clean house and our house Christmas-ready! What a wonderful gift.

I’d like to say after the experience of receiving help, I was more willing to ask for it. I wasn’t. I’ve had many more practice tests on asking for help – including during a CFS crash or two, homeschooling, and planning events and the list goes on and on. What stops you from asking for help?

Let me leave you with this. James 1: 27 mandates we care for the widow and the orphan. 

27 External [a]religious worship [[b]religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.

Not everyone is going to foster or adopt. You can help someone fulfill the mandate by asking for help. Some people are the part of the body designed to help you and your kiddos. They can’t do that if you don’t ask for help. 

Want to hear more about this topic?

Are you an adoptive/foster parent? Are you sometimes overwhelmed? Do you struggle with asking for help? (Raising my hand here!) You’re not alone. If you have been following the series this month on goal planning for 2020, don’t skip this episode. Maybe it’s time to ask for help! Grab a cup of coffee and join Kathleen as she shares some real-life stories about the importance of asking for help to achieve our goals.

Gearing Up for the New Year: Charting a Course

Now that you’ve (hopefully) set some goals, it’s time to get down to business. You need to make a plan.

Planning comes more naturally to some people than to others. Some of us (raising my hand) feel like we can’t move forward without an exhaustive plan, while others like to wing it. The best approach, perhaps, lies somewhere in between. 

We don’t want to become bogged down with planning out every tiny detail, because life is too short and messy and unpredictable. If you wait until you feel 100% ready, you’ll never move forward. However, that doesn’t mean planning is useless. Although we can’t plan for every contingency, we should factor known variables — like our own personal limitations — into our plans. An imperfect plan is better than no plan.

So in this week’s devotionals, we focused on grounding our big dreams in reality. Here’s what we talked about:

Counting the Cost

By the end of Luke 14, Jesus’ ministry must have looked like a huge success. Luke tells us that great crowds accompanied him. His followers probably expected a word of celebration or encouragement. Instead, Jesus chose this moment to preach about the cost of discipleship. Following Him, He told the crowds, would be an all-or-nothing endeavor. They would have to be prepared to forsake everything else to be His disciples.

Jesus said this not to discourage them, but to prepare them for reality. What sort of person, He asked, decides to build a tower without first figuring out how much it will cost and whether he can afford it? A foolish one. 

Let’s not be foolish in our New Years’ resolutions. It’s ok to set big, audacious goals. But we’re unlikely to be successful if we don’t put some practical thought and planning into our dreams.

Action step: Spend some time thinking about what you’ll have to do to achieve your goals. Be honest with yourself about how much time and work it will take. Think about what you might have to sacrifice. Prepare yourself for the obstacles you might face. Count the cost and make sure you have what you need to finish — whether that’s emotional support, a step-by-step plan, an accountability partner, or time set aside specifically for working toward your goal.

Pacing Yourself

The tortoise and the hare was NOT my favorite fable when I was a kid. It’s still not, because I’m not a naturally patient person. I don’t like to waste time, and I don’t like to wait. Once I set my mind to something, I want to go RIGHT NOW, AT FULL SPEED, WITHOUT STOPPING until I finish. 

That approach works fine with some things — with simple projects, short distances, and small tasks. But it doesn’t work well for big, important things. You won’t win a marathon by sprinting, because running at top speed isn’t sustainable over long distances. You may start strong, but you’ll run out of steam before you finish. Similarly, you won’t achieve any big, long-term goals if you approach them the same way you do everyday tasks. You have to pace yourself.

In Galatians 6, we are promised that we will reap the fruits of our labor — but only if we don’t give up. So do what it takes to make sure you won’t give up.

Action step: Commit to chasing your dreams the way you would run a marathon. Give it your all, but be smart about it. Break big goals up into small, manageable steps, and celebrate every little victory along the way.

Expecting Adversity

You can expect that as you make progress toward your goals, you’ll encounter adversity. Why? Because everyone does. Matthew 5:45 reminds us that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Similarly, Ecclesiastes 9:2 says that “the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil.” 

In light of this, there are a few things we should do:

  1. First, don’t read too much into hiccups. Although difficulty doesn’t always prove you’re on the right path, it doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path, either.
  2. Look for the silver lining in adversity. Embrace it. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-5, we can rejoice in our struggles, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
  3. Learn to let things go. Despite our best efforts to plan and prepare, we can’t control all the variables in our lives. Don’t waste too much time or energy trying to figure out why something happened — learn from your mistakes, but don’t let yourself wallow in bitterness or self-blame.

Action step: Go into 2020 with realistic expectations. Achieving your goals won’t be easy. You will face challenges and obstacles. There will be doubters and nay-sayers. You will struggle, and it won’t be pretty. But that’s ok —  just keep going.

Picking Your Battles

As part of counting the cost, we need to pick our battles. Before going to war, a wise king would ask himself “whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand.” If the answer is no (as it likely is), then he should shift gears and try diplomacy instead. Surrender, retreat, concessions — though not ideal, these solutions are the wisest course of action in some situations.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid or abandon every battle that you’re unlikely to win. Sometimes the steep price of victory is worth it. But sometimes it just isn’t. There are hills to die on — and then there are regular old hills. It’s up to us to learn the difference.

Action step: Choose your battles wisely. Like every other human, you have a limited amount of time and energy, so prioritize the things that matter most to you.

Knowing Yourself

You’ve probably heard the saying, “When you know better, you do better.” I think this wisdom applies to how well we know ourselves and how well we achieve our goals. The more we know about ourselves, the more we can accomplish, because our plans will take our strengths and weaknesses into account. When it comes to this, what you don’t know will certainly hurt you.

I think we’re all a little scared of what we’ll find if we look at ourselves too closely, but this step is important. Ignoring your weaknesses won’t make them go away; it will just ensure they take you by surprise. And you can’t assume your strengths will come into play automatically; you have to actively exercise your gifts.

Action step: Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Think about how they might advance or interfere with your goals and factor that into your plans for 2020.

This weekend, get out a sheet of paper (or open a Google doc) and start writing. List your strengths and weaknesses. Consider the obstacles you might face and how you’ll overcome them. Take some time and really count the cost of pursuing your goals. 

Finally, come up with a plan. Break up your goal into smaller steps. Set some deadlines. Start with quarterly and monthly goals. Then set weekly and daily goals as you go along. These smaller goals will keep you moving toward your bigger goals without getting overwhelmed, and they give you something to celebrate along the way. ( I recommend Ruth Soukup’s method. Her (IM)Perfectly Productive Bundle, in particular, has a lot of great info and tools you can use.)

You may also want to consider investing in a planner that includes some sort of goal-setting component. Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Planner is one example, but you can find many others, too. The important thing is to find a system that will help you stay focused, organized, and motivated.