Last week, the girltalkers met at Janelle’s house. We brought Chick-fil-a, sent the kids to play with Christmas toys, and set our laptops, notepads, and colored pens on the kitchen table. It was time to plan.
Mom started planning with us when we were teenagers. Twice a year she would help us evaluate our life and priorities and consider ways we could grow. After we got married, we asked her to come back and help us, and so the tradition has continued to this day.
I got to thinking about what I find most helpful about Mom’s approach to planning for the New Year and here are my top three. Even though you can’t join us for Chick-fil-a, I hope these ideas inspire your planning, too.
1. Principle leads to practice.
In a recent sermon (which you really should listen to, by the way), my Dad shared a line from JI Packer about the Puritans:
“Their knowledge was no mere theoretical orthodoxy. They sought to ‘reduce to practice’ (their own phrase) all that God had taught them.”
When we plan, Mom helps us to “reduce to practice” all that God has taught us. Here is where our theology gets worked out in methodology. It is where our goals for godliness get translated into detailed steps. Here is where we come up with specific, concrete, plans for living out biblical truth in every day life.
For this reason our relationship with God is always the first thing we talk about. Then we consider how we can be better wives and mothers. We discuss ways we can be more skilled homemakers. We ask: How are we to be serving in our local church? Who has God called us to share the gospel with?
What an awesome privilege we as Christians have, to be taught by God. By his grace, we must seek to put into practice all we have learned from his Holy Word.
2. Change is in the really small details.
What really keeps me coming back to these planning times is the immediate and dramatic difference they make in my life. Mom helps us make our big picture goals a reality by targeting small areas for change.
This year, it came down to a new oatmeal recipe.
Lately my mornings have been very hectic, cutting short my writing time. Breakfast was the culprit. It was a big production with four kinds of toast and five versions of cereal or oatmeal (with lots of toppings). Mom googled “slow cooker oatmeal recipes” and suggested I prepare the toppings ahead of time. These small changes have transformed my morning routine. I am not running around my small kitchen like a crazy woman, and I’m able to finish writing before the kids need my full attention.
A new oatmeal recipe might not seem like a big New Year’s plan, but it is the little things that make the big goals possible.
3. Planning helps me focus.
Janelle has been wanting to learn to crochet for a while now. It’s a good skill to have, and she has good reasons for wanting to learn. But as we talked through her priorities, starting with the most important, she realized that she doesn’t have time to take a crocheting class right now. It would mean giving up other, more important goals.
In an age of unlimited opportunities and countless distractions, planning helps me to focus. Otherwise I would run here and there doing a lot of good things but neglecting the best things. Realistically, we can only give ourselves to a few things this year. Let’s make sure those few things are the most important ones.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” ~Ephesians 5:15-16