Perfect Plans

I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. Ecclesiastes 3:14

God’s plans are perfect. Everything He does stands eternally. Nothing he does needs to be adjusted as things “come up.” Everything is accounted for perfectly in God’s plans. Our plans will never be that.

“Yes, yes,” you say. How obvious. But how often have you been frustrated when your perfect plan was not followed and everything would have been just beautiful if everyone would just follow your plan? Or how often have you worked to craft the perfect plan that will solve all the daily problems? But then, it wasn’t quite exactly perfect, so you throw it out and try again as the problems continue to accumulate.

We react to what God has appointed. He has planned. Already. Perfectly. Our plans are a tool to be used to live wisely, but our plans are always subordinate to His.

One way we live out that truth in our lives is that we make plans humbly, relying on God’s wisdom as we create and strength as we implement. Then we gratefully adjust when His plan for the day is not meshing with ours. Our plans are always subject to his perfect plan.

Don’t keep trying to make perfect plans and throwing them out at the first snag. We react to what God has appointed. We humbly flex. We tweak our plans and continue good works, living in obedience, doing what we are called to do each season.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

My husband frequently closes our prayers before meals with a request to “bless this meal for the nourishment of our bodies and our bodies for Thy service.” May you sit down to your next meal and see the good in the work you have done, humbly dependent on our perfect God. Then may you be fueled to further service.

 

Photo Credit: Bridget Duffy

Acting on Your Plans

The school year is starting! This time of year is also when you may have made plans for how things will run on the new schedule. You may have goals for a new school year. Although we have touched on action plans already this year, today I’d like to spend a few minutes more on the steps involved — hopefully making it even easier to do.

Now, first of all, a good action plan is based on a clear goal. You will be set up for success when you start by knowing exactly what you plan to achieve and have a deadline. If you don’t know specifically where you are going, it will be hard to get there. So if you need to clarify how you are stating your goal, now is the time to do it.

Once your goal is defined, you can spend a few minutes brainstorming.

  • What steps will help you get to your goal? What actions will help? What supplies are needed? What has to be done to start? What will it take to finish? Do you need any resources to support your effort (i.e., books, training, input from experts)? Write down any and all ideas you have. Try to think through all the aspects and requirements during this time, and get it all down on paper (or screen).
  • Next, take a minute to look at all you have noted. Evaluate which ideas will work the best and do the most. Pick out the cream of the crop until you have enough chosen to accomplish your goal but not more than you need to do. Your action plan should have what you need but not have distractions or wasted effort.
  • With this list, you can break the work into manageable pieces (or bites of the elephant) and set your timeline. A timeline can be either dedicating a set amount of time per week, with at least one waypoint to check progress; or it will be lining up steps one, two, three, etc. Sometimes it will be a combination of both.For instance, you may dedicate time each week to completing a Bible study book (and check halfway through to make sure you are halfway through the work). Or if you are making a quilt, your action plan will be a series of steps (choose pattern, buy fabric, cut, piece, etc.) in addition to time dedicated. Your timeline will depend on your goal.

The only step left is to schedule your timeline. Block out slots for the weekly time you plan to spend on your goal. Set a target date on your calendar for each step in your project. The schedule for your action plan may need to move as other things come up, but you have something to aim at and milestones to keep you on track.

“What gets scheduled gets done.” — Michael Hyatt

If you would like an infographic summarizing these action plan steps, see below.

My hope is that this helps your success! Working through the steps to create an action plan will make it smoother and quicker each time. Breaking down what is needed makes the project more manageable. If you run into any snags or have any questions, please contact me and I am happy to help. Onward and upward!

Meal Planning

Like grocery shopping, meal planning is constantly with us. Whether you plan as you walk in the kitchen or a month out, it has to be done at some point or the hungry hippos will descend!

As I have worked into my own system for our household, I have pondered again how different situations call for different solutions. I have a large upright freezer in the kitchen that is a wonderful resource. I also have easy access to multiple grocery stores. My sister has a small refrigerator and minuscule freezer. We handle the same task differently, and rightly so.

There are even more ways to tackle meal planning than that. We have a wealth of information easy accessible, sometimes too much. But if you take what time you have to sift through a few concepts, then dig deeper into what fits you, and implement in pieces, you can steadily and confidently work into a system and habits that help you and your family.

  • A few minutes on the internet will yield more family meal plans than you could cook in a lifetime. Some are geared toward budget, some toward health, some just to be easy. You can surf and start gathering a set of recipes that your family enjoys and fit your style. Pick and choose from what is available.
    Once you have a small library that works for you, it can be the backbone of your meal plan. You pick what you will be serving any given week and know what groceries to have on hand.
  • Another popular solution abundant online is freezer and slow-cooker meals, where you go on a large grocery trip, then assemble 20 meals at one time. They go in the freezer ready to pull out and go when needed. This can be a great resource, when you have the time to invest on the front end, and is easy to supplement with last-minute meals when that is called for. You have the flexibility to respond to daily needs.
  • Friends or older women in the church who have been prepping family meals for decades are also a great resource. There is a wealth of real-life experience available to you in conversation for the asking.

My personal mode at this point in my life is to stock up on meat (thus the freezer) when it is on sale, buy the produce that is in season and on sale, keep a variety of frozen vegetables on hand for insurance, always have a loaf of bread available (family favorite), and then fill in other menu items as I desire or have available. This ensures I always have meat and vegetables as a base, bread pleases my family, and I still have flexibility to be creative or satisfy a craving around that framework. (Note: I also keep one large lasagna or other casserole in the freezer for emergencies or sick days.)

As I do my daily and weekly planning, I also decide what I will serve for meals — usually 2 or 3 days in advance, subject to change. This means I can pull out any meat needed to thaw first thing in the morning or the night before, because I know what I have planned. I also can pick up a necessary item at the grocery store at my leisure, rather than having to run at the last minute. (Note: Since I prefer planning ahead, I do tend to try to make do with what we have in the pantry, though, even if it means adjusting. It can force creativity sometimes! It also lets me plan for leftovers when I know I will have them, i.e., repurposing mashed potatoes into shepherd’s pie the next day.)

Since my meal planning revolves primarily around meat, it helps to be familiar with a variety of ways to prepare it: roasting, slow-cooking, baking, frying, broiling, simple casseroles, basic toppings and marinades, etc. Having a small arsenal of options allows variety and ease (once you know each method well).

Always stocking ingredients for a couple of “go-to” meals, family favorites that are easy to make, is a good idea. This creates memories (I can tell you mine from growing up because I still make them today!) and can save the day when you realize meal planning didn’t happen, yet it is almost time to eat.

We will dig further into this topic, with a sample menu coming later this week, but for now — Bon Appetit!

 

Working the Plan

This is where the fun is! Putting together a reasonable plan and seeing the progress is motivating, as well as beneficial.

There are a few things to keep in mind, however:

  • You are in this for the long haul – a marathon, not a sprint. Steady progress is what we are looking to see. Delays are not the end; keep the end in mind and patiently wait until you can continue. One day doesn’t work? Start fresh again tomorrow and the next day.
  • Get input on the plan from the start and throughout. Spouses, of course, but also family members and friends whose opinions you respect. Children, if involved, have feedback that is important to consider. It’s never too late to adjust.
  • Plan to succeed. Set yourself up to do what you have determined is best. Put reminders in your path. Set alarms. Schedule time on a regular basis to accomplish the steps in your plan.
  • It’s fine to tweak. In fact, if you’re not omniscient and omnipotent, it’s pretty much required. If Plan A doesn’t work out as you thought, don’t give up. Plans B and C and D are just other creative ways to move forward.
  • Don’t do it on your own. Lean on God’s provision and rely on His strength and wisdom. Use the resources He has placed in your life to support you. Ask for encouragement and accountability from your spouse or close friends. Who knows if you may stir others up to good works along the way?
  • The plan is not the ultimate goal. Remember our big picture and purpose. No matter how beautiful and well-thought-out the plan, it is worthless if done without love for God and our neighbor.