Phil (my husband) and I are in the midst of what we’re calling our personal/spiritual/business/ministry strategic planning retreat. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but we’re (or at least I’m) feeling a bit overwhelmed and “fractured” lately. I know it’s not how God wants me to feel. So we set aside a few days to seek the Lord for each area of our life – to determine how He wants us to move forward and/or what He wants us to weed out. Unfortunately, the retreat is falling during a time when Phil’s not feeling well and it has been interrupted by times of extreme “mal-ness” and a number of medical tests. I keep reminding myself that God knows the schedule and He will accomplish His will during this time for us. Maybe we’ll need another retreat in a few weeks and if that’s the case, He’ll provide the time and venue. Or perhaps we’ll accomplish all we need to accomplish despite the interruptions. I’m leaving it up to him and refusing to stress about it.

Anyway (all that was an aside, really), on our first morning, after a good time of worship we started by writing all the various areas of our life on sheets of paper – one said “Us” (referring to our life together and our relationship); another said “family” (referring to our extended family); we included sheets for our church, our various secular jobs/businesses and our various ministries (including Apprehending Grace Ministries). We then began to make notes on each sheet of paper about that area of our lives. Some pages only had a more detailed description of what that area encompassed, some had dreams for that area of our life, some just had a task list. Then we prayed over the sheets of paper and it was time to take a break. Later in the day I typed the information into my laptop.

The next morning while Phil was having a stress test, I began to look at the information and realized that for one of the areas we had identified:

  • dreams & visions
  • issues & challenges
  • tasks
  • questions
  • other comments

That seemed like a good approach, so I began to organize the comments under the other areas into these categories. What I found was revealing – it wasn’t something I didn’t know and probably hadn’t acknowledged at some point, but still, seeing it on paper was revealing: There are some areas of our lives for which we have no dreams or vision – they are simply “obligations.” I was grieved when I realized this. I don’t want my life to be about obligations; I want it to be about pursuing dreams and visions. Phil doesn’t want his life to be about obligations; he wants it to be about pursuing dreams and visions. I’m guessing you don’t want your life to be about obligations, but about dreams and visions. And I’m guessing that most of us have areas where we have no vision. In those areas of obligation, we just do what we have to do. Yet I believe that is not how God wants us to live. If He has put an area of responsibility into my life, He has a vision for what He wants me to do in that area. Even if it’s an area that I’d call an obligation.

Finally, this morning we pulled the lists out again and we began to look at those areas in which we have no dreams. First we realized that we do, indeed, have some dreams for them – they had simply been hidden under the mountain of obligation and everyday challenges. We had allowed frustrations and disappointments to obscure the dreams and visions. Secondly, we asked God to give us dreams and vision where we lacked them and to strengthen the dreams and visions we have. We prayed and are going to continue to pray for God’s vision for our lives in these areas. He has started to reveal some vision and we are believing for stronger vision in the future. Additionally, we’re going to continue to put those visions in front of us and pray into those visions. I am getting excited about how we will approach those areas as they change in our minds and spirits from obligations to areas where we purposefully live out the vision God has given us.

Throughout this process, one song and one verse have been running through my mind. First the song. “He’s Real” was written by Russell Fragal and recorded by Hillsongs in 1995.

I got dreams, turn them into plans
Too big for human hands
Trust Him you’ll see
He’s got all the power you need!

I want to make plans that are greater than me – because quite frankly, any plans I make that I can achieve without the Lord aren’t really worth achieving. I want a life spent pursuing God’s best – and that means living His plans, not mine.

And then there’s the verse. Do you know where I’m going? I’m going to Proverbs 29:18a. Here it is in several different translations:

Where there is no vision, the people perish (KJV)

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint (NIV)

Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint (NRSV)

As I look at my sheets of paper – the various areas of my life – I find that those areas where I have little or no vision are floundering – they are dying a slow death. Further, they are the areas where I am most undisciplined – I have cast off restraints. Lacking vision leads to lacking purpose, which leads to lacking discipline.

Socrates said:

The unexamined life is not worth living.

We’ve found that to be true this week as we’ve pursued some life planning. Give it a try. I thought I needed to set aside three days for it. It turns out that I learned a lot in about five hours spread out over three days. And I’m expecting great rewards from it.

I pray God’s blessing on your time of planning. May He reveal His plans and purposes, dreams and visions to you for all areas of your life.

5 Responses to “Life Planning, Life Dreaming”
  1. Kara Stewart says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Obligations can come in small packages then grow and grow until there’s no room for anything else – no dreams, joy or play. All you know is that another year is gone and you’re tired! 🙂 The only way to keep it in check is prayerful examination. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Sandy says:

    Thanks for your comments, Kara. You’re absolutely right…we can fall into a rut with obligations and they can so easily wear us out. This lesson has really energized me to look at those areas of obligation differently.

  3. Hey Sandy!

    As complete and thoughtful a blog post as I have ever had the privilege to read. This really touched me on so many levels. So often are our needs and hopes obscured by the immediate pressures on our lives. And for what? What will we say on Judgement Day when we’ve missed out on so much because we’ve been obsessing about meeting deadlines and toiling for no obvious reward.

    Love it, Sandy. You have a regular reader in me from now on.

    Bless you.


  4. Pat Chiappa says:

    Sandy – so nice to see you honor the your process by going on retreat with your husband to do the planning exercise so important for relationships. My husband and I take New Years Eve day to do our annual review and then New Years Day to do our annual planning. We have found it invaluable in our relationship and our lives in general. I recently wrote a book called, Year Ahead/Year in Review, A Couples Guide to Dream Big, Plan Smart & Live Well, which describes the step-by-step process we have used for 20 years.

    Dreams truly are so important – much luck to you in taking the time to explore.

  5. Sandy says:

    Thanks, Dave! Glad to have you. Blessings, Sandy

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