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Are you a go with the flow person?

Some of us are. We’re not comfortable with plans. We want to leave life open to possibilities. We want to be open to God, not put constraints on Him, and just let life happen!

I think that attitude definitely has positive aspects. I know there are times in my life when I need to learn to go with the flow more and I need to stop trying to control everything. Sometimes things just aren’t working, and we need to throw up our arms in exasperation and head to Dairy Queen.

I’ve done that on some homeschooling days, when nobody is getting anything done, everybody is sniping at everybody else, and it’s better just to call it a day. So we head out on an impromptu field trip, or we decide to scrap the books and curl up under a blanket to watch a Jane Austen movie.

Sometimes you need to go with the flow. You have your week planned ahead of you, and a friend calls. Her little boy has had an accident, and she has to be at the hospital with him. Can you take her two little girls? You can’t say no, but there go all of your plans. Rather than stressing about it, it’s better just to realize that your plans are toast, and embrace your new reality! Otherwise you’ll just end up grumpy at everybody.

But even though we need to go with the flow at times, and even though we need to open to God’s Spirit, I don’t think this lackadaisical attitude towards life is the best one. Most of life has to be intentional. When we are not intentional about where we are going, or why we are going there, we’re going to end up going nowhere, and then wonder why.

I mentioned in my column last Friday that nobody ever drifts together; they only ever drift apart.Many people are living their lives without really being intentional. They’re raising their kids, but they don’t have a good idea what they’re raising them for. They believe in God, but they haven’t ever thought through how they’re going to pass on that belief to their children. They want a good marriage, but they haven’t though through what that entails.

And until we do, we won’t be effective. You can have all the emotional and spiritual resources in the world to make your family strong, but unless you sit down and intentionally use those resources, your family won’t benefit.

Too many things pull us apart: time, technology, jobs, responsibilities. Very few pull us together. I know so many families who let their teens work so hard at part-time jobs that they don’t have time for youth group or church. Those kids are making all their friends at school, but don’t really have a Christian peer group. Or then there are the dads who are super-involved at church and super-involved in their work, and they figure that their kids will somehow pick up their faith by osmosis, even though they take no time to talk to their kids or mentor their kids or even play with their kids.

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One of the best ways to counter the drift that so often happens in our lives is long term planning. I have two friends, a husband and wife team, who spend much of August strategically planning for their family. They ask themselves:

1. Where do we want to be in five years?
2. Where do we want to be in two years?
3. Where do we want to be in one year?

And then they figure out how to get there! And over the last few years, as their daughters have grown and they’ve realized that their time as a family is short before everyone grows up and moves on, they’ve made it a priority to spend more time as a family. They’ve gone on medical missions trips together. They’ve taken vacations. They’ve deliberately done things, even in the midst of their busy lives, because they had to.

This family lives in a small town where large churches with mega resources for great youth groups don’t exist. They’ve had to create a youth group out of the kids’ friends, and make sure that they have a good set of peers who are being discipled. They’ve had to take the responsibility for their kids’ Christian education, because it wasn’t happening at their church.

And in the meantime, they’ve made sure that their children learned some job skills and other skills they would need when they left home. But they did it by taking August to plan.

They mapped out their vacation schedules, months in advance. They are both professionals (they’re both doctors), so they’ve figured out what conferences they would go to that year based on whether the kids could go and whether it could be a family activity. They’ve scheduled in the kids’ stuff.

And they’ve decided what extra-curricular activities they were going to do, and when. If they saw a certain month was getting busy for work, they deliberately planned some romantic nights and weekends the month before and the month after.

And they prayed. They brought their multi-coloured highlighters, their full sized calendars, and their Bibles and journals, and they spent a weekend praying through their year.

It’s a great idea, because when you don’t, life happens, and you drift along with the current. You don’t realize that you don’t actually want to be swimming in that direction.

When your child comes to you in September and announces he wants to take karate, you can’t think of a good reason to say no, so you sign him up. But you don’t realize that lessons are Thursday nights, and Thursday is the only night all of you have free during November and December, so that was supposed to be your family games’ night. If you had planned, you would have known that.

I find men often appreciate a bit of strategic planning because it’s already how they think. They like having things mapped out, perhaps more than we do. They like knowing where they’re going. And if you can turn it into a romantic getaway with multi-coloured highlighters, more power to you!

I have found more and more that time is sneaking up on me, and I have to be intentional about what we’re doing as a family. So this August, Keith and I are taking off for a four-day trip to be together and to pray through this year, while doing a bunch of biking, too. Don’t let the summer go by without thinking about what you really want your next year to look like. Take some time and pray and plan with your honey. Make it fun for him, too. Ask the important questions. And then you’re far less likely to feel swept away by tides you can’t control.

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