INTRODUCTION

I feel it's only fair that I tell you a few things before you read this book. If you are looking to read a book written-by someone who has mastered this thing called life, you might be disappointed. If you are seeking marital wisdom, you might not like the fact that I have raised my voice beyond an acceptable decibel level a time or two. If a woman whose children daily rise and call her blessed is what you want, please don't call my home before 8:00 A.M. on a school morning. My children might call me something but it probably would not be blessed. I've been known to try to improvise using lip liner as eyeliner, not realizing that red and brown are not as close as I would have liked on the color chart. Then I couldn't get the mess off and had to walk around with red clown eyes for three days. My house isn't always perfectly clean, my accounts aren't always balanced, and chocolate is a major weakness during most dieting attempts.

I struggle at times, just like you. But I have found that by doing the things I write about in this book, life has become more meaningful, manageable, and enjoyable. I want to always be on a continual journey toward discovering God's best for my life. Living my life "on purpose" is something I believe honors God and gives me peace. I know that I am doing what He created me to do. Knowing this adds a dimension of value to everything I do, which was a missing link in my life for so very long. God has taken me on quite an adventure to teach me these insights. Let me give you a glimpse of my life before I had a life plan.

Ten years ago I could have been voted "Least Likely to Ever Write a Book on Living Life on Purpose." I was a schedule rebel who thought planning was for people who had no desire for excitement in their dull, well-organized lives.Well, God has such a sense of humor! He had plans for my life that I could never have imagined. When I was single, I knew I needed to get a better handle on balancing my life but decided that I'd put it off until I was married. Then I got married and decided to put it off until I had children. By the time our first child arrived I was totally overwhelmed. All I could see was a disorganized home, a struggling marriage, an overweight body, and a baby who didn't like to sleep. I started praying that God would bring other women into my life so maybe I could learn from their experiences. It wasn't long before God answered my prayers and a friend asked me to join her in writing a newsletter based on Proverbs 31. Great, I thought, I love to write, and I'll get to meet other women. This is just what I've been praying for. Then I went home and read Proverbs 31.

My response then became less than enthusiastic. "Excuse me, God, I know you've never been known to make a mistake, but this time you seem to have forgotten a few of the qualities that you and I know about me. You are asking the woman who not only doesn't know how to make coverings for beds but went almost a year not knowing she was supposed to wash her sheets. And, about this issue of considering a field before she buys it . . . well, that's just not me at all. I charge (literally) full steam ahead, and if that card gets rejected I'll just write a check. I figure as long as I have checks in my checkbook I must have money in my account. Then there's the thing where her children rise up and call her blessed and her husband praises her. Well, I don't mean to question you, God, but my family does not always sing my praises, and the last time I rode by the city gates I was speeding and honking so loudly I must have missed that awards ceremony they were holding to praise my works!"

Well, after I got through with my little tantrum, the Lord posed an important question. "Are you through? Good, because now I can begin." The Lord had wonderful plans to shape me, mold me, and, yes, use me for his glory. I couldn't see past the dirt on the kitchen floor.

Then I found out we were expecting again. There I sat with a six-month-old on my lap, another positive pregnancy test in my hand, and a deadline I needed to meet for the Proverbs 31 Woman newsletter. I was supposed to write an article to encourage wives and mothers. The article would definitely have to wait. I glanced out the window to see my husband barreling down the driveway. They let him out on good behavior; what could I do to get pardoned? I picked up the baby and made my way to the kitchen, only to trip over the baby swing, which triggered a flood of tears from us both. The house was a wreck and so was I. Not only did I not know how to bring order to all of this, I didn't even know where to get started. I peered out the window again. Wasn't there a super-hero out there somewhere who was supposed to rescue us damsels in distress? Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Could it be? Was it a bird? A plane? No, it was my very angry neighbor informing me that my dog had been an uninvited guest at her outdoor party yesterday. He ate her ham and dragged her roast off into the woods.

I called my husband and asked him how much longer it would be before he could come home, only to have him remind me he'd only been gone thirty minutes.Through my tears I recounted the neighbor's story for him. He suggested that we take the dog to the pound, since this was her third and probably final strike with the neighbors. I wondered if there was a "people pound" where strays like me could go to get adopted into better situations. Art suggested I get out of the house and maybe go to an aerobics class or something.

After hanging up in disgust, I thought, "Wow, that sure would be a pretty sight. What would those stick figures think of me?" I decided to crawl back in bed. Maybe if I dreamed about exercise, I could lose a pound or two. I needed help. I needed direction. I needed a plan.

I could remember feeling this desperate another time in my life. It was my junior year in college and I was failing economics. I called my dad and asked him if he could please call the dean of the business school and make a plea on my behalf to let me drop the class. He said that he would not call the dean. I started crying, and he tried to comfort me by recounting his experience in a class he had almost failed. The university now invites him back to teach that very class. We ended the conversation with me assuring him I never wanted to teach economics. A few days later I got a letter in the mail from my dad. Part of it read, "Do your best in life but keep life in perspective. Your mom and I are proud of you for not quitting even though that would be the easiest thing to do."

Dad's wisdom and words of encouragement never left me. Just like I'd done in that economics class many years before, I determined not to quit and decided to seek out help. I decided to start with the most organized and together person I knew, my husband.

Art was more than happy to research possible solutions to my dilemma. A friend from work introduced him to a life plan concept that he and his wife had found to be very beneficial. Art knew this was the answer. He came home and told me all about this exciting planning adventure that he wanted us to go on. The whole idea sounded pointless and totally boring to me, but because I was desperate, I agreed. We went away for what I thought was a waste of a perfectly good weekend and returned changed people.

For the first time in our marriage we shared dreams about our future and realized that in order to make them a reality, we needed a plan. We needed our own individual life plans as well as a corporate plan for our family. So we became a team, working together toward common goals in every area of life. We developed a budget, established family nights and date nights, and started planning dream vacations. We set goals for every area of our lives from physical to financial. We decided to take time on Sunday afternoons for our weekly evaluation planning sessions to discuss plans for that particular week and schedule our date night and family night. We saw wonderful benefits for our family from having a Life Plan. This was the starting point for getting my life together. I had a newfound purpose and plans to live each day intentionally. I had goals to shoot for and rewards to look forward to for each goal that I met. Larger projects were broken down into smaller more manageable jobs. My life became more organized and happy as a result of establishing a plan. Did I stick to it perfectly? No. Was it instrumental in changing my life? Most definitely!

Now, back to why I'm writing this book. You see, God chose to use an imperfect, scatterbrained person to be the vessel through which to send this message forth because it would insure Him all the credit. Also, it would encourage others to know that if God could do this with me, He can certainly do this with them.

I have learned a great deal about the importance of planning and bringing a sense of order to my life thus enabling me to "live life on purpose"! I now know that the Proverbs 31 woman did not accomplish all she did in one day. No, it took a lifetime of living her life on purpose to get to the place we find her. Her life should challenge us and give us an example to follow, not something to intimidate us. After I got past this intimidation, I decided that I liked this Proverbs 31 woman and the way she lived. I liked how her life turned out, with her husband praising her and her children rising to call her blessed. she worked hard and was respected for all she did. I liked that she was well prepared and that she smiled at the days to come.

Over the years I have continued to improve, update, and revise my plan. My Life Plan has now become more than just a way to help me get a better handle on my schedule. It has now become my account of a life well lived. Using God-inspired life statements as my guide, I can now answer the fundamental questions of life. I am fulfilling my purpose in each of the major areas of my life. I have a well thought-out and prayed-through plan to help me become a Proverbs 31 woman.

My prayer for you as you read this book is that you will realize the importance of having a Life Plan, will glean ideas to apply in your own life, and will start living your life on purpose. In doing so I think you will find, as I did, that not having a Life Plan is like taking a trip without getting directions or having a map—you may eventually get where you want to go but at the expense of wasted time, talents, and energy Why not pull off the fast track you've been traveling on and let God help you map out where to go from here?

Columnist Whit Hobbs says, "Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, wherever you are, however old or young, and bounding out of bed because there is something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that you're good at—something that's bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again today" Wouldn't you like to wake up every day and live out Hobbs's definition of success?

This book will help you do just that. I've formatted the book in such a way as to help you break down what might seem like an overwhelming project into manageable steps. It will require you to be in constant prayer, read God's Word in search of His will, write down Scriptures through which God speaks to you, develop your own fundamental life statements, set goals and action steps, develop a schedule, and examine your progress. You will need to be diligent and patient as you rely on God to direct you every step of the way. Remember Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Do not get overwhelmed but rather be excited about all God is going to reveal to you. In doing so, you will walk away with a Life Plan that I promise will dramatically change the way you see your life.

 

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