Ah, Edwina Cowgill is my kind of gal. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know I’m a list-making addict.  This isn’t always a bad thing. To the contrary–most days it’s a good thing. But it isn’t full-proof. I’ve taken more detours and round-abouts than I care to admit, have embarked on many a failed journey only to do an about face. Yet despite my sometimes faulty plans and my myriad of mistakes, God *will* perfect that which concerns me. Resting in this knowledge, I’m free to continue forward, knowing God will redirect me as necessary.

Today, Edwina Cowgill shares her thoughts on list-making and God’s list-changing. 🙂

My Lists, My Calendars, My God by Edwina Cowgill

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

I belong to a local nonfiction writers group that meets the first and third Monday evening of each month. We’ve met at various places and recently we met at my house. The goal of each meeting is to write, write, and write! At this particular meeting, we talked, talked, and talked! We discussed writing topics, we critiqued stories that members had brought and shared writing information we had learned. We didn’t write a single word. And that’s okay. Sometimes a detour from the agenda is what we need.

This makes me think of how God changes our “agenda.” I am a Type A personality and I live by my lists and my calendars. I cannot function without my calendars. Perhaps that’s why I have a calendar on my desk at home, one at work, and one on my trusty Blackberry! Before the holidays arrive, I’m writing out shopping lists, planning and writing menus, a list of serving dishes to be used and what food will be served in what dish, the Christmas card list, the Christmas gift list. You name a holiday list, and I can guarantee I either use said list now or have used it in the past.

My every day is usually controlled by my to-do lists both at work and at home. I keep a “rolling to-do” list that is broken down further into tasks, phone calls to make, computer work and other.

And because I’m Type A, I go absolutely nuts when I’m pulled away from my list(s) to do something that is not on said lists. (Long, heavy sigh.) God excels in pulling me away. Because I am focused and “list-driven” there have been times when God had to use major, attention-grabbing methods to get my eyes off of the task at hand and back on Him. After several of these instances, it occurred to me that God didn’t care whether or not I had a list. He cared about whether or not I was doing His will at that moment.

One of the writers attending the meeting Monday night addressed this issue. “I don’t make to-do lists,” she said. “When I get up in the morning, I ask God what He wants me to do first. When I finish that task, I sit down. I quiet myself before God and I ask Him what He wants me to do next. I do this all through the day until it’s time to go to bed. This way I am assured of always doing what God wants me to do.”

By the time she finished speaking, I was going into withdrawal.  Stop using lists? No calendar? I began to hyperventilate. Okay. Easy girl. Deep breath. Deep breath. In and out. There you go. All better, now? Just because she schedules her day that way, doesn’t mean I have to do it the same way. Does it?

After the ladies left, I thought back over the conversation. If I agree with Psalm 118:24 that states “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it,” and I do, it makes sense to also acknowledge Psalm 31:15a “My times are in your hands.” Am I so ignorant to think that relying on God (rather than lists) to order my day would cause me to have an unsuccessful day? God has my (and yours) best interests at heart. It is humanly impossible for me to complete what’s on my to-do list every day. “But with God all things are possible.” Does that mean he’ll help me conquer my to-do list every day? No. It means that I will accomplish that which He directs me to do.

How do you plan your day? Lists, calendars, Blackberry, iPad? Or perhaps you’re a “panster.” You “fly by the seat of your pants” moving forth with no plan. Or maybe you’re like my writer friend who always consults God on what to do before starting any task.

When I first wrote this blog in November, I challenged myself to ask God every morning what He wants me to do first. And I’ll do that first; when that is completed, I’ll ask him what’s next. I will admit that I’ve not always been successful. There are days that seem to fly by so fast, they never make a blip on my radar. But on the days when I do start out by asking God what He wants me to do, I have found that the day is much more peaceful and even more productive than days I live by my lists.

Abba Father, Help us to seek You early in the morning, to determine what You would have us to do on that particular day. Then, Father, help us to step forth boldly in Your boldness and grace to do that which You call us to do every day. May we be Your light and Your life in this dying world. In the matchless name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.

Edwina Cowgill  is a Christian whose desire is to “Minister the Heart of God to the Hearts of Women.” She hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Counseling and is a Certified Behavioral Counselor, specializing in inner healing. She is a writer, with a short story published in 2009 and another in 2010. Currently, she’s in the beginning stages of writing my first non-fiction. Visit her online at Musings of Edwina and Monarch Ministries.

And remember, if you loved today’s post as much as I did and want to see it make it to my top 3 of 2011, FB share it, “like” it, tweet it, and/or leave a comment.

And happy Thursday!

Between VBS, taxiing teens, getting our daughter set up for the new school year, writing, and starting a new job, this summer’s turned crazy. Listening to other friends, it appears I’m not the only one with a rapidly mounting to-do list. For me, a lot of jobs and little time equals a dull mind. Yesterday is a perfect example. First, I missed our daughter’s orthodontist appointment, then I showed up to our doctor’s appointment without the physical forms and had to return home, wasting time I didn’t have.

By the time evening rolled around, I felt squeezed and ready to pop. My first inclination was to put things in overdrive, although I’d already seen how ineffective frantic scurrying was. Instead, I chose to slow things down and reconnect with my Maker.

Taking an hour to pray and listen to praise didn’t magically erase or accomplish my to-do list, but it did bring things back to perspective. It reminded me of God’s sovereignty and His promise to perfect that which concerns me. (Psalm 138:8)

Ephesians 2:10, Jeremiah 29:11, and Psalm 139:16 remind me that God’s still on the throne, even when my to-do list fights for dominance. No failure or missed appointment can impede His plans. Knowing that gave me peace to finish my day strong.

What about you? How do you regain perspective when your stress level rises? What about today? Feel like you need to xerox yourself in order to accomplish everything on your agenda? Meditate on the following verses, then focus on doing the best you can with the time you’ve got. God will take care of the rest.

Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. Not only has he enabled us to have peace with God, but He also gives us a daily peace that surpasses our circumstances–when we abide. If we abide in Him, remain in Him, draw near to Him throughout our day, He’ll come to us, soothing our anxieties and filling us with peace and strength. It might feel like we don’t have time for prayer, but honestly, if we’re feeling frazzled and pushed to the max, we don’t have time not to pray.

Let Jesus be your all in all today.

Wednesday night, after sharing my prayer requests with my small group at church, one of the ladies giggled and said, “Ah, so you’re giving God your agenda.” I had to laugh because this article about making plans lightly in order to be more pliable to God’s leading was already in the rough draft stage. I laughed even harder the entire drive home as I thought of countless other times I’ve done the same thing.

I like to give God a to-do list. And sometimes (okay, so most times) I’ll even tell Him how I think things should be done, so focused on my ant-sized view I forget that God’s perspective is galaxies beyond mine. And yet, when I look back over my life–the six moves my husband and I have made in our fifteen years together, my daughter’s journey from homeschool to Christian school and soon to be public school, the various churches we’ve been a part of and experiences we’ve had along the way–I realize that none of it has gone according to plan. My plan, anyway. And yet, in hindsight, I wouldn’t change a moment. Even the times when things appeared so bleak I thought my heart would break.

Okay, so maybe I would change part of it. Not the circumstances, but my reactions. And my long-term agenda, because every time I allowed myself to get caught up in plans of where I’m going, I lost sight of God. And in those brief moments when my false expectations and human ambitions crowded out His voice, the emptiness and restlessness that ensued was worse than any trial I have faced. And yet, conversely, when I allow myself to rest in God’s hand, the peace has been amazing. Enough to keep me turning my eyes upward regardless of what is before me.

The Bible says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” And all I have to say is THANK YOU, GOD! I think I would be amazed if I were to catch a glimmer of all the sand traps God has directed me away from! Although I suppose we have the choice whether or not to follow. We could go our own way, could we not? Shove our fists in the air, shake our heads, laughing to ourselves at how foolish God must be to think that job, that move, that ministry, is worthy of our time. He’s just the Creator of the universe, after all. Surely we, His human creations, know far better how to manage our own lives!

The other day as I was finalizing an interview of gospel singer Lynda Randle, something she said impacted me. (Don’t worry, you can read it on Monday. I’m putting it up on Reflections.) She talked about how she “fell” into singing. There wasn’t an earth shattering voice pouring down from heaven saying, “Lynda Randle, thou shalt sing.” True, God had tugged on her heart, drawing her closer to Him, and she responded to that call–the call to total surrender, willingly. But she had no idea singing would be part of it. She stepped out, in faith, willing to follow God wherever He directed, before she caught sight of the road.

Lynda’s obedience has led to great success. Pop on over to her website and take a quick glance at her upcoming tour schedule to see for yourself. But that doesn’t mean obedience will always lead to success. And least, not success as the world would coin it.  We may never have that five hundred thousand dollar house, or New York Times Best Seller, and if we filter our views through the eyes of the world, we may be fooled into thinking we have failed. But if we are firmly planted on the path God has designed for us, without venturing to the right or the left, we will experience success. And there is joy in that. When our eyes are on our Leader and not all the off-roads trying to distract us along the way.

One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

My understanding, my plans, even my desires, are tainted and distorted. How can I possibly expect to see clearly? But if I trust in God, and allow Him to guide me, and at times, when the road gets extra rough, to carry me, He will never let me fall. He will fulfill the plans He has for me.

So what do I do when earthly expectations cloud my vision and allow dissatisfaction or disappointment to seep into my heart? I draw closer to God and let His Spirit fill me until it has pushed all else aside. As you probably know by now, music is a huge part of my prayer life. As I wrote this, two songs came on that really spoke to me. I’m going to add a link to them here, along with another one I find especially fitting…

Give It All Away

My Savior, My God (I’m not skilled to understand)

You Never Let Go