Planning the Perfect Life

Planning the Perfect Life

August 7, 2015

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

I was the girl with the Five-Year Plan. In my heart, I carried a list of all I wanted to achieve, experience and accomplish. When I talked about the Five-Year Plan, I’d act like it was no big deal, and I’d laugh about it. Yet in reality … It. Was. No. Joke. I held it tightly.

At the age of 20, my Five-Year Plan included finishing my education degree, teaching for a year, going to Bible college for a year, and then heading to the mission field. It seemed logical to me.

When I was 8 years old, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. At 12, a missionary who spoke at my church planted a seed of growing passion for the nations. So I designed my schedule to achieve these plans the millisecond after I left college. After all, God had planted these dreams in my heart. It was my job to fulfill them, right?

Sounded perfect to me!

About two years into the Five-Year Plan, my “perfect” plan was interrupted by a tall, blue-eyed man who wasn’t part of what I had written onto my extended calendar. I told my mom he wasn’t my type before our first date.

Then I married him.

That might seem like an odd juxtaposition, and it was. Nine months after I declared Barry Carroll “not my type,” I walked down the aisle toward him, my white dress trailing behind me. I was so choked with love and the overwhelming solemnity of the occasion that I could barely gasp out my vows.

This year we celebrated our Silver Anniversary, and my bridegroom is the best interruption to my plans that ever happened to me. It turns out, God’s Word is true. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

Sometimes it takes an interruption of our perfect plan to start the life that’s perfect for us.

When I was young, I thought plans were revealed, but it turns out life unfolds. Those dreams God planted in my heart as a girl? They’ve come to pass one by one over the past 25 years, and I’m living some dreams I never imagined at all.

Are you a planner? Good for you! Plan away, but hold those plans with open hands and a heart ready to wait.

Just this morning as I read 2 Peter 3, I found plans that all of us should hold tightly while we leave the unfolding of our circumstances to the Lord. “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11b-12a, NIV). We should all plan who we’re going to be, rather than what we’re going to do.

Are you frustrated by a lack of plans? It’s okay. Really. God is no less in control of your life than the other planners’ lives around you. Wait. Watch for Him, and let His plan unfold. You’re probably better off than we planners who constantly struggle to let go and recalibrate as God works. You can help your planner friends relax and go with God’s flow!

I’ve given up my Five-Year Plan, and I’m learning to wake up each day determined to sync my calendar to God’s. He’s the faithful unfolder of my days.

Lord, I trust You to fulfill Your plans in my life, and I surrender my own plans to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

2 Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (NIV)

In Amy Carroll’s new book Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You, she reveals how we all can find more joy in a less-than-perfect life.

Amy invites you to stop by her blog today, where she’s giving away a copy of Breaking Up with Perfect.

Are you a planner? List some of the things you’ve included in your Five-Year Plan. Put a check by the ones that have come to pass. When you look at the rest, can you identify places in your life that have been better than your original idea of perfection? Write those events on your list, and thank God for them.

Are you frustrated by a lack of plans right now? Write out a prayer thanking God for holding your life in His hands. Tell Him you trust Him for every detail of your future, even though it’s unclear to you. Ask Him to help you on the days that fear and uncertainty seem overwhelming.

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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  1. Great devotional…All I can say is I’m learning to surrender & give it(ALL) over to you God!!! I see you working Lord!!! You’re simply “AMAZING”♡

  2. Evette J Vasquez says:

    Thank you this message came at a moment I needed it most. I find myself just nor sure which direction my life is going but I know God is in total control. Once again thank you.

  3. I am a Planner, but I’m learning that interruptions & changes are God at work. I need to trust Him more!

  4. Danielle says:

    Thank you so much for this sweet devotional, Amy! I have been struggling with what to do-what steps I need to take next in my life and I really need to learn to surrender my steps to our Lord who knows even better than I know! Being patient can be so difficult, but again and again, He shows us the importance and blessing of waiting, and He never lets us down. Thank you for this reminder today:)

  5. Thanks Amy for the message. For teaching me to follow God’s plan -God’s way and not to be hung up on my “detailed plans” especially when things dont go “my” way….!

  6. Marie H Hammond says:

    I REALLY need to give more things to My Lord. Things are always better when I let Him lead.
    Thank you for this devotion. Blessings

  7. This devotion was so timely! I had planned out my life after college and graduate school but things haven’t turned out the way I wanted to. Somewhere along the way I realized I did not give my plans to God, I did it all on my own. Now, I have released my life to God and allowed Him to take control and lead me where He wants me to go.

  8. Thank you Amy I never thought about who I want to become instead of what I want to do. Oh Lord give me the strength to listen and obey You

  9. So often we plan first, and then as God to bless our plan. God says, “I have a plan to bless you, and to bless others through you.”

  10. Reguneak says:

    Thank you

  11. I’m breaking up with perfect!

  12. Wow. God has perfect timing. I needed this today. My basic plan to stay married to my husband may be crushed even today as he is deciding if he wants a divorce. Your devotion is full of good things for me to focus on in the midst of the uncertainty. Thank you.

  13. Rochelle Howard says:

    I am a planner who like you Amy felt I have heard God clearly give me purpose and a few things to do. I used to feel a tremendous amount of guilt when I feel like I have disappointed God by not accomplishing what I thought I heard.This was a frustrating cycle that led to tremendous anxiety.After a major life interruption, I’ve learned that if a plan is of God, He will lead,guide and direct if I allow him. This I a much more peaceful and purposeful way to live. Thank you for sharing. Have a blessed, awesome and productive day.

  14. Good Morning! Enjoyed your devotional and absolutely would love a copy of your book! I am praying for God to lead me down the right path with my career, family and friends. For quite sometime I have lost joy along the way. I have noticed that I am sad, grumpy and complain more than ever right now. There are some days that I don’t even like me. I really want to strengthen my faith, find my joy & happiness again and also be the blessing to my family and friends again as I know I can be. Have an awesome weekend! Blessings.

  15. I love that point-decide who we want to be, not what we want to do. If we decide to be a Christ-follower, we can rest as circumstances and life unfold, with all their twists and turns. Thank you!

  16. I always laugh when I read these devotions. It’s like you guys are hiding out in my closet. #Scary. I’ve been struggling with this very thing. I fell asleep last night with my cellphone in my hand, I was researching colleges trying to figure out which major I would tackle first, music, art history, business or counseling. My goodness why do I have so many ambitions. I can do all of these things but my thoughts were “God, should I?” I will forever hold on to that one special line from today’s devotion….”Not what I should become but who.”
    Blessings all.

  17. We should all plan who we’re going to be, rather than what we’re going to do. (That’s the line)

  18. I have always been a planner, and what a wonderful message as my family begins a new school year . Before I was a believer in the Lord I was always in a mindset of this is the way your life should go, telling my children this from the time they were little ones and having these big plans for them. I always made little comments like if I could’ve done this, then my life would’ve turned out this way. However as I have become more and more trusting in his word the Lord is finally changing my mindset to now put all things in my life in his hands. Now as my two children begin a new school year, I want to tell them only God knows the plans he has for you. I on the other hand can be a good example of what Christ is continuing to make me each and every new day as I walk deeper in his word and let him lead me in my life.

  19. Linda Goins says:

    These were just the words I needed to hear today to remind me of how God is so faithful to me every single day, even tho I do not know what my plans are, can’t see where the way is clear & going! He has the perfect plan & purpose. Thank you Lord for your faithfulness day by day, moment by moment!

  20. Stacey Magnusson says:

    God is simply amazing! I was meant to read this and claim this scripture today. All of my plans these past two years have been interrupted by rushing one of my parents to the hospital at various times of the day or night. Yesterday I finally broke down and confessed to him that I was angry that I felt I did not have a life and I could not make plans. I even had a friend upset with my cancellation of our plans because of having to pick my father up from the hospital today. Thank you for confirmation that my ways are not His ways and my plans are not His plans but God’s plans are the best!

  21. Sounds familiar…down to the blue-eyed boy “interrupting” my plans. Thirty-six years later, I’m still happy for the interruption. 🙂

  22. I am definitely a planner. I am a closed hand planner who doesn’t like when things change. I am learning to accept the Lord’s direction in my planning and flexibility a little more everyday. I was also very encouraged to see that one of the related verses was Proverbs 3:5-6, as this is a verse that we are going to be teaching our youth group through the month of September and has also been popping up in various way through my life these last few weeks.

  23. Amen! excellent study. Thank you for allowing God to use you to minister.

  24. Thank you Amy. I really enjoyed your article and its reminder and encouragement!

  25. Sheri Speegle says:

    Perfect! Years ago, I believed I had been called into the ministry, Youth Ministry to be exact! I also felt the tug to be a nurse/teacher/social worker. So, when I felt the next tug to be a missionary it all made sense. Then I read a book about a family who adopted children from all genres (for lack of a better word) and I just knew God was telling me I was going on the mission field and that I was going to adopt 13 children. At that time, I believed that God had spoken very clearly to me about all these things. Along came Dubby… who was NOTHING like the man I had imagined for my future husband. He and I talked about adoption and he wasn’t for it. Mission Field…. maybe but not until his career in the Navy was over. Well…. jump 29 years into our marriage. We have fostered/adopted 13 children total. I am as a mother of 8 children (28-8)…I am a youth minister (especially now 5 teens), nurse (special needs/ asthmatic/ ADHD), teacher (all the time) and yeah I do our own social work (therapy). It’s not MY plan… but God knew all along what he was preparing me for. And now(I’m trying to finish my degree)… I can help explain College Algebra (just got a B in summer session) lol

    • Victoria says:

      Congrats on the B in Algebra, Sherri! I read your comment the other morning regarding your upcoming test & said a prayer for you. I have always had a fear of Algebra (it took me 3 semesters to pass it in high school!) so I was rooting for you. God is so very good, isn’t He?

  26. Oh my word, this was so for me today. I just recently ( like last month) turned 50 and my plan for this 50′ is to write about the many trials and triumph’s God has seen me thru.At this stage of my life I am also recovering from foot surgery and journaling and writing about how I am dealing with various issues that come up along the way. However I am occasionally getting frustrated because my “plans” as I saw them are not happening at the pace I had hoped. I am still writing about what I am dealing with and how God has been there, they are just unfolding as you put it differently than what I had envisioned.

    So thanks to this post I am going to see what comes from the interruptions that come my way. The interruption being not healing or writing fast enough so I can move on to the next thing. I think its time to stop and look around for other opportunities that God may be trying to show me as well.


  27. THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME TO TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL MY HEART . . . I am waiting on His perfect timing because He is never late.

  28. Jeanette Larson says:

    I, too, established goals and timelines for my future. I wanted to be married at 24 so I could have a daughter at 30. Then there would be four generations of women 30 years apart.

    As I write this at the age of 61, I realize how foolish it all sounds! Getting married became my idol. So much wasted time and energy. But I was afraid; that I’d never marry or have children. I am grateful my high school age daughter isn’t obsessed with getting married. She’s strong enough in her faith to say it’s not something she has to have in her life. I’m grateful she’s learned Jesus will be her husband! God is faithful beyond measure.

  29. Ernema Boettner says:

    Thank you for this devotional. This paragraph is what struck me: “I read 2 Peter 3, I found plans that all of us should hold tightly while we leave the unfolding of our circumstances to the Lord. “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11b-12a, NIV). We should all plan who we’re going to be, rather than what we’re going to do.

  30. Danielle says:

    Planning my wedding and looking forward to dream coming true, only to have the wedding canceled six days before, made me realize that I am in control of nothing. I used to plan everything for my “perfect life” and unfortunately left little room for God to work. Now, I find that my plans do not extend past next week and there is so much freedom. It is terrifying and exciting at the same time, as I practice being still before God and patiently waiting for him to tell me my next move. It has taken a lot of tears, honest prayers, holding onto God’s promises, and wise friends to pull me from and keep me out of the darkness. I am learning that God being in control means freedom and peace. I cannot wait to see what he has in store! (Phil. 4:6-7, Isa. 43:!8-19)

  31. Yes, Lord….I have no idea what you’re doing. But I trust you and that is sufficient. Amen.

  32. I needed to hear this and be reminded of this today. Thank you for sharing.

  33. Crystal Davis says:

    This really was so moving. I had been a pastor’s wife for almost 20 years. I, in prayer had planned every step of my life. Worked in a bank, went to college, married a minister, had children, stayed home with them, taught them school… and then life happened. My husband died from cancer. That was not in my plans. Ever since I was unable to make plans. But, 8 years later God made plans and has led me back to school. He is leading and guiding. It is a very slow process, but we serve a great and marvelous God.

  34. Thank you, I needed this. My child is going to school full days & im stressing what I will do with my life. I don’t feel like I have a clear path. I know God has something planned for me, I just need to wait on Him.

  35. Kristen Cason says:

    “We should all plan who we’re going to BE, rather than what we’re going to DO.”

  36. Teresa Hardin says:

    Wow! What a great devotional & I’m guessing in Gods plan of the reminder I needed. Seems all the plans my husband and I made years ago have taken a long detour. Thank you for this reminder of His plan.

  37. Mrs. Doris Bailey says:

    It is so uplifting to start my day with Proverbs 31.
    It puts me in the right frame of mi nd for whatever the Lord
    Has planned for that day.
    Thank You so very much for this ministry.
    Gods most WONDERFUL blessings to you all!
    Love in Christ,

  38. Julie Hostetler says:

    Wow! This could be my story with a few twists and turns. I was just sitting down to write out something to share at my 40th year class reunion from High School when I decided to read the devotional for the day. Just like God to show me how and to use you. I want them to see how God has directed my life and that without Him my life would have been different. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Karen Baptist says:

    Thank you for giving me a heart of encouragement today. I have always admired the “planner” type of personality, but I have not been one myself. I on the other had have had a difficult time coming up with one. I have beaten myself over a lack of a plan most of my adult years.
    Thank you for shinning a spot light on God’s plan. He has been the planner all along and will continue to be. I will remind myself to rest in Him!

  40. I´d like to say thanks for each devotional right here. Every day I´m blessed , It´s look like you know what have in my heart and how I´m feeling. Today for example this message came directly, straight to my heart, I´m a planner (you have no ideia!!) and, sometimes I had forgot the most important God knows what I really need not just what I want…
    Thanks again guys. All devotions have been changing my life, and I can share these messages with some facebook friends and sometimes translate in portuguese!!!

  41. This is so perfect and God sent. It echoes what I told my 17 year old soon to be HS Senior daughter who is so stressed out over senior year commitments, college plans and choices, ACT scores and just plain struggling with the fear of being a “grown up” soon. Change and loss scares her a lot because of several things she has survived in life at this point. I told her make a plan and put the resources you need in place to get there — but realize that things are going to change many times and God may open some doors you never even imagined (and close some others). It’s a winding road from here on out – and you need to just relax and let it happen as it is supposed to. Trust God – He’s always had you and always will.

  42. Margaret says:

    I just really needed to read this today. Thank you.

  43. Tommie Stanfield says:

    I got chill bumps reading your devotion today. I can’t believe 25 years have passed. Congratulations! And yes God was in the midst of your plans – I was there to witness that.

  44. Earlier this year, I was hit with difficulty and confusion in trying to understand why things were going the way they were in my life. I felt frustrated and confused. Only now, even a couple of months later, do I see the puzzle pieces coming together — and am beginning to understand how certain things often happen for a better purpose. SO thankful that God’s plan is so much greater for my life than my own. Thank you for this post, Amy!

  45. Ann Souza says:

    I need some help in this area

  46. Thank you for this awesome post that helped give me wisdom to something I’ve been praying about today~ where my plans for a work function change. I’ve been asking God today to help me see through His eyes and proclaiming Romans 8:28, trusting that He is in control and is using it for my good. I don’t think I’m a planner as much as a pray-er. So many times the Lord has changed my plans in the past. More and more I learn that my greatest joy is just being with Him (the LORD), wanting more time with Him in His Word, intimacy with His Holy Spirit, the precious ways He speaks to me throughout the day. Also obeying His Word and His Holy Spirit and growing in purity and holiness.
    God, I trust You and I love you so much! Use me for Your glory in any way you want to. Help me surrender to all of Your plans for my life. God I give You my future and trust You with every detail, You know best. I love how You walk with me, comfort me , and help me overcome fears. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

  47. I too had my life all planned out. I had the man picked out, read all the how to books and then he broke up with me. I was devastated. I shut my dreams down. But in 2004, I got saved and in 2009 I attended our church women’s conference called “Dare to Dream”. And I wrote new dreams down and dared to dream again. Now i see Gods wisdom and am thankful He kept me from the relationship. Yes, life hits. But God is bigger.

  48. Just what I needed to read today, a real answer again just when I prayed for guidance. I like everything planned and secure, but I’m seeing at last that ideas, prompts etc can be brought to the Lord, then open palmed wait on His unfolding. I too met the tall blue-eyed man, but I knew he was the one I was praying for, everything else I have tried to control sends me crackers with anxiety! Handing things to God with a spirit of trust and waiting is not so hard when real peace and relief hit home. Thank you for being Gods messenger to me today!

  49. Thank you and “I’m breaking up with perfect

  50. Virginia Jewell says:

    I can relate to plans changing unexpectedly… almost nine years ago, my 16-year-old daughter (who lived with her dad at the time) informed me that she might be pregnant. And several months later, my sweet granddaughter was born, bringing to my life a responsibility which at times seemed overwhelming; she changed my plans in a big way, both financially and in terms of becoming a caregiver once again. But after a bad relationship ended several months later (man suffered from bipolar disorder), I soon realized that God had blessed me with a sweet baby on whom I could focus my energy vs. going into an emotional decline.

    Now that I’m retired (and in a solid marriage going on 4-years now), my level of caregiving has grown into a bigger role, and once again I feel God’s nudge reminding me that sometimes we are the one person who brings a feeling of peace and stability to a young child. So I follow the plan which I believe was set for me, grateful that I was given the opportunity to be a good grandmother – and her own parents were married last year and will soon celebrate their 11th year together! Hallelujah!

  51. Tiffany Knowles says:

    Thank u so much for writing this. This is my story to. I thought at the age of 12 God wanted me to be a missionary and his plans changed. At the age of 19 a handsome man came into my life and 23 years and 3 children later we r still happily together. Over the years I have known I made the right decision but was afraid I disappointed God. Now I know that I can still be a missionary through our family businesses. I don’t have to go far away to reach people for Christ.

  52. Charmagne says:

    Amy I had to laugh when I read your devotional. My five year plan started in 2010. God revealed to me that my life would be different but better. I wasn’t sure of the details but I was confident in what He told me. Through those years I had struggles and doubts but I kept reminding myself what God had shared with me. I struggled with my finances and my health after my husband left me. What God showed me was that I had to trust Him more than I claim to trust Him. I had to get over myself and my plans! (laughing). Thank God for His love and plans for my life!

  53. My plan was interrupted when my husband went back to be a Jehovahs Witness. Talk about waiting, patience, endurance and just plain understanding! I pray everyday for him to get out of the cult….. But it has been 8 years now and he’s in it stringer than ever. So yes. Still waiting…. Still have no idea what Gods plan is. 🙁

  54. Christine Puschak says:

    Nice Devotion today, but what if your interruption isn’t good like your was?

  55. Yes I am a planner and a list maker and now I’m starting to just relax still have the plans and lists butI go with the flow more and it is so wonderful and so freeing to see what the Lord has in store for me each day

  56. Muhammad Ghazni says:

    wkwk.. it seems like lust has held u back frm ur plans.. lel

  57. I’m reading all of these posts and everyone sounds a little too happy with the devotion today. Perfect little posts about the goodness of God and learning about His plan for our life being different than ours and to accept this.
    My life has been full of horrible pain and suffering the last few years that is refining me into the woman who God wants, not what I thought I wanted.
    These posts are the reason why I don’t go to women’s church groups. Everyone sounds just a little too perfect for me and they hide how they really feel.

  58. Thank you so much for this devotion. It is exactly what I needed today.

  59. My husband of 30 years also “interrupted my plans.” I was on my way to being a Flight Nurse when I met this x-ray technician. I married a medical student and 7 years and 4 children later, retired my dreams. I only regretted it a bit in the beginning but God has brought so many beautiful new plans my way. I now have 4 grown children, 2 daughters-in-law and 4 grandsons. My “interrupter” is STILL the most important thing in my life and has graciously housed my mom for the past 20 years in the homes in which we lived. Like you said, “Go ahead, make plans.” Just be open to God’s detours!

  60. Joanne Jordan says:

    Wow! Well I went for an interview today and got it!! It was not originally on my agenda to do this though but I know it’s going to change the course of my life right now!!!

  61. I can so relate about planning ones life. I committed my life to Jesus when I was 21, after that I planned to get married in my young 20’s, have three children and live in Washington State where I grew up. Well guess what, I married at age 40 and gave birth to my wonderful son at ate 42, and I now live in CA for the past 20 years. Talk about waiting on the Lord… was all worth it. He had a better plan for my life then I could have possibly imagined. Was the waiting easy?…….not at all. But during the waiting process, I developed a deep, intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father that might not have happened if I married and had children like I had planned. I had many, many hurts that needed healing before I was ready for a healthy relationship. And I’m so thankful and grateful that God waited to answer that prayer I prayed so many times until His perfect time arrived. We celebrated our 15th anniversary this month….it hasn’t been perfect or easy all the time, but God has been with me every step of the way, and I often reflect back on those years of waiting with great fondness when I had lots of uninterrupted time and attention I could devote to knowing my Father who loves me more than anyone could possibly be loved by. He taught me what Love is……patient, kind, gentle, forgiving, long suffering, doesn’t keep a record of wrong and much, much more. GOD’S LOVE NEVER FAILS!!!!

  62. This message was so on time for me. I have been feeling discouragement, due to employment issues. But it’s hard sometime to put your trust in the Lord when your going through some disappointments in your life. But i know that God has the “right” path for me to walk in and I have to continue to believe that He will open that right door for me to walk through. I sometimes don’t have time to read your devotionals, but today I know was Gods plan for me to read today, because it is right on time. Amazing God!

  63. Similar experiences in my neck of d woods, couple weeks haven’t read the devotionals and today was Gods plan for me to read too!!! BUT GOD Amazing God He IS for real!!!!!! Praying Stace that your every days are Jesus-led, peaceful and filled with God’s joy!!!!!!!

  64. Wow, he of many plans. Funny how just the other day I was planning what I will be doing 4 years from now, and then realised that I made the same plans 4 years ago…. and now that I am reading this, it all makes sense… I am too caught up in MY OWN plans for my life… and the more God keeps pushing me in a new direction to fulfil his plan for my life, the more i keep making plans of my own, which fails and then I just start planning again.

    Really opened a blind spot for me today 🙂

  65. This devotion was hard to read. I am a planner. My plans were interrupted many years ago by something that was not better and I’ve been struggling ever since. I actually planned and expected to be married; instead, I have spent the entire 16 years of my adult life single. My life has gone done a path I would have never imagined; and while others may think I have an interesting life, I don’t see God in these plans. While they are not bad, they are not better than the plans I had for my life. What do you do when you don’t see the plans God has fulfilled as better than your plans?

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