First, an addendum to my prologue:
These "Exclamation Marks" are on my own hands and I'm sharing them just for fun, not because I think they are the final word in wisdom for everyone; They represent "aha" moments for me, or what has worked in my life.
They are also not written in any kind of orderly sequence or order of importance, which fits in with the first lesson I've learned, which is:
Plan not to Plan
This is coming from someone, who as you will know, if you've spent any time with me at all; has spent way too much time planning. And trying to fit more things than are humanly possible into a given time frame. And who never gives up trying to be better organized.
I like being organized and I like thinking through what is most important to get on with, but that's not what I mean. I'm talking about those longer term plans. Goodness, even a week can go seriously awry, let alone five years.
In one of my journals there is a page on which, at 36 years old, I made a four year plan. It was 1986, and I was looking four years ahead to being 40. When I found the list again some time later, I looked at the goals and shook my head. Not because I hadn't reached most of them, but because I couldn't imagine why some of them were on the list! In their place I had done things that were far more interesting and important. I mean, "Get an F licence?" Really? I don't know why I wanted to do that! :)
So I don't even worry about thinking that far ahead. Life has far too many variables to add to the adventure, so why even think of squeezing yourself into such a tight box of limited possibilities?
Planning and then trying to stick to the plan can lead to frustration and a sense of failure if you are rigid, so I think that it's wise to plan flexibly, giving God permission to interrupt your plans. I couldn't help bringing him into the conversation because he really is important to this point. I firmly believe that he has a plan and that it is good.
There is an adage that says that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, but that, my friends, has not proven true in my life.