The Ups and Downs of Planning

The Ups and Downs of Planning

“I just know what’s going to happen,” I looked at my husband with a laugh. “We’re going to make this reservation and things will get canceled again.”

We’re tentatively putting some things on our calendar and with that comes the anxiety, frustrations, unknowns and fears of making plans right now.

Honestly, when I think about planning for a trip or making plans for work, my heart beats a little faster and my muscles tense with apprehension.

For our family, and I probably can assume for your family too, this past year was one of canceled plans, events, travels, hopes, and adventures.

We’re all still reeling from the intensity as we tentatively pencil plans into our new year.

Will this trip actually happen?

Will this planning be for nothing?

If we fly out, will we get back in?

If we stay, will we miss out?

How much will it cost in time, money, stress and resources to plan this, knowing the risks of this pandemic world?

Do I want to mess with canceling all I’ve been working on?

Planning in normal times, while living overseas, can be stressful. We all know the amount of thought and effort that goes into planning long car rides across desert countries or through incredibly busy European cities. We know all the details, meetings and calls it takes to plan an event for fun or work. We have the battle stories as proof that this travel life isn’t for the faint of heart.

We fill out the needed paperwork, struggle through the phone calls in another language, send emails using Google translate, trust contacts who’ve been there before us, collect WhatsApp information, and try to decide how much water is needed per day per person just to take a trip.

We all understand that the pictures of a hotel we see online might not be accurate, the restaurant reviews might not express things completely and overall, our expectations might not be met. To do our work, we need a big dose of flexibility and a lot of trust each step of the way.

This kind of life means regularly planning for if things go well and planning for if things go wrong. Planning in this tension takes an enormous amount of creativity, skills and courage.

Yet being travelers as we all are, there’s also some excitement, joy and adventure mixed in. We love the feeling of finding new places to explore! We’re ready to get out and stop being at home. Some of what we love about our lives overseas is the amazing things and places we get to do and see. We miss our suitcases and airport strolls and unmasked travels.

All the emotional ups and downs of planning are magnified with what we’ve all experienced in the last year.

As we’re managing the ups and downs, riding the roller coaster of a year that makes planning even more difficult than normal, what are some ways we can plan without going crazy?

Do we make plans?

Should we make plans?

How do we make plans?

I think with prayer, council and some flexibility we can and we should start making plans, moving forward with our year as God leads us to do!

Here are a few tips for navigating the ups and downs of making plans:

1} Plan as normal – I know. Nothing is normal. But make the lists and schedule the trips. Figure things out as you normally would and then run it all through the lens of what is happening right now. Do what you know how to do and then figure out what else is needed as you go.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3

2} Do the next thingThis is all scary. No doubt about that. Making plans that could get canceled is exhausting. But do the next thing, take the next step, jump in. You can do it.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

3} Get good council – Just within our Velvet Ashes community, there are friends all over the world! Whatever you are planning or wherever you are going, someone is there or going there or has been there. Ask what’s happening, ask for contacts who can help if needed, get advice from people in your organization and people outside your organization. There is such wisdom in asking for help, advice, and council, especially this year.

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

4} Plan ahead – Quick, last minute trips might not happen this year. But long planned, well thought out plans might have a better chance. Look ahead in the year, remember how fast time goes and start working now, even if it seems earlier than you would normally plan.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

5} Plan for emotions, changes, and transitions – More than before, we are dealing with grief, loss, frustration, stress and nearly every other negative emotion. They are closer to the surface and more frequent in our days. In planning a day trip or planning a work conference or a family vacation, remember that not only are you experiencing these things, but your family is too. Be patient with each other, plan for unexpected reactions and make space for all the ups and downs.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

6} Put it all in His capable hands and trust. We can’t plan for every unknown or manage every risk. We can’t be sure about tomorrow let alone a few months from now. So, we plan, we prepare, we work… all with a heart of trust, knowing that God is in control of our days.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

Back to the conversation that started this post… we did end up taking that trip. We saw hippos, climbed a mountain, drove for hours and truly had an adventure.

We have another hotel planned for a work event this month and we’re in the beginning stages of planning (for the second time because the first was canceled) a medical trip to South Africa.

We have a daughter graduating in June which means planning for a trip to the States, college, driving and so on. Planning to finish this term, planning to homeschool again next year, and planning for all the other things that are in the works.

Our lives go on even in the midst of some of the craziest circumstances. Whether they all happen as we think or even at all, is yet to be seen.

But we stand on the truth that with Jesus, we can navigate the ups and downs of another intense year.

What are ways you are making plans this year? How do you navigate the ups and downs of this season? What is helping you step out and make plans in the unknown?

Photo by Anton Lecock on Unsplash


  1. Sarah Hilkemann January 13, 2021

    Thank you for all these wise ideas, Jenilee! I really appreciated your first point to plan as normal. Part of me just wants to throw it all out the window because so much is unknown. But it is so helpful to think about still taking steps forward, while holding things loosely enough to practice flexibility too. 🙂

    1. Jenilee January 13, 2021

      Yes, I’m telling myself this as I plan our South Africa trip. Plan as normal. Get good council. Do the next thing… taking steps forward and holding loosely to it all.

  2. Jenny January 13, 2021

    So appreciate your words and the practical tips to plan. We are trying to plan a trip to the states around March and a kids camp here in June. It may still be hard and may still not happen but thankful for this encouragement to move forward. Appreciate you!

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