God Has the Plan, Not Me!

Chess pieces on chessboardI’m a planner.

In the days before I go on a trip, I make a list of everything I need to take, so I won’t forget something in the actual process of packing. I mark items off the list as I pack them. When I close the last suitcase, I tuck the list into my purse, so when I return, I can use the list again to be sure I don’t leave anything behind.

The fault with my method of preparation is obvious, though – while I can control what I bring on the journey, I can’t control what actually happens on the journey. Sometimes the weather is much hotter than I expected, and I end up wearing the one sleeveless shirt I brought for the whole trip. Or the opposite occurs, and I wear the same sweater nonstop because everything else I packed was perfect for the 75-degrees that had been expected, but got pushed aside by an unseasonably cold weather front.

Again and again, I think of the Yiddish proverb: Man plans, and God laughs. And while I appreciate a good laugh – I’m something of a humorist, you see – it can get very tiresome when I’m trying to apply my planning penchant to my writing career.

Here was the plan: Choose a niche, write a great book, get an agent, get a publisher, write more great books in the series.

This is what happened: Wrote a book tailored to the niche (cozy mystery), wrote second book, got turned down by every agent for three years, not a word from any publisher, began writing third book in series, began writing another series in a different genre (supernatural thriller/romance) to see if I could do it and since the first series was getting nowhere, why not?, and finally found a small regional press for the mystery series four years after finishing the first novel.

Encouraged by that success, I pitched the thriller/romance to an agent, who snapped it up. That was five years ago, and that series now has two books in it, but no bites from any publisher. In the meantime, I’ve had five books in the cozy series published by the regional press, and my agent for the thrillers has now sold a humorous spiritual memoir I wrote six months ago (which grew out of several blog posts) to an international publisher.

From mystery writer to memoirist. I never could have planned that, not to mention the wonderful community I’ve found here to share the journey with at my agent’s company. It’s funny to see where my ‘plans’ have taken me, even though they haven’t taken me where I had planned.

They have, however, taken me exactly where God wanted – I just didn’t know it at the time. So every time I feel God laughing at my plans, I know the laughter is with me, not at me, and I know I’m not alone in this very human experience, for as the prophet Isaiah declared:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

So go ahead and plan all you want for your writing career. Then let God show you the higher way.

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About jandunlap

"Archangels Book I: Heaven's Gate" is Jan's new Christian suspense novel that melds cutting-edge science with faith. She is also the author of "Saved by Gracie," her best-selling humorous spiritual memoir and the Birder Murder Mystery series that follows the adventures of ace birder/high school counselor Bob White, who has a bad habit of finding bodies when he birds. When she's not playing with fictional devices, Jan is a birdwatcher, a featured speaker, and the proud mother of five children. She welcomes visitors at jandunlap.com.

15 thoughts on “God Has the Plan, Not Me!

  1. God is teaching us to trust him, and we’re along for the ride. Thanks for sharing, Jan. I’m on a similar journey. I wonder if we’d find this a common path for writers, if we took a survey. This is an important lesson to learn if we’re going to write for our Savior, so I bet it’s a universal strengthening God-strategy.

  2. Thx, Jan. I needed that reminder. So, I looked up Isaiah 55 again, and I was encouraged again as I read the rest of the chapter. “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Is. 55:11 NLT).

  3. I could not agree more. That was exactly what happened with my second book: a publisher was very interested and ready to go, then it fell through, and then the book ended up being published by my first-choice publisher. I couldn’t be happier with them. There was so much up-and-down and uncertainty and it was so unsettling, but in the end it worked out beautifully. It was such a reminder to breathe and trust the process, as hard as that is to do.

    Congrats on the memoir, by the way!

    • Thanks, Ginny. I always remind myself of that lovely little sparrow that God does not forget, and I am thrilled to know I too have God’s eye on me! Thanks for commenting.

  4. How true is the Yiddish proverb, “Man plans and God laughs.” I felt so confident when I first started writing my novel. Now I feel very unsure and feel each time I submit my chapters to my critique group that I am a failure at writing anything worthwhile. God wants me to totally depend on Him, to make me His pen as I write the words that can glorify Him in this process. Thanks for showing me your journey and how you found the breakthrough as you trusted God each step of the way. I now feel God laughing with me as I write with a willing heart and leave the results in His hands.

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