When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan: Guest Post by Debut Author Patricia Bradley

My novel, Catch a Falling Star, asks the question: Is life about accomplishing plans … or wishes coming true … or something more?

Today’s post is the tenth in the “When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan” Wednesday blog series, 11 guest posts by authors and writers, including Deborah Raney, Rachel Hauck, and  Susan May Warren, who explore the question: What do you do when life doesn’t go according to plan? Today’s post is by debut author Patricia Bradley.


In 1980 I was thirty-five years old and had a dream of getting a book published. I had it all planned. I’d write the book and publishers would bid on it.

Okay you writers out there, quit rolling on the floor. I quickly learned life doesn’t always go according to my plan. Thirty-four years later my first novel will reach the bookstores. Along the way I received enough rejection letters to paper one side of my office, and if I’d sent it out to more people, I could have papered my whole office.

I’ve had people ask me why I kept writing when I kept getting rejected. Sometimes I asked myself the same question. Did I ever think about quitting? Certainly. But something in me wouldn’t let me quit.

In 1998 I laid my writing on God’s altar, willing to pick it up in any form He desired. I claimed Psalm 37:4-5: Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

And what did He do?  He gave me the privilege of working 8 years in the abstinence program, first co-writing an abstinence curriculum, then taking that curriculum into Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama schools, teaching children how to make good choices. For 7 of those 8 years, I didn’t have a creative fiction thought to enter my head.

Then one morning in 2007 during my quiet time with God, a character popped into my head. And someone was trying to kill her—my task in the abstinence program was finished.  God had released me to go back to my beloved suspense stories.

And so if He gave me permission, then of course I would soon have a book published. I think sometimes when we read Psalm 37:4-5 we forget to read the 7th verse: Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him.

In Jeremiah 29 God tells us He has a plan. Thirty-three years after I started writing, on October 17th my manuscript, Shadows of the Past, was presented to the Revell pub board and won unanimous approval. Ten days later I was offered a 3-book deal from Baker Books, the parent company of Revell.

Life didn’t go exactly as I planned, but it did go as He planned.

My plan = 1 book. God’s plan = 3 books.

God’s plan is always better than ours.

What has God taught you as you waited for your plan — or was it His plan? — to be revealed in your life?

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Patricia Bradley’s debut novel, Shadows of the Past, releases February 1, 2014 from Revell. She lives in North Mississippi and is a former abstinence educator and co-author of RISE To Your Dreams, an abstinence curriculum and workbook. But her heart is tuned to murder and suspense. Patricia’s mini-mysteries have been published in Woman’s World, and you can check out her short story in WW, “Blood Kin”. When she’s not writing or speaking, she likes to make jewelry or throw mud on a wheel and create odd and unique pottery.

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  1. June 12, 2013, 5:53 am   /  Reply

    Congratulations on the triplets! Three books rather than one! So like God to do a thing like that. And though it seems akin to eternity to wait 34 years for a dream, He sees it from a vantage point that didn’t just mark time, marching in place, treading water, but as essential to your creative process and your wealth of experiences from which to draw. Now I’m going back to my computer to apply that principle to the waiting rooms of my own life. Thanks for these insights and your story, Patricia.

  2. June 12, 2013, 6:45 am   /  Reply

    Yes, Cynthia, I love the way God gives more than we can think or imagine…in His timing. Which is always perfect. The waiting sometimes seems soooooooooooo long. Thanks for your encouragement.

  3. June 12, 2013, 7:00 am   /  Reply

    Delightful post. I love watching Pat’s journey and know she distills so much real-life proven heart and wisdom in her stories, they will have great impact and be real winners. I can’t wait to see each exciting next step and she works so faithfully at her craft, inspiring me and all.

  4. June 12, 2013, 7:10 am   /  Reply

    Aw, thanks Delores! You are one of my bestest cheerleaders! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. June 12, 2013, 7:37 am   /  Reply

    When I read this post, I could hear your voice narrating it, Pat. I’m so thrilled for the way God tripled your dream. What a wonderful testimony you are to others–and not just with your writing. I’m excited to read Shadows of the Past.

  6. June 12, 2013, 7:45 am   /  Reply

    Thank you Lisa. It’s been a long journey, but a few years ago, I realized it wasn’t up to me to get published. What was up to me? To be faithful to write. And that’s when I started to really enjoy the journey.

  7. Andrea Cox
    June 12, 2013, 8:17 am   /  Reply

    Hi Patricia! Waiting is so hard! As I’m only — only?! — in my tenth year of writing, it’s difficult to imagine waiting thirty-four years to see my books in publisher’s hands (or better yet, reader’s!) I think I’m still in the phase of hoping for the best and leaning on God for guidance for that best.

    I used to ask for patience.

    Then God gave me a job as a tutor.

    I don’t ask for patience anymore.

    Seriously, though, I love my students. I love seeing that lightbulb flick on in their brain when they grasp a concept. I love watching their self-esteem rise to the skies. I love “my kids”. It’s a busy summer of tutoring for me, and I’ve got more students than I did all last school year. Yes, it’s a lesson in patience. But I’m happy to be in school again. 🙂

    God bless you and your soon-to-be published books, Patricia! And may you have many, many more.


    • June 12, 2013, 8:52 am   /  Reply

      So agree Andrea about asking God for things like patience and endurance…’cause you know how we get those things, don’t you? God gives us things that build our patience. lol I did get 3 short stories and several articles published in the 34 years. And I had the privilege of tutoring for a few of those years, tool Thanks for stopping by!

      • Andrea Cox
        June 12, 2013, 7:19 pm   /  Reply

        Thanks for the encouraging reply to my message, Patricia! I’ve had a few articles published on mybooktherapy’s Weekly Spark, so I’ve gotten a start into publishing I suppose.

  8. June 12, 2013, 8:19 am   /  Reply

    Pat, what an inspiring story! I’m so happy for you, and I love hearing what led up to this wonderful series you’re writing.

    Your words “God’s plan is always better than ours” resonated with me. He is showing me that now. When we rest in Him and trust his plan, things turn out way better than we could imagine.

    I have to correct your quote, though. For me, it’s “I asked God to give me patience and he gave me children.” 🙂

    • June 12, 2013, 8:53 am   /  Reply

      Oh, yeah, Carla, God gave me those, too, and I’ve discovered even when they are #@ years old, you still need patience sometimes. 🙂 So glad you stopped by!

  9. Rachel
    June 12, 2013, 8:23 am   /  Reply

    I soooo love this testimony and story of God’s goodness… and your heart to follow Him into obedience.

    I pray HUGE blessings on you, Pat! HUGE!!!!!!!

    So proud of you!


    • June 12, 2013, 8:55 am   /  Reply

      Thank you so much, Rachel. And you inspire me as well!

  10. June 12, 2013, 8:31 am   /  Reply

    Pat, I loved reading your story. You are always such an encourager. You’ve. Been. There. 🙂 I love the verse you shared, Psalm 37:3-4. It’s one of my life verses. You’ve lived it.

    I love that God gave you above and beyond what you hoped for, in HIS timing. 🙂 3 books. I can’t wait to read them. 🙂

    • June 12, 2013, 8:56 am   /  Reply

      And you have encouraged me as well, Jeanne. And congrats on finaling in the Frasier! You’ll be holding your book in your hands before long!

  11. June 12, 2013, 8:42 am   /  Reply

    Holy cow, Patricia. And here I was thinking five years waiting to get published was a trial! I like that you didn’t let go of the dream. I’ve been tempted to do that so many times, but God always pulls me back toward it. MANY blessings on your upcoming novel, and I hope you have a celebration party to end all celebration parties!!!

    • June 12, 2013, 8:59 am   /  Reply

      It’s funny how one year seems to flow into the next and then 33 years has gone by. I was doing a lot of other things in those years, and some years I didn’t write as much as others…life happens. It’s only been in the past 5 or 6 years that I’ve really grown as a writer, and I thank Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck and My Book Therapy for pointing me in the right direction.

      • June 12, 2013, 8:59 am   /  Reply

        Heather, hangth thou in there! It will happen.

  12. jennie atkins
    June 12, 2013, 9:16 am   /  Reply

    Boy can I relate, Pat. We can make our goal, we can devise our plans, and we can put everything into motion, but if its not God’s will it won’t happen. On the other hand, if it is, he more than abundantly blesses us! I am so thrilled for you and your journey!

    • June 12, 2013, 1:00 pm   /  Reply

      Jennie, I don’t know how many times I worked and finagled to meet an editor or agent and nothing. Thank goodness. I shudder to think if my earlier work had been published! And I know I’ll soon be reading one of your books.

  13. June 12, 2013, 9:31 am   /  Reply

    Pat, I loved reading more about your journey. I knew you’d been writing for awhile, but I didn’t realize how far back the dream stretched. You have perseverance and determination and that is awesome. And yay for God making your writing dream come true at just the right time…a three-book deal. YAY! I’m so glad I’ve been able to connect with you along the journey…not just because I think you’re super fun and a fabulous writer, but you have a LOT of wisdom to share. I feel blessed to have benefited from it. 🙂

    As for what God has taught me in times of waiting–well, I hope he’s taught me a little about waiting with grace and a lot about holding on to hope, too. It’s like my mom says a lot–“Patience isn’t just waiting. It’s waiting with a good attitude.”

    • June 12, 2013, 1:02 pm   /  Reply

      Your mom is so wise, Melissa! And I can’t wait to read your book, Made to Last!

  14. June 12, 2013, 10:12 am   /  Reply

    Amazing post Pat. I’m so glad you decided to keep at it. Can’t wait to grab your book in Barnes and Noble.

    • June 12, 2013, 1:06 pm   /  Reply

      Oh, Reba, you have always encouraged me. Thank you!

  15. June 12, 2013, 10:50 am   /  Reply

    Loved this post, Pat! Talk about waiting on the Lord…but He’s taught you much along the way and I thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. As far as patience, I used to have a sign that hung above my kitchen sink that read, “Lord, grant me patience, but hurry!!” Yep, that kind of sums me up. But He’s working on me. And He NEVER fails, as you know so well. So happy for your book deal. Congratulations and may many more book contracts come your way. Blessings!

    • June 12, 2013, 1:03 pm   /  Reply

      JoAnn, I love that saying over your kitchen sink! And thank you. Right now I’m enjoying your book, Day Dreams.

  16. June 12, 2013, 11:14 am   /  Reply

    Thanks for the encouraging post. There’s something to be said for staying busy while waiting. I’ve always heard you should never pray for patience or you will surely be tried! That doesn’t keep the trials away. The ones who go through those (with grace) seem to have the best things to say. God bless you as you continue your journey.

    • June 12, 2013, 1:07 pm   /  Reply

      Thank you, Betty. Yes, I’m very careful what I ask God for…He might give it to me. 🙂

  17. June 12, 2013, 11:16 am   /  Reply

    Pat, I am so thankful that we’ve been able to walk along the writing road together. I admire your gracious, quiet spirit — and how you trust the Lord, no matter what.

    • June 12, 2013, 1:05 pm   /  Reply

      Oh, my! I forgot to say earlier–Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Beth!! Praying for you and Jeanne about the fires.

  18. June 12, 2013, 12:28 pm   /  Reply

    Life isn’t going according to plan right now. My plan. I trust that it’s His.

    At the moment, I’m dealing with withdrawal from the narcotic painkillers that helped control the rather extreme pain from a probably lethal illness. The meds were losing their effectiveness – and causing more pain when I took them.

    So I’ve stopped. I’ll deal with the pain on my own.

    Withdrawal is hell. Fatigue unrelieved by rest, nervousness, and all sorts of other nasties that make each day a trial. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s small and distant.

    And the underlying condition is still there. One sometimes doesn’t know where to turn.

    And that, dear friends, is where one truly comes to the place of surrender. This is where you literally fall on your face before the Lord.

    Thy will be done.

    Sorry if I got off topic – or maybe I didn’t. Your place to judge, guys. But thanks for listening.

    • Jenny Gregory
      June 14, 2013, 10:14 am   /  Reply

      Andrew, I am very sorry to read about your chronic pain and will be praying along with Pat for you. I am praying that God will cause your withdrawl to go quickly and will bring about healing. I read the following verses this morning in my time with Him, and thought I would share. Hope today is a good day!

      “Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

  19. June 12, 2013, 1:08 pm   /  Reply

    Oh, Andrew, I’ll keep you in my prayers. So sorry for your pain.

  20. June 12, 2013, 2:52 pm   /  Reply

    Yours is a great story of perseverance. I was fascinated with how your faith, your desire and your quiet, relaxed, settled, “I just can’t quit” determination worked together as God brought about the fulfillment of your dream. Your graceful waiting is instructive to me.

    • June 12, 2013, 3:33 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks, Dave. Sometimes it wasn’t so quiet and relaxed. 🙂

  21. June 12, 2013, 2:57 pm   /  Reply

    Inspirational Blog. Patricia is so right. As a child, I wrote all the time and I wanted to publish my own book. Over the years I forgotten about my dream. 25 years later, I found it again. God needs to tweak us to how He needs us to be.

  22. June 12, 2013, 3:34 pm   /  Reply

    I’m so glad you found your dream again, Brooke!

  23. Roxanne Sherwood Gray
    June 12, 2013, 5:15 pm   /  Reply

    Pat, I’m so glad you didn’t give up on your dream. I can’t wait to read your books–all three of them!

    Beth, this is a fun series. I’m really enjoying your guest authors here. Thanks!

    • June 12, 2013, 6:23 pm   /  Reply

      Thank you, Roxanne. And I know one day I’ll be reading your books!

  24. June 12, 2013, 6:35 pm   /  Reply

    I’m so inspired by this post, Pat.

    I thought God told me to write a book 10 years ago, so I did. When I started passing it out to friends and sending it to publishers, I wish God had told me to stop. It was awful, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was just thrilled to have a completed manuscript.

    I’m grateful you didn’t give up. It gives me hope that my shelved pages (once they are heavily edited) might eventually find a book cover. Thank you for passing along hope.

    • June 12, 2013, 8:57 pm   /  Reply

      Kim, don’t give up! Keep writing. I rewrote Shadows of the Past for 5 years.

  25. June 12, 2013, 8:50 pm   /  Reply

    Good things come to those who wait! 🙂

    • June 12, 2013, 8:57 pm   /  Reply

      Yes, they do! Thanks for stopping by Patricia!

  26. Peggy Morrison
    June 12, 2013, 8:55 pm   /  Reply

    Hi Pat!!
    I’m so happy to know a. real. author!!! It’s interesting to watch the process!! And I must say, it’s more involved than I ever dreamed!!! I can’t wait to be part of a book signing. How many times do we have to be told that God wants more for us more than we can ever imagine!!!! Thank you for your testimony and friendship!!

    • June 13, 2013, 6:50 am   /  Reply

      Oh, Peggy, thank you so much for stopping by. Yes, you will definitely be pulled into duty during the book signing!

  27. June 13, 2013, 6:05 am   /  Reply

    Pat, thanks for sharing encouragement. Waiting for things to happen is not easy, but I’ve also been finding out that it’s really all a matter of timing. His timing. Like you I’ve scratched my head wondering ‘why God are you taking so long?’ but just this year I stopped because I realized that by questioning His timing I wasn’t getting the waiting thing. And interestingly, I see things happening these past few months that never happened before. Praise God in all His glory!

    May you be blessed with a beautiful readership that love your novels.

    • June 13, 2013, 6:51 am   /  Reply

      A couple of years ago, I stopped fighting the waiting and the journey became so much more enjoyable. Thanks for stopping by Elaine. You are such a blessing!

  28. Jenny Gregory
    June 13, 2013, 2:53 pm   /  Reply

    Pat, I loved reading your testimony of God’s faithfulness and good plan!! I’m so glad you pointed out verse 7 ~ trusting His timing makes the difference in hanging in there sometimes. I’m so thankful for all God used you for in the lives of our students in those years of waiting. It is a great reminder that He is not just building patience, but wanting to accomplish great things through us in the wait.

    I’m so excited to read all three of your books! God was so good to give you three times what you had hoped for when you waited on Him!! I hadn’t really thought of that before. Continuing to pray for His work through you!!


    • June 26, 2013, 7:06 am   /  Reply

      Oh, Jenny, Thank you! I truly appreciate that you are willing to read my books even though you don’t like suspense stories! That is true friendship. 🙂

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