When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan: Guest Post with Author JoAnn Durgin

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 third 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 my friend, author JoAnn Durgin.


While I didn’t have a so-called “plan” for my life, I had a few aspirations when I was younger: graduate from college (check), get a good job in a fabulous city (double check, in Dallas, Texas), travel to Europe (check), and hopefully one day find the man of God’s choosing, get married and start a family.

Yes, all those things happened, but I’ll say this: the Lord kept it interesting with many unexpected twists and turns along the way! Perhaps the best example of “when life doesn’t go according to plan” is my personal love story with my husband, Jim (with sincere apologies for the bullet points). Hold on tight ‘cause you might get a little dizzy …

●Met Susan through a mutual friend and immediately recognized her as the woman behind the friendly “voice” from a courier service my law firm often used.

●Susan and her fiancé, Marshall (a Dallas Seminary student), set me up on a blind date. They prayed about the guy they wanted me to meet. Both came up with … Jim Durgin. He’d sworn off blind dates. I was resistant and skeptical. We went out with the group but later shared snacks and private conversation at TGI Friday’s for over three hours.

●First “real” date was a formal banquet. Jim wore a midnight blue tux—6’2”, dark, seriously handsome. When I heard his gorgeous tenor … infatuation! Then discovered I was his third date in as many nights. Okay, then …

●Went out as “just friends” for well over a year.

●Infamous “Red Lobster date.” Jim questioned my spiritual condition. I ran away. He was right; I was hurt. He attempted contact; I ignored.

●Jim traveled to Europe with a seminary singing group and wrote novels on postcards. He explained. I read, I cried and burned them (yes, I regret it).

●I slid my Mustang partially beneath a moving truck one morning. I walked away with glass hanging in my hair, but praising God for His protection.

●Joined a “Free to Be Thin” Christian diet group. I had the book but needed the workbook and remembered Jim worked at the seminary bookstore. Ordered the workbook and said, “Tell Jim I said hi.” Jim (“J.D.”) waited for me when I picked it up a week later. With that irresistible smile, handsome as ever.

●Dated for a few glorious weeks. Infatuation turned into love, but where could it lead? Jim invited me to his graduation. Even his parents couldn’t attend. I needed to go so he’d know someone was there for him. Huge church. Prayed and the Lord led me straight to him (helps that Jim’s tall). Against the odds, we decided to try dating long distance. One of the best evenings of my life!

●Unexpectedly lost my job at the law firm (the one thing keeping me in Dallas) the very next morning.
●Jim accepted a ministry job in Visalia, California. I moved back home for a few months.

●My Mom and I had already scheduled a European vacation. Lots of terrorism that year. We cancelled the trip last minute; another cancellation got us onboard a booked cruise ship.

● Met a woman and her two children on the ship … from Visalia, California.

●I’d always detested it when a woman “moved for a man,” but one phone call changed my perspective. The lady from the cruise ship? Her wonderful, generous husband offered me a job.

●Moved from Indiana to California.

●Engaged on Valentine’s Day 1987 in Carmel, California; “Anonymous” (and still anonymous 25 years later) paid for our engagement ring.

●Married on Jim’s birthday in September 1987 (he’s never forgotten his anniversary).

God’s plans are so much more imaginative and better than anything we can dream on our own. Many blessings, friends!  

When have God’s plans been more imaginative — and better — than anything you ever dreamed of?

When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan: Romance’s Wild Ride w/ Author JoAnn Durgin Click to Tweet.

Author JoAnn Durgin talks about romance & life not going according to plan: Did yours? Click to Tweet

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JoAnn is the author of The Lewis Legacy Series published by Torn Veil Books and Meet Me Under the Mistletoe from Pelican Group/White Rose Publishing. A full-time estate administration paralegal and member of the ACFW, she lives with her husband, Jim, and three children in southern Indiana. Visit her atwww.joanndurgin.com or at Author JoAnn Durgin on Facebook.

When Life Doesn’t Go According To Plan Goodie Basket Rafflecopter Giveaway: I’m putting together a collection of goodies — including books by Rachel Hauck, Deb Raney, and Cynthia Ruchti — & the reader-suggested chocolates, a journal, a Starbucks card … and more. Click on the Rafflecopter link to enter. 

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  1. April 24, 2013, 1:27 am   /  Reply

    Stayed up late so I could be the first to comment, JoAnn. 🙂 Enjoyed your love story and I’ve got a dozen questions I’d ask over coffee, so I hope you’re turning this into a book. I hung onto every bullet point.

    I relate to your regret about burning the postcards. I threw away cards/letters from my husband when I thought our tough times wouldn’t end. Wish I hadn’t, but somehow it helps to know I’m not the only one.

    Thanks for sharing in a funny, honest way your relationship and your unplans.

  2. April 24, 2013, 5:17 am   /  Reply

    Kim, so glad you enjoyed it. I’d love nothing better than to sit and chat over a cup of coffee. It’s a rainy morning here and I’m sipping some now, as a matter of fact…trying to get the energy to prepare for another day in the office. Feel free to ask me anything, anytime (FB is great for that, isn’t it?). Actually, I wanted to tell you the core characters in my Lewis Legacy Series, Sam (Lewis) and Lexa (Clarke), very closely mirror Jim and me. There are a number of instances in the first book, Awakening, that parallel our love story and lives and even one that really did happen (although Lexa took it to the extreme). Lexa’s “Nana” is my grandmother, and the character of Lexa’s dad is based on my dad, as well. My debut novel is the book of my heart because I lived and experienced so much of it. Thanks again, Kim, and blessings on your day!

    • April 24, 2013, 9:49 pm   /  Reply

      Wouldn’t it be wild if sharing over coffee really did happen, JoAnn? After reading your post, I think anything’s possible.

      Any idea who may have paid for your engagement ring? How kind on their part and how special for y’all. Love those sorts of stories. Great post!

      • April 25, 2013, 5:01 am   /  Reply

        Kim, we have an idea because we can only remember a few individuals whom we told where we even found the ring. Most likely, it was an older woman who doted on Jim and was in his first church there in Visalia, CA. She had two sons who’d married and moved to other states. She was kind, generous and very loving…she’s also long since graduated into glory. I’ll always believe in my heart she was the one, but for whatever reason, we also believed she wanted to keep it anonymous. Rest in peace, Marjorie. Thanks for asking, Kim!

        • April 25, 2013, 10:20 pm   /  Reply

          So beautiful, JoAnn. Generosity is such a gift.

  3. April 24, 2013, 5:46 am   /  Reply

    After reading your romance “wild ride,” I’m tempted to write out my own love story with my husband and use bullets, just like you did. Could be fun. Thanks for sharing your story today, JoAnn! 🙂

    • April 24, 2013, 6:11 am   /  Reply

      You should, Beth! I loved the bio blurb on the back of your book re: your “plans” in terms of a guy you didn’t really want to marry. I’m sure you know what I mean. You should write your own story (even with those bullets, which sounds kind of weird, huh?). I’m sure it’d be a thrill ride!!

  4. April 24, 2013, 5:56 am   /  Reply

    Great story, JoAnn! And great to know it’s reflected in your writing. The coincidence of the cruise ship encounter is the kind of thing only God could do…and the kind editors would say, “Are readers going to believe that?” when they see it in a book! 🙂 He does above and beyond our imaginations, and proves it every day. The list is so long of times I wanted to leave the house early for errands, but was prevented by something I thought was an irritation, and instead rejoiced because the delay put me in just the right place at just the right time. Even having to wait for a train has proven to be part of His divine purposes. What a blessed life…even in the hardships!

    • April 24, 2013, 6:14 am   /  Reply

      Agreed, Cynthia. My cousin had a meeting scheduled in the World Trade Towers late morning on 9/11 (yes, THAT 9/11) but her flight leaving Louisville was delayed. God’s providence. And yes, my mom said I actually squealed when she told me about the lady and her kids from Visalia onboard the cruise ship (she met them first and then introduced me). As I told Kim, you can’t make this stuff up! It’s a cliche, but truth IS sometimes stranger than fiction, eh? Many blessings to you!

  5. April 24, 2013, 6:36 am   /  Reply

    I really enjoyed reading the so obviously God-orchestrated life appointments–definitely better than fiction. Thanks, JoAnn, and yes, Beth, you should write up yours–in bullet points or otherwise.

    • April 24, 2013, 3:03 pm   /  Reply

      Hi Dr. Topliff! Smile. Nice to “see” you again, as always. Yes, Beth should write her story. I’ve heard a little of it, but would love to hear even more. Thanks for leaving a comment and many blessings!

  6. April 24, 2013, 6:42 am   /  Reply

    I love real life love stories! (Big surprise, right?) Yours is one of the best! God was clearly pushing you two together while arranging all the pieces.

    Like Beth, it makes me want to write the story of how my husband and I met. The night of our first date was the same day my husband received his visa paperwork to move to Canada… needless to say, those plans got changed!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • April 24, 2013, 2:37 pm   /  Reply

      Carla, I often say it was almost as if God was playing chess and moving the pieces around on the board to bring us together, if that makes any sense whatsoever, LOL. Sounds like you have quite a love story, too, and I’d encourage you to write it down! Looking forward to your upcoming post.

  7. April 24, 2013, 6:54 am   /  Reply

    I loved reading your story, JoAnn! I’m thankful that God gave me something better than what I imagined–my husband. I thought I was bound to marry someone else. 🙂

    • April 24, 2013, 2:38 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks so much, Jessica, and I’m happy the Lord led you to the “right” guy for YOUR heart. Actually, a few years before all this happened in Dallas, I thought there WAS another guy for me…but that’s another story in itself! Many blessings.

  8. April 24, 2013, 7:15 am   /  Reply

    JoAnn, what a great story! I’m a sucker for romance thwarted and re-ignited. 🙂 My first “formal” date with my husband was to a wedding–in which he was a groomsman. Our romance was long distance–into the first five weeks of our marriage. He lived in Las Vegas and I lived in Victorville, CA. I wouldn’t have chosen long-distance, but it really taught us how to talk and cherish time we did have together. God gave me so much more in my honey than I ever thought to ask for from God.

    BTW, I love the verse you shared at the top!

    • April 24, 2013, 2:40 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks, Jeanne! Thanks for stopping and sharing a bit of your story. I loved hearing about your first formal date with your husband…weddings can be great in many ways and so romantic. Sigh. Long distance romances can be tough, but sometimes they DO work out, as you certainly proved. The verse from Jeremiah is used so often at this time of year for graduations and weddings, but it seemed more than appropriate. Beth added the yellow rose, which is on the cover of Awakening (my debut novel with characters mirroring Jim and me and parts of our love story), so it was perfect!

  9. April 24, 2013, 7:20 am   /  Reply

    Oh fun to see all the twists and turns in your romance, JoAnn!

    • April 24, 2013, 2:41 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks, Melissa. Still looking forward to reading your love story one of these days and your post next week!! And your debut novel in September–Yay!

  10. Emma
    April 24, 2013, 7:37 am   /  Reply

    I like reading your story.

    • April 24, 2013, 2:41 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read it and comment, Emma! Many blessings to you!

  11. April 24, 2013, 7:46 am   /  Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story JoAnn. I loved the bullet points!

    • April 24, 2013, 2:42 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Stacy. Yeah, I really didn’t like to use bullet points, but it seemed the easiest way to list the events! Blessings.

  12. Cheryl Jenkins
    April 24, 2013, 7:53 am   /  Reply

    What a great romantic story. I pray your love story never ends. Thank you for sharing!

    • April 24, 2013, 2:42 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks, Cheryl (she works with me and is one of my “rocks”). Blessings, sweet friend!!

  13. Katie Beth
    April 24, 2013, 8:18 am   /  Reply

    Loved the bullet points! Loved your story! 🙂 I enjoy hearing others’ love stories, it always makes me think of why each couples story is unique. Thanks for sharing!

    • April 24, 2013, 2:44 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks, Katie Beth! BTW, if this is “the” Katie Beth (as in Beth’s sweet daughter), I loved seeing your beautiful photos posted by your proud mama! Feel like I’m sharing in your joy a little vicariously. Many blessings to you.

  14. April 24, 2013, 8:31 am   /  Reply

    Thanks so much, everyone. Please know I’m at work (shhh) or I’d respond personally to each of you. I’ve read all your comments and appreciate each one so much. Yes, each love story is so unique. May I say I love hearing YOUR comments about your own stories. So inspiring and God is so good to us in so many ways!! Melissa, still praying for you and Tim (if I should be praying for someone else, please let me know). Blessings, friends.

  15. April 24, 2013, 8:33 am   /  Reply

    P.S. I should also add that the one other “key” ingredient from our love story NOT mentioned in this blog (believe it or not–a bullet point just didn’t seem “right” somehow) is the inspiration for my Christmas novella (photo shown here). If you read the synopsis on Amazon, you’ll see yet another part of our love story and how I knew (before I left Dallas) Jim WAS the one God intended for me. God is sooooo awesome!! Now, back to work…

  16. April 24, 2013, 10:22 am   /  Reply

    Thanks so much, Beth, for letting us get to JoAnn! What a great post and fun facts. For me…well, let’s just put it this way, if life had gone according to my plan, it wouldn’t be nearly as life-giving and soul refreshing or outright adventurous as this journey God lays before me. SuhWEEET!!

    • April 24, 2013, 2:45 pm   /  Reply

      Hi Donna, and thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. And I am in total agreement with your words!! Amen.

  17. April 24, 2013, 10:27 am   /  Reply

    Last year at this time, I prayed to be able to meet at least one Navajo person who’d be willing to talk about their history, because I’d started a book about The Long Walk.
    And this is where the “God’s imaginative plans” gets crazy.
    I have a dear friend named Karen, she is Native American. She is a missionary to our M’iqmaq people. Karen listened to my questions about being sensitive to Native Americans in fiction. She had some great advice, and an invitation.
    Was God in this? Yuh huh! How else could a Canadian, who writes about the Navajo, living in New Brunswick meet a Mohawk/Oneida/Tuscarora Indian from Oklahoma with family in Arizona who have Navajo connections all over the Southwest?
    BUT, Karen and her sister could ONLY go in July
    BUT my husband has spent EVERY July away from home (for work) for almost 16 years. His budget got cut.

    He was home all of July.

    I was away.

    In Arizona. And New Mexico. Talking to Navajo people who only, and I mean ONLY, spoke to me, because they knew Karen and her sister.

    God is good. 🙂

    • April 24, 2013, 2:46 pm   /  Reply

      Hi Jennifer. Wow, what a story YOU have to tell! I just love how the Lord works things out according to His plans, not ours. He is indeed awesome! Many blessings.

  18. Teresa
    April 24, 2013, 12:17 pm   /  Reply

    God is so awesome. He sometimes speaks to us in unusual ways; you wonder if He is laughing as He sets the stage to confirm what He wants us to do

    • April 24, 2013, 2:47 pm   /  Reply

      Hi Teresa! I know without a DOUBT that God has a huge sense of humor. And yes, I believe he laughs. I actually have my core character in my book series, Sam Lewis, say something very similar to that (I think in the end of the third book). Many blessings to you!

  19. April 24, 2013, 1:24 pm   /  Reply

    I have enjoyed you books. Love reading your story. I have not read this one yet but sure do plan on it. Keep up the great writing.
    [email protected]

    • April 24, 2013, 2:48 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks, as always, for stopping by Diana, my sweet friend. Glad you were able to get a little of the “behind the scenes” story. Many blessings.

  20. April 24, 2013, 4:23 pm   /  Reply

    Love your story. And I’ve discovered on more that one time, God has a great sense of humor. Look forward to reading your books!

    • April 25, 2013, 2:09 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks, Patricia! I appreciate your stopping by. Yes, God does indeed have a GREAT sense of humor. I’m convinced of it! I hope you’ll get the opportunity to read one of my books soon. Blessings.

  21. April 24, 2013, 5:06 pm   /  Reply

    Loved reading your love story, JoAnn! It’s so encouraging for a 25 year old single woman like myself. Sometimes… ok, ALL the time… learning patience is my least favorite thing in the world. I know it will pay off in the end, but the ‘meantime’ of things drives me crazy. God’s heard me complaining a whole lot more than I’m proud of, but I always learn from it. He’s always teaching me something, for which I’m so, so grateful. It’s encouraging to see someone else went through patience-training, too. Thanks for sharing your amazing story!


    • April 25, 2013, 2:13 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks so much, Andrea, and I’m happy I could encourage you! I was 27 when I married and almost 30 when our first daughter, Sarah, was born (we have three children). Sorry to say, I still struggle with patience, though; it’s perhaps my biggest struggle. When we lived in the Boston area, I had a sign hanging in my kitchen that read, “God grant me patience, but hurry!” That pretty much summed it up for me. Smile. As long as we’re teachable, that’s the main thing. I hope you might get a chance to read Awakening. The heroine, Lexa, is pretty much me (to the extreme, though). Many blessings!

      • May 1, 2013, 9:29 am   /  Reply

        JoAnn, I’m glad I’ve met you. You seem like a fun person who’s learned a lot–and willing to share what you’ve learned! I read a verse this past weekend that reminded me why I’m going through ‘patience lessons’. 2 Peter 3:9a says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” That tells me my perception of slowness is off kilter, and the Lord’s timing is on a different plane than mine. Ever since I read that verse on Sunday, I’ve been filled with peace. It’s almost like–no, it IS that I am finally coming to realize and understand that I don’t HAVE to have my husband-to-be in my life right this minute. God’s got other things for me to do and learn and share right now, while I’m single. I’ve known that in my brain for the last several years, but I’m so glad my heart’s finally catching up! God is so good! His timing is perfect, and I’m so thankful He’s patient with me in the meantime. I’ll try to track down a copy of Awakening when my budget allows me to do so. I’m eager to read it! Do you have a Facebook page, so we can keep in touch?


        • May 7, 2013, 4:02 am   /  Reply

          I’m so glad we’ve “met” too, Andrea! And even happier you found my FB page so we can keep in touch. I hope you enjoy Awakening at some point in the future! Many blessings to you and thanks for sharing.

  22. April 24, 2013, 5:31 pm   /  Reply

    JoAnn, I’m thankful you leapt over your obstacles! Troubles are not easy, whether small or large. You’ve come out not only strong but an amazing encourager and a sweetheart of a woman.

    • April 25, 2013, 2:14 pm   /  Reply

      Me, too, Elaine (the leaping part…smile). I sincerely appreciate your very kind and gracious words. Many blessings.

  23. April 24, 2013, 7:30 pm   /  Reply

    I enjoyed your CliffsNotes romance novel. It was touch and go there for a while. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out 🙂 Seriously, it was a fun flyover of your personal story. You did a great job covering a lot of ground while keeping me right in the flow of things. And a sense of divine planning certainly emerged!

    • April 25, 2013, 2:08 pm   /  Reply

      You have me laughing. Thanks, Dave. You’re exactly right – this is the Cliff Notes version. Had to keep within a respectable word count, after all! Thanks for dropping by and your comment. Looking forward to your upcoming post. Many blessings.

  24. Deborah Raney
    April 25, 2013, 10:53 am   /  Reply

    Real life love stories…the very best kind. So glad God’s plans are always superior.

    • April 25, 2013, 2:15 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks, Deb. As I’ve said, you can’t make this stuff up! Readers probably wouldn’t “buy” it as being true-to-life in a fictional version, but God’s plans are definitely superior to ours. Well-stated. Looking forward to your upcoming post!

  25. April 25, 2013, 7:28 pm   /  Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story, JoAnn. Life is certainly an interesting journey. And thanks, Beth for the series.

    As for me, I’ve learned to keep ‘the plan’ more of a rough sketch.

  26. Shirley Blanchard
    April 26, 2013, 3:11 pm   /  Reply

    Oh my gosh JoAnn when you said Awakening was like you and Jim i just didnt know how much, wow reading this was just yes yes yes i see it. all i can say is wow. would love to meet your jim and of course you my dear friend

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