In Others’ Words: Making Plans (Guest post by Author Cynthia Ruchti)

One of the pieces of “sage” wisdom—which is different from hunter green or celadon, as we all know, and not even close to kiwi—that I give young moms is “Write your schedule on your calendar in pencil. That way it won’t be so annoying when you have to erase it because of the kids’ flu/ear infection/pink eye/head lice/field trip/allergy appointment/soccer tournament/snow day.”

I usually say it in fewer words, but the point is that I got in the habit early: Consider everything written in pencil, because it rarely stays the way you thought it would.

We planned for our first much-needed week-long vacation with our one-year-old daughter at a family-friendly but rustic resort on a northwoods lake that had enough beach for me and enough fish for my husband. The darling one-year-old developed a fever so high that we spent the first night of the vacation in the northwoods emergency room, packed up the cabin the second day, drove home sponging the still-fevered child, visited our hometown emergency room, and gave up anything that looked remotely like rest or sleep until her dangerously high fever finally broke and the virus wandered off.

As any work-at-home mom will tell you, when a husband leaves for work asking, “What do you plan to do today, honey?” the woman is tempted to answer, “What does it matter? Something will come up to change those plans. I can tell you what I hope to get done today. Check in later to see how that went.”

After a way too long battle with Lyme disease and a ten-day hospitalization for high-powered antibiotics every four hours around the clock, I came home prepared to restart my life. Lyme disease had stolen so much of it for the previous three years. At my post-hospitalization check-up, the doctor asked how I was feeling. “Strange,” I said, swallowing hard. “I think I’m pregnant.” Many of the Lyme disease symptoms remained and were now joined by tell-tale morning sickness.

Eight and a half months later, our third child was born…nine years after our second child. At one point we had two teens and a toddler in the same house. Pencil. Write everything in pencil.

I’m logging my schedule in my smartphone these days. For some reason, hitting delete isn’t as painful as wearing out an eraser. But over time I came to see that the unplanned can be as huggable as a newborn with my artistic side and my husband’s dreamy eyes.

There’s almost always something to embrace in the unplanned. A new adventure. A soul-challenge that turns out to be soul-strengthening. A story to tell. A reason to cling all the harder to the God who is never surprised.

 What have you found to embrace in the unplanned? 

When have you embraced the unplanned? Click to Tweet 

Don’t write your plans in indelible ink. Click to Tweet

Access the entire “When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan” guest blog series Click to Tweet 


Cynthia Ruchti pro photo Ruchti’s release, When the Morning Glory Blooms, is a novel of three eras of stories born from the unplanned, and embraceable grace found in the tangles. You can connect with her and learn about her other books and upcoming projects at or



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  1. September 9, 2013, 7:11 am   /  Reply

    Cynthia, what a beautiful post. I loved your line, “There’s almost always something to embrace in the unplanned.” When the unplanned enters into my life, I do find aspects of it to embrace, if I’ll look for it.

    In some of the unplanned events in my life, I have found that God meets me in them, revealing more of Himself to me. This new understanding of who He is in the unplanned is what I come to embrace. He is always faithful. 🙂

    • September 9, 2013, 10:19 am   /  Reply

      Something to embrace. So true. So easy to forget when we’re in the middle of it!

      • September 9, 2013, 12:19 pm   /  Reply

        Wise words, Jeanne — and a great reminder to be willing to look for God in the midst of the unplanned events in our lives.

  2. September 9, 2013, 7:27 am   /  Reply

    That part about writing your schedule out in pencil…oh boy, do I resonate. 🙂 I love this post, Cynthia. I feel like in the past year especially God has been reminding me that His plans and my plans for my life don’t always match up…but His are always, always better. Sometimes I don’t see how until hindsight, but the awesomeness of his plan and timing are always clear eventually. Have a couple “unplanned” things going on in my life right now…good things, but unplanned…and, yeah, I’m embracing them…even though there’s a twinge of “Uh, really, God?” going on at the same time. LOL!

    • September 9, 2013, 10:21 am   /  Reply

      Melissa, the beautiful part of your, “Oh, really, God?” is the word God. Even when life is in upheaval, the act of turning our faces toward God with our wondering is acknowledging Him as the Source from which we will draw strength, answers, or both. 🙂

      • September 9, 2013, 12:20 pm   /  Reply

        Melissa: I’m learning to kneel before God even as I pray “Uh, really, God?” Submission in the midst of surprise, confusion … whatever the unplanned moments create … it’s an act of the will.

  3. Alena Tauriainen
    September 9, 2013, 8:39 am   /  Reply

    Wow. Write it in pencil. So. Very. True. I’m getting better at learning to embrace the unplanned. Not there yet, but definitely trying!

    • September 9, 2013, 10:23 am   /  Reply

      Alena, if you’re like me, the more we practice that, the more “natural” it will seem. I often use the illustration of carving a path of hope in our lives. When the floods come, the water rushes first down that carved path of hope. The same is true, I believe, with trusting when things go askew. If we’re practiced at trusting, soon that’s where our thoughts will more naturally flow when the…um…dam breaks! But, Alena, you live that out day to day so beautifully already. Others of us are standing in the wings applauding!

      • September 9, 2013, 12:21 pm   /  Reply

        The funny thing is, Alena, I love Sharpies and hate pencils. But I’m learning to set aside those permanent markers and be willing to let God rewrite my plans.
        And Cynthia, I love your comment of “carving a path of hope.”

  4. September 9, 2013, 10:16 am   /  Reply

    “There’s almost always something to embrace in the unplanned.”

    Disappointment is God’s appointment…
    Life happens while you’re making other plans…
    Write your plans in pencil because you’re a pencil in God’s hand, right?

    Our move from Georgia to Florida was not in my plans… at all. Neither was discovering I could never have children. But it was in Florida where we adopted our daughter. And when we moved back to Georgia, we adopted our son. Both miracle stories. I never would have imagined the joy–and deep, deep pain raising those children would bring. Neither could I dream of how it all would change me and how I would be sitting here today back in the old Michigan farmhouse my husband grew up in, claiming a dream because of the unplanned.

    • September 9, 2013, 12:22 pm   /  Reply

      I so appreciate your honesty today — and how you shared both the pain and the beauty of the unplanned in your life and how you claimed the “dream” of the unplanned.

    • September 9, 2013, 3:25 pm   /  Reply

      Sandra! Your story swept over me like a big, beautiful wave bringing with it a fresh way of looking at what seems so disappointing on the surface! What a stirring story! Thank you for sharing it. “Claiming a dream because of the unplanned.” God, thank You.

  5. Roxanne Sherwood Gray
    September 9, 2013, 10:39 am   /  Reply

    Cynthia, I could have written this, though not as brilliantly. Great advice. BTW, I begin conversations about schedules with: “Pencil me in for … “

    • September 9, 2013, 11:35 am   /  Reply

      Pencil me in! I know sometimes we walk a tightrope of being intentional, making sure people know they aren’t a lesser priority and we’ll meet with them if nothing better comes up. 🙂 But in a way, the penciling is a prayer. Lord willing, we will go here and there, the Bible says. For a while, I actually wrote LW on my calendar blocks. “Lunch with Carol, LW (Lord willing).”

      • September 9, 2013, 12:23 pm   /  Reply

        Hhhmmm … I may have to start using the phrase “Pencil me in …” and see it as a prayer, an act of submission to God’s unplanned in my life.

  6. Andrea Cox
    September 9, 2013, 8:15 pm   /  Reply

    Great to have a reprise of this one, Beth! I’ve been writing my schedule in pencil for years now. Tutoring times often switch around on me, so being able to erase is a necessity. I’m discovering with my writing, it’s the same way.


    • September 9, 2013, 9:42 pm   /  Reply

      Indeed, Cynthia’s post is one of my all-time favorites. She is a wise woman!

      • September 17, 2013, 9:23 am   /  Reply

        Thanks, both of you. Today’s “in ink” schedule says fly home. Today’s unexpected was a horrible sore throat and head congestion. Won’t this be an adventure!

  7. September 9, 2013, 8:41 pm   /  Reply

    I learned a long time ago that nothing is written in stone…except maybe the 10 Commandments. Keep plenty of pencils around…and erasers. Great post, Cynthia!

    • September 9, 2013, 9:43 pm   /  Reply

      Love your wit-wrapped wisdom, Pat!

    • September 9, 2013, 9:56 pm   /  Reply

      And even the Ten Commandments had to be rewritten! 🙂 Different reason.

  8. September 9, 2013, 10:42 pm   /  Reply

    Well, I didn’t plan to lose my teaching job…

    …but if I hadn’t, Labby the Labrador and Dukee the Pit Bull and Josie and Reebok the Ridgebacks and Bella the Wheelchair Dog would now be fertilizer. If I had still been a professor, I would not have met them…and they were all in extremis. I was their last best hope.

    Think I’ll go and embrace them, and give academia another Bronx cheer!

    • September 10, 2013, 6:42 am   /  Reply

      Andrew, interesting perspective on how our detours can become an answer for somehow else, not just ourselves!

  9. September 10, 2013, 7:50 am   /  Reply

    Oh, Cynthia, what a great perspective … and they need to put bigger erasers on the ends of those pencils!

    • September 10, 2013, 10:26 am   /  Reply

      Keeping our sense of humor when we have to pull out the mega-sized eraser is so important, Anne!

  10. September 10, 2013, 8:38 am   /  Reply

    How about using invisible ink–made from lemon juice or some other mysterious agent. Then the schedule only actually appears if/when we want it to, and only if we apply heat.

    • September 10, 2013, 10:28 am   /  Reply

      Hmmm. “Only if we apply heat.” Can’t you just see Jesus taking a blow dryer to our calendars?

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