When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan: Guest Post Author Deborah Raney

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 fifth 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, best-selling author Deborah Raney.

Oh, how grateful I am that life doesn’t always go as I planned it. God’s plans are always infinitely better. I’m a very creative person, but I could never have come up with the things God has brought about in my life. Never.
For starters, I wanted twelve kids. What was I thinking? God gave us three, and most days, three seemed like 12. Then when those three were 14, 10 and 8, God gave us a baby. We call her our “oops baby” but we know better. There’s nothing “oopsy” about her. And she’s been the joy of our lives––as have her sister and brothers.
The biggest plan of mine that God thwarted was my plan that my sweet husband would work at his job until a ripe, ripe old age and that we would always have his nice salary and a decent savings account to rely on. Just over four years ago––just as that oops baby was headed to college––my husband came home from work at ten o’clock one morning (never a good thing) and informed me that he’d been laid off from his job after 25 faithful years with the company. Ken took me in his arms and said, “God’s been taking care of us for 35 years of marriage…there’s no reason to think He’s going to stop now.” I believed that. What I didn’t believe was that my husband would have the audacity to tell me he didn’t plan to look for another job, but instead he thought God was leading him to create the job of his dreams by starting his own business. Was he crazy? And how come God didn’t tell ME?
We struggled mightily with this disagreement. Biggest struggle of our marriage in 35 years. Finally I decided I couldn’t fight my husband, let alone God and my husband in tandem. So I said, “whatever, Lord.” (And yes, I mean that snarky teenage version of “whatever.”) The story is too long to tell in a blog, but let me just skip over the part where I was a whiny, unsupportive brat of a wife, and tell you the ending…or the ending so far. Who knows what else God has up His sleeve!
Ken’s graphic design business, Clash Creative, has so much work he can barely keep up. We have managed to pay every bill on time and in full. In the meantime, because we both work from home now, and make our own hours, Ken is free to travel with me. He’s even started teaching workshops at several writers conferences, so we now go on 5 or 6 most-expenses-paid “vacations” every year and enjoy our time together immensely. Yes, they are working vacations, but still…
Just after Christmas last year, God’s plan unfolded with a move for us. We sold our home (in a bidding war!) and bought a house in the city that’s perfect for us––and closer to our kids and extended family; closer to the airport (and four minutes from Starbucks!) This farmer’s daughter small-town girl never would have planned to be a city girl. And yet, I love it!
But beyond those plans, God had some even better ones. That I would, through the angst of these life-changing events, come to trust in Him with a depth I never could have plumbed on my own. That Ken and I would have found a new intimacy in our marriage for having gone through these tough times. That I would have grown more sensitive to the needs of others who are walking where we’ve walked. That our story would serve as an encouragement to others. That I would learn to be content with far, far less––and even then, we live in luxury compared to most of the world.
I know my heart well enough to know that I’ll probably fail to trust God’s plans again, probably sooner than I even dream. But I’ve grown in Him so that even when I fail, I’ve learned to come running back to His arms far quicker than I used to. And His arms are a wonderful place to be.



DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Her books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Deb’s newest novel releases from Howard/Simon & Schuster this month. She and her husband, Ken Raney, recently traded small-town life in Kansas for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita. They also love traveling together to teach at conferences, and to visit four children and four small grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.


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  1. May 8, 2013, 2:29 am   /  Reply

    I appreciate reading how God’s plans have over and over turned out better than your own, Deb. Your post offers hope to lean on for every upcoming time (I know they’re coming) when I think I know best, but will find out once again I don’t. The final paragraph describes my fail-to-trust, run-to-him cycle to a T. Thankfully his memory isn’t as short as mine.

    Your quote is a wonderful one to ponder, ” … even when I fail, I’ve learned to come running back to His arms far quicker than I used to. And His arms are a wonderful place to be.”

    • May 8, 2013, 9:07 am   /  Reply

      “Thankfully his memory isn’t as short as mine.” That’s a wonderful truth! Thanks, Kim!

  2. May 8, 2013, 6:26 am   /  Reply

    Deb, your transparency in this post will be an encouragement to many, I know. It already has been to me. You are an amazing woman. I know you’ll try to deny that. But we both know it was God who made you amazing, who held you and holds you when life takes a dramatic turn, and who is using what was once distress to bless. Thanks for sharing this.

    • May 8, 2013, 9:06 am   /  Reply

      Cynthia, I just love you! Thank you for those words and for that truth that God gets ALL the credit for anything good or decent we ever manage to do.

  3. May 8, 2013, 7:16 am   /  Reply

    Deb, I loved reading your story. I’ve struggled with most of the big changes to my plan that God had in mind. Without exception, every one of His plans that differed from mine were so much better. Hearing how you learned to lean into His changes is encouraging. I seem to have to bump my head against his plans a few times before I can really embrace them.

    By the way, I loved this: “But beyond those plans, God had some even better ones. That I would, through the angst of these life-changing events, come to trust in Him with a depth I never could have plumbed on my own.”

    I’m so glad to get to know you a bit better!

    • May 8, 2013, 9:05 am   /  Reply

      You too, Jeanne! You know, I never saw myself as hard-headed, but I must be because I’m right there with you on having to bump my head before I come to my senses. 🙁

  4. May 8, 2013, 7:27 am   /  Reply

    Beautiful thoughts, Deb. Thanks for sharing! When we made our big move from LA to Denver (without a job or savings, just a lot of faith), we said those very words: “God’s never let us down. There’s no reason to believe He’ll start now.” And He has proven them out to us every day, in every way.

    • May 8, 2013, 9:03 am   /  Reply

      LA to Denver is hard enough. Through in “without a job or savings” and you have a formula that ONLY God could handle! So glad the Lord continues to provide every minute of every day.

      • May 8, 2013, 9:04 am   /  Reply

        Make that “throw in” (not “through in”) Sheesh! :}

  5. May 8, 2013, 7:50 am   /  Reply

    This whole post touched my heart, but oh, that last paragraph…I felt like I was reading my own words. Love, love it!

    My sister and brother-in-law and oh-so-adorable nephew Ollie live in Wichita! They moved there about six years ago. I never thought I’d become so familiar with the stretch of I-35 from Des Moines to Kansas. 🙂

    • May 8, 2013, 8:58 am   /  Reply

      Our youngest son used to live in Wichita, Melissa, so I know exactly which stretch of highway you’re talking about! Come and see me next time you’re here for a visit!

  6. May 8, 2013, 8:39 am   /  Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful post, Deb. Yes, God’s ways are infinitely better than ours. He has taken me on many “detours” in my life that have produced much fruit and sweetness in my life and I’m trusting Him through this one as well. The post was beautifully written and really spoke to me at the point I am in my life. I agree with Kim – the last paragraph was very powerful – and true!

    • May 8, 2013, 9:02 am   /  Reply

      Thanks for your encouraging words, Liz.

  7. May 8, 2013, 8:54 am   /  Reply

    Great & inspiring post. Thanks. I didn’t intend to be quite so involved w/ my beloved grandchildren as to have them here in my home half-time. While sorry for the circumstances, it is a heartwarming God-given investment opportunity.

    • May 8, 2013, 8:59 am   /  Reply

      I’m sure you are a wonderful blessing in their lives, too, Delores!

  8. Bernadette DesChamps
    May 8, 2013, 8:59 am   /  Reply

    It’s always encouraging to hear of God’s faithfulness when life takes a sharp left turn…and especially so when our attitudes veer off the road in the process. He is such a good Father…never leaves nor forsakes us. Never.

    I recognize your picture of not letting as much time pass before running back to the Lord. It has been the same for me over the years. As I’ve come to know Him more deeply – in and through so many of those left turns – I miss Him so much more quickly. His arms are where I always want to be.

    Thank you for your honest sharing. He is using all those things for good in your life and in ours as we’re encouraged by your testimony. Let’s all stay tucked in to His goodness!

    • May 8, 2013, 9:01 am   /  Reply

      Ah, what a beautiful way to put it, Bernadette: “I miss Him so much more quickly.” Would that we would always “miss Him” when we’re veering off His path for us.

  9. May 8, 2013, 10:02 am   /  Reply

    Wow!! What a great story!
    Sometimes I’m that brat who says to God “whatever” and has to learn the hard way. Lately I’ve gotten better at the “Yes, Father” responses. I posted a phrase on my blog yesterday that sums up the last ten years of life for me. “If I had known at 40 what the next ten years would bring? I’d have been stunned.”
    Good thing God can handle ‘stunned’.

    • May 8, 2013, 10:08 am   /  Reply

      “Good thing God can handle ‘stunned’.” Amen, Jennifer. Sometimes I wish for a peek into the future, but most of the time I think it’s a very good thing that we can only see the moments as they unfold.

      Meanwhile, I’m practicing: “Yes, Father. Yes, Father. Thy will be done. Yes, Father.”

  10. Shirley A Raney
    May 8, 2013, 10:17 am   /  Reply

    Dearest Deb (almost my daughter)

    What a tearful joy to read your message! I, too have been there and back and know the comfort of HIS ARMS and care and all the bad times have been worth the joy of knowing
    that HE cares and is there. I praise the Lord for allowing the discomfort of life to lead me
    to HIM and being able to REST in HIS CARE. I have watched you grow and it is truly
    beautiful to share it with you. May God always bless you and may your message help others
    but may it always lead us closer to our LORD.

    Love MOM

    • May 8, 2013, 10:42 am   /  Reply

      Dearest Mom,
      Thank you for raising the boy who turned into the wonderful man I married. I have been loved well, not just by Ken, but by the whole Raney family. I couldn’t feel more blessed to be your daughter-in-law.

      P.S. Looking forward to Mother’s Day brunch with you! 🙂

  11. May 8, 2013, 10:22 am   /  Reply

    Hi Deb. Thank you for blessing us today with your story! I always love to hear the stories behind the author. I find it interesting that three of our posts so far in this marvelous series have involved the loss of a job, something some would consider a lifeline of sorts. While I totally understand your reaction to Ken’s announcement (and, trust me, I would have reacted the same way!), I love HIS faith and confidence and look how it all worked out. God is such a Master Planner and seeing how He works out the details is one of the true joys of my life. So many blessings, and thank you for this wonderful post!! And P.S., I was thinking of contacting your husband re: some bookmarks, etc. Is he taking on any MORE work (no rush, by the way)? If so, if you’re willing, can you please post his website and/or e-mail address in case anyone else is interested? However, if he isn’t currently taking on new clients, well, praise the Lord for all the work!!

    • May 8, 2013, 10:46 am   /  Reply

      Thank you, JoAnn. And yes, Ken has said he will take any legitimate job God brings in the door! Somehow the Lord seems to multiply Ken’s hours to fit the work he’s given. He never has been one to sit and twiddle his thumbs. 🙂 You can contact him and see samples of his work via his website at http://www.kenraney.com. And thanks for asking!

      Also, for those of you who have teens and tweens, Ken runs a wonderful entertainment website for Christian teens, http://www.clashentertainment.com

      • May 8, 2013, 12:22 pm   /  Reply

        JoAnn, I’ve left a reply, but it’s awaiting moderation because it contains links. You can just type my husband’s name, Ken Raney, into google and you should easily find his website. It’s his name with dot com after it. 🙂

        • May 8, 2013, 2:25 pm   /  Reply

          Got it! Thank you so much. I’ll definitely check it out.

  12. May 8, 2013, 10:34 am   /  Reply

    Love it, Deb Raney!! Some day I will see you again and tell you the rest of my story. But a neuro-muscular illness was not in my plan. But oh how He crafts each life in a way to draw us ever closer to Him.


    • May 8, 2013, 1:03 pm   /  Reply

      Susan of the purple house! How wonderful to see you here! I know your journey has not been an easy one, but oh, how I love your attitude. And you!

  13. May 8, 2013, 10:35 am   /  Reply

    Thanks Deborah,
    Your life story is very inspiring and encouraging to read. But I have to say that the part that made the tears come was your last comment:
    “I know my heart well enough to know that I’ll probably fail to trust God’s plans again, probably sooner than I even dream. But I’ve grown in Him so that even when I fail, I’ve learned to come running back to His arms far quicker than I used to. And His arms are a wonderful place to be.”
    I continually fail at listen well to God and sometimes I do it only days after promising I would listen better. How I wish I could have the helicopter view of my life!! Thank you for your honesty and your transparent heart for Him.
    You are a blessing.

  14. May 8, 2013, 10:48 am   /  Reply

    Thanks so much, Jodi. You all are making it very easy to be transparent. (But don’t forget I “fast forwarded” through the part where I was a whiny, unsupportive brat of a wife. So I have a ways to go in being totally transparent. Maybe Ken can tell THAT story some day. Or not! 😉 )

  15. May 8, 2013, 10:56 am   /  Reply

    It’s great to hear your journey, Deborah

    • May 8, 2013, 1:03 pm   /  Reply

      It’s a privilege to share it, Teena.

  16. May 8, 2013, 11:10 am   /  Reply

    Deb, I’ve heard most of your story before, but loved reading it again. What a great reminder that when things aren’t going the way we thought or hoped they would, God is up to something – most times so much better than we could have thought or imagined.

    When I read about your “oops baby”, I couldn’t help but smile. Our son and daughter-in-law who live in Wichita have an “oops baby” on the way, due in October. Their other two children are now ages 10 and 9, and our daughter-in-law turned 39 in March. But after getting over the shock, they’re excited. And so are we.

    • May 8, 2013, 12:17 pm   /  Reply

      I LOVE “oops baby” stories, Teri! It seems nearly all the ones I know are blessings beyond anything we could plan. But yes, there IS that getting over the shock part! 😉

  17. May 8, 2013, 11:17 am   /  Reply

    What a touching post today. One thing we’ve learned is that when God asks us to make big changes and we know it’s from Him, we have to follow, otherwise we’ll be miserable. All the loose ends aren’t always tied up right away, or the way we want them to be, but in the end, we can look back and say “It was good.”

    • May 8, 2013, 12:19 pm   /  Reply

      I’ve always heard people say (usually in reference to missionaries going to dangerous places) “I’d rather be in the middle of God’s will in a danger zone, than out of his will in the safest place on earth.” So true. But yes, sometimes it takes perspective to be able to declare “it is good.” And I’m sure for some who are going through much darker valleys, it may take a heavenly perspective to say that.

  18. May 8, 2013, 12:29 pm   /  Reply

    When God whispered in my ear ‘Why will you offer to the Lord your God, something that costs you nothing’ he was talking about not one but two ‘oops babies – a 3 aand 4 year old brother and sister who came for 3 months and stayed for always. Our older 3 were 11,13 ad 15 and I had 3 books contracted, and the advances spent! It was a shock to the system! A long,long story but they blessed our lives immeasurably!

    • May 8, 2013, 1:04 pm   /  Reply

      Wow, Marion. I’m sure that was a shock. Definitely a “count the cost” moment. So thankful it turned out to be a blessing in your life.

  19. May 8, 2013, 12:44 pm   /  Reply

    Deb, I’m so thankful you agreed to blog this week. Thank you for so honestly sharing your story with us, and for showing us how God changed you when he changed your plans. (I have a “caboose” kiddo too. She was born when our first three were 17, almost 15, and 13. Quite a life-changer — and a huge unexpected blessing.) 🙂

    • May 8, 2013, 1:05 pm   /  Reply

      Beth, thank you for hosting me! I’ve loved this series. And I love your “oops” baby story.

  20. May 8, 2013, 12:56 pm   /  Reply

    Thanks for sharing with such transparency, Deb. You’re an encouragement to me!

    • May 8, 2013, 1:05 pm   /  Reply

      Carrie, that goes both ways. Thank YOU for all you do to encourage me and other authors.

  21. May 8, 2013, 12:58 pm   /  Reply

    I sat at a table with Deborah and Ken for lunch at the ACFW conference, and they were the neatest couple. Great to see her on your blog today.

  22. May 8, 2013, 1:06 pm   /  Reply

    Aww, thanks, Julie! Ken and I are better together than on our own. I remember that lunch and we totally enjoyed you!

  23. May 8, 2013, 1:07 pm   /  Reply

    Deb, My own “life didn’t go the way I planned it” story was a bit different, yet at the end I could look back and see God’s hand in it all the way–including the bad stuff. It’s great that yours ended his way…and God’s not finished with you and Ken yet. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • May 8, 2013, 1:33 pm   /  Reply

      The part of your story I know is an inspiration, Doc. Thanks so much for the encouraging words.

  24. May 8, 2013, 1:47 pm   /  Reply

    Thank you for this post today, Deb, and for this series you’re doing, Beth. I think one of the things we believers MUST do is to bolster each other by sharing our own stories like this. I think so many of us struggle with feeling like “failures” when our lives either don’t go the way we planned, or when we’re caught by surprise by an unexpected twist, turn, or tumble. We, too, had our third child when our big kids were 12 and 14, but we opted to call her our “Bonus Baby” rather than an “oops,” because whether WE thought we were prepared for her or not, God doesn’t make mistakes, and HE thought her birth was perfectly timed. It took me a while to adjust my thinking – I had some BIG plans! I was working full time and I’d just gone back to night school – but adjust, we did, and we can’t imagine life in the Doughty house without our youngest princess.

    There are times, too, when the unexpected comes, and we’re never given a clear reason or view of God’s purpose. This is when we ESPECIALLY must reach out to each other, isn’t it, to hold each others’ arms up, to encourage and walk through the Shadowlands together, so that none fall behind.

    Love this post – thanks so much for sharing.

    • May 8, 2013, 2:01 pm   /  Reply

      Hi, Becky & Deb too:
      When I was pregnant with our 4th — our SURPRISE! — I had one person call her a mistake. I was s-h-o-c-k-e-d. This baby wasn’t a mistake. She hadn’t been on our radar screen, but God certainly knew about her all along. He planned the timing of her birth perfectly, even if my husband and I were caught off-guard.

      • May 8, 2013, 2:27 pm   /  Reply

        Right, Beth and Becky! We never saw our daughter as a mistake. Even in those early moments of doing the math (we’ll be HOW old when she graduates college?) and being shell-shocked, we knew we’d eventually find the blessing in it. The cool thing was how quickly we found it! I was barely 2 months pregnant when my husband announced the news to our 3 kids (with genuine joy!) and their response sealed the deal.

  25. May 8, 2013, 6:14 pm   /  Reply

    Thank you for sharing so openly about how you reluctantly allowed God to proceed with His plans to prosper you 🙂 Oh, and our last child was a little miracle. I mean, I still don’t know how he got here! At first, I was not receptive to the idea of his arrival, but I’ve warmed up to him quite a bit. Not a bad plan after all 🙂

    • May 9, 2013, 8:21 am   /  Reply

      Those “little miracles” are the best, aren’t they, Dave? Glad you’ve warmed up to yours!

  26. May 9, 2013, 9:12 pm   /  Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story, Deb. Can relate to so much of what you wrote.

    Beth & Deb–I had to smile about “caboose” children. My husband’s only sibling is a brother who is twenty-one years older! Was his mom ever surprised. He was a real blessing to her–and me! 🙂

    • May 10, 2013, 9:03 pm   /  Reply

      My grandmother had a baby when my mom was in college. Almost 20 years difference in their ages and my uncle is only 4 years older than I. I like that term “caboose children.” 🙂

      Thanks again everyone for all the encouraging comments. It’s been a fun conversation!

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