On Making a Plan


To tell you of my life right now would be to write in broad generalizations about abstract things: love, anger, forgiveness, fear, redemption, release. But this is not my favorite way. I rather enjoy the concrete things, the details, to say what is the floor of my scene, whether it’s concrete or grass. I want you to smell and see the the thing in my hand, the hidden red wing of a grasshopper or the broken jar with honey dripping down. When there’s a scene in my life that is vibrant and nuanced with circumstance, I like to show you the characters, their faces, the voices that meet in my heart to inform me, the ones who cheer or hold me back.

But right now is a cacophony of details so loud that I couldn’t dare hone in on anything to show you my life. Right now is a phase of life that is beautiful and sorrowful and deeply personal. So many of our stories are tangled with the stories of others, and right now to share my story would be to share the story of my children and of other dear ones whose stories are not mine to tell.

My mantra these days is that I am not in control, and I would like to write all about it, but there’s something sacred about a space you can only hold with God. Still, I write because it’s what I have to give.

How do we write about our lives when the details are not ours to share?  I think we do hang on as best we can to the small details, the glints of light. We write about the yellow leaves and how the trees bow in the wind, when we’re really writing about ourselves, how we’re changing, giving in, and learning the beauty of a bow. Think of the bow like a symbol. Think of a cup, too, how empty is the only way to get fresh and full.

This is a new starting place. Again. I start over again and again, but this time I start with control to the wind. It’s gone. I start in the mystery, trying to see through the world we think we control and simply call it a world of gift and metaphor. It all points to God. All of it, broken relationships and every beloved ounce of reconciliation, it is all charged with the grandeur of God.

I have found myself in weak position with those around me, and yet I am stronger than I have ever been, because I have found myself in love. It’s a new love, a rapture kind of love. I have come to love the church, and I’ll share this story in the coming weeks.

It is 19 days until the first Sunday of Advent, and this year it approaches like a promise of relief. The First Advent is always a way to look in a dim mirror to also see the Second Advent. Christ comes. Light your lamps.

The oil pours in, and the light burns. There is a coming of joy. The pink candle at the end of advent stands for JOY.

So I look ahead even now, with my light on and my spirit quiet, because we are church, and you are with me, whether you like it or not. I write today to ask that you consider a new love. Consider the oil offered to your head, how you sit even at the table with your enemy. Consider that the kingdom is to love even the enemy. The cup spills; it’s so full.

As Advent approaches, are you ready for the Joy set before you? Don’t plan to get distracted by the stuff of it. See joy where you can nab it, even in your favorite color on the tree. When you buy, buy for JOY and only joy, because we are the church, and reconciliation is in the holly. It’s in the list of gifts. Joy is in the supper table. Make plans around the oil of gladness. Let the world look in and be shocked. The people of God are a people of JOY. It’s really not that hard to love a people of Joy.


About me


Jennifer Dougan
Reply November 11, 2014


Your line "How do we write about our lives when the details are not ours to share?" resonates with me, as a common issue for me too. I have faltered in those times then, and simply bottled in my words. This is another option. Thanks.

Jennifer Dougan

Diana Trautwein
Reply November 13, 2014

This is lovely - and I'm grateful to read your words, no matter what (or who) you write about. I am sorry for the pain of this season, but grateful you are finding, building and living community with people you love and who love you.

Elizabeth Marshall
Reply November 22, 2014

Your voice and words tie me, tether me to humanity. These as always ooze with soul.

Reply July 24, 2015

So, what did you receive this year?God has been good to me this year. I reveiced Grudem's Systematic Theology, two books by Mark Driscoll (The Radical Reformission and Confessions of a Reformission Rev), two books by C.J. Mahaney (Humility: True Greatness and Living the Cross-Centered Life), Mark Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and J.I. Packer's Knowing God. That's just books alone, but I won't go into the unnecessaries.What was your favorite gift?Oy tough one. I haven't read them all yet so I'll have to reserve judgment on that.What did you learn this Christmas?It's so much more beautiful to serve and emphasize the Gospel than to look at the marvelous traditions that we keep. It sometimes just deepens the traditions.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *