How to Know the Answer to the What Next Question

Just for a moment I stop to ponder where I was a year ago. Working, writing, busy growing my business, and revving up for senior year.

Then senior year happened. Flew fast. And suddenly I was untethered by textbooks and tests. Breathing fresh air untainted by looming exams and the self-imposed pressure to succeed.

So I wrote this for the girls, the graduates, who are on the cusp of the edge of the cliff and are too frightened to open their eyes to look down. I never thought I'd get there, to where fear sucks air from lungs and laughs; I thought I had it all figured out. Life. College. Post-grad existence. But I didn't.

And then I realized the truth: I didn't need to.

I still don't need to. Five year plans are overrated and overstated. God is good, He always will be, and that's all I need to know. Where do I see myself in five years? It doesn't matter.

Because I'm open-eyed and open-handed and asking Him where He sees me.

Read "What Next?" on Kindred Grace by clicking here.

Why I Called The White House Today

When I was eleven, I did it on a dare. And I didn't even go through with it, but oh the dialing made my stomach flip over.

Today, I did it intentionally, not to make friends laugh, but for my author-friend, Katie Ganshert. She and her husband adopted her daughter, legally a Ganshert, from the Congo.

And my stomach didn't even flip once, because this is different.

Her daughter has not yet come home because the DRC suspended exit paperwork, leaving Katie and her family separated from this baby girl.

I had a chance to do something about that today, to use my voice to talk to the one man in the country who can talk to President Kabila of the DRC and ask for the suspension to be lifted.

So Salima can finally come home to her family.

It only took a minute to call in to this number: 202-456-1111. (I got a busy signal at first, so I also emailed), and you can easily use this script:

My name is ___________ and I am calling to request President Obama contact President Joseph Kabila of the DRC and resolve the current adoption crisis. I would ask that he pick up the phone today and call President Kabila and then discuss the crisis again at the Africa Leaders Summit. These children need to come home to their loving families.

Easy. Quick. Painless. Sacrifice a minute of your day today to lend your voice to make a difference?

Learn more here. 

[Update:] The sun set on the day to call, but the chance to lend your voice has not expired. Sign the petition here.

What {Not} to Do the Day You Worry

Have you ever thought you needed a new beginning?

She comes to me quietly, shyly. Holds out hands dimpled and empty. I melt that she's reaching for me, so I reach back. Pick her up. Swing her high. Hold her all afternoon long until she's hungry and it's mama's arms she seeks.

That will make you feel like a giant every time--when they look up at you, hands flexing and unflexing, arms stretched high.

Have you ever thought you could do with a little something different?

The silence soars around us then one great big crescendo. Tentatively voices rise, lyrics change on the screen, and my eyes close to it all. When they open again, it's to hands lifted. I see us all from my corner in the back, the quiet place I carve out just for me week after week, a crowd worshipping, singing. Just like she reached up for me, we reach up for Him.

That will make you feel small every time--when you look up at the ceiling and feel the earthlyness of it all crushing down... but Heaven opens wide.

Yesterday I packed and vacuumed the truck and made pizza spontaneously because I could, because today I'm leaving for a week-long mission adventure with new friends and yet-to-be-met friends. It's amazing how much can be stuffed into a suitcase intended to hold me for a week.

Isn't that just right, though? Hoard the things because I need clothes on my back and shoes on my feet and good books to read? I need, I need, I need things in that case, snug together, folded and neat, to remind me when I'm far away who I am.

But whose am I?

What if I did things differently? Started the day over and swallowed the nerves and surrendered the clenched hands at the Cross?

When she comes to you, do you turn away? Of course not. Neither does He. Arms open wide, He waits. A giant, but a gentle one.

It is then that the music starts, as I lay it all down and lift hands up. Say no to the things and the soul cries yes. Say no to the worry and the soul abandons the hurry... for Him.

What did I do the day before I left? I worried. And then I did not.

I sang.

Daring to Hope ~ A Guest Post by Amber Stokes

Amber Stokes will begin working as a content writer for Harvest House Publishers this week. She also writes inspirational fictiondepicting the seasons of life and love. Her passion for books compelled her to earn a bachelor’s degree in English and to run her own freelance editing and publicity business for over a year. Happily, the next step in her career lies in the Pacific Northwest—a part of the world she's always considered home.

Once upon a time there was a girl who majored in English. No, she didn’t plan to be a teacher (though she certainly admired and respected the profession). She had stories in her heart that she wanted to get on paper, and a dream to find a position in publishing.

When senior year came, the infinite stretch of time before her became finite. Too short. And she didn’t know what to do to make her dreams a reality. She wasn’t even sure she knew what she really wanted.

So she decided to return home, where her grandparents and parents and sister awaited her. It was a safe choice, and because of that, she worried that it was the easy choice. But she didn’t know what else to do.

Months passed. She felt no push to leave. Then an idea came—a bold one, she might claim—to start her very own business. A freelance editor. An entrepreneur. So she went out and got her business license. Ordered some business cards. Created a website. And more months passed.

Until finally, one day, she shared a guest post and someone emailed her. A paying client! Then the floodgates opened. Not to wealth or fame, but to work and experience. And she met a friend who taught her that publishing her own work didn’t have to be an impossible thing.

A year passed—a year of writing books, publishing books, editing books, marketing books, blogging about books. And with the start of a new year, that senior-year pressure descended once again, to go out and earn “real” money, meet “real” people, live a “real” life. She gave her resume to local businesses. Weeks passed, and insecurity raged. She sent her resume to publishers on a whim and a wish from her father, and she continued to wait.

Eventually, she got a job at one of the local businesses. And a publisher showed interest, involving a weeks-long interview process. In those weeks of uncertainty, her dreams seemed as hazy as a winter sunrise: cold, intangible, and promising nothing.

After the third step in the interview process, she received a message. HR wanted to chat with her the next day. That night she hovered on a wispy bridge over a deep canyon. And I’ll tell you something she had been discovering about herself: she was afraid to hope.

You’ve felt that, haven’t you? That “certainty” that your dreams would never be realized because they were “too good to be true.” Someone or something would come along and push you off the bridge, whispering right before the shove, “You knew all along it was never going to happen.”

The saddest part of all, though, was my fear of hoping for good things because they might not be God’s will. I was scared—and with good reason—that if I claimed this wonderful thing would surely happen as a blessing from God, and then it didn’t happen, I would be making God look bad.

I still believe that I shouldn’t presume to know God’s exact plan. That would be prideful and vain and foolish in the extreme. But what you might lose with the fear is the certainty that God can bring it about. He has the power and strength to give us “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), and “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Nothing is ever too good to be true with God, for “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Sometimes the “too good” thing is not what we expect. And sometimes it’s the fulfilling of a dream that was years in the making.

What happened when I called HR the next day? I got the offer—a grand offer to work for a Christian publishing company. An honest-to-goodness dream come true.

And you want to know something? I wasn’t dangling on a thin rope bridge over a canyon. I had crossed the canyon a different way: walked down the rough slope as if I couldn’t possibly be moving in the right direction; shuffled across the canyon floor where one step forward hardly seemed to make any difference; and crawled up a path so steep it appeared I wouldn’t reach the other side after all.

Now I can look back at the canyon and see that all those times where I thought progress was negligible and my path so uncertain, God was actually guiding me straight into His plan.

This isn’t the story of the girl who made herself from nothing. 

Rather, it’s the story of a girl who thought she was epically failing at life, but simply had to trust that God would show her the next step in His timing and use each step for His purpose. A girl who has to believe that God is a Good God who has good plans and the power to bring them to pass, even when they don’t unfold when or how she expects them to. A girl who, through the grace of God, is daring to hope as she embarks on a thrilling new journey beyond her fledgling dreams.

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:4-5

Circle of Spies by Roseanna M. White

Marietta Hughes never wanted to be a spy.

You know how sometimes you read a line of writing so lovely, you have to reread it again?

I did that countless times while reading this book. I probably should have finished it long before 1am last week, but I savored so many amazing lines that it took me longer. No matter. I'll reread it again soon, if only to enjoy once more this thrilling conclusion to Roseanna M. White's expertly crafted spy series.

Mari confused me, at first. She seemed to have it all, but she isn't at all happy at the beginning of this book. She's made her own choices, but now she has regrets. She's plagued by guilt and determined to set right what has gone wrong in her life, if she can. In short, she's carrying a pretty heavy burden.

Enter Slade Osborne, a man who carries burdens of his own.

I'll try not to spoil the story for you (really, you must read this book and the whole series!), but I was wondering when Mari and Slade would ever realize they were perfect for each other, when wham, all of a sudden, they realized it all right. But a whole lot of other things had to happen first--like maybe infiltrating the KGC, an organization trying to divide the Union and kidnap Lincoln.

One of the things I admire most about this story (besides the breathtaking writing style and sigh-worthy romance) is that I knew how it would end and I didn't mind. We all know Lincoln's life ends tragically--so how was Roseanna going to pull off an ending that didn't make me feel like Slade had failed?

I won't give it away, but she does. Excellently.

Love history? The Culper Ring Series tracks some of the most pivotal points in our nation's history--through the eyes of a family of espionage. Love romance? Each of the books in the series holds a beautiful message about the One who loves us best, while offering a story about a couple brought together by God and circumstances. Check out my thoughts about Ring of Secrets (Book One), Fairchild's Lady (the free novella between books one and two), Whispers from the Shadows (Book Two and] my favorite). 

And don't forget to download A Hero's Promise (the novella between books two and three) for free. Coincidentally, I was up until 2am reading that one.

About the Author

Roseanna M. White is the author of two biblical novels, A Stray Drop of Blood andJewel of Persia, both from WhiteFire Publishing, and Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, a historical romance, with Summerside Press. She is the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded, the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing, and a member of ACFW, HisWriters, HEWN Marketing, and Colonial Christian Fiction Writers. For more about Roseanna, please click here.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. To read my full disclosure, please click here.