20170105_094135It’s that time again–when my already busy schedule feels squeezed, my calendar is packed full of obligations and author interviews, and amidst it all, my brain determines to take a brief vacation.

Leaving me with two choices: Try harder and chain myself to my computer, or take a hiatus.

I’ve decided to do the latter, starting tomorrow, not because I’m quitting. I’m far too stubborn for that. Rather, because, well, I need a break. And I believe there are times when we simply need to retreat. To refuel. And spend time with those you love.

And I can do that, because quite frankly, this writing thing, my ministry, and really everything God calls me to do is not up to me. Part of it is–the obedient part. The rest? That’s all God. Because He’s bigger than my schedule, my blank computer screen, or anything I could stress and angst about.

About ten, maybe fifteen years ago, the children’s director at the church we attended asked if I’d be the “point person” for our Vacation Bible School–the first VBS we’d done, at least, since my family had been attending. Can I share my ignorance here? I didn’t know what a point person was and assumed it was someone who, well, pointed people in the right direction. So I was like (in my head), “Sure. I can greet parents as they come in, direct children to their appropriate groups, whatever. No problem.”

Fast forward a month or so, and the children’s staff asked me to go to a VBS informational meeting. Again, I had no idea what that was but figured, sure. I can go, listen, and bring back information.

Um, no. They sent me to a VBS curriculum fair to help select curriculum.

help-1724292_1280Great, right? Except … I’d never been to a VBS. Ever. Up until that moment, I hadn’t a clue what they were. Actually, I still wasn’t sure, even after I spent an afternoon flipping through curriculum and talking to people.

Maybe a month later, with curriculum picked and purchased, I sat on my bed and spread the material before me. Trying to figure out what in the world I was to do with it all. Not knowing what else to do, I read it. Every page of every booklet. Took notes. Then stared at my notes, wondering what in the world I was to do next.

Fast forward another few months, and I was once again sitting with my material spread before me, only this time I was pool side. I’d joined my husband on a business trip, and I’d brought the VBS curriculum with me. By now, I had more of an idea of what to do, and I’d even begun to form a team of volunteers–all of whom were much more knowledgable and experienced in this area than I, praise God!

I was still confused, and yet, I felt incredible peace. Because somehow, somewhere between when I first accepted the assignment to that moment at the pool, I’d come to the realization that our church’s VBS event wasn’t up tohand-1044883_1920 me. I would do my best, learn what I could, and enjoy the process. I’d let God take care of the rest.

At this time, I got to chatting to a woman lounging in a pool chair beside me. I don’t remember our conversation, except for me sharing what I was working on and how I was surrendering the results to God.

Her reply: “That’s what you get when dealing with volunteers. They don’t care about the outcome.”

And I thought, ‘Nope. That’s what you get from walking beside Christ. You know you’re not responsible for the outcome.’

Fast forward another couple of months, and our church had a phenomenal Vacation Bible study that drew a large number of children from the community. Kids accepted Christ, volunteers experienced the joy of serving Him, and the peace I felt that morning at the pool dominated my heart the entire week.

I’d like to say that peace, that level of surrender, stayed with me over the decades since, but unfortunately, it hasn’t. I have a tendency to want to hold too tightly to my assignments, to throw my expectations into the mix, along with a chunk of my pride, making it hard for me to surrender. But every once in a while, often when I’ve reached the end of myself, I sense God saying to me, “Remember …?”

And then I smile, nod, close my computer, and loosen my grip.

For those of you wanting to follow my online book/blog/author tour … I’ll catch you up next week. 😉

restoringlove_n174111In the meantime, here’s more info on my latest release, Restoring Love:

Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. She’s almost his worst nightmare, and she’s also working on restoring something—herself. As he struggles to keep his business afloat and she works to overcome mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends soon discover they have something unexpected in common—a young mom who is fighting to give her children a better life after her husband’s incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back or unite them and bring redemption along with true love?

Lately God’s been opening my eyes to the plight of many of His precious children around the world. In my human nature, it’s easy to focus entirely on their outward needs–food, shelter, and lots of hugs–that I forget about their spiritual need. But you know that saying about teaching a man to fish? Give a child Jesus and you give them hope for new life. Abundant life. Transformed life. Salvation is much more than a ticket into heaven. It’s having a constant, ever-faithful companion strong enough to carry you through any storm. It’s having the ultimate physician and counselor residing inside you, soothing and healing deep wounds. It’s knowing you belong, not because of anything you’ve done or might do, but because of what’s been done for you.

Today my dear friend, April Gardner, author of Wounded Spirits and Senior Editor of Clash of the Titles, shares a moment when she caught a glimpse of God’s forever love for His children.

Sitting in the Lifeboat Surrounded by the Drowning, by April Gardner

Several summers ago, I took a missions trip to Romania with a team from my church. We went to conduct a Vacation Bible School in a local church for the children in the city of Oradea. Several days before VBS kicked off, we visited a massive city park where hundreds of poverty-stricken children played. 

The heat that day was overwhelming but more so was the country’s need for a Savior.  As we passed out fliers for the upcoming event, I began to realize how few fliers we had to distribute. The stack in my hand dwindled quickly as one child after another took their copy and ran with the exciting news to their parents. When only one blue paper remained, I scanned the park looking for who I might give it to. Children scampered all about me, hollering and laughing, oblivious to their need.
I felt myself in a lifeboat, surrounded by drowning people, but with only one life-preserver in my hand. How to choose? God loved them all, but which would He have me give this one paper to?
The truth that God drove home to me in that moment was this–There is a mighty big world out there in need, but I can’t reach them all. God’s given each of us a stack, and He expects us to do something with it. All we have to do is obey, passing out one paper at a time. 
The rest is up to Him. Aren’t you glad?
A military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her children, while her husband serves a tour in the Middle East.  In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian. She is the best-selling author of Wounded Spirits. Contact April: aprilgardnerwrites (at) gmail (dot) com and visit her website to find out more about her and her writing.