What’s Next – Life Lessons from “When Calls the Heart”

I’ve been trying to remain aware of God’s hand in my life. So often, as author Robin Gunn shared in a recent keynote address at the West Coast Christian Writers conference, we present an Eeyore-like attitude, quietly thanking God for “noticing us” when instead we should be bouncing with excitement like Tigger at what it means for God to notice us. God has promised us blessings that overflow and joys unspeakable. When he blesses us with an answered prayer or a dream realized, we thank Him and give Him all the glory, but we should also get little fluttery butterflies in our stomachs and gasp in excitement, knowing that God has promised above and beyond what we could hope or ask. He still has more to offer us.

Watching the season six opener of When Calls the Heart, my mind kept going back to Laura, Elizabeth’s sweet, artistic student who had big dreams.  Based on the advice of her father, she gave up those dreams and was determined to remain content with staying home and helping to support the family farm. Initially, when Elizabeth shared the good news of Laura’s acceptance to preparatory school, Laura became an Eeyore, eyes downcast. I could see in her countenance the “thanks for noticing me but…” attitude overtake her joy at the opportunity. Then, as she turned towards the tea table to gather her thoughts, the Tigger in her leapt at the blessing bestowed on her by her beloved teacher. With a smile stretching from ear to ear, she replied to Elizabeth, “Yes to preparatory school. Yes to being your nanny.” Instead of seeing an insurmountable mountain of obstacles and reasons to be content with her current situation of blessing, Laura accepted more with open arms.

How often do we feel guilty about asking God “what’s next?” When I was 18 and applying to transfer to a four-year university, I chose only two: Vanderbilt University and Pepperdine University. Both offered a degree that I felt would make my dreams a reality; I’d be able to graduate with a degree in Creative Writing. One warm fall day, I awoke from an afternoon nap to my brother handing me the telephone. Groggy and sleep-dazed, I held the phone to my ear. The woman on the other end was calling me to offer an opening in the spring semester at Pepperdine. Instead of leaping like Tigger and grabbing God’s blessing, I declined. Without a college fund in the bank, I believed the school to be out of my budget. It was as though I was just happy that they’d noticed me. Being noticed was good enough.

But it’s not. God has promised more than that. We are His beloved, His precious children. Second Corinthians 9 states that “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Just as Elizabeth wanted Laura to prosper – to realize her dreams of pursuing an education – so our Father in Heaven wants to see us prosper and build his kingdom. When our dreams and goals align with His promises, we will begin to discover that  it is right to take our desires, dreams, and difficulties to Him. And when he provides beyond all comprehension, we can shout with overwhelming joy, announce a prayer of thanksgiving, and say to God, “What’s next?”

It may seem like God is silent or that He doesn’t notice you at all. Your treasured little wisp of a dream still lingers in the recesses of your mind, stagnant for years. Well, here is what else I have discovered about God’s blessings: they don’t happen instantly. Often, if we are not careful, it isn’t until we’ve finished the journey we began or summit the mountain we thought we’d never climb that we can look back and see how God orchestrated grace upon grace for us.

I keep a smooth, gray river stone on the counter in my bathroom, where I am sure to see it when I get ready in the morning and before I settle for the night. At a point when God was silent, I wrote “promise in the delay” across the worn surface to remind me every morning that God’s promises don’t vanish. Sometimes, He is teaching us a lesson. Often, too, He is simply aligning the pieces to our own little puzzle so that He will get the glory when we see the promise kept. Those delays are tough. There are times we want to give up, where we question God’s Word or our own talents and gifts. For these next months, I have taken these lyrics to Overnight by Amy Grant as my anthem: “If it all just happened overnight/you wouldn’t know how much it means/Yeah, if it all just happened overnight/You would never learn to believe in what you cannot see.” I roll these words off my tongue, reminding myself that each time God has brought me to a beautiful and unexpected blessing, it did not come like a flash of lightning. Instead, it came in baby steps of one answered prayer after another.

We may not see God walking this earth. We may not see His hand command the waves or His voice make them still, but we can know His presence. Pay attention to the whisper, to the little Godwinks that tell you He loves you. Then, with a grateful heart and a joyous spirit, ask Him “What’s next?”

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