Free Shipping on Orders over $100!

Ebook Bundles! Buy More, Save More!

Books to deepen your faith and resonate with your soul.
Browse, read, and buy directly
from this small, family-owned company!

ARTICLES

Thoughts on life, inspired by fiction.

Stories are our passion and calling…so we give them a lot of thought. Join the publishing team and authors as we wax philosophical about all things story-related.

The Shortcomings of History

A Guest Post by Henry O. Arnold

I wonder if there is such a thing as “total accurate history.” History is the compilation of facts that help explain events we want to remember. But is it possible to have all the facts, even in today’s world with our advanced technologies? I read a quote recently by a German poet from the Romantic period who went by the pen name Novalis: “Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history.” Too often, however, the novel rushes in and makes a mess of things, giving migraines to the angels of history.

Works of fiction are created and designed to fill us with all sorts of human emotions: awe, shock, tears, sorrow, and so on. These emotions help secure the characters of a story firmly into our memory. A fine-drawn fictional character may live much longer in the memory than an historical one. Unless, of course, the historical character is given enough human dimension based on historical events that draw the reader into the heart and soul of that character.

This is where one historical character may become a legend. A legend is presumed to have some basis in historical fact with real people or events. But historical fact can easily morph into a legend when the truth has been exaggerated to the point that real people or events have taken on a romanticized, larger-than-life quality.

In my recent novel The Singer of Israel, the historical character of King David becomes an overnight legend the moment he slays a giant. His exploits are even turned into paeans of praise. You know you’ve achieved legend status when an entire nation sings songs about you.

Regardless of my shortcomings as an artist, I have attempted to capture the truth of the emotional lives of my characters and give them depth and meaning. History is tumultuous and fraught with misperception and misunderstanding. Even with time and distance the historical events and facts can remain distorted and difficult to understand. But when human emotions are expressed, even those emotions-by-design applied by an author to their characters, then historical characters really may live forever providing generation after generation of readers pleasure and understanding of who they are and who they may become.


Anything but Alone: Finding the Balance Between Independence and Support

By Marisa Stokley, Director of Marketing, WhiteFire Publishing Group

The First Steps

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Never in my life had I imagined a sound would become so significant. But those beeps indicated that my newborn daughter was breathing, and thus in her ability to stabilize her breaths, my own could follow suit. Sophia merely was hours old, but already her ability to do something on her own dictated how my life and my husband’s would play out. Our daughter had to become independent much sooner than she should have, and I have no doubt that forever will influence her future.  

Independence, particularly for Americans, is a highly sought-after trait. Perhaps it is a call back to our patriotic roots, or perhaps it simply is because we have an inherent desire to prove our capabilities. Either way, by the time most of us begin kindergarten, we already have proved our ability to be independent. We have taken our first steps without holding a parent’s hand. We have entertained ourselves with our toys. We have demonstrated that even the littlest person can take care of themselves (to some degree) and influence others.

To progress in life, every person must have some degree of independence. With every passing year, children are entrusted with more tasks to complete. Grade levels and employment are contingent upon individuals successfully executing assignments without supervision or micromanagement. In the case of my premature daughter, she had to breathe, drink her milk without a feeding tube, and remain at a certain body temperature on her own before she could leave the hospital. No matter the age, income level, education level, or lifestyle, everyone encounters the choice to be independent or not.

As with most traits, independence can be overused or implemented in right and wrong ways. While independence is a positive quality, too much of it can be detrimental. Children who are overly independent may find themselves in harmful situations. Adults who are too keen to show their worth may not consider the thoughts of others despite that teamwork is essential in the workplace. Nevertheless, too much dependence upon others is equally detrimental. Those who are not independent often are timid, afraid, or lack confidence. The key to executing independence the right way is balance. With balance, we can know our own minds, have confidence in our abilities, and know ourselves while still respecting others and recognizing boundaries.

From Stepping to Walking

The world was closing in around me. Only three weeks remained until my wedding, and while I should have been focusing upon making the final preparations, instead I was staring at a bookshelf. Panic ran rampant from my head to my toes as I considered which books I needed to box away. I couldn’t make the choice. Changing anything on my bookshelves felt akin to traitorous behavior. I’d lived alone for four years, and I counted my books among my closest of friends. Despite that my then-fiance had lived with me for a few months, our apartment still looked and felt like mine. I’d not put away my figurines, my dresses filled most of our closet, and everything pink and flowered decorated our walls. I was in a relationship, but I’d yet to experience to change from an independent life to one shared fully with another.

With every change in life, independence rears its head. The transition from living a single life to living one in partnership with another can be particularly difficult. With the emphasis on independence known for so long in children and young adults, to go from a focus primarily upon ourselves to another person is jarring. A life of thinking only of doing what we want to do, when we want to do it, and how we want to do it switches to one of how our choices will affect someone else—and sometimes in a big way. In addition, when we transition from singlehood into a relationship, we likely are going to give up a part of ourselves for the good of the other.

As I contemplated whether my bookshelf of classics and contemporary romance would stay or go, I actually was considering whether or not I slowly was losing what had made me who I was for so long. Never mind that my husband was—and remains—a reader. Never mind that he’d never once asked me to box away any of books. I was choosing to do so to help him feel more of a part of our life together. With each book placed in the box, though, thoughts of what I’d already given up came to mind. I was willingly putting aside a piece of my single life in lieu of the good that was coming, but in doing so, I also was losing part of my independence. It was a surreal moment for someone who’d always dreamed of marriage, and it is a lesson I recall often as a moment of growth as I reflect upon how easily merging our lives has become. I might have lost shelf space and the pretty aesthetic of hardback Jane Austen novels for the neon paperbacks of Stephen King, but I gained a new independence of knowing I am still me even if my books aren’t on display.

From Walking to Running

Demonstrating independence is about proving your ability to do something on your own. We all need to be self-sufficient, but there is a line between being so due to situational necessity and being so due to stubbornness. My husband, Paul, and I learned this lesson the hard way as navigated the early days of our marriage. While both of our families preached the value of independence during our childhood years, he and I took away different meanings of it as we became adults. My family is one that does not mind asking for help, whereas Paul’s is stubborn to the core about doing things individually. Many times he and I debate about the situations we feel in which it is appropriate to ask others for help. I am much more willing to reach out for assistance if I don’t know what I’m doing. Paul often refuses to ask for help even if he does not know the answer to a question or has spent an inordinate amount of time on a task that someone else could complete in five minutes. Neither way is right or wrong, although the number of times we’ve attempted to put together a bathroom vanity may indicate when to throw in the proverbial towel. We have yet to know which way our daughter will tend to lean, but between her stubborn mother and father and what we saw in the NICU, I imagine that trait has been passed down to her. Our job as her parents will be encourage her to be strong and capable while also gracious in accepting help when needed. There is a time to learn, a time to ask for support, and time to prove our own self-worth and show that our best is our personal best even if it is not perfect. 

Crossing the Finish Line

The sound of a handful of voices reverberated in the otherwise quiet NICU neighborhood. Nurses, doctors, and therapists popped in to congratulate Sophia on her last day in the unit. The incessant beep of the heart monitor no longer called my attention. My baby girl was coming home, and nothing could stop me from celebrating.

Sophia might have done the hard work to survive in those first five weeks of her life, but she would not have made it home without the hospital staff to help get her there. Never has a situation so aptly demonstrated the balance between independence and support than a NICU unit. Those tiny babies fighting for their lives have no choice other than that if they are going to make it out of their incubators. But they do not do it alone. Doctors make difficult choices daily about how to treat babies in perilous conditions. Nurses prick tiny heels, delicately push tubes down noses and throats, and keep conditions in perfect silence to allow for the ultimate rest a baby would get in its mother’s belly. Therapists teach babies how to do the most natural actions that those infants cannot do alone. The babies determine the outcome, and the support staff is there to be with them along the way.

Ding.

The sound of the elevator door opening signaled the final change. I wrapped my hand around the handle of Sophia’s car seat, gently pushing Paul’s fingers out of the way. I was five weeks postpartum and shouldn’t have been lifting anything heavier than my daughter, but I was determined to carry her—car seat and all—out of the hospital. With one final quick glance over my shoulder, I took in the NICU that had been our home during the biggest transition yet of our married life. Most of the nurses had returned to their stations, but hidden behind the curtain of Sophia’s old room, one remained. Nurse Janet peeked her head around the panel and smiled at me. A sense of peace washed over me as I returned the gesture then looked at my daughter. Sophia had proven she could live despite the many odds against her. She was wholly independent and ready to live life on her own terms. And we were going home, yet we were anything but alone.  


Looking Ahead or Looking Behind: Facing Change in the Mist of the Unknown

By Marisa Stokley, Director of Marketing, WhiteFire Publishing Group

Clouds and a heavy gray overtone colored the sky as the gigantic Atlas truck pulled out of the perfectly suburban neighborhood on August 4, 2006. My attention followed it as I contemplated what would happen next. I was seventeen and about to begin my senior year of high school in a new state. I knew no one other than my parents and my two younger brothers. Trepidation weighed upon my shoulders but so did a sense of relief. I was somewhere new. I could start over. My family was about to encounter change in a way we never had before, and I refused to look forward with anything other than hope.

When I tell this story, the most common response I hear is something akin to the difficulty of the situation. While I can’t fault that thought process—there is something to be said for moving three children between the ages of eleven and seventeen—the missing piece is adaptability. Adapting to change is a learned behavior, and those of us who learn it from an early age find nothing out of the norm of making big or small changes with little preparation or concern. Two years into our marriage, my husband still calls me crazy for thinking that way, but I’ve found adaptability to change to be a favorable trait. There are also positives to having roots and sentimentality, as I’ve learned from observing my husband’s three-generation-strong Philadelphian family. Hope can be found on both sides of a balanced perspective.

The Influence of Habits on Change

Life is a series of firsts and new changes: first days of school or at new jobs; first haircuts, cars, or vacations; moves to new places; beginning or ending relationships; births, marriages, and funerals. These momentous—or perhaps not momentous yet still significant—moments comprise the daily goings on of life in small and big ways. Yet while the intricacies that encompass these moments will differ between us all, the theme that crosses the boundaries of them is the same: change.

People are creatures of habit. The rituals that indicate what we are supposed to do, when we are supposed to do it, and whom we are supposed to do it with bring a sense of comfort in knowing what to expect. By its nature, change is just the opposite. It pushes us toward the new, the unexpected, and the unknown. Change often brings about fear and anxiety for that reason—when we don’t know what to expect, we can’t prepare for how to handle what may come. Much like how I walked into my new high school ready for homework, knowing how to change classes, and expecting the same type of adolescent behavior, I also faced the unknown relating to change. Would my new classmates accept me? Would I get lost trying to find which classrooms to go to? Would I have anyone to go to prom with? No amount of preparation could answer those questions despite how much I wanted them.

There is a sense of security—if not a little monotony as well—when things stay the same. Whether or not we like the outcome of sameness, when we know how to take the next step, we have a much greater sense of the forthcoming outcome. We can look ahead with a sense of comfort and continuity when change is not a part of the plan. Habits, schedules, plans, and routines ensure success because people thrive on the known. Children grow as rapidly as they do in their first years because they can depend upon their caregivers keeping them on strict feeding and sleeping schedules. Adults who keep to regular exercise routines are more successful at being fit and healthy. Employees who know when and where to attend meetings show up. Changes, however—even small ones like the color of a wall or a new haircut—throw off expectations. After all, if a meeting time can change or a new haircut be tried, what else may follow?

The Challenges and Benefits of Change

While some of us accept change more readily than others, whether that change is within our own hands and how comfortable we are with adaptability differentiates with how much gusto it is embraced. A fabulous opportunity could present itself, but if accepting it requires someone to leave behind comfort and stability, there’s a chance nothing could entice that person to change. In the case of my family’s move in 2006, my parents had raised the three of us to accept change without question. We’d moved almost every year for my entire life, so not moving regularly was more uncommon than otherwise. Change did not phase me and my brothers, but as our parents found out, attempting to bring about change with teenagers required more mental fortitude than they’d ever experienced before. Change forges adaptability, true; stability, though, provides the comfort that so many need.

It is much easier for most of us to take a step toward change when the floor to the unknown remains in sight. That may mean a change is willingly sought rather than forced, such as someone seeking a job change because they want a new opportunity rather than due to a lay off. It also may mean someone making a change of their own accord rather than at the mercy of someone else, such as a person changing their lifestyle because they want to be healthy rather than because a medical scare pushed them to do so. It all comes down to control. Change is easier to accept and to follow through with when we have control over it. We may never know what will happen days, months, or years later due a change we’re considering or when something new presents itself, but when we have the option to take that change at our own pace or to pull back if we dislike how it is going, we can better handle the fear of the unknown.

The unknown that comes from change incites fear and anxiety because of the loss of control that accompanies it. That loss primarily may pertain to something outward, such as being let go from a job or moving away from family and friends, but often it is accompanied by a loss of control over emotions that is equally as frightening. Without knowing how something new or how a big change may influence an outcome, we have no way to know whether a risk will be worth the reward. My parents faced this challenge when they batted around the idea of the 2006 move. In the midst of a challenging job market, they had to determine whether keeping our family where we lived at time was worth the uncertainty or whether moving us to a new state was worth uprooting three teenagers. Ultimately, they took the risk of moving our family and did, in fact, pay the challenging price of waiting for moody children to adjust to a new home and new schools and admit that the end of the world had not fallen upon them. Fourteen years later in the same home, the positive evidence of the relocation is more than evident…even if none of us saw that coming at the time.

Once change is enacted, the challenge is to look forward rather than to look behind—or perhaps it should be how to look forward with joy and behind with peace rather than regret. Leaving what is comfortable never is easy. There is growth to be had, though, from pushing ourselves to be more than what we are at the present time. While comfort is not bad, we are called to be more than stagnant. Without change, we become flat. Without pursuing something new, we see too little of the world and do too little for it. We do not have to lose ourselves—our identities, control of our emotions, or our self-worth—if change is difficult or doesn’t go as planned. We can make small changes to ourselves but still retain who we are. We also can push ourselves to be better, go farther, and do more yet return home at the end of the day. Like with most of everything that we come across in life, there is a middle ground with change and the new. Fear and anxiety do not have to be negative. We can experience them, learn from them, make the change, and still be OK.


Responsibility Versus Being Responsible: A Lesson in the Minutiae

By Marisa Stokley, Director of Marketing, WhiteFire Publishing Group

For the longest time, words of a certain theme were associated with my first name. Meticulous. Mature. Hardworking. High-achieving. Serious. As the eldest child and only daughter in a family of three children, I upheld a particular set of standards that soon became so ingrained that I hardly knew who I was without considering them. It took no longer than five minutes for anyone who interacted with me—family or otherwise—to know that the demeanor I portrayed likely indicated one trait overrode anything else about me: I was responsible. They were correct.

Like many people probably can attest to for themselves, my inclination toward responsibility began when I was young. I never minded putting away my toys, I always made my bed in the morning, and I consistently did what I was told. Whether or not this trait evolved from nature or nature—or perhaps a bit of both—it continued to grow throughout the years. I may not have recognized the deeper meaning of responsibility at a young age, but I was perceptive enough to know that being so brought about a positive outcome. My inherent quality of being mature for my age multiplied tenfold whenever I received praise for being “so responsible.” It became my identity.

While being responsible is a stellar trait to strive for, no one trait should define someone. In the same way that a person can struggle when an aspect of their life is the only one focused upon then becomes lost, there is too much pressure to live up to the expectations of a single quality. Consider the minutiae with responsibility: there is a difference between being responsible (in general), being responsible for something or someone else, and having responsibility. What we do based upon those differences will influence whether we are successful, how we are perceived, and how we view ourselves.

The Beginning Stages

Children are taught about responsibility from young age because the ability to be responsible as a child equates to greater success as an adult. They seek praise from the adults in their lives and derive their worth from it when they can do the same activities that their parents and caregivers do. Most of us, after all, wanted to be like our parents when we were young. Teaching responsibility to children is as easy giving them a few simple chores to complete and heaping on the praise afterward. Increasing the amount of responsibility to the appropriate level is important as children grow up. Just as we cannot be trusted to be responsible with scissors until we know which way to hold the ends, we cannot—and should not—be responsible for making life-changing decisions or handling higher-stakes situations until we have proven we can be responsible for the outcomes.

Scripture states that, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways,” (1 Corinthians 13:11). This verse exemplifies the idea that we should acknowledge that everyone has a different level of responsibility based upon their respective ages. We need to respect those differences and ensure that our reactions to the responsible actions taken match what every person is capable of doing. When the time is correct, the person who is ready for the next step demonstrates they are ready for more responsibility in ways respective to who they are as an individual.

Today we often see this idea played out in sibling relationships and in school. As children mature, they are given more responsibility to be on their own. A family with multiple children may have the oldest sibling watch the younger ones after school. When teenagers are old enough, they may be allowed to walk home from school on their own or stay out a bit later at night. Of course, there is also the coveted responsibility of receiving a driver’s license and driving alone. Every one of these actions is one earned by building trust between adults and children.

When I was in middle school, I began to be known among the neighborhood parents as the sibling who was responsible enough to watch other families’ children before the adults came home from work. I was only thirteen at the time and couldn’t drive, and most of my brothers’ friends’ parents, like our own, worked late hours and couldn’t always get their kids to each other’s houses for play dates after school. Being the “mature” young adult, I found myself in charge of a slew of young kids for hours on end while I tidied the house, finished my homework, and attempted to ensure chaos didn’t run rampant. I’d proved early on that I was a responsible young adult, which led to me being responsible for others and having responsibility of the overall well-being of a situation. The more often I demonstrated I could keep the handful of polite yet rambunctious six-year-olds in hand, the more my reputation for being a responsible young adult grew and the more my confidence began to depend upon keeping that reputation going strong.

Growing Up

Twenty years later, I’ve once again found myself responsible for a child, but this time she is my own. To say I’ve learned a lesson about the level of stress that accompanies responsibility would not emphasize enough the pressure parents face to do it justice. I look back on my teenage self in awe that any parent would entrust their young children to the responsibility of a thirteen-year-old—even a mature one.

Responsibility magnifies with parenthood because the welfare of a child who is dependent upon you jumps to the front of the line of importance. Being responsible is no longer enough. A responsible person finishes their work on time. A parent finishes their work on time and ensures their baby is fed, cuddled, and safe. A responsible person shows up on time and keeps their commitments. A parent shows up on time for work and their child’s activities, commits to their own needs as well as their children’s, and prioritizes their children’s mental, physical, social, and emotional needs. Knowing that your child’s well-being, success, and future depends upon how much you focus upon them puts pressure on the idea of being responsible for another that is nearly impossible to identify with until you have experienced it yourself.

During my eight months of parenthood, I have demonstrated that I am responsible, despite all challenges daring to prove me wrong. I’ve showed up day in and day out to care for my daughter in addition to keeping up with my responsibilities at home and at work.  More than the daily tasks of ensuring Sophia’s physical well-being, my husband and I have the responsibility of considering her future. I knew this heavy lift was coming yet still was unprepared for it. There is a weight of responsibility in knowing that our choices as parents reflect our familial values and will influence our children’s future for many years. It may not matter whether we sign up our children for art or music when they are five years old, but how we choose to discipline, instill faith, uphold good habits, and much more will inform who our children become.

Scripture says to, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs 22:6). If we are to take God at his word, then it matters most that parents instill in their children that they should follow the Lord. After all, virtues that parents hope their children will exemplify are called out in the Bible: patience, hard work, love, kindness, mercy, goodness, and caring for the poor, among others. If we look to scripture for ways to “train up our children,” then the weight of responsibility that falls upon parents will be just a little lighter.

Reflections

When I look back to consider the foundational moments that influenced who I am today, I find it easy to pinpoint why I gravitated to certain personality traits and why particular situations were not suited for me. I claimed no athletic skills during my school years, and my aptitude for writing and editing didn’t come out until college. I clung to what I could control—and responsibility is, in so many ways, manageable. It is built upon right and wrong, a proven skill, a yes or no to an aptitude of whether someone is ready for more.

Years later—and after much trial and error—I have found a balance between responsibility and being responsible. As a new mother and remote freelancer, being more responsible than less still works in my favor. As with all traits and qualities, being in the middle is ideal. There will be days when “adulting” will call our names and it seems like the responsibilities are endless. There will be times when a vacation mode will settle over us for a week on end and let us recharge. I am here for all of it, and so are you (Galations 6:5). And when that lift seems to heavy, call a friend for help (Galations 6:2).


With Whom We Place Our Hands: Trusting More Than Ourselves in a World of Unknowns

By Marisa Stokley, Director of Marketing, WhiteFire Publishing Group

Trust. Blind faith. Belief that something bigger is at play than what can be seen before you. Confidence that another person has your best interests at heart. Conviction that you will be able to handle whatever comes your way.

Regardless of someone’s preferred wording, trust comes down to one theme: belief. Whether it is belief in themselves, in someone else, in a deity or supernatural being, or in a situation, this certainty is born of an acceptance that someone has only so much control in their own life. This belief offers comfort during challenging times and positivity during good ones. Whether it be good or bad, knowing an outcome is out of our control takes the weight of responsibility for it off our hands and puts into someone else’s.  To God be the glory, for example, or “Well, so-and-so didn’t happen, so the universe must not have wanted it that way.”

Knowing an outcome is out of our control takes the weight of responsibility for it off our hands and puts it into someone else’s.

Mackenna Sparrow, the heroine of Heart of a Royal (WhiteSpark Publishing, 2019), experiences this dichotomy between trust and control while growing up as an unofficial daughter of the Peverell royal family. Under the guidance of the king and her parents, she implicitly trusted her caregivers because she knew to do no differently. Her parents set the example to follow the king’s instructions, so Mackenna did the same with the understanding that she would be cared for. Mackenna’s needs were met, and Peverell flourished under the king’s reign. She never worried about her future because the needs of and requirements set by others drove her circumstances.

Much like the royal family of Peverell, royal families of today are most successful when they inspire trust among themselves and among their people. Britain’s monarchy, the Windsor family, is known around the world due, in large part, to its beloved queen, Elizabeth II. The monarch has been on the throne for seventy years and recently celebrated her Platinum Jubilee to celebrate the milestone. The Windsor family rose in prominence during the First World War, its popularity strengthened during the Second World War, and it became a powerhouse of strength with the ascension of Queen Elizabeth and her descendants. The queen and her family inspired trust during exceptionally difficult times, setting in store a foundation that should be unbreakable, yet during the past few years have seen that trust wither with the drama between the “Fab Four”—Prince William and his wife, Catherine, and Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan. Watching this family’s seemingly perfect life fall crack at various seams in front of the entire world is a reminder of how fragile the bonds of trust can be, even when those bonds were cemented with the sturdiest of glue.  

Trust is an innate quality that diminishes throughout time and can be difficult to regain; yet with a guiding hand from caring individuals and an open heart to spiritual nudging, trust can be one of the most significant themes in a person’s life. Babies are born with an instinct to trust their caregivers. Without this inborn behavior, they would never survive. This is seen in every way that a person can be cared for: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Caregivers feed, bathe, dress, play with, read to, and interact with their children. They also, in the Christian faith, have their babies baptized to begin their faith formation. Babies and young children cannot make the decision to be baptized themselves. It is up to their caregivers to understand that God has entrusted them to set that foundation of Christian faith into motion by teaching children about it and having them cleansed of sin. With baptism, caregivers demonstrate to their children that they themselves trust God and that children should as well. Only life—beautiful, challenging, real life—teaches people that trust can be broken and that, sometimes, it is easier to rely on themselves than others.

When instinct turns into experience, people need to become active participants in what and whom they trust. Children blindly trust the caregivers in their lives because those adults keep them safe, healthy, and happy. As adults, however, experience and time requirement critical thinking and judgment to influence in whom and what people place trust. Doing otherwise can lead to difficult circumstances, misunderstandings, and placing trust in the wrong people or situations in an attempt to exert control. 

In Heart of a Royal, only when a massive life change occurred did Mackenna begin to see that her trust in her caregivers was misplaced and that she should have questioned her own reasoning and that of those around her. Her belief in the life she’d lived for eighteen years was shaken upon a loss of control of her own circumstances and a breaking of trust between her and those closest to her. With no one left to lean upon and no ability to influence anything around her, Mackenna lost herself. She witnessed destruction of the world she loved and had to rebuild her understanding of whom and what to have faith in. Her belief needed to come not from people but from the One who would remain the same regardless of earthly circumstances.   

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex have been experiencing similar difficulties with trust ever since the two began dating in 2016. Upon the death of Prince Harry’s mother in 1997, one of the biggest drivers of popularity for the Windsor family was the close relationship between Prince Harry and Prince William. This relationship turned cold once Prince Harry and Meghan’s relationship intensified in late 2016; six years later, the relationship seems to be in no better state, as exemplified by the couple’s move to California with their two children. While Prince Harry remains as popular ever, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge often face media scrutiny for their presumed poor treatment of Prince Harry. In addition, the former third in line to the throne and his wife are fighting against a lack of trust from the public, who don’t know which brother to believe nor which royal household is telling the truth about this “battle of the brothers.” Prince Harry, meanwhile, is up against an even more hurtful foe: the breakdown of the relationship with his brother and his father. The brothers and Prince Charles once formed the backbone to a revitalized monarchy. At present, Prince Harry remains on the sidelines with only his wife and children and a slew of painful comments from the once trusted more than anything to keep him company.

Trust, Mackenna learns, is belief; but placing that belief solely in those on earth will lead to disappointment because humans are fallible. Try as we might, we do not always make the right decisions. Should Makenna’s parents have granted the request of the royal family when Peverell needed them? Was it right for Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex to leave the monarchy? Scripture says to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight,” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Christians are called to trust the Lord in every way and with everything they have. Difficulties, uncertainty, and pain still will come, but so will joy, love, and peace beyond all understanding. Just as Mackenna experienced during her time at the palace with Peverell’s royal family, Christians know that control is much easier to handle and release with a gentle grace when trust is placed in Jesus’s hands.


Becoming More Than What Meets the Eye

By Marisa Stokley, Director of Marketing, WhiteFire Publishing Group

From a young age, often we are part of conversations about identities. We are given them from the moment we come to be—a new baby joining a family as a daughter or son, sister or brother, niece or nephew or grandchild. Our worth is innate because babies are loved by nature of who they are: small beings who depend upon their loved ones to survive. For Christians, that worth also is driven by God. Scripture says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” (Jeremiah 1:5). From our earliest days, we hold the identity of being a child of God—valued, created, and called by the Lord to be loved by him and to demonstrate that love to others. Children knowing who they are from so young an age is beneficial. Expectations are set based upon the behaviors that belong to every identity. How an individual continues to adhere to those expectations and determine their own self-worth depends upon a multitude of reasons, including rebelliousness, trust, individualism, a sense of adventure, and social norms.

As we grow up, we take on the identity of student and friend, navigating a world changing from solely familial to that of school and work. Who we are shifts to an association with what we enjoy or where our skills lie. Identities such as the star of the basketball team, the lead in the school play, a waiter or waitress at the local restaurant, or so-and-so’s boyfriend or girlfriend become more significant than who we are within our family and, sometimes, within our faith. Our worth becomes associated with what we can do rather than with who we are. These identities are expressed for everyone to see and are accountable for what worth comes from them: popularity, a scholarship, a relationship, or a job. These earthly things give children and teenagers something tangible to strive for when the world pushes them to test their boundaries and be their best. Comfort can be found in an identity that is easy to label when otherwise someone does not know who they are. This is also the time when faith begins to waver and identifying as a Christian becomes less important. It is much easier to strive for and identify with something that has an immediate effect; faith does not, necessarily, do the same.

This theme continues throughout life. College students associate themselves with their majors. Americans identify themselves by their job roles ahead of any other label or role they may hold. Doctor. Publisher. Editor. Scientist. Mother. Father. Christian. Jewish. Friend. Life becomes sweet with the good—marriage, children, a house, and new jobs—but the challenges of living in a fallen world also ebb and flow, continuing to push people to rely on the labels of what they do rather than who they do it for. The battle for identity persists as days are filled with obligations and work, leaving people minimal time to spend in God’s presence and study his word. Once again, the ease of believing in self-worth comes from how much gets done in a day rather than someone recognizing themselves as a child of the king because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.

Whether for good or for bad, we assign our self-worth based upon what people know of us. Those associations can become so entwined into who we are that we don’t know how to function without the labels.

  • If we lose a job or willingly leave one to do something else, shame creeps in. Who am I if I no longer am an X?
  • If a marriage ends, each person questions who they are now that their relationship is no longer central to their life. Who am I now that I no longer a husband or wife?
  • When a child leaves for college, parents often experience empty-nest syndrome. My daughter/son is at school X hours away and doesn’t need me anymore. What do I do if I don’t have to take care of my kids all day anymore?
  • When a high school student graduates, the world becomes so much bigger and the possibilities become endless. There are too many choices to make, and I don’t know what to do. What if I make the wrong one?
  • When the time to retire comes, people sometimes lose their sense of purpose. For forty-some years I went to work. Now I sit at home and have nothing to do. What am I supposed to do all day?

Discovering Vocation Rather Than Choosing an Identity

Circumstances can change at any moment. What was certain can disappear against our will, forever altering the path we intended to take. The worth that was so essential to someone’s identity ceases to exist, leaving them shaken in the face of an unknown future. We would be better off, then, placing our self-worth in the hands of the one who created us rather than in an identity molded upon our own skills and abilities.

Life necessitates that people take on various roles. Without these identities, society would be unable to function. There is a difference, though, between fulfilling a calling settled deep within your heart and assuming an identity just to meet an expectation or to help fill a void of purpose. In Jeremiah 29:11, God says, “For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.”  God-given vocations may be settled deep within us, but they still are ones we have the free will either to choose to fulfill or ignore. Just because they are God-given doesn’t mean they are easy to handle or ones that will define our self-worth as successful by earthly standards. Nevertheless, when we follow God’s path for us to assume our true vocations rather than only identities that society says are valued, self-worth becomes much more meaningful.

Whatever path we choose and however we choose to achieve it, our worth never diminishes in God’s eyes. He loves us so much that he knows everything about us, even down to the hair on our heads. He set a plan into place for every one of us before we even were created. No matter what decisions we make or who we think we need to be, God knows who we are meant to be and that we are all worthy because we are his children—no conditions required.


Responsibility Versus Being Responsible: A Lesson in the Minutiae

Responsibility Vs. Being Responsible

Responsibility Versus Being Responsible:
A Lesson in the Minutiae

For the longest time, words of a certain theme were associated with my first name. Meticulous. Mature. Hardworking. High-achieving. Serious. As the eldest child and only daughter in a family of three children, I upheld a particular set of standards that soon became so ingrained that I hardly knew who I was without considering them. It took no longer than five minutes for anyone who interacted with me—family or otherwise—to know that the demeanor I portrayed likely indicated one trait overrode anything else about me: I was responsible. They were correct.

Like many people probably can attest to for themselves, my inclination toward responsibility began when I was young. I never minded putting away my toys, I always made my bed in the morning, and I consistently did what I was told. Whether or not this trait evolved from nature or nature—or perhaps a bit of both—it continued to grow throughout the years. I may not have recognized the deeper meaning of responsibility at a young age, but I was perceptive enough to know that being so brought about a positive outcome. My inherent quality of being mature for my age multiplied tenfold whenever I received praise for being “so responsible.” It became my identity.

While being responsible is a stellar trait to strive for, no one trait should define someone. In the same way that a person can struggle when an aspect of their life is the only one focused upon then becomes lost, there is too much pressure to live up to the expectations of a single quality. Consider the minutiae with responsibility: there is a difference between being responsible (in general), being responsible for something or someone else, and having responsibility. What we do based upon those differences will influence whether we are successful, how we are perceived, and how we view ourselves.

The Beginning Stages

Children are taught about responsibility from young age because the ability to be responsible as a child equates to greater success as an adult. They seek praise from the adults in their lives and derive their worth from it when they can do the same activities that their parents and caregivers do. Most of us, after all, wanted to be like our parents when we were young. Teaching responsibility to children is as easy giving them a few simple chores to complete and heaping on the praise afterward. Increasing the amount of responsibility to the appropriate level is important as children grow up. Just as we cannot be trusted to be responsible with scissors until we know which way to hold the ends, we cannot—and should not—be responsible for making life-changing decisions or handling higher-stakes situations until we have proven we can be responsible for the outcomes.

Scripture states that, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways,” (1 Corinthians 13:11). This verse exemplifies the idea that we should acknowledge that everyone has a different level of responsibility based upon their respective ages. We need to respect those differences and ensure that our reactions to the responsible actions taken match what every person is capable of doing. When the time is correct, the person who is ready for the next step demonstrates they are ready for more responsibility in ways respective to who they are as an individual.

Today we often see this idea played out in sibling relationships and in school. As children mature, they are given more responsibility to be on their own. A family with multiple children may have the oldest sibling watch the younger ones after school. When teenagers are old enough, they may be allowed to walk home from school on their own or stay out a bit later at night. Of course, there is also the coveted responsibility of receiving a driver’s license and driving alone. Every one of these actions is one earned by building trust between adults and children.

When I was in middle school, I began to be known among the neighborhood parents as the sibling who was responsible enough to watch other families’ children before the adults came home from work. I was only thirteen at the time and couldn’t drive, and most of my brothers’ friends’ parents, like our own, worked late hours and couldn’t always get their kids to each other’s houses for play dates after school. Being the “mature” young adult, I found myself in charge of a slew of young kids for hours on end while I tidied the house, finished my homework, and attempted to ensure chaos didn’t run rampant. I’d proved early on that I was a responsible young adult, which led to me being responsible for others and having responsibility of the overall well-being of a situation. The more often I demonstrated I could keep the handful of polite yet rambunctious six-year-olds in hand, the more my reputation for being a responsible young adult grew and the more my confidence began to depend upon keeping that reputation going strong.

Growing Up

Twenty years later, I’ve once again found myself responsible for a child, but this time she is my own. To say I’ve learned a lesson about the level of stress that accompanies responsibility would not emphasize enough the pressure parents face to do it justice. I look back on my teenage self in awe that any parent would entrust their young children to the responsibility of a thirteen-year-old—even a mature one.

Responsibility magnifies with parenthood because the welfare of a child who is dependent upon you jumps to the front of the line of importance. Being responsible is no longer enough. A responsible person finishes their work on time. A parent finishes their work on time and ensures their baby is fed, cuddled, and safe. A responsible person shows up on time and keeps their commitments. A parent shows up on time for work and their child’s activities, commits to their own needs as well as their children’s, and prioritizes their children’s mental, physical, social, and emotional needs. Knowing that your child’s well-being, success, and future depends upon how much you focus upon them puts pressure on the idea of being responsible for another that is nearly impossible to identify with until you have experienced it yourself.

During my eight months of parenthood, I have demonstrated that I am responsible, despite all challenges daring to prove me wrong. I’ve showed up day in and day out to care for my daughter in addition to keeping up with my responsibilities at home and at work.  More than the daily tasks of ensuring Sophia’s physical well-being, my husband and I have the responsibility of considering her future. I knew this heavy lift was coming yet still was unprepared for it. There is a weight of responsibility in knowing that our choices as parents reflect our familial values and will influence our children’s future for many years. It may not matter whether we sign up our children for art or music when they are five years old, but how we choose to discipline, instill faith, uphold good habits, and much more will inform who our children become.

Scripture says to, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs 22:6). If we are to take God at his word, then it matters most that parents instill in their children that they should follow the Lord. After all, virtues that parents hope their children will exemplify are called out in the Bible: patience, hard work, love, kindness, mercy, goodness, and caring for the poor, among others. If we look to scripture for ways to “train up our children,” then the weight of responsibility that falls upon parents will be just a little lighter.

Reflections

When I look back to consider the foundational moments that influenced who I am today, I find it easy to pinpoint why I gravitated to certain personality traits and why particular situations were not suited for me. I claimed no athletic skills during my school years, and my aptitude for writing and editing didn’t come out until college. I clung to what I could control—and responsibility is, in so many ways, manageable. It is built upon right and wrong, a proven skill, a yes or no to an aptitude of whether someone is ready for more.

Years later—and after much trial and error—I have found a balance between responsibility and being responsible. As a new mother and remote freelancer, being more responsible than less still works in my favor. As with all traits and qualities, being in the middle is ideal. There will be days when “adulting” will call our names and it seems like the responsibilities are endless. There will be times when a vacation mode will settle over us for a week on end and let us recharge. I am here for all of it, and so are you (Galations 6:5). And when that lift seems to heavy, call a friend for help (Galations 6:2).

<a href="https://whitefire-publishing.com/read/author/marisa/" target="_self">Marisa Stokley</a>

Marisa Stokley

Marisa Stokley is an editor of Christian historical and contemporary fiction and nonfiction as well as general market fiction. A lover of all-things bookish and publishing, she revels in the literary musings of authors who write of the past and present through faith-driven stories. She holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in professional writing, and she is certified in editing through the Christian PEN. Novels she's edited have been nominated for the Selah, INSPY, and Cascade Awards.

Announcing WhiteCrown!

 November 18, 2021

WhiteCrown will bring princess and royalty stories to inspire and entertain.

Cumberland, MD, Nov. 12, 2021 / WhiteFire Publishing Group, a faith-based publishing group with four existing lines, announced today the creation of a new imprint, WhiteCrown Publishing, which will focus on princess and royalty stories aimed at teens and adult women within the Christian market. The launching titles will be published beginning in late 2022; moving forward, WhiteCrown expects to publish 12-15 titles a year.

After publishing a series of princess stories in WFP’s young reader line, WhiteSpark, the team began to note something they had suspected all along—that these stories were instantly popular, and not just with the YA crowd. Women of all ages were clamoring to be swept away into a fairy tale. At that point, they began discussing a line of books focused solely on royalty. “What convinced me,” said David White, publisher and CEO of the WhiteFire Group, “was the absolute enthusiasm the idea received every time we mentioned it, among not only our staff and authors but readers in general. It seems that the allure of ‘the princess story’ transcends age.”

When asked about the popularity of their current royal fiction series, the Daughters of Peverell by Hannah Currie (Heart of a Royal, Heart of a Princess, Heart of the Crown), Creative Director Roseanna White said, “This generation grew up on princess movies and stories. Perhaps we’ve outgrown those in a way, but that love of all things royal is too deep-seated to ever really be overcome. When we see more grown-up versions of these stories, we just can’t get enough. It’s partly the sparkle and pretty things—but more, it’s that quest for true nobility of spirit.”

WhiteCrown will launch with a trilogy by Hannah Currie, a duology from prolific author Melody Carlson, and a stand-alone by bestseller Tricia Goyer:

Bring Her Home by Hannah Currie

This trilogy will retell biblical parables in a medieval fairy tale setting, with the good King Lior and his three daughters as the main characters in each novel.

 

The Princess Wars by Melody Carlson

This duology follows twin princesses in the fictional historical kingdom of Raspen, who have long been engaged in a rivalry that could tear apart the very kingdom they each want to rule.

 

Trust the Stars by Tricia Goyer

This stand-alone timeslip is inspired by the true story of an Italian princess who was sent to a concentration camp during WWII, pairing a fictionalized version with a contemporary romance.

 

Editors from the existing WhiteFire Group lines will receive submissions for WhiteCrown. “Enthusiasm for the new imprint extends to all our staff,” David White continued, “and everyone is excited to see what stories land on our desks.”

In addition to novels, WhiteCrown is also excited to bring readers tie-in products, regular articles and content about “all things royal,” and hopes to engage the audience through video as well. As these ventures develop, WhiteCrown will share updates with their newsletter subscribers and make public announcements via their website, www.WhiteCrownPublishing.com.

 

About the WhiteFire Publishing Group

WhiteFire was founded as a faith-based small press in 2005 by husband and wife team David and Roseanna White. Their line of fiction and non-fiction was built around the motto of “Where Spirit Meets the Page.” In 2018 they acquired Ashberry Lane, another small press, and turned it into a dedicated Christian romance imprint; around that same time they also launched WhiteSpark, aimed at young readers. In 2020, the WFP group teamed up with former editors at Dappled Things to create Chrism Press, a line of popular fiction aimed at Catholic and Orthodox readers. The WhiteFire Publishing Group has titles by bestselling and award-winning Christian market authors like Melody Carlson, Roseanna M. White, Susie Finkbeiner, and many more.

 

Contact

Roseanna White
Creative Director
WhiteFire Publishing Group
301-707-3756 | r.white@whitefire-publishing.com 

View original source at https://whitefire-publishing.com/read/announcing-whitecrown/

A Closer Look at Women’s Fiction

Why I love Reading–and Writing–Women’s Fiction

by April McGowan

I’ve always been drawn to reading Women’s Fiction. Even as a middle-schooler, I was interested in novels that pulled you into one woman’s story and showed the evolution of her character from downtrodden and empty to overcoming—or not. What is Women’s Fiction? It’s a sweeping subject that allows the author to write about events or situations that affect, usually, one or two main characters. It’s a look at a chunk of time in that character’s life where they faced something harrowing, or challenging, and an in-depth look at the choices they made and how the event affected their lives.

These books are usually packed with emotion. And unlike other genres, the character isn’t locked into one area of their life. They can experience drama, joy, humor, and romance—even suspense. They can go on a journey to discover who they really are, or face a situation that needs forgiveness or healing. They can uncover a lie, search for the truth, or go on an adventure!

But a women’s fiction story is always very personal to the main character. They don’t have to be married by the end (romance), but they can discover who they are deep down. They don’t have to overcome the issue they are facing, but have hope that the next time, they will! These books can be slices of life (a small chunk of time) or encompass the entire life of the character. They can be set in a contemporary setting, or they can be historical. But by the time you are done with the book, you feel you have a new friend. You think about them, still, even though the story is over, and you’d like to beg the author for just one more scene or even a sequel.

But whatever you choose, you know you will never look at that kind of situation or that kind of character with the same eyes again. They’ve changed how you feel inside. They’ve shared their story with you, and you’re enriched by it.

Forever.

Women’s Fiction books draw you into a similar world to your own, or one in history, that reveals a tragedy and makes you wonder how it will change that main character. If makes you think and agree or disagree with the choices the characters make. They create empathy, tears, and laughter as you read and find something in their story you can identify with. They invite you in to share your own thoughts and ideas.

I’d love to say more, but I need to go read!

By April McGowan

Women’s Fiction from WhiteFire

A Closer Look at Middle Grade Fiction

Growing Stronger Children
through Quality Middle Grade Fiction

by Susan Thogerson Maas

When people ask why I write middle grade fiction, I sometimes say, “Maybe because I never grew up.” While there is likely some truth to that, there is also a deeper reason. As a child, I was constantly reading, retreating into worlds I couldn’t visit on my own—whether wilderness settings as in My Side of the Mountain, British manors as in The Secret Garden, or mysterious, magical worlds such as The Children of the Green Knowe. Horse books were my very favorite, and I consumed every book Walter Farley (The Black Stallion series) and Marguerite Henry (Misty of Chincoteague and others) wrote. From there I moved on to other nature-based books, and eventually to most of the books on the children’s shelf of our local library. I’ve forgotten the plots and even many of the characters in these books. What I remember is how they made me feel. When I finished the last page of a good book, I felt like I was a better person than when I began—a little stronger, a little wiser, a little more committed to doing what is right and good.

In The Help by Kathryn Stockett (and in the movie), Mae Mobley is a little girl whose mother dislikes her because she is a bit chubby and not what her mother considers beautiful. Aibileen, the maid, does all she can to counteract the mother’s influence by assuring Mae Mobley that she is special. Every day, Aibileen tells the little girl, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important,” and has Mae Mobley repeat it back to her, so she will remember. That is what a good children’s book does—it lets children know that they are important and makes them feel that they can make a difference in the world.

As a child, books about nature increased my love of God’s magnificent Creation and the many plants and animals that inhabit it. Books set in distant lands opened my eyes to different ways of living. Books about children with problems and difficult lives grew my compassion. And books about kids like me made me feel that I mattered and that I could overcome my little challenges just like the kids in the books did. Sadly, books in my youth were rather limited. Most had protagonists a lot like me—white and middle class with few major problems. Now there are so many books to choose from. Books about children from all ethnic groups, children with physical and mental challenges, children in different countries or different living situations. Every child has a chance to imagine himself or herself as the protagonist of the story, to identify with the difficulties presented, and to find hope that they, too, can overcome the hurdles they face.

Finding hope. That, to me, is the most important aspect of any book, but especially books written for children. As children watch the news and hear the adults around them talk about the issues in today’s world, they may feel discouraged. If adults see only darkness and despair, how can a child look forward to the future? A good middle grade novel can be an escape from the problems, as the child vicariously lives another life. But even more, a book that ends in hope can plant a seed of encouragement and give the reader a reason to keep believing—in God, in the future, and in themselves.

Sometimes I hear general market writers say they should write whatever they want, that it isn’t important to worry about theme or what message the book sends—just be true to yourself. When writing for adults, that may be true, but when writing for children, I feel this attitude is short-sighted. As children grow, they absorb the attitudes around them. Everything they see, hear, and do makes an impression on them and helps to shape them into the adults they are becoming. Today’s world is filled with negative influences, including bad language, violence, racism, and other negative attitudes and practices. If children are to grow up to be “kind, smart, and important,” they need positive influences—which definitely includes quality children’s books. Books can help children cope with life and its myriad difficulties. Good books can give them hope that, in the long run, justice and mercy will prevail. And the best books will inspire children to do what is right and to help make this world a better place for all.

By Susan Thogerson Maas

Middle Grade Fiction from WhiteSpark