Out of Sight – Lessons from a Storm, Part 1

Part 1 of 2

My fingers gripped the steering wheel with a tenacity they had never known before. I was late, but that was the least of my problems. I took a deep breath and held it in, feeling the tires slipping beneath me once more.

A heavy, white fog had settled over the mountain and seemed to meld into the snow-covered world. Everything was white: The ice and packed snow under the car, the mountainside, the cement barriers between the highway lanes, the air. I knew the long, descending grade in front of me curved off to the right at its end, but that end was nowhere to be seen. I swallowed hard, wondering when the world would come back into view.


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“What am I supposed to do?” seems to be a question running through my mind often these days. “How do I balance everything?” follows right after it, dragging along, “What is really important?”

I love what I do—all of it. (Well, except for financial reports. I’m not a fan of those.) But, even with all the juggling skills I’ve learned over the years things are still falling to the wayside—important things.

I’ve always believed that investing in people is one of the most important things in life; but what if, in trying to make sure I’m always putting the needs of others first, I’m neglecting the responsibilities God has given me? Is that possible? Do they sort of equal each other out? Do the needs of others trump the long-term work God has called me to? Or do I need to be saying “no” to immediate needs more often until some of the long-term has been brought to an end?

And, how do I balance all of that with work and writing?

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that some of these questions are always there. We’re always looking for ways to bring more balance, be more circumspect, and do exactly what God has called us to. Life’s interruptions, challenges, and the unexpected tend to cloud our vision, so we cannot see the path for the circumstances.

I’ve been thinking about that path from many different angles lately, but the memory of that snow and fog obscured road between Helena and Great Falls, MT seemed to best depict the past few months. I know the road twists and turns ahead, I know the general direction it’s supposed to take—but I can’t see it.

Every time I turn around some new circumstance is clouding the view. Life has begun to feel fragmented; a few moments spent here, a few there, but no concentrated effort anywhere. The edges are beginning to fray. I find myself praying, “Lord, something has to change,” but not even knowing specifically which area to pray about changing.

What do you let go of when everything you do involves people? You can’t say, “Well, this person is more important than that person”…because that just isn’t true.

Then I was reminded…It isn’t what you let go of, it’s WHO you take hold of that matters.

If you’ve known me very long, you’ve probably heard this story before, but I’m going to tell it anyway. Many years ago, some friends and I were traveling to church in Russia by train. When we reached our stop the doors didn’t open. We were unable to get out. We hurried to the next car, hoping to get to a working door in time, but our hurry was unnecessary. The train skipped the next stop and took us a full half hour past our destination. Incredibly late, we finally disembarked in a little place called Odintsova.

While the rest of us meandered down the platform, one of the guys in our group jumped down to the ground, crossed the tracks, scaled the other platform, and checked the schedule. We had barely made it half way to the bridge (the proper way to cross) when we heard him yell, “It’s coming! Get over here! It’s coming right now!”

In a panic, we followed our leader’s example, jumping down to the ground and crossing the tracks to the other platform. We all looked over our shoulders to see the train rounding the bend behind us. From that quick glance we surmised the train would come to the inside of the platform, so my friends and I lined up on the outside edge and began our single-file ascent.

Now, you must understand that the platform was at least chest high on most of us, and most of us were young women wearing long dress coats and skirts, not to mention our heavy winter boots. The climb up was awkward and cumbersome.

Just as I tossed my backpack ahead of me and reached for the platform, I heard someone say, “It’s coming to this side!” Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone being pulled back from the tracks behind me. I pulled myself up, one shin resting against the platform’s rough edge and the fingers of my right hand curled around its outermost corner. Then I felt the rush of wind. I could not see the train at first, but I could hear it. I was not about to let go of that platform. It was steady. It would not move. I heard its whistle, but still I clung to the platform. The train flashed by, just inches from my head and fingers. Not until it had raced by did I draw myself up, get to my feet, and run for the rest of the group.

I could not have clung to that platform if I hadn’t first freed my hands of the backpack. If I’d been grappling with it, I would have fallen—most likely I would be dead. But, because my hands were free of everything else I could cling to that cement platform for all I was worth.

When we let go of things it enables us to take better hold on Christ. Just like that platform, Christ is steady, He will not move. He also possesses a beauty the platform could never boast: No matter how strong our grip on Christ, His grip on us is always stronger.

Balance is never easy to maintain. Even as I clung to that platform, I could feel myself tottering. It was that same head-swimming feeling I get when I stand on the edge of a cliff. But, I knew that as long as I kept myself centered over the platform, I would be safe from the oncoming train. The same is true with our relationship to Christ. We may not be able to see what is coming. We may feel like we’re about to teeter into the path of the storm, but so long as we keep our focus on Him we will have peace and assurance.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” – Isaiah 26:3,4

In Part 2, we’ll look at some “whiteout lessons”, things we can learn from those moments when our path is out of sight. But for today here’s a question: Has life ever led you through a whiteout? What did God teach you about letting go and taking hold of Him? Please, share in the comments—it’s how we help each other grow!


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I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Presence Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.


Book Birthday Giveaway

King's Daughter: A Story of Redemption

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption

Hey! The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption is turning two this weekend! Thank you so much to each of you who have encouraged me along the way and shared it with others. Without you this wonderful story of love and redemption would have little opportunity to touch the lives of others. So, to celebrate this birthday and to say thank you:

I’m giving away five signed copies!

Since we’re celebrating, I’d love to hear what the King’s Daughter has meant to you OR what special blessings God has given you this past week to remind you of His love! Please share in the comments section at the end of this post.

Follow the link below for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Choosing Where To Jump

“Just breathe!” I told myself, still grappling with the straps on my helmet as the sled lurched toward the first drop in the track.

I’ve never been one to risk life and limb for a thrill. Never. But, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and for $6 who could pass up a chance to make a run on an Olympic bobsled track.

“What was I thinking!” I screamed inwardly as we rounded the first curve, and I felt my helmet, still not fastened properly, scrape against the ice. “Breathe! Just Breathe!”

With that breath, the fear melted away. The sled, a conglomeration of what appeared to be PVC pipe and gymnasium exercise pads, skated over the ice faster and faster. It handled each turn with jolting grace, gliding first to one side of the track then the other. Happy butterflies flitted about in my stomach. The cold, Latvian air rushed across my face, followed closely by kisses from the bright, winter sun. It was amazing!

Last week, a blog by author Josh Irby set me to thinking. The blog starts at the edge of a cliff. The Adriatic Sea spreads out in front of him, and he must make a choice. Will he take that one step, that leap into the sea one hundred feet below, or will he walk away from the edge? (Read Inaction: The Secret to a Disappointing Life here.)

I would never make that jump. As I read his story, I thought of a moment in my own life. Two friends and I stood on a platform about twenty feet above the crashing waves of the Black Sea. Every inch of my body trembled at the thought of jumping; even my insides were quivering. I’m a wimp when it comes to heights, and I know it. I would have trouble even walking close to that hundred-foot drop, let alone jumping off of it.

But, as I read the remainder of Josh’s blog, a conversation I once had with my Grandmother came to mind. My grandparents always worried about the time I spent in Russia. Grandpa once tried to talk me out of going. He told me I’d be eating dog meat and drinking reindeer milk. Someone had given him bad information. After I had already spent several years in Russia, my grandmother expressed her concerns.

“I wish you wouldn’t keep going back. It’s dangerous. I worry about you when you’re over there.”

I thought about that for a moment. Was it dangerous? I considered my cousins. One of them had recently taken me up an enormous, wooded hill in his jeep, thrown it into neutral, and scared me half to death as he allowed it to roll down the hill—backwards! Other cousins routinely went skydiving, and the whole family thought it was great. For me, going to Russia wasn’t risky or dangerous. It was life. But then, life is dangerous.

“How is what I do in Russia any more dangerous than my cousins jumping out of airplanes?” I finally asked. “Both involve getting onto planes, but I stay in mine until it lands.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way.” She replied, laughing.

And, that’s what it all comes down to: Perspective.

What seems incredibly dangerous and frightening to one person may be right up another person’s alley. I may not be able to jump off a hundred-foot cliff, but challenge me to conquer a language and you’re on. I might not grab up the opportunity to go bungee jumping; but suggest a five-mile hike up a mountain, and I’ll be packing before the words are out of your mouth.

It’s easy to look at other people and think, “Wow, I could never do that. I’m such a loser.” We forget that God didn’t choose us all for the same task. God has given each of us abilities and gifts in different spheres. He’s given us different interests, strengths, and weaknesses, all of which he intends to use. Our weaknesses are His greatest opportunity to show His strength. And often, our strengths are His greatest opportunity to show us our true weakness.

But, even when we are following our own path and not trying to jump off of cliffs intended for others, we may occasionally run into a hundred-foot drop. That’s when we have to make the decision: Am I supposed to jump? Am I going to jump? Why?

When I stood on that platform at the Black Sea, I had to make up my mind. In the end, I did it. Why? Because of the line of people waiting behind me? Because I’m very competitive and didn’t want a particular friend to think I was a wimp (even though I am)? Those aren’t good reasons for taking the plunge.

There was, however, one other factor that pulled me over the edge: I wasn’t alone. To my right stood a friend whom I not only trusted but who had also been in the Coast Guard. I knew if something happened, they would be there with all that training and experience. I knew if I jumped, they would be jumping with me.

Jumping is easier when we’re not alone.

I still remember the fearful tightness in my stomach and the ache in my heart when, for the first time, at nineteen years old, I boarded a plane bound for Russia. I had never flown. I had never been away from all my family at once for more than a few days. I had never spoken Russian. Yet in that same moment, I had a peace that passed understanding and overwhelmed the fear and the ache. I was not alone. God had led me to this cliff, and He was jumping with me.

Eleven years later, however, as I prayed about another ministry opportunity, the experience was quite the opposite. Each time I prayed, I was overwhelmed by a strong sense that if I jumped over this cliff, I would be jumping alone and the bottom would be dry.


After two weeks of prayer, I wrote to the ministry and told them I didn’t believe the Lord was leading in that direction. That weekend everything became clear. An unforeseeable situation arose in the ministry I was already working with, and I knew I couldn’t leave. It was unforeseeable to me, but God knew and he kept me where I needed to be.

God led me away from that cliff. Sometimes, I wonder if He was protecting me from a danger none of us could see. Or, perhaps, He simply wanted to bless me with the thrill of jumping from the cliff a little further down the path. You see, He used it to acquaint me with missionaries whose ministry profoundly affected the eventual establishment of Forbid Them Not, my current sphere of ministry.

A friend of mine used to call me the “Queen of Predicaments,” and rightly so. It seems I have a way of blundering right into them: riots in the subway, riots in the street, nearly being run over by a train as I dangle from the end of the platform, jumping from a (slowly) moving train, blowing an engine 800 miles from home and 1,000 miles from where I was going in a place I’d never been, the list goes on. But one thing I know: When each of those predicaments came, I had been doing what I was supposed to be doing, and I wasn’t alone. God was there as He promised.

“…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

You may never jump a hundred feet into the Adriatic Sea, or even twenty feet into the Black Sea. You may never cross oceans or leap from moving trains. That’s okay. Some cliffs belong to others, and we were never meant to jump over them. But, when God puts a cliff in your path, and you know He put it there, don’t hesitate. He will go with you. And, even if a predicament waits at the bottom, He will sustain you.

The key is discerning between the two. Learn to ask the right questions as you stand at the edge of the cliffs along your path. Not “Will it hurt? What will others think of me?” but “Did God put this before me? Is it in line with His Word? Is He asking me to simply trust Him?”

Then, when you know the cliff is yours, don’t hesitate.

Take a deep breath.


What cliffs has God put in front of you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!


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I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Promise Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.



Focus (not resolutions) for 2014

I was the kind of kid who spent a lot of time observing. I watched what people did and waited to see the results. When it came to New Year’s resolutions, the results were overwhelmingly bad. So, I made up my mind I would not fall into that cyclical trap. But, like everyone else, I sensed the importance of that day. It was the end of one season and the beginning of another. That made it noteworthy. I wanted to start the new year in the right direction. But, I knew if I made a whole bunch of resolutions, or even one for that matter, I would fail.

I watched how others met the day. Some friends traditionally got together with their friends and family. They always seemed to have a good time. Some people started diets. Others joined gyms. Some people set work or study goals. On New Year’s Eve our church usually had a game night, followed by preaching and “praying in” the new year. That was nice, but it wasn’t personal.

When I was fifteen, I started my own New Year’s tradition. I don’t really remember where the idea came from, or what made me so determined to do it. I’m just glad I did. That year, I decided I would spend time with the Lord on New Year’s Eve, asking Him for direction for the year ahead. That’s hard to accomplish with everything else going on!

I still remember slipping off into a side room at church and squeezing in just a few minutes. I didn’t have long, but I was able to read some scripture and spend time asking Him what He wanted me to focus on over the next year. I don’t remember now what the answer was, what I ended up working towards in the twelve months that followed. But, I remember that night as if it were yesterday (and believe me, it wasn’t!) Those few moments were so precious that I’ve kept the tradition up every year since.

Some years, the Lord has already shown me what He wants me to focus on before New Year’s Eve arrives. Sometimes it comes in those quiet moments as the world outside my window erupts in cheers and fireworks. Some years, it comes in the first few days of the fledgling year.

As we approached the end of 2013, I was feeling more than a bit overwhelmed. My best friend called me for my birthday and, I am ashamed to say, got an earful of all my troubles. (Thank you for being so patient!) Every direction I looked, I saw more things that needed to be done and no means, energy or time to do them. I honestly couldn’t see how I would ever sort through my thoughts enough to figure out what I was going to focus on in 2014. What aspects of ministry needed more attention? What writing should I be focusing on? Which projects did I need to let go and which did I need to expand?

When we decided to take a trip to Ohio for my cousin’s (beautiful!) wedding, I thought this might be the first year since I was fifteen that I didn’t get those special moments with the Lord. And, to be completely open and honest, I felt if I did somehow get a few moments with Him, I would just completely mess it up because my thoughts concerning the new year were so tangled. But, God is gracious. In the end, I had an entire hour—just me and God. (I have five pages of journal notes to prove it!) The time was sweet and refreshing and profitable; but as I came away from it, I still didn’t know for sure what the Lord wanted me to focus on in 2014. That bothered me, so I kept praying.

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Sunday night was the night it all came together. We had an unusual church service. Instead of the usual song or two followed by preaching. We sang a couple of songs, and then had a praise and testimony time. Then each person shared a verse and two reasons why it was special to them.

My thoughts immediately went to Isaiah 26:3,4:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”

This passage has been a favorite of mine for more years than I can count.

Peace has always been important to me, not necessarily quiet, just peace. If our hearts are not at peace, how can we ever hope to hear God? If our relationships are not at peace, how can we glorify God through them? How can we minister together if we are warring against one another?

But peace is not always easy to maintain because we are all full of that dreadful little thing called pride.

Pride, which relies on self to fix everything, worries.

Pride, which is always right, causes contention.

Pride, which wants its own way, destroys our ability to put others first.

Isaiah 26 gives the secret to peace. It isn’t seeing the problems solved, the relationships mended, or the strife melted away. Those are only the results. The true secret to peace is our gaze; not of our eyes, but of our hearts.

Peace comes from having our thoughts completely fixed on God. The word here translated “mind” is beautiful. Specific to this verse it carries the meaning of thoughts and, more importantly, meditations. A thought can be fleeting, here one second gone the next—believe me, I experience that problem on a daily basis! But, meditation is a process. It begins with a thought, but that thought is never let go. It is developed and expanded and internalized. It becomes a root of our thinking process.

Recently, someone said something that hurt me deeply. Their words revealed that a gulf I hoped would somehow be spanned probably never will be. Over the next twenty-four hours, thoughts came about that person, their family, and our relationship. Each time, I had to make a specific choice not to let my mind camp there because I love that person, and I don’t want that to be destroyed. It could have been, quickly and easily. I had to (not so simply) let it go and turn my heart back to where it needed to be centered—back to Christ.

The word translated “mind” also refers to our “frame and formation”. The frame of a house is what establishes its shape and boundaries. It determines both its appearance and its functionality. This also refers to our shaping as vessels in a potter’s hands. Will we say, “Hey, you don’t know what you’re doing!” Or will we allow God to shape us?

Our thoughts and meditations, our frame and formation are all to be “stayed”—to rest—upon God. They’re just supposed to lay right there and not move. He is to be the underlying support. If I meditate on Christ, how will I have room to think of the ways others have wronged me? If my mind is fixed on His power to deliver from any situation, how can I worry about things I cannot control?

God promises peace to the person who keeps their mind fixed on Him. But, it isn’t just any peace it is “perfect peace.” Literally, it’s “peace, peace” or shalom, shalom. The word covers nearly every aspect of the idea of peace. It refers to relationships, health, prosperity, our welfare, freedom from wars, and most importantly our relationship with the Lord. God doesn’t just promise us a little peace. He promises a double dose of perfect peace. And the best part is that WE do not have to keep it.

Notice the verse says, “THOU wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” It is God’s job to keep us in perfect peace, our job is simply to keep our eyes on Him.

As I was reading these verses in Sunday night’s service, I couldn’t help but think of a similar passage in Philippians:

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

God never changes. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, He is there waiting, ready to not only give us peace but also to keep us in it.

My heart was soaring by the time I had finished reading those verses. I knew immediately this was what I had been praying for. This was what God wanted me to focus on in 2014:


But God didn’t stop there. When our sharing time was over. We sang one last hymn. It goes like this:

There is never a day so dreary,

There is never a night so long,

But the soul that is trusting Jesus

Will somewhere find a song.

There is never a cross so heavy,

There is never a weight of woe,

But that Jesus will help to carry

Because He loveth so.

There is never a guilty sinner,

There is never a wand’ring one,

But that God can in mercy pardon

Through Jesus Christ, His Son.

Chorus –

Wonderful, wonderful Jesus,

In the heart He implanteth a song:

A song of deliverance, of courage of strength;

In the heart He implanteth a song.

-Anna B. Russell

I know there will be dreary days and long nights in 2014. There will be heavy crosses and weights of woe. I know there will be a need for deliverance, for courage, and for strength. And, I know the same wonderful, wonderful Jesus who pardoned this guilty wandering sinner, will be in the midst of each one.

As we sang that hymn, my thoughts ran to another song, one of my favorite Russian hymns, which declares not just that Jesus will implant a song in my heart, but that HE is that song. (You can listen to it here! Don’t worry. It’s in English!)

As if all this wasn’t enough, God still wasn’t done. When the song was over, the message began. The text verses were these:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Hebrews 12:1-3

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It goes right back to our gaze and right back to our minds. It also goes back to the idea of the path set before us in this new year. If we forget to consider Christ and what he suffered, we will faint. But in light of all He did for us to obtain our salvation and victory over the grave, how can we be wearied in our daily trials? Yes, sometimes they are many and overwhelming. Often they are undeniably and unbelievably painful. But, He took upon Him the sins and the punishment of the whole world.

The service closed with communion. And I realized we were doing exactly what the verses had said: Considering Christ. I couldn’t even imagine a better way to end the service, nor to solidify in my mind what my focus is to be this year. And not only this year, but always.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.”

– Helen H. Lemmel

May each of you have a blessed and peaceful new year!

What has God given you to focus on this year? Please share in the comments.


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I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Promises Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.




When God removes something from our lives, the process often hurts. But, He always has a purpose. As a lapidary who cuts away the surface of a gemstone to bring out its beauty, so God chisels away the blemishes that hinder His light from passing through our lives.

This is the theme of a new book I just finished outlining this morning.

Faceted* will look at the amazing beauty God brings to a life as He cuts and polishes. Luster, brilliance, fire, and scintillation—the things most wanted in a gemstone—all come from the careful labors of the Lapidary. Without them we are nothing more than dead stones.

The book is still in the very early stages. But, Lord willing, over the next few weeks I will begin to post little bits and pieces to give you a glimpse of what is to come. I can’t wait to share it with you!


*Working title, will probably change before publication. Suggestions welcome! 😉

My Story

I recently joined a small group of other women in writing for a Facebook Bible study called Worthy Daughters. One of the things we were asked to do was to share our testimonies. It occurred to me that I have never done that on this blog. So, I thought I would just go ahead and share it here as well. I hope it’s a blessing!

Good Morning! My name is Rachel Miller.

Fifteen minutes after I was born, my dad held me in his arms and said, “Rachel, I love you, but you are a sinner and on your way to hell…” Of course, I didn’t understand anything he was saying, but his words that day are a testament to the burden that my parents had for each of their children.

My mother faithfully made sure that my sisters and I memorized Scripture. God used His Word to plant the seeds of understanding in my heart. During one of our Bible memory times, after a week of Vacation Bible School at the church my dad was pastoring in Illinois, I told Mom I knew I was a sinner and needed to be saved. I remember kneeling at Dad’s hideous, gold recliner and calling upon the Lord for salvation. I was baptized about a year later, and about two years after that I surrender my life to the Lord during camp at Triple S Christian Ranch.

In early 1988, my family, USA missionaries with BIMI, took part in a missions conference as part of our deputation trail. On the last night of the meeting, at the age of twelve, I surrendered to a call to missions that had long been growing in my heart. That night the Lord first burdened my heart with orphan ministry.

As time passed and I entered my high school years, things distracted me from that call. But the summer after I graduated, the Lord used Ecclesiastes 5:5-7 to get my attention, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for He hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed…”

That day I surrendered again to go wherever He wanted, to do whatever He wanted me to do. One year later, in the fall of 1995, I found myself on the way to Moscow for what I thought would be a nine-month missions trip. I had been there just over four months when the Lord made it clear that I should stay longer. That nine-month stay turned into twenty-two months, and for the next ten years God just kept taking me back. I was blessed to work with many different churches, orphanages, and schools, as well as in widow ministry and ministry among refugees. During that time, I began to see how vital churches were to successful work with orphans and how few churches were actually involved in the work.

In 2005, while back in the States for a short time, the Lord made it clear that I was not to return to my former place of ministry. I began prayerfully considering what the next step would be. My desire was to return to Russia as quickly as possible. Because I had gone to Russia right out of high school and most missions agencies require at least two to three years of Bible college training, I began looking into various colleges. I had just chosen one, when we received a call that my grandmother was in the hospital and the family needed someone to care for my grandfather. Upon my arrival in Ohio, however, it quickly became evident that my grandmother would no longer be able to care for the two of them. For the next 15 months the Lord blessed me with the opportunity of being their primary caregiver.

As my grandparents’ needs increased it became evident that I could no longer meet them sufficiently. I returned home to Montana at Christmas, and it was agreed by all that I should not return to Ohio. So once again, it was time to consider the next step. My heart’s desire was still to return to Russia, still to work with the children that the Lord had placed on my heart, and to get back to that ministry as quickly as possible. At the encouragement of my Pastor (and father) I enrolled in Mountain States Baptist College in Great Falls, MT.

The time at Mountain States was a great blessing, a time to learn and pursue studies that I had long desired to pursue. While there, the Lord opened a special door to work with a group of girls from our bus routes. The time spent with these girls and members of their families opened my eyes to the needs among the fatherless of America.

After college the Lord allowed me to take an extensive survey trip to work with an orphanage in Central Asia and to visit several ministries in Russia. As I went from place to place the burden the Lord had begun to lay on my heart while in college only grew stronger.

It was out of that trip and the experience of the years in Russia that Forbid Them Not Baptist Ministries was born. The burden of my heart is to help churches and missionaries start, strengthen, and maintain ministries to the fatherless of their communities—ministries that are centered around Christ, His Word, and the local church. God has blessed and opened doors to work with orphan ministries in four countries. He has also opened doors locally through my home church, and I’m excited to see a course on the Bible and the fatherless beginning to take shape.

Around the same time, the Lord began opening doors of ministry through writing and editing. This has been one of my greatest joys! I have been blessed to see the orphan ministry and the writing ministry overlap. Bible lessons taught in my local church and then in ladies’ meetings in Kenya became the basis for my first book. And a devotional that I developed while still in Russia became my second. Some women like to bake or quilt or craft and give these things as gifts to encourage others, I’ve never been especially good at those things. But I find a similar joy in sharing the simple lessons God has been teaching me in the quiet moments.

One of the orphans in Russia once asked me what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” I told her I wanted to be a magnifying glass. She looked at me like I was insane, and then asked me if I knew what that Russian word meant. I told her that I did understand, and that what I wanted more than anything was for my life to magnify the Lord—my desire is still the same.

“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:20,21

Heroes Worth Having

I’ve been working on a special project for a few weeks now, trying to get it just right before I shared it with the rest of the world. But, then something happened that made me stop and think. In fact, two somethings happened.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with a child about heroes. I don’t remember for sure what started the conversation, but somehow that’s where we ended up. When I asked who this child’s hero was the answer was telling. Not about the child per se but rather about our society.

When I was growing up, heroes were people who accomplished great feats. Men and women who explored new frontiers. Inventors were heroes. Scientists, authors, missionaries, doctors, nurses, soldiers, firemen, policemen, teachers, astronauts, moms and dads—all heroes.

But things have changed. As I listened to this child’s description of their hero, I was saddened. I had never heard of this hero before. As far as I could tell, their greatest achievement was scoring 25 bazillion YouTube subscribers. I failed to see any cause for awe or inspiration in that achievement (maybe I’m just getting old), so I asked, “What is it about them that makes you look up to them?”

“Well,” the child faltered, “um, I guess they worked hard and were successful because of it. I guess.”

I am all for hard work, and I’ve made enough YouTube videos in my time to know that no small amount of work goes into it. But, what is being produced in this particular case isn’t hero material.

I had to ask myself, “How did we get to this point?”

* * *

Sunday morning, right in the middle of Sunday School class, my niece blurted out, “Well, that’s a strange name for a book, Aunt Rachel.”

Completely taken off guard, I stared at her for a moment. Then I said, “What book are you talking about?”

“That one. A Chance to Die. Right there.” She got up and came around the corner of the table, pointing at a book on the bottom shelf of my bookcase.

“Oh, that is a very good book!” The lesson came to a screeching halt as I stepped over to the bookcase and pulled the book out of its place. “This is a good book, it isn’t easy to read, but it is a good book.”

I turned the book so that everyone could see the picture of the woman on the cover. “This is the story of a woman named Amy Carmichael. She was a missionary.” I told them about Amy’s life, the children she helped, the daring things she had done, the difference she had made for Christ. By the time I was done, I was ready to read the book again.

“You know,” I told them, “when I was about your age, I read a children’s book about her. I still have it. If you ever want to read it, you can. She has been one of my heroes ever since.”

I thought about those two conversations off and on all afternoon, and I realized it was time to move ahead with my project whether it was perfect or not. Why? Because we need heroes—real heroes. The kind that inspire us to do more than we ever thought imaginable.

As I was writing this, I realized something about the people we held as heroes when I was a kid. They all have one thing in common. Every one of them was either willing to risk their own life or driven to save and shape the lives of others or both. Their career paths weren’t based on what they wanted for themselves. They weren’t about fame and popularity. The path they followed was a chance to make a difference, even if it meant their lives. They understood that some things are just as worth dying for as they are worth living for. They understood that comfort and security weren’t everything in life, and that without taking risks we never get very far.

These people weren’t superhuman. They were everyday, ordinary people just like us, but they were willing to lay down the things that most of us are not willing to give up. They went looking for a chance to die, so the rest of us could live.

So, what’s my project? I love to read about men and women like Amy Carmichael, whom God has used to accomplish great exploits. I’m often discouraged when I walk through Christian bookstores and can’t find a single biography on men and women of the past. For a very long time, I’ve wanted to host an online bookstore that would pull these great stories together to inspire us all to live a life that counts. Now, I’ve found a way.

The Fruitful Gardens Shop is an Amazon Associates store, which links to this blog. It pulls some of the best biographies, devotionals, inspirational writings, and even fiction all together in one place. (And, yes, you can find both “A Chance to Die” and the children’s book “With Daring Faith” there.) It is my hope that this shop will be a helpful resource and a source of encouragement and inspiration to you. I am still adding products and would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. I hope it will help us to seek out better heroes, and inspire us to become like them.

Who is your hero and what is your favorite biography? Please share in the comments below.

 Click here to check out:

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Thank You!

I’m headed out of town for a few days, but before I go, I wanted to say thanks. Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to read the few posts I’ve managed to put up since beginning this blog a couple of months ago. Thank you for your feedback and your encouragement. And, thank you for your friendship. It has been a blessing to meet new people and to strengthen old friendships through this blog. I’m looking forward to spending more time here with you!

I pray that each of you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that it will truly be that—a time of giving thanks. May the Lord richly bless you as you serve Him!

In Everything Give Thanks!

Everything He gives us is a token of His love. Don't forget His care—Give Thanks!

Everything He gives us is a token of His love. Don’t forget His care—Give Thanks!

The Gift of Loneliness

3:45 a.m.

I slipped from beneath the heavy blankets, dressed in my warmest clothing, and quietly stole through the halls and staircases of the orphanage. A blast of cold air drove any remaining sleepiness away as I stepped into the dimly lit courtyard. I began walking, once around the large courtyard, twice, three times… For years this had been my favorite place and time for prayer. It was quiet, almost eerily so. The wind swayed the tops of the giant poplars that grew up between the buildings; but on the street level it was calm, sheltered from whatever storm was brewing.

Snow and ice crunched beneath my feet as I made my circuits. I prayed up and down both sides of a 3×5 card, prayed for each of the people still sleeping behind the dark windows above me, prayed for my family, for friends I hadn’t seen for years, for things in our ministry that were especially on my heart. As I finished and slipped the card into my coat pocket, a light came on above me. The world was beginning to stir.

As the trees creaked and groaned in the breeze, heaviness crept into my spirit. I reached into my pocket again, this time pulling out a set of 3×5 cards, laminated with packing tape to keep them from being ruined by the chaos of the day. I studied them for a moment, got my starting point, and quietly began quoting the verses I had been memorizing. The words came in rhythm to my steps, but my mind wasn’t on them. I heard a door open at the far end of the courtyard and turned to see a group of our staff headed out for their morning jog. I watched them disappear into the darkness beyond the front gate. I completed my circle around the courtyard, making one more attempt at the verses; but it was no use. I couldn’t focus on memorization with such a burning question in my heart.

“Lord,” the whispered word escaped as a vapor, rising through the cold air toward Heaven, “why is this school year so lonely? You warned me that last year was going to be lonely, but this year there was no warning…Knowing was much easier.”

The previous year had been difficult. The area of ministry that I had been involved in had taken me out of the normal circle of staff and friends that I had worked closely with in the past, but it had also been filled with joys and victories and approached with a heart prepared to endure the lonely hours.

This year was different. I was surrounded by people all the time, and yet I found myself deep in an incredible loneliness. Everyone was busy, having little time for real conversation. Those who did come to talk poured out their hearts but rarely asked about my own. It was the way it was. I was still content to be where I was, still happy in what the Lord had given me to do. I was just lonely—painfully lonely.

I don’t suppose I expected an immediate answer to my question, but it came. It was very simple, but so powerful it took my breath away. God said,

“Because I love you enough to want to walk alone with you.”

My eyes filled with tears as the meaning of the simple words sank into the crevices of my heart. God loved me. I knew that. But this was a new thought: He loved me enough to want to be alone with me. I had known He wasn’t allowing loneliness in order to make me miserable. I had also known that those lonely moments were opportunities to spend more time with Him. But I had never considered that He had allowed that loneliness specifically because He wanted to spend time with me. He wanted these early morning hours together as much as I did. He wanted the quiet moments as midnight approached and papers still had to be graded. He wanted the moments walking to widows’ houses with no one to accompany me. He wanted the lonely moments to Himself—because He loved me.

We all attempt to avoid loneliness. Even God said it wasn’t good for a man to be alone. That’s why He created Eve and established the institution of marriage—the supposed loneliness fix-all. Then sin came into the world, and that perfect union was no longer perfect. Loneliness found its way back in.

For some loneliness is rare, for others it may be almost constant. We try to push it away, but is it holding a gift we’ve been missing?

We each want someone who will love us enough to seek out opportunities to be alone with us. In those alone moments, we come to know one another. We don’t just learn one another’s habits or preferences—we come to know each other by heart.

That cold morning I realized that, even though loneliness was hard, God had given me a gift. He was setting aside time to be with me—because He loved me.

In Psalm 73:25,26 the psalmist says,

“Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”

He had learned the beauty of walking with the Lord. He had realized that only God fills the empty space in our hearts. He knew that God was the only inheritance (portion) he needed.

Jesus frequently went out into the mountains or wilderness to be alone and to pray. His alone time was spent in the presence of God.

“And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.” Matthew 14:23

We live in a world of constant activity. Sometimes our society makes us feel guilty if we aren’t perpetually on the go, performing great feats, conquering worlds, and establishing kingdoms. But God said, “Be still, and know that I am God…” [Psalm 46:10]

The book of Hosea tells the story of Israel and her idolatry, but it does it through the story of Hosea and his wife Gomer. Gomer was constantly running around seeking satisfaction in the arms of men other than her husband. Hosea was constantly taking her back. Their story pictured the relational situation between God and Israel at that time. Israel was constantly running off to other gods, forgetting that it was their God who, as a husband, had cared and provided for them for so many years. All the while, God was pleading with them to come back.

In Hosea 2:14 God sets out a beautiful, tender plan to draw Israel back. He said, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.” He tells of the hope and the song that He is going to restore to her. And that instead of calling Him lord she will begin to call Him husband. But to get her to that point, He plans to draw her to a place with no distractions where no one will pull her attention away from Him. He is going to take her to a place where they can be alone.

Does loneliness indicate that we have been pursuing false gods? Sometimes, but it is also part of our design. God allows us to experience the emotion of loneliness, so that we will realize how much we need both Him and those around us. Sometimes that aching in our hearts is just a goad. It is God’s way of pressing us closer to Himself. The wildernesses are the places in which He wants to speak comfortably, tenderly, to us. The lonely path is where God speaks to our hearts.

We don’t generally relish the lonely moments. We don’t usually pine for them or pray, “Oh, Lord, I would just really like to be lonely today, to have that deep aching feeling of being absolutely and completely alone, to hurt with the desire for just one friend.” We just don’t do that. But the lonely moments are places of learning if we allow God to turn them into such places.

Back in Psalm 73, the psalmist went on to say, “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.” (vs. 28) So often the lonely moments produce amazing fruit when we allow God to work through them. Have you ever thought of the grain of wheat Jesus spoke of, the one that must die to produce fruit? How dark and lonely in those moments before death! How quiet and still in those moments before new life and abundant fruit springs forth!

What of the loneliness for Moses or Elijah as they waited for God to pass by, to speak? Elijah had been so lonely and discouraged that he told God to just let him die. (I Kings 19:4) But then God fed him with a meal that lasted forty days and led him to an isolated cave. A wind so strong it broke the rocks came, then an earthquake, and then a fire; but God did not come in these. Instead, He came in a still small voice. It was then that Elijah wrapped his mantle about his face and went to the mouth of the cave. In that quiet solitude, he drew near to God. Just as God promised He would do with Israel in the book of Hosea, God came tenderly to Elijah. There God told him what he was to do next and revealed He had 7,000 other men in Israel who had not bowed their knees to false gods. Elijah wasn’t as alone as he thought. From that point, he went out and finished his ministry.

James 4:8 promises “draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” What better time to draw close to Him, than in those lonely moments, but how do we do it? From this passage we see the first step is repentance and submission to God. If we have never come to Him seeking salvation we cannot draw nigh to Him. Our sin separates us. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cover that sin. And only calling on Him in faith and repentance will bring the salvation that will restore our relationship with Him for all eternity.

If we have already come to Him for salvation, then we must ask ourselves a very serious question:

Have I been resisting the loneliness God has given me?

Loneliness is a hard gift to accept. As I have written this over the last few days, God has shown me struggles in my life and ministry that were a form of loneliness I had never seen before. Frustrations were shadows and rejections faint reminders. Decisions were burdens. The void of companionless ministry became obvious when I spent a few wonderful moments with a friend whose joyful spirit used to be a daily encouragement. I had to ask myself, “Has God been offering me a loneliness that I have been rejecting at the expense of quiet, wonder-revealing moments with Him? Have I rushed around looking for answers and solutions, not realizing that He just wanted me to sit down and rest in Him?” While I can’t answer that fully, I know there have been moments of filling the gap with effort instead of quiet prayer. God’s desire is for us, like the psalmist, to find our portion in Him. How grateful I am that James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

Loneliness isn’t a one-time test that we pass or fail. It walks a step or two behind us most of our lives, rushing forward at the most inconvenient and undesirable moments. If we let it drag us into self-pity, it will destroy us. If we let it press us closer to Christ, it is a gift.

Has God allowed lonely times in your life to show you His special love for you? What has He taught you in those lonely places?


King's Daughter: A Story of Redemption

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption



I am the author of three books, including the The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.


Faith in the Forest

Last week I spent three days at a carefully chosen little campground near Laramie, WY. It was supposed to be a working vacation, but a bazillion things, expectations that I’d had of the place, didn’t come true. It wasn’t a quiet spot. In fact, it was practically in the I-80 barrow pits. Every time the wind blew, which was constantly, the swing on the front porch of the cabin swung back and forth, causing the ceiling timbers to click rhythmically. It was like being imprisoned with an overactive clock. The internet was sporadic, the water pump didn’t work, the list goes on…

My first task was to write a letter. Sounds easy enough, right? I mean, on the average day I put out between 1,000 and 4,000 words. What’s a letter? But it just wasn’t that easy. I prayed over it, wrote it, read it, and moaned. I prayed some more, rewrote it, read it, and moaned again.

After more than three hours spent with non-cooperative words and sentence structures and that constant clicking overhead, I needed a break. I knew the weather forecast for the rest of the week was bad. They were even calling for snow on Friday. So, I decided if I was going to see any of the countryside, this was the time to do it. The fresh air would help clear my mind. I could pray over the project and ask the Lord for clear direction—I had no idea how literal that prayer would become.

I headed out to a recreational area in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Once there, I parked my car and set out to find a good hiking trail. The first one came to an abrupt end after about ½ a mile. So, I went back through the parking area to a trailhead someone had mentioned along the way. The trail was beautiful: Groves of Aspen, thick underbrush, fall colors sneaking in among lush greens.

Turtle Rock Trail West

Turtle Rock Trail West

I saw a little sign that read “Campground gates close at 8pm.” It was only 2:15. I wasn’t worried about the closing time anyway. I had promised myself  I would only hike 2 hours from the time I arrived at the recreational area. I would be done by 3:40. I passed through a gate a few steps further and assumed this was the trail leading to the campground which seemed like a good target. I’d hike to the camp, turn around, and hike back.


I was amazed at how much distance I was covering, even stopping to take pictures here and there. When I reached the halfway mark in my time, however, I still hadn’t reached a campground. I knew the first short hike had taken about 30 minutes, so I figured I could do about fifteen more before I needed to turn around.

But it was in those fifteen minutes that the trail started going places I hadn’t expected.  It started going up, then down, through boulders and around the banks of beautiful little ponds. I thought that was a little strange, but I had a good idea of where I was and wasn’t too concerned about it.

One of the most beautiful spots along the trail.

One of the most beautiful spots along the trail.

By the time the fifteen minutes were up, I had gone so far around the rock formation that I realized I wasn’t on a trail to a campground. I was on the trail that circles the rock. I decided I might as well just go on around; it would probably be shorter that way.

Turtle Rock - That's one big turtle!

Turtle Rock – That’s one big turtle!

Before long, however, I started having doubts. The trail went higher and higher. Sometimes it would disappear for ten or twenty feet, but I always seemed to find it again. I knew where the sun was and had a good idea of the direction I was headed. I knew I was going the right way, but I couldn’t figure out how the trail leading up the mountain, was going to get me back to my car 8,500 ft. below.

I walked on, and as I did the song the pastor had chosen for the prelude on Sunday floated through my mind:

“Be Thou Exalted forever and ever,

“God of Eternity, the Ancient of Days!

“Wondrous in wisdom, majestic in glory,

“Humbly we come to Thee our homage to bring.”*

I hummed it. I whistled it. I sang.

On and on the trail went, always bending just enough in the right direction to encourage me, but never quite convincing me it was going where I was going. Finally, I came to a fork in the path. It was a pretty spot. A small waterfall cascaded into a little pool of water that spilled into a creek, which tumbled down the hillside. Here, after nearly two hours of walking, was the first trail marker I had seen on the entire trek. But it was pointing in the direction from which I had come. I looked at it from several different angles, trying to decide which trail was supposed to be seeing it. It seemed like you should see it coming from the falls, but I didn’t see a path there. On the other hand, a very clear path came up behind it. So, deciding this was a switchback in the trail, I followed that clear path.


In just a few minutes, I began to feel a sense of relief. I was going down! I rounded a corner and found myself at a small dam. I crossed the dam and instantly realized I was not on the trail. I was on a service road. At first, this fact encouraged me. I might meet up with other travelers on this road. But the further I went, the more I came to realize that the road had been abandoned. Grass, horsebrush, and sage were thick between the tire ruts. The bushes along the road showed no evidence of having been snagged by a vehicle. I tried to convince myself that one bush had lost the leaves on the tips of the branches hanging out over the road, but—it’s October. I walked on, still singing:

“Be Thou exalted by seraphs and angels,

“Be Thou exalted with harp and with song;

“Saints in their anthems of rapture adore Thee,

“Thine be the glory forever, Amen.”

The road opened out onto a large, spreading meadow. As I jumped over a small stream, I looked ahead. I could see the dirt road following the eastern most edge of the meadow and then curving around to go full west on the other side. By now, I was convinced I was not where I was supposed to be. It was well past the time I’d allotted myself. I had work to finish up and I HAD to get to my car before 8 p.m. I didn’t want to sleep in my car in a campground that I had yet to find. I looked at the meadow and made the decision any person who knows the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, would have made—I cut across the field.

The place where I had crossed the stream was its regathering point. Upstream the creek had spread itself across the full width of the lowest part of the meadow. The part I was crossing. Soon I was ankle deep in cold, mountain spring water.

Even though I came out wet, when I looked back across the meadow,  I realized that, just like many of life's trials, it was one of the most beautiful places I had seen.

Even though I came out wet, when I looked back across the meadow, I realized that, just like many of life’s trials, it was one of the most beautiful places I had seen.

Soon enough, I slogged back up onto the road and trod on, my feet sopping. After about ten minutes, I came to another fork in the road. Here, there was a sign. It had numbers on it: numbers that wouldn’t have helped me even if I had brought along the rather useless map provided at the park entrance.

I continued west, knowing that was the direction I needed to go. About ¾ of a mile and one very long hill later, I saw a gate, a parking lot, and a black truck…

Just beyond the parking lot was another crossroad. Again, I continued west, praying, “Lord, please help me to know which way to go. Help me to see familiar rock formations or landmarks.” I came through a shallow valley with several roads and paths leading off of it. I ducked down a short trail to see if I could see anything from the top of the ridge, but all I could see was trees. Wasting no time, I hurried back to the road and resumed my original direction.

By this point, I was seriously beginning to think I would be spending the night at the recreational area. I knew enough to understand that the service road had brought me much too far east to be anywhere close to where I had parked my car. I had followed it for close to two miles. I had no idea how far off the actual trail I had been when I had started down the road. I knew I had probably averaged a 22 or 23-minute mile pace. Which put me about 6 miles from my starting point. I guessed that I was probably about 3 miles east of where I was supposed to be. The road was good, but the climbs were steep. I guessed that I had a minimum of two hours back to the point where I was hoping the road would come out. By then it would be nearly seven and I would have just shy of a mile to walk to my car. I could still make it by eight…There was just one other thing…it would be dark long before eight o’clock.

As I neared the top of a long grade, I thought over the options. I had prayed everything I could think to pray, except for one thing.

“Lord,” I said out loud, “I really need a Forest Service truck.”

I walked on, but then, about 30 seconds later, I heard something. At first, I thought I was just imagining it, but then I heard it again. It was the distant rumble of tires on gravel. My first thought was the black truck in the parking lot. But then I remembered what I had just prayed. I heard the vehicle round the bend behind me, stepped off the road, and turned to look. It was a beautiful, white, Forest Service pickup…and they had an extra seat.

My estimate was about right. It was close to three miles to the place where the gravel road met the pavement at the gate to the recreational area. The FS crew dropped me off there, and I walked back to my car. It was 4:40. All that, and I was only an hour later than I had planned.


As I thought through the day, I realized a few things. That little adventure, was very similar to many moments in life. We step onto a path, knowing God is leading in that direction. The signs are very clear. But as we continue on, we realize that we don’t know exactly where it’s going. Sometimes we lose sight of it, and we wonder if we have missed it, but then He makes it clear again.

Sometimes we get bogged down in the mire of muddy meadows, we get caught in a tangle of trees, we come to a fork and have to pray long and hard before choosing which way to go; and yet, because we let Him lead us, in the depths of our heart we know we’re going in the right direction. God’s provision to get us to the end of that path, is always just on time. And in that moment of provision, we see we did not sing in vain. In that moment, the prayer, “Be Thou Exalted” is answered.

IMG_4185 - Version 2

Are you on a path that seems to be leading in a direction you didn’t expect? Is it the way God led you? If so, just keep trusting. Keep following through the mud, the trees, the steep inclines—He never fails.

What’s your story? I’d love to hear in the comments below how God is leading you.

*Be Thou Exalted – by Fanny Crosby



I am the author of three books, including the Walking In His Promises, devotional journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. I hope you all you writers will check it out and let me know how I can help you.