Declare His Doings

Declare His Doings

Last week, we had a conversation in the Forbid Them Not office about the fact that God does not leave us as we walk through trials. He doesn’t forsake us…ever. Sometimes it may seem that He is far, far away, but He isn’t. He is right there beside us, walking through the storm with us, perhaps, as the poem says, even carrying us.

Over the weekend, I was reading in Psalm 9 and ran across this phrase in verse 10, “for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” It made me think of that conversation. My quiet time was interrupted for a few minutes and when I came back to it again, I was reading through the passage a second time. As I came to that verse I was reminded of a scene in Winter’s Prey when Marc is sharing with Jess just how faithful God has been to him.

I thought about those two conversations, one of them real the other fictional, and the many things that God has done in my life over the years. As I read through the next verse I was blessed once more because I realized the conversations reflected God’s desire. It says, “…Declare among the people His doings.”

2013-06-12 13.36.25I believe each of us has times in our lives when we feel that we are all alone, we don’t know how we’re going to pay a bill, we’re not sure what the next step is, we are experiencing incredible loss or physical pain, and then somehow God reveals His loving hand. Maybe it is through a person, a gift, a verse in Scripture, a heart found in an unexpected place (I have a couple of friends for whom this is particularly special and another friend for whom it has always been roses)—whatever it is, somehow God communicates His love, His presence, and His help to us.

When we share what He has done (declare it) that brings Him glory! It shows His power, His presence, His provision, His protection, and most of all His amazing love and grace. So I would like to invite you to spend a little time with me “declaring His doings.” Leave a comment here, on my Facebook page, or on your own Facebook or Twitter feeds using the hashtag #DeclareHisDoings This is a season to sing His praise, not just for what He has done but also for what He is doing!

Let’s #DeclareHisDoings together!


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Rachel Miller

I am the author of four books, including my newest release, Winter’s Prey. I am also the Executive Director of Forbid Them Not Ministries, the happy aunt of ten nieces and nephews, and slightly addicted to life in Montana.

 

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Christmas is almost here! Don’t miss the chance to share Winter’s Prey with the reader in your family!

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Lavender at Sunset

Lavender at Sunset

I love lavender. I have for years. I have five lavender bushes in my narrow little strip of a flowerbed. For a long time, it has been my dream to have a little house with a wraparound porch, enough rooms so that my sister or friends or missionaries could stay with me while in town, a little guest house were Christian writers could come to get away and write, and enough land to have a greenhouse and a small field of lavender. In my mind, I always see it just before sunset as the sun’s most golden rays light up the lavender and the bees and butterflies that have gathered there. It’s not a dream I tell many people about (until now) because it seems so out of reach and yet it’s been there—a glowing hope in my heart.

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A curious moth hanging around the lavender in my flowerbed—just before sunset.

This morning, as I was making my bed and talking to the Lord about various things, I said, “Lord, You know that ‘x’ needs to happen because of ‘y’ next month. I’m trusting you to do something.”

A few minutes later, I picked up my Bible and started reading Psalm 81. When I got to verse ten, my heart rejoiced. It says, “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” What a precious reminder that when we put our trust in Him, He provides!

But then I read on. Verse eleven says, “But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.” How sad! Israel could have experienced the blessing, protection, and provision of the Lord—but they wanted things their way. Their hearts lusted after certain things, and they “walked in their own counsel to get it. They fought for those things—tooth and nail—with their stubborn hearts pushing them ever forward.

Things could have been so much better for Israel. God would have “filled their mouth.” He would have subdued their enemies and turned His hand against their adversaries. He would have fed them with the finest wheat and given them honey out of the rock. He would have satisfied them.

Since I am neck deep in the rewrite of the sequel to Winter’s Prey these days, I couldn’t help but think of Jessica Bennett and her struggle for contentment—for satisfaction—in what she thought would make her happy. She, like the Israelites, clung to what she wanted, what she felt God owed her, rather than putting her life in His hands and trusting Him to satisfy her.

Today, my lavender sits un-mulched under 2-4 feet of snow, depending on which end of the flowerbed you’re talking about. Over the last few weeks as I have watched the drifts get bigger, I have prayed, “Lord, please don’t let the trunks split under the weight of that snow. Please don’t let the fact that I was called away for an emergency while I was mulching be the death of those plants. I was just trying to help someone. Please spare those plants.”

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Can you find the flowerbed?

This morning with a few little branches of lavender sticking out where the plow scraped by and with thoughts of Israel and Jessica Bennett running through my mind, my heart went to that glowing hope. As a single woman, you go through life, you age, and you inevitably reach moments that tear your heart: The moment you realize you can still wait and hope for marriage, but you must start establishing a life; the moment you realize that as much as you want to have children your chances of that happening are now very small; the moment you realize that if you ever do get married, your dad is gone and won’t be there to walk you down the aisle; the moment you see your friends’ and siblings’ children growing and entering a new stage of life and you realize you’ll probably never get to be a grandma. This was another one of those moments for me. Had I been clinging to my little dream? Was I saying in my heart, “I might not have all of those other things, but maybe I could have this”?

I am 41 years old, and there is a sense in which I have given away most of my life “free of charge.” The only assets I have ever owned are my two cars, one of which is 16 years old and the other is 21 years old. The security pictured in that little glowing hope in my heart is desirable. But does it stand to reason that it would make me happy?

Is it wrong to dream, to hope, or even to pursue those dreams? No. But what if those dreams aren’t what the Lord has for me, for you?

What if what He has is much better?

If I cling to my dream—fight for it tooth and nail—but reject what He is offering me, what will I have? Israel had no joy but rather sorrow. Jessica Bennett certainly had no joy, instead she lived in misery. I don’t want that in my life.

I want my mouth to be open to the Lord so that He can fill it. Did He tell me this morning to forget all about that dream and get rid of it? No, but He did tell me to make sure it is in its rightful place, to put it and all of my future in His hands.

So, with tears, I laid my dream back where it belongs—not for the first time and probably not for the last. I want what He wants for me. I’m willing to trust that He knows me, my needs, and the desires of my heart and is far more capable than I am. I am trusting Him to do as He sees best and to satisfy. I would rather have the joy of His presence than the sorrow of a selfish heart.

So there, my friends, is a very real and raw part of my heart. Let me ask you, Is there something you are fighting for that’s keeping you from receiving what God has for you? Let it go. He will satisfy.

 

Declare His Doings

Declare His Doings

Last week, we had a conversation in the Forbid Them Not office about the fact that God does not leave us as we walk through trials. He doesn’t forsake us…ever. Sometimes it may seem that He is far, far away, but He isn’t. He is right there beside us, walking through the storm with us, perhaps, as the poem says, even carrying us.

Over the weekend, I was reading in Psalm 9 and ran across this phrase in verse 10, “for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” It made me think of that conversation. My quiet time was interrupted for a few minutes and when I came back to it again, I was reading through the passage a second time. As I came to that verse I was reminded of a scene in Winter’s Prey when Marc is sharing with Jess just how faithful God has been to him.

I thought about those two conversations, one of them real the other fictional, and the many things that God has done in my life over the years. As I read through the next verse I was blessed once more because I realized the conversations reflected God’s desire. It says, “…Declare among the people His doings.”

2013-06-12 13.36.25I believe each of us has times in our lives when we feel that we are all alone, we don’t know how we’re going to pay a bill, we’re not sure what the next step is, we are experiencing incredible loss or physical pain, and then somehow God reveals His loving hand. Maybe it is through a person, a gift, a verse in Scripture, a heart found in an unexpected place (I have a couple of friends for whom this is particularly special and another friend for whom it has always been roses)—whatever it is, somehow God communicates His love, His presence, and His help to us.

When we share what He has done (declare it) that brings Him glory! It shows His power, His presence, His provision, His protection, and most of all His amazing love and grace. So I would like to invite you to spend a little time with me “declaring His doings.” Leave a comment here, on my Facebook page, or on your own Facebook or Twitter feeds using the hashtag #DeclareHisDoings This is a season to sing His praise, not just for what He has done but also for what He is doing!

Let’s #DeclareHisDoings together!


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Rachel Miller

I am the author of four books, including my newest release, Winter’s Prey. I am also the Executive Director of Forbid Them Not Ministries, the happy aunt of ten nieces and nephews, and slightly addicted to life in Montana.

 

screen-shot-2016-07-12-at-10-30-24-pm

Christmas is almost here! Don’t miss the chance to share Winter’s Prey with the reader in your family!

Winter’s Prey Once Had Thanksgiving

Winter’s Prey Once Had Thanksgiving

This morning I was thinking back over my Thanksgiving and what a wonderful time we had gathered Thursday night as a family, laughing and joking and just relaxing. That sort of reminiscing usually leads to thinking of other Thanksgivings, and I suddenly remembered a Thanksgiving in Winter’s Prey’s past. So I did a little bit of digging in my file cabinet and found a few interesting tidbits that I thought I would share with you. It really is amazing how much a story changes from its first draft to its final draft. So here you go:

• The original Winter’s Prey was called Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens, which as you know is now the name of the series (and of this blog).

• The earliest drafts that I can find are either written out by hand or printed off of our old Mac on an old-school dot matrix printer (you can see the perforation marks where the old feeder edges were torn off). One version of it still has most of the pages connected end to end.

• That early version starts on Thanksgiving Day. Joe’s family and the Bennett’s celebrate it together. They also all have very poorly executed accents from another part of the country. (Learn the story behind Winter’s Prey here.)

• Jon and Hannah are still courting. (Although another early version does have them married as in the final version.)

• Joseph’s last name is Winters, and he has a brother names Corney (Cornelius). Aren’t you glad that didn’t stay in there! 😀

• The entire story is written in first person. And some scenes are written from both Jessica’s and Marc’s perspectives—in the first person! That would certainly be cumbersome! As the writer, however, it helped me come to know Jess and Marc a little better.

So there ya go! A few little Thanksgiving secrets from Winter’s Prey. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving! God has given us so much. Let us praise Him together as we enter this season of celebrating the birth of Christ and His amazing gift of salvation!


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Rachel Miller

I am the author of four books, including my newest release, Winter’s Prey. I am also the Executive Director of Forbid Them Not Ministries, the happy aunt of ten nieces and nephews, and slightly addicted to life in Montana.

Joining the Journey of a Grieving Soul

Joining the Journey of a Grieving Soul

“Why, Mama? Why would she do it?” Joy’s demand came as tears welled up in her eyes and slipped down her cheeks.

Marc, who sat nearest to where the girl was standing, held out his arm to her, motioning for her to come close. When she had, he pulled her gently into an embrace.

“Because she’s hurting, Joy, and she’s not sure how to handle it. It’s not a wise decision, but sometimes pain blinds us. Pray for her.” He kissed her temple lightly and held her while she wiped her tears. To his surprise, the redhead wrapped her arms gratefully around his neck and clung to him for a long while.

“I love you,” she whispered at last and then went to the shelves under the loft to find a book.

—Winter’s Prey, Pages 62, 63

 

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Grief is a strange thing. For a time, and in some cases for the rest of our lives, it changes us. Things that once seemed clear now seem veiled behind some strange new reality: One we never could have imagined before. The hole in our hearts seems so large and raw that it is almost unimaginable that ANYTHING could ever fix it. “Time,” they tell us, “time will make it better.” And it does, in some infinitesimal way. But in those early days of grief, when the world is still spinning and nothing makes sense anymore and we no longer know who we are because who we were has been stripped of one of its greatest foundations—in those days grief blinds.

Last week, some friends and I sat across the table from a woman who had lost nearly every material possession in the wake of her husband’s death. She was in a desperate place, but as I listened and watched I saw a desperation that was deeper than what could be seen even in the destitution of her physical situation. It was the desperation of grief. It was the questions that swarm through the mind, “Who am I without him? What will I do? Where will I go? How will I survive?”

The questions are very normal, but to the onlooker, the responses seem so very strange and illogical. As she threw out her proposed solutions to her situation, my stomach twisted itself in knots. Each one seemed like a plan destined to drive her current situation into further destruction.

“Why would she do that? Why would she make such a desperate move?” I caught myself thinking. But in the next moment, I would see the grief in her eyes, and I would remember. I would remember what it was like to have my world ripped out from under my feet and the sudden unexplainable emotion that came with it. I remembered the urgency to find a solution that would keep our heads above water. I remembered the fog that clouded the thought processes and numbed all senses but one—the sense of pain and loss.

The grieving soul can be repulsive to the whole, vibrant, secure soul. Their actions may seem irrational or foolish, when really they are simply grasping for hope, for a means to survive. We do not see that our counsel, though perhaps far better than their own, is frightening to them. They have never walked this road before, never slogged through the mire of emotion that inhibits their every step. We do not see that they need our patience every bit as much as they need our clarity of mind. We easily become frustrated or impatient or hurt by their blundering. We see our discomfort, but cannot truly imagine that theirs is a hundred, thousand times greater.

There was but one thing we could offer that woman that night as we sat at the table. The one thing, which so often held me above the churning waters of grief—Christ. Sure, we could counsel her as to what steps to take next. We could find organizations to help her. But Christ, and Christ alone, could give her the hope, the peace, for which she was searching.

The fog of her grief made it very hard from our point of view to see whether she had truly reached out and taken hold of that Hope. Only God knows the answer to that question. Our job was simply to tell her of that Hope and to love her, comfort her, and to meet the needs we could meet.

As the story in Winter’s Prey moves along the Bennetts find that grief is not a problem to be solved but rather a journey to be taken. At times it is a long, slow, arduous journey. Perhaps that is why God had to command us to weep with those who weep. It isn’t something that comes naturally. The whole soul cries only for a moment, while the grieving soul weeps for a night that seems eternal. Attending a funeral is one thing, slogging through the trench of transition with the mourning is another. It is a journey laden with care and burdens and worry, all of which must be taken to the Lord. And that is where Marc’s solution comes into the picture: Pray.

Are there grieving souls in your life?

Pray for them.

Do you see them making decisions that you don’t understand?

Pray for them.

Do you see them acting in ways they’ve never acted before?

Pray for them.

Do you see them hurting those they love the most?

Pray for them.

And then do something more:

Love them.

God did not give us the fruits of the Spirit to waste on ourselves. He gave them to be shared with those around us. Let Him pour out His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance through you and into their lives. Study out what it means to truly love, to extend charity, and then live it toward the hurting around you. They may not receive it the way you want them to or even would expect them to, but that is not up to you. Your part is simply to love them as God loves you. We don’t always return His love either, but He loves us still.

God makes an amazing promise to the grieving soul. He says, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” The Greek word translated “mourn” means “to wail”. This person isn’t just a little bit sorrowful! No, this person feels as though their heart has been ripped from their chest. And yet God says they are happy—because they will be comforted. The Holy Spirit is the great Comforter. But God has also made it clear that He “comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God.”

Are you a grieving soul? Let the hope of Christ be your strength. Let the Holy Spirit come alongside to strengthen, encourage, and guide you. Are you struggling to know how to respond to a grieving soul? Pray for them. Love them. Walk along side of them and let the Lord comfort them through you, however long it takes. Grow together not apart. The path might not be easy for either of you, but in the end you will find that God’s promise is true—you will find the happiness of His blessing and comfort.


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Rachel Miller

I am the author of four books, including my newest release, Winter’s Prey. I am also the Executive Director of Forbid Them Not Ministries, the happy aunt of ten nieces and nephews, and slightly addicted to life in Montana.

The Gain of Contentment

The Gain of Contentment

“Now nearly thirteen years later, the small chamber was not so comfortable. With all five girls in the room, space was non-existent. The chests of drawers were shared: Jess and Elizabeth using one, Mary and Joy splitting the other. Gretel’s few items resided neatly in a small wooden crate, which Mary had carefully placed beside her dresser and lovingly dubbed “The Annex.” Beside the original straw mattress, two more had sprung up, so that the room was all mattress and no floor. But for the most part the quintet was content. They loved one another and did their best to avoid squabbles, though it wasn’t always possible.”

Winter’s Prey – page 56

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When I set out to write Winter’s Prey, it wasn’t intended to be a book about contentment, and yet from start to finish that thread has woven itself throughout the book. From the tight conditions of their small home to the overwhelming conditions of their rugged lives, the characters are constantly faced with that choice either to be happy where they are or to miserable. Some of them choose well, for others it is a great struggle.

The same can be said for us. We live in a world that is constantly offering us more. Even as I type this, an advertisement is flashing in the bottom corner of my browser window. It’s telling me about all the great tools and products I can buy to make my home what it ought to be. Not to mention the awesome office products I can purchase to make my home and business more successful. It’s promising me more. But what about what I already have?

It’s easy for us to look at others and say, “Wow, they’ve got it made. I wish my situation was like theirs.” I’m currently on a 4,000 mile trek across the US sharing about the ministry of Forbid Them Not and speaking in ladies’ conferences. Early on in my trip, someone said to me, “I bet you live in a big, beautiful house.”

I almost laughed out loud, but the Lord helped me keep my demeanor. “No,” I replied, “I live in a mobile home—that leaks.” It wasn’t a complaint. It was just the truth.

“Well,” she said, “but at least you have a mobile home. I have a mobile home too.” And she was right. Even though my house was showing its age in the form of a leaky roof and windows, I have a home. Some do not.

As I have driven across Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Missouri, I have often seen what appear to be ancient homesteads. I can’t help but think of the difficulty of the life their people led. Today people live off the land by preference; the homesteaders and pioneers did it by necessity. I have stood in homes in Africa where the primary building materials are mud, cow dung, straw, cardboard, and newspaper. And yet the people living there are some of the happiest, most content people I have ever met.

Scripture tells us that, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6) The gain of contentment isn’t something you can buy off a shelf or earn on the stock market. Contentment, while not putting something extra in our hand, is both laying up a treasure in heaven and lifting a weight from our lives. When we walk through life contentedly, the pressure to be or do or have is removed. We can look to Christ and say, “Help me to be who You want me to be and to do as You want me to do. I trust You to supply my needs.”

Contentment isn’t easy. I used to think it was some magical state that eluded my every move. Why couldn’t I just be content? I cannot begin to tell you the joy I experienced the day that I discovered the secret the Apostle Paul makes so clear in Philippians. He said, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

I have LEARNED! Contentment will never be a sudden or spontaneous achievement. Contentment is a growing process. It is a discipline. It takes practice! It also requires the choice to intentionally be happy with what I have, where I have it.

I’m happy to report that, even though it is raining in Montana as I write, my house is dry. The leaks seem to have been fixed. But even when our house is leaking, or our car is making its age known, or our clothes are wearing thin, we can learn to be content. And one of the best ways to make that process easier is by choosing gratitude.

Are you content where God has put you? What has He given you that you can be thankful for? I’d love to hear what He has taught you about contentment!

________________

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

About Rachel Miller

I am the author of four books, including my newest release, Winter’s Prey. I am also the Executive Director of Forbid Them Not Ministries, the happy aunt of ten nieces and nephews, and slightly addicted to life in Montana.

The Story Behind Winter’s Prey

The Story Behind Winter’s Prey

screen-shot-2016-07-12-at-10-30-24-pmYesterday, I shared a little about the background of Winter’s Prey in a post on Facebook—from a writing perspective. But I think it is important to share a little more about the background of the story.

I started writing the book when I was 14 years old. That’s right, 14. There are many reasons why it took 26 years to finish this book, but mostly I think it had a lot to do with God’s timing.

When I was a little girl, about 9, something happened that greatly upset me. It was a little something. In fact, it was so insignificant that it doesn’t even warrant mentioning. So why am I mentioning it? Because I held onto that something for a long time—and it made me miserable.

On the first morning of third grade, I got up, pranced down the stairs of our parsonage-home in Illinois, and walked into the living room where my dad was reading his Bible.

“Good morning!” he said, “and how is my big third-grader this morning?”

Those words made me feel loved. They made me feel that Dad was so proud of me!

By the next year, our family had moved. On the first morning of fourth grade, I walked out of my bedroom in our apartment on the campus of a Bible college in South Dakota and into the living room where Dad was reading his Bible.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Good morning,” he replied, not looking up from his Bible.

I waited. He said nothing more. My heart sank, having expected to hear those same words again. Instead of being assured of how much my dad loved me and was proud of me, I was now certain that he didn’t care.

I understand now that what was going to follow was one of the greatest displays of love and self-sacrifice my parents had ever shown to my sisters and me. You see that was the day they started homeschooling us. Dad’s new position with the college meant he would be on the road a lot, and he didn’t want to leave us behind. So they dedicated themselves to the labor and expense of making sure we could be together and still get the education we would need for life. It would mean long hours, lesson plans upon lesson plan, textbook purchases, and even coaching girls’ basketball at one point! (Can you imagine teaching 2nd and 4th grades while trying to wrangle a 4-year-old all in a 1981 Chevy Citation!!!) The entire day (and the years to come) was a display of love—but I saw only my disappointment.

My dad never could have met my expectation because he did not know it existed. He was one of the most loving, caring, and kind men I have ever known. He never would have intentionally hurt me, but my 9-year-old brain didn’t really understand life for what it was.

Years passed, and even though I had a good relationship with my dad that little seed festered in my heart. It grew into, as the Bible puts it, a root of bitterness. I heaped other disappointments up on top of it. I kept score. And, while I loved my dad very much, attitudes of resentment and even rebellion began growing in my heart.

When I was twelve, we moved to Billings, MT where my dad became the pastor of a church that was about to close its doors. For the first few months, we lived in an RV behind the church. IT WAS COLD!!!!! Do you know how cold it can get in a trailer when it’s 20 below? Let me tell you, it’s C-O-L-D!

In the spring, we moved a mobile home onto a piece of property outside of town. That summer on those 80 acres, I fell in love with Montana. We didn’t get to live there long before we had to move back into town, but I memorized just about every inch of that land. And talk about treasures! Someone had used part of the land as their own little landfill—a long time ago. I found antique medicine bottles, an old purse, junk I didn’t recognize—all kinds of things to stir up the interest of an imaginative 13-year-old.

That winter we went to a special meeting where the speaker talked about forgiveness. It wasn’t until that night that I realized that I had a very unforgiving heart toward my dad. I really don’t remember anything the speaker said. I just remember the ugliness that God revealed in my heart. I confessed it to God, and found a new freedom in my relationship with Dad in the days to come. But I never told anyone about what had happened, at least not for a long time. Instead…

I started writing a story. I didn’t want others to have the hurt of bitterness in their lives. I didn’t want it to destroy their relationships like it could have destroyed mine. I don’t know if most 14-year-olds think this way or not, but I did. So, in our little space of prairie “Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens” and Marc and Jess and Jon and the whole Bennett family were born.

Obviously, the story doesn’t end there because it took me 26 years to get to this point! But I believe there were still things I needed to learn. Some of them you will see in this book, some of them don’t come out until the next book, or even the one after that. But Winter’s Prey is the beginning, and I hope it will do just what that 14-year-old girl—cuddled up on her bed with pen and notebook in hand and the relentless Montana winds beating and whirling about her mobile home—hoped it would do. I hope that it will bless. I hope that it will encourage. I hope that it will stir each of us to love when others are not lovely, to forgive when others seem unforgivable, to extend grace where judgment is more desirable, and to value our relationships with each of our family members to such an extent that we will work to make them what they ought to be.

I hope you enjoy Winter’s Prey and that it will bless many for years to come.

——-

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Rachel Miller

I am the author of four books including my newest release, Winter’s Prey. I am also the Executive Director of Forbid Them Not Ministries, the happy aunt of ten nieces and nephews, and slightly addicted to life in Montana.