Getting Up Off The Floor

Crushed. That best describes it.

Crushed. That would best describe it.

Never in my life have I felt so repeatedly beaten down as I have over the last nearly nine months. Crushed. That would best describe it.

Time…

after time…

after time.

Some days it comes in the forms of little disappointments that have huge ripple effects. Some days it comes in the form of massive assaults, be they accusations, betrayals, failures, loneliness, or barriers to communication.

Today it was a project into which I have poured huge amounts of time. Everything seemed to be going so well, and then…bang. It all came to a screeching halt. Not because of anything I did (as far as I know), but because of something someone else did. Had it been just that one thing, it might have made less of an impact. But the day had pretty much already derailed before I even finished my breakfast. It’s amazing what one text or one email or one phone call…or one of each…can do to a day.

I’ve never been a quitter. In fact, I’ve usually been the one to say, “Hey, stop giving up, we can do this”…and then go out and get a technical foul because I tried too hard. I’ve never been one to run away from problems. Although, there was that one time when I was tempted to get in the car and drive as far as could…but that’s the thing, I didn’t do it.

For the first time in a long time, this week has brought that temptation. Never seriously, just that little thought, “If I was the kind of person who runs from difficulties, this would be a good time to start running.” Not because things are so much more difficult than they were a few months ago, but because one moment, one day, one month, have all melded into a blur of long weary moments, days and months. Just when things seem to start falling into place, something happens and they tumble out all over the floor again. Just when you think your heart is starting to heal, it bubbles up and you’re crying yourself to sleep again.

And then there are the questions, questions that probably will have no answers between now and eternity. Other questions I dare not even ask because the asking genders unwarranted rebukes, sniffling offenses, patronizing smirks, and accusations of faith undone. They are not questions of faith. They are not questions that challenge the sovereignty of God. They are simple questions, like “What?” and “How?” and “When?”. They are questions of direction and of a heart seeking to understand.

When I was working with the children in Russia, my least favorite words were, Ya nye magoo (I can’t.) Something about their pronunciation in Russian makes the whine behind them so much more evident than their English counterparts. But, have no doubt, it’s there in both languages. When someone would come to me with those words, I almost always gave them the same answer,

“You’re right. You can’t. But God can.”

Today, as I’m scraping myself off the proverbial floor, I must remind myself of that once more. I can’t, but God can. I can’t fix everything that has fallen apart over the last nine months. I can’t be everything that I want to be for everyone. I can’t do everything that needs to be done…But God can. With God nothing shall be impossible. The things HE wants me to do, He will give the grace to complete. Some days, I’m not even sure I know what those things are; so I will seek Him and let Him lead and trust that at the end of the day I will have done what He wanted to be done.

So, if you’re on the floor with me, let Jesus pick you up. Let Him hold you in His arms. Let Him whisper His words of comfort,

“I’m here.”

 

Storm Hebrews 13-5~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blog Cover Pic WIP

ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

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.

 

 

I’m Goin’ In

[Note: Reblogged from the “Life Without Dad” series on ForbidThemNot’s Blog]

I’ve always had this amazing dread of the underneath side of the house. Not a fear, just a dread of the mud and the spiders and the dark—and the spiders hiding in the dark, waiting to take up residence in my hair. But, this week I found myself tweeting this:

“Goin’ in…Here’s hoping I come out alive.”

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Last Sunday night, Mom and I sat in the living room practically melting. By morning, the bagels on the counter had molded. Granted, they were probably well on their way to start with, but the heat in the house didn’t help matters. I had already planned to mow, so why not add the swamp cooler to the list?

Those of you not familiar with semi-arid/arid climates are probably wondering,

“Swamp cooler? Is that a thing?”

The answer is yes. A swamp cooler, otherwise known as an evaporative cooler, lowers the house temperature by means of fans and evaporated water. In a place where the humidity is often under 10% an air conditioner just doesn’t always cut it—especially in a mobile home.

Each spring, the cooler has to be un-winterized and cleaned out. The pads generally need to be replaced. The bearings must be oiled. Some coolers are mounted on the roof, while others fit into a window. Ours is the latter kind, and of course, setting it up in the spring and shutting it down in the winter were always Dad’s job…

I knew I needed a ladder, so Sunday night I brought it home from where we store it at the church. (Thinking ahead!) Monday morning, I put my plan into action. But, I hadn’t been out there long, when I realized I had a problem.

Two summers ago, Dad and I re-sided the house. It took us 7 weeks and 2 days. Yes, I was counting. Now, I am incredibly grateful for those 51 hotter-than-a-firecracker days. (We put a thermometer out in the sun where we working, and it went up to 115!)  Here’s the problem: the new window trim on the deck is set in such a manner that it prevents removing the pad on the left side of the cooler. We took the cooler down for part of the re-siding process. We had to; it was in the way. It took all three of us to get it back up in place, so there’s no way I was going to do that again. From the looks of it, last year, Dad just let it go…one more sign that he wasn’t feeling well long before this happened.

If you’ve ever seen the inside of a swamp cooler, you know the pads are fit in metal frames with metal grates over top of them to hold them in place. After about a half hour of trying in vain to get the frame out of the cooler, I realized it wasn’t going to happen. I decided my only option would be to somehow remove the metal grate, set it down in the cooler and then to wiggle the old pad out and a new pad in.

My hopes of getting everything done on Monday were growing dim.

I measured the pads to know what replacement sizes to get, and then tackled my next problem: Oiling the bearings. How is it, that I live in a state where MANY people use swamp coolers, but none of the people I know who use them know how to set them up? Perhaps it’s because…my dad always did it for them.

I knew something needed to be oiled, but I didn’t know what or where. An information sheet I found on the internet said to put the oil in the “oil receptacle.” Yeah, I didn’t see anything that looked like a “receptacle.” Again, after about a half hour, I Googled it. No wonder I couldn’t find it! The two spots are almost microscopic! But, with that done, I now knew everything I needed to know to go to Lowes and get parts…which, with a few other errands added in, took another 2 hours.

My plan to wiggle the pad in worked! It took quite a long time, but eventually, I got it in there. The other two pads were a breeze. Oiling the bearings—easy as pie. Then came the part I’d been dreading.

While we were suffocating in the house the night before, I’d tried to turn the cooler’s fan on, just to move some air. When I hit the switch, however, the world remained silent. If you know anything about swamp coolers, you know silence is not their strong point. So, now that the pads were changed and the bearings oiled, I needed to find two things: the power source and the water source. Both appeared to be under the house.

I’m not a large person, yet, but I was very aware of the cramped space as I crawled in through spider webs and dangling insulation and wires. In the end, I realized I wouldn’t have actually had to crawl in, if I had known what I was doing. The power source was not under there, and the water source was right inside the access panel. But, while I was under there, I realized how difficult it must have been for my dad all those years he worked under there on various wiring, plumbing and phone projects. I could manage to get up on my hands and knees and turn around. But at 6’2” and well over 200 lbs, he would have had to belly crawl in and belly crawl out—backwards.

After much fidgeting and poking around and investigating, I discovered the system was shut off, of all places, at the thermostat. Makes sense, I just forgot about the thermostat. It wasn’t until I was texting my sister, asking her to pray that I find the power source, that I thought of it. Then, with the flip of the switch we were up and running—what a beautiful sound that was.

 

Probably took me longer than most, but swamp cooler is up & running! YES! #victory sure miss you @KRichardMiller

Probably took me longer than most, but the swamp cooler is up & running! YES! #victory sure miss you @KRichardMiller #LifeWithoutDad

 

Insights for those adjusting to loss:

  • With God’s help we can take on tasks we never thought we’d be doing. Sometimes working on those tasks, the things are father/husband would have done, can be painful. Throughout the process, especially the first time, we are keenly aware of WHY we are doing it. Talk to God throughout the process, keep your eyes on Him—that is where we must be to experience His peace.
  • Pray about it. Sometimes when we get stuck on a project we’re tempted to just force our way through it. Don’t. That will only increase your frustration. Stop, take a deep breath, and pray. Ask the Lord to guide you with His eye, to give you understanding of how things works, wisdom as to what steps to take, and the strength to take them.
  • Sometimes we have to go into the dark to really appreciate someone. My dad was an amazing man. He could fix almost anything. In fact, we fixed pretty much everything together. I don’t mean that I helped him with all the house repairs. I mean when I had a problem, a question, an idea, a computer issue—whatever the situation—Dad and I worked through it together. I’ve always appreciated that about him, but as I crawled through that tight, dirty, spider-infested space I realized a little deeper how much he was willing to put himself through to provide for and protect his family. Take time in the darkness to remind yourself of the amazing man God put in your life. Write some of those things down. Thank God for them—for him.

 

Insights for churches:

  • I grew up in a home with no brothers and a Mr. Fix-it father. So, we girls learned the basics of how things work: how to use a screwdriver and a hammer and how to work through a problem. Not every girl is so fortunate. When a family loses their father/husband, they are also often losing their handyman, their yard crew, their plumber, their tech guy. Who in your church has those skills? This is the perfect opportunity to be caring for the fatherless and the widow as God commanded. For some, the needs may be primarily in the first year, until they get their feet under them. For others the need may go on for a long time—especially if they are elderly or have small children. TEACH those who are able bodied the skills they need to do the task, if it is something that can safely be done without the aid of a professional. Give them the tools to thrive. (I’m thinking skills, but sometimes they may actually need the tools.)
  • Be aware. Many people will say, “If you need anything just call me.” This puts the burden back on the family that is already carrying an amazing burden. They know the offer is sincere, but they also know the person making it is just as busy as everyone else. They know they are working or ministering, and won’t want to disrupt their lives. The needs do not stop the day after the funeral, but many of the calls and offers to help do. Stop by and offer to walk around the house to see if anything needs to be repaired. Are they dealing with leaky sinks, doors that won’t latch, dishwashers that won’t wash, etc? Find out what needs to be done and then present the needs to those who are able and willing to help.
  • Consider the others affected. As mentioned above, my dad set up swamp coolers for others. He also fixed plumbing problems, carpentry problems, computer problems, etc. for the widows in our church and did a great deal of house repair for our single missionary lady. These women have also now lost a great deal. Sit down with the family and find out who their father was helping and serving. Make sure the others whose lives he was touching have not been forgotten.

 

Insights for Individuals:

  • The insights shared for churches have to be carried out for individuals. Ask the Lord to help you know how you can help, to give you a willing heart, to help you see the investment of your time in their lives as a valuable investment for eternity.

 

Are you from a fatherless family? How have others stepped up and helped in time of need? Or have you found yourself struggling through with little help? What are/were some of your biggest needs?

Are you a pastor or church leader? How has your church sought to meet these types of needs, or how do you plan to do it in the future?

Are you an individual? What ways have you found to help fatherless families in their time of need?

Please, share in the comments below.

 

Birds At The Brook

For the first time in two weeks the house is quiet. The phone has been mostly silent. Mom is resting. I hear the ceiling fan rock from time to time. The wall clock ticks faithfully, and a lovely, unusual-for-Montana rain falls softly against the roof and windows. It’s the kind of day that makes you want to curl up and sleep. It makes you want to settle in with a good book or movie and something hot to drink. It’s the kind of rainy, spring day that makes you think.

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I have taken the tasks I set out to complete this morning as far as I can take them for today. I should feel relieved, but as I sit down at the table I find myself confused. I don’t know what’s next. I’m not sure how to balance everything that is now on my plate with everything that was on it before…Before the world turned upside down.

The load doesn’t seem heavy; Christ is carrying it. Of that, I am very aware. But I’m not sure which task to pick up first, which I’m going to need to put off for a while, which I need to pursue because it is most important to this new chapter of my life…the chapter without my Dad.

For five years, since I moved back to Billings and began headquartering my work and ministry from my parent’s home, my dad has been the first person I’ve seen nearly every morning. As I stumbled blindly from my room to the kitchen to make my tea each morning, he was always on the couch, coffee nearby, breathe right strip still clinging to his nose; computer, book or Bible open in his lap. He was very often the last person I saw at night. We always seemed to be shutting the lights out at the same (usually very late) hour.

It’s Tuesday. He should be in the living room printing the materials for a meeting for which he’ll most likely have to rush out the door as soon as supper is over—But the living room is silent.

He should be preparing for tomorrow night’s Bible study—But he won’t be there.

One week before Dad went to Heaven I posted a two-part blog series called Out of Sight: Lessons from a Storm. I had been struggling with seeing where the path was leading, and committed even as I wrote to stop and spend extra time with the Lord. That time came Easter Sunday. After celebrating the resurrection at church that morning, we came home and had a delicious Russian meal. Then I went to a favorite spot along the river and sat down with God.

I hadn’t been there long when the Lord brought Psalm 91:1 to my heart. I turned there and began to read. The entire psalm grabbed my attention. Like applying aloe to a sunburn, it soothed the frayed, frightened places of my heart.

I didn’t know how much I was about to need it.

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Tuesday morning, my Dad somewhat casually told my mom he thought he needed to find a doctor for the symptoms he’d been self-treating for quite some time. (None of the rest us realized how serious those symptoms had been.) My parents had their Bible reading and prayer time together. They ate breakfast together. They headed for the ER but not before stopping to get gas. No one realized, not even Dad, how serious the situation was. Within just a couple of hours he had been whisked into emergency surgery for a six-way bypass. SIX bypasses. How had he even been functioning! The surgery went well. The hospital staff sent us home, and told us Dad would need us more in the morning than he would during the night.

As I woke up the next morning, I turned on a recording of Scripture that I have been working my way through. That morning’s reading was I Kings 17. I hadn’t even gotten past the first three verses when I realized what story I was about to hear. Elijah was about to tell Ahab there would be no rain for three and a half years. Elijah would have to flee from the king and live in exile—But God had things prepared for his servant. He already had a place of safety set aside and had commanded the birds to feed him by the brook. He had already prepared a widow to take care of him when the brook dried up.

As I listened, an overwhelming peace came over me. Yes, Dad’s recovery would be long and hard, but God had everything in control—the birds were already at the brook.

Wednesday was a hard day. Dad was in pain. Breathing was almost impossible; no matter what they tried he couldn’t seem to get enough oxygen. That day I lived moments, which I will never forget: Moments that for now are to be pondered in my heart alone.

As we left the hospital that night, I said, “Good night, Dad. I love you. See you in the morning.”

Which just goes to show how little we know.

I might have made it to the hospital in time the next morning if I had seen the voicemail a few minutes sooner. I drove for all I was worth, possibly breaking more laws in those ten miles than I have broken in my entire life. But I was too late. We were all too late. Dad had already gone Home.

He was ready to go, but we were not ready to say goodbye.

 

I began working with orphans and fatherless children when I was 18. On April 24th, I became one.

The tears I have wiped away in the past became my own. Their hurts became acutely familiar to my own heart. Their questions became my questions: How did this happen? Is he really gone? What will happen to me? What will happen to my mom? Will my sisters be okay? What will we do without him?

Even the affliction, which God so strongly warns His people against throughout the Scriptures, found its way into our lives…but so did Christ. The God of all Comforts has proven himself to be just that. Just as I have pointed the children to God as the Father of the fatherless, I have found Him to be faithful to us.

As I consider that heap of tasks and responsibilities in my Savior’s hands, I am content to leave them there, and to ask Him one step at a time which one I am to take from the pile next. I cannot carry the burden, but He can. I cannot sort through the mess of both new and old responsibilities tangled up like a bunch of Christmas lights in the emotion the last two weeks have brought—but God can.

He has been faithful already. He has sent loving friends to comfort and care for us. He has sent notes and phone calls and hugs, wonderful hugs, to soothe the pain. He has fixed problems before we even had a chance to take action. He has wrapped His arms around us through His Word and wiped away the tears in the night with His peace.

He has been to us the birds at the brook.

 

My story is mine, but it is not entirely unique. How has God comforted you in times of sorrow?

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King's Daughter: A Story of Redemption

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption

 

ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including 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.

 

Out of Sight—Lessons from a Storm, Part 2

Part 2 of 2

As I clutched the steering wheel, straining to see into that storm, I wasn’t really thinking much about the spiritual benefits of the situation. I was thinking about getting down that mountain alive! Whiteouts, however, provide some good lessons for those moments when our path is obscured. Here are just a few:

 

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1. Follow the leader.

Have you ever navigated a storm by following taillights? It’s frightening. What if the taillights disappear in the snow? What if the other driver stops abruptly, and you run into the back of him? What if he turns and you miss it? At that point, the tension level in the car is directly related to how much you trust the other driver.

When our path is obscured by the constant storm of activity and responsibilities around us, it’s easy to start gripping the wheel, pumping the brakes, and squinting into the fog in an effort to get ourselves through it. But, we’re putting out needless effort. We have a steady light to follow—one we can trust implicitly.

If we’re following God, we have no need to worry. He will guide us past the dangers along the edge of the road and lead us through any sudden turns. We can trust Him because, as Job said, “…He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10) God is the One who set the path in front of us in the first place. He knows where it is leading. It may lead through storms and fires, but as a result we will come out as purified gold—a treasure in God’s hand.

This fact, however, does us no good if we don’t acknowledge Him. We can say, “Yep, God knows where I’m headed,” and at the same time be plowing our way blindly through the storm because we’re not willing to follow His lead. We act on our own instincts because we’re not willing to trust the taillights in front of us.

Proverbs 3:5-7 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” We have to let it all go: Give up our understanding of things, commit our works to God, and allow Him to establish our thoughts (Proverbs 16:3). When we let go of the things we’re holding onto then we can take hold of His hand, and let Him lead us through the storm.

 

2. Don’t get off the path.

I knew that icy road was lined with steep drop-offs—whether I could see them or not. I wouldn’t have had to worry about my car spinning out of control and going over the edge if I had pulled over, gotten out of my car, and attempted to walk down the highway. But, more likely than not I would have blindly stumbled over the edge. I might have been struck by another vehicle. Chances are I would have wandered off the road and gotten lost. Who knows how long it would have taken me to get back to the road or to be found once the storm cleared. People die that way.

Sometimes God puts curves in our path. Sometimes they are sharp and sudden. But, unless He is telling us to make a turn, switching directions in a storm can be dangerous. We panic when we can’t see the road, and we start looking for a new, safer path. All the while God is saying, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand, nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” Instinct tells us to find shelter, but we often forget that God is our shelter in the time of storm. (Ps 61:3)

Once we’re off the path, we’re headed in the wrong direction. That icy highway was still leading to Great Falls, neither the destination nor the road itself had changed. They had simply been obscured. The same is true in life. Don’t leave the path just because you can’t see it; you’ll be headed the wrong way. Keep going in the direction God has given you.

If we’re listening, we’ll know when God is leading us into something different. He promised in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” What a precious promise in a storm that blocks the path from our view! He doesn’t leave us to blunder about, He asks us to trust His direction—to keep following the taillights. In Isaiah 30:21 God said, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” When it’s time to turn, God will let you know; until then stay on the path.

 

3. Slow down.

As the rear end of my car tried to overtake the front end, I knew immediately what I needed to do. It makes so much sense when we’re driving. You can’t see anything, you don’t know what’s coming or what’s around you, your car is about to do a 360, so—slow down.

Somehow in life we get it all mixed up. The storms come, the responsibilities, the constant pressure and activities, so what’s our solution? We try to do it faster. We add more things in, thinking they will eventually lighten the rest of the load. We rush things. We rush people. We become distant, distracted, irritable, and impossible to be around. All because we’re trying to barrel our way down a path we cannot see in hopes of getting through the storm sooner.

I don’t remember Jesus rushing around very often. His day was filled with busyness, still the only time the word “haste” is ever linked to Him is when He was telling Zacchaeus to get out of the tree. I don’t remember Jesus running everywhere like a crazy man trying to pack all He could into those 3 ½ years. But, I do remember Him walking from one place to the next, teaching and healing as he went. I remember Him slowing down at the end of a long day to spend time with his Father in prayer.

God did not intended for us to heap massive weights upon ourselves and carry them alone into the storm. Nor did He intend for us to rush through the storm. God wants us to slow down, but we must learn how.

Had I slammed on my brakes as I was coming down that mountainside, I would have spun out. In my mind, I can still see the exact trajectory the car would have taken. I had to first lift and steer. Then I could ease into the brakes.

Slowing down on icy roads takes practice, fortunately, as Christians, we have a good Teacher. God longs to spend time with us. Just as the bridegroom in Song of Solomon sought to be with His bride, God knocks at our door in the still moments of the day. He waits there and whispers, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

The question is “Are any quiet moments left?” Do we fill them all up, so we have no time remaining for Him? The rest we long for is found in those moments of learning from Him. The desire to rush through the storm diminishes as we take His hand and find comfort in Him. But, if we rush through the day and lock the door of our heart as we slip beneath the covers, then, like the bride, we may finally drag ourselves from our beds to answer his knocking, only to discover that He has withdrawn himself. (SOS 5:1-6)

 

4. Stop.

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This is where I find myself.

That day on the highway, the storm never got so bad that I couldn’t keep creeping along. By the time I reached the bottom of that horrid sheet of ice, I had nearly driven out of the worst of it. But, sometimes, the storm comes against you so hard that you have no other choice. You have to stop.

We each go through different kinds of storms: Storms of sickness, of financial pressures, of job difficulties, of relationship problems, of time pressures, of loss. Sometimes more than one storm strikes at once. We’re tempted to do all the wrong things to navigate the fury around us. We start spinning like a whirling dervish (or a car on ice), trying to manage everything…It doesn’t have to be that way.

Sometimes we just need to stop.

We may compare our lives to someone else and say, “I have no excuse. If they can do that, then I can handle this.” It’s good to be encouraged by what others are doing, unless in attempting to do likewise we take our eyes off of our Leader.

It doesn’t matter if your storm is no more than a sprinkle and a breeze—if it has distracted you from Christ and made it impossible for you to clearly see the path He has laid out before you: Stop. Find a quiet place. Step away from the storm. The place of greatest peace is in His presence. Wait on Him. Let Him take all the elements of the storm, whatever they may be, and say, “Peace be still.”

Does this mean we disengage from life? No. The disciples’ ship didn’t stop sailing because they left their posts and went to Jesus, but it would have sunk if they hadn’t gone to him. The few moments they took to seek help from the Savior was the step that eventually saved them and the ship.

Stopping is a choice. Occasionally, God stops us. He says, “Okay, if you’re not going to stop yourself then I’m going to help.” Usually, the circumstances are not too pleasant. Most of the time, however, stopping is up to us. God doesn’t force us to pull away from the mayhem around us. He waits. He drops hints and clues. The Holy Spirit prompts us that we have lost sight of things and need to step back, but He doesn’t usually force us to stop. He wants us to choose to seek Him.

Some of God’s greatest works were done while His people were standing still. (Check out Exodus 14:13.) Ruth’s redemption came as she sat still. (Ruth 3:18) We try to force our way through the storm, thinking once we’re on the other side we’ll be able to figure everything out. It rarely occurs to us in those moments that perhaps God wants us to quietly sort through things with Him, so once the fog lifts we’ll already be headed in the right direction.

I’ve recently taken time to slow down. To reflect on where things are and where God is leading. But, I can clearly see I also need to take time to stop. Sometimes, stopping has to be orchestrated, and I’ve begun looking for places in my “score” where I can put a several measure rest. I don’t know exactly how or when or where, but I’m looking forward to those extra moments with the Lord!

How about you? Where are you right now? Do you just need to keep following the taillights? Have you gotten off the path? Is it time to slow down?

 

Where is your favorite place to spend time alone with the Lord? I’d love to hear about it!

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including the In All Thy Ways 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.

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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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

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.

 

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.

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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.

Jump.

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

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

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:

Him.

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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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

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.

 

 

Faceted

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!

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*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.

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