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.

 

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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.

The Glass and The Mountain

The Glass and The Mountain

Welcome to Children’s Church! No. We’re not going to start by singing Father Abraham. That song gives me a headache. Too much nodding your head and turning around. But, since my lesson on Sunday was postponed, I thought I would share a little with you.

I should probably start with some backstory. We’ve been studying Exodus 20 and the giving of the Ten Commandments. This week we were scheduled to finish up commands 6-10. The verses following the Ten Commandments, however, were the ones most on my heart.

In addition to this, the Sunday School class that I teach has been memorizing 1 Corinthians 13. Sunday we were working on verse 12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known.”

To illustrate this verse we made our own pane of “glass” using page protectors and card stock. As we say the first part of the verse, we hold our “glass” up in front of our faces. The milky, double layers of the page protector present a blurred vision of everything out in front of us, not to mention of our own faces to anyone who might wish to see us. For the next phrase of the verse, we drop the “glass” down and turn to look at our neighbor—face to face. Keep this “glass” in mind.

 

Before God gave the Ten Commandments, the relationship between Him and Moses was very evident. God was up on the mountain, speaking with the sound of a trumpet, causing the mountain to quake, setting it to smoke and flames, and essentially putting His glory on display for His chosen people. The sound of the trumpet got louder and louder—until Moses spoke.

 

While the people stood in the background shaking in their boots, Moses dared to approach God, but not because he was proud or brash. On the contrary, Moses was a very meek man. Moses could approach God in all of His thunderings and lightings and earthquakes and smoke and flames, not because He was foolish or had no respect or fear for God, but because He KNEW God. He knew that His God would not change. He knew God’s character well-enough to know that even in this full display of power and glory God could be trusted to be ever the same as He always had been. And when Moses had the courage to speak to God, God answered. He answered him, not with the sound of trumpets, but with a voice.

 

Fast-forward to the end of the Ten Commandments. The people have heard what God has to say. He has laid out His law. What is their response? They crawl behind Moses and shrivel up. They stand as far back from the mountain as they can, and, instead of affirming their desire to obey God, they say, “Please, Moses, don’t let Him talk to us again.”

 

Think about that for a moment. They literally said, “Moses, speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

 

Moses’ fatherly ways seem to come out in his answer. He didn’t scold. He sought to comfort them, when he said, “Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.”

 

In response, the people, like a child cowering behind its mother’s skirts, continued to stand afar off. Moses, on the other hand, drew closer. In fact, the Bible says that he “drew near the thick darkness where God was.”

 

God is a God of light, but that day on the mountain the clouds and the smoke and overwhelming awe of His power, holiness, judgment, and glory cast a deep shadow that only one man was willing to approach—the man who knew God.

 

As I think about these verses in Exodus and the verse in 1 Corinthians, I realize that there is a sad similarity between the two Scriptures as well as a similarity between us and the children of Israel. 1 Corinthians 13 says that we see through a glass darkly. We have a great deal revealed to us through the Scriptures, through nature, and through God’s working in our lives, but our knowledge is not perfect. We still have that “glass” between us and God.

 

In Israel’s case, they were standing at the foot of a mountain upon which God Himself had descended. And yet, rather than hear Him speak, rather than look upon Him—they chose the glass. Just like the children in my Sunday School class lifting their homemade panes of glass over their faces, the Israelites chose to put something up between them and God. Yes, they would still get His message, but it wouldn’t come directly from Him. It would go through a third party. Why? Because they were afraid.

 

It is easy for us to do the same. We want to know what God has to say, but something holds us back from pursuing His face. We set a glass, or perhaps a host of window panes, up between Him and us. Those glasses are often good things: pastors, teachers, mentors, authors, even bloggers.

 

Why do we do this? Maybe, like the Israelites, we’re afraid. Afraid He will make us do something we don’t want to do if we interact directly with Him. Afraid He will convict us of our pet sin. Afraid He will show us sins and failures we didn’t know we had in our lives. Afraid He will kill us (or some part of us) in some way.

 

Maybe we don’t know how to approach Him. Maybe we’ve never learned how to pray or how to study His Word. That’s a problem easily solved.

 

Maybe we’re simply lazy. We say we’re too busy, but really we’d rather be fed than feed ourselves. We’d rather let someone else put in the effort of seeking God’s face and then just have them give us a synopsis. We want an instant-oatmeal relationship with God rather than a breakfast-from-scratch experience. We might fight for our Eggo, but we won’t make our own waffles.

 

There is nothing wrong with sitting under good teachers. In fact, we should—often! But no matter how good the message, no matter how solid the teaching—it’s still secondhand. So what is the consequence of secondhand conversations with God? It is a darkening of that glass, a distancing of ourselves from the mountain. It is forfeiture of the joy Moses possessed—knowing God.

 

Saturday night, my family gathered at my sister’s house and had a nice fire out on their newly constructed patio. As I sat there with a glass of water in my hands, enjoying the last few minutes of the evening, I noticed something about the glass, the water, the light, and the fire. By itself, the glass of water barely reflected any light. But when I held the glass up to the fire, it took on the glow of the fire, in fact, it magnified the effect of the light.

 

We have been given the Word of God and the Holy Spirit—that glass and that water—when we dare to draw close to the fire of God’s glory, when we dare to seek His face, they will ensure that He is magnified. He will prove us to see whether we will fear Him and obey him, but by His mercies we will not be consumed. We will not know as we are known until that day when we see Him face to face. But we will come to know, as Moses did, that our awesome, amazing, astonishing God can be trusted to be ever the same, to do powerful things, to work in line with His character, and to draw nigh to us when we lay ourselves aside and dare to draw nigh to Him.

So, my friend, tonight I challenge you: Stop setting murky window panes between you and God, draw near to the mountain, hold up the Word, let the Spirit work, and let God be magnified in, through, and to you.

Version 3

 

Plans to Quit

If you follow both of my blogs, you may have already seen this. But, I felt it was important to put the information in both places.

Forbid Them Not's Blog

When I was a very small girl, Dad and I went on a carnival ride. They called it the Octopus. Maybe you’ve heard about it and its ridiculous tentacles. I was terrified throughout the ride, but the end is most indelibly impressed in my memory. I remember lying on my back as the ride came to a stop. We were at the top, so very, very high up. Gravity pulled us earthward. My small, sweaty hands slid on the metal safety bar. I could feel my back slipping across the fiberglass seat.

“I’m going to fall!” I screamed.

“No, you’re not.” Dad said in his most matter-of-fact voice. “You’re fine.”

“But I’m going to fall!”

“No. You’re strapped in, you won’t fall.”

I felt myself slip a little further. “I’m falling!”

If I hadn’t needed the air to scream, I would have been too afraid to breathe. Why didn’t he…

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Book Birthday Giveaway

King's Daughter: A Story of Redemption

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption

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

I’m giving away five signed copies!

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

Follow the link below for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Some Gifts Just Keep Giving

Shared this on my ministry blog today and thought I’d post it here as well. It’s just for fun. Hope you enjoy it!

Forbid Them Not's Blog

I promised quite a long time ago to share this story, so here it finally is. The following was adapted from a newsletter written in January, 2004. Hope you enjoy it!

Some gifts just keep giving.They make memories and they liven up both your life and your home. In December of 2003, I was given such a gift.

A dear Russian babushka, whom I had been visiting for a long time, found out in November of that year that I was going to have a birthday. She began planning and scheming, trying to come up with the “appropriate” gift. I assured her it was not necessary, but she insisted she would find something. After some time she made her decision. On her kitchen wall hung two large, pottery platters. One was decorated with rather nice green flowers; the other bore a painting of a young couple in traditional…

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