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.

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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.

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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 Gift Beneath the Wrapping

Yesterday morning as the children in our church and I were all walking out of the auditorium to go to Junior Church, our pastor stopped us and asked the children an interesting question.

“Do you like surprises—gifts—to be wrapped and done up all fancy, or would you rather just have them handed to you?” he said.

The children were a little surprised at first, and, to be honest, I was wondering if they would now be expecting a surprise when we got to class. I held my breath, waiting to see how this would all unfold. Eventually, most of the children said they would like to have their surprises wrapped up because it’s fun to unwrap the gift.

Pastor seemed satisfied with their answer, and I was relieved when he said, “I don’t think there are any surprises downstairs. I was just curious to see if kids still feel the same way I did as a kid.”

With that said, we all went downstairs and had our lesson, giving the conversation no further thought…until last night.

After Sunday night’s Christmas program, Pastor preached on seven gifts. As he began his message, he talked about wrapping gifts and how, in just a matter of moments, the hours spent on wrapping would be in a heap under the tree. This caught my attention because I love wrapping presents in a way that makes them special for each person. I love putting that little extra touch on it that makes it just perfect. But, as pastor said, the paper all gets ripped away because what we’re really interested in is the gift, not the wrapping.

That got me to thinking. Often in life, we’re handed gifts that come in packages that just really aren’t that appealing. Instead of the wrapping of success, joy, peace, comfort, and love we find ourselves being handed a gift wrapped in failure, loss, persecution, hate, or sorrow. No one wants a package like that. We did not expect or plan those things for our lives, but suddenly there they are. In that moment we have a choice. We can choose to stare at the wrapping and despise what has been handed to us, or we can tear back the paper and look inside to find the gift.

As I look back on 2015, I see some amazingly beautiful gifts, but I also see some very ugly packages. If I were walking through a store choosing packages to place under my tree, I would choose none of those ugly ones. They are wrapped in hurt, tied together with accusation, and ornamented with bows of betrayal, rejection, and failure. But if I walked by them, I would be missing gifts of grace, mercy, comfort, strength, and even hope.

Earlier this year, one of those packages left me feeling worthless. I felt that my whole life had been brought to ruins because of one devastating moment. As I drove down the road a day or two later, tears slipped down my cheeks, and I poured out my heart to the Lord. In those moments, that still small voice whispered into my pain, “You are still my daughter.”

Think of that! What a precious thought! Still His. Not worthless. Not rejected. Not forsaken. —LOVED!

Without the pain of loss, rejection, and false accusation, I would not have experienced God’s amazing love to the extent that I saw it along the road that day. Without the hurt of betrayal, I would not have discovered new depths of the peace of acceptance in the Beloved.

We easily forget that beneath the ugly wrapping is a pearl of great price. We forget that the greatest gift ever given was wrapped in a crown of thorns. So let me challenge you, before the year is out, take the time to look back, find the ugly packages, tear the wrapping aside, and find the gift within.

Remember that you are still the King’s daughter (or son). He has purchased you, adopted you, and given you a second birth. You are His three times over, and He will not let you go. He will run after you as no father ever pursued his child because God loves you more than any earthly parent has ever loved. He knows how to give us good gifts, so, go on—find the gift beneath the wrapping.

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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. I hope you’ll stop by and let me know how I can help you.

Looking For Stories

I am (very slowly) working on an outline for a follow-up book to the King’s Daughter. It isn’t the one I originally planned as a follow-up, but I believe it will touch on some very important needs and difficulties, which all of us face. As part of my research (and maybe even part of the book), I am looking for stories that show how God taught specific lessons in an individual’s life. Below is a list of the topics. I am also looking for stories for another project dealing with chivalry, courage, and the relevant life. If God has taught you lessons in any of these areas, I would love to hear your story. Please, type it up (doesn’t have to be long, detailed, or perfect) and send it to “rmiller  at gracewritingservice dot com” I’m looking forward to reading about what God has done in your life!
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King’s Daughter Topics:
Value vs. Worthlessness
Acceptance vs. Rejection
Carried vs. Forsaken
Joy vs. Emptiness
Peace, Restoration, and Gratitude vs. Anger, Resentment, and Frustration
Hope vs. Hopelessness
Purpose vs. Pointless Living
Companionship (with God) vs. Loneliness
Comfort/Healing vs. Pain
Security, Patience, Peace, vs. Insecurity
Confidence in God vs. Self-doubt
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Project 2:
1. Stories of how someone behaved courageously or chivalrously on behalf of someone else.
2. Stories of how someone benefited from the courageous or chivalrous actions of another.
Looking forward to hearing from you! (rmiller at gracewritingservice dot com)
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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.

Beta Readers Needed

Big Lake, aka Big Dry, Molt, MT

Big Lake, aka Big Dry, Molt, MT

So, I’ve let the cat out of the bag…My first fiction book is almost done! Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be making the final changes and looking for a few people to read it and provide feedback before moving on to the next step. There aren’t any qualifications for reading it, but there are a few things that I would like each reader to be watching for so they can answer a short (anonymous) questionnaire at the end.

Below is a short description of the book and a list of the question topics that will be on the questionnaire:

Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens – Book 1 – Winter’s Prey

Description

When the cruel elements of the Montana Territory inflict tragedy on the Twin Pines community, life for the Bennett family is forever changed. Jessica is certain the answer to her pain lies in starting over. Her brother Marc is determined to stay true to what he has always known. Marc commits to show Jess God’s love no matter the cost; but when a courageous choice leads to disaster, he fears he has driven her further away. A crushing secret forces both to examine their lives: Will they choose to walk in God’s love and faithfulness, or to walk on in their own strength?

Winter’s Prey is the story of a pioneering family’s struggle not only to survive life on the frontier but also to maintain faith in the midst of tragedy. It is a story of love, surrender, and hope.

Approximately 285 (8.5 x 11) pages

Questionnaire Topics

1. First Impressions

2. Plot/Structure Development

3. Concept Development

4. Overall Readability

5. Character Development, Dialog

Don’t worry, the questions are easy, and you only have to answer the ones you are comfortable answering. If you’d like to be included in this fun, exciting project, just let me know via Facebook or at rmiller at gracewritingservice dot com as soon as possible, and I will send you the files as soon as they are ready. 🙂 I will be limiting the number of readers, so don’t miss your chance!

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.