A Burden Not For You

As I drove home one evening a few years ago, I was praying. My prayer went something like this, “Lord, I know You have given me the ability to write. I want that writing to count for you. I want it to honor you. Please, do whatever it takes to use it for your glory.”

Three days later…

My hard drive crashed.

I don’t mean a little crash. I mean the kind of crash we all dread. I cannot begin to tell you the heart- and gut-wrenching feeling when I realized that computer was not going to restart. When I learned that because I had tried to restart it there was less chance the data would be retrievable, my heart sank even deeper. In addition to hundreds of pictures, that hard drive contained Bible studies, books (my own and others’), outlines, and ministry DVD files. In short, it contained LIFE.

Lightning over Lake

I had been preparing to start out on the road to share my ministry with as many churches as possible, hoping to gain some support both in co-laborers and finances. With no computer, I had no presentation and no display materials. So, the money I had saved for the trip was instead set aside to try to fix the computer. My plans were set aside with it.

All this time, I was trying to figure out how this fit into anything in life. How did it fit into growing the ministry? How did it fit into finding the support the ministry needed? How did it fit into my writing bringing glory to God? None of it made sense.

The time to leave on the trip came and went while my hard drive sat in a lab somewhere in Georgia. Finally, one afternoon, I received a call from a very friendly man.

“Miss Miller,” he said in a southern drawl, “I am so sorry to tell you this. We tried everything, but we just couldn’t get anything off of your hard drive. I saw from your paperwork that this is a ministry computer. We were going to give a discount, but we just couldn’t get anything off of it. Of course, the deposit is non-refundable, but you owe us nothing else. I’m very sorry.”

I told him I understood. I thanked him, but my heart was broken and my stomach was churning. So much lost. So many hours of work—months and years worth of work! Lost.

As I once again began to pull together pictures and text to recreate my presentation and display materials, I still wondered about the purpose in all of this. Was God displeased with me, with my writing, with my presentation? Had I gone about something in the wrong way? Why such a huge delay in everything?

One day during my quiet time, I came across Ephesians 3:13,

 

“Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulation for you, which is your glory.”

 

Paul’s tribulation wasn’t something he was undergoing for his own sake. He didn’t even identify it as suffering for the sake of Christ or of the Gospel, which he did in other places. No, this time his suffering was for the sake of the Ephesians.

As I read that, it occurred to me for the first time that maybe, just maybe, my trial had nothing to do with me at all. Maybe God had allowed this in my life for the sake of someone else. Maybe I was being too nearsighted.

The next verse says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I realized that I could do nothing else. I had asked God to use my writing, to use the ministry, to use me. Somehow, this fit the plan, even if the loss was the only part of the good and the glory that I experienced. The right choice for me was to bow the knee and trust that God would bring glory to Himself through it.

This fit the plan

Two months later, I got on a plane bound for Kenya. The trip I had originally planned to visit churches had not happened. The writing on that hard drive, much of it, was lost. Most of it has never been rewritten. But God used the funds that had been set aside when the computer crashed to buy the tickets for a trip I had hardly dared to dream could happen. In the month that followed, we saw God do amazing things. God had a blessing He wanted to impart on the missionaries there as well as on the orphans, women, students, and churches with whom they were working. The loss of all that writing was required on my part, so that they (and I) might receive the blessing. Furthermore, just over a year after I returned, my first book The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption was published, due in great part to that trip to Kenya.

The burdens we bear and the losses we incur are not always for our sake, nor for our chastisement. I was reminded of this again this week. Circumstances, which I did not understand, overwhelmed me. A bit like when my computer crashed, except now there are so many more of those confusing situations.

At a critical moment, my mom handed me a print out of an email, which a friend had sent to her. I had received the same email, but hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. The email told the story of a woman who had gone rock climbing for the first time. In the process, she lost a contact lens. She searched for it, but could not find it. She was disappointed that when she reached the top she could not see the view clearly. As she and her friends hiked back down the mountain, they heard another climber yell to his buddies, “Hey, did anyone lose a contact?” The contact had been found—carried on the back of an ant!

The young woman’s father was a cartoonist. He heard the story and later drew a cartoon of an ant carrying a contact lens. The caption on the picture read,

 

“Lord, I do not know why you want me to carry this thing. I can’t eat it, and it’s awfully heavy. But, if this is what you want me to do, I’ll carry it for You.”

 

That little ant had a heavy load to bear, but he wasn’t bearing it for his own sake. He was bearing it for the sake of the woman who needed the lens. Likewise, sometimes God gives us burdens to bear that aren’t for our own sake. Yes, we can always learn from any situation, any trial, any burden; but the overall need may not always be our own. Whatever burden weighs us down, may be for someone else, someone who needs what we are bearing.

Consider Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. None of it was for himself. Instead he endured tribulations so that the Ephesians might:

  • Be strengthened with might in their inner man by God’s Spirit,
  • Have Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith,
  • Be rooted and grounded in love,
  • Be able to comprehend and experientially know the breadth, length, depth and height of the love of Christ,
  • Be filled with all the fullness of God.

What an amazing purpose! What a gift he desired to give!

Sorrow, loss, sacrifice, difficulty, poverty, illness, persecution, rejection, and misunderstandings—none of these are pleasant. But what if your endurance of these things will bring about the above gifts in the life of your child, your church, your coworker, your spouse, or your friend? What if your burden has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them?

“Great!” you might say. “That gives my trial meaning, but it is still so heavy!”

To this the Lord says, “Come …

 

“Come unto me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Perhaps, God has given you a burden not for you—A burden, which must be borne for the sake of those around you. Let Him bear you up and carry the load. All that remains for you then is to be faithful.

Come unto me -bench~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

 

 

 

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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

Valleys, Holding Patterns and The In-Between

Several years ago, I boarded a flight bound for Russia. It wasn’t the first, and it wouldn’t be the last; but our approach to the airport in Shannon, Ireland makes it stand out from all the others. As usual the seatbelt light came on, the pilot told us we were beginning our descent, the flight attendants prepared for landing . . . but then something changed. The plane leveled off, and we began a new course. For an hour and a half, we circled Shannon, waiting for the fog to lift so we could land. Our constant change in direction could be seen in the sunlight coming through the windows: First from one side of the fuselage, then from the other. We were in a holding pattern, and all we could do was trust our pilot to get us there.

A few years later, my mom stood in our kitchen and made the frustrated declaration, “I feel like your life has been in a holding pattern for ten years!”

She was wrong…It had been thirteen years.

Just before I turned twenty, I went to Russia to spend a school year working in an orphanage. I fell in love with Russia and her people and decided to stay through the next school year as well. The following spring, I went home to Montana with plans to return to Russia in the fall.

My plans fell by the wayside when the unexpected happened. Over the next ten months, I helped my mother care for my grandfather. In those months, I came to know more about the man I’d always admired. We shared mutual interests and could sit and talk for hours. I often thought back to my childhood. I remembered arriving at his Indiana farm and rushing into the kitchen with its glaring, single light bulb dispelling the shadows of late evening. I remembered him stooping down with arms spread wide and then scooping me up into an enormous flannel-wrapped bear hug. I could still feel his end-of-the-day whiskers rub against my neck as he said, “OH, that’s a good one!”  But in those days, in-between trips to Russia, I came to know more than Grandpa’s smile and embrace; I came to know him.

In February, after Grandpa had gone to Heaven, I returned to Russia to finish out the school year. When I returned to the States three months later, I faced questions. What was God’s next step for my life? I waited and prayed and waited. I worked at Taco Bell. I took a training course. I waited. Then a phone call came, and I was headed back to Russia.

This process, sans Taco Bell, repeated itself time after time, each spring bringing new decisions. Would I stay? Would I go home? Would I come back? With each decision came times of prayer, times of waiting; times of trusting, learning, and growing.

One spring, I made the decision to go home for six months, the longest furlough since that first ten-month trip eight years earlier. I needed to go, to rest… but I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be coming back, not like I had before.

After 6 weeks at home, my “flight pattern” changed. It went into a much longer holding pattern than ever before. My grandparents needed someone to care for them. While my heart ached to be back in Russia, I was keenly aware that where I was, was special. In the months ahead, I would come to know my grandparents as never before. We would eat together, laugh together, cry over Hallmark movies together, struggle through falls and doctor’s appointments together. My heart would be pushed to new extremes of love, anger, hurt and compassion. And through it all, it would grow.

Fifteen months later, I moved back to Montana. I enrolled in a Bible college and hurried through a two-year course in sixteen months. Almost immediately, I headed back to Moscow to survey several ministries. I was sure by the end of the trip I would know exactly where God wanted me—but I didn’t.

I came home discouraged. I remember going to a conference and kneeling at the front of the church, weeping and asking God what I had missed, what I was supposed to do, what was wrong with me. I spent hours praying, searching the Scriptures, journaling and praying some more.

Days and weeks turned into months. I got a job. I started an editing business. I continued to wait, to learn, and to grow, taking little steps along the way as God directed.

Nine months after I had returned home, we launched the website for “Forbid Them Not” and a new ministry had begun—something I had never anticipated. What has followed was worth all the moments of living in-between “not knowing” and “knowing”.

Waiting can be hard, but in the waiting we grow.

I once stood at the edge of a wide mountain meadow. The grass was short. The flowers were delicate and grew close to the ground. Looking out from that vantage point I realized something—things don’t grow well on the mountaintop. If you want to find growth, you have to go to the valley.

We tend to dislike the valley experiences; they are darker, you can’t see as far. But the growth that takes place in the valley gives us the strength to make the climb to the peaks.

The-In-Between_KD-570x868

Last week, I was blessed with the chance to read an advanced copy of “The In-Between: Embracing the Tension between Now and the Next Big Thing” by Jeff Goins. It has been a gentle reminder—Don’t forget to live “the in-between”. Live. Wait. Grow.

Three thoughts from Jeff’s book caught my attention:

“If you and I aren’t paying attention to our lives—if we don’t possess the patience to examine our gifts and talents—then we just might miss what we were made to do.” (pg. 93)

“The word “disappointment” comes from the idea of literally missing an appointment. It originally was used in the context of meetings and gatherings. If you disappointed someone, it meant you told someone you were going to do something and then didn’t keep your word. So what does it mean if we are disappointed with life? Did life make a promise to us that it didn’t keep? Did she promise to always meet our expectations or to keep us comfortable? Can we really be angry with God that things don’t turn out exactly the way we thought?” (pg. 129)

“Our problem, then, is not one of impatience, but entitlement.” (pg. 157)

Somehow, we seem to think we’re entitled to having what we want, when we want it. But that isn’t how God’s plan works. Like any other fruit, the fruit He wants to see in our lives must first bud, grow, and ripen before it is fully mature.

Don’t rush through the valleys, the holding patterns, the “in-between”. God has a purpose for you there. It may be simple “in-between” moments with family. Or, it may allow you to hear God’s still, small voice moving you toward the very thing for which He has prepared you—whatever the case, it is a gift.

Jeff’s Goins new book releases tomorrow, August 1, 2013! You can go here to FIND OUT MORE or GO STRAIGHT TO AMAZON.

The Best Cracker EVER!

I want to share something very special with you, my friends. I want to tell you about a cracker. Yes, that’s right, a cracker.

But I have to tell you a bit of background story first. Five years ago, I was able to spend a month and a half at a children’s home in a former soviet country in Central Asia. Most of the children there are Russian speaking, so, since I speak Russian, we had an almost instant bond. For five long years, I have wanted to go back. Twice, one of the missionaries called me up and asked if I could come on short notice, but then they called back a couple days later and said issues had resolved themselves; we didn’t need to plan the trip. A couple of times, I have looked into going for summer camp, but it has never worked. This year was different. This year it looked like it might just happen…

$6000. That’s what the “direct” flight costs from my hometown. I put “direct” in quotes because there’s nothing direct about it (How many layovers was that again?). And then comes the indirect route, $4000—(Oh, and did we mention they’re rioting in the streets of the city where you’ll be changing planes?) Last is the, well, we’ll just call it what it is – the redneck route. Two, maybe three, separate itineraries that don’t quite meet up, all neatly pieced together with duct tape…Still nearly $4000, and it doesn’t quite work, even if you kick it.

That was the reality I faced Wednesday morning. My travel agent and I emailed back and forth several times until finally I had to say, “Well, we tried.” I knew nothing else could be done. We had checked every possible route and none of them were feasible. I hit the send button and stared at the computer. I picked up my phone and texted my sisters. I told my dad/pastor that the trip wasn’t going to happen. I messaged one of the missionaries (who is currently in the States), and then I found myself alone with reality slowly sinking over me. I wasn’t going. I wasn’t going to see the children, to find out how they have grown, to hear about what God has been teaching them or to share what He has been teaching me. I wasn’t going to be meeting the new children who have come since I was there last. I wouldn’t get to see the caregivers who made me feel so welcomed and for whom I have prayed so many times. How would I ever write that email…

I decided I needed to give it a bit of time. It was well past noon, so lunch would most definitely put me in better shape to take on the task. But as soon as I headed out to fix a sandwich, I realized I was in no state of mind to face people. My heart was broken, and no matter how hard I tried I wasn’t going to be able to hold back its weeping. I bowed to thank the Lord for my food, but I found that I couldn’t talk to Him without tears. I wiped my eyes with the napkin that had been under my sandwich and muttered something about needing a plate instead.

In a few minutes, the activity around me had quieted. I sat at the table with my tuna fish and my Cheez-its, struggling not to let the situation get the best of me, and failing miserably. Was it me? Had I done something wrong, or missed something that I should have done? This was the second time in two months that I’d had to cancel a trip. That’s close to 250 children I had just let down. I felt like such a failure. I wanted nothing more than to go hide in a park with my Bible, where I could figure things out, but it was about to rain. I also had emails to write, the kind I didn’t want to write. Like the showers that came later, tears were already splashing intermittently down my shirt and onto my plate. I kept wiping them away, hoping no one would notice.

I picked up a cracker and was about to eat it when something caught my eye. I looked again. The hole in the center of the cracker was misshapen – in the perfect shape of a heart. I knew it was a gift from my Lord. The tears won.

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I can think of few moments in my life when I have felt loved as strongly as I felt it in that moment. How undeserving of His love I am, and yet He loves me. I fail, I stumble, I plan trips that fall through, and yet He loves me… He loves you.

Don’t miss His love by staring into your failures, I almost did.

This is the first post on this site, but it is not the post I had intended to share first. That post was going to touch on the primary topic of the book I recently started writing: The purposes of the wilderness. But this illustrates it so much more beautifully. You see, one of the purposes of the wilderness is that we might come to know our God. And that little patch of wilderness, complete with its dry, ol’ cracker did just that – it reminded me of the depth of His love.

It brings Song of Solomon 3:6 to mind: “Who is that that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?”

If you’ve read my first book then you probably already have an idea of why Wednesday’s events would remind me of this passage. In The King’s Daughter we saw the beauty of myrrh, in Where The Myrrh Grows we’ll see the beauty of the harsh climate in which it flourishes. SOS 3:6 connects the two.

I’ve always had a strange mental picture associated with this passage. Way off in the distance, just beyond the heat waves rising from the desert floor, comes a chariot with clouds of dust billowing up behind it. The driver is the Knight in Shining Armor, the Prince Charming to beat all princes charming – It is the King. He comes valiantly, ready to declare His victory and retell of His triumphant exploits.

I’ve always seen Him as being on the return from some great conquest, but Wednesday I saw Him coming to the rescue. I had just wandered into the wilderness of deep disappointment, and He, with that beautiful fragrance that marks Him as my King, came to wrap His strong arms about me and to strengthen me…there is no stronger embrace.

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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.