The Gain of Contentment

The Gain of Contentment

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

Winter’s Prey – page 56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

About Rachel Miller

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

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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.

——-

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.

Unfinished Stories

Unfinished Stories

Life doesn’t always go the way we think it will. …Scratch that. …Life RARELY goes the way we think it will. We make plans, but they change, unravel, and sometimes just plain fall apart. Some people bounce back quickly or just go with the flow when this happens, but even the most fluid people eventually reach that point when they don’t know how they got where they are or where they’re supposed to go next.

Those moments can be terribly disheartening.

About a year ago, after years of painstaking work, I dared to send out a book to a group of friends who agreed to provide feedback on the novel. Their insight was amazing. They helped me spot numerous typos, found a few structural and conceptual issues, pointed out that a couple of characters needed more memorable names, and so on. I was very excited. I was sure that in a month’s time I would have the edits finished and be on my way to publishing the book.

And then, life happened.

With almost no warning, my writing time was suddenly gone (as the scarcity of posts to this blog bears witness). The few moments I had to work on the book here and there were usually interrupted, overwhelmed by other needs, or so far apart that I felt I had to start all over just to figure out where I had left off.

Talk about a plan gone wrong!

Week after week, I was editing someone else’s writing to make a little extra income, while my own writing sat in a pile of edits and drafts and notes—untouched. It was discouraging.

Finally, over this past Memorial Day weekend, I had time to make huge progress. I finished most of the changes and then started reading back through the book. But I only made it halfway before the weekend ended. Once again, the manuscript sat—always open and ready on my computer, but stuck on Chapter 22. The process seems to drag.

We all have “unfinished manuscripts” in our lives, whether they be actual books or some other goal or hobby or passion. Some of them we have pursued with every ounce of energy only to have our plans thwarted in some way or by someone. Sometimes it’s not just one manuscript; in fact, if you know many writers, you know that we usually have piles of manuscripts in progress. Even if those “piles” are organized neatly in our computer, they are still there.

Sometimes the unfinished or the failing or even just the faltering dream can weigh down on our spirits. We begin to let them define us. “See,” we say, “I’ve never finished this project or that one.” Or, “Look. Everything I’ve tried to do has failed.” Or, “Nothing every works out, so why should I try?”

That’s when it’s important to remember that what we accomplish is not who we are.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say that before, but we live in a culture that denies it. We expect perfection from ourselves because our culture has set a very high standard of achievement before us, and to “be anyone” we must attain. This isn’t just a trait of our world. It has also crept into our service and worship. We mean well, but sometimes our expectations of service or participation or behavior just aren’t attainable. And the next thing you know, we’ve got everything upside down. We schedule every moment with so much “service” that we forget to take time to simply walk humbly before our God. We work so hard to keep ourselves unspotted from the world that we forget we must sometimes go into the hard places of the world to touch those in need. We overachieve when God simply wants us to be.

Sometimes, we just need a reality check. We need to remember that who we are is not what books we have written, what jobs we have worked, what programs we have developed, what ministry we have carried out, what businesses we have started, what businesses we have lost, how many children we have had, how many marriages we’ve had, how large a house we own, or if we can pay our rent. None of that makes us who we are. Those are a part of us. They have helped to shape us. They are the circumstances that help to form our character. Our world may identify us or classify us by some of them, but they are not what is important. One thing matters:

Who I am before Christ.

When He looks at me, what does He see? A lost sinner? A child that has wandered astray? A repentant heart? A labor-weary servant? A redeemed and precious child?

When He looks at my heart, is it pure? Is it a place where He has full reign? Is it growing to reflect and resemble more of Him and less of me?

One thing is sure—we are loved with a love that will pursue us to the end of the earth. When we fall, He will be there to lift us back up, brush us off, and set us on the right path—or to chasten us if need be. When we feel we have failed in an assignment, He is there to pull us back on track and to remind us that, just like my manuscripts,—our story isn’t done. There is still time to edit. We may not be able to change things in the past, but with God’s help we can do right in the future. One little decision, one little commitment to let God lead and to follow Him no matter what can change the plot lines we thought were already set. And then, the next thing we know, an adventure has begun.

So, to all of you who read my book last spring, thank you again, and please know that your labors weren’t in vain. The book is so much closer, and so much better, because of you.

And to those of you who are feeling like your “pile of manuscripts” will never be complete, rest in the Lord. Let Him guide you to the next step. After all, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it…” (Psalm 127:1)

And to those of you whose lives seem to be falling apart, remember that the Author and Finisher of our faith can restore all things. He does not leave us, nor does He change. In fact:

He writes the best stories.

 


Coming Soon:

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

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When the cruel elements of the Montana Territory inflict tragedy on the Bennett family, life 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.

Amidst the constant battle for survival and the conflict in their hearts, both siblings stand at the threshold of surrender to God. What will they choose?