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Winter’s Prey

Featured Field of Ashes Life The Writing Journey Winter's Prey

Writing Journey: Book Research or Unforgettable Adventure

October 17, 2017

Most of the time, writing means sitting down to the computer and cranking out word after word, but sometimes it takes you places. Most of my writing can be researched online or through books, but recently it required a little real life investigation, which turned out to be an unforgettable adventure.

A while back, I was working on a story that is way down the line in the Barren Fields Fruitful Gardens Series, and, in the process of researching, I had an idea. What if I set parts of the stories in real life ghost towns to honor those who lived there? Even though the towns, for whatever reason, didn’t survive, they still are a part of our history. In fact, sometimes they are a huge part of our history. So over Labor Day weekend, two friends and I headed out to explore the first ghost town to find a potential place in the BFFG series: Maiden, MT.

My two friends prefer not to have an online presence, so they will go unnamed, but I should say that this sort of adventure is our favorite way to spend a Saturday. This Saturday, however, may have been one of the most exciting.

Maiden, MT, a mining town established in 1881, has been on my radar as a possible setting for a story for long time. Over the last couple of years, I’ve done online research and found information in an extremely old book of Montana history. But the more I read, the more I felt it might be better to see it. There was just one problem. I kept reading that the location of the town was now on private property and could only be viewed at a distance from the road.

I figured even that would be better than not seeing it at all. Even so, on Friday night before the trip, I decided to try one last time to find out who owned the property. To my surprise, I found a video telling a little bit of the history of Maiden, including the fact that Maiden still has one year-round resident. (You can watch the video here.)

I sent a quick email to the producer of the video, but by morning I hadn’t heard anything. I did a little more investigating and found a phone number. The number worked! I left a voicemail, hoping to hear back from Maiden’s sole resident.

Meanwhile, we loaded up and headed out of town. It was a beautiful day. Hot and clear as most of the summer had been. We hadn’t gone far, when my phone rang. The next thing I knew, we were setting up an appointment to tour Maiden right after we visited the Central Montana Historical Museum in Lewistown. But those plans were about to change.

Lavina, MT had barely disappeared from our rear-view mirror when a little column of smoke appeared on the horizon. This year’s fire season in Montana was incredibly bad. Over one million acres burned. You’ve heard the song, It Only Takes a Spark, well, that pretty much summed up our summer. The further we went the larger the column of smoke grew. A few more corners and, just as we started up a rise, we all realized the fire was near the highway just ahead of us. Even with that realization, however, we didn’t expect to see flames along the road as we crested the hill.

As I snapped this picture from the passengers seat (the only pic we got), my friend said, “Do they need help?”

I took a quick survey. The fire had already burned down one hillside and was about to climb the next one. Four men with shovels were along one edge. That was it. There were no emergency vehicles on scene.

“Yes,” I said. “They need help.”

We pulled over and started looking for a way to help. The only shovel we had was a plastic snow shovel, which was pretty useless. We found a rug and started beating the flames back as best we could. We took turns, swinging the heavy rug over our head and down through the flames to extinguish them in the dirt. While one of us beat the flames, the others stamped out whatever we could with our feet. Between our rug-beating and the men with the shovels, we kept the fire’s progress to a slow crawl. The Ryegate fire department arrived just in time. The wind was beginning to kick up and would have pushed the fire wildly once it topped the hill. Within just a few minutes, they had the east edge extinguished and were working on the north edge.

Forty minutes after jumping out to help, we loaded back into the car and drove away, along with the others who had stopped to help. We were all strangers. We’ll probably never meet again. But for that moment, we were neighbors.

Our journey took us on to Harlowton where we stopped to clean the soot off of our arms and faces (we were quite the singed, smelly bunch most of the day). We had just gotten back on the road when we came across a pair of bear cubs. This isn’t something you see along the highway every day. We stopped and took pictures from the car, all the time trying to spot the cubs’ mama, but she was nowhere in sight. We later found out that the cubs had to be captured because they could not be reunited with their mother.

We had one more unexpected delay when we saw a man at work—doing a job I would never want. Can you imagine having the job of repairing the massive windmills on a wind farm? My hands start sweating just thinking about it.

By the time we reached Lewistown, we were way behind schedule. So, once again, we shifted our plan. Rather than touring the museum, we simply stopped by to pick up some brochures that we were supposed to take with us to Maiden and then headed out of town.

We found the road into the Warm Spring Creek Canyon and made our way to Maiden, where our host gave us a personal tour of the property that now belongs to his family. He showed us the sweet little porch where he was about to host a party; gave us a tour of the refurbished saloon, which he remembers as his grandfather’s assay office; and then sent us off to wander as we pleased.

 

After much exploring, we said our goodbyes and piled back into the car to head through Maiden Canyon, past the Spotted Horse Mine, and over to the ghost town of Gilt Edge, MT.

We may have gone the wrong way from Gilt Edge and come to a dead end. But that’s okay because in the process we saw these guys.

 

We finally made our way back to Lewistown, had supper, and then headed home with happy hearts and an adventure under our belts that we will never forget. Whoever said writing is a boring profession never did book research Montana style.

 

 

Never read the Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens series? Check them out here!

Featured Field of Ashes Life The Writing Journey Winter's Prey

Fruitful Living: Why I Started this Blog

September 26, 2017

When I first started this blog (originally at barrenfieldsfruitfulgardens.com), it was because authors do that. I thought it was necessary. I saw it as a way to minister to and encourage others, but mostly, I just thought I was supposed to do it because, well, I’m a writer and writers write. As time passed, however, I began to see a prominent thread. While I’d never stated, “This is why I blog” even my original site’s name gave away the real reason behind my blogging. It’s the same purpose behind writing my books: Discovering the foundations of Fruitful Living vs. Barren Living.

I write because I believe God wants every Christian to live fruitfully, and so that as we learn together we can be fruitful together.

The series Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens got its name as I realized that no matter how many privileges or opportunities we have, if we don’t cultivate our lives in a way that will bring fruit for God, then regardless of the expanse of our reach—we are barren. A man or woman who might not have the opportunity, education, or privilege that another has may be abundantly fruitful though their plot of land seems small.

I’ve done enough gardening in my life to know that if you never take action, there will never be fruit. That’s the whole thing about that great big field with so much potential, when left to itself—overridden with weeds, hard from not being plowed up, or depleted from being overused—it will never produce fruit unless we take action. I want my garden to flourish.

 

What is Fruitful Living?

One could answer that question in many different ways, but for the purposes of this post, I’m just going to list a few things that jump out at me from Scripture as I look over the New Testament for verses on fruitfulness. Fruitful living is:

Selfless Living

Good Ground Living

Abiding Living

Distinguished Living

Spirit-Filled Living

Gospel Living

Submitted Living

Worshipful Living

Peaceful Living

Wise Living

 

The Purpose of Fruitful Living

Often, I fear we get this wrong. The purpose of fruitful living is not so that we can be good enough to please (appease) God. How often have we sat in church and heard that we need to live a life that “pleases God”? There is nothing inherently wrong in this statement. I want my life to please God. The wrong falls in our application of the principle to our lives. We easily fall into a thought process that goes something like this,

 

“I need to_________________ so that God will be happy with me and bless me and my family. If I________________ then surely He will hear my prayers regarding___________.”

 

We may not consciously think these things, but one day we wake up and find that our life is engrossed in doing this or that, following this rule or that guideline, this standard or that standard so that He will be “happy” with me. This easily transfers into pride about what others are or are not doing, and in the process our lives look good on the outside, but have become regimented, lifeless, empty, shallow, and fruitless on the inside.

This barrenness comes, in part, from violating that very first characteristic of fruitful living listed above—selfless living. When we seek to please God in order to keep His eye of favor on us, or to secure the fellowship of our relationship, or to see Him work in a certain way in our lives—we are pleasing Him in order to meet our own need or perhaps reassure ourselves of His love.

Before I go any further, I want to stand up, raise my hand, and say, “I am guilty.” We fall easily into this trap. Satan buries the lie right in truth, we step into it, and are caught, sometimes for years, before we even realize it.

There’s a better way.

 

Aiming Higher.

Many years ago, I returned to the States between school years in Russia. I got a job at Taco Bell for the few months that I would be home. While working there, the manager announced that we would be having an inspection from the corporate offices the following week during the shifts that I normally worked.

Panic ensued.

I had never seen anything like it. Ever. I didn’t understand why my fellow shift-mates were so terrified and stressed out. It was all anyone could talk about for days. Finally, I realized what was going on, and the Lord taught me a huge lesson.

My shift-mates were primarily working to please the managers. The managers were primarily working to please their regional managers. Only the store manager and the regional manager really sought to carry out the goals and purposes of those who were at the highest level by meeting their expectations and standards.

When those at the lower levels realized they were going to have to be accountable for the way they either had or hadn’t met the expectations of those who set the standards, they panicked. Even though their job was to build up the company name by serving its customers and fulfilling its wishes, they had merely been working for the paycheck by meeting the requirements they thought would keep them in good graces with the company. They needed to aim higher.

Living fruitfully requires a similar change in the altitude of our focus. We need to aim higher. If our goal is to “please” Him, we’re probably still focusing at the very least on His acceptance of us. HE’S ALREADY BOUGHT US, ADOPTED US, AND REDEEMED US!!!!  We are accepted in Christ! So our focus is off target.

What if we aim not to merely “please” Him but rather to magnify Him? When showing the world around us who He is becomes our goal, the fruits that please Him become a natural byproduct.

The purpose of fruitful living is to know and magnify God and to point others to Him.

It has nothing to do with us, but the result in our lives will be amazing:

Peace.

Love.

Joy.

Satisfaction.

Fulfillment.

And a host of other things, all of which come only from Him.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about the prospect of living a fruitful life. So, I’m inviting you to join me on a journey to learn more about fruitful living. Let’s share our victories and even our failures. Let’s help one another through the lessons God teaches us about living so the “plot of land” He has given us is fruitful for Him.

Here are some ways you can come along with me: Start  and join conversations either here or on my Facebook page, subscribe to the blog, sign up for email updates, and invite others to join us as we strive together for fruitful living! What an adventure it will be!

“For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:8

Featured Field of Ashes Winter's Prey

The Freedom of Living Open-Handed

August 8, 2017

At the sound of his voice, a deer sprang from a thicket near the base of the butte. She leaped over the creek and darted across the open fields. Marc watched her go. She was a little like Jess, he thought, afraid and running for all she was worth.

“I know Jess is safest in your hands,” his prayer continued, “I’m so…I don’t know. I just want the best for her…and I know you want that even more than I do. Pa was right about letting go[…]”

He looked down at his hands. He had been a capable worker for a good many years now, but this was far more than his hands could do. He tightened them into fists, then as he opened them again he looked Heavenward.

“Father, she’s yours. I put her in your hands. I’m willing to trust you to take care of her, to protect her, to provide for her…and not only Jess but Mary and the other children too.”

It seemed a strange thing to do: to walk a mile, stand on a cliff, hold your fists out to God, and open them as if letting go of something. If anyone but God had been watching, he might have been embarrassed. But stranger things had happened than what he’d just done. Hadn’t Abraham traveled a long distance with his son, climbed a mountain, strapped his son to an altar, and raised his knife over him to kill him? God had asked this of Abraham to prove Isaac hadn’t become his idol, to prove Abraham’s faith. And, in the end, God had provided another sacrifice. That thought brought reassurance, even joy.

“I know you’ll be faithful. I know you will care for her. Help me to simply trust you as Abraham did. Help me to have the right attitudes. To know what to say and what not to say. Help me to show her your love.”

—Winter’s Prey

Time. Finances. Marital Status. Children. Career. Ministry. Our “Personal Brand.” The future.

We live in a culture that demands we get all of these on a schedule, develop them to the max, and present them to the world with Pinterest Perfection. But reality is often much different than the awesomeness found on Pinterest. What if that perfection is not the reality God wants for us? What if it is not the reality that will bring genuine fruit in our lives? What if fruit bearing reality for us looks more like this:

  • Busy, but not organized.
  • Single, married but struggling, divorced, widowed.
  • Children a mess, sick, or, perhaps, no children at all.
  • Laid off, fired, business failed, struggling career.
  • Struggling in ministry, unable to do what you’d like to do, limited opportunity abundance of obstacles.
  • What’s a Personal Brand?! I’m just trying to get myself through the day!
  • The future couldn’t look bleaker.

How do we reconcile what is around us—the pressures, the baubles, the constant temptations and enticements—with reality? How do we find contentment with what we have in comparison with all that is thrust at us, held up to us as a standard, and considered the status quo? How do we walk through loss when we live in a culture that minimizes it, ignores the realities of grief and pain, and expects us to rebound as the same person we were before? In fact, they don’t just want us to be who we were. They want us to be better—like the day after it happens! How do we balance all this with contentment?

We cling to Christ.

We must live in Him, move in Him, find our very breath in Him. But the only means of clinging to Him in this way is by letting go of everything else. This is where the difficulty often comes. We want His best. We want His will. We want more of Him. But it can be excruciatingly difficult to let go of those things we have held dear, those dreams, the hopes, the very desires of our heart, which we had so depended upon Him meeting.

When those desires go unmet, does it make Him any less true to His Word? No. Does it mean we are the problem? Does it mean the desire was wrong? Not necessarily.

I want to digress for just a moment. Not every desire of our heart comes true, and some of the ones that don’t are enormous. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” Sometimes our hope is deferred, and it hurts. It makes us sad. In our culture, sadness seems to be a weakness. Sorrow is not an emotion we know how to face. We throw a trite platitude at the “problem” and assume it will go away. But sorrow of heart does not heal that way. There is, however, a way to ensure both beforehand and as we are passing through disappointment that the sorrow is lessened. The secret is found in living open-handed.

Have you ever clutched something in your hand, maybe as a child, that someone else wanted.

“Give it to me,” they say.

You, clasping your other hand over the first, mockingly retort, “Come and get it if you want it!”

Then the battle ensues. They pull at your arms, struggle around your legs, grab at your fingers and start peeling them back one at a time, trying to break your grip. You would not admit it in the moment, but the truth is—it hurts. It hurts to fight against their efforts. It pulls at the tendons and muscles in your hands. It even stretches things clear down into your wrists and forearms. Holding on hurts.

The same is true in our walk with Christ. God wants all of us.

  • He doesn’t want the part that commits to serve Him without the part that says, “whether I’m married or single.”
  • He doesn’t want the part that is willing to serve in the nursery without the part that says, “Even if I never have children of my own.”
  • He doesn’t want the part that says, “I’ll live by faith, trusting you for everything” without the part that says, “Even when I don’t feel secure.”
  • He doesn’t want the part that says, “I’ll give up my ideals for the future,” without the part that says, “I’ll trust you in the present.”

He wants all of us. When we offer Him part in one hand, but clutch something in the other hand, He’s very likely to say, “But I want what’s in the other hand.” The tighter we hold on, the more painful and more difficult the struggle to have peace in our relationship with Him.

Corrie Ten Boom said, “We must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when my Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me.” I remember thinking when I first heard this, “Why stop there? Why hold onto it at all. If He has simply to reach down and take it from my open hand, then my hand is available to take hold of Him.”

Sometimes, when God asks us to let go of something, especially in our culture of amassing things, notoriety, accomplishments, and status, it’s easy to say, “But, Lord, why do you ask this of me? Why don’t you require this of them?”

  • Why must I be single, when that person who has wasted their life has both a husband and children?
  • Why must I be childless, when there are so many ‘underserving’ who have more children than they can keep up with?
  • Why must I live in poverty, while those who are lazy in their faith live extravagantly?
  • Why must I let go of my hearts deepest desires, while they squander what they have been given?

Remember that you are not alone. Remember Abraham, who waited a hundred years for a son, and who was then asked to lay him on an altar. Remember Job upon whom God had showered blessing, and then who lost everything. Job who said, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Remember Paul who had reason above any other to boast of his position, his lineage, and his education, and yet who laid it all aside, counting it but dung for the knowledge of Christ. There is a secret freedom and power in living open-handed. In doing so, two things happen:

  1. When we let go of our desires, we are better able to take hold of Christ and what He has for us.
  2. When we let go of our desires, we put them into His hands, which are far more capable of properly handling those desires than we are.

This gives us the freedom both to know Him better and to live free of worry, concern, and fretting over things we cannot control. And when we discover that a desire may not be fulfilled, half the battle (or perhaps more) is already won because it was no longer held in our grip.

Surrender is the enemy of pride. Our pride wants to hold on, to fix every problem, to reach every goal, to attain the things we long for. Pride fears poverty of some sort, not realizing the poverty we fear most is that which comes from living with our fists clenched. Surrender says, “Lord, I give it to you. I trust you to handle it wisely, to bring it to pass, or to exchange it for something better.” And it chooses to trust Him that the “something better” really is better, even when it appears to be filled with pain and sorrow and rejection. Surrender chooses to follow His leadership and to trust Him to manage our affairs.

As Paul said, “I count not myself to have apprehended.” I’ve failed in this area more times than I can count. It has taken me days to write this because I had to search my heart to make sure it was right. Perhaps, you never struggle in this area. That’s wonderful. But if I am to be honest, then I must admit, at times I’ve gotten my eyes off of Christ who is my hope, and put my hope in people or plans or projects. I have held desires in my heart, thinking they had been surrendered, only to find them dashed once more when an unexpected trial comes. But that is the beauty of our Savior. When we see something has not been fully given, or perhaps that needs to be given once more—He is there, waiting patiently, lovingly, wisely. Waiting for us to allow Him to take it from our hand, and more importantly, waiting for us to slip our open, empty hand into His.

What are you holding onto? In my experience, things sneak in without me seeing them. Hopes. Desires. Plans. Things that aren’t necessarily bad, but things I haven’t placed in His hands. What do you need to let go of in order to free your hands to grasp Him more tightly? Take a few minutes, or maybe a day or two, and ask the Lord to show you what you need to release.

 

If this was a help or blessing to you, please share it with others and follow the blog so you don’t miss a thing.

Featured Winter's Prey

Winter’s Prey Audiobook Update

July 31, 2017

Thank you to all of you who pledged to back the Winter’s Prey Audiobook Kickstarter. Even though we didn’t quite make the goal before time ran out, the possibility of bringing the book to audiobook is still very much alive! Within just a few hours of letting people know that the funding on Kickstarter had been unsuccessful people were asking me if they were going to have another chance to support it SOON! So, I’ve looked into the various options open to us, and have set up a new campaign on a different platform call Indiegogo. (Click here for a preview!!)

The goal is still the same, but I think we have a much better chance of meeting it this time. The rewards (or perks) for this campaign are also all the same. One perk that is listed in the campaign information, but which I could not list as an official perk is the invitation to the Book 3 Preview event. If you had someone match your pledge in the Kickstarter, and you both bring your pledge over to the Indiegogo campaign you will both go on the invitation list. If you bring your pledge over to the new campaign and then find someone to match your pledge you will also go on the invitation list! This is for anyone, not just those who are local. We’ll set up a live feed for those of you outside of Billings. (I will need to know your name, your matchers name, and the pledge amounts for each of you to verify.)

This campaign is not all or nothing! This means that anything you pledge will go to the project whether we reach the full $3000 or not. If everyone who pledged in the Kickstarter brings their pledge over to Indgiegogo, we will be close enough to our goal to start moving forward with the project!

One important thing that differs from the Kickstarter platform: Your pledges will come off of your card/account immediately. Since this is not an all or nothing campaign, they will collect the funds and hold them until the project deadline. I will receive whatever funds come in approximately 15 business days after the deadline. (Around September 30th.) If we do not reach our goal, the funds will still go toward this project, it will just take us longer to get to completion. If we surpass our goal, the additional funds will be invested in marketing the audiobook or will go toward production of book 2, Field of Ashes, depending on what comes in.

The new campaign will launch Tuesday, August 1. The easiest way for me to let you know that it has launched will be through email. If you don’t already receive my “Rachel Miller, Writer” emails (different from the Forbid Them Not emails.) Please sign up below.

I am so excited and so very grateful to each of you who has pledged to support this project! Thank you!

Let’s do this…

Featured Winter's Prey

The Story Behind Winter’s Prey

June 30, 2017

[Originally posted September 22, 2016 after the release of Winter’s Prey on Barrenfieldsfruitfulgardens.com]

Yesterday, 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.


We are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to bring the powerful story and message of Winter’s Prey to audiobook. Please check out the campaign and join us in this endeavor by clicking here!

Winter's Prey

Launching the Kickstarter for Winter’s Prey

June 27, 2017

 

Today’s the big day!

The Kickstarter campaign to convert Winter’s Prey to audiobook is live!

 

Go here to check it out!

I just did a Facebook Live to tell a little more about the project and how we can spread the word. Here’s the link in case you missed it: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1007227699/audiobook-for-winters-prey

One of the most important things is going to be getting the word out and getting it out in the right way to the right people. Here are some resources you can share it with others:

Tips on sharing. When you share the pictures, links, or videos:

  1. It’s not as important to talk about the Kickstarter as to talk about the book itself. The message of the book and why or how it impacted you are the reasons we’re doing the Kickstarter. Try to share something like this example:

    “I recently read a book that is being made into an audiobook. I loved Winter’s Prey because….(Your Reason Here)…the author has set up a Kickstarter campaign to cover the production costs, I’m backing it (or sharing it) to help her reach her goal. You can join us by checking it out here: (link).”

  2. Share a favorite quote from the book or a way the book encouraged or helped you along with one of the resources above.
  3. Invite others to join you in backing the project and in sharing it with others.
  4. Always include a link to the Kickstarter page.
  5. Tag specific people in your posts. If you know someone who likes to read, enjoys audiobooks, who’s read the book, or whom you have told about the book—tag them.
  6. When you back the book, let people know about it, tell them why, and ask them to join you.

We have 30 days!

I’m so excited to see what God will do!!!

Featured Winter's Prey

An Impossible Dream Coming True

June 27, 2017

Have you ever gone to bed praying something would change? You didn’t know what, but you knew something needed to happen to bump a situation in a different direction. I’ve had a few of those lately. The things on my heart were so heavy that I prayed most of the night, crying out for the Lord’s leadership, direction, and provision. Two weeks ago, I got very specific in a very unspecific way. “Lord, I said, “please do something in the next few days. I don’t know what the answer is, I’m leaving that part in your hands, but I ask that you do something in the next few days.”

The next morning, I got up (still praying), had my quiet time, and was about to head on with my day when I received a notification from Facebook. Over the last few months, I’ve been part of a couple of groups for writers and artists surrounding the launch of Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. These groups have been very encouraging and helpful. Often, a group member posts a question and other members of the group pitch-in with whatever information or resources are needed.

That morning was no different, I saw the request for information that came in on the notification and began pulling together a blog on how to set a featured image in a WordPress blog. This particular topic is not one I normally write about. I knew it would help others though, so I went ahead and did it, feeling that was what the Lord was wanting me to do.

As the morning progressed, a man named Jason Noxon joined the thread. In the process of trying to figure out why his blog wasn’t displaying photos when shared to Facebook, I went to his website and discovered that Jason is not only a writer but also a voice actor. At that I sighed. It’s been a desire of mine for so long to have Winter’s Prey and Field of Ashes converted into audiobooks, but it has seemed like something so very far away and impossible.

I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I didn’t know how to choose the right voice for the project. I didn’t know how to make sure I went with the right producer and got set up with the right contracts. There was just so much about the process that I didn’t know. As I looked over his page, I prayed once, “Lord, you know that’s a desire of my heart. It would be so cool to have the books in audio. If it’s your will, I’d love for that to happen someday.” And that was it.

The day wore on and somehow the blog issue was finally resolved. Jason posted his thanks to myself and Susan Pitman (who I think is really the person who fixed things) and said, “If either of you ever need voice over work done, I’d like to do it for you.” I laughed out loud when I read that, and replied, “You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into with that offer.” I told him I have a really huge project, and that’s why it’s never been done. He asked me to send him more information in a private message, and the next thing I knew he had set the wheels in motion to see Winter’s Prey become an audiobook!

God answers prayer! He still gives us the desires of our heart. He wants our hearts to be ready and willing to receive it, and sometimes that means bringing us to the point of saying, “Lord, I don’t know what needs to be done, but I trust that You do and that You will do it.”

In preparation for the production of the book, we have set up a Kickstarter Campaign to crowdfund the project. Our goal is $3000 to cover the production expenses, fees, and taxes associated with the project. This is the first time I’ve ever done a Kickstarter campaign, or anything like it for that matter, but I’m not depending on Kickstarter or my experience and knowledge in this. I believe the Lord has led in this so far, and I believe He will continue to do so.

I’d like to invite you to join me on this journey, both as a backer of the audiobook and as an observer and participant in what the Lord is doing. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Back the book – A backer is someone who pledges $5 or more toward the project. (There are some pretty cool rewards for pledging, including lavender from my garden, having your name in the credits at the end of the recording, and a copy of the audiobook itself!)
  • Share the project with others! I will need help sharing the project with as many people as possible, especially people who love Christian fiction and audiobooks.
  • Invite others to join you. Maybe you don’t feel you can pledge at the level of a certain reward, but you would like to. Find others to join you and reach the goal together.

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform. This means we have 30 days to reach our goal. We really only need 120 people who will pledge $25 each. I believe that goal is within reach, and I believe that the Lord will help us as we step out in faith trusting Him to establish the work of our hands upon us.

I’ve already seen and heard from readers who have been touched and encouraged by the books, and I believe that God can use the audiobooks to take the message of the books to a whole new audience. I’m excited about the potential that this project has to help and encourage others in their walk with God and to glorify God.

I believe He is already answering prayer just by bringing things to this point, and I believe He will continue to. Please, join me in the journey!

Click here to see and take part in the Kickstarter campaign (which launches tonight at midnight)!

 

PS If you’re in the Billings area, I’ll be at City Brew on 24th and King at 9:30, Tuesday, June 27th, for the official launch. Come join me! Bring your laptop or other device and we’ll share about the campaign together!

PPS. If you’re going to bed praying that something will change, keep praying. Remember, this is something I’ve been praying about for years. I’m so excited to declare His doings in this, but I know that you may be praying for something as well. Let me know how I can be praying for you. (rmiller at barrenfieldsfruitfulgardens d0t com)

Field of Ashes Montana Winter's Prey

A Special Invitation

April 5, 2017

You may have seen on Facebook that we’re getting very close to the release of the sequel to Winter’s Prey. Lord willing, Field of Ashes will launch with a book signing at Leslie’s Hallmark in Billings the first part of May. That is coming quickly!
Writing a book is a lot of work. Editing a book is even more work. But getting the word out to others about the book once it’s been published may be the most difficult part of all. As an independent author (not published through a traditional publisher), I have a lot of bonuses concerning the work itself, but there is one drawback: I’m pretty much on my own.
Over the last year, I’ve learned that going it alone is, well, lonely! I’ve also learned that working together is not only more effective but also more fun! So, I would like to invite you to help me launch Field of Ashes.
I’ve never had a so-called launch team, so this is new to me. I look at it as a partnership and an opportunity to build relationships.

Here’s what it would look like:

  • I have set up a Launch Group on Facebook. (You can join it here.) In this group, we’ll brainstorm ideas for the launch and how to get the word out, we’ll plan giveaways, we’ll find ways to grow our launch group, and we’ll have a good time learning, growing together, and becoming friends.
  • Through the Launch Group, I’ll provide some tools, such as memes and quotes (and I’ll probably ask you what your favorites are!) to share with others. I’ll also provide direction about the right time to share about the upcoming book and when to post reviews.
  • That’s right! I said, post reviews, which you can’t do if you’ve never read the book! So, everyone who joins the Launch Group will receive an early, PDF version of the book! AND as the group grows, anyone who has never read Winter’s Prey will get a free PDF of that book as well! So invite your friends!
  • The first 50 people to join the group will get a free signed, hard copy of the book!
  • Everyone in the group will automatically be entered in all of the giveaways and will get two entries in the Grand Prize giveaway.

I hope you’ll join me! The next month is going to be jam packed with editing, layout, and proofing, but having you along will lighten the load. I’m excited to get to know each of you better and to see what the Lord does through this new book.

To join the Launch Group, click here! I’ll see you there.

What do you think of the cover design? Let me know when you join the Launch Group!

Featured Life Winter's Prey

The God Who Catches Us

February 16, 2017

Marc was quiet. He could hear a note of hurt in his brother’s voice. For a while he fiddled with the edge of the quilt that covered him, shame bringing color to his pale cheeks; but then he raised his eyes to meet his brother’s questions with confidence. “I knew the Lord wouldn’t let us starve. I knew He’d never disappoint us. So I just decided to trust Him. …But I’m afraid my eyes started to stray when the roof was damaged. Just like Peter walkin’ on the water, I saw the waves and the ‘wind boisterous’ and began to sink…now look at me.”

Both men were quiet, both contemplating their conversation. Marc, not for the first time since the accident, was realizing how he’d begun to worry and doubt. Jon was realizing how little he’d ever started to trust.

Winter’s Prey – Page 192

This morning, for the third day in a row, I woke up feeling overwhelmed. My to do list, which never actually made it to paper, is so long and confusing that I’m not sure where the beginning or the ending actually are. As usual, after spending some time in prayer, I picked up my phone to see what time it was. My phone greeted me with a long list of notifications, most of which weren’t really that important, but one caught my attention. It was the emailed version of a devotional that I have used off and on for more than two decades.

Normally, I only use the emails when I am traveling and haven’t brought the book along with me or when I’m working on something on the computer and happen to see the email come in. But this morning, the Lord impressed upon me that I should read it. Three verses at the end of the evening reading caught my attention.

“When thou passest through the water, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” Isaiah 43:2

This is one of my favorite verses of comfort and promise. It brings back memories of an evening spent in one of the apartments at the orphanage in Russia, and the testimony of a Russian pastor. He started his story with this verse and then went on to tell how God had kept him and his family through days of persecution.

This morning, it also made me think of someone who has recently come across my path who is going through some pretty deep waters right now. What a promise to know that God will not let those waters overflow her. As I was thinking on this, the second verse caught my attention:

“Peter…walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said to him, O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31

What a beautiful thought that God could not only keep the waters from overflowing my new friend but also could enable her to walk on those waters!

But as I reached the part about the wind, my heart grew sad. Instantly, the above scene from Winter’s Prey played through my mind, and I realized that I was doing exactly what Marc had been doing—looking at the storm rather than at the Savior, looking at the to do list, the enormity of each project on it, the interruptions, the unexpected, and forgetting to remember that the same Savior who has given me a work to do is the same Savior who calms storms.

How glad I am that the verse does not say, “And beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord save me. But Jesus let him sink, watching as he disappeared beneath the waves and said to him, O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?”

Grace is a beautiful thing. I am in desperate need of it every day. I know, as do you, that none of us will measure up all of the time. I am so grateful that when I begin to sink, He stretches out His hand and catches me. Think about that for a moment—We serve the God who catches us! How amazing is that!

“When I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Psalm 56:3

The last of the three verses is the secret to walking through the storm, to facing the fear of the unknown, to pressing on when we don’t know how we will be able to accomplish everything or how long our energies will last, or where to start and when to finish. The secret to it all is this—keep your eyes, your heart, on Him.

My day didn’t get any less busy by reading these verses. Actually, things were even more hectic than I expected. But I had a good reminder each time I was tempted to get overwhelmed, a reminder that I had hope. I could trust the God who would keep me above the waters.

How about you? Do you have a verse that helps you keep your eyes on the Lord when things get overwhelming? Please share in the comments below.

Featured Life Winter's Prey

The Gain of Contentment

February 16, 2017

“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

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!