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Winter’s Prey

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.

 

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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!

Winter's Prey

Joining the Journey of a Grieving Soul

February 1, 2017

“Why, Mama? Why would she do it?” Joy’s demand came as tears welled up in her eyes and slipped down her cheeks.

Marc, who sat nearest to where the girl was standing, held out his arm to her, motioning for her to come close. When she had, he pulled her gently into an embrace.

“Because she’s hurting, Joy, and she’s not sure how to handle it. It’s not a wise decision, but sometimes pain blinds us. Pray for her.” He kissed her temple lightly and held her while she wiped her tears. To his surprise, the redhead wrapped her arms gratefully around his neck and clung to him for a long while.

“I love you,” she whispered at last and then went to the shelves under the loft to find a book.

—Winter’s Prey, Pages 62, 63

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Grief is a strange thing. For a time, and in some cases for the rest of our lives, it changes us. Things that once seemed clear now seem veiled behind some strange new reality: One we never could have imagined before. The hole in our hearts seems so large and raw that it is almost unimaginable that ANYTHING could ever fix it. “Time,” they tell us, “time will make it better.” And it does, in some infinitesimal way. But in those early days of grief, when the world is still spinning and nothing makes sense anymore and we no longer know who we are because who we were has been stripped of one of its greatest foundations—in those days grief blinds.

Last week, some friends and I sat across the table from a woman who had lost nearly every material possession in the wake of her husband’s death. She was in a desperate place, but as I listened and watched I saw a desperation that was deeper than what could be seen even in the destitution of her physical situation. It was the desperation of grief. It was the questions that swarm through the mind, “Who am I without him? What will I do? Where will I go? How will I survive?”

The questions are very normal, but to the onlooker, the responses seem so very strange and illogical. As she threw out her proposed solutions to her situation, my stomach twisted itself in knots. Each one seemed like a plan destined to drive her current situation into further destruction.

“Why would she do that? Why would she make such a desperate move?” I caught myself thinking. But in the next moment, I would see the grief in her eyes, and I would remember. I would remember what it was like to have my world ripped out from under my feet and the sudden unexplainable emotion that came with it. I remembered the urgency to find a solution that would keep our heads above water. I remembered the fog that clouded the thought processes and numbed all senses but one—the sense of pain and loss.

The grieving soul can be repulsive to the whole, vibrant, secure soul. Their actions may seem irrational or foolish, when really they are simply grasping for hope, for a means to survive. We do not see that our counsel, though perhaps far better than their own, is frightening to them. They have never walked this road before, never slogged through the mire of emotion that inhibits their every step. We do not see that they need our patience every bit as much as they need our clarity of mind. We easily become frustrated or impatient or hurt by their blundering. We see our discomfort, but cannot truly imagine that theirs is a hundred, thousand times greater.

There was but one thing we could offer that woman that night as we sat at the table. The one thing, which so often held me above the churning waters of grief—Christ. Sure, we could counsel her as to what steps to take next. We could find organizations to help her. But Christ, and Christ alone, could give her the hope, the peace, for which she was searching.

The fog of her grief made it very hard from our point of view to see whether she had truly reached out and taken hold of that Hope. Only God knows the answer to that question. Our job was simply to tell her of that Hope and to love her, comfort her, and to meet the needs we could meet.

As the story in Winter’s Prey moves along the Bennetts find that grief is not a problem to be solved but rather a journey to be taken. At times it is a long, slow, arduous journey. Perhaps that is why God had to command us to weep with those who weep. It isn’t something that comes naturally. The whole soul cries only for a moment, while the grieving soul weeps for a night that seems eternal. Attending a funeral is one thing, slogging through the trench of transition with the mourning is another. It is a journey laden with care and burdens and worry, all of which must be taken to the Lord. And that is where Marc’s solution comes into the picture: Pray.

Are there grieving souls in your life?

Pray for them.

Do you see them making decisions that you don’t understand?

Pray for them.

Do you see them acting in ways they’ve never acted before?

Pray for them.

Do you see them hurting those they love the most?

Pray for them.

And then do something more:

Love them.

God did not give us the fruits of the Spirit to waste on ourselves. He gave them to be shared with those around us. Let Him pour out His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance through you and into their lives. Study out what it means to truly love, to extend charity, and then live it toward the hurting around you. They may not receive it the way you want them to or even would expect them to, but that is not up to you. Your part is simply to love them as God loves you. We don’t always return His love either, but He loves us still.

God makes an amazing promise to the grieving soul. He says, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” The Greek word translated “mourn” means “to wail”. This person isn’t just a little bit sorrowful! No, this person feels as though their heart has been ripped from their chest. And yet God says they are happy—because they will be comforted. The Holy Spirit is the great Comforter. But God has also made it clear that He “comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God.”

Are you a grieving soul? Let the hope of Christ be your strength. Let the Holy Spirit come alongside to strengthen, encourage, and guide you. Are you struggling to know how to respond to a grieving soul? Pray for them. Love them. Walk along side of them and let the Lord comfort them through you, however long it takes. Grow together not apart. The path might not be easy for either of you, but in the end you will find that God’s promise is true—you will find the happiness of His blessing and comfort.

Featured Life Winter's Prey

Declare His Doings

January 31, 2017

Last week, we had a conversation in the Forbid Them Not office about the fact that God does not leave us as we walk through trials. He doesn’t forsake us…ever. Sometimes it may seem that He is far, far away, but He isn’t. He is right there beside us, walking through the storm with us, perhaps, as the poem says, even carrying us.

Over the weekend, I was reading in Psalm 9 and ran across this phrase in verse 10, “for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” It made me think of that conversation. My quiet time was interrupted for a few minutes and when I came back to it again, I was reading through the passage a second time. As I came to that verse I was reminded of a scene in Winter’s Prey when Marc is sharing with Jess just how faithful God has been to him.

I thought about those two conversations, one of them real the other fictional, and the many things that God has done in my life over the years. As I read through the next verse I was blessed once more because I realized the conversations reflected God’s desire. It says, “…Declare among the people His doings.”

I believe each of us has times in our lives when we feel that we are all alone, we don’t know how we’re going to pay a bill, we’re not sure what the next step is, we are experiencing incredible loss or physical pain, and then somehow God reveals His loving hand. Maybe it is through a person, a gift, a verse in Scripture, a heart found in an unexpected place (I have a couple of friends for whom this is particularly special and another friend for whom it has always been roses)—whatever it is, somehow God communicates His love, His presence, and His help to us.

When we share what He has done (declare it) that brings Him glory! It shows His power, His presence, His provision, His protection, and most of all His amazing love and grace. So I would like to invite you to spend a little time with me “declaring His doings.” Leave a comment here, on my Facebook page, or on your own Facebook or Twitter feeds using the hashtag #DeclareHisDoings This is a season to sing His praise, not just for what He has done but also for what He is doing!

Let’s #DeclareHisDoings together!