Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days

When life gets busy and some days are hard, it is possible to find Jesus in the small, everyday things all around us. In Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days: Family Devotions from the Barnyard, Jill Miller gives heartwarming, intimate glimpses of her life on the farm. As Miller cares for and enjoys her animals’ antics, God takes her upside-down soul and sets it right-side up.

Designed as a 52-week family devotional, readers of all ages and abilities will enjoy this collection of stories illustrated by Brad Woodard featuring Miller’s farm animals and pets. She teaches the gospel using stories of everyday problems and situations, highlighting a biblical truth put on display by the antics of donkeys, fainting goats, dogs, and friends.

In this interview with the author, we learn more about her vision for the book and her adventures.

Q: You started writing some of the stories in Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days for your grandchildren a number of years ago. How did writing those stories turn into the book you have today?

Yes, I originally wrote these stories for my grandkids. I have nineteen now, so there’s always someone to read to!

Around 2012, at a Joni and Friends camp, I was sitting with some other parents of kids affected by disability. They were looking for materials to read to their families—something that everyone could enjoy. I read them a story and they loved it. That was when I realized that someone else might be blessed or encouraged by my stories.

Q: What are the main themes that run throughout the book?

We are surrounded by God’s glory, and some of that glory is creation. Kids catch glimpses of that in these barnyard friends.

Another theme is God’s faithfulness in everyday life. That’s why the book deals with hard things, happy things, funny things, trying things—it’s the whole realm of life. I want kids to see God in all of it.

I remember that when our dog Hessed died, I couldn’t find anything to read to Kim. So, I wanted to address death in my stories. For many kids, the death of a pet comes before the death of a grandparent. I wanted to point kids to Jesus in that situation too.

Q: How has Jesus taken some of your upside-down days and turned them right side up?

Every time I was pregnant (six times!), I would ask God to give me a verse to claim for the child I was carrying. The verse God laid on my heart for Kimberly was “then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent” (Psalm 91:10). Kim was born with several disabilities and uses a computer to communicate.

For many years, this verse bugged me because harm had come. But one morning, when Kim was in junior high school, I began rehashing this with God. Quiet tears ran down my face, even after all those years. In the beauty of that morning, I heard God tell me, “What you meant for Kim, I meant for your entire family.” God used Kim to save me and my family.

God took Kim’s suffering to bring me to a new place of “His will and not mine,” from worry to trust, anxiety to peace, wrestling to quietness, harshness to gentleness, control to surrender, perfection to messiness, and demanding to submitting.

Oh, and Paul, my husband . . . Kim went before him as well, showing her daddy the face of Jesus, and now Paul is sharing that in the books he has written on Jesus and praying. The same is true for each of our other kids. God has used Kimberly to protect each of us from harm.

Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days 1b

Q: There are fifty-two devotionals in the book. How is Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days designed for families to read together throughout the year?

It’s designed for families to read one entry each week, so it’s easy and fun. We give parents a fun story and a Scripture to read, and then we leave space for them to look for (and find!) those real-life connections throughout the week.

This book is intended to build faith in our families—to train our kids and us to look for Jesus and his love in daily life.

Q: Please introduce us to some of your friends from the barnyard that readers will meet—especially the fainting goats. 

Chuckie and Kisses are my mini-Jerusalem donkeys, and I call them “the boys.” My husband Paul got them for me when they were three years old because they live for a long time. (He knows I get sad whenever one of my friends dies).

The boys weigh 450 pounds each—not so miniature! So, the vet put Chuckie and Kisses on a diet. I’m supposed to measure them each month by wrapping a little tape measure around their bellies. This is not going well!

My fainting goats are twins; Chezlee is a boy and Edith is a girl. Now fainting goats faint whenever they are happy or scared. They really faint, too—backs on the ground, hooves in the air!

Sweet Edith has passed, but Chezlee recently turned fifteen. Edith always hovered over Chezlee. There was never any doubt that she was the boss, even though he was bigger. I think it was a mercy that she passed first—just God’s kindness to Edith and Chezlee.

Oh, and Chezlee now has a new friend named Gracie. She’s a little like Stevie Wonder because she swings her head around a lot when she’s excited!

Q: Would you tell us about your daughter, Kim? How has she inspired your writing and teaching?

Kimberly is now 41. The deletion of one tiny chromosome left her disabled. She has symptoms of autism and uses a computer to talk—it’s her “voice.” But Kim’s soul is not disabled. I’ve learned more through Kim than she has ever learned through me. She’s taught me how to pray consistently and never give up. She’s taught me how to be grateful in all things. She’s helped me to be honest. She’s inspired me to encourage the church to embrace what God lifts up. And because of that, the Bethesda ministry got started.

Bethesda is a ministry that disciples adults affected by disability, which is a missing link in many churches. There’s such beauty in the weakness you find in the disability community, and I want the church to discover it. Bethesda creates Bible study materials, but we also help people use them.

Q: Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days is so fun and colorful. Tell us about the delightful illustrations by Brad Woodard.

Brad was wonderful to work with. The bottom line for me is always that it’s fun. I wanted the illustrations to be fun and colorful. He made that happen.

In fact, Brad did everything I asked him to do. Specifically, he put real expression in the eyes of the characters without making them look like cartoons. But he also did some things I didn’t ask him to do! For example, the boots he drew on me. I never showed him the boots I wear in the barn, but he made them look just like mine. That made me smile.

Q: If you could pick just one story from the book as your favorite, what story would it be?

It’s hard to call this one my favorite, but I will just say that “Donkey Hugs” is one of the most meaningful stories. This was such a dark day. My daughter Ashley was dying, and my boys knew I was hurting. Many of the people around me had no idea how to grieve with me. But the boys did.

I was stooped, and they came and put their heads on my back. When Chuckie came close, for just a second I thought, “He could crush me.” It would be nothing for him. But he didn’t. They pressed in, their heads making a cross on my back, and gently squeezed me. I think the boys stood there with me for at least three minutes. They were comforting me just like Jesus tells us to comfort others.

Learn more about Jill Miller and Bethesda at www.seejesus.net/training/bethesda-disability-ministry or via Facebook (@seeJesusBethesda) and Instagram (@seejuesusbethesda).


9781645072614

Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days: Family Devotions from the Barnyard

In Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days, Jill Miller gives heartwarming, intimate glimpses of her life on the farm. But more than this, as Jill takes care of her animals, enjoying what the Creator has made, God takes her upside-down soul and sets it right-side up.   

About the author

Jill Miller

Jill Miller has spent the past thirty years discipling and ministering to students with disabilities and is committed to developing materials for teachers, parents, and caregivers who want to share the love of Jesus to use with them. Due in part to experiences with her own daughter, she has also started two businesses aimed at employing individuals affected by disability. Jill is a mother of six, wife of Paul Miller, Grammy of many, and lives in rural Pennsylvania. She is the author of Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days.

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