Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A-Zs of Thanksgiving (Part Two: N-Z)

"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers."--Ephesians 1:16

(N) North Dakota! One of my most favorite places in the world. It really does have the sky as far as you can see. Time on the prairies of ND are holy time for me.

(O) Owl; Mr. Owl in fact! A stuffed owl that sits on the dashboard of my car. It was given to me by my friend Melissa and her daughters when I moved two years ago. I love to read and the owl is reading a book so the girls thought it was the perfect gift for me. I love that it keeps me company on my trips and reminds me of all of these wonderful ladies.

(P) Praying on the Prairie; a place for me to spill out words; to share my story and so much more!

(Q) Quiches (Yummy Quiches). Always makes me think of brunch with awesome peeps!

(R) Radio especially my Pandora radio stations. These stations are what I turn on and listen to as I get ready in the mornings.

(S) Sweaters to keep warm on a blustery cold ND winter day!

(T) Target...one of my fave places to shop.

(U) University of Mary; the place where I attended college and received my communications degree with an emphasis in Journalism.

(V) Vacation. This year I am so thankful for our sister's trip to Nashville TN and also getting to meet some blog friends InRL. It is a trip we will not forget and I cannot wait until our next sister's trip. Wonder where that might be...NYC?

(W) Wartburg Theological Seminary. Where I heard the call to Diaconal Ministry. The place where I met amazing awesome peeps like my friend Laura and so many others.

(X) Xlophones and other musical instruments. I am not musically inclined at all BUT I do love listening to great music!

(Y) YOU! YES ALL OF YOU who come and visit me here! I am so very thankful for each and every one of you!

(Z) Zany friends and family who make me smile and laugh!

Unmasked Series

Unmasked: The Journey from Surviving to Thriving is a book that was recently released by my blog friend Bethany Boring. Bethany and I initially met on each other's blogs and then we began catching each other's Periscopes. Today I am sharing one of my Unmasked stories over at Bethany's place.

"Those words open many fairy tales, but our lives are not all fairy tales, are they? They don’t all end with “happily ever after.” Read the rest of the story Here!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Finding Our Simply Tuesdays

The weekend rolls around and then the calendar page turns to Monday where we find ourselves heading back to work, school, etc. And then it is simply Tuesday. Have you ever found yourself just stuck there? Tuesday isn't Monday. It isn't Friday or the end of the week. It isn't even hump day. It is just laying out there all by itself. Yet perhaps maybe we are called to embrace our simple Tuesdays.

I just finished Emily P. Freeman's book "It's Simply Tuesday." In the book, Freeman shares about how we are to enjoy those Tuesdays in their smallness. We are to embrace our Tuesday people on our Tuesday benches on that simply Tuesday ordinary day.
"Let's gently poke our sleepy souls refusing to wait for a big event to wake us up. Let's stop running from ordinary time but begin to sit in the midst of it (P. 26)."
Yes, let's sit in the midst of that ordinary time because the truth is that ordinary time is longer and more than the other special days. In fact, in the seasons of the church year, the liturgical color green which is for ordinary time is the longest season of the church year. It can be so easy to get caught up in what seems like boredom and smallness of that ordinary time. But as Emily reminds us, that ordinary time is an important time for us to dwell. It is a time that leads to those extraordinary times and helps us to enjoy those extra special days even more.

The truth is that on those simply Tuesdays, God is there with us. "As it turns out, Jesus doesn't come riding in on a white horse to save me from my humiliation, my daily work, my endless list. Instead, he whispers a quiet invitation to keep company with him the way he came to earth to keep company with us. It won't always feel like a rescue. It might feel like surrender.  But on the other side of that space I find Jesus. I find his peace, I find his companionship (Introduction; Location 237)."

I love that I just finished this book as the calendar page soon turns to Advent. Advent is my most favorite time of the year because it continually reminds me of Jesus "Emmanuel"; God with us who comes in the most unlikely place to the most unlikeliest people. God has a way of doing that; showing up in those small mundane simply Tuesday spaces. And it is in those spaces, that we are reminded of God's love for us; a love that comes not just on Sundays, but every day of the week including those simply Tuesday days.
"Being led by love has to start by recognizing we already have it. I can't let love lead if I don't know it's there to begin with (P. 188)."
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love moves toward (P. 193)." 
God's love reminds us that God is there in the light and in the darkness, in the joy and in the sorrow, and in the morning and in the night. It is just that sometimes we have a hard time seeing God in those places. But the truth is that God is always there. God promises to never leave us or forsake us. God sits with us on our Tuesday benches with our Tuesday people on those simply Tuesdays and shows us who God has created us to be.
"And even as we stand with our feet firmly planted on our Tuesdays, we'll let our souls, with childlike wonder, stand high on tiptoe with great hope, knowing the King of our Kingdom will one day come again (P.218)"
And that, my friends, is enough!

I am linking up with Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story, Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart and Literary Musing Mondays.



My A-Zs of Thanksgiving (Part One: A-M)

Hi Friends! I don't know about you but it is so crazy to think it is already that time of the year: Thanksgiving and then Advent and Christmas. A couple of years ago I did this A-Z list of Thanksgiving and it got rather long. Today I saw a friend was splitting hers up into two posts and I thought what a great idea. I know we are all busy this week so thought I would keep it simple and do something a little fun. Enjoy my friends!

(A) Andrea (My little sister) Love her to pieces. So thankful for our awesome sister's trip this past August. I don't know what I would do without her!

(B) Babies! I am such a baby lover. Any chance I get to get some baby time in is awesome and totally blesses me beyond measure.

(C) Camp of the Cross Ministries. One of my most favorite places in the entire world. The place where I heard the call to ministry. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

(D) Detroit and the ELCA Youth Gathering. What an awesome time to gather with 30,000 of our closest friends. Blessed to take an awesome group of youth from First Lutheran to the gathering. We indeed learned what it means to "Rise Up" together. In addition, I am so thankful for Dilworth Lutheran who shaped me into the woman of faith that I am today!

(E) Eggs...scrambled eggs, bacon, and other breakfast items! I love making breakfast for dinner=brinner! :)

(F) First Lutheran Church! So blessed to serve this community of faith. It continues to shape me into the woman of faith that I am today.

(G) God (and my faith)

(H) Home! My house is such a blessing. I love that I can walk to work every day. It is a perfect little house for me.

(I) I-pad Mini and my I-phone. I love that these items keep me connected to friends and family scattered throughout the US and the world.

(J) Jars of Clay; one of my all-time fave Christian bands.

(K) Kindred spirits! I am so thankful for the amazing friends and kindred spirits that God has placed in my life. So thankful for CT, KG, KW, EG, JT and so many others! Love you ladies! Also thankful for amazing blog friends/kindred spirits: Karrilee, Val, Janel, Susan, Bethany, Mary, Holly, Andrew, Tammy, Marie, Marissa, Jordan, Christy, Kate and so many others! (Wish I could list you all!)

(L) Laura. Laura was one of the first people I met when I started at Wartburg Seminary. She was so very welcoming and always so full of joy. Laura has been battling cancer since 2011 and is now losing her battle. She is in hospice care and all the joy and light is no longer in her eyes. Yet I am so thankful for her life and the many lives including mine that she has and continues to touch.

(M) Momma! You are the best! Love you to pieces!! (And my good friend MW! You are such a blessing in my life!)

So that's my A-M list. Be back soon with my N-Z list!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Blessings 101 & 102

(1) A text from a church member sharing how much she enjoyed my sermon yesterday.

(2) My new Write 31 days t-shirt and tank top arriving in the mail.

(3) Guest posting at a friend's blog sharing about our caregiving experience! (You can check that out Here)

(4) Bible study with some of our church ladies at the nursing home.

(5)Goodies sent home with me.

(6) My first Peppermint Mocha of the season. It hit the spot today.

(7) Nathan Dungan event

(8) Repeating as the Lutheran Campus Ministry Chili Feed champion

(9) Family SS lessons for two weeks. So much fun!!

(10) Retreat at Camp of the Cross

(11) Getting to see Mr. E

(12) Fundraiser for a local young woman battling cancer and seeing an awesome turnout. (Sadly she lost her battle last night)

(13) Tootsie Pops

(14) A phone call from Dad

(15) A phone call from Momma

(16) Being on the launch team for my blog friend Kaitlyn's book which will be released in 2016.

(17) A cool video of my aunt and uncle and family on our family farm promoting ND women farmers. So so cool!

(18) Catching up on some Voxes.

(19) Baby time with HH. Loved walking around and cuddling with him.

(20) Baby smiles

(21) Hugs from my fave littles

(22) Periscoping...I haven't periscoped in so long.

(23) Hot cocoa
(24) With mini marshmallows

(25) A beautiful day

I am linking up at Inspire Me Monday!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dwelling in Advent

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today's prompt is "Dwell." Write for five minutes; unedited.

"One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." Psalm 27:4

Dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. These words make me think of my friend Laura, and Andrew and all of those who have lived their lives sharing God's love with the world. I am so thankful that my friend Laura has dwelt here in this place all of her days and will continue to dwell there until she takes her last breath and God asks us to lay Laura's mat at his feet.

But as I am reminded of those who dwell in the house of the Lord, I also think of those places that I do not want to dwell either. I do not want to dwell on the news that only seems to be bad news. I would much rather dwell in those joy-filled happy spaces. I do not want to dwell on the evil in the world. There is so much I do not want to dwell on.

Yet as Thanksgiving draws near and Advent is soon upon us, I find myself in a place that I want to dwell. Advent is my most favorite time of the year! I love waiting and watching for this precious Christ child to come. I love sitting and dwelling in this space...this deep breathe of fresh air that reminds me of what comes in this infant; this unlikely son born to an unlikely women in a dirty stable in Bethlehem. This one who comes simply as the light in the midst of the darkness. This one who is Emmanuel--"God with us!"

During the days of Advent, I find that this is a place that I want to dwell as I reflect on the true reason for this season. With all the lights off, Christmas lights twinkling all around me, cup of hot cocoa in my hand, my favorite music playing in the background, I simply dwell in the peace of this season. 

Go Fish-More Than A Story 
(One of my fave Christmas songs. And hopefully you'll forgive me
 for posting a Christmas tune before Thanksgiving!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Your Mat Carriers

A poem offering for my friend Laura today.
Sometimes only my words can capture the prayers of my heart.

Your Mat Carriers
(A poem for Laura)
By Tara L. Ulrich

We carry your mat
Through all your days
Holding on with all our might
And wiping away our tears.

We don’t want to let go.
We want you to stay longer.
It doesn’t seem fair
That you need to go.

You’ve been such a gracious gift;
Full of so much joy,
Touching so many lives;
More than you’ll ever known

And so, we your mat carriers,
Continually hold onto your mat
Until the day when Jesus asks us
To simply lay it at his feet.

For on that day,
We know that you will be free;
Free of all that ails you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Beauty out of Brokenness

Have there been times in your life when you have just wanted to scream enough? Or perhaps a time when you tried to make sense out of what was happening in life? I know, that for me, it has probably been more times than I have cared to admit. In fact, throughout our journey with a mental illness, there have been times many times when I have questioned God. And lately, in the midst of too many cancer diagnoses, it is a question that I keep asking over and over and over again.

As a woman of faith, my faith is something that I always cling to and hold on too. But when I begin asking those hard questions, I wonder if I am being a very good christian at all. But then I am reminded that like Jacob, we have a God we can wrestle with. God sees us as both saints and sinners.  For me, knowing that I am able to give myself grace when all I want to do is scream and cry and continually ask God "Why?" is a gift only God can give me and all of us in the midst  of our hard questions.

Earlier today, I was listening to my Pandora station when the song "Beautiful Things" by Gungor came on. The first stanza reads "All this pain; I wonder if I'll ever find my way; I wonder if my life could really change at all; All this earth; Could all that is lost ever be found; Could a garden come up from this ground at all." From the first time I heard that song, its words have held a special place in my heart and today they brought me such sweet comfort. Because God does take dust and make it into beautiful things.

As my friend Laura lives her last days on this earth, I am reminded that soon she will be free from all that ails her (as she reminded us in her latest carepages post). I am reminded of the many lives that she has touched including mine and so many others. But as I am reminded of these gifts, I also can't help but be frustrated and sad. It doesn't seem fair that Laura's daughters will lose two parents to cancer. But the thing is that cancer does not discriminate. It attacks who it will.

Yet God has this amazing way of taking dust and turning into beautiful things. Most of the time, it is like a deep fog that we cannot see through. But in time, God takes the deep fog, lifts the fog and reveals to us a magnificent rainbow. God reveals the beauty out of the brokenness. 

God indeed, "You make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things out of us!"

Today I am linking up with my favorites; Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story and Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hold Us In Love

"For peace between nations"
"For peace between people"
"God of mercy, hold us in love"

These words are words that we sing every time we sing Marty Haugen's Holden Evening Prayer. Holden Evening Prayer is one of my most favorite worship settings. I honestly love the poetry of words that is in this service. As we heard the news of the events unfolding in Paris last night, a seminary classmate and friend posted the above words as her Facebook status. And ever since, I have been singing these words to myself.

Our God is indeed a God of mercy and love. God wants us to show love to one another especially in the midst of heartache. What if instead of blaming each other, we stood together...like people all over the world stood together on the days following 9-11? What if instead of sowing hate, we sowed seeds of love? What if we were instruments of God's peace in the world? My friend Ben, as he lay in the Haitian rubble, uttered the words "God's peace to us we pray". Then moments later, Ben died in that rubble. Ben's words remind me that God has the power to bring about God's peace. So may God bring out God's peace and may we also be instruments of God's love in the world.

As I think about this horrific tragedy, I can't help but think of those who lost loved ones last night. But I also am reminded of those who have taught me to love and to show God's love to the world. My friend Laura is now laying in a hospital bed at a hospice center as she continues to fight her cancer.. From day one, Laura was one of the kindest, most welcoming, most loving women that I have ever met. She has taught me what it means to be gracious. I also think of my own mother who, even though she has lived my whole life with a mental illness, is one of the most welcoming, kind, loving women as well. My mom literally would give the shirt off of her back to someone in need. These two women along with many others have shown me the power of what it means to sow love rather than hatred. "For perfect love casts out fear!"

Yes, God's perfect love casts out fear. Look at how many times the words "Do not be afraid" appear in the Bible. God calls us to trust in him and to cling to the promise that God's perfect love does indeed cast out fear.

I understand that those words can be hard to cling too especially in the midst of deep darkness, but God's light and love shine in the midst of that darkness. When I was in college and also in seminary, I was in a play production of "The Diary of Anne Frank." Anne and her family hid from the Nazis. Day in and day out, they fought for their lives. Eventually they were found by the Nazis. Yet at the very end of Anne's diary, she wrote "Despite everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." Oh Anne, may we remember your words today and every day.

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love."-Francis of Assissi