Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Blessings 75

(1) Our T-shirts arrived from Old Lutheran. So fun!!

(2) Productive Gathering team meeting.

(3) My friends JK and CK's little girl turning two! Love that little girl and her parents so much!!

(4) Amazing response to my latest blog post! Wow!! You sure know how to make a girl feel loved!!!

(5) Chatting online with a friend I haven't talked to in quite awhile.

(6) High fives from two of my fave kiddos; one played drums with the bell choir and the other one read the reading at worship.

(7) Great conversation with First Communion families. It's so wonderful to see kids of all ages ready to come to the holy table.

(8) A great meeting with two youth and two parents as we started finalizing plans for Easter breakfast.

(9) Giving Blessing Bowls to my 7th Graders. Love so much!!!

(10) Holden Evening Prayer

(11) A fantastic colleagues lunch and getting to see some of my faves; CT and KG.

(12) Great conversation with Pastor GR about Milestone Ministries.

(13) A couple of Confirmation small groups filling Easter Eggs for me.

(14) Phone call from JH.

(15) A phone call from my Daddy. Love him so much!!!

(16) A shout-out on another friends blog

(17) Doing my FMF intro video

(18) Mouse River Players production of "The Adventures with Tom Sawyer" with my friend KG!

(19) Spending time with my friend Mandy and her daughter Caroline

(20) A great Palm Sunday

(21) Watching some of my church kiddos skate in their Spring skating exhibition.

(22) One of my youth bringing me a treat this morning because her family was serving during coffee hour.

(23) A note from the girls mom thanking me for coming today. The girls were so proud that I came to see them!

(24) Talking to my momma on the phone.

(25) 60 degree weather

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thank You Kara Tippetts!

The sun was streaming in through the windows of my house. At 2:15 pm, I opened my phone to her website and clicked on the link to watch the live stream of her memorial service. I watched as Jason and their children walked into the sanctuary. I listened to the musicians play beautiful music. And I especially listened to the words that were spoken at the beginning of her service. A man (I am not sure who exactly he was) came to the microphone and said "Welcome." But then he proceeded to share how that seemed so impersonal. Because Kara was one who would take your hand and put it over your heart, entering you into her heart. And just as Kara was taking hold of your hand and placing hers over yours, her hand was also being quietly grasped into your heart and you didn't even know it.

Those words that he spoke are so true. I may never have met Kara. But through her words, through her vulnerability, through her heart, I got to know this beautiful child of God. A child of God who ventured to share even the hardest darkest pieces of her life. And because she shared her story with so many of us, she indeed grabbed our hands and placed them over her heart and at the same time entered into our hearts. And because she shared her whole story, many around the world gathered to laugh, to cry, to mourn and to grieve this beautiful child of God this afternoon.

Tears streamed down my face as I listened to Kara's memorial service. But then it was 2:45 pm and I needed to leave. I grabbed my shoes and slipped them on. I grabbed my car keys and walked outside. The sun was beating warmly across my face silenting reminding me of the beauty of this world. I opened my car door and sat down. I placed my phone in the cupholder and drove to the hotel where my friend and her family were staying. The whole time Kara's memorial service played on my phone.

I pulled up to the hotel. I turned off the livestream; wishing I could listen more but knowing that the video would hopefully be uploaded later. Before I went into the hotel, I wiped the still wet tears from my face and reflected for a moment. Then I walked through the front doors of the hotel, turned left, went down the hallway and turned right into the pool area. I found my friend sitting at the table and her daughter happily playing in the swimming pool. I haven't seen this friend in quite a while so we sat and visited while her daughter played. While we chatted, I watched the children and families all playing so happily. Deep inside, my heart was breaking for Kara's family as they were at that same exact moment saying goodbye to their beloved wife and mother. But I also know that because of Kara's own words and own examples that she would want me to be with those near and dear to my heart. She would want me to continue to "love them hard" so that is exactly what I did.

After about an hour, I came home to my house. I tried to get back onto the live stream but it was finished. I laid my phone down on my coffee table and turned on my television. A couple of hours  later, I opened my front door listening to the first Spring rain falling. The aromas of that Spring rain wafted over me and I stood holding my screen door wide open, the rain falling lightly upon my face, and my head resting on the door looking up to the heavens; looking up to where Kara now resides and continues to tell her whole story. I stood there for a few more minutes letting the rain wash over me and then I looked up to the heavens and simply whispered, "Thank you Kara Tippetts."

It was a simple thank you, but it is one that I believe many of us are saying to her and to her family because she shared her whole story with us. May we too, in the mundane days of faithfulness, remember to love big, to be vulnerable, and to share in the midst of even the hardest darkest places as well as in the most joyful places.

To read more of Kara's journey, go here: Mundane Faithfulness. If you would like to help support the Tippett's children, the family asks that donations may be sent to:

Jason Tippetts
P.O. Box 49727
Colorado Springs, CO 80949

I am linking up with Barbie Swihart for the Weekend Brew and with Anita at Blessed but Stressed for Inspire Me Monday. 
                                                             
 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Breaking the Silence (A Five Minute Friday Post)

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 "Break." Write for five minutes; unedited.

My Lighthouse by Rend Collective Experiment has become one of my all-time favorite songs. I love the image of the lighthouse in the distance breaking through and providing that light that we need. Or, I think, of a candle which in a blackout provides just enough light; just enough light breaks through and shows us what we need to see.

Sometimes what we need to see is right in front of us. This week I have been finishing (I only have a chapter left) of Annie Downs' book "Let's All Be Brave." That book has opened me up in ways I never thought possible. It has help me break through and be more brave than I ever thought possible. My friend Colleen at Blessed are the Feet reminded me of that today in this post she wrote Go Ahead and Tell Your Story.

God wants us to tell our WHOLE stories; even the bloody messy pieces of our stories. My story is filled with much joy but it also is filled with much pain and sorrow too. My Mom had a nervous breakdown right after my sister was born. (She is three years younger than me) She has lived with a mental illness pretty much my whole life. And I have learned the power of sharing my story; our story. There are so many in this world whose hearts are breaking because they haven't been able to share their whole stories.

I also believe that when we share our stories, God finds a way for the light to break through in the midst of the deep darkness. In sharing our stories, we break the silence about the so many things that I believe God weeps along with us with in this world. And by sharing my story and the story of all those who daily struggle with a mental illness, I am able to hopefully break the silence.

**Since I referenced this video, I decided to add this video for your enjoyment, friends. Maybe you could break dance to this? (Just Kidding!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Radical Hope and Unmet Expectations

I'll be honest. I really don't want to write this blog post AT ALL. But after continuing to read through Annie Down's book and reading her very own chapter on being single, I hear a resounding "me too."

I always feel guilty for writing about being single and God not yet fulfilling the prayers that I have continually asked for. As Annie reminded me, it's not simply about being at home alone, or in bed alone but rather is about a God who can do something about those unanswered prayers but doesn't. That is perhaps one of the hardest things for me especially when I watch as prayers are answered around me. My heart knows that God will answer those prayers in God's ways when the timing is right, but my head is irrational and wants those prayers answered RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!

I must admit that I sometimes think that I overshare on this topic and that is not my intent at all. I don't want to scare any of you away. But last night as I read Annie's chapter on being single, I thought if Annie can be vulnerable and write what is on her heart, I too can muster up the courage to do the same; to put down my fears and share what is on my heart.

I am a thirty seven year old woman who deeply yearns to be a Mom and a wife. Ever since I was a little girl, I would play house with my sister and dream of meeting my Mr. Right and having a family. Yet I am still..........waiting!! And in the midst of that waiting, I know that God has a beautiful plan in store for me but some days; ok must days, it is easier said than done to trust in that plan for my life. It is like taking a giant leap of faith not knowing where the floor is underneath me. But in the book of Jeremiah I am reminded, "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you; plans to give you a future with hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

A future with hope...YES! That is exactly what I cling to and hope in. These words from Annie's book were a giant exclamation point for me. She writes, "We walk through seasons that are filled with unmet expectations and potential for radical hope (Lets All Be Brave; Annie F Downs; P. 163)." I read those words over and over again. Then in the margins of the book, I wrote YES in huge letters next to that quote.

That is the truth, my friend, like the seasons change around us, the seasons change in our lives too. And sometimes those seasons can be confused in their own time and space. I am chuckling as I write this as it is snowing big fluffy snowflakes at the moment, yet the calendar says it is Spring. We indeed all walk through unmet expectations and potential for radical hope; a radical hope that is grounded in the promise of the Resurrection.

That radical hope and those unmet expectations are so evident in my life when I sit at home on a Friday night by myself. That radical hope and those unmet expectations are evident when another friend announces a pregnancy or an engagement. That radical hope and those unmet expectations are there as the tears quietly and silently fall from my face in the privacy of my home. Yet the truth is, that in the midst of that radical hope and those unmet expectations, that God still promises to never leave me or forsake me.

"Don't panic, I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you."--Isaiah 41:10 (The Message Translation) Oh how those words grab a hold of me and speak to every fiber of my being. God has a firm hold on you friends! God has a firm hold on me! And yes, somedays I wish that God would loosen that grip. But I also need to be brave and hold on to that grip knowing that God does indeed have a plan for me. We are never alone. Jesus says to each of us, "I will never leave you or forsake you."

"To be brave here is to know that, no matter what your marital status is, male or female, always single or happily married, or every spot in between, you are never alone." (Let's All Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P. 164)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Linked Together

The dirty dishes in the sink have finally been put away. The light in the kitchen is still on. The sounds of Cutthroat Kitchen are on in the background. And the residue from frying a little piece of steak is still stuck to my George Foreman grill. And it will sit there just a little longer as I spend a few moments in prayer as I write this post and pray for the family of dear Kara Tippetts.

Kara and I never met, yet I have felt our lives linked ever since I first read her blog Mundane Faithfulness. Kara was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and today she finally was welcomed into the arms of her dear Lord and Savior. Kara leaves behind her beloved husband Jason and their four children. Throughout her journey, Kara was so full of grace, authenticity, vulnerability and pure faith in God. (Her words continually reminded me of several dear friends of mine who are currently battling cancer and whose words speak the power of community and God's love for all of us!)

Earlier this evening, I popped onto Twitter and saw a Tweet that shared that Kara had entered into her Lord's arms today. As I read that Tweet, I found myself thinking about the chain links to a fence and how those links connect together to make the fence complete. At the churches I have served, whenever we have had a special milestone blessing (3rd graders receiving their Bible etc), I have tried to have the congregation stand and place their hand on the person next to them or in front of them to link back to the ones being blessed at the front of the congregation. My favorite piece is being at the advantage of seeing everyone linked together. It is a powerful witness...to look into each face and know that no matter what we are linked together as brothers and sisters in Christ. And that is what I am reminded of today as we know that Kara heard the words "well done good and faithful servant."

As God's beloved children, we are all linked together even though we may have never met in person. I think of how many times in this life I have been blessed by reading someone's words or by talking to someone I have never talked to before. God has a way of linking us together in ways and places that we never imagined which is why we grieve those that we have never met yet feel like we have known forever.

Knowing that we are all links to the fence, my heart still breaks for Kara's family and friends. How do you say goodbye to a dear friend or family member especially when it doesn't seem fair and seems far to soon? How do you share how someone has blessed your life in more ways than you ever imagined?

What I do know is that it is not easy to say goodbye. Throughout my thirty six years on this earth, I have had to say goodbye to my maternal grandparents. I have said goodbye to one of my favorite high school teachers who saw gifts in me before I saw them in myself. I have said goodbye with friends as they have said goodbye to children they never got to even hold. Each of these goodbyes has not been easy, but the hardest for me was my high school best friend Mandy.

Mandy and I were inseperable growing up. She was just a few years older than me but had a kidney transplant which held her back in school. So we ended up in the same grade. As we graduated, we both went our seperate ways which eventually led me to seminary. Every one in awhile my phone would ring and Mandy would be on the other end. We would laugh like old times. During one of her calls, she asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I was honored that she asked and flew home from seminary to be a part of her special day. I will never forget that day...she was so happy! Not long after that wedding, a year or so, I got a phone call from Mandy's mom letting me know that she had passed away. Sadly we had lost touch as our lives went in different directions, but my heart was still breaking. Mandy was my first "best friend." I remember standing in the church office, tears streaming down my face as I listened to that voicemail.

Saying goodbye is indeed a part of life, but it is still so hard. There are days I wish I could shield us from the hurt but then I am reminded of the words we hear  Jesus say "I will never leave you or forsake you." Jesus is with us through it all. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, but then, on the third day, Jesus rose. HOPE AND RESURRECTION! That is what it is all about. I am reminded of these words from one of my favorite Psalms. "Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning."--Psalm 30:5

The weeping is fresh tonight especially for those who love Kara so much and so deeply, yet God promises that joy will come with the morning. And knowing that joy will come with the morning, I am reminded of the quote on Kara's website from our dear Martin Luther: "What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?" So, honoring this beautiful soul and remembering how we are linked together like chain links to a fence, I ask you, my dear readers and friends, how will we live our days even in the ugliest darkest spaces? And what will YOU do in the mundane days of faithfulness?

Sunday Blessings 74

(1) YouthWorkers with some of my fave people.

(2) #Fmfpartysnailmail in my mailbox.

(3) My 2014 ShutterFly photo book in the mail.

(4) Waffle cone Wednesday with our FLY Youth. So fun!!

(5) Fun mail! Thanks MH!

(6) Smurfs sour gummy candy. I bought them because they remind me of my childhood!

(7) Lunch with my momma

(8) A great mutual ministry committee meeting.

(9) Papa Murphys pizza

(10) Voxing with TM and KA

(11) A drive-by egging by some very cute kiddos.

(12) Spending some quality time with my friend EG.

(13) Messaging with my friend KW. So good to chat. I miss her!!

(14) Awesome day at worship: Teachers Blessing, a Baptism and so much more!!

(15) Gathering with other churches and talking about Detroit. Cool to get to know each other since we will be traveling together this summer.

(16) A post-liturgical post-youth gathering meeting nap!!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Brave Is....

As you know, I have been working my way through Annie Down's book "Let's All Brave. And I cannot put it down. It also has made me realize how many amazingly brave people I have in my life.

Brave is...taking that leap of faith when you are not sure where that leap of faith is going to lead.

Brave is...sharing about an infant loss when it is the last thing you want to do and when
the tears are still wet upon your face.

Brave is...taking a trip to a place you feel called to serve God.

Brave is...hearing the call to ministry and following through with that call.

Brave is...moving on from a relationship.

Brave is...saying yes rather no.

Brave is...also sometimes saying no when you would rather say yes.

Brave is...being authentic and sharing the real you.

Brave is...opening your heart to a child and bringing that child home to be a part of your family.

Brave is...breaking the silence and sharing your authentic self and your own battles with depression and/or a  mental illness.

Brave is...sharing your faith story to a huge crowd when it scares you to death.

Brave is...

What is brave to you my friends?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Let's Be Real! (Five Minute Friday)

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 "Real" Write for five minutes; unedited.

Yesterday I wrote a post about how there is a book currently wrecking my soul...in a fantastic way. That book is Annie F Down's book "Let's All Be Brave." I cannot stop highlighting in the book and cannot put it down. I think it is wrecking my soul, my friends, because it is reminding me to be "real" with the world around me, with my friends, but most especially with myself.

So I am choosing to be even more real with you tonight, my friends. Anyone who reads this here blog knows my deep desire to be a mom and a wife. But I have come to the realization that God may have a different plan for me. God knows what that plan is. Maybe I am suppose to be a mom by venturing into being a foster mom or adopting a child.

Yep, my friends, I just said it. There is a real part of me especially now as I read Annie's book that thinks that my bravery might indeed include being a mom through foster care or adoption. A quote spoke to me the other day on Facebook. It said, "Adoption is the visible Gospel." Wow! What incredible words! God has a real plan for me!

Let's be real friends! I don't know exactly where this journey will lead me. But I do know that God is with me on this journey. And God has given me the real strength to be brave.

And God has given you each that real strength too!