Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Million, Million Doors for His Love To Walk Through (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 "Door." Write for five minutes; unedited.

I have walked through many doors in my life. There was the door I walked  through in my daddy's arms when my mom and him brought me home from the hospital. There is the door that walked through when I went to Kindergarten for the first time. There is the door I walked through to go to seminary. There is the door I walked to when I walked into my own house for the first time.

But, not only, have I walked through many doors, God has closed a few doors in my life too. God closed the door when I took a new call and moved from Fargo-Moorhead to Minot. There are the doors that shut when God opened another door for me. God has a way of doing that doesn't he---shutting one door and opening another.

Most of all though, I believe, that God calls us to open the door for God's love; for the world's love. One of my all time favorite Christian artists is Jason Gray. Jason has a really cool song that makes me smile and think about the world in which we live. The words in the song are "God put a million, million doors in the world for his love to walk through. One of those doors is you." These words continually speak to me. Am I showing that love to the world around me? Are we showing that love to the world around us?

This week as I have watched the riots breaking out in Baltimore, I cannot help but think of the yuckiness; the ugliness that is happening in our world. What kind of world will our youth grow up in? Will we show them what God's love will look like? And will they walk through those open doors showing God's love to the world? I hope so...because I believe the world will be a kinder gentler place if they do!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Spilled Sand Art Cross (Or How God Takes Brokenness and Makes It Beautiful!)

So much of our society and world is about striving to be perfect. We think we have to be perfect. But the truth is that God didn't create us to be perfect. We are human...and we are sinners! I mean look at the world around us. This week especially I have been acutely aware of our sinfulness. Just turn on the news the last couple of days, riots breaking out in Baltimore. And I am saddened by what I see! My best friend's husband is a highway patrolman. I know that RT would never act the way the policemen are acting in Baltimore. Yet I am not blind to the fact that we are all created to be both saints and sinners alike.

I am reminded of these words that we read in 2 Corinthians 12:9 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." In other words, it is through our brokenness and our imperfections that we are made more powerful.

When I worked at a Bible camp for many summers, it was always awesome to watch how God often would use brokenness, imperfections to shine the light of God's love on each other. One week in particular a friend and I were co-counselors together. Like many other weeks, this week had its challenging campers. One afternoon we were gathered in the craft shack to do an art project when one young girl in particular was testing our buttons. I don't remember the particulars of that afternoon, how the sand art ended up on the floor, but it did. And in the midst of the spill, the sand art sprawled out onto the floor to create this beautiful cross. My co-counselor and I looked at each other and just smiled. A simple reminder of beauty out of brokenness.

The truth is that it is so easy to get caught up in wanting to be perfect, yet when we truly take the time, God has this amazing way of showing us how God takes our brokenness and makes beautiful things. My mom is one of those examples for me! Even though she has lived most of my life with a mental illness, her story/our story has blessed many. In the deepest darkness of the depression or in the highest high of the mania, God has taken it and reminded me that God indeed takes our brokenness and makes it beautiful. My sister and I wouldn't be who we are without this journey. There were many days growing up when I didn't understand. But as a young woman, I have become more and more aware of how God takes our brokenness and makes beautiful things out of our brokenness. In fact, to be honest, my mom is one of the most beautiful women that I out of her own brokenness!

I think of my friends Jon and Renee and Renee's first husband Ben. They wouldn't have gone to Haiti if they knew the earthquake was going to happen and Ben was going to lose his life that day. Today Jon and Renee are married and have their first child. Again God took a horrific event and in the midst of it all, God wove together something incredibly beautiful.

Like that spilled sand art cross, God takes all of our brokenness and often weaves it into something incredibly beautiful. We may not always see it at first. But take a closer look and the beauty out of the brokenness is quite evident!

Today I am linking up with these beautiful writers 
Holley and Coffee for your Heart, Jennifer and Tell His Story.


Monday, April 27, 2015

My Love Language with Words

This is a little longer post than usual but I needed to get the words out. Thanks for stopping by friends!

Words are my love love language to God. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always had a strong love of words. I spent many hours reading books or when I was really little being read to by my parents. But most of all, I was a kid who was content with pen and paper. My mom has told me that there were many times that I would sit at the kitchen table or on the floor of our living room and pour out my heart in words. All I needed was crayons/markers/pens/pencils and paper!

Recently my friend Dana started an adventure at her church using art in its many creative forms. She started an event called 4th Fridays. Dana shared her introduction talk on her blog. I just listened to it and my heart is now undone..undone as I remember why I started writing stories, poetry, etc in the first place. I don't write words to be recognized for them (Don't get me wrong, it is nice to be recognized for them but that is not the most important), but to remember where I come from; to remember that I am rooted in Christ and God's love for me.

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."--Ephesians 2:10 (New International Version) In some translations, the word handiwork is sometimes translated as workmanship. Handiwork/workmanship comes from the Greek word "Poema" which comes from our English word "poem." In the words of my friend Dana, we are God's walking poetry. Ummm...I don't know about you but that makes me think about my life, my artwork in a whole new perspective.

How do my words share God's love? How do my words connect me to God and connect others to God as well? How do my words show that God is with us through the sadness and the joy, the tears and the sorrow, and so much more? How do my words/ our words impact those around us?

There have been many times that I have lifted my words to God. I have lifted them through poetry when my mom was lying in an intensive care unit. I have lifted them to God when I didn't understand why our family was struggling with the deep grief of a mental illness. I have lifted them to God as I have yearned for God to answer the desires of my heart. But lately, I have not truly taken the time to sit, listen, and let the words truly flow onto the paper or the page as I remember the vulnerability in sharing who I am through words that I have written to share.

Working at a church, I write sermons, lead worship and Bible studies, teach Confirmation class etc. And I am pretty comfortable doing that, but ask me to share a poem or my heart and immediately I am filled with fear; deep fear. There is something so incredibly scary about sharing truly who I am with the rest of the world and especially with those that I serve. Yet God wants us to share our stories with each other. There is pure gift in knowing each other's stories and knowing that we are not on this journey alone. I cannot tell you the number of times that God has placed someone in my path because I needed that person to hear my story OR I needed to hear their story.

Too often in this world, words are used in a negative way. We use them to bully others. We use them to hurt peoples feelings. But God wants us to use our words for the greater good. God wants us to use our words to bring glory to him. I know that can be difficult especially in this world where we use words to hurt each other, but God always sees us and knows our heart. That is a promise that I still want to cling to daily. I think of a blog post I read earlier today where the writer shared this quote by Jen Hatmaker: "People may hate us because of Jesus, but let's not make them hate Jesus because of us."

So, my friends, I am grasping onto that promise that if only one person reads this post and this poem, that is a-ok with me because that one person may just be Jesus. And knowing that he is seeing me and my words, I am throwing out my fear and sharing my own words with you. This poem was written about two years ago as I was thinking about  my mom, her journey with a mental illness and how very difficult that can and has been for me especially.

My Momma By Tara L. Ulrich
Talking about boys and life, 
Picking out my wedding dress,
Sharing about my life and loves;
These are all things that I wish
I could do with my momma
Like my friends have with their mommas.

Yet she is still my momma.

My momma has always been my shining star.
She has always been one 
Of the most kindest caring people in my life.
Yet she cannot do the things that I wish for
To the degree that I hope and pray for.

Yet she is still my momma.

I want to talk to her about boys and love.
I wish that she could come with me
To pick out my wedding dress someday.
I yearn for the day when our conversations
Will be more than a few minutes. 

Yet she is still my momma.

Momma has taught me so much about life.
Momma loves my sister and I UNCONDITIONALLY!
Mmomma continually shows me that normal is relative.
Momma is and will always be my momma;
A momma who reminds me daily
Of what it means to be who God created me to be! 

I am linking up with Anita at Inspire Me Monday, Holly at Testimony Tuesday and Kelly at the RaRa Linkup.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Blessings 79

1) A good Mutual Ministry Committee meeting

(2) One of the quilters telling me I have pretty eyes.

(3) Helping Miss R get around tonight after her eye surgery and getting to have lunch with her.

(4) One last postcard from Japan from my friend Heather. They are now back in the States!! Woo Hoo!!!

(5) A space heater to keep my office warm.

(6) Standing in line at the DQ and one of my fave little boys running in and practically attacking me because he was so excited to see me

(7) A little girl talking all of our ears off at DQ

(8) One of the Confirmation small groups helping out in my backyard

(9) Orange Julius

(10) Sitting outside, talking with a colleague and watching her son play outside while we visited.

(11) Being taken out for lunch by our office manager to celebrate my consecration anniversary.

(12) Our Janitor sharpening the blade on my personal mower.

(13) Hanging out at church and listening to the high school choir before they went on their choir trip.

(14) Spending time with my camp friends AN and her hubby BN Andy friend MG. Camp friendships are so beautiful!!

(15) S'mores and Much More Gala! So much fun!!!

(16) Chatting with AN, BN and MG. We could have sat and chatted for hours. It's been way too long!!

(17) Running into an college professor in the Bismarck Target.

(18) Some much needed "me" time; spending the night at a hotel, a lite bit of fun shopping, time with good friends and a road trip home.

(19) Wartburg Theological Seminary announcing their new President. They couldn't have picked a finer person. So excited for LJ and WTS!!

(20) Pathways Outdoor Ministries announcing their new co-executive directors. So excited for them too!!

(21) Quilters Blessing

(22) One of my fave little girls jumping up on me to give me a huge hug

(23) A great dinner put on by our Family Sunday School families for our seniors.

(24) A refreshing rain

(25) YOU!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hidden Tears (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 "Hide." Write for five minutes; unedited.

When I was a teenager, my sister and I babysat for some of our favorite little girls. Their mom and her sister used to babysit for us and then we started babysitting for her kids when she had kids. I remember McKenzie coming to my dad's house and often wanting to hide behind my sister and I. We couldn't figure out why she was afraid to go downstairs in our basement. One day it dawned on us that she was afraid of the deer head that our dad had mounted on the wall.

Isn't it crazy how we want to hide when things are unfamiliar to us? Or how we hide because we don't want to show that side of ourselves to those around us? As a little girl, I often would shed many tears because of the words that were slung at me; the names that I was called. But the tears always came! I couldn't hide them from the people that were slinging names at me. In a way, I felt that they were winning because I couldn't hide those words.

But one of the biggest things that I hid from others was our family's journey with a mental illness. It took me a very very long time before I brought our story out of hiding. But once I began sharing our story, many other stories came out of hiding too. There is so much power in those two words "me too!" Stories are meant to be shared. They are not meant to be hidden. They reveal a big part of who we are; of who God calls us to be.

*Yet there are still times when it is hard for me to share my story. There are still tears that I want to hide. There are the tears that silently fall from my eyes when I am not sure that God has heard the desires of my heart. There are the tears that I secretly shed when I come home to an empty house and bed. There are the tears that I want to hide because I don't want the world to see how vulnerable I am. Yet there is something so holy about no longer hiding our tears. There is something healing when we show our tears to each other.

*That is where my five minutes stopped but I had to finish out my thought.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Take Delight (Part 2)

Oh my friends, remember yesterday when I posted about taking delight and how God sees us.

My friends JK and CK are expecting their second little girl in just a few short weeks. JK posted some of their maternity pics last night and I fell in love with each and every one of them. I mean seriously how cute can you get! :)

I love these two and their little girl (and baby #2) more than words can say! JK and I hit it off from the moment we met each other. We may not talk every day or even every month but I know I can count on her. She is honest, loving and caring; a dear friend in my life! And her hubby is no different. They are such a team together and I love watching that play out in their lives.

JK and CK have not led a perfect life. Like the rest of us, they too have had their own ups and downs. But they have always clung to each other and to their faith in God; one of the many things I love about them.

When I look at their world/their life, I see a picture of a couple; of a family who delight in the Lord. And oh how thankful I am for that example in my life. They remind me that there is so much hope and promise when we delight in the Lord! I see that in their little girls smile. I see that in their love for each other. I see that in our friendship.

Thank you my friends for that beautiful reminder!! Love you more than words can say!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Take Delight

Last week my friend Anna blogged on the Desires of our Hearts over at the InCourage community. If you didn't get a chance to read Anna's post, here is the link: Waiting for the Desires of my Heart.

From that day on, Anna's words have continued to speak to my heart. I am a 36 year old woman who has always pictured her life ending much like the fairy tail endings of the movies and fairy tales. Yet I am no closer to that desire than I was then. My arms are still empty. I still come home to a dark empty house and an empty bed. Though I am choosing to trust in this one who indeed sees me and knows every desire of my heart; every desire of your heart.

With my empty arms and an empty bed, it is pretty evident to me that I am still waiting on those desires. Yet the truth is that God still sees my empty arms and my empty bed. He knows exactly what those desires are but most especially God sees me and knows my heart! There is so much hope in being seen. I think of Mary who was seen and was chosen to be Jesus' mother. I think of how Jesus chose Moses and Noah and so many others. They didn't think they were called but God saw them and called them. God calls us too!

That call comes in so many ways, but I think one of the ways we are called is to see each other; is to see each other's gifts and share those gifts with the world. There is so much joy in being seen by others. Last Thursday I was so excited to open up my work email and see that Living Lutheran wanted permission to repost one of my blog posts on their website. It totally made my day. Someone had seen me...and thought that what I had to say was ENOUGH!

But the truth is we aren't always seen. Sometimes (a lot of the time) we continue writing the words on the page but we don't get the book deal or someone else's post gets more hits than ours do. The words flow onto the page but there is no end in sight. The words sometimes feel like they are being poured onto the page only to vanish. Our words never vanish in God's sight. God continually hears and sees the desires of our heart. God continually says, "You are mine. I see you. And I love you."

Trusting in that promise, I am leaning into God continuing to keep company with him. The Message translation of the Bible translates Psalm 37:4 this way "Keep company with God, get in on the best."

I am linking up with these awesome amazing writers today. Their words always speak to my heart!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Blessings 78

(1) YouthWorkers with some of my fave people.

(2) A yummy taco bar

(3) A great turnout for our Practice Discipleship/Gathering training.

(4) Getting to hug one of my fave kiddos.

(5) A gorgeous day; 70 plus degree weather.

(6) A sweet Tweet from a blogger friend.

(7) A great night at Confirmation and FLY.

(8) A friend sharing exciting good news.

(9) NASHVILLE (Love that tv show!)

(10) A beautiful day for a drive

(11) Being asked by Living Lutheran if they can repost one of my blog posts. Totally made my day!!

(12) Writing the devotions this week for the Camp of the Cross FB page.

(13) Chatting with my sissy online

(14) A message from a friend.

(15) Being asked a sweet question by a sweet lady.

(16) Holding and meeting Baby Harvey.

(17) Crystal Stine's Creative Basics course. I'm learning so much!!

(18) Moldiv: a new photo collage app for my phone. So much fun! I cannot get enough of it!!

(19) Hearing my name called a "million" times as I taught the lesson for family SS today.

(20) Several hugs today from my fave kiddos.

(21) Meeting a new family and getting to hold one of their twins.

(22) Getting some baby Briar cuddling time in.

(23) E holding my hand as we walked to the usher so he could put his quarter in the offering plate. Also E and I playing hide n seek after worship.

(24) A nice PLN (post-liturgical) nap

(25) Confirmation rehearsal and banquet

(26) Academy of Country Music Awards

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, It's Only A Day Away!

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 "Tomorrow." Write for five minutes; unedited.

"Tomorrow, Tomorrow, it's only a day away!" So how many of you are singing along with me and little Miss Annie? I have alwtays loved that movie. And it also reminds me of my younger (I was going to say little but she doesn't let me call her that anymore) sister Andrea because when she was little my mom, dad, and I called her Annie. She was/is our Annie!

Tomorrow is such a beautiful gift and I am thinking about that especially today. My cousin's son Jack's 5th birthday is today. Jack and his sister Maia are spending it in heaven. They didn't get as many tomorrows as we would have liked for them. My heart aches each and every day for my cousin. Yet I know that God holds our tomorrows in God's hands.

Sometimes we are happy to see that tomorrow and other times that tomorrow brings about much sadness. I think again of those who went to be with Jesus earlier than they or their families ever expected. I think of dear sweet Kara Tippetts. I think of my friend Renee's first husband Ben who died in the Haiti earthquake. I think of all of my friends who haven't been able to hold their children here on this earth. Yet again I trust and know that God holds our tomorrows in God's hands. "Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5 NRSV)."

I am so thankful that God holds our tomorrows. So now I am going to lay my head upon my pillow, close my eyes, and wake to a new tomorrow. A tomorrow that God holds in God's hands with all of its joys and all of its sorrows.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

You are Seen!

I wander around this world; going through the motions, wondering if I am seen. Sometimes it feels as if a veil is over my eyes and no one can see me. I feel like a person vanishing into the background. These feelings are feelings that come in as the enemy tries to make me feel like I am not seen. But the truth is that God sees me and God sees you too friends.

Lately God has been imprinting that promise into my heart and my soul. Just the other day, a fellow blogger tweeted to me and a few other bloggers "You are seen by the One who formed you." It came in the midst of my day but it totally put a smile on my face. Those words bring such comfort.

Then today I got an email as part of Jolene Underwood's #RiseUpWriters and in her email, Jolene kept putting my name in the body of the email. Every time I read my name as she wrote about God calling us etc. Those words again reminded me that I am seen.

Yes, there are indeed times when life gets in the way and we compare ourselves to those around us. Or let's be honest....we compare ourselves to those around us MOST of the time, don't we? We think we aren't good enough. She is much prettier than I am. She keeps a cleaner house than I do. She has a bigger house than I do. Those words are words that hurt us as we think we are not seen. Those words put a shroud over the reality that we are seen by God. The truth is that we are precious sons and daughters of the one true king!

But there are times when the enemy fights his way in and traps us in the lies that we arent important, that we aren't seen. Yet it is during those times when God wants us to know that God sees us. God sees us most when we think he doesn't see us at all. God knows every desires of our hearts.

The promise that I am seen gives me such comfort. It is a promise that I want to cling to always and I want God to continue to speak to my heart and soul always reminding me that I am seen; always reminding you that you are seen too! We are all seen by the One who formed us.

God sees ME!
God sees YOU!!

Linking up with these lovely writers today: 



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Blessings 77

(1) Easter Monday; a day off from work, time to relax, etc.

(2) A text from my colleague at DLC

(3) A fellow blogger sending me a book. Thanks Ingrid! I'm excited to read it!!

(4) Juicy Pear and Cinnamon Jelly Bellies

(5) A great Confirmation class

(6) Fresh lemons from a lady at church

(7) A mom thanking me for the First Communion blessing/worship at church

(8) Talking to my colleague from DLC

(9) Attending a colleagues mom's funeral

(10) An Easter card with a gift card

(11) Voxing with TM and KA

(12) Spending time with EG

(13) Driving around and seeing kids riding bike, people working outside, etc as it is a sure sign that Spring has arrived.

(14) Finally getting to finish watching Kara Tippett's memorial service.

(15) Sitting outside, reading a book and soaking up some sun

(16) Aspirin to help a headache go away

(17) Texting with my good friend MW

(18) My FMF intro video being shared this week

(19) Getting some baby snuggles in.

(20) Spending time with my friend AN.

(21) Talking to my momma on the phone.

(22) Two little girls showing me the ladybug they found.

(23) One of my fave little girls taking my hand and taking me where she wanted me to go.

(24) Another one of my fave girls sharing some M and Ms with me. For each color I picked, there was a question that I had to answer.

(25) Olive Garden

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Friendship on Purpose

"We were made to love and be loved, But the price this world demands will cost you far too much, I spent so many lonely years just trying to fit in. Now I've found a place in this circle of friends, In a circle of friends we have one Father, In a circle of friends we share this prayer." (Point of Grace; Circle of Friends)

These words from Point of Grace's song Circle of Friends have always been words that have spoken straight to my heart. But I am realizing even more how important and amazing it is to have friends grounded in God's love.

Growing up, I had a hard time making friends. I was an emotional child. And I also was the kid that was picked on and bullied (in some senses of the word.) There were many who picked on me relentlessly. As they hurled those words at me, tears always ran down my face. I remember being called "cry baby" and "orange juice spiller" and other names. Little did these individuals know the brokenness that I was experiencing in my life. Their words continued to add to my brokenness.

In elementary school, I met my best friend Mandy. Mandy was a year older than me but she was held back because she had a kidney transplant. Mandy and I were pretty inseparable growing up. And we always stood up for each other. After high school graduation, we both went our separate ways. I went off to college. While at college, Mandy met a really great guy.and shortly after I graduated college and started seminary, they got married. I came home to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. During my seminary days, Mandy and I lost touch a little bit. But every once in awhile, she would call and we would talk like old times. I graduated seminary and moved back to North Dakota/Minnesota. While I was working in Dilworth MN, Mandy's mom called me one day to let me know that she had passed away. I was heartbroken. Even though we had gone our separate ways, she was still my best friend; my very first best friend.

While working at camp, I made some really great friends. At seminary, I was blessed with great friendships as well. And while serving at Dilworth Lutheran, I met and made some amazing friendships as well. All of these friendships were/are grounded in God's love for God's people. Many of these friends were there when I needed them the most! My best friend Joni was someone that I met through camp. She is a dear soul sister in my life and has been there for me in many ways. There is also my friend MW who is a dear brother in Christ. I am so blessed that God had our lives cross. We have been there for each other through thick and thin; through the joys and the sorrows.

As I have grown older, I will admit that finding friendships has had its challenges. In fact, when I moved a year and a half ago, that was my deepest darkest fear; not being able to find friends. Yet God has blessed me immensely. (I should have known that our good God would come through like God always does!) There is my friend EG, my friend CT, my friend KW, my friend MJ and my friend KG. KW and MJ have since moved away but I am so glad that God had our paths cross. These individuals are my prayer partners. They are my soul sisters. CT and her hubby have shared their home with me. We have broken bread together. I cannot even begin to describe how thankful and blessed I am to have these individuals in my life.

And to my surprise, I have been blessed by amazing friendships through online community as well. I have never met these women in real life but yet I feel like I have known them for a long time because they have been open and shared their stories with me. I grieved for dear Kara Tippetts (and her family) because she was open, vulnerable, and taught me; taught us how to love well. There is power in community! At Kara's memorial, they shared a quote from her that reminds me of God's great, great good; a great, great good that is found in dear friendships and relationships in my life. Kara wrote "The absence of suffering in my life is not my good. The nearness of God is my great, great good!" And, my friends, I believe one way that great, great good is manifested is through friendships; friendships that are with us in the midst of our suffering.

I hope and pray that I am as good of a friend to my friends as they are to me. I want to be the friend who brings a meal when my friends are suffering. I want to be the friend who always lifts her friends up in prayer. I want to be the friend who drops everything to be there for her friends. I want to always be that listening ear and shoulder to cry on. I want to be, in the words of Jennifer Dukes Lee at InCourage today, the kindness giver, the Kleenex bringer, and the joy donor. (Read Jennifer's post here: The Secret to Being the Best Kind of Friend)

I want to be those things MOST OF ALL!

Linking up with these lovely ladies:


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Telling our Stories Offers Sweet Relief (Five Minute Friday)

Tonight I spent time on Twitter multitasking between a #fmfparty Twitter Party and an Incourage #girlfriend gathering Twitter party. It is such a joy to find community online. I never knew how incredibly blessed a girl could be. I am so lucky to have dear friends who bless me each and every day; those InRL and those in online community. Thanks for loving me friends! And always reminding me who I am!

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 "Relief." Write for five minutes; unedited. (I am also featured on the FMF Intro video this week as well. Hope you enjoy!)

Our stories are never easy to tell. Each of us carries with us our own stories of brokenness and death and destruction. It took me a really long time to share my mom's struggle with a mental illness. I never realized how much relief there would be in telling my story. But the truth is, my friends, that in telling our story; our story of brokenness but also of joy, redemption and resurrection I have felt sweet relief; the sweet relief that only Jesus can give.

Our stories tell people who we are. But  they also remind us of who we are. Our stories are full of vulnerability. Yet that vulnerability also opens us up to be brave; to continue to share our stories in the hopes that others will find relief; sweet relief in knowing that they are not alone in their own journeys of brokenness.

Our stories won't always bring the relief that others will want to experience and will need to hear. Yet in sharing our stories with each other, God is there among us. God has a way of overcoming death and the grave. God, through his son Jesus, always offers relief; a sweet relief that we all need and yearn for. So, my friends, tonight please know you are not alone. God is there in the midst of all of the brokenness and God is also there in the midst of our moments of joy as well. God has sent his son Jesus to bring us relief; sweet relief!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Master Risk-Taker

I AM NOT A RISK-TAKER! You won't catch me jumping out of any planes! Or driving around a race car track going 100 plus miles per hour. I am more than comfortable knowing that things are going to stay the same. Yet during college, my friend Kristi and I (neither of us being risk-takers) decided to hop in the car and drive from Bismarck ND to Fargo ND about a four drive. Kristi was craving Olive Garden and the closest OG was in Fargo so in the car we went. I remember looking back on that experience thinking how crazy we were especially being the hotel we stayed at was not the classiest hotel.

Yet Kristi and I learned something that day! It is more than okay to take risks. God wants us to trust fully in him and to know that even when we take risks, he is standing there right beside us. I honestly don't know if I would have gone to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp, or gone to seminary, or.....if I hadn't taken that risk that day during college.

But because I have learned to be a little bit of a risk-taker, I have had some amazing blessings occur in my life. I graduated seminary even after struggling immensly with systematic theology. I remember my advisor telling my candidacy committee that it took more guts for me to stick with it. I wouldn't have gone to work at a Bible camp for seven summers if I hadn't taken the chance. And I wouldn't have gotten that job if the camp director didn't take a risk with me and hire me. I remember very vividly him saying to me, "I didn't think you would make it but now I can't get rid of you." And I wouldn't have listened to all the times God told me to take a leaving my last call to come to my new call.

I may not be the risk-taker that many others are. But what I am slowly learning is that when I, when we fully trust in God, God has a way of showing us that taking risks can and will pay off. Jesus himself is the master risk-taker. Jesus lived his life in the eyes of many who believed wholeheartedly in him and in the eyes of others who ridiculed his every move. Yet Jesus turned the world upside down, by taking his own risks, washing the feet of his disciples and sitting with tax collectors and sinners. Then ultimately, Jesus stood, arms outstretched, a crown of thorns upon his head, and breathed his last "It is FINISHED!" But he said those words knowing that God (his father) wouldn't risk his life if he didn't have the power to overcome death and the tomb. That my friends is exactly what happened.

There are still days that I look at Jesus' sacrifice and wish I was more of a risk-taker. I wish that I wasn't so afraid to be vulnerable; to share my own story. My friend Dana who I met through her blog and as part of the 31 days challenge continues to teach me about what it means to be vulnerable and to take risks even though it is SCARY! I honestly cannot put into words how much I love this woman (and we haven't even met in real life yet!) because she reminds me that its about leaning in and trusting in this one who reminds us of the words we hear so many times in Scripture "Do not be afraid."

You see, there is power in those four little words. Mary came to the tomb that Easter Sunday morning to see her beloved Jesus' body. Yet when she came to the tomb, the stone was rolled away and Jesus was no longer there. Oh how risky....risky for Jesus to be raised...risky for us to believe like Mary and see that his words had come true. Jesus is no longer dead...he is alive! And because Jesus is risen...and because he is here, I find myself clinging to the promise that he will never leave me or forsake me. He will never leave YOU or forsake YOU either.....especially when we lean in and trust in him.

So my friends, as I come to the tomb and still see the tomb rolled away, I am going to try and be more of a risk-taker...a risk-taker who uses her gifts; the gifts God has given her to share his own messages of grace, love and being the master risk-taker; the one who sent his son knowing that death would not have the last word but that he would.

I am linking up with these lovely ladies today Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory, Meredith Bernard for #Woman2WomanWednesday, Kelly Balarie for the #RaRa LinkUp; and Holley Gerth for #CoffeeForYourHeart. 


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Joy Comes in the Morning!

"Easter says you can put truth in the grave, but it won't stay there"--Clarence W. Hall

Today is the day that continually reminds us that death does not have the last word but that God does. In the midst of our own struggles, there are days that we cannot even comprehend that death does not have the last word but that God does especially when we sit with those we love and say goodbye to them. We find ourselves overcome by darkness looking for even just that little bit of light. We find ourselves looking for the hope that we have lost. But today Easter reminds us to hang on and to trust in this one who overcomes death in the grave. "Resurrection announces that whatever way death, despair, and destruction have got you in their grip, they do not have the last word (Rob Bell)."

There are days that I am mightly aware of how death, despair and destruction have me in their grip. And I am sure there are days you are mightly aware too. There are days I desperately yearn to be a wife and mom. There are days I desperately wonder if God hears my prayers. Yet, even in that despair, I want to cling to the promise that we proclaim today; "Jesus Christ is risen today! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!"

One of the things I love about Easter is continually being reminded of the joy that comes on Easter morning. I watched as the group I am taking to the national youth gathering this summer served breakfast this morning. I watched as the kids excitedly found Easter eggs as part of our egg hunt. I listened as the fanfare of my favorite Easter hymns were sung. I found myself realizing how this day reminds me again and again of what Christ did for me.

But again we cannot experience the joy of Easter without first experiencing Jesus' seven last words. We cannot experience it without standing at the foot of the cross as his hands and nails are nailed to the cross. There are times, in my life, that I find myself guilty of holding that very hammer. We cannot experience it without hearing Jesus' utter his last words, "It is finished." And we cannot experience it without seeing him laid into the tomb.

Then today we come to the tomb like Mary and the others finding the stone rolled away and Jesus' body gone. I cannot imagine what it was like to come that day and not see Jesus laying there because the dead are not supposed to leave. Dead is dead! But that is the thing, my friends, when death, and despair, and destruction think they have the tightest, most unbearable grip on us, God shows up and shows us that death in no way has the last word but that God does.

Last night as I read one of my favorite Psalms (Psalm 30: verse 5) "Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes in the morning" it took on a whole new meaning for me. For it is in Christ's death, that we weep; weep with Mary and all those who loved him but then we come on Easter morning and see with our own eyes that joy especially Easter joy does come in the morning.

Mourning into Dancing (Ben Larson)
(Click on the link above to hear this version of Psalm 30)

Linking up with Anita at Blessed but Stressed for Inspire Me Monday

Sunday Blessings 76

(1) Voxing with two of my faves; DB and TM.

(2) Getting to talk to one of my friends who I haven't talked to in a long time.

(3) Going to support one of our college youth and her group raise money for their trip they are taking in April.

(4) Soup Tuesday at Minot State

(5) A sweet thank you note from some of my youth kids.

(6) Our janitor at church helping me with my car. I went home to do errands and it wouldn't start. J helped me hook the charger up.

(7) A member bringing us two egg quiches for our Easter breakfast

(8) An awesome night with our First Communion participants and their families.

(9) Worshippers participating our hand washing station as part of Maundy Thursday worship.

(10) Lunch at the Starving Rooster with EG.

(11) Decorating for Easter breakfast and hiding eggs.

(12) A hugely successful Easter breakfast.

(13) The butterflies for my children's sermon were a HUGE hit!!!

(14) An Easter text from my dear friend PB. Miss her and her family so much!!

(15) Spending Easter at a parishioners house. Great food, playing Dominoes, good conversation and so much fun.

(16) Having leftovers sent home with me.

(17) EASTER JOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

I Don't Ever Want to Forget!

Standing arms outstreched
A crown of thorns upon his head.
The sound of the hammer
Driving the nails into his hands and feet.

Thunder rolling.
Lighting flashing.
The curtain being torn in two.
Jesus uttering his last words.


And then pure and utter silence.

(His Last Day by Tara L. Ulrich)

Today we sit in silence as Jesus lies in the tomb. And as Jesus lies in that tomb, I find myself reflecting on what he has done for me. I don't want to ever forget what Jesus did for me and for you. Yet in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Sunday, I find myself realizing how easy it is to forget. I had to go to Walmart this morning to pick up groceries for our youth Easter breakfast. As I walked around the store, carefully placing items into my cart, I found myself watching the crowds of people busying themselves for tomorrow too.

I bought our groceries and headed back to church. The youth and their parents met me there. We decorated for tomorrow, cut fruit, and I hid some eggs for our Easter egg hunt. After about an hour, I came home and finished my butterfly craft for my children's sermon for tomorrow. And then I mixed up some muffin mix and placed those in the oven. As I was washing my kitchen counters, I came across a gift that my aunt gave me several years ago. It is a cookie jar but this cookie jar is unlike any cookie jar I have ever seen. This cookie jar is a Nativity. This jar stopped me dead in my tracks as I was washing my counters.

That jar has been sitting there  for months. There are times I think, oh, I should put that away until next year. But then I get busy and forget about it. So it still sits upon my kitchen counter. Now Nativities in my house are not unusual because I collect them. All of them are carefully packed away after Christmas. But there is one that sits on my tv stand. That Nativity is there to remind me that Christ did not come one day a year but is here all the year round.

The Nativity sitting on my tv stand is always there and I love that it reminds me of the love of this man who gave his life for mine...for yours. But the Nativity in the kitchen, it so easily has just become a part of the decor. Yet today, on this Easter Saturday, this eve before we come to the tomb and find the stone rolled away, it stopped me. It reminded me again of the nails being driven into his hands. It reminded me again of the tears that his mother shed for him. It reminded me of the deafening silence after he uttered his last words. It reminded me again that death does not have the last word but that God does.

Christ has done so much for us. Christ has put on the victor's crown (Thanks for sharing that song, Karrilee). Christ will come again. But for now, let us sit in silence and remember as Jesus is lying in the tomb. We cannot experience the joy of Easter without Good Friday.

Sunday is coming, my friends. And because I don't ever want to forget, that Nativity will remain on my kitchen counter.

I am linking up with Barbie and Mary at My Freshly Brewed Life for the Weekend Brew.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

It is Good!

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 "Good." Write for five minutes; unedited.

God created the light and called it day and created the dark and called it night. Then he said, "It is good." And on the 7th day God looked at the world God created and said again "It is good." Then God rested.

Later God sent God's son into the world to die on a cross for our sins. But what is good about this day in which the crown of throwns is placed upon his head? What is good about Jesus breathing his last? What is good about Jesus just the day before sitting silent among his accusers and washing his disciples feet knowing that some of them would soon betray him? I don't know about you but I have a hard time finding good as I stand and watch my savior crucified on our behalves.

But the thing is God loves us so much that God sent his Son into the world. But then on the third day, God reminds us of the good God has when God raises Jesus from the dead. It is good when the women come to the tomb and find the stone has been rolled away. It is good when we see that "Easter says you can put truth in a grave but it won't stay there (Clarence W Hall)." It is good when we find the holy hopeful found in the Easter promise. It is good when we cling to the love of this one who gave his son for us. It is good when we come and can triumphantly proclaim "Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!"

Maundy, Maundy

If there is any holy day that I like more than Christmas and Easter, today is indeed that day. Today, in many traditions, is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday is a part of the Triduum (the three days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday). Maundy comes from the latin word "mandatum" which means "mandate" or "command". On this day, Jesus gives us a new commandment "Love one another as I have first loved you."

Maundy Thursday often uses the Last Supper reading from the Gospel of John where Jesus washes the disciples feet. The foot-washing does not appear in any of the other gospels. Maundy Thursday is an important day, in my opinion, because it teaches us how to follow Jesus' example of being served and serving others. Jesus still washes Judas' feet even though he knows what is yet to come...that Judas will betray him before his death. Jesus calls all of us with all of our brokenness to come to the table, have our feet washed, and gather as we eat and drink together. Then we are called to go out into the world "to serve and be served."

My call to Diaconal Ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is based specifically on this gospel text from John. Diaconal Ministers are called to pick up their basins and towels and wash the feet of all God's people. Diaconal Ministry grew out of the Catholic understanding of deacons and deaconesses. On my consecration day, I was presented with a basin and towel to represent my call. It is a daily reminder to me to pick up that basin and towel and reach  far beyond the church walls. I am called to bridge the gap between the church and the world. So now you can see why Maundy Thursday is one of my favorite holy days.

Often, on Maundy Thursday, many congregations have their youth who are going to take their first communion do it on this night because it is the night we celebrate the holy meal in addition to the foot-washing. I am excited that we have 21 youth publicly joining us at the table tonight. What a powerful reminder of how we are all called to be fed and forgiven.

"How beautiful are the voices; How beautiful are the hands; How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good news to the world."

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

This Holy Week

Our foreheads were marked with the sign of the cross almost six weeks ago on Ash Wednesday as we began our journey to the cross. With the sign of the cross on our foreheads, the words "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; to dust you came, to dust you shall return" were spoken over us. Every time I mark a person's forehead, I am reminded of their humanity and their mortality. It is especially hard when I mark the sign of the cross on a child's forehead. Yet God declares that God will never leave us or forsake us. This Holy Week I am especially mindful of all who have gone before us including dear blogger Kara Tippetts who lost her battle with cancer a few weeks ago.

It is indeed a holy Week; a week in which we remember all Christ has done for us and experience so many emotions. It is a week in which we feel sadness but it also is a week in which we can be so very thankful. It is a week that walks us from the foot-washing of the disciple's feet and gathering at the table, to the intensity we feel on the night of his crucifixion and death, to the hope that pours out when we come to the tomb and see the stone rolled away. It is a week that reminds us of the holy hopeful promise found in Jesus' life, death and Resurrection.

But we cannot experience the promise of the Resurrection without first walking from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to that joy-filled Easter morning. Clarence W. Hall once wrote, "Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there." I find myself clinging to those words this week. There is such hope in knowing that death does not have the final word but that God does.

This Lent I have had the privilege of praying through my Facebook friends list. It is always such an enriching experience to pray for these friends. With their prayers in my heart and knowing how they have experienced their own deaths (death of relationship, death of life, etc), there is hope found in knowing that death does not and WILL NOT have the final word. I am again reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses; Psalm 30: verse five "Weeping may come for the night but joy comes with the morning."

Tomorrow, on Maundy Thursday, we will gather at the table, with all of our brokenness, where God calls us to come, have our feet washed and eat and drink. Then on Good Friday, we are brought to our knees as Jesus is beaten and crucified. There is a eery stillness that comes over the world that night. But then three days later, we come to the tomb and find that the tomb has been rolled away. And we know that death has not had the last word, but that God does!

God sent God's son into the world for each and every one of us. God loves us so THAT MUCH! And knowing that love, I find myself thankful for what Christ has done for me.....has done for all of us. But there is also a trembling that comes over me. I am reminded of the chorus to the African American spiritual "Were you There" "Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble." And, my friends, this holy week I especially don't want to forget that trembling; a trembling that is there as my feet are washed; a trembling that is there as I hear Jesus being beaten and crucified; and a trembling that is there when I come to the tomb and find it empty! Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!

I am linking up with these wonderful writers today: Holly Barrett for #TestimonyTuesday, 
Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory, Holly Gerth for Coffee for your Heart
and Angela Parlin at the #RaRaLinkup.