Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Blessings 84

(1) Ice cream with my colleagues

(2) Grace! (God knows when I need a little help and some grace!)

(3) A great new member class

(4) Getting to hold one of our new member's twins. I sooo love holding babies!!

(5) Getting errands done for the youth fundraiser.

(6) FMF Twitter Party

(7) Getting to Curves earlier than usual and thus being able to be home before 5 pm.

(8) Great youth fundraiser. Thanks to everyone who came out and supported us.

(9) My youth and their moms helping fill the bags for synod assembly from the Gathering team. Saved us so much time!!

(10) Walking Molly while her family was at a wedding.

(11) AN and BN's girls so excited to see me.

(12) Faith grabbing my hand and leading me all around my house; asking lots of questions.

(13) Walking over 10000 steps one day

(14) Compliments on my sermon. Thanks Holy Spirit!!!

(15) Praying goodnight prayers with my friend, her husband and their girls.

(16) Running into a good camp friend at an event today. So fun to see you HD!

(17) Pancake benefit for Little Miss Alivia.

(18) Watermelon left in my fridge. So yummy!! Thanks Amber and family!!

(19) Groundbreaking at Camp of the Cross for the new Fellowship Hall. Sad I wasn't able to be there in person but definitely was there in spirit.

(20) Talking to my momma on the phone.

(21) Reading "Bread and Wine" by Shauna Niequest.

For This is Holy Ground!

One of my favorite pictures from camp
It has been 18 years since I drove onto the gravel road that led me straight to the place where I would spend my summer as a camp counselor. That gravel road led me to Camp of the Cross Ministries where I would spend the next approximately seven summers. Little did I know the impact of that special place in my life.

18 years ago, I started that summer as a shy introverted 18 year old (yes indeed there was a time in my life when I was shy). That summer changed me and made me grow in so many ways. That next summer, the camp director and the program director were doing mid-summer evaluations. As I sat on the couch listening intently to them, I learned how much the Holy Spirit's hand was there guiding me to Camp of the Cross. The camp director reminded me how awful my interview was. I remember it so clearly. I answered his questions but I don't think I looked up from the table even once. Yet he took a chance on me. He told me, "I hired you thinking I would take you as long as you would make it. But now I cannot get rid of you." In those words, the power of the Spirit had changed me.

Camp is the first place that I openly shared about my mom's struggle with a mental illness. Tears streaming down my face, I poured out my heart and years worth of keeping our story bottled inside. It was an amazing healing moment. And then several years after that first summer, I watched my mom experience life at camp and got to share this special holy place with her.
Sharing Camp with my Momma
Camp is where I heard the call into ministry. Camp is the place that made me into the woman of faith that I am today. Camp is the place I met and made some of my bestest of friends. Camp is hallowed holy ground because of the many ways it blessed me and holds a special place in my life. "Behold I am standing on holy ground."

I spent so many times at "three crosses" lifting my prayers to God. I found myself many nights, under the prairie night sky, releasing my heart onto paper through poetry. And other times, I found myself counting the stars above my head; reminded of the power of God and God's love for all people.

Three Crosses Campfire Site--During the Day and at Night
One of my favorite places in the entire world!
Today, camp is breaking ground for a new fellowship hall. This is something that has been needed for so long and I am so glad to hear these prayers answered. I wish that I could be there today for that special groundbreaking. But unfortunately I am not able to be there, but I am definitely there in spirit. This hallowed holy place will always be place for me where I can feel the transcendant power of God.

Even know when I get on that gravel road leading to camp, I get so giddy! It is like coming home for me...because camp is indeed one of the dear homes in my life. At camp, I look around and see God's hand working all over that place. I also feel the Holy Spirit moving about. I look around and smile.

"For this ground you are standing on is holy ground!"

Good and Gracious God, there are so many places in our lives where we experience your awesome creation and feel your Spirit moving about. Today I pray for Camp of the Cross Ministries and the ways that that place has formed me as a woman of faith and as a leader in the church as well as for all who have been formed in their faith there. Also please bless all gathered at camp today as they break ground for the new fellowship center. Surround this place in your loving tender arms and care for this holy ground which we care so deeply for. In your name we pray. Amen!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summertime on the Prairie

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 "Blue." Write for five minutes; unedited.

It is summertime on the prairies of North Dakota!

Summertime on the prairies of North Dakota are my favorite thing in the world. The sky is the deepest blue and spreads out as wide and as long as the eyes can see. This time of the year, farmers like my Dad, Uncle and Grandpa can be found basking under that deep blue sky as they plant in the fields scattered to and fro. Under that beautiful blue sky, the dirt blows and covers my Dad, Uncle and Grandpa as they steward the land God gave us.

For me, I love sitting under the deep blue sky, on my patio, shoes kicked off, reading the best books in the world. This last week I finished Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. Now I am reading Shauna Neiquist's Bread and Wine. I want to try every recipe in that book!

The skies this time of year remind me of the awesomeness of God's creation. God saw all that he created and declared "It is good." That deep blue sky over my head causes me to pause and take in the beauty of this world. That deep blue sky continually bids me to "Be still and know that God is God."

As the sun fades into the clouds, the deep blue sky fades away and I sit under the darkness of night knowing in the power of God's love. I look up and count the stars in the sky. And as I count, I remember this God who knows all the stars in the sky and knows every hair upon our heads; this God who saw darkness and called it night and saw light and called it day and this God who created that deep magnificent blue sky that looms over the magnificent prairies of North Dakota.

And I am so very thankful!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An Open Letter To Grace

Dear grace....

Where do I even begin, you are such a beautiful gift in my life. As a lifelong Lutheran, you have always been engrained in my very fiber and being. Martin Luther talked a lot about YOU! And this Bible verse from the book of Ephesians is a daily reminder of the gift you are "For it is by grace through faith that you have been saved, it is not your own doing but a gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8)

Yes, my friend grace, you are indeed a gift. But what is it about you...that makes me so very thankful for your presence. You always find a way into my head and into my heart.

In the midst of mom's illness, when I snap back quicker than I should, you tap me silently on the shoulder and tell me that next time I won't react as quickly. When I beat myself up because the desires of my heart haven't been met yet, you again look me in the eyes and show me that God does hear them. God will answer them in his time and not my own.

And then I open up the newspaper or turn on the radio and hear the horrific stories of violence and sinfulness...but even in those moments, I hear you whispering. "They are sinners in need of God's grace." "You are a sinner in need of God's grace too!" We all are going to screw up and fall short of the glory of God. Yet you (grace) are sufficient. You will get us through those times. How many times do we sin and think that we are not worthy to be forgiven....yet you continually grasp us...a simple reminder of the power of God and God's grace in our lives.

In the words of the well-known hymn "Amazing grace," 'you (grace) have' taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious did YOU appear the hour I first believed.' And you also (grace) have ' 'brought me safe thus far and will lead me home.'

Oh grace! You fall like fresh dew and cover me; cover us in your promises...your promises that daily cover each of us. And as your promises cover us like a well-worn blanket; torn, battered, and beaten, you still provide us with comfort and embrace us in your loving arms. You call us to action; a reason to love and serve God more fully.

Grace is knowing that sometimes we are going to spill milk on the kitchen floor and going to have to clean it up. Grace is knowing that sometimes you are going to make the wrong choices, but there will always be that second chance. Grace is knowing, even in the midst of grief, that you are sufficient when nothing else seems like it is.  Grace is sharing my words even when I am trembling as I hit the publish button. Grace is knowing that you are always within my grasp; that you are always within each of our grasps.

And ultimately, my friend grace, you always change me; always change each of us! In the words of Anne Lamott, "I do not understand the mystery of grace---only that it meets us (me) where we are and does not leave us where it found us."

I am linking up with Holly for Testimony Tuesday, Kelly for the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer for Tell His Story and Holley for Coffee for your Heart:


Monday, May 25, 2015

Sunday Blessings 82 & 83

I keep forgetting to post this...a few weeks worth.

(1) Coffee with the quilters

(2) Sitting on the floor playing catch with my colleagues son.

(3) YouthWorkers meeting. We missed you CT and MH!

(4) Spending some time with my momma.

(5) A gift from one of mom's friends

(6) Voxing with KA

(7) Driving with my friends to hear a great speaker.

(8) Riding in the car with CT and RT's girl and having then talk my ears off! :)

(9) A fantastic last Confirmation class. I even gave them a treat.

(10) Yummy Cookies for You cookies.

(11) FMF Twitter party

(12) Buying lemonade from one of my fave little girls and her friend.

(13) Finding a few gems at a garage sale.

(14) A text from a good friend showing a pic of him and a dear seminary friend. So fun to get a hello from them both.

(15) The new Mumford and Sons cd.

(16) A much needed rain. It's been raining all day. Now I'm listening to the birdies singing.

(17) Teaching the kiddos some sign language during my children's sermon.

(18) Receiving my prize from the 5 day arms and abs challenge in the mail

(19) Making T-shirts with the church kiddos.

(20) S'more Summer worship

(21) More real mail! Thanks #Fmfpartysnailmail.

(22) Starbucks Very Berry Refresher

(23) Skinny Cow Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches

(24) A little boy grabbing my hand because he wanted to shake it and I was busy chatting so I didn't see him right away.

(25) Two of my fave people coming to worship at FLC. So good to see them.

(26) I hardly ever wear my glasses because I prefer my contacts. But I tore my last contact so I was wearing my glasses. I got several compliments on my glasses.

(27) Listening to DB's 4th Friday talk. Hoping to go when I'm in Colorado next month.

(28) Talking to my mommy on the phone.

(29) Beautiful Spring Days

(30) The life of Blacky the dog. Blacky has been our farm dog for 13 years. Yesterday Blacky went to take a nap and never woke up. It's so hard to lose pets yet I am so very thankful for the life of Blacky. She always would chase after your car when you left the farm. I'll miss that.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dear Graduates....

Today you are going to walk across that stage and receive your diploma. It is hard to believe that over seven years ago, our paths crossed when I first walked in the doors of the community of faith where you attended Sunday School, were Confirmed, and where you often could be found serving God's people.

This day I woke up reflecting on the many ways I have seen you grow over the years. I am proud of the men and women that you have become! You are a group of people who understand what it means to serve the church outside the church walls. You are men and women whose faith has been nurtured in your own homes and through caring, trusted relationships. Please know that I wish I could be with you today....and that my prayers are also with you on this day.

Today graduates, take a look around the gym and see the many people who have walked with you. You will see your parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles. cousins, family friends, and so many others. Know that their love...and especially God's love will carry you through. Remember always that you are a child of God. Never forget who and whose you are.

Since I am not with you today,  I want to leave you with a few tips as you take this next journey.  These are things that I have learned along my 36 years of life.

**Take time to laugh! Laughter really is good medicine especially during final's week. Make sure you study but also take time to laugh...and have a little fun. But not too much fun! Stay safe!

**Don't be afraid to try new experiences. I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't try new things. I wouldn't have gone to work at a Bible camp. I wouldn't have gone to seminary. But those experiences truly blessed me and made me into the woman of faith that I am today.

**Find a community of faith. Just a few weeks ago (I think), you were presented with quilts in worship. Those quilts are a reminder that no matter where you go, you will always be wrapped in a community of faith. The quilt I was presented by DLC when I left sits on my couch and every time I wrap up in it I remember the wonderful ways that I was blessed by you and all the people there. It reminds me that I am ALWAYS being prayed for.

There are so many things that I wish I could tell you today. My blog friend Jennifer Dukes Lee wrote a letter to graduates several weeks ago....20 truths she wish she could share with you. It is such a great post so I am going to let her finish by sharing those truths with you. Here is the link: 20 Truths for Graduates.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Jeremiah 29: verse 11: "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you a future of hope." These are great words to live by, but it is also ok to know that even when you don't know, God does. God stands with us in the midst of the uncertainties. God stands with us in the midst of the hard. (Check out the rest of the book of Jeremiah)

But I think the truths of life can truly be best summed up in these words from Laura Ingalls Wilder. "The real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong."

Enjoy today, dear graduates! Then go out into the world "blessed to be a blessing"

Linking up with Anita and Carol for Inspire Me Monday (Even though it is a Tuesday)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Rise Up Mashup

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 "Rise." Write for five minutes; unedited.

I will admit that the minute I heard the word prompt, my mind was all over the place. In fact, at one point, my head was full of a mashup of three different songs: the hymn "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," Matt Mahrer's "Rise Up" and Shawn MacDonald's "Rise." Now try to make sense of all of that! And besides the mashed up tune in my head, I was reminded of the theme for the ELCA National Youth Gathering this summer "Rise Up."

The Theological statement for the Gathering reminds us that the youth and adult leaders in Detroit will "learn that to 'rise up'; doesn't mean pursuing power or victory over another, but choosing weakness over power so that they might be together. The experience of death and life held together on the way is the "beginning of the good news;" it is God’s narrative into which we are inviting young people, and in which we hope young people will nest their own stories.

And as I contemplate this statement, I realize it is a word that we all should listen to and follow. We all need to learn that to 'rise up' means that we need to stop pursuing power or victory over another, but choosing weakness over power so that they might be together. When you weep, I will weep with you. When you rejoice, I will rejoice with you. When you are in the depths of death, I will sit with you. When you are afraid, I will remind you that you are not alone. Because together we are stronger than we are apart. Jesus calls us to 'rise up' together.

Jesus was the first one to show us what it means to 'rise up'. Jesus died on the cross for us. But then after three days, he rose from the dead. The ultimate example of what it looks like when we 'rise up' together. We see that life not death has the final word! God has the ultimate power to overcome death. "Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won't stay there." (Clarence W. Hall)

*I think of the words to the chorus to Shawn MacDonald's song "Rise." The chorus goes like this:
"Yes I will rise; Out of these ashes rise; From this trouble I have found; And this rubble on the ground; I will rise; Cause He Who is in me; Is greater than I will ever be; And I will rise." Even in the most debilitating darkness, God rises up and shows us the light.

Because many times we will feel like we don't have the power or the energy to rise up, but the truth is that God always has that power. God always will raise his Son from the dead. God always will have the ultimate power over death. God's love always breaks into God's kingdom here on earth.

Rise Up --Matt Mahrer

*This is where my five minutes ended!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Be A Voice Not an Echo

"Be a voice not an echo" These words are written across a t-shirt I bought several years ago at a christian music concert. In fact, to be honest, for the life of me I cannot remember which group it is for. Yet somehow I always remember the words that are on that t-shirt, I think it is because that is exactly what I want to be "a voice not an echo."

"The voice of one calling out in the wilderness"

Jesus himself was definitely a voice and not an echo. Jesus was a voice for the voiceless. Jesus was a voice for the sinners in his midst. I think of the woman who was accused of sinning and Jesus asked those gathered to throw the first stone if they had not sinned. They all stood in silence...because like this woman...they too were sinners. Jesus wasn't afraid to stand up for all of God's children. Jesus was continually turning the world upside down.

I have been thinking a lot about being "a voice and not an echo." I want to stand up for those nine year old girls who are being sold by ISIS. I want to sit with them and protect them. I want to stand up for what I believe is right. But most of all, I want to shower God's love and grace around the world.

In July of 2012, when I attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) National Youth Gathering in New Orleans, Lousiana, I found myself sitting in opening worship listening to Rachel Kurtz and Agapes' soothing sounds washing over me. The words that washed over me and the approximately 34,999 other youth and adult leaders were words penned by Rachel; the words to the National Youth Gathering Theme Song titled "Make a Difference." The chorus to the song goes like this "I want my life to make a difference. I wank my life to make a change. I want my life to do some good here. I want my life to make a change." YES!!! A RESOUNDING YES!!!

Because when I am a voice and not an echo, I believe that my life is all these things. When I am a voice and not an echo, my life will and does make a difference. When I am a voice and not an echo, my life will and does do some good here. When I am a voice and not an echo, my life will and does make a change. Will you believe it with me friends?

Video of Rachel (with hip hop artist Agape') 
singing "Make a Difference" at the Youth Gathering.

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart 
and Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Words Spilled Out Onto the Page to Create a Little Poetry

A little poetry for you.... (Y'all I cannot remember the last time I have actually sat down and written a poem. Thanks for being my Ra Ra sisters and inspiring me to sit and listen to God's words for me spill out onto the page)

Holy Water 
By Tara L. Ulrich
The rain goes pitter patter against my window

I listen quietly to the water cascading down
I am reminded of who I am;
Reminded that I am claimed in the waters of Baptism.

Each droplet of water
Continues to remind me of who I am;
A called, claimed, and loved child of God.

There were days when I struggled to find who I was;
Days when I questioned my own identity;
Days when I wondered if God truly was calling me to seminary;
Days when I endlessly asked “How long Lord. Will you forget me forever?”

How long?

Yet on those days, the water often will again go pitter patter against my window.
Or I find myself standing face looking upward towards the heavens;
Water droplets cascading down my face;
Reminding me again and again of who I am;
A child of God beautifully in over her head.

I watch the rain fall.
And as it falls, I take my finger fresh with new water droplets,
Mark the sign of the cross on my forehead;
A simple reminder of who and whose I am;
A simple reminder of who and whose you are!

(I am always learning new tricks. Here is an audio recording of the above poem. I wish there wasn't so much background noise though!)

I am linking up with Anita and Carol at Blessed (but Stressed) for Inspire Me Monday, Holly for Testimony Tuesday and Kelly for the RaRa Linkup.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Ra Ra Sisterhood

Do you remember the movie " The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?" The movie is about friends who share a pair of pants. It is one of those feel good movies that just makes a person smile. Earlier today, on one of my blogging FB groups, a friend shared about an accomplishment on her blog and another friend simply commented "Ra Ra Sisterhood." And immediately a smile came upon my face. I love that term because that is exactly how I feel about this group of ladies in my life.

I never knew social media could be such a positive encouraging experience. (Don't get me wrong we have to be careful but social media can and is a positive influence in my life!) I never realized how many friends I could meet on social media. Since beginning and finishing the Write 31 Days challenge, my life has been blessed by amazing woman.  This past year, when I moved to a new community, God blessed me with amazing friendships here in my community. But then God began placing blogging friends and women in my life as well. I tell you my cup is truly running over! 

And then I decided to participate in the FMFSnailMailParty. I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing it has been to open my mailbox and find an encouraging word. In all honesty, it amazes me each and every time how your words speak to me friends! 

The thing is that these friendship started on the world wide web have no lines. In fact, the lines of age are continually blurred. The distance in miles doesn't seem so far away when I open up my phone and hear a Vox from a new friend. You have continually cheered me on. You have continually reminded me that I am good enough. You have continually reminded me that I DO have worthy words to say. And the thing is I see us continually doing that for each other. I have seen us pray for each other. I have heard us rejoice in each other's good news. 

My cup is continuing to run over, my friends! And it is all because of dear soul sisters here in my community. And because of blogging Ra Ra Sisterhood! I don't know how a girl could get so lucky.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Beautifully In Over our Heads

I am a farm girl! We lived in town but my dad moved  our family from Nebraska to North Dakota when my sister and I were little so he could help his dad farm. My sister and I spent our fair share of time helping on the farm. My dad always recruited us to help move cattle from one field to another. It was a hard job. A lot of times the baby calves would not follow their mommas to the next space. They would stubbornly wonder off on their own which made life chaotic. I lost count of the  number of times I saw my dad chasing those cows and calves with a pickup truck; the truck door hanging half open.

Like those baby calves, sometimes we want to follow our own way. We think we know the way for us. But the truth is we often get lost. Like hiking in the mountains, we take the wrong turn and end up somewhere we didn't expect or somewhere we shouldn't be. The truth is that God always knows the way though. In fact, God calls us to get out of the boat and follow him.

The story of Jesus and his disciples in the boat is a great story. It is a story that reminds me; reminds all of us of the power of God. God calmed the storm. God called Peter to come out onto the water. God calls us to come out on that water too. But so often like Peter we don't trust God and begin to sink. We need to trust fully and be beautifully in over our heads.

Because the truth is that when we trust and allow God to let us get beautifully in over our heads, amazing incredible things begin to happen. Like my friend KA and her family who have been called to start a new about being beautifully in over your head. Like my friends who have gone overseas to serve God...again beautifully in over their heads. And sometimes it is as simple as realizing that it is time to leave one place and start anew somewhere else. I tell you in those moments I realized that I was beautifully in over my head too.

The first summer I worked at camp, we took our staff picture standing on the island in the middle of the lake. The water was so high it looks like we are walking on water; like we truly followed Jesus onto the water. On our way back, our office secretary was getting into the pontoon when she fell in. I remember she laughed about it. What a great reminder that God calls us to always follow him and sometimes following him means getting beautifully in over our heads.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How Long, Oh Lord?

Are you lonely? Are you deeply longing for something?

My friends, I AM! I am longing deeply to be a wife and a mother. I am longing to not come home to an empty house. I am longing for God to answer the God-given desires of my heart. I am longing to hold a sweet little baby in my arms. I am longing for....

Sometimes I feel as if I am the only one longing, but as my friend KA reminded me in a blog comment, there are probably many others who are feeling the same way that I am. There are many of you out there longing for the exact same things I am. And there are others of you longing for other items in your life. KA suggested that I be brave and share this part of my story, so I am. Besides brave is my #oneword365 for 2015 so it seems a fitting place to share this part of my story. And I want you to know, my friends, that if you are longing and lonely, you are not alone. I see you and hear the cries of your heart too.

I am a 36 year old single woman. Ever since I was little, I have wanted to be a mom. I remember sitting on the floor of our house playing "House" with my little sister. I would dress my cabbage patch dolls up in my very own infant clothes waiting for the day that I could dress my real life little one up in those exact same clothes. But those clothes still remain packed away in a storage room at my Dad's house. 

"Oh how long, oh Lord, how long?"

And there are so many in this stage of my life who are announcing marriage and pregnancy announcements. I am truthfully happy for them. But there is a huge part of me that is sad, who continually aches for these things for myself. I want to put my hand on my pregnant belly and feel my child kick me.  I even crazily want to NOT get a full night's sleep because my child is awake. (Remind me of that someday when I DO have children!)

"Oh how long, oh Lord, how long?"

But I also realize that God might not answer my desires that way. There are days that I wonder if adoption is the path for me. I know there are so many children in the US and the world who are in need of a family. To be honest, I would love to adopt, but fear is the wall that keeps being put up. I wonder how my family and friends will react. I am frightened for what it would be like to be a single mom working at a church. Yet I know that if being a mom is a God-given desire of my heart, God WILL indeed answer that call.

"Oh how long, Oh Lord, how long?"

If you are like me, my friends, you continually find yourself asking this very question: Oh Lord, how long? I am reminded of the words we hear in Psalm 13; verse one (NRSV) "How Long, Oh Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" I honestly don't see God hiding his face from me, but I do wonder how long I will have to wait and if those desires will be answered. And I am sure there are others of you who feel the exact same way.

"Will you forget me forever?"

That question is one that continually is on repeat in my mind. I trust in God's promises for God's people. Yet it is hard to come home to an empty house and long for something so deeply without seeing that prayer and that desire answered. However I have seen so many other prayers answered. I have seen my friends struggling with fertility issues and then all of a sudden they are announcing a pregnancy announcement. I have seen adoptions completed. But I also have seen the struggles that come with motherhood as well. I have seen my cousin have to lay two children to rest. I have seen many others who have never even gotten to hold their babies. And in the midst of both the joys and the sorrows, God has a way of continually showing up and knowing what we need.

God is a God of promises. But when you continue to ask the question, "How Long, Oh Lord, there are days that is so easy to forget.

God has a funny sense of humor. This morning I was getting ready 
for work listening to my favorite  Pandora station when this song came on. 
These lyrics caught me this morning: "This is for all the single people, Thinkin' life 
has left them dry. Don't give up until you drink from the silver cup. You'll never know until you try."
And I don't remember EVER hearing this song before today! 

I am linking up with these lovely writers today: 


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reflecting on Mother's Day

Good Evening friends! I just got back from dropping my dear friends off at the train station. It is very quiet in  my house tonight. It was nice to catch up and spend time together. But now as I sit down, I am having some time to reflect on this day; Mother's Day. This day can be so hard for so many...and I will admit today is hard for me...a woman who yearns so deeply to be a mom.

Working at a church, today can be one of the hardest days for me. I don't think people always realize how hard this day celebrating Moms can be especially for those who have lost babies, for those whose adoptions  fell through, for those who have longed to be a mom. This morning I walked into church and said "Happy Mother's Day" to many of the woman in our congregation who are moms. I authentically meant every greeting I gave. But deep down in my heart, my heart was aching. For there are many that don't know my entire story. They don't realize or understand how deeply I am aching to be a mom. In many ways, bearing that part of my story is sharing a vulnerability; a nakedness with them. 

Yet ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to be a mom. And yet that hasn't come true for me yet. There are days that I wonder if God hears me. But the truth is God does hear me. A friend reminded me the other day that my desire is a God-given desire. I love that because if it is truly God-given, than in one way or another it should happen for me. And that is a promise I can cling too.

Days like today where we celebrate Mothers, I find myself celebrating all the women in my life. I think of my own mom who has daily struggled with a mental illness since I was three. Yet my mom has never let her illness get in the way of who she is. She is one of the most faith-filled women that I know and is also one of the most beautiful women to me. I hope that I can be half the woman she is! 

There are so many woman who have nurtured me and been caring "mother-like" figures in my life. And for that I am so very thankful. But, my friends, I also see all of you who are hurting. And I want you to know I understand. I see the silent tears you have shed. I see you standing at the foot of your infant's grave. I see you longing to be a mom. I see all of you...Mothers or not! For together we remind each other of what it means to mother. 

So, my friends, tonight I am lifting my glass in honor of all of you! And as I raise my glass, I am saying a prayer for all of you too!

Sunday Blessings 81

(1) A phone call from my friend HSG. So excited to see her and David at the end of the week.

(2) More FMFpartySnailMail

(3) Spending some dear time with my momma.

(4) Voxing with TM and KA! I've missed Voxing with these ladies.

(5) Texting with my dear friend MP. I miss her so much!!!

(6) Some fun snail mail including a sweet thank you card from a former parishioner.

(7) A sweet resident telling me she loves me with Christian love.

(8) Mini seminary reunion with Todd, Deanna, David and Heather.

(9) Watching Paddington

(10) A sweet card in the mail from a relative.

(11) Exploring Scandinavian Heritage Park with Heather and David.

(12) Winning the prize for the 5 day arms and abs challenge. I never win anything! :p

(13) The birth of my dear friend JK and CK's new baby girl! Love her already!!!

(14) Playing "I Spy" driving around with my friends.

(15) Great senior Sunday at FLC

(16) Flowers given to me and my friend at the restaurant we went to for Mother's Day. They gave all women a rose!

(17) Spending the weekend catching up with my friends.

(18) Running into KD at the restaurant; getting to say hello and give a hug.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Meeting Us Where We Are At

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 "Meet." Write for five minutes; unedited.

I have to be up at 5 am tomorrow morning to be at the bus station by 5:30 am. I will be meeting my friend Heather and her husband David. They have been living in Japan for the last several years where Heather was teaching English. They are moving back to the States. We haven't seen each other in several years so I am excited to see her and her hubby.

As I think about meeting the bus and my friends, I think of the many wonderful ways that I have met friends in my life. They have blessed my life in so many ways and often those friendships have come about because God placed that person in my life. The thing is that God meets us where we are at.

I don't know about you but I sometimes have a hard time trusting in that promise. Yet the truth is that God is a God of promises and knows our brokenness, our joys, our desires etc. God totally comes and always meets us where we are at. God knows that I yearn so deeply to be a mommy-to-be. And though there are more days than I care to admit that I forget God's promise, I must remember that God always meets us where we are at. God meets us in the midst of the hard!

I think of my new friend KA and how her, her hubby and some friends are starting a new church. Tonight I asked her if I could pray and she asked me to pray that she would be able to write and memorize a Spoken Word piece for Sunday. I literally stopped and tweeted out a prayer for her in that moment. God met me right there on that phone screen. God knew what KA needed and saw to it that I was able to meet her needs through my prayers lifted up for her.

How often have you too seen God meet you where you are at?

*Lately I have noticed how God often meets me through amazing people. Lately I have also noticed God often shows up in my written poetry, in sharing my story, and even in blog posts. It reminds me of the many ways that God meets me, meets us right where we are at. And I am so thankful that in my own brokenness, in your own brokenness, God comes again and again and meets us continually where we are at.

(And as a total side note, I am thankful for the ways that God has met me through my Write31 Days friends, my #Fmfparty friends and through so many more. I am so thankful that I will get to meet some of you InRl this summer in Nashville since my sister and I will be there for a sisters trip that week before. I never thought this would happen, but obviously God knew, didn't he?)

*Where the 5 minutes stopped!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

This Is Pretty Much Jesus For Me!

This is pretty much Jesus for me!

My friend Amy shared these words with me after I shared a quote from Melanie Shankle's book "Nobody's Cuter than You" on a post I read on Kate Motaung's blog yesterday. The quote I shared was this: "There is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself."

Oh my friends, my friend is so right. I am blessed by incredible friends who get these words and live them out in our friendship. But Jesus is the one who truly does this for me. Jesus indeed loves me in spite of myself. Jesus loves me in spite of my own self-doubt. Jesus loves me when I make mistakes as the sinner in me emerges out of me. And Jesus loves YOU in spite of yourself too! Jesus loves you in spite of your own self-doubt. And Jesus loves you too when the sinner in you emerges.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in how the world treats us. We think we aren't good enough. We think we don't have enough. Yet the truth is we are good enough. We do have enough. I am reminded of the creation story from the book of Genesis. Every time God created something, God finished by saying, "And it is good!" We need to remember those words. Because in spite of our own selves, Jesus shows up for us EVERY SINGLE TIME! Jesus always finds a way to love even the most unlovable among us. God always declares that all of creation is indeed good!

Jesus came into the world; continually turning the world upside down. He wasn't at all afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners. He even washed Judas' feet knowing that Judas would soon betray him. Jesus died for our sins. But then three days later, Jesus rose from the grave....hope in the midst of the Resurrection.

I look at the world around us and I see so much death and destruction. I hear stories of human trafficking here in my dear state of North Dakota in the midst of the oil fields. I watch the news and see the devastation of an earthquake in Nepal. I also see the riots as they break out in Baltimore. I see the news sharing of the murder of a family in Wisconsin. It seems like around every corner, all I see is destruction. Like in the aftermath of an earthquake, all that remains is the dust and debris that has been left behind. And my heart aches!

Yet as my heart aches, I am reminded of Jesus who loves us ALL in spite of ourselves.

No matter how much we screw up.....
No matter our own sinfulness.....
No matter our own brokenness...

Jesus comes again and again offering us forgiveness of sins.
Jesus comes again and again showering God's grace upon us.
Jesus comes again and again loving us ALWAYS in spite of our own selves.

Jesus truly is the one who knows every hair upon our head, knows our hearts desires yet still loves us in spite of ourselves.

I am linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart 
and Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story.


Monday, May 04, 2015

The Rallying Cry for Generations To Come

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."--Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This verse in Jewish culture is at the heart of Jewish faith and is known as the great Shema. Like the Lord's Prayer is familiar to Christians, the shema is just as familiar to Jews. A Jewish custom is to take this passage, write it on parchment paper and encase it in the mezuzot; the small boxes on the doorposts of Jewish homes and tefillin: the small boxes worn on the forehead and arms of Jewish people during Jewish morning prayer services. In Jewish culture, this verse is literally being written on the doorposts of their houses and on their gates as well as on their foreheads and their arms.

We don't walk around with this passage written on our foreheads and our arms. Yet I wonder what the world would look like; what faith would look like if we did. Yesterday one of my colleagues preached his Confirmation sermon about faith and how we aren't afraid to share our opinions about politics, etc on our Facebook pages. But when it comes to faith, we have a harder time sharing that on our Facebook pages. Why is that anyways?

I have been thinking a lot about the language of faith and today's youth/young adults. These words from the great Shema are words that I pray more of us live out in our daily lives. They are words that I pray more families and homes will cling to and realize how true they are. The front doors of the church aren't the actual front doors we walk in and out of to go to church, but are the doors of our homes. Faith begins in the home. Think about the people who have passed on faith and values to you. Who are they? They are, more than likely, parents, family members, and other caring adults who have been there with and for you as you walk and continue to walk along this lifelong journey of faith.

Too often (or rather more often than we care to admit) it seems that we forget the words that we hear in the great Shema. I will be honest. In the congregations I have served, it has been so very hard to watch youth affirm their Baptismal promises, but then to never see them again. (And I am pretty sure this isn't uncommon; that many of us have experienced this in one way or another) What are we missing? How can we set the bar higher for families? It is my prayer that together we can be allies. We cannot do the job for each other BUT we can support each other and be each other's cheerleaders.

I don't claim to have any of the answers, but I have seen the power of the great Shema lived out in congregations and families. I have seen divorced families sit together and learn together. I have seen lively inter-generational conversations take place. I have seen families carry out the baptismal promises they made for their child/children. And in return, I have seen children fully embrace those promises and affirm those promises for themselves at their own Confirmation.

I pray that these words from the Great Shema become our battle cry, our rallying cry for all the generations here and all the generations yet to come. "Write it on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." We might look rather silly walking around with those words encased on our foreheads. But in today's technological age, there are many places for us to share our faith. Facebook is one of the virtual doorposts for us to share our faith. It seems to me that when faith becomes our everyday language and we aren't afraid to share our faith, this world and the generations to come will be a much better place.

I don't know about you but I want better for our youth and young adults. I want them to know what it means to live out the Great Shema in their daily lives and in their homes.

Will you join me in this rallying cry for all of us and for the generations to come?

Linking up with these lovely writers: Anita and Inspire Me Monday; Holly and Testimony Tuesday and Kelly and the RaRa Linkup.


Disclaimer: These are my thoughts and opinions. And are not necessarily the thoughts and opinions of the congregation and community of faith that I serve.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sunday Blessings 80

(1) Playing Hide N Seek with a colleague's daughter.

(2) Getting to spend time with my dear friend CT

(3) A church kiddo asking me to help him spread butter on his sandwich

(4) Finally Voxing with KA. It's been too long. And I love this girl like a sister. We just get each other! :) I am dreaming of the day we get to finally meet InRL.

(5) Colleague lunch. Getting to spend time with me dear friends CT and KG!

(6) An email from a parent sharing how her child learned a great lesson from my class on Wed.

(7) FMF Twitter Party. I love Thursday nights and these ladies!

(8) Spending time with my sissy--Such a great weekend!

(9) Going to "The Longest Ride" with my sister.

(10) Finding out that TM and I are going to be in Nashville at the same time in August which means we totally have to meet!!!

(11) Receiving my first 2015 Minot/FLC graduation invitation in the mail.

(12) A kid bringing me dandelions during the kids sermon. So sweet!!

(13) Baby snuggles and a sweet smile from baby Briar.

(14) A nice Confirmation service (Great group of kids but disappointed that some of them were talking all through communion time)

(15) A message from HG now that they are back in the States. Prob will visit me soon!! It's been three years so excited to see her and her hubby!

(16) One of my fave little girls so excited to see me!!

(17) Watching some kiddos at Family SS as they had a dance party! :)

(18) A great PLN

(19) Catching up on the shows I recorded during the week.

(20) Finishing Crystal Stine's Creative Basics course.

(And since I learned so much, here is a printable for you to print off. This saying was shared with me by my seminary advisor when I graduated seminary. He always shares it with his senior advisees. It reminds my always that I am a beloved child of God and that is ENOUGH!)

Click on this link for the Printable: Baptism Quote Printable