Monday, August 31, 2015

What I Learned in August...

I am linking up with Emily Freeman's monthly link-up for the first time today. You can check out all the posts over at Emily's Place.

Things I learned this month....


(1) Spending time with my sister is the best! Growing up together, we were pretty good at fighting and to be honest, sometimes we still argue with each other. But there is something so incredibly holy about spending quality time together. Our Nashville sister's trip was AWESOME and is not one I will ever forget. I love my sister so much and the time we spent together is something I will treasure for a very long time. I need to be better about spending time with those I love.

(2) "I am an imperfect person loved by a perfect God!" This image came across my Instagram feed and spoke straight to my heart. I am indeed not perfect...none of us are...but we are loved by a perfect God. We are "fearfully and wonderfully made!"

(3) That twelve years after someone has passed away, my heart still aches so deeply for them. I was cleaning in my guest room when I came across the bookmark of my Grandpa's obituary. As I read and remembered, the date (August 21) hit me straight in the gut because it was on that date twelve years ago that we celebrated his life at his funeral. Grandpa Sam was such a caring wonderful man. I miss him each and every day.

(4) Sitting on my deck. sipping a Starbucks Refresher, and reading is a place where I truly experience peace and Sabbath. I finally finished "Orphan Train", started "Searching for Sunday" and have so many wonderful books on my to read list "For the Love" "Wild in the Hollow" etc. Since summer was so busy, I didn't get to spend time reading on my deck a lot so I have been making up for lost time this week.

(5) Periscope. I recorded my first Periscope video today and have watched several friend's Periscopes. I have enjoyed listening to and seeing in person the people whose blogs I often read. But I still feel like I have a lot to learn.

(6) VOXER! Can I say more? I love that I can talk to many of my blog friends and hear their voices. I seriously cannot get enough of this app.

(7) It takes a lot of people and work to get a hot air balloon up in the air. Some church members called me a week ago and asked if I wanted to help them launch a hot air balloon and chase after it. This members brother-in-law/uncle owns the hot air balloon. As they sprawled out the balloon and many held on to it, I ran the fan and helped to fill it up with air. We drove around following the balloon so we could be there when it was ready to land.


(8) A community of writers and friends who get my heart and who I feel like I have known forever. I am so blessed that I got to meet several blog friends in real life while my sister were in Nashville. It is hard to put into words how much these people mean to me. My dear friend Karrilee said it best on her blog when she wrote: "You just may find that you have found your people strung across the world wide web and you so connect in heart and spirit that distance doesn't feel real. Yes. This. Thank You, Internet, for this!" Amen and all the yeses to that!!!

(9) I am so incredibly LOVED! Some days it is so easy to forget that, but God has orchestrated some amazing friendships in my life and family who remind me how loved I am. I've been so surprised and humbled by the comments I have received on my last Five Minute Friday post. I love you all so much too! (See also #8)

(10) I love music! Being in Nashville was awesome. I cannot carry a tune for the life of me, but I love listening to new music. In Nashville, we got to hear all sorts of music including one of my all-time faves Vince Gill.


(11) Prayer really does work! Now I have known this before and have prayed many times for others, but I was reminded again of the power of prayer. I shared a prayer request and so many of you responded with your prayers. God heard those prayers and our prayers were answered. So how might I pray for you this week friends? I would love to return the favor.

So, my friends, this is what I learned throughout the month of August. See you in September!

I am linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky, Holly for Testimony Tuesday, and Kelly for the RaRa Linkup.

 







Being Drug Out of My Writing Chair

Joining in with the online discussion on the book "On Being A Writer" by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Today we are working through Chapter 5: Write. 

"A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper."--E.B. White.

But what do you do when the writing can be the hardest part. Yes, I realize that if I am going to call myself a writer, I must sit down and actually write....but some days that can be so much easier said than done. As the Director of Home and Family Ministry at a church, the words I write might be a sermon, newsletter article, Confirmation lesson etc, so when it's time to write on the blog that can be hard to do.

As you already know, I still have a hard time calling myself a writer, but I am getting there. My mom has told me stories about how when I was little, I didn't ask for a toy, but rather pen and paper. I was content to pour my words out in stories and characters even at a young age. Little did I realize what an impact words would have on my life.

Words, in many ways, became my lifeline. In English class, I loved when we had a writing assignment. When I went off to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp and told our story of journeying with mental illness for the first time, words became my prayers lifted up to God like hands raised to receive. At seminary, I struggled some. But it was a seminary professor who realized my love of words and poetry that helped me finally pass his class as an independent study. We would tape our conversations, I would go back and listen to them, and then I would come armed with my questions during the next class time.

Words continued to be my oxygen as I used them to share my family's journey with a mental illness. But it really wasn't until I joined the Write 31 Days challenge last October, that I realized how powerful my words were for me and for others. It is the one time that I truly sat down and wrote every single day. It is the one time that I felt like I found my sweet spot. It is the one time that I realized how there is so much power in hearing those words "me, too." In my own words, I was able to breathe easier, because without being able to share my/our story, it felt like I was alone.

Even though I have found that my words do make a difference, there are still so many times when I get distracted; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. (Can anyone else relate?) I scroll through FB looking for that quote that I saw earlier and want to write about. Before I know it 30 minutes have gone by, I still haven't found that quote and I still haven't written ANYTHING. It is so easy to let the world around us distract us too.

Sometimes I think it is so easy to get distracted because I am striving for perfection (Anyone else shake their head at Charity's words: "The second reason we resist sitting down to work is we want our writing to be perfect!") I will find anything in my line of sight to help me procrastinate because so often I get caught up in the comparison game. That blog is prettier than mine; she writes so much more eloquently than I do etc. But then I read these words from Charity and I am convicted: "We have something to say that can come only from us." Only I can tell my story of being a daughter of someone who daily struggles with a mental illness. Only I can tell my story of being a single 36 (SOON to be 37) year old who yearns so very deeply to be a wife and momma. Only I can tell the story of who God has called ME to be.

Trusting in that promise and knowing that my words are valid, perhaps someone just needs to drag me out of my writing chair to show me the surprising places where my words have and will show up!







Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Blessings 95




(1) Getting to help with the hot air balloon and chasing it with JL and KL. So cool!!

(2) Hearing all the kids play outside at the school in my neighborhood. School is surely back in session!

(3) Texting with SM

(4) A message from one of my snail mail gals letting me know that my words were exactly what she needed to hear today.

(5) Voxing with TM

(6) Yummy stir fry

(7) Voxing with CM

(8) FMF Twitter Party

(9) Fresh sweet corn. Thanks PKN and MN!

(10) Fresh produce from the Farmers Market

(11) Starbucks Key Lime Refresher

(12) Monthly colleague lunch. Getting to meet a new colleague.

(13) Answered prayers. Thanks everyone who prayed.

(14) Talking on the phone to Gma and N.

(15) Finally finishing the book "Orphan Train"

(16) Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. So.much.goodness!!

(17) Texting with MW. Such a good friend. So glad God had our paths cross a few years ago.

(18) Hugs from the kiddos at church.

(19) People at church singing Happy Birthday to me during coffee hour since my bday is on Thursday.

(20) Lunch/Breakfast with church people.

(21) Texting with one of church youth about college life and checking out Lutheran churches.

(22) Many compliments on my dress today.

(23)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nashville: Day One

The other day I had so much fun recalling the details from the first day of our trip. One of my readers asked if I was going to write about the whole trip. I wasn't planning on it. But had so much fun writing that post and hearing from all of you, that I have decided to do a weekly (no specific day just when I feel like writing) post on our Nashville Trip.

After a good night's rest, Ann and I crawled out of bed. We carefully selected the clothes for the day and got ready for our first official day in the great city of Nashville; the city of bright lights and country music. We had reservations for a tour of the Ryman Auditorium for later in the morning.

After we enjoyed a nice continental breakfast at our hotel, Ann and I headed out the door. Along the way, we stopped in some tourist shops. One of the first doors we walked through was a fun little t-shirt shop. Ann spotted a yellow t-shirt with the words Nashville emblazed on it. Yellow is Andrea's favorite color. She found a mirror in the back of the store and tried on the t-shirt. She decided she liked it so we headed to the checkout counter where she paid for her shirt.

We walked out the door and turned to our left. Eventually we spotted a statue of ELVIS. We asked some passer-byers if they would take our picture for us. They were much obliged and did just that. Ann and I each handed them our cameras. They snapped our pictures, handed us back our cameras and then were on their way.


Ann and I continued on our way. As we were walking along, we heard a female voice say "Don't step on that hottie." Ann turned around to see a picture of her country boyfriend Luke Bryan imprinted on the sidewalk. She echoed the same words that the other lady stated just moments before.

As we followed the map on my phone, I took a left turn passed the Bridgestone Stadium.  After not many steps, I realized that we were going the wrong way. Ann asked me if I knew what I was doing. I replied that I did. We turned around and started heading in the right direction towards the Ryman Auditorium.

Before we knew it, we saw the beautiful red brick building; the Ryman Auditorium standing directly in front of us. We followed the signs to the entrance; to where we would check in for our tour. Ann and I checked in and worked our way up a very ornate staircase. At the top, we waited with the rest of our tour. Eventually the clock struck 10:20 am and we were off on our tour. We huddled in closely to listen as our tour guide told us the history of that historic building. The colorful stained glass windows' vibrant hues of red, blues, and yellows were the first item that jumped out at me. From the moment we had walked in, they had caught my eye.


The tour guide continued to guide us through all the little nooks of the Ryman. Eventually we found ourselves standing on the front of the stage smack dab in the center of the infamous circle. Ann and I decided to have our picture taken in that spot. We paid the photographer and then each picked up a guitar as he snapped our photo.

On our way out of the building, our eyes caught a statue commemorating the beloved friendship of Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff. Next to the statue was a kiosk where we picked up our photos. After receiving our photos, Ann and I walked back out into the Nashville air and headed straight for downtown Nashville.

Once downtown, we decided to tour the Johnny Cash Museum. Inside the museum, Ann and I listened to the history of Johnny Cash. We were only inside the museum a few minutes when my pocket began vibrating. I looked to see who it was and knew that I had to answer it. I took care of the phone call and tried to get them off the phone as quickly as possible.After I hung up the phone, we continued on through the museum. Before us were so many of his items; Johnny's historic red, white, and black cowboy boots, the sweetest heart box given to June one Valentines Day, the collection of his albums and so much more.


Once we finished at the museum, we decided to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. As we were crossing the street to the Hard Rock, sirens began blaring. Ann and I looked to our right and saw an ambulance parked next to a taxi where they were carefully placing someone from the taxi into the ambulance. We moved on and went inside the cafe. Inside, we found out there was a short (15-20 minute) wait so we waited. Before we knew it, our buzzer was blinking and we were being seated. Ann and I perused over the menu and placed our orders. We each decided that since we were on vacation, we would indulge in an adult beverage. Mine was this southern tea that came with a cucumber as the garnish. I didn't realize it was a cucumber until I pulled it out of my glass. The drinks were way too strong for us that most of our drink stayed in our glasses on the table.

After we finished our meal, I went to pick up my souvenir; a Hard Rock cafe mason jar. Then Ann and I headed to the larger Hard Rock store next to the cafe. Ann found a cute teddy bear that we decided to purchase for Mom. We named him "Nash". Ann also found herself a t-shirt. Once our purchases were made, we headed back outside. The hot sun beating nicely against our skin.

We turned right down the sidewalk passed many historic Nashville bars. We quickly spotted the Wild Horse Saloon. But unfortunately the sign outside said they were closed until 4:30 pm for a private function. We had a few photo ops with the horse outside the Wild Horse and then ventured on our way. We walked back to our hotel.

Ann and I rode the elevator to the 7th floor. We got off, turned right, then left down the hallway to the door of our room. We slid the key into the door. Inside our room, Ann and I changed into our swimming suits. Then we rode the elevator down two floors to the 5th floor where the swimming pool was. The water was cold so we slowly took one step at a time into the water. Once in the water, after a few moments of moving around, the water warmed up. Ann and I raced each other from one end of the pool to the next. It reminded both of us of the many times we went swimming with our neighbor kids growing up in small town North Dakota. Ann got out of the pool, wrapped herself in a towel, and took a quick photo of me in the water.

Swimming was a great way to cool off on a hot Nashville August day. After drying off, Ann and I headed back upstairs to get ready for our night. A friend had recommended to me a place called "3rd and Lindsley" so we had purchased tickets to see the Time Jumpers play there later that night. We left our hotel at approximately ten minutes after five. The doors at 3rd and Lindsley opened at 5:30 pm. By the time we walked the three-four blocks there, the doors were already opened. Ann and I weaved our way through the tables and chairs trying to find a great spot to sit. We came to a table where two other couples were seated. They asked us if we wanted to sit with them and we said sure. The older couple across from us told us all about the Time Jumpers, Vince Gill and so much more. Even though the doors open at 5:30 pm, the band didn't come on until 9 pm.

We introduced ourselves to all the individuals at our table. We found out the husband from the other couple drives bus for many of the stars. Throughout the evening, we conversed with each other and found ourselves munching on appetizers to pass the time. As we were passing the time, Ann turned to me and said "That girl over there was on the Voice." I thought she was silly for thinking that. I said "Why don't you ask her?"  But Ann was too chicken she kept asking me to ask her, but I wasn't going to give in. But then my curiousity got the best of me and I asked her. She was indeed on the Voice. Her face lit up when she realized that we knew her from the show. Her name is Allison Bray. Allison then came and took pictures with both of us. She also invited us to come back tomorrow night as she would be singing as part of a young country showcase.

Around 8:30 pm, Vince wearing khaki green shorts, a red polo top, and slip on shoes, walked onto the stage with his guitar. He quickly checked his sound and then went backstage. This girl who has loved him her whole life was totally fan-girling!!! Soon the clock struck 9 pm and the Time Jumpers along with Vince came onto the stage. Their music filled the room as we all listened intently. Then one of the band members introduced Vince by saying "This guy has done everything in the book and then he joined a band he knew nothing about." Laughter quickly filled the room. A smile formed on Vince's face.

Vince's smooth voice began belting out one of his beloved songs. Goose bumps began to form on my arms as I listened to him sing. His voice filled the room and covered us in the deep warmth of his vocals. I seriously didn't want the singing or the night to end.


After an hour, they took a break. Ann and I went over to their merchandise booth and bought a copy of the Time Jumpers CD. Thirty minutes later, the Time Jumpers including Vince came back onto the stage. They invited a few young artists to come up on stage; one of them being Crystal Bowersox from American Idol. At midnight, Crystal was turning another year older and some friends had given the band her name. Crystal came onto the stage, hugged Vince, and then together Crystal sang with Vince and the Time Jumpers...a birthday I am sure she will never forget.

At 11 pm, the concert was over. We were sad to see it end. Ann and I walked quickly back to our hotel as it was dark out. Once at the hotel, we rode the elevator back up to our room. We slid the key into the door and stepped inside. I looked at the FitBit on my phone. We had successfully walked 10,650 steps; 4.59 miles; burned 2634 calories and were active 74 minutes.

It had indeed been a successful first day!

















Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dreaming of My Own "Happily Ever After"

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 "Alone." Write for five minutes; unedited.

I heard the word prompt tonight and so many emotions begin to bubble up inside of me. Next week I will turn 37. I am still single; still yearning yet to be a wife and a momma. It is something that I have always wanted. And I see those around me; friends of all ages in their homes with their families and I can't help but ask. When will it be my turn? Or am I going to be alone forever?

I come home each night to an empty house. I lay down in my bed no one to cuddle up next to. I often spend my Friday Nights watching a movie or television show alone on my couch.  Sometimes the tears stream down my face. It is not at all how I pictured my life as a 37 year old. I have always imagined my life as a woman with a husband, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a house surrounded by a white picket fence. I have always dreamed of my very own "happily ever after."

God knows the desires of my heart and hears them. Yet there are days that my loneliness is more prominent and I sometimes question if God hears them at all. I know God does hear them.....but sometimes especially when I am so lonely that is so much easier said than done.

Tears stream down my face. I wonder when it will be my turn. I wonder if I will always be alone. I wonder if I will ever get to be a mom. I wonder if my house will always be so quiet. I wonder when my time will come. I wonder....but then I put all my trust in a God who I know hears the desires of my heart and who knows what my heart holds; a heart that holds the promises of God and knowing  that I am not alone because God walks with me every step of the way and also puts individuals in my path who also walk with me.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Our Trip Was Only Just Beginning....

Joining in with the online discussion on the book "On Being A Writer" by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Today we are working through Chapter 4: Notice. Why is noticing important? How can we improve our noticing skills? Why and how does noticing enhance our writing lives?

I carefully packed my clothes away in my red suitcase. After double-checking our lists, I zipped up the suitcase and set it against the wall. My sister's lopsided suitcase with the broken off leg leaning gently against my suitcase.

My alarm clock rang with its annoying buzz the next morning as I headed off to worship. Dear sweet children gathered around my feet for the children's sermon. After worship, we headed down stairs past the quilters room and Brides room into our gathering space. We sat and broke bread together. The hours after worship seemed to crawl by much like a very slow turtle.

Finally the clock struck 2:30 pm. A text from my dear friend CT came through on my phone. She was on her way to pick us up. Ann and I stood by the door, suitcases by our side, waiting not so patiently to get our adventure started. CT arrived. I quickly locked the doors to my house. Then we loaded the carefully packed suitcases into her car. She dropped us off at the airport but not before wrapping each of us in her arms as she hugged us goodbye.

CT drove off and Ann and I stood in line. I successfully went through security while Ann was taken off to the side. Not exactly sure why she was pulled out but after a quick check, she was also waved through. We each grabbed our items out of the security bins and slipped our shoes back onto our feet. Then we found our seats and waited for our flight.

Finally the plane arrived and we began boarding for our flight. The first half of our flight from Minot to Minneapolis was extremely short just enough time for the flight attendants to pass out snacks and beverages before we were descending down into Minneapolis. After landing, we got off the plane and walked from our current gate to our next gate and almost immediately began boarding our flight for Nashville.

After finding our seats, we soon were taking off. I grabbed onto the chair in front of me until we were at our cruising altitude. In the air, we looked out the window. A sea of fluffy white marshmallow clouds was sprawled out in front of us. It felt like we could reach out and touch them.


Soon we were descending into Nashville. After landing, Ann and I found our way to baggage claim where we picked up her lopsided suitcase. I had carried my suitcase onto the plane as a carry-on. After a few moments, Ann spotted her suitcase. She wound her way through the crowd of people waiting and grabbed her suitcase. With suitcases in hand, we walked out into the hot humid August Nashville air. Luckily we found a cab waiting area and there was no one in line. The attendant told us the cost of the cab ride $26, loaded our suitcases into the cab, and then the cab driver opened the door for us. We got into the vehicle and sat down.

On our way to the hotel, the cab driver asked us where we were from and if this was our first time in Nashville. As we drove along, we sat glancing out the window, taking in the sights and sounds of this new place we were now visiting. Before we knew it, we arrived at the hotel; the Hyatt Place which is only three years old and used to be a parking garage. It was so close to downtown Nashville that we could walk everywhere.


A concierge was waiting on the sidewalk as the taxi driver pulled up. The concierge pulled our suitcases from the taxi. We paid the taxi driver and thanked him for our ride.

Through the glass doors, we entered the hotel into the lobby of the hotel. In front of us, behind the front desk, stood this wall full of words describing the city of Nashville: music, bright lights, etc. We took in the wall and our new surroundings as we waited. Finally we were next in line. And we soon were checked into our hotel.

With our keys in hand, Ann and I wheeled our luggage...well kind of wheeled since Ann's one leg was broken off...to the elevator. We pushed the round button for the elevator to come to us. It came. We stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the 7th floor. The elevator ascended. We stepped out of the elevator, turned right, and then turned left down a long narrow hallway. Soon we arrived at the door to our room. We slid the key into the door and opened the door.

Ann and I sat down our luggage and inhaled the landscape before us. Right as you came in the room, the bathroom was to our right. Taking a few more steps, there was a couch set before us much like a living room. On the bottom shelf of the bookcase, lay a hard covered book about Nashville and its many sights. On the top shelf, lay a soft white blanket. Standing next to the end of the couch was a room divider. On the other side of the room divider were two queen side beds with an end table between them. On the opposite wall was a closet. Next to the closet was the television which stood on a dresser. There also was a small refrigerator which stood on floor near the dresser. Next to the dresser was a full length mirror. Next to my bed was a huge picture window. With the curtains open, the view out that window was the view of a rooftop pool at a neighboring hotel.

Next to the closet was a little nook. That empty space next to the closet became the place where all of my belongings were sprawled out throughout the week...my suitcase, souvenirs, my shoes and the list goes on. The space next to the couch became the area where my sister laid out her belongings during the week.

After a long day of traveling, our stomachs were growling for food. We took the elevator down to the hotel lobby and to the restaurant/bar in the hotel. We perused over the menu and then placed our order; a cheese quesadilla. The waiter asked us where we were from and we told him North Dakota. He smiled back at us and said I can tell. (Apparently we had a pretty prominent accent!) Our order came. We bit into our food; the ooey gooey cheese tasted so good in our mouths. We quickly devoured our food.

Once our meal was finished, we rode the elevator back up to our hotel room. After sliding the key in the door and entering back into our room,  we changed into our pjs, pulled back the covers, and crawled into our beds as we drifted off to dreamland. Waking up refreshed and renewed for what would be an epic joy-filled fun week in Nashville together.

Our trip was only just beginning.....

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Clover Honey

Children being bullied at school. Politicians spewing hateful words at each other. Music and lyrics sometimes full of unkind words. Using our words not for good, but rather for evil. And as I hear these stories and these words being hurled forth, my heart aches as I think about the impact and power of our words.

As a child, I was a kid who was teased relentlessly. Tears often would stream down my face as I heard those vicious words hurled at me..."Cry baby" "Orange Juice Spiller" and the list goes on. But the truth is, that as I have steeped myself in the word with the Word, I have realized that I...and we...can turn this around.

In Proverbs 16; verse 24 (The Message translation), we hear "Gracious speech is like clover honey---good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body." Oh how true those words are. (God has a funny sense of humor too. Today I went to open my Bible app to look up this text and guess what was the verse of the day. You guessed it: Proverbs 16:24) Just this week, I have read replies to two of my comments on friend's blogs. Their simple words back to me---"I simply adore you friend" and "You make me blush"-- have covered me in love and have felt like sweet honey replenishing my soul. I don't know about you but I want more of those kind words!! 


I know that we all don't experience those kind words. Sometimes we experience hateful hurtful words that bitterly hang in our hearts and in our ears. I think of the story I shared in my post the other day when I shared of the individual who said some pretty hateful things to me at my writing group at the local library several years ago. Those words were a bruising to my heart and to my ego. Those are not the kind of words that God calls us to share. God calls us to be kind to one another...to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Because the kind words we share with each other are pure gift. 

"Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift."--Ephesians 4:29 (The Message)

Yes, each word is pure gift, but I am guilty of not always using my words for good. I sometimes listen as others are unkind to their neighbor. I may not say anything unkind, but I also don't always speak up either. I also sometimes have a hard time saying kind things when someone is unkind to me. I have been known to raise my voice. Yet God still calls us to be that kind voice even when that is not always the easiest thing to do. But, my friends, I want my words to give life. I want them to be as sweet as honey to your soul. I want them to lift up rather than tear down. I want them to embody the gift of the Word in our lives. And I want this space to be that too! 

I am reminded of the lyrics from Christian artist Hawk Nelson's song "Words." "Words can build us up. Words can break us down. Start a fire in our hearts and put it out. Let my words be life. Let my words be truth. I don't wanna say a word unless it points the world back to you."


 May we use our words for good and to point the world back to the WORD!

Linking up with these lovely ladies today: 

 

 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Surrounded by Amazing Bloggers and Friends

Joining in with the online discussion on the book "On Being A Writer" by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Today we are working through Chapter 3: Surround--I surround myself with people, activities, and books that influence my writing. I am so very thankful for the friendships God has orchestrated this year as I have been surrounded by amazing people, places, and things!


These words echoed in my ear as I read them this past weekend. I find I surround myself with people, places, and things that help me to live this quote out in my daily life. I surround myself with amazing friends and family who allow me to talk about things in my life that I am currently thinking about. Sometimes our conversations lead to a blog post.

I also surround myself with awesome books. I have always loved books and continue to love books. Long before I read Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts," I began a Sunday series on my blog titled "Sunday Blessings." But after reading Ann's book, my series was even more solidified. Each week I keep a list on my phone of the blessings I encounter and then post it on Sunday evenings. I also read Annie F. Down's book "Let's All Be Brave." That book led to a blog post after I read it in just a few short days. That book is a book that spoke to me especially this year since "brave" is my one word 365 for 2015. I recently picked up "Wild in the Hollow" by Amber Haines, "Searching for Sunday" by Rachel Held Evans, and "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker. Books all recommended by other bloggers. I also am currently reading "Orphan Train."

But, not only, do I surround myself with books, friends, and family, I find myself surrounding myself with more and more bloggers. Because I have come to realize that these people are "my people." They remind me of the gifts that I bring. They challenge me to be a better writer when I read their posts and want to sound as elegant as they do. But mostly they understand me and what I write about...God, faith, my family, my friends, singleness, mental illness, yearning to be a mom and wife, adoption...and the list goes on and on.

I met many of these woman through the Write 31 Days challenge last October. I spent those 31 days writing about "Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness. I met Theresa Moma because her 31 day series was about her battle with depression. I met Dana whose words are always so beautiful and speak straight to my heart. And as the year went on...I have met others through the snail mail party and through Five Minute Friday. And I actually wait for new posts from so many of these people. (Susan, Bethany, TammyMelissaAnnaKate, Jen, Janel, Karrilee, and so many more. I wish I could list you all! I love you all!) Karrilee and I have so much in common that it could only be a God thing that our hearts have been united. And I believe that about all of the other woman as well. Only God could orchestrate these surroundings for me!


Each week, I often link up with some of my most favorite writers. These are writers that I want to to be more and more like. I am so thankful for the many who have shared their testimonies of faith over at Holly's place every Tuesday. I am so thankful for Kelly and the RaRa Linkup over at Purposeful Faith. Some of the best cheerleaders in the world! I am thankful for Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart. But, to be honest, my most favorite of all is the lovely Jennifer Dukes Lee. Jennifer always writes words that speak to my heart. And the funny thing is she attends the church where a seminary friend was their intern. Jennifer's words always weave together like a beautiful tapestry of words. I want my words to do that too! :)

There are so many more that I could write about, because I feel like each of them in their own ways surround me with stories and words that help me to write especially when I am feeling like I have NOTHING to say! I think there is so much power when we can inwardly and outwardly share our stories. I wouldn't have met so many of these wonderful people if I hadn't decided to be vulnerable and share my family's story of mental illness. I wouldn't know how to live if people like Andrew and dear Kara Tippetts didn't share what it is like to live with an awful illness. May dear Kara rest in peace and may we all surround ourselves with people, places, and things that help us to answer the question on the header of Kara's blog: "What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?"--Martin Luther.



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Blessings 94

(1) Voxing with some of my faves

(2) Receiving fun mail from my friend EG.

(3) FMFpartySnailMail from my friend MH

(4) Fresh tomatoes from the church garden. I made yummy BLTs!

(5) Church picnic and one last Smore summer worship.

(6) A goodbye hug from a sweet little one.

(7) Getting a phone call from my daddy. I haven't talked to him in awhile!

(8) Blessing my friend JK with flowers today as her and her hubby had a soft opening on their new store. I love making those I love smile!!!

(9) RS telling me that I only looked like I was in my early 30s when I told her I was almost 37.

(10) The sweetest Vox bank from TM's daughter M2.

(11) Ran to Barnes and Noble to pick up a few books. A guy's huge pickup made it hard for me to get into my car. It was really tight. He came out to grab something and totally apologized and also told me to have a great day!!

(12) Ordering a book on my Kindle and finding out it didn't cost me a thing because of a promotion.

(13) Reading on my patio. Enjoying these last days and weeks of summer.

(14) Much needed rain

(15) Papa Johns Pizza

(16) Texting with MW.

(17) Knoephla Soup

(18) Being treated to breakfast

(19) Return of the Great Food Truck Race.

(20) YOU!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Finding Your Voice

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 "Find." Write for five minutes; unedited.

I heard the word prompt tonight and I immediately knew where I was going to go with this word. This post is dedicated to those who feel like they have lost their voice, thought they never had it or just simply can't find it at the moment.

As a writer, I think it is so easy for us to get caught up in the comparison game and to think we don't have anything important to say. But the truth is we all have something to say. We all have different gifts. We all have a story worth sharing. There is power in hearing those words "me too!" Yet fear has a way of creeping in--fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of---and giving us laryngitis.

Though God has a way of giving us our voice even when we think we have nothing worth sharing. I am reminded of how in Scripture we hear the words: "Ask and it will be given to you; Seek, and you shall find; Knock, and the door will be opened onto you." God has a way of giving our voices back to us especially when we ask for God to give us the words we need to speak.


Yet there are also going to be times when we think we cannot find our voice at all. It is especially during those times that I believe we will need to trust each other. We will have to give words to each other's stories as we speak for each other. The truth is that God sent Jesus to be a voice for the voiceless...to speak for the downtrodden, the lost, and the vulnerable. And in our own vulnerability, God calls us to give voice to each other's voicelessness.

"In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard."--John Grisham


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Failing Miserably and Having the Best Intentions

"Beep Beep Beep" goes my alarm clock. I roll over and hit the snooze button...probably not once but a few times before I turn on Pandora and start getting ready for my day. After about twenty-thirty minutes, I am dressed, hair curled and ready to walk out the door. I walk every day to work since my house is only a block or so from the church.

As I walk, my mind wanders as I think about the tasks I have set before me today. Today I found myself making a mental checklist of all the things that I need to do to get ready for our church picnic this evening. This morning, I prepped our S'more worship bulletins for tonight and finished making some table tents to put on the tables. At noon, I hopped in my car and drove to Walmart where I purchased some buns and water for tonight. Since it was nearing one pm, I wound my way through the Wendy's drive through where I picked up a quick lunch. I ate my lunch in the car and finished it sitting at my desk in my office which I dislike doing. I would much rather spend the noon hour at my own house, taking some time to just be!

All the tasks that I have to get done at work are sooo important. Yet when I get done after a busy day and head home, I find it so hard to sit down and write---especially if I have spent the day writing and crafting a sermon-- even if an idea is floating through my brain. This summer I HAD THE BEST INTENTIONS to read through the Bible with Wendy Speake, but my friends, I have FAILED MISERABLY!!! I started off really well, but then summer started happening and I couldn't keep up with it. In June, while enjoying my beloved Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I was determined to get back on track. I spent one afternoon reading like two weeks worth of readings. After that trip, I returned home and ten days later, I left with a group of youth and another adult for our church's Youth Gathering. Sadly I felt like I was failing miserably yet again!

But what I have come to realize is that I may have stopped reading along, but I was still hearing Scripture. The Youth Gathering was scattered with the gospel of Mark. In all reality, Scripture and God were all around me. I just had to take the time to notice God all around me. (Hint: My Write 31 Days topic is leaning towards something along those lines!)

As I watch for God around me, I am reminded of the importance of finding margin in my life; of finding time to do those things that bring me joy--like my writing. I am going to have to do a better job of scribbling down notes on my phone, on napkins, whatever may be in front of me so that I can write whenever I want and feel like writing!

I may have failed miserably reading along with my blog friends as we try to read the Bible in a year, but God is gracious and allows us to start and restart again and again and again! So my friends instead of hitting that snooze alarm one more time, I am going to try and begin my day in God's Word---because "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." I can't think of a better way to ground my own time and space to be able to create a sacred space that reflects God's Word through my own words. 

Where is your favorite sacred space to write?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Those Four Little Words

A black binder full of my poetry sits on the bottom shelf of my bookcase...

A bound copy of a poetry anthology sits on that shelf as well with one of my poems published in it....

(Both items hidden away so others will not see them!)

A blog post of mine has been shared by the ELCA on their site "Living Lutheran"...

And I have two blogs....one specifically for my writing and the other being my main blog.

Yet I still only can seem to muster the words, "Oh I like to write" OR "Writing and/or Blogging is a Hobby." But I still do not and cannot seem to identify myself as a writer!

When I was little, my mom said I was a kid who was happy with pen and paper and not with toys. I was content to sit and pour words out onto a page for others to read. As I got older, I loved my creative writing classes and my English classes which led to me getting a Communications degree when I headed off to college. I have a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Journalism and an English minor.

One would think that those credentials in and of themselves would qualify me and help me to identify as a writer...but they don't. I still struggle to find those words: "I am a writer!" So often I find that I get caught up in the comparison game. So and so's blog is so much better and prettier than mine. So and so writes more eloquently than I do. But what I need to remember is that it isn't about comparing my words to others because my words are simply that: "my own words".

Several years ago, I joined a writing group at my local library. I was excited to meet new people outside of work and was hoping to share my words with others and hone my craft. One evening, I chose to share a poem I had written sharing my families struggle with mental illness. As I finished reading, one of the other participants lit into me: "Do your family members know what you are writing about? How dare you write about this subject?" I ran out of that room as quickly as possible, put on my coat, and ventured out in the bitter North Dakota cold straight to my car. I opened the door and sat down in the driver's seat where the tears immediately began to flow. I picked up my cell phone and dialed the number for my colleague. I was crying so hard by the time he answered the phone that he had to tell me to breathe. This woman had literally taken the wind out of my sails and I now questioned even more if God was calling me to write; let alone be a writer.

Over the next several days, weeks, months, and years, I have had to learn from that experience. I have realized that so often my words have been words of healing for me...and for others and not words of pain. I have come to realize that for me often my words have been the bravest words I have shared because they have opened up my own vulnerability.  I have come to also realize that my words embody my story and continually remind me of who and whose I am. I have also come to realize that my words are a gift from God! And trusting in that gift, I am trying to find the courage to utter those four simple words "I am a writer!"

I'll admit that more often than not I have a hard time receiving this gift, but the truth is that God has empowered so many of us to write. I hear others including my friends and family call me a writer, but I still have a hard time believing them. Their words are gift, yet so often I don't hear them at all. My ears need to be open to hearing the voice of God proclaiming to me and to so many of us "You are indeed a writer. I gifted you to be able to share your story through words. Your words are not a waste!"

It is extremely scary and vulnerable to utter those four simple words. Yet as dear Holley Gerth states: "Be courageous and write in a way that scares you a little." So even though it still scares me to let those four simple words come out my mouth, I am going to lean into them, keep writing and continue saying them until hopefully I believe them for myself.

I AM A WRITER!

I am linking up with my favorites today--Kate Motaung and her series On Being A Writer, Holly Barrett and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Holley and Coffee for Your Heart, and Jennifer and Tell His Story.


 



 


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Blessings 93




(1) Voxing with KA

(2) Family Vacation School--love it!!

(3) One of my fave kiddos yelling my name out the window as they drove by.

(4) Another kiddo asking me to take them through the tunnel.

(5) Taking pics with E. Loved the red wig he put on. The photo booth was a blast!!

(6) Talking to my momma

(7) A text from MW

(8) Uploading the pics from our trip

(9) A text from two of my girls trying to get me to come hang out with them.

(10) Running into one of my fave people GS while I was out doing errands.

(11) Yummy peaches!!

(12) Voxing with TM

(13) My first Vox from MH.

(14) Hanging out for a little while with Mr. E

(15) Being invited out to and treated to brunch today.

(16) A much much cooler day.

(17) Compliments on my sermon today. Thanks Holy Spirit!!

(18) A post-liturgical nap (PLN)

(19) Yummy juicy tomatoes

(20) Cinnamon Gummy Bears

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What I Have Learned This Summer!

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 "Learn." Write for five minutes; unedited.

This summer has been a busy summer for me...busier than usual. But throughout the summer, I have continued to learn so much.

I learned that my heart finds so much peace when I take the time to just be and enjoy God's creation in the Rocky Mountains.


I learned how amazing it is when 30,000 youth and adults gather in a huge stadium in Detroit and declare God's promises of peace and justice with the world.

This is only a portion of the Gathering!
I learned how sometimes you just have to get out of the boat...and other times you just have to stay. (Thanks for sharing those words FMF Retreat friends!)

I learned how part of my story will always be sharing my family's struggle with a mental illness. I learned that part of my story will always be that I am a daughter; a daughter of a woman who daily struggles with a mental illness.

I learned that YOU are my people! I was so blessed to meet three of the Five Minute Friday ladies last weekend while I was in Nashville with my sister. You all are my heart!


I learned that I value spending quality time with my sister. It will be a long time before I forget our trip.

I learned that relationships and friendships go far beyond computer screens. They are found in Twitter handles and Voxer messages. They are found in sharing our stories and hearing those two simple words "Me, too!"

I learned that God continually widens the circle to bring more friends into the friendship circle.

I learned that I am never through learning! Life is always teaching us!



What have you learned this summer my friends?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Widening the Circle

When I was little, I didn't have a lot of friends. In Kindergarten, I met my best friend who was a year older than me. She had been held back because she had undergone a kidney transplant. Mandy passed away in October of 2008. Since that time, God has been all over my friendships. In fact, I have been blessed by some amazing friendships in my life, but I never imagined how wide God would make that friendship circle. There are days I think that the circle can never get any larger and then God expands it even more! God has a funny way of doing that, doesn't he?

A year ago, last October, I joined the Write 31 Days challenge. My topic was "Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness." Never could I have imagined, how much this writing challenge would change me and would bring more amazing friends into my life. And than God went and expanded the circle more!

Due to the challenge, I was introduced even more to the Five Minute Friday community. (I cannot wait each week for our Thursday Twitter parties) These women have become my heart!!!!!!!!! They continually accept me for who I am. They continually see things in me that I don't always see in myself. They never let me forget who and whose I am....a daughter of the one true king. We have looked at each other's Facebook pages and even listened to each other's voices on social media outlets such as Voxer. We have read and shared each other's words. We have sent each other snail mail as part of the FMF Snail Mail party. Those words so often are just what I need to hear and come at exactly the right moment. And again the circle grows wider......

Then last Wednesday, my sister and I stood on a sidewalk at the Grand Ole Opry waiting for a car with Iowa plates to come pick us up. That car was being driven by one of the many FMF women. Jen and I have read each other's blogs and conversed on Twitter and Instagram. But now here we were looking at each other face to face...listening to each other's words spoken out loud. Jen, my sister, and I explored downtown Nashville together and then went and had supper together. Yet again the circle grew a little bit wider...or in the words of my friend Janel, my heart grew even larger too!

Friday morning, I found myself standing on an elevator waiting to meet two more of the FMF ladies. I stepped onto the elevator and pushed the button to take me down to the lower floor. But instead of going down, that darn elevator went all the way to the 14th floor. God has a funny sense of humor, doesn't he? The elevator finally reached the 14th floor and then began descending down. It finally reached the lower level and I stepped off. I turned around the corner to the hotel lobby, looking for these two dear woman. But they actually spotted me before I spotted them. A voice exclaimed, "There she is!" The next thing I knew I was being embraced in a warm loving hug. After the embrace ended, I reached out and embraced the other woman.

Together, the three of us stepped into the elevator and rode back up to the 7th floor where we would find my sister in our hotel room. We sat and talked. Funny thing is, it was like we have been friends forever. No ackwardness...but rather pure joy and friendship. The four of us then went to eat at this quaint little cafe in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville. The three of us (kindred sisters introduced through the blogging world) now were sitting and breaking bread together. (Jen and I had sat and broke bread together early in the week too!) I still smile at the fact that the three of us ordered the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich while two of us ordered an identical meal: Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with French Onion Soup.

Through the breaking of the bread, gathered around the table, God widened the circle even more leaving room for more friendships to be born and welcomed into this holy space. I may not have been able to attend the FMF retreat, but I still feel like my heart is ten times larger this week and that the circle will always have room for more! God will continually call together women (and men) of different times and places to break bread together.


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

 


Sunday, August 09, 2015

Grace Personified

The suitcase was packed away last night.

It has been a crazy summer of traveling for me..my favorite continuing education event in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, taking youth to the ELCA National Youth Gathering in Detroit MI,  and topping it all off with a sister's trip to Nashville.

And in the midst of all of my travel, life has continued on as usual. As many of you know, our mom lives daily with a mental illness and has lived in a nursing home for the last ten plus years. In June, my sister called me to let me know that Mom was once again hospitalized. And since that hospitalization, life has been chaotic and hectic.....a few times this summer in and out of the hospital. Mom just hasn't been herself. She has been asking to move which isn't like her at all.

Then last week, we got a phone call saying she just wasn't budging about the moving. We stuck to our guns because we just didn't think it would be a good idea for her to move. Yet she still kept asking to move. We finally gave in...and she moved to a new place that specializes in pysch care. Instead of 45 minutes from me, she is now like four hours away from me. My sister and I are trusting this all to God...hoping that she can come back once she gets back on track, but for now she is in the best place for her. Just not so easy to navigate or trust in. Yet I know that this is all in God's hands! (Not the first time, we have placed Mom in God's loving care!)

My sister and I had an amazing time last week. But in  the backs of both of our minds, Mom was not far away. I am pretty sure we were both thinking about it just a little all throughout the week.  And then I got to meet a few FMF ladies! None of them knew what was going on...BUT each one of them (And each one of YOU!) is "grace personified." They reminded me that we are connected beyond computer screens and rather are connected at the heart...heart connections made by God.

In those heart connections, God reminds me; reminds us that I am/we are never alone. I loved these words from my friend Tammy's post this week: "Always listening, always hearing; Peace He gives us, love endearing; Storms may come, but then are clearing; He is here."

Trusting in those promises.....
Today and every day.

Sunday Blessings 92: Nashville Edition




(1) Guided backstage tour of the Ryman--so cool and so worth the extra money.

(2) Johnny Cash Museum. Even found a few Birthday/Christmas presents.

(3) Afternoon swim at our hotel

(4) Awesome night at 3rd and Lindsley! The Time Jumpers!!!

(5) Two words: Vince Gill!! I was totally fangirling!!

(6) My sis and I being silly and singing along with George Jones at his museum.

(7) Acme Feed and Seed--awesome restaurant recommended by our Auntie Carol.

(8) More 3rd and Lindsley. Seriously cannot get enough of this place!!

(9) Meeting Kat Perkin's Uncle.

(10) Visiting with Allison Bray at 3rd and Lindsley.

(11) Meeting Ben Rue and hearing his song about growing up in a small town. Totally hit me in the heart!!

(12) Sleeping in past 10 am.

(13) Chillin in our hotel room watching the CMA Fest.

(14) Riding on the General Jackson Showboat.

(15) Nashville Live on the boat

(16) Yummy meal WITH yummy cheesecake.

(17) Visiting with a man and his daughters who were at our table on the boat. They were from WI.

(18) Meeting a blog friend in real life and hanging out with her. So fun that we got to hang out, Jen. And thanks for the ride.

(19) Great Lyft drivers! Love that Lyft shows you what the driver and car look like.

(20) Supper at Monells. Awesome home-cooked meal.

(21) Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

(22) Historic RCA Studio B

(23) Some chill time at our hotel

(24) Supper at the historic Wild Horse Saloon. Yummy fried pickles. And some of the best sausage in the world!!

(25) Line Dancing lessons

(26) Songwriters showcase at the Johnny Cash Museum cafe.

(27) Great continental breakfast at our hotel.

(28) Meeting two more FMF friends in real life. And having lunch with them at the GermanTown Cafe. So much fun, Janel and Val.

(29) Backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry. So cool!!

(30) Supper at Aquarium restaurant.

(31) Grand Ole Opry--Pam and Mel Tillis, Mark Wills, RaeLynn and so many more.

(32) Nash the Bear



(33) Finally arriving home.

(34) EG picking us up at the airport.

(35) A sweet text from my friend KW. Thanks for putting a smile on my face!

(36) My first two pieces of FMFSnailMail this round. Thanks CG and KA.

(37) Sleeping in and then going to Denny's for lunch.

(38) Cinnamon Pancakes

(39) Catching up on my shows that were recorded throughout the week.

(40) Cherry Dr. Pepper and Hot Tamales

(41) The FMF crew!!! My heart just keeps growing!!! Love you all so much!! So glad that God connected our hearts!!!

A little fun for your Monday so I am linking up with Anita and Carol at Inspire Me Monday:




Thursday, August 06, 2015

Here in Nashville

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 "Here." Write for five minutes; unedited.

I'm here in Nashville this week. My sister surprised me with a sister's trip last Christmas. We have been here since Sunday night.

Monday we went on a tour of the Ryman and later to 3rd and Lindsley...a bar that was recommended to me by a musician friend. That place didn't disappoint at all. All I have to say is two words: Vince Gill. Vince plays here every Monday night with a group called the Time Jumpers. I was fangirling hard. I've loved Vince ever since I can remember.

Tues we went back to this place and heard a country showcase of young artists. So fun! Ate at Acme Feed and Seed--so yummy!

Wednesday--We rode on the General Jackson riverboat. Also because FMF friends are here for the retreat, I was able to meet a blog friend InRL.* So fun to explore Nashville with Jen and my sis. Even ate at Monells--good home cooked food!

Today we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and historic RCA Studio B. I got chills hearing the music and it's history there. Supper at the historic Wildhorse Saloon. I even tried my hand at some line dancing. Stopped at the Johnny Cash museum cafe on our way back to the hotel. There was a songwriters showcase. Fun to listen. Finished out our day with a swim.

Tomorrow Grand Ole Opry and also hopefully meeting up with some more blog friends InRL. I am excited that the retreat is here which is allowing for some meet ups. But a tad bummed I won't be able to be at the retreat.

But also so glad that it is here and many will be able to be there.

*My five minutes ended here!! I had a lot to say this week!!

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sunday Blessings 91

Oops forgot to post these yesterday....so you are getting Sunday blessings on a Monday!!

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

(2) So excited to get my new FMFSnailMail Party Round 7 list!!

(3) Getting a Curves workout in.

(4) Talking to my momma on the phone.

(5) Getting my paycheck early

(6) Awesome treat at staff today! It was so yummy!!!

(7) A cool day; a relief from the hot humid weather that we've had lately.

(8) A baby watermelon, string beans, and tomatoes starting to grow in my church community garden plot.

(9) Creating some Shutterfly photo books.

(10) Miracle Treat Day at DQ

(11) FMF party

(12) Sonic Happy Hour--a yummy slushy and corn dog.

(13) Reading outside on my patio. I haven't been able to do that much this summer.

(14) Tackling Mt. Laundry. (Five loads later....that's what I get for being gone so much this summer!)

(15) Watching endless hours of "Reba" reruns!

(16) Watching the Blind Side with my sissy. I could watch that movie over and over and over.

(17) Great conversations at church today.

(18) CT giving A and I a ride to the airport. Thanks so much friend!!

(19) My sis helping me water the church garden. Made it go so much faster!!

(20) NASHVILLE trip!!!

(21) Our hotel; used to be a parking garage and is only three years old. Close to downtown.

(22) Time to relax.