Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What I Learned in September....

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

Things I learned this month....

(1) I am a writer! After participating in the online discussion on the book "On Being a Writer" by Charity Singleton Craig and Ann Kroeker, I can honestly say that I am a writer. I have learned that writing is indeed so much a part of who I am. There are limitations, but those limitations often push my writing to be better.

(2) In the words of my blog friend Katie Reid, we write to remember. As I remembered the suicide of my college friend Chewy and the anniversary of September 11, 2001 on my blog, I realized how true those words are. It is so important for us to remember those who are dear to us, those historic events in the world, and so much more.

In addition, remembering can be bittersweet too. I watched the finale of CSI the other day. When I was at seminary, a group of friends and I would spend every Thursday night watching CSI together. It was hard not to think of them and all we had been through as I watched the finale. I miss those crazy people!

(3) When Life is Wearing On You, God places people--friends---in our lives to journey with us because God does not want life to wear on us. God places those people into our lives to listen to us, to be there for us, to be that shoulder to cry on for us and to a hold a piece of each other's stories..not to take our stories away from us but to bear the burden with us.

(4) It is so important to spend time with family! I decided to drive home for Labor Day weekend as my Grandma had suffered a stroke several weeks before. It was so good to spend time with my Grandma, Grandpa, my sister, my aunts and uncle, my dad, my step-mom and my sister. We spent a lot of time picking produce from Grandma's garden which she gladly shared with all of us. I treasure the time I spend with my family especially as my grandparents age.

(5) SO MANY GOOD BOOKS! I finished "Searching for Sunday" by Rachel Held Evans and "Wild in the Hollow" by Amber C. Haines. I just started "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker. "Accidental Saints" by Nadia Bolz-Weber and "It's Simply Tuesday" by Emily Freeman are just a few of the books on my to read pile.

(6) Voxer, Periscope, and Twitter...all the social media! I absolutely LOVE Voxer. And I am starting to love Periscope too. It is so cool to be able to see the faces and hear the voices of my blog friends spread all over the world. I have even begun broadcasting my own Scopes on Periscope. I know that so many feel like the world wide web can be such a negative place, but what I have learned is that there are some amazing communities there as well. I love my blogging community so much. You each bless me so immensely!

(7) "She is far more precious than rubies!" A friend commented that to me on a blog post and then I got a Tweet sharing a picture with those words. It is so easy for us to think we are not enough, to think we are not worthy but the truth is that we are ENOUGH! I have put on the new name tag of "more precious than rubies" and I invite you to join me in putting it on because you, my dear friends, are more precious than rubies too!

(8) I learned all the many things that I forgot about the beauty of Fall. I love watching the seasons change. I love all things Pumpkin. I had my first Pumpkin Spice Latte a few weeks ago. I love the cooler air and watching the beauty of God's creation changing all around me.

(9) Sometimes we just have to be silly and laugh! Thanks to Agape, Joe Davis and Rachel Kurtz for this awesome photo op idea. Little did you know that I needed a good laugh that day. And this photo op made me smile and still makes me smile!

(10) God's grace is sufficient! It is a grace that God doesn't wrap in a pretty bow, but rather simply sets it on the table for us to receive. So often we forget the gift of God's grace though. And because I am continuing to receive and learn from God's grace, I will be joining in the Write 31 Days challenge and will be sharing 31 Stories of God's grace. Click Here to learn more about my Write 31 days challenge.

(11) And most of all, I learned that it is pretty great turning another year older. I am so incredibly loved and you all let me know that on the anniversary of my birth. So many Tweets, well wishes on my FaceBook wall and birthday presents. I felt so spoiled! And I got to top it off with some of my favorite gals in the world at our favorite wine bar. Tiger cake, good wine, some of my bestest friends, and celebrating another year of life! I am so very thankful for my 37 years on this year...and trust that year 37 will be a fantastic year too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

More Precious than Rubies

I stand looking in the mirror, my I-phone 6 leaning up against the counter of the sink as music streams from my Pandora station. I grab my contacts case and begin putting my contacts in my eyes. I plug my curling iron into the wall and let it heat up while I blow dry my hair. After a few minutes of drying my hair, I comb through my hair and grab my curling iron. I twirl the curling iron around strands of hair, let it sit for a few seconds, and then release it as I let the newly formed curls cascade down my face.

After curling my hair, I put away all of my supplies and shut off the bathroom light, but not before looking in the mirror one last time. On a good day, I smile and think to myself, I look pretty good today. On the not-so-good days, I mess with my hair and try to figure out what is making me unhappy today. And on those not-so-good days, I wonder if I am good enough.....; I wonder if I am worthy of being loved; I wonder if....

Do you ever feel like that friends? Do you ever feel like you are not good enough? Do you feel like there is never enough time in the day? Do you wonder if you are worthy of receiving love from that special person in your life? I know that I do! I think that I am not smart enough or pretty enough or (insert what you are feeling here) But the truth, my friends, is that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." God made us each with a purpose in life. But I so often forget that purpose and that promise in my life.

This last week a friend reminded me of the verse from Proverbs 31:10: "She is far more precious than rubies!" Or I love how the Message translates that verse: "A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds." I want you to know that today too friends! Yesterday I listened to author and speaker Cindy Bultema's Monday Coffee Chat Periscope where she shared that we are good enough. We are enough. We are loved! We are worthy! We all have been given new names by God. I may not always feel it and you may not either friends. But today I am choosing to put on the nametag of "more precious than rubies."

Rubies are one of the most beautiful gems. Yet according to Wikipedia, "All natural rubies have imperfections in them, including color impurities and inclusions of rutile needles known as "silk". In other words, just like rubies, we all have our imperfections. Our imperfections might look like too much weight, grey hair, a wide forehead or whatever we are unhappy with about ourselves. Yet the truth is that God loves us with our imperfections and all! God doesn't want our beautiful faces or bodies to be photo shopped onto the latest beauty magazine cover. God wants us to be exactly who God called and created us to be.

So trusting in that promise and knowing you are not alone, will you join me in putting on the nametag of "more precious than rubies?"

I am linking up with these lovely ladies today--Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story and Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Blessings 98

(1) Mom calling me.

(2) A belated bday present in the mail. So much fun! Thanks PB!!

(3) A blog friend nominating me for the Liebster Award.

(4) Being told that I'm a precious lady!

(5) A Vox from KA, CM and MG.

(6) FMF Twitter Party

(7) The return of all my fave shows: NCIS, Nashville, Greys Anatomy and so much more.

(8) A great colleague lunch

(9) Winning a prize at a Twitter party. I never win anything!!

(10) Running into KD at CashWise

(11) Weight Watchers Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sundaes.

(12) A sweet Tweet from a friend reminding me that I'm more precious than rubies.

(13) More Periscope viewers.

(14) During the children's sermon, one of the kids coming up behind me and saying "Hi Tara!"

(15) An invitation to go to Beer and Hymns.

(16) A great renewal team meeting/training for small group leaders.

(17) A gorgeous Fall Day

(18) 3rd Grade Bible Milestone.

(19) My usual hug during the greeting time from one of my fave little girls.

(20) The return of my famous crockpot taco chicken chili. Yum!!!

(21) Texting with MW.

(22) And so much more!!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Supper with the Fishies and the Grand Ole Opry

Another installment in the Nashville series. For those of you who are new to this blog, I have been recapping the sister's trip that my sister Andrea and I took this summer. It was a blast. Hopefully these little nuggets will give you a little glimpse into how awesome this trip was--memories to last a lifetime!

Ann and I decided to sleep in. About 10:45 am, I pulled back the covers and ran to the bathroom to take a quick little bathroom break. As I crawled back into bed, my phone almost immediately began to ring. My new blog friend Valerie was calling to see where I was at. Valerie and our other blog friend Janel were coming to Nashville for the first ever Five Minute Friday retreat.

I gave Val directions to our hotel. Then I quickly jumped out of bed and began getting ready for the day. After about 20-30 minutes, I got another phone call telling me they had arrived. I yelled through the bathroom door to tell Ann I was running downstairs to get them.

I stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the 1st floor. However, God had a sense of humor that morning as the elevator kept climbing....6th, 7th, 8th and so on before it finally began descending to the first floor. I stepped off the elevator, turned right to the end of the short hallway, turned right again and soon my new friends were in my line of sight.

Janel proclaimed, "There she is!" Valerie saw me, ran up to me and embraced me in the hugest hug. After our hug, I ran over to Janel and hugged her. Together the three of us walked to the elevator, stepped inside, and pushed the button for our floor. Once off the elevator, we walked to our room.

Once inside, I introduced my new friends to my sister. We sat on the beds and chatted for awhile. Then we decided it was time to pick a lunch place. After perusing through the Nashville area recommended restaurants, we decided to head to Germantown and the Germantown Cafe.

Our drive to the restaurant was an adventure as we wondered if Siri was giving us the right directions: around one curve, then another, until we finally arrived at the cafe. At the cafe, we checked in and waited for our table. We only waited a few minutes before our server came to seat us. We all looked over the menu. After awhile the waiter came and took our order. Val and I both ordered the same thing: the french onion soup with a fried green tomato sandwich.

As we waited for our meal, we visited. It really was like we have known each other much longer than we have. Soon the waiter came with our meals and we all dug in. It was the most delicious french onion soup that I have had in a long time. The whole top of the soup was covered with ooey gooey cheese that melted in your mouth. The fried green tomato sandwich was yummy too! We all enjoyed our meals.

The waiter came to take our plates away and of course, asked if we wanted some dessert. After a very brief moment of hesitation, we ordered the caramel apple dessert and a yummy chocolate dessert. They seriously were the most decadent desserts. I literally would have ate the whole caramel apple dessert if my friends would have let me.

After our meal, we walked out to Val's car. A beautiful flowering tree was blossoming in front of us. We stopped to take in the breathe and depth of God's awesome creation. While we were enjoying the flowers, Val and Janel noticed a baby bird in the branches. We peaked through the branches until we spotted him. He looked so comfortable there...but then he soon decided to fly away.

We all climbed back into Val's car. Val and Janel dropped Ann and I off at our hotel. We went inside and I called for a Lyft driver to come pick us up. He said he would be there shortly. As we were getting ready to leave, Ann reminded me that I had wanted to change. So like the quick changers from a few seasons ago on America's Got Talent, I changed as fast as I could.

Our driver arrived. Ann and I got into the car and he drove us to Opryland. Ann and I sat and waited until the time for our tour arrived. Soon the clock struck 3:45 pm and Ann and I walked to the back door where the group of people going on our tour were waiting. The doors opened. We walked inside and sat down. The tour guide played us an introduction video featuring the one and only Blake Shelton.

After the video, our tour began. We stood on the infamous circle where we had our picture taken. As we stood there, I couldn't help but think of all the stars that had stood in that exact spot as they sang on the Grand Ole Opry. After everyone was done with their pictures, our tour guide took us backstage to see the dressing rooms.

When you first enter into the backstage area, there is a Grand Ole Opry post office. She told us that many of the stars pick up their own mail themselves. She then had us look to the right of the post office where the wall of fame was. Each name on that wall is names of stars who have been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Blake Shelton hung his own plaque and if you look closely, you can see that he hung it

We continued down the hallways where our tour guide showed us all the dressing rooms. They are themed dressing rooms. There is the Stars and Stripes room which has an American flag painted on its wall. There is the Women of Country room. There is the It Takes Two room which is dedicated to the honor of country duos. And many many more rooms as well.

After our tour, Ann and I walked across the street to the Opryland mall where we decided to have supper at an Aquarium restaurant. Ann and I looked over the menu and ordered our meal. As we were waiting, we watched the fish of all shapes and sizes swimming in the tank.

Our meal soon arrived. Ann and I ate our meal and then walked back across the street. We waited for the doors to open. Then we found our seats. They were in the balcony; second row or so right in the center. We waited for the show to begin.

Soon several Congregational Medal of Honor honorees were led to their seats. Throughout the night, these men and women were honored for their service to our country. The show began. Jeannie Seely soon walked onto stage. Then a bluegrass band played for us. After 30 minutes, a short break was had and then the next section began. We heard from Pam Tillis, Mark Wills, Mel Tillis, The Gaither Brothers, Raelyn and so many more.

One of my favorite moments was when RaeLyn was on stage. She sang one of her songs. Then she asked the audience to sing "America the Beautiful" with her. She shared about how her brother serves in the military. It gave me goosebumps. After she finished, Larry Gaitlin stopped her and said, "I love your heart young lady. You could have promoted your own career and played one of your songs, but you didn't. You chose to celebrate and honor these military men and women."

The show ended. Ann and I walked outside with the swarm of people. I plugged in my phone as the battery was dying so that I could call for a Lyft driver to come pick us up. We waited on the curb for him to arrive. He finally arrived and drove us back to our hotel.

We got out of the car, thanked him for our ride, and walked into the main lobby of our hotel. We rode the elevator up to our hotel room. Then Ann and I took the time to carefully pack all of our new souvenirs so nothing would get broken on the plane ride home. After everything was carefully packed away, we both crawled into our beds but not before I took one last look at the Fitbit. We had walked 7,416 steps; 3.19 miles; burned 2,304 calories and had been active for 23 minutes.

As we laid our heads down for the night, Ann and I were both sad that our trip was coming to an end. Memories to last a lifetime!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

"In My Wrestling and My Doubts"

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 "Doubt." Write for five minutes; unedited.

There Kate goes us a word prompt that hits me straight in the gut. 

Sometimes I stand in the mirror, looking at my face and body, self-doubt so easily creeping in. 

Sometimes I hear the news of another friend's engagement or pregnancy, and I doubt whether it will ever happen for me. I honestly am excited for them, but there is a piece of me that has a hard time hearing those words. 

Sometimes I doubt if I am where God has called me to be in this time and place.

Doubt has a way of doing that, doesn't it? Doubt has a way of creeping in and trying to tell us lies from the enemy. Yet the truth is that God wants us never to doubt ourselves, but most importantly, God wants us NEVER to doubt God's promises for our lives. God gave each of  us gifts to share in the world and wants us never to take those gifts for granted. 

Faith=trust; trusting in God. Faith is the opposite of doubt. Faith is trusting in the words of God our Father. We are God's beloved sons and daughters! Faith is knowing that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not yet seen."

There are indeed days when I doubt whether or not God hears my prayers.* Actually to be honest, I often wonder if God hears my prayers. I still want to be a mom and a wife, but each and every day that doesn't happen for me, I doubt a little bit more. Before I know it, doubt is finding its way into my heart and mind yet again.

As I doubt, I am thankful for the reminders that God is always there for us as long as we trust in him. In the words of one of my all-time favorite songs by one of my all-time favorite bands Rend Collective Experiment, I am reminded that God will never leave me or forsake me. The first verse even states "In my wrestling and in my doubts, In my failures, You won't walk out; You're great love will lead me through; You are the peace in my troubled seas." Yes, God promises to never walk out and will be the peace in our troubled seas!

*Where my five minutes ended!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Farming, Juggling and our Limitations

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 the last chapter-Chapter 12:Limit.

As I read through this chapter and listened to the video from Ann and Charity, the image that kept popping up into my mind was a juggler. But the thing is I am not a juggler. I cannot juggle everything. In fact, if I tried to juggle everything, I have no doubt that I would drop several balls.

But that, my friends, I think is the key. We need to learn how to juggle one or two balls at a time. Since I work at a church and preach about every 5-6 weeks, writing is a part of my job. Yes, it is a different kind of writing, but it is writing in one of its many forms. I need to learn how to balance both aspects of my writing life. Perhaps that means that on weeks I am preaching, I write less on the blog.

I am an "outgoing introvert!" (Thanks Katie M. Reid for that definition because it characterizes me perfectly!) I love spending time with my friends and family, but I also love my alone time too. I think it is important for me to learn to place some juggling balls down in order to pick up another one...even if just for a short period of time.

Having grown up as a farmer's daughter, I understand limits on time. When the harvest is ready and the fields are dry, the crops must be harvested. If there is rain in the forecast and the field is almost finished, then the farmer works until that field is completed even if that means working late into the night. Yet there is only so much a farmer can control, they have limitations on their call.

And as writers, we too have limitations! Charity is spot on when she states: "Sometimes the writing life itself puts limits on us; sometimes we have to limit the rest of our lives in order to be able to write." Oh how true those words ring for me! Do they ring true for you too?

I need to remember that I can only juggle so much at a time and that that is totally okay.

This book and online discussion using the book "On Being A Writer" by Charity Singleton Craig and Ann Kroeker has been so much fun! It has been a joy to meet other women who are trying to hone their writing skills. I am thankful for each and every person that interacted here and at their blogs as well.

I really can't pick a favorite chapter, because they all were my favorites. But honestly if I did pick one, it would be the chapter on Engage. There is so much joy in finding "my people" and knowing that I am not on this writing journey alone!

And after these six weeks, I am finding it is easier for me to utter the words "I am a Writer!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Visibility of God's Grace

"I think my job is to make the grace of an invisible God, visible, wherever I am"--Paul Tripp

Oh friends, these words are speaking straight to my heart today. More and more hard news. More and more of wondering where God is in this world. More and more of wondering when God's peace will prevail. But what I do know is that God's grace always prevails.

It can be so hard for us to see God's grace in a world that is bombarded by hard news, war, hatred, violence and so much more. Yet the good news is that God's grace has a way of showing up in the most unexpected places and in the most unexpected love. I am reminded of the words to the well-known hymn "Amazing Grace": "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear; The hour I first believed.; Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; 'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home." (Amazing Grace Lyrics)

Yes, it is this grace that will lead us home. Yet I know that it is often so very hard for us to trust in that promise. We want God to give us a GPS to direct us along life's journey. We want our answers to be as instant as an instant message from a friend. But God does give us a GPS, just not the kind of GPS we want and are looking for in our lives. God's GPS is God's grace positioning system! Can you think of all the times and places when God's GPS has shown up in your lives?

"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 (New Revised Standard Version)

It took me a long time to realize that grace is this free unmerited gift that God gives to each and every one of us. Yet grace isn't wrapped in a pretty bow. Grace is an amazing gift that comes with no pretty strings, ribbons or bows attached to it. It is simply set out onto the table for us to receive. But are we willing to receive it?

I have come to accept and receive this unmerited gift with open arms because it has blessed me in more ways than I can ever count or imagine. Grace is what has helped me live as a daughter of a woman who daily struggles with a mental illness. Grace is what helped me graduate seminary when I thought that was an impossible task. Grace is what has continually shown me again and again the power of God's love for all of God's people.

And because I have received this gift and seen the power of grace in my own life, I want to continually show it to others. Because in showing God's grace, we see, not only glimpses but full images of a visible God that often feels invisible in this world. But it is in these moments and gifts of grace that God's invisibility becomes visible to all of God's people.

"Now God has us where God wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust in him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role! If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. God creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing."--Ephesians 2:7-10 (The Message)

An upbeat video for your Tuesday afternoon!
"This is Amazing Grace"-Phil Wickham

(And on that note, I am excited to share with you my Write 31 Days topic. I will be sharing 31 Stories of God's Grace." After reading that quote by Paul Tripp today, God confirmed that this is exactly what God is calling me to share about. My hope and prayer is that these 31 stories of God's grace will make us see a sometimes invisible God as a visible God. Join me throughout the month of October for these dear stories of God's grace!)

I am linking up with these faith-filled women this week: 


Monday, September 21, 2015

What the Rocky Mountains Have Taught Me

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 11: Rest.

Can you believe we only have one chapter left to go?

But onto today's topic for now....REST! Having attended seminary "self-care" is something that was ingrained into every fiber of  my being. Professors continually reminded us of the high percentage of burn out rates for clergy and individuals who work in the church because they don't care for themselves. They don't take time to rest! So, self-care is something that I think I am pretty okay at, but I would say it is also something that I could work on too. (Does that make any sense at all?)

I am pretty good at noticing when others need time to rest, but I am not always so good at recognizing it in my self. However I have been blessed by a continuing education experience the last five summers. Every June, I head to the heart of the Rocky Mountains, just outside of Estes Park Colorado to learn but also to spend time in Sabbath and rest. Every morning, we have class but then we have the remainder of the day to simply play or rest or whatever one feels like doing. Every evening, there is a fun event since it is a very family oriented event. One night they even have a square dance caller come in and teach us how to square dance.

There are lots of things that I love about this event, but truly the reason I have come to LOVE it is because it forces me to put down the phone, the computer, etc and simply take in God's amazing awesome creation. Where we stay, there is no Internet, no computers, no television (unless you count the one in the main lodge---which to be honest, most of us forget about!). I find myself spending my time reading on the porch with the gorgeous backdrop of the Rocky Mountains in front of me. I also find myself listening and taking in the creatures around us. I find myself taking in every sight and sound of God's creation. I simply find myself taking the time to rest!

I'm telling you it doesn't get much better than this! 
Yes, sometimes I will drive into town to go to a coffee shop or the grocery store. But what I have found is a lot of times, I will throw my phone in my purse and completely forget about it. It is so healthy and healing for me to take the time to simply be still and know that God is God! And in the magnificent Rockies of Colorado, I cannot help but know that!

When I return home, I immediately find myself turning on the tv or scanning Facebook or whatever. I need to be better about taking what I experience in the Rockies and bringing it home especially in relationship to my writing. I am going to be better about taking time to simply just be..whether that means going for a walk on a cool crisp Fall day or sitting in my backyard listening to the creatures scurrying about or enjoying my beloved prairies where I always feel at peace and like I am standing on holy ground.

I think, Ann and Charity are right....not only do we need to take time away from our words, we need to take time just resting and remembering that even God rested. In Genesis, we read "And on the seventh day, God finished the work he had done and he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had done (Genesis 2:2)."

It is important for us to take time away and to rest; to live out Sabbath in our lives. I have come to realize that society isn't very good at living out Sabbath in our technology fast-paced world! Let's be examples of living out Sabbath in our lives! And also let's not forget to play a little too! (Children sure have a lot to teach us when it comes to taking the time to play, don't they?!?!)

Because when we take the time to rest, I believe God can use our words even more fully. God can take our time away to help us see where our words need work or if our words are exactly what God wants us to share.

Liebster Award

Good Morning dear readers and friends! This is a fun post to start off our week. My sweet friend Carrie who blogs at Living with Unspeakable Joy nominated me for the Liebster Award. Carrie and I "met" through the Five Minute Friday Snail Mail Party. In fact, we have been on two of the last lists together. According to an Internet search, the Liebster Award is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The word Liebster comes from German origin and has many different meanings: " dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, welcome, sweetheart (and yes even boyfriend. Really?) I don't know about you but I rather like that list of definitions! :)

Now onto my questions...

1. How did you come up with the name of your blog? I have always loved the prairies of North Dakota. Spending time on them is holy time for me. And on the prairies of North Dakota, you cannot help but feel the effects of the wind which always reminds me of the Holy Spirit. I wanted my blog title to say something about who I am as a beloved child of God and where God has called me to be. I also love to pray for others. For the last five years, I have prayed through my Facebook friends list for Lent. So together prayer and my beloved prairies of North Dakota led to creating my blog title: Praying on the Prairie.

2. Have you always been a writer? I actually laughed when I read this question, because I have not always seen or called my self a writer. Yet I have been working my way through Kate Motaung's book discussion and link-up for the book "On Being A Writer." I am learning that I am indeed a writer. And if you ask my momma, she would tell you that, when I was little, I was one of those kids who just needed pen and paper and I was a happy camper. So I guess, yes, I have always loved words and have always been a writer! (Did I really just type that? I must really be growing into my identity as a writer!)

3. What do you hope to accomplish with your blog? I want my blog to be a space where others will be encouraged. I want it to be a space that shows God's love, grace, and mercy to the world. In fact, I want God to use me and my words to bless God's people. I want people to know that there is power in hearing the words "me too." I want my readers and followers to know that they are not alone.

4. What is your favorite holiday and why? Oh boy...this is a hard one to answer. I love lots of holidays. But my favorite holiday would have to be Maundy Thursday. Now I realize not everyone celebrates this holiday, but it holds a special place in my heart. On that night, Jesus stooped down and washed the feet of his disciples. As a woman called to word and service, called to pick up my own basin and towel, this holiday reminds me of my call in the world and reminds me that I am called to reach out to ALL OF GOD'S PEOPLE!

5. Name three words that Jesus would say describes you. Sweet, caring, tender-hearted.

6. Who is the biggest influence in your life? MY MOMMA! My Mom had a nervous breakdown right after my younger sister was born. My mom has never let her illness get in the way of who she is: a beloved child of God. She is one of the most faith-filled woman that I know. She could have easily turned away from God, but instead she just turned closer to him.

7. What are your favorite books? Oh man I have so many so I thought I would share a list:
"Let's All Be Brave" by Annie F. Downs
"Pastrix" by Nadia Bolz-Weber
"Confessions of a Prairie Bitch" by Allison Arngrim (played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie)
"Love Wins" by Rob Bell
Anything by Wendell Berry
"Bossy Pants" by Tina Fey
"Bread and Wine" by Shauna Niequest"
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"1000 Gifts" by Ann Voskamp

8. Where is one place you would like to travel? I have always wanted to travel to Scotland. I thought that would be a really cool place to visit. I haven't traveled outside of the United States except for Canada. I really would love to go just about anywhere. I have international seminary classmates that I could visit. I have always wanted to go to Germany to see all the Lutheran sights.

9. What are you passionate about? I am passionate about quite a lot. But really I am passionate about reaching out to all God's people. I am passionate about sharing my family's journey with a mental illness. I am passionate about showing God's love to all God's people especially the downtrodden and outcasts among us.

10. If you could meet anyone, who would it be? Hmmmm...JESUS! :)

11. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? "Show them your heart!" When I left my last church to take a new call at my current church, a bunch of them told me to simply "show them my heart." In showing them my heart, they knew they would love me for who God created them to be. And they were so very right.

I hope you enjoyed the answers to my questions. Here are my 5 nominees:

Christy at Just a Thought...
Valerie at Tales from a Southern Catholic Momma
Tammy at Sincerity and Hope
Sarah at And So I Give Thanks...
Karrilee at Abiding Love, Abounding Grace

Here are your questions my friends:
1. How did you come up with the name of your blog?
2. Have you always been a writer?
3. What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
4. What is your favorite holiday and why?
5. Name three words that Jesus would say describes you.
6. Who is the biggest influence in your life?
7. What are your favorite books?
8. What is one place you would like to travel?
9. What are you passionate about?
10. If you could meet anyone, who would it be?
11. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Don't forget to check out these blogs. I am so blessed to call these women my friends! :)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Blessings 97


Can you tell that was my high school graduation year as I sing our class chant?

Now onto the Sunday Blessings for this week. (This turned into two week's worth of blessings)

(1) A surprise bday card in the mail from my friend MW.

(2) Two more Bday cards from #Fmfpartysnailmail friends. Thanks CM (the little treat card was an added bonus) and SS.

(3) The sweetest comment on my FB wall. Thanks DM.

(4) Lunch from ladies who were using the church kitchen.

(5) Voxing with KA

(6) Rise Up Tour with Rachel, Agape and Joe Davis.

(7) Trustfalling into Joe, Rachel and Agape's arms.

(8) Laughter---so good for my soul

(9) Talking to my momma on the phone

(10) Wings and Rings with some of the MSU LCM Crew.

(11) An awesome Rally Sunday morning: prayer balloon launch, Blessing of the Backpacks, a baptism, great worship services and a fun photo booth.

(12) Road trip to Medora for Rostered Leaders Gathering.

(13) My colleagues in the Western ND synod. I love you all and am so very thankful for each and every one of you!

(14) An awesome Holy Spirit moment. Watching colleagues pray over Jessica Tomlinson of LSS.

(15) Open mic night at rostered leaders gathering and reading some of my poetry.

(16) Time for relaxation and renewal.

(17) My beloved ND Badlands

(18) Seeing Jeff and Jennae

(19) Pretty great first night of Confirmation

(20) A nice rain

(21) My first Pumpkin Spice latte this Fall.

(22) Fun #fmfpartysnailmail in my mailbox.

(23) Getting some great deals today! Hello new IPad mini!

(24)Visiting with church members at Starbucks. So fun to listen and have then share pieces of their story with me.

(25) Sitting in a pew this morning, feeling a hand on my back and realizing that one of my fave boys was running my back.

(26) A great Youth Gathering presentation this morning.

(27) Making my first I-movie. So slick and so much fun!

(28) The Emmys

What are your blessings this week friends?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Country Music and Fried Pickles

We woke up to a very wet day. Ann and I got ready for our day and walked to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum which was directly behind our hotel. However due to some road construction, we had to take the roundabout way to arrive there. Ann and I arrived at the Museum at 8:45 am. The doors didn't open until 9 am. Ann and I waited under a small awning by the doors with a dad and his teenager daughter.

Soon it was 9 am and the doors were opened. Ann and I along with the Dad and daughter immediately got in line. We received our sound devices that we could play as we worked our way through the museum. The device was our tour guide. We showed our ticket to the worker, got inside the elevator, and the worker pushed the button for the second floor.

We stepped off of the elevator and into the beginning of the museum. As we stepped off, directly in front of us was the Taylor Swift Education room. From there we moved along to Trisha Yearwood Parkway where there was the wedding dress and the reception dress she wore when she married Garth Brooks. We continued to work our way through the museum. There was so much to see: Elvis beloved car, his gold piano, the set from Hee Haw, Buck Owen's red, white, and blue guitar, and so much more.

Ann and I wound our way around the third floor of the museum. Then we took the staircase down to the second floor where we again saw so much more. We spotted the special Luke Bryan exhibit which Ann had been waiting all week to see. We learned that his real name is "Thomas Luther Bryan." We quickly finished looking through the museum before we had to go downstairs and wait for our bus to RCA Studio B.

We rode the elevator down to the front lobby and then waited for the bus to come. Soon a teal bus with the words Historic Studio B on it along with a picture of Dolly Parton pulled up. We got on the bus, found a seat and sat down. On the way to the studio, our tour guide gave us a brief history of the studio.

Soon we arrived at the studio. The tour guide allowed us a little bit of time to take our pictures in front of the studio. We all gathered in the first room of the studio. We picked out a few musicians who recorded at Studio B: Charlie Pride and a few others. Then she told us about them. We also listened to some music from Elvis and other Studio B musicians.

We walked through the hallway and turned into a room on our right. It was the originally recording studio. Once inside, we all took in the sights and sounds of this room. Dolly Parton's original recording of "Jolene" filled the room. Goosebumps appeared on my skin as I continued to take in these historic sights and sounds. The tour guide pointed out to us that all of the items except the drum set were original to the building. After awhile, we all sat down and our tour guide continued to tell us about this historic space.

After awhile, we all climbed back onto the bus. Looking out our window, fresh rain drops on it, we took one final photo of this historic place. We went back to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Ann and I went back to the second floor and finished out the tour. On this floor, there was many interactive stations. We sang karaoke. Then we created our own cd covers. Along the way there was a giant guitar. Ann and I each took turns sticking our faces in the sound hole and snapping a quick photo.

We finished at the museum and walked into the Hall of Fame which is in a round. The words "The circle will never be unbroken" hung on the wall in the Hall of Fame. We stood and took in the names of all the musicians that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Once we finished at the Hall of Fame, Ann and decided to check out their gift shop. After awhile, we didn't find anything, so we walked back to our hotel where we decided to chill out for a little while.

Towards dinner time, Ann and I walked to the Wildhorse Saloon. We walked inside and were greeted by a statue of a wild horse. We checked in and then soon were seated at a table. We looked over the menu. Ann and I decided to split a meal. It was the yummiest sausage I have had in a long time. While eating our meal, they invited individuals up to learn line dancing. Ann and I both decided to give it a try. After a short period of time, I looked over and Ann was standing on the sidelines videoing me. I tried my very best to keep up with everyone, but it seemed like I was always a step or two off.

After the lessons, I returned to our table. We finished our meal. Then we decided to try the fried pickles. They soon arrived. Ann and I each took a pickle and dipped it in the dipping sauce. We continued to munch on them as we listened to the band Brother Trouble. They were good, but there was many of them so we didn't finish our plate.

After receiving our souvenir glasses, Ann and I walked back to our hotel. While on our way back, we saw that there was a musicians showcase at the Johnny Cash Museum. Ann and I went inside but not before making a gentlemen move that was parked right in front of the door. It was a small space so we each found a nook and listened to the musicians for awhile. One of the musicians was a young woman named Alissa Moreno. Alissa wrote Rascal Flatts' song Every Day. Alissa shared a new song that will soon be recorded by Javier from the first season of the Voice.

We listened to a few songs and then continued on our way. Once we got back to the hotel, we rode the elevator back up to our floor. We walked down the hallway to our room. We slid the key in the door. Once inside our room, Ann said she would go swimming if there wasn't anyone else down at the pool. I quickly rode the elevator down to the 5th floor. I opened the door to the swimming pool room and saw that no one was there. I rode back up to our floor and walked down to our room. Once inside, I told Ann that there was no one down there. We began putting on our bathing suits. I spotted a family enter into the swimming pool area from our room. Ann said she would still go if it was just a family.

We wrapped ourselves in our towels and went down to the pool area. The dad was swimming with his children; two boys and a girl. Ann and I slowly got into the pool. We swam around for awhile. Shortly after we arrived, the Dad said it was time for them to go. He looked at us and said, "We are going to go now. Then you can have some peace." Ann and I just smiled. They really hadn't been that loud.

Ann and I swam laps back and forth from one end of the pool to the next. Every once in awhile, we would stand at the end and chat. We did this for about an hour. Then decided it was time to go back to our rooms and go to bed.

We went back to our room and got ready for bed. We pulled back the covers and crawled into our beds. Before plugging in my phone and laying it on the bedside table between our beds, I quickly looked at my FitBit for the day. We had walked 10,389 steps; 4.47 miles; burned 2,552 calories and had been active for 53 minutes.

A Garden Not A Tumbleweed

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 10: Plan.

Growing up on the prairies of North Dakota, during seasons of drought, I have seen my fair share of tumbleweeds blowing about. I know how easily they can show up in the most unwanted places. As I read Ann's words about how she viewed her writing as a tumbleweed, I found myself shaking my head along in agreement.

I haven't much had a plan when it comes to this space. I've written when I felt the nudge to write. Yet I want more than that. I want a better plan. I want my writing to reach those that God wants me to reach. I'm reminded of the words to Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper and not harm you; to give you a future with hope."

Last October when I participated in my first 31 days challenge, it did change my plan some. I have been more of a planner since than. Even when I haven't necessarily felt like writing, that is when I have felt the need to write more. In other words, I am nurturing and nourishing my words in this place. Im reminded of Ann's words when she writes: "My writing life these days is more like the habit of keeping a garden. I sow seeds, watch for growth and fruit, nurture what’s flourishing until it seems the harvest is fading, and a sow a new batch of seeds when the time is right."

I love that image! I want that hear in this space too. When I was younger, I dreamed of writing my own children's book. As I've gotten older, I've wondered about sharing our story of mental illness in a book. It is something I have been praying and thinking about even more lately. I want to continue to share my words; to sow seeds, watch for growth and sow new seeds when the timing is right.

I want my writing to be a garden of fruitfulness rather than a single tumbleweed blowing about like on the prairies of North Dakota.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Choosing to Celebrate Life

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 "Celebrate." Write for five minutes; unedited.

I have to be honest here friends, I haven't much felt like celebrating. In fact, if you read my post from the other day (When Life is Wearing On You), you know that life has been wearing on me just a little. But God has this way of knowing what we need and bringing people into our lives to help us know we are not on this journey alone. And for that I am so very thankful and want to celebrate that.

I choose to celebrate all of YOU who are gathered here tonight, who choose to come hear and read my words. You each are such incredible gifts in my life! I LOVE YOU ALL!

I choose to celebrate that my friend is another year older today. I am so blessed to call her one of my dearest friends. Happy Birthday CT!

I choose to celebrate life is so delicate. I think of my new blog friend Andrew who is suffering and more than likely, living his last days.

I choose to celebrate the peace that only God can bring about in a world that is constantly bombarded with fear and war.

I choose to celebrate our similarities rather than our differences.

I choose to celebrate the new life being born into the world each and every day. May they all know the power of your love!

I choose to celebrate the relationships in my life; the relationships that continually nurture me as they each show me the power of your love.

I choose to celebrate that I am a beloved daughter of the one true king and I pray that my friends know this truth too especially on the days when they don't feel like they are that beloved daughter or son of the one true king.

I choose to celebrate the ordinary and extraordinary moments.
I choose to celebrate the small things and the big things.

And today, during a week, when I haven't necessarily felt like celebrating, I am taking the time and choosing to simply celebrate!

This is totally the song that popped into my head 
when I heard the word prompt. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My People

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 9: Engage.

"It's not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer."--EB White

Karrilee, Tammy, Dana, Valerie, Ingrid, Melissa, Susan, and so many more. These are all the names of women that I didn't even know a year ago. At that time, I only knew them by their blog names. I met them through their blogs as we participated in the Write 31 Days community. I've said it before and I will say it again, I never could have imagined where that journey would lead me. Each and every one of these people have engaged with my blog. They have left comments. We have Voxed each other. We have watched each other's Periscopes. We have cried with each other, prayed for each other and so much more!

I cannot even begin to put into words what engaging with other bloggers and writers has done for my soul (but I will try!) Many of you know my story of having a negative experience at a writing group at the local library in my previous town several years ago. It was an experience that hurt my heart and caused me to hold back and be leary of other writers etc. Yet these women and men who I have met this past year have given living water to this parched soul! And for that, my friends, I simply say thank you!

There is so much joy in find my people; finding those who utter the two simple words "Me, too!" Our stories aren't meant to be held close to our chest, but to be shared with each other. And so, I have learned to share my story by engaging with so many linkups (Many of the ones Kate shared in her blog post on Monday: Holly Barrett, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Holley Gerth, etc).

I invite you to engage with these communities too. I love when the link-up host replies to one of my comments. For me, it shows validation for my words. But more than that, it shows me that someone has read my words, identified with them and engaged with them. It reminds me again and again that I am not on this journey alone.

This summer, I had the opportunity to meet three of my blog friends in real life. I cannot even begin to describe to you what that was like. It was like seeing an old friend again, sitting down with coffee and catching up on life. I am already counting down the years, weeks, hours, minutes and seconds until I meet my next blog friends in real life. I also am excited for my first blogging conference whenever that might be! (It is super expensive to fly just about anywhere from North Dakota!) BUT attending a blogging conference is on my personal bucket list!

Thank you for being here dear friends...and thank you for engaging with me and my words! I so appreciate each and every one of you! You are each a  gift!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

When Life Is Wearing On You....

Sunday afternoon until this afternoon, I was at a retreat for rostered leaders in the church. This time is such a holy time for gather with colleagues, listening to awesome speakers, and to have some time for rest and renewal. And little did I realize how this year, this was needed so very much.

As some of you know, this summer has been a crummy summer in terms of Mom's health. So many questions and so much confusion. I have been pretty open about sharing to friends, but holding it close to my chest for others.

Yet on Monday morning, during our breakout time, one of my friend's came up to me and asked if everything was ok. I replied that yes they were ok. Being such a great friend, she continued to ask that question and said "Let's go for a walk." We walked out into the beautiful North Dakota sun with my beloved North Dakota Badlands as our backdrop, sat down and continued our conversation.

After a few minutes of chatting, my friend looked at me and simply said, "You just don't seem yourself. It seems to me that everything that is going on in your life is wearing on you." As I sat there and listened, I realized that she was right. I looked at her and finally admitted "You know, you are probably right. I think it is wearing on me."

Oh how often are we all guilty of taking care of everyone else, but not always taking care of ourselves. I'll admit that I am pretty good at self-care, but there are times when self-care isn't always my first priority. My friend totally called me out and said, "What are you doing to care for yourself?" I thought about it for a minute and said, "Time with friends, blogging, etc." As I have reflected on our conversation, I have been thinking of more ways that I can take care of myself.

Because sometimes life has this way of wearing on us....wearing us much like a beloved shirt that needs to be discarded etc. Sometimes life has this way of wearing on us....and tearing us down. Sometimes life has this way of wearing on us....especially as I continue to ask God why.  And yet as I am reminded of how life can wear on us, I am also reminded of how God knows...God knows when life is wearing on us. God knows when to bring people like my friend Erin into our lives at the right times and places. God knows and continues to walk with us!

God especially doesn't want life to wear on us. So God places people into our lives to walk that journey with us. After we spoke, I found myself sharing with several other friends/colleagues. To be honest, there is a part of me that holds pieces of our story close to my heart because I feel like I am always vomiting out words about our story. Yet what God reminded me the last several days is that God places people into our lives to be there for us, to listen to us, to be the shoulder to cry on or the ear to listen, and to hold a piece of each other's worn stories (not to take it away from us, but to bear the burden with us) so life doesn't wear on each of us so heavily!

I am linking up with my favorites this week:


Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Wednesday at Opryland (Nashville: Day 3)

After a great first couple of days, Ann and I decided to sleep in. Once we woke up, we got dressed and ready for the day. While we were getting ready, Ann and I decided to try a car service rather than a taxi since the taxi from the airport was so expensive. (The night before we had asked the person at the front desk the best way to get from the hotel to Opryland. She suggested Lyft or Uber and gave us a discount card for Lyft rides.

I pulled up the Lyft app on my phone and called for a driver. Soon I received a text saying that he was outside waiting for us. (I decided that I actually prefer Lyft over Uber as Lyft shows you a picture of the car and a picture of the person, so you know who to look for!) Ann and I took the elevator and walked to the front of the hotel where our driver was waiting for us. We got into the car, put on our seat belts, and headed off to Opryland.

Before we knew it, our driver was dropping us off directly in front of the Grand Ole Opry. Ann and I got out of the car and walked towards the front doors of the Opry. As we were walking there, we saw two giant guitars; an electric guitar on one side and a regular guitar on the other side with the words "Grand Ole Opry" written on the neck of the guitars. Ann and I were getting ready to take a few photos when another tourist asked if he could take the pictures for us. We agreed. He took our pictures and then we took pictures of him and his wife for him.

After snapping our photos, Ann and I checked in at the lobby to find out where the General Jackson would be boarding in a few hours. Once they told us, Ann and I decided to check out the gift shop. The first display that caught my eye was a display of t-shirts, cds, etc for the new television show Nashville. I found a cool t-shirt with the words Deacon Claybourne written on them. I found my size and decided to try it on. Ann and I were overwhelmed with all the choices.

After awhile, we went to try on our clothes. The dressing room was actually a storage closet, so there were ladders, boxes etc taking up space which left not much room for us to try on our clothes. As we discarded items, we found ourselves laying them over empty boxes, ladder rungs, etc. Ann and I found the items we wanted and headed to the register. Ann bought my t-shirt for me as an early birthday gift. (Thanks sis!)

Once we made our purchase, we crossed the street into the mall. We walked through the mall until we arrived at the food court. The receptionist had told us that the General Jackson docks directly across from the food court. We walked out into the hot August air and crossed the road. All we found was the old dock for a prior boat. We looked to our right and saw a tour bus unloading. We looked at each other and said that must be where the General Jackson boards so we turned right and headed there.

We stood in line. Once we were escorted in, they asked us to go stand in front of the boat and then they snap your photo. After our photo was taken, we sat down and waited for the boat to board. After awhile, they began boarding the boat. Ann and I found our table; table 26 and sat down. A Dad and his two twin daughters from Wisconsin soon joined us at our table.

We went through the buffet line where there was a plethora of choices set before us; yummy Southern food. We enjoyed our meal and visited with the family sitting at our table. After awhile, a gentlemen came by to show us our photo and ask if we wanted to purchase it. Ann and I decided to get our photo.

Soon Nashville Live began. Nashville Live is a show where they sing country songs from all different generations. If you have ever been to North Dakota and the Medora Musical, it kind of reminded me of the musical. We indulged in the decadent cheesecake as we continued to watch the show.

After about an hour and a half, the show finished and we were all invited to go stand and/or sit outside on the deck of the boat. Ann and I stood and enjoyed the view of Downtown Nashville from the boat. Soon the boat turned around and our hotel was staring right back at us. We both scrambled to see if we could get a quick photo of our hotel from the boat. Then we climbed the staircase to the gift shop where we purchased a few more souvenirs. Then we went back downstairs, sat on the deck and enjoyed the cool breeze as we headed back for Opryland. Before we knew it, we were docking the boat.

We walked back to the Grand Ole Opry to see if they had any backstage tours available for the afternoon. They only had a 4 pm showing and my new friend Jen was coming to pick us up so we decided to wait until Friday when we would be coming back to attend the Grand Ole Opry.

Ann and I waited patiently for a car with Iowa plates to come pick us up. We were standing on the sidewalk when I noticed a car turn into the mall parking lot. Then my phone buzzed. It was a text from Jen asking where we were. I told her we were standing on the sidewalk and I had a colorful maxi dress on. Before I knew it, my eyes spotted the Iowa plates. She pulled up into the turnabout and we got into the car.

Jen had me navigate back to our hotel. After about 15-20 minutes, we arrived at the hotel. We parked in the parking garage and then went up to our room. After awhile, we decided to go pick up batteries for our cameras and then we would go explore downtown Nashville for a little bit.

I entered the directions to the CVS Pharmacy in my phone and tried to navigate us to the store. However we got lost along the way. We had Siri recalculate the directions and then headed back towards where we had come from. I spotted the CVS out of the corner of my eye. It was hidden and not easy to wonder we drove by it the first time. Jen waited in her car while Ann and I ran into the store to purchase the batteries.

We drove back, parked Jen's car, and ventured downtown Nashville into yet another tourist shop. We all looked around for awhile. Ann and I decided on a few more souvenirs. With Ann's hands full of souvenirs, she accidentally dropped an item and it broke. Luckily the store manager was very kind and told us that we only had to buy an item at that same price which we had planned on doing anyways.

Soon Jen, Ann, and I were on our way back to Jen's car. Along the way, we stopped and snapped a few photos of downtown Nashville. Before we knew it, we were back at Jen's car. We spent some time deciding where we would eat. After a while and from a recommendation from the couple who sat with us at 3rd and Lindsley on Monday night, we decided to try out Monells.

I again navigated our way to the restaurant. We parked the car. The restaurant stands in this beautiful red brick house. We walked inside and checked in at the restaurant. We waited. Then a waitress came and seated us at a huge oak dining room table. I sat down, Ann sat down to the right of me, and then Jen sat down to the right of her. Soon another party was being seated at our table as well. I thought it was funny that their slogan is "Enter as strangers, leave as friends."

The cook came and served us all family style. We passed the numerous bowls of food around the table. There was sooo much food; pork chops, baked chicken, fried chicken, cucumber salad, green beans, cornbread, melt in your mouth biscuits and gravy and so much more. For dessert, we had yummy banana pudding. All of the food was home cooked and oh so delicious. We were stuffed by the time we left the restaurant. We couldn't eat another bite!

We paid for our meal and headed outside. Outside it was raining. We briskly walked back to Jen's car; trying to stay as dry as possible. Jen drove Ann and I back to the hotel and then dropped us off but not before, I told her we had to snap a quick selfie together.

After the selfie was snapped and once we were inside the hotel, Ann and I noticed there was a band playing at our hotel. We went to our room and dropped off our items. Then we came back downstairs and listened to this young band for awhile before heading back upstairs to lay our heads down for the night.

It had been a great day. We had walked 8,237 steps; 3.55 miles; burned 2,276 calories and walked 19 active minutes. Little did we know that while we were riding on the General Jackson, there had been a shooting at a theater in Nashville. Many friends and family messaged us to make sure we were okay which we were.

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11, 2001

The aroma of baked potatoes and cabbage cooking in my crock pots are filling up my house. The sounds of the television are on in the background. It is a beautiful Fall like day here in North Dakota..about 70 degrees. And as I sit here taking in this gorgeous Fall like day, wrapped up in my favorite quilt, I can't help but think back to this day; fourteen years ago. The day that cowards flew planes into the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. It is a day that forever changed history! And since that day, our lives have never been the same!

It was a Tuesday morning. I had just graduated college that previous May and was living at home as I tried to determine where God was calling me next. I was full of so much hope. Yet little did I know that the events of this day would be a megaphone for where God was leading me next. I was curled up on the couch watching episodes of Little House on the Prairie when our Dad walked into the house. He asked if I had on the news and I said no. He told me to turn on the news, so I grabbed the remote and changed the channel. The images on the screen were gutwretchingly painful. I could feel the pit in my stomach and saw the looks of disbelief on my Dad's face. I desperately wanted to turn the channel back to Laura Ingalls, but I couldn't. Neither of us could. We were paralyzed by the events unfolding in front of us.

And while those events were unfolding on our televisions, new lives were being born into this world; into a world that had been changed in just a few moments. I think of my friend Emily who was in labor with her daughter Liz on this day. As Liz celebrates her 14th birthday, her mom can't help but remember what was going on outside her hospital room and the hospital walls that day. I have a feeling Emily and a lot of moms held their children closer and didn't want to let them go.

For the weeks after, it seemed the world was a better place. We were kinder to each other. We were more respectful of each other. We held our loved ones even closer. We even clung tighter to our faith. Yet today, it sometimes feels like we have forgotten the days following 9-11. We aren't always so nice to each other. We take life for granted. And my friends, I don't want that for us. I want us to remember...remember those lives that were lost that day...remember the light found in Jesus Christ who is our one constant.

Not a month after 9-11, I found myself touring Wartburg Seminary with my friend Pauline. From the moment, I stepped on that campus I felt God calling me into ministry. I wasn't sure what that ministry would look like, but I heard God loud and clearly that day. God was calling me to be a woman who would pick up basin and towel and wash the feet of all God's people. God was calling me to show Jesus' example of servanthood to the world.

Not only did my life change, but all of our lives changed on that horrific September day. In the words of my friend Katie M. Reid on her Periscope today, we write to remember! Indeed we do...we write to remember! And so tonight, I write to remember all of those who lost loved ones at the World Trade Centers, or at the Pentagon or on Flight 93. #Wewillneverforget!!

(This link will take you to a poem I wrote four years ago for the 10th anniversary of 9-11. I hope you enjoy it. It is one of my favorite pieces I have ever written! Ten Years Later by Tara L. Ulrich)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Same Power (A Five Minute Friday Post)

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

The world is not the same. It has changed since Jesus roamed this Earth. Yes, Jesus will come back again. But the world is not the same now.

There is so much hatred.
There is so much love.

There is so much peace.
There is so much chaos.

There is so much joy.
There is so much sadness.

There is so much injustice.
There is so much service.

This is a world that has been changed; changed by the events of this world. School shootings, refugees drowning, reality television contreversies and so much more. These are all events that have and continue to leave their marks on our world; a world that has changed and is not the same. But as the words to Hebrew 13; verse 9 reminds us "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever."

Jesus had the power to overcome the grave.
Jesus had the power to call Peter to walk out on the water (and like Peter we must have faith to trust in God)
Jesus had the power to call unlikely fellows like Noah and Moses.

I am reminded of the words to Jeremy Camp's song Same Power. The lyrics are as follows: The same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that commands the dead to wake, lives in us, lives in us. The same power that moves mountains when He speaks, the same power that can calm a ragin' sea, lives in us, lives in us. He lives in us, lives in us!"

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Staring Back at Me

Little did I know that when I began this blog, that this space would become exactly my mirror staring back at me. In this space, I have written about being a daughter of someone who daily struggles with a mental illness. I have written about the joy I find in playing and spending time with children. I have written about my deepest desires asking "How long, Lord? Oh how long Lord?" I have written about friendships that only God can orchestrate. I have written about who and whose I am!

Last October, when I joined the Write 31 Days challenge, I never would have imagined how healing my series would be for me, but it healed wounds that I didn't even know where still there. It opened up my world to others who have blessed my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined. And to be honest, writing our story down was and continues to be one of the bravest things that I have ever done. Because even yet today, our journey of mental illness ebbs and flows. There are days I am proud of who I am, proud of where I have come from, but then there are days, that I wonder why us, why our family.

A year ago, during the Write 31 Days challenge, I penned the words below (in italics) after completing the Write 31 Days challenge. Even looking back at them now, I realize how vulnerable I was. In the words of Ann in this chapter, I never realized how desperately I wanted and needed to share our story. Ann writes: "I desperately wanted to understand myself, unearth who I was meant to become. And deep down, I wanted to write." Yep, I wanted and needed to write! Yes, there have been times when I was afraid to hit the publish button and there are other pieces of our story that I have held close to my chest. But unearthing our story led me to realize how brave and strong my Mom is, but also how brave and strong I am as her daughter.

An excerpt from Praying on the Prairie originally posted on October 31, 2015:

"You do not need to know precisely what is happening or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope"--Thomas Merton

"Saying yes to the situations that stretch you and scare you and ask you to be a better you than you think you can be"--Annie Downs; Lets All Be Brave; P. 107

I am reminded of a word "eucharisto." It is a word that my colleague shared with me a year ago in his sermon on the day I shared with the congregation that I was leaving and had accepted a new call. In that sermon, my colleague talked about listing our blessings and thanking God for all the things God gives us. He later told us that the word in the text for 'thanksgiving' is translated 'Eucharisto.' As I sat there and listened to his sermon, I found myself reflecting on that word. And today I find myself clinging to that word again.

As I sit here this morning and reflect on the last 31 days, I find myself once again clinging to that word 'eucharisto.' This write31 days community has blessed me in more ways than I can count or even imagine! Today I am so very thankful for each and every one of you; for you who shared your stories with me, for you who told me how my story blessed you, and for each of who ventured to participate in this challenge. So today I am uttering these words back to you my dear friends, 'Eucharisto!'

And as I give thanks for each of you, I am also very thankful for my momma. She has been through so much. Yet she is one of the most beautiful faith-filled women that I know. Our story of mental illness will always be a part of who my mom is and who my family is. I hope that through these 31 days, I have been able to let so many know they are not alone. I also hope that I have been able to share our story, and shatter, at least, some of the stigma associated with mental illness. Thank you for reading my story and walking with us through these 31 days because I am a daughter; a daughter of someone who daily lives and struggles with a mental illness. And the truth is I will always be that daughter.

I am and always will be that daughter. This summer was a great summer, but it also was crummy too. While I was in Colorado, Mom ended up in the hospital. The doctor diagnosed her with a urinary tract infection. She was released from the hospital and seemed to be doing well. Only a few days after I returned from Colorado, I got a call saying she had gone to the doctor again. They said it was still the UTI and after time, she would be fine again. Then on our way back from the National Youth Gathering, I got a call from the nursing home yet again. Mom was adamantly asking to move (which made no sense because she loves it there) This was a side of Mom that we had not seen. No answers...and only more and more confusion. While my sister and I were on our sister's trip, we got a call asking to move her. We were adamant about her not moving, yet there seemed to be no solution. With much hesitation, we gave permission to move her to a new facility. She seems happy there, but still is not the Mom we have known and loved. I only have more and more questions and no answers. My prayer is that soon Mom will return to her old self and will be able to move back closer to me. (Instead of 45 minutes from me, she is now like 4 hours away).

Like our story continues to ebb and flow, I am realizing how healing it is for me to share our story. I sit her with my cup of tea, talking to you like an old friend. And I take comfort in knowing that this old friend knows me and our story. (I also have dear friends that I can do this with in real life too!) And as you listen, I find myself leaning in to tell you more of my story.

In telling my story, I find that it is also important to play. I love holding infants. There is something so holy about holding that little life in my hands. On Monday, I made a pit stop to see a dear friend and her new baby. It was just exactly what the doctor ordered. This weekend, I was able to spend time with my family. I helped my aunt put up veggies from my Grandma's garden. I sat and broke bread with my dad and sister at the cafe downtown. My sister and I laughed and smiled as we learned how to use our new selfie sticks.

But, the most joy was playing with our brand new farm puppy Kotee. Kotee loved all the attention my sister and I gave him. He was a little wound up by the time our aunt and uncle headed back to the farm. (Sorry P and T!) The best was seeing how much grandma enjoyed Kotee. Recovering from surgery, Kotee brought joy and peace to Grandma. He was the best medicine for her! And seeing that reminded me, reminded all of us of the importance of remembering to play.

As we remember to play, I am reminded of how life too ebbs and flows. It has its ups and its downs. It has its moments of ordinariness and extra-ordinariness.

"Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful.'--LR Knost