Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent Waiting

Have you ever noticed how much of life is about waiting? We wait in the drive thru line at the fast food store. We wait in the waiting room at the doctor and/or dentist's office.We wait for those we love. We wait for packages and fun snail mail to arrive in the mail. We wait at the airport. The truth is that we actually wait a lot in our lives. Yet, I don't know about you, but for me, I have a hard time waiting. I can get pretty impatient.

And when it comes to God answering my prayers and/or the desires of my heart, it seems like my patience meter runs even shorter. I want it to be answered right now! Yet God doesn't answer our prayers or the desires of our heart like that, does God? God has a plan in store for each and every one of us. I am reminded of a Tweet from my blog friend Kaitlyn "God has a very, very good plan. We may not understand it, but that doesn't make it any less good." Oh how I need to cling to those words in the waiting!

Sometimes it seems like those plans are coming into place for every one but me. Just a few weeks ago, a camp friend got engaged. I am so excited for her. Her fiance is a single dad so she gains an instant family. Then on Thanksgiving, a good friend was proposed too. My heart and head have a hard time holding my emotions during these joyous occasions because part of me is so excited for them while another part of me feels deflated.

Yet Advent is all about waiting, isn't it? My friend Susan gifted me an early release copy of Mandy Hale's book "A Beautiful Uncertainty." She knew her words were exactly what my soul needed. My favorite chapter is a chapter titled "Advent, Single, and Waiting" Funny thing is that I read that chapter just as Advent was nearing. Because Advent is indeed all about waiting.

As the weeks lead up to Christmas and Jesus' birth, we find ourselves dwelling in the Word and the peace and holiness of this season. In John chapter one, we read "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it."--John 1:1-5

We wait for this Word, born of flesh, Emmanuel! Like Mary, we ponder and treasure all these things in our hearts. Like the shepherds, we wait and find the baby Jesus lying in the manger. Like the wise men, we wait and bring the Messiah gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We wait for this one who is sent into the world to bring hope and peace and joy and will later die on a cross for our sins. We wait because we trust in a God who fulfills God's promises!

Yes, a God who fulfills God's promises. Those are important words for us all to cling to and remember especially during this Advent season. Much like we await the birth of Jesus, I find myself waiting and clinging to God's promises to me. I may not know the day nor the hour but God has a plan for me and each and every one of us. In fact, it may not be the plan I have pictured for myself but it is the plan God has designed specifically for me. And that plan is oh so good!

May we all wait and hold onto the hope of our faithful God who is always ever faithful especially as we wait and watch for this precious baby boy born in a stable in Bethlehem oh so many years ago..this holy child who comes to remind us of God's love and faithfulness for all God's people.

I am linking up with these beautiful faith-filled women: Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, and Holley and Coffee for your Heart.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Blessings 103

(1) Voxing with TM

(2) Treats delivered to my office from one of the ladies at church.

(3) Voxing with KA

(4) Voxing with MH and MG

(5) Coffee with my dear dear friend CT

(6) Peppermint Bark Latte at Broadway Bean and Bagel

(7) Coloring with Mr. E

(8) Banana Cream Pie

(9) Voxing with Marie

(10) Getting a ride home from VR.

(11) Proud of two of our youth gathering sharing about why they are thankful after Detroit for our Thanksgiving Eve worship.

(12) A nice drive home for Thanksgiving

(13) Thanksgiving at the farm; time with family, yummy food, etc.

(14) A chill day at home; watching the Huskers (Sadly they lose to Iowa but they'll beat them next year!)

(15) Fitness Feast. Thanks Lindy!

(16) Knoephla Soup

(17) Playing Rook with Dad, Ann, Uncle T, Aunt P, Aunt N and Gma. So much laughter!! And some people really get competitive!

(18) Playing with Dakota; the puppy.

(19) My Thanksgiving Road Trip CD selection--Rend Collective: As Family We Go; Matt Mahrer: Saints and Sinners; Martina McBride: Everlasting; The Time Jumpers; Birds of Chicago: Live from Space; Rend Collective: The Art of Celebration; and Rachel Kurtz: We Are.

(20) Decking out my house for Advent/Christmas

(21) Papa Johns Pizza

(22) My first Christmas card in the mail. Thanks STM and family!

(23) Enjoying my lights while watching tv.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Room at the Table

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 "Table" Write for five minutes; unedited.

Wednesday morning, I sat in big comfy chairs with my dear friend Chris as we caught up on life and enjoyed a hot beverage; coffee for her; a peppermint bark latte for me at our fave coffee shop. I love these moments as we gather around a table together. The table may not always be visible but it's always there.

Last night, after worship, we gathered downstairs around tables and indulged in some pie. It was so fun to sit and visit and give thanks for this community of faith. I love that every week we gather around the holy table.

Today, many of us gathered with friends and family around tables filled with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and tons of dessert. Now some of my family is sitting watching football while others are sitting around the table chatting about life etc.

The table is one of my fave places to gather. It is lonely to gather there by myself, but the more people who gather around my table the better. I love what Shauna Niequest says in her book "Bread and Wine." The book is all about table fellowship and community!

At seminary, we would gather around the table and keep pulling up chairs so more and more people could sit at one table together. It's one of my fave memories from seminary. There was always always more room at the table.

I picture all of you; knocking on my door, and continually adding more chairs to my table. There is always enough room. There is always room at the table! And I would be delighted to pull up a chair for each and every one of you!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A-Zs of Thanksgiving (Part Two: N-Z)

"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers."--Ephesians 1:16

(N) North Dakota! One of my most favorite places in the world. It really does have the sky as far as you can see. Time on the prairies of ND are holy time for me.

(O) Owl; Mr. Owl in fact! A stuffed owl that sits on the dashboard of my car. It was given to me by my friend Melissa and her daughters when I moved two years ago. I love to read and the owl is reading a book so the girls thought it was the perfect gift for me. I love that it keeps me company on my trips and reminds me of all of these wonderful ladies.

(P) Praying on the Prairie; a place for me to spill out words; to share my story and so much more!

(Q) Quiches (Yummy Quiches). Always makes me think of brunch with awesome peeps!

(R) Radio especially my Pandora radio stations. These stations are what I turn on and listen to as I get ready in the mornings.

(S) Sweaters to keep warm on a blustery cold ND winter day!

(T) of my fave places to shop.

(U) University of Mary; the place where I attended college and received my communications degree with an emphasis in Journalism.

(V) Vacation. This year I am so thankful for our sister's trip to Nashville TN and also getting to meet some blog friends InRL. It is a trip we will not forget and I cannot wait until our next sister's trip. Wonder where that might be...NYC?

(W) Wartburg Theological Seminary. Where I heard the call to Diaconal Ministry. The place where I met amazing awesome peeps like my friend Laura and so many others.

(X) Xlophones and other musical instruments. I am not musically inclined at all BUT I do love listening to great music!

(Y) YOU! YES ALL OF YOU who come and visit me here! I am so very thankful for each and every one of you!

(Z) Zany friends and family who make me smile and laugh!

Unmasked Series

Unmasked: The Journey from Surviving to Thriving is a book that was recently released by my blog friend Bethany Boring. Bethany and I initially met on each other's blogs and then we began catching each other's Periscopes. Today I am sharing one of my Unmasked stories over at Bethany's place.

"Those words open many fairy tales, but our lives are not all fairy tales, are they? They don’t all end with “happily ever after.” Read the rest of the story Here!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Finding Our Simply Tuesdays

The weekend rolls around and then the calendar page turns to Monday where we find ourselves heading back to work, school, etc. And then it is simply Tuesday. Have you ever found yourself just stuck there? Tuesday isn't Monday. It isn't Friday or the end of the week. It isn't even hump day. It is just laying out there all by itself. Yet perhaps maybe we are called to embrace our simple Tuesdays.

I just finished Emily P. Freeman's book "It's Simply Tuesday." In the book, Freeman shares about how we are to enjoy those Tuesdays in their smallness. We are to embrace our Tuesday people on our Tuesday benches on that simply Tuesday ordinary day.
"Let's gently poke our sleepy souls refusing to wait for a big event to wake us up. Let's stop running from ordinary time but begin to sit in the midst of it (P. 26)."
Yes, let's sit in the midst of that ordinary time because the truth is that ordinary time is longer and more than the other special days. In fact, in the seasons of the church year, the liturgical color green which is for ordinary time is the longest season of the church year. It can be so easy to get caught up in what seems like boredom and smallness of that ordinary time. But as Emily reminds us, that ordinary time is an important time for us to dwell. It is a time that leads to those extraordinary times and helps us to enjoy those extra special days even more.

The truth is that on those simply Tuesdays, God is there with us. "As it turns out, Jesus doesn't come riding in on a white horse to save me from my humiliation, my daily work, my endless list. Instead, he whispers a quiet invitation to keep company with him the way he came to earth to keep company with us. It won't always feel like a rescue. It might feel like surrender.  But on the other side of that space I find Jesus. I find his peace, I find his companionship (Introduction; Location 237)."

I love that I just finished this book as the calendar page soon turns to Advent. Advent is my most favorite time of the year because it continually reminds me of Jesus "Emmanuel"; God with us who comes in the most unlikely place to the most unlikeliest people. God has a way of doing that; showing up in those small mundane simply Tuesday spaces. And it is in those spaces, that we are reminded of God's love for us; a love that comes not just on Sundays, but every day of the week including those simply Tuesday days.
"Being led by love has to start by recognizing we already have it. I can't let love lead if I don't know it's there to begin with (P. 188)."
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love moves toward (P. 193)." 
God's love reminds us that God is there in the light and in the darkness, in the joy and in the sorrow, and in the morning and in the night. It is just that sometimes we have a hard time seeing God in those places. But the truth is that God is always there. God promises to never leave us or forsake us. God sits with us on our Tuesday benches with our Tuesday people on those simply Tuesdays and shows us who God has created us to be.
"And even as we stand with our feet firmly planted on our Tuesdays, we'll let our souls, with childlike wonder, stand high on tiptoe with great hope, knowing the King of our Kingdom will one day come again (P.218)"
And that, my friends, is enough!

I am linking up with Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story, Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart and Literary Musing Mondays.



My A-Zs of Thanksgiving (Part One: A-M)

Hi Friends! I don't know about you but it is so crazy to think it is already that time of the year: Thanksgiving and then Advent and Christmas. A couple of years ago I did this A-Z list of Thanksgiving and it got rather long. Today I saw a friend was splitting hers up into two posts and I thought what a great idea. I know we are all busy this week so thought I would keep it simple and do something a little fun. Enjoy my friends!

(A) Andrea (My little sister) Love her to pieces. So thankful for our awesome sister's trip this past August. I don't know what I would do without her!

(B) Babies! I am such a baby lover. Any chance I get to get some baby time in is awesome and totally blesses me beyond measure.

(C) Camp of the Cross Ministries. One of my most favorite places in the entire world. The place where I heard the call to ministry. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

(D) Detroit and the ELCA Youth Gathering. What an awesome time to gather with 30,000 of our closest friends. Blessed to take an awesome group of youth from First Lutheran to the gathering. We indeed learned what it means to "Rise Up" together. In addition, I am so thankful for Dilworth Lutheran who shaped me into the woman of faith that I am today!

(E) Eggs...scrambled eggs, bacon, and other breakfast items! I love making breakfast for dinner=brinner! :)

(F) First Lutheran Church! So blessed to serve this community of faith. It continues to shape me into the woman of faith that I am today.

(G) God (and my faith)

(H) Home! My house is such a blessing. I love that I can walk to work every day. It is a perfect little house for me.

(I) I-pad Mini and my I-phone. I love that these items keep me connected to friends and family scattered throughout the US and the world.

(J) Jars of Clay; one of my all-time fave Christian bands.

(K) Kindred spirits! I am so thankful for the amazing friends and kindred spirits that God has placed in my life. So thankful for CT, KG, KW, EG, JT and so many others! Love you ladies! Also thankful for amazing blog friends/kindred spirits: Karrilee, Val, Janel, Susan, Bethany, Mary, Holly, Andrew, Tammy, Marie, Marissa, Jordan, Christy, Kate and so many others! (Wish I could list you all!)

(L) Laura. Laura was one of the first people I met when I started at Wartburg Seminary. She was so very welcoming and always so full of joy. Laura has been battling cancer since 2011 and is now losing her battle. She is in hospice care and all the joy and light is no longer in her eyes. Yet I am so thankful for her life and the many lives including mine that she has and continues to touch.

(M) Momma! You are the best! Love you to pieces!! (And my good friend MW! You are such a blessing in my life!)

So that's my A-M list. Be back soon with my N-Z list!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Blessings 101 & 102

(1) A text from a church member sharing how much she enjoyed my sermon yesterday.

(2) My new Write 31 days t-shirt and tank top arriving in the mail.

(3) Guest posting at a friend's blog sharing about our caregiving experience! (You can check that out Here)

(4) Bible study with some of our church ladies at the nursing home.

(5)Goodies sent home with me.

(6) My first Peppermint Mocha of the season. It hit the spot today.

(7) Nathan Dungan event

(8) Repeating as the Lutheran Campus Ministry Chili Feed champion

(9) Family SS lessons for two weeks. So much fun!!

(10) Retreat at Camp of the Cross

(11) Getting to see Mr. E

(12) Fundraiser for a local young woman battling cancer and seeing an awesome turnout. (Sadly she lost her battle last night)

(13) Tootsie Pops

(14) A phone call from Dad

(15) A phone call from Momma

(16) Being on the launch team for my blog friend Kaitlyn's book which will be released in 2016.

(17) A cool video of my aunt and uncle and family on our family farm promoting ND women farmers. So so cool!

(18) Catching up on some Voxes.

(19) Baby time with HH. Loved walking around and cuddling with him.

(20) Baby smiles

(21) Hugs from my fave littles

(22) Periscoping...I haven't periscoped in so long.

(23) Hot cocoa
(24) With mini marshmallows

(25) A beautiful day

I am linking up at Inspire Me Monday!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dwelling in Advent

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 "Dwell." Write for five minutes; unedited.

"One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." Psalm 27:4

Dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. These words make me think of my friend Laura, and Andrew and all of those who have lived their lives sharing God's love with the world. I am so thankful that my friend Laura has dwelt here in this place all of her days and will continue to dwell there until she takes her last breath and God asks us to lay Laura's mat at his feet.

But as I am reminded of those who dwell in the house of the Lord, I also think of those places that I do not want to dwell either. I do not want to dwell on the news that only seems to be bad news. I would much rather dwell in those joy-filled happy spaces. I do not want to dwell on the evil in the world. There is so much I do not want to dwell on.

Yet as Thanksgiving draws near and Advent is soon upon us, I find myself in a place that I want to dwell. Advent is my most favorite time of the year! I love waiting and watching for this precious Christ child to come. I love sitting and dwelling in this space...this deep breathe of fresh air that reminds me of what comes in this infant; this unlikely son born to an unlikely women in a dirty stable in Bethlehem. This one who comes simply as the light in the midst of the darkness. This one who is Emmanuel--"God with us!"

During the days of Advent, I find that this is a place that I want to dwell as I reflect on the true reason for this season. With all the lights off, Christmas lights twinkling all around me, cup of hot cocoa in my hand, my favorite music playing in the background, I simply dwell in the peace of this season. 

Go Fish-More Than A Story 
(One of my fave Christmas songs. And hopefully you'll forgive me
 for posting a Christmas tune before Thanksgiving!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Your Mat Carriers

A poem offering for my friend Laura today.
Sometimes only my words can capture the prayers of my heart.

Your Mat Carriers
(A poem for Laura)
By Tara L. Ulrich

We carry your mat
Through all your days
Holding on with all our might
And wiping away our tears.

We don’t want to let go.
We want you to stay longer.
It doesn’t seem fair
That you need to go.

You’ve been such a gracious gift;
Full of so much joy,
Touching so many lives;
More than you’ll ever known

And so, we your mat carriers,
Continually hold onto your mat
Until the day when Jesus asks us
To simply lay it at his feet.

For on that day,
We know that you will be free;
Free of all that ails you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Beauty out of Brokenness

Have there been times in your life when you have just wanted to scream enough? Or perhaps a time when you tried to make sense out of what was happening in life? I know, that for me, it has probably been more times than I have cared to admit. In fact, throughout our journey with a mental illness, there have been times many times when I have questioned God. And lately, in the midst of too many cancer diagnoses, it is a question that I keep asking over and over and over again.

As a woman of faith, my faith is something that I always cling to and hold on too. But when I begin asking those hard questions, I wonder if I am being a very good christian at all. But then I am reminded that like Jacob, we have a God we can wrestle with. God sees us as both saints and sinners.  For me, knowing that I am able to give myself grace when all I want to do is scream and cry and continually ask God "Why?" is a gift only God can give me and all of us in the midst  of our hard questions.

Earlier today, I was listening to my Pandora station when the song "Beautiful Things" by Gungor came on. The first stanza reads "All this pain; I wonder if I'll ever find my way; I wonder if my life could really change at all; All this earth; Could all that is lost ever be found; Could a garden come up from this ground at all." From the first time I heard that song, its words have held a special place in my heart and today they brought me such sweet comfort. Because God does take dust and make it into beautiful things.

As my friend Laura lives her last days on this earth, I am reminded that soon she will be free from all that ails her (as she reminded us in her latest carepages post). I am reminded of the many lives that she has touched including mine and so many others. But as I am reminded of these gifts, I also can't help but be frustrated and sad. It doesn't seem fair that Laura's daughters will lose two parents to cancer. But the thing is that cancer does not discriminate. It attacks who it will.

Yet God has this amazing way of taking dust and turning into beautiful things. Most of the time, it is like a deep fog that we cannot see through. But in time, God takes the deep fog, lifts the fog and reveals to us a magnificent rainbow. God reveals the beauty out of the brokenness. 

God indeed, "You make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things out of us!"

Today I am linking up with my favorites; Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story and Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hold Us In Love

"For peace between nations"
"For peace between people"
"God of mercy, hold us in love"

These words are words that we sing every time we sing Marty Haugen's Holden Evening Prayer. Holden Evening Prayer is one of my most favorite worship settings. I honestly love the poetry of words that is in this service. As we heard the news of the events unfolding in Paris last night, a seminary classmate and friend posted the above words as her Facebook status. And ever since, I have been singing these words to myself.

Our God is indeed a God of mercy and love. God wants us to show love to one another especially in the midst of heartache. What if instead of blaming each other, we stood people all over the world stood together on the days following 9-11? What if instead of sowing hate, we sowed seeds of love? What if we were instruments of God's peace in the world? My friend Ben, as he lay in the Haitian rubble, uttered the words "God's peace to us we pray". Then moments later, Ben died in that rubble. Ben's words remind me that God has the power to bring about God's peace. So may God bring out God's peace and may we also be instruments of God's love in the world.

As I think about this horrific tragedy, I can't help but think of those who lost loved ones last night. But I also am reminded of those who have taught me to love and to show God's love to the world. My friend Laura is now laying in a hospital bed at a hospice center as she continues to fight her cancer.. From day one, Laura was one of the kindest, most welcoming, most loving women that I have ever met. She has taught me what it means to be gracious. I also think of my own mother who, even though she has lived my whole life with a mental illness, is one of the most welcoming, kind, loving women as well. My mom literally would give the shirt off of her back to someone in need. These two women along with many others have shown me the power of what it means to sow love rather than hatred. "For perfect love casts out fear!"

Yes, God's perfect love casts out fear. Look at how many times the words "Do not be afraid" appear in the Bible. God calls us to trust in him and to cling to the promise that God's perfect love does indeed cast out fear.

I understand that those words can be hard to cling too especially in the midst of deep darkness, but God's light and love shine in the midst of that darkness. When I was in college and also in seminary, I was in a play production of "The Diary of Anne Frank." Anne and her family hid from the Nazis. Day in and day out, they fought for their lives. Eventually they were found by the Nazis. Yet at the very end of Anne's diary, she wrote "Despite everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." Oh Anne, may we remember your words today and every day.

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love."-Francis of Assissi

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Weary World Rejoices

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 "Weary." Write for five minutes; unedited.

Sometimes the word prompt hits me straight in the gut and heart, this week is one of those weeks were the word describes exactly how I have been feeling this week.

I am weary, friends! I am weary of so many around me being diagnosed with cancer. I am weary after October and Write 31 Days. I am weary of the world around me; full of such darkness and pain. I am just simply weary.

This week has been especially weary for myself and so many who love my friend Laura especially her daughters. Laura and I met at Wartburg Theological Seminary. She was one of the senior class presidents when I began at WTS. From day one, she was one of the most welcoming and gracious people in my life. She blessed my life in so many ways and I am so thankful to have been touched by her love and friendship.

Laura lost her husband Rod to cancer 11 years ago this month. And Laura has been battling sarcoma cancer for the last several years. Rod and Laura have two daughters. Last Friday, Laura was taken to the emergency room where they found a 4 cm mass on her brain. Yesterday they updated her Care pages and shared how the cancer has spread. As a family, Laura's daughters and the rest of her family made the decision to move her into hospice care. Laura transitioned to hospice care today. And my friends, my heart continues to be weary...weary for Laura and Rod's daughters who will lose two parents to cancer.  My heart is weary...weary from shedding tears for this dear friend. My heart is breaking and it just doesn't seem fair.

*And I know my friend, her family and all those who have been touched by her love and friendship and more are weary too. I know we cannot make sense of any of this right now. We, Laura's mat-carriers are weary, but we will continue to pray for her. I also am reminded of Jesus' own words "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest!"

I know that rest will come soon. But for now, I am clinging to the promises of hope found in the birth of our Savior who comes as light in the midst of darkness, hope in the midst of sadness and so much more. As we soon prepare for Advent and the coming of this holy child, I find myself quietly singing these words from the song "O Holy Night"; "A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, the night when Christ was born; O night, O Holy night, O night divine."

God knows that we are weary and sent God's son into the world for each and every one of us. And for that we can trust in God's love for each of us and know that in due time....

Our weary world rejoices! (Rejoices that pain and crying and death will be no more)

*This is where my five minutes ended. As you can tell, this word prompt hit home for me this week.

Laura Ingalls Wilder; A Legacy of Hard Work and Faith

Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In fact, I spent a lot of my childhood either watching the television series or reading her books. I have always appreciated her words, her work ethic, and so much more. (I even happen to have one of her quotes as the header on my blog!)

Laura Ingalls grew up on the farm watching her parents work hard for their money. Laura and her siblings had their own responsibilities as well. Laura felt a deep responsibility to help her family in any way she could. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Laura was not very fond of teaching. "Laura felt the responsibility from a young age to help her family financially and wage-earning opportunities for women were very limited." Laura received her teaching degree to help earn money for her family.

Much of Laura's childhood was spent on the farm during very severe winters. During those severe winters, it was hard to earn any income yet alone find good sources of food. I believe, they lived on what they could during those severe winters. Yet they always found ways to get through those long hard winters.

Eventually Laura met and married Almonzo Wilder; the love of her life. There was ten years between them. Despite the age difference, they were in love and their prospects for the future seemed bright. In fact, two children were born to this union: Rose and a son (who died before being named)

During their marriage, Laura and Almonzo farmed together. After several years of drought, Laura and Almonzo were left in debt. They moved to Mansfield, Missouri where they purchased an undeveloped piece of land that was just outside of town. At this time, to earn income, they would sell fire wood for fifty cents which is what they would live on.

Financial Security came very slowly to the Wilders. The apple trees they grew did not bear fruit for seven years. Eventually Laura's in-laws gave her and Almonzo the deed to a house they were renting which was the economic downturn that they needed. After awhile, Laura took a paid position with the local Farm Loan Association; dispensing loans to local farmers. (Talk about giving back!)

Laura and Almonzo were never wealthy until the Little House books began gaining in popularity. According to Wikipedia, "The Wilders lived independently and without financial worries until the death of Wilder's husband at the farm in 1949 at the age of 92. Wilder remained on the farm. For the next eight years, she lived alone, looked after by a circle of neighbors and friends. She continued an active correspondence with her editors, fans, and friends during these years." After complications from undiagnosed diabetes and cardiac issues, Laura died three days after her 90th birthday.

Years after Laura Ingalls Wilder's death, many still read her books and watch the television series starring Melissa Gilbert. Laura's deep work ethic has always been something that I strive for in my own life as well. As a farmer's granddaughter, niece and daughter, I know how much work goes into preparing the land, harvesting the fields and so much more. Being a farmer is not an easy job and income depends solely on what the weather is like during that time. Something that is out of our control.

Like Laura, it is my hope and dream that my legacy will be one of hard work and earning an income by working hard for that money, but also being open to giving and sharing with those in need when I have money to spare. Laura was always willing to spare money for others especially those she loved.
"The real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong." (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
(Information about Laura Ingalls Wilder was gleaned from these websites: Laura Ingalls Wilder (Wikipedia)Laura Ingalls Wilder Biography, and Laura Ingalls Wilder Documentary

Also linked up at Literary Musing Mondays

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Care-giving for a Parent

Children should not have to care for their parents when they are young. In the natural order of life, parents care for their children and then when parents age, children care for their parents. Yet sometimes that order is thrown off balance such as in our case. My sister and I have been our mother’s legal guardians since approximately the fall of 2003. Our Mom had a nervous breakdown shortly after my sister was born so we have not known different. Mental illness continues to be a part of our story. (Read the rest of the story over at Blessed but Stressed today)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Write 31 Days Withdrawal

Withdrawal="the act of taking back or away something that has been granted or possessed" or "the discontinuance of administration or use of a drug."

Have you ever experienced withdrawal from something? Perhaps it was giving up soda or sweets or something. Maybe you know someone or have watched someone withdraw from drugs. The only experience I have of watching someone withdraw and detox from an abused substance is on MTV with Dr. Drew. Yet from what I have seen, withdrawal is not an easy thing. In fact, it can get pretty ugly!

I don't know about you, my Write 31 Days friends, but this past week, I have found myself wanting to read your blogs and write more posts myself. But what I have found is that it is pretty quiet over in our neck of the woods. It seems like many of our wells have run dry. I think I am going through Write 31 days withdrawal! Anyone else with me?

Throughout the month of October, every day we must post. If the words are there, great. But if the words are not there, we must keep on trucking through. In addition, many of us interacted on the Survivors Facebook page and read five other posts which we promised to comment on, share, etc.

Yet now here we are, ten days into November and I keep finding myself wanting to go back to October. I want to gather with my friends and read their stories. I want to know that I am not on this writing journey alone. I want to be reminded again and again that my words are enough! The truth is that I know these things are true, but it seems harder to find them and believe them this month. It is as if my ability to write has been snuffed out in an instance.

In addition, my words are not the only thing I am missing. I am missing the community and the people I have met. I came across this quote this morning on Google: "The most addictive drug is a person. The detox takes the longest. And sometimes the withdrawals never stop." Hmmm!

I am sure that in time the words will slowly begin to flow more freely again! I am sure that I will find other outlets and projects to share my words. I am sure that soon I will feel like I am no longer going through Write 31 Days withdrawal. And I know that even though, we are resting from our words, we all will return to share them again.

Like the breath in our lungs that gives us life, words also give us writers life as well! Without our words, we cannot go through this life NOT sharing our words. "Write until it becomes as natural as breathing. Write until not writing makes you anxious"

I am linking up with these lovely faith-filled women today:


Sunday, November 08, 2015

It Isn't About Those Cups!

The Starbucks seasonal cups are the talk of the town and world as of late.

But, my friends, Christmas is not at all about those red cups. Christmas is about Jesus---Emmanuel (God with us)--who comes into the world in an unlikely place; in a dirty stable in Bethlehem. This infant comes into the world as our savior who later will die on a cross for each and every one of us. This infant is the person who is our one true king who enters the world in the unlikeliest form; a lowly infant.

So often we forget the true reason for the season. This holiday has become so commercialized. Stores cannot even wait for the Halloween costumes to be packed away before they pull out the Christmas decorations. I love decorating for Christmas and don't think there is anything wrong with decorating before Thanksgiving at all--especially when we have the right motives. But I also believe Thanksgiving opens the door to "Eucharisto"; giving thanks for all God has given and blessed us with in our lives.

"Eucharisto" continually reminds me of what God did when God chose Mary and Joseph to be Jesus' parents. "Eucharisto" reminds me of the power of God's love for all of God's people. "Eucharisto" is Jesus born in that stable in Bethlehem. And "Eucharisto" is giving thanks for that infant Jesus; the unlikely one chosen to be the Messiah; the Messiah we are called to celebrate and remember not just one day a year, but all year round.

One day, when I was at seminary, my friends and I walked into our friend Louise's office. As we entered her office, my friend Mark immediately noticed a nativity set out on Louise's desk. It was the spring of the year, so we found that just a little odd. My friend Mark being Mark asked, "Why do you have a nativity set up?  It's not Advent or Christmas." I'll never forget our friend's response. She smiled and asked, "Should we celebrate Jesus just one day a year?" To which we all replied, "Not at all." She then shared that she keeps one up all year long to remind her of the promises that come in that infant son. Ever since, I keep a nativity up all year long to remind me of that too! (Talk about a conversation starter!)

And that's the thing friends, Advent is about waiting for this precious son to be born. It is about the birth of this chosen one called to be our Messiah. It is NOT about what is or is not on those red Starbucks cups. It is about who and whose we are. It is about this one who comes as the light in the midst of the darkness.

This Advent and Christmas may we take the time to break bread, give thanks and spend time with those we love; knowing that God loves us so much that God sent God's son into the world; to be our Messiah; to be a world changer; a world changer who sat and broke bread with tax collectors and sinners.

Linking up at Inspire Me Monday

Sunday Blessings 100

(1) Juicy Pear Jelly Bellies

(2) Talking to my Daddy

(3) A call from MW. So blessed by his friendship.

(4) YouthWorkers meeting. It's been way too long. I missed these peeps.

(5) Beer and Hymns with EG, AH and PK.

(6) Running into Kyle D

(7) A great Confirmation class

(8) Awesome night at FLY

(9) Mail from my Daddy

(10) Fresh Apple Crisp

(11) Having a link to one of my Write 31 Days posts shared on Living Lutheran.

(12) Getting my sink fixed which meant a new shiny faucet.

(13) A post bizarre nap

(14) Leftovers sent home with me. Thank You ladies!

(15)Compliments on my sermon

(16) Helping a friend out

(17) A tweet back from an author of a great book. So cool!!!

(18)My Huskers finally won a game after some really close losses!!!

(19) A beautiful Fall day

(20) Blowing bubbles with CM and EH today in my office.

(21) So much fun hanging with the family SS families. I've missed them!!

(22) Conference meeting and being elected as LYO advisor for our conference.

(23) Supper out with my friend KG and two of her three kiddos. Great cap to the weekend.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Life's a Dance; The Time of My 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 "Dance." Write for five minutes; unedited.

One of my all-time favorite movies is the movie "Dirty Dancing." ("Nobody puts Baby in a corner!") I think especially of the scene when Patrick Swayze's character Johnny Castle is trying to teach Baby how to do a lift. They dance in the lake to help her feel the movement of the dance. At the end of the movie, my favorite is the very end when the song "Time of my life" is playing and Baby finally leaps into Johnny's arms.

I am not a great dancer, but I do love me a good dance party! I remember when I was a teenager and my mom and her good friend Karen were teaching me to dance. My dance partner was my sister Andrea's huge stuffed dog named "Wrinkles." I held onto Wrinkle's hands and my Mom's friend Karen taught me how to dance a two step. As we listened to the music, she would show me which way to move with my partner. Too bad my partner was not a real human though.

Dancing also makes me think about the many songs that are out there about dancing. The first one that popped into my head was an old school John Michael Montgomery song "Life's a Dance." The words to this song always make me think about how life really is a dance. The words go like this "Life's a dance, sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow; don't worry about what you don't know; life's a dance, you learn as you go!"

Oh how is indeed a dance! Life is a dance...and sometimes that dance happens in the sunshine, but sometimes that dance happens in the rain. I am reminded of the quote where it says "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's learning to dance in the rain."

And knowing that life is a dance, I choose to dance the night away; having the time of my life just like Baby and Johnny did in that final scene in Dirty Dancing!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

What October Taught Me

I am linking up with Emily Freeman's monthly link-up today. You can check out all the posts over at Emily's Place. (Sad face....I missed the link-up deadline!)

October came in with a BANG with the Write 31 Days challenge. And, of course, I thought it would be a great idea to do two series: one on my personal blog and one on a blog I just started for church. I am happy to say that this overachiever finished both Write 31 days series.

This is what I learned this month....

(1) I absolutely love hosting friends over at my place. There is something so incredibly holy about inviting them to sit at my virtual table and to hear their stories. I hope to invite more of you to come to visit here. Thanks to Karrilee, Melissa, and Colleen for sharing their stories of God's grace this month. Please know that the door is always open to all of you!

(2) Throughout my 31 days, I learned that I absolutely LOVE the discipline of sitting down and writing every day during the challenge. I love doing something that stretches me and blesses me in more ways than I could ever imagine.

(3) The Interwebs and SOCIAL MEDIA! I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing it has been to find a community that has blessed me in more ways than I could ever imagine. I am thankful that I got to Periscope with several of the Five Minute Friday crowd while they were at Allume this past month. (Allume or another blogging conference is totally on my bucket list!) And thanks to Susan for this beautiful gift that she sent me. I cannot wait to dive into it!

(4) Project Life App. This has become one of my new favorite apps. My friend Sarah gifted it to me and I cannot get enough of it. I can make pages on my phone or my I-pad Mini, upload the page to Shutterfly and drop into a page. It is so slick. Here is a page I recently made ALL using that app.

(5) ShutterFly. I absolutely love making Shutterfly photo books. And  cannot wait for the orange package to arrive in my mailbox. I have been so far behind. But due to the Fall weather and being cuddled up under blankets at home, I have been able to catch up. 

(6) As my friend Karrilee stated in her monthly wrap-up, Write 31 days totally cuts into our reading time. Amen to that! I just started "It's Simply Tuesday" by Emily P. Freeman and am LOVING it! On my to-read list is "Beautiful UnCertainty" "Accidental Saints" and so many others.

(7) I LOVE reading others blogs, commenting, and encouraging them. One of my favorite things this last month was encouraging my friends through the challenge, but also meeting new blog friends. I never realized how much of an encourager I am until others pointed it out to me.

(8) I am learning the many ways God has called me to be brave while also learning to be brave in new ways too. The other day, my friend Mary pointed out how she thinks my brave is in "telling our story." Anyone else think God was trying to show me something over a year ago then when I was called to write this: Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness

(9) Adulting totally sucks sometimes! At the end of last week which also happened to coincide with the end of the month, my car had all sorts of problems. I had to have three tires replaced. In addition, my automatic window engine died which of course had to happen immediately after I had rolled down my window so it was stuck in the down position. Thankful it was all fixable and that my Dad is able to help me out.

(10) Spending time with family is wonderful! I loved spending time with my aunt, Grandma and Grandpa earlier this month. As Gma and Gpa age, I treasure the time I have left with them even more! We hung out at the Norsk Hostfest and got to see some awesome concerts especially Martina McBride.

(11) I am a kid at heart! It was so much fun to dress up for the church's Fall festival. I also love hanging out with my favorite peeps! 

And that is pretty much what I learned this month. What have you learned this month?

(Also after Write 31 days, I am taking some time off from the blog to simply rest. I will see you back here late Thursday night or early Friday morning for the Five Minute Friday. Not sure if this week's word will top last week's prompt of  "bacon" And oh how much do I love that our writing tribe picked that word! Love these quirky lovely people!)

I am linking up with these lovely faith-filled ladies:

Sunday, November 01, 2015

A Month's Worth of Sunday Blessings (#99)

(1) Beer and Hymns with AH and EG.

(2) Awesome Mexican food

(3) A great Confirmation Class

(4) The beginning of the Write 31 Days challenge.

(5) Time with Gma, Gpa and Aunt Nancy.

(6) Running into Pr. PH

(7) Celtic Thunder

(8) An invitation to go on a walk with my friend CD.

(9) Running into my good friend KG.

(10) Talking on the phone with my good friend MW for about 25 minutes.

(11) More fun with Gma, Gpa and N.

(12) Running into DLC peeps: LM and LS. Getting hugs from both of them.

(13) Visiting with the people sitting next to us at the concert and finding out they were all from Detroit Lakes, MN.

(14) Martina McBride concert. So so so good!!!

(15) Pizza, hard pear cider, good pizza and family hanging out at the Starving Rooster.

(16) Goodies from Gma--Zucchini bread, two jars of homemade pickles, a pumpkin, some potatoes, a zucchini and some tomatoes. Yum!!

(17) Shopping at the Mall. Some great finds at Herbergers and DressBarn.

(18) Mom calling on a regular basis again.

(19) Exchanging souvenirs with KG and SH.

(20) Having lunch with KG and LA.

(21) Getting a high five from little EG.

(22) A great new member class.

(23) The return of FLY for the year. I've missed those kids!!

(24) A thank you note in the mail from MD and BD.

(25) Writing a blog post and tribute piece from my blog friend Erin K.

(26) Voxing with TM

(27) A great turnout for Walk for Water.

(28) A sign left by my office door that made me chuckle.

(29) A nice little PLN

(30) A few much needed hugs at church.

(31)A surprise package from SS

(32) A great phone message that totally made my day.

(33) A surprise visit from AM.

(34) FMF Party

(35) Periscoping with the FMF gals who are at Allume. So much laughter and so much fun!

(36) Healthy Choice 100 calorie frozen Yogurt cups.

(37) Kemps Pumpkin Pie ice cream

(38) A lazy relaxing Saturday

(39) Hugs from one of my fave little girls and her mom.

(40) The lost FitBit has been found!!!

(41) Western ND LYO

(42) A rainbow

(43) A very sweet gift in the mail.

(44) The church's Fall Festival carnival.

(45)Walking around with some of my fave kids at the carnival.

(46) Voxing with MG and KA

(47) Two bags of candy given to me to use for trick or treaters.

(48) A card and gift card from a dear lady.

(49) Finishing Write 31 Days and posting every day!

(50) Ann and I getting to see and spend time with mom.

(51) Quite a few trick or treaters.

(52) Finally getting my bday present from CT and giving her her present from me. I love my present!!

(53) All Saints Sunday

(54) An awesome text from a friend sharing some good news.

(55) Praying for PKN and MN.

I didn't have to post today but thought I would since this is more lighthearted and this list has been on my phone all month. Enjoy!