Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year of Brave

Here I sit...the last day of December and the last day of this year 2015. And the last day of living out my One Word 365 "brave" for the year. As I look back over the year, I am reminded of how God showed me this word and shaped me in it. In fact, I can say that like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, I am braver than I think I am!

To refresh our memories, the word "brave" is defined, according to Mirriam Webster's dictionary, as "having or showing courage," or "making a fine show" (Adjective) And then as a verb, it means "to face or endure with courage" or "obsolete; to make showy." The word brave also is a noun "one who is brave."

So what does it mean to show courage? As I look back, I see courage and being brave in continuing to share our story of mental illness. I haven't always seen it as being brave. But my friend Mary commented one day, "Your brave is in telling your story." Her words caused me to stop and reflect on Brene Brown's words "The bravest thing you'll ever do is share your story." That is so true. The bravest thing any of us will ever do is share our stories.

BRAVE!!

Brave sometimes looks like caring for an aging parent. My sister and I care for our mom as her legal guardians. We entrust her care to the nursing home she lives at but we are responsible for the big decisions. This summer we made some tough decisions yet again. We never imagined that at such young ages we would be the caregiver for a parent. But we are!

BRAVE!!

Still yearning deeply for God to answer the desires of my heart, I often...(read almost always)...don't feel so courageous or brave. Yet what I've come to realize especially this year is that it is brave. As Miss Mandy Hales writes, "It's about the beautiful uncertainty of it all!" Yes, it is brave to trust in God and the beautiful uncertainty of my life. And in that beautiful uncertainty, I realize that it is brave to hear Gods's voice calling me to unchartered waters for myself. Yet being able to hear that call is brave and causes me to write down brave words like this Post. Is my brave being called to "foster and/or adoption?"

BRAVE!!

In my one word post last year, I wrote about the cowardly lion. You know a year of living brave has shown me that perhaps we aren't so different after all. A year of living brave looks different for each and every one of us. Yet God gives us the courage and shows each one of us to be brave.

I'm reminded of these very words I wrote last January "I don't need a medal. However I'll admit that it would be pretty cool to own my very own medal! I need to show courage. I am not sure what that might look like. But I do hope that I am able to parade with courage; with bravery. As a single 36 year old female, I am tired of waiting for my Mr. Right. I am weary. I yearn so deeply to be a momma. Perhaps being brave for me will mean looking at other options; adoption, etc. I have no idea where this word will lead me in 2015 but I do know that it will shape me and who I am. And I will continue to pray for the ways that God might shape me as I live into this word this year."

God did that very thing. God showed me my brave and continues to show it to me earn and every day. Brave is doing things even when we are afraid to do them. Brave is being able to see the fate within each and every one of us. Brave is surrendering fully and 100% trusting in the beautiful uncertainty of life!

"Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”--Joshua 1:9 (The Message)

"And that though I am flawed, God is loving me and refining me and reminding me that God in me is where I can place my trust. And that is the place where I find my courage." (Learning to Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.37)

(As my year of brave comes to an end, let's jam out to this years theme song one last time!)

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Books, Books and More Books 2015

I've always been a big reader! And this year was no exception. It was full of so much goodness. I started the year reading one of my absolute fave books ever; Let's All Be Brave" by Annie F. Downs (I cannot wait until her new book comes out.) This book fit so well with my word for the year "brave!" This book is so dog eared and underlined and highlighted. Check out my post here: The Book That Is Wrecking my Soul


Bread and Wine--Shauna Niequest
Oh how I loved this book. The recipes weren't necessary but they are an added bonus. Love that this book reminds us how to break bread at the table and be hospitable. I've gifted so many copies of this book.

The Greatest Gift and One Thousand Gifts--Ann Voskamp
This was my second read through of the book The Greatest Gift. Such a great Advent book. One Thousand Gifts was wonderful. I downloaded the app and have been keeping track of my own gifts. It helps us keep stock of our blessings.

Searching for Sunday--Rachel Held Evans
Working at a church, this book spoke to me in so many ways. Reading what individuals are searching for etc. Too many have been hurt by the church and I truly think this is a book that might help individuals heal.

Orphan Train--Christina Baker Kline
Sadly I didn't read many fiction books this year. But this was such a good read.

On Being A Writer--Charity Singleton Craig and Ann Kroeker
This is the book that truly made me realize I'm a writer. I participated in a six week course on this book. So so good! I love that the authors interacted and commented on our blog posts. They also have some great podcasts.

It's Simply Tuesday--Emily P. Freeman
Another book that I loved. Emily helps us all take time to breath and bask in our simply Tuesday's. After reading this book, I don't dread Tuesdays like perhaps I did before.

For the Love--Jen Hatmaker
This book is so fun...it made me laugh in so many places. But in other places, as a single woman, I couldn't always identify with Jens stories. But overall, I truly enjoyed this book.


Wild in the Hollow--Amber Haines
Another fantastic read! Loved this book!

Oh so much goodness! In 2016, I need to finish Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury (Thanks Katie M. Reid) and Beautiful Uncertainty by Mandy Hales (Thanks Susan Shipe) Beautiful Uncertainty doesn't come out until 2016 but I was gifted a prerelease copy. As a single woman myself, this book is PURE GOLD!

Last but certainly not least, I'm currently reading "Notes on the Journey: Living with Sarcoma and Hope" by Laura A. Koppenhoefer. The book is a compilation of Laura's CarePages from approx Sept 2011-Spring 2014. Laura lost her cancer battle on Nov 30th of this year. I'm thankful for a friend who is loaning me her copy of Laura's book. I'm reading through slowly and savoring my dear friend's words!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Few of My Fave Posts 2015

Reading blogs is one of my fave things to do. My routine is to open up BlogLovin and read in the morning, after work, etc. I always read so many great blogs and today I'm sharing some of my faves. I wish I could include everyone, but that would make this one long post! So here are some of my faves:

Wendy Speake--Holiday Haiku Challenge  So many great haikus as we journeyed through Advent. Thanks for the opportunity to guest post Wendy!

Andrew--Alone in the Fight Andrew has become a dear part of the FMF party and has a terminal illness. Andrew's words are so honest and remind me of what courage and strength look like. Praying for him and his wife Barbara!

Mundane Faithfulness  This is dear Kara Tippett's blog. Sadly Kara lost her battle with cancer. But her words still live on here in this space. Its almost impossible to pick just one post. Even after her death, her family and friends have continued to bless us in this space.

Hope--Tales from a Southern Catholic Momma--One of my fave posts from my dear friend Val. Blessed to have met in real life this summer. She daily struggles with depression, but I love that she never glosses it over. This is a FMF post that continually has stuck with me. Love you friend!

Go Ahead and Tell Your Whole Story--Colleen Mitchell Colleen is another one of my dear friends. Her words always speak to my heart. This post is such a gift for all of us as we learn how to tell our stories.

The Wisdom of Self-Care--Karrillee Aggett This woman has blessed me beyond words this year. This post on self care is so vital to all of us. One of the biggest lessons I learned at seminary was all care. Important for us all to remember these words!

No More Sleepwalking Through Life--Jennifer Dukes Lee PURE GOLD!!! Jens words always speak straight to my heart.

That's just the tip of the iceberg...so many great posts! See you all later!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Blessings 107


(1) Staff lunch at Primo

(2) Finishing some Christmas shopping.

(3) Dad and Ann coming to rescue me when my car died 30 mins from home.

(4) A kind stranger helping tow my car into town so I could at least wait at the cafe.

(5) Good Samaritans who stopped and checked to see if help was on the way and if I was ok.

(6) Dad, Ann and I towing my car to town.

(7) Christmas Candlelight Service at church.

(8) Uncle T singing one of my fave songs at that service as special music "Mary Did You Know?"

(9) Opening presents; so many blessings. Love them all. Two of my faves; a sister necklace/bracelet from my sis and a keyboard for my iPad.

(10) Christmas Dinner

(11) Meeting Baby Jaren and playing with him.

(12) Seeing Leslye and crew and visiting with them.

(13) The longest craziest Rook game of the century! So fun!!

(14) Watermelon candy cane

(15) Watching Erin Brokovich and Blind Side with my sissy.

(16) It's cold but the sun finally came out. So good to see a blue sky.

(17) Huskers win the Foster Farms Bowl!!!!! Go Big Red!!!!

(18) Voxing with my faves.

(19) Watching FB with my dad and sissy.

(20) A treat of getting to sleep in.

(21) Texting with my faves

(22) And in 2015, YOU!!! You all have been blessings in my life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On That Silent Night

"In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."--Luke 2:1-7

On a very silent night, over 2000 years ago, Christ was born into the world as the promised Messiah: the promised Messiah who comes as the light in the midst of the darkness to bring hope, peace, and love to all the world. This promised Messiah comes as the light of the world who was born to the most unlikely woman: Mary in the most unlikeliest of places--in a dirty cattle stall; a manger in Bethlehem.

The only cries heard that silent night where the cries of this infant; our King as he entered into the world. Those cries proclaimed the promise of this holy child who promises to never leave us or forsake us...even and most especially in our sorrows and our doubts. This King comes to bring hope and peace to a world in need of that very hope and peace. It is an extraordinary gift...a King born to bring God's love to all the world.

That silent night, the shepherds stood on a hill watching over their flocks by night. They were simply doing their job and minding their own business when the angel appeared to them. The angel proclaimed, "Do not be afraid...for I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. For today is born in the city of David Christ the Lord." The shepherds immediately ran to see this thing the angel told them about. When they arrived, they found Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus lying in the manger. They were overjoyed and left proclaiming and telling the news of this newborn king.

Now on our own silent nights, may we too listen and hear the cries of this infant born for each and every one of us. May we too be filled with comfort, peace, and hope shared together. May we know the promise of this one who always walks with us even in our darkest moments.

I am reminded of these words from the prophet Isaiah " But now, this is what the Lord says----he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

Like God called Mary to give birth to the promised Messiah and like God called so many in the world, God calls each and every one of us by name too just like God called Jesus; Emmanuel "God with us!"

Merry Christmas my dear friends and readers! I am so thankful for each and every one of you who have joined me here in this space over this past year. May you have a blessed Advent, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I am linking up with my very fave women today: Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Angela and the RaRa linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story and Holley and Coffee for your Heart!


 

 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Blessings 106

(1) A great gathering about the Metigoshe Ministries building campaign; good fellowship and goodies!

(2) Grandma Alvina's cheeseball

(3) Friends who are into Essential Oils and will borrow them to me. Hoping these Essential Oils will heal my cold sore much faster!

(4) Grace

(5) Great text study

(6) A shorter church council meeting

(7) Making it home in time to catch the end of the #chsocm Twitter party!

(8) Confirmation small groups

(9) Awesome FLY Christmas party

(10) Delivering Giving Tree gifts to two local elementary schools.

(11) TS treating me to a Berry White Chocolate from Caribou!! Dessert in a cup!!!

(12) FMF Twitter Party

(13) Running into colleagues at Target.

(14) An email from a fellow blogger wanting to send me a gift for being her comment queen!

(15) Mom's Christmas party

(16) Texting with EG

(17) Texting with CT and getting a phone call from her too!

(18) Watching a Home for the Holidays.

(19) Someone's Christmas gift making it to my house before Christmas!!

(20) Sharing about nativities and showing them pics of my collection at the WELCA Christmas gathering.

(21) Baptisms

(22) An invitation to join one of the baptismal families for supper and enjoying supper with them.

(23) Two sweet hugs from members of FLC.

(24) Listening to KL share about her "Peace not Walls" trip to Israel/Palestine/Jerusalem.

(25) Feeding baby E his bottle during fellowship time this morning.

(26) Winter Solstice concert


Thursday, December 17, 2015

#Fuzzy

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 "CHOOSE YOUR OWN PROMPT" What?!?! I decided to ask my friends for help. One suggested "gift" which was already a prompt. Another suggested "rebirth" which I liked but felt was hard to write on. I looked at my bookcase and the first word that jumped out at me was "peace" which I wrote about already this week. Then another friend tweeted #fuzzy and I told her to try again but in a turn of events, I decided "fuzzy" was the word.  Write for five minutes; unedited.

I am wrapped up in my favorite fuzzy blanket listening to Jimmy Fallon on television. Earlier I followed and tweeted along with the FMF Twitter party while working on my Christmas cards and wrapping a few presents for Moms's Christmas party at the nursing home tomorrow. I sipped a yummy McDs Eggnog shake while doing all of this multitasking.

Then waiting patiently for the word prompt to be announced, I quickly changed into my pjs and fuzzy black and white slippers. Kate announced the prompt and we were all a little shocked. Pick your own word prompt...kind of like one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. Like waiting for our word prompt or just simply waiting in life, we are reminded that waiting is never easy. And during the season of Advent, we patiently or maybe not so patiently wait for the birth of this promised Messiah.

During this season, I love to lay on my couch wrapped in my fave fuzzy blanket with my Christmas tree lights glowing and looking at all of my beloved Nativities. Did you know St. Francis of Assissi created the first Nativity/crèche because he felt like the reason for the season was being lost? Nativities for me remind again and again of the true reason for the season; celebrating Jesus who comes as the light of the world.

These nativities help us tell and retell this sacred story that is so much more than a story. Was baby Jesus wrapped in a warm fuzzy blanket or did Mary put him in a fuzzy sleeper days and/or weeks after his birth? The truth is Jesus was no ordinary infant; he was an extraordinary baby who came to bring grace and peace to a world especially in need of that grace.

                  
 My fave Christmas song (I shared it a 
few weeks ago, but I love it so much and
 wants to share again)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Guiding Our Feet Into The Way of Peace

"By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."--Luke 1:78-79

These words have been replaying in my head and my heart today. They are in the text I will be preaching on Sunday. In this text, Zechariah and Elizabeth are told that Elizabeth will give birth to a son and they will name him John which means "God is gracious and/or merciful." Yet even in the midst of this annunciation to Elizabeth, that is not where I'm finding myself focusing instead I'm pulled to the above words from Luke 1.

Have you ever noticed that when your electricity goes out, you don't need much...one candle can give off just enough light? That light takes away the shadows of the darkness. That light reminds us of this precious holy child who comes as the light in the darkness. In contrast, John comes to give us knowledge of this promised Messiah while Jesus comes to fulfill that promise; the light of the world.

During this season of Advent, not everyone experiences joy. There are many who are in the depths of death and are sitting in those shadows of darkness. I think of my friend who recently lost his father; also a beloved grandfather, spouse, father-in-law.  I also am reminded of dear Laura's daughters. For them, that empty chair at the table or around the Christmas tree is evidence of this one they loved and lost. They are literally sitting in the shadows of death. Yet God reminds us that God will guide our feet into the way of peace. Both these dear souls are no longer in pain, but rather have been guided into the way of peace.

In addition, in our world that so often feels so full of hatred and war and ugliness, it is also hard to hear these words. In an unpeaceful world, how can we be guided into the way of peace? Yet that's the beauty. God sent Gods one and only son into world as this gift who promises to guide our feet into the way of peace. "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!"

And those feet that bring Good News and guide them into peace, they came first as infant feet; born in an stable in Bethlehem; a Son born for our sins; a Son born to guide us all into the way of peace. This peace is a peace that only this infant son can bring in the midst of our sorrows and joys and showers upon us through God's love for God's people.

This love is a love that reminds us always of the power and gift of love and relationships in our own lives. As my friend Laura was laying in her hospice bed, she asked us her friends, family and mat carriers to send her pictures etc to decorate her room. Only a week there, her room was filled with so much love. There was no white space left on those walls; a concrete example of the power of love; Gods love that guides us all into the way of peace; a peace that passes all human understanding.

Our gracious merciful God sends this infant child as an embodiment of God's love for all God's people. This unlikely King born to this unlikely woman triumphantly breaks the dawn from on high especially to all of us who sit in darkness and/or in the shadows of death and guides our feet into the way of peace!

Let's walk forward trusting in this promised Messiah who always promises to take our hands and guide our feet into the everlasting way of peace that only God can provide!

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


 

Advent and Our Own Inconveniences

It is a beautiful December day here in North Dakota. Fresh snow from this weekend layers the ground while frost covers the trees. It is a picture straight out of a North Dakota winter calendar. I love the peacefulness this time of the year brings upon the land. But then something happens and I am shaken back into my reality. This morning, I woke up to a cold sore. Now don't get me wrong, there are worse things than cold sores, but I always seem to get one this time of the year which just annoys me and makes me extremely self conscious.

I want to hide away from the world and not show my face until that ugly cold sore has disappeared. And, of course, this week I am helping with the women's Christmas party on Thursday and preaching this weekend. So this morning, I quickly texted my friend Chris who loves her essential oils and asked her if she would recommend an essential oil to help my cold sore disappear more quickly. She had some recommendations and borrowed them to me. So at lunch time, I ran over and grabbed them from her office. Time will tell if they will do the trick! :)

I don't know about you, but I can so easily let these little inconveniences get in the way of who God has called me to be. God has created each and everyone of us as "fearfully and wonderfully made." God loved us so much that God sent God's one and only son into the world for each and every one of us.

I can so easily get sidetracked by how I look, but it's really about what is on the inside, isn't it? I think of the movie The Grinch Who Stole Christmas where we hear "It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, and bows." Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before..."Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...he thought...means a little bit more." And yes, my friends, that is the true...Christmas isn't bought in a store. Christmas is so much more!

Christmas is about spreading Christmas cheer to those who cannot afford their own packages. Christmas is about spending time with those that we love....or perhaps spending this Christmas without that special someone and yet knowing we are not alone. Christmas is about trusting in our God who sends God's son; the promise Messiah as this precious infant boy born in a stable in Bethlehem. Have you ever thought about that? The stable wasn't the cleanest place in the world. In fact, it was probably pretty dirty and didn't emit the nicest odor. And perhaps it wasn't such a silent night after all?

My prayer is that we can remember what this season is truly about...not to get hung up on our own inconveniences which in the grand scheme of things are actually pretty petty...but rather to listen for the cry of this babe born in the stable in Bethlehem and hear the words as the angels and so many proclaim "Glory to God in the highest and peace to those whom he favors" Amen!

I am linking up with Holly at Testimony Tuesday and Kelly at the RaRa Linkup:


 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Blessings 105

(1) Awesome YouthWorkers Christmas Gathering

(2) Receiving a sweet piece of snail mail from my friend EG.

(3) Christmas cards in my mailbox! I love getting real mail!!

(4) Lavendar bath salts

(5) Snow!!!

(6) A stranger shoveling my walkway.

(7) Reba marathon. Love that show!!

(8) Meeting a new eight week old baby.

(9) Great Christmas program and family service.

(10) My new LuluRoe leggings

(11) The movie "Elf"

(12) A post liturgical nap!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Brave Book-Loving Prayer Warrior Community

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 "Reflect" Write for five minutes; unedited.

It is almost hard to believe that is already Advent and then Christmas and then a new year will soon be upon us. And as the new year approaches, many of us find ourselves reflecting on the past year. It has been a great year: meeting new blog friends InRL, starting a tradition of a sister's trip to Nashville, a youth gathering, and so much more!

I learned what it means for me and my friends to be brave through the words of Annie Downs. learned to savor our Tuesdays because in the words of Emily P. Freeman "It is Simply Tuesday." I have continued to show love to my friends and family because in the words of Jen Hatmaker we shower each other with love "For the Love." I have listened to those who have been "Searching for Sunday" and searching for God. And along the way, I have learned too that I am indeed a writer myself. (Thanks Kate, Charity, and Ann!)

For the last several weeks, I have been reflecting on my life and what I have to share. I have sensed a call from God to write a book titled "Chasing our Untils." I have created an outline and need to simply begin writing. I wonder where this will take me.


Not only has this been a year of joy and happiness, I have also experienced sadness. My friend Laura is now reunited with her husband Rod in heaven. My heart breaks for their daughters but I find joy in knowing that they are not alone and surrounded by so much love. There are so many struggling with cancer and at times, I want to shout "This is enough God!" Yet I know that, even in the midst of sadness, God promises to never leave us or forsake us "Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning."--Psalm 30:5

*I am so thankful for the Five Minute Friday community. I have found kindred spirits. I have found a community that has blessed me in more ways than I could ever imagine. We have cried together, laughed together, and even prayed together. We have shared about our love of all things Gilmore Girls, chocolate, and even our love of bacon! We have participated together in the Write 31 Days challenge. I am so blessed by each of you...and as I reflect on this past year, you all are one of the biggest gifts! Love you all so dearly!


During this season of Advent, may you take time to wait, watch, and reflect on the past year and remember Emmanuel "God with us" who, in the words of Eugene Peterson "takes on flesh and blood and moves into our neighborhood"

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Our Eternal Advent Hope


Grief has a funny way of catching us off guard, doesn't it? It definitely caught me off guard this past weekend. As I was reading through the list of names in our prayers during worship, my eyes wondered down to the bottom of the list where my seminary friend Laura's name now was laying. I was able to get through the list of names, but then it came time to read Laura's name and the emotions took over. The tears poured down my face. I was able to compose myself...but barely...and get through the rest of the prayers. 

After the 8:30 am service, my colleague asked me if I wanted him to read the prayers at the later service. I was like "No I think I can get through them this time." The time came for the prayers and I read slowly through each name. Then the time came to read Laura's name again, so I took a deep breathe and proceeded on with the prayers as I uttered her name. This time, I was able to get through the prayers without any tears.

I have always been a crier...tears of joy and tears of sorrow have been intermingled throughout my life. I also have been known to cry at a Hallmark commercial or two. But so often those tears come as holy tears. Much like the waters of Baptism call and claim us as beloved children of God and cleanse us of our sins, our tears often help us to be reminded of that promise. Those holy tears are often a sign of new hope and promise.

I have been thinking a lot about Advent hope and promise in these last week especially because it seems like it is so hard to find that hope and promise in these days. During these days of Advent, it is important to remember that it is there; we just have to remember to look for it and savor it in this holy season. Jesus was born to an unlikely woman in the most unlikely of places. This promised Messiah came in the form of an infant son. God has a way of doing that; turning the ordinary into extraordinary---turning a simple chocolate bar into a flowing fountain of chocolate fondue. (Anyone else craving chocolate now?)

This infant Son came as the light in the midst of the darkness. This infant Son stands with us in a world that seems to be falling apart. This infant Son comes to calm our fears especially when it feels like our world, with good reason, is full of anxiety. This infant Son comes to call us each by name. This infant Son comes in the midst of our grief and promises to sit with us. 

Most of all, this infant Son comes as eternal Advent hope that is born in a manger in Bethlehem thousands of years ago to an unlikely woman Mary and her betrothed Joseph. This infant Son comes as OUR ETERNAL ADVENT HOPE! "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight (O Little Town of Bethlehem, verse 1)."


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

 

 

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Greatest Story

I am a lover of story especially a well-crafted, historical story. The way the characters are woven through the plot of the story; the emotions felt; the well thought out deeply insightful conversations; and the way the story concludes leaving me satisfied or leaving me to want even more. Each piece of the story plays a vital role in the telling of the story.

Can you think of some of your all time favorite stories? Why do you love them so much? Do they leave you feeling satisfied or do they leave you aching for more...wanting to spend just a little bit longer with the characters as you get to know them more intimately?

I have so many stories that I love, but my absolute favorite story comes straight out of the pages of the Bible: Jesus' birth, life and death. Today, I am going to focus solely on the true story of Christmas as we find ourselves dwelling in the season of Advent. 

The story begins with a humble mother: Mary. Here she is a virgin woman, engaged to be married, and she is told she will bear a child. Talk about a little bit of scandal. This virgin woman can NOT be "with child" yet she is! As a single woman myself, I know that people would think I was crazy if I told them that an angel had told me that I was going to bear a child....and not just any child...but the Messiah. Yet God sends one of God's messengers to Mary to calm her fears. I love the simple words of the angel as she utters "Do not be afraid."

"The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom there will be no end.'"--Luke 1:30-33

Enter another important person, the husband and soon-to-be father, Joseph. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem where Mary is to give birth to this precious holy child. They arrive and find out there is no room for them in the inn. Mary gives birth to Jesus in the most unlikely of places; in a manger. Despite the circumstances, Mary and Joseph welcome their son into the world with joy.

"In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration that took place while Quarinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.  Joseph also went from from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."--Luke 2:1-7

After Jesus' birth, an angel appears to the shepherds who are keeping watch over their flock. Upon seeing the angel, the shepherds are terrified. Who could this be? And what news are they bringing us? The words that follow are one of my favorite words from this beautiful holy story because they remind us of the power of God and God's love for all God's people.

"But the angel of the Lord said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.'"--Luke 2:8-14


The shepherds travel and find Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus lying in the manger. They then tell everyone what they have seen. The people are amazed at what the shepherds tell them. The shepherds glorify and praise God while Mary treasures and ponders all these things in her heart.

This story is a story that sticks with me! It is a story that I want to continue to tell over and over again. It is a story that calls each of us to shout "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those whom he favors." It is a story that we too shall ponder and treasure in our own hearts during this Advent and Christmas season because it indeed is one of the greatest stories ever told!

And this greatest story ever told sticks with me because of my family especially my mom. My mom has lived most of my life with a mental illness yet this is one of her most favorite seasons of the year. Growing up, she always immersed my sister and I in hearing the story of Advent/Christmas. It is a story that I never tire of hearing over and over again. It is a story that brings me great joy and hope because like I stated earlier, I have always loved a good story and it doesn't get any better than the Advent/Christmas story! 

Join me over at Literacy Musing Mondays and link-up about your favorite story.

Sunday Blessings 104

(1) A fun Luluroe Facebook party and getting a fun new outfit.

(2) Community gathered far and wide grieving our dearly beloved friend Laura.

(3) A great renewal team meeting

(4) Texting with MW.

(5) A sweet Vox from MG

(6) Hugs from KG and one of our sweet church ladies.

(7) A sweet call from MW to check on me.

(8) A great potluck with the LCM board. So much fun!!

(9) Circle Bible study at the nursing home.

(10) Two of my Confirmation students wearing yellow to class not knowing that it was one of Laura's fave colors.

(11) Spying sunflowers randomly throughout the week reminding me of sweet Laura.

(12) Finally getting Rend Collective's Campfire Christmas cd.

(13) Dickens Festival with momma

(14) Jamaica Me Crazy Steel Drum Band.

(15) Running into my friends RP and NP and getting to hug NP.

(16) Holding a three week old baby.

(17)Lots of hugs especially from some of my fave kiddos.

(18) A gorgeous 50 degree day

(19) A PLN!! (A post liturgical nap) That felt so good!!

(20) YOU!!

Friday, December 04, 2015

There is a Season

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 "Season" Write for five minutes; unedited.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."--Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Growing up on the prairies of North Dakota, I have always loved living in an area of the world where we experience four distinct seasons. I love in the spring watching new animals and new life come to fruition. In the summer, it is my joy to watch farmers especially my family tend and care for the land. In later summer/early fall, I love watching the grain, sunflowers, corn fields come even more to life. Then as Fall gives way watching as those fields are harvested. Then in the winter months, everything is covered in white as the snow covers the ground. This year, it is unseasonably warm and there is like no snow on the ground. It was 40 degrees yesterday!

Each of these seasons has their role in caring and stewarding for the land just like our lives have different seasons too. Seasons of life and death; seasons of joy and sorrow, seasons of war and peace. This week has been a week of death; a season of death that came way too early. My seminary friend Laura lost her battle with cancer earlier this week. My heart breaks for her daughters who have now lost both parents to cancer. It just doesn't seem fair. In fact, it rather sucks!

Laura was an incredible woman who always turned to Christ even in the last moments of her life. * She continued to teach even until those last moments. "Be gentle with yourselves while you are grieving and tell those that you love that you love them and know that you are loved." Those words from her are a reminder of this season of waiting and trusting in Emmanuel who comes as the light in the midst of the darkness. "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it."

So during this season of Advent, may we take time to dwell and wait for the birth of Emmanuel "God with us" who promises to never leave us or forsake us. May we tell those that we love that we love them and treasure the time we share together. May we simply remember the true reason for this season.."For God so loved the world that God gave God's only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send God's Son into the world to condemn the world, but to give eternal life."

*This is where my five minutes stopped.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Winds of Grief

Today marks the one year anniversary of the e-book Letters to Grief by Kate Motaung. Kate's book is a book of essays about grief that will bless all because we all experience grief throughout our lifetimes. To celebrate the one year anniversary, Kate is hosting a special link-up of Letters to Grief. Little did she know that this week has been all about grief for me and so many of my friends. 

Dear grief,

Would you please go away? I have been immersed in you this week. My dear seminary friend lost her battle with cancer earlier this week and all of us; her mat-carriers are scattered far and wide. We all are grieving as a community and it isn't fair. It isn't fair that Laura's girls have now lost both parents to cancer. It isn't fair that we didn't get to say goodbye. It isn't fair that a life was taken too short.

Growing up on the prairies of North Dakota, I have experienced the effects of the prairie winds. And you, grief, often feel like that prairie wind. Sometimes you blow in so gently like on Monday when the tears gently fell from my face as I read the news of my friend's passing. Or sometimes you blow in more like a winter storm leaving the affects of a strong wind behind. And other times, you blow in like a light breeze before a summer rain. 

Sometimes that wind leaves me drenched after a summer rain leaving me uncomfortable. Other times that wind blows in so strong that I feel as if I am drowning. And other times, I am left just a little damp or even dry. No matter what type of wind and how wet I find myself, I find myself trying to escape the depths of grief; yearning to throw off those wet clothes of grief.

Grief, not only, are you like those ND prairie winds, but you also are like mountain climbing. Some days I find myself clawing my way victorious to the top of Mt. Grief. Other times, I find myself slipping, sliding, and falling down that same mountain trying to climb my way out of the depths of grief. And other times, I find myself simply holding on for the ride...hoping and praying that I will come out on the other side a changed person. And yet other times, I find myself panting for breath wondering if I will be able to breath again.

Oh grief, I am already tired of you, but I also know that you are a part of life. My wise pastoral friend Laura found a way to remind all of us mat-carriers of that when she said, "Be patient with yourselves while you are grieving and tell the people you love that you love them and know that you are loved." Grief, I am not going to let you take that promise away from me. It is a promise that can overshadow the grief I and so many are feeling in these days of loss because "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it."

Grief, during these days of Advent, as we wait for the coming of Emmanuel, may you come in like gentle waves on an ocean rather than like crashing hurricane force winds. And grief, may you know that you have no power over hearing those three simple words "I love you!"


Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Top Ten Things November 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.


(1) It is so much fun to find new clothing lines. Thanks to my friend Lindy for introducing me to LuluRoe. I am so excited to try out my leggings. I also will be purchasing a dress or skirt.

(2) Even.If.Not has become one of my new favorite phrases penned by my blog friend Kaitlyn. I am on her launch team and am so excited for all of you to read her book. Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between will be released in early 2016. For more information, click here!

(3) Time with dear friends is so so good for the soul! Lunch with KG, coffee with CT, Beer and Hymns with EG and AH. We need to take time to gather around the table more often friends!

(4) We need to find a cure for cancer! I know this isn't news to anyone. But too many individuals have been taken way too soon. My friend Laura completed her Baptismal journey yesterday. My heart breaks for Laura's daughters who have now lost both of their parents to cancer. Two weeks ago, our local Taco John's held a fundraiser for a young wife and mother who was battling cancer. She passed away two days after her fundraiser. And it seems that more and more people are being diagnosed with cancer.

(5) Thanksgiving with the family is the best! Love spending time with my family especially as my grandparents age. Good food, great conversation, competitive Rook games, lots of laughter and so much more!

(6) The gift of community! I especially have noticed it in the last 24 hours. Voxes, Tweets, Facebook messages and the list goes on. In the words of my friend Sally, it feels like one giant cyber hug. And my friends, that is a perfect description. As the Wartburg Seminary community grieves, near and far, there is power in knowing that we do not grieve alone but together.

(7) Peppermint lattes, hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, vanilla egg nog....oh the goodness! I love this time of the year. There is something about curling up under blankets with a hot beverage in hand.

(8) I am a champion chili maker! I repeated as the Lutheran Campus Ministry chili feed champ which is voted on by local officials. This year it was local cops; last year fire men!

(9) Sometimes we just have to reward ourselves for completing a goal/challenge. I bought myself a new tshirt AND tank top for finishing the Write 31 Days challenge. I couldn't decide so I rewarded myself with two items!

(10) Pinterest isn't always a fail! I led the Family SS activities two weeks in a row. And the cute cupcake liner angels from Pinterest were not an EPIC FAIL. In fact, they turned out rather cute.

Linking Up Here!

The Impact of Love

There are people who God places in our lives that leave such a lasting imprint. It is almost impossible to remember a time when you did not know that individual. Their light seems to always shine a little bit brighter than the rest of our lights. And my friends, today that light is a little bit dimmer. My dear friend Laura completed her baptismal journey yesterday and is now reunited with her beloved, Rod.

When I started at Wartburg Seminary, Laura was one of the first people that I met and was one of the most welcoming people I have ever met. In addition, her smile always lit up a room. She loved well and she loved deep! I am reminded of a story my friend Sandi shared about when her and her family moved onto the campus at Wartburg. Laura showed up with toilet paper and lemonade: perfect gifts for moving into a new home on a hot summer day. Love can be so very simple, like through fresh squeezed lemonade, and Laura was the absolute best at showing that love!

Laura also always exuded joy. Some of my favorite memories were watching Laura and a few of our other friends (Sally, Sandy, etc) cheer on our "Running Reformers" city league basketball team. Those cheers always brought a smile to my face. Laura was all about the hokey pokey. In fact, every time I hear it now I will smile and think of this beloved friend. "Because that's what it's all about!"

A few years ago, our friend Julia ran in honor of Laura and sarcoma research during the Fargo Marathon. Now I am no runner, but I was so delighted to stand on the sidelines donning my "Team Koppy" t-shirt and cheering on Julia and Laura.


Laura is a soul who touched many lives especially her beloved daughters. Today, Laura is free of all that ails her. And I reluctantly put down her mat at Jesus' feet, but I put it down knowing she is free of pain and reunited with her dearly beloved husband, Rod. I also am reminded of Laura's own wise pastoral words that are bringing me some comfort today: "Be patient with yourselves while you are grieving and tell the people you love that you love them and know that you are loved."

So now as I lay down my mat, I see all the others around me reluctantly laying down their mats too. Laura touched more lives than I think she will ever know or could imagine. The impact of love for Laura is seen in the tears, Facebook posts, and sighs too deep for words that express the impact of love she has had on each and every one of us.

Laura, my friend, you are so dearly loved!