Sunday Blessings 87

(1) My friend’s son pulling my name out of a hat for a drawing.

(2) Trying my first recipe from Bread and Wine; Blueberry Crisp. Very yummy!!

(3) Staff liked the Blueberry Crisp.

(4) Family SS picnic. It was a cold night but it was so fun. Love those families!

(5) Hanging out with Mr. E while his mom and dad worked on building boxes for our community garden.

(6) S’more Summer Worship

(7) I love smelling like campfire and roasting marshmallows.

(8) Learning that a friend was a surrogate for another friend of ours. What an incredibly selfless act!

(9) Hearing my colleague’s son say, “That’s Tara” when I came.

(10) Planting some veggies in our church’s community garden. So excited for fresh tomatoes etc.

(11) New haircut, color and facial wax. All thanks to a very anonymous generous gifter.

(12) Hearing Mr. E say hello to me. “Hi Tawa” (I love how it sounds with his sweet two year old voice)
(13) PB and I getting to participate in a Baptism with two little boys. So sweet!!

(14) Great day of driving; 10 hours down; about two to go.

(15) A nice Quality Inn to rest my head for the night.

It’s a short list this week, but I know the next list will be long! I wanted to share the song “Sons and Daughters” by Matt Mahrer but he doesn’t have a video of it and I can’t find a link so if you own the cd check it out or go to your local christian store and listen to it. It is how I think many of us are feeling after the tragedy in Charleston this past week. Love you all!

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear!

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 “Fear.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

“Lord have mercy”

Those are the only words I can seem to muster up as I heard about the shooting at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston last night. What has our world come to? Can we not feel safe in our own places of worship? Can we send our children to school without the fear that a shooter might come into their building? Can we not take the lessons we learned in Sunday School and share God’s love with ALL of God’s people?
When I hear these stories of violence in the world, I  immediately feel fear. Because so often the media blames the violence on a person who is living with a mental illness. That maybe true…but not everyone who lives with a mental illness will resort to this violence. In fact, most of them will not resort to violence because they have gotten the proper treatment. Yet so many  individuals are filled with fear because they do not understand. They do not understand that there is treatment. But more importantly, they haven’t asked the questions or learned about this very treatable illness. 
Anyone who has read my blog knows that I am a daughter of someone who lives daily with a mental illness. She has taught me more about life and faith than I could ever imagine. She would literally give the shirt off of her back. She is a beautiful child of God who understands what it means to cast out fear. 
“Perfect love casts out fear!” 
And I truly believe that perfect love casts out fear! * God sent Jesus into the world for our sins. Jesus was never afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus was always breaking bread with the outcasts and the downtrodden. Jesus was a world changer and boundary crosser! Jesus hung on a cross and uttered the words “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” 
Again “perfect love casts out fear!”
What if we followed Jesus’ examples? What if we stopped and truly listened to each other’s stories? Wouldn’t we see that when we love each other, fear is tossed to the wayside and joy and happiness boil to the top? Doesn’t God call us to show love to each other; to show love from all ends of the globe to the next?

“There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) 

For perfect love casts out and conquers fear!

Last week, I wrote about Godly fear vs worldly fear. If you didn’t get a chance to read that post, here is the link:

*This is where my five minutes ended. I told them at the Twitter Party that this would be one of those word prompts that would easily go beyond the five minute limit. Sometimes you just have to keep writing!

Blessed To Be A Blessing

I have always loved the story of Abraham and Sarah. Just last night, I found myself reading through the Bible…and I was plopped right down into the story of Lot and Abram. God promised Abram descendants; as many as the stars in the sky. God also promised that Abram would be “blessed to be a blessing.”

Now most of us know the story, Abram and Sarai were blessed with a child. But first not in the way, any of us would expect. Sarah had her servant Hagar submit to Abram. She bore a child. That child was named Ishmael. Abram was eight six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
But then God came and promised Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son. At his old age, Abraham laughed at God’s words to him. Sarah would be quite old when she became pregnant. Can you even imagine? I don’t think I could.but then again, God has the power to do ANYTHING! God provided for them. God gave them exactly what God promised them that God would do.

Abraham was faithful to God. He always trusted that God’s words would come true. Are we faithful like Abraham? Or do we react more like he first did when he heard the news that Sarah would bear him a child? I think more often than we care to admit we laugh like Abraham did. Or we let fear creep in and forget to trust in God and God’s promises for us.

I have been reflecting a lot on how Sarah and Abraham both trusted God. They laughed at first, but then they fulfilled the tasks that God asked them to do. I don’t know about you but I find myself wanting to be more like Abraham…and Sarah.

There are days that I still wonder whether God hears my prayers. But the truth is that I know that God hears them. Yet I still have a hard time trusting in that when the desires of my heart have not yet been met. And in those moments, I really am reminded of Sarah and Abraham.

To be honest, I often see myself in Sarah. I see how she yearned to be a mom and give her husband a child. I too yearn to be a mom and a wife. I see how she trusted in Abraham. I see how she continually and most importantly, trusted in God. I want to trust in God like Sarah and Abraham trusted in God! I may be nearing my 40’s, but that doesn’t mean God won’t still show up for me. God showed up to Sarah when she was much older than I am!

Through it all, Abraham and Sarah counted their blessings and shared those blessings. God calls us to take inventory of our blessings as well. God opens our eyes to see the blessings all around us. As I have finished 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp and continued to keep my Sunday Blessings post here on my blog, I have become even more aware of how incredibly blessed I am! Listing my blessings has changed my attitude. Especially knowing that truth, God calls me; calls all of us to follow Sarah and Abraham’s lead to go out into the world to be “blessed to be a blessing.”

Addendum: Tonight I came back from our S’more Summer worship and was scrolling through my Facebook feed. I saw the most amazing thing. My friend E and her hubby lost a child last September. Little did I know that our friend B was a surrogate for them and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. It is amazing to me how they have been able to keep it a secret on social media etc. My friend B’s actions are so amazing. She is an incredible woman and she said she would do it all over for them. I am so very thankful tonight. What an incredible blessing for my friend E and her hubby M. This story is a wonderful example of what it means to go out into the world to be “blessed to be a blessing.”

Seeking Peace

Seeking peace….my friends…can be such a difficult thing to do in this crazy busy hustling world. But the truth is that even when we take five minutes with him, God has a way of showing up and showing us peace..of reminding us of the importance of Sabbath in our every day lives.

Just tonight, I found myself at a picnic. In the midst of the picnic, I found myself simply sitting taking in the cool air and was reminded of the beauty of creation as I watched the kids with smiles on their faces playing. Then I came to church to check on our community garden where they were busy building garden boxes. My colleague, her husband, another colleague and another friend were busy working on the boxes when I arrived. My colleagues two year old son was watching and playing outdoors. While my colleague was working with them on the boxes, I was hanging out with Mr. E. As I sat in the box of the pickup and listened to this sweet little boy chat with me. I couldn’t help but think about how being with him was bringing me peace…because it was causing me to pause and just simply sit with him.

Isn’t it funny how God has this way of reminding us of the importance of Sabbath and helping us to seek peace. Some of my favorite places have become places where I truly experience God’s peace. My favorite place in the world…the Bible camp I worked at for approximately seven summers helps me to exhale and take in the beauty of God’s creation. As my car turns onto the gravel road to that holy place, I find myself feeling much lighter. It is a place where I always am at peace.

On Sunday, I will be heading to Colorado and the Rocky Mountains for a continuing education class. This is the fifth summer that I have participated in this event. It is hard to explain but the minute I come around the bends and see the Rocky Mountains staring back at me, my whole body is at peace. It is as if my whole body exhales and peace immediately enters in. Sitting around Lily Lake or on the front porch at Meeker Park Lodge or wherever I might find myself, I don’t have to look far at all to find God’s peace because it is already there staring right back at me.

And as I think about how it is there along, I am reminded that it is in my every day too. I just have to stop and take the time to see it, to feel it and to hear it. God offers an everlasting peace that only God can provide. But we must take the time to seek it, to find it, and to let it enter in. Because when we do, God is right there painting  this beautiful masterpiece…like a golden sunset, or the golden wheat blowing in the fields of the prairies of North Dakota, or right in my own back yard.

And as God paints that beautiful masterpiece, we begin to see the beauty in the midst of the brokenness, the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary and experience the everlasting peace that only God can provide us.

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

Sunday Blessings 86

(1) Fair Trade Chocolate: Dark Chocolate with Mint

(2) A text from two of my faves: STM and KW telling me they miss me.

(3) Real mail from a blog friend. Thanks SS! Totally made my day!!

(4) A great renewal team meeting

(5) Accidentally butt dialing a friend and then getting a chance to talk with her over instant messenger.

(6) The best sister in the world. Love ya Andrea Kay!!

(7) A little boy from church wanting to hold my hand. Then when we were holding hands, he kept leaning in to kiss it.

(8) A great night working on our youth gathering fundraiser. Thanks everyone!!

(9) A blog friend asking if she could link back to one of my blog posts.

(10) Council meeting at PK’s house. It was such a gorgeous night to be outside.

(11) A lady at the mall telling me I looked younger than 36.

(12) A fun new sundress and sandals

(13) Texting with MW.

(14) A nice thank you note postcard in the mail

(15) Great day of youth fundraising!

(16) Awesome conversations with some of my youth kids. Talking about our trip, going off to college, volunteering at the animal shelter etc.

(17) Amazing generous givers for our youth fundraisers.

(18) Outshine Grape Popsicles; tasted so good after mowing my lawn.

(19) Leftover donuts from our youth fundraiser that we shared for this mornings coffee hour.

(20) A total Holy Spirit moment. My children’s sermon was about letting our lights shine. We even used the words of the song. It came time for special music and guess what they sang….you guessed…”This Little Light of Mine.” I hadn’t looked at what they were doing and they had no idea what my sermon would be about. So cool!!!

(21) An awesome PLN (post-liturgical nap)

(22) A mowed lawn. I enjoy working outside and I’m always so proud of how nice my lawn looks afterwards.

(23) Getting a Vox from TM. I’ve missed you friend!!

(24) A light rain

(25) Sweet summertime sleep

The Language of Love

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 “World.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

The first thing I thought of when I saw the word prompt was the song “We are the World” by Michael Jackson. These words from the chorus kept replaying in my mind “We are the world. We are the children.” Yes, we are God’s children scattered all over the world. Throughout the world, as God’s children, the language of love is one that is universal.

Tonight I was working at church with the kids who are attending the National Youth Gathering and their parents on a fundraiser. One of them brought their little brother with her. This little boy is so kind and polite. He constantly reminds me of the power of love. I was going to the kitchen to grab some stuff and he ran after me. Then later, he came up to me and gave me a hug. He also kept holding my hand and kissing it as we were walking to the janitor’s closet to get a garbage bag. This little boy’s actions remind me of the universal power of love…a love that is shared all over the world.

My friend Heather and her husband David have spent the last several years in Japan where Heather was teaching English. It was always such a joy to read about their experience on the other side of the world. I even sent them a package that didn’t make it to them. When it arrived back at my house, the box looked like it had been through heck. I wondered where in the world that box had been. Now Heather and David are back in the States, Heather shared a sweet memory book with me that her kids shared with her. Another picture of the universal language of love.

*Five years ago, my friend Renee and her husband Ben and Ben’s cousin Jon traveled to Haiti. While they were on that side of the world, the Haiti earthquake occurred. Ben lost his life that day. After the aftermath of the earthquake, Jon and Renee were wrapped in the arms of the Haiti people. They took the blankets off of their backs and shared them with Jon and Renee. Now Jon and Renee are married and have a little boy. Another image of the universal language of love!

There is a lot of turmoil in the world. But God brings about God’s peace and justice; a peace and justice that we continually pray for in the world…especially as we hear the news stories–ISIS, Caitlyn Jenner, and so much more. The truth, I believe, is that God calls us to be a “voice and not an echo.” God continually calls us to share God’s love with the world. We may not always agree but God calls us to love Caitlyn Jenner even when we don’t understand her decisions.

God sent his son Jesus as the example for us all. Jesus was always turning the world upside down. Jesus was always sitting with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus was continually inviting all of God’s people, all around the world, to sit at the table of grace; where we fill up and spill out for the kingdom.

*This is where my five minutes stopped.

Godly Fear

Fear does have a way of robbing us of our joy, doesn’t it? There are so many things that I fear. Will I ever find my Mr. Right? Will I ever be a mom? Will I be able to make and save enough money to go on that vacation I want to go on? Will my paycheck make it to the next paycheck? (And the list of questions is endless.

I am such a blessed woman. I have a roof over my head. I have a car. I have food and clothing (more clothes than I probably need). I have a wonderful job that I love. I live close enough to my work, that I can walk to work every day. I am blessed to have amazing friends and family. Yet sometimes these wonderful things are overshadowed by the deep dark fears in my life. And, my friends, I don’t want those fears to rob me of my joy!
Yet it is so easy for my joy to be overshadowed by my fears. Just today, I had a moment where I was so worried about something that I found fear and even anger inching its way into my heart and soul.
As I felt that fear and anger boiling up in my body, I was reminded that fear is not of God. In those moments, I hear Jesus saying, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its owns. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Matthew 6:34 NRSV).” (So much easier said than done!)

The truth is that there is Godly fear….but that is a different kind of fear than the fear that barges in and steals all of our joy. It is a fear that reminds us of the power of God’s love and grace. In fact, it is that kind of fear that calls us to be “a voice and not an echo.” It is also that Godly fear that invites us ALL to the table of grace where we are to break bread together. It is that Godly fear that reminds us constantly of who and whose we are!

I don’t know about you, but for me, it is the kind of fear that I need to cling too; a fear that is grounded in God’s grace for God’s people. There are so many days when I question why I fear certain things in my life. Yet the truth is that God calls me to trust in him and to not let my fears overshadow the moments of deep joy in my life. In fact, it is Godly fear that crushes our worldly fears.

As I write this, I find my body exhaling as I cling to the joy I see around me; a picture on Facebook of a friend’s son playing on a slip and slide (pure and utter joy), listening to the birds outside my house as they enjoy the bird feeder in my neighbor’s yard, celebrating friend’s birthdays, reading a book on my patio on a beautiful summer day and the list goes on. It seems to me that when we celebrate and remember the gifts and blessings around us, we are able to let Godly fear extinguish those worldly fears in our lives.

I am not saying that we won’t fear because the truth is we will. We are all human…and fear is indeed a human emotion. Tomorrow I will probably wake up with another fear finding its way into my heart and trying to rob me again of my joy. But the truth is God knows what is in store. God indeed provides. I love how the Message translation translates that verse from Matthew 6: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes (Matthew 6:34, Eugene Peterson’s The Message Translation).”

Those words are difficult words to hear and I believe, are even harder for us to trust in. Yet the truth is that God is a God who provides. God often doesn’t provide in the ways we would like him to provide, but God still provides. God provides especially when the hard things arise. I have seen this so many times through answered prayers. Sometimes God says, “Not yet” or “Maybe” or “Later”  but God always provides and shows us God’s answer. So today I am choosing to cling to Godly fear, the hope found in answered prayers, and Godly grace.

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


Sunday Blessings 85

(1) Having coffee with my dear friend CT.

(2) A good lunch meeting with a colleague.

(3) Receiving a fun surprise in the mail. Thanks Lindy!!

(4) New contacts

(5) Western ND Gala dinner. So fun to serve the people of WND who attended. Also got to enjoy some fresh salad and homemade bread! Yum!!

(6) Yummy homemade bread

(7) Spending time with dear Diaconal sisters.

(8) Lots of conversation around the Practice Discipleship Initiative.

(9) So many different acquaintances sharing how proud they are of me. So incredibly humbling.

(10) Awesome music shared at synod assembly.

(11) High-fiving my colleagues little boy. So fun!!

(12) Walking by the pool at the hotel and hearing my name being called out as some of my church kids were swimming.

(13) Meeting my dear friends sister and niece. And getting to see her mom.

(14) Lunch with Bishop Mark and Word and Service colleagues. So thankful for that conversation.

(15) A sweet woman saying she wanted to be friends with me because I seemed so sweet.

(16) Baby Gabriel smiling so sweetly for me.

(17) A sweet text from a dear friend. Thanks so much ST!

(18) Delivering toys for my friend and getting to talk to her hubby and their sweet girls.

(19) A few Graduation Open houses.

(20) Graduation Open House Leftovers sent home with me. Thanks so much. So sweet of you!

(21) Getting to see my best friend. It’s been way too long. We exchanged Christmas and Birthday gifts today!! A new Nativity for my collection.

(22) Bible camp staff sharing music etc with us at synod assembly.

(23) Pre-assembly workshop at synod assembly. Thanks for the bracelets Anna and Shera. Love them so much!!

(24) Sharing some of my poetry at the art show at synod assembly.

(25) Lunch at Panera; great company and yummy food.

(26) A candy bar at a graduation open house.

(27) Thanks to everyone who supported our youth gathering kids today as they served coffee after church.

(28) Being asked to help my friend coach for a FB Sip and Stride challenge. Thanks Lindy!

(29) A blog friend sharing a tweet with a link to one of my blog posts.

(30) My Diaconal sisters here in Western ND.

(31) Texting with one of my fave people. Thanks MW!

(32) A new season of Food Network Star!!!

(33) A friend of moms and the current pastor at my home church stopping in Garrison on their way back to Ashley to see Mom. Mom was so happy they stopped. Love!!!

(34) Talking to mom on the phone

(35) The Holy Spirit; alive and well on the prairies of North Dakota.

Words as Offering and Gift

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 “Gift.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

The other day I went down into my basement and found an unwanted gift: a mouse. In the one and a half years I have lived in this house, I have not seen that unwanted gift until last week. Last week I put in some mouse traps and have not seen those unwanted gifts since…so hopefully it stays that way.

But on another note, I recently finished Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts. Oh how I love that book! It has reminded me how important it is to take note of the many gifts; many blessings we have been given in life. I even downloaded the app and have been keeping track on my phone.

Tonight I had the gift of spending some quality time with some dear friends. Oh how much of a gift that is! And earlier this week, I had the gift of having coffee with my dear friend CT. Those moments are indeed gift in my life.

And as I have reflected on the many gifts I have been given in my life, I have been thinking about one of those gifts as my writing; whether it be in poetry or through blogging or whatever writing medium that may be. Those words that spill out onto the page are my gifts; my offerings to God. I write them down and then lift them up and place them on the altar to God.

I am reminded of the words we hear in John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” God sent Jesus into the world as a gift; as God’s living Word in the world. God calls us to use our gifts as an offering for the kingdom; as an offering to God. We place our gifts onto the altar and offer them as a gift for others; that they may realize that they are not alone; that are words are an offering for them too!

Intertwined Hands

The minute they walked into my house, her little hand intertwined with mine. With intertwined hands, she led me throughout my house, pointing out items. “Tara, what is this?” “Tara, where did you get that?” “Oh Tara, that is so pretty.” This sweet little girl was not afraid to hold my hand. For her, there was such comfort and joy in intertwining her hand with mine.

What if we were more like her? What if we readily intertwined our hands with Jesus’ hands? Because the thing is, my friends, that Jesus’ hand is always waiting for us to hold onto. Jesus is waiting for us to intertwine our hands with his.
There are so many days that I want to intertwine my hands with Jesus. In fact, there are days that I reach out and intertwine my hands with his. Yet so often, I lose my grip and find myself letting go even though Jesus is fighting with every fiber of his being to not lose his grip on me. 
In mountain climbing, it is essential to have all of the right tools since different conditions will show themselves as you work your way up that huge cliff. I am not a mountain climber but have many friends who are. They make sure to take lots of water with them and lots of fiber like trail mix to give them good energy. They also make sure to take poles and other items to keep them safe. Without these items, it would be extremely easy for the climber to lose their footing or their hand grip. 
Like climbers need essential tools for safety, God sent Jesus as that safety net for us. When we have lost our own footing, Jesus extends his hand and asks us to trust that he will pull us back up to safety. When we are holding on tight and still manage to lose our grasp, Jesus holds on even tighter. And most especially on the cross, Jesus extended his hands for us. He breathed his last breath and died on the cross for our sins. But then, three days later, God raised him from the dead…because only God has the power to overcome death and the grave.
Knowing that promise, I want to more readily intertwine my hands with Jesus, knowing that love is worth the risk. Yesterday my blog friend Jennifer Dukes Lee wrote a beautiful post for her Tell His Story linkup. Her post reminded me that love is indeed worth the risk. Love is worth reaching out my hand, intertwining my hand with Jesus, and grasping on tight as I trust in this holy one who promises to never leave me or forsake me. (You can read Jennifer’s post here: When Love is A Risk)

I am not one hundred percent sure what God has in store for me, but I am hearing the call to intertwine my hands with his more and more each day. And with our hands intertwined, I am choosing to hold on tight and trying so hard to not let go. I am trusting in this one who always extends his hand to each of us just like my friend’s daughter so easily intertwined her hand with mine. So today and hopefully every day after, I am choosing to intertwine my hands with Jesus’ and am hanging on for dear life!

Linking up with Thoughtful Thursday at Creative K today: