Country Music and Fried Pickles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Garden Not A Tumbleweed

Joining in with the online discussion on the book “On Being A Writer” by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Today we are working through Chapter 10: Plan.

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing to Celebrate Life

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


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

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

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

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

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

I choose to celebrate our similarities rather than our differences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My People

Joining in with the online discussion on the book “On Being A Writer” by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Today we are working through Chapter 9: Engage.


“It’s not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”–EB White

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Life Is Wearing On You….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am linking up with my favorites this week:


   

A Wednesday at Opryland (Nashville: Day 3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I entered the directions to the CVS Pharmacy in my phone and tried to navigate us to the store. However we got lost along the way. We had Siri recalculate the directions and then headed back towards where we had come from. I spotted the CVS out of the corner of my eye. It was hidden and not easy to spot…no wonder we drove by it the first time. Jen waited in her car while Ann and I ran into the store to purchase the batteries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 11, 2001

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Same Power (A Five Minute Friday Post)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staring Back at Me

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

Last October, when I joined the Write 31 Days challenge, I never would have imagined how healing my series would be for me, but it healed wounds that I didn’t even know where still there. It opened up my world to others who have blessed my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined. And to be honest, writing our story down was and continues to be one of the bravest things that I have ever done. Because even yet today, our journey of mental illness ebbs and flows. There are days I am proud of who I am, proud of where I have come from, but then there are days, that I wonder why us, why our family.
A year ago, during the Write 31 Days challenge, I penned the words below (in italics) after completing the Write 31 Days challenge. Even looking back at them now, I realize how vulnerable I was. In the words of Ann in this chapter, I never realized how desperately I wanted and needed to share our story. Ann writes: “I desperately wanted to understand myself, unearth who I was meant to become. And deep down, I wanted to write.” Yep, I wanted and needed to write! Yes, there have been times when I was afraid to hit the publish button and there are other pieces of our story that I have held close to my chest. But unearthing our story led me to realize how brave and strong my Mom is, but also how brave and strong I am as her daughter.

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Taken Way Too Soon

A life taken way too soon….

I don’t think we will fully understand why….
It will be 15 years this December….
It was a frigidly cold December day in Bismarck, North Dakota. I was gathered at lunch with many of my communication major friends when our friend Amber came walking into the lunch room. I could tell by the look on Amber’s face and in her eyes that she did not hold good news. She walked directly up to me and said, “Have you heard? Chewy is dead.” He committed suicide.
I was in complete shock. How could this young 23 year old man be gone? How could he no longer be a part of our world? What had happened to cause him to commit suicide? I had no answers…only more and more questions.
After lunch, I went to the front desk to work. The minute I arrived at the front desk I pulled upon the newspaper and turned to the obituaries. Amber’s words weren’t going to be real to me until I saw his name in the obituary section of the paper. My fingers fumbled through the paper and finally landed on the obituaries. And sure enough there was Chewy’s face and name staring straight back at me. (Chewy’s Obituary)
Since I was working at the front desk, I held back the tears. I didn’t want other students to see my vulnerability. The minute my shift ended, I ran back to my dorm room. I opened the door, slammed it shut, pulled out my photo album which I opened to a picture of Chewy from the end of the previous school year, and held it in my hands. The tears slowly began to stream down my face and before I knew it, the tears wouldn’t stop and it felt like all of the oxygen in my lungs had been sucked out.
I had gotten to know Chewy through the theater program at the University of Mary. I remember one time in particular when he showed up with bouquets of flowers for all the girls in the play. It was such a sweet gesture that is forever ingrained in my memory. I remember being at a retreat, tears flowing down my cheeks when he simply let me cry on his shoulders. He was the person who gave me the nickname “Smiley”. (For the longest time, I wouldn’t let anyone call me that. It seemed wrong to let anyone else call me that name after he had given it to me!) These memories of Chewy are the memories that I chose to cling too. Yet there was a side of Chewy that I never saw. Chewy struggled with alcohol and other addictions which is ultimately what probably took his life.
Trusting in those promises, we gathered in the college chapel to remember Chewy’s life. The day his funeral was held out of town a nasty North Dakota blizzard blew through the state, so it was good that we were able to gather together as a community to remember this young man. As we mourned this young man’s life, it was life-giving to laugh and cry together. I finally began to feel like I was getting some air back in my lungs.

Today, Chewy and I would be about the same age. I wonder what his life would look like if he was still here on this Earth. I wonder if he would be married, with a family. I wonder so much about what might of been. And then I am reminded of the words to one of my favorite Bible verses: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords (Romans 14:8).”

My prayer is that by sharing Chewy’s story and the story of so many who daily struggle with addictions, mental health issues, etc that perhaps at least one life will be saved. Will you join me in Suicide Prevention Week this week?

This post is dedicated to my college friend Michael “Chewy” Chewakin. 
May you continue to rest in peace, friend!

I am linking up with some of my favorites: Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Angie and the RaRa Linkup, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story: