Beauty out of Brokenness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hold Us In Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Weary World Rejoices

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Ingalls Wilder; A Legacy of Hard Work and Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like Laura, it is my hope and dream that my legacy will be one of hard work and earning an income by working hard for that money, but also being open to giving and sharing with those in need when I have money to spare. Laura was always willing to spare money for others especially those she loved.

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

(Information about Laura Ingalls Wilder was gleaned from these websites: Laura Ingalls Wilder (Wikipedia)Laura Ingalls Wilder Biography, and Laura Ingalls Wilder Documentary

Also linked up at Literary Musing Mondays

Care-giving for a Parent

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

Write 31 Days Withdrawal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
 

It Isn’t About Those Cups!

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Linking up at Inspire Me Monday


Sunday Blessings 100

(1) Juicy Pear Jelly Bellies

(2) Talking to my Daddy

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

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

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

(6) Running into Kyle D

(7) A great Confirmation class

(8) Awesome night at FLY

(9) Mail from my Daddy

(10) Fresh Apple Crisp

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

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

(13) A post bizarre nap

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

(15)Compliments on my sermon

(16) Helping a friend out

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

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

(19) A beautiful Fall day

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

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

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

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

Life’s a Dance; The Time of My Life

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


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

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

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

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

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

What October Taught Me

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

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

This is what I learned this month….

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

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

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

(4) Project Life App. This has become one of my new favorite apps. My friend Sarah gifted it to me and I cannot get enough of it. I can make pages on my phone or my I-pad Mini, upload the page to Shutterfly and drop into a page. It is so slick. Here is a page I recently made ALL using that app.
(5) ShutterFly. I absolutely love making Shutterfly photo books. And  cannot wait for the orange package to arrive in my mailbox. I have been so far behind. But due to the Fall weather and being cuddled up under blankets at home, I have been able to catch up. 
(6) As my friend Karrilee stated in her monthly wrap-up, Write 31 days totally cuts into our reading time. Amen to that! I just started “It’s Simply Tuesday” by Emily P. Freeman and am LOVING it! On my to-read list is “Beautiful UnCertainty” “Accidental Saints” and so many others.
(7) I LOVE reading others blogs, commenting, and encouraging them. One of my favorite things this last month was encouraging my friends through the challenge, but also meeting new blog friends. I never realized how much of an encourager I am until others pointed it out to me.
(8) I am learning the many ways God has called me to be brave while also learning to be brave in new ways too. The other day, my friend Mary pointed out how she thinks my brave is in “telling our story.” Anyone else think God was trying to show me something over a year ago then when I was called to write this: Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness
(9) Adulting totally sucks sometimes! At the end of last week which also happened to coincide with the end of the month, my car had all sorts of problems. I had to have three tires replaced. In addition, my automatic window engine died which of course had to happen immediately after I had rolled down my window so it was stuck in the down position. Thankful it was all fixable and that my Dad is able to help me out.
(10) Spending time with family is wonderful! I loved spending time with my aunt, Grandma and Grandpa earlier this month. As Gma and Gpa age, I treasure the time I have left with them even more! We hung out at the Norsk Hostfest and got to see some awesome concerts especially Martina McBride.
(11) I am a kid at heart! It was so much fun to dress up for the church’s Fall festival. I also love hanging out with my favorite peeps! 
And that is pretty much what I learned this month. What have you learned this month?
(Also after Write 31 days, I am taking some time off from the blog to simply rest. I will see you back here late Thursday night or early Friday morning for the Five Minute Friday. Not sure if this week’s word will top last week’s prompt of  “bacon” And oh how much do I love that our writing tribe picked that word! Love these quirky lovely people!)
I am linking up with these lovely faith-filled ladies: