A Brave Book-Loving Prayer Warrior Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Eternal Advent Hope

Grief has a funny way of catching us off guard, doesn’t it? It definitely caught me off guard this past weekend. As I was reading through the list of names in our prayers during worship, my eyes wondered down to the bottom of the list where my seminary friend Laura’s name now was laying. I was able to get through the list of names, but then it came time to read Laura’s name and the emotions took over. The tears poured down my face. I was able to compose myself…but barely…and get through the rest of the prayers. 
After the 8:30 am service, my colleague asked me if I wanted him to read the prayers at the later service. I was like “No I think I can get through them this time.” The time came for the prayers and I read slowly through each name. Then the time came to read Laura’s name again, so I took a deep breathe and proceeded on with the prayers as I uttered her name. This time, I was able to get through the prayers without any tears.

I have always been a crier…tears of joy and tears of sorrow have been intermingled throughout my life. I also have been known to cry at a Hallmark commercial or two. But so often those tears come as holy tears. Much like the waters of Baptism call and claim us as beloved children of God and cleanse us of our sins, our tears often help us to be reminded of that promise. Those holy tears are often a sign of new hope and promise.
I have been thinking a lot about Advent hope and promise in these last week especially because it seems like it is so hard to find that hope and promise in these days. During these days of Advent, it is important to remember that it is there; we just have to remember to look for it and savor it in this holy season. Jesus was born to an unlikely woman in the most unlikely of places. This promised Messiah came in the form of an infant son. God has a way of doing that; turning the ordinary into extraordinary—turning a simple chocolate bar into a flowing fountain of chocolate fondue. (Anyone else craving chocolate now?)
This infant Son came as the light in the midst of the darkness. This infant Son stands with us in a world that seems to be falling apart. This infant Son comes to calm our fears especially when it feels like our world, with good reason, is full of anxiety. This infant Son comes to call us each by name. This infant Son comes in the midst of our grief and promises to sit with us. 
Most of all, this infant Son comes as eternal Advent hope that is born in a manger in Bethlehem thousands of years ago to an unlikely woman Mary and her betrothed Joseph. This infant Son comes as OUR ETERNAL ADVENT HOPE! “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight (O Little Town of Bethlehem, verse 1).”
I am linking up with these lovely ladies today: Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story and Holley and Coffee for your Heart!

 
 

The Greatest Story

I am a lover of story especially a well-crafted, historical story. The way the characters are woven through the plot of the story; the emotions felt; the well thought out deeply insightful conversations; and the way the story concludes leaving me satisfied or leaving me to want even more. Each piece of the story plays a vital role in the telling of the story.
Can you think of some of your all time favorite stories? Why do you love them so much? Do they leave you feeling satisfied or do they leave you aching for more…wanting to spend just a little bit longer with the characters as you get to know them more intimately?
I have so many stories that I love, but my absolute favorite story comes straight out of the pages of the Bible: Jesus’ birth, life and death. Today, I am going to focus solely on the true story of Christmas as we find ourselves dwelling in the season of Advent. 
The story begins with a humble mother: Mary. Here she is a virgin woman, engaged to be married, and she is told she will bear a child. Talk about a little bit of scandal. This virgin woman can NOT be “with child” yet she is! As a single woman myself, I know that people would think I was crazy if I told them that an angel had told me that I was going to bear a child….and not just any child…but the Messiah. Yet God sends one of God’s messengers to Mary to calm her fears. I love the simple words of the angel as she utters “Do not be afraid.”
The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom there will be no end.'”–Luke 1:30-33
Enter another important person, the husband and soon-to-be father, Joseph. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem where Mary is to give birth to this precious holy child. They arrive and find out there is no room for them in the inn. Mary gives birth to Jesus in the most unlikely of places; in a manger. Despite the circumstances, Mary and Joseph welcome their son into the world with joy.

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

After Jesus’ birth, an angel appears to the shepherds who are
keeping watch over their flock. Upon seeing the angel, the shepherds are terrified.
Who could this be? And what news are they bringing us? The words that follow
are one of my favorite words from this beautiful holy story because they remind
us of the power of God and God’s love for all God’s people.
But the angel of the Lord said to them, ‘Do not be
afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the
Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth
and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of
the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest
heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.'”–Luke 2:8-14


The shepherds travel and find Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus lying
in the manger. They then tell everyone what they have seen. The people are
amazed at what the shepherds tell them. The shepherds glorify and praise God
while Mary treasures and ponders all these things in her heart.
This story is a story that sticks with me! It is a story that
I want to continue to tell over and over again. It is a story that calls each
of us to shout “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those
whom he favors.” It is a story that we too shall ponder and treasure in
our own hearts during this Advent and Christmas season because it indeed is one
of the greatest stories ever told!
And this greatest story ever told sticks with me because of my family especially my mom. My mom has lived most of my life with a mental illness yet this is one of her most favorite seasons of the year. Growing up, she always immersed my sister and I in hearing the story of Advent/Christmas. It is a story that I never tire of hearing over and over again. It is a story that brings me great joy and hope because like I stated earlier, I have always loved a good story and it doesn’t get any better than the Advent/Christmas story! 
Join me over at Literacy Musing Mondays and link-up about your favorite story.

Sunday Blessings 104

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

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

(3) A great renewal team meeting

(4) Texting with MW.

(5) A sweet Vox from MG

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

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

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

(9) Circle Bible study at the nursing home.

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

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

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

(13) Dickens Festival with momma

(14) Jamaica Me Crazy Steel Drum Band.

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

(16) Holding a three week old baby.

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

(18) A gorgeous 50 degree day

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

(20) YOU!!

There is a Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This is where my five minutes stopped.

The Winds of Grief

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

Dear grief,

Would you please go away? I have been immersed in you this week. My dear seminary friend lost her battle with cancer earlier this week and all of us; her mat-carriers are scattered far and wide. We all are grieving as a community and it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that Laura’s girls have now lost both parents to cancer. It isn’t fair that we didn’t get to say goodbye. It isn’t fair that a life was taken too short.
Growing up on the prairies of North Dakota, I have experienced the effects of the prairie winds. And you, grief, often feel like that prairie wind. Sometimes you blow in so gently like on Monday when the tears gently fell from my face as I read the news of my friend’s passing. Or sometimes you blow in more like a winter storm leaving the affects of a strong wind behind. And other times, you blow in like a light breeze before a summer rain. 
Sometimes that wind leaves me drenched after a summer rain leaving me uncomfortable. Other times that wind blows in so strong that I feel as if I am drowning. And other times, I am left just a little damp or even dry. No matter what type of wind and how wet I find myself, I find myself trying to escape the depths of grief; yearning to throw off those wet clothes of grief.
Grief, not only, are you like those ND prairie winds, but you also are like mountain climbing. Some days I find myself clawing my way victorious to the top of Mt. Grief. Other times, I find myself slipping, sliding, and falling down that same mountain trying to climb my way out of the depths of grief. And other times, I find myself simply holding on for the ride…hoping and praying that I will come out on the other side a changed person. And yet other times, I find myself panting for breath wondering if I will be able to breath again.
Oh grief, I am already tired of you, but I also know that you are a part of life. My wise pastoral friend Laura found a way to remind all of us mat-carriers of that when she said, “Be patient with yourselves while you are grieving and tell the people you love that you love them and know that you are loved.” Grief, I am not going to let you take that promise away from me. It is a promise that can overshadow the grief I and so many are feeling in these days of loss because “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.”
Grief, during these days of Advent, as we wait for the coming of Emmanuel, may you come in like gentle waves on an ocean rather than like crashing hurricane force winds. And grief, may you know that you have no power over hearing those three simple words “I love you!”

The Top Ten Things November Taught Me!

I am linking up with Emily Freeman’s monthly link-up today. You can check out all the posts over at Emily’s Place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linking Up Here!

The Impact of Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura, my friend, you are so dearly loved!