Forever Changed (A review of Shannan Martin’s Falling Free)

I am not exactly sure where my path first crossed with Shannan Martins, but it was more than likely a post I read at InCourage which eventually led me to her blog formerly titled “The FlowerPatch Farm Girl.” As a farmers daughter, granddaughter and niece, it was probably her love of all things farm and prairie that pulled me in hook, line, and sinker. And from that moment on, my life has never been the same. Shannan’s words speak straight to my heart.

So I was ecstatic to be a part of her launch team for her new book “Falling Free.” I started reading awhile ago, but in the last few days, I’ve whizzed through her words letting her words sink straight into my heart. Even now, a few hours after finishing the book, I am feeling all the feels.

Anyone who knows me know that my passion is to be welcoming to all God’s people; the downtrodden, the mentally ill, and so many others. So when I read the following quote in Shannan’s book: “God is found in the homeless stranger, the hunger-cramped neighbor, the thirsty traveler, the shackled and forgotten,”

I was immediately sold. Because that is the truth, my friends, I too believe that God is often found in the unlikiest among us.  So as Shannan reminds us: “[God] demands that I love my neighbor—my orphan neighbor, my starving neighbor, my imprisoned neighbor, my living-off-the-system neighbor–as much as I love myself.”

But that is only the beginning of what touched my heart, the part of the book that melted me into a puddle of tears was all of Shannan’s beautiful descriptions of community. I am a girl who loves community; who loves being surrounded by people from all over the world. There is something incredibly holy about sharing our stories with one another. For it is in community; the church, Wartburg Seminary, online communities and so many more where I have been shaped myself. I’ve learned that is worth the risk to be fully and completely who God created me to be.

These are some of my favorite quotes from the book about community. “To be in community is to be painfully aware of our unlovability but to offer ourselves anyway”

“If community is the heartbeat of the gospel, hospitality is the hand that opens the door and waves it in,”

My friends, this book doesn’t release until September 20th, but preorder your books NOW. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I promise you will forever be changed by Shannan’s words. I promise you will want to be a disciple sent out into the world to share the love and grace of God with all the

This is best summed up in this quote: “Let’s not let fear stop us from being the good news to a world desperate to be known by God’s love.” Yes let’s do and be those kind of people; people who aren’t afraid to be and show their true selves  sharing God with all the world.

I am linking up with Anita and Carol and the Inspire Me Monday linkup, Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart,
and Kristin and Three Word Wednesday.



Sunday Blessings 142

(1) Texting with MW

(2) Awesome friends who reach out to you when you need them too.

(3) Surprise mail

(4) A call from JL

(5) Chatting with a college friend.

(6) Rejoicing in the birth of a baby boy to my colleague and her husband.

(7) Meeting and listening to President Samuel from the Central African Republic.

(8) A surprise visit from the LCM young adults living in the LCM house.

(9) A friend messaging me to ask if I had any poetry ideas for their kids to read for home school.

(10) New LLR clothing!!

(11) A fun Vox from KA

(12) Papa Murphy’s Chicken Garlic pizza

(13) A great brunch with church peeps

(14) Texting with the bestie

(15) A fantastic PLN

(16) A gorgeous summer day…sitting outside reading on my porch listening to the birds and squirrels in my backyard.

(17) Blue Apron meals. Tonight’s yumminess–quesadillas

(18) A fan on a hot day

(19) The beginning of my birthday week

Loyalty Beyond Any Other

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 “loyal.” I love spending my Thursday nights with my FMF friends. I adore these people! 

Are you loyal?

Loyal to your friends?
Loyal to your family?
Loyal to God?

Loyalty is defined as “giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution”. Also “faithful, true, and devoted.”

Loyalty is something I want to reach for each and every day. I want to be loyal to those who love me. I want to be loyal to my friends. I want to by loyal to our stories. I want to be loyal to our histories. I want to be loyal to who God calls each and every one of us to be.

Loyal is standing with your friends when they are grieving.
Loyal is showing respect…true honorable respect to one another.
Loyal is remembering who and whose we are.
Loyal is doing what is right…..working towards justice for ALL.
Loyal is praying for your peeps when they ask you to pray.

Loyal is TRUSTING in one another, but most importantly in our God.

God sent God’s son into the world for each and every one of us. God’s loyalty is to all God’s people. God’s loyalty changes us when we experience the power of God’s love, loyalty and forgiveness in our lives. It is a loyalty that cannot compare to any other loyalty. 

Yearning for Peace

Since I was three years old, my life has been witness to the roller coaster ride of the highs and lows of mental illness. Shortly after my sister Andrea was born, our mom had a nervous breakdown. We haven’t known anything different. At least once a year, it seemed that mom would end up in the hospital. My sophomore year of high school and my sister’s 7th grade year, our parents divorced. It was not a journey we ever imagined but it is what was brought our way.

In October of 2014, I decided to participate in my first ever Write 31 Days challenge. My topic was “Living as a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness.” Earlier this summer, I self-published this series into a book. (I don’t like to toot my own horn but I know some of you will ask so here is the link to purchase a copy: Living as a Daughter). By sharing our story, it is my hope and prayer that I will be able to help educate more about mental illness since we don’t talk about it enough in our world.

Mental illness is not the end of our story though. Last summer, mom was diagnosed with dementia. So now mental illness and dementia are part of our story. There are more days than I care to admit that I want to make everything better, but that is beyond my control. So I leave it in God’s more than capable hands. But I’ll admit that most days that is much easier said than done.

Last night, I found myself once again grasping for answers. I reached out to several colleagues and friends and asked them to pray. Within minutes, my Twitter feed was filling up with replies to my original tweet. God was reminding me that God does hear every cry of my heart and places people in my life who walk with me. God also knows how deeply I ache for this to better. But God also asks me to trust fully in God–“Tara, do you not trust me?”

Yesterday morning, at our monthly youth workers meeting, we found our way walking through a prayer labrynth. My friend C shared how she kept hearing God ask her that very same question. But then at one point, we were walking parallel to each other which immediately reminded her of how God puts people in our paths to walk with us…that we do not walk this journey alone.

And as I am reminded that I do not walk this journey alone, I still yearn for a sense of peace; a peace that passes all human understanding; a peace that comes when God hears the sighs that are too deep for words to express; a peace that comes when you are surrounded by a diverse community of faith that continually wraps you in God’s loving arms.

In all honesty, I know that God’s peace is there, but on days, when it seems like the mental illness and dementia are winning, I have a hard time finding even a glimmer of that peace. Yet I find myself still mustering up the strength to proclaim “God’s peace to us we pray.” And when I can barely find the words, there are others who will say those words for me.

This week I am linking up with Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story and Holley and Coffee for your Heart.


Sunday Blessings 141

(1) Talking to CN about ministry.

(2) Receiving a blog friends book in my mail today. Ready to finish it and give this copy of her book away on my blog.

(3) My Twitter peeps

(4) Fresh tomatoes from the garden

(5) A much needed rain shower

(6) A Vox from TM

(7) Getting Two drinks at Starbucks and one of them free because they messed up my first order.

(8) Watching Lars and the Real Girl

(9) Council and dinner at a members house

(10) A cool Fall like day

(11) Farmers market goodness–peach salsa, pickles, salted caramel cookies and cucumbers

(12) Getting back to Blue Apron meals

(13) Making it through the first few days of Couch to 5k

(14) A great church picnic

(15) A beautiful day

(16) Getting to hug and welcome KH to Minot.

(17) Leftovers sent home with me

The Olympics, My Huskers and Being on a Team

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 “team,” I love spending my Thursday nights with my FMF friends. I adore these people! So glad I could be at the Twitter party again tonight! 

I love watching the Olympics. I get sucked in every time especially gymnastics, swimming, diving, etc. It’s so fun to watch the different teams competing and winning. I was never a great team player when I was younger. I wasn’t athletically inclined. So I became part of the team by taking volleyball stats etc.

There is something so awesome about finding a team where one belongs. I have found that here with the Five Minute Friday community. I have found it on Twitter and in the wider church. I have realized the gift there is in being part of a team where my gifts and abilities are valued. Do you know what I mean, friends? Too often there are star players that get all the love and credit. We need to realize that everyone brings gifts. 
And when a team has good players, we truly realize there is no “I” in team. 

When I was little, I loved watching my favorite college football team. In fact, they are STILL my favorite team: the Nebraska Cornhuskers. GO BIG RED!! I have always said that I was destined to be a Huskers fan. The day my mom was in labor with me, the Huskers played one of their biggest rivals and Grandpa, Dad, and Doctor Frank talked about the game the whole time mom was in labor with me. I said it was the first thing I heard, so a Huskers fan was born!!

Sum, Sum, Summertime (Or What I Learned This Summer)

It has been a busy summer…continuing education trip, sister’s trip, and Churchwide assembly. Usually every month, we gather here to recap what we learned this month. But since summer has been crazy and usually is for a lot of us, Emily P. Freeman decided to do an end of the summer “What I Learned” so here is what I learned this summer!

(1) The Mountains are good for my soul! For the last six summers, I have been attending a continuing education event in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Every year when I arrive, I find myself breathing this holy sigh. It has shown me the vast beauty of God’s creation and also taught me that it is sometimes good to disconnect even just for a little while.

(2) I am indeed 100% a giver when it comes to happiness styles. As part of Jennifer Dukes Lee’s launch team for her new book “The Happiness Dare,” I took the happiness style quiz. Of the five styles, my top two are only separated by one point. I am a giver relater meaning I love to give rather than receive. I realized this this past week as I was able to buy coffee for some old and new friends. There truly is nothing that makes me happier than giving to others!

(3) Being at huge gatherings makes me realize how much of an introvert I truly am. To be honest, I am pretty good at being an extroverted introvert when I need to be. But when I am at huge gatherings, I am even more made aware of how much of an introvert I truly am! There is just something about having a few minutes to ones self.

(4) I love experiencing new places and their culture. Growing up, we didn’t travel much except to visit family. When I get to go somewhere new, I love eating their food and immersing myself in their culture. Last week, I was in New Orleans where I tried beignets from Café Dumonde, grilled alligator from Mulates, fried green tomatoes, a muffaletta, and a few different po’boys. I loved all the food I tried! Also loved walking down the streets to the sweet sounds of jazz music and seeing various different street performers along the way.

(5) Watching one of the kids you used to babysit get married instantly makes you feel older. I have known the bride since she was a baby. She is more like family than friends. I loved watching her marry her best friend. But it definitely made me feel older! 😛

(6) Even though my mom has been through so much, I still am so glad that she is still here. The week of the state fair, Mom came to spend the weekend with me. As she stayed with me, I realized how much I miss her not being able to live by herself. But I also realized how much I love having her still here.

(7) Twitter withdrawal is REAL! Yep it totally is! Last week, I interacted with and got to meet so many awesome people through Twitter. I loved tweeting out to them a quick good morning/good night tweet. Today I realized how much I miss each and every one of them and tweeted that out. Another friend tweeted back “Twitter withdrawal is totally real.” BINGO…that is exactly what I am feeling today!

(8) Apparently I have a good eye for taking pictures and matching what is around me. As my friends and I were walking around New Orleans, I asked one of them to take a picture of me standing in front of this beautiful green door since green is my fave color. I updated it to be my new profile picture and my friend MW said “You have such a good eye and you didn’t even know it. Even the paint on the building matches the dress.”

(9) Even when one writes a book, being called an author is still incredibly surreal!

I am linking up with Emily P. Freeman!

Sunday Blessings 140

(1) Getting to see and hug my former bishop and his wife.

(2) Yummy fried green tomatoes

(3) Meeting so many Twitter peeps in real life.

(4) The gift of our church

(5) Our Western ND crew

(6) Breakfast with JL and AD

(7) Word and service picture

(8) A great conversation with CH

(9) Supper with Diaconal ministry colleagues

(10) Catching up with my good friend KW.

(11) Hugging Dirk and Sarah

(12) Buying coffee for new friends. Nothing I love more than giving to others.

(13)Being a recipient of a gift rather than giving myself.

(14) Grace in Action afternoon. So fun to have MT in the same group as me.

(15) Trying all the different southern food.

(16) Lunch with several of my NW MN people. I love that Denny and Al still felt they could give me a hard time.

(17) Riding a bus with Josh and having supper with him and Shannon!

(18) Preservation Hall

(19) Awesome seafood supper. Loved my crab and cucumber salad.

(20) New Word and Service roster passes by 97 %.

(21) Taxi driver who got us to the airport safely.

(22) Visiting with Kim for a few minutes.

(23) Bringing three books with me and only returning with one. Thanks for helping me out, Christie!

(24) Sweet notes from my prayer partner and finally meeting in person.

(25) Running into Paul and Lorice at the airport and getting to hug Lorice!

(26) Seeing Paul Bagylos

(27) Lots of walking from hotel to convention center etc

(28) Worshipping with Priscilla

(29) Visiting with Kari F.

(30) The sweet older gentlemen on the plane who was so concerned for the mom and her little one who got sick on the plane. He was across the aisle and practically jumped out of his chair to help this mom.

(31) High-Fiving Jason when we realized we were sitting four chairs from each other at Churchwide. We had interacted on Twitter, but hadn’t met in real life yet. So fun that we met the first day.

(32) Receiving communion from Tuhina. I will forever remember her saying the words “For you!” to me!

(33) Volunteering to go on a later flight since ours was overbooked.

Removing the Log from my Own Eye

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself!”

Over the last week, I have been attending our churchwide assembly and have been truly thinking a lot about racial diversity. I have been blessed this week to meet so many awesome people from around this world. My life is fuller for having met each and everyone of them. I can’t wait to hear and learn each of their stories.

But I’ll be honest and own up to my own log in my own eye, I am a privileged white woman and haven’t always seen my neighbors. But today I am raising my own expectations and covenanting to see all me neighbors around me. Because this isn’t about me!

We need to do better friends. Our words and our actions need to be in line with one another. Our words need to be more than lip service. Have you yourself ever felt like an outsider? Have you ever been judged for the way you’ve looked or said something?

As a single woman in this church, I know that I’ve said that I felt like the outsider. But the truth is, as a single white woman, I have truly never been an outsider. And as single white people, are we the outsiders? Absolutely not. But sometimes I think it can be so easy for us to pull our trump card to get what we want. That’s not right people!

In this church, are we not both/and Saint and sinner? I know for me, I am more sinner than I care to admit. But it’s time for me to own up and remove the logs from my own eyes. I need to not engage in graveyard talk.

So many women leaders of color have shown me something incredibly beautiful and holy this week. They have spoken truth over me, served me communion, and reminded me of the incarnational power  of God. They have begun to share their stories with me….and I am so thankful. I want to always see them as the magnificent gifts they are to this church.

I’m raising my own expectations
I’m removing the log from my own eye
And promising to do better!

Raising Expectations

I remember it as if it was yesterday. My little sister and I sitting on the porch of our house. Tears streaming down her face. Then she looks me straight in the eyes and says , “Tara, why does this happen. Why is Will treated so awfully?” Will was my sisters best friend at the time and he is gay. To this day, my sister has a hard time walking into her church. Yes a lot of strides have been made but she is still hurt. And can you blame her?

I’ve been listening intently this week to the conversations around me. But a question from today’s sermon is what keeps jumping out at me, “Who is your neighbor?” I’ll admit I haven’t always been the best at seeing my neighbor. And I want to do better. I want to raise the expectations of this church. I want to truly know who my neighbors are! For the truth is our neighbors are some ones mother, father, sister, friend, etc.

And your neighbor might just be someone like my own mom who has lived most of my life with a mental illness. I’ll tell you that I wouldn’t know the love and grace of our God without this being part of my story. My mom has taught me more about God’s amazing love and grace than anyone else. She honestly would give the shirt off of her back to a stranger in need. And as I reflect on that, I’m realizing that she has taught me so much about being a neighbor to all my brothers and sisters in Christ; brothers and sisters of every, race, religion, etc.

As a church, can we do better? Can we please love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Can we be Christ to each other and show each other we are a somebody and NOT a nobody? Can we be a voice for the voiceless? Can we be a church that raises expectations rather than speaking graveyard talk?
That’s the kind of church I want to be a part of and proclaim to the world!!