The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “relief.”
When I first heard the word prompt I had to get my mind out of the gutter. All I could think of was relieving ourselves in the bathroom. Little kids learning to potty train. Babies and diapers. Laughing so hard that you have to pee your pants.
Once I got that out of my mind, I was able to move onto a different kind of relief. Relief that comes in beautiful and holy ways.
An infant in my arms
Laughter in the midst of tears
Joy in the midst of sorrow
Hope in new beginnings
Great music or movies
“Weeping comes for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Relief found in peace
Peace that only God can bring
But sometimes that peace
That relief isn’t enough
Or comes too late
Or isn’t seen
Please pray for our community
A 7th grader committed suicide outside our middle school earlier this week. From what I understand, he posted it all to SnapChat. My heart aches so deeply that our youth are having to deal with this earlier and earlier.
The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “direction.” It is so good to be back here after a break over the holidays.
North, south, east, west
Up, down, sideways, backwards
Directions lead us along the journey of life, but often that journey is not as clear cut as we would like. There are times I wish God would put traffic signs to tell me what’s next…
Yield, merge, stop, go.
Directions are all around us. I love following a recipe to try something new. I’m in love with JoAnna Gaines cookbook Magnolia Table. I can’t wait for her new one; the next edition to come out in the Spring.
Last night though, I went back to my German Russian roots and made knoephla hotdish (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knoephla). I also love it as a soup. A casserole dish, knoephla, bacon, sausage, chicken broth, cream and pepper. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. It’s better with onions, sauerkraut, and potatoes. I left out the onions and sauerkraut because my sister doesn’t like them. I simply forgot to pick up potatoes at the store. Oops! But it was still yummy!
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”—John 1:1-5
The days are slowly becoming lighter out longer….minute by minute. This time of year one cannot help but be reminded by the darkness in our world. Darkness that surrounds so many with the darkness of mental health issues. Darkness that comes from death. Darkness that comes from war and the potential of war. Darkness that comes in so many ways. Yet the darkness cannot and does not overcome the light of Emmanuel; God with us.
There were so many days from October of 2017 to December 2018 that I could not catch my breath; that it truly felt like the darkness was winning. But then slowly, the darkness broke way to light as the sun rose on a new day. That sun born in the Son of Emmanuel; God with us.
IIn a manger, in Bethlehem, Jesus cries pierced the darkness of that holy night as Mary birthed her son; the Messiah, the one who came to save . The wisemen followed a light; the star, to bring him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And years later, Jesus breathes his last on that hill on Calvary. Only for the women to come early the next morning, the light of the morning sun leading their way, to find an empty tomb.
Darkness can so easily take over. But you only need a little light to see. Think about it. In the midst of a power outage, you only need a few candles to take away the darkness a little. Or during a dark winter night, you only need your cars headlights to be able to see.
Darkness bears way for light. Yet one must first have darkness for the light to be born. I’m reminded of the Japanese art form of kintsugi. In kintsugi, they take a piece of broken pottery and put it back together. Then they place gold lacquer over the cracks because it’s the place where the light gets through. The truth is we are all human and we have and will experience times of darkness but because of God’s love for us, Jesus comes to overcome the darkness.
I know this because death comes but new life will too. I know this because I’ve seen resurrection take place. I know this because my Lenten weary roads have led me to Easter morning. I know this because I’ve witnessed the beauty of light breaking through the darkness to create a sunrise only God’s master hand could create.
The darkness in our world will not triumph. The light is the promise of Emmanuel; God with us, the Word made flesh for each and everyone of us…..
“For the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.”
I’ve always been a crier. In fact, I’ve been known to cry at Hallmark commercials. However, there is something holy about tears that come from the reality of loss and grief. 2018 was filled with its share of tears. However 2019 also had its fair share of shed tears. There were days that the tears were still wet upon my face. Yet I came out of 2019 more whole than when I went into it.
Becoming whole again takes hard work. It means getting the proper care no matter what that looks like. It could be medicine or simply chatting with a professional. But most of all, it means trusting in the Great Physician…God our Father.
I went into 2019 ready to do some hard holy healing work. Yet it often came in unexpected ways. When I was asked to attend Shepherds Canyon, everything in me clenched up and didn’t want to go. I went reluctantly. Yet I was so blessed by that place and my new friends. There is something holy in knowing you are never alone. Tears streamed down my face as I laid my rock with the words of things that I would leave behind at the foot of the altar. I was leaving behind fear.
I didn’t know that months later I would find myself wondering what God was up too. There were days I loved my job. But then the joy was lost…and then simply gone. Change was afoot and I found myself walking away knowing it was the healthiest thing for me.
I still don’t know what’s next. Yet I am at peace. I’m stronger and much more whole than when I went into 2019. And I know that with hard work, transformation will come as the healing continues. Healing that produces beautiful holy tears! Holy tears that remind me that this journey is never done alone.
“Beautiful are those who brokenness gives birth to transformation and wisdom.”—John Mark Green
2019 was all about healing; healing from so much loss and grief but from healing comes transformation (http://prayingontheprairie.net/from-healing-to-transformation/) So 2020 will be all about transformation. When I think about transformation, I think of a cocoon bursting forth into a beautiful butterfly. Transformation takes time. It’s, as a friend shared in her one word post, about becoming.
2020 will be the year of becoming and being fully who God created me to be. In fact, transformation is about discovery. It’s about fully discovering who God created me to be as a beloved child of God! I will fly and soar into using my gifts to the best of my ability. I will live into fulfilling my deepest desires.
The truth is becoming and transformation are all about living into the reality that the only constant is change. “The wings of transformation are born of patience and struggle (Anonymous).” In other words, transformation comes about when we are patient and fully trust who God is in the midst of life’s struggles.
I’m not sure what this year will look like but I trust that God will mold and transform my life into something so beautiful. God will show me that from death comes resurrection. I’m once again reminded of one of my all time favorite quotes by Clarence W Hall “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”
Transformation is letting the work happen and not confining it. In the words of Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I have always been a lover of books. This year I read 25 books. I was hoping for more but not too bad. This is my annual post where I share about some of my faves. Here’s my top ten! (Followed by the list of the rest of what I read this year)
Remember God by Annie F Downs—I love everything of hers that she has written. But this read was so much more. The words woven onto the page were incredible. In a lot of ways this book was so mature and grown up as Annie reminds us to trust and remember God.
Inheritance by Nikki Kapsambelis—If you know anyone who is struggling with Alzheimer’s in their life, this book is a must read. Heartbreakingly beautiful. This is based on the true story of a family where most of the family ended up with the gene and were some of the first to be tested.
Becoming by Michelle Obama—This memoir was so so good. I loved learning about her journey as the First Lady and so much more. Michelle shares personal details and how she found her voice. I also love what she shares about being a mom, her own public health campaign and so much more.
Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans—I didn’t want to put this book down. It was especially hard after losing a Rachel. I’m so thankful for her words and that they carry on in her books. This one was a favorite! I took so many notes that my copy is very marked up. It helped me to see the Bible even more beautifully.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng—This was fantastic! I fell in love with the characters and they are still with me to this day. I didn’t want this story to end. You’ll just have to pick it up for yourself to see what I’m talking about.
Love Big: The Power of Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World—This is Rozella’s first book. I first heard her speak at an ELCA Youth Gathering. Rozella is a life and leadership coach as part of her company RHW Consulting. This book is a gift as it invites all of us to fall more deeply in love with ourselves.
Dear Church: A Love Letter from a black preacher to whitest denomination in the US by Lenny Duncan—This book truly challenged me especially as a leader in the ELCA. Duncan writes in a way that is very thought provoking and gets me thinking deeply about how others see this church. I found myself realizing my own white privilege as he writes about his own struggles. I think too often we have a hard time seeing our own sins and this book opened my eyes even more to what my race has done to others.
The God who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible and the Journey to Belong by Karen Gonzalez—Another book that challenged me. She opened my eyes to new interpretations of specific stories especially in the Old Testament.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens—This is one of my favorite reads EVER!! It kept my attention all through its over 300 pages. It is stunningly written. I fell deeply in love with the characters in this book. This story is so breathtakingly written and captured as the story unfolds on the pages. I just found out it’s being made into a movie but for the love….please read it first!
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate—I will start by saying there is a little content warning as there are some elusions/stories of abuse in this book. The storyline is intense but is also beautiful. It often took me by surprise. It’s based in a true story about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. It reminded Me of the reality of many of the challenges children in our world experience every day.
The rest of the list:
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Everybody Always by Bob Goff
You are a Enough by Mandy Hale Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado Dare to Lead by Brene Brown Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult Seven by Jen Hatmaker Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans (a reread) Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
Big Magic:Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (another reread) I See You: How Love opens our eyes to Invisible People by Terence Lester Ruins and Kingdoms by Jen Rose Yokel God’s Country by Brad Roth The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
Currently Reading: Educated by Tara Westover
After reading my friend K’s post, I’ve add some Frederick Bachman books and Light in the Distant Stars. What else do I need to read?
This picture was taken five days ago on the first anniversary of Grandpa Wilbert’s death. It was the ninth death in my life from October 2017-December 2018. Grandpa’s death embodied the reality of 2018 as a year of loss and grief. So it seemed only appropriate that 2019 would be a year of healing thus heal was birthed as my 2019 one word. And this picture reminds me that 2019 was indeed a year of healing. It shows joy on my face and in my heart and is a beautiful reminder that in time, healing comes about in our lives, but not always as we expect.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, healing is defined as “to make sound and whole;” “to make well again;” “to restore to health;” or “to patch up or correct.” This year was indeed a year of healing; healing from the various forms of loss and grief.
Healing comes in various shapes and sizes. It comes in ways we never imagined. Healing is more than being healed physically. It can be moving past the wounds and realizing one’s own strength in the midst of life’s loss and grief; obstacles and challenges.
For me, healing came in simple ways. It came in my sweet kitty Luna and in her new brother Neville. Healing came in putting words on a page and lifting them up to God like incense rising. Healing came in seeing resurrection appear in the midst of loss. Healing came in you, my dear friends and family; God’s living breathing kintsugi.
Healing came in hard ways too. There is a special place; Shepherd’s Canyon I had never heard of before this year started. And little did I know the healing that this place would bring about in my life. (Learn more here: https://www.shepherdscanyonretreat.org)
I attended Shepherd’s Canyon in Arizona in early summer. I will be honest I did not want to go at all. Everything in me fought this request and invitation to attend yet I went trusting God. It was easily one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my 41 years on this Earth. But now six months later, I can evidently see the ways that retreat; that place and my newfound friendships healed my aching, hurting heart. They showed me again and again my own strength! I also came away with gifts that continue to bless me each and every day.
A few weeks later, I sat in a holy circle around friends as they prayed with and over me. Tears streaming down my face as God continued to wash some of the pain of the loss and grief from the last year away. Another simple gesture as a friend gifted me the hat he wore during his days of chemo therapy. Once again, holy tears that started the trickle of healing in my life and soul.
In addition, healing has come in understanding who I am as a beloved child of God. I understand how and why I operate the ways I do. I am a peacekeeper. I will do anything to keep the peace. (I mislabeled myself as an Enneagram 2 all these years but the more I read I identify more as a nine!). Understanding my makeup helps me move and breathe better in this world. I am fully living as who God created me to be; a healthier version of me.
I’m reminded of this quote by Gwen Flowers: “I had my own notion of grief. I thought it was the sad time that followed the death of someone you love. And you had to push through it to get to the other side. There is no pushing through. But rather, there is absorption. Adjustment. Acceptance. And grief is not something you complete, but rather you endure. Grief is not a task to finish and move on, but an element of yourself–an alteration of your being. A new way of seeing. A new definition of self.”
With new eyes, I see that health came in words and deep conversations. Health came in knowing that sometimes it’s ok to walk away. Health came in holy tears releasing the pain of so many losses. Health came in holy conversations around numerous cups of tea or coffee. Health came in kitty cuddles from sweet Luna and Nevy. Health came in music that spoke to my soul like Lauren Daigle’s You Say and Ellie Holcomb’s Red Sea Road. “Sometimes we have to bury dreams, leave them deep in the Earth behind us.“ Health came in knowing I would never be alone. And health will continue to come.
I am leaving 2019 behind stronger than I imagined and dare I say healed in a lot of ways. I know because I have been able to catch my breath again. I have found some of the joy that seemed to have been lost. I’m proud of the healing work I’ve done to be the best version of who God created me to be! I am at peace; a peace that only God can provide! Healing has indeed happened this year. I pray that from healing, transformation will come!
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”–Romans 8:38-39
The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “birth.” This word prompt also fits well for the #AdventUs Advent devotional from the Slate Project from Luke 1:30 for today.
“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God—Luke 1:30
Let’s get real friends! Mary had every right to be scared. As a woman who has chosen to be a virgin, I would pee my pants if someone, an angel came to me and told me that I would bear the Messiah. So Mary’s fear was real. A virgin with child..only God could pull this off!
“Do not be afraid.”
Mary gives birth in a manger; really in a barn. Can you imagine the smells that she was experiencing? Or even the noises? Cows mooing. Sheep bleating. And then an infants cry. The cry of Emmanuel; God with us.
“Do not be afraid.”
I empathize with Mary. I am an individual who tries to do her very best to trust in God. What if Mary hadn’t believed? Who would have born the Christ child? I wonder if the other women around here wondered if it would be her. I know I would have asked and pondered and wondered.
“Do not be afraid.”
Yet Mary did more than trusted! She gave birth. She “pondered all these things and treasured them in her heart.”