A Month + Worth of Sunday Blessings (#232)

(1) Fun mail!!

(2) Lunch with DB

(3) Homemade bread from KB and WB.

(4) Chatting with KL on the phone.

(5) A fun family event at church despite the weather.

(6) Homemade knoephla soup

(7) Vanilla lattes

(8) Fun night at BK and AKs house

(9) Getting to hold baby Suzie

(10) First Communion class

(11) Texting with my faves!!

(12) Another phone call with KL.

(13) First Communion milestone at church

(14) Faith Formation network meeting at CTs house.

(15) Chatting with Daddy on the phone

(16) Fall crafting event with KD and RD

(17) Awesome PLN!!

(18) A visit from GW

(19) Hugging MR and JR

(20) Hugging CT and her girls.

(21) Awesome LYO gathering!!

(22) Amazing colleagues and friends.

(23) Running into and seeing MH at the ma in Minot.

(24) Kind words from my friends KG and EG

(25) Seeing JT and TT also in the Minot mall.

(26) Finding my fave Scripture on a mug at the B and N.

(27) Leading worship solo

(28) Lots of great visits at our local assisted living facilities.

(29) Running into LC and CG at the grocery store.

(30) Coffee from DJ

(31) Homemade kuchen from LL

(32) Awesome confirmation class.

(33) Halloween donations from Hardees. Thanks Hardees!

(34) Harney and Sons Cinnamon Spice tea

(35) Another awesome PLN!!

(36) Kind words from parishioners. Feeling very loved and appreciated!

(37) Blue Apron meals

(38) Finishing Write 31 Days

(39) Halloween fun!!

(40) Fantastic books…and sharing them with friends.

(41) Kleenex for when the tears fall during your All Saints Sunday childrens sermon.

(42) Holding baby Athena

(43) Flowers shared with me by Athenas family.

(44) All the saints

(45) A beautiful PLN (Post Liturgical Nap)

(46) A sweet card from a parishioner

(47) Stella Berry wine

(48) A beautiful compliment.

(49) Finally using a gift card I won awhile ago

(50) My warm kitten Luna

(51) Hallmark Christmas movies

(52) Z running up to me and giving me a hug.

(53) Another awesome PLN

Burdened

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “burden.” We would love to have you join us.

The weight of the world is heavy. I turn on the news and hear of yet another mass shooting. It’s all too much. We must do something. But what? It feels like such a heavy burden.

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Today, many of my friends in the Thousands Oaks California area are feeling burdened. A mass shooting. Then a wildfire. I’ve seen maps. These situations are not that far apart. My friends are tired and weary. Please pray!

It is so easy to feel burdened by the world. But God understands. God loved us so much God sent God’s one and only son into the world for all of us.

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I Am Still A Daughter!

I open my Facebook feed to read about yet another mass shooting; at a bar in Thousand Oaks California. My body feels numb. It is as if I feel nothing. But the truth is I feel something.

I actually feel everything!  I feel sadness. I feel fear. Most of all I fear anger!

How long, oh Lord?!?!

The truth is that I don’t think I will ever become numb to this horrible news when it flashes across our tv screens. I am still the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness. And my blood just starts to boil when reporters and everyone else seems to play the blame game. My mom is one of the kindest, most caring, faith-filled woman. She has never let her illness get in the way of her faith. In fact, I know she would give the shirt off of her back to someone in need.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still believe we have work to do. We need to continue to work on breaking the stigma of mental illness. Yet from my own experience with our family, I know that the proper treatment can be found. In fact, the reality is that those with mental illnesses are more LIKELY to be the victims of a crime than to be the victimizers.

So why? Why is mental illness the scapegoat? Why don’t we look at the other issues that come with these situations? How did the shooter get a hold of a gun in the first place?  I don’t have any answers. In all actuality, I am filled with more questions than answers.

I grew up in a home where my dad, grandpa and others hunted. Yet the guns were locked up. And if they were out, my sister and I got gun safety lessons. There was no way our dad was going to let us use them unless we knew the consequences of how they were used. And I know there are others who have grown up with guns in their homes too.

Yet we have a problem, friends! There have been too many mass shootings; too many school shootings. Too many parents who have sent their kids to school where they believed them to be safe. Only to have them find out that the school was not safe. It breaks my heart and I fear for my sister, all other teachers, and their students ever day when they go to school.

I am angry….angry that school is not a safe place. Angry that mental illness is often automatically the reason attached to why a shooting happened in the first place. Angry that so many have lost their lives. Angry that it continues to keep happening. And as it keeps happening, my blood continues to boil. Yet I want and know we can do better!

I am still the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness. I have learned the power in sharing our story to help break the stigma. Yet when there is another school/mass shooting, it doesn’t seem nearly enough. And so I simply cry out “kyrie eliason, Lord have mercy” while simultaenously crying out “How long, oh Lord, how long?”

How long?

How long?

How long?

Lord, have mercy!

Repetition

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “repeat.” We would love to have you join us.

My fingers dance across the keyboard.
Words tell stories.
Voices are heard.
Sometimes for the first time.

31 Days
Words and stories unfolding
A tapestry of God’s love unveiled.

So much pain, loss and grief
Too many taken from us too soon
Peace found in tradition
In the repetition of words

The Lords Prayer
Spoken together
Words that bring peace

More words
Promises spoken
“We commend Barb, Ben, Ralph, Aaron, Rachel,
Stephanie, and Jim to your care
Sheep of your own fold
Sinners of your own redeeming”
Words spoken each time.

Death, grief
Repeat
Death, grief
Repeat
An ongoing journey

But hope and healing
Found in the repetition
Of words

The Body of Christ

Nothing much has changed since last October, my friends and beloved teachers are no longer here on this side of heaven. I still miss them each and every day. I miss opening up Facebook to see Justin’s antics. I miss asking my beloved teacher questions when I want to sort through something. I miss Ben’s laugh. I miss Rachel’s kindness. I miss the way Jim shared his family with my sister, mom and I and loved us. I miss them more today than the day that I found out that they had passed away. There is still a piece of my heart broken and cracked from these losses.

The last month, I have shared my stories of many of them with you. In addition, I have walked you through my own journey of grief. And there are days still that I wonder if I will catch my breathe; wondering when the next shoe will drop; when the news of yet another death will come my way. There are also days I continually find myself crying out “How long, oh Lord, will you forget me forever?” But even with that question on my lips, I see glimmers of hope. My blog friend Andrew has found a way to live with cancer. (But I also dread the day that I open social media to find the day he has finally lost his cancer fight.) Each of these families who have suffered loss are slowly finding their new normals.

Loss and grief affect us all. Sometimes it comes expectedly after a long lived life. Other times it comes so unexpectedly. It also happens through the loss of a friend, the changing of a relationship and in so many and various ways. Grief shows up in the most unexpected of places; whether through a song, a broken pair of sunglasses, a photo and in many other ways. In these most unexpected ways, God still shows up and holds us. God weeps with us in our pain and grief.

I have been changed by the relationships God has placed in my life. I have been loved and shown love by these dear souls. They were a gift to me on this earth and will continue to be a gift as I live my life knowing that they were taken from us way too soon and way too unexpectedly. They also have taught me over and over that the lenten weary road of grief is not meant to be walked alone. It is meant to be shared in community; community that holds one another in our grief and like God, weeps with us.

I will always picture a community of Ben’s friends and family gathered at that brewery in Wisconsin lifting stories and songs for our dear friend. In fact, Canticle of the Turning will never sound the same. The most powerful version sung out by many voices in that brewery. I will treasure the many faces of Ben’s colleagues and friends standing around Ben’s urn commending him to God’s care. I will forever be grateful for a seminary classmate and his wife who opened their home to me so I could attend Ben’s funeral. In addition, I am thankful for a dear colleague and friend who opened her home to me as well so I could attend our friend Rachel’s funeral. These are just some of the many ways that community gifted me this past year in the midst of loss and grief.

Because of the gift of community, I know that I will never be alone. God has gifted me with friends and family who will walk the journey of grief with me. Community holds one another up in the midst of our loss and grief. Community will pray for us when we cannot find the words to pray for ourselves. Community will sing for us when we cannot find our voice and sing for ourselves. Community will wipe away our tears.

Community is a gift that God gives us for today and the days yet to come. Community is found in the faces I see singing in that brewery in Wisconsin. Community is found in our friends as we gather and shed tears around Rachel’s casket. Community is found as a cacophony of numerous voices commend Ben to Christ’s care. Community is found in the faces of those who are standing in the sanctuarys and the gravesites as we have to say goodbye to our family and friends who have gone before us.

The truth is that I know that death will come again. It is a part of the cycle of life. I am reminded again of the words from Ecclesiates. “There’s an opportune time to do things; a right time for everything on the earth: a right time for birth and another for death, a right time to plant and another to reap, a right time to kill and another to heal, a right time to destroy and another to construct, a right time to cry and another to laugh, a right time to lament and another to cheer, a right time to make love and another to abstain, a right time to embrace and another to part, a right time to search and another to count your losses, a right time to hold on and another to let go, a right time to rip out and another to mend, a right time to shut up and another to speak up, a right time to love and another to hate, a right time to wage war and another to make peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; The Message).”

There will be more death and loss and grief. But I come away from these 31 days knowing that I can grieve well when I do it with others. That I can grieve trusting in the promises of Christ who promises to never leave us or forsake us. I know that I can grieve because when I cannot pray, when I cannot sing and when I cannot hold myself up, community will do that for me! And community will be there for you too.

“Community is not just about being together. It’s about doing life together (Doing Life Together; Jen Schmidt).” Or in the words of a song from the musical Wicked, I’ve been changed by you; changed for the good. The truth is I’ve been changed by the body of Christ!

Together, the body of Christ grieves with one another. The body of Christ continually shows us God’s love, goodness, and grace in the midst of life’s brokenness. The body of Christ shapes us back into whole beings. We may not be the same as we once were but we are changed because of the community that surrounded us. We are God’s living breathing kintsugi; shining out light in the brokenness of this world!

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary ant Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Kristin and Porch Stories!
 
 


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A Psalm of Rain

Monday as I sit down to write this post, the rain is falling outside my office window. It has been raining for quite awhile now. And as it rains, it is dark and dreary. It is one of those days where one just wants to curl up with a good book and a nice warm blanket with my fur baby on my lap.

The rain is slowly trickling down now. Rain reminds me of the waters of Baptism and how in Baptism, God calls and claims us as God’s beloved children. In fact, everything we are and have and do is grounded in Baptism. At seminary my seminary advisor gifted each of his advisees a beautiful wall hanging. Mine reads “Tara Lee Ulrich, you are a baptized child of God; whatever else you are; remember that you are that, for that is the basis of whatever else you are.”

In grief, God reminds us that God will never leave us or forsake us. Especially in our grief, God promises to walk the lenten weary road of grief with all of us. God weeps with us in our sorrow and grief.

Last month, after hearing the news of my dear friend Leslye’s husbands death, the day after his death, it was raining hard too. And in my grief, I wrote Leslye, Jim’s parents and Jim and Leslye’s kids a poem that expressed how I was feeling in the midst of my own grief. The poem I wrote is entitled “A Psalm of Rain.”

Words, like tears, are ways that we express ourselves in our grief. May these words bless all who are grieving. May these words remind us all that we are beloved children of God; called and claimed in the waters of Baptism. Holy water that reminds us continually of who and whose we are!

A Psalm of Rain
By Tara L. Ulrich

The rain falls gently
Outside my office window
And I find myself thinking;
thinking these are tears;
Tears that tell how much he
Was loved.

Holy tears
That tell us
How much he was loved
And how he loved so much.

A legacy;
Left to his children and grandchildren
A legacy;
That reminds us of who and whose we are;
Beloved children of God.

The rain continues to fall
And the tears still fall
From my own eyes;
Giving thanks
For a life lived so well
But taken from us too soon.

And in the midst of my tears;
In the midst of our tears,
I know that we are not alone
We are surrounded by
An incredible cloud of witnesses;
That lift us up when we cannot
Lift ourselves up.

So as the rain falls,
And the tears trickle
Down our faces,
May we remember always
How much he loved us
And we loved him.

Rest in peace, dear Jim!


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Grief and Fear

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”–CS Lewis

Fear has a way of taking hold of us and paralyzing us, doesnt it? I think of the ways that fear stops me from doing things because I am afraid of what will or will not happen. After a death, there is fear in what comes next and how does one move forward when our loved one is no longer with us. It is literally as if the rug has been pulled out from underneath us.

In Scripture, the words “Do not be afraid” apparently appear 365 time; one for every day of the year. Now I don’t know about you, but that does not seem like a coincidence to me. God knew that life would be filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows. God wants us to know that God is always there with us. God will never leave us or forsake us.

We hear these words in the Old Testament. In Isaiah chapter 41, verse 10 we hear, “Do not fear, for I am with you, Do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Those words “Do not be afraid” were also said to Mary as the Angel told her that she would bear the Christ child. Those words are a daily reminder that God calls us to live each day fearless.

Living fearless is not easy. In fact, when the ones we love are no longer with us and they are the ones who gave us the strengthen to try new things, it is nearly impossible. Yet God promises that God will always walk this journey with us. God calls us to trust in him; to trust in faith over fear.

Faith over fear allows us to move forward  in life after loss and grief. Faith over fear gives us the strength to be surrounded by community who sing, pray, and believe for us when we cannot do those things for ourselves. Faith over fear reminds us that we loved and were loved…thats why the loss hurts so deeply. Faith over fear gives us the courage to live fearless in the face of loss and grief. Because the truth is that fear is a liar!


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No Regrets

Six years ago today, I watched as my friend Ben married the love of his life Mara! The joy between them was palpable! The photograph captured this joy in all the photos taken. It’s one of my most favorite memories of my friend Ben; to see him so giddily happy!

Its a trip I almost didn’t take, but knew that I had to. I drove about 5 hours to my friend Carries and then we drove to the wedding together. The whole way jamming to Mumford and Sons. We even stopped at the castle; our beloved Wartburg Seminary for a quick pit stop. At the wedding and reception, this community celebrated with Ben and Mara. Many of those same individuals came together last March to celebrate Ben’s life and commend Ben to Gods care. The same card box used at their wedding used at the visitation and funeral too.

There are moments we sometimes regret in life. The conversations we never had. The dream left by the wayside. But there are also moments that one does not regret. I for one second do not making that road trip for Ben and Mara’s wedding. I do not regret hopping the train and being there for Ben’s funeral. In fact, it’s one of those moments I’m so thankful I got to share with Ben’s friends and family as we grieved in community together. I don’t regret saying goodbye to Rachel with our friends. And I for sure don’t regret saying goodbye with our dear family friends. Each of these moments remind me of someone who I loved and loved me back.

No regrets that I shared my life with them. No regrets for the joy they brought into my life. No regrets because of the ways each of them showed me Gods love and grace. Because of this love, today, I will celebrate Ben and Mara and their love for one another that is embodied in their daughter Elizabeth. Happy 6th Anniversary friends!


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These Moments

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. This is also Day 26 of the Write 31 Days challenge. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “moment.” We would love to have you join us.

When someone dies, we remember the moment we heard the news. It’s hard not to forget that moment. Because that moment changes life. I think of my dear friend Leslye and the moment she found out about her beloved Jim. I wonder what it must have been like to hear those words. I also think of all my friends who have gotten that hard news.

And knowing how grief can be so exhausting, I find myself remembering the moments with my friends and family I’ve lost. I think of all the fun times my friend Ben and so many of us shared at seminary. I think of my beloved English teacher and the times at state theater. I especially remember the time I woke up to that trip with laryngitis. My friends not allowing me to speak until we performed at the state competition. The moments we treasured with those we loved add up in big and little moments. Moments that we are to cherish.

These moments are to be held in the depths of our hearts. These moments are not to be forgotten. These moments are meant to be shared as we remember the ones we’ve loved and lost.


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