Measure

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 “measure.” We would love to have you join us.

“How do you measure, measure a year, in daylight, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee?” The opening scene to my favorite musical/movie Rent begins and ends with this song. I love Rent for the story it tells about love. Yes there are some hard scenes to watch but for me, this musical reminds me to look at what’s important.

How often do we truly look at what brings us joy? Too often we get caught up in our impatience. Yet when we take the time to simply wait, we begin to see the joy and beauty of our lives and the world around us. As Spring comes upon us, we start to see flowers growing.

Musicals bring me joy too. I love them all. And my first Broadway experience in NYC last summer was Wicked and it was phenomenal. There is a preciseness that the actors and actresses need to have too. The musical notes need to be at the right pitch and in the right place.

So friends, how do you measure, measure a year?


Hope Diminished?

Say Yes to the Dress, Four Weddings, any of the television weddings….they all pull me in. And last night was no exception. I found myself watching the latest Duggar wedding on TLC. Before I knew it, tears were rolling down my cheeks as I watched this fairy tale unfold before my eyes. Both the bride and groom shared how they thought that they were never going to get married. Yet God led them to each other.

As I listened to the words coming from their mouths, my heart sank. I am the opposite. I have always thought that I would get married. Yet here I am at 40 1/2 years old and there are no prospects in sight. More and more the hope of this dream is being diminished for me. What if those words come true for me, what if I never become a wife and/or mom?

I constantly turn to the Scripture that reminds me that God hears the desires of my heart. Yet that desire is still unanswered. I find myself crying out again and again “How long, oh Lord, how long, will you forget me forever?” I want to trust that God will answer this in God’s timing and not mine, but most days that is harder to trust in than I care to admit because I am still chasing “the untils” that God placed on my heart since I was a little girl. Until I get married, until I am a mom, Until I……

Why would God place this desire on my heart if this wasn’t supposed to happen for me? I remember a conversation a friend and I had many years ago. She shared that she didn’t think God would place that desire on your heart if God wasn’t going to make it happen for you.

There have been times that I have seen glimpses. Wondering why God brought someone into my life; only to find out that it was simply meant to be just a friendship. I treasure those friendships deeply. But I want so much more. I want that special person; my best friend who I can share everything with, who will wipe away my tears when I am sad and rejoice with me when I am happy. Someone who I can grow old with as we grow in our relationship together.

Singleness is not for the faint of heart. There are so many wondering why I am still single. It is hard to answer that question when I am not sure myself. Yet I believe with all my heart that God is here. God does hear the desires of my heart.

So I will do my best to trust. However, I know that I will still find myself crying out, “How long, oh Lord, how long? Will you forget me forever? How long, oh Lord?” It’s the eternal cry of my heart!

Sunday Blessings 246

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted so thought I would try and get back on track again this week!

(1) An awesome WND Faith Formation Network meeting.

(2) Barnes and Noble fun

(3) Target, Hobby Lobby and Panera!

(4) Running into RS on the way out of Target.

(5) A surprise phone call from PMA. So good to chat with a friend I haven’t talked to in quite awhile.

(6) Family Fun Day at church.

(7) Getting to spend the weekend with my sissy

(8) A hug from Zy man

(9) Walking Luna outside on beautiful Spring days

(10) Return of American Idol

(11) Getting to see my friend GW

(12) Wonder Park and a Star is Born with my sis

(13) Our DBD group

(14) Tax return money

(15) Laughter

The Greatest Reward

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 “reward.” We would love to have you join us.

I love watching shows like Spring Baking Championship, Kids Baking Championship, Trading Spaces and so much more. The end result is always so satisfying for those involved especially those that win the challenge. Often times they get dome sort of advantage in the next contest. In the end, someone wins and is rewarded.

Life is not to be all about rewards. Yet I’ll admit a reward is nice sometimes. I’m not picky…an ice cream cone, a simple comment such as a job well done. The greatest reward will not be found here on earth. But rather in heaven!

“For your reward will be great in heaven.”

Tomorrow, it will have been three months that Grandpa has been gone. Last week, we celebrated one year since our friend Ben’s funeral. Today is the one year anniversary of the loss of a beloved seminary professor. And these are just the beginnings of the anniversaries. The beauty is that they know the promise of eternal life; they know the reality of the reward found in heaven.

May we too know that reward one day.

Finding Our Place

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 “place.” We would love to have you join us.

From our first cries, we know where we belong. I was and am the oldest daughter. As I grew and my sister joined our family, I discovered a new place. I looked out and cared for us when mom was sick and dad was farming.

I always seemed to know my place. But then I went away for the first time and I no longer knew my place. I searched and discovered myself as an adult. I made new friends. I challenged myself. I tried new things.

After college, I felt the call to seminary. I knew upon stepping on that campus that God was calling me there. It was not easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest journeys of my life. But it was so worth it. There I discovered more of myself. I grew in my faith and was shaped into who I am as a woman leader.

Those first days were hard. I remember buying my own birthday cake on the first days of classes as we celebrated one night.* I also remember laughing so hard my sides ached. Those newfound friendships blossomed over time into some of the greatest friendships of my life.

In these people and that place, I found my place. A place where we cried together, where we celebrated together, where we mourned together. A place that now holds a piece of my heart. A place where I am always free to be me.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of our friend Ben’s funeral. I will forever remember so many (80 +) gathered around his urn as we commended him to God’s care. A cloud of witnesses took their place that day. And in that cloud of witnesses I know that I am not alone. I have found my place in a community that weeps, mourns, laughs,cries, and so much more together. We hold our place in this holy community.

Ben will forever hold his place in this community along with all of us. We each have our place. A place that reminds us again and again that this journey is not meant to be lived alone. We all walk this journey together. Sheep with a shepherd who promises to never leave us or forsake us. Thanks be to God!

Photo Credit: Jacob Sorenson

*Where my five minutes ended. I had to keep writing!

A Different Kind of Homesick

Home=”a familiar or usual setting.”; “a place of origin”; At home=”relaxed and comfortable: at ease” “in harmony with the surroundings.” or “on familiar ground.”

Home is more than just a place. It is a promise (A Place to Land; Kate Motaung).”

Scripture tells us that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Treasure often comes in all shapes and sizes in our lives. For me, that treasure comes in my friends and family, in community and in so many ways. These treasures represent home to me; a home that is more than just a place where I lay my head at night. Home is Ashley ND. Home is the places where I have served; Williston ND, Minot ND, Dilworth MN and Beulah ND. Home is the place where I found myself as a leader in the church and where I grew in my faith. Home is Wartburg Theological Seminary.

I knew immediately upon waking up this morning that today is March 13th. 365 days ago we stood in a sanctuary in Taylor Wisconsin and said goodbye to our beloved Ben. I find myself standing in the reality of grief once again. At times, it feels so raw while at other times, that year feels so long ago. And in the reality of grief, I am once again standing upon that Lenten weary road of grief; a road that never seems to end.

As we stood in that sanctuary speaking these words, I couldn’t help but take in the moment and remember the beauty of that day as we shared in it together. The words of Ash Wednesday replaying in my head and my heart “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” as we commended Ben to God’s care.

“We commend your servant Ben to your care; a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming, Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace and into the glorious company of the saints in light (ELW P. 283).”

Today my friends I am homesick. Homesick for a community that shares in life’s ups and downs. Homesick for my friends who I don’t get to see nearly enough. Homesick for a friend who is reunited with Jesus. Homesick for a feeling when the grief was not there. Yet I know in my homesickness, that we all are loved; loved by a God who calls us each by name.

In our homesickness, we know that God calls us all back home eventually. This morning, I was listening to my Pandora station when the song “Church (Take me Back)” by Cochren and Co came on. As I listened to the chorus to this song, tears began to trickle down my face. It was not lost on me that the music was speaking to this anniversary of Ben’s funeral.

“Take me back; To the place that feels like home; To the people I can depend on; To the faith that’s in my bones; Take me back; To a preacher and a verse; Where they’ve seen me at my worst; To the love I had at first; Oh, I want to go to church.” (Cochren and Co)

Wartburg Seminary feels like home. Wartburg Seminary holds the people I can depend on. Wartburg Seminary shows me constantly the faith that’s in my bones. And most of all, Wartburg Seminary has seen me at my best and at my worst. It is a community that forever is home to me. It is a place that shows me that even in grief, we do not walk this journey alone. We walk it hand in hand remembering that God calls us all to eternal life.

Today though, as I am reminded of 365 days ago, I am homesick; wishing we could all be together. Yet I know that the ultimate home; our heavenly home is where Ben is now. However, it aches to lose those on earth. We want them still here with us. So we must trust in God’s promise to us all. Our earthly homes are temporary but our eternal home; our heavenly home is forever!

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Sue and Let’s Have Coffee and Kristin and Porch Stories.

More

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 “more.” We would love to have you join us.

Today is a good day. The sun was shining. It’s now gone behind the clouds but it’s almost 30 degrees above zero. Luna and I went for a 30 minute walk. We are both so tired of winter. There might be more snow coming this weekend, but for now I’m going to focus on this glorious day.

Luna is napping. I’m watching Jeopardy. I need to write on more Facebook walls as I continue to pray through my FB friends list for Lent. It’s such a joy and I couldn’t ask for more. My friends trusting me with their prayer requests. It’s amazing to look back and see how previous prayers have been answered.

This week has been hard too. The first anniversary of Ben’s death. It feels like it was just yesterday. So bittersweet. I miss my friends and want to see them more. Especially after this past year. I need to be more intentional.

More love, less hate!

More joy, less sorrow.

Lent, Grief, and the Passing of Time

Ash Wednesday is tomorrow which means Lent is beginning. Those 40 days where the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Those 40 days where we find ourselves traveling down that Lenten road to the cross and then finally to the empty tomb. This past year has felt like the longest Lenten weary road. There have been so many times I have just wanted to stop and sit on the side of the road waiting for someone to come along to walk with me.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my friend Ben’s death. 365 days have passed since he took his last breath. At times, the grief has seemed somewhat subdued while at other times it has come on so suddenly and fast. Grief has a way of paralyzing us. We want to feel something; anything. Or we find ourselves trying to find a new normal in the midst of our grief.

The anniversaries are a passing of time. They continually remind us that this person is no longer with us. Today a friend shared this video about grief that really resonated with me.

Lent is truly a time for us to feel; to remember the promise of eternal life spoken over us as the ashes are placed upon our foreheads. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” That ashen cross reminds us again and again of our humanity and our mortality. It reminds us that life not death has the final word. Once again, in the words of Clarence W Hall, “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”

There are times when it feels like death will stay in the grave. Yet God continually shows us the power that God holds. Lazarus is resurrected. Jesus is resurrection. Seeing and trusting in these acts of faith, I must also trust in the promise that God indeed has the power to overcome death. Ben is gone, but together we remember him. We are thankful and know that we are better for having known him.

Trusting in the promise of eternal life, Lent should and can feel like a spiritual journey renewing my faith in God and each other. But a lot of the times it can feel so beautifully broken. The words to Gungor’s song “Beautiful Things” are now playing in my heart and soul. “God makes beautiful things out of dust, out of us.” The road to the cross is not easy. In fact, it is extremely difficult.

Yet in our humanity, God calls us to grab his hand and walk along this Lenten weary road even when that Lenten weary road feels endlessly long. Because if we hold on tight, we eventually make it to the cross and then three days later, we come to the tomb to find it empty. It is a reminder that all is not lost. That life is meant to be lived and that death does not have the final say.

For it is at the empty tomb that we can truly declare that the world is about to turn. With Jesus’ resurrection, God declares that life not death has the final word.

“My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn (Canticle of the Turning; Rory Cooney; Copyright 1990 GIA Publications).”

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Sue and Let’s Have Coffee and Kristin and Porch Stories!

Where, oh Where?

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 “search.” We would love to have you join us.

The jingle jangle of the ball echoes as she chases it back and forth. Soon she can’t find it. It’s escaped under the couch or behind the door frame. These balls are some of her fave toys. The other day I was searching for them and found a pile under the coffee table. I rescued them all.

Her favorite toy is a fish on a pole. Sometimes she pulls the fish out. But when she wants to play, that fish ends up anywhere. This morning, as I threw back the covers, the fish and pole was laying under the covers. Next time I’ll have to check the covers before I crawl under them.

She also likes to try and escape. I think she’s as tired of the winter as I am. When I come home, she is waiting by the door. The other day she even had searched and found her leash which she drug in front of the door so I would see it when I got home.

She also loves to find cozy spots to rest; under the coach, on the bottom shelf of the end table, downstairs and in so many places. But as I write now, there is no need to look for sweet Luna as she is curled up on the couch next to her favorite pillow resting her eyes.

Time Standing Still

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return” These words will be spoken over those gathered for Ash Wednesday worship next Wednesday March 6th. And as Ash Wednesday approaches, It seems that I am more aware of my mortality than ever before because of the many losses that occurred in 2018. Their names still echo in my heart and soul; Ben, Ralph, Aaron, Rachel, Stephanie, Jim, and Grandpa Wilbert.

The anniversary of the first death is quickly approaching. On Monday March 4th, it will be a year since God called Benjamin J. Ahles-Iverson home to be with him. It was the day Mara lost her beloved husband. It was the day Elizabeth lost her dad. It was the day Christine and Valerian lost their son and Phoebe and Aaron lost their brother. It was the day that I and many others lost our friend. 365 days have passed yet here are still days it seems so fresh like time has stood still.

Yet the truth is time hasn’t stood still. The minutes, hours and days have continued to tick by without this beloved child of God/our friend by our side. Birthday candles have been blown out without him. Presents have been opened without him. Birthday candles have been blown out without all of them. Presents have been opened without all of them. Anniversaries have been celebrated wishing the one we love was still here on earth by our side.

The truth is that 2018 has been one of the longest Lenten weary roads that I have ever traveled. The dust is still fresh on my face. And there have been so many times I have wanted to just sit on the side of the road. However, God has surrounded me, has surrounded all of us with community that walks this Lenten weary road together. As I find myself climbing back up to the empty tomb, I am reminded that life not death has the final word. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.” (Clarence W. Hall)

It won’t stay there because God loved us so much, God sent God’s son into the world for all of us (See John 3:16-17) Jesus died on the cross for each and every one of us. And then on the third day, God raised Jesus from the grave proclaiming that life not death has the ultimate word. I know that in the midst of loss and grief and death it can feel like death is paralyzing us. There are so many times we find ourselves searching for breath. Yet in the midst of loss, if we let it, there is beauty and life that finds its way back to the surface.

This Lent, I am more than ready to find myself at the empty tomb. Yet I know that I cannot experience the joy of Easter Sunday without first experiencing the pain of Good Friday. I don’t always want to experience that pain. In fact, most days I would much rather not feel that pain. Yet by feeling this pain, I know that I have lived and loved. “Grief is the last act of love that we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love.”

This Lent, I come with the image of so many friends and colleagues gathered around Ben’s urn on that March day in Taylor Wisconsin as we commended our friend/spouse/child/brother/father to God’s care. That image is forever implanted on my heart and mind as a visual reminder of the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and who will come after us. The cloud of witnesses who will continue to share the story of faith that Ben and so many we lost this year believe wholeheartedly in.

Lent is a time for us to reflect and remember; to trust in the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us. I am reminded of the story Bryant shared after Ben’s funeral, about driving home, and their kids belting out the words to the song “Come Back Home” from the Greatest Showman soundtrack. Ben has been called home and we will eventually be called home too. God gave Ben and all those we lost this year to us to know and to love until the time when they were called back home.

So during this season of Lent, I walk this weary Lenten weary road knowing that there will be obstacles placed along the way. The dust will cake itself into the cracks and crevices as I journey the road. There will be times when I will just have to sit in the grief. And there will also be other times when disciples will show up and walk with me. Eventually I too will come to the tomb to find it empty. In seeing that empty tomb, I can proclaim without a doubt that death will not stay in the grave. Crying and pain will eventually be wiped away. I realize that there are so many days when this doesn’t seem possible especially when the tears are still wet upon our faces and the pain of loss is still so fresh. Yet God promises that life not death will always have the final word.

So on Ash Wednesday, as I leave with an ashen cross on my forehead, I will walk forth knowing that all of us are only given so much time on this earth. Yet God calls us to love and be loved until the day when we too are called to sit at the heavenly banquet feast with him. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Kristin and Porch Stories, and Sue and Let’s Have Coffee!