Books, Books, and More Books (What I read in 2018)

Books I have Read in 2018:

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living–Shauna Niequest. I have always been a huge fan of Shauna’s books. This one was no exception. I love how her words speak to my life. This book gave great practical advice about settling down and being less hectic. 

She: 5 Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Ministry–Karoline Lewis  Dr. Karoline Lewis is a professor at Luther Seminary and is one of the regulars on their website and podcast workingpreacher.org. I picked this book up at the Festival of Homiletics in May of 2017 and was excited to dig into this book. Lewis has a way of helping women to see that they truly do have the power for ministry. Such practical advice for any woman who feels called to lead and serve in ministry. I love how each of the chapters focused on the five keys which made it easy to follow. 

100 Days to Brave: Devotions for Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self–Annie F Downs Annie is one of my most favorite authors. I always feel like she is speaking right to me. This devotional book was a beautiful gift that she gave me this year! 

A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging–Kate Motaung Kate is a blog friend and she is hosts one of my most favorite blog link ups the Five Minute Friday.This memoir is a beautiful gift that Kate gives to all of us as she journeys through the story of losing her mom to cancer while she was thousands of miles away. This book could not have come at a better time in my life. Her words were a gift as I journeyed through my own season of grief. It is a story that pulls us all back to our heavenly home. (You can my review of this book here: http://prayingontheprairie.net/our-heavenly-home-a-review-on-a-place-to-land-by-kate-motaung/)

Holy Hustle:Embracing a Work Hard, Rest Well Life–Crystal Stine Crystal is another blog friend. I served on the launch team for this book. This book is a great reminder of self care and taking care of ourselves. Crystal talks a lot about balancing and how to balance all the things in our lives. I cannot help but think of how God tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.” (http://prayingontheprairie.net/holy-hustle-a-book-review/)

Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved–Kate Bowler This book that spoke to me in so many ways. Oh how many times I was angry with God growing up because of our journey with mental illness. Her book is full of honesty and vulnerability that we don’t always get from authors when they tell their stories. (Read my blog review here: (http://prayingontheprairie.net/everything-happens-for-a-reason-a-book-review/)

The Little Book of Hygge; Danish Secrets to Happy Living—Meik Wiking. Hygge is my 2018 one word for the year. So of course I had to pick up this book when I saw it. Hygge loosely translated means contentment. How do we find contentment in our every day lives? As I read, I couldn’t help but reflect on the ways I can find hygge in my daily life. It truly is a cozy read and reminds us all of the importance of taking time for ourselves.

Girl Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so you can Become Who You were Meant to Be–Rachel Hollis. I picked this book up after I heard lots of friends talking about it. I am one who always apologizes so Rachel’s words hit home for me. Now I know I am in the minority as several friends of mine were bothered by this book. I’ll let you judge for yourself. You can take it or leave it. 

Love Without Limits–Jacqueline Bussie Jacqueline and my paths crossed at Concordia in Moorhead Minnesota. This book is a true act of love as it was almost not published. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to serve on her launch team. Bussie pushes the limits and truly gets us thinking about what it means to love our neighbors for who God created them to be. The stories she shares are exquisite examples of God’s love for all God’s people. Please pick this book up and read it my friends! (The full blog review can be found here: http://prayingontheprairie.net/the-book-that-almost-wasnt-birthed-or-loving-beyond-limits/)

The Ministry of Ordinary Places–Shannan Martin Shannan’s book Falling Free has always been one of my faves. And this one is no exception. I was lucky to serve on Shannan’s launch team for this book. Her words always have a way of flowing so freely and getting me to think. This book helps us to explore what it means to find the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary. It helps us to share God’s love with all the world. 

Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much–Ashley Hales Friends, how many of us have too much? This book explores the question of abundance. It really helped me to think about what I truly need and how to share my abundance with others. Even though I do not live in a suburb, Ashley’s words spoke to me too. I was lucky to serve on the launch team for this book as well.

Remember God–Annie F Downs I have been waiting for this book to come out since I knew it was going to be released this year. I even preordered my copy. Annie has a way of writing and sharing exactly what I am feeling in the moment. And this book was my most favorite book that I read this year. Tears streamed down my face as I read her words. She talks about home and how she wishes it were full of so much more life. All the words she writes are words that I have thought in my head. In Annie’s words, there is indeed always something on the other side of the pain and mystery. 

Books I have started but haven’t finished yet:

The Inheritance–Niki Kapsambelis This book is a true story of a North Dakota family who have struggled with the Alzheimers gene. Almost all of the family carry the gene. This book is a beautiful memoir of their journey and reminds us that the reality of Alzheimers disease is all too real in our world.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World made for Whiteness–Austin Channing Brown I have started reading this book and need to finish it. I appreciate Brown’s honesty. This is a book about the reality of white supremacy and whiteness in our world. Read her words and then be an ally! 

Books I am looking forward to reading in 2019: 

Everybody Always–Bob Goff   This book has been on my to read pile for WAY TOO LONG! I cannot wait to read it! 

You are Enough–Mandy Hales Mandy Hales is often known as the Single Woman so her words often speak straight to my heart. This is her newest book and I am excited to see how it speaks to my heart and soul.

Becoming–Michelle Obama I heard Michelle on a tv special recently and now more than ever I am excited to pick up this book. She is a wise woman and I have always respected her. Excited to learn more about her and read her stories. She is a beautiful storyteller who weaves her words together eloquently.

Until the Son of God Appears

“Well, go ahead—twist and scream, Daughter Jerusalem. You are like a woman in childbirth. You’ll soon be out of the city, on your way and camping in the open country.
And then you’ll arrive in Babylon. What you lost in Jerusalem will be found in Babylon.
God will give you new life again. He’ll redeem you from your enemies.”–Micah 4:10 (The Message translation)

Oh how many have fled from their countries hoping to find freedom, hoping to find what they have lost. Yet so many are still searching. Or they never make it across the borders. I cannot help but think of how many children and families have been separated and my heart aches. How will we let their lives be redeemed?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, redeem means “to buy back” or “to free from what distresses or harms such as to free from captivity by payment of ransom” or “to change for the better.” 

Christ is born and comes to redeem us all; to change the world for the better. Jesus wasn’t afraid to turn the world upside down. He wasn’t afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus even sat with Judas and Peter the night before his crucifixion and death knowing that Judas would betray him and Peter would deny him. That is a powerful witness of forgiveness and redemption.

What are we willing to do? Are we willing to speak up and act for justice, mercy and peace? Are we willing to call out Christ’s name asking him to stir up power and redeem all the world. 

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appears.”

Until the Son of God appears! 

Grief, Joy and Baby Jesus

As Christmas quickly falls open us, I cannot help but be ready for the beginning of a new year too. 2018 has been a year of deep grief. Too many friends lost way too early and way too unexpectedly. My heart still hurts.

Grief comes and goes. It flows gently and then the next moment, it overflows onto the banks. Grief comes in an unexpected song, in a broken pair of sunglasses, and in so many other ways. This year has been a year of deep deep grief and I am so ready for a new year to begin.

But as I reflect on this past year, I cannot help but think of the reminders of resurrection hope and joy that come through the many children in my life. I will never forget sitting and reminiscing with friends at Ben’s viewing while his daughter laughed and played like any two year old should. I also can still see her asleep on her mom’s shoulder until the pastor began speaking the word’s of institution. 

Months later, I see Jim’s grandchildren playing and even remembering things their dear grandfather taught them. Toby proclaiming proudly to his Grandma Leslye “Grandma, I’m holding the football like Grandpa Jim taught me. See.”  

These are just a few examples of joy embodied even in the midst of grief. I keep coming back to one of my favorite verses from Scripture Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Joy does come! It’s just sometimes it is so hard to see that joy in the midst of death and grief.

God raised Jesus from the grave and reminds us of God’s power in the world. Grief and death do not have the last word. Life does! “Easter says you can put death in the grave but it won’t stay there (Clarence W. Hall).” 

In the midst of grief, I ask Christ to stir up power in me; to give me the strength to still live. Stir up power so that we can share joy even in the midst of grief. Stir up your power in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was born to bring joy in the midst of sorrow, hope in the midst of despair, and light in the midst of the darkness. Jesus is life given for all to see.

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare him room.” 

Piercing the Silence

The stillness of winter settles into the land. Snow covers the fields. Birds begin to migrate south. Some days, the hush of the prairie wind is silenced completely. While other days, the wind blows continually and one can barely hear oneself think. Yet there is a solitude that comes with the dawning of these winter months; a holiness that reminds us of the birth of Jesus. Come read the rest at the Mudroom today! http://mudroomblog.com/piercing-the-silence/

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

That Night!

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

Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem.

No room for them in the inn. 

In the stillness of the night 

Surrounded by animals of all shapes and sizes 

Mary births her son. 

His cries pierce the silence 

And awaken a deaf world. 

Shepherds hear the news.

Three wise men come 

Bearing gifts 

Of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

A newborn king

Emmanuel 

God with us

I wonder what it would’ve been like to have been there. 

Stars twinkling in the sky

It must have been so still.

Until his cries

Alerted the world 

A newborn king 

For all. 

Come, oh come, Emmanuel! 


Oh Come Emmanuel

“Alas for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria,the notables of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel resorts!”–Amos 6:1 (NRSV)

Ease=”to free from something that pains, disquiets, or burdens;” “to make less painful;” “to make less difficult;” “to lessen the pressure or tension of especially by slackening, lifting, or shifting;” “to maneuver gently or carefully;” “to moderate or reduce especially in amount or intensity.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) 

To free from something that pains, disquiets or burdens. 

There is so much in our world that causes pain. There are people afraid to step out into the world because of how others judge them due to the color of their skin. There are others who are afraid because of their sexual orientation. 

To be honest, there are many who are in pain in our world. They are in need of healing and God’s grace. But how can that come about when others don’t see the pain they are creating? 

Shouldn’t we be more careful with our words instead of flinging evil and unkind thoughts and words at one another? Unlike the old adage “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me,” words do hurt! 

I turn on the television to the news and my skin just crawls. I cringe at how we treat one another. As the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness, I have seen the affects of words too often. I have seen how those words have hurt my mom. I have seen the stigma that comes with the illness. 

We must ease the pain. But we cannot do that alone. We must ask God to come; to stir up his power. But also to stir up power in all of us. Let’s treat one another with kindness. Let’s not sit back and idly watch as others are hurt by mean and unkind words. Let’s ease the pain and brokenness in our world.

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Jesus was born to turn the world upside down. Jesus was born to bring peace and healing and to ease the pain in a broken world. In fact, Jesus’ birth was a megaphone to rouse a very deaf world. A world that doesn’t see the harm it is causing one another.

Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel, stir up your power and ease the brokenness and pain in this broken world.

Oh Come

Oh Come

Emmanuel!

Show Up!

“Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, ‘Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here,on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs.
 He’s on his way! He’ll save you!’ ”–Isaiah 35:4 (The Message Translation)

God show up, show us that you are here! Too many days, we look around and wonder where you are. So much hate. So much evil. So much war. Not enough peace. 

The world is suffering! The world is broken! Where are you? Come and piece it back together. Show us the power of your love. Put all things right again and redress all the wrongs.

There are days that it feels like we are continually journeying down the lenten weary road. Join us on this Advent road. Remind us that Christ comes as Emmanuel: God with us, as you promise to never leave us or forsake us. 

The cries of this precious holy infant pierce a dark world. Those cries awaken a deaf world to the reality that you are here. And you gave your Son as a gift to all of us. This Son who comes to shine light in the darkness, joy in the midst of sorrow and so much more.

Take us to the manger. Show us that you are here.

Take us to the wisemen as they present gifts to this newborn king and show us once again that you are here.

God, continue to show up in the ways we don’t always see or hear. 

God, show up and bring peace and healing to this broken messed up world! 

Show up here!

Set the World Free

“It was like a dream come true when you freed us from our bondage and brought us back to Zion!”-Psalm 126:1 (The Passion Translation)

How many are yearning for this dream to come true?

Immigrants seeking safety in the land of so called freedom.

Friends of different nationalities afraid to leave their houses because of the color of their skin.

Nonsense walls being built by leaders who think walls and division are the answer.

My heart is bursting with so much anger.

Why?

Why can’t we seek freedom? Seek peace for all God’s beloved?

A child born in a meager manger 

To bring hope to all God’s children.

A holy child who unbinds the chains 

and sets us free

by his life, death, and resurrection.

In our broken world

I cry out

Messiah,

Stir up your power

And set the world free!

Strength in our Story

“See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.”–Isaiah 40:10 (NRSV) 

I grew up in a household of girls (my mom,sister and I). Dad was the only male in the house. Dad was a wrestler. He wrestled all through high school and college. I think he wanted a boy so he could teach that young man how to wrestle. Instead my sister and I quickly learned the ins and outs of wrestling. 

There were many nights we could be found wrestling on the living room floor until Mom would yell “Someone is going to get hurt.” I treasure those times together because dad taught my sister and I a lot about wrestling. Even to this day, I remember what he taught me and love watching high school and college wrestling. (WWE, now that is a different story).

With wrestling, one must have strength in order to leverage their opponent. Strength is something that we all yearn to have. Not just muscle strength but strength in our bodies, minds, hearts etc. 

Growing up, there were many times I wished that my strength would change things for our family. I desperately wanted Mom’s illness to be cured. I desperately yearned for my parent’s to be back together. I wished that mental illness was not a part of my story; part of our story as a family. 

It took me 18 years to tell our story as I kept it tightly locked in my heart until then. I saw the stigma that came with the illness and was afraid to tell others that part of our story. Yet the reality is that mental illness is a gigantic part of my story. It has made me who I am today.

I have learned that strength means telling our story. Strength means holding onto this part of my story and loving my mom for exactly who God created her to be. Strength means helping to break the stigma. It has not been easy but I have grown and become stronger along the way.

That strength comes from our God who is mighty to save. That strength comes from our God who promises to never leave us or forsake us. That strength comes from our God who has given me the strength to stir up my own power in the midst of a broken messed up world. 

Sunday Blessings 234 and 235

(1) Fun mail!!

(2) Being told you are an asset. What a gift those words were to me! 🙂

(3) Decorating at church. AM was such a great little helper.

(4) WS and DB working on my kitchen. Cupboards have started going in.

(5) Luna coming home from the vet.

(6) Fun mail! PA sending me beautiful ornaments for my Nativity collection. I was so surprised!

(7) An anonymous person paying for Luna’s spay.

(8) Bohemian Rhapsody with KS

(9) The Lion King dance production with LZ.

(10) Watching KS and QS perform along with many other dancers from FLC!

(11) Free surprise!

(12) Movie Theater popcorn

(13) Chili from WS

(14) AA telling me how much she likes the song Joy to the Lord (read: Joy to the World).

(15) FH telling me all about the big fish he caught yesterday.

(16) EF and BF chatting with me and telling me all about today’s Sunday School lesson.

(17) A new kitchen!!

(18) Cookie baking with LZ

(19) An awesome SS program practice!!

(20) Texting with my faves!

(21) The cookbook Magnolia Table

(22) A great Upper Missouri conference gathering

(23) Kiddos loving looking at pics of Luna