Katy Perry and Grace

During these 31 days of October, I have found myself reading quite a few blog posts when I have had time. The other day, I came across a post where someone shared about Katy Perry and her song “By the Grace of God.” (I seriously cannot remember where I read this post. Guess that is what I get for reading a lot of posts in one day!) Then my dear friend TM shared about her journey with depression in this post: A Different Experience of Grace. Both of these posts have me reflecting even more on God’s sufficient grace. I never thought I would be posting about Katy Perry and grace…but here I am! Guess there is a first time for everything!

I didn’t recall hearing Katy Perry’s song about grace, so I pulled up YouTube and searched for it. As I listened, I realized that I had heard this song before. But I never realized how powerful the lyrics to this song were until the other day when I was listening to it. Apparently the words to this song are autobiographical which makes them even more haunting. These words also exude a rawness to them;
a rawness to life!

The chorus is as follows: “By the grace of God (there was no other way); I picked myself back up (I knew I had to stay); I put one foot in front of the other and I looked in the mirror and decided to stay; Wasn’t gonna let love take me out that way.” (For the full lyrics go here)
I have been rereading these words over and over today. I think of our congregation and parents who recently had to lay their daughter to rest. I think of my college friend Chewy who ended his own life. I think of my dear friends who daily battle through the deep darkness of depression. I think of all the wrong choices I have made…as well as the wrong choices others have made too. I think of how God’s grace can taste awfully bitter rather than sweet. I think of how there are times when we all have had to search for God’s sufficient grace in our own lives.
My friends, I want to get real. There are times when I have indeed questioned where is Gods’ grace in my own life. There are days I go searching for God’s grace because I need to offer it to someone else and cannot seem to find it at all. There are moments when I want to readily give God’s grace away to God’s people.

In all of this doubt, in all of this questioning, in all of this searching for God’s grace, I am reminded again and again and again that God’s daily grace is sufficient. I just have to remember to be obedient to his Word and trust that God’s grace is always and ever enough because God loves us that much! “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.”

I don’t know about you, but this obedient heart, sure finds hope in the promise that God loves us so much that God’s grace is always set out on the table for us to receive and give freely to God’s people. May we always trust in the mercy and grace of this obedient heart of God who loves us so very dearly!

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Breaking Promises

When we make a promise with someone, we do everything in our power to keep that promise, don’t we? And if we or the other individual break the promise, it is hard to forgive the other person. Right? Have you ever thought about the different promises we make throughout our lives? Marriage, Baptism, Finishing school, etc? But the reality is that often in our society, we break promises! People get divorced etc.

At the last congregation I served, one of the biggest blessings I got to see was in our Confirmation program. In their 8th grade year, they came with a parent. Parent and child were learners together. We had divorced families that would come together for that one hour a week. They would put aside their differences to bless the child. It was an incredible thing to watch. But I know this not the norm.

In fact, more children than not are in split households. I am one of those children. My parents divorced my sophomore year of high school; my sister’s 7th grade year. It was not easy for either of us, but it was particularly hard for my sister who was in Jr. High at the time. I can remember that day as vividly as it was yesterday. I know it took a lot of guts for our dad to say the words he did to us. That night, tears streaming down his face, he said “I am divorcing your mom. It is not that I don’t love your Mom anymore. It is that I cannot handle this illness anymore.” It was hard to hear those words, but I also know how much truth there was in those words as well. They were words of God’s grace given to us that day and that day those words of God’s grace tasted more bitter than sweet.

After the divorce, it was sometimes hard to find God’s grace in the midst of it. It was one of those times I questioned God “Why our family?” Yet looking back now, I see God’s grace scattered throughout that season of our lives. God’s grace came in our church family who often provided for Mom when she couldn’t always provide for herself. God’s grace came in our family who continually surrounded us in their love. God’s grace came in a little house for Mom so she could still live in our hometown. God’s grace came in spending time with Mom every Wednesday, every other weekend, and one entire month in the summer.

There was a time immediately after the divorce when Mom went back to Nebraska to live with her parents. At the time, I think she felt that was the best move for her, but in the end, she moved back. It was too far away from her girls (my sister and I). Having her in our community was a huge blessing too. When I was busy with school stuff and Dad was farming, my sister often would go hang out at Mom’s house because she did not want to be home alone. As I look back, I know that was God’s grace for my sister.

God’s grace continually surrounded all of us during this time. I remember a time when Mom was living in the house by herself and she didn’t have us for the weekend. She went to bed and apparently forgot to lock the door which in a small town isn’t a huge deal. Yet while she was sleeping, a drunk man walked right into the house. Luckily she wasn’t hurt or anything, but I know she had the living daylights scared out of her. I would have had them scared out of me too!!! Indeed God’s grace was sufficient and kept Mom safe that night.

God calls us to keep the promises we make. Yet the reality is that we are going to break promises in our lives. But the truth is, that even when we break those promises whether it be through divorce or whatever, God’s daily grace is sufficient for us all. God’s power is made perfect through our weaknesses.

Shining the Light from Within

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”–Hebrews 4:16

Sometimes life just seems so incredibly unfair. A mother having to bury her own child. A young wife and mother losing her battle with cancer only six weeks after being diagnosed. A friend continually battling each and every day in the depths and darkness of depression. I just want to cry out to God and ask him again “Why?” (This is not the first time I have asked God why and had to search for God’s grace in my life!) And it is especially during these days and times that I wonder where in the world God’s grace is. Are you looking for it too friends? 
I know it is there, but it is so very hard to find during these times. It is as if the gift of grace sitting on the table has been obstructed by everything else in its path. It is like feeling our way through a dark room. We have to wind our way through darkness and the obstructions until we reach the table where God’s grace is laid out for us to receive. God’s grace is always and ever enough! But there are days that I forget that promise for sure. And there are days that the sweetness of God’s sufficient grace feels awfully bitter!
But the the truth is, like a beautiful stained glass window or even a clay jar, God’s grace shines through the cracks. God’s grace lights the way in the midst of the darkness. God’s grace opens our eyes to see and our ears to hear the magnificence of God’s grace even in the most difficult of times. God’s grace carries us especially when we feel like that grace isn’t anywhere in sight. 

I am reminded of this beautiful quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: “People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out. But when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” Or this verse from 2 Corinthians 4, verse 8-9 (NIV): “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”

God’s grace allows that light to shine from within each of us when we offer grace to one another. God’s grace allows that light to shine from within when we hold each other up in prayer. God’s grace allows that light to shine from within when we journey with one another. God’s grace is a gift given freely to God’s people to sustain us on the hard days and the not so hard days. It is especially there for the days when we don’t experience the grace but rather taste the bitterness in our mouths.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”–2 Cor 12:9
Amazing Grace by BYU Noteworthy Acapella Cover
This video gave me goosebumps! Enjoy!
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Some Sunday Grace

I am a huge fan of the Christian band Jars of Clay.

On Wednesday I was preparing for my 7th Grade Confirmation class. In the lesson, we were talking about Martin Luther and the Reformation. This curriculum uses a song, movie clip, etc each week. The song for that day’s lesson was the song “Grace” by Jars of Clay. As we listened to the song, I thought what a perfect song/video for my Sunday post this week.

The chorus to the song goes like this: “I feel your grace come running over every road, I love the way you’re calling overflow, I feel your grace come running over every road, You break the floodgates down and carry all.”

May you let these words spill over you today and every day knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for us all!

The Sweetest Thing (A Guest Post)

Happy Saturday friends! I am beside giddy to introduce you to my friend Karrilee. Have you ever met someone and felt like they were a kindred spirit? I have felt that since we connected through the Five Minute Friday Community, Write 31 Days, etc. I feel like Karrilee is my soul sister in so many ways so I was beyond delighted when she said YES when I asked her if she would write a guest post for my space. I cannot wait for the day that we get to meet InRL. Her words are pure gift and I pray they bless you today my dear readers and friends! 

Grace… it truly is Amazing!

I actually wrote about it twice already this week over on my own blog as part of my 31 Days series… but one never really tires of talking about grace!

As I prayed about what to share, Tara mentioned the ‘live’ date for this guest post and, well –there was my answer!

October 17th…

Maybe your calendar, too, informs you that Saturday, October 17th is “The Sweetest Day” this year.

To be honest, I’m not even really sure what that means, but I know when we were picking our wedding date some twenty three years ago, getting married on “The Sweetest Day” seemed just about perfect, because –of course!

Grace was definitely present on that Sweetest day. (Happy Anniversary, My Honey!)

But I look back over my life and I can see how Grace has been present on all of my ‘sweetest days’.  Grace was there at my traumatic birth and many, many days in the hospital following my early arrival.  Grace was there when I got to go home, despite all the declarations of my final hours… Grace was there for birthdays and new puppy’s and first crushes.  Grace was there with new neighbors and best friends… on vacations and summer breaks and Christmases galore!  Grace has showed up for every major celebration and highlight in my life.  Yes, Grace was there even before I knew Him or knew that He was there!

And then, Grace poured out on the day of my Salvation, at my baptism, on my wedding day, for the birth of our Girlie, and so many other sweetest days since then!

But Grace shows up in the not so great days too!

Grace covers on our dark days –in our hard seasons, when sweet is nowhere to be seen and all we taste is bitter!

If you have been around my little corner of the interwebs much lately, you will know that I have fallen completely in love with this new CD… as in, I can’t quit playing it on repeat! It is gorgeous, and powerful and full of –you guessed it—Grace!  I promise you that I didn’t plan this, but this is how God flows… as I typed out Bitter, I could hear this song. I hope you will take a moment to listen to it, and to hear it too!

~ Bitter/Sweet by Amanda Cook, Brave New World

Grace, right? That is grace because He really does make all things new!
He really does turn the bitter into sweet and winter into spring!

Grace –Jesus really, who IS Grace—
He’s with us on ALL of our days
–the heavy and the light,
–the dim and the bright…
Grace is beside us
and within us
on the days filled with cold, or with heat…
with bitter or with sweet.

In fact, it’s been on some of my darkest days that Grace has flooded in to light the way!  It’s been the times when darkness clouded my vision and my hope was shaky at best, and I was weighed down with doubt that I have felt a stirring down deep and caught a glimpse of Grace that lifted my vision higher. Grace reminded me of better days and a bigger vision. Grace reminds me of promises and prayers that have yet to be answered and fulfilled!

Grace walks beside us… urges us on… and carries us when we have lost our strength. When all we have in our hands or hearts is bitterness, His sweetness overcomes and overwhelms and oh how He invites us to the table of Grace and how He beckons us to taste and see that He is good!

I recently heard someone describe Grace like this:

“Grace enables you to be so in love with Jesus that you walk and look and love like Him!”

Now that kind of Grace – God’s Amazing Grace –

could take ANY bitter day, and make it sweet!

May His Grace find you, and fill you, and pour out wherever you go!

May He take every bitter thing, and make it sweet!

Happy Sweetest Day, my friends!
Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On.

Karrilee is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She is a writer, reader, pray-er, photographer, artist, beach lover, laugh seeker…serving God to the best of her ability. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband where they are new empty nesters to their only girlie. They are also co-leaders of Dad’s House, a new church plant in their hometown. She is passionate about diving in deeper with the Lord and inviting others to discover His love for them. Her life message is…Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On. Karrilee loves to share her heart and what the Lord is speaking to her over at Abiding Love, Abounding Grace.
You can connect with Karrilee on her blog, Abiding Love, Abounding Grace.  She is also all over Bossy Social Media (and clearly has a love/addicted relationship with it!) You can find her on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram as well!

My Favorite Color, Greenville, and God’s Grace!

This is Day 16 of 31 in my Write 31 Days series: 31 Stories of God’s Grace. I also am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Green.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

One doesn’t need to look far to see that “green” is my absolute favorite color. I mean look at my blog….it’s a little overloaded with the color green! 🙂 And my friend Gretchen used to tease me when we would go shopping together. She would spot a green item of clothing and wait to see how long it would take for me to find it. And I also just happen to be wrapped up on this cool Fall night in my favorite green quilt given to me by the dear quilters of Dilworth Lutheran Church when I left there two years ago.

But green also brings some other recognitions in my life too. Green is the color for mental health awareness. And as many of you know, I am the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness. Green also reminds me of a ribbon that is in a scrapbook I have from my college days. It was my friend Chewy’s favorite color, but it also reminds me of how Chewy left this earth. Chewy committed suicide. Yet despite all of these colors of green in my life, I am reminded of God’s grace and how it rains down and is always and ever enough!

Tonight I also got to jump on a Periscope with all of the #fmfparty ladies who happen to be in GREENville, South Carolina for Allume. I so deeply wanted to be there myself, but flying out of Minot, ND is not cheap at all. When I looked at tickets, they were over $800. YIKES! But these ladies made me smile tonight as we interacted on Periscope together. I felt like I was there with them all. After they signed off and I hopped back onto Twitter for the #fmfparty, I found myself reflecting on these dear friendships. These friendships only could be orchestrated by a God whose grace is daily sufficient for each and every one of us. I cannot even begin to thank God for his grace and the gift of these friendships in my life.

I feel like I am one lucky gal who has been the recipient of God’s grace over and over and over again! And it has been God’s grace that has helped me grow into the woman of faith that I am today!

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“Grace Like Rain”

The scent of fresh rain is one of my favorite scents in the world. Yes, it can get old easily if the rain doesn’t stop for days. But at the sight of a much needed rain fall, I always feel such a sense of peace and calmness in my life. (Don’t get me wrong…too much rain can be disastrous!) Yet much, like the waters of my Baptism, the rain washes away all the dirt and makes things clean again. In addition, growing up with my Dad, Uncle, and Grandparents who farm, I also know the vitality of rain to the harvest season.

Do you ever think of grace like that rain that washes down and makes all things new? This morning, I was listening to my Pandora station when the song “Grace like Rain” by Chris Tomlin came on. It is one of those songs that I love because it is the words to the hymn “Amazing Grace” (one of my favorite hymns) intermingled with words from the new songwriter. The additional lyrics really caught my attention this morning: “Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me; Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away”

And that is the thing, friends, God’s grace does rain down on us. God’s grace rained down on me during my seminary journey. God’s grace rained down on me when I went to work at Super Awesome Bible Camp. God’s grace rained down and continues to rain down on my family as we journey the path of mental illness. God’s grace rained down on us during our parent’s divorce. In fact, the more I think about, the more and more I see the fingerprints of God’s grace in my life.  The truth is that God’s grace continually rains down on us through life’s joys and sorrows. And God’s grace continues to rain down on you too friends!!

Yes, sometimes the soil is so dry, parched, and desperately in need of rain and we keep asking for that rain to come so we lift up our prayers asking for God to provide. And eventually God does provide and the rain does come. The same goes for the grace of God. God knows when we need it and God will provide it for us. It is just often God’s timing is so much different than ours. (Do you ever wonder if God is in a completely different time zone than you are?)

Yet God always comes and rains down on each and every one of God’s people!

Friends and Readers, I am so excited for YOU! DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2000 writers this October. To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, click on this link . Good luck and thanks so much for reading.

More Guts to Stick With It

In the Fall of 2002, I began my seminary journey. From the moment I had stepped onto Wartburg’s campus during a seminary tour that prior October, I knew that God was calling me there. In fact, I uttered the words “God wants me here!” I left that October day knowing that I would return the next fall to begin classes.

I spent the year at home living with my dad and saving up money for seminary. Then August arrived. I packed up my car and headed for Dubuque, Iowa. After a few days of driving, I finally arrived in Dubuque and began the seminary journey.

I knew that I did not want to be an ordained pastor, but was not exactly sure what God was calling me to do and be. The first days of seminary I found myself holding back and taking in every class. I eventually also heard the call to Diaconal Ministry; “word and service” ministry.

One day, I decided to speak up and was immediately shot down by another classmate. (This person later apologized and became one of my best friends at seminary). From that day on, I was very quiet and just sat and listened through my classes.

Seminary was not an easy journey at all for me. I struggled immensely with my classes. There were days I truly questioned if I had heard God right. I took systematic theology not once, not twice, but three times. God’s grace finally arrived to me in the form of a seminary professor who realized that I was an auditory learner. After failing Systematic theology twice, he took a new approach with me. We decided to do the class as an independent study. We would record our conversations, then I would go back and listen to the lecture, and return with my new questions. It was because of this ingenious idea and God’s grace that I finally passed that class.

I could have easily given up, but I didn’t. I stuck with it. In fact, God’s grace came to me in the form of my seminary advisor as well. In my endorsement interview, the committee asked me why I struggled so much with the classes at seminary. I was honest and did my best to answer them. Then my seminary advisor piped up and said “It would have been so easy for Tara to walk out the door, shut the door, and never look back. It takes more guts to stick with it.” Oh how true those words are!

And as I look back, I see the hand of God’s grace all over my seminary experience. I see God’s grace in my classmates and friends who walked that journey with me. I see God’s grace in my seminary professor who helped me pass Systematic Theology. I see God’s grace in my seminary advisor who supported me and reminded me again and again that it takes more guts to stick with it. I see God’s grace in my seminary graduation.

My seminary journey definitely was filled with God’s grace and did not leave it where it found me. It is a daily reminder to me of the visibility of an often invisible God. Throughout seminary, God often seemed invisible, but the truth is God was there the whole time and continually blessed me with God’s grace which I am so very thankful for in my life.

“I will hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection”-Anonymous

I am linking up with Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup crew; Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story; and Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart:


Aging with Grace

The wrinkles on her face tell the story of being a hard-working farm wife. The slower steps tell the story of a farmer who has spent his whole life working hard and is now experiencing the affects of hard work in his life. Their hair is filtered with white and grey that tells the story of their age. These two dear souls are my grandma and grandpa.

I spent some time with them and my aunt a few weeks ago. They were visiting and attending a big annual event here in town. Grandma walked around with a cane while Grandpa sat in a wheelchair. As we took time enjoying the music and visiting the vendors, it reminded me of how important grace is in our lives especially as we age. It is important for us to age gracefully or rather to age with grace.

I was rather disappointed as my aunt, grandparents, and I were walking around the venue. Some people were not very gracious of wheelchairs. They saw us as a hindrance and did not offer grace to us which made my aunt and I very frustrated and sad. Despite some people not offering us grace, there were some who very readily gave God’s grace to us. They would help move chairs out of the way. They would ask others to move out of the way so we could pass by them.

Throughout my life, my grandparents have taught me what grace looks like. Last week, my other aunt posted a picture of my Grandpa and their new puppy. That picture brings me so much joy because it embodies so much of my Grandpa’s personality. But also as I look at that picture, I see God’s grace as it has covered my family throughout their lives. God gave grace to our family as we planted and harvested our fields. God gave grace (and continues to give grace) to my grandparents throughout their 60 plus years of marriage.

As I age, I want to age gracefully or rather age with grace too. I want the lines under my eyes to show the imprint of the tears I have cried. I want the wrinkles to remind me of the life I have lived. And as the white and grey hairs appear on my head, I don’t even want to care. I simply want to show God’s grace as we each age gracefully trusting that we are always “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Like my grandparents, I want to age with grace too!

The Worst Interview in the World

Growing up in small town North Dakota, there weren’t many options for a job when I was in high school. I worked at the local theater taking tickets, selling concessions and making popcorn. Before I graduated high school, I was looking for a new summer job. One day my Uncle and Grandma suggested that I work at our church’s Bible camp, so I decided to apply for a job as a Bible camp counselor.

The camp director received my resume and set up an interview with me. I drove to Bismarck ND where we met at Perkins for my interview. It was the worst interview in the world! I looked at my shoes and at the top of the table the whole time he was interviewing me. I don’t think I ever looked him straight in the face. I left feeling defeated. Yet despite it being the worst interview in the world, the camp director decided to hire me anyways.

I graduated high school on a Sunday and was off to camp last than 36 hours after graduating. I spent that summer growing as a woman of faith. Little did I know that working at camp would change me in the most positive ways. It was the first place that I openly shared our family’s journey with a mental illness. It was the place that blessed me and would be the place where I eventually would hear the call to seminary.

I worked there all summer. Then the next summer, after my Freshmen year of college, I returned to work another summer as a camp counselor. Halfway through the summer, the camp director and the program director invited each of us to a mid-summer evaluation. During my evaluation, the camp director looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I didn’t think you were going to make it. I hired you thinking I would take you as long as you would make it. And now I cannot get rid of you. You are like a mother hen with all of her little chicks.”

As I heard him say those words to me, a smile spread across my face. God’s hand of grace had indeed intervened as God tapped the camp director’s shoulder and in not so many words, called him to hire me despite all of his hesitation. It was God’s hand of grace that called me to work at camp and eventually led me to seminary. It was in this holy place on the prairies of North Dakota, right off Lake Sakakawea where I received the gift of God’s grace.