The Winds of Grief

Today marks the one year anniversary of the e-book Letters to Grief by Kate Motaung. Kate’s book is a book of essays about grief that will bless all because we all experience grief throughout our lifetimes. To celebrate the one year anniversary, Kate is hosting a special link-up of Letters to Grief. Little did she know that this week has been all about grief for me and so many of my friends. 

Dear grief,

Would you please go away? I have been immersed in you this week. My dear seminary friend lost her battle with cancer earlier this week and all of us; her mat-carriers are scattered far and wide. We all are grieving as a community and it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that Laura’s girls have now lost both parents to cancer. It isn’t fair that we didn’t get to say goodbye. It isn’t fair that a life was taken too short.
Growing up on the prairies of North Dakota, I have experienced the effects of the prairie winds. And you, grief, often feel like that prairie wind. Sometimes you blow in so gently like on Monday when the tears gently fell from my face as I read the news of my friend’s passing. Or sometimes you blow in more like a winter storm leaving the affects of a strong wind behind. And other times, you blow in like a light breeze before a summer rain. 
Sometimes that wind leaves me drenched after a summer rain leaving me uncomfortable. Other times that wind blows in so strong that I feel as if I am drowning. And other times, I am left just a little damp or even dry. No matter what type of wind and how wet I find myself, I find myself trying to escape the depths of grief; yearning to throw off those wet clothes of grief.
Grief, not only, are you like those ND prairie winds, but you also are like mountain climbing. Some days I find myself clawing my way victorious to the top of Mt. Grief. Other times, I find myself slipping, sliding, and falling down that same mountain trying to climb my way out of the depths of grief. And other times, I find myself simply holding on for the ride…hoping and praying that I will come out on the other side a changed person. And yet other times, I find myself panting for breath wondering if I will be able to breath again.
Oh grief, I am already tired of you, but I also know that you are a part of life. My wise pastoral friend Laura found a way to remind all of us mat-carriers of that when she said, “Be patient with yourselves while you are grieving and tell the people you love that you love them and know that you are loved.” Grief, I am not going to let you take that promise away from me. It is a promise that can overshadow the grief I and so many are feeling in these days of loss because “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.”
Grief, during these days of Advent, as we wait for the coming of Emmanuel, may you come in like gentle waves on an ocean rather than like crashing hurricane force winds. And grief, may you know that you have no power over hearing those three simple words “I love you!”

The Top Ten Things November Taught Me!

I am linking up with Emily Freeman’s monthly link-up today. You can check out all the posts over at Emily’s Place.

(1) It is so much fun to find new clothing lines. Thanks to my friend Lindy for introducing me to LuluRoe. I am so excited to try out my leggings. I also will be purchasing a dress or skirt.

(2) Even.If.Not has become one of my new favorite phrases penned by my blog friend Kaitlyn. I am on her launch team and am so excited for all of you to read her book. Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between will be released in early 2016. For more information, click here!

(3) Time with dear friends is so so good for the soul! Lunch with KG, coffee with CT, Beer and Hymns with EG and AH. We need to take time to gather around the table more often friends!

(4) We need to find a cure for cancer! I know this isn’t news to anyone. But too many individuals have been taken way too soon. My friend Laura completed her Baptismal journey yesterday. My heart breaks for Laura’s daughters who have now lost both of their parents to cancer. Two weeks ago, our local Taco John’s held a fundraiser for a young wife and mother who was battling cancer. She passed away two days after her fundraiser. And it seems that more and more people are being diagnosed with cancer.

(5) Thanksgiving with the family is the best! Love spending time with my family especially as my grandparents age. Good food, great conversation, competitive Rook games, lots of laughter and so much more!

(6) The gift of community! I especially have noticed it in the last 24 hours. Voxes, Tweets, Facebook messages and the list goes on. In the words of my friend Sally, it feels like one giant cyber hug. And my friends, that is a perfect description. As the Wartburg Seminary community grieves, near and far, there is power in knowing that we do not grieve alone but together.

(7) Peppermint lattes, hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, vanilla egg nog….oh the goodness! I love this time of the year. There is something about curling up under blankets with a hot beverage in hand.

(8) I am a champion chili maker! I repeated as the Lutheran Campus Ministry chili feed champ which is voted on by local officials. This year it was local cops; last year fire men!

(9) Sometimes we just have to reward ourselves for completing a goal/challenge. I bought myself a new tshirt AND tank top for finishing the Write 31 Days challenge. I couldn’t decide so I rewarded myself with two items!

(10) Pinterest isn’t always a fail! I led the Family SS activities two weeks in a row. And the cute cupcake liner angels from Pinterest were not an EPIC FAIL. In fact, they turned out rather cute.

Linking Up Here!

The Impact of Love

There are people who God places in our lives that leave such a lasting imprint. It is almost impossible to remember a time when you did not know that individual. Their light seems to always shine a little bit brighter than the rest of our lights. And my friends, today that light is a little bit dimmer. My dear friend Laura completed her baptismal journey yesterday and is now reunited with her beloved, Rod.

When I started at Wartburg Seminary, Laura was one of the first people that I met and was one of the most welcoming people I have ever met. In addition, her smile always lit up a room. She loved well and she loved deep! I am reminded of a story my friend Sandi shared about when her and her family moved onto the campus at Wartburg. Laura showed up with toilet paper and lemonade: perfect gifts for moving into a new home on a hot summer day. Love can be so very simple, like through fresh squeezed lemonade, and Laura was the absolute best at showing that love!

Laura also always exuded joy. Some of my favorite memories were watching Laura and a few of our other friends (Sally, Sandy, etc) cheer on our “Running Reformers” city league basketball team. Those cheers always brought a smile to my face. Laura was all about the hokey pokey. In fact, every time I hear it now I will smile and think of this beloved friend. “Because that’s what it’s all about!”

A few years ago, our friend Julia ran in honor of Laura and sarcoma research during the Fargo Marathon. Now I am no runner, but I was so delighted to stand on the sidelines donning my “Team Koppy” t-shirt and cheering on Julia and Laura.

Laura is a soul who touched many lives especially her beloved daughters. Today, Laura is free of all that ails her. And I reluctantly put down her mat at Jesus’ feet, but I put it down knowing she is free of pain and reunited with her dearly beloved husband, Rod. I also am reminded of Laura’s own wise pastoral words that are bringing me some comfort today: “Be patient with yourselves while you are grieving and tell the people you love that you love them and know that you are loved.”

So now as I lay down my mat, I see all the others around me reluctantly laying down their mats too. Laura touched more lives than I think she will ever know or could imagine. The impact of love for Laura is seen in the tears, Facebook posts, and sighs too deep for words that express the impact of love she has had on each and every one of us.

Laura, my friend, you are so dearly loved! 

Dwelling in Advent

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Dwell.” Write for five minutes; unedited.


One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” Psalm 27:4

Dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. These words make me think of my friend Laura, and Andrew and all of those who have lived their lives sharing God’s love with the world. I am so thankful that my friend Laura has dwelt here in this place all of her days and will continue to dwell there until she takes her last breath and God asks us to lay Laura’s mat at his feet.

But as I am reminded of those who dwell in the house of the Lord, I also think of those places that I do not want to dwell either. I do not want to dwell on the news that only seems to be bad news. I would much rather dwell in those joy-filled happy spaces. I do not want to dwell on the evil in the world. There is so much I do not want to dwell on.

Yet as Thanksgiving draws near and Advent is soon upon us, I find myself in a place that I want to dwell. Advent is my most favorite time of the year! I love waiting and watching for this precious Christ child to come. I love sitting and dwelling in this space…this deep breathe of fresh air that reminds me of what comes in this infant; this unlikely son born to an unlikely women in a dirty stable in Bethlehem. This one who comes simply as the light in the midst of the darkness. This one who is Emmanuel–“God with us!”

During the days of Advent, I find that this is a place that I want to dwell as I reflect on the true reason for this season. With all the lights off, Christmas lights twinkling all around me, cup of hot cocoa in my hand, my favorite music playing in the background, I simply dwell in the peace of this season. 
Go Fish-More Than A Story 
(One of my fave Christmas songs. And hopefully you’ll forgive me
 for posting a Christmas tune before Thanksgiving!)

Your Mat Carriers

A poem offering for my friend Laura today.
Sometimes only my words can capture the prayers of my heart.
Your Mat Carriers
(A poem for Laura)
By Tara L. Ulrich
We carry your mat
Through all your days
Holding on with all
our might
And wiping away our
tears.
We don’t want to let
go.
We want you to stay
longer.
It doesn’t seem fair
That you need to go.
You’ve been such a
gracious gift;
Full of so much joy,
Touching so many
lives;
More than you’ll ever
known
And so, we your mat
carriers,
Continually hold onto
your mat
Until the day when
Jesus asks us
To simply lay it at
his feet.
For on that day,
We know that you will
be free;
Free of all that ails
you.

A Weary World Rejoices

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Weary.” Write for five minutes; unedited.


Sometimes the word prompt hits me straight in the gut and heart, this week is one of those weeks were the word describes exactly how I have been feeling this week.

I am weary, friends! I am weary of so many around me being diagnosed with cancer. I am weary after October and Write 31 Days. I am weary of the world around me; full of such darkness and pain. I am just simply weary.

This week has been especially weary for myself and so many who love my friend Laura especially her daughters. Laura and I met at Wartburg Theological Seminary. She was one of the senior class presidents when I began at WTS. From day one, she was one of the most welcoming and gracious people in my life. She blessed my life in so many ways and I am so thankful to have been touched by her love and friendship.

Laura lost her husband Rod to cancer 11 years ago this month. And Laura has been battling sarcoma cancer for the last several years. Rod and Laura have two daughters. Last Friday, Laura was taken to the emergency room where they found a 4 cm mass on her brain. Yesterday they updated her Care pages and shared how the cancer has spread. As a family, Laura’s daughters and the rest of her family made the decision to move her into hospice care. Laura transitioned to hospice care today. And my friends, my heart continues to be weary…weary for Laura and Rod’s daughters who will lose two parents to cancer.  My heart is weary…weary from shedding tears for this dear friend. My heart is breaking and it just doesn’t seem fair.

*And I know my friend, her family and all those who have been touched by her love and friendship and more are weary too. I know we cannot make sense of any of this right now. We, Laura’s mat-carriers are weary, but we will continue to pray for her. I also am reminded of Jesus’ own words “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest!”

I know that rest will come soon. But for now, I am clinging to the promises of hope found in the birth of our Savior who comes as light in the midst of darkness, hope in the midst of sadness and so much more. As we soon prepare for Advent and the coming of this holy child, I find myself quietly singing these words from the song “O Holy Night”; “A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, the night when Christ was born; O night, O Holy night, O night divine.”

God knows that we are weary and sent God’s son into the world for each and every one of us. And for that we can trust in God’s love for each of us and know that in due time….

Our weary world rejoices! (Rejoices that pain and crying and death will be no more)

*This is where my five minutes ended. As you can tell, this word prompt hit home for me this week.

This Holy Week

Our foreheads were marked with the sign of the cross almost six weeks ago on Ash Wednesday as we began our journey to the cross. With the sign of the cross on our foreheads, the words “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; to dust you came, to dust you shall return” were spoken over us. Every time I mark a person’s forehead, I am reminded of their humanity and their mortality. It is especially hard when I mark the sign of the cross on a child’s forehead. Yet God declares that God will never leave us or forsake us. This Holy Week I am especially mindful of all who have gone before us including dear blogger Kara Tippetts who lost her battle with cancer a few weeks ago.

It is indeed a holy Week; a week in which we remember all Christ has done for us and experience so many emotions. It is a week in which we feel sadness but it also is a week in which we can be so very thankful. It is a week that walks us from the foot-washing of the disciple’s feet and gathering at the table, to the intensity we feel on the night of his crucifixion and death, to the hope that pours out when we come to the tomb and see the stone rolled away. It is a week that reminds us of the holy hopeful promise found in Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection.

But we cannot experience the promise of the Resurrection without first walking from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to that joy-filled Easter morning. Clarence W. Hall once wrote, “Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.” I find myself clinging to those words this week. There is such hope in knowing that death does not have the final word but that God does.

This Lent I have had the privilege of praying through my Facebook friends list. It is always such an enriching experience to pray for these friends. With their prayers in my heart and knowing how they have experienced their own deaths (death of relationship, death of life, etc), there is hope found in knowing that death does not and WILL NOT have the final word. I am again reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses; Psalm 30: verse five “Weeping may come for the night but joy comes with the morning.”

Tomorrow, on Maundy Thursday, we will gather at the table, with all of our brokenness, where God calls us to come, have our feet washed and eat and drink. Then on Good Friday, we are brought to our knees as Jesus is beaten and crucified. There is a eery stillness that comes over the world that night. But then three days later, we come to the tomb and find that the tomb has been rolled away. And we know that death has not had the last word, but that God does!

God sent God’s son into the world for each and every one of us. God loves us so THAT MUCH! And knowing that love, I find myself thankful for what Christ has done for me…..has done for all of us. But there is also a trembling that comes over me. I am reminded of the chorus to the African American spiritual “Were you There” “Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” And, my friends, this holy week I especially don’t want to forget that trembling; a trembling that is there as my feet are washed; a trembling that is there as I hear Jesus being beaten and crucified; and a trembling that is there when I come to the tomb and find it empty! Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!

I am linking up with these wonderful writers today: Holly Barrett for #TestimonyTuesday, 
Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory, Holly Gerth for Coffee for your Heart
and Angela Parlin at the #RaRaLinkup.
 


Thank You Kara Tippetts!

The sun was streaming in through the windows of my house. At 2:15 pm, I opened my phone to her website and clicked on the link to watch the live stream of her memorial service. I watched as Jason and their children walked into the sanctuary. I listened to the musicians play beautiful music. And I especially listened to the words that were spoken at the beginning of her service. A man (I am not sure who exactly he was) came to the microphone and said “Welcome.” But then he proceeded to share how that seemed so impersonal. Because Kara was one who would take your hand and put it over your heart, entering you into her heart. And just as Kara was taking hold of your hand and placing hers over yours, her hand was also being quietly grasped into your heart and you didn’t even know it.

Those words that he spoke are so true. I may never have met Kara. But through her words, through her vulnerability, through her heart, I got to know this beautiful child of God. A child of God who ventured to share even the hardest darkest pieces of her life. And because she shared her story with so many of us, she indeed grabbed our hands and placed them over her heart and at the same time entered into our hearts. And because she shared her whole story, many around the world gathered to laugh, to cry, to mourn and to grieve this beautiful child of God this afternoon.

Tears streamed down my face as I listened to Kara’s memorial service. But then it was 2:45 pm and I needed to leave. I grabbed my shoes and slipped them on. I grabbed my car keys and walked outside. The sun was beating warmly across my face silenting reminding me of the beauty of this world. I opened my car door and sat down. I placed my phone in the cupholder and drove to the hotel where my friend and her family were staying. The whole time Kara’s memorial service played on my phone.

I pulled up to the hotel. I turned off the livestream; wishing I could listen more but knowing that the video would hopefully be uploaded later. Before I went into the hotel, I wiped the still wet tears from my face and reflected for a moment. Then I walked through the front doors of the hotel, turned left, went down the hallway and turned right into the pool area. I found my friend sitting at the table and her daughter happily playing in the swimming pool. I haven’t seen this friend in quite a while so we sat and visited while her daughter played. While we chatted, I watched the children and families all playing so happily. Deep inside, my heart was breaking for Kara’s family as they were at that same exact moment saying goodbye to their beloved wife and mother. But I also know that because of Kara’s own words and own examples that she would want me to be with those near and dear to my heart. She would want me to continue to “love them hard” so that is exactly what I did.

After about an hour, I came home to my house. I tried to get back onto the live stream but it was finished. I laid my phone down on my coffee table and turned on my television. A couple of hours  later, I opened my front door listening to the first Spring rain falling. The aromas of that Spring rain wafted over me and I stood holding my screen door wide open, the rain falling lightly upon my face, and my head resting on the door looking up to the heavens; looking up to where Kara now resides and continues to tell her whole story. I stood there for a few more minutes letting the rain wash over me and then I looked up to the heavens and simply whispered, “Thank you Kara Tippetts.”

It was a simple thank you, but it is one that I believe many of us are saying to her and to her family because she shared her whole story with us. May we too, in the mundane days of faithfulness, remember to love big, to be vulnerable, and to share in the midst of even the hardest darkest places as well as in the most joyful places.

To read more of Kara’s journey, go here: Mundane Faithfulness. If you would like to help support the Tippett’s children, the family asks that donations may be sent to:

Jason Tippetts
P.O. Box 49727
Colorado Springs, CO 80949

I am linking up with Barbie Swihart for the Weekend Brew and with Anita at Blessed but Stressed for Inspire Me Monday. 
                                                             

A Whole New Perspective

This verse is a verse that I often turn to when someone passes away….especially when the death is unexpected. I turned to it when my friend Renee lost her husband Ben in the Haiti earthquake. I turned to it when people I love have left this earth. I even turned to it when Mom was laying in the intensive care unit my senior year of college.

In the last month, a dear seminary classmate and friend received the word that she has cancer. The cancer is progressing fast. Hospice has been called in and honestly, she is in the final days of her life. So very hard to utter those words or even type them on a screen especially when I spent time with Karen and her BFF Barb this summer at the Lutheran Academy of the Rockies. Karen’s daughters have been keeping everyone updated on their Caring Bridge website which is a beautiful reflection of their relationship with their Mom.

This morning’s post brought tears to my eyes as I read about Karen’s daughter Kris taking care of her. Kris mentioned how everything is coming full circle. As a baby, Karen cared for her infant daughter Kris and now Kris is caring for her Mom in the same way; bathing her, feeding her, etc. Life has a funny way of turning full circle on us, doesn’t it…life and death, life and death, life and death!

Kris’s words shed light on what it means to care for those we love; for life to come full circle and to grieve when we need to grieve.As a daughter of someone who daily lives and struggles with a mental illness, at times, I have found myself having a hard time holding onto the “rollercoaster” of life. The rollercoaster doesn’t give us any warnings and let us know when it is going up or coming down! It is very scary to hold on, be vulnerable and share our story with those near and dear to us. Yet sometimes that is exactly what we need to do….hold on for the ride as unpredictable as it can be.

Today I am thankful for Karen and her family; what she has taught them and what she continues to teach them; and for the love she has shown them and continues to show them. I am thankful for Karen’s friendship and all those who have been blessed by her friendship.  I am simply thankful for Karen…yet my heart is sad too!

And as I read and listen to Karen’s daughters words, I am reminding myself to continually show love to all those who are near and dear to me; especially my momma. In the midst of Mom’s illness, I will care for Mom in the ways she needs me to care for her even when I am tired and weary. I will sit on her bed when she needs me to and hold her hand. Because she cared for me…there are times when I will need to care for her as well!

The beauty is that God is with us in the midst of life and death especially when it is so very hard for us to cling to the promises God bestows upon each of us. As Karen lives her final weeks, days or hours of life, I can’t help but be reminded of the promise of the Resurrection. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes about Easter from Charles W. Hall “Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”

“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete.”-Philippians 2:1-2

Ode to Cancer

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

Oh how many times I’ve heard or read that passage. Yet there are times when it feels almost
downright impossible to believe in or trust in. Tonight my friends is one of those nights.

The ugly “c” word has reared its head once again. A friend and classmate went in for more scans today. She is (and has been) battling cancer. I found myself thinking of her and praying for her on and off all day. Then tonight I was eager to read her post and when I got to her post, I was heartbroken. It was not the news her and her family were hoping for. The tumors have grown. She will begin chemo once again. This was not the news any of us was hoping for.

But not only am I sad for her, I am sad for her daughters. This isn’t fair…not for her, not for her daughters and not for anyone. She has already lost her husband and the girls their father to this awful c word. I want to scream at the top of my lungs; Screw You Cancer!!
(I am not a swearing lady but I truly would like to use stronger language than this!)

And their story isn’t the only one. There are so many I know who are currently battling cancer. Why them? Why does cancer have to once again rear her ugly head?
It simply isn’t fair!!

I pray and cling to hope but that sometimes is so much easier said than done. It often is hard to see the light when this darkness seems to be looming all around us.

Yet I know that there is this one; the Messiah our Lord who IS the light in the midst of the darkness;
who always triumphs even when it seems all hope is lost! I believe that this Messiah often comes in the form of caretakers and doctors; in the form of family and friends who love the patient in the midst of their struggles; and in their mat carriers who hold the mat for them and lift them through the roof to Jesus!

In all actuality, I wish cancer wasn’t around. I wish that people didn’t have to struggle with it. I wish for so much. Yet I know that it still is a reality so we must choose hope. We must cling to the one who is the light in the midst of darkness especially when our lives; our world seem so dark.

Because in the end, I believe light will always emerge from the darkness and that there will always be hope! I also believe and trust that Christ WILL have the final word!!

(But on days like today when someone I love; a sister in Christ is sick and hurting, it is so much harder to find the light and hope!)