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.

When Life Is Wearing On You….

Sunday afternoon until this afternoon, I was at a retreat for rostered leaders in the church. This time is such a holy time for me…to gather with colleagues, listening to awesome speakers, and to have some time for rest and renewal. And little did I realize how this year, this was needed so very much.

As some of you know, this summer has been a crummy summer in terms of Mom’s health. So many questions and so much confusion. I have been pretty open about sharing to friends, but holding it close to my chest for others.

Yet on Monday morning, during our breakout time, one of my friend’s came up to me and asked if everything was ok. I replied that yes they were ok. Being such a great friend, she continued to ask that question and said “Let’s go for a walk.” We walked out into the beautiful North Dakota sun with my beloved North Dakota Badlands as our backdrop, sat down and continued our conversation.

After a few minutes of chatting, my friend looked at me and simply said, “You just don’t seem yourself. It seems to me that everything that is going on in your life is wearing on you.” As I sat there and listened, I realized that she was right. I looked at her and finally admitted “You know, you are probably right. I think it is wearing on me.”

Oh how often are we all guilty of taking care of everyone else, but not always taking care of ourselves. I’ll admit that I am pretty good at self-care, but there are times when self-care isn’t always my first priority. My friend totally called me out and said, “What are you doing to care for yourself?” I thought about it for a minute and said, “Time with friends, blogging, etc.” As I have reflected on our conversation, I have been thinking of more ways that I can take care of myself.

Because sometimes life has this way of wearing on us….wearing us much like a beloved shirt that needs to be discarded etc. Sometimes life has this way of wearing on us….and tearing us down. Sometimes life has this way of wearing on us….especially as I continue to ask God why.  And yet as I am reminded of how life can wear on us, I am also reminded of how God knows…God knows when life is wearing on us. God knows when to bring people like my friend Erin into our lives at the right times and places. God knows and continues to walk with us!

God especially doesn’t want life to wear on us. So God places people into our lives to walk that journey with us. After we spoke, I found myself sharing with several other friends/colleagues. To be honest, there is a part of me that holds pieces of our story close to my heart because I feel like I am always vomiting out words about our story. Yet what God reminded me the last several days is that God places people into our lives to be there for us, to listen to us, to be the shoulder to cry on or the ear to listen, and to hold a piece of each other’s worn stories (not to take it away from us, but to bear the burden with us) so life doesn’t wear on each of us so heavily!

I am linking up with my favorites this week:


   

Surrounded by Amazing Bloggers and Friends

Joining in with the online discussion on the book “On Being A Writer” by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Today we are working through Chapter 3: Surround–I surround myself with people, activities, and books that influence my writing. I am so very thankful for the friendships God has orchestrated this year as I have been surrounded by amazing people, places, and things!

These words echoed in my ear as I read them this past weekend. I find I surround myself with people, places, and things that help me to live this quote out in my daily life. I surround myself with amazing friends and family who allow me to talk about things in my life that I am currently thinking about. Sometimes our conversations lead to a blog post.

I also surround myself with awesome books. I have always loved books and continue to love books. Long before I read Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts,” I began a Sunday series on my blog titled “Sunday Blessings.” But after reading Ann’s book, my series was even more solidified. Each week I keep a list on my phone of the blessings I encounter and then post it on Sunday evenings. I also read Annie F. Down’s book “Let’s All Be Brave.” That book led to a blog post after I read it in just a few short days. That book is a book that spoke to me especially this year since “brave” is my one word 365 for 2015. I recently picked up “Wild in the Hollow” by Amber Haines, “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans, and “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker. Books all recommended by other bloggers. I also am currently reading “Orphan Train.”

But, not only, do I surround myself with books, friends, and family, I find myself surrounding myself with more and more bloggers. Because I have come to realize that these people are “my people.” They remind me of the gifts that I bring. They challenge me to be a better writer when I read their posts and want to sound as elegant as they do. But mostly they understand me and what I write about…God, faith, my family, my friends, singleness, mental illness, yearning to be a mom and wife, adoption…and the list goes on and on.

I met many of these woman through the Write 31 Days challenge last October. I spent those 31 days writing about “Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness. I met Theresa Moma because her 31 day series was about her battle with depression. I met Dana whose words are always so beautiful and speak straight to my heart. And as the year went on…I have met others through the snail mail party and through Five Minute Friday. And I actually wait for new posts from so many of these people. (Susan, Bethany, TammyMelissaAnnaKate, Jen, Janel, Karrilee, and so many more. I wish I could list you all! I love you all!) Karrilee and I have so much in common that it could only be a God thing that our hearts have been united. And I believe that about all of the other woman as well. Only God could orchestrate these surroundings for me!

Each week, I often link up with some of my most favorite writers. These are writers that I want to to be more and more like. I am so thankful for the many who have shared their testimonies of faith over at Holly’s place every Tuesday. I am so thankful for Kelly and the RaRa Linkup over at Purposeful Faith. Some of the best cheerleaders in the world! I am thankful for Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart. But, to be honest, my most favorite of all is the lovely Jennifer Dukes Lee. Jennifer always writes words that speak to my heart. And the funny thing is she attends the church where a seminary friend was their intern. Jennifer’s words always weave together like a beautiful tapestry of words. I want my words to do that too! 🙂

There are so many more that I could write about, because I feel like each of them in their own ways surround me with stories and words that help me to write especially when I am feeling like I have NOTHING to say! I think there is so much power when we can inwardly and outwardly share our stories. I wouldn’t have met so many of these wonderful people if I hadn’t decided to be vulnerable and share my family’s story of mental illness. I wouldn’t know how to live if people like Andrew and dear Kara Tippetts didn’t share what it is like to live with an awful illness. May dear Kara rest in peace and may we all surround ourselves with people, places, and things that help us to answer the question on the header of Kara’s blog: “What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?”–Martin Luther.

What I Have Learned This Summer!

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 “Learn.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

This summer has been a busy summer for me…busier than usual. But throughout the summer, I have continued to learn so much.

I learned that my heart finds so much peace when I take the time to just be and enjoy God’s creation in the Rocky Mountains.

I learned how amazing it is when 30,000 youth and adults gather in a huge stadium in Detroit and declare God’s promises of peace and justice with the world.

This is only a portion of the Gathering!

I learned how sometimes you just have to get out of the boat…and other times you just have to stay. (Thanks for sharing those words FMF Retreat friends!)

I learned how part of my story will always be sharing my family’s struggle with a mental illness. I learned that part of my story will always be that I am a daughter; a daughter of a woman who daily struggles with a mental illness.

I learned that YOU are my people! I was so blessed to meet three of the Five Minute Friday ladies last weekend while I was in Nashville with my sister. You all are my heart!

I learned that I value spending quality time with my sister. It will be a long time before I forget our trip.

I learned that relationships and friendships go far beyond computer screens. They are found in Twitter handles and Voxer messages. They are found in sharing our stories and hearing those two simple words “Me, too!”

I learned that God continually widens the circle to bring more friends into the friendship circle.

I learned that I am never through learning! Life is always teaching us!

What have you learned this summer my friends?

Widening the Circle

When I was little, I didn’t have a lot of friends. In Kindergarten, I met my best friend who was a year older than me. She had been held back because she had undergone a kidney transplant. Mandy passed away in October of 2008. Since that time, God has been all over my friendships. In fact, I have been blessed by some amazing friendships in my life, but I never imagined how wide God would make that friendship circle. There are days I think that the circle can never get any larger and then God expands it even more! God has a funny way of doing that, doesn’t he?

A year ago, last October, I joined the Write 31 Days challenge. My topic was “Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness.” Never could I have imagined, how much this writing challenge would change me and would bring more amazing friends into my life. And than God went and expanded the circle more!

Due to the challenge, I was introduced even more to the Five Minute Friday community. (I cannot wait each week for our Thursday Twitter parties) These women have become my heart!!!!!!!!! They continually accept me for who I am. They continually see things in me that I don’t always see in myself. They never let me forget who and whose I am….a daughter of the one true king. We have looked at each other’s Facebook pages and even listened to each other’s voices on social media outlets such as Voxer. We have read and shared each other’s words. We have sent each other snail mail as part of the FMF Snail Mail party. Those words so often are just what I need to hear and come at exactly the right moment. And again the circle grows wider……

Then last Wednesday, my sister and I stood on a sidewalk at the Grand Ole Opry waiting for a car with Iowa plates to come pick us up. That car was being driven by one of the many FMF women. Jen and I have read each other’s blogs and conversed on Twitter and Instagram. But now here we were looking at each other face to face…listening to each other’s words spoken out loud. Jen, my sister, and I explored downtown Nashville together and then went and had supper together. Yet again the circle grew a little bit wider…or in the words of my friend Janel, my heart grew even larger too!

Friday morning, I found myself standing on an elevator waiting to meet two more of the FMF ladies. I stepped onto the elevator and pushed the button to take me down to the lower floor. But instead of going down, that darn elevator went all the way to the 14th floor. God has a funny sense of humor, doesn’t he? The elevator finally reached the 14th floor and then began descending down. It finally reached the lower level and I stepped off. I turned around the corner to the hotel lobby, looking for these two dear woman. But they actually spotted me before I spotted them. A voice exclaimed, “There she is!” The next thing I knew I was being embraced in a warm loving hug. After the embrace ended, I reached out and embraced the other woman.

Together, the three of us stepped into the elevator and rode back up to the 7th floor where we would find my sister in our hotel room. We sat and talked. Funny thing is, it was like we have been friends forever. No ackwardness…but rather pure joy and friendship. The four of us then went to eat at this quaint little cafe in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville. The three of us (kindred sisters introduced through the blogging world) now were sitting and breaking bread together. (Jen and I had sat and broke bread together early in the week too!) I still smile at the fact that the three of us ordered the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich while two of us ordered an identical meal: Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with French Onion Soup.

Through the breaking of the bread, gathered around the table, God widened the circle even more leaving room for more friendships to be born and welcomed into this holy space. I may not have been able to attend the FMF retreat, but I still feel like my heart is ten times larger this week and that the circle will always have room for more! God will continually call together women (and men) of different times and places to break bread together.

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

 

Here in Nashville

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 “Here.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

I’m here in Nashville this week. My sister surprised me with a sister’s trip last Christmas. We have been here since Sunday night.

Monday we went on a tour of the Ryman and later to 3rd and Lindsley…a bar that was recommended to me by a musician friend. That place didn’t disappoint at all. All I have to say is two words: Vince Gill. Vince plays here every Monday night with a group called the Time Jumpers. I was fangirling hard. I’ve loved Vince ever since I can remember.

Tues we went back to this place and heard a country showcase of young artists. So fun! Ate at Acme Feed and Seed–so yummy!

Wednesday–We rode on the General Jackson riverboat. Also because FMF friends are here for the retreat, I was able to meet a blog friend InRL.* So fun to explore Nashville with Jen and my sis. Even ate at Monells–good home cooked food!

Today we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and historic RCA Studio B. I got chills hearing the music and it’s history there. Supper at the historic Wildhorse Saloon. I even tried my hand at some line dancing. Stopped at the Johnny Cash museum cafe on our way back to the hotel. There was a songwriters showcase. Fun to listen. Finished out our day with a swim.

Tomorrow Grand Ole Opry and also hopefully meeting up with some more blog friends InRL. I am excited that the retreat is here which is allowing for some meet ups. But a tad bummed I won’t be able to be at the retreat.

But also so glad that it is here and many will be able to be there.

*My five minutes ended here!! I had a lot to say this week!!

The Ra Ra Sisterhood

Do you remember the movie ” The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?” The movie is about friends who share a pair of pants. It is one of those feel good movies that just makes a person smile. Earlier today, on one of my blogging FB groups, a friend shared about an accomplishment on her blog and another friend simply commented “Ra Ra Sisterhood.” And immediately a smile came upon my face. I love that term because that is exactly how I feel about this group of ladies in my life.

I never knew social media could be such a positive encouraging experience. (Don’t get me wrong we have to be careful but social media can and is a positive influence in my life!) I never realized how many friends I could meet on social media. Since beginning and finishing the Write 31 Days challenge, my life has been blessed by amazing woman.  This past year, when I moved to a new community, God blessed me with amazing friendships here in my community. But then God began placing blogging friends and women in my life as well. I tell you my cup is truly running over! 
And then I decided to participate in the FMFSnailMailParty. I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing it has been to open my mailbox and find an encouraging word. In all honesty, it amazes me each and every time how your words speak to me friends! 
The thing is that these friendship started on the world wide web have no lines. In fact, the lines of age are continually blurred. The distance in miles doesn’t seem so far away when I open up my phone and hear a Vox from a new friend. You have continually cheered me on. You have continually reminded me that I am good enough. You have continually reminded me that I DO have worthy words to say. And the thing is I see us continually doing that for each other. I have seen us pray for each other. I have heard us rejoice in each other’s good news. 
My cup is continuing to run over, my friends! And it is all because of you….my dear soul sisters here in my community. And because of you….my blogging friends….my Ra Ra Sisterhood! I don’t know how a girl could get so lucky.

EUCHARISTO! 

Meeting Us Where We Are At

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 “Meet.” Write for five minutes; unedited.


I have to be up at 5 am tomorrow morning to be at the bus station by 5:30 am. I will be meeting my friend Heather and her husband David. They have been living in Japan for the last several years where Heather was teaching English. They are moving back to the States. We haven’t seen each other in several years so I am excited to see her and her hubby.

As I think about meeting the bus and my friends, I think of the many wonderful ways that I have met friends in my life. They have blessed my life in so many ways and often those friendships have come about because God placed that person in my life. The thing is that God meets us where we are at.

I don’t know about you but I sometimes have a hard time trusting in that promise. Yet the truth is that God is a God of promises and knows our brokenness, our joys, our desires etc. God totally comes and always meets us where we are at. God knows that I yearn so deeply to be a mommy-to-be. And though there are more days than I care to admit that I forget God’s promise, I must remember that God always meets us where we are at. God meets us in the midst of the hard!

I think of my new friend KA and how her, her hubby and some friends are starting a new church. Tonight I asked her if I could pray and she asked me to pray that she would be able to write and memorize a Spoken Word piece for Sunday. I literally stopped and tweeted out a prayer for her in that moment. God met me right there on that phone screen. God knew what KA needed and saw to it that I was able to meet her needs through my prayers lifted up for her.

How often have you too seen God meet you where you are at?

*Lately I have noticed how God often meets me through amazing people. Lately I have also noticed God often shows up in my words…in written poetry, in sharing my story, and even in blog posts. It reminds me of the many ways that God meets me, meets us right where we are at. And I am so thankful that in my own brokenness, in your own brokenness, God comes again and again and meets us continually where we are at.

(And as a total side note, I am thankful for the ways that God has met me through my Write31 Days friends, my #Fmfparty friends and through so many more. I am so thankful that I will get to meet some of you InRl this summer in Nashville since my sister and I will be there for a sisters trip that week before. I never thought this would happen, but obviously God knew, didn’t he?)

*Where the 5 minutes stopped!

This Is Pretty Much Jesus For Me!

This is pretty much Jesus for me!

My friend Amy shared these words with me after I shared a quote from Melanie Shankle’s book “Nobody’s Cuter than You” on a post I read on Kate Motaung’s blog yesterday. The quote I shared was this: “There is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself.”

Oh my friends, my friend is so right. I am blessed by incredible friends who get these words and live them out in our friendship. But Jesus is the one who truly does this for me. Jesus indeed loves me in spite of myself. Jesus loves me in spite of my own self-doubt. Jesus loves me when I make mistakes as the sinner in me emerges out of me. And Jesus loves YOU in spite of yourself too! Jesus loves you in spite of your own self-doubt. And Jesus loves you too when the sinner in you emerges.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in how the world treats us. We think we aren’t good enough. We think we don’t have enough. Yet the truth is we are good enough. We do have enough. I am reminded of the creation story from the book of Genesis. Every time God created something, God finished by saying, “And it is good!” We need to remember those words. Because in spite of our own selves, Jesus shows up for us EVERY SINGLE TIME! Jesus always finds a way to love even the most unlovable among us. God always declares that all of creation is indeed good!

Jesus came into the world; continually turning the world upside down. He wasn’t at all afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners. He even washed Judas’ feet knowing that Judas would soon betray him. Jesus died for our sins. But then three days later, Jesus rose from the grave….hope in the midst of the Resurrection.

I look at the world around us and I see so much death and destruction. I hear stories of human trafficking here in my dear state of North Dakota in the midst of the oil fields. I watch the news and see the devastation of an earthquake in Nepal. I also see the riots as they break out in Baltimore. I see the news sharing of the murder of a family in Wisconsin. It seems like around every corner, all I see is destruction. Like in the aftermath of an earthquake, all that remains is the dust and debris that has been left behind. And my heart aches!

Yet as my heart aches, I am reminded of Jesus who loves us ALL in spite of ourselves.

No matter how much we screw up…..
No matter our own sinfulness…..
No matter our own brokenness…

Jesus comes again and again offering us forgiveness of sins.
Jesus comes again and again showering God’s grace upon us.
Jesus comes again and again loving us ALWAYS in spite of our own selves.

Jesus truly is the one who knows every hair upon our head, knows our hearts desires yet still loves us in spite of ourselves.

I am linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart 
and Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story.

 

Take Delight (Part 2)

Oh my friends, remember yesterday when I posted about taking delight and how God sees us.

My friends JK and CK are expecting their second little girl in just a few short weeks. JK posted some of their maternity pics last night and I fell in love with each and every one of them. I mean seriously how cute can you get! 🙂

I love these two and their little girl (and baby #2) more than words can say! JK and I hit it off from the moment we met each other. We may not talk every day or even every month but I know I can count on her. She is honest, loving and caring; a dear friend in my life! And her hubby is no different. They are such a team together and I love watching that play out in their lives.

JK and CK have not led a perfect life. Like the rest of us, they too have had their own ups and downs. But they have always clung to each other and to their faith in God; one of the many things I love about them.

When I look at their world/their life, I see a picture of a couple; of a family who delight in the Lord. And oh how thankful I am for that example in my life. They remind me that there is so much hope and promise when we delight in the Lord! I see that in their little girls smile. I see that in their love for each other. I see that in our friendship.

Thank you my friends for that beautiful reminder!! Love you more than words can say!!!