Out of the Pit

“Keep in touch with it because it is at those moments of pain where you are most open to the pain of other people – most open to your own deep places. Keep in touch with those sad times because it is then that you are most aware of your own powerlessness, crushed in a way by what is happening to you, but also most aware of God’s power to pull you through it, to be with you in it.”–Frederick Buechner

This quote was shared on Saturday on the (In)Courage blog by Jennifer Dukes Lee in her post on Friday. Talk about a quote stopping you in your tracks! I think I must have read this quote at least three times. Words often have the power to change us, bless us or even make us mad. For me, these words touched my heart. Because I truly believe that this is what I’ve been trying to do throughout this #write31 days challenge!

My families story of mental illness has changed each of us. It has made us into the people we are today. It took me a long time to be able to share our story; 18 years to be exact. I know that I am powerless to this illness, and so I need to trust in God and the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us.

I’ll be completely honest here. It has been and still is hard to watch my Mom at her highest highs and most especially at her lowest lows. In fact, there have been times that I wished I could take the illness away for Mom and my other family members who daily struggle. Yet I know that is not the reality of our story. But I still need to continue to share our story.

Mental illness is that deep place for me. And without experiencing that deep place, I wouldn’t be open to hearing others stories. I wouldn’t be able to walk with others in their journeys. I wouldn’t be open to sharing in the pain of others. But because I have experienced that deep place, I am able to do all these things. I am able to know that God will pull me; will pull all of us up out of the pit when we need to be lifted out of the pit or out of the ditch as the Message translation states.

“He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.”—-Psalm 40:2; The Message Translation

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Love is Complicated!

I joined an (In) Courage group during their last session; thanks to my friend STM! I have loved being a part of this group. Something so holy about finding people that are like me and understand my hopes and dreams and simply get me!

I am thankful for this group but it is still hard in the midst of life to find those who can say “me too!” I have been blessed by some amazing friends yet almost all of them are married and/or have kiddos! I love them and their kids so much but I still wonder when it will happen for me!

There are days I’m so frustrated that this prayer hasn’t been answered for me yet! I want to ask God when, where etc it will happen! But then I realize that that would ruin the fun; the fun of the chase!

Recently I have gone to a few events with guy friends. I’ve enjoyed that time and wonder where God is leading these friendships etc! Why does love have to be so complicated and difficult?

But then I’m reminded that love has it’s hard parts too! This week a friend shared with me that her family’s dog is in his final days of life! She said, the hard part of love is the hurting and the loss!” Oh how true!

So I need to remember that in time, this will happen for me! I just need to remember to be “gentle” with myself! Even when most days that is oh so very difficult to do!

Because in the end, I trust that God will answer my prayer….and that the love that will be given to me and that I will give in return will be completely and totally worth it!

Joy Comes With The Morning

(I am linking up at (In)Couragers today. http://www.incourage.me/2014/06/the-joy-of-the-lord-is-our-strength-and-a-link-up.html)

As a little girl, I loved watching Little House on the Prairie. Maybe it is because I am a girl who grew up on the prairies of North Dakota. I have always loved watching it. And I still love watching their reruns. (If you haven’t read Allison Arnigram’s book Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. You must read it. I was rolling on the floor laughing. Allison played Nellie Oleson on the Little House series…but I digress). This afternoon as I was enjoying my day off, I came across the Hallmark channel as it was playing episodes of Little House. One of the episodes I watched was the one where Mary finds out she is blind, goes off to a blind school, and meets Adam. At the end of the episode, she is standing in the church during worship reading Psalm 15 from her Braille book. As her fingers danced across the braille book, I couldn’t help but think about life and how God is with us in the midst of our struggles.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

My life has had its own struggles as well. My mom had a nervous breakdown after my little sister was born. I was only three years old. It has always been a difficult journey. I don’t remember a time when my mom didn’t end up in the hospital at least once a year. When I was a sophomore in high school, our parents divorced. The illness was too much. My senior year in college my mom ended up in the ICU which aged her a lot. She has been living in a nursing home ever since. The place Mom has lived at for about the last ten years has been an incredible blessing in our lives. My sister and I became legal guardians while I attended seminary. And as I look back on this journey, with all of its ups and downs, I simply know that

The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Looking back over my own 35 years of life, I can see all of my ups and downs. I went to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp knowing that it was the worst interview in my life ( I spent the whole time looking at the floor not the interviewer), yet they took a chance on me. That next summer, I remember them telling me that they didn’t think I would make it, but they would take me as long as I would make it and now they couldn’t get rid of me. After camp I felt the call to attend seminary and it was not an easy journey. I struggled throughout that journey, but it also has made me into the woman of faith that I am today. After seminary, I waited a year before I received my first call. And after that first call, I was blessed to be called by a community of faith where I grew into the woman leader that I am today. And when I felt the Holy Spirit moving in my life to a new call, it was so very difficult to leave that place, yet I felt God leading me to this new adventure. It was a time that was filled with deep reflection and prayer. And those are just some of the stories of my ups and downs. As I look back, I completely and fully remember that

“The joy of the Lord is my strength”

Yep, that’s right when I struggle because God hasn’t brought Mr. Right into my life I cling to the fact that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” When I continually yearn to start a family, I am reminded again and again that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”  When friends have failed at having more children, I have clung to the fact that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” When I hear those words, that a friend or family member is sick or divorcing or moving, my heart aches, yet I still cling to those dear words “the joy of the Lord is my strength!”

The Lord is my strength because I have been blessed by amazing communities and friendships that continually remind me of that fact. Without my seminary community and friends, I would have given up a long time ago. Without my camp friends, I wouldn’t have first shared my family’s story of mental illness. Camp was the first place I openly shared my family’s journey with mental illness. And they wouldn’t pray for me when they know we were struggling. Without my Diaconal brothers and sisters, I wouldn’t have picked up my own basin and towel to wash the feet of all God’s people. Without each of my friends, I don’t know where I would be! They remind me of God’s love each and every day! And without YOU, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I wouldn’t know God’s love, grace, and mercy because you remind that “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

And knowing that “the joy of the Lord is my strength,” I know that God is always with me; with us. I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses; Psalm 30 (specifically verse 5)  “For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

The Power of Encouragement

 I am linking up at (IN)Couragers today! http://www.incourage.me/2014/05/the-power-of-encouragement-a-link-up.html

I will admit that I have always been an encourager. As a young child, I encouraged my best friend to be herself and not to let others get the best of her. I have sat with my sister and had numerous conversations about life and living and where God is calling her. I have continually encouraged her. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been an encourager to others. I see how important it is to cheer on my friends and my family, yet there are times that I need that encouragement just as much as the next person. My soul needs to hear those words of comfort, of cheering, of knowing that I am not on this journey alone.

When I graduated high school and was looking for my first job, I wasnt sure where God was leading me. I remember my uncle encouraging me to work at Bible camp. So I decided to give it a go! It was the worst interview ever…I remember looking at the floor and never at the camp director. Yet he took a chance on me and then he couldnt get rid of me. I remember sitting with him and the program director during summer two when they told me they didnt think I would make it but they would take me as long as I would make it. But as you know, I did make it. I worked at SuperAwesomeBible Camp for approximately seven summers. And is the place where I heard God calling me into ministry.

After camp and while finishing college, I again found myself wondering what was next for me. I took a leap of faith and toured Wartburg Seminary with one of my friends who was going there to tour. The crazy thing is the moment I stepped onto that campus I knew that was where I needed to be. I remember saying, “God wants me here!” A year later, I started at the seminary. It was not at all an easy journey for me. I struggled but I still stuck with it. I remember how frustrated I was when I couldnt seem to get through my Systematic Theology class. But thanks to a professor who got me and my soul, I took the class as an independent study, we recorded our conversations, I went home and listened to them and then we talked about that conversation at our next session. It was how I finally passed the class! Without that professor and without my awesome friends, I know I would have easily given up but I didnt!

During seminary, another moment of encouragement for me happened with my advisor and my candicacy committee. We were sitting in my endorsement interview when one of the candicacy committee members asked me why I struggled so much with Systematics. I answered him the best I could. But the moment I remember the most is what my advisor said. He said, “You know how easy it would have been for T to walk out the door, shut the door and never look back. It takes more courage to stick with it.” Those words were pure GOLD to me! They were the words that I needed to hear…that I could do this and I shouldnt give up!

When my sister and I became legal guardians for our mom, I was encouraged by friends to take this leap of faith. When I took this new call about six months ago, I was blessed by people who walked this journey with me and knew when to cheer me on and when to let me know they were praying for me and thinking of me. I am so thankful they are still in my life even though the miles still seperate us.

Yes, my life has been full of encouragers yet I don’t always see them especially lately. Being in a new place I am so glad for the friends that have blessed my life in the last months. Yet I still struggle. Did I make the right move? Am I where God wants/needs me to be? Will I be good at this job? And so many other questions fill my heart and mind these days! Yes, yes I will be because God will place encouragers in my life to get me through those hard days.

One of the things that I need encouragement most for is not being afraid to take chances and reach out to other single women. At 35 years old, I am so ready to start a family, yet there is no prospects at all in my life! And that makes the waiting so hard! Recently my friend Sarah encouraged me to join one of the (In)Couragers Community groups. And my friends…I took the leap! I spent over an hour reading through the groups and listening for God’s voice to tell me where he was leading me. The Lady N Waiting group was under the singles section and when I read their description, I felt this immediate sense of peace; a place to be me and to be with women who understand how I struggle and yearn for the encouragement to trust in God and Gods timing. I am so thankful for this community and we haven’t even started meeting yet. But when I read one of the leaders stories this afternoon, it was as if my heart and soul jumped right off the page into hers.

So tonight I am thankful for so many encouragers in my life; my family, my friends (especially, you tonight, Miss Sarah), my seminary advisor Nate, my seminary professor Winston, those who took a chance on me at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp, my colleagues in ministry and so many more! May we continue to be encouragers to and for each other!

Life is a Journey!

Earlier today I was at home for lunch when I turned on The Chew. One of their guests today was Robin Roberts. She was talking about her new book called “Everyone has Something.”She talked about how life is a journey. She said so often we ask ourselves, Will I get married?, Will I have a family?,Will I get that job?
She also stated that it is so easy for us to get caught up on those questions but if we remember that life is truly a journey that those questions maybe don’t seem so important.

As I heard her state those questions we often ask, I found myself realizing how true those questions are for me. It is so easy for those questions to creep into my thoughts and every day life. I want those things so badly in my life which makes it so hard for me to trust in this journey!

I need to remember that God is with me on this journey called life and that I need to fully trust in God! I need to remember that God says, “Do not be afraid.” I need to take each day as it comes and to delight in this journey called life! God does hear our deepest desires and yearnings and will answer them in God’s timing not my own! (Oh how hard that is to trust in most days!!)

And so as I walk this journey called life, I am thankful for those God has placed in my life to walk this journey with me and who continually show me God’s mercy, love and grace! (You know who you are!!!) These people remind me that I am not ever on this journey alone (even thought it may feel that way at times).

After some encouragement from my friend Sarah, I joined my first (In) Couragers community group this week! I am excited to see where and how these women will bless my life as we walk this journey called life together especially since many of them struggle with singleness as well.

Tonight I am thankful for Robin’s words! May they always serve as a gentle reminder to always trust in God on this journey called life as I wait for my deepest desires to come to light!