Standing on Holy Ground

“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.” ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then he said, ‘I am the God of your Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.” –Exodus 3:2-6

How often do we look for that sign of a burning bush within our own lives? I know there have been many times in my own life when I have wished that God’s voice would come to me in a burning bush. But as I have looked for that burning bush, to no avail, that burning bush has been no where to be found!

Maybe I have been looking in all the wrong places. Perhaps God is putting burning bushes in our path, just not like we would expect those burning bushes to come into our lives. The truth is, I believe, that we are experiencing our own burning bushes throughout our lives. We experience those especially when we see someones heart or someone shares their faith with us. I am reminded of a quote that I read today on a friend’s FB page. The quote reads:

“We stand before a burning bush whenever other human beings share with us something of their relationship with God or something of the moments of their hearts. In such moments may we always realize that we stand on holy ground.”–Margaret Silf

These words speak so much to me. As I have sat in my friend’s house, sharing a meal with her and her daughter, I have found myself on holy ground. As I have sat in yet another friend’s house and heard her heart, I have once again found myself on holy ground. As I have watched my Confirmation students create cards for someone other than themselves, I have found myself on holy ground. As I have shared in numerous families joys and sorrows, I have found myself yet again standing upon holy ground. As I have read new blogs, accepted new Facebook friend requests, and voxed with new #write31 day friends, I have realized that I am standing upon holy ground yet again. When another friend bravely shares her heart through her music, I find myself surely standing on holy ground.

There is something incredibly holy about standing on holy ground with others who understand me and my heart. God truly wants us to share ourselves with each other. God wants us to show who God created us to be with each other. God wants us to be authentic and even gentle with ourselves. That isn’t easy because God is so much gentler with us than we are with ourselves. And because of that God places incredible people into our lives so that we can stand on holy ground together.

I am thankful for the ways that I have experienced and will continue to experience holy ground in my life. And I am thankful for all of you who have shared yourself with me and have allowed me to stand on holy ground with YOU! May we all continue to share our stories with each other and may our eyes be opened to those times of holy ground in our own lives.

 

A Cute Pair of Boots and J-Lo Jeans

I’ve never been a big makeup girl. And I have never been the most popular girl either. In fact, as a child, I was picked on quite a bit. Self-esteem was always one of my weaknesses. When I moved to this new town a year ago, one of my members at church is a Mary Kaye consultant and she asked me to be one of her makeup models one night. So I went and it was so much fun. Shortly before I moved, my friend J even introduced me to Bare Minerals makeup. It was so much fun to get dolled up. Yet makeup is still not a part of my daily routine. I want my future Mr. Right to accept me for who God created me to be…without the makeup, glitz, etc.

But lately I have been feeling something different. I woke up this morning put on a new pair of J-Lo jeans (the Jennifer Lopez brand which can be found at Kohls) and a button down shirt in my absolute favorite color; green! As I was getting ready, I thought to myself I should wear boots today. I cannot even begin to tell you the last time I wore a great pair of boots. I finished getting ready and dug in my closet until I found those boots. I put on those boots and walked out the door. I felt so good! I even found myself saying “I look cute today.” I also was standing up a little taller.

I am not sure what has changed my attitude but I like it. I know that in due time, God will bring that special person into my life. There are days that I think that all hope is lost! But the reality is that I shouldn’t lose hope! God is, more than likely, looking for that special someone for me. And it will happen in God’s timing not my own. But at 36 years old, that is not very easy to trust in!

So as I wait for God to bring that special someone into my life, I will try to remember every day that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I will enhance my beauty in the ways that God wants me to enhance them…that they will come through in my words and my actions. And perhaps donning some makeup and a cute pair of boots somedays might help too.

The Turning of Seasons

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

The combine turns and moves its way up and down the field. The seeds have turned from seeds into wheat, soybeans or whatever crop we may have planted. My aunt, Dad, and Uncle take turns driving the combine; hoping and praying to get the combining finished within the next week. As I watch them turn down the field, I am reminded of how easily the seasons turn around these parts.

The leaves continue to turn; from green to hues of burnt orange to bright reds. And as they turn, they fall to the ground reminding us once again of the turn of the seasons. Soon the leaves will no longer be around and our yards and sidewalks will be covered in white fluffy snow. Again another turn of the seasons….

Months will turn from one month to another on the calendar and after what seems like a very long winter, the snow will begin to melt and the leaves will begin to return on the trees. The air will be filled with cool crisp spring weather. New life will come as baby calves are born. Again another turn of the seasons…

Before we know it the days will turn longer and it will feel like the days last forever. Spring will turn to summer. And we will find ourselves spending much time enjoying the longer days. The heat of the sun will turn our skin from the pasty white of winter to either sunburnt or tanned. Our hair will be sunkist. Again another turn of the seasons…

Our seasons turn from summer to fall, from fall to winter, from winter to spring! The beauty of God’s creation changes as it turns from each of these seasons.

Lessons Learned

One of my new #write31 days friends asked this question on Facebook this morning, “Almost a week out from finishing the challenge. How did you see God grow you in the 31 days and do you find yourself with a new calling/purpose for your writing?”

(1) I have seen God use me for a greater purpose. As I have shared my story, I have seen how God has used me and my families story to bless others, to inspire others and to let others know that they are not alone.

(2) I was reminded how much I am truly a writer. My mom said I was a strange kid. Often times when I was little, I didn’t want a toy. She could give me a piece of paper and a pen and I was a happy camper. Throughout this challenge, I have realized how good it is for my soul to put pen to paper; much like a musician writing a song and putting notes to words. I get to write sermons once a month for my job and write newsletter articles etc. But I haven’t really taken the time to write for me! I have realized how much I missed writing!

(3) My hope is that I will continue to “find my tribe” and that others will find their tribe as well. It is so cool to find others who simply get me and understand who I am. Pure gift in knowing who and whose  I am. I hope that I can use this blog to help others see that as well and to know that gosh darnit, they are good enough; more than good enough!

(4) That being vulnerable can be a scary place to be. But by showing my own vulnerability, people see me for all of my experiences; for all of my hopes and dreams; for all of my griefs and losses. And by leading by example, others realize and see how being vulnerable and open can bless all of us!

(5) I learned a lot during these 31 days but I think my favorite has to be one a friend pointed out to me. She reminded me that I am truly living out the words to Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When I flipped my Bible open and read those words, I realized how true that is. It took me a long time to get there but in sharing my story, I have found a way to fully trust in a God who promises to never leave us or forsake us. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through life and our struggles without my faith. I know that is not true for everyone but for me, there is such comfort in knowing that I am called and claimed as a precious child of God. Thanks be to God for that!

(6) I also think in many ways I have found my voice again. At seminary, I had a negative experience in a class by a classmate. (She later apologized and became one of my dearest friends) However that experience caused me to shut down and not think I had anything valuable to say. Throughout seminary and in my calls after, I was able to find my voice. And I continue to find that voice even more each and every day!

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”–Romans 8:26-28 (The Message Translation)

Finding My Tribe

“You know, the ones that make you feel the most YOU! The ones that lift you up and help you remember who you really are. The ones that remind you that a blip in the road is just that, a blip. They are the ones that when you walk out of a room, they make you feel like a better person than when you walked in. They are the ones that even if you don’t see them face to face as often as you’d like, you see them heart to heart. You know, that kind of tribe?”–Jennifer Pastiloff

I came across this quote on Pinterest today and it stopped me in my tracks. Because my heart has been so full lately with the love and kindness of friends; old and new. So much so that I think my heart might burst with joy at any moment! I have been blessed with amazing friends who do all of these things for me. Friends, spending time with you, chatting with you and so much more makes me a better person because you remind me that I am indeed good enough. You also remind me that God places individuals into our lives at the right times and places. I am so thankful and blessed that our lives have crossed. I honestly don’t know what I would do without you!!!

And to you, my #write31 days friends, through your words, I have seen your heart. And your heart is exactly what I have been looking for in my friendships. I honestly don’t know how I got so lucky to come across each of your blogs and stories. Thank you for sharing your stories and being vulnerable with me. There is pure gift in sharing our stories and it feels absolutely wonderful to know that I am not on this journey alone. And your stories make me realize there are others out there like me. Others who cling to the promises of God who tell us “YOU are indeed good enough!”

Because, my friends, the truth is you too are GOOD ENOUGH! In fact, you are more than good enough. God created you in God’s image “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And by clinging to that promise and trusting in God’s love for me and each of you, I sit here humbled, amazed and awed that I have found “my tribe;” a tribe that makes me a better person, a tribe that lets me know I am not on this journey alone; a tribe who isn’t afraid to pray for each other and a tribe who know who and whose they are. Thank you for being a part of my tribe, my dear friends!

Giving Thanks For These 31 Days

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”–Thomas Merton

“Say yes to the situations that stretch you and scare you and ask you to be a better you than you think you can be.”–Annie Downs; Lets All Be Brave, P. 107 (These two quotes capture my feelings of how I have felt during these 31 days. I was definetely extremely afraid to share my story but I felt the need to share our story!)

Well here we are…the 31st day of October…meaning it is also Day 31 of the #write31 days challenge. When I dove in and took this journey, I never imagined the ways it would stretch me, would bless me and would introduce me to so many amazing blogs and writers. (Yes, I indeed did call you each a writer because you are!)

There is so much I want to say to each of you. I never thought that by being vulnerable and sharing my story, I would impact so many people. It is amazing to me how this whole process has introduced me to so many amazing friends. I have always commented how sometimes you meet people and it is like you have been friends FOREVER. I feel that way about so many of you! I hope that someday we get the opportunity to meet InRL.

I am reminded of a word “eucharisto.” It is a word that my colleague shared with me a year ago in his sermon on the day I shared with the congregation that I was leaving and had accepted a new call. In that sermon, my colleague talked about listing our blessings and thanking God for all the things God gives us. He later told us that the word in the text for “thanksgiving” is translated “Eucharisto.” As I sat there and listened to his sermon, I found myself reflecting on that word. And today I find myself clinging to that word again.

As I sit here this morning and reflect on the last 31 days, I find myself once again clinging to that word “eucharisto.” This write31 days community has blessed me in more ways than I can count or even imagine! Today I am so very thankful for each and every one of you; for you who shared your stories with me, for you who told me how my story blessed you, and for each of you who ventured to participate in this challenge. So today I am uttering these words back to you my dear friends, “eucharisto!”

And as I give thanks for each of you, I am also very thankful for my momma. She has been through so much. Yet she is one of the most beautiful faith-filled women that I know. Our story of mental illness will always be a part of who my mom is and who my family is. I hope that through these 31 days, I have been able to let so many know they are not alone. I also hope that I have been able to share our story and shatter, at least, some of the stigma associated with mental illness. Thank you for reading my story and walking with us through these 31 days because I am a daughter; a daughter of someone who daily lives and struggles with a mental illness. And the truth is I will always be that daughter.

I want to close with a Psalm. This Psalm has become one of my favorite Psalms. I think it captures so well how I feel about our journey with mental illness. I think most specifically of this verse in the New Revised Standard Translation, “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Yes, there have been many tears throughout our journey, but there have also been times of great joy as well.

“I give you all the credit, God–you got me out of that mess, you didn’t let my foes gloat. God, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together. God, you pulled me out of the grave, gave me another chance at life when I was down and out. All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God! Thank him to his face! He gets angry once in awhile, but across a lifetime there is only love. The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter. When things were going great I crowed, ‘I’ve got it made. I’m God’s favorite. He made me king of the mountain.’ Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces. I called out to you, O  God; I laid my care before you: ‘Can you sell me for a profit when I’m dead? Auction me off at a cemetary yard sale? When I’m ‘dust to dust’ my songs and stories of you won’t sell. So listen! And be kind! Help me out of this! You did it! You changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you. God, my God, I can’t thank you enough.”–Psalm 30 (The Message Translation)

You Are Powerful

According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, power is defined as “the ability or right to control people or things; political control of a country or area; or a person or organization that has a lot of control and influence over other people or organizations.” For the most part, we see power as a negative characteristic.

Earlier this week I was at a gathering of dear diaconal brothers and sisters where we participated in community organizing activities. Our facilitators taught us that power is also “the ability to act.” That definition was confirmed in the Miriam-Webster dictionary when I read this “power is the ability to act or produce an effect.” I have come to really appreciate this meaning of the word power. Power truly is about the ability to act.

However it is hard for us to see ourselves as powerful. We see ourselves as weak not powerful.I am reminded of a quote by Margaret Thatcher. “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, then you aren’t.” (I hope this quote doesn’t offend anyone but it made me chuckle when I read it.)

Yet the truth is, my dear readers and friends, each and every one of us is POWERFUL…because we have acted. No matter what your topic has been this month, you took the initiative and acted. You may not have made it the whole 31 days but you still acted. You may have gotten sidetracked by life…but that’s ok too…you still acted. You still made a choice to continue on and act. And I hope you realize that by acting, you are indeed powerful. In fact, in my mind, you are all super-heroes!

Though I have never seen myself as a powerful woman…and I am sure many of us still don’t see ourselves as powerful woman, yet the truth is that God has made us into powerful woman by calling and claiming us each as God’s children. I have learned that is ok to be vulnerable and share my story; our story of mental illness. In fact, it is so much a part of who I am as a child of God. It took me a really long time; 18 years to be exact, to be open about our journey of mental illness. Yet for some reason, that hot June day in August at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp, my mouth opened up and the words flowed from them. As I, for the first time, openly shared about our journey with mental illness. It changed me and freed me to truly be who God created me to be. What an unbelievable amazing POWERFUL gift! Yet I still don’t always see myself as a powerful woman!

However I think my dad has seen my sister and I in ways that my father in heaven does too. Dad sees my sister and I as strong and powerful. He is a huge wrestling fan and wished he had boys to teach wrestling too. Yet some of my favorite memories of growing up are of  my dad, sister and I wrestling on our living room floor until Mom had to yell at us because “someone is going to get hurt.” I think Dad knew he could wrestle with us because we could handle it; because we were stronger than we ever gave ourselves credit for. But Dad saw that beauty; that power, that grace in his girls…and still does!

Power is not about who is the strongest, wisest, or most in control! Power is not about being the best in the class. Power is the ability to act when you know you need to. Without the power I possess, I wouldn’t have ever shared our story of mental illness. Without my power, I wouldn’t have taken this #write31 day challenges. I wouldn’t have met you through your own blogs and commenting. So I want to say to each and every one of you, thank you; thank you for helping me realize my own power. And may you all find your own power as well.

BECAUSE YOU ARE POWERFUL!!

“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”–2 Timothy 1:7 (NRSV)

The Value of Tears



This picture was shared on Facebook today and oh how true these words are! I am keeping it simple today since I am traveling home from a gathering with dear Diaconal brothers and sisters.

Tears are so telling of my story! I think they are telling of many of our stories because they say a lot about our identity. They express the grief we experience through our deep dark places.

I’ve always been a crier. In fact to this day I am still a crier. And many times those tears; that grief–the grief I experience because of our journey of mental illness often surprises me. It comes at unexpected times and in unexpected places. Yet it is at those times I have been most aware of the connection between my story and my tears. There is indeed value in our tears because our tears tell a lot about who we are.



Identity

“Tara Lee, you are a baptized child of God; whatever else you are, remember that you are that for that is the basis of whatever else you are.”

Through the waters of Baptism, I have been called and claimed as a precious child of God. And as a precious child of God, God has given me gifts; given each of us gifts to share with the world.

It is not easy for us to let others affirm us. In fact at times it can be quite uncomfortable. Yet I believe we are still called to share our stories. A friend affirmed gifts in me by sharing that I am the “light in the midst of the darkness.” I bring a light into dark places. She can name the people and places that I have marked! Wow….what a powerful statement and affirmation!

Hearing that makes me realize even more how my families story of mental illness is linked together. I am many things but most importantly I am a child of God who is also a daughter of someone who lives and daily struggles with mental illness.

By knowing my identity, I know that God will always accompany me through those dark places and will never leave me in the pit. God is a great God who makes things new.