Joy Comes With The Morning

This is Day 23 of 31 in my Write 31 Days series: 31 Stories of God’s Grace. I also am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Joy.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

“Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning!” –Psalm 30:5

This has become a  favorite verse in my life. It really began to appear in my life after the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. My friend Renee, her husband Ben and Ben’s cousin Jon were in Haiti when the earthquake struck. I was in Gettysburg PA as a small group leader for the Diaconal Ministry formation event. Eventually we received the news of Ben’s death. My small group was to lead  worship that night we found out Ben had lost his life in the earthquake. As people entered into worship, we had Ben’s version of  Psalm 30 playing through the loudspeakers.

Ever since this song has become one of my favorites. It also is such a beautiful joy filled promise! Even in our darkest times, God finds a way to eventually show us light; to show us God’s grace at all times and in all places. God’s grace shines the light even in the most gut wrenching places. We just can’t always see it or find it.

Our lives are full of brokenness, sadness, celebrations, and joy. It is during those times when it feels like it is going to be night forever when God especially offers God’s grace. God knows when the morning and that joy will return.

For me, the joy has come in seeing my mom live a joy- filled faith-filled life. The joy has come in seeing a new relationship form where it once was broken. That joy has come in seeing friends finally get pregnant again after trying for so very long. I have seen that joy come in God’s grace being offered again and again and again!

If you are feeling like it is a long dark dank night, please know and trust in the promises of Psalm 30. That night soon will come to a close and you will be awakened to God’s grace as the sun begins to rise and a beautiful sunrise is spread out for your eyes to see.

“Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning!”–Psalm 30:5

Mourning into Dancing–Ben Larson

He Still Sings!

Good Morning Friends! This is a longer post than I usually write, but I promise you will be blessed by it. And I will warn you that today’s post much like yesterday’s post might make you cry too!

I sat in a classroom with several young ladies at Gettysburg Seminary on a cold Pennsylvania January day in 2010. As music flowed out of the speakers from my friend Shera’s computer, we strained to listen to the words coming forth. The song we were listening to was a song by Benjamin Splichal Larson and his cousin Jon. The words were words penned by a seminary classmate and friend. We listened closely as we heard them sing “hands parted after prayer like cups raised to receive!”

The song ended and we talked about the image of our hands parted after prayer. Class ended and we all went our separate ways. I sat in my hotel room later that afternoon scrolling through Facebook when I received an instant message from a seminary classmate. This classmate told me that there had been an earthquake in Haiti and three Wartburg Seminary classmates where there including my friend Renee who I had worked at Bible camp with for several summers.

For awhile, as you can imagine, the news was very vague. First, Renee was found but the boys were missing. Second, they were all missing. And then finally, Renee and Jon were together but Ben was still missing. As we waited for news, we found ourselves reading news articles and stories on the Internet and watching the news. I felt bad for our morning speaker the next day because most of us were not listening to her words but rather were trying to glean any news we could about the earthquake and Ben.

After the morning presentation, one of the young ladies in my small group came to me and shared an article with me and several of the other ladies. The article included an interview with Ben’s dad where he shared “If you want to know Ben, listen to his music.” We looked at each other and exclaimed “That is what we did yesterday!”

From there, we went to our classroom. In the classroom, we finalized our service which we would be leading the next day (Thursday) The young ladies had decided to honor Martin Luther King Jr. as it was MLK day the following Monday. They also choose to sing the song “Freedom is Coming” from the This Far by Faith hymnal.

Thursday morning, I awoke to my alarm clock ringing. I crawled out of bed, jumped into the shower and got ready for the day. As I was blow drying my hair, my cell phone rang. I went to answer it. Shera was on the other end of the line. She asked “Did you get an email from the seminary this morning? I replied no. She then asked “Can I come to you?” I said “Of course” and hung up the phone. The minute I hung up the phone I knew that the news was not good.

I waited for the knock at my hotel door. Finally I heard the knock. I opened the door to Shera and her roommate standing there. Shera looked at me and shared “Ben is gone!” We embraced each other and slowly let the tears begin to flow. After a few minutes, the three of us walked to the refectory for breakfast. When we walked in the door, several of our friends asked if we had heard anything. Shera couldn’t get a word out and “Ben is gone” was all I could say. Those words were on autopilot that morning.

Before we knew it, Shera and I both were being embraced by our friends. And as they embraced us, the tears began to flow even more. I didn’t realize it then, but now I see them as God’s grace in the midst of this tragedy.

After breakfast, we continued on to the chapel for morning worship. We sat down in our pews; Shera and I next to each other. It came time for communion and the tears begin to flow even more freely as we gathered at the holy table. The words from the song from Tuesday were echoing in each of our ears “Hands parted after prayer like cups raised to receive.”

After worship, we went to our classrooms. As we gathered, we found ourselves wondering what we were to do as we were still to lead worship that evening. We made the decision to still honor MLK Jr but also to honor Renee, Jon, Ben, and Haiti. We also choose to still sing “Freedom is Coming!” We also decided to play Ben’s version of Psalm 30 as worshipers were entering into the chapel that evening.

Ben sang the words “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning” as it played and streamed through the speakers in the chapel. As worshipers entered into the chapel, we shared that it was Ben who was singing. After the prelude using Ben’s song, we moved into the smaller chapel which was more intimate. Throughout the service, we shared about why Ben, Renee, and Jon were in Haiti and also about MLK and his actions. The time came for the song “Freedom is Coming” and we joyfully sang out the words to that song.

After worship, we all went off to our hotel rooms. I remember laying my head down and reflecting on how that service and the whole week had felt like being wrapped in God’s grace. Little did I know that the next day, this would be immediately confirmed for me. I closed my eyes and drifted off to dreamland for the night.

The next morning, we said our goodbyes and loaded up into limos that would drive us to Baltimore for our flights. As I was standing in line with two of my new friends, I pulled up Facebook and came across a blog post that someone shared. The post included Ben’s sermon from his senior year at college. In the sermon, Ben shared how international music was important and special to him especially the song “Freedom is Coming.” Chills began to cover my entire body.

Little did we know, the week before that when we choose that song, it was one of the most influential song’s in Ben’s life! BUT, GOD!!! God knew. God, through the Holy Spirit, graced us with the gift of those words.

Today Renee and Jon are married and have a little boy. Yet another gift of God’s grace in the midst of this tragedy.

His last words on this Earth were sung. He sang the words “God’s peace to us we pray” And, my friends, Ben Still Sings! He sings through his new liturgy. He sings when we listen to his music. His music is another gift of God’s grace in this world.

This experience of God’s grace indeed changed me. It, for sure, did not leave me where it found me! And it will always be a way to share about the incredible goodness of God’s grace even in the midst of tragedy. I am so very thankful for that gift.

Mourning Into Dancing (Psalm 30) by Ben Larson

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


Easter Joy Comes in the Morning!

“Easter says you can put truth in the grave, but it won’t stay there”–Clarence W. Hall

Today is the day that continually reminds us that death does not have the last word but that God does. In the midst of our own struggles, there are days that we cannot even comprehend that death does not have the last word but that God does especially when we sit with those we love and say goodbye to them. We find ourselves overcome by darkness looking for even just that little bit of light. We find ourselves looking for the hope that we have lost. But today Easter reminds us to hang on and to trust in this one who overcomes death in the grave. “Resurrection announces that whatever way death, despair, and destruction have got you in their grip, they do not have the last word (Rob Bell).”

There are days that I am mightly aware of how death, despair and destruction have me in their grip. And I am sure there are days you are mightly aware too. There are days I desperately yearn to be a wife and mom. There are days I desperately wonder if God hears my prayers. Yet, even in that despair, I want to cling to the promise that we proclaim today; “Jesus Christ is risen today! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

One of the things I love about Easter is continually being reminded of the joy that comes on Easter morning. I watched as the group I am taking to the national youth gathering this summer served breakfast this morning. I watched as the kids excitedly found Easter eggs as part of our egg hunt. I listened as the fanfare of my favorite Easter hymns were sung. I found myself realizing how this day reminds me again and again of what Christ did for me.

But again we cannot experience the joy of Easter without first experiencing Jesus’ seven last words. We cannot experience it without standing at the foot of the cross as his hands and nails are nailed to the cross. There are times, in my life, that I find myself guilty of holding that very hammer. We cannot experience it without hearing Jesus’ utter his last words, “It is finished.” And we cannot experience it without seeing him laid into the tomb.

Then today we come to the tomb like Mary and the others finding the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body gone. I cannot imagine what it was like to come that day and not see Jesus laying there because the dead are not supposed to leave. Dead is dead! But that is the thing, my friends, when death, and despair, and destruction think they have the tightest, most unbearable grip on us, God shows up and shows us that death in no way has the last word but that God does.

Last night as I read one of my favorite Psalms (Psalm 30: verse 5) “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes in the morning” it took on a whole new meaning for me. For it is in Christ’s death, that we weep; weep with Mary and all those who loved him but then we come on Easter morning and see with our own eyes that joy especially Easter joy does come in the morning.

Mourning into Dancing (Ben Larson)
(Click on the link above to hear this version of Psalm 30)

Linking up with Anita at Blessed but Stressed for Inspire Me Monday

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.

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)

Joy Comes With The Morning

(I am linking up at (In)Couragers today.

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.”


My I-tunes is opened to Ben Larson’s version of Psalm 30 and I am currently on like my 6th time of listening to this song. It seems like such a fitting way to end my day as today we remembered the 4th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. So many lives were turned upside down on this day 4 years ago.I remembered exactly where I was and who I was with when the news broke. I remember so much about that day. But nothing can compare to what I am sure was felt in Haiti by those that were there. I think of my friends Renee and Jon and what they were going through. I know that today is not easy for them or their families. It reminds them of all the loss they experienced that day. Yet I know they cling to hope.

Hope is a beautiful and powerful witness to our faith! It is important for us to cling to hope; especially when hope seems so far away. Because I believe when we cling to hope, we are able to experience joy. I am reminded of the words of Psalm 30. “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Sometimes it seems to me that we need to weep before we can find joy and hope again.

So tonight as I remember 4 years ago today, I see hope as I listen to Ben’s music coming through my computer speakers. “Weeping may come for the night but joy comes with the morning.” Amen!

My First Attempt at NaBloPoMo

Well let’s see how this goes! So apparently it is NaBloPoMo (national blog post month). I have been trying to blog more but like some of my friends etc I have a hard time blogging because I am not sure if I have anything to say! But I figure it is worth giving something a try at  least once! 🙂

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an extremely emotional person? I cry at just about anything; Hallmark commercials, sappy movies, sad movies, etc! I also can get overly excited. In other words, I love HARD! Right friends! I mean I might as well invest in Kleenex stock, right?!?!

I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am as an emotional woman lately as I prepare for this new call. It is so very bittersweet to leave a place that has blessed me in so many ways. I couldnt even get through my Confirmation sermon last week and my sermon on wrestling with God the week before without tears. In some ways it feels so surreal. And other ways I am so excited. Excited to start this new adventure that God has called me too. Excited to be closer to my family. Excited to…in many ways….come home; home to Western ND.

Yet the tears still well up in my eyes! And sometimes I get upset that I am so emotional. I get frustrated that I cry when I dont want to. But then I remember…remember that this is who I am…and this is who God created me to be! A VERY VERY EMOTIONAL WOMAN who experiences life and its emotions with all its intensity and all its joy.

“Weeping may come for the night but joy comes with the morning”  Psalm 30

(And as I think about what I am going to blog about this month, Im asking you my readers, what should I blog about?)

Psalm 30

There is something so incredibly holy about this day for me! Three years ago on Jan 12 the earthquake hit in Haiti. I remember wondering if my friends were ok and so much more!

I remember getting a phone call two mornings later (this date three years ago) from a friend! I remember her telling me that Ben was confirmed dead. I remember standing outside and crying together! I remember walking into the refectory and not being able to get the words out as our new friends asked if we had any news!

But what I remember most was the worship that my small group planned and led that evening. It was such a holy worship filled experience. I remember walking into the chapel as Ben’s version of Psalm 30 piped through the speakers. I remember goosebumps as we sang the song “Freedom is Coming!” Little did we know that it was one of the most influential songs in Ben’s life! I remember feeling a sense of peace as I was surrounded by old and new friends!

To this day, Psalm 30 holds a special place in my heart. Psalm 30 reminds that life does come out of death. Psalm 30 reminds me to continue to pray for our Haitian brothers and sisters. Psalm 30 reminds me that God does eventually take our mourning and turn it into dancing!

Mourning into Dancing

Three years ago on this day,I remember sitting at the Diaconal Ministry Formation Event with my small group that day. We began our day listening to music from Ben and Jon Larson. Sitting in that room, we strained to listen to the words “hands parted after prayer like cups raised to receive!”

Later that afternoon, the news broke about the earthquake! Little did we know that ours and so many lives would be changed that day! I am thankful that I was with friends on this day as we mourned and grieved together!

Three years later there is still so much to do in Haiti! May we always remember and never forget! For I truly believe that God will one day turn our “mourning into dancing!”