More Guts to Stick With It

In the Fall of 2002, I began my seminary journey. From the moment I had stepped onto Wartburg’s campus during a seminary tour that prior October, I knew that God was calling me there. In fact, I uttered the words “God wants me here!” I left that October day knowing that I would return the next fall to begin classes.

I spent the year at home living with my dad and saving up money for seminary. Then August arrived. I packed up my car and headed for Dubuque, Iowa. After a few days of driving, I finally arrived in Dubuque and began the seminary journey.

I knew that I did not want to be an ordained pastor, but was not exactly sure what God was calling me to do and be. The first days of seminary I found myself holding back and taking in every class. I eventually also heard the call to Diaconal Ministry; “word and service” ministry.

One day, I decided to speak up and was immediately shot down by another classmate. (This person later apologized and became one of my best friends at seminary). From that day on, I was very quiet and just sat and listened through my classes.

Seminary was not an easy journey at all for me. I struggled immensely with my classes. There were days I truly questioned if I had heard God right. I took systematic theology not once, not twice, but three times. God’s grace finally arrived to me in the form of a seminary professor who realized that I was an auditory learner. After failing Systematic theology twice, he took a new approach with me. We decided to do the class as an independent study. We would record our conversations, then I would go back and listen to the lecture, and return with my new questions. It was because of this ingenious idea and God’s grace that I finally passed that class.

I could have easily given up, but I didn’t. I stuck with it. In fact, God’s grace came to me in the form of my seminary advisor as well. In my endorsement interview, the committee asked me why I struggled so much with the classes at seminary. I was honest and did my best to answer them. Then my seminary advisor piped up and said “It would have been so easy for Tara to walk out the door, shut the door, and never look back. It takes more guts to stick with it.” Oh how true those words are!

And as I look back, I see the hand of God’s grace all over my seminary experience. I see God’s grace in my classmates and friends who walked that journey with me. I see God’s grace in my seminary professor who helped me pass Systematic Theology. I see God’s grace in my seminary advisor who supported me and reminded me again and again that it takes more guts to stick with it. I see God’s grace in my seminary graduation.

My seminary journey definitely was filled with God’s grace and did not leave it where it found me. It is a daily reminder to me of the visibility of an often invisible God. Throughout seminary, God often seemed invisible, but the truth is God was there the whole time and continually blessed me with God’s grace which I am so very thankful for in my life.

“I will hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection”-Anonymous

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


The Master Risk-Taker

I AM NOT A RISK-TAKER! You won’t catch me jumping out of any planes! Or driving around a race car track going 100 plus miles per hour. I am more than comfortable knowing that things are going to stay the same. Yet during college, my friend Kristi and I (neither of us being risk-takers) decided to hop in the car and drive from Bismarck ND to Fargo ND about a four drive. Kristi was craving Olive Garden and the closest OG was in Fargo so in the car we went. I remember looking back on that experience thinking how crazy we were especially being the hotel we stayed at was not the classiest hotel.

Yet Kristi and I learned something that day! It is more than okay to take risks. God wants us to trust fully in him and to know that even when we take risks, he is standing there right beside us. I honestly don’t know if I would have gone to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp, or gone to seminary, or…..if I hadn’t taken that risk that day during college.

But because I have learned to be a little bit of a risk-taker, I have had some amazing blessings occur in my life. I graduated seminary even after struggling immensly with systematic theology. I remember my advisor telling my candidacy committee that it took more guts for me to stick with it. I wouldn’t have gone to work at a Bible camp for seven summers if I hadn’t taken the chance. And I wouldn’t have gotten that job if the camp director didn’t take a risk with me and hire me. I remember very vividly him saying to me, “I didn’t think you would make it but now I can’t get rid of you.” And I wouldn’t have listened to all the times God told me to take a risk…like leaving my last call to come to my new call.

I may not be the risk-taker that many others are. But what I am slowly learning is that when I, when we fully trust in God, God has a way of showing us that taking risks can and will pay off. Jesus himself is the master risk-taker. Jesus lived his life in the eyes of many who believed wholeheartedly in him and in the eyes of others who ridiculed his every move. Yet Jesus turned the world upside down, by taking his own risks, washing the feet of his disciples and sitting with tax collectors and sinners. Then ultimately, Jesus stood, arms outstretched, a crown of thorns upon his head, and breathed his last “It is FINISHED!” But he said those words knowing that God (his father) wouldn’t risk his life if he didn’t have the power to overcome death and the tomb. That my friends is exactly what happened.

There are still days that I look at Jesus’ sacrifice and wish I was more of a risk-taker. I wish that I wasn’t so afraid to be vulnerable; to share my own story. My friend Dana who I met through her blog and as part of the 31 days challenge continues to teach me about what it means to be vulnerable and to take risks even though it is SCARY! I honestly cannot put into words how much I love this woman (and we haven’t even met in real life yet!) because she reminds me that its about leaning in and trusting in this one who reminds us of the words we hear so many times in Scripture “Do not be afraid.”

You see, there is power in those four little words. Mary came to the tomb that Easter Sunday morning to see her beloved Jesus’ body. Yet when she came to the tomb, the stone was rolled away and Jesus was no longer there. Oh how risky….risky for Jesus to be raised…risky for us to believe like Mary and see that his words had come true. Jesus is no longer dead…he is alive! And because Jesus is risen…and because he is here, I find myself clinging to the promise that he will never leave me or forsake me. He will never leave YOU or forsake YOU either…..especially when we lean in and trust in him.

So my friends, as I come to the tomb and still see the tomb rolled away, I am going to try and be more of a risk-taker…a risk-taker who uses her gifts; the gifts God has given her to share his own messages of grace, love and being the master risk-taker; the one who sent his son knowing that death would not have the last word but that he would.

I am linking up with these lovely ladies today Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory, Meredith Bernard for #Woman2WomanWednesday, Kelly Balarie for the #RaRa LinkUp; and Holley Gerth for #CoffeeForYourHeart. 


Here I Am Lord, Send Me!

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 “Send.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

“Here I am Lord, Send Me!”

Do we truly believe these words? Or do we run and hide as we say them for ourselves? Yet there is such a gift in trusting in the call to be one of God’s disciples in the world.

Earlier this week, I shared about the 5th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake and the death of my camp friend Renee’s husband Ben. Ben, Renee, and Ben’s cousin Jon were in Haiti because they had been sent their to help teach about the Lutheran church there. They were staying and volunteering at St. Josephs School for Boys when the earthquake hit. Renee and Jon somehow were able to get out of the rubble but Ben breathed his last breaths as it was believed he sang the words “God’s peace to us we pray.” Today Jon and Renee are married and both serving as Pastors. In fact, they are expecting their first child any day now.

“Here I am Lord, Send Me!”

My friend Nicole and her husband Rob were sent to Bulgaria last year to pick up their newly adopted daughter. This adoption process began over three years ago, but now their daughter is at home with them. What if they hadn’t heard the words proclaimed to them to be E’s family…

“Here I am Lord, Send Me!”

Being sent to seminary, starting my last call, leaving that call and starting this new call….were all times when I was afraid to take the next step. Yet God kept urging me to say those words and to trust him fully in saying them…

“Here I am Lord, Send Me!”

God continually calls us to be God’s Servants in the world.
God calls me…God calls YOU!

“Here I am Lord, Send Me!”
“Here we are Lord, Send Us!”

“Chocolat, Chocolate and My Circle of Friends”

We sat on the floor of the seminary tv room having just finished our very first day of classes. During class, we watched a clip from the movie “Chocolat” and decided that we wanted to watch the movie that evening so here we were gathered watching the movie, the smell of chocolate cake permeating the room as it sat on the table behind the couch. Sadly I had bought my own birthday cake because it was my birthday and I wanted to make new friends. I think part of me thought I could bribe them with chocolate! 🙂 (These souls who became my dear friends later apologized saying they should have never let me buy my own cake).

Moments after the movie ended, we were ready to cut into that cake, but instead someone uttered the words “Show me how a pig eats” (or something along those lines). I remember a couple of us dove right into that chocolate cake with our hands and shoveled it into our mouths. I remember hearing the giggling and laughter circulating throughout the room. It is one of my most favorite memories from my seminary life. Little did I realize how important these individuals who let me buy my own birthday cake would later become such dear friends in my life.

These individuals were the ones who sat with me and prayed as my sister and I made the decision to become our mom’s legal guardian. These individuals are the ones who I sat and poured my heart out to during late night Perkins runs. These individuals were the ones who cheered me on when I struggled with systematic theology. I watched as two of these individuals lives became one as husband and wife and then later welcomed their dear daughter. I watched as several of them were ordained into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. These friendships are friendships that I treasure each and every day even though the miles seperate us.

When I graduated seminary, one of our classmates made a video of our time at seminary and the music they used was “Circle of Friends” by the Christian group Point of Grace. Every time I hear that song now I am reminded of what friendship on purpose; friendship grounded in God’s love for each other looks like. I was blessed by those friendships at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp. I was blessed by those friendships at seminary. I was blessed by those friendships at my previous call and in my previous community.

One of the hardest things about having to say goodbye is having to leave those relationships behind.
I feared coming to a new community and having to make friends. As I prayed about this new opportunity, I will admit that I had flashbacks to elementary school. I remember standing alone on the playground as a little girl waiting to make new friends. But somehow in the mist of my fear at starting this new journey, God has blessed me with some incredible friendships over the last six months. I have sat with my friend CT and poured out my heart to her. I have sat and broke break at her dining room table with her and her daughters and our friend KW. I have sat with my friends EG and KG over a glass of wine. In these friendships, I have realized that I am surrounded by an incredible circle of friends from many different times and places that will always be there for me.

I miss those friends that I have left behind and I have tried my very best to stay in touch with each of them. There are days I wish I was a better friend and could keep in touch with them. There are days that I want to pick up the phone and hear their voices but yet I haven’t been able to do that. I know that in time our paths will cross again.

My life is fuller and sweeter because of those friendships grounded in God’s love for each of us. I am incredibly blessed with an amazing splendid “circle of friends.” May we all know that deep friendship where we can share our heart and soul without fear and know that we will always be welcomed at the table for who we are!

Won’t you join me at my table?

                                                    Some old school “Point of Grace”

I am linking up at (In)Couragers today!

Saying Goodbye

Yuck! It’s gross outside! That humidity is ridiculous but enough about the weather!

Have you ever had to say goodbye? As a child, I was never one who had to say goodbye a lot. We moved when I was four and never moved again. In fact, most of my dad’s side of the family still lives in that community. Now there were the little goodbyes; saying goodbye to G and G after visiting them in the summer; saying goodbye to a new friend after meeting them at camp; etc! But then I went off to seminary—-where I was constantly saying goodbye! There was the goodbyes to the seniors as they graduated. There was the goodbye to the middlers as they went off to internship. There was the goodbye as we finished and left our new friends behind etc. Being a Master of Arts student it seemed like I was ALWAYS saying goodbye! The class I started with was on internship when I graduated….and when they came back to campus for their senior year, I was graduated and gone. Being the emotional person that I am those goodbyes were NEVER EASY for me! I think part of it was because these friendships mean the world to me and I knew that they would always be there for me etc! But it was never easy! A dear friend told me about a book titled “Praying Our Goodbyes” which has been a huge help to me in learning to pray my goodbyes! (However saying goodbye is still much easier said than done!)

As many of you, my faithful readers, know one of my best guy friends got married a year ago this next week and I have always called him “the younger brother I never wanted” because he calls me “the older sister he never wanted.” I am so happy for him and his wife! She is awesome, wonderful, etc! However they are moving on Tuesday. “Younger bro I never wanted” got a new teaching job so they are moving away from the community we have both lived in for the last four years. I am excited for this new adventure for them but I also find myself grieving! Grieving yet again; it was difficult when he got married because I knew our friendship probably would never be the same! Now dont get me wrong; I am so thankful he found the woman of his dreams etc, I just knew that it would involve some loss and grief; some grieving of a good friendship! I am so thankful for “Younger Brother Who I Never Wanted” and Mrs.”Younger Brother Who I Never Wanted!”

To learn more about about our friendship, you can read about it at these two posts:

Younger Brother

How Hes Blessed My Life

Saying goodbye is never easy! But I think one of the reasons its hard for me is because these people/places/etc have been such blessings in my life! I just wish it was easier to say goodbye!!!