The Impact of Love

There are people who God places in our lives that leave such a lasting imprint. It is almost impossible to remember a time when you did not know that individual. Their light seems to always shine a little bit brighter than the rest of our lights. And my friends, today that light is a little bit dimmer. My dear friend Laura completed her baptismal journey yesterday and is now reunited with her beloved, Rod.

When I started at Wartburg Seminary, Laura was one of the first people that I met and was one of the most welcoming people I have ever met. In addition, her smile always lit up a room. She loved well and she loved deep! I am reminded of a story my friend Sandi shared about when her and her family moved onto the campus at Wartburg. Laura showed up with toilet paper and lemonade: perfect gifts for moving into a new home on a hot summer day. Love can be so very simple, like through fresh squeezed lemonade, and Laura was the absolute best at showing that love!

Laura also always exuded joy. Some of my favorite memories were watching Laura and a few of our other friends (Sally, Sandy, etc) cheer on our “Running Reformers” city league basketball team. Those cheers always brought a smile to my face. Laura was all about the hokey pokey. In fact, every time I hear it now I will smile and think of this beloved friend. “Because that’s what it’s all about!”

A few years ago, our friend Julia ran in honor of Laura and sarcoma research during the Fargo Marathon. Now I am no runner, but I was so delighted to stand on the sidelines donning my “Team Koppy” t-shirt and cheering on Julia and Laura.

Laura is a soul who touched many lives especially her beloved daughters. Today, Laura is free of all that ails her. And I reluctantly put down her mat at Jesus’ feet, but I put it down knowing she is free of pain and reunited with her dearly beloved husband, Rod. I also am reminded of Laura’s own wise pastoral words that are bringing me some comfort today: “Be patient with yourselves while you are grieving and tell the people you love that you love them and know that you are loved.”

So now as I lay down my mat, I see all the others around me reluctantly laying down their mats too. Laura touched more lives than I think she will ever know or could imagine. The impact of love for Laura is seen in the tears, Facebook posts, and sighs too deep for words that express the impact of love she has had on each and every one of us.

Laura, my friend, you are so dearly loved! 

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:


My Diaconal Heart

Have you ever simply just ran out of steam? I’m guessing there are days when we all feel like that. Today I especially am feeling it. For quite awhile now, a taskforce was put together in the ELCA to talk about Diaconal Ministers, Associates in Ministry and Deacons/Deaconesses as they look toward their future.

When I went to seminary, I knew that God wasn’t calling me to be a Pastor. I went to seminary with no idea what I was going to do. Would I get a degree in Youth Ministry? Would I become rostered? And what would it mean to be rostered? When I arrived at seminary, I went in thinking I’ll get my Master of Arts degree. But that is pretty much as far as I got!

During those first months of seminary, I was taking an MA colloquoim class. In that class we read a book titled “From Word to Sacrament.” (A book about the history of the Diaconate!) As I read through that book, I heard God’s call for my life. Phrases simply began jumping off the page for me; “bridging church and world,” “picking up basin and towel and washing the feet of all God’s people”; and “Word and Service.” These were words the author was using to explain Diaconal Ministry.

I’ll be honest I grew up in North Dakota and had never heard of this roster, but as those words jumped off the page to me, I heard God saying “T, this is your call in life.” The next week, I had a session with my Spiritual Director. I walked into her office, with a smile on my face, proclaiming, “I think God is calling me into Diaconal Ministry.” She looked at me and asked a simple question, “What makes you say that?” I don’t remember the exact details of that conversation but I remember talking about my mom, my mom’s illness, the stigma associated with it. I closed by saying, “I think God is calling me to wash my mom’s feet and all of those who are seen as outcasts.” She looked at me and said, “Yes, that is Diaconal Ministry.” From that day on, I never doubted that God was calling me into this new roster.

I went through seminary….which was not an easy journey. In fact, there were days I wasn’t sure I would make it. I remember sitting in a candidacy meeting and being asked why I struggled with a class. I recall my advisor saying, “It would have been really easy for her to walk out those doors, shut those doors, and never look back. It’s taken her more guts to stick with it.” I held those words close as I walked the journey through seminary; knowing they would help sustain me as I walked toward my consecration as a Diaconal Minister in the ELCA!

After seminary, I spent almost an entire year before I received a call. People didn’t know what to do with me and the roster. The Holy Spirit continued to work and I finally received a call. On April 23,2006 I was consecrated into Diaconal Ministry. I was the 108th (if I am remembering my number correctly)Diaconal Minister of the ELCA! Two of my dear friends from seminary drove through the night to share in that day with me. Many of my family and other caring adults in my life also were gathered that day. My sister was teaching in Arizona and surprised me. She said she couldn’t come but she showed up. She said, “I would never miss this day.” They saw as I was presented with my basin and towel. They laid their hands on me and promised to support me. They heard me make the promises in the consecration rite that are engrained in who God has called me to be. That day is one of the most holiest and special days of my life!

Like seminary, it hasn’t been easy. I have always had to educate about Diaconal Ministry but it is who I am so it didn’t phase me. I have continued to teach congregations and leaders about it because I knew there were others who would follow behind me. I am a persistent advocate for Diaconal Ministry yet I’m weary!

As I stated earlier in this blog, a taskforce has been convening to talk about our future and the future of the other rosters. I appreciate all the hardwork that has gone into this but I’m also sad that I and many others have been continually educating and I wonder if that has all been for nothing…and is lost! I’m tired…tired of fighting for what God has called me to do.

So no matter what happens, I will continue to reach out to those outside the church walls and will continue to equip those in the congregation to do the same. I will FOREVER carry on with my Diaconal heart. It is engrained in me and who I am! And in my opinion,that can never be taken away!

(Sorry for such a lengthy blog post friends! But it has been heavy on my heart today. These are my views and not necessarily the views of other Diaconal Ministers or even the ELCA! And on a lighter note, this is my 550th blog post!)

2012 in Review

2012 has been a great year! It really hasnt been filled with many huge milestones etc. Just the great wonderful every day stuff. Here is a quick little recap…

January-Rang in the New Year with my Dad. Had Prime Rib and shrimp from the local restaurant in my hometown. I know so exciting!

February-My uncle got married!!! Its crazy. He has been single most of his life and now hes married! So happy for them and love her!!

March-A visit from one of my favorite people and her girls on their way back home from visiting family in NE!

April-Celebrated my 6th anniversary as a Diaconal Minister in the ELCA! Going to awedding and spending time with a dear Diaconal sister and WTS friends! Volunteering at an Adoption benefit for a college friend and her family!

May-My colleague went on Sabbatical…a well deserved one! A great Sabbatical pastor filled in and spent the summer serving alongside and with us!

June-Lutheran Academy of the Rockies! LOVE this Continuing Education event! 10 days of wonderfulness. Great time with great friends and meeting new friends. So blessed by LAR and the people it has brought into my life!

July-ELCA National Youth Gathering in New Orleans. 6 youth and another adult from the church I serve at. We went with our local Bible camp and it was awesome. We did lots of tourist fun..6 Flags in Missiouri, The Arch, Day on the Beach, National Civil Rights Museum. Wonderful speakers and fun at the Gathering! Finally meeting a wonderful lady who has become one of my BEST friends!

August-Colleague back from Sabbatical, Day Camp/Vacation Bible School, and a little vacation time!

September-My 34th Birthday. And a little trip to visit Mama!

October-WTS fun! Road trip for a seminary friends wedding. I went with one of my best friends from seminary days. It was awesome. So fun to catch up. We even got a little stop in at the Castle which was sooo good for my soul!

November-Jr High Youth Gathering. Receiving the MN Care Providers Community Partnership Award on behalf of DLC. The youth and homes of DLC received this award for their partnership with Serenity Assisted Living and DLC!

December-Advent and Christmas! I love this time of year. Reminds me of the importance of the season. Wonderful family time! Love spending time with my family! Now ready to ring in 2013 and see what the New Year will bring! Whatever the New Year brings, I know God is always there. Hope the New Year brings you, my readers, peace, hope, joy, and love!!

It Is Well With My Soul!

It’s been such a great weekend! I drove to a friends Thurs night and then we headed out on Fri! On our way to my friends nieces house, we made a pitstop at one of my fave “holy ground” places-WTS! It felt so good to walk around that place again…if only for a little while!

Sat we went to our seminary friends wedding! It was a beautiful worship service followed by wonderful fellowship with more of my WTS peeps! The night was spent reminiscing, dancing, catching up, etc! I can’t even begin to tell you how blessed I am to have these wonderful people in my life! And to think, we never would have met if we didn’t go to seminary! I love that our lives and paths crossed!

Today was a lot of driving but it was so worth it! I’m tired physically but mentally and emotionally my heart is full! I love that these friends love ME for ME!! That is a wonderful gift!! Love you all!

It has been sooooo good for my soul to spend time with dear friends! Tonight I can say, “It is well with my soul!”

How, Why and When Did I Become A Church Nerd?

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am an ELCA Lutheran especially this past week as I have watched (via the Internet live feed) our national church gather in Orlando. When I first started watching the live feed, I found myself confessing to my friends that I truly am a church geek but then I thought to myself, “Why in the world am I a church geek and when did I become one?” And to be honest, I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened but what I can pinpoint is when I truly heard my call to serve God in this larger church known as the ELCA!

You see like most people seminary was NEVER in the books for me. It was the last thing I saw myself doing but little did I know that the Holy Spirit would show me differently. As a high school senior, living in small town ND, I was working at our local theatre a couple nights a week. But as I prepared to go off to college, I found myself looking for something that would pay me a little more substantially and that I would enjoy. My uncle suggested I go work at a local ELCA bible camp. I thought what the heck and decided to apply. The interview was the WORST interview of my life……I seriously dont think I looked at the interviewer once but rather looked the whole time at the table. However he decided to give me a chance and I went to work at that Bible camp less than 24 hours after I graduated high school. During the course of the summer, I found myself truly opening up about my mom’s struggle with a mental illness! (She had a nervous breakdown right after my sister was born when I was about three years old) After that summer, I went to college and then that next summer came to work at camp again. In the middle of the summer, we were doing mid-summer evals and the camp director told me he didnt think that I would make it last summer but he hired me thinking he would take me as long as he could take me. Then he proceeded to tell me that he couldnt get rid of me! I worked at that camp for approximately 7 summers!

After college, I always thought I would be a journalist but working at camp changed that for me. I went with a friend to tour a seminary. When I got there and stepped foot onto WTS’s campus, I felt God calling me there. I knew I wasnt called to be a pastor but felt called to be a part of this wider church and wasnt sure how that would unfold. After starting seminary, I found myself reading a book titled, “From Word to Sacrament.” As I read that book, certain phrases jumped off the page at me, “bridging church and world” “word and service” etc. Suddenly I knew that God was calling me to this new roster that I was reading about: Diaconal Ministry! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God was calling me to wash the feet of all God’s people including people like my own mother who daily struggle with this illness!

This past April I celebrated the 5th anniversary of my consecration as a Diaconal Minister! And that my friends is when I think I truly became a church nerd! It is when I finally saw myself not just as one person but a person who truly could and can make a difference not just in the church building but outside the church walls as well.

I find myself continuing to watch the online feed because I feel it is important for me to listen and ponder what the future of this church looks like. Like Reformer Martin Luther, I find myself wondering how we can reform this church in the midst of this world and context. I find myself continuing to watch because these issues are important to me and to those I care about.

I find myself watching because it makes me feel like I am a part of this national church even though I am not a delegate to the gathering in Orlando!

But most importantly, I find myself watching because we all have been freed in Christ to Serve! Praise be to God! (Sorry for the long length of this blog entry.)


I have to laugh because I have been encountering feet a lot lately. As I sit here typing, I am watching “Bones” and they are trying to solve a case using feet! Then earlier today, I listened to ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson’s sermon from this past weekend at Wartburg Theological Seminary. He says, “It is all about voices and feet.” He also quoted the Biblical text where it talks about “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News.” I love this text because it reminds me of what I am called to do and be as a Diaconal Minister in the ELCA. The Diaconal text is the text where Jesus washes his disciple’s feet. God calls me to wash the feet of all God’s people. However I love how Mark Hanson framed his sermon because I truly believe we all are called to share the gospel with the world. We all are called to bring Good News to each other. I cant help but be reminded of my own father, grandfather and uncle who farm and sometimes their feet are covered in mud, dirt, etc yet their feet are just as beautiful as anyone elses. During his sermon, Bishop Mark had the worshippers look at the feet of those around them and to compliment them on their feet. What if we were more intentional about helping each other see how we ALL are called to use our feet (and voices) to share God’s love with the world.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!”

Sleep in Peace, Sweet Baby Boy

I love spending time with my Wartburg friends and other colleagues in ministry. What a gift that time together is. In another note, if you could say a prayer for my cousin, her husband, and their baby Jack. Jack was born in April and was at home for four months before he had any signs of anything being wrong. His little lungs and heart have just been struggling. Jack went up to heaven sometime this morning. He is now with his sister Maia. My cousin lost her first baby too. I feel so bad for them and hope they can find some answers as to why both of her children went to heaven before they were a year old. Please pray for healing for all of them! Thank you!