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)

A Surprising Encounter

I walk through the front doors of the library, down the steps, and into the room where my writing group meets. I sit down at the table and pull out my black poetry binder which I place on the table. My fingers turn each page of my binder as I contemplate which poem I will share tonight. My fingers stop at a poem that I had written recently as a prayer to God about our daily journey with mental illness. I mark the page and wait patiently for the rest of the writing group to arrive.

After a few moments, the rest of the writing group arrives. There is a new face tonight so we quickly introduce ourselves and share a little bit about who we are. Following the brief introductions, one of the members of the group asks if anyone wants to share. I still have my page marked but decide that I will let someone else go first. I listen closely as one of the other members of the group shares a short story. After he finishes, we share some constructive criticism and move on.

I decide that I am now ready to share. I open to the page I have marked, sigh a quick sigh, and begin to read the poem I have recently written. The words flow from my mouth as I read the poem to them. After I am finished, this new participant is quick to begin hurling questions at me: “Does your Mom know you are writing about her? How dare you write about mental illness!” I am so taken aback I don’t know quite how to react. I have just shared my heart and soul with this group and now I am being reprimanded for being vulnerable and sharing my story. I sit in my chair; ready to run for the door. But instead I am stuck to my chair; paralyzed by the words being hurled at me.

After a few minutes, I decide that it would be better for me to leave. This new participant has already left, but I feel that I cannot stay any longer. I am hurt! I walk into the hallway and grab my winter jacket. As I am putting on my jacket, one of the participants walks into the hallway, puts her hand on my shoulder and tells me that it is okay for me to share my feelings in this way. She affirms my decision to leave. She hugs me and I feel the warmth of God’s love embracing me as she does that.

I walk back up the stairs, out the doors, into the bitter cold ND winter wind. I find my way to my car where I open the door and sit down on the drivers side. Tears have begun to form in my eyes and now are slowly trickling down my face. I pick up my cell phone and decide to call my dear colleague and friend. He answers the phone immediately and asks me what is wrong. I am at the point now where I cannot get the words out because I am crying so heavily; crying so hard that I can barely catch my breathe. “Breathe, catch your breathe, Tara!”I hear him say to me. I finally am able to do that enough. Then He reminds me that this new participant probably is not upset about my piece but about something else happening in her life. I agree. He has somehow found a way to calm me down. I hang up the phone.

I wipe the tears from my eyes, turn the key in my ignition, and drive down the road back to my apartment. Inside my apartment, I find myself still reflecting on what has just happened. I am not sure who this new participant was, but I do know that I will not forget this night.

A Poem for My Momma

My friend Amy posted this on her Facebook page last night and when I read it, it made me sigh. Oh how true are these words! God has picked me up and taken what I need God to take…even when that is easier said than done. I am so very thankful for the ways that God has walked with me and my family and continues to walk with us. I am also so very thankful for my faith in God.

If you’ve been reading my 31 day challenge, you heard me talk about writing poetry as a form of prayer to God and for my Mom. I thought I would share with you some of the poems I have written for her and about our journey. The poem I am choosing to share with you today fits really well with my Day 2 post! Thanks for reading!

My Momma
By Tara L. Ulrich
Talking about boys and life,
Picking out my wedding dress, 
Sharing about my life and loves;
These are all things that I wish
I could do with my momma
Like my friends have with their mommas.
Yet she is still my momma.
My momma has always been my shining star.
She has always been one of
the most kindest caring people in my life.
Yet she cannot do the things that I wish for
To the degree that I hope and pray for.
Yet she is still my momma.
I want to talk to her about boys and love.
I wish that she could come with me
To pick out my wedding dress someday.
I yearn for the day when our conversations
Will be more than a few minutes.Yet she is still my momma.
Momma has taught me so much about life.
Momma loves my sister and I UNCONDITONALLY!
Momma continually shows me that normal is relative.
Momma is and will always be my momma;
A momma who reminds me daily
Of what it means to be who God created me to be!

Click Here for all the 31 Day posts

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday Rules: Write for 5 minutes on the word, no editing; 5 minutes uninterrupted. Today’s word: Writer

My hands dance across the keyboard and I write words on the page. It has been awhile since I have truly sat down and let the words pour out onto the page. Yes, my job/call allows me to write…to write sermons, etc but it just isnt the same as pouring myself onto the page. Like my friend Anna at GirlWithBlog, there were times in my life when I took pen to paper and wrote in a journal. I honestly cant remember the last time I sat down and wrote words in my journal.

Words have always been so important to me! When I was little, my mom said all she had to do was give me pen and paper and I was a happy camper. Words have always allowed me to share my feelings easier than any other art form. Words have been my form of prayer when my mom was sick or I was struggling with my own life issues or whatever it might be.

Words also are a way for me to escape. I love books and the way writers choose to use words. I hope to someday be an author myself. I have always dreamt of writing a childrens book. I love dreaming about the way my words could dance across a page and capture someones heart and soul.

As I sit here, letting my fingers dance across the keyboard, I am reminded that I too am a writer!

STOP!!

I Think I Can (and Other Musings)

I think I can….
I think I can….
I think I can….

Yep when I started this challenge at the beginning of the month I thought no problem, I should be able to think of something to blog about every day. Little did I realize how crazy this month would be! Packing boxes, finishing up a call, moving, unpacking boxes, starting a new call…and somehow I have found a way to blog about something every day. Yet tonight I feel like the little engine that could—I think I can…I think I can…I think can. Hopefully I can make it the next few days until Sunday December 1st.

Ever since I can remember I have loved to write. My mom said she used to give me a pen and a piece of paper when I was little and I was a happy camper. There is something incredibly holy about sitting and writing for me. Yet taking on this challenge has pushed my limits! I wonder at all if I have anything to say. I watch my blogger tracker so I know that people are reading my blogs. But there is a deep part of me that watches for people to comment on my blog. Something about the comments seems to validate my post which I know isn’t the case at all. And so I still wonder if I have anything to say at all!

It’s kind of like when I preach. I NEVER felt the call to be an ordained minister. I knew that I didn’t want to preach every week. And I have incredible respect for those who do! Over the years at DLC, my colleague and I came to an agreement and I preached once a month. I will be honest…I was scared to death the first time that I preached a sermon. I didn’t think I had ANYTHING to say at all so I put all my trust in the Holy Spirit. If I were to go back and listen to that first sermon, I know that I would cringe. Yet over the course of the six years, I know that I have grown immensely in my preaching due to the power of the Holy Spirit. And I only say that because of the people who have made comments and told me how they were touched by one of my sermons. It definitely hasn’t been about me!  (And I secretly enjoy writing and (sometimes) preaching my sermons. I am still glad that I don’t have to do it weekly!)

For me, writing has always been important. It has helped me share about my family’s struggles with mental illness. It has been my way of praying…when I can’t seem to get the words out and lifted up to God in any other way. Writing has opened a window to my heart and to my soul in so many ways. I may not always post a blog post because it truly is difficult to post a blog post every day. Harder than I ever imagined! Yet this blog is a way for me to put my thoughts out there, to share a piece of me with you my readers, without holding back who I am and/or what I have to say.

I know I can…
I know I can…
I know I can…

A Virtual Version of Putting Pen to Paper

Wow…here I am 13 days into this month of blog posts. And I am happy to say that I have actually been able to keep it up. I’ll admit that I’m not always sure if I have anything at all to say but I have found myself putting something on this page…a virtual version of putting pen to paper.

My mom used to tell me that when I was bored when I was little, all she had to do was give me pen and paper and I was a happy camper. I do enjoy writing but I really don’t spend the time to do it anymore. A couple of years ago I found a writing group at the local library and decided to take it up. Unfortunately there were only a few of us and the group eventually fell apart which made me sad. It was a place I felt comfortable writing; actually writing stories, etc and not work related stuff like sermons etc.

However I had an experience one day that totally broke my heart. One of the poems I shared was about my mom and her battle with mental illness. A visitor to the group that night basically attacked me and asked if my mom knew I was sharing her/our story and said I shouldn’t do that. She was very adamant that it just wasn’t right. I remember I was so taken aback and ran out of the class in tears. I even called my colleague because I wasn’t sure what to think. It was the first time I really experienced something like that. Ever since that experience, I have found myself holding back; holding back what I have to say because I am afraid of what people might think.

So perhaps this blog post a month challenge is just what I have needed! Something to finally get me virtually putting pen to paper more consistently and more openly.