March and What I Learned

It is time for Emily P. Freeman’s monthly linkup What I Learned This Month. I love this linkup because it reminds me to stop and reflect on the past month; the good, the bad, and even the ugly. It helps me to remember that no matter what happens, God is with me every step of the way. It also reminds me that one is never ever done learning the profound lessons of life.

(1) When you give complete control to your hair stylist, trying new things can be awesome and amazing. I let my hair stylist try a new cut and color on me. I am not one to get caught up on numbers etc, but I cannot help but be baffled by the numbers on Facebook of the picture of the new style. Over 200 likes and 80 comments! So crazy! Everyone including ME LOVES the new look and says it makes me look 10 years younger.

(2) “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”–Psalm 37:4 This text is definitely the cry of my heart. I wonder how many people know that about me and hear my cries. I also wonder if anyone reads my blog and knows this very thing about me. But then someone surprises me with a beautiful wall hanging with these words and I know that my cries have and will be heard.

(3) God is a master painter! I cannot get enough of the spectacular sunrises and sunsets that God paints on the prairies of North Dakota. It is hard to capture God’s work in a photo. It doesn’t seem to do it justice.

(4) There is power in words. I am so thankful that God gifted me with the ability to write my thoughts in words; whether that be a blog post, in a poem, or wherever that might be. It was such a gift to write a poem for my friend Julia and her husband and their daughter Kaia after Kaia died after 90 minutes of life.

(5) The foot washing text is one of my absolute faves as it is a reminder of my call to ministry. I also love that we did a hand washing service during our Maundy Thursday service. May we all follow Jesus’ example to love one another as he first loved us.

(6) I love teaching our youth about what it means to receive their first communion. I also love watching them and their families make bread together and then the next night, communing together. It is such a gift. It continually teaches me that communion is a gift for us all.

(7) Holy Week is no joke when you work in the church. It always amazes me how there is holy exhaustion and holy joy all at the same time.

(8) Resurrection hope is pure gift given to us all through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. God loved us so much that God sent God’s one and only Son into the world for each and every one of us. Only God had the power to overcome death and the grave. I have shared this quote numerous times but it continually reminds me of what I have learned over the years about resurrection hope. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”–Clarence W. Hall

Easter 2016

What did you learn this month?

Easter Alleluias

Sounds of children laughing and playing outdoors…..

New life beginning to sprout again….

Bicycles and roller blades gliding across the sidewalks and streets….

Each of these are sure signs that Spring has sprung. But most of all, it is a sure sign that life overcomes death. That death has been defeated by Christ’s resurrection from the grave. Yet sometimes it is hard to see and believe in that promise, but my friends, the truth is that death can and has been defeated. Clarence W. Hall says, “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”

Many around me have suffered unspeakable death in the last days and weeks. Yet these individuals have shown me what strength looks like. My friend Julia gave natural birth to her daughter at 23 weeks and one day. Kaia lived for 90 minutes. In the days following, Julia and her hubby have had their days of tears and pj wearing, but more than anything, they have been the strongest individuals; clinging to their faith; clinging to the promise of the Ressurection.

Six years ago, my friends Ben, Jon, and Renee were in Haiti during the earthquake. Ben lost his life that day. But in their grief, they continued to tell their story and are amazing faithful witnesses to the power of life. Renee wrote a book about their journey; a book that is a sign of new life. (You can check out Renee’s book A Witness Here!)

These are only a few stories of the power of life and death. In This Easter season, I’m continually thankful for the gift of Gods son who died on the cross, but then was raised from the dead. God loved us so much that God sent Gods only son into the world for each and every one of us. As we’ve journeyed from the table and the foot washing;  to Jesus’ death on the cross; to that silent time in between; and finally to the empty tomb, we can cry out with our own Alleluias; Allelulias that proclaim the power over death and the cross.

Jesus Christ is risen today.
He is risen indeed.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Linking up with these lovelies–Holly and Testimony Tuesday; Kelly and the RaRa linkup; Jennifer and Tell His Story; Holley and Coffee for your Heart; and Kristin and Three Word Wednesday:


Sunday Blessings 120

(1) YouthWorkers with my faves

(2) Filling Easter eggs for the kiddos for our egg hunts on Easter Sunday.

(3) A few more volunteering to bring items for Easter breakfast. Thank You!!

(4) Texting with my friend MW!

(5) A sweet compliment from a member about my Palm Sunday outfit. I was wearing my LulaRoe Amelia dress and sporting my new haircut. She asked if I was 22!!

(6) A sweet Easter cars from Jim and Betty

(7) Making bread with our first communion kiddos and their families.

(8) Learning how to run the webcast and webcasting at church.

(9) A sweet text from my friend MW letting me know that he was thinking of me and praying we didn’t have any technology issues.

(10) Finally finding something I’ve been looking for for the last few days.

(11) So many compliments on my LuLa Roe maxi skirt and classic tee.

(12) Hand washing at our Maundy Thursday services.

(13) My sis getting us Garth tickets.

(14) First Communion milestone

(15) RRS doing a favor for me. Thank you so much!!

(16) An awesome Good Friday family service. It was so awesome!!

(17) Good Friday Tenebrae service

(18) IN helping me finish putting table clothes on the tables for Easter breakfast.

(19)Awesome youth breakfast

(20) So many compliments on my Easter dress.

(21) WS telling me I did an awesome job reading the monologue before their choir anthem.

(22) Two invitations for Easter dinner

(23) Enjoying a meal and playing games at a parishioners house.

(24) Chillin at home after a busy Holy Week.

(25) Jesus Christ is risen today! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!! Alleluia!!! Happy Easter everyone!!!

Life and Death

Thursday night has become my favorite night of the week when I gather on Twitter with my Five Minute Friday crew. I missed the first part of the party but loved coming home to my favorite people. These people mean the world to me. I love these ladies and men so so much! I never imagined the ways God would bring such amazing people into my life. They are my biggest cheerleaders and I am there’s! 

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 “alive.”

I am so thankful to be alive. I am thankful for each day that I have been given. Yet this week I have seen so many suffer death and the loss of life around them. This week our community of faith laid to rest a young 45 year old dad who suffered two strokes and died suddenly. He leaves behind three boys, his wife, a stepdaughter and so many more family and friends. Then I learned that last week my friend Julia gave birth to her husband and her first child at 23 weeks and one day. Kaia Gene was born into this world and was alive for a mere 90 minutes. Her parents baptized her with ice cold water and got to feel her heart beat against there’s for a little while. But then she breathed her last breath.

And there are so many who are clinging to life while suffering like our blog brother Andrew. Many of us are so glad that he is still alive, but we also want to take away his pain. In all of this, I am reminded of the life we have been given through God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins.

Today we begin the holiest of weeks journeying from Maundy Thursday where Jesus gathers with his disciples for the last supper and washes his disciples’ feet. Then we journey to Good Friday where good doesn’t seem like quite the appropriate word to describe this night when it is the night that Jesus is crucified.* Hanging on the cross, with his nail pierced hands, Jesus utters the words “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing!” Then Jesus too breathes his last.

On Sunday, we come to the tomb expecting Jesus’ body to be there. But instead we find the tomb empty, Jesus is not here. He is risen. He is alive! But how can this be? The truth is that God gives us life; life abundantly, a life that even comes alive in the midst of death. God overcomes death and the grave. “Easter says you can put death in a grave, but it wont stay there”–Clarence W. Hall

From the holy table to the cross to the empty tomb, we know that our redeemer lives!

*This is where my five minutes ended

My Redeemer Lives–Nicole C Mullins

The “However” to Our Story

“If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords.”–Romans 14:8

These words are words that I have come to hold close to my heart; words that I hold close in the midst of life and death. And as we enter Holy Week and walk to the cross; to Jesus’ death and resurrection, I find myself clinging to these words once again.

Last week was a hard week. A member from church; a young 45 year old dad passed away suddenly after suffering two strokes. He leaves behind his wife, three sons, a stepdaughter and many family and friends. It is in times like this that I find myself once again turning to those beloved words from the book of Romans. In the midst of death, they bring me maybe even a little comfort. Yet my heart still aches!

Then I got the news that my dear friend Julia delivered her daughter early; at 23 weeks and one day. Kaia Gene was born into this world and lived for a mere 90 minutes. During those minutes, Kaia’s mom and dad were able to hold her as they felt her little heart beating against their own hearts. They even brought her to the baptismal waters where she was claimed in the waters of baptism. Then she breathed her last. My heart aches for my friend and her husband. My heart aches that this sweet little soul came into the world and was taken so soon. In moments like these, I find myself having a more difficult time clinging to our words from Romans.

Yet, even in the midst of the deep aches of death, Jesus reminds us of the power of God’s love for each and every one of us. God sent God’s son into the world to die on a cross for each and every one of us. Jesus comes as the “however” to our story as he overcomes death and the grave. I love what Clarence W. Hall says “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”

The reality is that death is a part of life; a part that we don’t want to have to journey through earlier than expected. Yet God walks with us in the midst of our own grief as we lose those near and dear to our hearts. In fact, as we lift up our sighs; our silent prayers to him, God continues to walk with us in the midst of both life and death. For as followers of Christ who live our lives sharing God’s grace, mercy, and love with the world, we are born and die as the Lords.

That is a promise that, especially in the midst of death, that I forever find myself clinging too! A forever promise that comes as the “however” to our story and changes everything as Jesus dies on the cross for our sins and overcomes death and the grave!

And for an added bonus, this is a poem I wrote for dear sweet little Kaia and her parents:

A Love Letter for Kaia
By Tara L. Ulrich

Dear sweet precious child
You are loved so much.

Your parents had so many
Hopes and dreams for you.

They held your
Sweet precious body
In their arms
Your heart beating against theirs;
90 minutes of pure love.

They brought you
To the baptismal waters
Where you were marked
With the cross of Christ forever.

Our hearts are sad
So sad to see you go.
But sweet child;
Sweet child of God
You are a blessing;
A blessing forever
Claimed in the hearts
Of all those who love you.

I am linking up with Holly and Testimony Tuesday; Kelly and the RaRa linkup; Jennifer and Tell His Story; Holley and Coffee for your Heart; and Kristin and Three Word Wednesday.


Sunday Blessings 119

(1) Talking to mom on the phone. She sounded pretty good!

(2) A gorgeous spring day

(3) Two text messages and a Facebook message from friends asking what was up. (God knows what we need before we even know we need it!)

(4) The many prayers lifted up for me from my friends after I told them I was praying for them. I love having the favor returned to me!

(5) My friend SS saying that my latest blog post was one of the best ever pieces I’ve ever written!! (((Blushing)))

(6) Blog friends agreeing to read and proof my ebook on Being A Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness for me! Thanks ladies!!

(7) Being invited to have lunch with church members.

(8) Getting to see a new baby at church.

(9) More LuLaRoe love!!

(10) Yummy Blue Apron meals

(11) Talking to Daddy on the phone

(12) A fantastic benefit at church; over $7000 raised.

(13) Tons of compliments on my Amelia dress.

(14) A great Palm Sunday worship

(15) A nice lady holding the door open for me so I could get my cart through the door.

(16) Tropical Starburst Jelly Beans

(17) Watching the Passion Live

Sweet Surprises

 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 “surprise”! 

Have you ever thrown a surprise party for someone or had someone surprise you with a party? My mom and my sister thought they were pretty sneaky when I turned 16, but they aren’t as sneaky as they thought they were.

I knew they were up to something. And then one day, at school, my suspicions were confirmed. In the lunch room, each class had their own tables. I got up after finishing my lunch to dispose of my lunch tray. As I was leaving the lunchroom, I saw my little sister get up from her table and walk over to my class’s table. She was inviting all of the girls to my surprise sweet 16 birthday party. I smiled to myself but didn’t let her or anyone know that I was pretty sure they were up to something.

The day of my birthday, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but I was 97 percent sure they were up to something. When we pulled up to my mom’s house, there really weren’t many cars parked around her house. So I thought to myself, maybe they decided not to throw a party. We got out of the car and my sister and I walked up to the door. I knocked and walked inside. Almost all of the girls from my class jumped out and yelled “Surprise.” Apparently they had all parked their cars in the alley and a block away so I wouldn’t be suspicious. It was a fun party to celebrate with my classmates and friends. I opened the gifts they gave me. We ate cake and ice cream. It was a joy filled day that made my 16th birthday that much sweeter!

Surprises are usually good, but sometimes surprises aren’t so great when they are surprises we don’t particularly like or want. Yet God has a way of surprising us with his amazing grace, mercy, and love. This week, God surprised me when another friend asked if he could pray for me after I said I was praying for him as part of my Lenten discipline. The next day, this friend messaged and me sharing the words “eight weeks.” He also shared that he had never had this happen before when praying and felt silly sharing it with me, but needed to share it with me. So apparently eight weeks for God to surprise me again by answering the prayers I have been continually asking for myself.

I don’t know about you, but I like the good surprises: the ones that startle us and cause us to remember the blessings we have been given in life; surprises that remind us that God is the ultimate surprise giver!

Prayers Rise Up Like Incense

“So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”-Mark 11:24 (New Revised Standard Version)

“Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 4:5-7 (The Message)

Prayer has been on my mind a lot this Lenten season as I have continued to pray through my Facebook friends list as my Lenten discipline. It is hard to believe that I began this practice six years ago and still am continuing to live it out. It is incredible to look back and see the ways God has answered the prayers I have lifted up to God. So often those prayers have been answered in God’s timing and not my own. I have seen friend’s adoptions finalized. I have seen broken relationships repaired or ended peacefully. I have seen the numerous ways God has answered the prayers I have lifted up on behalf of my friends and family.

Yet there are times…like today where my heart is heavy….heavy with the news of the world around me. I want our fears to be relieved. I want peace; only the peace that God can bring about to be here. I want God’s healing hand to intervene where healing is needed. I want to trust that God hears every prayer that is lifted up to God. (Honestly, I know that God receives every prayer lifted up to God, yet there are days that my faith isn’t enough and even I question)

But in a world where there is so much sadness and darkness, prayer is a way that we can rally together. Prayer is a way that we can lift our prayers up to God. And collectively those prayers can make a difference. Prayer reminds us of the beautiful promise of the resurrection as God is a faithful God who continually walks with us and promises to never leave us or forsake us. God loved us so much that God sent God’s one and only son to die on a cross for each and every one of us.

I know there have been times in my life when I have felt like perhaps my prayers have not been enough. But then God has shown me that they are. God has this amazing way of hearing and collecting every prayer that is lifted up to God.

When my mom was laying in ICU my senior year of college, I remember sending out a prayer request email to my camp friends asking them to pray. For me, knowing that I wasn’t alone in prayer gave me so much peace and hope so I asked them to pray with me. My friend Ben called almost immediately and prayed on the phone with me. In just that brief interaction, I found myself clinging to the words Ben was lifting up to God for my mom and our family.

Sometimes friends, it seems prayer is all we have! And prayer is this incredible gift that we can offer up to God. As we sing these words from Marty Haugen’s Holden Evening Prayer during our Lenten worship services “Let our prayers rise up like incense,” I picture all of the prayers being lifted up; just like incense rising, to God where God hears each and every one of them.

Together, as we gather at the holy table where bread and wine are raised to receive, our prayers too are raised and lifted up to God; the one who hears every prayer and promises to walk with us no matter what.

I love this quote I came across from Ghandi and so I am going to leave you with this thought today: “Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is a daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

And so my body exhales and let’s out a sigh…a sigh that God sees and hears even without words.

I am linking up with these lovelies this week: Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, and Holley and Coffee for your Heart:


Sunday Blessings 118

(1) A thank you card from TD and JD

(2) Hugging WS at Beer and Hymns

(3) Beer and Hymns with EG and AH; running into so many other awesome friends. I am one blessed gal!!

(4) A friends engagement announcement

(5) Members saving a copy of an article from a newspaper that they thought I would enjoy reading.

(6) Finding a sweet gift left in my office.

(7) Lots of LuLaRoe love in my mailbox. Loving everything by especially my new maxi skirt!!

(8) A blog post of mine featured over at the RevGalBlogPals site.

(9) Talking to PMA on the phone

(10) Hugging CT’s girls

(11) Seeing CT and her girls

(12) Hugging CB who I haven’t seen in forever.

(13) Chatting with CT and CB

(14) Being asked by WS if I would read a piece before their choir anthem for Easter Sunday.

(15) A ton of compliments on the new hair do!! Thanks TS!!

(16) Fixed my Keurig all by myself!!

(17) A PLN!!!!

(18) One of the youth who went on the national gathering last summer getting his Eagle Scout award today.

(19) Leftovers sent home with me. Thanks guys!!!

(20) So MANY compliments on the new do and so many people telling me that it makes me look longer!!

Friends to Share Life With

 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 “share”! 

It started with Kara Tippetts, then Joey and Rory, and Sarah Frankl. They all let us in. In the midst of hardships, they still let us in and shared their lives with us. They shared in life and death. They shared with us in joy and sorrow. They have been a wonderful example of what it looks like to share in all of life.

Just last week, Joey breathed her last breathe. And they still let us in. They still shared with us in the midst of leaving this life for heaven. Even as he grieves, Rory and Indiana still share their lives with us. What an incredible witness to God’s love! And Jason and Kara’s family also share through Kara’s blog.

I am so thankful for those that God has brought into my life to share life with. I am so thankful for my friends and family. I am incredibly thankful for my Write 31 days community. I am so blessed by the Five Minute Friday crew. We meet on Twitter every Thursday night and share in life. We talk about the latest news to chocolate to bacon and everything in between. We also share our prayer requests. We share in Andrew and his ordeal. We share in new babies and surgeries and stolen purses and new puppies and so much more.

Without this community and my friends and my family., it would be so much harder to live life; to know that there are inviduals who will pray and celebrate in life’s joys but also mourn with you in life’s trials and even deaths. We may not always agree on topics, but the thing is even though we sometimes disagree,  we can still be friends and share in life together.

Sharing in life with all of you reminds me so much of an amazing song by the Christian group Point of Grace titled “Circle of Friends.” The chorus goes: “In a circle of friends, we have one Father; in a circle of friends, we share this prayer; that every orphan soul will know; and all will enter in to the shelter of this circle of friends.” These words capture so well the friends I have been blessed to share this life with.

Thanks for sharing life together, dear family and friends. I’m so glad we get to share life together!

Point of Grace–Circle of Friends