Beauty out of Brokenness

Have there been times in your life when you have just wanted to scream enough? Or perhaps a time when you tried to make sense out of what was happening in life? I know, that for me, it has probably been more times than I have cared to admit. In fact, throughout our journey with a mental illness, there have been times many times when I have questioned God. And lately, in the midst of too many cancer diagnoses, it is a question that I keep asking over and over and over again.

As a woman of faith, my faith is something that I always cling to and hold on too. But when I begin asking those hard questions, I wonder if I am being a very good christian at all. But then I am reminded that like Jacob, we have a God we can wrestle with. God sees us as both saints and sinners.  For me, knowing that I am able to give myself grace when all I want to do is scream and cry and continually ask God “Why?” is a gift only God can give me and all of us in the midst  of our hard questions.

Earlier today, I was listening to my Pandora station when the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor came on. The first stanza reads “All this pain; I wonder if I’ll ever find my way; I wonder if my life could really change at all; All this earth; Could all that is lost ever be found; Could a garden come up from this ground at all.” From the first time I heard that song, its words have held a special place in my heart and today they brought me such sweet comfort. Because God does take dust and make it into beautiful things.

As my friend Laura lives her last days on this earth, I am reminded that soon she will be free from all that ails her (as she reminded us in her latest carepages post). I am reminded of the many lives that she has touched including mine and so many others. But as I am reminded of these gifts, I also can’t help but be frustrated and sad. It doesn’t seem fair that Laura’s daughters will lose two parents to cancer. But the thing is that cancer does not discriminate. It attacks who it will.

Yet God has this amazing way of taking dust and turning into beautiful things. Most of the time, it is like a deep fog that we cannot see through. But in time, God takes the deep fog, lifts the fog and reveals to us a magnificent rainbow. God reveals the beauty out of the brokenness. 

God indeed, “You make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things out of us!”

Today I am linking up with my favorites; Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story and Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart.

What 31 Stories of God’s Grace Have Taught Me

Well here we are friends….Day 31 of the Write 31 Days challenge. Last year was the first time that I participated in this challenge and I never imagined the ways it would bless me; new friends, an amazing community and so much more. And this year was no different. I was blessed by participating again. I met many wonderful new bloggers and continued to be blessed by blog friends who I met last year through the challenge. This community is a community that blesses me each and every day.

This year my series, of course, was 31 Stories of God’s Grace. Throughout my series, I shared stories of my own life, had friends share grace stories from their own lives and even managed to write about grace and bacon (Not exactly sure how I mustered up the ability to write a somewhat cohesive post but I did) I have learned and relearned so much about grace this month.

I have been reminded that what I often think is not a very graced filled life is actually very grace-filled. I learned that when I am at my weakest, yearning daily for God to answer my deepest desires, God is there right alongside me or sends individuals to walk with me when God cannot be there–God’s grace in my midst. I have learned that by sharing these stories of God’s grace, we can make an often invisible God become visible to the world around us.

Again and again throughout these 31 days, I have been reminded that God’s grace always prevails; God’s grace is always and ever enough! In fact, the truth is that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. May we never take that grace for granted!

“For it is by grace through faith that you have been saved, it is not your own doing but a gift of God”—-Ephesians 2:8 (New Revised Standard Version)

I hope that you too have been reminded of that promise throughout these 31 days; that grace is this beautiful unmerited gift that is not wrapped in an elegant bow but rather is simply set out on the table for us to receive it. I also hope and pray that these dear stories of God’s grace don’t leave you where they found you but bless you beyond your wildest dreams.

Thank you for journeying with me over these last 31 days. It has been such a joy to share these sweet grace-filled stories with all of you. May grace reign down on all of YOU, my dear readers and friends!

“Now God has us where God wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust in him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role! If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. God creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”–Ephesians 2:7-10 (The Message)

Grace by Phil Wickham (I never heard this song before tonight. 
It seems so fitting for the ending of my series)

Sometimes Grace is Pain

These words are eloquently beautiful and remind me of the power of God’s grace in my own life especially as a daughter of someone who has lived daily with a mental illness. Without our journey, I wouldn’t be who God has called me to be. I also wouldn’t have been blessed in telling our story to others. Or in the words of Brene Brown, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do!” (Funny thing since “brave” is my One word 365 for 2015. And another blog friend recently commented to me that she feels that my brave is in telling my/our story)

Our story begins shortly after my sister was born. Mom had a nervous breakdown. Both my sister and I spent lots of time with our grandparents as Mom was treated for her illness. Dad was busy working and earning money to pay for the doctor’s bills.

Growing up, it seemed like Mom was in the hospital at least once a year. And so as we grew up, I quickly grew up faster than I should have. When I was almost five and my sister was two, we moved back to North Dakota so my Dad could help his family farm. As I got older, while Dad was farming and when Mom was sick, I had to take care of my sister and I. I grew up really fast! Mom’s illness turned our world upside down. Yet when she was well, Mom was the best mom in the world!!! (If you don’t believe me, read this post I wrote for my friend Erin’s blog)

My sophomore year of high school, my parents divorced. It took a lot of courage for our dad to utter the words “It’s not that I don’t love your mom anymore. It is that I cannot handle this illness.” Looking back now, I see those words as words of grace as they seemed to soften the blow even if just a little. But I will also say that those words of grace tasted awfully bitter rather than sweet that day.

My senior year of college, Mom’s lithium level got to high which caused her kidneys to shut down. It was a very scary time. Mom spent several weeks in the ICU of a local hospital. We weren’t sure if Mom was going to make it, but she recovered. However that incident aged Mom a lot. She moved into a nursing home and has been living in a nursing home ever since. In fact, my sister and I became her legal guardians when I was attending seminary.

It would be so easy for me to be bitter about Mom’s illness. And there was a time I questioned God daily about it. But over the years, I have learned so much from my mom’s illness and our journey with a mental illness. I have learned to live each day to the fullest and not take a single day for granted.  I have learned what it means to love and be loved. I have learned that we have a God that, like Jacob did, we can wrestle with throughout the courses of our lives. (If you want to read more about our journey, check out my 2014 Write 31 Days series: Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness)

But, most of all, I have learned the power and gift of God’s grace in my life and in our life. Mom is one of the most caring, faith-filled women that I know. Her actions continually remind me of the gift of God’s grace in my life. We could have lost Mom my senior year of college, but we didn’t. We could have kept our story of mental illness locked inside our hearts. But instead by unlocking our story from our hearts, we have been blessed by others and been blessed in return. Most of all, what I have learned is that there is power and grace in telling our stories.

Readers, don’t forget to register to win a $500 DaySpring shopping Spree. 
Click here for a chance to win.

Some Sunday Grace

I am a huge fan of the Christian band Jars of Clay.

On Wednesday I was preparing for my 7th Grade Confirmation class. In the lesson, we were talking about Martin Luther and the Reformation. This curriculum uses a song, movie clip, etc each week. The song for that day’s lesson was the song “Grace” by Jars of Clay. As we listened to the song, I thought what a perfect song/video for my Sunday post this week.

The chorus to the song goes like this: “I feel your grace come running over every road, I love the way you’re calling overflow, I feel your grace come running over every road, You break the floodgates down and carry all.”

May you let these words spill over you today and every day knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for us all!

The Worst Interview in the World

Growing up in small town North Dakota, there weren’t many options for a job when I was in high school. I worked at the local theater taking tickets, selling concessions and making popcorn. Before I graduated high school, I was looking for a new summer job. One day my Uncle and Grandma suggested that I work at our church’s Bible camp, so I decided to apply for a job as a Bible camp counselor.

The camp director received my resume and set up an interview with me. I drove to Bismarck ND where we met at Perkins for my interview. It was the worst interview in the world! I looked at my shoes and at the top of the table the whole time he was interviewing me. I don’t think I ever looked him straight in the face. I left feeling defeated. Yet despite it being the worst interview in the world, the camp director decided to hire me anyways.

I graduated high school on a Sunday and was off to camp last than 36 hours after graduating. I spent that summer growing as a woman of faith. Little did I know that working at camp would change me in the most positive ways. It was the first place that I openly shared our family’s journey with a mental illness. It was the place that blessed me and would be the place where I eventually would hear the call to seminary.

I worked there all summer. Then the next summer, after my Freshmen year of college, I returned to work another summer as a camp counselor. Halfway through the summer, the camp director and the program director invited each of us to a mid-summer evaluation. During my evaluation, the camp director looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I didn’t think you were going to make it. I hired you thinking I would take you as long as you would make it. And now I cannot get rid of you. You are like a mother hen with all of her little chicks.”

As I heard him say those words to me, a smile spread across my face. God’s hand of grace had indeed intervened as God tapped the camp director’s shoulder and in not so many words, called him to hire me despite all of his hesitation. It was God’s hand of grace that called me to work at camp and eventually led me to seminary. It was in this holy place on the prairies of North Dakota, right off Lake Sakakawea where I received the gift of God’s grace.

The Most Gracious Athletes I’ve Ever Met!

Have you ever met people who simply exude grace to you? I can name a few people off the top of my head…my parents, my sister, my friends. But today I want to introduce you to some very special individuals who have taught me about grace and what graciousness truly looks like.

When I was at seminary, I had to do fieldwork to receive my degree. I sent letters home to some organizations in North Dakota explaining what I was looking for and if they would have any opportunities. I sent to the Ronald McDonald House, Special Olympics ND and so many other organizations. Special Olympics ND contacted me to let me know they had a position open for me.

So I moved back to North Dakota and lived with my aunt and uncle for the summer. During my time at Special Olympics, I got to interact with many Special Olympics athletes. And to this day, my friends, I am so very thankful for that experience that summer because these men and women taught me about the goodness of God’s grace.

I remember selling souvenirs at the State Summer Games when several athletes came to buy a new t-shirt, sweatshirt, etc. They would always ask me my name and I would tell them. Then in return, I would ask them their names and what events they were competing in that day. It never failed that someone needed a larger size and inevitably we were out. But they never got mad. They would ask my opinion and we would find them another new item of clothing to add to their collection.

But, my favorite example of these athletes was watching them compete. Yes, some of them had their competitive side. But for the most part, they simply cheered each other on. They would stand on the podium with smiles spread across their faces; whether they were standing in the 1st place spot or in the 8th place spot. They would be handed their ribbon or have their bronze, silver, or gold medal hung on their neck. After the medal ceremony, these athletes would run around showing anyone and everyone their new prize.

I remember standing there thinking…these athletes are so gracious to each other. They are gracious about winning…and they are gracious about losing. In fact, they are the most gracious athletes I have ever met. (I think our professional teams and athletes could learn quite a bit from them!) And I think we too could learn a thing or two from them as they continue to teach us the goodness of God’s amazing grace.

To learn more about Special Olympics ND, click Here!

31 Stories of God’s Grace

“Grace catches us. Grace catches us as we fall behind, grace catches us when we fall miserably, grace catches us and calms all our tangled anxiety…and says it’s okay–You’ll carry us over the finish line–assuring us a thousand times of just that: Grace embraces you before you prove anything and after you’ve done everything wrong.”–Ann Voskamp

“Grace flies in the face of logic and wraps us in arms of unexpected love.”-Ann Voskamp

Grace…it’s all about grace!

Grace is this unbelievable unmerited gift….that I often think we take for granted. As I was praying about and trying to decide on a topic for these 31 days, the one word that kept popping up was grace. Grace has this way of showing up when we least expect it and wrapping us all in the most unexpected love.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”–Ephesians 2: 8 (Recite it with me friends!)

Grace is this beautiful unmerited gift. During these 31 days, it is my hope and prayer that you will be blessed by the 31 stories of God’s grace that I will share with you.These stories will range from joyful moments to sad moments to everything in between. But the gift, my friends, is that each of these stories is full of the beauty and magnificence of God’s grace and I promise that these stories will wrap you in the most unexpected love. Each of these stories reminds us of the gift of God’s grace; a gift that is freely given to each and every one of us; a gift that changes everything.

I love what Anne Lamott says about grace. She writes: “I do not understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

May the stories of grace shared, throughout these 31 days, meet you where you are at, but not leave you where it found you.

What I Learned in September….

I am linking up with Emily Freeman’s monthly link-up today. You can check out all the posts over at Emily’s Place.

Things I learned this month….

(1) I am a writer! After participating in the online discussion on the book “On Being a Writer” by Charity Singleton Craig and Ann Kroeker, I can honestly say that I am a writer. I have learned that writing is indeed so much a part of who I am. There are limitations, but those limitations often push my writing to be better.

(2) In the words of my blog friend Katie Reid, we write to remember. As I remembered the suicide of my college friend Chewy and the anniversary of September 11, 2001 on my blog, I realized how true those words are. It is so important for us to remember those who are dear to us, those historic events in the world, and so much more.

In addition, remembering can be bittersweet too. I watched the finale of CSI the other day. When I was at seminary, a group of friends and I would spend every Thursday night watching CSI together. It was hard not to think of them and all we had been through as I watched the finale. I miss those crazy people!

(3) When Life is Wearing On You, God places people–friends—in our lives to journey with us because God does not want life to wear on us. God places those people into our lives to listen to us, to be there for us, to be that shoulder to cry on for us and to a hold a piece of each other’s stories..not to take our stories away from us but to bear the burden with us.

(4) It is so important to spend time with family! I decided to drive home for Labor Day weekend as my Grandma had suffered a stroke several weeks before. It was so good to spend time with my Grandma, Grandpa, my sister, my aunts and uncle, my dad, my step-mom and my sister. We spent a lot of time picking produce from Grandma’s garden which she gladly shared with all of us. I treasure the time I spend with my family especially as my grandparents age.

(5) SO MANY GOOD BOOKS! I finished “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans and “Wild in the Hollow” by Amber C. Haines. I just started “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker. “Accidental Saints” by Nadia Bolz-Weber and “It’s Simply Tuesday” by Emily Freeman are just a few of the books on my to read pile.

(6) Voxer, Periscope, and Twitter…all the social media! I absolutely LOVE Voxer. And I am starting to love Periscope too. It is so cool to be able to see the faces and hear the voices of my blog friends spread all over the world. I have even begun broadcasting my own Scopes on Periscope. I know that so many feel like the world wide web can be such a negative place, but what I have learned is that there are some amazing communities there as well. I love my blogging community so much. You each bless me so immensely!

(7) “She is far more precious than rubies!” A friend commented that to me on a blog post and then I got a Tweet sharing a picture with those words. It is so easy for us to think we are not enough, to think we are not worthy but the truth is that we are ENOUGH! I have put on the new name tag of “more precious than rubies” and I invite you to join me in putting it on because you, my dear friends, are more precious than rubies too!

(8) I learned all the many things that I forgot about the beauty of Fall. I love watching the seasons change. I love all things Pumpkin. I had my first Pumpkin Spice Latte a few weeks ago. I love the cooler air and watching the beauty of God’s creation changing all around me.

(9) Sometimes we just have to be silly and laugh! Thanks to Agape, Joe Davis and Rachel Kurtz for this awesome photo op idea. Little did you know that I needed a good laugh that day. And this photo op made me smile and still makes me smile!

(10) God’s grace is sufficient! It is a grace that God doesn’t wrap in a pretty bow, but rather simply sets it on the table for us to receive. So often we forget the gift of God’s grace though. And because I am continuing to receive and learn from God’s grace, I will be joining in the Write 31 Days challenge and will be sharing 31 Stories of God’s grace. Click Here to learn more about my Write 31 days challenge.

(11) And most of all, I learned that it is pretty great turning another year older. I am so incredibly loved and you all let me know that on the anniversary of my birth. So many Tweets, well wishes on my FaceBook wall and birthday presents. I felt so spoiled! And I got to top it off with some of my favorite gals in the world at our favorite wine bar. Tiger cake, good wine, some of my bestest friends, and celebrating another year of life! I am so very thankful for my 37 years on this year…and trust that year 37 will be a fantastic year too.

The Visibility of God’s Grace

“I think my job is to make the grace of an invisible God, visible, wherever I am”–Paul Tripp

Oh friends, these words are speaking straight to my heart today. More and more hard news. More and more of wondering where God is in this world. More and more of wondering when God’s peace will prevail. But what I do know is that God’s grace always prevails.

It can be so hard for us to see God’s grace in a world that is bombarded by hard news, war, hatred, violence and so much more. Yet the good news is that God’s grace has a way of showing up in the most unexpected places and in the most unexpected love. I am reminded of the words to the well-known hymn “Amazing Grace”: “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear; The hour I first believed.; Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.” (Amazing Grace Lyrics)

Yes, it is this grace that will lead us home. Yet I know that it is often so very hard for us to trust in that promise. We want God to give us a GPS to direct us along life’s journey. We want our answers to be as instant as an instant message from a friend. But God does give us a GPS, just not the kind of GPS we want and are looking for in our lives. God’s GPS is God’s grace positioning system! Can you think of all the times and places when God’s GPS has shown up in your lives?

“For it is by grace through faith that you have been saved, it is not your own doing but a gift of God”—-Ephesians 2:8 (New Revised Standard Version)

It took me a long time to realize that grace is this free unmerited gift that God gives to each and every one of us. Yet grace isn’t wrapped in a pretty bow. Grace is an amazing gift that comes with no pretty strings, ribbons or bows attached to it. It is simply set out onto the table for us to receive. But are we willing to receive it?

I have come to accept and receive this unmerited gift with open arms because it has blessed me in more ways than I can ever count or imagine. Grace is what has helped me live as a daughter of a woman who daily struggles with a mental illness. Grace is what helped me graduate seminary when I thought that was an impossible task. Grace is what has continually shown me again and again the power of God’s love for all of God’s people.

And because I have received this gift and seen the power of grace in my own life, I want to continually show it to others. Because in showing God’s grace, we see, not only glimpses but full images of a visible God that often feels invisible in this world. But it is in these moments and gifts of grace that God’s invisibility becomes visible to all of God’s people.

“Now God has us where God wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust in him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role! If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. God creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”–Ephesians 2:7-10 (The Message)

An upbeat video for your Tuesday afternoon!
“This is Amazing Grace”-Phil Wickham

(And on that note, I am excited to share with you my Write 31 Days topic. I will be sharing 31 Stories of God’s Grace.” After reading that quote by Paul Tripp today, God confirmed that this is exactly what God is calling me to share about. My hope and prayer is that these 31 stories of God’s grace will make us see a sometimes invisible God as a visible God. Join me throughout the month of October for these dear stories of God’s grace!)

I am linking up with these faith-filled women this week: 


This Messed Up Glorious Church

Put a good book in my hands, a gorgeous summer day, my patio and a Starbucks Refresher or iced tea and I am one happy camper. However this summer, I have not been able to read on my patio as much as I have wanted. That is what I get for being such a crazy traveler this summer. However I wouldn’t give up those trips for anything. So this past week I have been making up for lost time! Friday I finished the book “Orphan Train” that I sadly began last May.

Saturday morning, I picked up the next book on my pile “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church” by Rachel Held Evans. And my friends, I devoured this book. I read it in three days. Rachel’s words are words that all of us need to hear. She reminds us of the gift of God’s grace and the beauty of this glorious yet sometimes messed up church.

Church is the place where we can experience that grace, but church is more than a church building. Church is everywhere where”two or three are gathered in Christ’s name.” Church is where we experience loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Church is every bit of it grace. Rachel captures it best when she writes:

Church is a moment in time when the kingdom of God draws near, when a meal, a story, a song, an apology, and even a failure is made holy by the presence of Jesus among us and within us. Church was alive and well long before we came up with the words relevant and missional, and church will go on long after the grass grows through our cathedral floors. The holy Trinity doesn’t need our permission to carry on in their endlessly resourceful work of making all things new. That we are invited to catch even a glimpse of the splendor is grace. All of it, every breath and every second, is grace.” (Searching For Sunday, Rachel Held Evans; P. 113)

Oh how true my friends. We are all invited to experience the gift of God’s grace. God’s grace is eucharisto and has a way of always getting through. God’s grace is always always enough! It is a gift of healing and reconciliation for all of God’s people; saints and sinners alike.

“But our God is in the business of transforming ordinary things into holy things, scraps of food into feasts and empty purification vessels into fountains of fine wine. This God God knows his way around the world, so there’s no need to fear, no need to withhold, no need to stake a claim. There’s always enough—just taste and see. There’s always and ever enough. (Searching, Rachel Held Evans, P. 157).”

The gift is that church is the one place where God invites all of us to come to the table. Church is the place where we can share in our “me toos.” Church is the place where we can come and know that we are imperfect people loved by a perfect God. And as imperfect people, we are going to stumble along the way. We are going to disagree. We are going to have to ask for God’s forgiveness. We are going to have to pick ourselves, dust ourselves off and continue to journey along. We are going to have to be continually reminded of who and whose we are.

And as God’s beloved children, we are always invited to the table; called to ‘taste and see’ what Christ has done for us. It is our call as Christ’s disciples to invite others to that table as well; to know that this table is for all of us with all of our brokenness to come and REMEMBER all Christ has done for us. I realize that is not an easy call for any of us, but that is the beauty of God’s grace, God calls us to show God’s love to one another. And in this book, Rachel continually reminds us of this glorious messed up church whose doors are open to all of God’s people.

And even still, the kingdom of God remains a mystery just beyond our grasp. It is here, and not yet, present and still to come. Consummation, whatever that means, awaits us. Until then, all we have are metaphors. All we have are almosts and not quites and wayside shrines. All we have are imperfect people in an imperfect world doing their best to produce outward signs of inward grace and stumbling along the way. All we have is this church–this lousy, screwed-up, glorious church–which by God’s grace is enough. (Searching for Sunday, P. 256)

And to that my friends, I simply say AMEN!

I am linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story and Holley Gerth and Coffee for Your Heart.