Summertime on the Prairie

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 “Blue.” Write for five minutes; unedited.


It is summertime on the prairies of North Dakota!

Summertime on the prairies of North Dakota are my favorite thing in the world. The sky is the deepest blue and spreads out as wide and as long as the eyes can see. This time of the year, farmers like my Dad, Uncle and Grandpa can be found basking under that deep blue sky as they plant in the fields scattered to and fro. Under that beautiful blue sky, the dirt blows and covers my Dad, Uncle and Grandpa as they steward the land God gave us.

For me, I love sitting under the deep blue sky, on my patio, shoes kicked off, reading the best books in the world. This last week I finished Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Now I am reading Shauna Neiquist’s Bread and Wine. I want to try every recipe in that book!

The skies this time of year remind me of the awesomeness of God’s creation. God saw all that he created and declared “It is good.” That deep blue sky over my head causes me to pause and take in the beauty of this world. That deep blue sky continually bids me to “Be still and know that God is God.”

As the sun fades into the clouds, the deep blue sky fades away and I sit under the darkness of night knowing in the power of God’s love. I look up and count the stars in the sky. And as I count, I remember this God who knows all the stars in the sky and knows every hair upon our heads; this God who saw darkness and called it night and saw light and called it day and this God who created that deep magnificent blue sky that looms over the magnificent prairies of North Dakota.

And I am so very thankful!

Beautifully In Over our Heads

I am a farm girl! We lived in town but my dad moved  our family from Nebraska to North Dakota when my sister and I were little so he could help his dad farm. My sister and I spent our fair share of time helping on the farm. My dad always recruited us to help move cattle from one field to another. It was a hard job. A lot of times the baby calves would not follow their mommas to the next space. They would stubbornly wonder off on their own which made life chaotic. I lost count of the  number of times I saw my dad chasing those cows and calves with a pickup truck; the truck door hanging half open.

Like those baby calves, sometimes we want to follow our own way. We think we know the way for us. But the truth is we often get lost. Like hiking in the mountains, we take the wrong turn and end up somewhere we didn’t expect or somewhere we shouldn’t be. The truth is that God always knows the way though. In fact, God calls us to get out of the boat and follow him.

The story of Jesus and his disciples in the boat is a great story. It is a story that reminds me; reminds all of us of the power of God. God calmed the storm. God called Peter to come out onto the water. God calls us to come out on that water too. But so often like Peter we don’t trust God and begin to sink. We need to trust fully and be beautifully in over our heads.

Because the truth is that when we trust and allow God to let us get beautifully in over our heads, amazing incredible things begin to happen. Like my friend KA and her family who have been called to start a new church…talk about being beautifully in over your head. Like my friends who have gone overseas to serve God…again beautifully in over their heads. And sometimes it is as simple as realizing that it is time to leave one place and start anew somewhere else. I tell you in those moments I realized that I was beautifully in over my head too.

The first summer I worked at camp, we took our staff picture standing on the island in the middle of the lake. The water was so high it looks like we are walking on water; like we truly followed Jesus onto the water. On our way back, our office secretary was getting into the pontoon when she fell in. I remember she laughed about it. What a great reminder that God calls us to always follow him and sometimes following him means getting beautifully in over our heads.

This Is Pretty Much Jesus For Me!

This is pretty much Jesus for me!

My friend Amy shared these words with me after I shared a quote from Melanie Shankle’s book “Nobody’s Cuter than You” on a post I read on Kate Motaung’s blog yesterday. The quote I shared was this: “There is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself.”

Oh my friends, my friend is so right. I am blessed by incredible friends who get these words and live them out in our friendship. But Jesus is the one who truly does this for me. Jesus indeed loves me in spite of myself. Jesus loves me in spite of my own self-doubt. Jesus loves me when I make mistakes as the sinner in me emerges out of me. And Jesus loves YOU in spite of yourself too! Jesus loves you in spite of your own self-doubt. And Jesus loves you too when the sinner in you emerges.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in how the world treats us. We think we aren’t good enough. We think we don’t have enough. Yet the truth is we are good enough. We do have enough. I am reminded of the creation story from the book of Genesis. Every time God created something, God finished by saying, “And it is good!” We need to remember those words. Because in spite of our own selves, Jesus shows up for us EVERY SINGLE TIME! Jesus always finds a way to love even the most unlovable among us. God always declares that all of creation is indeed good!

Jesus came into the world; continually turning the world upside down. He wasn’t at all afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners. He even washed Judas’ feet knowing that Judas would soon betray him. Jesus died for our sins. But then three days later, Jesus rose from the grave….hope in the midst of the Resurrection.

I look at the world around us and I see so much death and destruction. I hear stories of human trafficking here in my dear state of North Dakota in the midst of the oil fields. I watch the news and see the devastation of an earthquake in Nepal. I also see the riots as they break out in Baltimore. I see the news sharing of the murder of a family in Wisconsin. It seems like around every corner, all I see is destruction. Like in the aftermath of an earthquake, all that remains is the dust and debris that has been left behind. And my heart aches!

Yet as my heart aches, I am reminded of Jesus who loves us ALL in spite of ourselves.

No matter how much we screw up…..
No matter our own sinfulness…..
No matter our own brokenness…

Jesus comes again and again offering us forgiveness of sins.
Jesus comes again and again showering God’s grace upon us.
Jesus comes again and again loving us ALWAYS in spite of our own selves.

Jesus truly is the one who knows every hair upon our head, knows our hearts desires yet still loves us in spite of ourselves.

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

 

Walking by Faith and Not Sight

“Walk by faith, not by sight”

Those words are the words in the Jesus Calling devotional from today. They jumped right into my line of sight tonight as I glanced down to read today’s reading.

As the weather here in North Dakota has been GLORIOUS this week (We are talking 50s and above, my friends),  I have been spending more time walking from here to there. In the winter months, I walk as quickly as I can to get in and out of the cold. But this week I have found myself taking in God’s awesome creation all around me. I have found myself walking through puddles and not even caring that my feet have gotten wet. I have watched the snow quickly melt as the grass begins to appear again. I have listened intently to the birds in the morning.

As I have paid attention, I have realized that I definitely am not always good at paying attention.  More times than not, I am caught up in the busyness of life and forget to look at the world around me. And then I find myself asking, what have I missed? Have I missed God bring that special person into my life? Or perhaps that person is there and I am not looking closely enough.

Do you know what I mean, friends? Are you afraid you haven’t seen…or heard something that God has shown or placed right in front of you?

Somedays I wish God would give me directional signs–a stop sign, a yield sign, an arrow this way, etc. But the truth is my friends we need to remember those words I read in my devotional tonight. We need to remember to trust in this one who gives us hope, who promises to never leave us or forsake us. We need to walk by faith not by sight!

If you are at all like me, there are indeed days when that is so much easier said than done. Yet I believe in a God who asks me…asks all of us to trust in him. We are to indeed walk by faith not by sight! I do believe God wants  us to see what God created. But I also know that God asks us to trust fully and wholey in him.

We indeed need to walk by faith not by sight!

God, help us to trust fully in you; to know that even when the path is dark, you can see the entire staircase. You know the way for us to go. You are the conductor of a beautiful orchestra; a conductor who continually teaches us about life’s high notes and low notes; about life’s ballads and life’s laments. Each note is carefully crafted and played by the one who created each of us and always walks with us. Help us to remember that we are to always walk by faith and not by sight. Amen!

“Faith is taking the first step even when we cannot see the whole staircase.”–Martin Luther King Jr.

O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Newborn King

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 “Adore.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

“O come let us adore him, Christ the newborn king.”

Growing up on the prairies of North Dakota, I have come to adore the prairies. Standing on the prairies, you can see the sky as high and as wide as you can see. It truly is indescribable. I could sit on the prairies and take it in all the time. These deep dark expansive skys of North Dakota remind me of the beauty and vastness of God’s love for me…for each of us.

Last night as I was walking home from church, I looked up and saw the stars twinkling in the sky. As I thought of the star that called the wisemen to come and adore this newborn king, I was stopped dead in my tracks. For it was on a precious holy night much like the night I was experiencing where we were beckoned and called to come worship and adore this newborn king.

God sent God’s one and only Son into the world because God loves us that much; a love that can take our breath away and is incredibly beautiful and overwhelming. God sent God’s son Emmanuel “God with us” into the world for us to adore and be reminded of God’s love for us.

This love comes in an infant born in an unlikely place in Bethlehem. Anyone who knows me knows that I adore babies and will take any moment I can to hold an infant in my arms. I can’t describe it but when I hold an infant, everything in me is at peace. I could sit and adore that infant in my arms all day long. And that is the beauty of this season as we are reminded of this infant son who reminds us of the promise of hope that comes in this infant we are called to adore.

O come let us adore him, Christ the newborn King.
O Come let us adore him, Christ the newborn King.

Belonging to the Prairie

The sky as far as you can see. The wind blowing so hard against your face as you work in the field that the grit and grime sticks to your body. The sweet fresh scent of the North Dakota badlands overtakes me and I take it all in. These are just a few of the things that I love about my beloved North Dakota. My heart and soul have and always belong to the prairie. (Which is where the title of this blog came from)

In seminary, I remember many friends sharing that they did not want to go to ND for their first calls. They didn’t want to be out in the middle of nowhere which I understood then and still understand now. Yet I wished that they would just give her a chance…they would see the beauty that this state has. I do remember a seminary professor sharing how much he loved ND and could possibly see himself moving there someday. My heart loved hearing his words. I wish more people could see her beauty.

Yes that beauty has been taken over in the west by the oil. And it isn’t the same as it once was. Yet ND still holds her beauty. Years ago many people saw the beauty in the land of North Dakota. Teddy Roosevelt spent much time in the ND badlands and loved being there. He even once said, “I have always said that I would have not been President had it not been for my time in North Dakota.” Sakakawea and Lewis and Clark traveled along the route through ND.

For me, there is something so incredibly holy about being in North Dakota. I have spent many nights laying in the grass looking up at the big sky taking in this beautiful land. I have felt the whip of a cold wind on a ND night and have felt the heat of a warm ND summer night on my face. I have heard the Western meadowlark (the ND bird) carry her song throughout the plains of ND. (I love how Teddy Roosevelt captures her voice. He once wrote, “One of our sweetest, loudest songsters is the meadow-lark…the plains air seems to give it a voice, and it will perch on the top of a bush or tree and sing for hours in rich, bubbling tones.”) I have watched my father, uncle, and grandfather work the land of ND. And I have found my place in the prairie! In the prairie, I am able to feel a sense of holiness, a sense of peace, a sense of belonging that I haven’t found anywhere else.

It is hard to put into words what the ND prairies do for my heart and soul. It is hard to share with others that haven’t experienced it like I have. Yet I know that my heart and soul belong to the prairie. Again Teddy Roosevelt seems to have captured my thoughts best. Living in the ND badlands, he once wrote “There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” Or as he also wrote “Nothing could be more lonely and nothing more beautiful than the view at nightfall across the prairies to these huge hill masses, when the lengthening shadows had at last merged into one and the faint after-glow of the red sunset filled the west.”

My First Attempt at NaBloPoMo

Well let’s see how this goes! So apparently it is NaBloPoMo (national blog post month). I have been trying to blog more but like some of my friends etc I have a hard time blogging because I am not sure if I have anything to say! But I figure it is worth giving something a try at  least once! 🙂

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an extremely emotional person? I cry at just about anything; Hallmark commercials, sappy movies, sad movies, etc! I also can get overly excited. In other words, I love HARD! Right friends! I mean I might as well invest in Kleenex stock, right?!?!

I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am as an emotional woman lately as I prepare for this new call. It is so very bittersweet to leave a place that has blessed me in so many ways. I couldnt even get through my Confirmation sermon last week and my sermon on wrestling with God the week before without tears. In some ways it feels so surreal. And other ways I am so excited. Excited to start this new adventure that God has called me too. Excited to be closer to my family. Excited to…in many ways….come home; home to Western ND.

Yet the tears still well up in my eyes! And sometimes I get upset that I am so emotional. I get frustrated that I cry when I dont want to. But then I remember…remember that this is who I am…and this is who God created me to be! A VERY VERY EMOTIONAL WOMAN who experiences life and its emotions with all its intensity and all its joy.

“Weeping may come for the night but joy comes with the morning”  Psalm 30

(And as I think about what I am going to blog about this month, Im asking you my readers, what should I blog about?)

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!)

The Farmer in All of Us

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. The Ravens and the 49ers are playing. However I’m not much of a sports fan–except for my Nebraska Cornhuskers, I really just watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. When I was a Communications student at U-Mary, one year our assignment was to watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. We then discussed the commercials in the class. One commercial I remember from that year was a Fed-Ex commercial that did a spoof on the Wizard of Oz.

Tonight I’m once again watching the game mostly for the commercials. There have been a few that I would totally classify as raunchy and gross. But then there have been some that have completely tugged at my heartstrings. Tonight it was this commercial from Ram trucks.

Every morning my dad gets up and heads to the farm where my uncle, grandpa, and him continue to farm the family farm. I’ve seen years when the crops haven’t been great. I have seen years when the crops have been wonderful. I have watched my dad drive a bailer up and down rows of freshly mown hay to make hay bales for the cows. I have taken my share of turns helping to move cattle from one pasture to another. I watch as my grandfather who has had two hip replacements still has to spend time on the farm. I see the wear it has had on all of their bodies.

Yet they are farmers…and they continue to farm. I know that the farmer is every part of my grandfather, uncle, and father! The farmer lifestyle runs through their veins and is in their blood. They have shown me and our family what it means to be good stewards of the land God has given us.

So tonight as we reflect “On the Farmer in All of us,” I want to say ‘thank you’ to my Dad, Grandpa and Uncle and to every farmer out there!

THANK YOU FOR BEING A FARMER!

Holy Ground

(This blog post was inspired by another blog post I read earlier tonight that my friend Dan wrote. You can read his blog post here: The Gift of Perspective)

There is a children’s book on my shelf titled “If you’re not from the prairie….” This book was shared with me many years ago by a dear friend. As she read the book to me, I fell in love with it. It captures so well how I feel when I’m on the prairies (hence the title of my blog!)Here is a page from the book; “If you’re not from the prairie, you don’t know the wind, you can’t know the wind; our cold winds of winter cut right to the core, hot summer wind devils can blow down the door, As children we know when we play any game; the wind will be there, yet we play just the same, if you’re not from the pairie, you don’t know the wind.”(If you’re not from the Prairie;David Bouchard and Henry Ripplinger;Aladdin Paperbacks Copyright 1995)

I’ve always felt God’s presence on the wide open prairies. There is just something so incredibly holy about the prairies. I am reminded of the many families who have farmed the prairie lands. I think of my uncle, dad, and grandfather who daily work on the prairie. As a teenager, I loved driving in the tractor, taking in the vastness and holiness of the prairie.
Recently my new aunt was commenting on how she has been loving the wide open prairies but has noisy neighbors (the cows!). I said to her, “There is just something so incredibly holy about the prairies. Its hard to explain unless you have experienced it for yourselves.”

The prairies allow me to see the sky as wide and as far as I can see. In so many ways, it reminds me of how wide and vast God’s love for us is! The prairies allow me to feel the wind and remind me of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Can you tell I’m working on a Pentecost sermon for Sunday?) The prairies are the one place I go to–to be refreshed! The prairie always will hold a special place in my life. In so many and various ways, the prairie is “holy space” for me!

I love how the children’s book closes. It truly captures how the prairie makes me feel. It reads “You see, my hair’s mostly wind, my eyes filled with grit, my skin’s red or brown, my lips chapped and split,I’ve lain on the prairie and heard grasses sigh, I’ve started at the vast open bowl of the sky, I’ve seen all those castles and faces in the clouds, my home is the prairie, and I cry out loud.”(If you’re not from the Prairie;David Bouchard and Henry Ripplinger;Aladdin Paperbacks Copyright 1995)