Children being bullied at school. Politicians spewing hateful words at each other. Music and lyrics sometimes full of unkind words. Using our words not for good, but rather for evil. And as I hear these stories and these words being hurled forth, my heart aches as I think about the impact and power of our words.
A black binder full of my poetry sits on the bottom shelf of my bookcase…
A bound copy of a poetry anthology sits on that shelf as well with one of my poems published in it….
(Both items hidden away so others will not see them!)
A blog post of mine has been shared by the ELCA on their site “Living Lutheran”…
And I have two blogs….one specifically for my writing and the other being my main blog.
Yet I still only can seem to muster the words, “Oh I like to write” OR “Writing and/or Blogging is a Hobby.” But I still do not and cannot seem to identify myself as a writer!
When I was little, my mom said I was a kid who was happy with pen and paper and not with toys. I was content to sit and pour words out onto a page for others to read. As I got older, I loved my creative writing classes and my English classes which led to me getting a Communications degree when I headed off to college. I have a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Journalism and an English minor.
One would think that those credentials in and of themselves would qualify me and help me to identify as a writer…but they don’t. I still struggle to find those words: “I am a writer!” So often I find that I get caught up in the comparison game. So and so’s blog is so much better and prettier than mine. So and so writes more eloquently than I do. But what I need to remember is that it isn’t about comparing my words to others because my words are simply that: “my own words”.
Several years ago, I joined a writing group at my local library. I was excited to meet new people outside of work and was hoping to share my words with others and hone my craft. One evening, I chose to share a poem I had written sharing my families struggle with mental illness. As I finished reading, one of the other participants lit into me: “Do your family members know what you are writing about? How dare you write about this subject?” I ran out of that room as quickly as possible, put on my coat, and ventured out in the bitter North Dakota cold straight to my car. I opened the door and sat down in the driver’s seat where the tears immediately began to flow. I picked up my cell phone and dialed the number for my colleague. I was crying so hard by the time he answered the phone that he had to tell me to breathe. This woman had literally taken the wind out of my sails and I now questioned even more if God was calling me to write; let alone be a writer.
Over the next several days, weeks, months, and years, I have had to learn from that experience. I have realized that so often my words have been words of healing for me…and for others and not words of pain. I have come to realize that for me often my words have been the bravest words I have shared because they have opened up my own vulnerability. I have come to also realize that my words embody my story and continually remind me of who and whose I am. I have also come to realize that my words are a gift from God! And trusting in that gift, I am trying to find the courage to utter those four simple words “I am a writer!”
I’ll admit that more often than not I have a hard time receiving this gift, but the truth is that God has empowered so many of us to write. I hear others including my friends and family call me a writer, but I still have a hard time believing them. Their words are gift, yet so often I don’t hear them at all. My ears need to be open to hearing the voice of God proclaiming to me and to so many of us “You are indeed a writer. I gifted you to be able to share your story through words. Your words are not a waste!”
It is extremely scary and vulnerable to utter those four simple words. Yet as dear Holley Gerth states: “Be courageous and write in a way that scares you a little.” So even though it still scares me to let those four simple words come out my mouth, I am going to lean into them, keep writing and continue saying them until hopefully I believe them for myself.
I AM A WRITER!
I am linking up with my favorites today–Kate Motaung and her series On Being A Writer, Holly Barrett and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Holley and Coffee for Your Heart, and Jennifer and Tell His Story.
When I was little, I didn’t have a lot of friends. In Kindergarten, I met my best friend who was a year older than me. She had been held back because she had undergone a kidney transplant. Mandy passed away in October of 2008. Since that time, God has been all over my friendships. In fact, I have been blessed by some amazing friendships in my life, but I never imagined how wide God would make that friendship circle. There are days I think that the circle can never get any larger and then God expands it even more! God has a funny way of doing that, doesn’t he?
A year ago, last October, I joined the Write 31 Days challenge. My topic was “Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness.” Never could I have imagined, how much this writing challenge would change me and would bring more amazing friends into my life. And than God went and expanded the circle more!
Due to the challenge, I was introduced even more to the Five Minute Friday community. (I cannot wait each week for our Thursday Twitter parties) These women have become my heart!!!!!!!!! They continually accept me for who I am. They continually see things in me that I don’t always see in myself. They never let me forget who and whose I am….a daughter of the one true king. We have looked at each other’s Facebook pages and even listened to each other’s voices on social media outlets such as Voxer. We have read and shared each other’s words. We have sent each other snail mail as part of the FMF Snail Mail party. Those words so often are just what I need to hear and come at exactly the right moment. And again the circle grows wider……
Then last Wednesday, my sister and I stood on a sidewalk at the Grand Ole Opry waiting for a car with Iowa plates to come pick us up. That car was being driven by one of the many FMF women. Jen and I have read each other’s blogs and conversed on Twitter and Instagram. But now here we were looking at each other face to face…listening to each other’s words spoken out loud. Jen, my sister, and I explored downtown Nashville together and then went and had supper together. Yet again the circle grew a little bit wider…or in the words of my friend Janel, my heart grew even larger too!
Friday morning, I found myself standing on an elevator waiting to meet two more of the FMF ladies. I stepped onto the elevator and pushed the button to take me down to the lower floor. But instead of going down, that darn elevator went all the way to the 14th floor. God has a funny sense of humor, doesn’t he? The elevator finally reached the 14th floor and then began descending down. It finally reached the lower level and I stepped off. I turned around the corner to the hotel lobby, looking for these two dear woman. But they actually spotted me before I spotted them. A voice exclaimed, “There she is!” The next thing I knew I was being embraced in a warm loving hug. After the embrace ended, I reached out and embraced the other woman.
Together, the three of us stepped into the elevator and rode back up to the 7th floor where we would find my sister in our hotel room. We sat and talked. Funny thing is, it was like we have been friends forever. No ackwardness…but rather pure joy and friendship. The four of us then went to eat at this quaint little cafe in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville. The three of us (kindred sisters introduced through the blogging world) now were sitting and breaking bread together. (Jen and I had sat and broke bread together early in the week too!) I still smile at the fact that the three of us ordered the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich while two of us ordered an identical meal: Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with French Onion Soup.
Through the breaking of the bread, gathered around the table, God widened the circle even more leaving room for more friendships to be born and welcomed into this holy space. I may not have been able to attend the FMF retreat, but I still feel like my heart is ten times larger this week and that the circle will always have room for more! God will continually call together women (and men) of different times and places to break bread together.
I stood on a bus last week, my cell phone pressed up to my ear. I listened intently to the woman on the other end of the line. And then she handed the phone off to my mom. Mom came onto the phone and was adamant about moving to a new nursing facility. Even though she has been struggling some with her health this summer, this came completely out of left field. I finished the conversation with my mom and hung up the phone. The minute I hung up the phone, tears began welling up in my eyes. I turned away because I was on a bus filled with my youth as well as several other youth and adult leaders as we were returning from the ELCA National Youth Gathering. Immediately my youth and several of the other adult leaders whispered the words “Are you okay?” to me.
A moment of peer vulnerability! I didn’t expect the tears to flow, but they did.
As a child, I was a very emotional child. I cried often. In fact, I have even been known to cry at Hallmark commercials. As I have grown up, those tears often have found their way into my eyes yet again. Those holy tears are a part of me that I wish didn’t come so easily. Yet I can count the numerous times that my eyes have filled with tears. More times than I care to even admit. And so often, those tears appear at the most inopportune times.
Yet those tears are so much a part of who I am. They are like the waters of Baptism that continually flow over me and cleanse me. Those waters also always call and claim me as one of God’s children. God has gifted me with this gift of holy tears. Yet so often I want to force the tears back down. I want to hold them back and not share that part of me. I don’t want to break open that piece of who God has called me to be!
But what I have come to realize is is that God has gifted me with this gift, because in sharing this gift with others, we realize we aren’t alone. Some of the holiest times in my life are times when I have sat and shared tears with those that are near and dear to me….and also with those that have been complete strangers. In those moments, I am reminded of one of the shortest verses in the Bible “Jesus wept.” Jesus wasn’t afraid to weep. Jesus wasn’t afraid to shed his own tears. And Jesus keeps track of all of our tears as well. In Psalm 56 verse eight, we read “You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle (ESV).”
Jesus has kept every one of the tears I have wept and put them in his bottle. It is so easy to think that God doesn’t see our tears. But the truth is that God sees every one of our tears. God wants us to know that we are not alone. God wants us to open up to those moments of vulnerability and like a waterfall cascading down, God wants us to release our tears and let them shower God with our tears.
Last week on that bus and many other times throughout my life, it has felt like my tears are paralyzing and drowning me. Yet God wants me; wants all of us to know that our tears are a gift from him to us. God collects every tear we shed and places them in the bottle of grace, forgiveness, hope and love. So the next time you feel those tears welling up in your eyes, simply let them come, knowing that God collects them and accepts them from us in all of our grief and brokenness.
Seeking peace….my friends…can be such a difficult thing to do in this crazy busy hustling world. But the truth is that even when we take five minutes with him, God has a way of showing up and showing us peace..of reminding us of the importance of Sabbath in our every day lives.
Just tonight, I found myself at a picnic. In the midst of the picnic, I found myself simply sitting taking in the cool air and was reminded of the beauty of creation as I watched the kids with smiles on their faces playing. Then I came to church to check on our community garden where they were busy building garden boxes. My colleague, her husband, another colleague and another friend were busy working on the boxes when I arrived. My colleagues two year old son was watching and playing outdoors. While my colleague was working with them on the boxes, I was hanging out with Mr. E. As I sat in the box of the pickup and listened to this sweet little boy chat with me. I couldn’t help but think about how being with him was bringing me peace…because it was causing me to pause and just simply sit with him.
Isn’t it funny how God has this way of reminding us of the importance of Sabbath and helping us to seek peace. Some of my favorite places have become places where I truly experience God’s peace. My favorite place in the world…the Bible camp I worked at for approximately seven summers helps me to exhale and take in the beauty of God’s creation. As my car turns onto the gravel road to that holy place, I find myself feeling much lighter. It is a place where I always am at peace.
On Sunday, I will be heading to Colorado and the Rocky Mountains for a continuing education class. This is the fifth summer that I have participated in this event. It is hard to explain but the minute I come around the bends and see the Rocky Mountains staring back at me, my whole body is at peace. It is as if my whole body exhales and peace immediately enters in. Sitting around Lily Lake or on the front porch at Meeker Park Lodge or wherever I might find myself, I don’t have to look far at all to find God’s peace because it is already there staring right back at me.
And as I think about how it is there along, I am reminded that it is in my every day too. I just have to stop and take the time to see it, to feel it and to hear it. God offers an everlasting peace that only God can provide. But we must take the time to seek it, to find it, and to let it enter in. Because when we do, God is right there painting this beautiful masterpiece…like a golden sunset, or the golden wheat blowing in the fields of the prairies of North Dakota, or right in my own back yard.
And as God paints that beautiful masterpiece, we begin to see the beauty in the midst of the brokenness, the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary and experience the everlasting peace that only God can provide us.
I am linking up with Holly for Testimony Tuesday, Kelly for the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer for Tell His Story and Holley for Coffee for your Heart:
Fear does have a way of robbing us of our joy, doesn’t it? There are so many things that I fear. Will I ever find my Mr. Right? Will I ever be a mom? Will I be able to make and save enough money to go on that vacation I want to go on? Will my paycheck make it to the next paycheck? (And the list of questions is endless.
As I felt that fear and anger boiling up in my body, I was reminded that fear is not of God. In those moments, I hear Jesus saying, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its owns. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Matthew 6:34 NRSV).” (So much easier said than done!)
The truth is that there is Godly fear….but that is a different kind of fear than the fear that barges in and steals all of our joy. It is a fear that reminds us of the power of God’s love and grace. In fact, it is that kind of fear that calls us to be “a voice and not an echo.” It is also that Godly fear that invites us ALL to the table of grace where we are to break bread together. It is that Godly fear that reminds us constantly of who and whose we are!
I don’t know about you, but for me, it is the kind of fear that I need to cling too; a fear that is grounded in God’s grace for God’s people. There are so many days when I question why I fear certain things in my life. Yet the truth is that God calls me to trust in him and to not let my fears overshadow the moments of deep joy in my life. In fact, it is Godly fear that crushes our worldly fears.
As I write this, I find my body exhaling as I cling to the joy I see around me; a picture on Facebook of a friend’s son playing on a slip and slide (pure and utter joy), listening to the birds outside my house as they enjoy the bird feeder in my neighbor’s yard, celebrating friend’s birthdays, reading a book on my patio on a beautiful summer day and the list goes on. It seems to me that when we celebrate and remember the gifts and blessings around us, we are able to let Godly fear extinguish those worldly fears in our lives.
I am not saying that we won’t fear because the truth is we will. We are all human…and fear is indeed a human emotion. Tomorrow I will probably wake up with another fear finding its way into my heart and trying to rob me again of my joy. But the truth is God knows what is in store. God indeed provides. I love how the Message translation translates that verse from Matthew 6: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes (Matthew 6:34, Eugene Peterson’s The Message Translation).”
Those words are difficult words to hear and I believe, are even harder for us to trust in. Yet the truth is that God is a God who provides. God often doesn’t provide in the ways we would like him to provide, but God still provides. God provides especially when the hard things arise. I have seen this so many times through answered prayers. Sometimes God says, “Not yet” or “Maybe” or “Later” but God always provides and shows us God’s answer. So today I am choosing to cling to Godly fear, the hope found in answered prayers, and Godly grace.
Today I am linking up with Holly for Testimony Tuesday, Kelly for the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer for Tell His Story, and Holley for Coffee for Your Heart:
My friend, her husband and their three girls stayed with me the other night as they were in town for a wedding. After the wedding and before coming back to my house, they went to the grocery story to pick up bedtime snacks for the girls. The youngest one chose watermelon. So when they left on Sunday morning, the leftover watermelon was left in my fridge. I have been enjoying that yummy watermelon all week. With the yummy watermelon, I have also been enjoying some delicious cherries. The cherries were expensive, but they have been worth every penny. As I have enjoyed the watermelon and the cherries, my mind has begun to reflect more on the fruits of the Spirit.
Then last night, I was reading the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. (I am reading the Bible along with my dear blog friend Wendy and many others). And there was fruit again. This apple is a different kind of fruit as it was the fruit that they were told not to eat. What caught my attention last night (and I don’t recall ever having caught my attention before that) was how the fruit in the book of Genesis is a foreshadowing of the fruits of the Spirit that we hear about in the book of Galatians. What if Eve had restrained self-control and didn’t eat of the tree? What if they had been faithful to God’s words to them?
“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things.”–Galatians 5:22-23 (New Revised Standard Version)
So often it seems that life gets in the way and we forget about these fruits of the Spirit. It is so easy for us to get greedy and totally throw self-control out the window. It is easy for impatience to creep in. I will admit that there are some days that I am more guilty of being impatient than I am of being patient. And it is easy for us to say we hate something or someone.But do we really mean those words? Or do we dislike–Hate is such a strong word– the sin and not the sinner?
I want to be a person that embodies the fruits of the Spirit. I want to show kindness to those that are different to me. I want to be gentle with myself and with all of God’s children. I want to exude joy…like children exude joy. I want to steward what God has given me and to be generous with my time, talents, and treasures. I want to show love to even the unlikeliest among us. Jesus was so good at that. Jesus was always eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus was always turning the world upside down!
This past week, in the news headlines, many of us have heard the story of Bruce Jenner transitioning to a woman; to becoming Caitlyn Jenner. I understand that we are all going to come down on different sides of this issue. But I believe that even in our differences, we can agree to disagree and simply show God’s love to God’s children. I remember a seminary professor once saying, “When a line is drawn in the sand dividing sides and you believe Jesus is standing next to you, he is probably on the other side of the line.” We may not agree or understand the choices people make, but I believe God stills calls all of us “children of God.” And that my friends is enough because we are called and claimed by God!
The youngest of God’s children among us can teach us so much when it comes to living out the fruits of the spirit. I am reminded of a friend’s Facebook post from earlier this week. She shared about her son who is currently in a dance class. As they were getting ready for a big dance show, her son mentioned how he thought a lot of boys would be afraid to participate because they would be afraid of being made fun of. Her son then went on to share how he didn’t care because he likes doing this and was having so much fun! “And a little child shall lead them.”
God loves us! And when we forget who we are, God reminds us of who we are because God knows our stories. God knows who we are. And God will always be there to remind us of that. I am reminded of these lyrics from Jason Gray’s Song “Remind Me Who I Am.” “Tell me once again who I am to you, tell me lest I forget who I am to you, that I belong to you; When my heart is like a stone and I am running far from home, remind me who I am; When I can’t receive your love, afraid I’ll never be enough, remind me who I am; If I am your beloved, can you help me believe it.” (
Jason Gray Lyrics)
Can you help me believe it? Those words are so powerful because it is so easy for us to forget those words. But the truth is that God has the power and the love to always help us believe them. Because we are enough! God created us to be who we are and God’s spirit gifts us with the fruits of the Spirit.
I love how the Message translation translates these verses from the book of Galatians. “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” (Galatians 5:22-23) YES! AMEN! I believe these words are words for us to live by as we live out the fruits of the Spirit that God’s Spirit gifts us with!
(Check this out for a fun way to learn the fruits of the Spirit: Fruit of the Spirit by Uncle Charlie)
Today I am linking up with Holly for Testimony Tuesday, Kelly for the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee for Tell His Story, and Holley Gerth for Coffee for your Heart:
Where do I even begin, you are such a beautiful gift in my life. As a lifelong Lutheran, you have always been engrained in my very fiber and being. Martin Luther talked a lot about YOU! And this Bible verse from the book of Ephesians is a daily reminder of the gift you are “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)
Yes, my friend grace, you are indeed a gift. But what is it about you…that makes me so very thankful for your presence. You always find a way into my head and into my heart.
In the midst of mom’s illness, when I snap back quicker than I should, you tap me silently on the shoulder and tell me that next time I won’t react as quickly. When I beat myself up because the desires of my heart haven’t been met yet, you again look me in the eyes and show me that God does hear them. God will answer them in his time and not my own.
And then I open up the newspaper or turn on the radio and hear the horrific stories of violence and sinfulness…but even in those moments, I hear you whispering. “They are sinners in need of God’s grace.” “You are a sinner in need of God’s grace too!” We all are going to screw up and fall short of the glory of God. Yet you (grace) are sufficient. You will get us through those times. How many times do we sin and think that we are not worthy to be forgiven….yet you continually grasp us…a simple reminder of the power of God and God’s grace in our lives.
In the words of the well-known hymn “Amazing grace,” ‘you (grace) have’ taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious did YOU appear the hour I first believed.’ And you also (grace) have ‘ ‘brought me safe thus far and will lead me home.’
Oh grace! You fall like fresh dew and cover me; cover us in your promises…your promises that daily cover each of us. And as your promises cover us like a well-worn blanket; torn, battered, and beaten, you still provide us with comfort and embrace us in your loving arms. You call us to action; a reason to love and serve God more fully.
Grace is knowing that sometimes we are going to spill milk on the kitchen floor and going to have to clean it up. Grace is knowing that sometimes you are going to make the wrong choices, but there will always be that second chance. Grace is knowing, even in the midst of grief, that you are sufficient when nothing else seems like it is. Grace is sharing my words even when I am trembling as I hit the publish button. Grace is knowing that you are always within my grasp; that you are always within each of our grasps.
And ultimately, my friend grace, you always change me; always change each of us! In the words of Anne Lamott, “I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us (me) where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
I am linking up with Holly for Testimony Tuesday, Kelly for the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer for Tell His Story and Holley for Coffee for your Heart:
A child of God beautifully in over her head.
(I am always learning new tricks. Here is an audio recording of the above poem. I wish there wasn’t so much background noise though!)
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”–Deuteronomy 6:4-9
This verse in Jewish culture is at the heart of Jewish faith and is known as the great Shema. Like the Lord’s Prayer is familiar to Christians, the shema is just as familiar to Jews. A Jewish custom is to take this passage, write it on parchment paper and encase it in the mezuzot; the small boxes on the doorposts of Jewish homes and tefillin: the small boxes worn on the forehead and arms of Jewish people during Jewish morning prayer services. In Jewish culture, this verse is literally being written on the doorposts of their houses and on their gates as well as on their foreheads and their arms.
We don’t walk around with this passage written on our foreheads and our arms. Yet I wonder what the world would look like; what faith would look like if we did. Yesterday one of my colleagues preached his Confirmation sermon about faith and how we aren’t afraid to share our opinions about politics, etc on our Facebook pages. But when it comes to faith, we have a harder time sharing that on our Facebook pages. Why is that anyways?
I have been thinking a lot about the language of faith and today’s youth/young adults. These words from the great Shema are words that I pray more of us live out in our daily lives. They are words that I pray more families and homes will cling to and realize how true they are. The front doors of the church aren’t the actual front doors we walk in and out of to go to church, but are the doors of our homes. Faith begins in the home. Think about the people who have passed on faith and values to you. Who are they? They are, more than likely, parents, family members, and other caring adults who have been there with and for you as you walk and continue to walk along this lifelong journey of faith.
Too often (or rather more often than we care to admit) it seems that we forget the words that we hear in the great Shema. I will be honest. In the congregations I have served, it has been so very hard to watch youth affirm their Baptismal promises, but then to never see them again. (And I am pretty sure this isn’t uncommon; that many of us have experienced this in one way or another) What are we missing? How can we set the bar higher for families? It is my prayer that together we can be allies. We cannot do the job for each other BUT we can support each other and be each other’s cheerleaders.
I don’t claim to have any of the answers, but I have seen the power of the great Shema lived out in congregations and families. I have seen divorced families sit together and learn together. I have seen lively inter-generational conversations take place. I have seen families carry out the baptismal promises they made for their child/children. And in return, I have seen children fully embrace those promises and affirm those promises for themselves at their own Confirmation.
I pray that these words from the Great Shema become our battle cry, our rallying cry for all the generations here and all the generations yet to come. “Write it on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” We might look rather silly walking around with those words encased on our foreheads. But in today’s technological age, there are many places for us to share our faith. Facebook is one of the virtual doorposts for us to share our faith. It seems to me that when faith becomes our everyday language and we aren’t afraid to share our faith, this world and the generations to come will be a much better place.
I don’t know about you but I want better for our youth and young adults. I want them to know what it means to live out the Great Shema in their daily lives and in their homes.
Will you join me in this rallying cry for all of us and for the generations to come?
Linking up with these lovely writers: Anita and Inspire Me Monday; Holly and Testimony Tuesday and Kelly and the RaRa Linkup.
Disclaimer: These are my thoughts and opinions. And are not necessarily the thoughts and opinions of the congregation and community of faith that I serve.