Grandpas.

It has been a year since I’ve posted on this blog, and I’m in no way saying that I’m going to commit to posting regularly again, but who knows.

In the last year I’ve learned what it means to be truly thankful for a lot of things in life. I could write a lot more about it, but I’ll save it for a different day. My grandpa passed away 5 months ago. It has been 5 months without Sunday visits, 5 months without him telling me to “take care now” and holding my hand, 5 months of figuring out what life looks like without him. But, it has also been 5 months of celebrating the 25 years I had with him, 5 months of remembering that his 9 year relationship with Parkinson’s is finally over, and 5 months of feeling grateful for the laughter we shared together and the life lessons he has taught me. Maybe it’s because Thanksgiving is tomorrow, but lately I’ve been feeling pretty dang thankful for the guy who knew how to be the best grandpa ever.

A lot of people have asked me to share the eulogy I gave at his memorial service, so here it is, 5 months late, but still just as true.

“To second what my uncle said, thank you all for being here today. The prayers and love that you have given us all during this time is truly incredible. I’ve been told that my grandpa was a pro when it came to writing and giving eulogies..apparently you can be a pro at this, so bear with me because this is my first one.

A couple days ago I texted my sister Amy and our two cousins Michael and Alexandra asking them to tell me a few words that reminded them of our grandpa, here’s what we said, “Ambitious, adventurous, globetrotter, determined, compassionate, funny, picture taker, ice cream sharer, gold spoon giver, our anchor, full of faith, inspiring, a story teller, proud, humble, the best, and our biggest fan.” Our grandpa frank was all of these things and more-and I think you would all agree. He always kept us on our toes until his last day, and I think this is because he knew what it was like to live a life that was full. Even in his later years, he still knew what was important, family, friends, health, laughter, and faith.

My grandpa taught me more than I can comprehend, but the best thing he taught me was the importance of a piece of paper and a pen. When I was growing up I loved to tell stories, and him being the person that he was-he listened to every story my brain could possibly imagine, and encouraged me to write them down or email them to him. As I got older, he told me to write down all the lessons I had learned, the places I had gone, and one good thing and one bad thing about every day. A bad thing so I remembered that life was never going to be perfect, and a good thing to remember that even when life wasn’t perfect- there is still good because God is good all the time. Now that I’m going to be a pastor, I understand what he meant when he told me that writing changes things. He not only encouraged me to write, but he taught me the importance of words and the ways that they can shape people and impact their lives. He showed me that writing does not only change other people’s lives, but it can change my own. He showed me that writing is one of the ways that I will always be able to see that God is at work in the world and in my life and I’m truly grateful for this.

From playing office with me and sending me home with a brief case full of office supplies and pens when I was 8, telling me I’d need it someday, to welcoming us 4 grandkids in with a grin, jazz hands, and a huge hug, to making sure we all got an equal amount of ice cream after dinner and rotating the gold spoon in it’s proper cycle until he finally got 5 gold spoons, to not allowing us to eat our ice cream until we were members of the clean plate club, to bringing us downtown to his office to look out over the skyline that seemed limitless, to having a lap that was big enough to hold us all when we watched Disney movies, to reading stories and changing his voice so we could tell the characters apart, to calling us all by our full names because they were given to us for a reason- to allowing us to bike a little bit further down the sidewalk than grandma would let us (sorry grandma…), to waving at us during every event we had growing up including one of my first sermons, to holding our hands when life got a little too real, and finally he always reminded the 4 of us not to work too hard, to take care of ourselves, and to come back home every once in a while. Our grandpa was our biggest fan and there has never been a day when I have questioned the amount of love that this man had for not only his family, but the world.

He has taught the 4 of us grandkids what it feels like to grin from ear to ear because someone is so proud of us, that the best thing we can do is be in relationship with others and God, that we always, always need to take care of ourselves because life is too short to burn out, that working hard is important, but working too hard is unnecessary, that the hard times will always pass, and that we can accomplish our goals as long as we don’t give up and pursue them. Our grandpa was our anchor, because he kept us all on our feet when we could have easily stumbled, and kept us all laughing because he knew that laughter was the best way to get through tough times. He was our photographer because we found more pictures of him taking pictures of our family than anything else…those picture boards out there were a real struggle. He was inspiring because he was the most determined, ambitious, compassionate, and goal oriented person we have ever met, but still made time for his family. He was adventurous not only because he traveled, but because he made every day an adventure with us grandkids. He was loving because he didn’t ever want anyone to feel like they were alone, and when you were with him, you didn’t. Our grandpa just had a way of knowing what we all needed, and I think that’s all you can ask for in a best friend.

So grandpa, today this one is for you. We are here to celebrate your life and to thank you for being the best grandpa to the 4 of us, and being our biggest fan. Thank you for singing to us, for letting us win candy land, for reading to us how ever many bedtime stories we wanted to hear, for waving at us even when it was embarrassing and making that wave more obnoxious when you knew we were embarrassed, for being our paparazzi, for writing letters to us even if they were about things we didn’t necessarily understand or your dentist appointments, for cheering for us during every aspect of life, for giving us a hand to hold but never a reason to hold it, and most of all, thank you for teaching us what it looks like to live a good, faithful, and full life. I would be up here for hours if I told you all everything we learned from him, and that is a legacy we should all want to leave.

It’s going to be hard not to miss you because we all love you and I think I speak for the 4 of us when I say you were our first best friend. We know the grief will pass, and that you would say, “This too shall pass.” We know you would say take care of yourselves, I’m still with you. It’s going to be hard to not hold your hand, but I know you are still holding mine. We all know that you’ll be there with you smirk, a poodle, a bowl of ice cream, next to God,  ready to wrap us up in a hug when it’s our time to enter heaven. We all know that the biggest fans get the best seats, and now you have the best seat ever because you get to watch us all at the same time and wave at us from up above.

Oh..and grandma, you will be mad at me for sharing this, but here we go- you were telling me that they called you “Mrs. Frump” as a joke when you were at the Aquatennial events with grandpa because you were with queens, princesses and “big shots,” but anyone in this room will tell you that when grandpa looked at you, you were his only queen, and you always will be. The love you two shared for each other was unlike anything else and truly created by God- when you’re feeling lonely- remember that love-and call me-I’m always here to listen to your stories about him

So as my grandpa always said- Wait-where’s my hug?, drive safe, don’t work too hard, and take care of yourselves…see ya later!”

This post is longer than most, but this year I’m thankful for all the grandpas in the world. Especially my own and all that they taught me. I hope you all have a great day celebrating the things that you are thankful for and making new memories with your loved ones!

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Kill your pity party and just do work.

Yep. This. I feel this so much.

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I’ve had to tell myself not to cry at least three times this morning as I tied a flannel around my waist, slipped into my Converse, and headed for the door to grab my morning coffee.

Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. 

It’s one of those mornings… you know the kind: You wake up late. Nothing you put on your body seems to fit you. You check the scale because it’s possible you gained 10 pounds overnight because spinach dip, no matter how much we say it is a good idea, is never a good idea. Your hair won’t do anything. Your to-do list is long. And nothing, no sweet texts or gentle embraces for the day, will please you.

This is my morning and I have to try really hard not to let the tyrant inside of me– the one who already believes her day is crushed– rule for…

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Africa Jam

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I sit here tonight in awe of what a few dedicated people can do in a place where opportunity is hard to come by.

Today, I was reminded of something: We all have a story. A story that is worth hearing, worth telling, and worth everything. We all grow up differently, even if we are in the same family. I look at the differences and similarities between my sister and I, and sometimes I truly wonder how we have the same parents. I look at the people I have traveled to Cape Town and Guatemala with, and how we all had completely different experiences. I look at everyone I know, and love, and I realized that we all have a different story. A different place where our roots were planted and watered. A different path in life. I look at everyone, and then I look up to the sky, and thank God for creating us all in a unique way, because if we were all the same-it would be a very boring world.

This morning I was able to go to the Africa Jam breakfast. If you know me, you know that Cape Town, South Africa is near and dear to my heart. After going to Cape Town twice, and building relationships that can somehow last when there’s an ocean between them, it’s safe to say that place is beyond powerful. This morning I got a new bracelet that will remind me of these friendships every single day…I’m a little too excited about it.

My friends over there, the view over there, and the love over there is incredible. But there’s something that I remembered today-I have experienced the Cape Town that is full of God’s love in unexpected places and people who have been truly transformed because of their faith-because they were afraid to show up, but did it anyways. I have met people in Cape Town who had every reason to run away from their faith, from God, but instead ran closer to it because they were curious or desperate for something more. I have experienced Cape Town in my own unique and wonderful way. I’ve experienced the Cape Town that threw poverty in my face, but it didn’t phase me because of the community that I experienced in these Townships. I’ve experienced Africa Jam and what it looks like when someone’s life is truly transformed through relationships, music, and God. My people in Minnesota and Cape Town are courageous, vulnerable, and loving. They are authentic, and I cannot ask for much more than that.

This morning I was reminded that we all have different joys and struggles. We all have planted our roots in different places. We have all met different people. We all have our own stories. We are different. We are so different that I often find myself wondering how in the world we have the patience to put up with each other. But then I remember that we have a God who gives us what we need to love each other and provides us with examples of grace every single day. We believe in God that brings us all together, loves us all the same, and provides us all with different paths. This morning I was reminded that the storms in our lives will remain, but when we rely on the roots that we have planted and the love that we receive, we can do anything. We all have different stormy stories, and when we have the courage to share these stories and walk with each other, hand in hand, our roots don’t stand a chance of being uprooted during these storms.

I’m thankful for Africa Jam, for Cape Town, for my friends that are here and my friends that are across the ocean. Most of all, I’m thankful for a God who never gives up on us and always provides us with the courage and vulnerability we need to show up and share our stories about our roots and the work God can do in a human heart.

God doesn’t uproot our lives during the storms, instead he sends people to water those roots and nurture them, to give them strength, and remind us that they are still there, holding us up when the wind tries to knock us down. I went to Cape Town a few years ago expecting that I would change some lives, and instead my life was changed. It’s amazing what can happen when you get out of the way and let God do all the work…try it sometime.

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Where you go, I will go.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”-Ruth 1:16

I was sitting at work today, in my usual chair, at my usual computer, looking out at Minnehaha Creek, staring at my VBS schedule and praying that someone or something would come inspire me to actually type something and get some work done. My office right now is currently covered in boxes and is far from “organized chaos.” We are at the start of summer, the start of a new season, and for me, the start of a new job for the next few months until I start another new job and go on internship as a pastor for the year. It’s a whirlwind when I think about it, but I would not have it any other way. It’s the beginning of the end but the beginning of a brand new chapter…bittersweet? I think yes. The book of Ruth says, “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.” Today, I saw this. Everyday I see this.

I decided to walk around the church and socialize with some of my coworkers because I wasn’t getting anything done..I just couldn’t focus. As I walked down the hallway, I saw a pastor praying in the hallway with a family who was there for a funeral, I heard kids laughing and crying, seniors in high school learning about their may-term internship, and young adults being welcomed back home to church after finishing up their first year of college and thanking God for staying when they wandered. I saw busy-ness. I saw people living their every day lives. I saw brokenness, joy, stress, confusion, love, and empathy. As I was walking around I realized something incredibly important: this is it, this is life. Where you go, I will go, where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

I heard the laughter of a child, and the next minute I witnessed the deep grief one feels when they lose a loved one. I opened my arms to welcome a college student back home and felt the weight be lifted off their shoulders and the relief they felt when they realized God stayed, and so did their church. I saw wide-eyed 17 year olds learn about their first internship and talk about what they wanted to do with their lives. I heard prayers from my colleagues about their hopes and fears for their future. I saw a newborn baby be brought into the church for the first time. I saw a lot of things, but in reality, I witnessed God entering into every stage of life and every emotion

Today, I viewed something I had never envisioned in this way before: life. This is what life is. It’s about laughter, grief, joy, confusion, fear, helplessness, emptiness, brokenness, healing, and experiences. I often hear individuals call Mount Olivet their church home, but today I saw it in a different light.  I saw pastors and other staff members walk with people of all ages saying, “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people. Your God not only will be my God, but is my God.” Today was one of those moments that changed my life. You know, one of those moments where the concrete cracks and you know your foundation will never be the same as it was before that crack or earth shattering moment. From holding a newborn, to hearing the laughter of a preschooler, to seeing a high schooler experience their first taste of the “real world,” to hugging a college student who had enough of that world, to sitting with my mom and drinking a beer, to seeing a family grieve the loss of someone. Jesus says, do not let your heart be troubled or be afraid. I don’t know why Jesus said this, but I think I have an idea…it might be because not only does Jesus love us in a way that we cannot and will not ever be able to comprehend, but also because Christ sent people to go with us, to walk with us, to be our people, and to help us believe in everything that has been done for us..but most importantly, to help us feel the love that we all continuously need.

Most days, I don’t know what I’m doing at work when it comes to planning programs and sending emails. Sometimes it feels like as soon as I’m comfortable, something shifts. I don’t think God intended to make our lives comfortable. God forces us to live into our call and grow, no matter what that means for us. There is one thing I do know though..God wants us to abide in him, and never let our hearts be afraid when we start new things or end old ones. “Where you go, I will go. Your people will be my people. Your God, will be my God.” When you see this verse lived out, and when you start living it out, you realize there is no better way to live. Don’t forget to thank the people who have gone where you have gone, made your people their people, and reminded you that your God is also their God. We all need those people, and we all need to be those people for an individual. Tonight, I hope you feel the love of God, in some way. Whether that be because of a loved one, a book, a song, or in a time of solitude. Tonight, I hope you know that you are a beloved Child of God, and that you will always have someone walking next to you and staying with you. Where you go, God will go. Where you stay, God will stay.

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Let it Shine

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“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.-Matthew 5:14-16

Let your light shine before others, so that they might see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Let your light shine. Just, please, I’m asking you to let it shine.

Everyone can usually pinpoint a time in his or her life when everything changed.. For me, these moments have every emotion that one can experience wrapped into a span of 30 minutes. I was standing on the shore of the river, staring up at the jungle in front of me, watching the sunrise, sand was getting glued into my rain boots, water was rushing over my feet, and emotions were taking me over..not in a way that was obvious to the group I was traveling with, but in a way that I could tell that I would never, ever be the same. I changed my view of the sky to this little boy, sitting on a boat, blowing up his balloon, and doing the same thing I was doing: taking it all in. We were leaving the villages that morning in Guatemala, leaving the jungle, going back to Guatemala City, where some stuff would be familiar. We were living in a city  that was built on a hill. We were leaving the place where God’s light shined in every way that one could imagine. We were leaving a place where their lights could never be put under a bushel. We were literally living in a world  for two days that is what I imagine when I read Matthew 5:14-16. There are no words to describe this place that we were leaving during that moment. We needed a shower, we needed a bed, and we needed time to debrief, to process what we experienced in these remote villages that are in every single way different from the way we lived. We needed each other, we needed to listen, and we needed to let our light shine in it’s own, unique, and wonderful way. Maybe, we even needed some silence.

All I could think about that night was this little boy. I never spoke to him, didn’t know his name, didn’t understand his story, and didn’t know what he was thinking. All I knew is that he knew what love looked like, but most importantly, felt like. He ran up and down the mountains helping the other village men carry our stuff and pack us up to leave. Keep in mind we didn’t ask them to help, they forced us to let them help because this is what love looks like: helping your neighbor any circumstance. This little boy ran up and down this mountain, laughing, screaming, hugging everyone and living in joy. He continuously helped his family, always was around other children, and was always sitting near me doing something, ready to hug me. I didn’t understand a word he said, but he communicated love. He didn’t understand a word I said, but understood that I was human, and his job was to pour out love and also receive love. He let his light shine, every single day. When he was sitting on the shore with us, one of my group members handed him a balloon, and he ran off to do his own thing, which apparently meant sitting on a boat with this bright orange balloon and watching the sunrise as the waves almost knocked him off the boat. Doing his own thing meant being a kid in God’s creation. It meant embracing the things he had been given, but not letting that change the way he behaved. He sat there with his bright orange balloon on a boat, rocking back and forth with the waves that came, staring up at the trees and sunrise, and thinking about something. I stood there, watching him with his balloon, trying to capture my last moments on film, being amazed by the sun and nature, and thinking to myself, “Wow..let your light shine kid. Continue to love and live. Continue to hug anyone, continue to love everyone..but please, just keep on shining your light.”

That night after realizing that I was never going to forget that moment, I asked myself why it impacted me to that extent. This is what I’ve come to: There are so many ways that we all let our lights shine, and oftentimes, we do not even realize it. In that moment, I was standing in the most beautiful place that I have ever been. I was standing there feeling the water and the sand, seeing the sunrise and the jungle come alive, and witnessing a small child love everything that he had been given. I was doing more than just experiencing this. I didn’t only see God’s light in the world, but I felt it. I think about all the times that God’s light goes unnoticed here because we are all too busy rushing from one thing to the next. I think about all the times that I don’t realize that the Spirit is working through me to be that light. I think about all the times in life where I’ve wondered where Jesus was, only to realize that Jesus was walking right next to me, holding my hand, and shining his light. I think about all the times where I have looked up to the sky and night and realized that God is the one that is in charge of it all. Sometimes, we get so caught up that we forget to notice that the light always shines, that God is that light, and that we need to be that light because we live in a world that continuously points out many places of darkness.

People are always doing something or hanging out with someone, and always need to see the light, just like I did that morning. So if I can tell you one thing, it’s this: Let your light shine, so that people can feel God’s love through you. Let your light shine, because you never know who needs a light in their darkness. Let your light shine, do it in a way that embraces who you are. Please..just let your light shine for the entire world to see.

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Off to Guatemala I go..

This morning I’m leaving for a ten-day trip to Guatemala. On this trip, I hope to learn from others. I hope to love others. I hope to see a glimpse of the world they live in. I hope to make some new friends. I hope to learn more about the adults that I’m traveling with. I hope that I make an impact. I hope that someone makes an impact in my life. Most importantly, I hope I learn a little bit more about who God is and what he can do in a human heart.

For the past 5 months people have asked me if I am excited to go on my mission trip. I hesitate to say, “Yes, of course I am!” I hesitate because I do not view this trip as a mission trip. I don’t have any intention of going to Guatemala to change lives. I don’t have a goal that I want to complete, something that I want to change, or people that I want to help. I don’t really have a mission or anything that I need to accomplish other than seeing the beautiful scenery and meeting new people. If anything, I’m going to Guatemala to have my life enriched by those that I will interact with. I’m going to learn a little bit more about love, laughter, and relationships. I’m going to learn more about ministry. I’m going to learn more about myself. I’m going to learn more about the God who created me, loves me unconditionally, and uses me in ways that I will never be able to comprehend.

Right now I’m sitting on my parents couch, waiting for the clock to strike 2:30am, and anxiously awaiting this journey that I’m about to embark on. I’m thinking about all of the people I will miss, the phone that won’t be picked up for 10 days, the things that I might have forgotten to pack in my suitcase, the weight of my over packed suitcase, and the mountains that I will soon see. In a few hours I’ll hop on a plane and fly to a foreign country to join my neighbors and walk alongside them as they walk alongside me. I’m guessing we will laugh, cry, reflect, and share stories. I’m also guessing that we will say, “No way! Me too!” as well as, “Wow, I cannot imagine experiencing something like that.” I’ll somehow communicate with them with only taking 3 years of high school Spanish. I’ll do my best to be the hands and feet of Christ in the only way that I know how to… by loving everyone and embracing every moment. In a few hours I’m embarking on a journey that is less about changing lives and more about building relationships through the one thing that we all have in common: God’s love.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and if I do, I’ll be sure to write about it. For now I’ll stick with this though and trust that God is up to something that my heart and brain will eventually wrap itself around.

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Why are we so afraid?

This morning I was sitting with one of my seminary professors talking about pretty much everything we could have talked about in 90 minutes. It’s an incredible thing when you can sit down with someone who genuinely cares about who you are and how God is working in your life. We talked a lot about change and fear and how they go hand in hand. You can’t really have one without the other. Change is the only constant thing in our lives, besides our faith, and this is why I always write about it.

As humans, we fear change, and oftentimes after this change happens, we wonder why we were afraid of that change in the first place. Of course change is scary. Your life can be rearranged, your faith can be shaken or strengthened, your relationships can grow or shrink, and somehow, in the end..you come out better than you were before. It’s weird, we are all so afraid of being changed and becoming something new, but why? Why are we so afraid of becoming the people we are called to be, feeling awkward when we simply say, “I don’t know,” and most importantly embracing who we are and what we are capable of? I truly the believe the world would be a different place if we all embraced our fears and accept the changes that happen when we do the things that scare us the most, the things that make us feel uncomfortable.

In reality, everyday we learn something new, become someone new, and experience something new. We never view it this way though. If that were the case, I feel like change would be something we would all embrace, beg for, and experience to its full extent. All day today I’ve been thinking about the ways that we let fear get in the way of the words we want to say, the things we want to do, and the changes that we need to experience. Last summer I spoke to a group of college students about being afraid, but continuing to live anyway. Today I talked to my professor about the same thing, being afraid, but living out your call in the midst of that fear. It’s interesting to me, when we start something new it’s scary, we don’t know what we are doing, and we ask the questions that don’t always have a purpose or reason. After a while though, this new thing becomes something different, and we slowly start to find the courage to ask the real, deep, meaningful questions that we desperately want to hear the answers to. Once this new, scary, thing becomes our normal, we begin to live in our fear and grow in our fear, and when we do this-we change. This thing that we now view as normal becomes something that we should still fear because it still has to change us in someway. It’s a cycle that keeps on going and encourages us to grow. We slowly morph into the people we are meant to be-the people God calls us to be. We do this by doing the things we are afraid of doing-by asking the questions we are afraid to ask, and hearing the answers that we mostly likely are afraid to hear. Maybe, if we all started to view fear and change as a cycle-they would be easier to comprehend.

I like to believe that fear doesn’t control our lives. That everyday we do things that scare us because we know these things will end up changing us- eventually for the better. I like to think that showing up is the most courageous thing we can do, especially when we are afraid. For me, the greatest moments in life have been the moments when I have let my faith and courage diminish my fear and let God into those places that I have tried to hide, but desperately needed to show.

With all that being said, I’m leaving you with a quote from Shauna Niequist that has encouraged me to live in my fear, uncertainty, and change: “Everything is interim. Everything is a path or a preparation for the next thing, and we never know what the next thing is. Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially. We can dig in, make plans, write in stone, pretend we’re not listening, but the voice of God has a way of being heard. It seeps in like smoke or vapor even when we’ve barred the door against any last-minute changes, and it moves us to different countries and different emotional territories and different ways of living. It keeps us moving and dancing and watching, and never lets us drop down into a life set on cruise control or a life ruled by remote control. Life with God is a dancing dream, full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we’ve said we’ll never do. And with the surprises comes great hope.”

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