Tag Archives: church

A Little Thing Means a Lot

I stayed in bed far too long yesterday morning. Excitement and fear paralyzed me as I looked forward to the lunch appointment I had on the University of Mary campus with someone who had intervened in one very specific moment in my life over 20 years ago.

When I was a freshman at Concordia College, my bipolar self was not diagnosed accurately.   The highs and lows of energy that I still experience manifested themselves in those days in a variety of ways such as chaotic eating, concentrated exercise schedules,  extended depressive episodes, odd sleep patterns, spurts of intense productivity,  and general silliness.  All of these things masked what truly bothers me – energy-based bipolar tendencies which a psychiatrist finally diagnosed correctly when I was 36 years old. During those college days, though, I spent a good amount of time “on the run” – something I still often feel tempted to do and have posted about in the past.

The church I attended during high school had a very active youth group. We went to camp, traveled on mission trips, and spent most Wednesday nights and weekends together.   Every Christmas and Easter, our group joined other groups from around North and South Dakota for retreats.  These were my good friends – the same friends that I found at camp. I married one of them, and I remain friends with most of the others to this day in some way or another (at the very least on Facebook).  I also had the opportunity to meet other adults from around the state who spoke into my life at various points throughout high school, college, and into my adult life.

Several weeks ago, I sat in a meeting with University of Mary Student Support Services staff members.  Each of my English 098 students has an advisor, and I wanted to share my thoughts, impressions, and concerns with the advisors as a group. I had emailed with many of them, but their supervisor and I thought it would be worthwhile for me to attend one of their meetings.  When we went around the table and introduced ourselves, one name…and the face…seemed oddly familiar.  I was completely caught off-guard but had to focus on my meeting.

After the meeting, I could not shake the impulse to contact her, so I did….by email…because that is the best way to find out information without exposing my soul to too much pain or rejection if I am wrong.

Ummm…were you, by chance, a youth leader from <<her church>> in the 90s?

I sat at my computer and waited for the reply. I refreshed my email several times, and then her response came – YES!  I shared a few more details about who I was “back then,” and her reply came back again…she remembered me!

The next day, we were at an event together.  When I saw her, I had mixed emotions about knowing that she knew that me…the me who left her dorm room in the middle of the night because the urge to run had overwhelmed her…the me who did not know how to deal with the thoughts that told her to run…the me who showed up in a driveway hundreds of miles away from college, slept in the car, and was found that way the next morning by the very woman standing in front of me…the me who this youth leader had encouraged to go back to school saying that I was fine.

“We should have lunch,” she said.

Yesterday, we had lunch.  Throughout the morning, though, all of the parts of me that feels and experiences joy, anxiety, and fear held my body in a paralyzing force.  The what ifs of how lunch could go raced through my mind and nearly kept me from going.  To be honest, I left the house later than I had planned, I took the long way to the university, and I thought I might just keep driving south to miss the lunch appointment altogether.  Eventually I put on my big girl pants, and I still arrived early.  Strange how that works!

All morning, I felt like “that me” again…young, frightened, and ready to run.  At the same time, I felt like the “this me” who is the dean of students of a new little online school in Minnesota, teaches classes at the University of Mary, is married to a pastor, and has two grown children attending Baylor University.  This paradox of us being able to feel two ages at once is something that I need to explore more in another post.

When we sat down, she asked me to tell her about me.  I was stunned and absolutely speechless.  I know – me! speechless??  I had no idea where to start.  There I was sitting in front of a woman who had found the eighteen year old me in her driveway after I had driven a few hundred miles and slept in my car…and she wanted to know about the “today” me – the forty year old pastor’s wife and mother of two freshmen in college.  It dawned on me that my own children are now the age of “the me” who ended up in her driveway that night.

As I told her about me, I told her the raw stuff without going into the icky details of any of it. We both have master’s degrees in education, work as guidance counselor types, and are familiar with the lingo, so it was easy to be sort of clinical about it all.

Before I knew it, lunch was over.  We parted ways as we each have jobs that need us.  We waved goodbye in that way that we do when we know the person is in the same town or on the same college campus most days.  The mood was light, and it became clear to me that all of my anxiety was silly.

Next week, I will drop off a book to the student success center where she works.  The book is a compilation of essays written by my students. The title is Unexpected Giants and is a tribute to those who have carried my students (and me) on their shoulders so that we could see futures that we could not have seen alone.

When I  mentioned the incident to her (as a point of reference for other incidents in my life), I used my favorite term – “crazy.”  She sort of laughed it off and said, “I worked with teenagers, Stacy.  I didn’t really think it was all that unusual.”

While my essay is not about this particular giant, it easily could be.  One day, I hope to write the book that features all of my giants.  I had good parents who did their best raising me.  But sometimes we need other caring adults to impact our lives as well.  This dear woman did that for me clearly – based on her comment to me yesterday – without judgement. I am thankful for the brief, yet powerful, role she played in my life.

I know that this season is busy, but can I challenge all who read this?  Whose life can you briefly touch today, this week, this month, this year, or this lifetime?  And…as you drive to work, put up the tree, or bake those cookies, consider who were giants in your life…and how you can let them know the powerful way that they impacted your life?



Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

It Felt Like Home

Weddings are a great time to reconnect with friends.  This was especially true this past weekend when my family made a long haul by planes and automobiles  to attend the wedding of two very dear people. Readers of my blog know that my family just went through an “upsetting of the apple cart” transition.  First, both of my children graduated from high school (you can read my thoughts on that here). Next, both of my children left for Baylor University (you can read my thoughts on that here).  While we prepared to take my kids off to college, they helped us pack up our home of nearly twelve years and assisted in our move 400 miles west from Minneapolis, MN, to Bismarck, ND.  You can read about my thoughts pre-move here and my thoughts post-move here and here.

While we have been back to Minneapolis a few times in the past months, we have only seen a handful of our friends on those visits.  This past weekend, we saw many, many of our friends (and missed those we didn’t!).  To call them “friends” does not completely describe them as these people are truly family to us.  When a pastor and family serve, learn, live, and love along with their church, their church becomes their family.  We have grown in our faith together.  We have grown in our understanding of serving those around us together.  We have worked on projects together, have raised children together, and have built supportive relationships.

In the same way that leaving our biological family to attend college, to pursue a great job opportunity, or to follow the man of our dreams is hard, the leaving of the pastor is hard on everyone involved.

The wedding was beautiful.  The reception was fun – seriously fun.  The bride and the groom were joyful and clearly thrilled to be together with so many people whom they love and who love them.  Their families were gracious and generous.  The sermon honored God, and the wedding service itself drew us all into worship.

Side note: I love my new life.  I enjoy my new jobs, and I have an amazing house.  We knew people in Bismarck already, so we had some instant community. Other new friends have reached out to us in ways that make me hope that I have done the same for others. I am so thankful for this because being lonely is so awful.  I am also thankful that my children enjoy Baylor University.  They are in a program that allows them to tailor their college class schedules to their liking in ways that most schools do not.  My husband’s position is challenging and exciting. I have never been more certain that we are exactly where God wants us doing exactly what God prepared for us.  We are all where we should be.  However, none of these truths make it easy to be where we are instead of with our beloved church family.

At the end of reception (yes, we closed down the place along with other “closing” types – you party animals know who you are!), I had a brief conversation with dear man while waiting for the elevator to arrive.  He and his wife, along with several others, are talented musicians at Faith Baptist Church. Along with the worship minister, these talented friends have created a recognizable worship service “sound” that ministers my soul as I worship God with them.  The bride and groom had asked a handful of them to be the wedding musicians.  As they led the congregation in Beautiful by Phil Wickham, my voice blended with voices that have been part of my weekly worship experience for nearly twelve years.  Tears of joy mixed with tears of grief.

The brief conversation with my friend ended as he said, “Tonight felt like home.”

Tears sprung in my eyes, and I quickly tried to wipe them away.

We worshiped God, we sang together, we witnessed the marriage of dear friends, and we celebrated together. I was home – even for just a brief afternoon and evening – and I am so thankful that I was.  We are family even though we will not see each other as often or do the same things together that we have done for years.  But we are family united in our devotion and belief in a God who loved the world enough to send His Son to reunite us all to Him.  And through that, we will be family forever regardless of the distance and experiences between us.

Home has many different meanings to many different people.  And even for me, home has many nuances.  But I can say without a doubt that I was home this weekend, and I love those family members.  As the days go on, we will all get more and more used to this change in how we function as family.  We will change, we will grow, and we will do the good things that God prepared for us to do.  One day, we will be together with Him in eternity, and all of the tears we shed today will be forgotten…because we will finally be home.

Revelation 21:4: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.



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Book Review: Troubled Minds

I love Facebook for as many reasons as I dislike it.  I cannot stand that people (including myself sometimes) do not consider what they write before they click “post.”  I get annoyed when we are drawn in to conversations on Facebook and say things that we would never say in person. 

Our personalities are amplified on Facebook.

If the negative aspects of our personalities are amplified on Facebook, it makes sense that our positive aspects are amplified as well.  One personality type that I especially appreciate on Facebook is the “sharer.”  This is the person who sees something great and wants to let everyone know about it. Others “share” things as well, but the “sharer” tends to have credibility to those shares – perhaps the person has read the book, knows the author, or has tried the product.

A book title  “share” came across my Facebook wall recently that motivated me to purchase a book – ok…three books – immediately.  I had planned to buy the two books by Caryn at some point anyway, but buying three books on Amazon meant free shipping.  And – let’s face it – I needed summer reading just in case I actually take my vacation time.


Much like my experience with Sober Mercies by Heather Kopp (read my review by clicking here – trust me, you will love the title of the post!), Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson has consumed most of my recent free time (and has even caused me to put off some other things that were supposed to get done).  It is an absolutely compelling read.

Compelling reads tend to have similar elements such as personal stories, important factual information, or calls to action.  These types of books draw us in because of their very nature.  Amy Simpson brings all of these to the table.  It is not or but rather and.

Personal Story: Amy weaves her own family’s story throughout the book. From page one, readers know that the author has first-hand experience with mental illness as the daughter of a schizophrenic. This connection throughout the book is so important.  Amy does a great job of including this story without pushing the reader to feel pity for her and her family.  She shares some difficult experiences, and we feel for her – but she only takes the story so far as to remind readers that she knows what mental illness is, what it does, and how the church could do better to help those who suffer.  Excellent.

Factual Information:  Amy provides a useful tool in Chapter 2 with an overview of the most prevalent mental illness categories.  This allows the reader to become a lay person in this area with some understanding of the broad categories and how a mental illness may show its face.  What is does not do is prepare anyone to become a therapist!  But that is not Amy’s point, and she makes that quite clear.  Amy also shares statistical information about churches, pastors, and mental illness.  Excellent.

Action Points for Churches: Each chapter has suggestions for churches as well as stories of current churches who are ministering to those suffering from or supporting others with mental illness.  The main point of each item is that churches should do something to reduce the stigma around mental illness.  Excellent.

I have one wish in this book.

While Amy does a great job of mentioning pastors who suffer themselves, I wish she had devoted an entire chapter to this.  She primarily mentions pastors with mental illness as those who tend to be more aware of mental illness, who try to minister to others, and who have a better understanding of the need to reduce stigma.  What she does not do is suggest to congregations how they can minister to or better understand their pastors (or their family members) who suffer from mental illness.  This is not a huge drawback to the book; however, it was a missed opportunity that I think is a huge need.

I recommend this book to just about anyone who breathes.  Buy it. Read it. Share it.

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Hey! Unto YOU a child is born!

Last night, my family attended a production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at the SteppingStone Theatre in St Paul, Minnesota.  When my friend who hosts the weekly playgroup in her home told me that she and some playgroup families were going to the show, I quickly said I wanted to attend as well.

I love The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

In the fall of 1985, I was a sixth grader at Viking Elementary School in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  One of our lunch aides, Mrs. Barnum, also directed theatrical productions, and she asked me to audition for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at the Fire Hall Theatre.  My parents obviously agreed to let me audition because I was cast as Gladys Herdman.  That role began my annual participation in the Fire Hall’s Christmas shows for the next few years, and – though I made it into other shows – no part would ever compare to that of Gladys Herdman.

Gladys Herdman has a very different life than I had.

In my “real” life, I was the oldest of two children; Gladys is the youngest of six.  In my “real” life, I knew that I would have enough to eat and a place to sleep; Gladys and her siblings steal food from others because they had little for themselves.  In my “real” life, I did not make waves; Gladys is never quiet.  I had never been in a fight; Gladys starts fights.  Being Gladys was the most fun I had ever had in my life, but I was glad that I could return to my “real” life at the end of the night.

It was so fun to watch “Gladys” in the production last night.


When the show ended, I warned my kids that I wanted a picture with “Gladys.”  It was an opportunity that I could not pass up.  She did not hesitate to say, “yes.”  And then I found her dad (who was also in the show) to ask his permission to share the photo on my blog.  I am so thankful that he agreed, and our conversation surrounding the show and its message blessed me immensely.  As I drove home alone (the huz was sick and had not joined us, and the kids had a party to attend), I thought further about the show, its message, and the character of Gladys.

The Herdmans, six siblings from a poor family who have a reputation around town for being dirty, mean, and horrible, crash Christmas pageant rehearsal at the local church.  Most of the church kids are tired of the “same old pageant,” but the Herdmans are intrigued by the story.  They eagerly volunteer for main roles and push out the competition with threatening looks.  The church kids are relegated to the angel choir and shepherd roles.

As the Herdmans learn about the various players in the Christmas story, they react in ways that the church kids – who had heard the story over and over – found objectionable.  Yet their enthusiasm in protecting Jesus from Herod and their desire to make Him the central focus of the show was refreshing.

Gladys plays “the angel of the Lord” in the Christmas pageant.  She likens this character to “the mighty Marvel” of Wonder Comics in the following interaction with the pageant director during rehearsal (click here for more quotes found on http://imdb.com):

Grace Bradley: [reading the story of Christmas] And, lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them…
Gladys Herdman: Shazaaammmm!
Grace Bradley: What?
Gladys Herdman: Out with a vengeance in the darkness, the mighty Marvel!
Grace Bradley: Gladys, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Gladys Herdman: The Mighty Marvel in Wonder Comics.
Grace Bradley: No, this is the Angel of the Lord.
Gladys Herdman: Out of nowhere, right? In the black night, right?
Grace Bradley: Well, yes, in a way.
Gladys Herdman: Shazaaaammmm!

Gladys’s enthusiasm for her part continues into the pageant itself.  In fact, she tells the shepherds exactly where to find Jesus (what if they would get lost?).  She wants everyone to know where to find Jesus, and she is not ashamed to scream it as loud as she can.  At the end of the play itself – after the pageant is over and the adults have agreed that it was the best pageant ever – Gladys returns to the stage to tell the audience what she told the shepherds, “Hey! Unto you a child is born!”

And the stage lights go dark before the curtain call.

Gladys’s line is the last line of the play.  It is the most important line of the play.  She says it with such enthusiasm that we have to believe her. 

Unto us a child is born. 

That is what Christmas is all about, right?  A child being born – unto us.  And Gladys wants to make sure that we all know it, that we all believe it, and that we all can find Him.

I want to play Gladys again.

With eyes opened, with self-consciousness gone, and with arms flailing as she bips around the pageant stage, Gladys proclaims the truth about Jesus.  She wants the role of the Angel of the Lord, and she is willing to fight others for it.  Once she has been given the role, she enthusiastically tells others where to find Jesus and tells others that He came for them.  Gladys did not know much, but she knew what was important.  Jesus was born, He was born for us, and that news should be shared with others.

Can we all be a bit more like Gladys this year?


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A Clean Slate

I have stared at the blank page on my computer screen for the past ten minutes with breaks to check email, Facebook, and order a Christmas present on Amazon.com.  Last night, I spoke with someone about how I “used to blog daily” and was intrigued by the conversation as it followed a friend’s comment on Facebook earlier this week: “…btw, did you know you haven’t written since October?! Having withdrawals here you know.”

I want to write a blog post.

I really do.  I always have so much to say inside my own head as well as verbally.  I always want to sit down and write. But what started out as a little project to slow my racing mind had turned into a demand on my life that I felt I needed to do so that others would be pleased.  I found my mood being swayed – positively and negatively – by the number of comments made on posts each day or the number of hits or shares I saw.  I would watch the stats of a post and hit refresh every five minutes.

This was not what I had intended to do when I started writing blogs.

And so, I needed to take a break.  I shared that publicly back in October – the last post before this one.  And the blog went silent.

Until today.

Last night, I attended a joint Christmas service at our church.  It was a joint effort between our church and a group called FreedomWorks, a post-prison ministry for men, which meets in our building on Thursday nights for food, fellowship, and a service.  As part of last night’s service, men involved in the ministry (therefore, former prison inmates) shared about their experiences, how the ministry had impacted their lives, and what their lives were now.  As they talked and then throughout the singing of Christmas carols, one phrase kept coming to me – “Clean Slate.”

Christmas is a great time to consider how invested in us God is.  He cared so much about our state as humans – sinful and separated – that He sent Jesus to us.  From that humble day in a stable in Bethlehem, Jesus was on a road to only one place – Calvary – where He would die to pay the price for the sin in me and then rise again to conquer death.

God provided Jesus to give us a clean slate.

I often live my life as if I am carrying around my list of dirty deeds, but that is not what God ever intended me to do.  Yes – He wants me to recognize that I am a sinner, but that is simply a truth that I must acknowledge so that I realize my need for Jesus.  Once I recognize that need and hold firmly to that truth, I am to live a life of freedom.  Galatians 5:1 tells me that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

Living life with the dirty deed list in one hand does not free me completely do and experience all that God has for me in this life.  He wants my hands free and ready to act in love to others.  He wants my hands free to experience the blessings He has for me.  God wants my heart to be free from the burden of guilt that I carry.

As we consider the manger this Christmas and thank God for all that He has done and will do, I think we need to remember that Christ came to endure life as a man and to die on our behalf to free us – to give us a clean slate.  And in living out our freedom in service to God and others, we honor His death until He comes again.

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Filed under faith, Thoughts

What Church Means to Me

It is election time, and the word “church” seems to get tossed around, misused, and twisted to the point that I no longer recognize what those who are saying “church” mean.  It is election time, and people use the word “church” to add some kind of authority to what they are saying to the point that I no longer recognize what authority those who are saying “church” mean.

Church is not a term that I use lightly.

I do not often mention in a post the fact that I go to church.  I do not often mention in a post the fact that call myself a Christian because I believe in the saving power of Christ and grace that God extends to all because of His death.  Nor do I not often mention in a post itself that the fact that I a pastor’s wife.

I do not mention these things because so many seem to use these for political gain.

But being a Christian (a Christ-follower) is at the heart of who I am.  It defines me in ways that I want to be defined even when I fall short of the perfection of the One whom I follow.  To identify myself with Christ brings clarity to my life.  I do not have to struggle with the questions of “who am I?” or “why am I here?” because being a Christian simply answers those questions as struggle with applying the answers.

Going to church allows me to be challenged by others who identify themselves this way.

I go to church to join other flawed, broken, and needy people who identify themselves as Christ followers, and we join together to struggle with how to follow Him more effectively, more actively, and more sacrificially.  I go to church to hear the Word of God proclaimed from the pulpit along with 200 others who hear the same word and take away something different, but there is beauty in that unity.  I go to church to sing praises to God along with 200 others sing beside me.

We live life together.

Had the writer of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes written the third chapter today rather than when he did, he would have said very similar things but with some additions (in bold).

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Notice that nothing is bolded.

With all that has changed since the time of the Old Testament, much has remained the same about relationships – and the relationships in the Church.  The Israelites certainly quarreled about everything from leadership positions to how best to raise their children, but they stayed unified under the Lord.  They probably did not want to be together all of the time, but they came together weekly to study the Scriptures and to worship God.

Things are not always perfect in my church.  We are family, and – like our families of origin – we have differences from time to time.  But more often than not, we live life together – unified under the Lord and coming together weekly to study the Scriptures and to worship God.

And there is a time for everything.

This past weekend revealed that to me very clearly as we had a bridal shower on Saturday morning (a time to celebrate), a funeral on Saturday afternoon (a time to mourn our loss and a time to celebrate a great life lived), and a Sunday School Picnic on Sunday after the service.  The picnic was especially great because it was potluck-style, and there were some great eats to be had!

The image of us living life together has stayed with me and will stay with me.  As I observed the picnic yesterday, I was reminded again of how we live life together. 
  • A grandfather holding his sleeping baby grandson talked with a father holding his sleeping baby girl.
  • Grown men and women playing a wiffle ball game with children as young as 3.
  • Two teens flanking their youth sponsor as they all lay on a blanket – the teens listening to the sponsor as she read aloud her study material for a master’s class.
A time to eat and a time to play.  A time to listen and a time to praise.

A time for everything…Amen.


Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

The Gift of God

Every morning, our church’s Facebook page posts a verse as a way to encourage, to challenge, and to support its followers.  More people than just those who attend our church have liked it, and often those who “like” the verse do not attend our church.

Today’s verse is foundational to my belief as a Christian.

Romans 3:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I learned this verse “way back” in 1985 when I participated in a scripture memory program at Grace Baptist Church in Grand Forks, ND, called AWANA. 

What do I remember most about the program?

What I remember most is the women who committed to teach me the Scriptures each week. They cared about my future spiritually and about my present emotional self. They did “check ins” with each of us each week, and they deeply impacted our lives for the better.  Many of us who were in that program in 5th grade have continued to pursue the Lord, and some of that thanks must go back to them.

What has stayed with me since that program?

That year in AWANA laid the foundation for me to step into a lifetime of faith in Christ.  I acknowledged that I was sinful, and I recognized that the cost of my sin would be my eternal death – separation from a loving God.  I believe this, and I need to share it today.  Like a well-spring of words, my fingers must type it.

I hold to the promise of the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ – His death on the cross to pay for humanity’s sins and His conquering of death for us all by raising again on what we now celebrate Easter as remembrance.

The gift of God needs to be shared.

Jesus was quite clear with His disciples after His resurrection that the truth about who He was and what He had come to do should be shared with all they (we) come into contact.

Matthew 28: 19-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The gift of God is eternal life, and we must share it.  Jesus said so.

Now go!

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Struggling with Bipolar

On Sunday evening, as I shared about Pray! Shirt Fridays and its beginnings, I dropped a phrase that I tend to use – “I struggle with bipolar.”

It was meant to explain some of what led me to open a business to support an idea that a few camp counselors had that could lead to a region-wide or nationwide movement.  The phrase was meant to just explain away why I, a woman with plenty to do, would add more to her plate by ordering 500 t-shirts and starting a website for the business.  It was meant to share a bit of who I am so that what I did made more sense.

Sometimes my words open doors in other’s minds.

Later on Sunday evening, as I prepared to roast marshmallows for the girl’s s’more, a woman approached me and said, “When you mentioned you ‘struggle with bipolar,’ what did you mean?”

What does that mean?

It was a choice of words, really. 

I could have said, “I am diagnosed with bipolar tendencies.” Instead, I said that I struggle with bipolar.  I could have said, “I take medication to control bipolar tendencies.”  Instead, I said that I struggle with bipolar.

And this choice of words led to a conversation.

I am open to the conversations that come from the choice of words that I use.  I want to be open to sharing my experience – as limited and new as is it – with others.  So many people have said that they are shocked with how open I am with the struggles I have, but I am shocked that this is shocking.

We have to stop hiding our struggles from each other.

I know that a lot of our struggles are embarrassing.  Why wouldn’t we hide our struggles? Why wouldn’t we keep things to ourselves?  Who wants to share about not sleeping for days on end during a mania or about staying in bed for days at a time during a low?

What if hiding from each other is hurting each other?

By keeping all of our struggles to ourselves, we make them taboo.  I am not advocating for us to just talk and talk and talk about what we are going through, but I am advocating for there to be more authentic community – especially in the church.  Moving into a deeper relationship with others in our church community should be a goal.

This is really scary – I know that.  As someone who is pretty open about her struggles, I have been hurt by being honest about what kind of day or week that it is in my life.  It has not been easy being open about this struggle in my life. The thing is that I just do not know any other way to be.  I cannot keep silent about what is happening in my head and in my mind because I have seen how much silence has hurt others in the past.

Silence about struggles hurts everyone.

When we keep silent about issues in our lives, others – who struggle with similar issues – feel like they have to keep silent as well.  And this just makes everything bigger than it is.  And it leaves us alone with our issues.

The worst feeling I have ever felt is that of being alone.

God never intended us to be alone.  He is with us always, and He gave us community to surround us when we struggle.  We are not meant to be alone, and God has provided us with each other to ensure that we are not alone.  When we do not acknowledge this and do not share our lives with each other, we work against what God has intended.

I struggle with bipolar – I have been diagnosed with its tendencies, and I medicate to stay balanced.  This is not something that makes me jump up and down with joy, but – if it is what I have in my life – I will share it with others because I have benefited when others have shared with me.

I say that I struggle because it is not easy to experience a change energy levels at the whim of my chemistry.  I say that I struggle because it is not fun to know that today’s mania will only last so long and the productivity that I love will turn into a lack of energy that I tend to detest.  I say that I struggle because this “disorder” is not something that is well accepted in the work place, the church, or just about anywhere.  I say that I struggle because I get strange looks when I share about it.

It is a struggle.

We all struggle with something – physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual.  Because of sin’s impact on the world, we struggle.  And the best medicine out there will not be able to completely take away the impact of sin.  When one disorder or illness has been knocked out, another will come along thanks to the impact of sin in the world.

But we do not struggle without the promise of redemption. 

On Friday, I read the post of a dear young lady who serves in Africa.  She typically blogs about stories of redemption, but on Friday she laid out a brave and raw post about the hard stuff without the redemptive ending.  Her post hit me in the heart and reminded me that we have not been promised redemption now.  That was never part of the promise, but the promise still remains.

So – I struggle, but I struggle with the hope that redemption for us all is on its way.

In His time…


Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

Mother’s Day Musings

It is Saturday evening, and I cannot write a blog post.

I have sat in front of the computer screen, walked around the house, opened the refrigerator, taken my blood pressure, unloaded the dishwasher, and put on my sexy anti-embolism stockings.  Basically, I want to write a blog post for Mother’s Day that is inspiring and wonderful, but it just is not in me.

I just want to sit in front of my iPad watching “Law&Order: SVU” – I am pretty sure that I am addicted.

This is my ninth Mother’s Day without my mom; she died in June 2003 from a weird cancer.  I try very hard to enjoy Mother’s Day even though she is no longer with me.  I try to find another woman to celebrate in some way.  Most years I give a card or a gift to someone who has been important to me or could use encouragement in that year.  It has been a great way to enjoy Mother’s Day.

This year, I was supposed to be in Rhode Island visiting my grandmother and other relatives – most of them women.  I had looked forward to this Mother’s Day as a way to be with those wonderful women on Mother’s Day.  Due to the recent health stuff I had going on, I returned home rather than going out east.  As much as I see this being necessary and good, I am sad.

And I am excited about tomorrow because I have great kids who will celebrate me well.  I honestly have no idea what my problem is!

Earlier in the day, “Really Rosie” crossed my mind.  The kids had decided to go to Southwest High School’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” – the boy saw it last night and wanted to see it again.  The small cast size of the show reminded me of some of my community theater days, and “Really Rosie” was one of my favorites.

You can watch the cartoon of the musical on YouTube.  It is only about half an hour long. Click here to watch Part 1Click here to watch Part 2.

Musicals have been a huge part of my life which makes them a big part of my life both as daughter and as mother.  My mom and I worked on a musical together when I was in high school.  My kids love musicals, and we are having a great time working on these together.

It is now Sunday morning, and I remain stuck.  I took a break thinking that maybe I would come up with something great and inspiring…but I have not.

Being a mom is the best and hardest thing I have ever done.  Pouring myself into little people who are now grown people who can drive places on their own while I sit at home and pray that no one hits them on the road…well – the best and hardest thing I have ever done.  I love being the mom of my children. They are so great, and I feel as if their greatness is in spite of me rather than because of me.  I am so flawed….how could I possibly have raised these young people?

Being a daughter when the mom dies young is hard.  But when is it not hard to be the daughter when the mom dies?  I look at my friends who are ten, twenty, and thirty years my elder as they lose parents, and it does not seem any easier.  In fact, there seems to be a difficulty in their experience that I cannot relate to – they had more years.  At first, I was jealous about this and almost indignant that they had less right to sadness than I do.  But I have come to realize that it is just different.

Loss has no singular experience.

And then I know that Mother’s Day is hard on so many for other reasons – women who want children of their own but have not or may not ever, women who have lost children to miscarriage or death, and women who had chosen abortion in their past but now feel that deep loss.

So – if Mother’s Day is full of sorrow and loss, why do we celebrate?  And if this curse of pain stays with us from year to year, why should we set aside an entire day for this painful experience?

Days like to day are important.  When grief is part of our experience, we can push it under the surface and move on without having to deal with it.  We go on as if the painful experiences did not happen.  Our culture expects us to do this.  Other cultures allow for extended mourning periods, but ours does not.  In order to face our culture, we give in to it and pretend that we are ok.  And in doing so, we harm ourselves.  Because others do not know how to deal with us in our pain – even, at times, those who share similar experiences – we create an unhealthy façade.

We hurt ourselves in this, and we hurts others in doing this.  We provide an example for those around us that we says, “I can handle this.”  And in doing so, we also say, “You must handle your loss as well.”

But days like Mother’s Day come, and we cannot ignore the pain or the sorrow.  The truth of our experience wells up in us and – because we have not dealt with things appropriately – we hurt and want the day to go away.  We want to stay home from church where we are faced with other people’s Mother’s Day moments because that is not our experience – maybe it never was or maybe it just is not anymore.

But we should not stay home from church, and we should not hide our pain.  We were built for community, and our community was created in order to share with us in our sorrows as well as in our joy.  Even in the midst of our pain, we need to be able to celebrate who our mothers were and the joys of others who still have their mothers with them.

Additionally, we need to look around us and see others who are in pain as well.  Pain shared is easier to carry ourselves.  Having a good, possibly brief, cry of remembrance together could be what we all need today in order to then celebrate what we have or what others have.

And for me – I need to look in the faces of my children and remember that this day is as much for them as it is for me.  They want to celebrate me (they gifted me with a great bag this year, and I love it), and I need to be 100% in that celebration without tainting it for them.

This has turned into quite a little rant, and I doubt that it has much coherence, but I am going to hit “publish” anyway.  If anything, I want to encourage us all to look a bit outside of ourselves today and honor those who have mothered for they have done a difficult work.  And may God bless us with the joy and hope that comes from His word and His saving act of sending His son to die for us.  It is in this that all pain and sorrow will one day make sense even though today it seems beyond our understanding.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Filed under faith, Parenting

Soup Off 2012–The Winning Recipes

Our church has a weekly children’s program called AWANA, an internationally known organization that promotes Scripture memory.  In the spring of each year, there is a Grand Prix where kids in grades 3 – 6 race cars that they have made themselves from the AWANA approved block of wood.  The church youth group has capitalized on this Wednesday by hosting an annual “Soup Off” competition as a fundraiser.

How It Works

  • Youth group students, parents, and sponsors work the meal
  • We recruit contestants to enter a soup in the “game” – it costs $5 to enter
  • Between 15-25 soups enter each year for the prize – a soup ladel!
  • People pay to eat and vote for their top three soups
  • Church attendees donate bars for dessert – thanks to those who did!
  • A local grocery store (thanks, Cub!) donates bread to go with the soup
  • Winners are announced in the middle of the Grand Prix

Last year, my sweet girl won with her raspberry white chocolate dessert soup (I think the brownie croutons pushed the voters over the edge).  This year, with dessert soups banned, there was some super tough competition.

My personal favorite – the Buffalo Chicken Soup – did not make it into the top three, but it gets the prize of being named on my blog!  I cannot wait to get that recipe!

Last year, all four of my family members (that includes me) entered soups. This year, the boy took the year off.  But I was proud that we had a 75% family involvement rating!

See our entries below:


Now for the moment that you have been waiting for – The 2012 Soup Off Winners!


In 3rd place (represented in the photo by her daughter) is Shari Fehr with her Creamy Tomato Soup.

In 2nd place is my sweet girl –  Beth Bender – with her Curry Pumpkin Soup.

*insert drum roll here*

*wait for it……*

And in 1st place is Lori Hetteen with her North Woods Wild Rice Soup.  If you know Lori, ask her for some fun details about the story behind newest prize offered by my pastor huz.  On second thought, ask her husband.

And now for the real moment you have all been waiting for – the recipes!

Creamy Tomato Soup by Shari Fehr

3 stalks celery
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 medium onion
2 29-oz. cans tomato puree (no salt added)
1 46-oz. can tomato juice
1 1/2 tsp. salt (more or less to taste)
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/2 Tbsp. whole cloves
1 qt. half and half
3/4 tsp. baking soda

Puree celery, parsley, and onion together in food processor. Pour into 6-qt. slow cooker and add tomato puree and tomato juice. Add salt, white pepper, sugar, and butter. Place whole cloves in muslin bag or tea infuser and add to tomato mixture. Simmer in slow cooker approximately 4 hours. About 1/2 hour before serving, combine approximately 2 cups of the tomato mixture with the half and half, and then slowly whisk the combination back into the tomato mixture. (This helps prevent curdling.) Return to temperature, and then whisk in 3/4 tsp. soda for a more frothy texture. Remove cloves, and serve.

Curry Pumpkin Soup by Elizabeth Bender

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional – this chef did not use)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup curry powder
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 (29 ounce) cans pumpkin
  • 3 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Arrange pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until seeds begin to brown.
  2. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in flour and curry powder until smooth. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to bubble. Gradually whisk in broth, and cook until thickened. Stir in pumpkin and half-and-half. Season with soy sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring just to a boil, then remove from heat. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds.

North Woods Wild Rice Soup by Lori Hetteen

Chef’s note: I adapted this from a cookbook called “Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer.”  Author’s note: I am on my way over to your freezer, Lori Hetteen!

  • 1/2 lb bacon, fried, drained, and crumbled
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 c celery, chopped
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t thyme
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 1 1/2 c cooked chicken breast, shredded or cubed
  • 1-10oz can chicken broth
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 1/2 c half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 c cooked wild rice
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • sliced almonds browned in a little butter

Saute onion and celery in butter until tender.  Stir in flour, salt, thyme, and paprika.  Heat until bubbly.  Add cooked chicken, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, milk, half-and-half, and cream of mushroom soup, stirring until thickened.  Fold in rice and bacon.  Serve topped with almonds.  (Yields 6 large bowls of soup)

And that, my friends, is how you win a soup off!

What great ideas does your community (church or otherwise) have to bring people together?


Filed under Education, faith, Food, Parenting