Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Today my best friend slapped me."

I just love this story. I'm not sure where it comes from but I first heard it shortly after we lost Adam. How it impacted me then and what its meaning has done for me lately has left peaceful feelings on my heart. I'm blessed by its simple truths and I share it now in hopes that it will bring comforting light to those that read it.

Two friends were walking in the desert. Along the way they had an argument and one of them slapped the other in the face. The one that was slapped was deeply hurt but without saying a word, bent and wrote on the sand, “TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME”.

Soon the friends came to an Oasis where they decided to take a bath. The one who had earlier been slapped got stuck in the mud and was drowning. His friend reached out to him and pulled him out thus saving his life. After he had recovered, he sought out a stone and engraved on it the following, “TODAY MY BEST FRIEND HAS SAVED MY LIFE”.

His friend asked him, “after I slapped & hurt you, you wrote on sand and now that I’ve saved your life you engrave on stone, why??” He replied, “when someone hurts us we should always write the wrong on sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away; but when we are blessed with goodness and kindness we must engrave this on stone where no wind can ever erase it”.

Have you ever been hurt? Maybe by a parent who didn't offer the love and affection you felt you needed. A child who disappointed you. The break-up of a relationship. A work colleague who betrayed you. A teacher who embarrassed you in front of the class. A friend who stabbed you in the back or a rumor that damaged your reputation. Or maybe it wasn't a person that hurt you but some circumstance or event that has pained you. A tragic accident, the death of a loved one, a financial crisis, losing your job or suffering a sickness.

I'm learning to except that life will have moments of pain, moments of confusion and most of life is a challenge of sorts. As long as we have breath in our bodies we are all at risk of being hurt. Weather foreseen or unexpected these hurts are real and each of us are affected with feelings of real pain.

Anger, shame, anxiety, fear, worry, sadness, your reaction to these pains may manifest themselves in a number of ways depending on where you are, who you are with and what they might say to you, good intended or not. From skepticism and suspicion, to anger and revenge, to withdrawal and depression... Pain can be both emotional and physical. I've learned there are only two ways in dealing with the hurts of my heart.

I can either... Harbor the hurt, or heal the hurt God's way. The winds of forgiveness cannot remove my hurts unless I offer them to my creator.

Internalizing these hurts, challenges and pain makes every situation weigh more. Hand over the weight to God. Do your best in keeping your heart full of peace and find comfort in knowing we are not meant to understand everything around us. Go to Him to remove the heaviness from your heart. He's given us his Son, Jesus Christ, as a tool.

To move a pile of dirt with a spoon would be painstaking but use a wheelbarrow (Jesus) and the task is bearable and rewarding.

Too often we do harbor our hurt. Not quite sure what to do, we tuck this hurt away in our souls... unaware that it has a life of its own. Be assured that God understands our initial reactions just as a loving father does when his child is injured. This is not to imply that God would ever turn a blind eye to sin, but He is well acquainted with our frailty and listens with compassion to the cry of our heart (Heb. 4:14-16).

Our prayer for this week is: Faultless Lord, enduring death for us, You have consummated the debt of our sins. Your sacrifice of forgiveness was absolute! Grant us the strength to also forgive ourselves, others, and the sins of the world. So we may truly reflect your spiritual goodness, Your love for us. Let each trespass end as a closing chapter, our continuing on the road to Your righteousness. Forgive our sins as we aspire to forgive others. You are truly the model of forgiveness. We pray this in Jesus’ name. ~Amen.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Turtle, Turtle

“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” -James Bryant Conant

Behold the turtle, says James Bryant Conant.  They are fascinating creatures, are they not?  They are ancient, adaptable, and resilient.  They appear to take things as they come and slowly saunter through life.  They know how to protect themselves from harm, yet they are also unafraid to take risks in order to move forward. 

Most of us, when we think of the turtle, do not think of courageous risk takers.  Instead, we think of an animal that hides in its shell at the slightest hint of distress.  And so they do.  They tend to retreat to safety, bury their heads, and hide in their comfort zone when they are distraught.  Yet, who are we to blame them?   Most humans are no different. 

So, instead of thinking of turtles as cowards, consider this for a moment:  the only way that a turtle may travel through life, the only way that he will ever evolve, grow, and make progress, is if he sticks out his neck and takes a risk.  Again, we humans are not all that different, are we?

Much like the turtle, the only way that we may move forward and journey through life is to stick out our necks once in a while.  We must take a risk now and then in order to evolve and adapt, grow and make progress.  The risks that we encounter may feel frightening and uncertain, or they feel refreshing and exciting.  They may be a gamble, in hopes of a certain outcome, or they may be part of a necessary change.  Additionally, as we take risks on our way to progress, we are likely to encounter several confusing yet important questions:  Is this what I really want?  Will people support me?  Will I I be happy with my decision?  What happens if I fail?  As we consider these questions and reflect on our answers, we are then able to decide how serious we are about taking such risks.  If it is worth venturing out of our comfort zone.  And if we decide that it is indeed worth the risk, that we know what we really want, we must actually do something about it.  We must actually stick out our necks and move forward with our decision. 

And that is the scary part.  Because living life in motion, taking action and initiative, is to also take risks.  To move forward despite the uncertainty.  To venture away from the familiar, and explore new territory.  To take a small step or a flying leap without knowing where, or how, or if we are going to land.  If we will grow our wings instead. 

Yet, the only way that we will ever find our footing, grow our wings, and discover the fulfillment we have been longing for is to let go of our self-doubt.  To free ourselves from the grips of our fear, embrace the possibilities in store, and allow ourselves to use our heads, to trust our guts, and to follow our hearts. 

So, behold the turtle.  Learn from him.  Stick out your neck, take that risk, and create a life full of progress, growth, and fulfillment. 


Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Victors versus Victims"

A blog from the archives….

You can't go back

The Webster's Dictionary defines the word anniversary as: The date for celebrating when an important event happened. A date when you celebrate something that happened in a previous year that is important to you.

So I ask, how do you "celebrate" the anniversary of a suicide? How does the word anniversary even fit in this situation if it means to honor a special occasion? As you can tell I'm having a hard time with this concept.

In group this pass Monday it was suggested "to rejoice in the marked date that your loved one entered heaven." To observe the day almost like a birthday of your loved one being with God.

For many, today is their one year. My heart goes out to these families. I pray for your moments of sweet-tenderness as you shed tears and moments of laugher as you share stories.

So how should you celebrate the anniversary of a loved one's passing? There is no right or wrong way. Do what feels natural, even if that means feeling sad and overwhelmed with grief–right now. Maybe a celebration IS what you want. Serve their favorite food and do something they loved. Gather your family and tell all those great-funny stories. Maybe you wish to be alone with yourself. You could write them a letter or create a memory box.

I even have a friend that works on the date her brother passed away. She prefers to celebrate his birthday, they share the same one.

Whatever you decide for your day please remember that grief takes time. Lots of time and that it's different for every person.

I have this book that I've been trying to complete for awhile now. My friends and family have heard me refer to it as "the stupid book". I call it that because it has put many things into perspective for me, some hard realities. There really isn't anything stupid about the book, quit the opposite.

Finding Your Way after the Suicide of Someone You Love. By David B. Biebel, DMin, & Suzanne L. Foster, MA
~You can't go back. The suicide of your loved one changed everything. But you may wonder, will it always be this way? Will it ever be possible to do more than just barely survive each day? Will I ever laugh again, be happy- really live again? Possibly not. Some people get stuck in their grief, so their epitaph reads, Died at 50; buried at 70. (rough, I told you it was) ~But this epitaph is not inevitable for survivors of suicide. You can move forward. We're not going to burden you with false expectations. We won't use terms like "victors versus victims" or other trite phrases that imply that if you have the right kind of faith, or courage, or resilience, or whatever, you should be able to rise above this trial and somehow leave it all behind.
~As you survive, you move with your grief, through it, and beyond it, even to the point of learning to use the lessons you've learned and the character you've gained to help others who are on a similar path. You cannot make this happen in your own strength. To be real and effective, this must be a work of God, who is more powerful than anything the Evil One can bring or has brought your way. God is able to align even the most dreadful tragedy with his primary purpose, which is redemption.
~Grieving's timetable is as individual as you are. You can't "hurry up and get over it," nor can others push or pull you through it. And just as you have your own unique timetable for grief, you will have your own timetable for coming out of grief. You will know when you are ready to move on. Embrace your "new normal."

For me and my family it is one year without Adam. But I still wake every morning having to learn all over again that he is gone and it wasn't just a bad dream.

Our prayer for this week: give us insight this day, Lord our God, to understand Your ways, and consecrate our hearts to worship You. From our sins redeem us with forgiveness; from pain and sorrow give us spiritual insight. Let us rejoice in the understanding of our redemption. Blessed is the Lord who beckons us to prayer. In Jesus' name. ~Amen


Monday, January 16, 2012

Welcome again, 2012

As I reflect back on the months that have gone past, it is easy to see that the past year has been a trial for many of us in NLS.  We each in our own way have struggled with adversity.  We have experienced pain, suffering, and hardship in one way or another.  We have been put to the test, we have questioned our beliefs, and have challenged our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.  We have questioned our identities, struggled to remain well, and persevered in any way that we could.  Our hearts have ached, and our heads have searched for answers that may not exist.  We have adapted to change, overcome adversity, and done everything in our power to remain positive.  In many ways, we have felt that life has fallen apart all around us.  And in many ways, it may seem that it has. 

But you know what? Whether or not we have been through tough times such as those described above, our lives have not fallen apart completely.  We still have so much for which to be grateful, so much to hold on to, to love, and to live for.  We have our friends, our families, our passions.  We have a purpose, our health, our spirituality.  We have sources of strength.  Sources of joy.  Sources of hope.  We have our lives to live.  And it is my opinion that we have the responsibility, as well as the opportunity and the pleasure, to live our lives as fully as we are able.

As tempted as we may be to reflect back on the struggles that we have been through, I believe that it is even more important to consider how things will fall back together, even after they have fallen apart.  There may have been times when we ourselves have crumbled, and yet even when that happens, it seems that things always have a way of coming together again.  Sometimes we may watch the pieces fall together right before our eyes.  Sometimes it may take us time to realize what has happened.  And other times, we must take control and put the pieces back together again.  But no matter how it happens, it seems that most things in life usually do fit back together again somehow.   They may not look or feel the same as they did "before", and that might be painful or it may be a pleasant surprise.  Yet whatever this new picture looks like, it is up to us to find new meaning in it. 

It is up to us to influence or change what we can, have the serenity to accept what we cannot, and to make the most of the gifts that have been bestowed upon us regardless of the situation at hand.  It is up to us to keep searching for the light, even in the face of total darkness, and have faith that “this too shall pass” and brighter day will come if it hasn’t already.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

It All Started with a Mutual Desire

A group of people got together 9 months ago with a mutual desire. We may all have a little different way of explaining it but all in all it was the same desire. After our first get together our mission statement was born.

The mission of Wings of Hope is simple; to embrace people by joining hands and spreading our wings offering hope, love, healing and kindness to our community. We will do this by volunteering, reaching out, and creating neighborhood relationships.

One of our first projects did all those things listed in our mission statement. The Fountains of Hope, a large under taking, which is still ongoing. It is located just north of the Dairy Queen in Spicer. We raised enough money for the cleanup, started part of the landscape refurbishing and installed the two lit fountains all by the 4th of July last year. It took many volunteers to do the work up to this point. We are delighted to say that the students at New London-Spicer High School have partnered with us for the ongoing maintenance needed as a class project. This spring we will be installing the engraved rocks, bench areas and much, much more. To purchase a rock engraved with your name or the name of a loved one, send an email to us at

Last summer we participated in two walks. The Mental Health Walk in May and the Out of The Darkness walk last September. We will be doing much more of this next year and maybe even hold one of our own.

We’ve also been involved with other organizations. We were invited by The Link, Youth for Christ and the New London Music Festival to help with their efforts by volunteering our time. We are looking forward to continued involvement with them. As well we’ve started a partnership with the YMCA in Willmar recruiting mentors for the Lend a Hand program, a partnership with a group in New London-Spicer Schools that has a program started to recruit adults to be involved with the students at recess and a number of other partnerships in the making.

Our work in spreading hope, love, healing and kindness has taken shape up to this point by way of our blog, facebook page and Ellie’s weekly column in The Lake Areas Review. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend getting signed up to receive the Friday text which is both inspiring and motivational. To get started just text the word ‘wings’ to 320-905-4345.

There's a new Wings of Hope website in the making and soon we will be part of Area Voices. This is a network of blogs featured on forum communications company newspaper and broadcast websites. This is very exciting for us to say the least.

So much has taken place and is still taking form for Wings of Hope. Just this month alone we have lots going on. Ellie will be presenting at the New London-Spicer High School. She’s been giving presentations to different organizations and this one she will be talking with the students about stress management, suicide prevention and sharing her personal story.

Also this month we will be serving hot chocolate for the Spicer Commercial Club during Winter Fest on January 21st and we have a team started for the Polar Plunge. Please check out the schedule of all the fun things the Spicer Commercial Club has put together this year by visiting We would love to have you join the Wings of Hope team in taking the plunge. If you are a brave bird please email us. Kids can join too!

Our BIG EVENT as we’ve named it is coming up fast! We are planning a night of fun at the Green Lake Bible Camp with entertainment by the one and only Jeff James. Mark your calendars for March 31st! There’s more info to come. This is a night you won’t want to miss.

Wow! I have so much more I could up date you with but my blog IS getting long. Please consider join us in one way or another. We are always going to need more volunteers for these programs and partnerships. Maybe you are interested in blogging. We are hoping to add a few more point of views. We are all so very different and it takes the differences coming together to span all the needs of our community. Again drop us an email at to find out more!

Our Prayer for this week: Lord, the fact that I think we are following your will does not mean that we actually are doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You, does in fact please You. I know that if we do this, You will lead us by the right road, though we may know nothing about it. Thank you Gracious God for guiding us even when we don’t see it. Thank you that You change our worries to grace and peace. Teach us to recognize your will and readily to respond to it. Root us deeply in You. We pray this in Jesus’ name. ~Amen.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Banana Stealers

Every now and then, I experience writer’s block.  When this happens, I usually find myself seeking out my best friend for inspiration.  “I don’t know what to write this week,” I will say, “What do you think I should focus on?”  Her response is always the same, “Write about The Bananas!” she will insist with excitement.

And because I am quite certain this friend would do anything for me, I will grant her simple request and write about The Bananas.  So, without further ado, I give you the adapted version of her favorite blog posting:

Not long ago, I had a conversation with a friend that introduced me to the term "banana stealers".

And just what, or who, rather, is a banana stealer, you ask?  Simply put, a banana stealer is a person who puts you down in order to pick themselves up.  A person who strives to place themselves above others at the expense of the people they are surrounded by.  My friend tried to describe the banana stealer’s quest for power and, ultimately, a false sense of self, by saying that a banana stealer will make every attempt to “steal your bananas” so he or she will always has more than everyone else, thus always having the perceived upper hand. 

It seems to me that most of us have known such a person at some time in our lives.  Someone that would rather steal our bananas, rather than earning their own.  Such people tend to be critical and competitive. They are frequently degrading, belittling, or condescending without reason, often passing arbitrary judgments based on misinformation. Quite simply, they find any possible way to steal your bananas so they can have "more".

After giving some thought to banana stealers, I realized that I have sympathy for such people.  As frustrating or hurtful as they may be, I realized that they are in a position that is much worse than the people they steal from. It seems to me that all that they are looking for is a way to feel good about themselves. And who can blame them for that? Don't we all want to feel good about ourselves? The problem with the banana stealers, though, is that as they try to feel better about themselves, they end up hurting others, and consequently, themselves.

In all reality, banana stealing is rather self-defeating.  It is harmful to relationships.  It is hurtful to the feelings of others.  It is superficial, fickle, and only temporarily fulfilling. Yet, it is perpetuated by some sort of satisfying gratification that many of us do not understand.  And because we do not understand such behavior, we often do not know how to respond to it, leaving us feeling hurt, frustrated, and even angry.  But rather than feeling this way, I encourage you to separate yourself from such people and refrain from taking their slights personally.  If you can, try to understand where they are coming from, and why they may act the way that they do.  Perhaps they may help you highlight the good that you have in your life.  Perhaps you may even be able to feel a bit of compassion for them, and be able to help them see their beauty in their own lives as well.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grace is _____________.

Reflections of Christmas

We Wish You much Peace and Joy with the Grace of Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

When someone wishes you peace or joy do you think of it as, wishing you the feeling of Peace and for you the feeling of Joy?

I did. I think maybe a lot of us do.

But are these wishes for good feelings or for things? They are nouns…. So if they are things, how does someone get them? Peace and Joy.

There’s a clue in the rest of this message of wishes, with the Grace of Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

The word Grace, can you define it?

Without Google or a dictionary, just think for a moment.

Grace is _____________. Did you answer it? Do you know what the term means? What it means to you?

We may be able to define it in many ways and it may mean a few different things to each of us. But can we really truly understand what the Grace of Christmas is?

For it is grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2: 8-9

…of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:7

The whole message of the Bible, as Martin Luther liked to say, is divided into two parts: law and grace- these two things. But most people have never gotten past the first half. The Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rules. Follow a set of rules and you’ll get into heaven, right?

I read recently, “if your basing your hope of entering the Promised Land on Moses and the law, reflect upon the fact that Moses himself never made it.” Can this be a fact? I don’t know but I do feel closer to understanding the Grace of Christmas.

GRACE= God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

God loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son… John 3:16

Could you or would you, give your life for another person? I’m betting that most of the parents will answer “yes”. Because of your love for them you’re willing to do anything for your children and if necessary even lay down your life for them. Now ask yourself could you or would you give your one and only son for another person’s life? This is what happened at Christmas. God’s grace, God’s love, He sent His Son to die for us.

God made it as simple as possible to come to know him. What does he ask of you? Simply believe in his Son. Believe that what God says is true. That’s it. Nothing more is needed. Accept his gift and gain all of God’s blessings. This includes everything else in life- love, peace, joy, a home in heaven. He has held nothing back.

Our prayer for this week is God, we stand in awe and amazed at your love. We confess that we, like sheep have gone our own way, but thank You that You didn’t leave us. Instead, You sent the Good Shepherd. Thank You, O God, for providing our sacrifice through Your Son. We pray this in Jesus’ name. ~Amen.

~♥~ Sara

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

All Apologies

Not long ago, I read an article claiming that one of the most important phrases in a person’s repertoire is “I am sorry”.  As I read the article, I found that I could not argue against the importance of apologies.  Yet, as I read the author’s assertions about the importance of apologies, I could not help but think how hard saying “I am sorry” can be for some of us.  Why is that?  Why can such a simple phrase be so hard to say? 

Perhaps it is not so much the actual phrase or the definition of it that is difficult.  Perhaps, instead, we struggle more with the implication of an apology, or other hidden meanings that we have attaches to it.   Perhaps it is difficult to apologize, because when we say we are sorry, we are also admitting to a degree of wrong-doing.  That we are at fault in some way, whether we agree that we that we are or not.  Some of us may even feel that when we are apologizing, we are acting out of weakness, submission, or passivity.  That we are have less power than we would had we not apologized.  Sometimes, it may even be difficult to say “I am sorry” because we ourselves are in need of an apology.  Because we have been hurt just as badly as those that we are expected to apologize to.  Or, perhaps, apologizing is difficult because, in doing so, we must face the pain that we have caused our loved ones, and quite often, our own.   

Offering a genuine “I am sorry” is rarely easy.  And while apologizing does not undo all harm that may have been done, or heal wounds, doing so is important.  It is important because it shows how much we value our relationships and the people that we care about.  To say “I am sorry” is to acknowledge the feelings of our loved ones, and that we are sensitive to their experiences.  That we respect those that are close to us.  Saying the words “I am sorry” shows that we are willing to take responsibility for ourselves and be accountable for the consequences of our actions.  Ultimately, an apology offers humility.  It recognizes to ourselves and to others that we are imperfect.  That we are human.  And that we are worthy of forgiveness.

So while I can understand and empathize with the difficulty in apologizing, I must say that I do not see it as a sign of weakness, wrong-doing, or submission.  Rather, I think that the willingness to say “I am sorry” takes self-awareness and strength of character.  It takes empathy and compassion for others.  And it takes courage to take an honest look at one’s self, express remorse to those we love and acknowledge their feelings, and move forward with them in a meaningful way.