Letting you in on what I’m up to {and why I’m scared}

photo 2-1Oh my friends, where has the time gone?

I’m sitting at my usual Starbucks location this morning, outside for a change because this Colorado spring weather is literal fresh air to my soul.

When my babysitter texted last night and offered to come this morning, I almost didn’t know what to say. What will I do with my time? Write is what I should do, but what on Earth will I say?

But I accepted her offer and here I am, fingers to keys that feel almost foreign, sitting with my coffee, my sole purpose to try and remember how to pour out some facet of my soul onto this screen.

Did I mention that leading is vulnerable? I find myself a little bit terrified these days by the number of people with an eye on my life. Don’t get me wrong – they – you all – are so very dear to me. Like, more precious than I can put into words.

But showing up and pouring myself out to Jesus before my church family Sunday morning after Sunday morning, and then showing up here and being poured out in a different way — I think the combination of those two has left me needing to hole up a little bit here.

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Then there’s this: Busy ain’t the word. Y’all? I am getting to do so much. To give so much expression to my heart, to impart bits of who I am to those around me, and it’s all happening within my real life community. Within my church family.

This honestly feels a little like uncharted territory to me and while it is exhilarating, and thankful doesn’t even come close to describing the state of my heart, it’s also quite scary.


Within my role as worship pastor for our church community, I have the privilege of coaching and leading and developing our worship team members (and up-and-coming members), and that responsibility is life to my heart like I can’t even tell you. I couldn’t be more grateful. And yet, being in the place of occasionally having to say hard things to people I care about is incredibly— you guessed it—

Vulnerable. And just plain hard.

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Stan and I with some of our worship team on Easter Sunday. I so love these guys.

Can I tell you the other thing I get to do? 4th Fridays. I am ramping up to lead an evening, once a month, to reach out to creatives both within and outside of our church family. You guys, I SO rarely can say with relative confidence that I believe God “spoke” one thing or another to me, and if I’m honest I think I generally try and avoid saying that for reasons I’ll get into, maybe, at another time.


A good couple of months ago this whisper began to nudge my heart, and try as I might to throw logic and excuses at it, I just could not shake it. The whisper was this: “The artists need pastored. Shepherd the creatives. Cultivate a haven for them.”

Over days and weeks, the whisper has woven its way deeper into my core, has become more like a pounding on my insides. I’ve sat on it. I’ve let Stan and a couple of close friends in on it. I’ve prayed into it.

And in the quiet corners of my relationships with Jesus and with Stan, I’ve whispered my fears. Told them this feels like such a scary risk. Told them this is vul.ner.a.ble.

Heck, even writing these words to you today has me physically shaking.

But Stan’s sole response has been to cheer me on. To encourage me forward. He prays with me for 4th Fridays and gets jazzed about the ways he foresees God moving through these times together with fellow artists.

And Jesus? Well, He just reminds and reminds me that the Father chooses the weak and the foolish and the lowly, and can I just tell you? I am all of those things. But in all the upside-down, inside-out-ness of the Kingdom, those are the things God uses to shame the wise and the strong, to “nullify the things that are,” so that no one can boast (2 Cor. 1:27-29).

Our pastoral team has given me a wholehearted green light to move forward, and their trust in me is all at once healing to my heart and — yup — terrifying, because now I’ve gotta actually do the thing I’m telling them I want to do.

And gosh, if you’re still reading at this point (and bless your heart if you are), I realize I might sound a bit nuts with all this I’m so excited but I’m so afraid stuff. But I’m pretty sure this is what it’s supposed to feel like when you’ve been so long in quiet, mostly-hidden places, and then doors swing wide and you’re invited to actually step into a bit of what you were maybe made for.

Sobered and scared and incredibly excited. Aware of your need. Pressing into His strength in the midst of your weakness. In over your head, because Jesus intentionally leaves gaps between our “callings” and our strengths so that we have to depend on Him to come through.

And there’s intimacy in that dependence.

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So I move forward trembling, leaning into Him, and fully alive in the midst of all this vulnerability and risk.

And you all who read my words here? I want you to know I miss you. I don’t know how long it’ll be till I have room in my life to write here again. But I still love the ways we get to walk beside one another in this space. I’m thankful for you all. For your companionship and your prayers.

And I would love — love — if you’d pray over 4th Fridays. And if you happen to be in Denver or the surrounding area, I’d love for you to consider coming. You are more than invited, and I’d be so excited to get to hug your neck.

So many blessings to you, my friends.

Posted in Community, Creativity, Freedom From Perfectionism, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, risk, Worship Leader Guts | 12 Comments

Leading is vulnerable {in which I break through the non-writing fog}

photo-2Dang, y’all.

It’s intimidating, this showing up in front of The Blank Screen after weeks of not writing. And the longer I’ve waited, the more I’ve thought I might prefer to just not show up. At least, not any time soon.

So, where’ve I been?

Between the amount of attention my last post received — which was more than usual for me — and the fact that over the last month or 6 weeks I’ve taken on the role of worship pastor for our church family (and even just writing those words makes me feel *insanely* vulnerable), I think I’ve maybe felt the need to hide in a cave.

That, and my life over the last several weeks has been quite possibly busier than it’s ever been. Like, ever.

Between stay-at-home-mom-ing and leading a lot of worship and embarking on a journey of getting to know my worship team members and others within our church family, my spare moments are few and far between. So writing has fallen to the wayside.

There will come a season, maybe a handful of months out, in which my life will be more… regulated, maybe? In which I’ll fall into a more sustainable rhythm. But for now, it’s a flurry of goodness. And I do mean goodness.

Because while I’m worn out a lot of days lately, my heart is full. So, so full.


I am re-falling in love with my church family. Burning with the desire to see creative, Jesus-filled, God-glorifying worship come forth from these beautiful hearts — both on Sunday mornings, and throughout our day-to-day lives as we intentionally live before Him.

I’m burning to see hearts set free, healed, transformed in His manifest presence. And I’m burning to know — to really know — the hearts with whom I’m serving. So, in between diapers and music classes and library trips, my free moments are filled with face-to-face time with worship team members and others in our church family.

And it is good. These budding friendships fill my heart.

I’m repeatedly undone these days because never in my life have I been so profoundly free, so trusted to let my truest heart come out — both in the context of leading worship on Sunday mornings, and in smaller settings — meetings, coffee dates, practices.


And we’re only in the first half of March, but already Unfold is playing out to extremes I never, ever anticipated.

Commence hugest understatement of the century: Leading is vulnerable. Both leading worship, and leading people.

For this recovering people-pleaser, stepping out and confidently proclaiming, “Hey y’all? Let’s walk this way” is quite possibly the most terrifying thing anyone could ask.

Yet He asks. And I take deep breath after deep breath, try to still my shaky nerves, and move forward.


On the Mom Front, I am over and over again brought to the end of myself. I pour out time, focus, presence, and my little people give me run after run for my money. And for my sanity, some days.

More often than I’d like to admit, I fail in my efforts to remain calm and kind. I speak more harshly than I wish I had. I lose my grasp on peace. And I think sometimes I fall into some subtle fear that my sweet ones will still be antagonizing each other and defying my instructions when they’re 25 and 28.


But His whispers always come. Trust my process, love, and rest. I’m not through with my work inside them.

Or my work inside you.

It’s become almost hilarious to me — how every time I’m leading worship for an event that makes me exceptionally nervous (because you guys? I am always nervous. After 14 years of leading worship, I’m still shaking in my boots every. single. time) — my kids are extra challenging, and I am laid low under the awareness of my continual, desperate need for forgiveness. For grace.

For Jesus.

Apart from Him I can do no good thing.

{As in, literally NO. good. thing.}

And it’s when I am utterly weak and desperate and acutely aware of my broken places that He says, Okay. Now. Go. Let’s do this stuff, Dana.

And I have no idea who the heck I am to be placed on a stage and given a microphone.

Yet He comes. Moves. Breathes into my broken offerings, all these outpourings of shaky adoration.


I contemplate a recent conversation with a close friend — about how when we live a lifestyle of ministry, the requirement is living raw. Wide open. And I wonder as I walk around my church building on Sunday mornings, as I prepare to be poured out yet again, if people can see how my heart is gaping open.

I wonder if they can see that I’m bleeding inside — bleeding this bittersweet mingling of still-acutely-felt wounding from the not-too-distant past, and the lovesick worship of one who’s been profoundly met by Him in that hurt. The worship of one who’s simply desperate to see Him come and move and make hurting hearts whole, her own included. To see these ones she dearly loves bathed in the kind of Love that’s perfectly trustworthy and pure.

And I’m not sure how to wrap this up tonight, my friends, but thanks for letting me break through the fog of not having written. I pray I’ve broken through it enough to at least give you an authentic glimpse into my heart in this season.

And I pray that some piece of this offering is used by Jesus to touch something inside of you. To breathe life or healing or a tangible sense of the truth that you’re fiercely adored by your Maker. That you’re pursued, desired — even, and especially, in your weakness.

So much love, my friends. And thank you, as always, for walking beside me here.

Posted in leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, One Word, Parenting, Uncategorized, Worship Leader Guts | 8 Comments

To my friends with thoughts on 50 Shades: my quiet appeal


I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning with chilluns who didn’t seem to feel like sleeping, and it’s 1:30 in the afternoon as I sit down, fingers poised over keys, stomach doing flips.

I’d so much rather be napping while my kids catch up on missed sleep, but there are these few words nagging, pulling at the corners of my already-overloaded (in all good ways) heart and mind, and they won’t shut up, you guys.

It’s rare that I jump on a bandwagon of any kind — in fact, I actually don’t know that I ever have. Especially one that seems to be such an incredibly hot topic as (oh my gosh, I almost can’t even type it, y’all) 50 Shades of Grey.

I struggle to wrap my mind around the fact that I just mentioned that movie in a blog post, not because I’m so repulsed by it, but simply because All The Christian Bloggers are writing about this, and I just don’t tend to do this stuff, y’all.

And my heart here today is by no means to invalidate or diminish the thoughts of my friends who have published their opinions on the movie via blog post or Facebook or Twitter. I agree with many of them.

I simply don’t feel the need to be another voice of warning against seeing the film. There are plenty of those voices and they are plenty loud.

BUT — there’s this thing burning in my heart today and if I could just whisper a quiet hey you guys? to my beautiful Christian friends who’re sharing their thoughts on 50 Shades —

If I could sit with you dear ones face to face, and if you really wanted to know what’s in my heart on this matter? Here’s what I’d say, and I’d probably be shaking a little while I said it:

Seeing the movie would obviously be an unwise choice, Christ-follower or not, for a hundred reasons that so many are already shouting. So there’s that layer.

But there’s another layer of thought that’s squirming around inside me and it won’t sit down and shut up, so I’m quietly appealing to you here, my Jesus-loving friends: can we be careful how we share our opinions?

If we feel prompted to add our voices to the chorus of those addressing 50 Shades, can we be careful of the state of our hearts when we do? And be careful how we come across?

Because yeswe are called to righteousness (1 Peter 1:16). And yesGod asks us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). And yeswe are to honor Him with what we allow into our minds (2 Corinthians 10:5).

And? Yes, as believers we are asked to call one another to repentance when one of us begins to move toward choices that are damaging to our hearts and dishonoring to God (2 Timothy 4:2).

But y’all. Here’s my burden today. When we call one another to righteous living, when we air our opinions against wide-spread, popularized unrighteousness, are we doing so with God’s heart burning inside our own?

Are we weeping for those we’re warning?

Because apart from a radically transformative revelation of God’s heart toward me, and without my own heart being captivated by the realities of His tender, personal affection and my new, true identity in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection? You may well find me at the theater this weekend, y’all.

‘Cause I am no better than the woman in that theater down the street from your neighborhood, Christian or no, who desperately needs to hear and grasp that she’s enough. Beautiful. Desirable. Who doesn’t know at a heart level that the blood of Jesus has already spoken those things over her.

Basically what I’m trying to say here is that there, but for the grace of God, go I, and it’s God’s kindness (Romans 2:4) that leads us to repentance, and if I’m not extending His kindness and compassion and a massive helping of let me walk a mile or twenty in your shoes to those I’m calling to righteousness in this or any matter, they will most likely walk away feeling judged, belittled, condemned, and further distanced from their true home in the heart of God.



So, my quiet appeal? Let’s love deep and real and practical. Let’s approach others as equals, as precious to the Father’s heart.

Let’s voice our concerns and opinions with hearts that are broken and bleeding for those we’re addressing — or consider perhaps not voicing them at all.

I think that’s all I’ve got today, my friends. I love y’all so. Thanks for being a gracious landing spot for my shaky voice today. I pray you hear my heart.

You guys bless me tremendously.

Posted in Community, Compassion, Give Me Grace, Goodness of the Gospel, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus | 20 Comments

How I’m Learning to Approach Relationships Differently {on leading people to Jesus… or not}


Monday morning finds me down the street from our place at what has become my favorite Starbucks in our area. I’m growing to enjoy the quirks of the different baristas, and today I find myself smiling as I sit alone with my coffee and my chocolate croissant overhearing their banter.

I worked at Starbucks way back when, and sitting here takes me back to those days. I reminisce about the friendships I developed with co-workers and regular customers, a small handful of which are still in my life today.

I look back at that season, too, with some measure of regret. I contemplate the ways I’m being rearranged inside, and how I hope I’d move differently among relationships like that nowadays.

See, my desire back then was genuinely to help and love others, especially those who didn’t know Jesus, and my heart’s fundamental question as I’d approach a new friend was, “How can I take your hand and walk you into relationship with Jesus?”

Noble and good? Yes. At least, at the surface.

But y’all, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m fairly sure that in my desire to lead friends to the Lord, what actually came across was more along the lines of, “how can I fix you?”

Ugh. How many people did I unwittingly treat as projects?

In more recent years, I’m pretty sure I’ve utterly lost the desire to approach relationships with let me lead you to Jesus as my primary goal.

If I’m honest, part of this transition in my mindset toward relationships has been a result of experiencing firsthand what it’s like to be viewed more like a project than a person worth knowing. More like a person with flaws to be fixed than than like a friend.

I’ve only recently seen how damaging this was to me on a personal level. And I as I’ve found a measure of healing for my own wounds in counseling and in prayer, I can’t help but wonder upon how many hearts I’ve inflicted similar damage. How many precious people have been negatively affected by my subtle *need* to introduce them to Jesus so I could maybe put a notch in my leading-folks-to-the-Lord belt.

Or how many have been hurt by my insecure need to rate folks on a scale of less mature, equally mature, or more mature than I in their walks with Jesus.

The way I previously needed to classify you in my mind, to put you in a category of Needing My Wisdom, or Equal to Me in Wisdom, or Wiser than I Am and Therefore Worthy to Be Learned From.


Oh Jesus, have mercy.

And you all, my sweet friends, are so kind, and I know a number of you will be concerned that I’m beating myself up as I look back at my own immaturity. So I’ll tell you – I’m actually not. I believe Jesus saw the aim of my heart to bring Him glory, and I believe He was (and still is) so tender and merciful toward me in all my mixed motives.

Thank God for His grace and love that cover my sin.


I never would have had words to articulate these ways of thinking a few years ago, and I had no clue how hurtful they could be to the hearts of those I cared about. And I did, y’all. I genuinely cared for people. But I was also prideful, immature, and insecure, and I’m opening up to you the ways in which I now see that those immaturities came out.

And I sit here today and tell you that yes, I am different now. I’m humbler. Wiser. Learning to see all people as Divine Image bearers (Genesis 1:27) through whom Jesus wants to reveal new facets of Himself to me.

But I am still discovering ways in which God is rooting out those former ways of seeing and relating to others.

This is a journey of ever-deepening humility that comes from intimacy with Him. It’s not a quick process, y’all. And I’m so thankful to be in community these days with beloved friends who are gracious to me, who desire me in all my strengths, and in my blind spots, too.

Now, to hopefully bring some clarity here: do I still want to see my fellow humans come home to the heart of God? Yes, with everything in me. Am I repenting for my desire to “lead people to Jesus?” No. I’m most certainly not.


I am learning to approach relationships with people, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey, with a very different motive and heart-posture.

Humility. Kind curiosity. A desire to understand, to learn from.

The older I get, the more I’m realizing that no matter where you are on your personal journey, my life will be enriched and my heart expanded as I choose to approach you with humility. With a desire to deeply know you.

So I pray I ask more questions nowadays. I pray I listen more than I talk. I pray I’m more fully present to you when we’re in conversation. And I pray that out of my much-more-genuine desire to gain understanding of your heart and journey, and out of my personal intimacy with Jesus Christ, will flow the Only Love that can heal and transform your life.

I want whatever of Christ you encounter in knowing me to be a pure, natural overflow, rather than an ulterior motive.

I pray I’m making sense here today, guys, ’cause here’s the other thing I’ve realized:  The people who approach me this way? These are the people by whom I consistently feel the most valued, seen, and loved.

These are the people in my life who just by walking with me, have earned the trust and authority in my heart to call me out, speak truths that make me cringe, help me see my blind spots — and their words land with love, bear significant weight in my heart. 

I find myself more deeply grounded in Jesus just by being in their presence.

To put it in terms that are more common in the church, these are the people who are discipling me.

And mostly, they’re doing it without even trying.

They are simply humble. Present. Curious. Listening. Sharing themselves authentically, without agenda. Loving well, and gently — almost unintentionally — leading me into new facets of God’s heart.

Oh Jesus, I want to be just like them.

P.S. Sharing these words with my sweet friend Lisha’s community.

Posted in Community, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Presence, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

On bringing weakness as an offering {a friday story}


Friday morning gets off to a rough start.

Both kids are extra, extra high-maintenance, and my irritability level is high. I speak to my sweet boy more harshly than I should, and I find myself apologizing to him twice before lunch time {and probably should have apologized a couple times more, if I’m honest}.

I’ve spent the entire week fighting off a cold and winning, but my immune system decided it was through protesting, and sickness finally nailed me on Wednesday afternoon.

So my sinuses are throbbing and I’m blowing my nose every other minute or so (sorry if I’m grossing y’all out), and I’m leading worship tonight for the prayer meeting that will be the culmination of our church’s week of prayer and fasting.

Friday late morning finds me pulling myself up by the bootstraps — or by the little loops on the tops of my galoshes, to be exact — and wrangling my littles through melting snow, into our minivan. A few minutes later we’re making our way through Target, where I try hard not to sound like an exhausted, frustrated, worn-thin mama. (Speaking of pretense. Ahem.)

Thankfully, my kids are peaceful for the moment. I wander the aisles in search of the few things I need, and my mind wanders to tonight’s time of worship and prayer. I mentally sift through the songs I’m planning to lead, and I try for maybe the 6th time today to wrangle my heart into the “right” position to help cultivate an atmosphere conducive to encounter with Jesus.

The “right” position? What does that even mean?

Nevertheless, I try.

And then I catch myself, and these heart-whispers rise to the surface, reminding me over and over that Jesus says I can bring my weakness before Him as part of my offering, that it’s in these raw places that He wants to make His glory known.

And yes, self-control is an obvious necessity if I’m going to honor Him in my parenting (not to mention communicating honor to small hearts). But I also don’t have to shove all my ugly into some corner closet within my soul in order to bring Him a pleasing sacrifice of worship.

And actually? He prefers me this way. Raw. Aware of my need. Honest with myself and before the One who made me, weak spots and all.

We grab hotdogs at Target because there is no way I’m going home and making lunch on a day like this. So we load up and head home with full bellies, and do my chilluns want to take naps today? Um, nope. No. They do not.

If I had enough hair to grab hold of, I’d be wanting to pull it out, y’all. Because even with Jesus having bathed my heart in such precious truth in the Target aisles, my frustration level is still through the roof.

The afternoon wears on, and suffice it to say, I’m repenting and repenting to Jesus because I just cannot seem to muster up a heart of peace and gratitude today.

Interesting, I think. How He so often asks me to lead — particularly in a worship capacity — when I feel weakest.

It’s not till I’m throwing on some makeup and a cute scarf and preparing to run out the door to be there early that I realize — *that* time of month is approaching, and it’s entirely likely that *that* is the culprit for a minimum of 50% of my had-it-up-to-here state of heart.

I sigh, partially with relief that I’m not going straight up cray-cray, and partially with frustration that hormones can just do me in like that sometimes.

I thank Stan profusely (something like, “you are SO my knight in shining armor”) and leave him home to get the kids ready — he’ll bring them to church in a bit.

I try to use my drive time to decompress. To still my heart before Him. I’m only a little successful.

I arrive at the church building, fumble my way around a sound system I’m still learning to operate, and breathe prayers. Just let me worship before You alone. For Your glory. Bring Your manifest presence. Move on our hearts, Holy Spirit. Have Your way….

I find myself thanking Him that despite my having crammed oh, so much failure into this day, He is committed to encountering the hearts of His people.

To encountering me.

I enter into worship just as deeply in need of Him as anyone else in the room. Hungry. Broken. Raw.

And y’all? He is there. He’s moving in that place, softening hearts — His nearness is tangible and sweet.

I find myself dismantled as I strum chords and sing my heart. Performance and perfectionism are falling to the ground, and there’s nothing else that matters except being poured out as an offering to Him, whatever it looks like. Except ministering to His heart.


I drive home late. Stan and the kids have long since gone home, and my littles are snoozing soundly by the time I arrive. I sneak in, kiss the world’s most adorable cheeks, and chat with my incredible man.

And as I’m putting away dishes and preparing to wholeheartedly embrace my pillow, I realize that somewhere in those moments of bringing my entire raw, bare heart before the throne and leading out of my weakness, my insides have been rearranged. Set right again.

I didn’t need to have it all together in order to come before Him — yet when I came before Him in the midst of my brokenness, He knit me back together inside.

He covered my brokenness, and He filled me with awe.

I crawl into bed, silently thanking Him for heart-safety — for freedom to be my truest self before Him and before people in this place. I thank Him for peace, for steadiness of heart after a long, long day.

For this sweet, almost accidental byproduct of spilling strength and weakness and adoration, all intermingled, at His feet.

Before I fall asleep, I throw up a quick Facebook status:

Heart = full.

And it is.

{Sharing my heart with sweet friends in Lisha’s community tonight.}

Posted in Freedom From Perfectionism, Give Me Grace, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, risk, Uncategorized, Worship Leader Guts | 12 Comments

A broken piece of my story, and one thing that scares me


The dream is poignant. Terrifying.

We’re in Kansas City, and an unnamed social worker has located some distant member of Maia’s biological family — a great grandmother, maybe? — who wants to raise our daughter. And somehow, despite our very finalized, very permanent adoption, has legal rights to her.

We have no choice but to pack up our 19-month-old’s toys, clothes, belongings, and drive her 60 miles to her new home in a small Missouri town where this grandmother lives.

The shock and trauma are palpable. I’m fighting back a torrent of tears, trying to be strong for Isaac and Maia as we prepare to hand our sweet girl over to an elderly relative she’s never met, not knowing if we’ll ever see her again.

And once again, we will cease being a daughter’s Mama and Daddy. My heart is pulverized.

Somewhere along the way to this small town, we stop at a restaurant for lunch–

–and Isaac cracks open the door to our bedroom.

I’m awake. And maybe only one previous time in my entire life have I been so relieved to discover it was only a dream.

Gratitude washes over me, along with an intense desire to kiss my daughter’s perfect cheeks, which I quickly make my way out to the dining room to do.

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It’s been this growing awareness in my heart lately — the fact that Maia is nearing the age that our foster daughter Tali was back in 2010 when we had to hand her over to her biological mother. We parented her from 2 days old, and then suddenly we were no longer Mom and Dad. Tali was 21 months when we lost her. Maia turns 19 months today.

I’ve been anxious to cross that 21-month threshold with Maia because I think, maybe, some deep place in my subconscious might settle a bit. She’s really ours. We really don’t have to hand her over to a dysfunctional system.


While I’ve anticipated the sense of heart-relief that will come after Maia hits 21 months on March 19th, I didn’t fully anticipate this resurfacing of the trauma of losing Tali as that date draws nearer. I find myself thinking of her more often lately, needing to intentionally, repeatedly entrust her precious, now 6-year-old heart to the perfect care of the God who made her and is committed to her life.

And I’m reminded how that particular piece of my story, of my mama-heart, still hangs open. Raw. Broken, if not always acutely felt. And I yet again consider the invitations to intimacy with Jesus that come hand-in-hand with that brokenness, if I’ll be brave enough to respond to Him in those hurting places. (Psalm 34:18)

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This morning I have a dear friend at home with my littles — my first morning out, alone, since our move. So I throw on my favorite hoodie and boots, teach Natalia how to work our child-locks and let her know to keep Isaac on task in the bathroom so gigantoid messes don’t happen — and drive the few blocks down the street to “our” Starbucks.

Venti coffee in hand, I find a little nook in a corner, and read a while in Buechner’s Telling the Truth. And can I just say — if you haven’t read it, you may wanna consider adding this gem to your reading list for this year.

I’ve been making my way through it ever-so-slowly since we moved, and I find it rearranging places inside me that are still much too deep and unformed try and wrap words around. Jesus is using these words to pull back layers of pretense. To more fully excavate my truest self, my deepest identity in light of the wild extravagance of the gospel.

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I find myself stepping into new places here in Colorado. Invitations to lead worship are coming in in higher numbers than I’ve ever experienced, and there are all these risks to which I’m saying [gulp] yes. 

Never have I been more thankful for the support and wisdom of my husband, and never have I been more sobered by the ways Jesus is inviting me to partner with His Spirit in facilitating heart-encounters with Him, and simultaneously by the need to carefully, prayerfully consider my yeses and my no’s.

I almost went back just now and added exhilarated to the sentence above, after the word sobered, but while I know the exhilarated piece will come — it always does when I have the privilege to witness the Holy Spirit’s movement upon hearts — right now I mostly feel afraid, if I’m honest. Afraid, yet also profoundly grateful for the peace of knowing that I know it’s Jesus who’s calling me into these places that feel so far over my head.

And He’s trustworthy.

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In all this stepping out and moving into uncharted waters, this desire rises over and over again to my heart’s surface: I want a deeper authenticity. Both in the way I love Him, and in the way I coach others into that love. I want performance to fall off my shoulders, and while I do desire to tenderly consider and gently lead people’s hearts, I don’t want a show — even if it’s what I think needs to happen in order to keep people comfortable.

I want (though there’s fear attached to this, too) to let my gaps be exposed before Him and before those with whom He’s calling me to live life. Because as much as I’d love not to, I will certainly fail to meet expectations. And it’s when I allow my gaps to be seen that God has room to show up and encounter those I care about.

So the groaning of my heart these days is that when I’m in leadership in whatever form, and when my raw, still-in-process places are glaring, what will also be exposed is Jesus. His strength perfected in my abundant weakness. His glory. His heartbeat. His relentlessly tender pursuit of these precious hearts.

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I want to love and sing and live and bleed that stuff, you guys. Weakness and all. I want to be genuinely myself as I do it, even when the temptation is to move toward presenting some partially masked version of myself that I think might soothe or impress or garner man’s praise.

So I find these heart-cries surfacing even as I write –

Distill me, God. Purify my motives, intentions, interactions. Purge me of the pretense that comes from the fear of man’s disapproval.

And as I press my scarred and scared places into your perfect, healing, all-consuming Love, let me move forward in this confidence that can only come from abiding in that place — right up next to Your burning heart.

P.S. Sharing these words over at Kelly’s newly birthed linkup — formerly Kelli Woodford’s Unforced Rhythms community — with a heartful of gratitude for Kelli’s months of gracious hosting of our hearts.


I want to be clear that my logical mind has absolutely zero doubt that Maia is ours, and permanently. I simply think that somewhere in my subconscious, I just haven’t quite recovered from the fear that came with the loss of Tali. And I do, however irrational, look forward to moving beyond the 21-month mark with Maia. But Jesus steadies my heart… and I am so thankful for my beautiful girl. Thanks for your love and care, my friends. I deeply appreciate you.

Posted in Community, Confidence in God, Encountering God in the Messy, Freedom From Perfectionism, Goodness of the Gospel, Grief and Loss, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, risk, Uncategorized, Unforced Rhythms | 31 Comments

In which I take a deep breath and share… {#oneword2015}

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Tears burn the backs of my eyes as I open my WordPress “Create New Post” page this afternoon. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s what happens to me more often than not when words are ready to be given voice. They surface in the form of these tears that make it up, but not all the way out. Go figure.

Stan’s helping a sweet family from our church move into their new home, my kiddos are napping soundly, and I am breathing in the quiet.

Pretty sure the days on end of no afternoon naps in our first few weeks here are catching up with my littles. They are exhausted, and Isaac, at least, has been absolutely at the end of himself. Adios, coping skillz.


But I’m rambling.

What I really want to share with you here is my one word for 2015.

Twenty fifteen?! What?! How did this happen?

Yet it did, and my goodness, I am grateful.

If I’m honest, 2014 was one of the more difficult years of my life. I wrote through it all somehow, albeit it often vaguely — through the loss and the hurt, the grieving and the waiting — and I pray I wrote through the more painful days in such a way as to cover and not dishonor, to extend and receive mercy, while simultaneously offering my friends who journey with me via my words an authentic glimpse into my torn heart.

My 2014 word was freedom, and when that word chose me, I had very little understanding that freedom would come at such a high price.

Please bear with me as I write vaguely yet again — and suffice it to say that last year’s journey into higher freedom took me oh, so much deeper with Jesus than I’d anticipated, primarily because the process of staring my fears in the face in order to move through them toward freedom was much more — well, fearful — than I’d expected.

I was forced to press into His heart in ways I’d never had to before.

But He is faithful, y’all. So much more than faithful.

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And we are here now. We step forward into 2015 finally in our lovely, long awaited Colorado, and while my heart has been slow to catch up with the fact that this is a new, different season, I think I’m beginning to stick my toes in the water of embracing said newness. (Ahem. And apparently mixing expressions and metaphors is a thing for me now. Or maybe it always has been. Yeah. But anyway — onward.)

None of us will ever reach the end of learning to move forward through fear, and freedom will be an ongoing journey for me, as it is for all of us who walk with Jesus. But I am so thankful that my geographical and spiritual boundary lines have fallen now in places where walking out this freedom will be a little safer. Will feel a little — yup — freer.


The last several days have been full — both our time, and our hearts. We’ve spent hours with dear friends, both old and new-ish, and there’re these common threads that’ve run through nearly every conversation, to the point where Stan and I have at times utterly given up on maintaining eye contact with our friends and just stared in shock at each other, jaws agape.

Over and over again, the themes are wide open spaces, boundary lines in pleasant places, and the extravagance of the freedom accomplished for us by Christ’s work on the cross.

And I am undone by God’s sweetness to us, His repeated reminding of our hearts that we. are. home. And we are free, both in this new geographical space, and in Him. In the Kingdom.

Also? There’s another theme that’s run through my last several days, and y’all? I am so frightened by it. But it’s the best kind of fear.

Our friends here, and our church family? They so genuinely desire my heart, you guys. And my voice. A number of them read my blog, I’ve learned (eeep!), which makes all this pouring out of my soul feel even more vulnerable for reasons I can explain in a future post.  (But which I also absolutely love, and if you’re reading this and you’re a part of the LVC, I just adore you and you are so welcome here.)

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But here’s the thing: in all these recent conversations, people are asking about my WORD. For 2015.

This word that feels nearly more vulnerable than I can handle. That brings tears to my eyes and makes my stomach do flips with this gut-level knowing that it’s Jesus who’s highlighted it to me.

Oh, the irony in their asking. Because with every ask, there’s this prodding inside me, “Share it, Dana. Do your word. Open yourself. Be seen. Be heard. Be known.”

So, grimacing inside and often outside too, I share it. I choose to let them see into my soul — those I dearly love, and those I’m just getting to know.

And in light of the wide open spaces and increased heart-safety of this new season for us, for me… and in light of last year’s journey into this expanded freedom… and despite the fact that sharing this word makes me feel afraid and exposed and just generally yikes… I’ll tell you here:


The word is unfold.

As in Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, hail Thee as the sun above — the line from Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee that thoroughly wrecks me every time I sing it, and has for years.

Also, as in this quote from Rilke that both sweetly convicts and utterly dismantles me:

I want to unfold.
Let no place inside me hold itself closed.
For where I am closed, I am false.

Unfold is what I’m free to do in 2015, because Jesus and I walked hand-in-hand together through 2014, into this previously uncharted-by-me level of authenticity.

Unfold is about trust — both in my God, and in those in whose midst He’s placed me now.

Unfold is about unzipping my soul, being seen, heard, known.

Unfold is about willingly exposing vulnerable places — insights, opinions, experiences, weakness, failures — but not without the covering of my Love.

Unfold is about taking new risks. About jumping and flying and failing and falling into mercy. About getting up and trying again.

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But mostly? Unfold is about worship. It’s about my heart’s cry, “May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering!” May He receive it in the opening of my soul. In my authenticity. In the way I love and lead and sing and speak. May He receive it in my ruthless, unbridled trust, in my moving forward in quiet, worship-filled obedience even in the midst of fear, because He is outrageously, beautifully worthy of it.

Let nothing inside me hold itself closed. I want to unfold.


Several weeks ago, a dear friend shared this song on Facebook, and it’s since become the soundtrack for my life. I want to share it with you here, because it speaks so profoundly to what Jesus has forged in me in recent days. I’d love for you to take a minute with this (literally – it’s short.). {And if you’re reading via email, would you consider clicking over to listen?}

Final thought: I’m reminded of this 5 Minute Friday post that I wrote back in July. It’s a super short one, but it gives imagery and further explanation to the vulnerability of this journey of unfolding. I’d love for you to read it if you’re not already worn out by all my words tonight.

ALSO (and I promise this is my final thought, for real, y’all) — if you’ve chosen a word to mark your 2015, I’d absolutely love to hear. Share it with me in the comments? And if you’ve blogged about it (which is by no means a requirement!), would you leave a link? I’d love to read.

Blessings to you, my friends, and happy 2015.

Your companionship here has been, and continues to be, an invaluable gift to my soul. I love you guys.

{Sharing this post with my friends in Kelli’s community.}

Posted in Community, Creativity, Give Me Grace, Goodness of the Gospel, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, One Word, Transition, Uncategorized, Writing | 46 Comments

One Thing I Know for Sure {on living soft under pressure}


It’s 7 degrees outside tonight with a forecast low of negative 4, and the snow falls still — these flakes so fine they’re almost microscopic. It’s been falling most of the day, and I’m thankful tonight that the snow’s light enough for my car’s windshield wipers to handle its weight.

I dig the minivan out just enough to see to drive, make my way just a couple blocks down the road to our nearest Starbucks, and find even the main roads are completely covered by hard-packed layers of white.


Despite the fact that I can’t feel my fingers or toes, I stand still outside for a minute and breathe in the frigid beauty. The stillness of the evening calms my hurried heart. The quiet breathes fresh life.


I mentioned to Stan a week or so ago that I felt like my heart’d been buried under boxes. That in the midst of transition and grief and exhaustion and all the seemingly endless doing of moving and re-settling with little ones, I’d subconsciously kicked into survival mode.

Just keep going, Dana. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

But something is shifting.


Sunday morning rolls around, December 28th, and I’m on the schedule already to lead worship for our church family here in Littleton {in light of the holiday absence of our usual worship leader}.

To give a little context, this is the church where Stan and I fell in love. Our pastor here officiated our wedding back in 2007, and his family has remained some of our dearest friends of all time, even across the geographical distance of the last nearly 7 years.


So despite changes in the composition of the church, coming back here still feels like coming home. And the privilege of leading these dear hearts in worship is a gulp of fresh air to my soul.

The way my heart and my family are welcomed and fully received in this place has already been balm to my aching places, and something inside me comes back to life a little bit as I put fingers to piano keys and pour my heart out in worship in not one, but two services.


In the days since our move, our kiddos have decided afternoon naps are no longer their thing. I’m making it through my days with them by giving them “rest time” in their beds in the afternoon, having them listen to books on CD. So far they’re both enjoying the downtime, and the plus side for Mom and Dad is that 7pm most evenings finds them both in bed, sound asleep.

So Stan and I spend our now blissfully peaceful evenings unpacking boxes, hanging artwork on walls, and sitting face to face while we munch crackers with cream cheese and the most amazing jalapeño jam (thank you, Littleton Whole Foods).

We purchase firewood and a fireplace tool set, and after just over 2 weeks in our new place, we finally carve out time to sit by a fire Sunday night in the post-bedtime quiet.

Our conversations lately circle ’round the exhausting intensity of helping our littles adjust to our family’s new season, and we contemplate practical ways to live more deeply connected to each other and to the heart of God in the midst of all the pressure.

“I’ve not been doing a good job living in the reality of this, babe,” I tell him, “but I know that I know there’s a way for us to walk out this season, with all its grief and frustration and exhaustion, with hearts that’re soft and responsive and surrendered to Him.”


See, what I desperately don’t want is to look back at these days and weeks of adjustment and processing all these major life changes, and realize I only survived this season. I don’t want to cave to stress, to live these days irritable toward those I love most.

I don’t want to be hardened by the pressure, to continue to numb out under the weight of it. I don’t want to miss the gifts of these days. The ways Jesus wants to make Himself known to me. The shaping and forming of Himself that He wants to accomplish in my depths.

And the desire and prayer that’s re-awakening my insides even in these last few days is that I’ll allow the pressure to soften me. To press me more deeply into Him, to conform my heart more fully to His.

That instead of resisting my circumstances, growing hard, and living frustrated — I’ll surrender to this season and to Him in the midst of it. That I’ll lean into intimacy with Him, and that intimacy will be what sustains and carries me and keeps my heart wide open and pumping, through the things that stretch me and pull me and take me right out of all my cherished comfort zones.


So 10pm rolls around and Stan and I sit in the Sunday evening quiet. I’m desperately needing to go to sleep, but I can’t tear my eyes away from the final few flames licking around the far edges of the one remaining log in our fireplace —

— and I can’t tear my heart away from this deep, quiet sense of God’s nearness. Of His movement on my insides. His breathing on my internal flame. This softening of my soul to the tenderness of the One who is faithful to draw me yet again into His heart — Whose relentless pursuit of my deepest places just dismantles me over and over and over again.


P.S. So there’s a new year around the corner, and there’s this word rolling around in my gut these days, y’all. It’ll be my one word for 2015. And even just the thought of sharing it feels so vulnerable (and so right) that it brings tears to my eyes. I’ll share it with you here soon though (she said, as her stomach did a flip). And also? Just thanks. Thank you for walking beside me here for another year. For the continual presence and compassion with which you bear witness to my journey. You all bless my life so profoundly.

P.P.S. Linking my heart tonight with those in Kelli’s community, hosted at Beth’s place this month. ‘Cause I just pretty much love those guys.

Posted in Encountering God in the Messy, Encountering God in the Mundane, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Transition, Unforced Rhythms | 12 Comments

In Which I Try and Break Through the Fog of Transition

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Where do you start when it’s been weeks since you’ve written and your entire life has been flipped upside down during the days on end of writerly silence?

This move has been the best kind of change, but my goodness, it has been disorienting to me.

Friday evening, December 12th finds us navigating Denver rush hour and making our way to our new apartment complex here in Littleton, CO — minivan, moving truck, and Stan’s Ford Explorer in tow.

Several local friends meet us at the apartment complex gate, and we’re soon joined by a few pre-teen neighbor boys who offer their box-carrying muscles to help us unload into our new home.

Our dear friends Ian and Sue, who pastor our church family here, are among the crowd of friends. Maia falls in love with Ian, and Sue unpacks most of my kitchen (much to my relief) while I try to channel some of Isaac’s stir-craziness into helping carry small items in from the truck.

Our apartment is little — almost hilariously smaller than our old 6-bedroom house in Kansas City. {Which, by the way, closed without a hitch, purchased by our sweet buyers who love Jesus and want to love people in our former neighborhood. Could not be a sweeter set-up. God’s faithfulness just floors me – His perfect orchestration of every detail of the sale of our home, despite the long wait.}

And the smallness of our new home by no means takes away from the relief of being here. Actually, fitting into a smaller space feels good, y’all. We have downsized and purged and simplified, and finally, we are home.

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Stan and I drive down the road and gaze at the mountains, and we sigh with relief to be back here. We reminisce as we drive by the places we had our first conversations, the places we fell in love.

And while the kids are excitedly exploring their new city and relishing the mountain view with Mom and Dad, their overall adjustment has felt slow to me. Getting used to the altitude; to a new, smaller space; to a new city; meeting new friends; adjusting to sharing a room for the first time — it’s all fairly daunting to a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old.

I do have complete peace that they will even out and settle well into our new life here. Already, they are more peaceful and settled than even just several days ago.

But the combination of their out-of-sorts-ness, and the mountains of boxes that have demanded my attention, has led to zero downtime for me in recent weeks.


So how’m I doing? Welp, I think sleep deprivation and travel and unpacking and learning to do life with my two littles in our small space with Stan working from home — it’s all relegated me mostly to survival mode.

And in the midst of all the upheaval, my Grandpa passes away in North Carolina the day after we move into our apartment. I’m so thankful he’s free from pain, that He’s with Jesus and with my Grandma who passed away end of September, but I’m pretty sure the grief of these back-to-back losses is gonna catch up with me unexpectedly one of these days.

And it does hit me in some measure, as I’m unpacking my kids’ room and I come across stuffed animals and dolls and toys made for me or given to me as a child by my grandparents – items I’ve saved for my own kids. I remember how sweetly my grandparents always loved me and I’m reduced to tears over how much I miss them.

I told Stan the other day that though I’m beyond thankful to be here, it doesn’t quite feel real yet because my heart has felt buried under moving boxes and unprocessed loss and general exhaustion. Told him I knew I needed to write, but didn’t have a clue what I’d say.

And even now, 500 + words into this blog post, I still don’t quite know what I’m saying.

But I’m here. I’m showing up, finally.

I slump into a chair at the Starbucks down the street from our place, nurse my venti coffee-with-too-much-cream, munch on my pumpkin bread, and try however haltingly to put pen to paper and pour my heart into my journal.

I spend some time reading in Luke, trying to orient my heart at least a little bit to the reality of Jesus, to Advent — and the miracles of John the Baptist’s birth and Gabriel’s announcement to Mary wrap themselves around my heart.

The extravagant sweetness of God’s master plan to pursue the hearts of man softens me a little, sprinkles a few drops of water on my dry ground.

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And despite my distracted borderline numbness, the whisper of the Holy Spirit is tender and close:

Soak in My love, Dana. You can’t give out what you’re not positioning your heart to receive.

Oh yeah. Right.

I’m realizing how the noise of my exhausted desperation to get our new home unpacked and settled has overridden my quiet burning for stillness before Him. My need to slow down long enough for His nearness to invade my senses and His tenderness to embrace my soul.

So I’m sitting still here today, y’all. Diving back into Luke, into the sweetness of His pursuit of my heart — how it’s woven through the Christmas story, through the Advent season, through the reality of my life in these days.

He is Immanuel and He is here. Right now. With me.

And with you. To meet every need of your heart.

May you know His intimate, personal nearness in whatever ways you need to know it in these days, my friends. May it be awakening and comfort and peace and healing balm.

Merry Christmas. And thanks as always for walking with me here, for waiting and praying me through the silent times. And for grace, as I share these words today in all their un-put-together rawness.

So much love to y’all, dear ones.

Posted in Advent, Celebrations, Give Me Grace, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Transition, Travel, Unforced Rhythms | 12 Comments

Uncovering Sacred Flames {and Other Thoughts Upon Turning 34}

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Thanksgiving Day dawns peaceful in our household. We hang around in our PJ’s for hours, all of us reveling in the relaxed pace of our morning, and in Isaac’s thorough enjoyment of the Macy’s Parade. It’s the first year he’s really been old enough to be excited about it.

I preheat the oven, throw in the breakfast casserole I prepared the night before, cut up a few pieces of fruit and toss with some yogurt, and bam — brunch is served.

With our housemate having moved out already {in prep for our impending move to Colorado} and no family visiting, it’s just the 4 of us for breakfast today. And as much as I’m aching and missing my side of our extended family on this, our first Thanksgiving without my Grandma Kiser, Stan and I are drinking in this time with just our little family unit.

Drinking it in, that is, until we find ourselves up to our ears in… well, disobedience.


We spend precious time in the afternoon and evening with Stan’s cousin and some other extended family, and — well, let’s just say the morning’s behavior train is still rollin’.

With an artistic, easily distracted 4-year-old, and a sweet 17-month-old who’s finding her voice and beginning to exert her lion-cub will, let’s just say we for sure have our challenging moments. And sometimes those moments add up to challenging hours. Days at a time, even.

So I wake up this morning, my 34th birthday, and while my husband celebrates and loves on me, our sweet littles don’t quite get the memo that Mom would love a peaceful, easier-than-normal day.

I smily wryly as I type, because lately, even in the chaotic parenting moments, Stan and I are often able to look at each other, shrug, sigh, and move on through the struggles mostly calm. {Mostly being the key word.}

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We are a team, he and I. But this is how this parenting gig goes, we’re learning — try something new, make progress, lose grip on some measure of said progress. Try next new thing, fail epically. Try still another new strategy, and succeed… but only till the next issue crops up.

Parenting our two littles continually puts us on our faces before Jesus, acutely aware of our need for His leadership, His heart, His creativity. Pressing into His commitment to their precious hearts. Leaning into it for dear life, actually, because this stewarding and shaping of little, Jesus-loving people is so not something we can make happen in our own power. Not remotely.

And when we try to do this thing without this humble posture of leaning that we’re learning, we fall flat on our faces every. single. time.

Upon nap time’s arrival, Stan and I plop down exhausted but peaceful at our dining room table, and coffee in hand, I spill my heart all over the table before him. We talk for two solid hours and our conversation winds its way around what it looks like to live whole, integrated lives, embracing the entirety of our humanity as intentionally created and desired by God.

The unzipping of our souls is all at once messy and sweet, painful and profound, and our hearts connect in deep places as we each affirm our desires for the whole of each other — body, soul, and spirit.

I’m reminded of this sacred flame that sometimes gets hidden a bit amidst uncharted parenting territory and the nitty gritty details of life. It requires regular, intentional fanning, a continual rediscovering of the fuel that fed it in the first place.

Seven plus years together, and again on my 34th birthday, I am choosing him. He is choosing me.


I’d told Stan this morning that since our birthday date is planned for Sunday evening, what I’d love to do tonight was just grab a few hours by myself at Starbucks. He wholeheartedly supports my need for space to breathe deep and spill my heart in written word, so I find myself here tonight with a ridiculously amazing peppermint white mocha, and a backpack heavy with books and journal.

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I contemplate turning 34, and what’s turning over and over inside me lately is all the ways I find myself changing.

I contemplate Freedom, my One Word for 2014, and the various unexpected ways it’s manifested itself in my life this year. How it’s been all at once terrifying and exhilarating, this walking out from under fear of man and into all these wide open spaces of becoming.

In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I’ve jotted down a handful of fairly random ways I’m finding my perspectives and thought processes being transformed as I enter my mid-thirties.

1. I wouldn’t trade the seasons of loss and unfulfilled desires for anything. I am in love with the ways Jesus has encountered me in grief, how He’s rearranged my insides and covered my raw wounds with His love.

2. The older I get, the more poetic nuance moves my soul. And the more I’m moved by it regardless of the degree to which my logical mind comprehends it. And the less I *need* to be able to fully understand it in order to allow it to move me. I think those gut-level stirrings, the ones that are just barely beneath my word-wrapping reach, are the more important ones most of the time anyway.

3. I am learning to love paradox almost like I love poetry. The nuances and dichotomies and apparent contradictions of faith and doctrine and life experience that instead of contorting my brain and embittering my heart, are more often nowadays propelling me deeper into His heart, and deeper into friendship with those who see life through lenses less familiar to me. I may find more words for this in the near future, but y’all, this particular thing Jesus is doing inside me — it is utterly rearranging my insides, pressing me to the floor, face-down in repentance, longing for humility. Curiosity. A teachable, pliable heart.

And with this post edging up near 1,000 words, I need to stop for tonight. Thank you for reading, for tracking with the disjointed ebb and flow of my heart as I cross this threshold into 34.

Y’all love me so well, bless me continually, and are the sweetest traveling companions.

I am so thankful for you, dear friends.

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P.S. Linking hearts and arms with Lisha and Kelli and friends, as usual.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Cultivating A Heart of Gratitude, Encountering God in the Messy, Encountering God in the Mundane, Family Moments, Give Me Grace, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, Marriage, misc. walking with Jesus, One Word, Parenting, Presence, Unforced Rhythms | 11 Comments