What Authenticity Looks Like {for me} Today

photo 3

I wake up this morning, fill a couple of too-finely-ruled pages in my notebook. Out spill disorganized thoughts and heart cries, followed by infant-stage ideas for a future blog post that feels more opinionated {and therefore scarier} than my norm.

I listen to Psalm 139 a couple times through on my audio Bible, contemplating how intimately my Father knows my every interior cavern. How He sees every undiscovered place, every hidden motive. How trustworthy is His love; how tender is His leadership of my heart.

I shower, pull on holey jeans and an old tee-shirt, because today is a day for laying low with my littles and catching up on laundry.

By the time the kids and I have made it through breakfast, I’m sneezing uncontrollably, and I’m realizing these symptoms are more than just allergies. I cut myself some slack, let the kids watch a little extra TV while I sneeze and sniffle my way through the day till nap time.

The kids snooze peacefully, so I plant myself on the couch and pick up a book to do some reading, but my thoughts feel scattered.

I allow my mind to wander for a minute as I stare into space.

For months now, I’ve tried to blog once weekly (on average), and sometimes even that feels more than I can handle. So when the desire to write bubbles up to my heart’s surface, I try to wrestle it back down.

What could I say today that would be authentic, anyway? I don’t really have words right now….

photo 2

But the question won’t leave me alone, so after a few minutes of further contemplation, I open my gmail (because every once in a while I journal my thoughts and email them to myself). In the subject line, I type the question, now pounding louder in my chest:

“What would be authentic for me to say today?”

Confession: sometimes this feels tricky to me, y’all. Friends who’ve read my writing for some time have occasionally given me feedback like, “Sometimes I think you still say what you *think* you should say, instead of writing from your truest heart.”

Authenticity in my writing — writing from the core of who I am — is something I’ll openly admit I’m still growing in. Probably always will be, actually.

I decide I’d better give the question some attention:

What would I say if I were going to honestly articulate the state of my heart today?

That I’m a little afraid to write again after accidentally writing 2 posts in a row that received more-than-normal-for-me amounts of exposure. That I don’t know what to say now, and it’s hard not to aim for those kinds of results again, instead of simply aiming to authentically express my heart.

That I’ve got to remember how it burned inside me a year or so ago when I came home teary-eyed from a writing date with myself — when I told Stan if all I ever do is spiral inward till I’m writing out of my truest self, if I can just make art from that place, just honestly create before the Lord – then that will be success for me.

That’s what I long for more deeply than I want numbers — more than recognition, I told him then — and the desire still burns.

photo 1

I want to grow in my confidence in Him, create authentically, as an offering to Him. To let Him carve me out inside, deeper and deeper. To keep my gaze on the path ahead and my fingers interlocked with His, blinders on my eyes and a Yes, Jesus in my heart. Ears tuned to the Holy Spirit as He whispers and nudges and tweaks my heart in the places where I still sometimes miss His.

Authenticity. Groundedness in Him. This is success. This is my goal.

And there’s absolutely a place for admitting, “wow, what I wrote is really resonating with people.” A place for looking at my writing and bearing witness to my own growth.

But human affirmation can be heady, and as those “like” and “share” numbers at the bottom of my last blog post went up, I felt deeply sobered by the reality of the battle for my heart’s gaze.

Recognition is encouraging, yes, but it can be distracting too, and toxic at worst. 

Through it, though, the Holy Spirit’s whispers were loud:

“Look up, Dana. Look at Me. Acknowledge your growth and connect with the hearts of those who’re reaching out for connection – but don’t shift the focus of your pursuit from My heart to man’s attention.”

Yes Lord. Help me. Give me grace to remain in touch with my true desires. Steady on.

And, at the risk of redundancy–

Further up. Further in.

–Sharing this post with my friends in Lisha’s community.–

Posted in Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, This Blog's Mission and Purpose, Writing | 15 Comments

The Invitations in the Crashing Down

jennifer's ferris wheel

Photo credit: By Jennifer Upton

I didn’t write at all for two weeks.

No words scribbled in a journal; no thoughts pulled up from my depths and laid bare on my computer screen.

And while I have been more consistent about spilling randomness and guts onto journal pages this past week, I didn’t know whether I was going to write in this space this week until about 5 minutes before I sat down and began.

What do you say when there’s so much you can’t exactly say?

In case you haven’t already put two and two together, I’ve lost a valuable support system recently. Actually, the deterioration of said support system has been in process for quite a while, but it culminated in the last number of weeks, essentially resulting in a total loss.

And the knowledge that the loss was impending has by no means diminished its accompanying grief.

Jesus has been tangibly near though, and His faithfulness to speak, to sustain me inside, to fortify my heart through my husband’s strength — it takes my breath away.

****

Enter the last 10 days. In which another key emotional/creative support system has come crashing down. And even though in this instance I’ve mostly stood on the sidelines — watched and grieved and prayed as many of those I love are devastated — it has affected my heart profoundly.

In this most recent crumbling, I do have faith that relationships can be rebuilt, at least to some degree. With time. But my ache for those I love who’re hurting is still the last thing I think about before I fall asleep at night, and one of the first two or three thoughts to flit across my mind when I wake up each morning.

In the midst of so much loss, I’ve been thankful over and over again that the God who created us to need depth of relationship with other humans is also the One who catches our broken pieces when those relationships become the context for deep hurt. Thankful for the intimacy that comes when we lean into Him in simultaneous pain and trust. When, in the midst of the breaking, we let Him gather our shattered bits and press them into His heart.

That intimacy is where cracks can be filled with gold.

****

There’s a pattern I’m noticing in my spiritual journey as it relates to my creative life. A holy invitation that whispers and winds its way around my heart when my life is flipped upside-down, when I find myself pressed by external circumstance and internal desperation into a deeper, rawer heart-cry of whom have I but You?

“Come further up; come further in.”

****

“Mom? Mom! What is this?”

The question jolts me out of my thoughts and I leave my task of cleaning the kitchen for a moment to look at a picture Isaac’s showing me in his recently gifted children’s atlas. I’ve never heard a Ferris wheel called an “observation wheel” before, but that’s what this one is, apparently. It’s in London, if I remember correctly.

The picture intrigues me and I stare at it for a while with him before returning to cleaning the kitchen.

The next day a friend writes a blog post and includes an image of a very similar “observation wheel” in her post. A day later, two more photos of them pop up in a Facebook group I’m a part of and by now I’m thinking, Okay Lord, what are you speaking to me through these recurring images?

I can’t gaze at them long enough.

The photos pull me in, and the divine drawing of my heart to come further up, to see with heavenly perspective all the loss, all the crumbling and hurting — it’s far from lost on me.

****

In recent weeks I’ve continually found within myself a longing for the energy-consuming, terrifying, exhilarating intentionality of grabbing the hand of Jesus and letting Him lead me deeper into my core — into further soul excavation and a more grounded authenticity — both in my art(s) and in my everyday interactions with my fellow humans.

Some seasons don’t lend themselves to having the energy or focus for such creative/spiritual surges forward. {Or deeper, rather.} And in these months of extended waiting, until now, I’ve mostly been grieving and healing and worshiping and mothering and pressing into my marriage… just making it from one day to the next, leaning into Him.

BUT.

Something is shifting inside me — a new strength, a fresh wind. Desire breathes life and the oomph it takes to set my alarm a half hour earlier and consistently scribble words into a notebook again, regardless of whether my foggy, pre-coffee brain can compose anything profound or coherent, or not.

The practice is about gaining fluency, staying sharp, being ready when the excavation reaches new depths and the words or songs or conversations start to flow a little more free.

Take My hand. Come deeper in.

 ****

So grief and anxiety are giving way to fiery intentionality. The transition is slow, but apparent. And I find my heart a little more steadfast in this journey with Him; my eyes less and less often darting around to this or that person’s opinion or assumption; my gaze a little more firmly set on the path ahead.

Onward. Further up. Further in.

___________

Sharing my journey as usual with friends in Lisha and Kelli’s communities. With gratitude and love.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Encountering God in the Messy, Give Me Grace, Grief and Loss, Uncategorized, Unforced Rhythms, Writing | 28 Comments

In Which I’m Awkward and Afraid, but I Publish Anyway

photo-3

I find myself pressed heavy into the couch on Thursday night, heart and body a thousand pounds of grief. I text a close friend in Colorado, pour out my heart to her because Stan’s at work tonight and I need to talk to someone who can handle my raw hurt.

It feels strange – SO uncomfortable - to be in this much pain inside. To be this needy.

I grab my guitar and the song that comes out to Jesus is one I’ve not thought of in years:

I don’t understand Your ways

Oh, but I will give You my song

I’ll give You all of my praise

You hold onto all my pain

And with it You are pulling me closer

Pulling me into Your ways

Now around every corner, and up every mountain

I’m not looking for crowns, or the water from fountains

I’m desperately seeking, frantic believing

That the sight of Your face is all I’m needing….

(Rita Springer – Worth It All)

And I don’t always succeed at turning my heart toward Him in the face of raw pain. But tonight, amidst the hurt that is colliding with my heart at a deeper level than I can put words to, my weak whisper:

Oh, just let me love You well through this. Have your way in my depths. Let this pain be a tool in your gentle hands as you carve me out more deeply inside. Form yourself in me here, in my bleeding places. Give me grace to continue to surrender to your process.

****

If I could just give y’all who walk beside me here a real peek into my raw wrestling in this season….

One of the biggest questions that rolls around in my heart these days is this:

As one who uses public writing as a way to process and file life events inside my soul, how do I navigate these days?

How do I give you an authentic picture of the things that are big in my life and my soul right now, without sharing details that would inappropriately uncover those whose stories intersect with my own? What is okay to share? What isn’t okay? Is it fair to you, my readers, to let you in on how deeply I’m hurting without sharing the details of why?

These are a few of the things I wrestle over and pray through late at night, or when I wake up at 4 AM and can’t go back to sleep.

If I were writing this on Facebook I’d add the hashtag #writerproblems, because yup – this is a common struggle in the world  of we who feel called to wrangle words and publicly articulate our spiritual journeys.

And I confess I don’t yet have any clear answers on these things, so I’m here today, feeling semi-blind as I put one foot in front of the other, one word in front of the other. As I try to do the next thing, try to trust my gut, as I do the thing my heart seems to lean toward.

****

This morning finds me at Panera yet again, and one of the things for which I’m most thankful these days is a sweet babysitter who loves our kiddos and serves our family every Friday morning.

And after an epically short (for me) 493 words or so, I’m already thinking toward closing this blog post and opening my journal, because what else do I really have these days except to allow Him to continue His excavation of my deep places while I grieve?

But before I pick up pen and paper this morning, I want you to know this: I am absolutely confident that I will be okay. My God loves me. My husband adores me. My kids are amazing. We are all physically well, our house is still under contract, and while the process is slow, we will be in Colorado before all is said and done.

The grief runs deep right now, but even more deeply, I trust Jesus’ commitment to healing my broken places, to intimately seeing and understanding me when humans fail to do so.

The times in my history when He’s met me most intimately have been the ones in which my heart has felt utterly shattered. And I resolutely believe that this time will be no exception.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit…. (Psalm 34:18)

I’m thankful for His nearness. I’m ardently loved. And beneath the hurt that churns inside, there is a river of peace that springs from His Spirit, resident in my very core.

And that River? It’s enough for my soul right now.

It really is.

{And this is one of those times when the mere thought of publishing my words makes my heart beat faster, because woah, vulnerable. But I value your companionship here, your sharing of your stories with me, the way you reflect back to me what you hear in my heart… so here I go. [Gulp.] And I thank you so much for grace as I tentatively, awkwardly pour out my heart here in these days.}

**Related: On Tension, Weakness, and Adoring Him from the Floor

PS – Will be sharing these words with my sweet friends in Lisha and Kelli’s communities, on Saturday evening and Monday morning, respectively. So thankful for the way y’all walk with me through my story.

Posted in Encountering God in the Messy, Freedom From Perfectionism, Give Me Grace, Grief and Loss, Uncategorized, Unforced Rhythms | 31 Comments

When Life Is Not Okay and Also Deeply Okay {and the story of the contract on our house}

photo-10

With the end of August in sight, this Friday morning finds me catching a mom-breather at my favorite Panera Bread location, opening my WordPress “Add New Post” screen for the first time in nearly a month.

My original plan for August was a month-long break from blogging and Facebook, and while I definitely cut back my sharing on Facebook, I’ll certainly admit I’ve spent more time present there than I’d first intended.

Sometimes life is turned on its head and you’ve just gotta roll with it, be a little extra gentle with yourself.

Please accept my apologies for my need to yet again communicate about this particular circumstance sans details, and let it suffice for now to say that this last month or so has been all at once profoundly freeing, and excruciatingly painful at a heart level. Grief breeds physical exhaustion that many days is nothing short of overwhelming.

photo-2

Healing and hope are to be found in Jesus though, along with an ever deepening freedom, and I’m hanging onto the truth that those are His plan and His heart for me.

In the coming months, as I’m able, I’ll write less “in code” and share a few more details. In the meantime, those of you who walk beside me here, would you pray for us? We’d be so grateful.

****

As a family unit, Stan and I and the kids are doing well, despite the tensions and losses that pull and pierce our hearts. We are leaning into Jesus and one another, and enjoying an abundance of down time together. The cocooning continues and it’s exactly what our worn-thin souls need in this season.

photo-9 photo-7 photo-6 photo-4

Watching the calendar slip slowly toward September [which in and of itself is balm to my hurting places], I’ve contemplated how to give you an accurate picture of my heart’s journey over the last month.

I’ve considered what, if anything, to say about Ferguson, about Iraq and ISIS, about Israel and Gaza, Robin Williams and mental illness, and the unexpected death last week of a friend’s son who was a month younger than my own little guy.

Not only has my personal world been flipped on its head this month, but the out there world is all upside down too. So many things are straight up not okay, and actually, it all feels much less “out there” these days, and much nearer to my own heart than ever before.

So I find myself pressing into Jesus for strength, for grace to allow myself to be genuinely touched by tragedies toward which I have no practical course of action, no ability to bring healing.

No course of action, that is, outside of many quiet cries from the secret place, where He invites me to share in some small portion of the agony of His heart over the suffering of so many precious fellow human beings who He adores.

****

photo

photo-13

Through all the upside-down-ness though, our hearts sit simultaneously in this place of rest, and gratitude to an extravagant God who has intricately orchestrated every detail of our coming move to Colorado.

And finally, here’s something on which I no longer have to withhold practical details:

WE ARE UNDER CONTRACT. For real this time, I believe.

After our previous contract fell through, despite the grief over having prepared to move to Colorado and then suddenly having our wait stretched out indefinitely before us yet again, the quiet question that echoed in our hearts was, Okay God, who are you really saving this house for?

You guys.  When I say Jesus is sweet to us, this right here is what I mean:

He takes our exact prayers, holds them in His heart, and brings perfect answers at just the right time.

Beyond what we could ask, think, or imagine.

photo-14

When we first knew we needed to move out of our home, we asked Him for buyers who would love Him and love people in this place.

Enter: our new friends.

So THIS is who You were saving it for.

Some sweet friends who’re neighbors of ours literally sent our buyers to our door just over a month ago. We gave them an unofficial tour of our house, along with our realtor’s information, and they contacted her the same day.

This couple is amazing. They authentically love Jesus, adore our house, are connected with a church just down the block from our home, and want to be in this exact location for ministry purposes.

Also, we genuinely enjoy them. Couldn’t be a more fun, natural connection.

photo-12

photo-3

Here’s another crazy piece of the story: a couple weeks ago, by the time all was said and done, we ended up with multiple offers on our home all in one weekend. After 6 months of waiting, we literally had to choose which of three families we wanted to have our home.

After taking a day or two to pray, we knew for certain we wanted our friends who love Jesus to have the house [it had been our gut feeling all along], and we signed a contract contingent upon the sale of their house, which was still on the market.

Then, within literally 5 hours, they accepted an offer and their house officially went under contract.

If you can track with me another minute here – their buyers are getting a government loan that will likely take quite a while to process, so by the time all is said and done, we likely won’t move till at least November. Possibly not even until after Thanksgiving.

Discovering how long their contract would likely take to go through was honestly a disappointment to us, as we were so hoping to spend the majority of the Fall season in Denver. We’re praying though, that things will move supernaturally quickly, so if you’d like to add your prayers to ours, we would appreciate it so much.

At a deeper level though, we’re resting, trusting God’s timing for our move. He has proven so trustworthy in all of this, has sustained our hearts so faithfully through the long waiting — we trust He’ll continue to sustain us through this last leg of our time here in Kansas City.

****

photo-5

Oh yeah. And then there was the day we became pet owners. We’d been promising Isaac for months that we’d get hermit crabs for his 4th birthday. So. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Hermie and Weavy. He adores them. (Also, it is entirely possible that I’m crazy.)

photo-11

photo-8

Through the mixture of gratitude and grief that has marked our August, one theme has been my heart’s cry. I’ve awakened many a recent morning with this song running through my head — a tangible, holy drawing of my heart again and again back to the purpose of the blink-of-an-eye life we’re given on this planet.

If everything around us and far away from us is flipped on its head, if it all crashes down — but if somewhere in the midst of the suffering we who know Him get to intimately encounter Him, to absorb His heart into our own, to find ourselves hidden in His heart, to learn to love a little more like He does — who’s to say all of this won’t be infinitely more than worth it, after all?

Much love to you, dear friends. So thankful to be able to invite you into my story here again. Your companionship is so treasured.

**So thrilled to be sharing again with my friends in Lisha and Kelli’s communities.**

Posted in Give Me Grace, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Uncategorized, Unforced Rhythms | 25 Comments

How God Moves Pieces into Place {and why I’ll be quiet a while}

My boy and I, we leave the house bright and early this morning to run my parents half an hour north to the Kansas City airport.

Their four days here went by far too quickly, punctuated by showing after showing. Five showings while they were in town, and six total in the last week.

All this, after averaging one showing every three weeks or so for months, and we’re looking around at all these giants turning to bread right and left. They’re looking less insurmountable by the day.

It’s one thing to stand in faith on God’s promises, and a whole ‘nother soul-dismantling experience to see them being fulfilled before our very eyes.

Are we under contract? Not yet. But very specific answers to prayers are streaming in while we stand back and watch, jaws hanging open.

photo-18

I of course can’t share details just yet, but I’ll say this: Jesus is extravagant to us.

Meanwhile, our Maia bean up and takes off walking, spends the entire time my parents are in town finding her footing, growing noticeably more sure of herself by the day. She’s a blast to watch.

photo-17

New words are finding their way through her 13-month-old lips every couple of days too, and I can’t help but draw parallels between her emerging and stabilizing and expanding sense of confidence — and my own.

photo-19 photo-16

We spend the week with my mom and dad flitting from park to mall to kid-friendly restaurant during showings, and Isaac has the sweetest interactions with his Gigi and Grandpa of possibly any chunk of time we’ve ever spent with them.

It’s a gift to watch your parents love your children, to watch that love be reciprocated. There’s nothing like it in the world.

photo-20 photo-22

photo-21

We hit one of our favorite parks during our Wednesday afternoon showing and I find myself letting my mom push my kids in the swings, and jumping on a swing of my own. I swing — like, really swing — and the height and the wind in my hair {and the accompanying adrenaline rush} are soul medicine, along the lines of the water slide from last week’s pool adventure.

photo-25

****

And through flurries of house cleaning and round after round of people through our home, our hearts quietly orbit this idea of cocooning.

Now that August has rolled around, I’m yet again coming face to face with my need for solitude. My yearning to be refilled in the secret place. It’s a theme that grabs my gaze over and over again as I read the words of kindred-hearted online friends. It’s a holy whisper that echoes inside me, ever closer to the surface.

photo-24

I call my counselor this morning and leave her a message, belatedly letting her know that our contract fell through, that we’re still in town, and that I need to see her this week if possible, because this whole cocooning thing is pressing all my *fear of man* buttons.

My fear of disappointing people as we pull back and seek quiet spaces together as a family. My need for approval. And most especially, my fear of being misunderstood.

::shiver::

My chest aches and my stomach does flips as I consider the ways this solitude season has the potential to disappoint people I dearly love. As I weigh the likelihood that our hearts will be misunderstood.

The aching isn’t constant though; it’s intermittent, punctuated by hours at a time of this bubble of peace that cushions my insides.

And y’all, I’m so thankful. God’s hand is all over this season for us; His heart is turned toward us; He is not passive in our waiting.

And while we’re worn thin and lots of things feel unreasonably exhausting to us in this season, we’re encouraged as we see God moving hearts and pieces into place in our behalf — both circumstantially and in our cores.

photo-23

He is to be trusted even when His hand can’t be fully seen, and it’s our heartbeat, our cry in this season – may we be found faithfully trusting, continually surrendering, deeply abiding in You through it all.

_______

*I’ve avoided key details again, I know, and I’m publishing with very little editing, but I thank you for your gracious and prayerful receiving of the words I’m able to share here today.*

**I’ll be taking the remainder of August to be still and quiet. I’ll pop onto Facebook to announce any major news that comes up relative to the sale of our house {If you don’t follow my blog’s Facebook page and you’d like to, you can find it here}, but otherwise my social media channels will be pretty quiet. Please know you’re loved and thought of, and that I so deeply appreciate your walking beside our family in this season.**

***Sharing this post with my friends in Lisha and Kelli’s communities. So grateful for how you all embrace me in the midst of my story.***

Posted in Family Moments, Give Me Grace, misc. walking with Jesus, Unforced Rhythms | 30 Comments

In Which God Makes Giants our Bread {or the medicinal value of water and adrenaline}

photo-8I know I need to write when I sit down before a blank screen and immediately feel the tears. They sting the backs of my eyes, indicative of words that’ve been days spinning below the surface like clay on a potter’s wheel.

Yesterday is Stan’s birthday, so I throw on a tank top I know he loves, don my dangly silver earrings (his fave), throw some gloss on my lips, and leave the kids in the care of a sitter.

I run around buying ridiculous balloons, tracking down party hats and noise makers because Isaac simply cannot wrap his almost-4-year-old mind around celebrating Daddy’s birthday without them.

photo-13

I covertly get ahold of Stan’s coworkers who, equally covertly, plot to let me into the office building. I show up at his desk, plop the multi-colored balloon bouquet down beside his computer, and announce that I’m here to kidnap him for lunch.

The weather is perfect and we sit in the sun at Chipotle, enjoying burrito and tacos and one another’s open hearts, and we chat about the dramatic shifting of our perspective in these days.

photo-12

The kids and I pick Daddy up from work early. Swimming has been medicine to our souls lately, so we make the trek 25 minutes south to a different pool than normal — with one heck of an awesome water slide.

The kids are of course too little to ride it, so Stan and I take turns hanging with them and letting each other climb several stories, push off at the top, fly around twists and turns and splash into the 4-ish feet of water below.

What. a. rush.

My 3rd time down, I flatten myself as much as possible. I am wildly aerodynamic (or so I imagine) and I’m flying, grinning uncontrollably, water drops hitting my face, my heart about to bust with glee.

It’s been years since I’ve been on a real water slide, and God knows speed and adrenaline are my love language. It doesn’t matter an ounce to us that we are the only adults giving the slide the time of day. We slide over and over, throw dignity to the rushing wind.

And the wind is lifting off months’ worth of heaviness.

photo-15

****

For so long now, I’ve written around the pain of this season, processing my heart’s journey through the pressure and tension of this long waiting.

They say what’s most authentically inside you will come out when you’re squeezed, and say this season we’ve been living for sure counts as a squeezing.

And looking back at what’s come out, I’m actually {mostly} thankful.

photo-10I look behind me at round after round spiraling deeper with Him, through aching and waiting and God-given longings still unfulfilled; through choosing to find beauty and grab hold of gratitude; through allowing the pain to forge in me deeper surrender, fiercer trust, more tenacious clinging to His goodness; all while refusing to gloss over raw reality,  weeping honestly before Him on the floor of this season.

As I wrote my most recent post, I sensed that the writing in circles around acute pain and ruthless trust might be shifting. Even as I typed, I grew weary of the words that were coming out of me. Not in an insecure way, but in a something’s gotta *give* way.

photo-9

Over the last decade or more, the themes of my story have revolved around loss and hope deferred. Owning those themes makes me cringe a little, because the last thing I want is to come off like I’m defined by my losses, or like I live with a woah is me mentality, which I honestly don’t feel I do.

But it’s through all my revolutions around loss and unfulfilled longings that Jesus has taken my hand and invited me repeatedly to press into His heart in the agony. To experience the fellowship of His sufferings.

By His grace, I’ve learned to journey hand-in-hand with Him through deep, dark places of heart-anguish, and I’ve seen Him in that darkness with profoundly life-altering intimacy.

And the truer theme that wraps and redeems all that loss and hope deferred? 

He. Is. Faithful.

This season has been more of the same for me, so while I’ve allowed myself to lean deep into the pain, He has so filled my vision that I’ve been deeply sustained by Him even in my sorrow.

But after I wrote my last post, it began – this Divine tugging at my heart, and Stan’s too.

photo-11

The invitation this time is something along the lines of: “You don’t have to live *under* the pain of this waiting anymore. I’m calling you to yes, continue to respond to me in the midst of it, but to simultaneously rise *above* it. See it from my perspective. Begin to pray authoritatively relative to it.”

Via communication from a few different friends, along with a book Stan’s currently reading, God is drawing our hearts toward scriptures related to the authority that’s ours in Christ.

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. –Matthew 18:18

These evenings find Stan and I tucking our kids in and rehearsing over piles of folded laundry the story of Caleb and Joshua and the giants in the promised land. How God wanted to give the giants to His people for lunchhow the giants’ protection had already been removed, if only they would see from His perspective. 

If only they’d look with eyes of faith upon all that stood between them and God’s promise.

photo-14

So we’ve held hands and wrapped arms around one another and agreed in prayer over the sale of our home, and our prayers are moving away from Lord, PLEASE–, and toward Father, this is what we believe you’ve promised us, so we’re standing in this together, trusting you for breakthrough.

Have we seen a shift in the natural realm yet? Nope. And do I still have moments of feeling discouraged? Um, yes.

But my heart is lighter, my days are brighter, and I feel less like a victim of this season and more like a confident conqueror, because God wants to make all these pesky giants our bread (Num. 14:9).

****

I turn on the playlist I made for the kids this morning as we wrap up breakfast and move into our day’s routine. Is it my imagination, or are they more peaceful than usual? Either way, my heart is peaceful, and there’s something creeping up around the edges of my soul that feels a lot like…

joy.

And that, my friends, is feeling pretty good right about now.

Also? Can I say again that your prayers, your companionship on this journey, and your reflecting back to me my heart as you read it here, are invaluable to me? Because they are. I am so thankful for each of you.

–Sharing with my sweet friends Lisha and Kelli and their lovely communities.–

Posted in Confidence in God, Family Moments, Give Me Grace, Grief and Loss, misc. walking with Jesus, Uncategorized | 14 Comments

This Achy Breaky Heart, and the Eternal Glory that Outweighs It

photo-2

I sit down to write this afternoon and out comes a deep sigh.

Soul deep.

Know that old song, Achy Breaky Heart? Would it be cheesy if I told you that’s how I feel these days? Achy and breaky.

I’m fragile – more so than usual.

****

photo-1

Until the hundred degree heat that’s descended upon us in the last couple of days, the kids and I were spending most of our days outside digging in dirt, swinging endlessly, and y’all, I re-fell in love with bubbles.

The kids would tire of them and I’d still be blowing, my eyes taking in the swirling colors, choosing, choosing, choosing relentlessly to find beauty in this season.

****

Stan and I hit the 7 year mark yesterday, and it was a good thing we’d celebrated a few days prior.

photo

I am so thankful for the life I share with this man. For the ways he’s loved my heart to life.

photo-7

I spent all of yesterday sick in bed, and while I definitely wasn’t thrilled to be sick, I was thankful for the timing — Stan’s parents were in town and he had already planned to take the day off work. So Daddy and grandparents spent time with the kiddos, and I spent time in bed resting and revamping bits and pieces of my blog’s design, and wishing I could write.

But no words came.

So– wanna know a secret? I almost never watch movies. As in, I could probably count on one hand the number of movies I watch in a year. (That is, of course, not counting Elmo and Bubble Guppies and whatever else Isaac’s into any given week.)

But yesterday evening after a full day in bed, I finally decided to watch one. Mr. Holland’s Opus.

First time I’ve watched it in years, and it is entirely possible, y’all, that this is my favorite movie of all time. So I sat in bed watching Glenn Holland’s journey of self-discovery on my laptop screen and being moved to tears by the painful beauty of this story.

That movie touches such deep places inside me and I think I need to roll the storyline around in my heart for a few more days before I’ll be able to wrap words around the way I’m moved by its depth.

****

photo-5

We had a showing Saturday morning, our first since our contract fell through. The feedback from it was initially somewhat hopeful, but a weekend of waiting ended with no further expressed interest from the potential buyers.

****

Our neighbors who’d previously decided never to speak to us again are coming back around lately. Not sure we did anything in particular to make our way back into their good graces; pretty certain it has more to do with the fact that the husband is back, then gone, then back again and things have yet again gotten violent.

Same song, 4th verse. The cycle continues and it’s frustrating and so very sad to watch.

****

So I wake up this morning all achy and breaky and the weight of the invisible elephant on my chest feels a little bit suffocating.

I try to pray through the heaviness, pour out my heart and all my unanswerable questions, beg for grace to continue wholeheartedly choosing Him, intentionally saying yes to Him in this season.

The waiting (which I somewhat ironically almost spelled  w e i g h t i n g) feels so much more acute now, having tasted the end of this season, followed by hopes smashed and the wait stretching out before us yet again, no end in sight.

I stumble into the shower with no music playing today, which is strange for me, but my heart breathes in the quiet like much-needed fresh air. I make my way downstairs to happy kiddos — and a less-than-happy husband.

Turns out his heart weighs a thousand or so pounds this morning too.

Stan tells me he woke up sad, longing for Colorado, and tried to worship in the midst of the aching. Turned His heart toward the Lord despite the pain and tension. And I contemplate how the Lord is tenderly working these deep things inside each of us, this simultaneous carving out of our two interwoven hearts to hold more of Himself.

The more acute the longing, the more deeply we learn trust. The more painful the tension, the more we learn to hold space for Him on our insides.

photo-6

****

Hubby leaves for work and I settle the kids, grab Stan’s Bible, and steal a few minutes alone on the couch.

2 Corinthians chapter 4 has been rolling around in my heart for several days — not any particular verse, just a vague remembrance of the way He met me in that chapter a few months ago. So I turn pages and skim words and phrases immediately pop out at me:

Hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.

Persecuted, but not abandoned.

Struck down, but not destroyed.

My heart grabs onto words about carrying around in our bodies the death of Jesus, so His life may be revealed. About not losing heart because even if we’re outwardly wasting away, inwardly we’re being renewed day by day, and our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Eternal. Glory.

photo-4

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Maia’s asleep and Isaac’s still occupied, so I grab my guitar for a few minutes, strum chords and sing these verses spontaneously to the Lord — to my own soul — because I so desperately need these unseen truths to land like embers in my depths and smolder there through these long days.

I breathe silent prayers of longing to surrender to His unseen work inside me in the waiting. In the desires yet to be fulfilled. Cry out for daily, hourly, breath-by-breath help in fixing my eyes not on the visible temporary, but on the invisible, the holy, the eternal.

On the glory that far outweighs this elephant on my chest.

And maybe I’ve said it over and over in the last 20 or so blog posts, but I don’t know how else to keep this heart alive through the wait, so I’ll pray it again and again:

Oh Christ, I long to fully surrender to your forming of yourself on my insides, your carving out of my deep places to hold more of you.

In all this painful waiting and not knowing, would you settle down inside me still more and just fully make your home in all the rooms of my soul?

I wanna come out of this united with your heart like never before.

{Sharing this post belatedly with my sweet friend Kelli’s community.}

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Bloom {Five Minute Friday}

Bloom

Taking the Hand extended to her, she looks inward. Terrified at first of what she’ll find there.

But the fierce purity of His affection breathes courage, so she explores her depths, laying bare beauty and darkness alike.

Every hidden corner is exposed before Him. Every silent cry is being given voice.

As much as the exploration is terrifying, it is exhilarating. As much as it is acutely painful, it is wildly freeing.

She knows the rich deposits they’re uncovering together can’t stay hidden much longer.

So she grips His hand a little tighter, feels its warm strength pulsing against her skin, sends roots down deeper into the all-embracing steadiness of His love, allows her most tender places to begin to unfold–

and

blooms.

wide open flower

Writing in community today with the beautiful hearts of the Five Minute Friday crew. Join us?

Posted in Five Minute Friday, Learning Authenticity | 6 Comments

God’s Not Cruel {On Simultaneous Wrestling and Trust}

photo-18I sit down to write on Saturday night, and I don’t know how to say what I need to say.

It’s dusk and the temps are dropping just a bit, and I’m perched with my laptop on our back deck, watching Stan and Isaac jump crazy on the trampoline.

We’ve just spent a few hours eating pizza and enjoying time with Maia’s birth family. Our relationship with them is a gift to our hearts, and today it provides a much needed break from feeling the intensity of our disappointment.

blake and maia10271621_406897156115540_4900636965341968951_nphoto-2410461379_406897166115539_8170135765745123038_n

10448832_406897256115530_6446386051243860392_n

Now, I swat mosquitos and try to pretend the humidity isn’t stifling, and I contemplate how to tell you that in one quick day, we went from being Colorado bound, to still bound to this house. In this neighborhood. In Kansas City.

Don’t know how to tell you that our buyer freaked out and backed out and left us hanging out to dry.

How to tell you we’d searched and decided on an apartment complex in Littleton, a temporary place to land that we were genuinely excited about, that we’d applied and paid a deposit and reserved our moving truck, and now it’s all fallen through.

I’d planned one last time play dates and coffee dates and was emotionally processing leaving the city that’s home to so many of our family’s favorite hangouts — and so many of our favorite people.

I’d packed the decor from about 2/3 of our house, designated furniture and baby gear to go to various friends in preparation to downsize from 6 bedrooms to 2.

I took load after load to Goodwill, dumped load after load of excess stuff. Simplifying our lives was feeling so good.

Our hearts were ready, y’all. So ready to be in Colorado. We were aimed at being near family and friends there, ready to hike mountains and soak in their beauty, ready to wrap arms and hearts around our church family there.

Ready to breathe.

In many ways, this waiting season hasn’t been easy, and to say we were excited to be finished navigating it would be an understatement.

****

Friday late afternoon, we got the call that our buyer was likely pulling out, and an hour or so later found us packing up and heading out as a family. We needed to be alone, not in our neck of the ‘hood, and frankly, the idea of not cooking dinner was appealing, because my heart was reeling.photo-20My tears were stuck to my insides, my heart and body a thousand pounds of thick disappointment, even anger. I was silent as we drove, mostly silent as we chowed on burgers and fries at Five Guys, and I know Stan began to be concerned for me, but this introvert couldn’t bring herself to process externally.

Not yet.

It was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Send the necessary text messages. Make the calls to fill key people in. Wrangle the kids.photo-21We sat a while by the fountain after dinner, let Isaac get soaked, and it occurred to me to choose gratitude for the sweet togetherness of our family, no matter our location.

And thankful I am.photo-22Inside though, the questions churned:

God, what are you doing with us? Why allow us to mentally, emotionally, practically prepare to move — invite us to hope, to be excited, to begin to taste the next season, and then allow it all to come to this?

****

Stan and Isaac take off early-ish this morning on a “Daddy donut date.” Maia goes down for a rare-these-days morning nap, and I relish the quiet. I sit down to read this post from my friend Alia at (in)Courage, and the realization hits me:

Other than my sleeping baby, the house is empty.

For the first time since the news came, my soul has room to breathe. The combination of “introvert space” and Alia’s transparency unlock my tears, so I sit and cry my tears and my questions to the Lord for a while.

Later in the afternoon, Stan comes into the kitchen as I’m making a grocery list in preparation for a Costco run. He apologizes for not being a better sounding board for me in all this, and on the brink of still more tears, I squeak out something about how this feels like all the times I’ve been pregnant only to lose the life God allowed to begin forming inside me. Reminds me of all the times we chose to allow ourselves to be excited, to hope in the goodness of His heart toward us…

“It’s a gift! It’s a gift from Him—- Oh, no, wait. It’s not.”

And the door slams shut.

This edge in my voice tonight freaks me out a little, y’all. Freaks me out because I definitely generally prefer my heart to be in a little less of a raw place before I share it with you here.

But, being gut-level honest, this is how this disappointment feels. Like a slap in the face of my choice to hope.

Stan and I chat in our living room tonight after our kids are in bed, and I tell him honestly that as much as I want to believe, I don’t have much faith right now that another buyer will come along any time soon.

I’m burned, and I know it, and despite everything I know that I know about the heart of God, this is where I’m at right now.

****

Yesterday, not only did our contract fall through, but the lyrics to a song I wrote went live on the Story Sessions blog. {It was a first for me – I’ve never published song lyrics before – on my own blog or anyone else’s.}

When I submitted the song, I re-wrote my bio that I turn in with guest posts, just because it’d been a while and it needed to be updated. I didn’t realize how I was prophesying to myself when I wrote it. (You can read the song lyrics and full bio here.)

These particular lines from my bio are poignant to me right now:

Her passion is to live wholeheartedly awake, holding space for simultaneous wrestling and trust….

…pressing in to uncover and respond to God’s tenderness in the midst of all that’s messy and unanswerable…

And that, right there, is where I find myself. In this weird tension between painful wrestling and profound trust. Searching out His heart in the messy and unanswerable.

Because if you asked me, I’d firmly, fiercely tell you that in the face of all my unanswerable questions and unresolved emotions–

I trust Him.

I do. Deeply.

And that He is absolutely, unshakably good.

And He is. Completely.

And I believe I can be ugly-honest about my crushed heart and my not understanding His ways right now, and simultaneously cling with all my broken pieces to the truth of His kindness. To the tenderness of His heart toward me. To the remembrance of the ways He’s met me in past times of loss and grief. To what I know is His desire in this, which is to meet me intimately in the pain of this crumbling.

I believe I can be raw and honest before Him {and before you}, while holding fast to trust. While choosing to worship in the midst of the loss.

Because even when circumstances seem to scream otherwise, God’s not cruel.

He is kind, and He works all things for my ultimate good, and I am not saying this lightly, as a pat, bandaid answer to cover over my hurt and make it acceptable, or to make myself or anyone else comfortable.

I’m saying it because through all my losses, all the times my soul has been torn, He has proven Himself faithful.

Woven throughout my story is His hand of kindness.

And this chapter is no exception. He will show Himself to me in this, and I will emerge knowing Him more deeply. And I can be raw and broken and bleeding inside, and tenaciously hope in the goodness of His heart toward me.

So I do.

And this post is edging on 1,400 words, so I’ll simply thank you in advance for grace and gentleness in your receiving of my words, of my raw heart.

Thanks for being present with me here. It means so, so much.

{An offering to Lisha and Kelli and their communities.}

Posted in adoption, Encountering God in the Messy, Family Moments, Give Me Grace, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Belong: In Which I Beat For Eternity


photo-6

Belong

Life moves in this surreal, slow motion dance these days, as I pack boxes and wipe surfaces and faces and take load after load to Goodwill.

Tonight I watch the sky as I drive to meet a dear, long-time friend for one last coffee date before we move. Rays of sun pierce clouds and I think of how Heaven is my witness to this season. How my Father is the One who’s intimately acquainted with my heart, sees every emotion and deeply knows them all, even the ones I can’t put words to in this season.

And oh, there are so many of those.

My friend and I chat over a Starbucks table, then we pick up and drive down the street to a local park where we walk laps around the lake. We talk church life and parenting and our hearts relative to it all. She’s known me forever, this friend. Like 12 years worth of forever. Been witness to all my emerging and becoming.

photo-5

Yet I drive home aching. Lonely, and this void isn’t one that this friend or any other could fill, though for a few minutes I let my mind wander to Colorado, wondering if when we’re there I’ll feel a deeper sense of belonging than I do here.

I pull into the driveway, breathe in the 10:30 pm Kansas City humidity, look up through the haze at the nearly full moon and I’m reminded that this longing for a place my heart can nestle down into, spread out, call home? It’s a Divine gift. It’s an echo carved into my soul and it’ll never be totally filled. Not on this side of Heaven, anyway.

Eternity.

Eternity.

Eternity.

I beat for it, ache for it, pound for it, cry for it…

Belong to it.

His eternal, invisible, all-sufficient heart that is my home.

___________________

Linking up with Lisa-Jo and the 5 Minute Friday crew because this word just drew me in tonight… and because I love writing in community with these precious ladies.

 

Posted in Five Minute Friday | 20 Comments