so I think I’m repenting (in which I tell you what I dreamed last night)

Hiya, my dear friends.

I pray tonight finds you peaceful and warm. I’ve gotta tell you a story this evening.

Last night (Saturday night) I had a dream in which someone said something kind of life-changing to me. Before I tell you what they said though, I have to tell you a little of who they were.

It was a person under whose spiritual leadership I found myself for an extended time a while back. Someone whose leadership I now look back on, and, while I do continually forgive and try to maintain a soft heart toward this person before the Lord, I know I very legitimately could not place myself in ministry with this person again. It would be completely unhealthy for me for a number of reasons.

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That backstory is significant, because in the dream, this person began speaking to me, and my immediate, gut-level reaction was something along the lines of, “I don’t have to receive anything from you.” Not in as many words, but it felt something like that.

Things weren’t pretty in my soul there for a sec.

The Holy Spirit quickly grabbed my attention though, so in the dream, I turned to face this person with a more open heart as they spoke.

This is what they said, as best I can remember:

“Many of us take our pain and suffering and hold them up as trophies. In the name of promoting awareness of this or that form of difficulty (In the dream, I somehow caught this as an allusion to mental health awareness, special needs, etc.), we prize our suffering, even idolize it. The danger with this though is that our pain is getting in the way of our gratitude. Some of us don’t like to hear this, but it’s true.”

Now, if you know me at all, you know one of my life’s key messages revolves around talking about suffering. About the way God encounters His people in the midst of suffering, if we allow Him to. If we don’t “shove,” or ignore, or choose not to deal with, our pain.

I will write and preach and sing until the cows come home, to whomever will listen, about how if we’re authentic with ourselves, with Him, and with others about the reality of our suffering, if we’re not in some kind of “spiritual denial” about it (“Oh, sister, I don’t even really feel the pain of this loss, or that betrayal, because the Bible says the JOY of the LORD is my strength!”  Well, yes, it definitely is, but that in no way excuses you from the absolute necessity of processing your griefs in healthy ways. Okay. Ahem. Stepping off soapbox.)… anyway… how if we’re not in denial about it, Jesus will literally come into our processing of our suffering as we’re honest and raw before Him, and we will experience what the Bible calls “the fellowship of His suffering.”

And that stuff is transformative, y’all. More so than I have words for.

So when this person, who has “stepped on” this dear-to-my-heart-and-my-walk-with-God message more than once in the past, began seemingly “stepping on” it again in my dream, my immediate response was, “nope, not listening.”

Again though, here came the Holy Spirit’s correction to my heart: “Dana? Listen. This is important.”

And y’all, I suddenly could see it, so clearly, in my mind’s eye — again, still in the dream here. I could see the image of a person holding suffering and heartbreak up like a trophy, and they didn’t notice it, but it was almost totally blocking their view of the Father. 

The words of the person from my past echoed in my mind: “… our pain is getting in the way of our gratitude. Some of us don’t want to hear it, but it’s true.”

The dream ended.

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I woke up and moved into my day, and a little later in the morning when I remembered this dream, I broke into a grin. I’m eating oatmeal and brewing tea and I’m grinning like a crazy person. How like the Lord to use a person I didn’t really wanna hear from (hello heart-check?!) to tell me something I didn’t particularly wanna hear (hello heart-check, parte dos!).

And as I’m scarfing down breakfast, still amused by God’s way with me, I sense the Holy Spirit again: “you need a chiropractic adjustment, love.” And I’m goin’, “Yup, you’re right.” (Like God needs me to tell him that.)

So, tenderly, He adjusts my heart. Because He’s kind like that. And it’s an adjustment that continues right on through our church service, complete with me weeping through chunks of communion and worship (which, thank goodness, I was not leading).

K, so let me be clear here: I am not saying I view suffering now as any less of a potential gift (not that He causes it, but that He wants to develop companionship with us in it). Theologically, Biblically, I think there’s a whole, massive case to be made for suffering being one of the greatest (if not the greatest) invitations to depth of intimacy and companionship with Jesus that we will ever experience during our short time on this planet.

And I think, in the church, way, way, WAY too often, we miss it, because we’re so busy ignoring our pain, thinking pain’s not spiritual. It breaks my heart.

However, the course-correction the Holy Spirit brought to my heart this morning was so good, so needed, and I think there’s this critical balance Jesus asks us to maintain here:

  • Not living in some kinda weirdly spiritualized “charismatic denial” (“I say no to pain in Jesus’ name!”)
  • faithfully, authentically, deeply acknowledging the emotional and practical realities of our individual “suffering packages” so He can meet us in those places (and so others can meet us there, too)
  • while simultaneously living a lifestyle of gratitude, of worship, keeping our very real and important suffering and heartbreak in perspective against the backdrop of the stunning beauty of WHO. HE. IS:  Faithful. Holy. Breathtaking. Majestic. Trustworthy. Good, always. Perfect love.

Hear me: I won’t stop talking about how hard this season of my life is. It is so painful and beyond exhausting. Special needs parenting, mental health issues, loss, all of it.

I will talk about all of it borderline ad nauseam, because I don’t believe most of the church talks about this stuff enough, and I believe Jesus wants us to, for a ton of reasons.

But if I’m not careful, in embracing His invitations to find Him in the midst of heartbreak and hard times, I can allow suffering to slowly, subtly begin to slip in and block my view of Him.

And I just so pray you always find me talking about this stuff framed by God’s kindness, by the ways He makes His heart known in the midst of the insanity, and just WHO HE IS, regardless — unwaveringly good, unshakable when everything else is shaken.

Whew. Thanks for listening, and as always, for being here. I love you guys a heap. <3

Oh! Also, speaking of gratitude, check this out. It’s pretty amazing, for one week of fundraising. I am so grateful. We are beginning Maia’s evaluations this week and will be draining this account quickly in the coming days — would you join us in sharing our story with your friends, and asking Jesus for still more provision? He is faithful.

Lastly, would you consider whether you might be able to give toward our family’s therapeutic journey? Remember — even “small” contributions aren’t small. Your partnership is the hugest gift.

Thanks again, y’all. So much love.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

admitting we need help {a.k.a. the big, scary ask}

Hey, my friends,

It’s Friday night (as I begin this draft), the kiddos are asleep, it’s frigid outside, and I’ve ever so lovingly kicked our pup, Rocky, out of “his” chair and into his bed so I can sit by the fire to write this, likely the most surreal (to me) blog post in my writing history.

We’re launching a GoFundMe campaign this weekend. For our family. I’ve shared the meat of our story here, on our GoFundMe page, but for those of you who’d like a little more detail, I thought I’d try and give some of that here on my blog, where I’m “home.”IMG_0380

See, in the last number of months, life has pressed in on us from every side, it seems. I mentioned in my last blog post, I think, that I haven’t wanted to blog like a special needs mom. Like it’s my identity. And it’s true — it’s not. I’m not defined by the intensity or impact of my children’s needs.

However, they have come to the forefront of our lives so much in recent months, that we simply cannot pretend anymore that they are a smaller deal than they are. We cannot try and live like a “typical” family with “typical” children, and I think we’ve been sort of trying to do that. But I’m realizing at some kind of crazy new level — we are not that.

I’ve also been forced to realize recently that God is quite clearly calling (and if you know me, you know I don’t use that word flippantly) us into a season of focusing hardcore on addressing the mental/emotional/neurological wellbeing of our family.

We need help, and we need to hone in on getting the right kind of help, for every single one of us, with a tenacity and intentionality that we’ve never had before.

Our kids’ needs and the intensity thereof, the demand those needs place on Stan and me, has impacted us in ways I’m not even sure he and I are fully aware of. I mean, we’re aware to a degree, but only to a degree.

Stan and I both struggle with anxiety, both are under physicians’ care for it (I am more so than he is). I struggle with it in a few different forms. I’m pretty sure my migraines are at least partially anxiety-related. I also deal with some depression and fatigue.

These are issues that are exacerbated, if not almost completely brought on by, the impact of our children’s difficulties on our lives. Stan and I need to seek more intentional help in these arenas of our lives, too, which I’ll talk a bit about toward the end of this post.

driving and crying

Tuesday of this last week found me weeping, driving Isaac (late again) to what would be his last day of (“regular”) school, realizing anew the extent to which each one of us needs therapeutic treatment – treatments, plural.

Stan and I had been talking for several days about the necessity of taking out a loan in order to make all of it happen, as the great majority of the therapy that will be most helpful to our children will not be covered by insurance, and what was hitting me was how hard we’ve worked to get out of debt, and the number of years, maybe decades, it would take for us to pay off the loan we would need.

Overwhelming ain’t the word, y’all.

I pulled it together for a minute that morning and dropped Isaac off (after somehow, miraculously, peeling him off of me and allowing one of the office managers at the school to walk him to class. Poor buddy — it just shattered my heart almost daily, the level of his anxiety over school).

The tears came again as I drove around with Maia, running errands, and as they did, this whisper in my heart — ASK. 

What? Seriously?

It is infinitely more appealing to somehow pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, take out a loan, no matter how long it takes to pay it off, and do. this. our. selves.

Asking for prayer is something I’m pretty good at now, which is growth for me. Asking for financial help? Seriously, Lord?

ASK. Your friends love you.

Ugh. Y’all, I wrestled. And cried. And prayed. And wrestled s’more.

And then I called Stan. And this is harder for him than it is for me. But he said yes. Ask.

Oh my word, the deep breathing and anxiety that have gone into making an ask like this, you guys.

Yet there is absolutely no way forward with our children, with the intensity of their difficulties, apart from going to drastic lengths to help bring healing, and much more significant and intentional help with coping skills, to the developmentally atypical and traumatized places in their brains.

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our children’s needs

In case you’re new to our story, our 7-year-old son Isaac’s needs are more clearly defined (High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder – per his psychiatrist and therapist; OCD; PTSD; Generalized Anxiety Disorder). Isaac has been in therapy and on meds to treat his anxiety for nearly 3 years, and within the last year, we’ve had to add another medication to address his needs from a different angle.

The ways in which his anxiety and his Autism-related challenges, in particular, impact his life, and our family’s lives, are honestly innumerable. {He is also brilliant, insatiably curious, and intuitive like you wouldn’t believe. An incredible kid. Mature beyond his years in many ways.}

Our 4-and-a-half-year-old daughter Maia’s needs, while becoming more and more dramatically visible by the month, are less clearly defined at this point. Her new therapist has asked us to obtain two, possibly three different evaluations for her (a developmental eval, plus one or two others). These will be critical to her therapist and her doctors in correctly diagnosing the “roots” of her struggles so that we can precisely treat and equip her to grow in the areas where she needs the most help. {Maia is also incredibly creative, affectionate, and tenderhearted. A total sweetheart.}

our day-to-day reality

Due to the sensitive nature of some of our children’s difficulties, we have to limit the specific behavior-related information we share publicly at this time, but we do want to be as honest as we can with you about some of the ways that their struggles impact our family’s life.

This is so, SO uncomfortable for me — this level of transparency. I hate sounding like I’m complaining. But I do want to pull back the curtain at a level at which I haven’t before, to give you a more authentic picture of life in our family, for a couple of reasons:

  1. People with special needs kiddos need to be known, to be seen in the midst of their day-to-day trenches. We need our loved ones, our friends, to listen, to want to know what our life is like. Being known and cared for this way saves our lives. (<– That is not an exaggeration.)
  2. People who’ve not experienced first-hand parenting kids with atypical needs can grow in understanding, empathy, the ability to just reach out and extend kindness, toward a very large demographic as they learn a little about the lives of those who’re raising kids with atypical needs.
  3. I want to bring a little more understanding and clarity to WHY I talk about us needing the level of professional help we say we need. The amount of therapy and treatment we need.

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So, here I go. Bear with me.

  • Sleep loss. The kids both struggle frequently with insomnia due to anxiety and general dysregulation. We do a lot with essential oils, our weighted blanket, and a number of other natural solutions, to little avail. When I post on Facebook asking my friends for prayer, there are very often quick results, with whichever kid is sleepless returning to sleep fairly quickly. Still though, the sleep deprivation often leads to terrible behavior struggles the next day (both for child and parent – ha).
  • Are we crazy?? Many of the kids’ most challenging behaviors are exhibited in the privacy of our own home, where their guards are completely down, with only immediate family present. In absolutely any other environment, these behaviors will almost never come out. So friends, church family, extended family — no one else sees what is really happening. It’s so difficult to coherently explain to anyone, to feel really known in the midst of all this by anyone except Stan (or Stan by me), because we adore our children, think they’re amazing, and for the most part don’t want to expose the details of their most difficult moments. And because no one else experiences our reality the way we do, it’s hard at times not to question whether those we love think we’re crazy.
  • Sibling relationship dynamics. Though Isaac and Maia fiercely love one another, our kids’ needs and respective lacks of impulse control trigger each other like I can’t describe. I’ll leave this one at that.
  • Sensory struggles. Due to his sensory-processing struggles, Isaac’s eating habits are, well, terrible. They impact his health. We have done our best over the years to encourage growth in this area, and he now eats a few fruits, and one vegetable: carrots. This is a massive, massive victory. Isaac can’t handle smelling, even seeing certain foods (if you’re eating yogurt, salad, berries, etc. even kind of near him, he literally asks you to stop, get it away from him, etc.). Needless to say, we need help. We are pursuing intensive occupational therapy for him, not just for his food-related difficulties, but to address many other sensory-processing/Autism-related difficulties. Bottom line – we’ve gotta get this kid healthier on so many levels.
  • Respite. Stan and I are worn out. All the time. Indescribably so. The drain and exhaustion impact our marriage, our ability to parent, our friendships (massively), our hobbies and passions, our souls. Maia’s new therapist is after us hardcore to get regular (every 1 to 2 weeks), intentional time away from the kids. (Our answer of “we get time every 6 weeks to 3 months” wasn’t good enough for her. Ha – go figure.) But we can’t just ask anyone to come hang out with our kids for several hours. Honestly, the only people we can have babysit our kids anymore are people who are willing to really hang out with us as a family, learn our kids, become educated about their needs, how they work, learn when they need to be “corrected” and when they need still more help calming down… etc. It’s no small request — “hey, ya wanna come babysit a few hours?” {It’s also not a small thing financially, either.}
  • Social relationships. We’ve found ourselves extremely limited in who, and where, and how we hang out with friends. This grieves us, because we LOVE being with our friends. We love board games and coffee and tables full of snacks and having our house chalk full of people and laughter. Oh man, I miss those days so much I could cry, writing this. But our kids (and honestly, our tired, aging-too-soon selves) can’t handle that life anymore. The kids require over an hour and a half of our time at bedtime, at the same time, every night. They require routine, routine, routine. Guests can sometimes throw them off-kilter in a big way. And I’m not just talking about evening hang-outs here at our place. Ya never know who our kids are going to interact with inappropriately in public, how they’re going to behave in a restaurant (yikes), at someone else’s house, etc. In the last 5 years, we have gone from being the most everyone-invited, always-open, always some kinda game night or worship night goin’ on, kinda people, to virtual hermits. And it feels like survival. It’s the way we have to live right now. We still love our friends. SO much. And need them. Sigh… I so hope this aspect of our lives evolves a little differently before too long, somehow.
  • My time. I’m trying to remember what it feels like to relax a little. I know I’ll rest again one of these months, but right now, my every free moment is demanded by paperwork and phone calls: psychiatrist, therapists, OT’s, trying to find clinicians for evaluations for Maia, more therapists, still more therapists, Isaac’s school… Oh, and speaking of school…
  • (Pre)schooling. A few weeks ago, we had to pull Maia out of her much-beloved preschool, with zero notice, due to a sudden change in the enforcement of a particular policy, the handling of which made us very uncomfortable. Long story. Suffice it to say, bam — we went from 4 mornings a week in a pre-K class she loved, with friends she adored, to homeschooling with me, all the time. A huge, huge loss for her. Ugh. :( (Since we realized the funding we’d previously allocated toward preschool for her could now be designated to cover a portion of the therapy she’s just started, we decided not to put her back in pre-K before Kindergarten. Hard decision, but therapy is much more important right now.)
  • More schooling. I alluded above to the fact that Isaac has just this week had to be completely pulled out of his brick-and-mortar school (where he attended all of Kindergarten and half of first grade), because his anxiety has flared up SO extremely, so quickly, and become paralyzing to him. (You can read more about that here if you’re interested.) As of this week, we are full-time “virtual schooling,” via Douglas County Schools here in Colorado, at home. Y’all, the learning curve and the workload for me, getting him ramped up into this new school, has just been unreal. Oh my gracious. We will be okay. We’ll get into a rhythm, have daily and weekly schedule charts that incorporate both kiddos, and we’ll make it work. But I cannot describe how overwhelming it’s all been, and then the added dynamic of both kids at home, all the time. Which reminds me…
  • My own mental health. I’ve shot super straight with you here before about my struggles with anxiety and depression as my kids’ special needs have become more and more intense. These last couple of weeks, I’ve had to increase my doses of a couple of my anxiety medications, and go on one new one (per my doctors’ instructions — not my preference, but I want to be wise and exercise good self-care, too). Woohoo. Y’all. I am humbled. Humbled, and weak, and at the end of myself, like, all. of. the. time. More than, I think, ever in my life.

Yeah, definitely. Ever.

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And yet, I’m somehow okay, too. Kinda. I’m making it, one day at a time. Stan’s making it, too. We’re watching old TV series and laughing together as often as we can, just an episode or two, late at night, when we should be asleep. I’m waking up in the mornings and listening to Psalms on my audio Bible, usually with one or both kids in bed with me while Stan’s in the shower.

I’m clinging to minimalism as a lifestyle because it helps preserve my sanity — Throw away, donate. Throw away, consign. Repeat.

The kids and I listen to worship music in the car (or sing Life Is a Highway at the top of our lungs). And we talk about Jesus, about knowing His heart, every chance we get. Maia is learning to know Him, y’all. Just in tiny bits and pieces, I’m seeing it spring to life — this hunger to know His heart for her. Gah – it undoes me.

about the GoFundMe – the nitty-gritty

Like I said above, our goal is to spend this entire year pursuing health for our family, at whatever levels we can achieve it, with the best resources we can obtain, as intentionally as possible.

I have completely stepped down from all leadership roles at our church, am no longer on staff, in order to dedicate all my time and energy to our kids and to pressing into all this stuff for our family.

In the spirit of transparency, I want to share with you our projected costs for one year of the care and treatments we foresee pursuing.

Notice the link to information on Neurofeedback therapy – Neurofeedback is fascinating and we have connections with a large number of people who’ve seen incredible results with it. It’s a new enough therapy, however, that it’s still considered “experimental” by insurance companies, unfortunately. But for our situation, after lots of research and other avenues pursued already, we feel it’s crucial.

Therapists and doctors keep telling us, “put on your own oxygen mask before you help your kids.” We’ve been doing the opposite of this for so long, and we’re seeing the results of it on numerous levels. So, for this year, I definitely wouldn’t say we’re placing our needs before those of the kids, but we’re trying not to virtually ignore our own needs anymore. You’ll see a tiny bit of this shift in the list below.

List of needs and price estimates for one year:

  • Neurofeedback for all 4 (40 sessions per child; 30 per adult): $19,200
  • Maia’s evaluations (combined cost): $6,700 (one-time expense)
  • Maia’s weekly therapy: $6,500 (entire year)
  • Isaac’s weekly therapy: $2,400 (entire year)
  • Isaac’s monthly psychiatrist appts: $600 (entire year)
  • Dana’s medication increase: $600 (entire year)
  • Respite care (every other week): $2,500 (entire year)

Notes: There is also a decent chance, depending on how Maia’s evaluations turn out, that we’ll end up needing to pursue another type of therapy for her in addition to the therapy she’s currently receiving. Cost: Unknown.

There’s also a chance we’ll need to pursue another developmental evaluation for Isaac now that he’s older. No way to know for sure at this point — should find out in next couple of months — but it’s likely. Clearer diagnoses = more resources available = more help and healing. Cost: approx. $3,000.)

Here’s a link to the GoFundMe page if you’d like to help out financially.

ALSO: Would you consider sharing the GoFundMe page with your friends? It’d mean so much to us.

A last thought or two: I’d be remiss not to tell you that one of the things our family has found the most healing is taking low-key vacations together. The mostly non-commercialized, out-in-nature kind. For 7 months now, we’ve been planning (and are still planning) a family road trip in June.

Our old stompin’ grounds in Kansas City, a quick stop in St. Louis, my hometown in North Carolina, and then the NC Outer Banks and Wright Bro’s Memorial are our destinations.

Our kiddos have never seen the ocean, and Isaac is passionately fascinated by marine life. They are both over the moon excited about the beach, about Gigi and Grandpa’s house, and about seeing Kansas City again. (It’s been 3 years, but there are lots of places we used to adore hanging out as a family that Isaac remembers well and wants to visit.)

In light of ALL these recent developments, financial pressures, and therapy needs, Stan and I seriously considered canceling our vacation plans. But when we thought more about it, what stuck out in our hearts was the fact that family pulling-close-together-times like these have always been powerfully healing and connective to us, and how deeply we, the 4 of us, need this experience together.

So we’ve decided to continue setting aside little chunks of cash toward our trip in June, whenever we can, and I’m so praying we’ll still be able to make it happen.

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more than I can say

Oh man, my friends. This is not only the most surreal post ever, but quite possibly the longest. If you’re still reading, I adore you. Thank you for listening, for caring for me and my family. And thank you for your prayers, for continually allowing me to ask for prayer, and for considering whether there’s anything you might feel moved to do to help our family financially as we try to move toward some breakthrough together.

Mostly, just thank you for your support, period. In any way you have it to give. I need you, and I am grateful for you, more so than I can say. Truly.

Love you guys,

Dana

P.S. Whether you’re able to contribute financially or not, sharing our GoFundMe page with your friends on Facebook (or via email, or however you want) is hugely helpful. Thanks again, y’all.

Posted in anxiety, Community, Learning Authenticity, mental health, Parenting, self care, special needs parenting, Uncategorized | 20 Comments

getting a little more real about life in the {special needs} trenches


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Hey, my dear friends.

I’m here. I wasn’t here for a long time. Not mostly. I didn’t know how to be here. There were times I tried to be, but it never felt– right, I guess. So I wrote a few paragraphs here and there, but never brought myself to click publish.

But lately, so many pieces of my life have been flipped on their heads. So, naturally, utter confusion and discombobulation form the impetus for me to get myself in gear and actually share my current reality with you. Or something like that. Ha.

Truly though, despite all this sudden, dramatic circumstantial shifting, something inside me feels stunningly settled. Peaceful.

I want to try to tell you some things about our lives. Lots more than will fit in one blog post. But even as I type these words, I have to reign in my hand. It wants to sneak to the top right corner of my mouse pad, open a new tab, click over to Facebook, and engage in blatant procrastination. Avoidance, rather. Full-on avoidance.

What I Haven’t Wanted To Say

See, I’ve realized recently there’s big stuff about my life that I’ve mostly wanted to sidestep saying. For a long time.

I mean, I’ve said bits and pieces about this here and there, but I’ve mostly said other things, because here’s the deal: I don’t want to primarily write about special needs parenting.

{There. I said it.}

And the thing is: My life is a LOT about special needs parenting. 

I mean, a. LOT, y’all. 

And there are a LOT of superhero mamas out there who are writing a LOT of things —good, important things — about special needs parenting. I read them. I need them. I’m profoundly thankful for them. I just haven’t wanted to be them.

So, with some exceptions, of course, I haven’t made a huge point to talk about that facet of my life here.

Except nowadays, that “facet” of my life? It is essentially my. life. My whole life.

We’ve known for quite some time now (though I don’t think I’ve exactly said it “out loud” here) that we have not one special needs child, but two. The reasons for my relative silence on Maia’s needs have been numerous and complex, one of them being this acute awareness that my children’s stories are their stories, and I so want to steward those stories carefully while stewarding them is primarily my God-entrusted responsibility.

These days, however, as I find my life still more impacted by the unique challenges and struggles of these beautiful children of mine, there’s this whisper rolling around my heart that I can’t escape: Open your mouth a little more, Dana, and trust me for the right words. Trust me to lead you in what to say, and what to hold close. I want you to quit shutting up.

There’s this hidden beauty weaving itself into my day-to-day, into my insides, that I feel Him asking me to try and unveil here, bit by bit — the intersection where the threads of the gut-wrenching grief and exhaustion of special needs parenting cross the threads of God’s tenderness in revealing Himself in the trenches.

This stuff is raw, which, if you’ve read around these parts for any length of time, you know isn’t a new thing for me as far as my writing life goes, but bear with me while I try and give you a tiny glimpse into our “living room” as of late.

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Our Beloved Boy

Isaac is 7 now, in 1st grade, loves reading, music, playing with friends, dancing hip hop, video games, science, science, and more science. It is a blast seeing his interests and passions develop.

Isaac’s anxiety has flared up lately like it hasn’t in a solid couple of years. Or longer. It began a few weeks before Christmas, when he suddenly went from doing great at school, loving it, to showing up in the front office multiple times per day, completely un-okay. Panic attacks, tears, too anxious by far to be present enough to learn anything.

With the support of his psychiatrist and therapist, we pulled him out of school a week and a half early for Christmas break, gave him extra down time to help him settle and regulate, and have been trying to very gradually reintegrate him into school this month as the new semester has gotten under way.

While his school administration has been very supportive, Isaac has simply not been able to pull it off. Long story short(er), we are now going to be utilizing our county’s electronic schooling option at home and keeping him in his brick-and-mortar school with his teacher and his friends only 2 hours per day for the remainder of the school year. In a future post, I’ll talk a bit about our decision-making process there, but bless his heart, Isaac is so relieved.

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Our Lil’ Miss Maia

Oh y’all, our sweet Maia Bean. This girl is creativity and fire and fierce love. She loves making art, dancing ballet, and playing with any human being or animal that will give her the time of day.

There’s still very little I can say publicly about Maia’s specific needs. That will come here in bits and pieces down the road. What I can tell you for now is that her special needs impact our family very differently, but every bit as extremely, as Isaac’s do. And that the way Isaac’s and Maia’s unique needs play off of each other, the way they up the intensity level of their relationship with one another — oh man, you guys, they keep Stan and me at the end of ourselves so, so much of the time. To be honest, I don’t think I can put into words how difficult it is.

Another recent circumstantial change with Maia: Pardon my cryptic sharing here — we recently were caught very off guard by the sudden enforcement of a particular policy (one that’s unheard of anywhere else, as far as we can tell) by her preschool, where we’d had our children for 3 years total, and where Maia loved to be — LOVED — with her entire, fierce, fiery, four-year-old heart. Again, long-ish story shorter, we suddenly had 24 hours to make a huge decision, and we were forced to pull her out of her school. We were absolutely crushed for her. Ugh. Y’all. So heartbroken.

Despite being shocking and devastating, the ending of our relationship with Maia’s school has been this simultaneous, totally unforeseen blessing: it’s forced us to see that the finances we had been designating toward her pre-K, we can now put toward this particular type of therapy Maia really clearly needs, but that we couldn’t quite see how we were financially going to pull off. Again, the details of this will have to come down the road a ways, but we are so grateful now to be able to begin to make this treatment happen for her, and we would not have seen a way for this to work had things not happened this way. God’s kindness and provision in the midst of these crises has just blown me away.

My New Reality

The resulting reality though is that I am effectively “homeschooling” my 2 ultra-intense-yet-insanely-awesome kiddos, totally out of the blue. In the last couple of weeks, I have fully stepped down from my pastoral roles at our church, a painful decision to make, but not a hard one, since it’s clear what my family needs and what Jesus is asking me to do. I feel super peaceful about the transition, though the sense of close partnership with my dear friends/ministry partners there is so hard to let go. (We of course remain relationally connected to our church, and I will continue to be a part of the worship team at whatever level is helpful, just without much leadership responsibility.)

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In the meantime, s’more honesty is that our family is so tired, y’all. Neither kiddo is sleeping well these days, and Stan generally bears more of the brunt of their insomnia, since sleep-deprivation and my propensity for migraines don’t go well together. If you would pray for Jesus to settle the kids’ hearts, especially at night, and especially in their dreams, I’d be so thankful.

And for me — while my heart is genuinely peaceful about all this change, it is still honestly a ton to process, and our kiddos are, like I’ve said, intense, to put it mildly. My highly-introverted heart no longer has blocks of alone time during my weeks, and I wear out quickly if I’m not ultra-careful and intentional with our schedule. I’d love your prayers for wisdom as I’m basically learning to homeschool, kinda from square one, and re-learning how to practice good self-care in this new season.

Okay, I need to wrap this up today, but I’ll tell you this: I cannot wait to give you a few tiny glimpses into Isaac’s developing walk with Jesus the next time I find some moments to write here, y’all. For all the heartbreak of watching my sweet boy suffer with crippling anxiety and other challenges, the way Jesus has encountered Isaac in the midst of his weakness has been one of the sweetest gifts imaginable to me.

Anyway, more soon, guys. I love y’all dearly. Thank you so much for being here, for your patience and grace when I’m silent, and for your companionship when I’m able to share my life and my journey. Y’all are a gift to me like I can’t begin to say. I pray your 2018’s off to a fabulous start.

Love you all. <3

Posted in anxiety, Encountering God in the Messy, Encountering God in the Mundane, Family Moments, Grief and Loss, Home and Family Management, Learning Authenticity, mental health, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, self care, special needs parenting, Transition, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

When I Can’t Protect My Son

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Hey, dear friends,

Oh my gracious, it’s been so long. (Ahem. Again. I know.)

I can’t tell you what a miracle it feels like to be sitting here today, fingers on keys. The house empty, other than myself and my pup, the silence bathing my soul like so much healing balm.

My heart is raw. Not exactly new news, eh? The rawness feels different now than usual, though. For so many months, it’s been a quiet, still, just making it one day at a time kind of raw. Not bad, just… kind of aching and waiting.

But things are shifting these days, and I’m finding pieces of myself that’ve been hiding, dormant for months. Maybe longer. Places awakening inside me. Winds of new life blowing gently. Windows opening.

An invitation, maybe, to upward movement.

But still raw. And maybe a more acutely felt raw, too, because more of me’s awake to feel it.

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The summer has found me soaking up every tiny ray of life, every moment with my people, every river, every ice cream cone, every hiking trail and pool and yup, even every amusement park ride I can jump onto with my loves. I can’t begin to describe how healing it’s been, or how aware I am lately of the lightening-quick passage of weeks and days.

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Rooms filled with closet contents have been my life’s most recent backdrop, as space-by-space, I’ve tried to bring some measure of organization to the storage areas of our home. Feels good, opening closet doors now and finding this sorta-semi-minimalism. Like breathing room.

And school’s started, y’all. Huh? We’re somehow on day 9 and I’m still blinking, trying to figure out how this has happened already and how to catch up with my life before it speeds away, out of sight.

My handsome boy is in first grade (oh, please slow down), and my littlest bean has somehow sprouted into this breathtakingly beautiful, tall, longhaired, pre-k kiddo. So long, Toddlerville. We are in a whole new season up in here. I love it.

Maia’s and my bond grows deeper by the day, it seems, and I’m so enjoying watching her learn obedience that flows more and more out of that connection, and less just out of desire to avoid a consequence. It is so sweet.

Isaac has done incredibly well in recent months, y’all. Like, so well. He and I are knit fast, deep, at the heart, and I adore being his mom with a depth and ferocity I can’t describe.  It undoes me.

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School has thus far been both a good and a difficult transition for him. His anxiety has spiked somewhat, and though it’s certainly not as extreme as it’s been in the past, it still wrenches my heart to see him hurting. With school in session, he’s had a small handful of anxiety-provoking encounters already, one of which was a pretty graphic threat of violence, made to Isaac by another student. We’re dealing with this with school administration, who are great, but suffice it to say Stan and I saw red when we found out about it.

It makes me weep, y’all — the way so many things seem to be extra challenging for Isaac to navigate, particularly socially. Ugh. It impacts my heart at a visceral level, taps into my own anxiety even as I maintain a brave exterior, calmly listening and coaching, asking questions and praying with my boy as he processes with me.

And the depth to which this tears me up inside, hits me in this groaning-deeper-than-words place, it’s the depth to which I’m simultaneously pressed into constant, acute awareness of my need for my Lord.

Because lemme just tell you: I canNOT hold myself up through this. Every new hurt for Isaac is a blow to me. I know the other mamas in the house know what I’m talking about.

{And I haven’t touched yet on the rest of the hard… that my sweet girl has her own set of unique, intense needs; that my husband, who I adore and who is absolutely wonderful, is as of this moment still completely not walking with Jesus, does not consider himself a Christian or anything at all close to it, and that I still find myself one facet or another of devastated over this on the daily.}

Sooooo yeah, (as I’d say if we were chatting on Voxer)… my knees feel on the verge of buckling most minutes.

B U T.

Jesus. 

The picture in my mind is of him walking beside me, taking my right arm and drawing it around his shoulder, his left arm around my waist. We’re lockstep. And not just lockstep, but he’s bearing my own life’s weight for me, because I cannot bear it on my own.

I’m completely dependent. And it’s funny, because awareness of my weakness, of my need, is always the place where Jesus comes in and brings strength. Brings new life.

When I’m weak, then I’m strong. Heh. The Gospel’s ridiculous, eh? So completely upside down.

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I’m fairly familiar with this road, the way it feels to walk dependent, to live in this tight acquaintance with my glaring need, and the sweet, deep-down companionship with Christ that’s forged as a result.

Something happened years ago, though, between me and Jesus, and I’ve realized this week that I’m beginning to see hints of it played out before my eyes.

Isaac was hospitalized for 6 days in early 2014, at not-quite-3-1/2. He had an infection behind his tonsils and required two surgeries, and it was that week in the hospital that began his journey with anxiety and PTSD.

That week broke me so much. I somehow (read: because of Jesus and only Jesus) held this strong, comforting exterior for my boy, but my insides bled as I watched them try to find veins for IV’s, put my boy out for two surgeries, try to manage his pain…. I wrestled with the Lord during those days, realized at new levels that one of my biggest, scariest fears was that my child(ren) would experience significant medical trauma. I was traumatized at the very thought of it, let alone the experience of it.

That week, I’d’ve done anything to take his place.

Then it came — the moment God whispered to my heart, I won’t let you rescue Isaac from discovering his need for me. I’m too committed to him. These are the places he’ll find me.

Then again, as we’ve walked through all the anxiety and special needs discovery these last years with our boy: Dana, you can’t protect him from feeling the reality of his need for me.

It pulls and tears at this place inside of me that I can’t wrap words around, you guys. It is deep though, and it is big, and it is gut-wrenching — the place within a mom that groans with desire to take away her child’s pain.

And over and over again, it’s required of me: open your hands. Let go.

I find my day-to-day as of late punctuated by all these quiet, built-in reminders of how my own struggles with anxiety come bearing the gift of awareness of my need. How the scariest, most vulnerable scenarios and responsibilities, when bravely, shakily leaned into, lead me into more of Him.

But there’s a new whisper from the Holy Spirit these last few mornings. It comes as we ride in the car together, my boy and I, on the way to drop him off at school. “Mom, can we listen to _______?” (Fill in the blank with whatever worship song has a beat he finds fun or lyrics that move him.)

We crank up the tunes, and he sings loud, or listens quiet, absorbing… he asks an occasional question about meanings of lyrics, but mostly, y’all? I watch him contemplate. I sense my boy’s openness to the Lord. The bent of his heart toward an authentic awareness of God’s presence with him throughout his day. His equipping, comforting, empowering nearness.

Oh yeah — and that new whisper? The thing I’m watching as it begins to play out before me?

It’s this:

Hey beloved? Watch while I capture your boy’s heart.

Y’all, I really believe this stuff. I see it happening. God’s trustworthy with my son’s heart, and he’s tangibly with my kid, even when things are harder for him to process than they would be for a more typical child. Even when Isaac’s afraid, when he’s not treated kindly, when he doesn’t know what to do. God’s drawing Isaac’s heart toward his own, offering wisdom, giving him peace.

And maybe, really, I shouldn’t say even when the painful stuff arises. 

Maybe it’s more like because.

And I’ll tell ya — as much as it guts me to see Isaac hurting or scared, every bit as deep and real as the pain of my mom-heart is my absolute awe, as I watch my Jesus tenderly pursue and win my son’s love.

He is so kind, and so good, and so real.

Y’all. He’s so real.

Annnnd I’m a mess of tears.

Posted in anxiety, Attending to His Presence, Encountering God in the Messy, Family Moments, Goodness of the Gospel, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, mental health, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized, wholehearted living | 11 Comments

some honesty: why i’m mostly silent these days

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Hey, dear friends.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post. It was long. It was an effort to let you into what our family’s life is like on a daily basis. The funny, the heartwarming, the painful, the grueling, the mind-boggling intensity and exhaustion that come with parenting amidst special needs.

It’s still sitting in my “drafts” folder. Unedited, and obviously unpublished.

I talk myself out of it continually — this sharing openly about our lives. The lines are too blurry, too scary: how much should I share of all these places my family members’ stories intersect and impact my own? How much do I share of my own internal wrestlings? My own pain?

I don’t wanna talk like a victim. I’m not defined by all this.

But I know this: I need to write. When I don’t, my heart shuts down, subtly, tiny bits at a time. I lose touch with how Jesus is working inside me. And when I don’t share my journey here, I miss the sense of companionship y’all bring, the ways you give me glimpses into your own journeys; the ways you reflect my own heart back to me, give me insights into the Father’s heart.

Gosh. I so love that we’re all in this together.

Anyway. Would you bear with me today as I try yet again to find my footing in a season when writing words feels more vulnerable than ever before, and my stomach does flips while I contemplate which pieces of my daily reality to open up to you here?

I don’t know what’s gonna come out, but I’m aiming for honesty and grace. God help me.

And actually–

— I think what I need to do at this point, rather than to say a lot of stuff about what’s been happening in my family, is to tell you how said stuff has impacted me in the last few months.

To keep it real, this is actually the most vulnerable stuff to share — more so, I think, than if I were to give you details of what’s happened. {And as I sit here with the Spirit nudging my heart in this direction, I may or may not be shaking in my running shoes.}

Ack.

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Okay, so here’s a real, painful lesson that I continually learn and re-learn:

There will always be those who look at Isaac’s special-needs-related behaviors and assume defiance or rudeness on his part, or total, indulgent permissiveness on mine.

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There will always be those who judge and jump to conclusions {I know, because I’ve been those people — God forgive me}, rather than suspending their assumptions and considering the fact that for every situation they observe, there is a backstory that they do not know.

Conclusions are comfortable though, aren’t they?

I don’t know if I’ll ever be thick-skinned {dare I say I hope not?} enough to not feel cut deep by another’s judgement. But I long to come to the place where, hand-in-hand with Jesus, I’m able to be aware of people’s assumptions, but extend confident kindness to them in return.

In the meantime though, I’m asking Him to hold my heart still when judgements come, to keep me and my parenting steady, regardless of who thinks what.

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Here’s another true thing: I’m learning that my capacity for most communication in this season is precisely nil.

During my weekly handful of “breaks” from my kiddos, I can pretty much predictably be found cleaning bathrooms, running errands, in meetings, doing worship-related work for my church fam…

…or soaking in the silence of my home like a desperate person at an oasis in a desert.

Something I hate a ton: Not having the bandwidth to return messages from friends who are more dear to me than I can tell you. The feeling of having virtually every ounce of relational energy drained from me.

This is so real, y’all, and it can be traced back to what I’m realizing I do with all my minutes and my whole self these days.

Half of it’s this:

Isaac’s needs + Maia’s needs = I spend an unbelievable amount of time trying to mediate their relationship dynamics, both with one another, and with Stan and me.

{To clarify, there are better days, during which the kids play together a little more, are more peaceful and respectful, make fewer impulsive choices, etc. Just… um… not all that often.}

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And then the other half:

When I’m not trying to help them work through one emotional/relational challenge or another, I’m doing my best to pour my entire being into relationally connecting with them. Trying to help shore them up in their hurting, insecure places.

I’m trying to love them in ways their hearts can receive.

Engaging them in building a “clubhouse” under Isaac’s bed. Reading books. Inviting Maia to help me cook. Painting pictures. Taking them hiking, one-on-one. Actively listening to Isaac talk about StarWars characters or Minecraft or stingrays or giant squid till infinity, forever and ever, amen.

See, if they’re going to grow up with hearts that are open and deeply connected to mine, I have got to listen and engage and be as present to them as I possibly can in these days.

Because all these “little” things are by no means “little” to them. They are the seeds that, by God’s grace, I pray will grow into teenage and young adult hearts that know beyond an ounce of doubt that they’re safe, seen, heard, and wholly accepted by their parents.

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FullSizeRender-4So these days, in the non-corrective moments, I’m trying to creatively, proactively whisper affection and acceptance into their little souls. Imperfectly, and complete with prob’ly a hundred failures in a day, but intentionally nonetheless.

It requires all of me. Every day.

At 7 pm when they’re in bed, it’s all I can do to make myself do some kinda workout for 15 minutes. A lot of days lately, I’ve failed to bring myself to even do that.

So I have un-heard voxer messages sitting on my phone. Unread messages in my Facebook inbox. It tears my heart, being so often absent to my friends who’re precious to me.

I never had a grid for this in the past when friends of mine let communication balls drop, but holy cow, do I know what it means now to just have absolutely nothing left.

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Speaking of having nothing left… I’ve had to make this confession lately that has humbled me more than I know how to tell you.

{I’ll say it out loud here because I’m of the opinion that these things need to be said out loud, not kept hidden. People, especially “church” people, need to know we’re not alone, and that it’s okay.}

I’ve recently had to say it out loud to Stan, to my doctor, to a small handful of close people in my life: I know I’m depressed. Like, more so than I’ve been before.

I, who’ve said my entire adult life,”Oh, I’m not prone to depression.” Huh. I wasn’t. Till the last year or two, I guess.

And in the last couple of months, I’ve run up against my limits like I don’t think I ever have before.

Did I mention this is humbling?

Till a couple years ago, I never dreamed I’d need medication to help me keep my head above the waters of depression and anxiety.

And until the last couple of months, I never dreamed I’d have to be this intentional about self-care (i.e. a lot of time alone; time outside; frequent, intentional times spent sitting with Jesus; exercising and eating crazy-healthy — the list goes on) in order to stay afloat while life’s rain and waves pound hard.

BUT. I know I will be okay. To be super clear, I am by no means thinking of harming myself. I’m just incredibly, incredibly fatigued, a ton of the time. At every level.

I do practice good self-care — and I have a husband who is super helpful and caring — and I will absolutely make it through this season. Some days will be easier than others, and some evenings will find me in discouraged tears after the kiddos are asleep, but I’m going to be okay.

I just have to carefully pace myself as I navigate this often-grueling season one day, one step at a time.

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One final glimpse into the real me today:

There were a lot of years when, at the end of a grueling parenting day, Stan and I could fall into bed and pray together. Maybe pray for each other, for the kids, for wisdom regarding this issue or that recurring behavior dilemma.

We can’t do that anymore.

And as much as I have no desire for Stan to return to the version of Christianity he experienced before, I sure do ache to be able to pray with my husband again.

At the ends of these nothing-left days, the days that leave me in tears… and on the mornings when I open my mouth to ask him to please pray for me and the kids while he drives to work — and then close it again — my heart breaks anew.

Ugh.

Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Okay. See, this is some of the stuff that paralyzes me lately when I think toward trying to write.

I don’t want to sound like a victim. I don’t want to be defined by my grief, by the deep-down, piercing pain of these days. And I kind of really don’t like for people to know how much I hurt.

I do want to attempt to be honest, though, and this, I guess, is the only way I know how to do it.

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AND…

There are fun moments, too. There’s laughter, ice cream, warm spring days, and Isaac’s sigh, “Aaahhhh! I just love the family-ness,” when we’re all chillin’ together.

There are hiking trails and sweet views and braids in Maia’s hair and we have the coolest dog in the world.

Stan has a job he enjoys, I get to lead our amazing, beautiful worship team and pour my heart out before Jesus while I do it, and Isaac’s school year is coming to a close next week. {It’s been really great, all things considered.}

Summer’s coming.

And Jesus is faithful.

In the midst of everything, I believe it. I absolutely believe it.

And even in all my not-okay-ness as of late, there’s this much deeper well of very-okay-ness. Because I’m with Him. We’re in all of this together. Lockstep.

And through all this tension and strain, He doesn’t quit His work inside me.

And if the highest aims of my life are that my heart would be further conformed to His, and that I may live in the intimate companionship with Him that comes in that shaping and forming process, then there can be this breathtaking, beautiful depth of contentment in the midst of utter exhaustion and all the other emotions, too… yeah?

‘Cause I trust Him. I trust His work inside me. And His heart and plans for my kids, and for my husband, are no less trustworthy.

So I guess I keep riding all this out with Him, eh? — and try and remember to kiss these insane waves that keep me aware of how desperately I need Him.

I sure do love you guys. Thanks for listening, for your presence here with me. <3

Posted in Encountering God in the Messy, Family Moments, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, mental health, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

In which I can’t embrace Jesus without exposing my heart

Hey, my dear friends,

By way of an opening statement, I just wanna let you know that Stan has read and approved all I’ve written here. And that I kind of think that for now, that’s how it’s gonna be with everything I write. Our stories intersect too deeply to navigate this season in any other way.

<3

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It’s Sunday night, our kids are finally all snuggled up and asleep, and I’ve begun the not-so-small task of cleaning up the kitchen after our family’s evening dinner/painting/play-doh-ing chaos. It’s a good chaos. The kind that comes from living life wide open and together.

Stan comes downstairs clad in plaid pajama pants and t-shirt, and — bless him — starts unloading the dishwasher.

And I’m not positive exactly how this happened, but in my next memory I’m sweeping the floor and fighting back tears, telling Stan how I need to feel more connected to him but I don’t know how. We discuss (and he agrees with) the fact that his current spiritual state makes connectedness difficult to achieve on lots of levels, and I tell him I don’t even know if it’s fair for me to ask for more connection given the way he shoulders so much of the burden of our family’s life together.

Special needs, small-but-incredibly-intense personalities, Stan’s own (undiagnosed but very clear to us, based on lots of research) high-functioning autism/OCD, my migraines…. The weight we carry (the weight he carries) is great. Can I really ask him for still more growth in this arena of pursuing his wife’s heart? I don’t want to ask him to be someone he’s not.

Stan’s response is genuine and non-defensive: “But you can ask me for growth in this arena. It’s okay for you to have real needs.”

And somewhere during the conversation, the Spirit’s whisper: Don’t allow fear to cause you to withhold your heart from him.

Withholding it from him is withholding it from Me. 

Let yourself cry.

So I quit fighting, stop faking strength, and let the tears come, opening to Stan another level of my grief over all these places our hearts used to be woven together but don’t seem to be now.

I finish wiping down the kitchen counters, keep finding things to spray and wipe, spray and wipe, spray and wipe. The repetitive motion combined with the scent of my essential oil kitchen cleaner is therapeutic somehow.

That, and cleaning provides at least a small distraction, something on which to focus a bit of my attention so not every ounce of my being is given over to these gulping sobs that threaten to take control.

Oh God, hold my heart.

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When I got my first tattoo, I had this tiny, terrifying inkling — (oh my word – is that not the best accidental pun?! INKling?! Ha! Annnd I totally crack myself up. Okay. Ahem. Moving on.) — an inkling that I’d need it for more reasons than I understood at the time — this reminder of how desperately I need to stay in step with Jesus. To move through every moment, every season, every hard thing, arm-in-arm with Him.

The idea for my second tattoo came in late 2015. Kiss the wave — from Spurgeon’s quote “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

And I once again had this quiet-but-strong sense of, “Crap — how tiny is my insight into the ways this idea will make itself real to me, will inscribe itself inside of me.”

I had no clue.

Spring of 2016 came, then summer, and by this point Stan was sharing more and more with me, layer upon layer, of his evolving spiritual reality.

I listened, waited, felt like I was watching our identity as a couple melt into a murky puddle at my feet.

I struggled so much to come to grips with the thought that my husband no longer considered himself a follower of Jesus.

I found myself one day last summer, after one such conversation with Stan, standing dazed in the tiny kitchen of our old apartment. It hit my heart that afternoon like a wrecking ball: this unravelling right here? This is that wave. 

The wave I’d felt coming but couldn’t make out.

It terrified me.

The places most core to my identity, where I’d felt the most deeply knit with Stan — they were coming undone. Our mutual desire for relationship with Christ, this shared heart bent toward the Kingdom.

This disorienting sense of aloneness would press me toward my need for Him like I never dreamed possible.

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I went and got the tattoo. Sat through it by myself this time, no close friend available to hold my hand.

Breathing through the pain of all this desperate, newly-deepened dependence being permanently inscribed on my skin… even as the grief of this loss carved it anew into my soul.

I contemplate so much lately how in Christ, agony forges trust, engraves beauty where bitterness might otherwise take root. And what a costly privilege it is to be marked by Him, to be expanded inside as I breathe through fear, uncertainty, loss. As I lean into Him. As He bears me up, gives me more of Himself.

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Wrapping my arms around Stan’s neck for a hug at some point while my new ink was still healing, my forearm caught my eye: kiss the wave. Right there, all up in my face as I held onto my man.

I can’t wholly give myself to what God is doing inside me in this season without giving myself to Stan as well, the best I know how. Can’t embrace Jesus, his heart for me in all this, without embracing my husband.

Without exposing my heart.

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I can’t find anything else to wipe down.

We hit the kitchen lights and make our way upstairs, me still intermittently in and out of tears. I go through the motions: remove makeup, brush teeth, take meds, climb into bed.

Finally, with nothing else to do but sit still with Stan, I full-on weep. Stan’s hand on my shoulder lets me know he’s not scared of my pain. Grieved by it, yes, but not shaken by it. I’m thankful.

He hands me a box of Kleenex, and between my bouts of crying, our conversation moves to our road forward from here. What it’ll look like. How to steward our connection. How to care for one another’s hearts despite feeling utterly disoriented.

Stan expresses concern that his internal journey will cause me perpetual pain. I tell him I can’t promise it won’t, but that I love him. That I trust God with my heart in the midst of the pain. That I’m committed to our journey together, uncertainty and all.

I’m here. Sometimes I don’t know how to be here, but I’m not going anywhere, and neither is he. Navigating this uncharted terrain isn’t optional for either of us.

I eventually realize my desperation for sleep, so Stan kisses my forehead, plugs my phone in for me, and makes his way downstairs for some time alone by the fireplace.

I lie in the dark, still teary. Raw, heart bleeding. All this opening of myself — to Stan, to God — is excruciating. Excruciating, but completely necessary… and good.

And in all of it, He’s trustworthy. So I re, re, re-remind my soul of that truth, roll over, and allow my eyes to close.

Held.

Posted in Confidence in God, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, Marriage, misc. walking with Jesus, risk, Uncategorized, wholehearted living | 10 Comments

on living in the uncomfortable tension {or: all the stuff I didn’t say yesterday}

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Hey, my friends,

I gotta say this first: Your responses to my post from last night, both here and on my Facebook page, have been such healing balm for both Stan’s and my hearts. I’m just undone.

{Quick note: If you missed yesterday’s post, it’d be a good idea to head over and read it before coming back to this one.}

Given the degree of honesty in yesterday’s post about my personal sense of grief, loss, and uncertainty, I want to go back and delve a little deeper into a few things I mentioned briefly, but maybe didn’t elaborate on as much as I would’ve wanted to if I were writing a book instead of a blog post. :-) (I know, I set myself up. I’ll go ahead and say it — that post was 2,440 words. :-O )

So… here I go. Commence sequel.

****

I mentioned Stan’s OCD/high-functioning Autism, particularly as these things manifest in his Scrupulosity, or “religious OCD.” Couple o’ things about this:

Discovering these things about Stan’s wiring has by no means caused me, or Stan himself, to “label” Stan, to box him in so he’s merely a victim of a “disorder.” While OCD and Autism are very real in Stan’s life, and that realization has been sobering for sure, the greater impact of this revelation has been overwhelmingly positive.

It’s given Stan an understanding of himself, a grid for his struggles, that he didn’t have before. Whereas in past years, he’s struggled with self-hatred over his inability to “get it together” in the arena of his faith, he’s now able to see himself through new, much more compassionate eyes. There are reasons these things have been hard for him. He is not a failure. His brain is simply wired differently than a “neurotypical” person’s.

These discoveries have been incredibly empowering. Having an Autism/OCD lens through which to view Stan’s struggles and his strengths has, just like it has in Isaac’s case, given us ideas of how to approach Stan’s questions and difficulties, how to manage life in light of them, that’ve changed us, changed our family, in some really good ways.

You approach a person so much differently when you view them as having a hard time, or simply not understanding something, than when you see them as uncaring. You give their heart the benefit of the doubt so much more often. You approach conversations about difficult topics differently. So many things make more sense now.

I think what I’m trying to say is that neither one of us sees Stan’s OCD as a label, and neither of us sees Stan through a “victim” lens. Rather, while it’s been painful, this has been an incredibly helpful, empowering, paradigm shift for us.

Stan isn’t defined by a diagnosis or a “disorder.” As in Isaac’s case, Stan’s wiring is a gift from God that simply takes more intentionality on both our parts to figure out, requires us to look at life from a different angle, and, for me, reshapes and expands my heart as I continue to learn to love him well.

****

Here’s another important thought: I have no desire for Stan to “come back” to Christianity in the form it took for him before.

I don’t want that for him. God never wanted that for him. That was never how following, obeying, walking with Jesus was meant to be.

Christianity was never supposed to entrap hearts in fear. I really believe God’s heart breaks, grieves deeply over the way a large portion of the western Church has painted and experienced what it looks and feels like to live a life surrendered to Jesus.

I meant it so much in my previous post when I said that if Stan can come to a place of seeing the freedom from fear and legalism that he’s now experiencing as a gift from Jesus, as the beginning of what it really looks and feels like to live surrendered to Perfect Love, I believe he will be captivated, drawn into authentic, meaningful friendship with God.

Christianity is about the Gospel, and the Gospel is about Jesus taking away our fear, our shame, our guilt. About Him paying the price for our sin so we can be free, released into uninhibited, confident, child-like receiving of His love, His enjoyment of us.

I’ll hop off this soapbox for now, but just wanted to re-state that what I ache for for Stan is real freedom. Authentic friendship with God that’s transformative from the inside out. Not a return to the way he lived before, but that God will move Stan through (not around) this season, all this soul work, and into reality with Him.

****

It’s strange, the way the dismantling of Stan’s prior Christian experience has been this huge, scary loss for me, and has simultaneously been laced with hope — this freedom from perfectionism, performance, shame, legalism that I see taking hold inside of Stan.

I trust God’s ability and desire to bring Stan through this and into the relationship with Himself that Stan was created for, and I will pray, will live my entire life as a prayer, until Stan finds authentic, shame-free companionship with God.

AND, I also have to live in touch with the reality that, like I said before, sometimes our God, who is unyieldingly good no matter what, doesn’t do the things I think He should do.

I can’t ignore this, because what I don’t want to do is live in some form of denial, only choosing to acknowledge what I know is God’s best for Stan, and missing ways in which God wants to make His heart known to me in this season.

Here’s what I mean:

One of God’s key invitations to me now is to be willing to live in continual prayer and hope for Stan, while allowing this massive uncertainty to continually bring me to my knees, to keep me acutely aware of my need for Him.

Learning over and over again to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.

And as much as we tend to see them this way in the western Church, with our mostly dualistic framework for so many things, these two heart dispositions aren’t mutually exclusive — the faithful contending in prayer, and the living in touch with the reality of loss and uncertainty.

And the invitation to simultaneously hold both of these heart dispositions, to live in the painful tension between the two? It’s the place where encounter with God, for me, has always been the most personally, profoundly transformative.

The discomfort of this tension is the place I’ve learned trust, surrender, real worship; the place I’ve experienced the most intimate companionship with Him.

It’s the place where I find Christ is being formed ever more deeply inside me.

****

A note on day-to-day life:

I’m continually blessed by the way Stan’s new-found freedom from self-hatred, from constantly feeling like a failure, has impacted his life as a husband and father. He is more patient, and more at peace with his own and others’ humanity; more attentive, more present, and more forgiving toward himself and toward his family.

And… he still sings Jesus Loves Me to the kids before they go to sleep at night, with zero pressure to do so.

****

I have quite a few precious friends whose experiences of Christianity, of the Church, have caused very real, legitimate damage. Many of them move on to totally distance themselves from Christianity, church, the Bible, God. They’re hurt, angry, and it makes complete sense that they are.

Like I said, this was never God’s heart or desire for us. ::insert broken heart emoticon::

(Is it weird that as I was trying to find words just now, all I could think was “broken heart emoticon?” Oy. Technology. Also my brain is mush, apparently.)

Stan’s an interesting “case,” though. Rather than putting as much distance as possible between himself and Christianity, he still wants to be at church with me, wants to stay connected with me and with our pastors regarding his journey, supports my walk with Jesus and my ministry role.

It’s stuff that makes me stop and ponder.

The prayer that Stan’s prayed as of late — God, if you really want a relationship with me, please reveal yourself to me in a way that’s not academic, in a way that impacts my heart — it really lays bare this deep, still-burning desire for real friendship with God.

Stan’s heart is open and tender, humble and authentic… and I believe it moves the heart of God.

So I take lots of deep breaths these days. And I sit, and wait, and lean into Jesus, and {imperfectly} love.

{And in the interest of not writing a complete novel again today, I’ll stop here. Thank you again, friends, for the way you love us. Y’all are such gifts. Like, beyond words.}

Posted in Freedom From Perfectionism, Goodness of the Gospel, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, Marriage, mental health, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

when your very foundation is shaken {or, why I was quiet for so, so long}

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It’s Saturday night. The kids are in bed, finally settling down, and I’m standing, staring blankly into our bathroom mirror. Procrastinating.

For months now, my stomach does flips every time I think toward writing this to you all. And even having written these couple of sentences here, tears burn the backs of my eyes.

I have a story for you that’s not completely my own, though it impacts mine profoundly. So I’ll go ahead and say this: I tell it with complete clearance and encouragement from the other “stake-holder” here. A fact which, in and of itself, is enough to make me kinda scratch my head in wonder.

But y’all, I don’t know how to tell this story. So I’m thankful, in advance, so so much, for your grace as I try.

Rummaging through memories now, trying to trace my way back in time, I find myself maybe 10 months ago, weeping on the bathroom floor of our prior apartment in Littleton, Stan entering the room, sitting on the floor across from me, asking questions, compassionately allowing me to spill all this grief and loss and fear all over the tile between us.

Something had happened a couple of days prior that was shaking my world down to its very foundation.

Did I already say I don’t know how to tell this story? ‘Cause, I mean, I REALLY don’t. And truthfully, the amount of fear surrounding its telling — the number of what if’s running through my brain in this moment — it’s staggering.

What if’s primarily swirling around all the people who’re dear to us — family, friends — to whom this will be new information. I’ve thought… (and thought… and thought…) oh, we should tell this person individually, or that person, before letting people into this facet of our lives on a broader scale.

I cannot stand the thought of anyone we love feeling hurt over having learned of this first via my blog, as opposed to a face-to-face or phone conversation. If this thought applies to you, please hear my apology here, and know my heart for you. I love you dearly. And I’m asking again for grace.

I’ve waited months on end to write these words in this space. This reality that rolls like waves through my insides — loss, grief, fear, and even hope.

This was why I quit writing there, too, for a time. How do you write your guts when your whole world seems to be shaking, yet the aforementioned “world” is not only your own?

There’s been this check in my gut, this hold on, Dana… wait for it… from the Holy Spirit, and in talking with Stan and a close friend or two in recent days, I think I’m getting a green light from Him to move forward, to let myself be more deeply known in this season by y’all who walk with me via my writing.

It’s been a long time coming, this green light, and now that I have it, I’ve spent a number of days unsure how to move forward.

AND, at this point I’m pretty sure I’m procrastinating yet again, so let me come out and say it:

My husband — this kind, strong, gentle man who continues to love me so well, partners with me through heaven and hell, has my back through thick and thin — he’s decided he’s no longer a Christian.

We sat across the kitchen table from each other just a handful of days before the weeping-on-bathroom-floor incident, and he told me how his faith had been completely dismantled. How he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, with the Father.

It’s no new news to me that Stan’s always struggled to some degree in his walk with God. How he’s repeatedly cycled through this debilitating fear that he wasn’t measuring up, fear that he maybe wasn’t even saved… frustration over not feeling like he could hear God’s voice, not feeling like he knew God’s heart… I could go on.

Our counselor mentioned maybe a year ago the possibility that Stan might have a condition called scrupulosity, a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There’s lots to be learned about it, but for now, here’s a good definition:

Scrupulosity is a form of OCD in which the sufferer’s primary anxiety is the fear of being guilty of religious, moral, or ethical failure.

Upon just a tiny glance into research on the condition, Stan (and I) immediately knew: this was him. Scrupulosity/OCD is a piece of his (undiagnosed but quite certain according to our very in-depth research) high-functioning Autism.

In the months following our discovery of this specific OCD disorder, Stan, for the first time in his life, allowed himself to stop obsessing over his spiritual “performance.” Over whether he was obeying God enough.

He stopped reading the Bible. He gradually, mostly stopped praying.

And gradually, layers of fear began to slide off of him.

Anymore, Stan says that he was “tormented” by scripture. And believe me — I don’t fully understand how or why, but I know this to be true.

Stan’s incredibly black-and-white mind, combined with his extreme OCD around pleasing God, and around not understanding why this scripture seemed to contradict that scripture, and was it faith or works, anywayand if faith without works is dead, how many works are enough, and what if his faith was maybe dead? — that relentless cycle had him trapped, y’all. For years. Decades.

He was virtually always, to one degree or another, miserable.

Stan now asserts that he never had an experiential relationship with God, one in which God met with him, spoke to him, guided him, gave him peace.

I, however, look back over the nearly 10 years that Stan and I’ve been married, and see God’s pursuit of Stan’s heart over and over and over again. Woven throughout his story.

And what I still see as evidences of God’s hand moving in Stan’s life, he looks back and calls self-deception. All of it.

In our frequent conversations around all of this, Stan’s shared that the prayers he does pray anymore are very infrequent, and usually consist of something along the lines of, “God, if you do want me to have a relationship with you, then I need you to come reveal yourself to me in a way that’s not academic. In ways that I can understand and that will authentically connect with my heart.”

To make the understatement of the century, all of this has been devastating to me. A completely unforeseen, soul-shattering loss.

Yet Stan would say he’s happier, freer, more comfortable in his own skin than he’s ever been. Don’t hear me wrong — his heart aches over my grief — but being out from under the religious baggage, the continual fear associated with his prior experience of Christianity — it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Truly.

The way I see it, though Stan’s current stance on Christianity and Jesus and life terrifies me beyond words, this freedom he’s finding as he’s stepped out from under a whole ton o’ legalism? It’s a gift from God. And if and when Stan can see it as a gift from Him, he’ll be drawn into the sweetest, realest, most confident friendship with the God he now says he doesn’t know.

****

There are so many things I could say about how Stan’s recent journey has impacted me. It’s broken my heart to no longer have a common faith-foundation with my husband. A common jumping-off-point for how we see and experience and process the world.

Some days I cry. A bit less now than I did for a while, but the tears seem never to be far from the surface for me lately.

Some days the questions pile up around me and threaten to send me into panic attacks. What does this mean for how our children will grow up? How will Stan field their God-related questions?

My hope is that as I pour into them, as I continue to model companionship with God, Isaac and Maia will grow to confidently know His heart for them. But y’all, the possibility that I would be *spiritually* parenting my children apart from Stan’s partnership — it was never, ever, remotely on my radar.

Till within the last year.

(Again, don’t hear me wrong; Stan is the most checked-IN dad I’ve probably ever known. The way he partners with me in parenting our children — it absolutely floors me. I couldn’t be more thankful. And simultaneously, I never saw this coming. Not even a little. Ever.)

Like I said, there is so much I could say — and so much I likely will say, at some point, about more of the ways this has been painful for me, the ways in which God’s met me in this grief… but for now, I’ll give you this glimpse into my heart in this season: Nearly every day for one reason or another, as we go about the minutiae of our daily lives, I open my mouth to ask Stan to pray for me, or for the kids. And it hits me all over again:

Oh, no, I can’t ask him to do that anymore.

I close my mouth, silent. And my heart shatters all over again.

::deep breath::

****

One of the things that’s always been a struggle for me, is for anyone but just a tiny handful of my closest friends to really know the depths of how I’m hurting. In any circumstance, not just this one. But in these days particularly, the thought of you all, who I so dearly love, hurting for me over this particular loss — it’s actually excruciating. Ugh.

But here’s why I’ve known I needed to share this facet of Stan’s and my story with y’all: I know we’re not alone. I know there are others whose faith has crumbled, or whose spouse’s faith has crumbled, and they don’t know where to go from here.

We don’t know where to go from here, either. The questions are bigger than life and so beyond overwhelming. But I’m here. And I know that I love Jesus, that I trust Him, that He walks beside me, that He carries my family, holds us together even through this.

Especially through this.

I am 100% committed to Stan. He is 100% committed to me, to our family. He respects my personal journey with God. He comes to church with me and the kids. He plays on the worship team because it’s life-giving to him, and because he knows his partnership in that arena is life to my heart as well. He supports me in my leadership role within our church, and our pastors are up to speed on his current spiritual reality. And they, I have to add, have loved Stan and me so well through all of this.

And I trust God’s pursuit of Stan’s heart. Whether he can see it in this season, or not.

Sometimes faulty foundations have to be torn apart before what’s healthy and solid can be built. And I’m praying with every ounce of my soul that that’s what happens here. I see God’s hand all over this season for Stan. Setting him free from crippling fear. From condemnation. From perfectionism. Desiring to draw him into an experience of Himself that’s more real, freeing, healing than he’s ever dreamed possible.

I also know, though, that sometimes our God, who is good, faithful, utterly trustworthy no matter what comes, doesn’t do the good things I think He should do.

Sometimes the good things don’t happen. Children die and marriages fail. Families are torn apart, countries go to war, and sometimes, the most amazing people walk away from their Christian faith for one reason or another, and never return to it.

Sometimes.

So the incredibly weird dichotomy of all of this for me, is this: that I see God’s kindness woven throughout this process within Stan. His kindness. His pursuit. It gives me hope.

AND… I don’t get to know what the outcome of this season will be for Stan. I might not know for a very long time. It scares the you-know-what out of me, y’all. When I allow myself to feel the grief and fear, they really do rise up to the point of almost strangling me.

Most days, though, while punctuated by moments of poignant awareness of our current reality, I move through my life with an okay-ness that only comes from walking in step with Him. Of allowing the pain to drive me deeper into Him.

He holds me together.

****

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I’d wanted this tattoo for a long time, but at some point during the summer of 2016, when the intensity of Stan’s current spiritual reality was beginning to feel so terrifying to me, I knew it was time.

Charles Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

Even writing that quote sends me into this profound sobriety that borders on tears, because the aforementioned waves aren’t happy, fun, playful waves. They’re crushing, like I said. Deadly. Killing every ounce of my own strength, any crutch or mechanism by which I could maybe keep going a little bit on my own.

And what I’m still learning, what He forges deeper and deeper in my core, is the willingness to kiss the waves. To be continually brought by the intensity and pain of my circumstances into this gut-wrenching, poignant awareness of my need for Him.

Oh, you guys. How. I. Need. Him.

And how profound is my gratitude, because to the degree I’m aware of my need, He comes in, and He fills, and He stills my soul even amid the waves.

There’s more I’ll say, I’m sure, as I sort through the reality that I’m now free to share the story I’ve held close for all these months. God meets me so much in the day-to-day, as I learn how to navigate parenting and marriage and ministry and life in the midst of this new normal.

So yeah, I might have more words soon. Finally.

But for now, I’ll end by sharing this — a document Stan initially wrote for his and my parents, by way of a well-thought-out description of this current phase of his journey. He asked if I’d offer his words therein to you tonight. He’s really an open book. It’s incredible to me actually, how willing he is to be authentically known along this piece of his path.

I’d love your prayers for Stan and me and the kids as we move through this season, friends. Thanks for reading my novel-length heart here tonight.

And just thanks for being my friends. Y’all are dear to my heart.

***Editing to add: I published a (shorter!) follow-up to this post. Would love for you to read it, too.***

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

to the degree that i’m settled in him

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My plans for this afternoon are thwarted by a migraine.

Thankfully, the timing coincides with our lovely Genevieve’s 4-hour block of time at our place, so I do a tiny bit of organizing in Stan’s and my room, take my migraine meds, and lie down to see if I can sleep this thing off. (Gen’s our babysitter/nanny extraordinaire — the kids (and I!) absolutely adore her)

My neurologist recently took me off one of my preventative migraine drugs and switched me to a different one. It’s not looking like this one’s gonna cut it for me.

(**Is it okay if I say this here, y’all? — That while I want you to know what’s up with me, I’m not looking for migraine treatment advice? That the options we’ve tried are many and varied, and I’d really just love your prayers and your presence? Thanks for understanding, friends.**)

I wake up a couple of hours later, still head-achey, and still feeling drugged. Bleh. Which, interestingly, is where this attempt at a blog post finds me.

So — consider yourself forewarned — I hereby cannot take responsibility for anything incoherent or otherwise ridiculous that might come out of my mouth. Er, my fingers. (As long as I’m lying back against a pillow, I, for now, have the wherewithal to try and write. We’ll just hafta see how this goes.)

*****

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It’s 4-ish in the afternoon, and Isaac quietly opens my door, climbs up on the bed next to me. I haven’t seen him since I dropped him off at school at 8:30 this morning, so I completely ignore the fact that his snow boots are all over our bedding. I could cuddle this kiddo forever.

His attention span at this moment isn’t long enough for more than a couple of minutes of snuggle time, so I relinquish him to Stan for a bath.

Maia comes in next, bearing legos, climbs up and sits a while, building stuff and chatting intermittently. This girl is growing up, y’all. Less toddler and more kid by the day. I love watching her metamorphosis. LOVE it.

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*****

Our country is reeling, it seems, after last week’s inauguration and the events of the last few days. I don’t have anything profound to say about it, but I’m watching, waiting, trying to keep a finger on the pulse of God’s heart and intentions for our nation — and for His church, and for me — in this hour.

In all my listening, I’m pretty sure there’s more static than clear revelation, but I lean into Him, trusting, or trying to, at least, and continue to wait. Being close to Him brings peace like I can’t explain.

Settle, Dana. Be still with me. Rest in me.

*****

I have an incredible worship team. Have I told y’all that? I love my peeps so crazy much.

One of our newest members happens to be a pianist (and guitarist, and bassist, and singer, and…) and this past Sunday we decided to experiment with having him play keys, and me leading via voice only.

Sometimes I find myself nervous about how nervous I’m gonna be about how nervous I’m gonna be. All my nerves birth more nerves and those birth still more and– yeah.

So this past Sunday felt like it was gonna be like that. Not having a piano in front of me while I led would be extra out of my comfort zone.

*****

Sunday mornings typically find me awake(ish) between 5 and 5:30, warm coffee in cold hands, sitting by our fireplace, being quiet with Jesus. This past Sunday, I watched the fire flicker as my audio Bible played Psalm 34… and 35… 36… 37 —

I couldn’t bring myself to stop listening.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Who is like you, Lord?

You rescue the poor from those too strong for them.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

Do not fret because of those who are evil…. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. 

Commit your way to the Lordtrust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him….

I could go on and on. Actually, it’s all I can do right now to make myself stop there. The familiar words were balm to this desperate, raw place inside me, drawing me deeper into trust, into dependence on Him.

And while there is nothing certain, nothing remotely predictable about this season, and while everything — or lots of things, at least — that can be shaken quake around me, my heart was still in that moment, just sitting with Him.

Walk with me, Dana. Companion with me through all of this. Let’s do these days together, one step at a time.

Settle.

*****

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I quiet my heart before Him in the early Sunday silence of our church’s auditorium. I put fingers to keys for a few minutes, sing my heart to Him like I haven’t in a while. He whispers peace, holds me steady. Secure.

At the beginning of our service, I pick up my mic, say a few words that I completely can’t remember now, invite my precious church fam into worship, and direct my team to start playing.

We worship for 40-ish minutes, and somewhere around halfway through, I notice: I’m not scared. I’m enjoying the Lord. Eyes on Him. Mostly unselfconscious, which is a complete, total act of God. Gratitude fills my heart.

I could do this leading-but-not-playing thing more often.

We sing Draw Near by Matt Stinton, and the lyrics of the chorus hit me with surprising force and clarity — God is calling me out of myself. Again.

“I’ve made a place for you here, so come on, come on. All things are possible here, so come on, come on.”

He’s beckoning me. Whispering life to the recesses of my soul, and calling those places forth. To the surface. To exposure. Calling me into an even fuller authenticity — to give still more of my true self — in the way I lead. The way I live. Which is, yup, scary. Vulnerable as heck.

Settle.

You can live wide open like this, Dana, to the degree that you’re settled in me. 

*****

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I’m not usually a “God spoke to me and said _______” kind of person. My companionship with Him, I think, is usually more intuitive. His Spirit moves quiet, deep in my gut, in my core, and I try and surrender to that movement. To quietly walk hand-in-hand with Him. I can’t frequently wrap words around precisely what I sense Him speaking to me.

Somehow, this moment, right now, is different. There are words. A few of them, anyway.

I write to discover, to make sense out of what’s happening inside and around me. To grow my own awareness of what Jesus is doing, how He’s moving my heart.

Prior to a couple of weeks ago, I went several months without writing, and I can’t say for sure what’ll happen, of course, but I so want to keep coming back here, to this space. Because I need it. And because it’s life to me, the way y’all hear and receive my heart. The ways He shows Himself to me through the community that happens here.

So. Thanks for listening, my friends, as I’ve only somewhat coherently wound my way around and through and found a few connections between circumstances and Holy Spirit whispers. Your presence here is a gift to me, precious beyond words.

I love you guys. Peace to you tonight. <3

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Confidence in God, Creativity, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, wholehearted living, Worship Leader Guts | 2 Comments

finding words after too many months of silence (on connection, confidence, and my one word for 2017)

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Hey, my friends! So. It’s January 3rd, and I haven’t written in this space since August fourth. I’m pretty sure this is the first time in a solid 4 years that I’ve gone this long without blogging.

Welp. Happy 2017. And merry Christmas. And happy Thanksgiving. And Labor Day…. and… and… and…

I’ve so desperately wanted to write in the last few months, and yet have (apparently) avoided it completely.

As much as I love blogging, love the community and connection it can bring, after a period of silence, I always find it hard to put fingers to keys and begin sharing myself with you here again. It feels foreign, like roller skating after a solid 20 years of not. (Don’t ask me how I know that feeling.)

What do I say? What do I tell you about my last several months? How do I give you a glimpse into my life and my heart’s journey within it?

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I’m still heading up the worship ministry at the Littleton Vineyard Church, and continually full of gratitude for the privilege. Stan is still developing websites, researching various interests, and occasionally producing crazy-amazing movie-sound-track-type music like it ain’t no thang.

Isaac is in Kindergarten and, all things considered, doing beautifully. Making friends, making academic progress, reading brilliantly. My brave boy — I’m in awe of him these days.

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Maia is more creative by the hour. I’m often astounded by her attention span for sitting at the kitchen table painting, drawing, cutting, taping, doing puzzles. What a gifted kiddo she’s becoming. I love watching her creativity evolve.

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Oh! And… we moved. Y’all. We bought a house and we moved. No more 2-bedroom apartment as of the end of August, last year.

Don’t get me wrong — I was genuinely, deeply thankful for that apartment for a number of reasons. But truthfully, life is a good bit easier on several fronts, just having a bit more room, a fenced-in backyard, etc. One of these weeks I’ll maybe dedicate an entire post to showing you our home and some of my house-related projects. I’ve kept busy, that’s for sure.

We got a dog. For real. We’d been promising Isaac for ages that when we got a house, we’d get a dog.

So. Meet Rocky. He’s a black lab/blue heeler mix, and he is absolutely awesome. He’s a relatively calm, incredibly sweet pup. He was a rescue, and we got him at 5 months old. He’s about 9 months now. Gosh, we adore him. He’s completely, totally a member of our family.

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The kids have been on Christmas break the last couple of weeks. They started school again today. I’m not gonna lie — while I was looking forward to Christmas, I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t be desperate for them to return to school by now.

But there’s been this grace, you guys. Grace to sit and play legos and read books and do puzzles and invent creative games. Grace to lay aside to-do’s and sit snuggled up, one-on-one, with each of my littles, to talk and laugh and connect — like, really connect. I don’t know if I can remember a time when I’ve felt this connected to my kids.

It’s incredible, really, how the Holy Spirit’s teaching me at a new level to see through their struggles and negative behaviors, to speak into their hearts in any given situation.

{Well, not any situation. I’m still at a loss sometimes for sure.}

The kids are still at each other’s throats quite a bit of the time, and they definitely still have their moments of epic disobedience, but I think our relational recovery time (not to mention my own heart toward them during said “incidents”) is much, much better.

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Nearly every evening for at least the last month, Stan’s grabbed a notecard and written some facet of his heart to me. Affirmations. How he loves my laugh, loves my cooking, loves my hospitality as it’s extended to others, loves my heart for our children. How he’s thankful to have me walking by his side through this season.

While I’ve been a little less consistent in reciprocating, this practice has given my heart toward Stan an overhaul that I didn’t even know it needed. These days, Stan and I are connecting more deeply and being so much more intentional to steward our marriage well. It’s really precious, this journey of growth with him. {Side note: we’ll hit 10 years of marriage this year. Really?!}

Oh hey, I turned 36 in November. Whaaa–?! So strange, being closer to 40 than 30. Some days my heart feels a solid 85 years old, but more often, I find myself telling Jesus something like, “Hey Lord, I’m not mature enough to be this old.”

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In other news, I think I’ve landed on my word for 2017.

For the last several years I’ve asked God to highlight a word to me, something He wants to do inside me, a way to intentionally allow Him to lead me through the year. In 2013, my word was presence. 2014,  freedom. 2015, unfold. 2016, pause.

And these days, there’s this one particular place into which I feel Jesus leading me deeper. It’s difficult to explain, but bear with me as I give it a quick shot—

I’ve struggled lately, leading worship. And actually, leading people in general. In leadership situations, I can easily find myself mostly relying on my sense of humor to kind of buffer me (and maybe buffer others, too) from having to really say what I know I need to say. Or, put another way, to keep me from having to step out and lead (speak, sing, coach, etc.) with authority and confidence.

My insecurities feel so at the surface these days.

On New Year’s Day before our church service began, I found myself telling my worship team, “Ya know what’s easy for me to do? To get up there and lead running mostly on adrenaline and nerves, as opposed to leading with a heart posture of settledness in Him.”

A quiet confidence in the knowledge that, “I don’t have to make anything happen; I believe God wants to encounter, heal, and transform His people infinitely more than I want Him to, and I get to simply be my true self — be who He made me to be; nothing more, nothing less — and let my leadership come out of that place.”


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When my heart’s at rest in Him, I’m peaceful, confident. I’m able to say what I feel needs to be said (which is monumentally amazing for me). My fear of people’s opinions isn’t necessarily gone, but it doesn’t control me.

And I think that’s the biggest thing Jesus is focusing on with me these days — learning at a new level how not to operate out of fear, but out of a place of quiet, confident settledness in Him.

Settle. That’s my word. It’s my constant reminder to myself these days.

Settle carries with it for me this mental picture of stopping, taking a breath, noticing moments when I’m running on adrenaline and fear. Taking note of ways in which I’m not comfortable truly being myself because what if my true self and my authentic thoughts and opinions aren’t acceptable?

Settle entails making a quiet but conscious choice to sink down out of adrenaline, and into my truest self-in-Christ, and then to lead, love, move, and live out of that place.

Confident. Not playing small. Deeply connected to Him. Rooted, resourced, empowered, defined by Him, not by my own skill or strength (or my perceived lack thereof).

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared about what Jesus might invite me into this year that’ll require my heart to settle even deeper into Him. Kind of like the old idea, “if you pray for patience, look out, because God will give you opportunities to intentionally practice patience.”

That’s a real thing. Yikes.

But also? I trust Him. We’ll move through this year hand-in-hand, He and I. Him filling my weakness with His strength, and me learning to rest more fully in Him as I do the things He puts before me to do.

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As I think toward wrapping up this first blog post in forever and ever, is it okay if I toss a few specific prayer requests out there for y’all? If you feel inclined to pray for me, for my people, here’re a few places you could start:

My memory issues. I’m on several different migraine meds, and their effect on my short-term memory is, I think, the most frustrating side effect. It impacts my life as a mom, as a wife, as an artist, as a worship leader, as a friend. I’m dropping proverbial balls on a regular basis, all over the place. (Typically communication with friends or responsibilities within my role at our church.) My neurologist is working on adjusting my meds to hopefully minimize this and other side effects. Please pray we can get this resolved.

My Isaac-boy. As we enter the second half of his school year, he is noticeably more anxious, more disregulated, less peaceful than usual. I would so love your prayers for peace and protection for his precious heart and mind.

Our family. We are doing a number of things very intentionally to deepen both of our kids’ senses of connectedness and healthy attachment. Would you pray God uses this season to both connect and calm (i.e. settle) our kids’ hearts overall? That He’ll continue to strengthen our bonds with one another as a family?

Thanks a ton, my friends. For caring, for praying, for being here with me today. Your presence and companionship in this place — even though I’ve been gone a while — mean more to me than I can say.

Happy New Year, y’all.

P.S. Have you chosen a word to mark your 2017? I’d love to hear about it. Would you share it with me in the comments? <3

Posted in Advent, anxiety, Confidence in God, Family Moments, Freedom From Perfectionism, leadership, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, One Word, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized, Worship Leader Guts | 17 Comments