the thing I thought I’d never do {or, the core cry of all my soul-cries}

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The thing about coming ridiculously alive inside is that the more His life and freedom course through to every last corner of my soul, the more I feel afraid.

I know the verses, too, about how God has not given us a spirit of fear, and I’ve heard it said more times than I can count that if you’re afraid, you’re not in faith.

And sometimes I agree with that latter statement.

But a lot of times? I don’t.

I’ll try and explain. Kind of.

Over the last couple of years, surrendering to His life on my insides has looked like doing things that fly in the face of human opinions that’ve made me tremble in terror.

It has looked like the deconstruction and slow reformation of paradigms on marriage and parenting and ministry and Christian spirituality, and it’s looked like barely, in small ways, beginning to actually speak from those still-being-reconstructed places of my soul.

It’s looked like disagreeing out loud with people to whom I’d previously been afraid to speak my mind.

It’s looked like writing vulnerably and leading worship with my heart on the outside of my body and unveiling depths of my soul via my own mouth into a microphone, and it’s looked like loving people so deeply, so fully, my insides physically throb with the ache of it.

It’s also looked like navigating a really rough, really long season with my family, and this bit isn’t by any means over yet. Not even close.

I will share more details as soon as I’m able — I promise — and for now will let you in on this piece:

Parenting in this season is more daunting, feels more intimidating on a day-in, day-out level, than it ever, ever has, in the history of all my motherhood-ness. Foster-parenting included.

The nitty-gritty of my day-to-day is quicksand sometimes. Is this grueling marathon of just-keep-putting-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other. And breathe. Now repeat.

Stan struggles too, mightily, under the weight of this season, and I find myself thanking Jesus over and over again for the unity of our marriage, for our similar conflict-resolution styles, for the grace Jesus gives us to press in toward one another when circumstantial pressure and stretching might otherwise pry and pull us apart.

We are in every bit of this together. Stan and I. The kids too. All four of us.

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****

And….

There’s this word, y’all. This made-up, compound word that’s etched itself into my core, into my soul’s foundation, more and more over the last year or two. Through all the shifting and sifting of my insides, my paradigms. Through all the mundane things, and the brave things I’ve had to write and sing and say and do as I’ve surrendered to all this ridiculously undignified, transformative Life that’s pulsing and pounding its way through my veins.

Through all the terrifyingly vulnerable unfolding.

It’s the cry of my heart — the core cry of ALL my cries, really. Because the journey with Him IS the destination and the destination IS the journey, and more than I want to accomplish this thing or that thing, and more than I want to “arrive” at this level or that physical or spiritual place — what has become my One Thing, the goal of EVERY facet and season of my life, of all I endure and all I conquer and all I just barely survive by the stretched-thin skin of my teeth — it’s this:

To know His heart along the way.

Intimacy. Trust. Surrender.

It’s Jesus, let’s just be together in and through it all, and would you just form Yourself inside me, deeper and deeper, more and more fully, whatever it takes?

****

I differentiate between a “spirit of fear” and the fear that’s a natural, human emotion, associated with doing things that are vulnerable as you-know-what.

And sometimes, like I said, I agree with the idea that fear is the opposite of faith, but more often? I think the combo of human fear + dependent faith can be the most breathtakingly beautiful tension.

So, so, SO often anymore, my prayer is along these lines: Jesus, I am so scared. I’m scared of what the future holds, and I’m scared I’ll hurt my kids’ hearts today, and I’m freaked completely out to live and lead and pour myself out yet another day with my soul SO exposed, and I’m scared to love people with all this crazy, fiery love, and how in all of heaven and earth and hell can I do my next day or hour or breath apart from You?

Whom have I but You? Whom have I– ?!?!

See, human fear is a gift when it propels and compels me into the heart of the One Who is the whole Point of all of this, anyway. And when I view it as a gift, lean into Him, know His heart expanding inside my own and His strength perfected in my utter, desperate weakness? I’m not bound by the fear. It keeps me aware of my need. Keeps me dependent. Humble. Leaning.

But it does not hold me captive.

I’m moving forward. One foot in front of the other.

This is faith. It’s trust.

It’s leaning and surrender and forward motion.

With Him. 

Which is the whole point.

The destination is the journey. And it’s how we do the journey, or rather with Whom, that most deeply matters.

And the paradox is that He does want to take us to “the next level,” and He does have external accomplishments in store for us and He does want us to grow, to progress in our faith and freedom and life-in-Him.

But all of those goals come secondary to, and as a byproduct of, His primary desire, which is intimacy with us along the way.

Just form yourself inside me, Jesus, as we walk tight together.

And when my eyes quit straining to see what’s up ahead, to discern the future, to figure out my ultimate calling or purpose or how all these scary, uncertain things are going to turn out in the end — and turn instead to meet the gaze of the One holding my hand as I walk this road with all its twists and unforeseen turns? Then and only then am I sustained as I weather whatever storms come my way, and whatever soul-surgeries His hand has yet to complete inside me.

****

Back to that word.

It’s Lockstep. 

My cry. My heart’s desperate need. My One Thing.

To do each leg of this journey tight in step with Him. In unbroken companionship. Moving to the beat of His heart. Constantly aware of my need.

To be all I am and do all I do from that place.

So many facets of my life anymore provoke that human kind of fear, that fear that presses me into His heart, into awareness of my need.

And this word, this cry has become so core to who I am, core to how I have to live, that y’all?

You may think I’m certifiable…

but…

I needed it on my skin.

Never in my life had I dreamed I’d get a tattoo. I’ve done piercings and stuff, but tattoos are so… permanent. Gah! Not to mention — pain. Ouch.

But on the days parenting has felt so overwhelming I’ve struggled to get out of bed, and on the days I’ve led worship or spoken and have been terrified yet again, and on the days I’ve been shocked and scared by the way I’m wired for unrestrained, undignified love — I’ve looked down at my wrist and ached to see this word there. My core cry. My life’s one purpose, from which all else flows.

The place I have to proactively abide if I’m gonna do anything He puts before me to do. If I’m gonna live this scary-crazy-alive life that I know that I know I’m made for.

I did it, y’all. A week ago Saturday.

For so long, this one-word prayer felt too personal, too intimate, too between me and Jesus to share with any other human. But with its appearance on my skin comes the invitation to share a bit of its story, as people inquire… and to share it with y’all, my friends who walk beside me here.

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I’m including a link to the song from which Lockstep jumped out at me and rooted itself on my insides. If you’re still reading, I am hugging you massively in my heart… and also inviting you to take a minute and listen.

So much love to you all, my friends. Truly. I’m forever and ever so very, very thankful for you. Thanks for receiving my story yet again, for being a part of my journey.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Encountering God in the Messy, Grief and Loss, leadership, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, Presence, risk, Uncategorized, Worship Leader Guts | 5 Comments

When buds are breaking

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I walk alone by the river to clear my head after a long day.

Well, that, and to burn off a few of the calories in that Chick-fil-a cookies ‘n cream shake I had for dessert tonight.

That dang shake was worth every pounding step.

As is the sunset. And the mountain view. And the water moving next to me.

I make it home just before dark, chat with my love, and sit to write for the first time in 6 plus weeks. Which is a trip, y’all, in and of itself.

The internal editor is loud after such a long blogging-silence, and I find myself struggling to still my insides, to fall into gentle step with the Spirit’s heartbeat within, let it guide the rhythm of fingers on keys.

What. a. season, y’all.

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I’ve been immersed in making it through, one day at a time. Focused on leaning into Jesus and husband and close friends for what sometimes feels like minute-to-minute doses of strength and perspective.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

Each inhale a cry of dependence. Each exhale a cry of surrender. Both to this season, and to Him within it. Moving. Forming. Shaping.

This poem made its way across my Facebook newsfeed the other day, and it has not left my heart alone since. It was originally written in Swedish by Karin Boye, but this English translation by David McDuff moved me in my core.

YES, OF COURSE IT HURTS
Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking.
W
hy else would the springtime falter?
Why would all our ardent longing
bind itself in frozen, bitter pallor?
After all, the bud was covered all the winter.
What new thing is it that bursts and wears?
Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking,
hurts for that which grows
and that which bars.

Yes, it is hard when drops are falling.
Trembling with fear, and heavy hanging,
cleaving to the twig, and swelling, sliding –
weight draws them down, though they go on clinging.
Hard to be uncertain, afraid and divided,
hard to feel the depths attract and call,
yet sit fast and merely tremble –
hard to want to stay
and want to fall.

Then, when things are worst and nothing helps
the tree’s buds break as in rejoicing,
then, when no fear holds back any longer,
down in glitter go the twig’s drops plunging,
forget that they were frightened by the new,
forget their fear before the flight unfurled –
feel for a second their greatest safety,
rest in that trust
that creates the world.

*****

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My word for 2015 is Unfold.

I knew it was scary, and I knew it was what Jesus was doing. But I had no clue how it’d play out.

Actually, that’s not completely true. I had ideas. About loving huge and being poured out to see folks encounter the transformative Presence of Jesus. About being a part of a church family where I’d be free to learn, albeit gradually, to bring my whole self, my full voice, my unrestrained heart to the table.

And those things have played out as I’d hoped. Being with our church family here, and particularly pouring into and being so received by my worship team, continues to be profoundly healing and full-on life-altering for me. The sweetest gift.

What I don’t think I could have expected was how this profound joy could be so very present alongside great pain, how it could straight up hurt to unfold with so many watching, while being brought to the utter end of myself by various life circumstances.

All this unfolding of good and gut-wrenching all at once. The pouring out. The bleeding.

I hate to be so vague and so graphic all at once, but I’m thanking you all yet again for grace, friends, because I don’t think I’m ready to share specific details here in this space quite yet.

We are bumping up against some overwhelming mountains in our personal lives, but we’re by no means without hope. We’re pressed but not crushed, and the pressing is straight into His heart.

The pressing breaks me open, provokes further unfolding.

Whom have I in Heaven but You? Earth has nothing I desire besides You.

Gracious and compassionate. Slow to anger. Rich in love.

My portion. My portion. My portion.

These facets of God’s heart are my mantras and they are balm to my soul. I contemplate His scandalous extravagance, and in all the pressing and the stretching and the bleeding and the breaking open, He is wildly good. His tenderness runs deep and sweet.

He heals even while He expands my heart. He covers and comforts and satisfies even while circumstantial struggle lays my insides wide open.

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I can grasp for relief from the pain, but surrendering to Him within my right now life will leave me carved out to hold Him more.

And y’all? I want the More.

I want every. last. thing. that this season can accomplish on my insides.

Re-reading these last few lines, I realize I’ve said essentially the same thing over and over in this space for years and I’m not sure if y’all are tired of it yet or no, but guys, it’s all I’ve got tonight, this heart-cry.

I want it all, Jesus. I so long to live this undignified, ripped open, wholehearted yes to you, in the midst of my right now. By your grace, I will hold nothing back, no matter how much it hurts when buds are breaking.

What you are forming inside me is infinitely beyond worth it — all of it — and this hand-in-hand journey with you is the destination.

It’s the continually deepening awakening, the walking and abiding and drawing near. Again, and again, and again.

This forever-learning to live in perfect step with the God who is pulling me more and more wholly into Himself. Who is tenderly present within the joy and the breaking and everything in between, fiercely committed to satisfying every solitary need of this fragile soul.

****

Thanks yet again, my friends, for allowing me to write my insides while waiting to share the outsides. Y’all’s gracious receiving of what I’m able to share is such a gift.

To be clear, Stan and I and kiddos are well overall, just navigating a painful set of challenges in this season. I will share more here in the coming weeks, as I’m able. We covet your prayers for our family in this season.

I love you guys so dearly.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Confidence in God, Encountering God in the Messy, Freedom From Perfectionism, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, One Word, Presence | 6 Comments

Love Covers {in which I breathe deep and get honest with my fellow Jesus-followers}

My dearly adored friends,

Please hear the quiet tremble of my voice and know how profoundly I treasure each of you, your presence here as you read these words today.

I’m sitting on the couch with my littlest love this afternoon when I glance at my Facebook newsfeed–

And I’m grieved.

This isn’t an entirely unusual experience for me, but what is abnormal is the clarity with which the grief hits my heart. And with it, this gut-level knowing:

I have to write this.

Really?  Really.

Oh, no.

::stomach flips::

Okay.

I’m not sure if the internal conversation is more with the Holy Spirit, or more between me and my own commitment to personal authenticity, to no longer allowing fear to make me shrink back from saying things I need to say.

Either way, I get my girl down for her nap, grab my laptop, take some deep breaths, and place fingers to keys.

Holy God…

Help.

What grieved me today was a joke of some kind and the crazy thing is that I can’t even remember which joke or who posted it because there are so many these days, but I’m pretty sure it was political in nature.

In fact, I just spent the last 20 minutes scrolling back through my feed in search of it, but it was nowhere to be found. What I did find, ironically, was this article, and I snagged a screenshot to share with you:

Full article here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-questions-christian-compassion-of-rivals-did-they-not-go-and-hear-the-same-lessons-i-did-in-sunday-school-140425/

Full article here:
http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-questions-christian-compassion-of-rivals-did-they-not-go-and-hear-the-same-lessons-i-did-in-sunday-school-140425/

While I only briefly skimmed the article, these timely-for-me words from Hillary Clinton from this past Sunday stuck out to me. Painfully.

“While Clinton did not specifically call out any candidate or person by name she bewailed the lack of compassion and “mean spiritedness” of others in politics.

“Did they not go and hear the same lessons I did in Sunday school,” asked Clinton. “Did they not sing the same hymns?” She continued questioning their morality and Christian theology by wondering, “Did they never hear, ‘there but for the grace of God go I?'”

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Did we never hear it?

If I could lay aside my fear of speaking bold truth-in-love for just a moment — if I were brave enough to be completely honest with you — this is what the burning in my bones would have me say:

My precious fellow lovers of Jesus:

It is so unfunny when we are unkind to those with whom we disagree and call it a joke.

It is not funny when we write and publish satire in order to make a humorous or outrageously overstated point about those whose life stories, experiences, and challenges are impossible for us to fully understand.

It is not funny when we write or perpetuate the sharing of sarcasm about white-on-black violence or black-on-black violence or Caitlyn Jenner or homosexuality, or even about Rachel whatever-her-last-name-is who has posed as a biracial woman for however many years but is, in actuality, white. {White, and most likely very mentally disturbed, which is kind of beside my point, but not really.}

It is not funny when we rejoice in or otherwise make light of the newly (or oldly) uncovered moral failure of celebrities or politicians with views to which we don’t subscribe.

It is not funny when we are flippant about Obama or Hillary or Huckabee or Miley or the Duggar family or whoever else unwittingly causes the next insanely-sensationalized social media failure-feeding frenzy.

I write all these things with a profound heaviness in my pounding heart and I keep catching myself with this accidentally-anguished expression on my face as I write, because Christians, my so-deeply-treasured friends, where is our love?

When will we stop all our looking around and our pointing and our jeering, close our gaping jaws, press our faces into our carpeted floors, and desperately ask Jesus to bathe our souls in His adoration of us, so that His affection for us can overcome our own broken, love-starved need to perpetuate the transformation of these desperate, aching, ashamed, socially-exposed ones into mere amusing one-liners or critiques so we feel better about ourselves?

Because they’re showing, y’allall these places where we’ve not yet been perfected in Love.

We can only love well those with whom we differ to the degree that our own undeserving roots have gone deep into His love.

To the degree that we’ve sat before Him and been remade inside by His scandalous acceptance of us in our utter depravity.

This is scary for me, y’all, but I can say this I think.

Because I know. I’ve been there. Not all that long ago. My own not-yet-perfected-in-love places — they were gaping and glaring, too. And I’m quite sure, actually, that they still are at times.

But I’m learning, you guys. I’m learning that from that position of face-pressed-into-carpet, out of that place of being undone by His love for me in all my own brokenness and failure and need —

From the place of but for the grace of God — 

I can sit with those whose experiences, values, and beliefs differ greatly from my own.

I can ask questions. I can choose to be curious, to deeply hear hearts and stories and hold them with compassion and care. To learn from them.

To love. them.

And if I’m not able to physically sit with them (a la Rachel or Hillary or Jenner or whatever other personality accidentally becomes infamous on any given day), then I can look at their situation through a lens of kind curiosity.

I can suspend my assumptions about scenarios and stories and sin.

I can allow Jesus to break my heart with the brokenness that shatters His.

And I can avoid the temptation to sensationalize and dehumanize and make light of their horrifically exposed lives or choices in cahoots with the media that I think often wants us to do just that.

Y’all? This is true even if my goal is to prove a valid point, not simply to be cruel. Points proven with a lack of love only add to the problem.

Truth without love brings death.

To be clear, I am certainly not advocating a need to shift our beliefs, our perspectives, or our interpretation of scripture. I am not even necessarily advocating that we keep our views quiet, though occasionally I find there’s wisdom in doing so, for a season.

am advocating that we listen, that we’re present, that we’re curious about differing stories and perspectives, that we love well.

And dear ones? Love covers.

It covers.

And it is kind.

{I love you guys so much. Thank you for grace in your receiving of these words.}

Posted in Community, Compassion, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Presence, risk, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

In which there’s this *thing* I can’t escape about the way I’m made

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They never fail to surprise and amaze me — these tears that burn the backs of my eyes when I sit down to try and write.

In general, I’ve never been one who’s cried easily. But the older I get and the more I live day-in, day-out in this face-to-face place with all my gaping weakness and need, the more the tears come, particularly here in front of this fresh WordPress screen.

In his book, Untitled (yes, that’s the title), Blaine Hogan asks a number of questions to help one discern whether they’re making “good” art. Art that’s authentic; art that’s soulful (my words, not his).

My two favorite questions in his list are these: Did you acknowledge the lump in your throat? and Did you bring your insides out?

I am living in that place lately. The insides-on-the-outside place. The more-frequent-than-usual teary eyes– if not the lump-filled throat, though that happens too and it’s most likely to interrupt me in the middle of a worship song on a Sunday morning when I’m behind the mic. That’s always interesting.

It’s a strange feeling, walking around with your heart outside your body.

I can’t believe I just said that out loud here. Y’all are gonna think I’m nuts. But for real — I have some incredibly big, incredibly exposed feelings these days, you guys.

Between all the worship-leading and all the writing 4th Friday talks and then actually SAYING THE STUFF in my own voice, into a microphone, with people watching, and all the pouring my presence into the precious people before me whose hearts I profoundly value– I continually feel unzipped.

Then there are the few moments I find these days to spill words in this space. Again. Exposure.

But unzipping your soul before God and before your world is a conscious choice. I’m no victim. I could un-choose it in a blink.

It’s just that I would so much rather live bleeding and aching and exposed and wide open, than live shut down, closed off, and only half-alive.

This quote found its way into my Facebook feed a couple of days ago and I couldn’t escape its resonance in my gut:

“You can be comfortable or courageous, but you cannot be both.” (Mike Foster, Freeway)

Ugh. Wholehearted living can be so achingly uncomfortable.

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There’s this thing about me that I keep running into these days, over and over. I’ve found it repeatedly in my life-on-life life with my littles and my Stan. And particularly, these days, I encounter it in the context of a conglomeration of miscellaneous friendships that Jesus keeps dropping like gifts into my lap, seemingly out of nowhere, with women who are so profoundly kindred-hearted, our kindredness alone is enough to reduce me to tears.

This facet of my soul that I can’t escape — it’s the way I’m hardwired for fierce, fiery love, and I cannot avoid facing it these days, owning it as both great treasure and as torture, too, at times.

There were a lot of years when my capacity to love big and deep within friendships was sliced and diced and shoved into various hidden corners of my depths, only to peek out once in a great while.

I feared it. I feared its strength, and I feared the way it was often misunderstood or completely unwanted. The way people didn’t have a grid for those pieces of me.

But there’s this thing (side note: sorry I keep saying thing – such a cardinal writing rule that I’m breaking but I’m feeling okay with my inarticulateness tonight)…

… anyway: this thing that’s happening these days in which all those sliced and diced fragments of love-ability are being gently drawn from their hidden corners, being unearthed, being pieced together again on my insides. It’s the hand of Jesus reaching in through a handful of the dearest sisters on the planet, and it is nothing short of utterly remaking my capacity to both give and receive startlingly wide and soul-shakingly deep sister-love.

And also it is nothing short of oh crap.

Living and loving this wholeheartedly scares the you know-what-out of me, y’all, for a thousand different reasons.

But the invitation over and over again is to lean, lean, lean. To simply adore Jesus with every ounce of my being, to be adored by Him, to receive His smile over these facets of my core that I’ve been afraid to fully live into, to grab on tighter to His hand, and just do it.

To live full steam ahead into the fullness of the God-designed shape of my soul.

Ugh. Deep breath, Dana.

He is trustworthy with my heart. He is trustworthy with my heart. He is trustworthy with my heart. (Repeat.)

And my time is running out tonight, so I have to stop here. I will say that I had no clue what I was gonna say when I sat down to write an hour ago. But apparently this stuff needed to find its way up and out, and the vulnerability factor of sharing these words right now is real enough that I’m currently fighting the impulse to dive into bed and cover my head with pillows. Ha.

But, my sweet friends, I pray, by God’s grace, some piece of what’s bubbled up here tonight whispers straight into your heart, nudges something inside you more fully and wildly to life. To trust.

Thank you, as always, for being such safe, kind recipients of my poured out heart. For loving our wholly trustworthy Jesus alongside me here.

You all are so dear, and so loved.

P.S. What facets of how God has fashioned you is He inviting you to grab His hand and more fully live into? I would absolutely love — LOVE — to hear. He’s trustworthy with your heart too, friend.

P.P.S. I realize I so rarely say this, but know that you are always welcome to share my posts here if they resonate with you. Much love to y’all, my friends.

Posted in #4thfridays, Community, Creativity, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Presence, risk, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

May 22 4th Friday Audio {Living Artfully: wholeheartedly showing up for your whole life – Part 1}

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I come to you tonight so full-hearted, my friends. Full because last night was our second 4th Friday. Full because I felt so much more free, more relaxed, more me, as I shared my heart this time with those who came. Full because you who were there showed up so wholeheartedly, so graciously received my heart, and so courageously gave yourselves to one another and to Him.

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And — full because of you who walk with me from more of a geographical distance — you who are my readers and my fellow writers and my soul friends who are so with me. Who are cheering me on and faithfully journeying beside me as I do the next thing, even though it often feels scary-vulnerable.

Y’all help me be brave.

That said, I want to share with you the audio of my talk from last night (Friday, May 22).

Quick final thought: I adore you guys. Walking with you all here, the way you’ve received my heart in this space, has shaped me over the last number of years. Has expanded me inside. I lack words to tell you how thankful I am for your companionship here. One of these days I’m gonna try though — I’m gonna try and dig up language for my gratitude for y’all — and it’s gonna be a whoooole blog post.

Okay, guys. The audio. {Gulp.}

And if you missed last month’s talk, it’s here if you’d like to hear it.

{If the volume is low in your computer speakers, you might try listening with headphones — I had success that way.}

Posted in #4thfridays, Attending to His Presence, Creativity, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Presence | 5 Comments

If Your Heart Hurts this Mother’s Day {a few things I’d say if we could do coffee}

sun through treeI awake early to sit here and wait in the predawn quiet, my littles still snug in their beds, and a hundred or so passions burning all at once in my soul.

And out of those hundred burning thoughts, this rises to the surface — this aching that comes with the approaching of Mother’s Day. It’s an aching over my own losses, yes — but even more, an acute awareness that for many, this day holds more pain than joy.

So to those who just wince a little inside, and to those who want to completely run and hide as this weekend approaches — to you whose aching heart feels sidestepped, avoided, overshadowed as Mother’s Day draws near–

I so wish I could sit one-on-one with you over coffee in the next few days. I wish I could ask questions and hear your heart’s journey and hold your story with quiet understanding.

Because I want you to know — I see you. I’m not afraid of the depth of your heart’s ache. And I hold you in my heart before the Lord.

You, my friend who parents alone. Day in and day out, cooking meals and working a job and wiping noses and folding mountains of little people clothes, falling into bed exhausted beyond words. Then you wake up Monday morning, and face the grind all over again. And you wonder if anyone sees how your heart bleeds this tired loneliness. How you cry to Jesus for grace, for strength to keep going. Please know — I see you. My heart cries with you. You are not forgotten.

You, my sweet friend whose mom passed away when you were a child. Or when you were 20. Or when you were 50. How old you were doesn’t matter as much as the fact that when you long to dial her number and ask about a recipe, or about parenting, or about a story from your childhood that you can’t quite remember fully, she isn’t there to answer. Part of our childhood dies when we lose our mom. Part of our childhood, and a lot of our right now. Your loss sits heavy in my chest in these days.

You, my friend whose relationship with your mom is broken. The communication is strained if it happens at all and you wonder if the pain wouldn’t be more bearable if there had actually been a death —  instead of this long, excruciating dying of your connection. Of a piece of your soul. Know that I sit with you, mourn with you.

You, my friend whose womb aches empty. Whose desire to birth babies and shape lives has been long delayed. You who have been medically unable to bear children, or whose circumstances for whatever reason have not allowed the fulfillment of that God-given dream. Because the dream to mother is God-given, and when the desires He places within us go long unfulfilled, the throbbing ache can make our hearts sick. I see your pain, connect with it deep in my gut. 

You, my friend whose road to adoption has been longer than you imagined. You who’ve spent long months and years agonizing through prayer and mountains of invasive paperwork, but the distance between you and your child seems no shorter now than at the beginning. The calender pages turn, and turn, and turn again. Maybe hopes have been raised only to be dashed, or “the call” has never come at all. Regardless, the questions loom ever larger in your heart. I’m leaning into those questions with you. Leaning into His heart with you. Sitting with you in the silence.

You, my friend who found yourself unexpectedly bearing life in your womb 6 months ago or a decade ago or 30 years ago — and the fear and questions landed you right in the abortionist’s office. The new life was snuffed out and even though they told you it was just a cluster of cells, something in your gut knew better. Knows better. And you weep, even still, in the middle of the night, because the guilt weighs heavy. I am weeping with you. And I want to whisper it straight to your heart this Mother’s DayForgiveness can lift that crushing weight. 

You, my friend who knows the gut-wrenching bittersweetness of “He gives and takes away.” You who’s been gifted a child and poured out every ounce of your soul, your life, your sleep in love for him or her, only to pour it out all over again in grief. Whether loss struck in the womb, or further down the road, you carry that empty, love-carved cavern in your soul. And some days you have to just breathe your way through each hour, just to keep functioning, just to make it through this one task. To the next. To the next. In my heart, I am holding your hand. Breathing through the grief alongside you.

You, my sweet friend who made one of the most terrifyingly courageous choices imaginable — you birthed your baby… and then entrusted the precious life that had grown within you to an adoptive family. You wrestled, agonized, faced the unfathomably brave realization that your personal resources were less than what you desired for your child. Yet daily, hourly, you carry the ache of that baby’s absence from your everyday life. Your selfless love has personally, profoundly impacted my life, and there’s this debt of gratitude to you that I can’t repay or fully express in words. I carry you close in my heart this week. I honor the selfless extravagance of your mama heart. The beauty of your love.

*****

All of you. I do see you. Your Father sees you. Carries your pain in His heart, collects your precious tears, and weeps over your heart’s groaning. Over the loss. Over the longings unfulfilled.

And if in all things He is working for our good, for all of our good, and if deeply knowing His heart is that ultimate good, then this would be my blessing for you in this Mother’s Day season:

May you respond to His invitation to intimately encounter Love in the midst of the pain.

May it be a prayer, pulsing in your depths as you hold your raw places open before Him — Christ, form yourself in me, right here. Encounter me in this gaping wound, in all these questions with no answers. Press your scars over my own, wrap my heart in yours, and make your affection tangible to me now.

And may Jesus deeply meet you in that heart cry. May you hear His whisper today that He has not cast you aside, but drawn you close to His heart.

You are seen.

You are valued.

You are loved.

You are held.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

-Psalm 34:18

P.S. As always, please feel free to share if you have friends or loved ones who might be touched by these words. I so value your presence here, friends.

{from the archives}

Posted in adoption, Celebrations, Grief and Loss, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, Uncategorized | 14 Comments

If you cut me open {on jumping tandem and the tension of weakness}

photo 1-1I wrap my chilly feet in a blanket and sit down to write this afternoon, not knowing if I’ll be able to make much headway before my kiddos begin to stir awake from their naps.

Opportunities to write, to really write, are few and far between these days and bringing myself to this blank screen feels more intimidating each time. What do I share? What do I leave out? No one has time to read 5,000 words from me today, nor do I have time to write in depth about All Of The Things.

And oh, there are so many things, you guys.

Things about Jumping Tandem; about heart-filling, soul-spilling community and vulnerability with kindred hearts; standing behind my guitar exhausted, raw, with hands trembling and heart gaping; and the hilarity of #epicroadtripshenanigans with the truest group of soul sisters there ever was.

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About my beloved church family, how my role as worship pastor continually leaves me poured out in all the hardest and sweetest ways, and how Jesus encounters me in the outpouring as I shakily choose courage in the face of my inadequacy time and again.

About 4th Fridays {speaking of courage}. About how I had no idea that excavating and wrapping words around my depths — the kind of words that are meant to be not only written, but spoken in my own voice — could be such an unexpectedly vulnerable, costly offering. Or that it could make me come so alive.

About motherhood, and how Jesus’ challenge to me is to work out the painful parts of parenting my unique littles one day, one hour, one 5-minute chunk of life at a time, leaning into Him. Gut-wrenchingly aware of my need and my lack and all these huge holes that I so need Him to come and fill.

To come and inhabit.

And the theme that runs and weaves itself through each of these facets of my life is this:

Weakness.

Involuntary, yet embraced. Gaping, yet gift.

My beautiful minivan-friend Alia spoke for one of the breakout sessions at Jumping Tandem, and her offering of words was one forged in brokenness and tears. Crafted out of the kind of gut-wrenching worship that rises from the floor of one crushingly difficult circumstance after another.

I sat and listened, asked Jesus for breath in her lungs while she offered up her depths and her flared up asthma gave her a run for her money. And her every sentence resonated in my core with palpable depth and clarity.

“What if weakness were a spiritual gift? We want God’s strength that’s perfected in weakness but we don’t want to live with that gaping, glaring need.”

And my nodding, nodding, nodding was such a frustratingly tiny way of cheering her on, of demonstrating how her outpouring made my bones just burn.

I’ve thought it over and over again lately — how when my strength is stretched so painfully thin, I have options. I can kick and scream and beg God to take away the discomfort, to change the external circumstances that press me face-to-face with my ugly inadequacy.

Or I can choose willingness to hold this tension — the asking for circumstantial shift while living into the awareness of my need. The prayers and faith steps toward growth while embracing this acute weakness as a gift.

As an invitation.

He beckons me to surrender, to be drawn deeper into His heart.

My friends and I drove west from Jumping Tandem, through Sunday afternoon and into the evening, and I watched the sky begin to darken as night overtook us. I fought the temptation to drive a little slower, to make the time together last longer. Hearts were poured out, stories shared and tenderly held, friendships carved deeper.

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At some point during the conversation I found myself, voice shaking, spilling the longing of my soul for Jesus. At any cost. If it means continually living at the utter end of myself. If it means total obscurity. If you cut me open, I told them, I just so desperately burn to know His heart. I want Him.

Jesus plus nothing. It’s Jesus. plus. nothing.

And as my own strength is stretched agonizingly thin, and as I close my eyes and with all my might will my soul to once again choose it — choose to hold this holy tension, choose to live into my need, to grab hold of His garment like the life of my heart depends on it because it absolutely does — thinner too is the curtain that veils my perception of His nearness.

And this heightened sensitivity to His presence and pursuit — it’s the gift that becomes my very life and breath and sustenance.

To quote another dear minivan soul sista, “My perfection and performance are not the goal. His presence is.

Lord, I need you. Oh, I need you. Every hour I need you.

I do.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Community, Freedom From Perfectionism, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, Worship Leader Guts | 20 Comments

On #4thFridays {in which I take a deep breath and share the recording of my talk}

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Y’all. It happened. I arrived at our church building at 5:30 this past Friday evening. Spent a good 45 minutes setting up for the evening, praying, willing my nerves to settle, blasting this one song on repeat over the church sound system. It’s a song that draws me into step with Jesus as together we move into scary, uncharted places.

Places like 4th Fridays. Places like behind a microphone for the purpose of making my way through sharing a chunk of my soul, as opposed to leading worship (which actually is exposing my soul too, but in a different form).

I’d never done this before.

But they came — 30 or so of our church family and a handful of other, beautiful creative friends from around the city — and they listened. Rooted for me through my nervousness and were such gracious, engaged recipients of my heart for the first half hour or so of the evening.

And then it happened. They broke up into small groups, and y’all? The sharing of art and hearts and stories that unfolded — it undid me. I walked around taking photographs and videos and as I observed the interactions within those groups of around 7-9 people each, waves of HOLY washed over my heart.

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This was Kingdom stuff. Creative community for the glory of Jesus. Precious souls peeking out and allowing themselves to be seen and known in new ways, right before my eyes.

There’s so much more I could say, and I might, eventually — but right now feels like time for quiet pondering more than speaking.

That said, I’ll leave you with this, though my hands shake a little as I do. It’s my first ever attempt at “public speaking” in a non-worship-leading context. Going back to listen, I hear my nerves so frequently and if I’m honest, I was a little bummed by how much I felt like they affected my speaking.

BUT. I made it through, and a number of you have asked… so, without further ado, my talk from our first ever #4thfriday. The recording was cut off at a weird place at the end, and we can’t figure out why. But this is the first portion of the evening, followed by a little bit of a debrief at the end of the night.

So much love to y’all, my friends.

Posted in #4thfridays, Community, Creativity, leadership, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, risk | 6 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vulnerable.

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

Vulnerable. And just plain hard.

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

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

BUT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there’s intimacy in that dependence.

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

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

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

So many blessings to you, my friends.

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

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

photo-2Dang, y’all.

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

So, where’ve I been?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaning.

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

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

Ha.

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

Or my work inside you.

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

For Jesus.

Apart from Him I can do no good thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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