Wrangler Dani

Writer, editor, marketer and communication strategist. I'm also a wife, mama, hiker, cowgirl and experimental cook living in beautiful Central Oregon.
May 25th, 2017 by Dani

What Love Looks Like

For weeks, we’ve been collecting clothes, toys, furniture and other sundries from friends. They’ve come over with moving vans and pickup trucks, minivans and sensible Hondas, delivering the treasures of last year or last decade to our door. We drove around our county to pick up items, always with a grateful heart.

Once I started to feel overwhelmed by the stuff of other people’s lives, we started taking trips to our garage sale site, Josh and Kate’s new home. We filled the garage, the carport, and the living room. I apologized a lot for taking over their lives, but they are nice and didn’t seem to mind. Kate knows a professional sign maker and got printed signs donated, that said “Adoption Fundraiser Sale” in big black and red letters.

Two nights before the sale, Adam was up almost all night for work. Adelay was fussy, I was tired. We hadn’t had dinner together for a few nights and I was feeling hungry for more than food. We needed a break but one wasn’t coming – we had a sale to run. The night before, Adam made several trips with sale items in the pickup, we ate dinner at 10 pm, Josh and Kate went out late at night to hang signs. I felt overwhelmed and maybe a little defeated. I wondered if we were crazy to go through this again, if we were being unfair to our kind friends, if maybe we’d overstepped this whole “live out loud” thing once and for all.

But do you know what love looks like? I can tell you.

Love looks like undeserved favor. Love looks like friends who laugh at your apologies and cheerfully work for your cause, because they have taken it on as their own. Love looks like a beautiful summer morning sunrise that you are ready for, despite four hours of sleep. Love looks like friends who dropped off more sale items, even as the sale was in progress, who came by with baked goods for the bake sale and hugs and cheerfulness for us.

One woman made a small pile of flower pots and a sundial, and asked, “What do you want for this?”

We’d sold so many things and there was something about her that seemed hungry for kindness, so I said, “Whatever you want to pay.”

She sighed and shook her head, “You’re very generous, but I can’t do that today. Just tell me what you want.”

I quickly smiled and offered a small amount, $5 or something. She followed up by asking me what we were adopting. I laughed and told her a baby. “We’re already adoptive parents and we’re adopting again,” I explained.

Her entire face changed. She looked at the ground, and seemed to be trying to collect herself. Then she handed me a crumpled $20 bill. “Good luck,” she said, and she started to cry. I reflexively gave her a hug and she quickly turned away with her items, I could see tears coming out from behind her sunglasses.

Love looks like letting your story out into the world. Love looks like the hugs I got from strangers who are also adopting, who gave us more than we asked, who are adopted themselves. Love looks like giving people a chance to share in a beautiful life-changing story, one that is just beginning to unfold, and could not be told without them. Love looks like friends who donate, bake, and give of their company and courage. Love looks like a toddler happily playing with safe adults, secure in the knowledge that her tribe is there for her and baby brother or sister. Love looks like the countless texts and calls we got from out of town friends and family to ask us how it was going and how they can help.

Love looks like $2497.84 being raised in a single weekend, selling $1 flowerpots and baby onesies for 50 cents. This is what love looks like.

May 1st, 2017 by Dani

Don’t Call Me a Saint

Do you remember the scene in Julie and Julia when Julie keeps referring to her “sainted husband”, as she goes further and further down her Julia Child-inspired rabbit hole? One night they get into a big fight and he says “And stop calling me a saint on your blog! I’m not a saint!”

I’ve thought about that scene lately because I sometimes feel that way.

You’d be surprised how often I get stopped and asked about adoption by perfect strangers. Inevitably, the conversation turns to some complimentary thought along the lines of (and yes these are real quotes),

“Wow, you are so selfless.”

“You guys are saints.”

“What a lucky little girl.”

First of all, I am not a saint, and I know this because it feels nice to have people flatter me in public. Secondly, adoption is hard and sometimes gnarly and often expensive (in more ways than one) but let me be clear: we are NOT SAINTS. We have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams by our darling girl. I fall more in love with her, with adoption, and with motherhood every day, but our family is as messy, complicated, impatient, tardy, unorganized or silly as any other family. It’s not as though because we are an adoptive family I suddenly got good at folding hoodies or making our bed or remembering how I made a given recipe. I am still a mediocre baker, a terrible runner and bad at details. I still tend to be late, tend to be emotional, tend to be quite dramatic when I feel sick. I still like clothes quite a lot, and have not lost my taste for a good glass of wine or a swanky dinner out, although with a toddler those things are more precious than they used to be.

My point is that I am not selfless. I am not a saint. If anything, I am a work in progress. I am following my heart and the call that God has put on our family the best way I can, which translates to an imperfect, outside-the-lines kind of life, because that’s the best I’ve got.

So, here’s my PSA – next time you want to tell a stranger that she is lovely or admirable, just say so. Tell her that you like her skirt or that she seems like a good mom. Tell her that her daughter is beautiful or her son is spunky. Tell her that you admire her courage, or her laughter, or her verve. But do me a favor – don’t call us selfless, or saints, or act like we’ve taken on charity cases because we love kids who may not look like us. I am ever so blessed, and I am trying to be the best mom and wife and creative I can be, but I’m not a saint and my baby isn’t lucky to have me. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around.

Addy and I at our recent LuLaRoe fundraiser sale for Adoption #2. As Addy says, “Yay Family!”

April 11th, 2017 by Dani

Adoption Expedition #2

The other night I held my friends’ beautiful baby boy, adopted in a whirlwind just as my baby was, supported and surrounded by love before we even knew his name.

I remember when I didn’t really want to be a mom, at least not enough to work for it. I remember when that changed, when the ache to be a mom hurt so badly that I thought my heart was shriveling up inside of me – little did I know it was actually growing in size and courage. I remember when holding my friends’ babies felt like working out – good but hard.

We are adopting again, and I’m often asked why. (I know it’s a funny question, but we get it a lot.) Here is my “why” – I remember the heartache of the first time through, and I remember how much faith we needed, how much support and love we got, how many miracles happened, and I know that the God who brought us here is not done with us yet.

Now my days are filled with a silly singing toddler. I buy fruit snacks and milk, goldfish crackers and red grapes. I have to find babysitters, yes, and sometimes I look back my good old days of “free time” with something like lust.

But I know what unabashed joy looks like. I have lived through mercy and I’ve seen redemption first-hand. I know that the valleys are not as endless as they seem and that the future will hold dark times, yes, but it also holds oh-so-much laughter and grace. Scary things will come, but so will beauty and chunky baby thighs and silly toddler faces and open highways and daffodils and grilled cheese sandwiches.

We are risking again, adopting again because adoption is beautiful and we believe in beautiful. We are grateful people who have walked heart-broken long enough to know that that the dark nights never last longer than dawn. We know that the dawn is always worth waiting for, that every sunrise is a gift, that our life is but a breath. So we are drawing in and breathing out with courage and hope, knowing that God loves our family too, that he is planning this second expedition with as much care and kindness as he did the first.

This week I had three people tell me that Adelay and I have the same crinkly-nosed laugh. I hope that’s true, and I hope that our family continues to leave a legacy of laughter and hope and beauty. Thank you for supporting us as we embark on Adoption Expedition #2!

March 6th, 2017 by Dani

On Beauty

I’ve been complaining for a while about my weight. Ever since the double-whammy of going gluten-free and becoming a mom, I have been noticing the oh-so-subtle tightness of my jeans and then not-so-subtle glances in the mirror, which remind me that I am indeed larger than I used to be. Adam is supportive and encouraging, telling me I’m beautiful and that he is all in favor of me being healthy, which of course means exercise and staying gluten-free even though I am annoyed by the weight gain element of a healthy gut. I gave away most of my old clothes, and decided (outwardly brave, inwardly cringing) to embrace this new size, and new normal. I use the euphemism “my body is changing” to stand in for the uncomfortable fact that I couldn’t fit into my old sizes if I had all day to do it and a tub of Vaseline to help.

So on Saturday I went to PiYo and wound up in the front corner of the studio. This unfortunate placement meant I could see myself in both mirrors at all times, and this was not fun for me. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to leave the class halfway through, but forced myself to stay and tough it out. Despite my tough self-talk I was surprised to discover hot tears burning in my eyes at the end of class. I blinked them back and put on my Uggs to go out in the cold, telling myself to get a grip already.

In case you were wondering, berating myself did not work. I cried almost all the way home.

Addy and I at brunchYesterday, I put on a sweater to go to church and wanted to crawl back in bed instead of wearing it, feeling so ashamed. I helped Addy pick out a bow for her hair and told her how beautiful she is, all the while hating my own appearance. This is not OK. I can come up with a thousand reasons why I am not beautiful, and yet if you told me those same reasons for you and your daughter or sister or mother I would tell you that is a lie and it smells like smoke. I don’t have a pretty bow to tie up here, and say that because of this Bible verse or that song or this encouragement I’m all OK now. I realized today that I’ve never been OK with myself, even when I was several sizes smaller than I am now.

Why am I telling you this embarrassing admission? Because a couple of months ago I wrote a piece about friendship and hugging each other when we are weak, and I was overwhelmed by the response to it. It turns out we all need each other, and I’m not the only one who feels this way.

So I’m willing to bet that every one of us, no matter what size we are, need to be reminded that beauty is not a specific size and that our 20-year-old bodies did not have the corner on perfection. For myself, I need to understand beauty on a deep level, the kind of beauty I see in my daughter, the beauty that comes from deep down. I need to believe that beauty matters because it points me to something (or someone) greater than myself, not because I just want to be a size 4 again.

But I need your help in this. I need you to remind me how to talk and how to model confident womanhood to my daughter, to the kiddos I teach at the barn, to anyone else who is watching. I don’t want to be outwardly confident and inwardly insecure – I’ve done that for too long and I know it’s a lie. I want to show Addy a woman who is genuinely confident because she knows that she is fearfully and wonderfully made. I want Addy to believe me when I tell her that health and joy are essential, not a certain size or weight, and she won’t believe me if I don’t believe myself.

Here’s my resolution: to go to PiYo and repeat to myself, “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” when I feel the hot tears of shame and the voice that tells me I’ll never be good at this, I’ll never be beautiful, I’ll never look as good as the woodland sprite stretching next to me, who looks perfectly put together but may secretly have the same thoughts.

I’m going to be kind, because it’s likely that other women I encounter are facing this same struggle. I want to tell the girls in my life that they’re beautiful, because I so often think so and I should say it more often.

I don’t have this figured out and I am sure that I will complain about my body again, but when I do, I want to be reminded that little ears are listening, and little eyes are watching. Besides, the world wants to know if we really believe in a good Father, a Creative God who doesn’t make mistakes, and I want to be a convincing witness that yes, actually, I do.

February 10th, 2017 by Dani

Balance and Being Still

I was going to write something about my little life when I started to feel embarrassed by the every-day-ness of it. Does anyone really want to hear about my daughter’s new obsession with fort-building (yay for Daddy and snow days!) or my attempt at Coq Au Vin this weekend?

I’ve been thinking about heroism and what that means. I think it’s tempting to keep heroes and regular people apart. This is why we either self-deprecate or self-inflate on social media right? We’re either assuring the world that we’re nothing special, nothing to see here, or that we’re a caped crusader with heroism leaking from every pore. You know who I’m talking about. It might even be you, but I understand. We all do.

We are small but we want to be big. Like children insisting that we are 6 and three-quarters, that we matter because we are getting bigger every day. It’s hard I think to balance the every day of life with the yearning for more, which is why we either hide or inflate ourselves – we try to pick either invisibility or celebrity and neither satisfies.

Yesterday I read the verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s a nice verse. It’s often quoted to worriers and over-achievers like myself. But do you know what leads up to it? Read the whole thing:

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

This is so war-like! I thought “Be still and know that I am God” was embroidered on nice things, like tea cosies and grandmotherly pillows. It’s often been quoted to me as a helpful verse for the overcoming of frantic energy. But I think I’ve been reading it wrong. It’s not “Be still and know” as in, “sit there, dear, and try not to bother yourself”, it’s “Be STILL and KNOW” cried with the booming voice of thunder. This is a God who is not scared of Donald Trump or ISIS. This is a God who does not share power, who melts the earth with his voice. This is a God who offers to be our fortress, to be WITH us in war and peace, in heroism and dailyness, in abundance or in fear.

When met with this kind of God, my worrying attempts to either make much or less of myself seem quite silly. This is not a being who needs my help after all, is it? So I am free to live out redemption in my daily life without worrying about my heroic status or lack thereof. This doesn’t mean I’m passive, but it does mean that I am not worried. I am not anxious. I am not insecure. The God of Jacob is my fortress, after all, so I truly can “be still and know” that I have a refuge in him, better than any I could make for myself.

January 17th, 2017 by Dani

Writing What I Need to Hear

I usually write what I need to hear. I write about gratitude because I am so often whiny, redemption because I need it, creativity because I feel stuck, family because I know it’s important. As I write about these things, they usually come around as an encouragement to my own heart.

So I was asked to write a couple of stories this month for our local paper’s Special Projects – one on girls night out places and one on casserole/freezer meals. I’m writing about hospitality and care and friendship, warmth and long conversations and shared experience. This, friends, is what I need.

I love being a mom more than I have loved any other role I’ve ever had, but it is lonely. The hours I used to spend with a friend on a hiking trail or with my husband at a restaurant are now spent at home, chasing a toddler. We’ve had nearly six weeks of snow which means it’s hard to even get out the driveway, adding to my cabin fever. Addy won’t go to childcare and is really clinging to me – it’s the most profound feeling of love and dependence and yet I’d really like to work out or talk to a friend or get work done sometimes.

I am not complaining. This is just real life. Real life is messy and sometimes boring and sometimes lonely. Real life means that I have to put myself aside. It’s a precious burden God has given to moms, and one that we too often complain about or diminish. But here’s the kicker – we can’t do hard things alone.

A few weeks ago when we were flying back home from Texas, we were headed through TSA. They’d inexplicably changed the stroller regulations from the other bazillion times we’ve flown, and wouldn’t let us bring our stroller with us. So we were carrying two carry-ons each and a fussy toddler through a very crowded security check. I was snapped at for leaving my purse open on the belt and then the agent angrily grabbed Addy’s snack out of her hand. “She can’t have that!” As we stood at the end of the conveyor belt in our stocking feet, an agent start rifling through Addy’s backpack. “I have to check all of her toys,” she said, as Addy cried for her bottle and her baby doll and everything else that the agent was feeling up and placing on the counter. I lost it. By the time we were allowed to leave, I was sobbing and so was Addy. I was hungry, humiliated, frustrated and felt completely vulnerable. I stood outside the security checkpoint, struggling to get all of our things back into carry-ons and get Addy her snack, flustered, crying, as Adam tried to help. I saw a woman out of the corner of my eye, and, surprisingly, she came right up to me and gave me a hug. “It’s OK mama,” she said. “You’re doing good. You’ve got this.” I wasn’t even able to process that I was being hugged by a complete stranger in an international airport – at that moment, she was the angel I needed, and I just sobbed.

She hugged me for a moment, then patted me on the shoulder and went to reunite with her husband and kids, as I sniffled and gathered up my things. I was embarrassed that a stranger had noticed my emotion (who wants to be the teary mom in the TSA line?) but more than anything, I wanted to be her. I don’t know if she is always that forward with strangers in need, or if God just moved her heart at that moment, but I want to be like that.

Friends this is a hard season. I bet you are tired, no matter where you are right now – motherhood, wifehood, singleness, dating, working – life is tiring. I am tired. I don’t know how to get my baby to nap without laying on me. I am trying to figure out how to balance life and work and dreams and finances and motherhood and friendship and marriage. I need you, and maybe you need me, just as I needed that beautiful fellow mom in the Dallas airport.

Today I just want to tell you that you are doing good. You’ve got this. Even when you feel like you have screwed up for the last time or like you might get lost in your own mind (what Elizabeth Gilbert calls the “bad neighborhood” of your consciousness) I want to be there for you.

As always I am writing about the thing I need. I need friendship. I need intimacy and courage. I need to be in your corner, cheering you on, and I need you in mine. Maybe together we can change how this season feels. Maybe the harsh agent at the TSA line would change her tune if she saw us holding each other’s babies and carry-ons and giving hugs to strangers. Maybe this is how we change the world.

January 10th, 2017 by Dani

Top Five Moments of 2016

I was going to write a New Year post that I’ve written before (inspired by the ever-lovely Valerie) about my top three movies, books and moments. But I feel like 2016 has been full of moments more than anything else, so I’m eschewing the regular protocol for something more apt.

seattle

Chandelier Mamas Seattle Trip

Within a few minutes of reuniting at Pike Place Market, we were snorting with laughter and eating too much seafood. This group of girls are fun, honest, thoughtful, adventurous and opinionated and I love them ever so much. Baller alert: we rented a minivan and went thrift store shopping. WE ARE SUCH COOL MOMS. (Side note: It feels indulgent to go on a girls’ trip – heck, it feels indulgent to read a book some days – but it is SUCH a good thing. Nobody wants a burnt-out exasperated version of you and we all need a break whether we have kiddos or not.)

Trips to Texas

These two trips get to be together in one moment because it’s my blog and I say so. In September, we went to Fort Worth to meet Addy’s cousin, precious Stella! We also experienced an incredibly hot TCU football game (there’s a famous quote that goes: “Fight ’em until hell freezes over, then fight ’em on the ice!” from legendary TCU coach Dutch Meyer. I do not understand this. Why is TCU football talking about ice when most of the time they play ball ON THE SURFACE OF THE SUN.) Anyway. It was hot. But being in Texas was fun, as always and we love our family so it’s worth it.

Then, in December, we went for Christmas, which was full of warm weather, delicious food, fun gifts, lots of laughter, enjoying family and, OH YEAH – a DALLAS COWBOYS FOOTBALL GAME! Adam and I got to have the experience of a lifetime in a Ring of Honor suite thanks to my lovely in-laws and it was just as epic as you imagine. No, more epic. I mean, Dez Bryant threw a touchdown pass to Jason Witten in the endzone RIGHT BELOW US and wow! My brain couldn’t handle all the awesomeness. It was also amazing to get to share this experience with Adam – babysitters and date nights have been scarce around these parts and this was a date night to eclipse all date nights.

Jacksonville, Oregon

We rented an adorable AirBnB in downtown Jacksonville and had a lovely weekend together as a family. We tasted wine, we went on walks, we exclaimed over the cuteness of the historic downtown (OK maybe that was just me). It was a perfect getaway and a good start to the new reality of Kid Weekends, which are delightfully different than anything we’ve done before.

my baby

Addy’s First Birthday

My baby is one year old. Actually, at this writing she is 18 months old, which is blowing my mind. We had a little BBQ for her (and America, let’s be honest) on the 4th of July, and she ate cake and got a sand toy set and a new truck to ride on and was generally adorable. A few weeks later, the Do family came to visit and SHE WALKED for the first time! I wish that hundreds of people had told me that my life was going to change forever. Oh wait, they did. And it did. But it’s great and I am grateful for it.

New Endeavors

I joined a Creative Non-Fiction writer’s group in 2016 and it is the quirkiest, loveliest group of opinionated scribblers you’ll ever meet. I love them so much. We meet at a home and talk writing and critique each others’ work and drink tea and laugh kindly at our foibles. We range in age from 30-80 and we probably don’t agree on anything except this: good stories well-told matter deeply. That’s enough.

I also became the freelance food writer for our local newspaper’s special projects department, as well as did some more magazine work and communication coaching. I also spoke in public about adoption (Camp Morrow!) and it went really well. God has been pushing and pulling me into uncomfortable places, and with a trembling heart and quivering voice I’m striving to say yes to Him.

nashvegas

Speaking of new endeavors, I went to Business Boutique in Nashville with my dear friend Kate and then-copywriter Hannah. We were inspired and educated, uplifted and given focus. The conference was worth every penny and was truly life-changing – but being in Nashville was extra fun. We ate so much great Southern food, we laughed ourselves silly, we honky-tonked and blues-clubbed, we Ubered and walked down charming sidewalks to little cafes. Kate heroically drove us home through the night after a cancelled flight got us in to Portland at an ungodly hour, and even that was bearable with camaraderie and the reality that everything really is funnier at 3 a.m.

Honorable mentions:

SoCal baby shower for Adelay, a trip to the coast with the Nichols, hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, a lovely pampering spa weekend at Brasada Ranch for my 33rd birthday, getting to have my parents visit for several days/weekends, Labor Day weekend with the always-wonderful Annie P, a new practice of getting regular massages from my dear Kate, an entire weekend with horses at Camp Morrow, teaching at Healing Reins, reading (and comprehending!) books with Addy and getting to have Major here (even though I had to say goodbye, I loved that wonderful old fella).

All in all, 2016 was a heck of a good year. I know that’s not a popular idea these days, but from my corner of the world, it’s very, very true.

December 14th, 2016 by Dani

Snow Day

family hike in the snowIf you know me, you know I love Christmas. I love the whole season – I play carols and bake cookies and pull out the candles that smell like fir trees. I love to savor Christmas – I like to pick a particularly cozy Christmassy book to read every year, and no Christmas is complete without a reading of A Christmas Carol, like a predictable conversation with an elderly friend, one that somehow manages to surprise and delight even when you know exactly what will be said.

This year, Christmas has felt less like a quiet, sanctified season of traditions and more like a flurry of activity. I haven’t even met up with Marley’s Ghost yet and Christmas is a week away! I am running, keeping up with my toddler, my growing business, my personal projects, my list of responsibilities. I am on the edge – I might burst into laughter or tears, I might make a lovely braised beef shank for dinner or I might leave it on the heat too long and make a charred doggie treat for Guinness. Adam took us out for a lovely weekend getaway for my birthday, and I let myself fall into relaxation like a giant snowbank, only to find myself back in the frenzy within moments of returning home.

And then, today, like a miracle, like a kiss – we get a snow day. Just like that, all is calm. School is canceled, the barn is closed. Meetings begin to drop off the calendar and I hear the fire calling me, asking me to slow down and sit a while. I heat up a cup of coffee and watch the snow fall. Unlike rain, which either patters drearily or beats down with fury, snow just falls. Whether heavy or light, the first or the last snow of the year, it’s all the same in its perfection. It covers up ugliness, it silences the rattle and bang of a storm. Old cars and new alike look quaint when covered in snow, wipers propped up by wise owners. Christmas lights glow cheerily, tree branches hang down, heavy with beautiful white blankets. You can’t drive fast in the snow. Stores close early, hand-written signs grace small restaurant windows: “Snow Day”. You text your friends with cheery words of wisdom: “Drive safe! Stay warm.” I’m reminded of how blessed we are to have a warm fireplace and a full pantry on a day like today.”Though our sins were as scarlet, we are washed white as snow.” Snow hearkens of Christmas, because we need grace at Christmas. I need to be reminded that as much as I love the parties and presents and traditions, grace is what matters. Grace for today – snow on my roof, on my old car, over the places in my life that I’m not proud of and the things that I’ve tried so hard to make beautiful. Snow covers it all with the same grace and peace. Thank you, God, for snow days.

December 4th, 2016 by Dani

Keep Going!

Addy has a little walker that talks. She doesn’t use it much any more, unless I start talking about putting it away, in which case it becomes The Most Favorite Toy of All Time. Anyway, it talks when it senses movement, and it’s got a jumpy trigger finger, because said movement can be any person walking around the house, no matter how far away.

The other day, I walked by it and it chirped out “Keep going!” I laughed to myself and then thought, I need this little voice all the time.

Because I need to hear, “Keep going!” Because, and I’m being honest here,… is anyone else tired?

I used to get on Facebook for cute photos of my friends’ kids and puppies, and now I get on in fear and trembling that I will see another apoplectic political post. (I brave them for the pay-off of cute baby/puppy/Christmas tree photos but I’m just saying – it’s gotten a little hot out there.) I need reminders to keep going, that relationships are important and valuable, even when I’d rather check out and protect myself.

I need to hear “Keep going!” because all too often I hear the opposite. I hear that I’ll never be good enough or cute enough in Spandex, so I should quit going to yoga. I hear that I’ll never get a book deal, so I should stop writing. I hear that adoption is only a tragic choice and not a beautiful one. I hear that my choices for my kid is questionable, that my beliefs are silly, that my life is small and foolish.

At Christmastime, I hear that my love for this sparkly season is silly. I hear that my joy at big bows and perfect presents and hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon are childish or materialistic, silly or thoughtless. But I do love Christmas, because it is the season of foolishness. It is the season of “Keep going!”, don’t you think?

It is a season when we should be awed and not calloused, when we embrace an infant Savior, an angel choir singing to dirty shepherds, a blazing star in the sky. I’m daring to believe that God sent Jesus to tell us “Keep going!” that we don’t have to do this alone, that we have Emmanuel, God with us. Every time I walk past that silly plastic talking toy, I’m going to thank my Creator for the gift of wisdom through a child’s toy, hope through tragedy, joy to the world when it feels like it’s falling apart. After all, he didn’t say “endurance to the world” or “clenched teeth to the world” or “anxiety to the world” – I’m going to believe that the God who came as a helpless baby into a wartorn, oppressed country isn’t too scared by the troubles of 2016, and that he meant for us to live in joy despite them.

The angel said, “I bring you good news of GREAT JOY for all people!” JOY TO THE WORLD. Keep going!

November 16th, 2016 by Dani

Honesty and Love

I am a mother and a wife. I am created to love my child, my family, my friends. But that is not all I am.

I am also a writer. I’m a business owner. I’m passionate about adoption and hospitality.

Did you cringe when you read that? Does it seem self-serving for me to assert my talents here, as though I’m asking for validation?

It felt awkward to write it. I want to delete it, to tell you a cute story about how Addy is carrying around a baby doll everywhere she goes or how I need advice on what to do with my hair.

But the truth is, I am better at love when I am honest about who I am. A friend of mine and I were texting the other day and she said “there’s no time for chit-chat” and I wanted to run across town and hug her. Because there’s not, is there? We have only a few precious years on this earth and we dare to waste them on long conversations about the weather and the price of milk? No, heavens no.

Let’s be honest about who we are – who we were before we got married, or without our kids, or in spite of our job. Who are you and why are you here?

Only when we rip off the false humility and say the words “I am __________” can we give others the love we’re called to offer. You might be a warrior for the underdog, a hospitable helper, a creative soul, a joy-bringer, a thoughtful observer, a passionate pursuer of justice, a caretaker of the small and the weak. But you are not just an employee or a mother, only given worth by the people around you. You were not created to work 9-5 and collapse on the couch every evening. You are not just a wife or a girlfriend or a professional person. Don’t misunderstand – those are good things! But you are more than that. You are a mentor. You are an honest friend that we desperately need. You are created by an infinitely creative God to serve a purpose that no one else could possibly serve.

I’m mostly writing to myself and other moms, because we so often get lost in the massive needs of our family, but I think most women can relate. We are so relational that we lose ourselves without a outside sun to guide us – a job, a relationship, a family – and while that makes us hospitable, loving and nurturing, it can also leave us worn out, shallow and yearning.

Let’s quit the chit-chat. There just isn’t time for it, and frankly, it was never that fun anyway. Let’s embrace the creative, passionate, unique, hilarious and profound gifts God has given us – as we do, I think we’ll learn a new, deeper way to love.