Wrangler Dani

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

Archive for the ‘ministry’ Category

June 6th, 2017 by Dani

We’re Fundraising for Adoption Expedition #2

I sat down to write to you about fundraising, but it’s been a very hard letter to write. The truth is that it’s hard to ask for help. We all know the people who are quite good at it (maybe too good, perennial students and travelers come to mind) or quite bad (most of us raised with stiff upper lip sensibilities do everything on our own and like it that way).

But we know that asking for help is really important. It resets our hearts and reminds us that we are not all-powerful, as well as modeling humility and kindness for our daughter. I shared about how amazing it was to get help in the form of garage sale bargains and kindness of strangers, and the love, time and prayers of so many of our friends and family is as valuable as any monetary gift we could receive.

We used to go to a pretty affluent church which insisted that all missionaries, short or long-term, ask for support, even if they could have funded their work themselves. Because even when it seems like a noble thing to bootstrap one’s own mission trip, for an executive who’s bootstrapped everything he’s ever done, it’s actually the easier route. What builds his faith is letting his neighbor donate $100 and asking his high schoolers to help him put on a car wash. Asking invites community into this endeavor; lives are changed when hundreds of people get to be part of the story, instead of one person doing it alone.

So in our family, we’ve made a choice to live with open hands and open hearts. Sometimes, when I feel hurt or vulnerable, I wonder if it’s really wise to have an open door policy to our home and our story. But we believe God has called us to love publicly, and to tell of the faithfulness of God with arms outstretched, welcoming others into it.

So, we’re asking for help, again, as we venture into Adoption #2. We ask because we know that we can’t do this alone – monetarily, emotionally or spiritually. The average domestic infant adoption costs between $20,000-$50,000. We dare to believe that these children are infinitely more valuable even than these hefty price tags, that no one can put a price on love, faithfulness or grace.

Please give if you would like to, and feel free to share the link. We’ve made a tax-deductible website here for gifts and we are so grateful for any help you can offer. We also know that we can’t do this without our tribe of encouragers, prayer warriors, mentors and friends so we covet your advice, prayers, hugs, visits and hope.

Thank you for being our people. We have long prayed for a house full of children and a community that shows extravagant love for the least of these, and we are blessed beyond measure to watch that prayer come true, year after year.

December 28th, 2015 by Dani

A little list about 2015

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

Became a momma. It’s the most wonderful, difficult, beautiful, fulfilling, terrifying thing I have ever done and I can’t wait to keep doing it for the rest of my life.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I actually did! Adam is big on goals, and so we make new goals for each new year. This year, we both did really well on our goals (things like taking Sabbath, writing, house projects, parenthood, farm stuff) and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has to offer.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

2015 was the year of the Babies. SO MANY BABIES, including my own, made this year really special. More are coming, too!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Donna’s sweet mom passed away at Christmastime last year, and we still miss her.

5. What countries did you visit?

We stayed here in the good ol’ USA.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you didn’t have in 2015?

I have some significant career-related goals that I’d like to reach in 2016. For the last couple of years my free time has been consumed with moving, house-shopping and adoption, and so in 2016 I’d like to focus that energy back to my business and creativity.

7. What dates from 2015 will be etched upon your memory, and why?

July 6. November 10. Adelay Joy.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?

We adopted our sweet girl, and we did it without any debt (a miracle). Through hard work, lots of money saved, tons of generosity from friends and family and countless miraculous blessings, God made it very clear that this was the right path for us, that our faithfulness would be rewarded in an unbelievable way.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Eeesh. I am not patient. I am not selfless. I am unsure of myself at all the wrong times. Luckily my sweet husband is still in love with me, and God is not through with me yet.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

My baby is heavy. My wrist hurts. Send bourbon.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A new pair of jeans. Honestly!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Oh man. I feel like I was given a front-seat to the kindness and sincerity of the human race this year. From our friends who prayed with us and helped us prepare for Addy, to the friends who filled our living room with diapers, to our family who supported us, loved us, paid for things for us, to the strangers who helped me lift heavy things in Costco because of the baby on my chest, to the husband who has gotten up at every hour of the night to comfort our baby, to the countless prayers, donations, presents and visits that kept us afloat during a tumultuous year. You are the hero of our story. Thank you for showing us the love of God, in tangible ways.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton. We’re doomed.

14. Where did most your money go?

Remember that little story about adoption? Yep. That.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Adelay laughed at me! She laughed! Adam and I both saw it, it was real. And then she did it ALL THE TIME, and it was no less exciting.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?

“Ooh Child”. Adam sang this to Addy every night during her first couple of weeks of life. She still lights up when he sings it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

Happier. Fatter. Poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Praying.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At my folks’ house, playing in the snow, and letting Adelay chew on wrapping paper with impunity.

21. Did you fall in love?

Her birthfather placed Adelay in my arms and I knew with complete clarity that my life would never be the same. Yes. Also, seeing Adam as Daddy to Adelay and Hero to me has been remarkable. When you’re picking a fella, girls, pick one who will change poopy diapers without complaint and dance with you and your babies in the kitchen and tell you you’re beautiful when you haven’t showered in three days and have been crying uncontrollably because you’re SO TIRED.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

We started watching “Parenthood” and are totally in love. We plan to keep adding children until we have a massive family ala Braverman and then keep them around forever.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Nope. My hate levels are all very static.

24. What was the best book you read?

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Seeing her speak was a spiritual and emotional awakening, and her book has been a refresher course.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

We’ve been listening to country radio, the old-fashioned way. It’s refreshing and simplistic and I like the small-town ads and the drawl and the prank phone calls and the DJs walking around local events like celebrities.

26. What did you want and get?

Adelay Joy. New jeans. A white Christmas. A lovely summer.

27. What did you want and not get?

A vacation? A book deal? Everything I might want is silly and way too big for my little self. God knows this, which is why 2015 has been perfect.

28. What was your favorite film of 2015?

Creed. (Close behind was Cinderella.)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Denver and Chelsea made breakfast for the family, then my folks and Adam and Addy and I braved snow and sleet to wander the Old Mill and shop and drop hints about Christmas gifts. Then Adam took me to Pine Tavern for a very special meal and to a live rendition of The Messiah while Grandma and Grandpa watched Adelay. It was magical. Oh, and I’m 32 now, and my joints and fat stores like to remind me of this sad fact.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Nothing – 2015 was plenty satisfying – any more and I would burst!

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2015?

I’ve been back at the therapeutic riding barn this year, which has lead me to start wearing more western/cowgirlish styles again. I love an excuse to wear a little bling, boots and a big hat!

32. What kept you sane?

Writing. Friends. Family. Good food.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

Abortion. There is no such thing as an unwanted child.

34. Who did you miss?

I wish my grandma could’ve met Adelay. She would’ve loved her, and I hope she’s proud of the way her legacy of motherhood is being passed on.

35. Who was the best new person you met?

We got more involved in our church this year, which has been fun. We know everything about marriage (sarcasm alert) so we’re now on the pre-marriage mentoring team. Come to us with all of your problems and we will look at you with compassion and likely confusion.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.

Trust. I worried that we wouldn’t have enough money for the adoption fees. I worried that we wouldn’t be able to work and parent. I worried that we would be alone. I worried that our house wouldn’t be safe for a baby. I worried that our baby wouldn’t like us. I worried that I would be mean, or impatient, or selfish. God provided everything we needed, and then some. All we had to do was ask.

37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government
Shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

-Handel’s Messiah

April 28th, 2015 by Dani

The $2000 prayer

We drove five hours round-trip and packed a 16-foot trailer full of garage sale items from my parent’s house the day before the sale. We didn’t make signs or a Craigslist ad until the night before. We didn’t unload any of the stuff until the morning of the sale because of stormy weather, we wondered if anyone would even show up. It was cold, wet, stormy and significantly hailed at least once.

I had prayed and told a few friends that I wanted to raise $2000, all the while “knowing” that we’d raise $1000 at the most. I figured why not pray for success, even as I felt woefully inadequate and unprepared?

I guess God doesn’t mind when we are unprepared, since last count showed us at $2,070 (!!!!) with a few more donations rolling in.

Our friends made incredible cupcakes, cookies and brownies to sell, and cheerfully encouraged garage salers to buy baked goods when they checked out. They donated mountains of clothing, stuffed animals, furniture and oddities. They merchandised, made signs and Craigslist ads, told shoppers our story and even gave us their centrally-located house for the sale. Every little donation we got mattered – from the printer we hauled from a friend in Orange County to the desk that our friend found on the side of the road to the bags of Care Bears and Hot Wheels that our Storage Wars friend had laying around from another life, to the set of dressers that my mom parted with.

Garage salers, known for being a persnickety, cheap bunch, were generous and kind. One lady gave me $75 for her $40 purchase, saying with a knowing grin, “I’m an adoptive mom, too.” We quoted 50 cents for a book and got $5 instead. A couple of cute college students gave me double what I asked for, “because earlier we probably haggled too much, it’s a fundraiser after all”. We heard “I’m adopted” stories and “good for you” encouragements, even as we sold 25 cent t-shirts and offered people the incredible cupcakes of our awesome baker friends.

I’ve been hearing a lot of pessimism lately about the world, about how the foster care system is broken, how adoption is painful, how people are lame. We hear sighs about our jobs, our finances, our seemingly endless waits and it’s tempting to join in with sighs of our own. But then God answers a simple prayer and reminds me that he cares about the small stuff. He cares about our family and our community. He cares about our daily concerns and our disappointments. Sometimes, you have to have a cold weekend of selling junk on your friends’ lawn to be reminded – he is oh-so-good. Ask and you will receive, knock and the door will open, seek and you will find.

To everyone who donated items, who helped us load and unload, who prayed, who encouraged, who bought a lamp or a picture frame, who told us a happy story, who made us laugh at stormy weather, who baked incredible goodies, who wrote massive yard sale signs, who made us hot cocoa, who covered our goods in tarps to protect from hail… we are grateful, amazed, overwhelmed and joyful. Thank you.

“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16

April 3rd, 2015 by Dani

Grateful for Good Friday

Yesterday I bought a glittery cross necklace at Target. It’s the ultimate American Christian thing to do, right, to feel moved by Passion Week and go buy a bauble to recognize it? We were talking with some friends the other night about how we wear and celebrate an instrument of torture – “how do I teach my three-year-old about that?” one friend wondered.

Crosses009We do not celebrate the pain of Good Friday, though; not really. Good Friday is only good because of the outrageous love it portrays. But it would simply be foolish, misguided love if we did not require Jesus’ sacrifice in order to be right with God. If we don’t need a Savior then Jesus was just a chump to took unnecessary punishment for a bunch of nice people who only deserved a hand-slap anyway.

Good Friday is good because Jesus was not a good teacher or a misguided fall-guy. He is God, he paid the price for our sin, and he rose from the grave.

I was thinking about the inherent ugliness of Passion Week, despite my glittery remembrance. We, as Christians, are asked to remember a week of drama and death and betrayal. What does this mean for us?

It means that God knows relationship is messy, in the truest sense of the word. It means that we can love one another deeply because God loved us first. It means that only when we walk through our own messy, dramatic seasons can we emerge on the other side with grace, understanding and patience for each other – acknowledging that we will fail but we will keep walking.

Today I’m grateful for Good Friday. I’m grateful that there is more to life than just work and play and hard times and good times – that life means something after all, that God believed enough in our stories to sacrifice himself for us.

Today I am wearing my glittery cross necklace, not because I’m a foolish American consumer (although that may be) but because there is something poetic about the bauble. How outrageous that Jesus gave his all that I might casually wear a $12 necklace to remember him by. How humbling that I would take his sacrifice so lightly, how incredible that he would let me do so and not zap me on the spot, like the fearsome gods of mythology. It’s amazing to think that it’s such a small thing to wear a cross here in the U.S., where religious freedom still exists, but in countries around the world, Christians are martyred for much less.

Good Friday is indeed good, and I am writing this to myself: do not forget. Do not get comfortable and ignore the story God has given you. Do not forget the great sacrifice made for you, do not complacently consume and ignore and flit through life until your time is passed. Good Friday is good; life is good, and it is only because of Jesus.

February 27th, 2015 by Dani

Why Hospitality Matters: the Church

I told you yesterday about why hospitality matters so deeply to me. Today, I’m going to tell you some stories about church and hospitality, so gird your loins.

After we got married, Adam and I attended a church in our city for about six months. We went with some friends who were also church-hunting, and we never met another soul. Oh, there were people on the patio after the service and there was donuts and coffee, but no one said hi to us, no events were planned where we could get to know anyone – the church was quite comfortable for those in the club, but the rest of us treated it like a movie theater rather than a family gathering – buy your ticket, sit in your seat, leave quietly as the credits roll and talk about whether or not you liked it on the way home.

Our friends invited us to attend a new campus of the church where we met, and after one service we decided to switch churches. This church was tiny, with a video screen presentation of the “big campus” sermon. It was in an old movie theater with a skeleton staff – but there was a feeling of hospitality there, and we all became fast friends. Adam and I started cleaning up after services and producing the service itself. We operated the lights, cleaned the storage rooms, led a small group. We quickly realized that “young couples” like ourselves had very little opportunity to get to know one another, and so we started a young couples group (married people without kids), which honestly was just us inviting people out to lunch. We remembered what it felt like to stand silently in corners and we were determined to not let anyone else feel ignored on our watch. This grew and morphed until it became a full-blown marriage ministry, but you know all of this and I don’t need to get into it. The important part of this story is that our church was our living room. We were on the prowl for couples around our age, and if we saw one walk in to the foyer, we introduced them to others we knew. We got people coffee and answered questions and we never let a couple stand alone on the edge of the foyer without walking up and introducing ourselves. The church was OUR church, and no one was going to sit alone if we could help it.

When we moved to Bend, the only people we knew here did something very similar. They invited us to their church, had us over for bar-be-ques and introduced us to other couples. Without their generous hospitality, our first year in Bend would have been lonely beyond words.

I am not shy by nature but the church is an intimidating place to enter.

However, hospitality is vital to the church (even though it’s not often treated that way), and I recently experienced a couple of instances when the church was treated more like a DMV waiting area than a living room. When someone walks into your home, do you expect them to find the kitchen and bathroom by themselves, and let them stand awkwardly in the entryway while you go about your business? What about an acquaintance – do you push past them as they stand on your front porch, or do you make eye contact and say hello? Of course, in our homes we would never be rude or dismissive to a guest, and we would explain what’s going on (we’re having dinner, come on in!). Church should be treated in the same way. There should not be an announcement from the stage that is not explained, nor a person who’s not introduced. Even if we each just focused on our own age group or life-stage as Adam and I used to do, walking up to young couples in the foyer and introducing ourselves, what a difference it would make! What if you took it upon yourself to welcome just one person to your church? What if you put aside your own insecurity and said hi to the person you kindof know, making a real connection?

Guys, the mission of the church is not to be a club of right answers. Some of us have been so indoctrinated that the church is a “soul-hospital” that the only people we notice are those obviously in need of care – the homeless man, the lady crying in the front row – and so ignore the people who are walking in with less obvious needs.

We used to call churches a “church family” – does anyone do that anymore? I remember in the little country church I grew up in, visitors received about 20 handshakes and a well-meaning interrogation before the first hymn was sung. It was a tiny church, and is still a tiny church, doing low-tech services at 10:10 on Sunday mornings. (No one knows why it’s at 10:10, but don’t you dare mess with tradition!) But that church was and is a church family, and they taught me how to be hospitable, a lesson that I carried into a large, well-staffed megachurch in California and now here to Bend.

God is not limited by our failures, and he can work in and through our weaknesses, but he also calls us the Bride of Christ. Have you ever seen a bride dourly sitting in a corner at her own wedding reception? Can you imagine a beautiful girl in a white dress, in love with her husband and surrounded by family and friends, who will only talk to her maid of honor and no one else, who neglects to smile at her guests or hug her friends? Of course not – we would assume that such a wedding is not much of a wedding, we would consider how to help her, and wonder if she’s even in love with her new husband at all.

On our wedding day, our love for our spouse makes us friends with the world. We are bouyed by his love – normally shy girls find themselves tossing the bouquet with flair and hugging their guests with joy! I remember wearing my wedding dress, walking into the hotel bar on our wedding night and getting loud cheers from strangers – I didn’t feel awkward at all! I was deeply in love and the happiest girl on planet Earth in that moment.

Friends, let’s treat our churches like a groom in white, like a living room or a kitchen with the tea kettle on. Let’s hug freely and laugh easily. Let’s love each other like we have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Let’s be generous. Let’s be hospitable.

February 26th, 2015 by Dani

Why Hospitality Matters: Reach and Belong

When Adam was in leadership with FUEL (the church singles ministry where we met) he was one of the “Belong” leaders – basically, his job was to make people feel welcome and build teams that would continue to make people feel welcome. In a practical sense for a church-based weekly event, this meant he had greeters at the entrances and tablecloths on the tables – in a broader sense, he was always looking out for the loner, the awkward girl (me – that worked out well!) or the opportunity to make a table more than a table, but a place to become real-life friends. For my part, I was drawn to the “reach” side of ministry – the inviters and fearless welcomers who brought others into the place to belong.

But this is ministry stuff, not real-life stuff, right?

I will never forget, maybe a month or two after we got married, Adam and I met at the sink during a party, at our cracked and tiny countertop in our little beach house apartment. He was opening a beer for a friend (and one for himself, probably), I was putting an appetizer together. It was loud in there – we might have had 20 or 30 people crammed into 800 square feet, and every one of them had something to say. Standing at our sink, we looked at each other and laughed – we were thrilled that people were getting to know one another, that they felt comfortable in our home, that we had “reached” and that now we all “belonged”, right here, right now, as newlyweds and oldyweds and single people and serial daters. We realized that we are “belong” people, hospitality people, that the lessons we learned in ministry actually meant something, here, in the nitty-gritty of real life, when our counter is small and our budget is tiny and our house is nowhere near clean enough or big enough for all these people.

I guess I’m writing this because, even though we value hospitality (reach and belong) highly and we see it as a core value, it’s still hard to do sometimes. Sometimes I don’t want my guests to see me crying in the kitchen because my life is emotional and hard in all kinds of ways. Sometimes I think, is this hospitality a thing of generosity or foolishness?

Hospitality is foolishness, in the end. We all want to be hospitable in the bed and breakfast kind of way, but we seldom want the drop-in or the abrupt change in plans. Hospitality is vulnerability, a willingness to let someone else into your mess and your gloopy, teary-eyed mascara and your saggy couches. Hospitality is sharing everything you have and then some. Hospitality is generosity you don’t expect, with people who surprise you. Hospitality matters because we have a big God who opens his arms wide to screw-ups like us, who adopts us as his children and who gives us a place to belong.

I’ve seen a lot of think pieces lately about how watching Jimmy Fallon on the tonight show is a spiritual discipline/high art/the best thing ever. OK, I get it, everybody loves Jimmy. But do you know why? Hospitality. He makes everyone on his show and his audience, by default, feel included. We’re all in on the joke, and he’s happy to grab us a beer from the fridge while we laugh. It’s not a cool kids club, and he’s not stingy with his affection or regard. We all love Jimmy, but how many of us are willing to be Jimmy? It’s easy to watch and laugh anonymously from our couches, feeling connected to people who will never know or judge us. It’s even easy to write criticisms of those who aren’t in on the joke and lambast others for not acknowledging the greatness of our choice to watch Jimmy Fallon every night, because (oh the irony!) he’s so inclusive and nice.

We all want to be the included, but how many of us want to include? We all know what it feels like to be put down or locked out, and that is the antithesis of the God we serve. So, I’m going to keep having parties and planning dinners and offering hugs. We believe in a God who loved while we were yet screw-ups (my translation) and who tells us to give cheerfully, for much has been given to us.

Hospitality matters, and it matters deeply. We all needed to be reached at some point, we all want a place to belong.

February 6th, 2015 by Dani

Why you should support adoption

So, I’ve been asked recently why you should support adoption. “Isn’t that kind of like asking someone to support my kids going to college?” one well-meaning skeptic asked. They thought of adoption as a choice, like choosing to live in the suburbs or buy an SUV – a choice that a family is free to make, but not one that we should fundraise for or necessarily support as a community.

I’m sorry, but that perspective is simply incorrect. (I’m about to preach here – buckle up).

Are missionaries making a choice to live in a foreign country? Of course. No one is forcing them to fly thousands of miles from friends and family and live somewhere uncomfortable in an effort to reach others for Jesus. Does this element of “choice” mean they do not deserve our support?

Not everyone can be a missionary, just like not everyone can adopt. But that does not mean the need is not massive. Just as the world needs to encounter God, adoptive families need to step in for children and families in need of rescue and partnership. Willing, capable adoptive parents will help a child and his entire birth family have a better life, and this is no small thing.

Why is adoption so important? Well, to pro-lifers it’s essential. According to Texas Right to Life, abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the United States. At least 1.2 million abortions are reported each year. By the age of 20, 1 in 7 women has undergone at least one abortion.  By the age of 45, 1 in 3 women has had at least one abortion. In 2013, as it has been for six consecutive years, more than four in ten births were to unmarried women. 20% of all pregnancies are unwanted, 51% are unintended.

Even if you aren’t moved by the pro-life argument, consider this: according to the Guttmacher Institute, children born to unmarried mothers are more likely to experience unstable living arrangements, live in poverty and have socio-emotional problems. As these children reach adolescence, they are more likely to have low educational attainment, engage in sex at a younger age and have a birth outside of marriage. As young adults, they are more likely to be neither in school nor employed and have more troubled marriages and more divorces than those born to married parents. Women who give birth outside of marriage tend to be more disadvantaged than their married counterparts, both before and after the birth. Unmarried mothers generally have lower incomes, lower education levels, and are more likely to be dependent on welfare assistance compared with married mothers.

So what do we do as a community when we see this kind of pain in our midst? Do we ignore the single mothers we know and let them struggle alone? Do we stigmatize adoption until it is unthinkable, fail to support it until it is unattainable?

Adoption may only be one piece to the puzzle, but it is essential. Birth families make a courageous, counter-cultural decision to choose life for their unborn child. Most birth families are already raising children and cannot take on the responsibility of another mouth to feed and protect. They love their child so much they are willing to make an adoption plan, even then culture tells them to simply suck the inconvenience down a sink or struggle along alone.

I have the utmost respect for birth mothers and fathers who choose life and adoption for their child, but that respect means nothing if we don’t have the resources to honor that choice. Adoption is expensive. Adoption is exhausting. Adoption is not only for wealthy late-bloomers or millionaire activists – every day, middle-class American families take on the responsibility and burden of the equivalent of a second home down payment in an effort to rescue a child. Families cash out their 401ks, downsize their lifestyles and borrow money from friends and family in order to follow the call of God to serve those in need, to welcome another member into their family.

We, the adoptive community, are begging for your help as we do this. Our backs are not strong enough for this burden alone. A baby appearing by stork is a cute story but it is not reality. The reality of adoption is long and hard and scary and expensive. Our family will forever be different because we were willing to step out in faith and welcome a child into our home and hearts. This is not a decision to take lightly.

Did you know that when you Google “supporting adoption” and other related searches, there is more information on adopting dogs and cats than people? What does this say about our priorities? Are we more heartbroken that a puppy is left in the pound, or that a child never gets to make mud pies, ride a bike, get As on a spelling quiz because we failed to support adoption, and his mother gave up the fight and checked into Planned Parenthood because of lack of support?

Adoptive families are not just throwing money at this. They are living up to a call which changes everything forever. With their child, they will never check out at the grocery store the same, they will never sign up for swim lessons the same, they will never go to the doctor in the same way. Their lives are forever changed by adoption, by their courageous choice to not only believe in the sanctity of life but to uphold it in their living rooms and kitchens.

Hear me on this – I know I am preaching here, I know you might be squirming, thinking I am demanding that you donate to us or adopt yourself. I am not asking for either. I do not think that everyone is called to adopt, and I know that not everyone can or should support adoption financially. But I DO KNOW that EVERY pro-life, Christian person should support adoption in some way. It might be simply an encouragement to an adoptive family you know. It might be an offer to babysit or help decorate a nursery. It might be helping fundraise. It might be simply to speak in an encouraging and hopeful way about adoption, giving us a joyful cheering section to lean on when the pessimism of the world gets too loud.

Friends, we are not heroes. We are not amazing people, we are not more in tune with God and we do not expect to be above-average parents. But we are faithful. We know deep down in our bones that we have been called to an unpopular road, and we are following that path with humility, just like the foreign missionaries, non-profit volunteers or others you support. It’s unconventional. It’s misunderstood. It’s often difficult.

It’s also redemptive. It’s a picture of the love of God to each of us. It’s humbling and faithful. It’s a life-changing pursuit of life and family. It’s adoption, and it deserves your support.

Statistic resources:

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Unintended-Pregnancy-US.html#7

http://www.texasrighttolife.com/about/141/Abortion-statistics

http://www.ccainstitute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=25&Itemid=43

http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=births-to-unmarried-women#sthash.lUzQxyMR.dpuf

May 13th, 2013 by Dani

In the hunt. (The church-hunt, that is.)

Before we moved, I sat in the last few services we attended at Mariners MV and cried. I knew, deep down in my gut, that leaving that church would be the hardest part of moving. It had become home, family, friends, community. It was where we served, where we stayed late to chat, the jumping-off point for spontaneous adventures with dear friends. I felt like part owner, or at least manager of it – I took it upon myself to invite, welcome, clean up after and be a working, helping, loving part of the community there for so long.

So now we’re on the hunt again, and I admit that I’m having a bit of a struggle with it. The first church we attended felt so different – it was so small and so very unlike the well-trained fiesta of Mariners – that I was ashamed to find myself sniffling in the worship, not because my thoughts were inclining toward the holy, but because my eyes were well-focused on my own navel. For the first time, I realized a lonely, heart-wrenching fear that the family we’d found at Mariners was indeed the proverbial lightning in a bottle.

Since that first (rough) try at church-shopping, I’ve been wrestling with what corporate faith means for my internal beliefs. After all, I know that there are plenty of people who insist that the church is their hang-up, not their hope – that they’d believe in Jesus someday if he didn’t have so many lousy followers. For me, it’s the opposite: the strength of others’ faith, the level of their grace, the love I’ve experienced in the name of God has only driven me closer to him. But this poses a question for me, in my season of quiet, lonely following. Do I still believe without the faith of my church family to bolster me and remind me of God’s goodness? Am I reliant on the corporate, outward expressions of faith, and the ones I’m comfortable with (the loud worship, the well-spoken pastor, the seamlessly organized campus) or can I still live out my calling in Christ without those trappings? What is acceptable personal preference and what is me being snobby and ungracious about my needs, selfishly refusing to see the hurt around me as I wallow?

God is not limited by space and distance. He is the same faithful Father I felt so easily when his people prayed for us and selflessly helped us move for an entire weekend, the still, small voice telling me that we weren’t crazy to try a new life, that He was with us. He is the same God that is prayed to in these tiny country churches and services in the high school gym, where everything is smaller except for who He is.

So I’m asking Him for courage and faith, for grace and wisdom. I’m navigating a minefield of emotion, but I look to the future with excitement. What will He do with my lonely times, with my need, with my desires?

March 25th, 2013 by Dani

In My Life, Love Does

Writing and editing for Trochia is a terrifying experience for me. I constantly feel like I’m not wise enough, winsome enough, like I’m not articulate enough or good enough at what I do. Frequently, my insecurities sweep into my mind until I’m more tempted to watch reruns on the Food Network than actually do anything, because I’ve convinced myself that I’ll fail.

What God is teaching me, though, is that when I am cowardly – when I shrink back from people or professions that he’s placed in my life – I’m not only cheating myself out of enjoying his gifts for me, but I’m limiting an incredible chance at a front-row seat, seeing what He can do.

Read more at Trochia, here.

February 27th, 2013 by Dani

Young and Dumb

When we started leading a marriage group at our church, Adam and I stayed safe. We decided to make a group for “young couples” and hopefully get all of us clueless young childless fancy-free types together for dinners out and good conversations and maybe even a little kareoke. We started hoping that someone would see our floundering attempts at giving lousy marriage advice and come alongside, but no one did. What did happen was that people showed up to our events, and older people were asking if they could come. Our friends started having litters themselves, and before you knew it, “Young Couples” didn’t really fit anymore. We were supposed to be bigger, to open our arms wider and embrace more.  We saw that marriages were struggling in every age group, and we became more and more passionate about supporting and helping those relationships.

So we became “Couples” – and I started worrying about my age.

I don’t buy in to our culture’s fixation on youth. I don’t think that you have to be young and hot and hip to know anything. I feel deferential toward people who are older than me – particularly in the church, where it seems that God gives them a place of honor and wisdom.

You see where this is going. Here we are, called to lead a “Couples”  group of all ages, and every time somebody gets fussy (as people are wont to do, occasionally) I feel bad, and I think it’s because I’m young and dumb and probably screwed something up. But this weekend, we went to a marriage conference with some folks from our church, and I realized that I might indeed be young and dumb – but that I also know that for whatever reason, we were supposed to lead this couples ministry, at least for the last few years.

I know that this isn’t an earth-shattering realization. But I’m learning to accept that sometimes speaking up takes as much humility as shrinking back, and that leadership (and wisdom) doesn’t always come with age. Basically, I’m finally understanding that I don’t have to apologize for being 29. God gave us a calling and place to fulfill that calling, and I feel good that we did so, even though we often feel young and dumb and a little embarrassed by our penchant for hot wings and t-shirts over something more sophisticated; even though we tend to throw together events at the last minute and expect everybody to pitch in, because that’s what young, poor people do.

I’m so blessed that we have a church that doesn’t look down on us for being young, that we are the youngest Associate Elder couple and that we’re loved and appreciated anyway. Now I’m learning to accept this, and, rather than shrinking back from expressing myself, giving advice, or stepping up – based on the cowardly fear of my own youth – I’m going to kick that fear aside and simply embrace what I’m called to do, young and dumb or not.

Us and our awesome group of couples at "Refreshing Your Marriage" (Adam and I were pretty proud of the t-shirt idea - another young and dumb moment?)

Us and our awesome group of couples at “Refreshing Your Marriage” (Adam and I were pretty proud of the t-shirt idea – another young and dumb moment?)