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 ‘observations’ Category

June 11th, 2017 by Dani

I want to be spilling over with a good story

I want to be the kind of mom who spills over with laughter when my toddler dumps out my eyeshadow on the carpet or I find teeth marks in my deodorant. (Both happened this morning before church.)

Today, instead of laughing, I felt my voice getting dangerously low. “Everyone out,” I said with the barest semblance of holding it together, as though just by controlling the volume of my voice I could also control the emotion behind it. “NOW.”

Then, I spilled over with something else: I cried. I cried on the way to church. I cried in church. I cried after church.

I want to be the mom who laughs, and today I was the mom who cried. I’m embarrassed by my anger, my frustration and my feelings. I don’t want to be angry with my toddler for being a toddler or my husband for being a man or my dog for being a dog (she dug up the yard today; I’m not ready to talk about it). I want to be the joyful mom who serves her family with a smile, not by force. I want good stories to spill out of me.

I am a force-of-will kind of girl, which is great when there’s a fight to win or a disaster to avert, but is less awesome when the fight is an hourly exercise in self-control. I’d like to scale walls, not count to 10 to keep from saying something I shouldn’t.

So today I prayed a sobby prayer: “Lord, give me grace. Give me joy. Let me spill over with goodness and not frustration. Let me serve without keeping score.”

Pastor Steve’s message today was about telling our stories, to remember what God has done for us and for past generations, which is why I am publicly telling you about my private failure. Because I am believing that it is possible for me to spill over with goodness and joy. I believe that I can laugh at the ingestion of hygiene products and the holes in my flower beds. I believe that motherhood is the greatest gift and that I can share my story of motherhood and marriage and adoption even when I feel so very unqualified to do so.

I’m writing this as a reminder to myself, a reminder to tell even the hard stories, because someday I will look back and say, “remember when I used to get so upset about our dug-up backyard/my lost earring/the dishes in the sink?” and laugh. Because the goodness of a faithful God reminds me that he granted us the backyard in the house that we prayed for, with a fence for our rowdy dog and kids, with beautiful green grass and flower beds which are not ruined because of one misplaced dog-bone. His story is one of faithfulness and redemption, as he gave us our beautiful Adelay Joy through adoption and is allowing us the privilege of adopting again. He brings joy because earrings, makeup and other items I lose are just things, after all, replaceable and not invaluable, unlike my relationships. He shows me that doing one sink-full of dishes while dancing is far better than three loads in silent frustration; that my kids, friends and husband will remember my joy and not how clean our home was.

I want to be the mom, wife and friend who laughs at silly things and holds fast to good things. I am believing that our faithful God will answer my prayer and give me strength when mine fails. He is good. My life is good. I want to spill over with that story – his good story.

Addy and I.

I also have to include this photo, taken by our friend Marco after church. Even when I am not at my best, Addy puts her arms around my neck and wants my comfort and safety. I want to be worthy of her trust, and show her how to encounter a challenging world with grace – that is another God-story in itself.

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.

April 8th, 2016 by Dani

Stress-shopping and Plastic Breakfasts

Today I stress-shopped online, bouncing from swim suits to place mats in a desperate attempt to feel better. The trouble with stress-shopping online is that I rarely actually buy anything – it just makes me feel worse about my messy house and fat rolls, and I waste valuable hours that should be rejuvenating, browsing Williams-Sonoma instead. Stress-shopping is a lie, a silky seductress who beckons me with new stuff and pretty pictures, taunting me as I prop up my soul with her instead of a good talk, a good book or a good walk.

It’s not that my stress is so bad, either. I’ve had some upheaval in my professional life that is causing anxiety, but I know it’ll be OK. Addy is teething, which is a fussy process and I admit I’m tired, but we’ll get through it. She’s still wonderful, she just hates her teeth and I don’t blame her.

For many years I’ve believed the falsehood that I can fix anything. I can bootstrap that problem right up, if you just give me half a chance and some leftover baling twine. When life starts running off-kilter or when the unexpected comes, my response is to power up and FIX IT, by golly.

But now I’m a mama to a little person who needs me to power down quite often. I don’t get to set my own hours or run my own show – as every mother knows, this show is now running me. I still have plenty of time to work and play and be Mama, but I don’t get the luxury of a frantic, powered-up pace when life feels out of control. I don’t get to work until the job is done, I just work until she wakes up or we need to eat lunch.

What does this mean? Well, it shouldn’t mean anything, other than a bit of a new schedule and more flexibility in my life, but I find myself feeling stressed and desperate: desperate for control over my schedule, desperate for time and space to think this through. This is silly, I’m well aware. My life is wonderful, my free time is still there, I’m still working, my baby is easy, my husband is supportive and loving. So, why do I feel this way?

I think my identity as creator of my own destiny and maker of my own future is coming unraveled, probably for the best. The truth is, I’ve never been in control of my destiny or my future, I’ve just pretended like I am, like a child with a play kitchen making breakfast for the family. We all play along, but the plastic bread and fruit aren’t actually delicious.

Today, I can fret and freak out because I’m worried about my plastic breakfast and whether it’s good enough for my family, or I can recognize that maybe this breakfast doesn’t matter after all, that maybe the real breakfast is coming from somewhere else. Maybe all of my striving won’t make me successful, any more than worrying makes me healthier or happier.

It’s hard to learn a new way of living when the old way feels so empowering. It’s hard to remind myself that I will still have time to get stuff done after the baby is rocked to sleep or after I’ve cleaned the smushed strawberries out of the carpet. Maybe, if I can figure this out, I can be one of those awesome zen-like yoga moms who wears an adorable outfit with a matching workout headband to the kid-date in the mountains and somehow manages to squeeze in a professional life while planning imaginative educational activities, making homemade jam from handpicked blackberries and doing pilates. I’m joking, although if you are one of those moms, teach me your ways!

As nice as it sounds to be an adorably put-together yoga mom, it’s probably more important to be content to be me. I’m not in charge, sometimes I’m unsure and scared. My scary moments aren’t mitigated by the intensity and take-charginess that used to make me feel better, but hopefully I’ll learn to live with a little uncertainty and a little patience. After all, it’s just a plastic breakfast. Stress-shopping doesn’t make the plastic breakfast become real, and banging my toy saucepan on the painted burner doesn’t either.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” -Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27)

November 17th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Homemade Stock

In the fall and winter months, I have homemade broth or stock simmering in the Crock-Pot at least once a week. We smoke a chicken or roast beef shanks and afterwards I plop the bones in water and let them simmer away for a day or two. The whole house smells comforting, like chicken-noodle soup, and I have stock on hand for making rice or stew or deglazing a pan.

Homemade stock takes longer than buying a can or carton of stock from the grocery store. My Crock-Pot gets dirty and I have to strain out the bones when the broth is done. Sometimes I don’t want my house to smell like chicken noodle soup, and sometimes I’m tempted to throw away the remnants of a smoked chicken rather than mess with it.

But I don’t. I tell myself that it’s worth it to make something right – that tonight’s dinner will be that much healthier and more fulfilling because I took the time on this component. I try to see the simmering and straining and cleaning up afterwards as my act of gratitude – that I don’t take the roasted chicken for granted, but instead use every piece of it, making something simple into something special.

Because making stock is living with intention – it’s time-consuming and sometimes annoying. Sometimes I’d rather just run out and buy a can of stock – no muss, no fuss. But I’m always glad when I choose intention over convenience. I’m so grateful when love trumps necessity, when I take the time to care about small things and they become big and meaningful in return. Today, I’m grateful for homemade stock, and a homemade stock kind of life – one that simmers and flavors everything with intention, time and grace. It’s not easy or clean, but the smell and taste of homemade chicken noodle soup is worth the effort.

November 10th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Finalization Day

Today, we walked into the AAA office, where we’d gone at least a half-dozen times to get several adoption papers notarized. We’ve been having a cold snap so we were bundled up and Adelay was wrapped in a blanket, sound asleep with her head on my shoulder. The notary led us back to a corner cubicle and we dialed the judge’s chambers at the appropriate time. We had to dial back several times because no one answered, just adding to our unease. Finally, a clerk answered. The notary swore us in, they asked us to verify our desire and ability to adopt, and then asked us for a brief statement about why we want to be parents. We stumbled – how do you say what parenthood and adoption and this precious baby girl means to you in three sentences? – but got through it and I think we sounded intelligent or at least sincere.

Then it was done. “The judge is signing” said the clerk, and the judge added in, “Congratulations – you have a happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas together” which was the moment I came undone. Because we get to celebrate the holidays as a real family – no strings attached, no social worker looking over our shoulder and no fear of the worst happening, the horror story that unfolded for your friend’s cousin coming true.

Adelay

I just held Adelay close in that funny little very non-private cubicle and cried. I’ve wanted to be a mom for so long, and sometimes that almost makes all of this harder – how can I have yearned to do this laundry and now sigh over it, I yell at myself. Regardless, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily stuff of life and lose sight of the incredible, heart-stopping drama we’ve lived through. I didn’t even know how scared I’ve been until the judge said “Congratulations” and my fear came pouring out my eyeballs in ecstatic, relieved tears – this baby girl is ours and we are hers in the deepest way.

I think it’s important to note this: to remember that I was scared and still dared to keep loving anyway. I tend to write off my tears or anxieties as silly nuisances instead of the makings of character that runs deep and wide. I remember when we flew back from Jacksonville with our two-week-old, and we came into the Redmond airport at midnight after a 17-hour day of travel, and we were stopped by an older couple at the baggage claim. I don’t know what prompted it, but the man said to me, “When you walked through that door, I could tell you were an adoptive mom. Nobody and nothing is going to hurt that baby while you’re here – I can see it.” In the moment I thought it was a sweet thing to say to an obviously exhausted and fragile new mom, and that maybe my neuroses was showing and I needed to loosen my grip and smile a tad more. But now I realize that I was being shaped by this wild ride, and I still am. Because every challenge opens my heart wider and makes my back stronger.

Today, I am grateful for the chance to share our story with the sweet notary at AAA. I’m grateful for the kindness of a judge across the country, for the strength of my husband, for the smile of my daughter. I’m grateful for the chance to love through fear, and for the happy beginning to another incredible chapter.

September 28th, 2015 by Dani

Adoptive community, you’re on notice.

I’ve gotta be honest, this is a sad post to write, but it has to be said.

The least supportive people in our lives are those in the adoptive community. While strangers in restaurants and checkers at the grocery store tell us how beautiful our daughter is, the adoptive community warns us that she will struggle as a black child in a white family, that we’re already making mistakes and injuring her self-worth as a person of color. As friends and family ooh and ahh over her, amazed at how she’s growing, how she smiles, how she learns and changes, the adoptive community scolds us about attachment disorders, asserts that she is sure to question whether she is truly loved by us. While our church family gushes over her unique and unbelievable beauty, other adoptive families ask whether or not we know how to do her hair, if we’ve considered moving to a more diverse neighborhood, have we considered that our culture will be ostracizing and cruel to her, have we come to grips with the fact that we will never do the right thing for her because we are the wrong skin color.

This will probably read more like a rant than my usually measured and edited pieces, but I don’t care. I am so tired of the shame in the adoptive community. If you don’t buy enough toys of the right skin tone, if you don’t read enough books, if you haven’t catalogued a long list of diverse acquaintances – you’ve failed as a adoptive parent, before your child ever speaks her first word or gets her first tooth. You have to be a cultural phenomenon, somehow able to see people only as the sum total of their melanin count and yet also celebrate their culture in a completely humble and open way. You have to constantly degrade your own life experience and elevate that of others, subconsciously telling your children to ignore all the wisdom or hope you may offer because it was not born into a person of color’s body. You have to acknowledge that the love and sacrifice you offer will never be enough, because you aren’t the right color to offer it the right way, while still remaining calm, loving and kind to everyone. History, culture, music, art, story-telling – none of this matters because you can never, ever do enough, because you are not enough. It’s not just that parents make mistakes (we all know that) it’s that white parents of non-white children make mistakes simply by existing, that we don’t even get a chance to learn and grow and apologize and try again – that our fate is already sealed in the Big Book of Parenting Failures.

I am a new mom. I am juggling work and family and my daughter’s needs and my own inexperience and then I am told that I can never love her the right way, that I will never know enough, do enough, be enough, because of something I can’t control, the skin color I was born with and the genetic make-up of my ancestors.

So, I’m calling a time-out on adoptive communities. If you can’t love the families in your midst enough to support them as they navigate hard things, get out. If the only way you can give advice about racial issues is to shame and lecture, I’m done. If you see people as tools in your arsenal (I have a black friend! My mom is Japanese! I went to school with Latinos! I love Chinese people!) and not individuals to be loved, you don’t need to be in my life or in my family’s life. Because my daughter is the most joyful thing I’ve ever experienced I will not let you steal that from me. I will not let you shame us because we dared to love this child. Mama Grizzly is coming out, and I will protect my family with everything I have. Adoptive community, you’re on notice – I have barred the door against your assumptions, your fear-mongering and your shame.

March 25th, 2015 by Dani

“Just” a mom, wife, friend…

Yesterday I got to spend three hours at my new therapeutic riding barn with a big black Percheron mare. Apparently I was given her as a bit of a “test” from my fellow instructors, just to see how I’d handle her quirks (when a 6-foot tall, 3,000 lb critter has a quirk – well, let’s just say it can be a little exciting). After a few minutes it was clear we would get along fine, however, as she happily responded to my cues and blinked her big brown eyes at me when we stopped.

During the class, my phone buzzed. It was the latest adoptive parent social worker, telling us (again) that we hadn’t been matched with an expectant mom. I got a little teary and was grateful that I had a big black mane to hide behind and the kindly presence of a horse to distract me. The next thought I had was, “well, good thing I’m working on other hobbies, since I won’t be a mom anytime soon.”

As soon as I thought that, I realized that’s exactly what I’ve been missing in all of this. I’ve been so focused on the big stuff of adoption, and becoming a mom, that I’ve missed the essential fact that my kids will not want just a mom. They’ll want to know that I was a swimmer, wrangler, writer, small-business owner and therapeutic horseback-riding instructor. They’ll want to see me try new things and take care of myself and dream big dreams, because that’s how they’ll learn to do so.

I think it’s common for women to see ourselves as the sum total of our relationships – wife, mother, daughter, friend, sister – and when one of those is out of balance we tend to feel either recklessly free or fearfully unmoored. We are relational beings, and this is good – this is what makes us fearless protectors, courageous lovers and passionate caretakers of our families and friends. But when we are completely defined by these relationships, we can start to feel a little stir-crazy. When a husband or friend or relative questions us or doesn’t see us as we want to be seen, or when we want a relationship we can’t have – we lurch into a desperate search for meaning and definition, one that leaves us feeling questioned, vulnerable and, at the same time, completely invisible.

I was created to be much more than I believe, sometimes. I am not defined by the friends I have or their opinion of me, the professional relationships I create or even the level of intimacy I have with my husband. Those are all important things, but they do not make me worthy or valued. I will not become a more valuable person once another little person calls me “mom”. I am not more valuable when other people say kind things about me or respect my views. I am only valuable because I am a child of God, a dearly-loved piece of Creation. As such, I am supposed to live into the fullness of who God has made me to be and the season he has me living in – as a wife, friend, sister, daughter, writer, business-owner, therapeutic horse-back riding instructor, daydreamer, cook, introvert, home-owner, communicator, hostess, long-walk-taker, story-teller, Adam-kisser and puppy-snuggler. This is a beautiful season, one of many beautiful seasons of a beautiful life. I don’t want to miss my life because I was constantly looking over my shoulder or straining to see around the bend. This life is uniquely mine, with gifts and relationships God has given me – not to define me, but to make me whole.

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-meaningĀ 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 18th, 2015 by Dani

The Needy Friend

I’m the girl who cries at Bible Study, who sends super-depressing texts in response to thoughtful “how are yous”. I hear a critical observation about adoption or foster care and I obsess over it for 24 hours, unable to clear my head of that doubt or criticism until I’ve worked out all my own answers to those tough questions.

This is embarrassing to admit, and it makes me really fun to live with, as you can imagine. I’m officially the Needy Friend, and I hate it. I want to have something to offer, to be the laugher and the truth-teller that I usually am. But this is my tough season, and I realize that real relationship and community means I have to be OK with my own neediness.

The bane of human relationship is that we are not filled by ourselves. Even the most introverted among us needs a friend or companion, someone to tell us we aren’t crazy or maybe help us realize that we are, but it will be OK. We all want to be the helper and not just an insatiable well of need, to be the hero and not the guy getting dragged out of a warzone by the back of his shirt.

But I’m realizing that sometimes I just have to sit in this vulnerability, to admit my own need and swallow my pride. I have to be OK with admitting that I am a sap and that I’m tired of feeling this way. When the Ugly Cry comes my way, what do I do with it? Do I let people in or do I turn away and hide? If I let others in, I find that I can dry my eyes and chuckle about it much sooner – it’s a tough season, yes, but not tough in a soul-crushing, heart-eating way. I am still choosing joy, even as I recognize my humbling position as needy friend and frequent crier. (Like frequent flier, but with less perks. Actually, no perks except for very clear sinuses – which I suppose is indeed a good thing.)

I may be the needy friend, but I know this won’t last forever. I know that someday these loving friends who step into my mess will need me too, and maybe God will have even taught me something in this season that will offer hope or comfort. Even though I feel needy and overwhelmed, it’s still a beautiful season. I’m decorating my office, hanging up pictures of Adam and I on our wedding day and the countless adventures we’ve had since. I’m unpacking books and putting them on the new shelf Adam made me, an endless inspiration for my own creative endeavors. We go on walks with our dog and snuggle on the couch after long days.

Adoption inherently opens us up to a lot of brokenness, but the broken doesn’t scare me anymore. I can see all around me and in my life, how God turns broken things into beautiful things. He uses our needy brokenness to make us whole, and so I am humbled and maybe even thankful to be the Needy Friend.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

January 6th, 2015 by Dani

You don’t have to “get it”

I often hear from other adoptive families that the people in their life don’t “get it” – “it” being the unique struggles and emotions of adoption. I know how it feels to be misunderstood or unsupported, but I wonder if our language is what’s keeping some people in our lives from being as supportive as we wish.

A dear friend of mine lost her mom recently after several years of battling breast cancer. Her life right now holds a pain that I do not “get”. My mom and mother(s)-in-law are happy and healthy, I have never experienced anyone close to me dying of cancer, I have not been in the endless doctor’s appointments, treatments and somber meetings in hospitals that Donna has endured. Does this stop me from supporting her, loving her, crying with her?

No, Adam can tell you that more than once I have been found crying in the kitchen, aching for my friend and her family, wishing I could do something more than just get teary or send flowers. I do not “get” her precise situation, but I love her dearly and so I call, I write, I text. I reach out because it’s all I can do. I know that one of these days we’ll go to a chick flick together and laugh until our sides ache, lay out by a pool somewhere or buy each other glasses of wine in a cozy restaurant booth, because that’s what girlfriends do. Someday, the intense pain of this season will pass and we’ll go back to talking about shoes and jobs and hobbies. This is a gnarly time in her life that I do not “get”, but I know how to be a friend. I know how to send flowers and cards, I know how to pick up the phone, I know how to invite out to a movie, buy a latte or crack a joke when we’ve run out of tears and we need to lighten up already.

You know how to do these things too. You know how to support your friend who’s miscarried, your friend who lost someone, your friend whose heart breaks because their adoption process is slow, tedious and painful. The hard stuff is intimidating for everybody, including your friend who’s in the middle of it, so don’t let that stop you.

I guess this is what I’m trying to say: you don’t have to “get it”. You can’t possibly “get it”, and we shouldn’t expect that of each other. Friends who are in difficult seasons – no matter what it is – let’s stop demanding that the people in our lives “get it” and let’s be grateful for the care they send our way, even if it’s imperfect.

One of my favorite lines from A Christmas Carol says: “I have always thought of Christmas time, when it comes round, as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

Even though Christmas is over and we are racing headlong into 2015, we are still fellow passengers. We can sit silently by our dingy window on the overcrowded train of life, moping about how no one “gets it”, or we can begin a chat with our seat-mate, share our iPod with the guy behind us, clap along when someone bursts into song or cry along when someone gets off the train too soon.

You don’t have to “get it”. All I ask is that you hold my hand when the road gets rocky, and I promise to hold yours too, whether I “get it” or not.