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 ‘Ruminations’ Category

September 20th, 2017 by Dani

Grace

October is practically here, which means my baby boy is almost here, too. I know he’s not mine yet and it is so hard to not feel overwhelmingly attached, especially as we make plans and rent houses and cars and wash onesies. But he still is someone else’s baby boy, at least for now.

Adoption is beautiful

Addy with her “baby brother” doll, an incredibly realistic baby doll gifted to her by my dear friend Claire. She can’t wait to be a big sister.

Speaking of, I have about 20 newborn onesies (all given to us, what grace) and I regularly look at them and wonder if I should get more or pack more or prepare better. The last time we did this we didn’t have time for something like counting onesies, we were lucky we thought to buy any before we boarded a midnight flight.

This time we are packing bottles and blankets, onesies and toddler toys. I have a well-loved diaper bag that I pulled out of the closet and got very teary-eyed about the other day. Sometimes this upcoming month-long adventure to Florida feels like a grand holiday, an exciting vacation that we would never take otherwise, a chance to show love in a tangible way. Sometimes it feels like a foolish gamble, an expensive, time-consuming exercise in unwarranted hope.

Grace lives in the middle, doesn’t it? Grace knows I’m nervous and scared. Grace gives me precious (perfectly unstained, how is this possible?) hand-me-down newborn clothes anyway, folded neatly in brown bags and ready to be packed in suitcases with longing hopefulness. Grace lets me believe that it’s OK to be excited, to think about kissing tiny baby cheeks in a few weeks and get all fluttery inside about it. Grace believes the best, sets worry aside, gives wisdom for when hard times inevitably come.

We are saying yes to grace and goodness, knowing that just because something is scary doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful or worth doing. Baby boy is already ever so loved and cherished, infinitely valuable in the eyes of the God who made him and the family who loves him, both birth and adoptive. This is a good thing. This is grace.

August 29th, 2017 by Dani

Stammering toward Gratitude

Yesterday, as I was making plans with someone for the fall, she said to me, “You must be over the moon about your baby boy.”

I stammered a lame response. I am! Of course I am. I’m thrilled and honored and excited and full of love for this tiny person.

But lately my dominant emotion has been discouragement, not gratitude or excitement. I’ve bitten my nails about looming expenses and what-ifs. I’ve wondered if I’m tough enough for the process, if I can push through the uncertainty long enough to keep loving when I want to scream.

Adam and II was still thinking about my stuttering response to my friend when last night, about midnight, we discovered that a pack rat had eaten one of my saddles. Not just any saddle, one I was planning to sell to raise money for our adoption. I cried, shoulder-shaking, throat-opening, guttural tears. Adam wanted to comfort me, and I wanted to punch something. I wanted to scream that I’m doing my best here, give me a break! I can’t be loving and hopeful and peppy anymore, I just can’t!

I know. It’s embarrassing.

Do you know what I did next? If you think I realized I was being immature and dramatic and came to my senses, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Instead, I made a list of discouragements, all the ways I am failing. I looked at it with anger and fear and tear-filled eyes. It was helpful. Do you know what Adam did? He started listing all the ways that God has been faithful to us. The miracles we’ve seen unfold before our eyes, the gifts we’ve been given, the things we didn’t even know to ask for that dropped in our laps like so many golden eggs. Guess who’s list was longer and more helpful?

Adam helped me see that gratitude has to be worked for. Wallowing is easy and even perversely pleasant, the long woe-be-gone country song. But it’s not true. The truth is that God is ever-so-faithful and we are completely blessed. Every need we have has been met, even though I am not very tough I am married to the toughest of them all, and we have a redeeming God who is even tougher.

So today: gratitude. Disappointments are real, and fear will knock on my door again, probably before today is over. But gratitude is worth working for. It’s worth fighting for. It is the gift of clear eyes and real perspective, the thing that lets me get excited about tiny newborn outfits and new adventures and grace every morning. Without gratitude, I’m just killing time, waiting for the other shoe to drop or mourning the one that already has. I’m locked in a spinning top of frustration and angst, teaching my daughter how to see struggle instead of joy, dead-ends instead of new directions.

Anne Lamott said recently that every day she asks God for forgiveness and help, both because she’s sorry she’s such a big whiny baby and because she doesn’t want to be one any more. Of course I can’t say it any better than that.

This morning, I wipe my eyes and begin again, in gratitude.

August 24th, 2017 by Dani

The Wilderness

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Last week I went to a writer’s conference, the first one I’ve attended in years. Before going, I asked God to show up – years ago I felt silenced by the expectations of others, by my own imperfections and my need to be understood, so I wandered away from the professional communities of writers. For several years, I wrote to myself, to paying clients and to no one in particular. I wandered in a creative wilderness, sometimes even finding myself in silence, with nothing to write at all.

wilderness. But recently I’ve been working hard at this new project, which I submitted to this conference’s contest, and I was a finalist. Just like that, I booked a hotel room and bought a conference ticket, hired the incomparable Mick Silva to help me prepare. Predictably, I dove head-long into this adventure, praying all the while that God would reveal a pillar of cloud or fire to lead me out of my wilderness, or least show me a town in the desert where I could get a decent cup of coffee.

Let me tell you: it turns out the wilderness is called the wilderness for a reason. There are no lattes here, no smiling storekeepers to lighten my load or give me a rest for the night. There is a lot of beauty though – craggy rocks that show God’s handiwork, the bright galaxies taking my breath away each night. I was inspired by the tales of fellow travelers in their own wildernesses, and guides who had finally made it to a homestead somewhere out there. Inspiration was everywhere, taking my breath away. But my larger aspirations were not realized – no agent who wanted to see my book, at least not as written. I did not win the contest. The wilderness stretches on before me and my only choice seems to be to keep writing, keep walking, or quit. No one can tell me how far away my homestead is, or if I’ll ever reach it. The wilderness teaches us only lessons of endurance and persistence, not of safety and home.

I’m disappointed, because I wanted someone to tell me how to do this and where home is, which is of course an impossible expectation. I’m a little tired of walking and I am tempted to feel quite sorry for myself, as if this experience doesn’t make me better at my work, as if all artists don’t struggle with the tensions between honesty and bill-paying and good taste. But here’s what I know about creativity – it blossoms in the wilderness. The most poignant works of art are always made by someone who cares enough about the art itself to weather a little rejection, a little mockery, a little dismissal. I don’t mean to suggest that I am that kind of stalwart, self-propelled artist, but I would sure like to be.

So I’m writing. Today, every day. I am writing. I am writing what I like to read. I am reading the work I aspire to. I am writing what I can be proud of, that feels authentic and unabridged. I am going to remain teachable and humble, but I won’t bow to every suggestion or whim, or be intimidated by every well-intended piece of advice I receive. Yes, I am in the wilderness and home is a long way off, it might be over that ridge or around that bend, or it might be so far I never reach it. But I have sturdy shoes, a God who knows my name and gives me a story of hope and redemption to tell, which is why I’m writing in the first place. I didn’t get a pillar of fire or smoke, but I did get a still, small voice, a quiet encouragement, the hugs and shared experience of new friendship.

Here’s to the wilderness wanderers. May we find beauty as we search for home.

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.

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.

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.

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.

November 9th, 2016 by Dani

What I will tell my children (Election 2016)

We got a new president in 2016, kids, just as we had for 44 election cycles before. It’s a pretty neat thing, actually, and it happens every 4 or 8 years, depending on whether or not We the People think the President deserves another term in office. The United States of America, unlike many other countries in the world, has peaceful, free elections. We transfer power within parties peacefully, without coups, riots or civil wars. We also don’t have a king or queen, which means that this President, like him or loathe him, will be gone soon enough.

When people vote, we often get wrapped up in the candidate we support or don’t. In 2016, Daddy and I voted for neither major candidate – that’s one of the many lovely rights we have as American citizens – to protest the status quo with our vote and our voice. After the election, a lot of people were scared, confused and upset. A lot of people were very happy. Others were sad, because they had voted for what they believed was the lesser of two evils, which isn’t a very good feeling.

But do you know what the truth is, in all of this? America is a great nation because America is us. Not just our family but all of us. We the People get to decide how to move forward, and sometimes, because we’re people, we make mistakes. But we try to believe in our ideals – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the right to speak our minds and vote our conscience and dream big.

Our job is to be kind, when others are upset. When I was a little girl I remember being very nervous about the outcome of elections, but I am not anymore. Because we are more than our leaders, and we are not defined by politics. Out job is to love God and our neighbor, to give generously and act justly, to love mercy and live in hope. In 2016 I knew that God was in control and that America was still my beautiful country, my promised land, full of fascinating, wonderful, hard-working people who I am honored to call my fellow Americans, no matter who they voted for. My dear kids – my beautiful, wonderful, unique and precious children – do not squander the life you’ve been given or the country you’ve inherited. Never forget how to love someone who disagrees with you, how to keep eternal perspective in mind, and that you get to choose – not just a President, because sometimes that doesn’t flop your way – but who you’ll be in every circumstance, how you’ll lead and how you’ll live. I pray for you, that you surprise the world with your love and your God-given gifts, no matter what happens in politics or in the world.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” -Jesus (John 13:34)