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 ‘choices’ Category

September 20th, 2017 by Dani


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.

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.

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.

September 21st, 2016 by Dani

I want my daughter to know….

When Addy was just a tiny baby, I got in an unintentional fight with some adoptive parents of non-white kids. (You can read my thoughts about that incident here.) I was a new mom and I didn’t want to be painted as a poor soul who had already failed because of my ethnic heritage, and my supposed innate, unchangeable out-of-touch-ness.

I am still wary of any racial conversation in a public space because of that incident, so what I am about to write has been written and deleted many times, thought over, considered, and rewritten.

But I want my daughter to know that I, a deeply patriotic white woman from the boonies of the Northwest, grieve the loss of dark-skinned lives and therefore I cannot be silent about them. I am not here to debate the nuances of police brutality vs. appropriate force vs. outright racism. But I am here to say that I’ve gotten the “look” from white people in public places (rare, but true) when I’m with my daughter and it makes me want to punch them in the face. I am here to say that it takes a lot of denial to assert that nothing is wrong here, that there isn’t something deeply broken in our culture.

I am sad today. I’m sad that we should be gasping with hands over our mouths, crying and praying, and instead we are posturing and debating. Life should matter, but instead we elevate talking points.

I recently read Ann Patchett’s lovely essay “The Wall”, in which she talks about her dad, a 30-year veteran of the LAPD. She sadly notes that he will be remembered for the Rodney King incident, which happened after he retired, and not for decades of service and sacrifice. A couple of months ago, Addy and I went to the public library for storytime, and as we walked in the door a white police officer was standing there. He had been silently nodding to the other moms and kids, but he walked up to us and reached out for Addy’s hand. He tried to get her to smile and he asked good questions. I didn’t know what to do with it at the time, but today I am moved by the memory. I hope he doesn’t get jaded and stop trying. I hope he knows that the memory of his simple kindness makes me teary-eyed and very grateful.

We don’t need to accept death or hatred. We don’t need to lock our doors and stay silent because we’re afraid of being berated for saying the wrong thing. It sounds trite to say that love is the answer, and so it is –  if that love is the kind of unfounded, wimpy, however-you-feel-today love that is so often peddled. No, the love that is the answer is the love that is willing to be wrong, willing to look foolish, willing to stand down, willing to go to war. Love that always hopes, trusts, perseveres and never fails.

Today I’m praying for that kind of love. The kind of love that inspired a police officer in Oregon to make friends with my 10-month-old, the kind of love that makes eternal promises, the kind of love that gives courage, the kind of love that makes hate gasp for breath.

May 13th, 2016 by Dani

Learning Joy

It seems to me that we are very bad at both grief and joy. I don’t know if this is an American thing, or a Christian culture thing, or a modern too-cool-to-care thing, but I feel it in my life. When we moved to Oregon and I started to realize that adopting a child was not just a vague longing but a desperate, quaking fire within me, I got good at grief. I’d been longing for motherhood for a while, but suddenly I had to grieve the process in a new way, admit the discomfort and pain I felt and even let it out into the world sometimes. Grieving should be public, in the way that mourners of old used to dress in black for months, showing their community an outward view of inward pain. But nowadays we mask it, pretending it’s gone after the funeral is over or morning comes. We grieve quietly, privately; we “put on a brave face”.

I couldn’t do that, when I realized that our adoption expedition was really happening. I grieved every child who we didn’t get to parent. I grieved every birth mom and dad in pain and uncertainty. I grieved for my own longings. Often this came out in public displays of embarrassing emotion, but as much as I hated my weepiness then, now I’m glad for it. The careful recording of my emotion on this blog and elsewhere helps me to remember that God indeed did answer a quite desperate prayer, and that grief – strong and powerful though it was – was not bigger than the goodness of God.

Now, we’re in a season of joy – and I admit that I am very bad at this, too. I cried during the Mother’s Day service at church because I felt empathy for all the women there feeling as I used to feel. I felt for the birth moms and foster moms who know the pain of loss; women longing to be moms and moms who’ve lost a child.

I’ve been looking forward to Mother’s Day since long before Addy was born. Longing to feel like a mom has taken up much of my thoughts for years, and I dreamed of the satisfaction of that first Mother’s Day. So why did I cry? Why did I find myself chasing joy instead of letting it float over me – why was joy hard to accept and hold on to, on a day that should have been filled with it?

I think that as bad as we are at grief, we can learn to be good at it. We all know someone who’s a little TOO good at grief – life becomes a minefield of woe for such a person and a simple cup of coffee is a tumbler of bitter tears. Even though Jesus is described as a “man of sorrows; acquainted with grief” I don’t think he melted into his friends like a needy child over every slight or difficulty. I think he probably laughed a lot. He was probably much more joyful than we give him credit for, with our long-faced medieval paintings and sobbing crucifixes. After all, he was a boy once, and boys are impish and fun and infinitely joyful!

So, once we’re good at grief, we have to re-learn how to be good at joy. Honestly, I think joy is harder. It can be seen as flighty or foolish, when it’s really the deepest faith of all. Joy is humor, life, fun, sunshine. Joy makes waiting rooms bearable and long nights pleasant. Joy and celebration make us grateful, hopeful, happy people.

It’s essential to have joy and embrace celebration, especially when we’ve experienced grief, and maybe even gotten a little too good at it. Because joy reminds us that life is for the living, that prayers get answered, that the sun always rises. Think about it – God made taste buds and chunky baby thighs and laughter and the smell of summer rain and the feeling of holding hands. He made sunsets and lavender and horses and puppies. These things are all joyful gifts, worthy to be celebrated with a bubbly drink and a boisterous toast. I want to get better at joy, starting today. I’m going to chuckle with my daughter and play fetch with my dog and plant my garden. Today is a day for joy.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

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)

March 21st, 2016 by Dani

Hold Whatcha Got

When I help Adam with house projects, usually my role is of a glorified clamp or shelf – I hold something in place while he measures, caulks, nails or whatever else needs to happen. He says to me, “hold whatcha got” as I press my hands into whatever I’m holding up. It’s equal parts encouragement and reminder – I’m doing fine, what I’m doing is working, but things will change. I will need to hold something else in a minute, or even leave my post to get a tool, but for now, my focus is holding what’s before me.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, mostly because longer days mean new windows and renewed vigor for the endless home remodel; and because I think it’s poetic that in order to make something new and beautiful we have to hold what we’ve got.

We don’t think like that, do we? We ask our single friends if they’re dating anyone and our married friends when they’re having kids. People with one kid get asked if there will be more and people with a steady relationship get asked about the wedding. Older people are asked if they’re ready for retirement, kids are asked if they’re ready for summer vacation, working people are asked if they’re ready for the weekend.

What if we moved toward change by holding what we have, really and truly, with both hands firmly wrapped around the present and muscles engaged? After all, we aren’t just living with the old aluminum windows and 1970’s decor of our old farmhouse – we’re fixing it up, little by little. We’re adding new double-paned windows and beautiful trim that Adam is staining, designing and installing himself. But, throughout each change, the most essential piece of the process is usually the patient part; the “hold whatcha got” part. We have to hold the trim in place so it will be straight and level for years to come, we have to stop staining and let the wood dry, we have to sit back and make sure we like the design of the fireplace before we spend money and time on something we don’t like after all.

Speaking of things I don’t like, I’m not too fond of the patient parts. I don’t like holding what I’ve got. I like movement, action, decision. I want to know what’s happening next and how to prepare for it, despite the pesky fact that the best way to prepare for the next project is to finish doing this one well.

So today, I’m holding what I’ve got, and cheering for those who are also holding something well, with steadiness and firmness and faith. Beauty is coming, in slow waves, as straight pieces of trim frame new windows and bulbs rise from dark earth, as quiet confidence and slow growth give grace and peace for the changes ahead. Hold whatcha got, friends. Change is coming, and the new thing will be even more lovely because you had patience to hold the process well.

November 12th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Promises Kept

We met Adelay at 24 hours old. We didn’t get custody until 48 hours, and during that exhausting 24-hour period we were strong for each other and for her. The NICU nurses referred to us as “mom” and “dad” but we knew it could always be different, that maybe this little perfect person wouldn’t actually be ours, even though she’d captured our hearts.

When we checked out of the hospital and had official custody, we relaxed a little. We started making promises to her – in the wee hours of the morning when she was lonely or hungry or scared – we would sit in the dark and rock her back to sleep, whispering, “I’m here, baby girl. I’ve got you, you’re OK.”

We’ve continued to promise our love and protection and hope to her over the last few months. We’ve told her how beautiful she is, how loved she is, how we aren’t going anywhere.

We finalized the adoption two days ago, and suddenly those promises feel different – everything feels different. Because now we can make promises that are within our power to keep – no judge or lawyer or social worker can alter our relationship to her. Now, when we whisper, “I’m here, baby girl,” we know that we are here, and so is she, for the rest of our lives, that we get to be a family with no lingering worries and no qualifiers.

Because that’s what family is – isn’t it? We all have friends that we say we “love like family”, and all we mean by that is that we won’t give up on them. We can’t be hurt enough to make us turn our backs, we can’t be annoyed enough to not call, we can’t be repulsed enough to ever stop praying for them. Family is love, no matter what. Through any circumstance or difficulty, through any discomfort or disagreement or hurt feelings, we still love them, because they’re family. This why God uses the illustration of adoption and family (children of God) to describe us – he loves us even when we are huge disappointments, when we make epic mistakes, when we have tantrums in the middle of Target or run continuously late or forget to wipe our feet at the door. This is the promise we made to Addy – to be here, to be family, to love no matter what life does next. Now we get to keep that promise and it is such an honor.

Today I’m grateful for promises kept – for how God loves us and how we get to love each other. I’m grateful that we get to make these promises to our baby girl; what a privilege it is to promise our love, to whisper her name and sooth her cries as only mommy and daddy can.

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 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.