Monday, April 29, 2013

How Interruptions Aren't Really Interruptions

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Pile of blankets on the floor next to my son's bed.  Leftover evidence of the nights we've spent sleeping there (me one night, my hubby the next).  Or trying to sleep.  Feverish, croupy, coughing kiddo makes for a looonnnnng night.

Messy house.  Pillows strewn all around.  Toys that've migrated out of the playroom and been abandoned in various and sundry locations.  Blanket here.  Kleenex box there.  Empty apple sauce pouch that didn't make it to the trash.  Dish mountain in the sink, waiting to be tackled.  Extra hours of Curious George on the playroom TV. 

Such is life in the Butler household with a sick lil' guy.

We stayed home from church yesterday morning.  Dearly missed worshiping with our church family.  But honestly, something in me willingly settled down into just laying low with my family.  I enjoyed it.

If I'd Choose to Stop Feeling Interrupted
And then there was this quote that somehow ended up in my inbox yesterday morning (of all mornings), from this post over at The Better Mom.  The timing was hilariously perfect.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.”
~C.S. Lewis
Hello?!  Did someone install spy-cams in my house to observe my life so they'd know EXACTLY what post to send me THIS morning?  I think I laughed out loud at how this post met me precisely in the midst of my exact circumstances.

When sickness invades our home and puts our "normal" lives on pause, it can feel like the greatest of interruptions.

Before that post hit my inbox, sometime in the middle of the night while I was rocking my sicky boy, my heart began to shift.  I went from hating the fact that I was awake and feeling sorry for myself because I'd only slept maybe a 10 minute stretch all night long, to thanking God.

Thanking Him for this opportunity to cuddle with my little guy.  Acknowledging that he won't be little much longer, that before I know it, he'll be too big to sit on my lap and let me rock him.

We hear these things often as moms of littles - from ladies in the grocery store, from our friends whose kids are older.  "Cherish every moment.  They grow up so fast."

Maybe we roll our eyes.  If not our physical eyes, then maybe we roll the eyes of our heart?  Is such a thing possible?

But it really is true.  They DO grow up quickly.  And God offers us grace to cherish these moments, the here and now, when we turn our hearts toward Him in the midst of them.  These "interruptions" of our "real" life that are REALLY our LIFE. 

And there's LIFE to be found in them.

There's LIFE in the extra cuddles and kisses that come with a sick little one.  There's LIFE in the laying down of my own life to serve my family.  There's LIFE in the sleepless nights when I turn my heart toward the Father, acknowledging that He sees my giving tylenol and stroking hair and propping up and adjusting covers for the 12th time, and all my rocking, rocking, rocking.

He sees all this laying down of my life, and receives it all as worship.  A pleasing fragrance to His heart.

There's LIFE to be found when I choose to stop feeling interrupted and wholeheartedly embrace this moment, the one I've been given.  

When I jump into RIGHT NOW with both feet, my heart anticipating divine encounter.

God's waiting in the right now, wanting to reveal Himself, to offer grace for the "interruptions" that make up our real life.  

Grace to stop feeling interrupted and be fully present - to God, and to our lives.

Jump in with me today?
P.S. - My first monthly e-newsletter will come out later this week, straight to your inbox if you're subscribed.  I'm so excited to share this with you!   In the newsletter I'll be able to share a little more intimately than I can on a public blog.  If you're not subscribed to receive it and you'd like to, you can go here to subscribe. (Only takes a few seconds.)

***When you subscribe to the newsletter, you'll also have the option to download my FREE e-book, Stillness Manifesto: A Call to NON-Action (Complete with NON-Instructions).  I just launched this book a week ago and it's getting some fun feedback.  Interested?  Click here to see what others are saying about Stillness Manifesto.***

PPS.  Want to click over to the blog?  It's right here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

8 Creative Ways To Increase Your Awareness of God's Nearness in the Day-to-Day

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Hi friends!

The turning of your heart toward the Father in the midst of your day-in, day-out routines and circumstances absolutely delights His heart.  Focusing on His nearness can also dramatically alter our days: they are transformed from feeling mundane, to being filled with anticipation of divine encounter.  

God is always pursuing our hearts. In every single moment and every single circumstance of our lives.

Here are some creative, practical suggestions of how to increase your awareness of God's nearness and His pursuit of your heart in the midst of the plain ol' NORMALness of life.

1. Start out by leaning in.  Before your feet hit the floor every morning, pull your heart-priorities into order.  Confess your dependence on Him for every breath and every moment.  Trust Him to strengthen you and encounter you throughout your day.  Choose, in those first few moments of your day, to tune your heart in to His nearness and His tender pursuit of your heart.

2. Worship, worship, worship.  Playing worship music (hello,!) and singing from my heart to the Lord helps cut through a cranky atmosphere in our home, especially in the mornings when my son and his... ahem... mommy are often whiny and out of sorts.  Worship really does - it helps change the atmosphere.  The atmosphere of our homes, and the atmosphere of our hearts.  Declaring and agreeing with the truth of who God is aligns our hearts underneath that truth.  It changes our perspective and the way we experience the events of our day. (Important thought: If worship music is becoming just background noise, it often helps if I turn it off for a while and use other methods to stay aware of God's presence and voice.)

3. Meditate on Scripture.  Write it on sticky notes, note cards, etc.  Play recordings of it.  Choose verses in which the Lord highlights aspects of His heart toward you or His presence with you, and post them around your house.  Memorize and meditate on them.  Contemplate His heart as He reveals it to you through His Word.  (Verses I love:  Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 42:8, Psalm 40:1, Deut. 31:6, Phil. 4:13, Matt. 11:28-30, Psalm 18, Psalm 139.)  I'd love to hear your suggestions of other verses in which you've encountered God's heart toward you in the comments.

4. Pray quick prayers to refocus your heart on His nearness.  Again, post sticky notes around your kitchen or office or wherever you spend the most time.  Write quick, one-sentence prayers on them that you can pray in 10 seconds or less, in the midst of whatever else you have going on, that will help reorient you to God's nearness and His pursuit of your heart.  Example: "Father, thank You that whether I'm aware of You or not, You are lovingly attentive to my heart and every detail of my life."  (Examples of more quick prayers to refocus your heart on His nearness can be found in my new (FREE!) e-book, Stillness Manifesto: A Call to NON-Action  (Complete with NON-Instructions).

5. Take note of His tangible nearness, and thank Him.  Pause periodically throughout your day.  30 seconds here, 2 minutes there.  In that brief window of time, ask the Lord to remind you of a moment or two thus far in your day during which His presence and/or voice was real and tangible to you.  Thank Him for making you aware of Him in those moments.  Repent for the moments in which you weren't tuned in to His nearness and ask Him to increase your awareness of Him.  We have not because we ask not, right? (James 4:2)

6. Your work can be worship.  Consider your daily tasks, whether you're parenting, cleaning, cooking, working a job, caring for an ill parent.  Whatever your season, whatever the Lord has put before you to do, turn your heart toward Him frequently in the midst of it.  Ask Him to remind you that He's there, to grab your attention periodically.  Remind yourself that when you do your work with excellence, as unto the Lord, He receives it as worship.  And He is right there, closer than your next breath, empowering you and offering grace for every. single. thing. He asks of you.  He invites you to step by faith into doing all of it in His strength and not your own.  And then, by faith, hear His "WELL DONE" as He whispers it to your heart in those moments.  Your lifestyle of worship delights His heart SO. MUCH.

7. Respond to Him in the hard stuff.  During your day, when a particular moment or circumstance is stressful or frustrating or makes you downright mad, pause.  As difficult as it may be to wrangle your emotions in that moment, turn your heart toward the Lord and briefly ask Him to show you how you can respond to Him in the midst of THIS moment, of THIS circumstance.  "God, what is your invitation to me right now?  How can I respond to you in this?"  He will be faithful to show you.  Responding well to His invitations in the midst of the difficult moments will dramatically change the way you experience those moments.  Situations that would otherwise have made you want to pull your hair out will become opportunities to experience His grace and peace and empowerment in a new way.

8. Practice stillness before the Lord regularly, as a spiritual discipline.  Make this a regular piece of your time with the Lord, in addition to prayer, worship, scripture, etc.  It will probably start out feeling like just that - a discipline.  But as you cultivate stillness as a regular piece of your life in God, resting with Him in this way will begin to be something that you look forward to.  God will use these times with Him to bring so, so much LIFE to your heart.  Experiencing God in times of stillness has revolutionized my walk with Him.  I've learned to focus on and know, in my gut, His nearness to me in those moments of stillness.  As I've learned to be aware of Him in those moments, that awareness has begun to carry over into the rest of my days.  I'm learning to be still and in tune with His whispers on the inside when I must be busy on the outside.  Stillness before Him becomes a heart atmosphere that, the more we practice it externally, the more we can carry it with us inside.  And stillness can be practiced in as few as 5-10 minutes a day.  

For 30 pages of info on learning to cultivate stillness as a piece of your life in God, I invite you to download my free e-book, Stillness Manifesto: A Call to NON-Action (Complete with Step-by-Step NON-Instructions). Just click the link and enter your email address to subscribe to receive my monthly e-newsletter.  When you confirm your subscription, you'll receive the private link to download the e-book.  

You can, of course, unsubscribe from my list at any time (though I do hope you'll stick around!), but the e-book will be yours forever and ever. :)

Blessings to you all, friends!  To those of you who are new subscribers in the last few days, WELCOME!!  I am so genuinely happy to have you all here.  May you continue to find blessing and encouragement for your heart here.  

And may you experience God's clear, tender leadership of your heart as you learn to tune in to His nearness more and more, day by day.

You are so loved by your Father.  So, SO dearly loved.

***Are there other ways you've discovered that help you to stay aware of God's nearness to you in the midst of your day-to-day life?  Please comment and share with us!***

If this post was helpful to you, would you consider sharing it with others?  Here's a quick link to share via Facebook.

(Want to click over to the blog?  Here ya go!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

3 Invitations From God on the Road to Forgiving Community Wounds

Sweet community in my living room.  Fresh air to my heart.
True Body-of-Christ community is wonderful and life-giving.

But if you've done this whole "life together" thing for very long, you know that it can also be one of our greatest sources of pain, because every community is made up of broken, messy, imperfect humans.  

And I don't think we'll ever do it exactly right or be free from all of the messiness.

In community, opportunities to forgive and extend grace to our fellow humans are numerous.  I've personally had more than a couple of devastating experiences within the context of church community.  

I know stories like mine are common.

Past wounds from community that go unhealed or unforgiven create a filter in our hearts that skews the way we experience our current community situations.  
But God has some of His sweetest invitations for us hidden within these painful places, and within His subsequent challenge to us to forgive.

As we intimately encounter our Father's heart in the places of pain in our own heart, whether from the past or the present, we can begin to see situations, and every heart involved, from His perspective.  

It's from that place of intimacy with Him that we can walk forward into true forgiveness.  And simultaneously, into freedom and healing.

Here are the 3 step-by-step invitations that I believe God lovingly extends to us as we walk through pain in the midst of doing life together with other believers:

1. He asks us to look away from our hurt and the ones who've done the hurting, and fix our eyes on Him.

He is the One who is unchanging, even when our dearest relationships are shaken.  He whispers to our hearts: Look to me. Take your eyes off of your circumstances, and let Me bring peace and stillness to your scarred heart.  Trust Me.  Meditate on My character, My faithfulness to your heart, My unconditional love for you.  Find your identity in My heart toward you, and not in the words of those who've hurt your heart.  My voice over you is the one that matters right now.  

2. He calls to us to hold our hearts open before Him.  To choose not to numb the pain by shutting our hearts down.  To trust Him to be the healing balm that tenderly covers our hurting places.

We have a Father who deeply loves us and is passionately committed to our wholeness.  We can rest in this truth.  After community has hurt our heart, we may need to spend lots of time alone with Him for a season, pouring out our heart and our pain and our tears before Him.

Raw, openhearted, honesty with God that flows out of a place of trust even in the face of great pain is one of the sweetest forms of worship to His heart.  

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  -Matthew 5:4 
"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." -Psalm 34:18

I believe there is a unique intimacy with God that comes in seasons like these when we allow ourselves simply to mourn before Him for a time.  When we choose not to "shove" our raw emotions, but instead, to pour out our heart to a Father who is tenderly attentive to our every cry.   

These moments in my personal history have forever changed and deepened my walk with Jesus.

After a time, He takes our hand and leads us out of that season of acute pain and we begin to move forward with Him.  

Healing comes in stages.

3. He invites us to share in His heart, see with His perspective, and experience His compassion for those who've wounded our hearts.

This can be the toughest part: remembering that our battle isn't against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), that it's not ultimately people who are out to destroy our hearts - it's the enemy.  People are broken, hurting, and they hurt others out of the unhealed places in their own hearts.  

As difficult and painful as it may be to ask, seek God for His perspective on those who've hurt you.  Ask Him for His heart of compassion for them.  Ask Him for wisdom to know how best to love and bless them (Matthew 5:44).  

Knowing and experiencing His heart toward those who've sinned against you is another facet of the intimacy with Him into which He invites us as we walk toward healing.

Out of this place of experiencing the heart of God for those who've hurt our hearts, real, genuine, gut-level forgiveness can begin to happen inside of us.  And our hearts can move toward freedom.

When the pain has been deep, forgiveness usually comes gradually, in layers.  It takes time.  

But it does come, as we surrender our hearts to His healing process within us.  As we look at the offenses against us in light of the cross, in light of the scandelous, extravagant goodness of the Gospel.   In light of all that we've been forgiven.

He is so committed to walking this process out with us.  Our hand wrapped in His... our heart wrapped in His.  And the intimacy with Him that comes from sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings brings the deepest comfort, intimacy, and healing.

This is not a "you'd-better-suck-it-up-and-choose-to-forgive" kind of forgiveness (though forgiveness IS a choice).  This is forgiveness that's motivated out of the secret place of intimacy, out of trust in the Father to cover and heal our wounds.  It's forgivness that comes as we move in close to His heart and experience His empowering grace.

Let's trust His committment to heal our hearts, friends, and walk forward into forgiveness together.   This is the path to true freedom.

**Pulled this out of the archives and spruced it up for today. :) Thanks for extending grace!  Busy last week working on my new e-book, which is launched, FREE, and available for download when you subscribe to my monthly-ish newsletter here: 

Stillness Manifesto is a call to rediscover the practice of stillness as a facet of our life in God.  Experiencing Him in this way has radically changed my walk with Him, and I am so excited to share these truths, ideas, and non-instructions with you!


**RELATED: How I Lost My Best Friend [God Crafts Hope in Secret Places]**

Sunday, April 21, 2013

For When Your Dreams Are Dying [And MY FIRST E-BOOK! My GIFT to YOU!]

Wow!  Big day around here!

I'm guest posting at the Better Mom!  So fun!


I'm officially launching my first eBook today, and I'm so excited to share it with you!

Stillness Manifesto:
A Call to NON-Action
(Complete with Step-By-Step NON-Instructions)

And now...

For When Your Dreams Are Dying

Since my husband and I were engaged, we’ve dreamed of having large family.  10-ish kids was our plan.  Some biological, some adopted.  

But our 2 attempts to foster-to-adopt and our 4 total pregnancies have left us with only 1 child.  One on Earth, anyway.  

3 in Heaven.

We also have a domestic adoption in progress.  14 months in, and we’ve not had so much as a nibble yet.  Definitely didn’t expect to be waiting this long.

And at age 32 with a hubby who’ll soon turn 35, and one (albeit amazing) 2-and-a-half-year-old little guy running sprints through our house, the fulfillment of these dreams is looking unlikely. 

In this season, our longings and plans seem to be slipping like sand through our fingers, like seeds that must go into the ground and die in order to bear fruit (John 12:24).
So blessed to have the privilege of guest posting over at The Better Mom.  

(Don't forget to come back and get your copy of Stillness Manifesto!)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Oh Boy. Am I Ever Jumping. [Five Minute Friday]

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This has never happened.  I'm up at midnight and Five Minute Friday over at Lisa Jo's place is up and running.

I was on my way to bed... but... what's 5 less minutes of sleep, right?

Here I go.  

The word?  JUMP.

Oh. boy. 

Am I ever jumping.  How insanely appropriate, this word.

Out of all the false humility and fear of man that have held me back.  Out of the fear... well, just fear in general.  Taking some huge leaps forward these days.

I wrote an eBook.  Never, EVER thought I'd do that.  For some reason, the thought of writing one of those was always even more intimidating than writing a regular ol' read-it-on-paper book.  Guess that would be due mostly to my technologically-challenged-ness.

Anyway.  Said eBook will be releasing THIS Saturday night.  And I've overcome my animosity toward technology in this process enough to say this: I AM SO EXCITED TO SHARE THIS.

The title?  Stillness Manifesto:  A Call to NON-Action (Complete with NON-Instructions.)  

Yup.  Jumping.  Still a little afraid.

But going for it.  Pursuing what I feel is a huge piece of my calling.  Trusting the Lord with the details.

Off a stinkin' cliff.

Thankful He's waiting at the bottom!

STOP. :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Courage of Not Burying Hope in a Dresser Drawer

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**Quick addendum: I seem to be having problems with the comment link today from the "home" page of the blog.  If you click where it says "no comments" above (under the title), you'll see the comments.  :)  (If you got here by way of link directly to this post -as opposed to the home page-  you should see comments at the bottom.)  Working on figuring this out.  Thanks for grace today friends!**

So there's this shirt that lives in the top drawer of my 2-and-a-half-year-old's dresser.

It stayed at the bottom of the drawer for the longest time, buried under 20-or-so others.

Never worn.

Well, never by my son anyway.  It was my nephew's, and my sis-in-law graciously passed it on to us along with a box of other hand-me-downs.  I'm always thrilled to get clothes from them, and this t-shirt was no exception.

"He'll wear it soon," I thought.  I was so excited for when he would.

I stuck it underneath all his other shirts though.  It wasn't time yet.

In March, I found out I was pregnant.  Saw that sign just days before I was scheduled to go visit my parents in North Carolina.

Pulled out that long-awaited t-shirt and stuck it in the suitcase as I packed.

I planned to have Isaac wear it the day after we arrived.  To wait for my parents to notice and react.  I was beside myself with excitement.









I started bleeding the night before we were supposed to leave for NC.

My pregnancy announcement looked very different than I'd planned.  More like, "Mom and Dad, I'm pregnant but I think I'm miscarrying."

Isaac never wore the shirt.

It stayed in our suitcase.

Fast forward a week.  I arrived home from NC.  Unpacked the suitcase.  The shirt went back in Isaac's dresser with all the others.  

And as I unpacked, I sensed this loving challenge from the Father: "Dana, don't bury it.  Don't bury your hope."


I wanted to put it in the bottom of the drawer.  I didn't want to notice it every day when I picked out clothes for my boy.

Didn't want the constant reminder of this massive longing, still unfulfilled.

But I obeyed the nudge.  The shirt stayed near the top of the stacks.

In the last couple of weeks, 2 birth moms have chosen other families.  Our adoption wait continues.  

Again, the desire to bury the shirt underneath all the others.  Out of sight, out of mind.

And again, the choice to keep it near the top.

This Path Is SO Not Safe
Sunday at church, our pastor mentioned Hannah, from the Old Testament.  How she waited and prayed and cried out to God continually for a son.  

For years.

How she so acutely felt the longing for a child, that Eli, the temple priest, thought she was drunk as she poured out her heart to the Lord.

How she chose to hold her desires before God with an open heart.  Chose not to allow bitterness to creep in.

Hannah had some serious courage.

It takes courage to allow an unmet longing to lie open before the Lord (Psalm 38:9).

It takes courage to allow yourself to continue to feel the weight of your desires.  To ache.  To long.  To weep.  To wait.

To hold out hope for what seems like an eternity.

Heart and hands shaking, I walked to the front of our sanctuary Sunday morning and shared what I feel is an invitation from the Lord to us who wait, to us whose God-given dreams have yet to become reality:

There is a unique intimacy with Jesus to be found here.

Allowing the depths of our longings to lie open before Him is a profound expression of trust in our God.  

Trust that He is holding our hearts, collecting our tears, gently sustaining us as we wait.  Trust that He will catch and hold and tenderly mend all our broken pieces.  That He will really, deeply be Enough for our hearts.

Shutting down our longings is much less risky.  Numbness and bitterness can feel like a safe zone.  Feeling our longings is scary.

We're terrified the pain might be more than we can bear up under.

Yet choosing the "safe" path means missing out on deepened trust.  Missing out on knowing Him in the depth of intimate friendship that He so wants to extend to us in the place of our aching.

When we choose the safe path, a piece of our heart dies.  Numbing ourselves to pain means numbing ourselves to joy, to love, to trust.

To Him.

But the pain and risk of allowing our longings to lie open, raw before Him, become the open door that allows His comfort to come in and tenderly embrace our hearts.

The Sweetest Thing in the World
Why does God invite us to hold out hope for dreams that He might never choose to fulfill?

I'd like to believe that when a dream aligns with God's heart, He always promises to bring it to fruition if we wait long enough.

But that's not true.

He doesn't always fulfill our dreams, or meet our expectations.

Yet He asks us to hope.

And He works all things, all things, together for our good (Romans 8:28).

In the waiting, the longing, He is after our good.  In inviting us to hope for dreams that may never come to fruition, He is after our good.

"How can this be? All things for my good?  ALL THINGS?  REALLY Lord!?"

It's the cry of my heart sometimes, in the moments when I wonder if part of me will be crushed by the pain of  unfulfilled hope.  Of continual disappointment. 

But intimately knowing His nearness in our heart's most tender places?  It really IS our ultimate good. 

And not in an "I know this must be what's best for me so I'm just going to suck it up and choose to believe that it's God's will for me somehow" kind of way, either.

Friend, His comfort in the ache of those raw, unmet longings becomes the sweetest thing in the world.  

Literally.  Tangibly.

It really does.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).


Truly.  Sweetly.  Deeper than words.  I am.

So the shirt will stay near the top of my son's dresser drawer.

And hope will stay at the forefront of my heart.

By His sustaining grace, I will refuse to let it be buried.

To quote Brennan Manning in his book Ruthless Trust: "To live without risk is to risk not living."

I want a fully alive heart.  And I want to know the depths of His heart.

So I'll say no to the safe path.

How about you?

If you're finding encouragement here and you don't want to miss out on future posts, could I invite you to hop up to the top of the right sidebar and enter your email address in that box?  Only takes a sec, and you'll be subscribed to receive every post via email.  I usually post 3 times per week.

~~~A Brief Note~~~

One of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) EVER authors passed away last week.  Brennan Manning wrote Abba's Child and Ruthless Trust - 2 books that have wrecked me over the years, in a very good way.  Abba's Child in particular radically changed my life back in 2005.  I've read it multiple times since.

A friend of my husband's and mine wrote a great blog post highlighting and honoring Brennan's life/writings.  Very worth your read.  I'm personally planning to read more of Brennan's writings in the near future.

Anyway, here's that blog post by our friend Josh.  Have a look.

I'll leave you with one more Brennan Manning quote, this one from Abba's Child:

"Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.  This is the true self.  Every other identity is illusion.  God's love for you and His choice of you constitute your worth.  Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life."

This is my blessing for you all today.  May you define yourself radically as one beloved by your Father.

Because oh, how you are.

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Greatest Fear. For Real. [And Why I'm Refusing To Let It Paralyze Me]


Welp, I've decided.

I'm gonna let you in on my greatest fear.


Eesh, this feels a more than a little vulnerable.


<Deep breath>

My biggest fear is my own hidden heart-motives.  


Inhale.  Exhale.

Okay.  Continuing:

When I get quiet, when I still myself before the Lord, and all of the peripheral noise and brain-clutter fade away, this is what rises to the surface, what comes up out of the depths of my heart.

I'm terrified of what's inside of me.  The pride I'm aware of.  The pride I'm NOT aware of.  The need for people's approval.  The fear of people's opinions.

I struggle so much with the fear that the things I do will be motivated by my broken places instead of being motivated out of security in the complete, total acceptance and freedom in Christ that are mine because of the blood of Jesus.  

Greater Than My Heart

Truth is, I vacillate between the two oh, so frequently.  I swing back and forth between fear and faith.  Craving approval, and being settled in knowing His approval.  And I waver between one hundred per cent confidence that I'm moving out of pure motives, and this terror that somewhere deep inside, I'm not.

Actually, let me just put it out there right now:  My motives AREN'T pure.  Not completely.  I am so. incredibly. human.

Prideful.  Fearful.  Frail.  Sinful.

BUT, even though all those things are true about my heart, even deeper and more real is the blood of Jesus, His righteousness purchased for me.  His purity that covers over all of my pride, fear, frailty, and sin.

My confidence must not be established upon my own ability to keep my heart and motives pure.  To try to do so on my own is self-righteousness.

must lean into Jesus as my righteousness. Not on my own heart-purity.  

There is no. way. that I can search out every dark corner, every hidden motive, every broken place in my own heart.  It's not humanly possible.  When I try, I spiral.  

I am capable of cycling in introspection until it utterly poisons my heart, and a heart could die cycling like that.

Can I get an "amen?!"

Introspection without God's perspective is exhausting, draining, and not what we're called to do.

And praise GOD we're not.

This was why the Psalmist prayed "Search me O God, and know my heart."   And this was why John reassured the New Testament church that when our hearts condemn us, "God is greater than our hearts."

We cannot. CANNOT. search and know our own hearts outside of Him.

I sat with the Lord the other day and those same old heart-motive fears?  They started creeping up again.  Seems like no matter how many times I think I have their coffin door nailed shut, they keep mysteriously resurrecting.


The fears want to paralyze me.  To squelch my forward momentum.  To keep me from becoming all I'm called to be.  From doing what I'm called to do.

But thank God, His greater-than-my-heart-ness won out quickly this time.

I found myself wrapped tightly in His knowing of my heart.  Inside and out.  Every room, every part of me.


All my hidden, impure motives?  He sees every one.  Knows them intimately.  

And He's there.  Right. there.  He dwells and works in those deep, hidden places.  Refining, purifying, molding, shaping.  It's tender, gentle.  All of it.  And so. perfectly. trustworthy.

He knows you intimately too, friend.  Every secret intention.  Every hidden corner of your heart.  He sees you through-and-through.

And guess what?  He likes you.  Knows every part of you, and still tenderly pursues you.  Is still committed to His process inside you.  Still desires intimate friendship with you.  Still wants to move through you to reveal His heart to the world around you.

Impure motives and all.  Still-in-process-ness and all.

So who am I, anyway, to say, "God, You can't use me yet. I'm not ready"?  

And who are you?  

We are on a growth journey, each one of us.  And we will continue to be.  He will continue to refine, to correct, to bring to our attention the impure places in our hearts, in His timing.  And if our hearts are after Him, we will be tender and responsive to His precise conviction, to His tender purifying processes.

And the places in our hearts that are yet hidden?  Guess what: It's not our job to worry about them.

I don't know about you, but that knowledge makes me breathe a sigh of relief.  Like, almost daily.

It's HIS job, and He does this whole purifying-revealing-convicting-cleansing-me-on-the-inside thing so much better than I ever could on my own.

So.   I think I'll take some confident steps forward now.  

Steps into letting Him be fully Himself inside of me.  Into letting Him speak and move and extend His heart to others through me, despite whatever is going on in my depths that I'm not fully aware of.  

Because He sees it all.

Because He intimately knows my heart, and He is greater than my heart.  Because He has made me righteous, and I'm His work-in-progress.

He's more than got me covered.

So I can be confident.  Refuse to let fear paralyze me.  And move forward.  Become all I was made to be.

How 'bout you, friend?



Friday, April 12, 2013

For When Your Hope Feels Bent and Bruised

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A bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench.  He will faithfully bring forth justice.
-Isaiah 42:3- 

When the storms have bent and bruised your hope... 
Where your heart has bowed low, given in to the pounding weight of the deluge...

Friend, may you find courage to turn toward Him again as a flower to the sun.

May you know Him intimately as the lifter of your head, your heart, your hope.

May you have grace to trust, to let Him in, as He comes to tenderly straighten out your bent places.

May you experience Him as the faithful Bringer of Justice to your heart.

the Repairer of Hope.

the Rebuilder of Dreams.

the Restorer of Joy.


Asking Jesus to breathe new hope and courage into each of your hearts this weekend.

Be so blessed, friends, and so alive.

PS. Want to receive posts in your inbox?  Scroll to the top of the right side bar and stick your email address in that little box. :)  Free.  Simple.

PPS.  If you'd like to receive e-newsletters from Moments and Invitations on a monthly-ish basis, click here.  In my newsletter, I'll be able to share a little more intimately than I can on the blog.  Info like book process updates, glimpses into my family/church family, and a short devotional based on what the Lord's highlighted to me recently.

Thanks for journeying here a bit today.  You are so very appreciated.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why God Speaks So Quietly

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Isaac ate all his lunch yesterday.

It was a very big deal.

In our household, with our generally-picky eater, this is cause for great celebration.

Indeed, there was much rejoicing.

Isaac: "Isaac ate all his turkey!  All his banana!  All his granola bar!  All his lunch!  Ate dessert!  Isaac ate all his lunch!!!!"  (To be read aloud in slurred two-year-old-still-chewing-last-bite-of-dessert language.)

Mommy: "Good job buddy!!  You ate it all!!!!"

I walked over to him, wiped off his hands and face, congratulating him all the while on his triumph.

And then, as I lifted him out of his high chair, I paused.  Held his face right in front of mine.

"Isaac, buddy, look at Mommy's eyes.  Hey, look at my eyes, bud."

It took him a minute, me holding him still (well, sort of).  Finally calmed down and turned his gaze to meet mine.

Smiling into his big brown eyes, I whispered:  "I am so proud of you.  Good job eating, Isaac."

His eyes lit up and I knew - in the midst of all the noisy, wild rejoicing - what really penetrated, deep into his heart... was my whispered "well done."

Whispers Pierce Deepest

My own heart paused in that moment as the Father caught my attention.  It's His whispered words that penetrate my heart the most deeply, too.  More deeply than loud celebrations or enthusiastic proclamations.  

Whispers pierce our hearts the most deeply.

Why?  God's whispers require me to slow. down.  To wrangle my distracted, busy mind, to choose to still my heart and meet the gaze of my Maker.

It was Isaac's stillness, his eyes slowing down enough to meet my gaze, that allowed the weight of my "well done" to sink deep into his heart and light up his eyes.

And it's when we are still inside that the whispers of our Father have the power to deeply, tenderly take hold of our hearts.  It's the whispers that undo us, that overwhelm our hearts with His delight.

Today friends, may we be still. May we meet His gaze.  May His whispered delight pierce our hearts, deep.

And may we respond.  May we surrender to His love.

~~~A quick note from Dana~~~
Dear Friends,

During our recent giveaway, I asked the question, "What would you like to hear/see more of at Moments and Invitations?  Are there specific topics you'd like me to address?"

Here was a piece of an answer I received from my friend Lisa:

"Would love to see you address some practical ways to seek Him and use the moments well in the middle of crazy days with kids always needing something. Practical ideas on how to stop in the middle of it all and see Him. You've done this some and I suspect there is more coming."

Lisa, thank you so much for responding to my question!!  Today's post is definitely an example of a moment that I found myself pausing to experience the nearness of God, His pursuit of my heart, in the midst of the day-to-day busyness of motherhood.  Though my actual physical stillness in this moment probably amounted to 2.3 seconds, I was pondering and responding internally to His whisper to my heart as I went about my tasks for probably the next 30 minutes or more.

Just thought I'd throw out a practical, "here's what this looked like for me..." or what it looked like on this particular day, anyway.

Blessings to you all, friends.  May His nearness be tangible to you as you go about the tasks to which He's called you today.

As always, your comments are invited and your answers to the question I mentioned above are much appreciated!

If you've found encouragement here, could I invite you to subscribe to receive each post via email (just enter your email address at the top of the right sidebar)?

In addition, I will soon begin sending out, via email only, a monthly(ish) e-newsletter in which I will share a little more intimately than I can on a public blog like this one. This newsletter will go out to a smaller group of readers who've expressed a desire to stay connected at a bit of a deeper level.  It will include book-process updates, along with other glimpses into my life... and I will frequently invite feedback from that smaller group of readers on various topics (though providing said feedback is, of course, optional :) ). If you're interested in being a part of that group, please click here and input your email address.  It only takes a sec!

To those of you who've already done so, thank you!  I'm excited for this journey together.

Monday, April 8, 2013

How I Lost My Best Friend [God Crafts Hope In Secret Places]

Last year, I lost my best friend.

I know that sounds dramatic, but this was no joke.  I really did.  

We had been best friends from age 20, had "grown up" together.  12 years of history:  Laugh-till-you-cry inside jokes, shared pain, mingled blood, sweat, tears.  It seemed like it was all swirling, unpreventably rushing down the drain.  

Becoming nothing but memories that shot my heart through, that made me wince upon every recollection.

Huge issues had arisen - issues that profoundly impacted both her heart and mine.  Problems that were much, much bigger than just she and I.   Many of those dear to us were affected.  Relationships that spanned years and years were strained, pulled apart.

And my friend and I?  We lived in separate states and experienced the situation so very differently.  We simply could not arrive at perspectives that lined up with each other.  

Believe me.  We tried.  Hard.

No headway.  Only damaged trust.

And since our hearts were so deeply invested in our unique perspectives, we found our friendship caving in around us.

I couldn't believe what was happening.  I was losing my best friend.  Neither of us had ever dreamed this was possible. That anything would ever have the power to tear us apart.

I think I was in shock.  In shock, and brokenhearted.

I was convinced: our friendship was over.  Probably for good.  I didn't see, at all, how God could possibly resurrect our relationship, our trust in one another, our "I-can-completely-be-myself-around-you" wide open hearts.

"Maybe we can try to talk again in 5 or 10 years." The thought was my last-ditch effort to hold onto some small degree of hope as our final attempts at open communication failed.

And then, there was nothing but silence between us.  The silence cut deep.

In March, I found out I was pregnant.  Under normal circumstances, she would have been one of my first phone calls.  The heart-agony of not being able to invite my long-time friend to celebrate with me was acute, even in the midst of my joy.  

Then I miscarried.  Again, couldn't call her.  Couldn't process with her.  Couldn't allow her to mourn with me.

Everything reminded me of her.  This song, that picture, this restaurant, that type of car.  Memories were plentiful.  Living in the city where she and I spent so much time together throughout our early and mid 20's, I couldn't escape them.

And I think part of me didn't want to.

It was the memories that made me feel... that let me know my heart was still alive.  Alive in general, and alive toward her.  They were piercingly painful reminders of how much I loved her.  How our hearts were knit.  How she was a part of who I am.  

David and Jonathan.  Our hearts were like that.  And as much as one half of my heart wanted to just "be okay," to move on with my life and ignore the absence of this "sister of my heart,"  the other half couldn't.

Months passed.

Crafting Hope In Secret Places
And then, just last week, a totally unexpected series of events led to a brief discussion via private Facebook message. Her communication with me led me to wonder if her heart might be more open toward me than before.  So I decided to nudge what seemed like, maybe, it was an open door.

Heart trembling, I said "yes" to hope.

I asked if we could talk on the phone.  She said she was nervous.  "But yes, let's do it."

I was nervous too.  No doubt.

And then?  Miracles.  Straight up, blow-your-socks-off miracles.

Our kids' nap time the next day found us talking, crying, laughing, crying some more.  For just under 2 hours.  Hurts explained, apologies offered, forgiveness extended.  We shared many of the "I miss you but can't call you" moments of heartache from the last number of months, ached with each other over them.  

Heart doors were flung wide open, sighs of relief heaved over and over again.

And oh, the God stories.  Stories of hearts supernaturally changed and freed by Him.  Perspectives tweaked.  Sudden, miraculous ability to find common ground that had been buried deep, impossible to dig out only months before.

I have my friend back.  Sister of my heart.  My "Jonathon and David" best bud.

"Shishters."  With Alissa at my wedding in 2007.  She was my matron of honor.
(This post was written and published with her permission.)

These last few mornings, I've almost had to pinch myself upon waking, as the reality of our restored friendship crashes in on my heart all over again.  It's real.  It really happened.  Oh Father, thank You.

Thank You that Your ways are not my own, Your thoughts are higher than mine, Your plans are greater, and Your love is stronger.  

Thank you that You're a God of restoration, that, to You, friendships centered around Jesus, forged by years and tears and deeply invested hearts, are SO not trivial, not flippantly cast aside.

Thank You that You have the power to move mountains - and human hearts - and that You're fiercely committed to doing so.  

Thank you that even when we lose hope, You never do. 

That our hope lost is Your opportunity to break in, surprising us with Your beauty and bringing glory to Yourself.

Surprising us with His beauty.  Isn't that what God does in situations like this?  He makes a way where there seems to be no way.  He crafts hope deep in the hidden, secret places, beneath the surface, His hand invisible to our natural eye.

All the while, we wonder if He cares about this detail, that loss, that relationship.

And then, in His perfect time, He who is HOPE?  He BURSTS forth, back into our view, in all His glory. and the perfect, intricate splendor of His master plan is unveiled in all its beauty.

I'm left speechless.  Undone by His tender care for my life, my heart.  For her life, her heart.  And His value for our friendship.  Heart overflowing with gratitude, and cell phone in hand, ready to call my best friend "just because."   Because now, I can.

After those 2 hours on the phone the other day, I updated my Facebook status: "My heart is so full."

And her immediate "mine too!" under my status was the sweetest picture of God's unexpected, extravagant goodness.  His perfect, beautiful-even-when-unseen crafting of hope in the hidden places of our hearts and lives.

Friend, when hope seems to die, may you have courage to believe that He is faithful.  Courage to trust that He is still working, shaping, building, planning, creating.  He never quits.  In the dark days, when you can't see His hand, may you rest deeply in the truth that Hope will burst forth in His perfect time.  May you find peace in anticipating the unveiling of His secret work that will be so extravagantly, surprisingly perfect for you.  Beyond your wildest dreams.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen.  
(Ephesians 3:20-21)
Brief note from Dana:

Hi Friend,

If you've found encouragement here at Moments and Invitations, I want to invite you to subscribe to my soon-coming e-newsletter.  This will be a private, email communication in which I'll share a little more intimately than I can on the blog (including updates on the writing of my book and glimpses into my personal/family life), as it will go out to a smaller group of readers.  Subscribing will allow us to stay connected at a more personal level.  Interested?  Click here to read more.

P.S. Reading via email or a reader?  Want to click over to the blog to comment or explore further?  Click here. 

Also -To encourage you if you're walking through a season of torn relationships,
written during the falling-to-pieces of this precious friendship: God's Invitation in the Midst of the Storm

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Why I Do What I Do: My World View

PS - Stopping back by today to link up with Chasing Blue Skies!

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