Dana's Story (The Raw Version)

*Some names are changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned. Thanks for understanding.

This is the story of my life, focusing on the specific events that God has used to shape me and reveal His heart to me in key ways.  Briefly, those specific events are:

-my teenage dating relationship and subsequent (very dysfunctional) marriage
-my journey through separation and divorce at age 25
-my marriage to my husband Stan, the love of my life :)
-the loss of 2 babies to miscarriage within our first year of marriage
-our journey through the foster care system and the loss of "our" baby girl at almost 2 years old
-our son Isaac's birth and the first (very intense and difficult) year of his life
-a brief blurb on our current adoption process

And, with those events outlined for you, I'll begin. :)  Here we go:

I grew up in Greensboro, NC. My parents both loved Jesus (and still do!  I am so thankful!), and at the age of 4 I clearly remember giving my heart to Him.  I grew up in church and somewhere around age 17, I remember really deeply falling in love with the Lord.  I would spend hours alone in my room, reading my Bible and other Christian literature, journaling, and worshiping Him.  He captured my heart in those moments, during my senior year of high school, and my first (and only!) year of college was more of the same.  Lots of time alone with Him, getting to know His heart.  I was passionately in love with Him.

Interestingly, at the same time as I was falling so in love with Jesus, I was also in a very dysfunctional relationship with a young man named "Jeff."*  I had no idea how unhealthy our relationship was.  My first and biggest mistake was not allowing enough people into our relationship, to observe our relationship dynamics and give input. Therefore, we had almost no accountability. I say our relationship was dysfunctional because he was very prone to depression, and prone to manipulate and control out of that place, and I was very prone to allow myself to be manipulated.  I was a "fixer," and I just knew that somehow, if he was not doing well, it was my responsibility to remedy the problem, whatever it was.  Out of my own unhealth, I allowed myself to be controlled and emotionally abused (though at the time I had no idea that it was happening) even while we were dating and engaged.  At one point during our engagement, a close friend of both Jeff's and mine pulled me aside and said to me, "You do know that Jeff is not treating you well, right?  Are you prepared to live with this?" But I was convinced that because we both loved the Lord, we would work through our "issues" and eventually be okay.

I knew, somewhat subconsciously and only to a degree, that things were not going well at all, but my heart was set on getting married, and I even found some of my identity in being the first of my peers from high school to get married.  I had been dating Jeff since I was 16, and I could not see my life, my future, apart from him.  My whole world was wrapped around him.  Looking back now, I see how terribly unhealthy this was, but my own identity issues and my pride in not allowing accountability into my life kept me on this track, which turned out to be very destructive.

(There are several "life messages" that God has given me throughout my journey during various seasons of pain and loss.  Truths that He's burned into my heart and asked me to share with others as He gives opportunity.  Here is the first one.)

LIFE MESSAGE: As a teenage girl or a single woman, learn to find your identity wholly in Jesus.  He wants to meet each and every need of your heart for companionship, affirmation, and acceptance.  He really is more than enough.  Wait on Him to bring the right man into your life.  His ways and His timing are worthy of your trust.  Choosing to move out from under the protection of staying within His plan, is choosing a road of destruction.  Invite wise counsel, and trust the Father's plan for your future.

Jeff and I were married in May of 2000.  I was 19 and a half years old.

Our marriage was never easy; there was no "honeymoon period."  We fought almost daily.  I'm talking about intense arguments that, a few times, crossed the line into very mild physical abuse.  And for years, we thought that our problems were "normal," that we would eventually pull through them.  We did not.  Through those painful days, though, the grace of God sustained me in ways that were incredibly tangible and experiential.  I hung onto Him, clung to Him for dear life.  I wrote songs from my guts, out of my experiences with Him in the secret place in the midst of pain, and a friend helped me record them onto an album.  I had an incredibly supportive church family (by this time we were a part of a church family in Kansas City, MO), for which I was so thankful... but the dysfunction in my marriage propelled me into a few different codependent friendships during those years, in (and out, and back in again) which I cycled until my life changed entirely. After 5 years of marriage, the cycle of emotional abuse had escalated to the degree that the people in our lives were starting to notice that our marriage was not as "normal" as we thought, and my self-image had been dramatically affected by my husband's continual belittling and blaming.

After some very traumatic, painful events that brought the degree of manipulation and control out into the light with much greater clarity, all of the wise counsel in my life instructed me to leave Jeff, to get some space and healing and perspective.  And so, with great agony of heart, I packed up and left.  NEVER with the intent to leave permanently, but with the goal in mind of coming home more whole and healthy than before, in order to go through counseling with Jeff with the hope of reconciliation.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.  I did come back to Kansas City, from Colorado where I spent a few months with good friends (and got lots of good counsel), trying to process, cope, own, and deal with all that had happened to me.  I spent so much time before the Lord, allowing Him to search my heart, and really owning my own failures in our marriage. Jeff, however, was never willing to take responsibility for his dysfunction, and our marriage ended in divorce.

Wow, even now, years later, this is hard to write about.  I am not happy with the fact that I have been divorced.  I am even less happy about the fact that I was the one who initiated the divorce process.  When it all came down, when it became obvious that Jeff was not going to follow through and take real responsibility for the cycle of abuse that had been occurring, I felt that I could no longer "hang in there" and "wait it out" because everything that he did was so traumatic to my heart.  So achieving finality became my source of peace and refuge.

I believe now that, if I'd had faith for it, I could have found those things in the Lord without having to make it happen on my own.  I believe that in the waiting, God had invitations for me into an incredibly intimate place with Him, a place of heart-protection and deep, deep trust, that I missed out on to a degree because I felt that I needed closure sooner than later.  I lacked the faith to continue moving forward without finality.

LIFE MESSAGE:  Bringing closure to a marriage (apart from having true, biblical grounds for divorce) on your own is never God's plan.  Even when there are biblical "grounds," His best for us is always restoration.  He hates divorce because it tears our hearts.  If you're in a situation that is similar to mine, wait on Him - He WILL protect your heart and guide you and sustain you.  Seek counsel from those who will encourage you and hold you accountable as you follow biblical standards.  His ways are always best for us, even if we can't see how at the time.

(SIDE NOTE, just for clarity's sake: If you're in a marriage where physical abuse, or threats of violence, are occurring, go to a safe place.  Make sure you seek wise counsel and abide by biblical procedures.  But seek safety.)

During and after my divorce process, I went through a season of alone-ness (I like to make up words :) ) with the Lord, lots of tears and journaling and songwriting and forgiving (forgiving myself AND Jeff).  I found lots of healing for my heart in Him.

And, because we have an AMAZING God who makes all things new, who heals and restores hearts and lives, I am married now to an incredible man, my husband Stan (name NOT changed!). After telling him that I was NOT romantically interested in him and didn't think I ever would be, I fell head over heals in love with him.  (He was already in love with me but had chosen to honor my request not to be pursued.)  The Lord was doing some incredible work in his heart that drew my attention.  Stan and I were married in July of 2007 in Colorado Springs, CO. Our marriage has been an absolute gift from the Lord.  We have been married going on 6 years and are more in love today than ever.  The way Stan loves me has healed my heart in places where I didn't even know it was still damaged.

LIFE MESSAGE: Our Father gives beauty for ashes.  His ability and desire to heal hearts are absolutely profound.  He is fiercely committed to the wholeness of His children's hearts, and to encountering us in deep, sweet intimacy in the hurting, wounded places of our hearts.  It is intimacy with Him, our heart-response of unrelenting trust, that brings healing.

Stan and I moved here to Kansas City in early 2008 to connect again with my previous church family.  (Jeff had long since left our church.)  Within the first year of our marriage, we lost 2 babies.  I write more about those losses here, including my journey with the Lord through it all. 

After recovering somewhat from those losses, and since we had both known since our dating days that we wanted to adopt in the future, we felt like that might be the direction in which the Lord was leading us, and so we dove into the Kansas foster care system.

In early December of 2008, we were blessed with a precious baby girl, our foster daughter "Hope."*  We got her straight out of the hospital at 2 days old, and parented her until she was 21 months old, at which point we had to release her into her birth mom's custody.  Our journey of parenting our sweet girl and then losing her, has been by far the most intense process of my entire life.  Loving a child like your own and then having to let them go must be one of the most gut-wrenchingly painful experiences known to man.  The grief and the nightmares leading up to the day we relinquished her to her mother were horrific.  Stan and I both had them.  But through it all, God sustained our hearts.  And I have to believe that He continues to sustain Hope's heart as well, even though she's in a situation that is very difficult for us to witness.  We do have intermittent contact with her family, at levels that have varied on and off in the 2+ years since we lost her.

LIFE MESSAGE: God is worthy of our trust. Absolutely, unquestionably worthy.  He is more committed to the lives and the hearts of those we care about than we are.  And those we love, including our children, do not ultimately belong to us.  Even our biological children belong to the Lord, and we must continually let them go and trust that He is protecting them even when we can't, and holding their Hearts.  He is the Father to the fatherless.  He is good even when we don't understand His ways, and worthy of our trust, and our worship.  No matter WHAT.

Our precious son Isaac was born literally a week-and-a-half after we lost Hope.  Talk about the provision of God - no one could ever take Hope's place in our hearts, but the Lord was so, so gracious to us in giving us Isaac so soon after letting her go.  Isaac has been a story in and of himself. :)  He is 2 years old (Sept. 2012).  His birth was anything but easy, and went NOTHING like we'd planned.  That was only the beginning though.

The first 9 months or so of his life were very, very intense for us.  Isaac had multiple feeding issues, I had milk supply issues, he had HARD CORE sleep problems (I'm talking, awake and crying 15 - 20 times PER NIGHT for the first 8 to 9 months of his life.) in addition to having acid reflux, which was super painful for him.  And all the advice that people could give (and believe, me they gave it!) could not help us.  (My poor Facebook friends got sick of hearing about Isaac's LACK OF sleep schedule!)

BUT, somewhere after those first several months of sleep-deprived zombie-hood, the Lord began to get my attention.  He began to remind me that though my life felt like boot camp and I was so far beyond exhausted, HE was my ultimate Source of peace, rest, and everything else that I needed.  Sleep was not my ultimate source, nor was getting my baby on a schedule (which was my DREAM at the time), nor producing enough milk for Isaac.  But GOD, HIMSELF.

God, my Father.  He was it.  If nothing else came together the way I hoped, He was enough.  And in each moment of every day, He was waiting to resource me, to give me every single thing I needed for that moment, if I would just turn my heart toward Him.  As I started to walk this out with more consistency (I have to say that I still struggle to be consistent in remembering to turn my heart toward Him to be resourced throughout my days.), I began to find peace, joy, and even physical stamina, as well as an ability to cope with life, that I didn't know were possible, living on so little sleep.

Jesus really, really IS enough. Not just enough for my heart, but enough on a PRACTICAL level, which brings me to my final (for now anyway, <<wink, wink>>) life message.  It's the message that's the primary focus of this blog.

LIFE MESSAGE: In every moment, in every season, God is waiting to encounter His people.  To encounter YOU.  His nature is revelation; His heart is to make Himself known to us.  

He desires intimate connection with our hearts, to completely resource us with all that we need for every moment and every season of our lives (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), to receive our relentless trust and worship, no matter what season of life we find ourselves in.  

When we tune our hearts in to His nearness and His heart for encounter in the midst of it all, He will meet us profoundly, no matter the moment or season, and our hearts will be absolutely wrecked by Love.  We will never live life the same way after this happens.  It changes our very perspective on our relationship with the Lord, and on all of life.  This paradigm shift is our path to true joy in any and every season.

For more on this subject see this page: Moments and Invitations

In January of 2012, we began the process to adopt our second child.  We are currently an active, waiting family and are working with 2 different domestic adoption agencies, waiting for God to bring the baby that He has for us. We are so excited to meet him/her, and are just trusting God for His perfect timing on this. :)

If you're still reading, thank you, my friend!  My heart is to be transparent here in this space...to really allow you to know me, and to allow Jesus to showcase His beauty and glory in the midst of my broken places.  I pray He uses some piece of my story to touch your heart, and to reveal to you a bit more of His own heart.

To quote St. Irenaeus, "The Glory of God is man fully alive."  When our hearts are the most whole and filled with life and joy, God receives the most glory from our lives.  He is simultaneously committed to His own glory and our greatest joy.  I love this about Him!!!  I love so MANY things about Him.

He is so incredibly faithful.

I'd love to have you journey with me here a while, and to hear your own stories of beauty from ashes along the way.  The ways in which you've discovered God's heart along your own journey.   Thanks so much for taking time to get to know me a bit here.

Be so blessed today, friend!


  1. When I brought my first baby home from the hospital, I found myself getting up off and on during the night to see if she was still breathing. After 3 or 4 nights of doing this, the Lord pointed out to me that I was not trusting Him...and that He loved her far more that I ever would or could. It's amazing how the Lord uses our children to teach us about Him. He is so good!

  2. I feel like you are right next to me telling your story as I read it. Blessings!

    1. I'm so glad.... That's totally my heart for this page. :) Imagine a pumpkin spice latte or two and you'll have it exactly right. :)

  3. I found you from THe Better Mom and then read that you were from Greensboro, NC, and that got my attention! That is my hometown and I continue to live here. We, too, have an adoption story (3 bio siblings) with both blessings and complete despair. All three of ours have Reactive Attachment Disorder and it radically changed our lives and those of our 2 bio children. Long journey, unexpected turns, much heartbreak, but 12 years later 2 of ours are far down the road to healing and one is estranged from our family.

    You write beautifully and are so blessed to have found a wonderful ministry at such a young age. I would love it if you'd stop by and visit my blog.
    Marty @ www.martysmusings.net

    1. Hi Marty! It's so great to have you here and a LOVE that you're from Greensboro! How cool!! I am so sorry that you have kiddos with RAD. I'm kind of familiar with it, as we think that one of our two foster daughters probably had it to some degree. So. Incredibly. Hard. I'm glad to hear that two of your kids have experienced some measure of healing... And so sorry that one of them is estranged from your family. I can only imagine the heartache. Our Internet connection is down right now, so I'm writing this on my smart phone and it's tedious. But once we are up and running again here, I will totally check out your blog. :-) thanks so much for your encouragement!

  4. Hey Dana, it's Amanda from childhood homeschool days. I've just gotten a smart phone and have some measure of Internet back in my little corner of nowhere. I've just been catching up on your blog and wanted to say thank you for sharing your journey with such love and openness. It has been good to catch up on what your life has been since we drifted apart as kids. I'm so sorry to hear of the painful experiences you've been through, but your strength is so inspiring. My husband and I have been blessed this year with the most beautiful baby girl, but we've both wanted to adopt for a long time. I am anxious about the process, though, when we do feel led to get the ball rolling. I have a wonderful adopted nephew, and I pray for the courage to trust that God will work it out in a perfect way. Hugs, Amanda

    1. Hey Amanda! Thank you so much for reading and commenting here...and for your encouragement. Your words are a blessing!! I love that you have internet access!!! Yay!! :) I'm so happy for y'all - congrats on your sweet baby girl... I would love to talk with you more about adoption at some point if you'd like!! :)

  5. Thank you so much for telling your story. I loved reading it.

    1. Hey there, thanks for the encouragement, friend! Love having you around here. :) it blesses my heart. Merry Christmas!!

  6. Hi,

    As I read your story, tears are rolling down my cheek. The Lord is with us and is closer during our times of pain. My life has been one of rejection. I'm 43yrs old as I write this. My family doesn't like to be around me because of my love for the Lord. Most times I feel alone, but the Lord has held on to me with both His hands. I have come to trust the Lord completely and totally, knowing my affliction is only for a moment. There is no one to talk too but the Lord for me. He told me recently, that no one desired my company or ever will because I was created for Him and only He can fulfill me. I desire great depths in Him. I seek after His heart and not for what He can do for me. I serve Him out of love and appreciation. Nothing and no one can ever take His place in my life. When everything around me is falling, and no one to turn too, I can only run to Him. He understands me and holds me close as I weep in His arms. My heart is so broken in Him, that as the Father breathes out I breathe in. May the Lord continue to uphold you and cause you to have a deep desire to know Him face to face.

    1. Hi there...

      I am so sorry you've walked through such difficulty. I pray you've found encouragement here. Really. Blessings to you... thanks for being here!

  7. Dana, so happy I stopped by. Your story is powerful and the stuff of which true redemption is made. Bless you for having the heart to share it.


Hi there, friend! I'm honored and blessed when you share your heart, your thoughts, your feedback with me here. At the same time, I want my readers to feel free to read and process internally before the Lord... to not feel obligated to spit out immediate feedback.... so I am SO not upset or offended by non-commenting readers. Please be who you are - - internal AND external processors welcome here! :)

**If you have trouble leaving a comment, try going to where it says "comment as," or "Choose an Identity," changing the setting to "anonymous," and commenting as an anonymous user. Just make sure you leave your name in your comment if you'd like me to know who you are.**

Thanks so much for walking beside me a little ways here.

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