Hi, I’m Danica.

I guess I’m a lot of things: a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a crafter, a cook, a reader, a writer, a homemaker, a pianist, and probably a lot more too. But at the end of the day, I’m just a Christian trying to find and obey God’s will.

a tribute Nov 18


left: me, pregnant with Jameson; right: my mother in law, Jeannie, pregnant with Ryan

I’ve been giving this day, November 18, 2014, a lot of thought. Today, my very dear mother in law turns 70. Isn’t that wonderful? That nice round number represents an awful lot of days — lots of alarms set, lots of lunches packed, lots of activities attended, lots of exhausted evenings, lots of charts read, lots of smiles given, lots of tense days, happy days, just plain-Jane days. And, because it’s her, lots of sparkling eyes and throw-your-head-back laughter. Lots of, “I’m going to invent that!” ideas, and lots of dinners with friends. Lots of books read, lots of prayers prayed, lots of hugs and kisses given, lots of tears and fears, lots of doctor’s appointments, lots of lawns mowed and DIY projects.

Just lots. Lots!

But when I think of this special woman, it doesn’t occur to me that she’s already seen 70 years’ worth of sunrises, because her smile greets each one as if it were the first. Every days is new, and life is worth being expectant and hopeful. There is no cynicism. No weariness. She thrills at my fourth baby standing independently — her seventh grandchild, not to mention three of her own children she’s watched, and an office-full of OB patients who’ve brought their kids in — as if it were the first baby on earth to discover their balance. There is spring in her step. I used to think that expression simply meant “youthful energy,” but watching her, I realize it’s so much more. It’s thankfulness and hope and not growing stale in one’s appreciation of life.


See? Laughing!

That was a really long intro, and not even what I intended to write, but worth praising.

Having Jeannie in the back of my mind these past few months, contemplating the gift that she is to us, a sermon I recently heard made me sit up straight and say to myself, “That’s her! That’s what she does!”

Mike Cavanaugh was visiting our church in October. He preached about loving people — not just having love in your heart, but actually communicating that love to another’s heart. The entire message was wonderful and practical, but that last point put tears in my eyes. He spoke of giving legacy, meaning, to someone’s life: viewing them with a hope-filled lens and then saying it, repeating it, until it’s “their story.”

And I thought of Jeannie. She has given that gift to Ryan, and by extension, to the children and me. She took an energetic, spontaneous, strong-willed boy and saw leadership, strength, and creativity. I know full well the seasons of heartache and nagging doubts that were part of being his mom, but she spoke future and hope and carried them in her heart when it seemed to be lost. And somehow, the man of stature and conscience and ideas that her son has become isn’t a surprise or a relief, but is exactly what she has always seen and believed him to be — even when he was just a lemonade-selling freckled little boy. I love that. All of the events of his life were woven into a legacy of strength passed on from previous generations, redemption through Jesus, and personal destiny.

Isn’t that just part of being a good mother? Isn’t it about “hiding all these things” in your heart, carrying them through the highs and lows, seeing past runny noses and nighttime fevers and grade school problems and even devastating phone calls and knowing that God gave me this child, and there is a future for him? Seeing strength and unique abilities where selfishness would see inconvenience and trouble?

So, today I’m thankful for the gift of “Your father was always [fill in the blank with some shining quality].” My children receive a gift of legacy every time they hear their father spoken of in such a way. And I receive the gift of a wonderful example.

Happy birthday to a truly wonderful (in this and so many other ways) woman. We bless you!

november: snow, apples, thanks, books Nov 15

from yesterday:

The snow flew today. It didn’t land, but it will, soon. I thought I wasn’t ready for winter, for cold, for the longness of it all, but when I woke this morning to hues of periwinkle and silver and rose — where yesterday it was all kelly and brown — I was smitten all over again.

*****

I happily drove home with butter in my van — butter that started as grass growing in a field 20 miles away, eaten by cows well-cared for, faithfully milked, never chemically assaulted or added to. I mixed in flour and sugar. Jameson and I cut locally-grown apples, he clumsily but determinedly mimicking my actions, proud as his hands learned the movements. We’ll eat pie tonight. It may be all we eat, at this rate, but it’ll be good.

*****

We listen to this play list as we slice. William colors a portrait of George Washington, and we talk about “those days” and all together — this November sky, these apples, that flute — it makes me breathe slow and deep and smile.

*****

Last week I took out the remaining fall decorations: pilgrim figurines and their stories. We recited Psalm 100 this week, remembering those familiar paths of praise and thanksgiving. And we recounted the story of the people — people like us, with natures like ours, whose bodies felt hunger and cold and loneliness and despair just like ours — who persevered through great difficulty and at the end gave thanks. Homes burned, men imprisoned, fleeing to a strange nation, selling all to travel a harrowing ocean-journey, braving shadowy fears and very-real impossibilities, watching half their numbers breathe their last, and then waving bravely as their last chance to just give up sailed back across wide waters. And through it all, thankful. Because God. They were not perfect, but neither am I. In this is the greatest challenge to me. In their raw humanity, they could have grumbled (example: Jamestown), but no. Instead, they gave thanks.

Pause.

I think it’s safe to say, I tell the children, that we can probably be thankful on our bad days. Because God. Isn’t that what makes knowing Jesus miraculous? That we are set free from the slavery of reaction, and grace is poured into our hearts that we might live by faith?

*****

I have some favorite Thanksgiving books that I thought I’d share. I like the content — some simple, some bursting with interesting facts. I like the drawings. It’s a story worth knowing by heart and setting as an example. Principle, faith, gratitude: I want to be like them when I grow up.

finding life in the Vine Nov 2

There are just way too many nights that find me fried, frustrated, and happy to just hurry up and end the day. Usually that frazzled state of soul takes me by surprise — a quiet, peaceful, well-paced morning somehow just spirals slowly but surely, and suddenly I’m Mean Mama. Anybody? Just me?

It happens way too often. I’d reached Frazzled Status last night on our way out the door, and when I landed with three kids at church, I was strung tighter than a piano string. (I always think of that metaphor, because I can only imagine the damage one of those HUGE bass strings could inflict if it suddenly snapped. Not that me snapping ever does any damage. *wink*) Somehow, somewhere, my soul had a chance to take a deep breath, and the idea of joy came to mind. Joy. I want to be joyful. I have the best job in the world, you know? Why do I sometimes so lack joy?

Left to myself, I would rectify this situation in one of two ways:

– Berate myself for my lack of joy. Look at the three beautiful faces of my children, faces so quick to smile at me with twinkling eyes full of love, and say to myself, “What’s wrong with you? Get joy!” Wonder if they think I lack joy. Wonder if my husband thinks I lack joy. Wonder how terrible I am. Yup, I’m terrible. (Is this approach getting me any closer to joy?)

– Decide to be joyful. That’s it — from now on, I will be joyful. I will look for joy in my every day, because I know it’s there — it is! (Really! It is!) I just have to snap out of my Frazzled Status and see it, live in it, take it in, pour it out.

But there’s another conclusion. A better one. The error in my first approach is obvious. The error in the second is more subtle. See, joy is a fruit. Fruit is the result of the life of the Spirit. (We all know this, right? But maybe you have as much trouble living it as I often do.) I cannot bear fruit on my own. And when I get sidetracked with pursuing fruit, I end up frustrated and empty handed.

The answer is Jesus.

Instead of just looking for joy in my every day, I need to look for chances to say YES to the Holy Spirit. Yes, Holy Spirit, fill me, change me, be my source. Yes, I’ll meditate on Your Word, listen for Your voice, respond to Your guidance. Yes, I’ll sing a song of praise, put off heaviness, exalt You above this moment.

I want to be continually filled with the Spirit, continually looking at Jesus, continually experiencing the power of His salvation. Then there is joy. (And love, peace, patience, kindness…)


[from the archives]

epiphanies Nov 1

“It’s not about you.”

(Name that book.)

How simple is that? And how profound? And how daily, momently, do I hit my head right up against that truth?

I’m leaving behind the “Mom of Littles” years. The growing pains of bursting through that old skin have certainly been there in the last year, as Jameson stretches, William close behind, me last to the party, still trying to cram them into a pre-school sized compartment. I was kind of comfortable with babies and toddlers and managing little people. Sure, it was hard work, but it was familiar. Couldn’t we just hang out there for awhile? Maybe forever?

No.

Part of the shifting has been seeing these boys grow and realizing this is their real life. Like, what they’re doing right now. It’s their life. (I know. Genius revelations happening over here.) But really. This isn’t just My Life: The Little Kid Years. They are real people thinking real thoughts having real struggles and you don’t just shut the bedroom door at night and sigh deep and crash on the couch and that’s that. No, they’re on their beds thinking their own thoughts. Thoughts about life and God and how the day went and what they’re feeling and why did Mom talk to me that way and is evil real and how come I always mess up and I hope I get that Lego set.

There was some summer day, as I watched lanky boy walking along in front of me, laughing at jokes with growing-taller brother, that I realized deep in my soul, “They are not a chapter of my life. I am a part of theirs.

Of course, I knew all this. I mean, if this was just about my life, I would probably ask to rewrite the chapter — add a bit more sleep, a bit less puke, maybe scratch out the part about stretch marks. I knew as I stared at my brand new baby the first moment I was suddenly a mother that I held a person in my arms — but watching him stretch into tall boy, hearing him process his life… He is a person.

So, it’s not about me on this theoretical level.

But it’s also not about me on a practical level: I would rather be managing toddlers. Drink more juice, go to bed, pick up the blocks, time for a puzzle, Mama said no… I like order, and while having toddlers may seem like an insane definition of “order”, I really do call the shots for those first several years.

Then there’s this new creature who suddenly appears, and he’s baring his heart to me in the middle of vacuuming, and next thing I know we’re sitting on the kitchen floor for 45 minutes talking. Suddenly, listening can’t be done with 15% of my attention, because he’s a person and that’s not how people should be treated by their own mothers. And those arguing brothers are suddenly begging for me to sit down with them and let them spill tears and voice hurts and let me teach them to repent and forgive and to treat hearts with deepest care.

Growing. Stretching.

And knowing that all of these eurekas don’t require that I run out and buy a new slew of books on “loving the middle years”, subscribe to a whole new set of blogs, or throw out all previous methods to learn new big kids tricks.

Nope. All I really need to do is realize It’s not about me. I must decrease. He must increase. My ear needs to hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit more than ever. My eyes need to see the way He sees. My heart needs to overflow with prayer and compassion and truth and love, ready to pour out in nurturing word and deed. My time needs to be purged of all selfish claims, available to invest energy and service into other people.

This isn’t about me living out my story. Oh, no! What a small, sad story that would be. But how amazing that if this small seed of me is allowed to fall into the ground and die, life could spring forth! How amazing that here, in this very house, real people are being raised up, and God takes the seed of my life and allows it to bear fruit in theirs.

10
Lilias Trotter

william: six Nov 1

William is six now.

He is just a great kid. He’s happy, thoughtful, conscientious, tender hearted, diligent, determined (well, okay, stubborn!), and friendly. So friendly. I see that when he’s meeting new children — the warmth in his eyes that draws them into instant camaraderie. And I see it every day here, when he’s Jameson’s best friend, Beatrice’s faithful playmate. He’s warm and constant. Not too concerned with doing what he wants.

That said, he really is more happy if there’s chocolate served for dessert.

William’s 6th birthday Oct 19

My little baby William is turning 6 in two days. (More on that then.) As per our tradition, he was celebrated with an especially “big” party. He picked a theme (football; shocker), invited a whole table full of people (11 sounds like so many until actually having to pick only 11!), and helped me plan games, buy goodies, decorate, and get festive! I’m no party-planner extraordinaire, but every little detail and effort was received with great joy and many eye twinkles. I love that little boy!

Yes, a thousand pictures. Because I’m his mom. :-)