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.

pictures of december Dec 21

Excitement is ramping up around here. Today we exchanged names (well, the kids did) and bought gifts for one another. Four or five times, I was pulled aside because a little boy needed to tell me a secret — a bursting with joy secret because their gift is just so so so wonderful and the recipient is going to love it so so so much!

We drove home in relative quiet until William suddenly said, “Mom, I was just dreaming about opening my present [on Christmas Eve, when they exchange their gifts], and I was so excited, and then I remembered that the next day will be Christmas!! (Said in the most COULD LIFE GET ANY BETTER voice you’ve ever heard.)

Before that day actually comes, and I get swept away with everything that entails and suddenly find myself two weeks into a new year, I’ll quickly put up photos of this special month. I do so love coming to this little corner of the internet and reminiscing…

*****


Three little girls, Fiona wanting very much to be as big as Beatrice and Margaret


Ready to get a tree


Easily entertained


Can’t wait for Daddy to come with the tree


Here it comes!


And there it is.


Early Sunday morning reflections.


Rest and reading time after decorating the bagel shops!


She loves baby dolls.


Pigtail perfection.


Cookies baked for neighbors and friends.


Special afternoons with my grandparents.


Time with beautiful sisters and their scrumptious babes.


Concerts.


Lots of this.


A break from routine school means time for not-routing things.


They keep careful track of this growing pile.


Drawing names!


Fiona felt very grown up with that slip of paper!


Too excited to get a picture with all four looking at me.


Lunch with family at (drumroll…) The Bagelry. (Pretty yummy!)

*****

Have a wonderful last few days before Christmas!

december’s story: grace and peace Dec 16

I can’t believe we’re halfway through December, and oh-so-close to Christmas.

It’s all Christmas, all the time around here. If Beatrice isn’t making up songs about angels and shepherds, boys are pounding out Christmas duets (duets! Yay!) on the piano, or Fiona is touching ornaments. Or I’m slipping to my room to wrap one more present— or make that one half a present, someone is pounding on my door.


December 1st Christmas movie, though I can’t remember for the life of me what it was.


celebrating our first Friday post-CFA with a lazy breakfast


sleeping under the tree


mornings like this.


performing with almost 100 voices and instruments in a beautiful Christmas cantata

Snow sure helps the mood along, and for some magical reason, it’s gently hanging over the edge of our roof right out the window in a way very reminiscent of frosting on rum logs. There is lots of outdoor play before breakfast, because somehow, jumping out of bed and pulling snow gear on over pi’s is just the most fun. (And it buys me time, since I can’t seem to make cookies and have breakfast thought through.)


early morning, after our first significant snowfall


Jameson has made all of the rum logs this year completely by himself


pepparkakor


preparing cookie gifts

We are watching Mary’s slow trek as she waits for her baby to be born. We do our best to read one little book each night from our Advent calendar. And this year, we’re sneaking in a bit of this book here and there — a whole week behind, mind you, but pressure is not very Christmasy, so I’m doing my best to not feel any. Today we read about Isaac, climbing a long road with wood on his back, a shadow of the Child of Promise who walked a long and dusty road for me. I’m blessed, blessed, blessed to hear the thoughts my boys share, the connections they make. William especially seems quite enamored with this whole typology thing, realizing that all of those stories were pointing to Jesus. And I get to be right there, watching that realization dawn. What a privilege.

This is a month made for Jameson, my gift-giver. Suddenly, he is busily hiding secrets and scurrying to prepare a surprise. He generously finds $1,000 guitars that he thinks I should buy William. (Ha!) He is in his element. Saturday, when William was at work with Ryan, he took advantage of the 20 minutes it took for me to lay the girls down for naps and found paper snowflakes to hang from the ceiling. After being stunned by that beautiful surprise, he then made coffee and set out a whole little “coffee date” for him and me. He beamed with love. Today he gave me the gift he’d made me and put under the tree: a little “Meery Christmas” garland. Insert mother heart bursting right here.


snowflake surprise


afternoon date with this boy


my Christmas gift this year

Then there’s quiet William, who made me a card two weeks ago and tucked it away for Christmas, but seeing Jameson’s gift giving (“I’m just so bad at waiting, Mom! I want you to have all of my presents right away!”), he decided to pull his out, too. Simplest, sweetest, “I love you, Mama” card.


cutest cards


moments to tuck inside my mama-treasure-box, i.e., my heart

Are you kidding?, I think to myself. How could anyone possibly be as loved as I am? Let alone someone as grumpy and ornery as me?? Is this real? Are these little boys really smiling that big at me, their hearts in their eyes? Is this little girl really climbing up to plant a random sweet kiss on my cheek with a whispered, “I wuv you so much, Mama,” in my ear? Is this baby really laughing and dancing and wanting me to know that I’m her world?

If it feels too good to be true, it’s because it is. It’s grace, a gift. I know what I deserve — I look that ugliness right in the face many times a day, and it’s ugly. There’s an equation here that just doesn’t seem to balance out: How can I have a life of blessing, of gifts, of walking with God? I could never seem to do a good job balancing my checkbook, but even with my enormous lack of accounting talent, I can see a serious discrepancy like this one. Maybe you don’t think it’s that serious, look at my life and see a good person who tries hard. But I know. I know the discrepancy. I know the selfishness and self-seeking and jealousy and pride that fights to have its way moment after moment. How can a heart like that then receive blessing?

Jesus.

That’s it. That’s the only way to justify the account of my life. For someone like me to walk with God, to know Him and love Him and know that He loves me — it’s Jesus.

So I open that handmade card with 6yo scrawl, I feel those arms around my neck and see bashful eyes full of love, and my soul feels more than just full. It feels grace.

“Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

Reconciled.
Justified.
Balanced.
Paid in full.

Waking up to morning after morning of new mercy.
Too good to be true.
God is like that.

november photos Nov 29

Time is always flying, but this year it’s definitely taking me by surprise. There are Christmas trees being gotten, so I suppose it’s time to wrap up all things harvest/autumn/Thanksgiving related. Another fall: over. Check. Done.

Quick photo dump before I turn the page and dive into Christmas:


It only took 9.5 years, but at long last, Ryan loves apple pie. Maybe even more than brownies? But definitely not more than ice cream. (He’s a Dunphey, after all!)


Not enough of this, but I enjoyed every pause that books afforded.


This. *sigh* Two brothers who were too excited about the Thanksgiving books to not read them
together in bed. Asleep mid-story.


This one, growing up so quickly. Introducing a bit of running, and even some dancing, into her routine.



A first snow that was for real. None of this float-in-the-sky-but-never-land stuff. The kids were ecstatic.


Having to leave for the evening, and coming home to Fiona in her happy place, snuggled up against Nana.


A birthday party for the “twin cousins” that was too much fun.


No words.


More often than not, the only family dinners happen around one of these tables. Usually Ryan is working behind a counter and we just are happy to smile at him while we eat on a Sunday afternoon, but this time we were there after hours. Music up, happy kids, custom-made bagel sandwiches, and 6 of us all together.


Fiona, caught red-handed in toilet paper fiascos.


Growing in diligence. Blocking out the distraction of children playing in the next room, and diligently doing his work.


And Thanksgiving. A day of food and family and togetherness. Thankful.

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]