serving in strength

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

That verse has been on my counter for the last couple of weeks, catching my eye, realigning my heart.

Some days I may wonder what “special gift” I have received, but other times it’s quite clear: these are days of service. Laying my life down and spending my moments and days in cleaning clothes, preparing meals, organizing home, giving instruction.

There is always more to do than I’m up for. I get tired sooner than the mountain is moved. I lose heart before the task is accomplished. Many, many times, I simply forget that I’m serving, and elevate my feelings of “I just don’t want to” to a place of consideration. Selfishness is incredibly strength-sapping.

But when my eye catches this line, the one that goes, “serve by the strength which God supplies,” my heart is renewed. There is a source of strength that is endless! Endless.

That doesn’t mean I don’t head to bed early these days — I do! — or pause long to sit with the nursing baby — I do! But it does mean my attitude doesn’t cut off the flow of strength that comes from the Holy Spirit in me. I can smile. And when I don’t, and the excuses start to flood my complaining heart, I can know that my feelings are out of line and there is a better, abundant, strength-giving truth available to me. Repent and get back into the flow of strength.

And when all else fails, I can at least be thankful that my serving is generally done with two feet firmly on the ground. This guy handles the roof problems.

october 19: say yes


Every morning, I wake up to the chance to say Yes.

Yes to putting Jesus first. Yes to receiving fresh mercy for this unknown day. Yes to valuing my children as God’s treasures. Yes to stewarding them according to His will. Yes to honoring my husband. Yes to love, hope, joy.

That is a LOT of Yes! My cup overflows.

But there is the underside of Yes, an underside that others see, looking in from the outside. An underside the enemy loves to trip me up with, drawing my focus away from the abundance of my life.

The fact is that every Yes, every single one, is also a No.

You know those diverging paths in the wood? You can’t take both. Whichever one you decide to say Yes to, you’ve said No to the other.

That’s an awfully simple concept, but it can haunt me at times.

You’re stuck at home. You’re not doing anything fun with your life. Ha! You can barely play through a Chopin waltz! You’re always saying No to people — don’t you think they have a low opinion of you?…

And so on and so on.

But I am learning, and it is this: Every time I am haunted or taunted by all of the “NOs” in my life, I remember — those are simply the result of a huge, resounding Yes!

Stuck at home? I take that upside-down view and flip it back into focus: I am saying Yes to an amazing opportunity — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — to mother these children.

Saying no to outside opportunities? I am saying Yes to fully investing my talents and energies in educating five people. I’m sorry. Can we just read that again and let it sink in? I am shaping five people who will be men and women. That is a HUGE yes!

And true, giving myself to those things means saying NO to other things. That’s the way Yes works, after all. I say, “I do” at an altar to Ryan Dunphey, and I am also saying, “I do not” to every other man on the planet. I say Yes to Jesus, and I am also saying NO to living for myself.

And I guess the point of all this, fellow mamas, is that we have the opportunity every day to reaffirm, joyously, our Yes to the Lord in this season of investing. Don’t let the haunting “NOs” steal your joy. Don’t let the temptation to say Yes to the wrong things at the wrong time infringe on your first and foremost callings. (Because remember: every Yes is also a No!) Protect. Cultivate. Give yourself completely. This opportunity won’t be here forever. These children will grow and be gone. Today is the day to give yourself fully to this amazing Yes.

october 11

“Be hopeful, be holy, be fearful, be loving.”

I think that’s what it was, the way my brother summed up 1 Peter 1. And all of those things — they just spring from the reality of a new birth, a new identity, a new home. Because the life of Jesus changes us.

I just think that’s awesome.

Life is full of pressure, moment by moment, wave after wave. And we who know Christ, we have grace in those moments and waves. Salvation doesn’t rescue us from the experience of hardship, but it invites a miracle in the midst of it.

That amazes me.

These and other 1 Peter thoughts are regularly filling my heart, as our church goes through 40 days of study together. The Word of God is life and it is strength.


October is spectacular. You don’t have to go anywhere, either; it’s an art gallery that comes right to your door, if you’ll just stop to notice.

Seriously. No filter, because who needs a filter in NNY in the fall?


This past summer I read Proverbs 31 many times over. I’m always inspired by that passage, and always somehow amused, too. This amazing woman’s life was so… ordinary! But in turn, those verses elevate my ordinary (at best, drudgery if I’m grumbling) to spiritual. I need that sometimes. So on Friday afternoon, when I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than a house tidied by somebody else and a meal started by somebody else, I instead looked around and saw virtuous labor happening: clothing my household well, bringing food from afar (isn’t “Afar” so much more exotic than “Aldi”?).

I bet you’re in the middle of virtuous work, too. Don’t despise the laundry piles. Dig in and realize you’re a woman of great worth. It’s not drudgery. It’s the high call of God, and it’s serving the least of these.



They require time.

I know that’s not rocket science or earth shattering revelation. But I read it again in a book last night and it was like a smack to my forehead. DUH. You have a baby, Danica.

There’s this subconscious expectation, I think, that because I’ve been around this baby block a few times, and because I have so many others to care for as well, I’m going to be super efficient this time around. I’ll be multi-tasking like a ninja and barely missing a beat no matter how many eye teeth are popping through.

But it turns out, this is Cecily’s first time around the block, and she’s not really into efficiency. She’s sweet and happy and really not altogether that demanding, but she’s a baby, and babies just need time. Real time. As in, they will eat up moments and hours of a day, and you will never see those moments or hours again.

Do you know how good that is for me? It’s hard enough to slow down and notice, to remember the little details of our days and the special interactions with each of my children. If I was racing through the way I think I’d like to, I would miss the whole thing in a blur of productivity. What a shame! What a grievous thing that would be! But in God’s perfect plan, these delicious babies slow us way down, sometimes to a grinding halt for days on end, and we breathe deeply and see clearly and hear attentively and can actually do our job. We can tend the souls of our children.

This is still a hard one for me on many days, but also something I am so deeply grateful for. God’s ways are so much higher than ours, and perfect. Absolutely perfect.

october 6: girl’s day

Today was nothing special, really. Except it was.

The girls and I found ourselves alone at home, all of us at one stage or another of fending off or recovering from a cold virus. A bit tired, achy, and without much of a plan once my big boy helpers left!

But I had prayed early this morning, before I even knew exactly how things would unfold, “Lord, help me to just bring joy into this day.” There is always joy in following Jesus, so really, that prayer is simply, “Help me to hear and follow.”

It was just little slivers of sunshine, but it was so special.

The way three girls played and giggled (yes, three; Cecily loves to be in the middle of it all these days!) while I quickly made beds and straightened bedrooms and even organized my own winter clothes.

How Beatrice asked if they could paint, saw the “No,” forming on my face and pleaded, “It’s so easy, Mama! We can just get out a few things, and that’s all!” And so I said yes, and I was so glad I did. It was so easy. And it was in the warm, healing sunshine, surrounded by the rusts and golds and scarlets of autumn, all wrapped with a great big blue sky.

The way God brought autumn to me, despite my disappointment in not being able to go on our planned leaf-peeping excursions, by helping me to see the colors on my own acreage, quieting my heart enough to hear the scores and scores of geese flying overhead, and giving me a day free of obligations where I could just sit and read in that beauty.

How many chances there were to wrap my arms around each daughter, letting their tired heads rest on my shoulder. Feeling the sweet buttery chub of Cecily’s legs as she sits contentedly in my arms, happy to go or do anything with me. Beatrice laying with me on the couch, watching an old Ina Garten episode, and with shining eyes blurting out, “I just knew she was going to put the sausage in that pan!! I love cooking!”

The nudge I felt in that instant to shelf my plans of cereal or pb&j, and cook some dinner with my girls. Watching Beatrice push the chair from one side of the kitchen to the other, and back again, without missing a beat — so eager to be independent and figure this out. Fiona grating cheese (or maybe mostly eating?), while Beatrice cracked 6 eggs perfectly, while I just stood with baby on hip and oversaw and thought, This is perfect. I love this moment.

We lit candles and ate our potato and kale frittata with applesauce and laughed. We cleaned up quickly, and then made lunches for Friday School — all of us, including Cecily (of course) at the counter. Then clothes laid out, and pjs on.

Last, the quiet of Beatrix Potter in the comfort of their pillows and quilts.

Doesn’t that sound perfect?

Funny thing is that I know if you zoomed out a bit, you’d see the piles on the dresser, the peanut butter I probably missed on the counter, hear the squabbles that happen when two girls are too tired, see the laundry and notice I haven’t cleaned my bathroom this week. That was all there, too, today, but somehow there was grace to just focus on my portion for today.

And that is the way to live.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

october 2



Just trying to let that sink in.

Geese, by the dozens, fly in continual Vs overhead, winging their way to warmer climes. I stand and watch, following with my eyes until they are lost in thick gray clouds, and their loud honking gradually fades. Summer is flying away, fading quickly, lost somewhere in the cool mornings and scarlet maples.


So, too, fly the moments of my days. Moments I want so desperately to fill with projects and accomplishments: garages emptied of broken sidewalk chalk and stray tire pumps, closets sorted and stocked with wool sweaters and neat oxford shirts, spiders seeking warmth in the corners of my kitchen ceiling given the boot. These are my morning dreams, but they fade, too, lost in the thickening activity and real needs of children and babies.

Funny. We are dream-clingers, aren’t we?

And I remember each day that He gives true joy — if I will just open up those white-knuckled fists of mine, let go of my own little dreams (of fewer dust bunnies, finished laundry, picture frames hung) and let Him fill my hands with His life. His dreams for today look more like hearts nurtured. The gospel shared through real life moments. Smiles, tears, firm looks, gentle hands. Baby carried. All day, carried.

His thoughts are higher than mine, His ways so much better. And this Heavenly Father — He invites me to come and share His dreams, to be a part of bringing them to pass.

Dreams that will not fade. Hope that is secure.

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.”


Dramatic autumn skies, perfect baby toes, and moments with these beautiful children: The Lord God made them all.

september 23: parenting lessons from God

This morning, I read this little passage about the grace of God toward us:

“The Bible is a history of God offering His grace to people who do not deserve it nor seek it nor ever fully appreciate it after they have been saved by it.”

And I was struck by how perfectly that describes the kind of fatherly love I grew up with and am still blessed by. My dad is a constant. He lavishes, at his own expense, love and mercy and forgiveness and help on us, his children. He does that when we ask for it, he does it when we are petulantly pushing him away. It continues when we are thankful, and it continues when we take it utterly for granted and don’t even see the fatherly grace we’re living in.

My dad’s love toward us is completely independent from how we respond or how we live. He loves us with constancy because that’s who he is.

And that’s how God is: His love for me has nothing to do with my loveliness or right behavior. He doesn’t offer grace because He’s hoping for a certain response from me — and if I don’t give it, He takes His ball and goes home. His character is faithfulness, love, mercy.

Today I am challenged by my father’s example, which is really a reflection of God’s fathering: May my love and grace and generous heart toward my children be constant, always decided based on the grace I receive from God, and never on the response I receive from them. May they understand better the underserved grace of God in the gospel because they grew up in an environment of such love.