Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's My Birthday and Here's What I Want...from You.

Ok, I'm just going to say it.  I want you to like my blog.  I feel totally lame and self-serving saying that, but if there's one day a year that you're allowed to be all "Me! Me! Me!" it's your birthday.

Today is my 30th birthday, and so I'm asking you to "like" my blog.  If you want to know why, keep reading.  If you'd rather get back to scrolling through FB status updates, just take 0.2 seconds, click "like" on that facebook box on the right and be on your way, satisfied that you just gave someone the perfect birthday present. (Or even better you can also subscribe, especially if you're not a super avid facebooker.)

Alright, back to the why.  Birthdays of course have the tendency to cause reflection, especially these big ol' decade markers.  For quite a while, I've been dreading this birthday, which is a first for me.  I wrote about the big 3-0 being my goodbye to youth and my official welcome to wrinkles, sags, and stretch marks here. 

So today I'm feeling, deep in my veins, the truth about beauty.  That it is knit up in our souls, the very dust of our beings.  It's found in you and in me and in the grit and glory of each day.  For me, this blog is about that.  Since Saturday November 12, 2011, I've been writing bits of me out in this little corner of the internet, and in doing so, I am finding my voice.  And I'm finding the beautiful voices of others echoing across these wireless waves.  And it's life blood.

They say your twenties are about finding yourself.  I don't know that I found myself as much as I myself was formed by all that the decade held - marriage, motherhood, ministry, moving.   

As I step into this next decade, I've got some dreams rolling around in my heart that are not yet ready to share, but I will say that they are tied to writing and building community - not just for myself, but for a certain group of hearts that are yearning for the beauty and art of their hearts to be unleashed.  And in the craziness of today's age, your clicks can help me with these dreams.  It's still very much a whispered prayer at this point.  But me asking you to subscribe, to like, to follow (yes, by golly, I'm actually tweeting @danielleNYT), it's a step towards the dream. 
So there's that.  And then there's the fact that I'm pretty much terrible about picking up the phone to call anyone, and almost as bad about getting newsletters out.  So this blog-o'-mine is really the best way to stay connected to us and this gypsy life of ours. 

Some day on these pages, I get riled up and soap box-ish about things.  Other days, I'm writing it down so as to not miss the moments or the beans between my toes.  I'll let you peak into my marriage.  You'll probably hear about my slimy-yogurt-faced son and my chatter-me-crazy daughter, and why they're the best in the world.  I'll share my fears about not being enough, and you'll hear me admit we're in therapy.  I'll likely get super sappy here in a few weeks when baby is born.  You can rock with me through the sanctuary of sleepless nights.  Then in a year you can watch us up and move across the world again, following this conviction in our bones.

And maybe, just maybe you'll hear more about this dream of mine and see it unwrap.  Until then, go click me a birthday present, and help me holla at my thirties.   

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Love Letter To My Body

(Edited to add: This post was chosen and featured at

There is currently a synchroblog happening at where women are posting love letters to their bodies.  It's real, and it's raw, and it's gloriously bathed in hope.  Here's the thing about hope, it's got to be shared so it can roll big.      

So do it. Click on the link and read.  Cry with these women and sing anthems of hope with them too.  That's what I did, and I was happy to leave it at that.  But in the caverns of my heart I knew.  I knew that for it to mean something real and deep, I had to do it, too.  I told myself I didn't need to, that I'm not struggling like they are, really...

And then I stopped lying and got on with it.  So here it is. 

Dear Body,

You know our story is different.  We're not sure how, but we've mostly managed to evade the threads of self-loathing that seem to be woven into the fabric of the female being.   This heart of ours that pumps bloods through you and emotions through me, it rips a bit when we read of the hatred and disgust women have for their earthly shells.  And we wonder what umbrella kept this curse from raining on us.  Whatever it was made us one of those rare spectacles that actually believed in our beauty.  Through the bad glasses, the not-right haircuts, and the freshman fifteen (or, uh...twenty five), we remained obliviously, blessedly confident. via Danielle on Pinterest

We've got to know.  What is that umbrella that we held that made us believe in our beauty?  Because we want that umbrella for her, for the big beautiful baby girl that you pushed out of us.  We want that umbrella to lift her above the pit of comparison that will constantly snatch at her ankles and to shield her from drenching lies evil will pour on her.  We want her to always glow in her current four-year-old confidence that chimes, "My name is Ellie Grace Beautiful."  May she always know that she is beauty itself.      

And let's take a moment to be brutally honest and admit that right now we need to know for us.  Our thirtieth birthday is days away, and for some reason this birthday, unlike any other, makes you cringe.  I look at our face in the mirror and see crinkles for the first time.  And this belly of ours blossoms big with the third baby.  People wonder if we've swallowed a basketball.  Stretch marks spider across our skin.  Fear begins to weave its sticky web on the inside.  

Maybe the body of youth is gone forever.  Perhaps those pre-baby numbers on the scale are not to be seen again.  Perhaps this time when the milk runs dry, the breasts will be shrunken forever.  The crinkles will only grow deeper, the skin only sag lower.

Maybe we cringe at this birthday because in our mind it's the official goodbye to youth.  While we evade the curse of self-loathing, perhaps we still drink the lie that beauty and youth are inseparable.  

We grew up thriving under our umbrella, while those who suffered by starving and purging writhed in their lies and others shriveled in the desertlands of wishing they were other than themselves.   Will we now lose our grip and toss away the confidence to join the masses chasing the tails of youth?  

We've got to know.  What is our umbrella?  What made us believe that beauty is us?                     

Maybe it is your nineteen-year-old unwed mother deciding to leave you, the blob of cells, nestled in her womb.  You know this body, this life is a gift.  

Maybe it is growing up knowing the twinkle of your daddy's eye.  It was he who helped you first believe, "You are beautiful."   

Perhaps our umbrella is never knowing abuse.  Guys treated you with respect, never trying to take a piece of you to have for themselves. 
Maybe it is the sacred moment of unveiling on your wedding night and the words of wonder from your groom.  He made you the treasure worth waiting for. 

Maybe it was all of this, and oh, to wrap it all up and give it to every little girl that ever was.

But let's look even deeper and realize that all these are things that happened to you, circumstances outside of you.  These all helped you to believe, but they are not what made you beautiful.  For if what makes us beautiful is defined by our circumstances, then aren't we doomed?

For a man could ravage your body, cancer could steal your breasts, time could warp your bones.  And what then?  If beauty hangs outside of us, then it is there for the taking.  But if beauty is knit up in our soul, then it is only ever and eternally ours for the keeping or for the selling.  

Maybe it's not an umbrella to cling to at all.  Although there are days we forget and join in the toxic wishing, written on the flesh of our heart is the truth that beauty is the very dust of our being, gathered before time, breathed upon with holy kisses, made to mirror all that is glorious and good.   

Building dirts
If beauty is found in skin and scales, then let our thirtieth birthday be our official goodbye.  But if beauty is who we are made to be, then let's make an official welcome into the rest of our life.  Welcome all you wrinkles, stretch marks, and sags!  And welcome all that time will hand us.  You will be our beauty marks of a life lived full. 

Goodbye, youth.  You've been grand, but we are no longer you.

So my dear body, let's drop the fear and get on living with the confidence that comes from being ... beautiful.



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Halfway Through Our Two Year Chapter

A year ago we left China.  We left the bustling streets, those rivers of humanity with heads of black hair bobbing up and down.  We left the street vendors, the taxi drivers, the bicycles, the buses.  We left our students, our friends, the birthplace of our son, and our home of five years.

We threw last-minute items in bags as the waiting taxi honked impatiently.  I shoved a lollipop into my daughter's eager hand.  Anything to keep her quiet and happy in the midst of all this.  The adrenaline of change pumped through my veins, but beneath that thin chemical coating was deep weariness caused by  lack of sleep and the pain of uprooting.

There with us was our beloved Ayi (auntie/helper), a rock of sweetness, as always.  She'd been there with us through the broken faucets and flooding floors.  Her hands had folded countless diapers, cooked our favorite noodles, and kneaded the dough to the world's best bagels.  She'd swept up more dirt than any floor should ever produce.  More than that, she'd been our friend, patiently communicating with words but all the while able to just read our hearts.

Always she wore a smile.  Even on that day that she knew would be our last, she smiled all day long, that is until the very last moment.  We'd hugged her tight and piled into the car.  She stood at the door waving us off.  I glanced back at her one last time.  She didn't know I was looking.  That's when I saw her face crack and her real feelings show through.  I'll never forget that look.

Nine flights and two months later, we landed in So Cal, and for the last year we've been making a new home and a new life here.  I can't quite articulate the journey it's been, the ways we've been changing through this whole uprooting and re-rooting in our old-yet-new culture.  I started writing shortly after we moved here as a means to help myself process it all.  Most of what I wrote during those first few months I never shared with anyone.  (This was before my blog.)  Some of it was very raw, as I brought my brutal honesty to God.  I blatantly banged on his door, asking him to please, please show us how he was going to provide.  We'd risked everything to go where we knew God had led us.  But doubt creeped in those first few months.  All the while, God smiled knowingly at us.  "Ye of little faith, wait and see."

So we did.  And God has provided, is providing.  I'm humbled by my wee little faith, and perhaps this all has grown that faith a bit. 

Aaron has completed a year of his program, and we're thrilled at how much this is equipping him for what we're doing.  And we feel a bit spoiled to be here in this land of perfect weather, gorgeous beaches, and abundant opportunities for this season.  Hopefully knowing that it's just for a time helps us to receive the blessings with thanksgiving rather than taking them for granted.

We've reached the halfway point.  In just over a year (August 2013) , we'll be packing up and moving back to China, this time with three little ones in tow.  Already, I find myself wondering how each of us will handle this next transition.  Some would call us crazy, all this moving across the world stuff, but we know with every fiber of our bones that we are meant for this. Not at all saying it's easy, but knowing it's what we're meant for helps us hold on when it's hard.

They say transition is like a being on a bridge, going from one side to another, suspended above the deep waters.  They also say you can be tied to bungee cords as you navigate this bridge, with a cord constantly pulling you back to the past or a cord dragging you into the future

In many ways it feels like we're in a two year transition.  This past year in many ways has been about processing our five years in China.  We're realizing how we've changed.  Here at the halfway mark, I am already feeling a cord wrap itself around my ankles, ready to mentally drag me into the not yet.  This coming year could easily be about the planning and worrying and getting ready for leaving again.

But I recently read a gem of advice: "Cut the bungee cords...and do so by living fully and completely, wherever we are. Not ignoring the past, but not wishing we were there, either. And also not pretending like the here and now is a waiting room for the next gig; that God has us where we are to be fully there, all of us in every way."  --Tsh Oxenreider (

So this is me cutting the cords, living fully in the now, letting tomorrow worry about itself while I count the blessings of today:

- Feeling my son's heart thump while watching his very first fireworks light up the sky.

- My daughter making new "best friends" everywhere she goes.

- An evening away with the husband, sitting huddled together on a blanket on the beach, the smell of bonfire in the air, the sky dusky with sunset.

- Swelling large with new life.

- Longing to hold, to know, to kiss this new life.

- Being able to experience and love two very different worlds.


Happy 4th of July, ya'll!