Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kisses from Katie

I'm reading the book Kisses from Katie, about a gal named Katie Davis who went to Uganda to live at the age of 19.  She's now a mother to 14 children at the age of 22 and runs a non-profit that helps children in poverty be educated...I'm in the 4th chapter and am just amazed at her beautiful, relentless faith...here's an excerpt:

     "People often ask if I think my life is dangerous, if I am afraid.  I am much more afraid of remaining comfortable.  Matthew 10:28 tell us not to fear things that can destroy the body, but things that can destroy the soul.  I am surrounded by things that can destroy the body.  I interact almost daily with people who have deadly diseases, and many times I am the only person who can help them.  I live in a country with one of the world's longest-running wars taking place just a few hours away.  Uncertainty is everywhere.  But I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction, because I am running from things that can destroy my soul;  complacency, comfort, and ignorance.  I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy.
     Jesus called His followers to be a lot of things, but I have yet to find where He warned us to be safe.   We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us.  And there is no better place to be than in His hands."  pg. XIX-XX

"Running from things that can destroy my soul"...

In Uganda, Katie is surrounded by thing that can destroy the body...I would argue that here in the USA, I'm surrounded by so many things that threaten to destroy my soul - the enemy seeks to draw me away from my Redeemer and settle me into this half-hearted, half-committed, life of comfort...
and miss the whole point of why I'm here.  Or settle for far less than God made me to be.  
I need to RUN away.
Not walk.
Not meander.

The longer I live I see the brevity of life...and in this brevity we have a short number of years to make a difference...to draw others to the love, the freedom, the eternal life found only in Jesus.  I don't want to be afraid.  I want to be wrecked.  Changed.  I want to be bold.  I want to take risks.  I want to be one who loves...and loves extravagantly.

No doubt there will be more posted from this book as I read along...but in the meantime, here's a short video...well worth watching.


Friday, August 1, 2014

One of the most beautiful songs I've heard in recent years is Kristene Mueller's "Homeward Bound".... gorgeous....

Life's mission.


I will run, I will run this race,
And I will do it all for love.
Your love compels me forward,
Your love controls my heart,
And I just can't, I cannot get away.

So I will fight this good fight of faith,
And I will do it all for love.
You are my great reward,
You're so worth fighting for
And I can't wait to see Your face.

So I will run, I will run this race,
And I will do it all for love.
Your love compels me forward,
Your love controls my heart,
And I just can't, I cannot get away.

So I will fight this good fight of faith,
And I will do it all for love.
You are my great reward,
You're so worth fighting for
And I can't wait to see Your face,
And I can't wait to see Your face.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

10 years

Today, July 9th, 2014 is the 10 year anniversary of Jason going home to be with the Lord.  My heart and my mind can scarcely believe it, and tears easily come at that thought.  Something about a decade having passed by has hit me a bit harder this year.  How in the world am I still standing?

The grace of God is what has held me again and again.  It is what holds me still.

I often hold back when it comes to talking about Jason to other people (or writing about him in a blog post). There is so much I could say in all kinds of situations...but I'm concerned that people will think I haven't "let go" or "healed" or "moved on", or whatever it is that is supposed to be done by me.  I sometimes sit in front of someone who didn't know Jason and who didn't know us as a couple and I have the urge to say something about him - about who he was and how I am different because of him.   Or even something about this grief and this road I've traveled - what I have learned and how I have grown and what I miss.

...And then I don't say much because I fear they will not understand or that they will be uncomfortable.  Or most of the time I say just a little blurb...which hardly touches the surface.

And because of that holding back there is a huge piece of me that person will never, ever know in this life. Because to know me is to know this story.  To know me is to know Jason and to understand who Danielle and Jason Presley were in this life.
Because once you know that story...it is then that I am free to really let you see who I am now.  And by God's grace who I am becoming without him here.
My life (and your life) is not a sequence of disjointed events, but rather a seamless flow from all that I am and have been into all I am becoming.  Nothing I am now is separate from my past and the road I have walked. It's tied together in a beautiful, tragic, redemptive tapestry...one event to another, laughter to crying, joy to pain, brokenness to healing, disastrous moments to shining ones...

I also know of the beautiful healing that God has worked over and in and through me these last 10 years.

I have lived and breathed through every single moment these last ten year - through countless ups and downs, through seemingly endless letting go's and griefs, lost dreams, and sorrows - and even through new endeavors - where my courage has been challenged and I have been forced to choose life or death.

...and I have chosen life, and chosen life, and chosen life again...doing the things that I needed to do in order to keep living.  And certainly the goal is not just living, but somehow in all of this choosing to make choices that lead to thriving as well - to living this life with passion and purpose - being all God designed me to be.  I have tried to walk this path with grace and with openness - wanting to honor the life of my dear, dear love and also wanting to be open to the new things that God wants to do in and through me in the here and now...and in the future.

Although not at all completely, I honestly do see some of God's redemption in me - I see the beauty He showers over me - through relationships, purposes, grace and kindness.   I am amazed at how God heals.  I am astounded by the way he allows us to love more and more and more.  This capacity He has given us to love - children, friends, spouses - is beyond understanding and insanely beautiful.  I am thankful that in Jesus, beauty will always have the last word in my life.

So today, July 9th, 2014, 10 years since he left, I want to just take a moment to write about Jason.

Jason Douglas Presley was a great man.  He truly was.  I remember him saying to me shortly after we had started dating, "I want vision from God."  I remember hearing him say this from the passenger seat in his jeep and replying, "Me too."
...and off we went.

And that is how it felt.  Purpose.  Joy.  Passion.  Adventure.  Laughter.
He was gentle and wild and courageous and free.
He was reckless and calculated.
An artist, poet, and an IT guy.
An adventurer at heart.
And a man after God's heart.

I still remember him telling me he'd like to be dropped off in the desert with a compass and have to find his way out.  Of course to those who knew him this is not at all surprising.  And according to him, I believe they actually had trips where you can do this sort of thing?!
I also remember us looking at a big house and him sharing a dream of owning a big home and using it to help the homeless, or troubled youth...

His ideas sometimes terrified me.

But I honestly loved that about him.  I'd have had it no other way.  He was braver than me, and I wanted to be on an adventure with someone riskier than I was.  I always had said I wanted a man running faster than me in this life.  And that is exactly what I got.

I remember a time after we were married that I had messed something up - I can't remember if I'd forgotten something/an event/ or what?...but it was clearly my fault.  And then I vividly remember being with him as he told the person we had affected that "we" messed up.  He took the blame with me - and even was the one to apologize as I stood there humbled and stunned.  I can still remember hearing him say that and being amazed at the kind of man he was....that he would take the blame for my mistake.  He knew the meaning of team, believed in being a team, and spoke of us being a team.  And that is what we were.

I felt beautiful standing beside his strength. I was surrounded. Covered. Protected.

He loved the Lord, he loved people, he loved his family, and he loved me.
My world changed forever because of knowing him.  My world changed forever because of knowing his love.

Sometimes I wonder about who he would be if he were still here - what he would be passionate about?  I wonder what our life would be like together.
Would he still ask me practically every other day if he "looked bigger"? (He'd been working out.)
Would he still make the "Blue Banana" smoothie?
Would he continue to insist that "Colgate kept brushing" and therefore he didn't need to brush his teeth again?
Would he still spontaneously do some sort of jiu jitsu/wrestling move to me in which I would end up on the floor twisted like a pretzel crying for mercy?
Would he still be writing beautiful journal entries?
Would he still terrify me with his dreams and passions?
And the list could go on...

I miss him.

And at the same time, I feel incredibly blessed that I knew him, learned with him - and got to be loved by him.

So Jason, my love -
On your 10 year Heaven Anniversary...
I look forward to the day when I can see what you see and know what you know.
...and worship God beside you again.

...but until then...
I WILL run this race.  I will not quit.  I will live the purposes that God has ordained for me in this life - and I will do it with joy.  I will laugh.  I will cry.
I will finish the course...

And I'll do it like one running to win.

Descending on Mt. Rainier
Jason's 30th Birthday

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Copper or Gold

There are days where I feel like I just get up just a little bit only to be knocked back down again by disappointment.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way...
It seems like God is regularly answering my prayers with a NO.

I ask "What about this God?"

His answer is "No."

"Is this a good idea?"


"Will you please do THIS, Lord?"


Maybe it's a "Not Yet" instead of a "No"...but the reality is that it doesn't really matter.
"Not Yet" is a "No" too.

Sometimes the leading from God requires action on my part.  I actually am choosing something different because of his direction in my life.  But lately his No answers have not even required any action from me.  I cannot even change the outcome.  I just stand there praying for various situations, and he hands down an answer that is untouchable by me.  It just is what it is...and any striving or planning or working on my end will not change the outcome.

Seriously, I feel I could use less severity in these answers sometimes...

To be honest, there ARE some days when I look at this crazy life I'm living and it feels like some sort of Epic Story that is being carved out by a creative and loving hand that loves adventure and redemption.  And I get excited for what's next...

But then there are many other days where it seems like these are just disappointing answers that I don't really want to hear -  like I missed the flight to Hawaii and ended up on Greyhound bus headed to Hazard, Kentucky.  Disappointing to say the least.

And I'll be honest - I am quite sure that my life is wildly entertaining for all those around me.  Really...ask them and they'll agree.  I cannot make up the stories that I have of late.

But really... I am starting to feel exhausted by the No's.


It's time to reframe these No's.  

It is absolutely necessary that I recommit to looking at these answers in a different light.  What if every time the Lord answered any request of mine with a "No" or a "Not yet"...
instead of collapsing into self-pity or sorrow or grief, I started saying to myself the following phrase, "Wow.  If THAT'S not the path for me...and it looked pretty great...then I can't wait to see the Yes that is coming...whatever it is... because It must be incredible!"

I really need to start using the very disappointment I am experiencing to point me to a greater reality that is already planned out and worked out, according to His love...AND is on the way.

There MUST be a greater plan that he's saying yes to in his wisdom.   Because God is all powerful and God is love.  

There are many gifts in my life that my late husband, Jason, gave to me....and one is a phrase that I find myself repeating when I'm disappointed.  I can still remember sitting with him one day as I was upset about something that wasn't working out the way I had wanted.  I had received a "No"...and I was sad.

In that moment, I vividly remember Jason saying to me the following phrase:

"What if this is copper and God has gold?"

In all of my rantings and feelings I had not even left room for this option.
And when he said it, it resonated with me.

So yeah... What if?  What if THIS (whatever THIS is for me or for you in the present situation...)
is copper, and gold is coming?

It throws everything into a whole new light.
Because as much as I like copper...
I like gold better.  

I'm reframing the disappointments.

By God's grace, I'm going to sit in a humble posture before Him believing he does indeed know best AND sees so infinitely far beyond the particular moment in time where I am living and breathing.

I'm going to celebrate this moment I'm living with all of it's blessings and goodness.

I'm going to pray my guts out.

And I'm going to get excited for the gold.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Things I Love #5 - Coffee Emporium

I LOVE Coffee Emporium.  

It is my "Cheers"…where people know my name…and my sister, nieces, brothers, and mom.  I love walking in and hearing, "Your sister or your brother was just in here with your nieces."
Coffee Emporium makes a big city small for me.  The entire walk there makes a big city small.  On the walk, the fella at Haps Irish Pub sometimes gives Tucker a treat.

I love that Amy is both my barista AND my friend.  I love that we get dinner together and shop together…and I love Gretchen and Jeremiah and Katie and Eileen.

I love that they put a fire pit outside.

I love the waffles on Sunday.

I love the Salted Almond Mocha.

I love the burlap bag I bought there.

I love that I can come in after work and chat, hear about Amy's niece and Gretchen's daughter's school.

I love Donna's cookies.

I love the wisteria that grows over the patio out back.

I love the community it fosters.

You get the point.  It's one of those things in life that I'm way thankful for...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cincinnati Adventure - Taste of Belgium

Taste of Belgium in Over the Rhine

Yesterday I had my "Cincinnati Adventure" - which means I have officially met my very first New Years Goal of the year!  The goal was to go somewhere I've never been, with someone else, trying something I've never tried.

My long time friend, Sandra, and I went to Taste of Belgium - a great place to eat in the historic neighborhood of Over the Rhine.  While this neighborhood used to be known as one of the sketchiest sections of Cincinnati, parts of it have recently been fixed up making it quite a conglomeration of folks.  One street might be the trendiest little place you've ever seen with urban shops, eateries, etc…and then 2 streets over you would think twice before parking your car on the side of the road.  I, for one, am quiet interested (and hopeful) to see how they merge these two worlds…I am hoping it's done well.

Taste of Belgium is quite the gem in Over the Rhine.  One of their specialties is the Chicken and Waffles dish.  I ordered those in addition to an amazing chocolate candied orange latte.  The meal was great, the latte was delish and the company was fantastic :)

Sandra sporting a sweet hat

Chocolate Candied Orange Latte

Chicken and Waffles

Taste of Belgium - right behind Sandra on the corner!

Cincinnati Adventure - Taste of Belgium and Chicken and Waffles!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

New Years Goals 2014

It's nearly the middle of February, which means I'm LONG overdue to type up my New Years Goals for this year.  They're not exactly difficult goals (and some are carry-overs from last year)...and perhaps calling these goals a yearly "bucket list" might actually be a better description.  I am excited about them, and I'm looking forward to getting started!

 2014 New Years Goals

1.  Read 10 books - 5 of these biographies, and some C.S. Lewis in there too

Radical by David Platt 
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Uprising by Erwin McManus
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine D'Engle
The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkenson
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Journey by Alfred Lansing
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
No Longer a Slumdog by K.P. Yohannan

2.  Sew a skirt or a dress with my sewing machine

3.  Be filled with the Fruits of the Spirit - no matter what life looks like - pray especially for joy and peace.

4.  Brew Kamboucha

5.  Go on 4 adventures - 1 International, 1 United States, 1 Ohio, and 1 Cincinnati.
Rules:  It must be somewhere I've never been to before.
I must go with at least one other person.
While there I must do or try something I've never tried before.
Completed - Cincinnati Adventure: Taste of Belgium and Chicken and Waffles with Sandra
Completed - International Adventure:  Inca Trail to Machu Piccu with Lindsey
Completed - U.S.A. Adventure: Creation Museum and Ziplining with Karen

6.  Get my piano tuned

7.  Run the Flying Pig half marathon in under 2 hours...it's going to stay on the list each year until it happens :) FAIL :)  Next year....

8.  Go to one international adoption meeting.  

9.  Write 3 original poems for 3 different people - and then read the poem to that person over the phone or in person

10.  Finish Jason's table...
So...I have a bedside table that Jason was in the process of making for me when he died.  It's been in the garage for 9 and a half years now - just sitting there collecting dust - unfinished.
This year, I'm going to finish it.  And hopefully not chop off a finger in the process.


This is a pretty great list, huh?! This isn't exactly the entire list - but it's most of them.

ALSO - This year, I've decided to have a theme verse...
"She is clothed with strength and dignity.  She can laugh at the days to come."  Proverbs 31:25

I'm excited to live this out a bit better this year.  Because of Jesus, I am clothed with strength and dignity. ...and because of Him, I can laugh at the days to come...

And this year I will do just that.  

Something unexpected happened to me as the New Year rolled over.  And I seriously hate to say that it was "unexpected" because honestly it should be what I expect day in and day out in this walk of faith and grace...

...but regardless of my expectations or lack thereof, as this year as started, I have found that the Lord has washed his peace over me….he has reached down from on high and lifted me up.

I feel different.  Noticeably lighter.  I have a fresh covering of peace and joy.

Seriously, to be honest, I'm almost concerned about my lack of concern :)

I take it as a season of rest.  Beautiful rest.
It probably means crazy is coming….and well, I'm up for that too.  But for now I'll sit here with a renewed sense of God's peace, and I'll feel content.

So - 2014 is here, a new list of goals is in writing, and I'm ready to go.  Adventure is coming.