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 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 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
Completed…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

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
Coming in July - International Adventure:  Inca Trail to Machu Piccu

6.  Get my piano tuned

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

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.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Year of Mac

Before I lay out my goals for 2014…I'd like to highlight one New Year's Goal from last year that turned out to be stellar - getting mac-n-cheese every Monday at Keystone Grill.

I planned to eat Mac at Keystone Grill every Monday I was in town - aside from a few misses, I was pretty faithful.  I could not have predicted in January how much fun I would have doing it and how many great conversations would happen throughout the year.   I had loads of dinners with many friends.  I loved getting a "Hey - can I join you for mac some Monday night?!"  There were lots of special times with many dear friends.  My friends Meredith and Marina even became regular mac-n-cheese eaters with me - and it's still continuing.

I knew I had finally "arrived" as a regular when Jeremy who works at the bar answered my phone call with "Hey Dani - what do you want this evening?!"  I looked forward to seeing his smile and saying hello each time I went in to pick up a carry-out order.

And my students - oh man were they into this goal.  On Monday mornings during our Community Time, one of my boys would excitedly ask what I was going to get.  And he would follow up on Tuesday morning by asking what I got.  I would describe the type of Mac dish I had eaten, while they oooooohed and awwwwwwed over it.  They loved it.  And as the year came to a close they excitedly asked "What's your goal next year going to be?"  (As if Mac-n-Cheese was the whole of my ambition through the year!)  So fun :)

Favorites of the year:
Jimmy Buffet - Hamburger in the mac with french fries on top
Smoked cheese with turkey and bacon mac
Black Beans and Bacon
Chorizo macs
Green Day Mac - Sun dried tomatoes, spinach, etc.

Most of all, though, I'm thankful for the time with friends, and I have loads of good memories from these times.  There's only been 3 weeks in January so far…and 2 of those I've already eaten mac at Keystone even without the goal :)

I have talked over mac.
Listened over mac.
Cried over mac.
and Laughed over mac.

My year of Mac.  What a Great Goal.  It'll be hard to top in 2014.

Mac with Linda

Marina and Meredith - regular mac buddies - still going....