At the lake

Hello from Lake of the Ozarks!

This is quite possibly my favorite place in the world.

Oh, I know there are more interesting places, more beautiful places to be. And I like all those places in different ways. But this lake is maybe one of the safest places I’ve known. It’s a place where I feel more peace than anywhere else.

This summer has been different in many ways than I expected. Without boring you with all the details, let’s just say that I have felt a deep need for peace. And as soon as I crossed the bridge spanning the Niangua arm of the Lake, I felt like I was driving into a 10 mile radius of peace.

I don’t know why this place is so safe for me. Maybe because it’s almost as if time stops when I’m here. We have no schedule. Real-life demands and worries seem so far away. We have nothing to do but pack a cooler, climb in the boat and disappear for the day. There’s nothing like a blazing hot summer day and my family on the boat to lift my spirits.

My family. Maybe I’ll write a whole post about them one of these days. But you should know that they are some of the most incredible people. I often like to think that I’m this grown-up, independent young woman, but the truth is, I absolutely love (and need) to be around my family. Yesterday I just got to sit in the front of the boat with my sister, planning and dreaming about her wedding. (Yes, my baby sister’s getting hitched!!). I’m so proud of how she’s growing up. And my parents…I got to be loved by my them this weekend, in ways that they might not even realize. Some examples: my dad called an auto shop down here to get my car fixed on a day’s notice (guess I WILL be making it back to St. Louis now), they let me order the expensive salmon at the restaurant (which tastes amazing when you’ve been living on oatmeal and salad all summer), and my mom just sat and listened when I needed to let off some steam. My brother and sister-in-law aren’t here, but we took time this weekend to marvel at the miracle of little Abby Rose’s life (I’ll blog about her sometime, too). She’s more than doubled her birth weight and the doctors are thrilled with her progress. Born at 1 lb. 12 oz., and given at 50 percent chance of making it, she’s our family’s real-life miracle. God is faithful.

And last night, our neighbor (a family friend from Pella) called a prayer meeting to pray over me, her daughter (who just got back from YWAM China) and another girl here who is leaving on a YWAM trip to New Zealand. Talk about PEACE overflowing in that room.

This place is safe, no doubt about it. Or as someone said last night, “The safest place to be is inside God’s will.” Good words to live by.

Peace for now, friends. I think I hear a jet ski calling my name.

Hello from Lake of the Ozarks!

This is quite possibly my favorite place in the world.

Oh, I know there are more interesting places, more beautiful places to be. And I like all those places in different ways. But this lake is maybe one of the safest places I’ve known. It’s a place where I feel more peace than anywhere else.

This summer has been different in many ways than I expected. Without boring you with all the details, let’s just say that I have felt a deep need for peace. And as soon as I crossed the bridge spanning the Niangua arm of the Lake, I felt like I was driving into a 10 mile radius of peace.

I don’t know why this place is so safe for me. Maybe because it’s almost as if time stops when I’m here. We have no schedule. Real-life demands and worries seem so far away. We have nothing to do but pack a cooler, climb in the boat and disappear for the day. There’s nothing like a blazing hot summer day and my family on the boat to lift my spirits.

My family. Maybe I’ll write a whole post about them one of these days. But you should know that they are some of the most incredible people. I often like to think that I’m this grown-up, independent young woman, but the truth is, I absolutely love (and need) to be around my family. Yesterday I just got to sit in the front of the boat with my sister, planning and dreaming about her wedding. (Yes, my baby sister’s getting hitched!!). I’m so proud of how she’s growing up. And my parents…I got to be loved by my them this weekend, in ways that they might not even realize. Some examples: my dad called an auto shop down here to get my car fixed on a day’s notice (guess I WILL be making it back to St. Louis now), they let me order the expensive salmon at the restaurant (which tastes amazing when you’ve been living on oatmeal and salad all summer), and my mom just sat and listened when I needed to let off some steam. My brother and sister-in-law aren’t here, but we took time this weekend to marvel at the miracle of little Abby Rose’s life (I’ll blog about her sometime, too). She’s more than doubled her birth weight and the doctors are thrilled with her progress. Born at 1 lb. 12 oz., and given at 50 percent chance of making it, she’s our family’s real-life miracle. God is faithful.

And last night, our neighbor (a family friend from Pella) called a prayer meeting to pray over me, her daughter (who just got back from YWAM China) and another girl here who is leaving on a YWAM trip to New Zealand. Talk about PEACE overflowing in that room.

This place is safe, no doubt about it. Or as someone said last night, “The safest place to be is inside God’s will.” Good words to live by.

Peace for now, friends. I think I hear a jet ski calling my name.

Advertisements

Yesterday and Tomorrow

I have this tendency to either dwell in the past or the future — to think about what happened yesterday or worry about what will happen tomorrow (or next week, month or year).

I’ve been learning what it means to live in the present.

Living in the present means being aware, being attuned to the here and now. It means appreciating this very moment, being grateful for today instead of thinking about my yesterdays or planning my tomorrows. It’s a realization that by living in the past or the future, I miss out on so many beautiful moments of today.

So, I’m trying to be better at this. Try with me?

Things I’ve been mindfully aware of in the past 24 hours:

  • My four-year-old cousin Joshua’s happy cry of, “Miss Dana’s home!”
  • An encouraging text message from a dear friend
  • The taste of coffee
  • The morning sun as I drove to the train station
  • The happiness of a friend who finished taking her nursing exam
  • Laughter at lunch with my fellow interns
  • Eating a plum for the first time
  • A meaningful chapter in a good book
  • The soreness in my arms after kickboxing class
  • The feel of sticky Missouri humidity on my skin
  • The laughter of little boys as they play with their new toys

Days are so much more full when I savor these moments, when I dwell in the purpose of today.

I was recently reminded by a dear friend that the Lord gives us grace only for the present moment. By living in today’s grace, we are saying, “Lord, I take hold of You today, trusting and knowing that you will again pour out the grace I will need tomorrow.”

Give us today our daily bread.

Lifeless eyes

Whenever I take spiritual gifts tests, my scores for compassion are always the highest. I’ve got a lot of work to do on some other departments, but compassion never fails to dominate.

Basically, this means I have a lot of emotions. (Right, mom?)

It also means that I tend to empathize with people to a pretty high degree — too high of a degree sometimes. I’ve found that there’s a fine line between caring for another person in their sorrows and becoming burdened by their troubles yourself, which often disables you from actually being able to provide help in the situation. I often fall on the wrong side of this line. Things can be perfectly great in my own life, but tell me of someone suffering, going through a hard time, and it can take an toll on me. If it’s ever possible to get too emotionally involved, I often do.

That happened last week.

I read a book that catalogues a young Nepalese girl’s story of being sold into sexual slavery. (Sold by Patricia McCormick). The images it presented were horrific, the story it told was hard to read. It was raw, it was real, it left me with tears running down my face and a million questions in my mind. How can this happen? How do we stop it? Who will speak for these children? Who will save them? Who will bring the perpetrators to justice? Who will love these children back to life? Who will bring light to their lifeless eyes?

Sexual exploitation has been an issue that I’ve felt drawn to this past year, ever since a friend told me about her experience in Cambodia volunteering at a safe house for girls who had been rescued from sexual slavery. These are young girls, some not even yet teenagers, who are sold so that their families will have food to eat. Girls sold because their culture doesn’t value women.

These girls are physically tortured and psychologically scarred.

These girls are raped day after day after day.

I cannot imagine the horrors.

I cannot imagine the violent disregard of something that I value so highly, a gift that I guard so closely.

I often insulate myself in my nice little safe bubble. We, as a culture, insulate ourselves, often blocking from our minds anything that makes us even slightly uncomfortable. Sometimes when people talk about issues like this, they’re met with the response, “Just don’t think about it” or “Stop being so emotional” or “It’s not going to change, just forget it.” Well, we can’t just forget about it. We can’t simply ignore atrocities happening all around us. Is that what the Bible means when it says to “seek justice and defend the oppressed”? To “speak up and defend the rights of the poor and needy”? 

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a multi-billion dollar industry. UNICEF reports that more than one million children enter the sex trade every year and that in the past three decades about 30 million children have lost their childhood through sexual exploitation.

30 million.

That’s ten times the population of my home state of Iowa.

I’ll admit that maybe I get too emotional about some things, but I don’t know if we can be too emotional about this, if it could affect us too deeply. I do think, however, that maybe emotion can get in the way of actually doing something about the issue. Instead of being solely entrenched in the emotional side of compassion, I want to take action. I want to raise awareness, I want to be a part of the fight for these children’s freedom. I’m not really sure what that looks like, but I think it starts with actually talking about the issue. It starts with acknowledging that things like sexual slavery, extreme poverty and human rights abuses exist, and then loving the people of this world enough to do something about it.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18.

Not for Sale Campaign

Hi my name is Dana and I can’t eat gluten

I have celiac disease.

Celiac is an autoimmune disease that is largely undiagnosed, but researchers estimate that it affects about 1 in 133 Americans…I being one of those lucky few. There can be various complications with celiac, but it basically means that when you eat gluten, your body attacks itself. And that’s not a pleasant experience. (Enough said.) So a diagnosis of celiac is a prescription for a life without gluten.

When people hear I can’t eat gluten, their first response is usually pity. They’re incredulous as to how I ever manage to live without eating breads, pastas, cookies, and the like. I’ll admit, when I was first diagnosed 7 years ago, I tended to dwell in this kind of self-pity. I hated my diet and I didn’t follow it very well either. But that’s all changed.

Today, I am thankful for celiac. That’s right, thankful. It’s a disease I’ll have to live with my whole life, but the great part is that it’s something I can totally control. Don’t eat gluten, feel great. It’s that easy. Even better, avoiding gluten has forced me to become very aware of nutrition and health. (When you have celiac, you become an expert at reading food labels and researching foods.) So now, not only am I careful to not put gluten in my body, but I try to exercise regularly and fuel my body with the best foods possible.

Yes, I still have my moments. I get stressed about eating out at restaurants and I hate imposing my diet on people when they invite me to eat at their homes. I miss eating red licorice and being able to pull anything off the shelf at the grocery store. But then I just remind myself that I can still drink coffee and eat chocolate. Life could be far, far worse.

Through all of this, I’ve come to see this body as a gift. It’s capable of some amazing things, and I get to learn how to best take care of it. If I hadn’t been diagnosed with celiac, I don’t think I’d ever have appreciated my body and my health in the way I do now.

So all you “normal” people, go ahead, eat gluten. You can even eat it in front of me. I don’t mind. I am happily gluten-free.

People on the train

I take the train in and out of downtown St. Louis every day for work. Which is great for so many reasons: it saves gas money, I don’t have to be frustrated with traffic twice a day, it lessens the chance of my already breaking-down car to break even further, it gives me the chance to read and write on my commute, AND (this is my favorite) the train is a prime place for people-watching.

Some people/things I’ve seen: Women applying 10 layers of mascara on the morning train. A man in a chef’s uniform (complete with the hat). Lots of women reading cheap romance novels. Ganstas who need belts. A gray-haired man reading the New York Times. Mothers with crying babies. A quiet woman with eyes that are always downcast. Two friends laughing together. Men in uniform. Nurses in scrubs getting off at the hospital stop. Students with backpacks, studying in their seats. A couple sitting in front of me, whispering into each others’ ears. Clearly in love. A middle-aged man who jokes with me after we both get soaked as we ran to the train in a torrential downpour.

I don’t know these people, but I can’t help but wonder about their lives. What are their passions? Where do they work? What music are they listening to on their iPods? What books are they reading, and why? Do they have families? Why won’t that quiet woman look up and smile? What’s the chef’s favorite food to cook? Did the nurse take car of preemie babies like my niece today? Will I become friends with that nice man I say hi to every morning?

Funny how we encounter so many people every day but know so little about them.

I hope all my train friends are happy tonight.

Permanent Addresses

I’ve been filling out a lot of forms lately. And they all ask for a permanent address.

Well, I don’t have one.

I usually put my parent’s address, but I’ve actually spent far less time there in the past 4 years than I have anywhere else. My school address changed every year. One summer my address was in Switzerland, another summer it was in St. Louis. This summer, St. Louis again. In a few months it will be Thailand. And then…who knows?

I’m somewhat of a routine person — Type A, you know? I like having some sort of idea where life is going, where I’ll be at, and what I’ll be doing. I tend to like stability, permanence, control. Although this kind of predictability makes life slightly more boring, it also usually makes it easier. Unfortunately, I’ve realized that’s not at all how God works. He’s not predictable or easy or boring. And because of that, as my good friend Oswald Chambers says, the nature of our spiritual lives is that we will always be uncertain of the next step, while always being certain of God. (Maybe he’s the only one who gets to be Type A.)

So in these years of being in constant flux, of never knowing just where I’m going, I’m learning the beauty of uncertainty and the necessity of trust. And in that, I’m learning a lot about grace. Because although I’d like to think I have this “life” thing figured out (right, mom and dad?), I really know far less than I think I do. Grace is the mantra these days.

And I’ve decided that permanent addresses are overrated. Just send me an email.

The story so far

Hi there. I’m Dana…Dane to my mom and my friends…The Dane Train to a few select others. Call me what you like. I think I like The Dane Train best.

 I recently graduated from Truman State University with a degree in public communication and minors in psychology and music. But please don’t ask me what I’m going to do with my life. I don’t know yet. Maybe I’ll never know, and that’s fine, as long as I find meaning and purpose in whatever I am doing in the present. For this summer that means I’m living in St. Louis and interning at a public relations agency in their internal communications department. You could say it’s my first major step into the professional world. My reflections on it so far: growing up is strange.

 But more important than my academic or career journey is my journey with the Lord. He’s my reason for life and joy, the impetus for my every move and breath. I endeavor to live every day in obedience to my Savior, striving to be in tune with his will for my life. And for the upcoming season of my life, that obedience will mean THAILAND, where I’ll be volunteering with a ministry from September 2011 – February 2012.

Sometime at the end of last summer I felt an undeniable call to serve in ministry overseas for some period of time after I graduated from Truman. Mind you, I had never imagined this for my life. I thought I’d graduate, find some job I loved, live on my own, be independent, etc. Riiiight. Throughout the past year I’ve truly learned the words of James 4:15 “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

At about the point where I began to feel called to volunteer overseas, I had been learning about what this type of true obedience to the Lord looks like. I’d also been reading a lot about social justice and the gospel — the gospel where we, as disciples of Jesus, radically love those that the world so often ignores, bringing the Kingdom of God to them. In all this, my eyes were being opened to the adverse conditions that so many people live in throughout the world. Children going hungry, women being abused, young girls being sex trafficked, people dying of preventable diseases. In the past year I’ve felt the urgency of showing these people the Kingdom of God — a kingdom that they are invited to, just as much as we are.

So that brought me to somewhat of a dead end. “Okay, Lord, I know you’ve called me to do this. Now what?” Where was I supposed to go, what was I supposed to do? I began researching various missions organizations and decided to focus on YWAM’s (Youth With a Mission) ministries. I started looking at the ministry sites they had in countries around the world, and for some reason, my heart began being drawn toward Southeast Asia. There was a specific group of ministries called the Project L.I.F.E. Foundation, which YWAM calls their mercy ministries, that I couldn’t shake from my mind. So I applied to Project L.I.F.E. and they placed me with a ministry in Pattaya, Thailand called Pattaya Slum Ministries (PSM). PSM works in various capacities with people living in the slums of Pattaya (more on that later). For more info on Project L.I.F.E. and PSM, check out their Facebook page or their web site: http://www.ywamthai.org/mercy.

That’s probably enough information for now. Just wanted to give a brief background to those of you who I haven’t gotten to share all of this with. I’ll sign off with some verses that have reverberated through my mind throughout this whole process.

“Listen, my dear brother: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” James 2:5

“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked to clothe him, and to not turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6-7

Beginnings

It seems to me that the first entry to a blog should be somewhat epic, using eloquent language, convincing you that I’m some great adventurer inviting you to read about my (not so) deep insights and experiences. Well, sorry. I’ll do my best, but I can’t always promise you such grandeur.

My main reason for starting this blog is to give you a means of following along as I prepare to go to Thailand this fall, and then give you a chance to journey along with me once I’m there. So this blog will partly be about that, especially as September draws nearer. But I’ll also be using the blog to share other thoughts or experiences I may have about life and faith and Jesus. So take what you like and leave what you don’t. But thanks for reading.

Let’s start the conversation.