…the least of these…


This week has been absolutely amazing.  We are surely not on the other side, just yet…  but being in the midst of this storm we call ‘life’ and getting to see those glimpses of God’s hand at work – it’s enough to bring you joy, hope, peace, humility, and grace all at once.  I am not there entirely, but there have been moments.

I have made a conscious choice to allow my struggles and pain, disappointments and failures, hopes and dreams, quite public.  I’ve been extremely vulnerable.  I have doubted this transparency.  I’ve wondered how many people view my posts, status updates, and blogs as mere cries for attention, pity parties, and desperation.  I have lived in those places for a lot of my life and I know I’m susceptible to take up residency there.  It is a tender place in my heart and shameful to me.  My friend Bryon delivered a sermon several months ago and  he is the one who was able to verbalize for me, how depression, worry, and fear can be places of permanent housing rather than momentary thoughts or experiences.  It was a vivid illustration in my mind.  Convicting.

It was the same sermon that he eluded to some struggles that he himself had been enduring.  When Bryon speaks, you should prolly listen.  He started out telling us that he didn’t see himself as a doctor, a pastor, or one with all the answers, but one just like us with problems, disappointments, and issues.  I was on the edge of my seat.  I thought he was going to share a specific, tangible, authentically personal experience with us and…  he didn’t.  I felt cheated!  I wanted to hear this amazing life changing testimony, but Bryon took the message in a different direction.  It has intrigued me that I remember being curious about why he didn’t reveal details about his personal stuff.  Instead…  he talked about Ivan.

Anyone in Weiser knows wheelchair Ivan.  I’m not exactly sure of his condition but it is a physical and mental handicap.  Ivan was active in the community despite his disability and honestly, he was so active at times that people got annoyed with him!  His “help” was not always helpful.  Bless his heart.

Bryon would go and, at times, push Ivan from the care center to our church.  It is far.  It was hot.  Ivan is not small.  Bryon knew that he wasn’t bringing him so much to worship or to see his friends or to give witness.  He brought him because Ivan asked him to.  He brought Ivan so he could sleep in a different environment!  Every Sunday that Ivan requested and every Sunday that he could, Bryon would sacrifice to wheel him to church.  And then, one day, Ivan wasn’t at the care center.  Bryon missed his brother.

It’s seeing someone like Bryon, so beat up, bruised, and defeated by the politics of the world get up in front of a group of his peers on Sunday – not to validate his own woes, but to declare how great the Lord is in giving him the friendship of Ivan- that makes you consider what is valuable.  In hindsight, I love that it means more to me now, that Bryon was able to stand up and praise God, regardless of his own circumstances.  His faith, his story, his purpose does not change.  Bryon is who he is in Christ before anything else.

This week, because I am the polar opposite of Bryon and cannot keep my mouth shut, I chose to express my pain.  In doing that, I have been blessed to have the most intimate, amazing, fulfilling conversations with some of the most remarkable people on two legs.  I am blown away.

***One young girl, age 20, lost her mother this week in a tragic accident.  I had the courage to talk to her a few times.  I asked pretty direct questions the softest way I could.  She told me that she knows God is with her mom and that is what is bringing her this amazing peace and sound mind during this time.  It is striking, you guys.  She is articulate, thoughtful, angelic.  She said if God didn’t exist, there is no way she could have survived this loss.

***One older woman, who I knew had health struggles even when I was young, talked to me about her chronic health condition (I didn’t mention any of mine to prompt her) and how she had endured this structural skull problem, that was later complicated by multiple brain and skeletal surgeries.  She showed me her shoulders just under her shirt collar – the structure of her clavicle and irregular muscle tone were obvious.  Holding up her head is literally an all day painful task.  People look at her and think she is capable and well because it is a hidden condition.  Dealing the cards she was dealt with a smile is too much sometimes.  Pain is a way of life.  She offered a beautiful story and when her husband scooped her up from the shop to take her on another errand, I asked him how he had held up seeing her like this.  I thought of my Toby.  Her husband’s eyes softened, he patted her back and gave his wife all the credit.  Agape.

***I talked to a woman I admire deeply today, for the first time ever, about her daughter that she lost several years ago.  I’ve wanted to comfort her a long time ago, but never knew what to say.  Today, I just asked.  Her other daughter was with her.  They both reflected fondly over their daughter, sister, and friend.  It was beautiful to hear them talk about those very difficult days followed by the regular challenges of life that don’t care how much you’re hurting.  It was beautiful because they were there smiling and sharing with me and my mom and it was so real and special.  If they can make it through such horrific tragedy, then maybe I can make it through my stuff, too.

I know that I do tend to have a dark side and that at times, it may seem my glass is always half empty.  I have whined and complained a lot in the last few years.  Yeah, I’m not promising crap!  I know I have some venting in me, yet! But,  I am so tired of living in the land of the miserable and I am ready to live in the place of healing, hope, joy, and grace. It is a process.  Please continue to be patient with me.  I’m trying. Pray.  I pray that I may end my days with joy.

In the moments that I have revealed my weakness, the Lord has made me so strong in all of you.  The encouragement, messages, phone calls, texts, visits.  They are natural and meaningful between you and me and I am so thankful.   I am so thankful.

The Cure

I think I’ve decided what I “need.”  I heard this song last night by the Sidewalk Prophets.  It said something about ‘show me you’re a bigger God than I could have ever imagined.’  I also read this blip out of “The Cure” by John Lynch.  The tagline of the book is “When God isn’t who you think he is…  and neither are you.”

I’ve had this vague understanding of who God is in my short walk.  Sometimes I don’t think I fear Him the way I ought to.  My friend Shawna taught me the verbage, “He knows my heart.”  No matter what I say or do, he knows my heart and even if I can’t articulate my conceptions, He hears me.  Sometimes it’s just me who needs to be able to articulate what I am thinking.  Not so much for Him, but for me.

The other night I lay on the floor while Toby tried to massage and stretch out my left arm.  Something is going on.  My shoulder is tender, sore, tires easily.  I am getting cramping throughout the whole arm.  In places it waxes and wanes like a painful toothache.  It seems to be triggered more when I have my arm bent – it does not have to be flexed.  By Saturday, it had built up for 4-5 days.  We’re trying to figure out how to make this pain better and I am at the point of havin’ to do something.  The pain is acute.  I had all three babies naturally, I know what severe pain feels like.

Tears roll from my face to the carpet beneath me as Toby tried to work on my arm.  Tears are welling up in Toby’s eyes and heart.  This is so hard you guys.  I am so beyond tired and frustrated and sad.  I cannot nurture Toby and it’s difficult that I am the cause of his anguish, even if its not my fault. I cry to the Lord, but sometimes it seems that the trials are only getting harder, faster, and more complicated than before.

Lord, hear my cry.  We are not fine.  Sometimes it feels like this life has started at the point of difficulty and then it just got worse with time.  There are times when I see you.  But, there are a lot more times when I don’t see or feel you.  I’ve always felt justified in asking that if this life must be so physically and emotionally painful, that you could make something else easier.  Evidently that’s not your plan.  In case you haven’t noticed, I sort of need you a lot right now.  Big.  I need you to make your presence in my life bigger than I ever could have imagined.  I need some hope to hold on to.  I need a season of peace.  Bless me with your wisdom Lord, that I might use it in every aspect of my life.  Let me find myself living the life of trust and grace in you. Amen.

The last decent issue I had with my health was in July.  It was a similar version of what I’m going through now, but in my right arm.  More in my armpit and shoulder.  The most similar experience that I could relate the pain to was shingles.  I started on the shingles medication right away so I never did break out in the rash.  Now, I’m unsure if it really was shingles or part of my disease process.  July…  August…  September…  October…  November.  It’s building momentum.

I need a really big God.

the cure


This week I did a lesson on “Self-Control” for our community high school youth group.  I know, right?  Dana “Slyter” doing a lesson on self-control.  In my heart, I associate that “Slyter” part of my life as a part of shame.  I feel like Dana Slyter was much more of a disappontment than Dana Clary.   Mostly because in response to a difficult childhood I spiraled out of control.  The illusion of control that I did have was a web of lies and I was spinning and spinning and soon just…  wound up so tight.  I was done.

My 17th and 18th years were so hard.  There is something extremely challenging about that transition from kid to adult.  Figuring out how what you know matches up with the rest of the world.  I wasn’t naive in the sense of bad stuff happening, but extremely ignorant to how the world handled life.  I sucked at life.

I am not even joking.

I could not discern if who I had been all the years of my life was really who I was or who I had become because of my circumstances.  That really bothered me for some reason.  I didn’t want to keep doing what I did for the sake of…  everyone else?  It was at this uncertain time, there was no boundary, no right or wrong, no limit.  There’s the saying “if you don’t spend your money, it will spend itself,” or something.  The gist is, if you don’t set the budget and say, this ‘is what it is’ AND stick with it, then just throw the money in the trash because you’ll end up wasting more, etc., without a plan.

I had a basic plan at 17.  Go to college.  Become a doctor.  Get married.  Make adorable babies.  Become really important.  Make lots of money.  Happily ever after.  The end.

This is a lovely plan.  The problem is, I was so emotionally and mentally lost that even when I was where I needed to be physically, I screwed up.  Big.  I made it to step one of my above plan.  ROFL.  Seriously.  I graduated from my small high school in pretty good standing.  I wasn’t a good kid.  I had attitude and entitlement issues on top of being severely depressed.  I didn’t know I was depressed.  My freshman year I started out like a rainbow.  I ended my senior year more like mud.  Stuck.  Ugly.  Slow.  I lost all but a couple of close friends.  My Justin.  He checked up on me when he didn’t have to.  We didn’t really talk about my issues, but he tried hard to get me out of my mud and involved in life.  I love him over and over again.

I’m not sure that I was suicidal, but I was in a very dark place.

My mom and I had moved into town my junior year.  It was after my sister left for college and I think it just became harder for my dad.  Life.  He was worn out and totally lost himself.  The business was stressful.  There was no relief for him.  Alcohol helped him get the release he was looking for, but mom and I couldn’t be around it anymore.  It was a hard choice for my mom.  Being a single-parent on top of being emotionally abused, left her in a really bad place.  I was pretty devastated when mom said we were moving back in with dad out on the highway after several months of freedom.  I think it was near the end of my junior year.  Maybe that summer?

I started smoking somewhere here.  Puking.  Not eating.  Exercising uncontrollably.  Partying.  Boys.  I think that this type of rebellion is common in this age group – we’re looking for something to control.  But, to someone who is emotionally unbalanced, this normally difficult experience is overwhelming and it’s easy to find immediate comfort in these areas.  Comfort we’re not getting anywhere else in the world.

I made the biggest mistakes of my life during this time.   I moved out of my house within a few days after high school graduation.  I was gifted enough money to live on that summer and stayed in my sister’s apartment in Moscow.  Not Russia.  I chose to go to the University of Idaho.  Big mistake.  Big.  Huge!

I tried to do the school thing.  I couldn’t focus.  I was hardly sleeping.  Not amnesia.  What’s the sleeping problem?   I started drinking heavily.  There is a party every single night…  somewhere, in Moscow, Idaho!  I found most of them.  I tried marijuana for the first time here.  I lost my virginity.  Multiple times.  I think I attended about 1/4 of my classes.  I honestly don’t even know if I passed any?  Grades, which had once been my entire identity, meant nothing.

Looking back at this – on paper – I am so embarrassed.  I hate that this was me.  On the other hand, I can see how desperately bad I was hurting.  This was not me.  Anyone who knew my character knew this wasn’t me.  People tried to help.  I don’t know if I would be alive without Gretchen.  If at any point in my life I was suicidal, it was then.  I thought about it all the time.  Death surely had to be better than this life.

That spring I got pretty sick.  The consequences of my lifestyle caught up to me.  I also didn’t realize at the time that I was beginning to get “really” sick.  I had a decent case of walking pneumonia and Mono which resulted with my spleen getting enlarged for an extended period of time.  I left “school” abruptly that spring.

When I graduated at high school, I spoke at graduation.  I was an almost perfect 4.0 student in the toughest classes our school offered – physics, calculus, trig, chemistry, honors English.  I was no joke academically, a gifted and talented student since 2nd grade.  I was honored to be my school’s homecoming queen my senior year.  I won another pageant thing once.  I was even the student body president.  I had the resume, the credentials, and the mind to be great at life.

As I put together my self-control lesson I thought about how inadequate an example my life is to these kids.  As painful as it is for me, it’s also the perfect illustration to help them.  We are body, mind, and spirit.  Without any of these areas nurtured and taken care of, we’re not complete.  And when we’re not complete and out of balance, we do stupid stuff to try to fix our lives to make it feel right.  We put a sugar packet under a wobbly table.  That’s the problem with the world today.  Everyone comes up with a temporary fix.  And, when you don’t even have the knowledge to fix the wobbly table like a carpenter, to know what ought to be right, you’re in quite the pickle trying to figure out feelings and life situations you’re never possibly going to understand.

My heart and soul were defeated in these tender years of my life.  There was no love there.  No joy.  No passion.  There were dim flickers of light in the caves of my spirit at times, but nothing that could balance out the awkward tripod of my body-mind-soul trifecta.  Nothing but the good Lord could fix this.

I think age, time, and Toby all helped to bring me out of the depths of quicksand during that rough chapter of my life.  As soon as I started to climb out, though, more stuff with my body started to go wrong.  When I was 19, we started with all of the ovary problems, Endometriosis, cysts, etc..  That started blurring into the chronic neurological problems that were full blown by age 23.

It is only because Christ is living in me now that I can see, and must trust, that I needed to go through this yucky stuff.  The plan I had was not where he needed me to be.  I wouldn’t have my Toby if things had gone the way they “ought” to.  Accepting this as the truth of what happened, no longer blaming my parents, myself, or God for my problems has a very liberating element to it.  We all did the best we could and you know what?  It’s not over.  God has a better plan in store for me!!!!

That excites me!  I am no longer aimlessly wandering around to find my place in the world, but do what I can where I am with what I have to serve the Lord.  There have been a lot of consequences to my lack of self-control:  financial, reputation, damaged relationships, and trust issues.  Only the Lord could turn something so gross into something so glorious.  Amen,

Only God can work in such rad ways.  I think through all of my preparation for this lesson, the thing  that still stands boldly out in my mind was this relationship between self-control as a worldly and spiritual concept.

In the world we identify self-control as the ability to control one’s own thoughts/judgments, behaviors/actions, and emotions/heart.  Body, mind, soul.  In the Bible, Jesus orders us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, and mind.  The three areas that we are to have control over by the world’s example is body, mind, and soul.  The thing Jesus says is the very most important in the whole Bible is to love God with the same three areas.  On top of this, I realized…  Jesus was our example in body/behavior, the Holy Spirit is our counselor on matters of the heart, and God gives us the very Word for our minds to meditate on.

The Trinity is the very truth of our self-control.

Blows.  My.  Mind.

True Revival

I always thought “revival” involved tents, snakes, and a miraculous healer. Awhile ago our church hosted a revival. They brought in an old dude to speak and give several seminars over the course of a week. It was as far opposite of my idea of “revival” as possible.  It was really cool!!!  My definition and understanding of “revival” no longer included howling in tongues and chanting “Hallelujahs!” That worship speaks to some, not so much to me.  This song captures the essence of true revival. It starts as one tiny internal flame – Jesus.  Revival is about throwing some tinder on that spark of Christ. The lyrics also remind me that when I really feel at my fullest, it is when I am pursuing the Lord in my life, my mind, and my heart. I especially like the part that says, “Revive me, that I may seek your Word.”  Wow.  I pray for continued wisdom and internal revival that overflows into the rest of my life. I want to get excited about serving and seeking you, Lord. Gives me tingles in my tummy!