I am New

 

2013 was the year of change.  I found out I was expecting on January 19th. To say it was planned would be a lie, but to say it was a surprise would also be a lie. I was one of those women, terrified of the commitment motherhood brought, the responsibility and the change.  

 

So, I opened myself up to the possibility. Every month I was nervous of the outcome, envying the selfless woman who whole-heartedly wanted her life to no longer be about herself and her husband. 

 

A year or so later, there I was, looking down at a positive test, calm and quiet. I took a deep breath and said to myself, “Ok, God… this must be what you want.”


 

In the months that followed, there was contentment in my heart. I believe it was Owen’ personality coming through, because I am typically not a worry-free person.  Yes, being pregnant had its challenges and emotional ups and downs, but as the months passed and my belly grew- so did my heart. I was happy and was the most present I have ever been. 


On September 20, 2013 at 7:45pm, Owen Lucas left me speechless.  My previous desires and plans faded away in the days and long nights that followed.  It was a hard few weeks after Owen’s birth. I struggled with a touch of postpartum, feeling anxious and sad. I would cry on queue every night for weeks, knowing the night was not going to bring relief to my tired and healing body.

 

I found myself praying, more than I ever had.  I would be in conversation with God while I rocked my new baby back to sleep during the early morning hours. I would seek His refuge when I would lay in the dark watching Owen’s chest rise and fall, terrified something would happen if I was not vigilant. Putting myself in God’s hands because I didn’t feel I could do it on my own. 


 

Slowly, I felt myself coming back, my fear still present, but not as intense.  My confidence grew and I felt capable… I felt new.  Life had taken on new meaning. Shifting, redirecting my plan and purpose. Becoming a mother forces me to be better and do better in the areas of life that matter most. The refinement of self that took place and continues to take place after having Owen has been exhausting!

 

I feel this is the closest to a Godly love I will ever display. Consistently selfless, giving love without expectation or rewards, a love I didn’t have the confidence to believe I was capable of giving.  I am thankful for this season, and as challenging as it is, it has opened my eyes to a love and faith I was once blind to. I now live to watch my husband make our son smile. Those silent moments at the end of the day as I rock Owen to sleep and the rushed kisses I give Evan in the morning as we run out the door to work.  

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 has forever been etched onto my heart, “the old has gone, the new has come.” I surrendered myself to God’s plan the day I found out I was expecting, and I know I will continue to do so as I work to be the mother He has called me to be. I know that all things in life are placed there to make us better. The joys and struggles work together to mold our hearts to the Lord’s liking and with grace we can make it through, becoming new again.

 
 *All of the photos in this post were taken by the amazing Brittany Anderson

It’s in the Details

Its in the details

When I’m uncomfortable I talk… too much.  Sharing personal life details with complete strangers in a desperate reach to fill that awkward silence.  There is nothing more tortuous than walking away from a conversation knowing I did it again. Being a good listener is on my 2016 goals list. It’s something that’s very important to me. I’m great with people I know; I can handle the silence, but a stranger’s silence leaves me feeling like I don’t know where they stand. So I fill it to the brim with noise, leaving my brain no time to wonder what they think.

I’m telling you all of this because I experienced a lot of it over the weekend. I went to the Wild and Free Launch weekend in Charleston, SC.  It was a wonderful and fun weekend, filled to the brim with activity and exploring the most beautiful city. My husband and son + Brittany and her family, from Brittany Anderson Photography joined me. I would leave the crew to attend book launch events solo. Let me tell you: walking into a room with 20+ ladies is nothing short of intimidating. But, this is my summer of YES! So to hell with the anxiety. I’ve been jumping in with both feet and have no intention of stopping.

I had an expectation for how the weekend would go and what my Wild and Free moment from the weekend would look like. In my experience, we have such high expectations for events like this. Let me tell you, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be….

There was no pivotal conversation or great big moment full of life change. I made new acquaintances, but no life long connections at the events.  In fact, I’m sure at one point, I left a sweet girl from the area wanting to run, as I was once again filling the silence with too much one-sided conversion (( I give myself grace))

On the ride home, replaying the weekend, I found that though I didn’t have a big moment on the trip that Jesus’s hand was so overwhelming present, that it hit me in the face he was gracefully and softly there. “He is more in control than we could ever perceive, and he is wildly in love with you and concerned with the details of your life,” Wild and Free By Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly.

He took this weekend and tore down walls of anxiety, provided amazing motherhood memories, built bridges in my marriage and graced me with the chance to build a friendship with a wonderful family from my hometown.

My Wild and Free moment happened on the drive home. It happened writing this post, realizing I can trust him with the details. I can trust that he is a Good Father and though my ideas of the details can be far different from what he allows to unfold, they are no less as great and magical as I imagined.

 

Influence Conference | You are qualified

You know that moment when someone you know as an acquaintance shifts to a friend? That moment you or her just lay all your stuff out on the table? Like… “Here I am: my life is messy and over-complicated, but I just can’t have you ask me “how are you doing today?” one more time and not tell you the truth.

Well, I’m that girl. The girl that is tired of pretense or just had a hard day, and the over-sharing spills out like a broken dam. I’m always left with self-talk, saying “Wow, Amanda, you hold nothing back! and they’ve got to be feeling like you’re too much.” Okay, let’s just go ahead and call that self-talk what it is: insecurity, fear and anxiety that this person will bolt now that I’ve shown them my true self.

But when I’m the one witnessing a woman laying her true self, her joys, fears and frustrations out there, I don’t have those thoughts. It’s everything, I love when people get real. I see myself in her struggle. I care deeply for her in that moment.  I see and love her in that moment. I want to rally her on, celebrate or cry with her.

That’s what the Influence Conference was for me. Wave after wave of seeing and knowing these women. These days, we “know” so many people from the squares of Instagram or from across the park. We interpret the bits and pieces they share with us, not knowing the whole, real story. We create a separation between ourselves and the women we see in passing or online. The separation is the lie that these women are past the struggle & livin’ the dream.

Influence Conference
Each time a woman I thought I knew would walk on stage at the conference, she would tear down the walls of separation I had created in my mind. Each speaker would share her story, revealing that her relationship with Jesus was still evolving, that following her calling felt hopeless at times, that she stumbles, doubts and continues to fight desires of the ego, just like me.

They proved that not one of the ladies in the audience needed to have it all together to be qualified to share their faith or gifts and that they could have faith in the promise of our God, while still sorting out what it means to be a daughter of God. Within their stories, we found our stories.

Jess Connolly kicked the morning off by sharing what The Influence Network stood for. She left us with questions that broke past the pleasantries and forced attendees to get boldly honest about their influence and how they felt about their influence.

Jess asked:

 How have I discounted the way He made me?

How have I discounted the place He put me?

Who has God given you favor with?

Who wants to hear from you?

Who has He given you burden for?

What way have you been hurt that you hide?

What ways do you hurt? What is your daily sin?

What are your “Joseph” dreams?

I’ve been sitting with these for days. I have quick answers to these questions, long answers and complete silence for them. They are something I will continue to ask myself as life evolves and I take on new roles of influence.

In her opening talk, she also asked us why we were there.  I didn’t know or think about it until she asked the question. My ticket was a gift; an event like this is not something I feel super comfortable attending alone. Marrissa wasn’t able to come with me on this trip so I was completely solo.

When she asked, I immediately thought… “I was there to hear that God did not put the desire in my heart to create a business that supports women to torture me…”

Jess closed her opening talk with Luke 10: In my real sin, He is made strong.” Looking back, I feel that was the theme of the day. These amazing ladies shared their struggle with all different kinds of sin, and displayed God’s strength in every inch of their stories.

Ashley Book _ Influence conference

A big bonus from attending was meeting some amazing ladies. I got to go to lunch with a few women and had the chance to get to know them better. You can check out Kimberly Keith’s recap here and Alicia Cardwell’s here. It was so neat to be sitting at a table with women who were sure of their faith and could speak openly about seeking wisdom from Him.

It’s not something I’m entrenched in in my day-to-day life, and have just recently become more open (on-line) about how I seek out + struggle with finding a relationship with The Lord. So, to be with so many women in the thick of their own walk was refreshing.

I had to leave a bit early to help a very pregnant friend, prepare for a sweet baby boy.  As I was walking out, I had a twinge of disappointment that I didn’t get to meet Jess and Hayley while at the event.

As you know, Marrissa and I are on the Wild and Free launch team. I was hoping for the opportunity to talk them into coming to visit us in WV, even though we are far from the 100 attendee requirement…

So with disappointment in hand, I jumped in the car and paused for a quick IG post before hitting the road.  As I was pulling out Jess commented on the photo I had just posted that she wanted to meet with us! (wait, WHAT?!)

Influence Conference

Well, that wall of separation came right up when I saw her message. I was pulling out of the parking lot, having an internal struggle and telling myself, “Oh they don’t want to meet, just keep driving.”  And I figured I would be a crazy groupie if I turned around and went back to meet these ladies whom I admire so much.

Well, right before I hit the interstate, I said what the heck, I’ll message her back… So I pulled off and messaged her I was leaving and told her they could meet in the parking lot. I hit send and told myself I’d give her a few minutes to respond. Well, within seconds she replied to me that they were coming outside.

Influence Conference

I went back and met Hayley and Jess and told them how important  we felt it was for women in our area to see women being successful business owners, wives, moms, chasing Jesus and telling people about it. They were so kind and supportive of our hopes to have an event in West Virginia and could not have been any more normal during my complete awkwardness. 😉

So after this long-winded post, I hope you will let go of the walls you’ve built, find God’s Glory in your sin and lay it all out there– because life is to short to wait till you feel qualified to stand in your influence.

Are you wild & free?

We’ve got some big plans! Stick with us till the end of the post to find out what they are. We shared last week that we were two of the lucky ladies picked to be on the Wild and Free Book launch team. We are over the moon to have the opportunity to support + work with the lovely ladies, Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan. They do so much to share The Word with women all over the world, encouraging and equipping them to have influence right where they are. To say we look up to these ladies would be an understatement.

The Wild Revival Instagram

Wild and Free is more than a book, it’s an anthem for our generation. This book was written for  women who feel like too much, and not enough. Women who are holding back, who have forgotten they were born Wild and Free in Christ. You can check out the book trailer here!

Wild and Free Book
We are only a few chapters in, but wanted to share a few of the words that are leaving us saying YES!

“You love and accept Christ, but you aren’t sure exactly  who you’re supposed to be as a daughter of God and what your part is in the Kingdom.”

“Our eyes dart from habitat to habitat, wondering what is wrong with us and looking for ways we can become more like the perfect woman, whoever she is.”

“He is the one who calls us to be wild- walking in who God created us to be. And he is the one who calls us to be free- resting in what Jesus has done for us.”

“His authoritative mission in our lives has never been to break our spirits; it’s geared to set them free to give Him as much glory as possible.”

“I see women waiting on others to intercede and teach them the Word rather than seeking first the kingdom themselves.”

“We’ve misplaced the truth that He loves us more than the lilies, which He clothes in splendor. His love and presence is no longer what spices our life and makes our world sweet. So we gather, we buy, we collect, we curate, we wish-list and we make Pinterest boards.”

So much truth in these first few pages. More to come as we dive in over the coming days and weeks! Make sure to follow our Instagram leading up to the May 3rd book release for more of our favorite quotes from Wild and Free.

Wild and Free Book

So, for our BIG plans! The coolest part about being on the Wild and Free launch team is that we get to bring some really great opportunities to you ladies! We have a few questions below to gauge interest and would love to hear your feedback.

First, the BIG question! If Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan would bring the Wild and Free book tour to North Central, WV would you attend the event? Campfire Commission Style ————> encouragement, praise + worship and fellowship led by these ladies. We must have 100 commitments + a venue to make this to happen.

What an amazing way to kick off our summer gatherings! We would love to bring something like this to our state, please participate in this survey. Make sure you share with friends, churches, small groups and anyone you feel would want to come! They don’t need to live in WV to attend. We will do our best to keep the cost to a minimum.  Let’s put WV on the list ladies!

 

Book Tour_ Wild and Free

 

Second- if we would hold a book club, sharing a few FREE copies of Wild and Free, would you join in on the fun? We can host the book club via periscope, locally in person or both! Either way we would give out a few free books to the first ladies to register.

 

Pre-order gifts

 

If you are interested in participating in the pre-launch, Jess + Haley have put together some really wonderful launch deals. Check them out here and let us know if you pre-order a copy in the comments below!

We are really excited and hope you join us on this Wild and Free ride! Don’t forget to take our Wild and Free survey. 

Fresh Starts + Old Traditions

Victor Hugo

Spring is right around the corner and I could not be more excited! January 1st is inspiring, and the New Year pushes me to set goals and dream about what the new year will bring. But spring is when all that contemplating + trying turns into living. The warmer weather and longer days seem to get everything in life moving again. Life feels better, the days seem easier to get through and tomorrow is filled with a little more hope than usual.

Some of my favorite things to do in the spring are freshen up my look, move my morning quiet time outside and my own tradition of delivering Easter Bread and tulips to friends and family.

March and April are going to be really busy with my friend Emily’s baby shower and upcoming road trip to Charlotte, NC for the Influence Conference. Knowing I wasn’t going to have much time in the coming months, I changed my hair up a little early this year. I haven’t had blonde hair since before I had my son and I missed how fresh and bright I felt… so I took a leap and went for it in one fell swoop. Ashley from MCN Salon in Pittsburgh, PA did a great job. She was edgy and pushed me to go for it! I’m really happy with the change.

Spring Hair Style

Moving my quiet time outside is such a treat. I love crisp mornings on the deck with a big blanket, my Bible and a light breakfast. Time seems to stand still and the sound of an early spring morning is heaven on earth. Recently, I’ve been studying Acts. I’m following Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. I also found Val Marie Paper on Periscope and loved hearing how to she studies The Bible — so helpful! So many times I’ve found myself lost when I would try to read The Bible without a “study” to accompany my readings. The tips in these two resources have made my time in The Word a lot less frustrating. I also can’t say enough about the ESV Study Bible; I might be gifting a few to girlfriends this Easter. 😉

Spring morning
For the past five years I have been delivering Easter bread and tulips just before Easter Sunday. It’s a day I look forward to every year. For those of you who may not know, Easter bread is an Italian tradition, one both Marrissa and I grew up eating and helping our grandmothers make… it’s amazing drizzled with local honey + hot tea in the morning!

easter traditions

Traditions are so important to me and I look forward to each holiday and season. They help us build relationships with others, creating a history and dependability between the people that share them. So many of my best memories are centered around tradition.

What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming season? Do you have any traditions that hold a special place in your heart? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or on our social media.

Handling Change with Grace | Dana Matonak

Handle_Change_Tips

Handling change:  we all must do it; I used to hate it. I had a way and a plan and for the most part I preferred when things went the way I anticipated.  Anytime my life plan got derailed, I had it out with God, the people around me, and myself.  “Why would God let this happen? Why are the people I love not seeing this the way I am?  Dana, why are you being so ridiculous? ”

Over the years I have had to face change in multiple areas of my life.  Some were big changes and some were small and my reaction to those changes was all over the place.  Emotions ran high and I was always leaping to the worst case scenario.  I’ve come to realize that the root of all of that emotion and negativity was fear. In the book Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong she says, “change is not something to be feared but something to be received as a blessing from God who works through it, not in spite of it.”  Wow! I could read that one line over and over. Only with the help of Christ and my loving, patient husband, did I figure out how to take fear out the equation and replace it with a little something called grace.  That grace led me to realize how important the following 3 concepts are:

 

God is on the throne.  During times of change and uncertainty, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, resistant, and isolated.  In times like these, I would normally try to control everything I can to keep some normalcy in my life. Have you done this? I often forgot that God is still in control and knows the ultimate outcome.  I spent my time worrying, calculating, and reworking the “plans.” Despite all you feel you need to do, set that aside and immerse yourself in God’s word.  Read your Bible, post Bible verses everywhere you look journal your prayers and cry out to God.  Talk to Him.  Grow your relationship with Him.  Thank Him.  List everything you have to be thankful for, all that He has provided, and all the He promises.

Community is everything.  Don’t take your stress out on the people you love and don’t isolate yourself from them.  When your flesh takes over during times of change, it can be our instinct to run from the people that we need the most.  Your tribe, your people, you need them.  Dive into those relationships, dig deep, love hard.  In Girl Meets Change, Kristen also says, “Quite often, my ability to accept and thrive through change is directly proportional to the state of my near and dear friendships.”  I agree with this wholeheartedly.

Embrace the change. Whatever it may be. Resistance will be your biggest enemy. This is the area where I need grace the most.  It’s so easy to get a bad attitude when dealing with change because it’s difficult and messy and it turns your world upside-down. Thankfully, every day is a chance to start over.  In the trenches of change, the joy might not always come naturally, but if you seek it out, you will find it! Whether its your home, a friend, the sunshine, or a trip to Target– find something that brings you joy! Give yourself grace as you learn.

Handle_Change_Tips

Everything is constantly changing. It’s so easy to let my fear of change decide my actions. I feel that God gives us opportunities to learn from the big, scary, life-altering changes He often throws our way. When I get on the other side of that big change, I see why it happened and what God was trying to show me through it all. I can’t ask for much more than that.

Are there areas in your life where you could use a little more grace and a little less change. Girl, I get it! Amanda and Marrissa get it, too. I’m so glad to have been able to share a bit of my heart with you this month. Head over to my blog if you wanna read on…

With Love,
Dana

Bittersweet | Book Review



 

 

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. 
And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

 


Earlier this summer, we finally got around to checking out the author Shauna Niequist. We had been wanting to read her books for a while, starting with her book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way.  In Bittersweet, Niequist shares a collection of short essays reflecting on her life’s most challenging seasons. She intricately weaves together stories of the highs
and lows of her life, with a constant theme of hope and the importance of being deeply rooted in r
elationships with those around her. 
The connections to friends, who became family, kept her grounded in faith during times of disappointment and loss. Her stories of friendship, family, and food remind us of what matters most. In this book, Shauna addresses many challenges women face, ranging from job loss, motherhood, infertility, marriage/family and challenges in her walk with God.
 
Her ability to tell a story is amazing; the way she paints you a picture with words leaves you looking forward to what she will say next. The ways she finds God in the midst of change and heartbreak is so easy to connect with. Her joys and struggles are, in one way or another, part every woman’s story. Whether we’re experiencing something similar to her firsthand, or using her words to support a
sister during her time of hardship– we can all relate to that. These were key elements that left us saying “YES!” after every chapter.
 



Her reflections throughout Bittersweet are vulnerable
and honest; leaving you feeling like she is telling you her story face-to-face, over coffee or at a dinner table. Niequist gives you the permission and motivation to tell your story: both the beautiful + the broken parts, and she tells us THAT is where the presence of God is felt. 
Connecting with an author is important….we kinda feel like we know her personally and we love that about her!


 If you go looking for a book on spiritual growth, you will surely find a lot them! Often times, we find that many of the books in this category are full of facts and knowledge and “if you want this kind of life, then you should do this, this AND this.”  While how-to books can be great, sometimes you just need real life. That’s what we personally feel Shauna gave to us as readers.  
While reading Bittersweet, we both had stories that we connected with in our own way, some more than others.  Jointly though, we both reflected back on times we found hope during seasons of uncertainty, just as Niequist shares.  And like her, we feel that the moments centered around a
table with friends and good food is magical. When you sit down, forget about the time, your obligations, your worries and you can just be… Laughing, crying and
loving on people in all their raw and honest moments. 
Her words were like an affirmation to our desire to create a space where women could come together to develop authentic relationships.  
We really enjoyed reading this book together, and the discussions that followed. When we finished it, we immediately started reading another book of hers entitled: Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around The Table with Recipes, and we’re already sucked into it!  
 
A few our our favorite quotes from Bittersweet are shared below, although it was very difficult to narrow down our faves!: 
 
Amanda’s favorites:
“Looking back now I can see that it was more than anything a failure to believe in the story of who God is and what he is doing in this world. Instead of living that story—one of sacrifice and purpose and character—I began to live a much smaller story, and that story was only about me. I wanted an answer, a timeline, and a map. I didn’t want to have to trust God or anything I couldn’t see. I didn’t want to wait or follow. I wanted my old life back, and even while I read the mystics and the prophets, even while I prayed fervently, even while I sat in church and begged for God to direct my life, those things didn’t have a chance to transform me, because under those actions and intentions was a rocky layer of faithlessness, fear, and selfishness.”
 
“Left to our own devices, we sometimes choose the most locked up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of ways to tell the same story.”

Marrissa’s favorites:
“The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness… It’s the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful.”
 
“Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.”
 
We hope all of you will grab a copy of this book and really take time to savor it like we did. Even if you only read a chapter a day, we feel there is much to be learned from Shauna Niequists’ words and life experiences. We don’t want to give too much away because we really want you to read it, BUT… the fact that her story didn’t end with her getting everything she wanted will leave you feeling hopeful, like something beautiful can and will come out of your story, too. 
 
Let us know what you think about Bittersweet  after you’ve read it!
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