A blank page, A new beginning

building community

Every journal starts with a blank page that needs to be filled. But my life isn’t a blank page. It is a journal half filled with false starts and harried endings, sentence fragments and ill-conceived run-ons.

And there is no editing.

I look back on the jumbled mess that is my life and wonder if there even is a common thread I can pull through all the years. A theme that makes it all come together into a coherent narrative. But life isn’t so neat.

“We are all fragmented,” Charles Ferneyhough writes in his book, The Voices Within. “There is no unitary self. We are all in pieces, struggling to create the illusion of a coherent ‘me’ from moment to moment.”

Experimental fiction, though it is hard to read and harder to write, attempts to capture that other side of life — the lack of plot, the lack of theme, the lack of structure. It never sells well, because that isn’t how we want life to be. We want story. We want plot. We want a satisfying ending.

We want meaning.

And there is meaning.

God is weaving a tapestry from all our lives, but all I see are occasional glimpses of a pattern emerging through the jumbled tangle of threads on the back side of the loom. Sometimes it is a difficult place to be, here on this side of eternity. Especially when you have a child waiting on the other side of that divide. When your marriage is falling apart. When you are battling anxiety and depression. When your child is struggling with learning disabilities, or chronic illness, or behavioral disorders.

Sometimes, life is just hard.

We see as through a glass dimly. This is a truth most of us know, whether or not we have experienced it personally. But there is another, harder truth that many have not seen. When hurting women turn to the church for support and guidance, they may find love that carries them through their darkest hour. They may find condemnation, derision and blame. And because even good churches are filled with imperfect people, they often find a bit of both.

I was told my grief was evidence of a lack of faith less than a week after my son’s funeral. I know a woman who was excommunicated from her church for divorcing her husband after he molested their children. And another who was told her husband wouldn’t need to look at pornography if she did her duty in the bedroom.

What grieves me most is that when women reach out in their most vulnerable moments, they are seeking hope and handed condemnation, grasping at life and handed serpents. And when you are hurt by the church, it is easy to walk away into the darkness and never come back.

But perhaps we are all here for a time such as this.

Not to build an exceptional life that others will remember, but to live this very unexceptional life in love and faithfulness. To speak life into the souls of the hurting. To help loving people in the church understand the chaos that surrounds a woman in crisis so that they can truly help — or at least not make her life any worse. To build stronger relationships and stronger communities that strengthen us all.

That is the motivation behind this blog. We hope you will join us and share your thoughts as we talk about faith, life and the messier side of both. I started a facebook group where I’d love to chat with you. And if you would like to have post updates delivered to your email box, sign up for the newsletter here:

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  1. Reply

    Dawn Braddock

    January 20, 2020

    Oh, Dana…
    Exceptional, incredible, moving, speaks to our hearts. So proud of you, for putting it all out there. I read it once silently and then out loud, I suggest that everyone should do this, to my husband. He loved it.
    You have such a gift. Your writing reaches people.
    Love and Hugz, as always,

  2. Reply


    January 20, 2020

    Wow! Thank you so much, Dawn. I have made a lot of connections over the years. I am hoping we can create a place where we can come together as our own community.

  3. Reply


    January 21, 2020

    Dana…as I read your post tears were streaming down my face as I thought of so many times going to someone in our church (many different churches) and how horrible I would feel after sharing something, anything, a little thing or a big thing…thank you for opening this door of sharing, encouraging and uplifting in the real world. And now more thoughts are racing with “I need to share about this, this and that!” Sending hugs as we continue to be authentic with ourselves and with those whom we come into contact with!!!

    • Reply

      Dana Hanley

      January 21, 2020

      Thank you so much! And so many of them. There are people who twist theology, but most just don’t quite understand how those words sound to someone who is struggling. I look forward to reading more of your story!

  4. Reply

    Susan Evans

    January 28, 2020

    “What grieves me most is that when women reach out in their most vulnerable moments, they are seeking hope and handed condemnation, grasping at life and handed serpents.” I know so many people who have experienced this in the church. I am also fighting for change, for this kind of treatment to stop.

  5. Reply

    Dana Hanley

    January 28, 2020

    I am sorry for those you know who have gone through this. It is hard. Maybe harder still because a lot of the people are well-meaning and it is hard to just dismiss them. I am so glad your friends have you to stand with them.


February 17, 2012