I have never read a blog where the writer has so clearly laid themselves out, stated unashamedly almost every aspect of their faith, and even their personality, as Dana does in her blog Think Pink.
I had previously read some of her posts she links to on her sidebar, but when I sat down to “research” for this interview, I read all of those posts and gained such insight into Dana, her faith, her passions and what makes her such a gripping, honest blogger.
Dana is a wife, home schooling mom to three girls and a cancer survivor.
I feel overwhelmed trying to bring everything together into a few interview questions. There is so much to learn from Dana. So I encourage you to follow the links and read more about Dana on her blog. She is an inspiration.
Janice: Dana, you share so much information about yourself on your blog — which makes reading your blog so much fun because I really get to know you — but briefly can you tell us a bit about yourself here.
Dana: AW–thanks–ok… I was born in MI, but grew up in Nashville, TN. I have three younger brothers who are all over one foot taller than I am. I met my husband at David Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN. When he graduated he got a job as the head athletic trainer at his Alma mater and I followed him down after I obtained my degree in English education.
I taught for four years and then quit working to stay home with my kids. After two years of Athletic training, he was asked by our church to become the youth pastor so I have been a pastor’s wife for three years now, which is some place I never thought I would be, but I LOVE it!
Janice: You give a detailed description of your belief system in a post you wrote, The Big Questions Part 1. I think your list makes a powerful creed. But you mention that your family “thinks you are off the deep end.” When did you become a Christian?
Dana: I grew up in a private Christian school because my parents, while not practicing believers, didn’t like the public school system. Unfortunately the school I attended presented God as a legalistic rule monger, and there was no joy in any part of “religion” as it was taught to me and so it was not something I wanted to be a part of…. ever.
I was baptized at 12 years old because I “didn’t want to go to hell” and “baptism was THE key to salvation”, but at no time did that act come with a relationship with God or any other change in my life, basically, I just got wet. I knew a lot about the Bible and all the good bible answers to give, but I didn’t really believe any of it or live it out in any way.
I was actually a married adult, living in Florida before I started to want to know God. And that is the most honest description of it I can give. God was pulling my heart, drawing me to him. I started reading my Bible for myself and wanting to find a church home. I attended a church that some friends of ours had just begun attending and I LOVED it. It was so different from anything I had been a part of before as far as organized religion, and I just knew I had to be part of it. I joined the membership the next week.
My husband didn’t attend at the time (his faith was much like mine), and in fact it wasn’t until probably 4-5 months later that he even started attending, which was roughly around the same time my cancer was diagnosed. I was already doing chemo when he joined (I remember standing up front with my scarf on my head).
Since that time I just kind of see my life as one big miracle after another. God definitely has/had a plan for me, and He is obviously still carrying it out. Incidentally, I was eventually re-baptized by my husband in the intercoastal waterway about 5 years ago.
Wait –I don’t think I actually ANSWERED the question in all that — I was 22 when I became a believer. I usually count it as the same time I joined my church–not that I think the two HAVE TO go together
Janice: What an incredible testimony of God working throughout your life, despite the false teachings from that school. How does your difference in beliefs affect your relationship with your family?
Dana: Well, none of my immediate family is a believer, and while they are very respectful (politically correct) about my beliefs, they definitely think that I am over the deep end for believing in creationism. I also get interesting comments occasionally about how I “shelter” my children.
The great thing about my family is that we are very close. So even though they may not agree with me, it is not a point of contention. They know what I believe and sometimes they want to talk about it, and if they don’t, I don’t shove it down their throats. They don’t have to understand it all to accept that it’s the choice I have made.
Janice: That is so wonderful that you are able to remain so close. I imagine they are at the top of your prayer list?
Dana: They definitely are. Everyday. And they know it. It’s not that they don’t believe in “a god” (well, my oldest brother might not…) it’s just not a priority for them. So I just pray that it will be one day, even if it has nothing to do with me!
Janice: You say in your great post about why you blog that bloggers are “either people watchers, or people who want to be watched, or maybe a little bit of both.” What do you think makes a great blogger and why do you think blogging is “right” for you?
Dana: Well, for me I can’t stay interested in a blog if there is not some personality in it. If I want all news, I can go to news website. I read a blog to get a feel for the person writing it. I also need to feel a connection to the person in some way, and that is not to say that if I can’t connect, the blog, or author, is bad, or poorly written. It just doesn’t hold my interest.
I like blogs that make me think, even if it’s an opposite viewpoint from my own. I am not interesting in reading a blog that bashes everyone around them. I like there to be intelligence and good flow to the blog, and I won’t read a blog that is *just* a laundry list of I did this… then I went here… then I did this every single day.
I enjoy blogging because I am highly opinionated, but not close-minded. I am interested in what other people think about what I think. I love that through blogging I can develop a relationship with someone in England that I would otherwise never have known. Some of my closest friends now, I met through blogs and blogging.
Janice: You are so open about your faith and your beliefs on your blog. You mention in your compelling post “You don’t need my religion” about receiving some negative comments about that. Do you ever hesitate about stating the controversial aspects of your faith? Do you have many non-Christian readers?
I do have several non-Christian readers, many from my survivor group for young women (which is also an on-line community). I would hesitate, but I just feel like, if you don’t like what I have to say, then don’t read me. I am sure some have done that, but I can’t change what I say in my own space to accommodate everyone. I believe what I believe and if you read my blog, you are going to be reading about it. It’s reader’s choice to keep coming back. What I do hope is that while I am totally honest about what I think, is that I don’t give off an air of being better than someone else, because that is not the case.
Janice: I don’t think it does. Your humility shines through your honesty.
Janice: And I think that is why your blog is so refreshing and engaging.
Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to be diagnosed with cancer, especially at such a young age?
Dana: Well, for my diagnosis, I was totally blindsided. Everyone was telling me that it definitely was not cancer (including my surgeon, who later apologized for that), so when he told me it was almost like everything just froze. There are a couple of posts on my blog that i wrote specifically about this if you want.
The funny thing about it, and I think this happens in almost any crisis situation, is that you are so dumbfounded that life just keeps going on around you. People laugh and eat, and do chores, and go to work, and have life while everything inside you just seems to be standing still.
Yes, that is the oddest thing about tragedy.
I’ve talked to other people in totally different life situations but equally as devastating and they have said the same. You just want to grab people and say DON’T YOU KNOW I HAVE CANCER!!! Like they should be affected to…
Janice: How did it affect your faith? In your post “Your Treatise on Suffering” you firmly explain your beliefs about suffering. Did you always feel this way? Did you get angry with God? Did you question His love or mercy?
Dana: Well, I really had only been a believer about six months when I got my diagnosis, so I think that my personal experience is actually a big part of the foundation of my faith. I just had to keep trusting God at every turn because I didn’t have anything else to trust in. I did have times when I got mad at God. Sometimes things happen now and I still feel mad about it. But God is a big enough God to take my ranting and raving in stride and to be there when I am ready to accept His will even when I don’t like it.
I don’t think I have ever questioned his love or mercy. I just don’t always understand how the painful parts work into the whole plan. But that’s something that I can’t dwell on because He doesn’t owe me any answers. I can only trust that He has it all under control. His word promises that “all things work to the good of those who believe in Him” and I have to take that as truth.
Janice: If you were sitting with someone newly diagnosed with cancer, what would you say to them?
Dana: Two things:
1) Learn everything you can about your own cancer. Don’t pay attention to statistics, because you aren’t a statistic, but learn about how it is being treated, about side effects, about long term concerns and considerations, become your own medical expert so that you can play a role in decision making for yourself
2) YOU ARE YOUR OWN BEST ADVOCATE! To everyone else you are just another patient. No one is going to care about you as much as you do, so stick up for yourself. If you want answers, you may have to call to get them. Keep calling–everyday, every HOUR if necessary. If you don’t like your doctor–fire him/her and find a new one. Medical care is a PAID SERVICE and they aren’t doing you favors, you deserve to be treated as such.
Janice: That is so true for so many medical conditions – thanks. So often we need to hear someone tell us it is ok to stick up for ourselves
In your post “100 more things about me”, you write:
“…without hesitation that we are one of the most in love couples I know. Craig is the most romantic man I have ever met. He swept me off my feet at 18, and I have yet to regain my footing… The longer I am married, the better the sex gets. And it wasn’t bad to begin with.”
Wow – that is some marriage! Why do you have such a great marriage? How did the cancer affect your marriage? (Any hints for an incredible marriage you wish to share?)
Dana: Well, I had only been married about 16 months when my cancer was diagnosed so we kind learned pretty early that you have to make the most of the time you have together. I think both of us work on our marriage everyday. We aren’t only loving and considerate when we feel like it, but it’s a way of life. He spoils me rotten and in turn I do the same, and it feeds on itself so that each person ends up trying to “out nice” the other one. One of the best things about Craig and I is that we talk and talk and talk all the time. It doesn’t have to be monumental, just whatever is going on in our heads, but we try not to let life and circumstances distance us.
My best advice is that you always treat your spouse like he is the king of your world, even if he is being the biggest jerk IN THE WORLD, because eventually that will impact your marriage for the better!
Janice: That is wonderful advice. I know I too often take my husband for granted.
Dana: Me too–I talk good–I have to WORK on the practice though!
Janice: You sound like you are doing a great job!
And finally, in a post of yours called “Spark of Creation”, which I love and wholeheartedly agree with, you write:
“Never allow yourself to be shamed into believing that loving, enjoying, reveling in this earthly life is not what God intended for Christians. There is within us a soul that cannot be extinguished. We know that. It is this that makes us fight death, cry out against death: “I do not want to die!” And that’s ok. God doesn’t want us to die either.”
You have such a beautiful life with your family and you live it with such passion. Are you afraid the cancer will return? Do you think about dying often? Do your girls know about your cancer and are they afraid of yours returning or of getting cancer themselves?
Dana: I have had two “scares” since my initial diagnosis, neither of which I handled well at the time, but I do not generally worry that the cancer will come back. I don’t worry about death in general for the most part. People used to ask me how I got up everyday because “I could die” and I always said “YOU could die!” Life itself is a terminal illness, and eventually we are ALL going to die.
I can’t waste time worrying about when or how because that time could be spent doing something I love. My girls do know about my cancer, and they know that people die from cancer (my father died of lung cancer), but I don’t think they relate that to something happening to them, yet. They also don’t worry about me getting cancer again. I told them I am healed, and I believe that.
If circumstances were to change, we would deal with it then.
Janice: As a worrier myself, I can learn a great deal from that attitude – thanks!
Dana: I am NOT a worrier! But I think that’s part of my personality too.
Janice: Yes I chuckled when I read your 200 things about you. You and I are so different – oh how I wish I could be more like you!
Dana: Nah–you just need to be like you and not worry about it so much.
Dana – thank you so much for chatting with me today. I am such a fan of you and your blog and it is such an honor to get to know you better. I hope all our readers take the chance to get to know you and your blog. I know I am a better person, wife, mother and Christian through reading it and learning from you.
Thank you–I think that is the nicest thing I’ve heard in a LONG TIME!
Janice: Have a great summer – and I will be seeing you at your blog!