#007: Beauty From Brokenness with Dana Marie: Seeing God's Glory Through Trials & Sufferings

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Maggie: Hey hey welcome back to the Indwelt Women Podcast. Today we have a very very special guest with us. She is a singer-songwriter; she's speaker and a faith-based blogger.

I found her on Instagram a while ago and I was immediately drawn to her not just because of her talent in music but also there's a common theme in her music and that is Jesus.

That is so attractive to me because you don't find that every day and so I am so excited to have her on today and she's going to share her story about how God redeemed her and how God showed her the love and the grace He has for her. Without further ado, please welcome Miss Dana Marie.

Dana: Thank you so much! I'm so happy to be here!

Maggie: I'm so excited! For those of us that may not be familiar with you, can you tell about a little bit more about yourself, like where did you grow up, etc?

Dana: Yeah! I grew up in Chicago Illinois, just north of the city and I've been living in Nashville for last year and 1/2 almost 2 years. I'm really back and forth between Chicago and Nashville since my home base for my music is in Nashville.

I was in the Greek Orthodox Church when I was growing up and I was kind of between that and the Catholic Church. I always felt like God was really just pursuing me my whole life and it wasn't actually until about a year and a half ago that I really feel like I met the Lord and make Him my Lord and Savior which was such a turning point in my life.

You know, I had this context of religion in my background but I wasn't really looking at Him in that way. But really opening up the Bible and Him coming alive in my life has changed everything.

It was kind of a crazy experience. But other than that, just as an intro, I know we can talk about that later. But, yeah, I'm a singer-songwriter and I also speak about the story that God has placed in my life so that He can make Himself known.

And I like to write. I like to blog and I'm working on a book and a few extra things behind the scenes are going on.

So I guess it's kind of like a collage of a person, there's not really one thing that defines me as I'm sure you'd understand.

Maggie: I mean, God is not boring so He's not gonna make our lives boring. So, can you tell me a little bit more about when you're growing up - you mentioned how you grew up in a Greek Orthodox and also a Catholic home. That is such an interesting mix. Did you grow up learning about Bible stories? Were you interested in this at all?

Dana: Absolutely! So we grew up, I don't know if any of your listeners have a context where they're coming from that's sort of like a very religious background.

Maggie: I think it's a hodgepodge of everything. I didn't grow up in a Christian home so...

Dana: Okay, so you get it! So yeah, it was like... I mean it's hard to explain unless you've been there but it's almost like you're using these Bible stories but the priest is sort of in charge of it. It's what it seemed like and it wasn't really urged or encouraged for us to read the Bible. It was like "oh that's cool if you do it" but it wasn't something that was like really placed upon our lives, so it was just interesting because I always was like, okay well if I'm a good person if I'm kind and loving towards my neighbors then.that shows God in my life.

And you know, of course, our kindness shows God but that's not what we're saved by, right? It's all about him and I feel like I didn't have that knowledge or that context base growing up in a religious community. It was almost like Jesus was the flavor of spirituality whereas now... I like to say to people when I am trying to describe this experience that He always was a huge part of my life, like I went to Catholic schools and did youth ministry in my Catholic Church but He never had my life if that makes sense? He wasn't the Lord of my life.

Maggie: So you were kind of just living life but He was not your Lord and Savior.

Dana: Exactly. I thought He was but not until I really opened up the Bible and read and understood what he did in the context of it and was honestly I think that the Holy Spirit had to come into my heart and just give me that passion to read and really brought the Word alive in my life and that's what I kind of met him for the first time when I thought I knew Him my whole life. It was amazing. It really changed everything.

Maggie: So, just from reading your story on your website, I understand that there are quite a few years of trials and sufferings that really changed your view of Jesus. Can you share a little bit more about that?

Dana: Absolutely! So I've got a kinda crazy story, I guess. It starts off with being diagnosed with Crohn's disease when I was nine. It was pretty well managed my whole life until when I was about 17 years old.

I had my first boyfriend and, you know, up until this point and during this point I was very driven to save myself for marriage - as most Christian girls are -  it was a big value in my life and I was just a little bit naïve about boys and trust and all that and I ended up being date raped by my first boyfriend and so this was obviously a really scary time and just a lot of shame came up in my life at this time.

I hid it from everyone; I blamed myself. And then about a year later - still keeping it all in - I experienced the same thing as a freshman in college. At this point I was just completely torn up and it's funny because I think date rape is different in the way that you are not being approached by some stranger in a dark alley. It's someone that you know and trust and so honestly I really took it all on myself and didn't see where God was at that time in my life to be honest and I didn't have that context of him as my Lord at that time so it was very dark and so, unfortunately, a few months after that second attack I attempted to take my life and so this is a very dark time. Thankfully, it did not work obviously I'm still here.

I had really amazing support from my family and friends. I like to look back on that time and see that the Lord was pursuing me towards him and His love through His body which was the hands and feet of my family and friends. So after that, I was just working on the healing process there and I'm kind of... when you get to a point a few years after something like that happens and you're kind of just like, "okay, I can function. I'm still here. I'm alive." So you just go on.

A couple years after that my body really started to give out and it became really really bad. Long story short, I had to have my colon removed. When they remove your colon, you're left with a permanent ostomy bag. So I had an ileostomy which is this bag that's gonna be with me for the rest of my life that's on my stomach and that's how I have to empty my bodily waste. When I was going through it at the time, I thought it was gonna be really disgusting and now, you know, years later it's okay but that time it was just so heavy. It was such a weight and I was just like, "Why is all this happening? why am I going through all this? What is the point?"

I like to tell the story about being in the hospital that night and having the surgeon come in and just telling me that I have to live with us for the rest of my life. As a 24-year-old I was like, "You've got to be kidding me. This is not happening. Hasn't enough already happened?! Don't I get something out of life now that I've already survived this other hard stuff." So I was totally going through that kind of emotional issue.

He left the room and I was kind of just left to myself. Around four in the morning, I was just in and out of sobbing and all of a sudden I just really felt like the Lord was with me and He just asked m, "Dana, what are you so afraid of? What is the biggest fear here?"

And I just told Him, you know, I realized the thing I'm most afraid of is to lose my ability to love and be loved.

At that moment it was like this lightning bolt and He was just like, "Well, you're never gonna lose that because you're never gonna lose me."

That was when I kind of had my experience like Paul when he was in prison where he's like shackles on and shackles off. I was like holy cow, this is the best news ever. I can lose any part of my life but I'm never going to lose him.

It's funny because this was before I even knew Him completely as my Lord and Savior. I just knew that He was all I needed so it was like He was planting theses seeds in my life and showing me that He was truly all I needed and it was almost like I didn't even know how to explain it. But I knew He was all I needed and years later I found out why.

So yeah, He really just set me on this path of being able to look at my pain and see what he was making of it. It was like this beautiful mosaic that he could create out of the pieces.

Maggie: Can you tell us more about when you were going through the attacks and depression. At the point where was God - I know He wasn't your Lord and Savior at that point but you knew about Him - so where was He in your journey? How did you try to cope with everything that was happening?

Dana: Honestly, it was sort of a blur at this point but I know that having my friends and my family here was huge. I think that there's something to be said for vulnerability and you can see it in Jesus as our Lord. He was so vulnerable and so strong. His ability to allow Himself to be put on the cross, that is such vulnerability. When I look at that, I was like, "okay, if I can be vulnerable and I can be wounded, that's actually where our strength comes from."

I actually started to become more involved in my church's youth ministry at the time and started to share my story. In sharing it I found it really help other women who have gone through something similar but maybe didn't open up about it.

Helping other people to feel that weight off their shoulders was really a blessing to me at that time and I feel like God gave me that to see how much just being vulnerable and giving away what our deepest shame is and opening up about it really is our freedom.

I think that was really what helped me at that time. Again it was like these seeds are planted for me now knowing Him.

Maggie: So when you were in the hospital, that was when God really spoke to you. What happened after that? Did you have a period of time where you were still processing things or was it like immediately, "Yes, Jesus is the one that I need."?

Dana: So, it was interesting. At that time I was like, okay, well, the context that I had was that I'm going to make something beautiful of this brokenness.

And so from there that's when I started to share my story and I started blogging about having an ostomy and being sick and not necessarily in a religious context. It was not actually until I moved to Nashville when I was away from my friends and my family. It was just me and God. It was such a good time for me to just get away to myself and really seek out what I felt He had for me. So I ended up at this church in Nashville; it was a biblically-based church. It was just a really beautiful place and I started going.

It was funny because I would go to the Catholic mass on Sunday and then I would go to this church later. Because I felt like I had to have mass there was such an amount of guilt and shame. Catholic guilt is so real, girl.

So I felt like I had to have my foot kinda still in the mass while I was exploring this Jesus who was so alive today.

It was so funny because I would do both like every Sunday and then all of a sudden it was like what am I doing here? I just became more convicted over time and I realized that I was really more concerned my whole life by being religious. It was all about me. So I had to repent of all that and realize, my gosh, I never knew you. I didn't know who you were but you've been there all along. It was just so cool to see, looking back, it was that moment when I was like, oh my gosh, you are my Lord. You're my savior. I had to really unclench my fist and be like, okay, it's all about you; it's not about me. It's not about how good I am. It's not about how kind I am or about how service oriented I am. But it's all about you. And that was such a huge shift and so it was just a crazy moment and really beautiful though.

Maggie: So, when did you start your musical journey because I know that you're using the gifts and talents that God has given you and you're singing for him - which I love - so can you tell us more about what made you start this journey?

Dana: Absolutely! So all of this is sort of intertwined together. But I have been involved in music like my whole life. I used to dance to musicals and all the choirs when I was little through high school and college. After I graduated from college, I was like, okay it's time to grow up now. Music is cute but what's that gonna do, right? So I really left it to the way side.

And you know when I was sick I was really just trying to explore different ways to find some joy and creativity to distract me from having the heaviness of the situation.

So I turned back to music and I started taking guitar lessons and all of a sudden these songs just started pouring out of me. I don't know if you're a country music fan but I love country and that is kind of what started to pour out. I love country because... well, it's funny because when I was little I hated it. But these songs would come out of me that were really storytelling songs and they sounded a lot more like country. So anyway I started playing and singing around Chicago in different open mic nights and different performances that I started getting hired for.

And then I entered into this contest through a radio station here and I ended up getting into the top 3 and I got to open for Jenna Kramer, she's one of my favorite country artists so that was such an honor and super exciting.

So after that it really opened up my realm of possibilities. I was like, oh my gosh, maybe I can do something with this. So that's when I made the executive decision to move down to Nashville.

Before I moved down there, it was crazy how this band just got together and they helped me to form a band and we are playing down on Broadway which is the downtown of Nashville. So that's what I was doing full time in Nashville for the first 6,7 months.

At the same time that is when I was having this is one-foot-in-the-Catholic-Church-and-one-foot-in-the-Belonging, which is the church that I went to.

It was so funny because I think Jesus needed to take me down to Nashville and rid me of myself so that He could come in and clean my heart and make it for Him.

When I was convicted of who He was in my life, I actually stopped music altogether for about another six months. I would do a little here and there, I would do some recording but I stopped because I was like, "if this is not for you then who's it for?" and I realized my own selfishness and pride in that. It was just a really humbling time.

I'm so grateful for that though because if I didn't go to Nashville to chase that dream, I wouldn't have met Him.

It was so cool because I had this period of going anonymous and in that time of getting into the Word and getting to know Him, really opening myself to the Lord, "I don't care what you have me do in this life as long as it's what you want. If you wanna use this gift that I have with music, that's awesome. If not, that's awesome, too." because nothing is worth it without Him. 

It's cool because over time I do feel this is something I'm called to do. I started to explore how I could combine everything together so I started this ministry program called Hope Rises Ministry. 

It is literally in the seedling stage right now. But I've got support from other musicians. I want to go into churches to speak to other women and really fill them with this hope that rises, sharing my testimony, and worshipping together, workshopping, talking about our identity which is so important. 

And then I've got some online programs, live events and retreats coming up that are associated with the ministry. It's really just about filling women with the confidence and the authority that comes from being His. 

I think that is - I mean, I could cry just thinking about it - how much of the knowledge of who we are in Him has changed everything in my life because it was like I was always seeking something or someone to show me and affirm me that I was good. But instead, being able to lay down into His promises and into who He is, instead of who I am, it's been the most humbling and yet most joyful experience. It's changed everything - there are no words for it. And I'm so passionate about helping other women to get to that point as well.

Me: Yeah - that is such an important message for women - for girls - nowadays.

If someone - a 17-year-old girl - comes up to you now after you speak or after you sing, what encouragement would you give to her? What would you say to her if she's also in this stage of trying to find her identity in her body image, in finding love, what would you say to her?

Dana: You know, I think it would be a longer conversation than just a few words.

I think it all begins with seeking Him first.

Just like the same with my music, I love country - I still write country, I have a few that are coming out - but if that was the only purpose to what I was doing, it wouldn't be right. 

If I didn't seek Him first, everything else would be empty. 

I myself before I knew Him and sought Him out, I was in a lot of relationships that were not fruitful and not equally yoked.

But when we know the Lord and we're confident in what He says about us, then we can live in such a way that is so liberating and wild. We can be wild for Him, we can be on fire for Him. And we can also be so free because we are safe and secure. 

So I think finding that security in Him by getting in the Word every single day, but for a lot of girls - especially when I was 17 - I wouldn't have known how to get in the Word. So I think getting into a women's group, letting other women pour into you and seeing how others have done it, is really important. 

One of the things I love to do is take out a piece of paper and write down all of the lies that I've been told. Because, Maggie, I think when we get it out, it's no longer in us and it has no authority over us. 

I think it's so important to recognize those are the lies. We have to know that anything that is hurtful, alienating or making us feel alone, or unloved is a lie.

If we can voice those and just write them down. It's so powerful.

The best part - my favorite part about it - is turning that piece of paper over and going through one by one and praying the opposite.

What I do with that is I take the Scriptures and put them on Post-It notes and have a little prayer room - a war room - and just speak the truth to myself.

Just because you are His, doesn't mean you don't have bad days or bad seasons.

You know, just yesterday I had this funk where I was like, "ahhh, there's just so many unknowns!" But I just had to keep pouring truths over: 
"She is clothed in strength and dignity" - That one I just keep saying over and over again.

At first, I didn't feel it. But it's not about feeling it, it's about speaking the truths over and over again. He's so good and faithful, He will make you feel it eventually.

Maggie: Yes! That is so important for us women because we tend to be led by feelings. It's so important to preach to ourselves over and over again what is the truth. And I love what you're doing with the prayer journaling. A lot of times it helps me to think, "okay, these are the lies and these are the truths that counter-argue everything. And then also, a lot of it is in my head, so as soon as I write them down, and I'd be like, "wait a minute, why am I even thinking this?! This makes no sense!"

So if someone is going through exactly what you were going through with the hardships, what encouragement would you give to her?

Dana: Honestly, when people hear my story - everyone has a story, first of all - one of my favorite things to say is everyone has an ostomy because everybody has this thing that they think is so gross and so shameful. But it's actually not. I can contest to this, in case anybody out there thinks an ostomy is gross, it's not. It's not disgusting, it can be difficult but it's not gross so don't be afraid.

But I think when you have trials - as we all do - I mean, I'd be really surprised to find somebody without some kind of pain in their lives. I don't want people to compare their trials and go, "I didn't go through that so I should just put my pain away"

That's not it at all.

Whatever it is that is giving you pain, even if it's just minimal, it doesn't matter. What's cool about pain is that the Lord can give us purpose through that.

Look at him as the perfect example -  what He went through for us is the perfect gift for us of all times. That took a lot of pain. He went through so much to have something beautiful.

In Romans 5:3 says we rejoice in our sufferings. Suffering produces endurance and it goes on to talk about character so I'm like, you know what, I wanna learn from my suffering, I wanna squeeze the water out of it and get everything out and not be afraid of the pain - it's crucial because I think most people are afraid that if they start crying they'll never be able to stop. 

But when you start to let it out, you'll realize there is an end to it. Joy is on the other side.

Maggie: There's freedom.

Dana: Yes! There's so much freedom. If you just look at the resurrection, there was joy on the other side of that pain.

Take your suffering - first of all, I'm sorry it has to hurt - but I'm also grateful for all of our sufferings. 

Because I think we have an opportunity to use it as something beautiful, as a way to feel closer to Him and as a way to cling to Him. 

A lot of people who don't use their suffering or if they ignore it, they don't have any context of why we need Him.

But I think suffering is something you can use - it can go either way - it can either be used for anger and numbing out or it can be used in a way that is so fruitful, filled with compassion and His gifts. It is such an opportunity!

If you're going through something right now, that's awesome. Take this opportunity and let Him shine.

Maggie: A way I like to look at it is that I'm so stubborn and prideful that if the sky doesn't get dark enough I won't be able to see the stars. 

A lot of times we may throw pity parties for ourselves whenever we go through trials and sufferings but the trials and sufferings are not the end of you, they're not the end of your story. they're actually just the beginning, if you would look at how God can redeem you; when you look at how God has been faithful, you may not realize it but He has been faithful, He has been trying to draw you closer. 

Your story doesn't end with a trial, it actually starts with "BUT GOD..."

Dana: Yes! That's so good!

Maggie: So what does the rest of the year look like to you? I know you have a lot on your plate with your music and your ministry.

Dana: Yeah! I've got a lot of things going on. I've also got some stuff going on with my personal relationship. Some exciting things are coming I probably shouldn't talk about it yet. Haha. Kind of waiting on that to fully come to fruition. But, yeah, we're just figuring out where we're gonna end up. It's such a funny time of unknowns, in terms of where we're gonna go and the timing of everything. But it's been so good. It allows me to relinquish the control and really submit to our Lord who is a so much better shepherd of that.

Maggie: Oh my gosh, I remember when my boyfriend at the time - we knew we were gonna get married - I was just waiting for him to pop the question. That waiting period was just dreadful.

Dana: Okay, I'm glad that you're with me. Haha.

Maggie: I totally understand. Yeah, those 6 months of waiting, I was just like, "when is he gonna ask?!?! What if he's never gonna ask?!?!"

Dana: Haha girl, yes. Besides that, for Hope Rises Ministry, my hope is to go into churches and go into women's groups. I've done a little bit on a smaller scale - not under that name but just on my own -  actually a lot of it in the years past. 

As I'm waiting to get booked - so if there's anyone out there who wants me to come to their church, let me know! But as I'm waiting patiently, I just kind of realized, "Dana, you don't have to wait to start that.

That's why I brought this online. There's FB live, there's Instagram live. We've got all these things. So that's what I'm working on right now.

There's this program I'll have available to you when this podcast airs. It's gonna be this free program that'll help women if they feel broken. If we think about a broken heart, we think of a relationship ending.

But I think with all these different things we've talked about - traumatic experiences, I think they really end with a broken heart. So what do you do with a broken heart? How does God redeem it? That's what this awesome program is all about - I'm so excited about it.

I'm also working on new music. I've got 3 new songs coming out. They're actually not new songs - I've been singing them for the last year.

Maggie: They're official.

Dana: Yes - officially recorded. Coming soon to iTunes near you. Other than that, I'm working on a book and a blog. So yeah, there's a lot of things going on behind the scenes.

Maggie: That's awesome - I cannot wait! If our listeners want to connect with you more, where can they find you?

Dana: Yeah! My website is lovedanamarie.com

I like to call it my digital front porch so come on over, I'll pour you a glass of digital lemonade and we'll hang out. And then you can always reach me over at Instagram @danamarieofficial

Yeah, Instagram is my favorite place to hang out. You can also check out FB but the hub is lovedanamarie.com

Maggie: Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your story really truly embodies what I want to encourage women with. This is one of the BUT GOD segments of the podcast, where women share their stories of how God showed up mightily in their lives. Your story truly embodies that. So thank you so much for sharing. I'm sure our listeners are encouraged.

Dana: thank you so much :)


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Podcast music: Sunny Holidays & Summertime by Nicolai Heidlas