special needs parenting is hard. sitting still is harder.

photo-5

The on-hold music goes quiet at the precise moment that I lose my cool.

The kids have been chasing, climbing, pushing — mostly laughing but occasionally crossing the line between roughhousing and fighting, for a solid 15 minutes, and I’m not sure what I’m thinking, trying to make a phone call while simultaneously preventing them from injuring one another.

But I make the call anyway because I’m apparently a glutton for embarrassment. Or something.

Isaac!

He’s hollering like some kinda giddy, crazed person and I’m desperate to get his attention so I yell his name at the top of my lungs… right as the assistant director of the kids’ preschool picks up the line.

::face palm::

Um. Yes, hi, this is Dana Butler and I’m yelling at my children.

She knows me, so she cracks up laughing.

This isn’t an atypical scenario lately. The hilarious thing is that several days ago, I kind of microblogged on Facebook. Shared how much my kids are changing, how I’m enjoying their relationship with one another, how their personalities are unfolding and they’re maturing and I’m seeing more and more light at the end of the Parenting-One-Strong-Willed-Little-and-One-Special-Needs-Little tunnel.

And in the days since I said that stuff out loud? Um… yeah. It’s been hard.

They’ve argued with one another and been unprecedentedly disrespectful to me and I’ve been at the end of myself by the end of pretty much every day. Even on the days I don’t end up raising my voice at them, I’m still exhausted by the time the sun reaches the top of the mountains. Stretched excruciatingly thin.

And yes, it’s the combined intensity of both of my kiddos that wears me out, but truthfully, so much of it stems from Isaac’s unique challenges. Communicating with him, and helping him process, digest, and respond to said communication, is this utterly exhausting, never-ending, all-day-every-day struggle.

I’ve told Stan and a couple of my close girlfriends lately how tired my heart often is, how one day of motherhood can feel like a marathon, and how I actually think this is a kind of tired that runs way deeper than I really understand. It’s soul-deep exhaustion, and what rises from my depths along with it on days like these is grief.

I imagine this is pretty typical for a special needs parent, eh? To have a series of extra-hard days, for the resulting exhaustion to lead me to this zoomed-out view of our journey, of our notable progress, but also of all the things that still feel so, so hard, that will likely continue to feel hard for the foreseeable future, and for said zoomed-out-ness to result in this thick sadness.

Sadness over the things that are no big deal to a “typical” child that are massively challenging for Isaac. Grief over the reality that our journey with him has been hard, was hard even back before we knew it was hard. Grief over the ways we thought we were “supposed” to parent him back then, not yet having recognized his unique set of needs.

Sadness that accomplishing “normal” things like a trip to the grocery store can take so much energy and forethought and prepping and processing with him and even with all that work, we might still end up dealing with some level of a meltdown.

And yeah, in many ways things are much easier than they were 8 months ago. But on any given day this whole special-needs-mom thing can drain me beyond belief.

In the spirit of trying to paint an accurate picture for y’all, let me clarify that I by no means feel this acute sadness all the time. I laugh with my kids. We dance and tickle and talk in silly voices. We read books and play with play-doh and our life together is laced with tons of fun.

It’s just that the un-fun moments are still frequent, that communication with my sweet boy still so often takes everything out of me.

And between facing these realities and the other internal work I’ve been doing lately, I frequently find I’m this giant, yawning abyss of aching need.

I end so many days drained dry and no husband or close girlfriend or other human being can meet me in the depths of my emptiness. Sure, they can listen (and they do it so well), and they can be safe, compassionate sounding boards for my pain, and the value of those relationships is absolutely inestimable.

But at the deepest level of my grief, of my sense of loss, of my gaping need, none of their hearing me or resonating or identifying or validating can meet me. Can really, intimately meet me in the ways my soul longs for.

photo-6

****

I sat down tonight and pondered for a good half hour whether I really wanted to write or not. Whether I needed to write.

And I think I came to the conclusion that I needed to let some of this stuff spill out tonight because in the outpouring, I re-examine my right-now life through this lens of Jesus, what are you doing in all of these hard things? What are you speaking? How are you forming yourself more deeply inside me?

Writing the way I do forces me to search my discombobulated circumstances and feelings — my joys, my losses, my exhaustion, my vast, bottomless need — to sift through it all in search of this thread that’s woven through all of it: His workmanship inside me.

Because I need to see it — to keep on, and keep on, and keep on fighting to see it — how all these hard things that seem disconnected are actually intricately strung together around me and inside me by His perfectly trustworthy hand.

Not that He’s the cause of all the painful stuff, but that He’s moving and working inside me in the midst of every bit of it. And having eyes to search out the movement of His hand — to try and see below the surface to where the pain and discomfort are carving me out inside and how it’s in that space that He’s tenderly, relentlessly shaping His heart inside of my own — is what will bring connection to all that’s disconnected, will bring hope and peace, groundedness and confidence to where there would otherwise be only confusion and turmoil and purposeless pain.

But inside of Him, none of my pain is wasted. Not an ounce.

And there’s this holy desperation surfacing, this sense that I have got to keep cultivating a willingness to settle deeper into the fellowship of His suffering. Have got to find the fortitude to be silent and still and just. sit. with. it — this desperate, empty, aching need — instead of running from one thing to the next, compulsively grasping to fill it, or mute it, or numb it out.

And y’all, it is SO uncomfortable, sitting still with my smallness, my emptiness, my neediness. But it’s only when I’m willing to sit with it, to really feel the ache of it, that He has room to come in and meet me intimately, at the absolute, utter, gaping depth of my need, the way my soul longs to be met. To be understood. To be held.

****

Thanks for bearing witness to my processing of my heart tonight, my friends. This feels so personal — maybe almost too personal, even for me. But my prayer is that some piece of what I’ve shared here brings light or clarity to a bit of your own journey with Him.

Love y’all, and always so thankful for your presence here.

~me

Posted in anxiety, Attending to His Presence, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, Marriage, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting | 3 Comments

in which I’m {still} learning not to play small {or: thoughts after last night’s counseling session}


photo-2Somewhere around 15 inches of snow have blanketed the Denver area over the last few days. The kids and I (and even Stan, who worked from home the last couple of days to avoid a slow, slippery, snow-packed commute) spent yesterday and Monday holed up in our little apartment, and I may or may not have decided I deserve a sparkly superhero cape after all my keeping them creatively engaged for hours on end.

We lit fires in the fireplace, played with cookie sheets full of snow, made snow cream, drank hot chocolate with marshmallows (or rather, Isaac drank it, and Maia mostly splattered hers all over the table while fishing marshmallows out with a spoon).

I let it all happen — mess after mess after mess — and, one by one, we cleaned them up together.

By yesterday evening, I found myself exhausted beyond belief, and staring down a phone appointment with my counselor on my calendar. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t wanna dig up my *stuff.* I was tired.

But. Despite myself, I got on the phone with Mary, and holy cow, did said *stuff* ever come spilling out.

About how I wish I could more proactively plow through damage repair — through seeing and owning and finding healing in all these places where my heart’s been wounded — instead of waiting on life circumstances and relationships to bring my broken places to the surface.

How I wanna grab the reigns and hurry up and fix all these places where my internal default settings have settled into unhealthy patterns — the result of too many years of having shut up and shut down and ignored my gut in order to survive. In order to avoid making people uncomfortable.

{And even as I write this morning, I feel the need to apologize yet again for sharing my heart’s processes while not unveiling practical, situational details. Some of these circumstances aren’t yet far enough in my past that I can write specifically about them here. Thanks for understanding, my friends.}

I rambled on and on to Mary about how insane it is that in those days, I was only really living into maybe a third of who I actually was. How I played small and quiet. How I withheld insight and passion and tried to fake like I was fine. How I even deceived myself a lot of the time.

How I wanted so badly not to make “them” uncomfortable, not to be a threat, and yet no matter how hard I tried not to rock their boat or challenge their version of status quo, I didn’t succeed.

I made them uncomfortable. I made them feel threatened. And that was while playing small(?!).

More recently, I’ve moved into new facets of who I am. I’m learning that, for me, living into the fullness of my true self looks like trying crazy hair colors and funky styles, new ink that is deeply meaningful between me and Jesus, and learning to speak up in humility when I would previously have shut up instead.

photo-4

It looks like loving both Jesus and people with this less-and-less-inhibited, undignified, expressive, fiery affection. It looks like leading worship loud and re-learning to be spontaneously led by the Spirit in so doing.

And the crazy thing is, in my current life here in Littleton, those who know me — they love this fuller, freer, more expressive version of me. They’re not afraid of my passion, my voice, or even my… mohawk? :)

Their love and acceptance has been unbelievably healing.

But I’m still learning not to be afraid of myself.

On the phone with Mary last night, I found myself lamenting: “God, WHY did you make me so loud?” 

I don’t mean loud as in boisterous or obnoxious or attention-seeking. I just mean that the more deeply Jesus grounds my heart in His love, the more fully I settle into my true self-in-Him and learn to live out of that place, the louder (and more “out there”) my life somehow becomes, whether I want it that way or not.

And I may or may not have just cursed a little in my head as I wrote that last sentence, because living at this level of authenticity and exposure scares the you-know-what outa me. It is vulnerable as heck.

Because somehow, it turns out that the more freely I give expression to my deep places (whether via writing or attire or hair or music or ink or fiery love), the more likely I am to be perceived as a threat by those who’re a little on the insecure side. To live under this oppressive sense that I’d better hide bits of who I am so I don’t shake people’s comfort zones too much.

When people feel threatened, they can be incredibly hurtful.

Simultaneously though, it’s been my experience that when the people around me are uninhibitedly, expressively true to who they are and how they’re made, I find myself set a little freer merely by being in their presence.

photo-3

When you live freely, confidently, out of your core, it gives me permission to be more fully myself.

And this deepening and settling into our truest selves — it’s worship to the Lord. Because y’all, Jesus is worthy of this — of our growing and expanding into the absolute fullness of the freedom He won for us on the cross. Worthy of our being more and more authentically who He made us to be.

Not out of a heart that “flips the bird” to those who’ve previously oppressed us out of their own insecurity, but out of a heart that lives solely before Him, that passionately desires to love Him with the entirety of who we are.

There is nothing more fulfilling, and nothing more glorifying to our Maker.

And that, right there, is what I hope and pray is the impact of my less inhibited, more “out there” life. I so long that the Holy Spirit in me, coming out freely through me, would set hearts free (2 Cor. 3:17).

Ugh. But did I mention that living like this is vulnerable as you-know-what? Because as much as I want my life to provoke others toward freedom, I can’t control whether they respond to me by moving toward a deeper authenticity themselves, or by feeling threatened and insecure.

And my stomach is doing flips as I type because somehow saying this stuff “out loud” to you here makes it feel more real — this commitment I’m making to Jesus and to those I love, that I will refuse to let fear convince me to shrink. To play small.

But the sweet, gut-wrenchingly beautiful thing about this journey of ever-deepening authenticity and groundedness, is that it requires intimacy. Close, close companionship with Him.

The vulnerability of living this way makes me tremble inside, and it forces me into this increasing awareness of my need to live leaning into Him. Lockstep with Him. Moving hand-in-hand, entrusting my vulnerability to Him.

And, when refusing to play small leaves me feeling exposed, learning to let His love be my covering — over, and over, and over again.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
-Marianne Williamson

Posted in Community, Confidence in God, Creativity, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, risk | 4 Comments

on social media politics and the Father’s heart

photo-2

So. My Facebook wall has been an interesting place lately. If you’ve lurked around my page in recent weeks, you’ve likely witnessed some intense conversations. Full-on arguments even, complete with a small handful of accusations and insults that’ve made my jaw drop in shock.

In some moments, I’ve chosen to engage, to try to clearly, gently share my views while simultaneously hearing and validating the opinions of those who disagree. More often, I’ve remained mostly quiet, allowing my friends to dialogue among themselves while I’ve tried not to cave to anxiety (keepin’ it real, y’all) as tension and conflict mounted.

Several of you have so kindly affirmed my courage in sharing some of the thoughts I’ve put out there lately. You encourage my heart. Thank you. Truly.

And brave? Well, I might be. A little bit more than I was before. Hopefully.

BUT. I’ll let you in on something today, my friends:

Most of the time, when it comes to sharing a post that resonates with me (especially one with potential political implications), if I’m honest, I tend to share first, and think later.

My thought process is frequently something along the lines of, “Oh, YES — this person articulated my thoughts (on any given issue) SO much better than I could have.” So I share it, and though it’s often written in someone else’s words, I’m sharing a cross section of my soul with my friends.

And though I’ve been a little (or a lot) slow on the uptake, I’m beginning to see which of my views have implied ties to a particular political party (I know — duh. But seriously, I’m a heart girl, not a politics girl, and definitely not an argument-seeking girl).

I’m learning which of my convictions are likely to provoke intense responses from friends who disagree. And I’m learning — albeit slowly — to think a little harder before I share a thought that resonates with me.

It’s not necessarily that I plan to go silent, just that I’ve gotta determine whether I’m up for the conversation that might ensue if/when I do choose to share an opinion.

*****

Anyway.

Stumbling into all this accidentally-politically-charged dialogue on Facebook has gotten me thinking — how do people who passionately love Jesus — Christians whose spiritual walks I deeply respect — have such widely varying opinions (different from my own and from one another) on issues that I believe are massively important to God’s heart?

Abortion. Homosexual marriage. Care for the poor. Immigration. The death penalty. {I could go on.}

I’ve had this conversation over and over for years with Stan, and more recently with a couple of my close friends. We’ve pondered and wondered and questioned how in the world all these people who are genuine Christ-followers, who are in-dwelt by the same Holy Spirit, can come to such drastically conflicting conclusions on right and wrong (or on right and left, or on what views and values and morals are important to look for in a political candidate).

So I’m sitting on my bed this morning and I’m contemplating this question for the millionth time, and it hits me: Jesus must be interested in something deeper than getting everyone who loves Him on the same page on all this stuff.

Don’t get me wrong – I have strong opinions on every one of the issues I listed above. Opinions that I believe are close to, and in line with, God’s heart as expressed in scripture.

BUT — I also believe there’s an invitation from Him in everything. Every triumph and trial, every joy and sorrow.

An invitation in every disagreement — an invitation to more deeply experience His heart.

So what happens when my opinion, which I believe is in line with the heart of God, conflicts with your opinion, which you believe is in line with the heart of God? What if we try for a while to convince each other that your opinion is wrong, and mine is right, and we’re not getting anywhere except to make each other mad?

Stalemate. Right?

Well, maybe.

Maybe we argue a while, agree to disagree, bless one another, and walk away from the conversation.

OR. What if — not always, but every once in a while, if we keep our ears and hearts open — there’s a different road through all our confusion and conflict? One that will not necessarily change our hard-arrived-at conclusions, but will expand our hearts at a much deeper level?

What if we consider suspending our assumptions and our needs to be right?  What if we ask our “opponent” {read: friend} to share more of their heart, their perspective, their journey to arriving at said perspective…

…sit quietly…

…and listen? 

And what if we listen with true presence and attentiveness, choosing not to simultaneously pre-meditate our response to their story or our refutation of their opinion?

What if we find our security and identity and peace in Jesus (as opposed to in being right), to the degree that it doesn’t freak us out to really listen and consider an opinion that differs from our own?

What if our primary goal becomes learning from one another, instead of trying to change each other’s perspectives?

And in so doing, what if we find that, while our viewpoint on whatever issue may or may not change one iota, our roots have grown deeper into the heart of Jesus? That we’ve allowed Him to expand our own heart? Experienced intimacy with Him that can’t come in any other way than laying down our “right” to make our opinion heard?

What if, more than He desires conformity in our political perspectives, He wants to teach us to seek first to understand rather than to be understood?

What if His deeper interest is in deepening and expanding our capacity to really love?

Within the Body of Christ, unity is not equal to uniformity in doctrine or political views. Unity, I think, will come as we learn to lay down our pride, let Jesus expand our hearts, and listen to one another.

Unity will come as, despite — and even because of — our differences, we learn to proactively, humbly love.

It’s not all that difficult, most of the time, to love those who agree with us. Actively loving those whose opinions offend and challenge our own, though? That’s another story.

And I’m still learning, but you guys, I so want that to be my story.

Thanks for hearing my heart, friends.

I love y’all.

Posted in anxiety, leadership, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Presence | 6 Comments

on anxiety and other “less-than-spiritual” realities

photo-4

I’m jolted awake in the middle of the night. I don’t know exactly what woke me, but I do know my heart is pounding so fiercely that for a moment I wonder if it might collide with my chest wall hard enough to make it just… quit.

Is this a panic attack?

I’ve had a few mild ones in the past but none quite this intense. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so fragile.

I lie quiet, trying to still my racing thoughts. I take deep breaths and will my heart rate back to normal. I pray silent 3- and 4-word prayers on repeat.

After a while, I’m calm enough to sleep again. But a couple hours later, it’s the same song, second verse.

The next morning I’m worn plumb out, which makes everything feel more acute. The kids’ scuffles and needs, my headaches, my to-do’s.

I’m way too easily overwhelmed. I think I’m “triggered.” Raw. Like, I’ve kind of been living in that zone the last few weeks.

Jesus works inside us in all these cyclical layers, and at the moment, he seems to be doing several layers’ worth of heart surgery all at once.

I’m intermittently flooded with memories from past abusive situations (to be clear, I’m talking emotional and spiritual abuse, not physical). I’m periodically overcome by regret, recalling countless decisions made out of fear (as opposed to following what I knew the Holy Spirit had put in my heart) while in said situations.

Years-old choices that have impacted my family. Impacted my soul.

I’m still discovering ways I lost my voice, lost the ability to listen to my gut, to take my discernment seriously. I’m realizing anew that so much of the time, the Spirit speaks through my intuition, and it’s not that I’m inerrant by any stretch of the imagination, but just that He lives inside me and, in His kindness, is perpetually redeeming my instincts.

I’m learning how to listen to His whispers again.

There were years — years — that I shoved the thoughts that made me uncomfortable, thoughts that might make others uncomfortable, thoughts I feared would rock the boat.

I’ve got to be wrong. I’m missing something. Stay quiet, Dana. They certainly know better than you do.

And all those years of ignoring my gut and shoving my intuition? They were costly. I’m realizing more and more that it will take years — and lots of gut-wrenching internal work with Jesus — to fully recover. To locate and integrate the lost pieces of my self.

{Interjection: Thanks for grace, my friends, while I once again write at a heart level without explaining external circumstances. I’m not ready to talk specifically about these pieces of my history in this space yet.}

I’m humbled these days, y’all. So, so acutely aware of my weakness. I’m laying my raw soul bare before Jesus, my husband, my close friends. I’m talking through memories. Praying through them. Sometimes weeping through them.

photo-1

*****

One of the most damaging mentalities I’ve seen here and there within the evangelical church is this implied (or sometimes even spoken outright) idea that if a person is experiencing anxiety or another emotion that we tend to deem negative, they’re “not in faith.” They must be in some type of sin, not trusting Jesus enough, not correctly applying the truth of scripture to their circumstances, etc.

Basically, their spirituality isn’t up to par, and in order to really follow Jesus, in order to not be ruled by our emotions, we must reject emotions that “don’t line up with truth.”

But here’s what I’m forever learning: these emotions that we tend to think of as “negative?” They are actually just human. God made us human. With vulnerability to being hurt. With susceptibility to fear. With emotional responses to pain.

And He made us this way, with all this vulnerability, because it’s in the painful, raw, weak places that we can most uniquely, deeply, tangibly encounter His heart and experience His strength.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. –1 Corinthians 12:9

Anxiety and trauma and regret have been so close to the surface for me lately, and in years past, my instinct might’ve been to pretend they didn’t exist, because they make me feel — or appear? — less spiritual.

But I’m finding that as I acknowledge my raw state before the Father, bringing all my trauma and grief before His throne as authentic pieces of my current reality, there is healing. There’s peace. There are restoration and integration and courage, a little bit at a time.

I’m finding wholeness in Him as I quit shoving and ignoring my emotions, and bring the entirety of my right-now self into His embrace. {Not just the parts of me that feel spiritual or faith-filled or presentable.}

And most of all? There’s His presence. He is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), and of course He’s near all the time, but there’s a uniqueness to His nearness in seasons like these, and it is profoundly sweet. It’s balm to my soul.

He is tender and kind in all of my past, all of my present, and all of my future. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him, even when we make decisions we later regret. He is faithful to continue the work He’s begun. His processes inside us are gentle, trustworthy, thorough.

He’s a God of extravagant healing and redemption. So while I’m still in process, while I still have quite a distance to go toward wholeness in all these broken places, I can sit quietly here today and declare it, and believe it to my very core:

So, so great is His faithfulness.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

-Lamentations 3:22-23

Thanks, my friends, for being with me, for bearing witness to my journey, for loving Him alongside me. I love you guys.

Posted in anxiety, Attending to His Presence, Encountering God in the Messy, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus | 11 Comments

Sharing my one word for 2016 (and a quick update on our family’s special needs journey)

photo 3

Hey, my dear friends.

Wow. It’s hard to know where to start when it’s been nearly two months since I’ve written here.

We had a sweet Christmas Eve morning — just Stan, me, Isaac, and our Maia-bean. We opened presents as a family, hung out in our pj’s, ate a leisurely breakfast together. The evening found me leading worship for our church’s Christmas Eve service, which was both wonderful and quite an adventure for me — my guitar skillz are WAY rusty these days, y’all. Yikes.

We spent Christmas day and night with our extended fam here in Colorado. Think amazing French toast breakfast, fun present-opening session, a new Keurig for Stan and me (courtesy of Stan’s sister and her hubby, and which I madly adore), and lots of excitement for the kiddos.

In the meantime, my dearly beloved husband has become somewhat obsessed with memes. Sharing them, creating them, all of it. And I can’t seem to avoid being the subject of them. A classic example for you:

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 9.52.10 AM

Hm.

Anyway.

Things have been a bit roller-coaster-ish with our sweet boy. Two steps forward, one step back, it seems. We’ve transferred Isaac’s care to a different clinic, and the difference is night-and-day. His therapist and psychiatrist are both absolutely Heaven-sent. They truly hear me, validate my concerns, ask phenomenal questions, and interact with Isaac with such wisdom and sensitivity. What an amazing gift from Jesus.

I am able to participate in therapy with Isaac, and while it’s still play therapy, it is so much more intentional and focused, and I find myself taking away great insights and strategies to implement with him at home.

Though we still have our ultra-difficult moments, life in the Butler abode seems to be on an overall trend of upward movement. More and more frequently, Isaac and Maia are playing peacefully together (Isaac’s sensory issues combined with Maia’s strong will have made their relationship quite difficult at times). They’re more often enjoying one another, sharing, drawing, dancing, making each other laugh. Stan and I sat in the living room last night and had an actual conversation while watching them play together. What what?! ::blissful sigh::

photo 2

We have a long way to go with our boy, but I’m hopeful. Jesus is leading us, and He is trustworthy.

*****

As we’ve entered 2016, I’ve found myself praying and pondering the idea of choosing a #oneword365 for this year.

I’ve thought back over my previous words:

2013 – Presence; 2014 – Freedom; 2015 – Unfold

And I’ve pondered the fact that these concepts always take more than one year to be fully birthed inside me. In fact, I’m not sure we ever actually arrive.

Presence (wholehearted attentiveness) to Jesus and to those He puts before me still takes daily focus and intentionality. Freedom (from the fear of man, in particular) is most certainly a journey that won’t be complete till the other side of eternity. Unfolding — letting people see who I really am, what’s really in my heart — it’s still terrifying at times. Again, something that will forever require focus and intentionality.

photo 1

And yet, as I’ve let these Holy-Spirit-highlighted words mark my previous 3 years, the ways He’s used them as tools for His work inside me have never failed to amaze me. These words rarely take shape for me in the ways I’ve foreseen — which is a little bit scary, and a big bit awe-inspiring to me.

God’s faithfulness to speak and unveil and continually form Himself on my insides in unexpected ways — it undoes me. He is so profoundly, perfectly trustworthy.

As I’ve sat before Jesus and asked what’s on His heart for me this year, one word has repeatedly stuck out to me. And while I have a few ideas of ways to apply it, I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit will continue to unveil layer after layer of meaning in the months to come.

What I feel is on His heart for me this year is a deeper settledness, a hush in my soul. A new attentiveness to His whispers.

It’s a sense of moving in quiet, confident, steady companionship with Him. Lockstep.

It’s noticing and validating my emotions, impulses, and desires in any given circumstance — and then, instead of acting on said emotions, intentionally stopping a minute or a day or a week to listen for His heartbeat before determining my course of action. (In the context of parenting. Interacting with loved ones. Leading worship. Mentoring people. Time management. Responding to situations involving conflict or misunderstanding.)

It’s frequently slowing down to reflect, to learn from failures, to cultivate an awareness of His nearness and quiet leadership in my day-to-day, moment-by-moment, gut-wrenching, challenging, beautiful, fulfilling life.

It’s finding room in my schedule to sit and make art — to write words, to write songs, to take pictures, to cultivate and expand my creativity.

It’s making space for intentional, obedient self-care. For rest — both for my heart and my body — as an act of worship and trust.

It’s carving out time to silently gaze on Him and be changed.

And most likely, it’s a hundred or so other things that Jesus will reveal as I make my way through 2016.

My word for this year is pause.

Pause.

A reminder to stop and acknowledge Him in still more of my ways, so He can direct my paths (Prov. 3:5-6).

It’s one of those areas I’ll be growing in till the day I die. But I’m praying and trusting that this year will be one in which I learn and grow and abide and pause with Him… to a degree that I never have before.

*****

Have you chosen a word to mark your 2016? If so, I’d love to hear. If you haven’t, it’s most definitely not too late.

Peace to y’all, my friends. Thanks for reading my heart today… for your support and prayers, your love, and your companionship here. Happy New Year.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Celebrations, Creativity, misc. walking with Jesus, One Word, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I want to tell you about the good things.

It snowed last night. Big, wet, gorgeous flakes, of which I just now realized I haven’t taken one single picture.

Annnnnd, bam. Just remedied that little issue. Here you go:

photo

Though my iPhone camera doesn’t do it justice, this is the view from the plentiful windows of my new favorite hangout — the Corner Bakery, maybe an 8-minute drive south from my kids’ little preschool.  It’s cozy and warm, I can see the mountains (which are in and of themselves balm to my soul), I get unlimited refills on coffee, and they have the best pancakes I’ve tasted in my entire life. Boo-yah.

In the weeks since I last wrote my heart in this space, I’ve found myself wanting to tell you about all the good things, because even in challenging seasons, there is beauty. There are tenderness and extravagance poured out all over and around me, straight from the Father’s heart. And if I can lift my gaze from the minutiae of my day-in, day-out life, I can see it. Can reorient myself to His tangible goodness. Can take it in like oxygen. Like life.

photo 4

photo 5

photo 4-2

photo 5-1

photo 3-3

There are snow boots from Costco – inexpensive and cute and they fit my feet perfectly even though I didn’t have time to try them on before purchasing.  A small miracle.

There’s a baseball team that WON THE FLIPPING WORLD SERIES and though we no longer live in Kansas City, my heart absolutely swells with glee over their victory after so many years of underdog-dom. ROYAAAALLLLLS!!

There’s this fiber-rich, healthy-ish, easy pancake mix, and a husband who loves flipping pancakes on the griddle several mornings a week lately. (Did I mention I like pancakes?)

There is Stan’s current work situation — adequate provision for our family even with Littleton’s high cost of living, a supervisor and coworkers who are understanding on the days his wife ends up in bed with a monster of a migraine… like yesterday.

There are in-laws just an hour away who love getting “Nana and Grandpa time” with our kiddos, and who spent the entire afternoon with them yesterday while their mama slept off said migraine.

There are new days with significantly less pain, and though we’re still in the process of getting my headaches figured out with a neurologist, there are pain drugs that sorta kinda help for now, and for those I’m thankful.

There are plane tickets to North Carolina, a fast-approaching trip to spend Thanksgiving and my impending 35th birthday with my Mom and Dad, my brothers and their families, my aunt and uncle and cousin and her family.

photo 3 photo 4-1 photo 3-2 photo 2
{Also: What?! 35?! Is this for real? Because I cannot possibly be that old. Or that young, for that matter.}

But I digress.

There is this imperfectly beautiful, loving church family who allow me to speak into their hearts, to lead them toward beholding Jesus’ face and experiencing the Father’s heart in worship. I continue to be undone by the privilege. Over and over again.

There is the way the Holy Spirit shows up and moves on hearts during our corporate worship times. The way Jesus is teaching and leading us as a worship team, the way He asks me to step into challenging leadership situations and holds my shaky hand while I direct and bring to bear whatever wisdom He’s given me. {{Oh God, hold me. This is scary. But so good.}}

And there are soul friends, y’all. Both new and old. Both local to the Denver area, and scattered across the country. Sisters who tenderly hold my story, my right now life and my heart within it. Who create safe spaces where I’m invited and drawn to expose the entirety of who I am. Spaces where my heart’s learning at deeper levels than before that I can bring my big emotions and my big questions and my big opinions, and I am not too much. Words fail to do justice to the depth of my gratitude for these several girls, for their trust, for their precious companionship.

There is the way Jesus is more deeply connecting my heart with Stan’s these days. He is doing something new in our marriage and it is beautiful and good and it feels like hope, and I am so, so thankful.

photo 1

photo 1-2

photo 1-1

There is the fact that our kids are more peaceful these days. There is creative play. They’re more often extending kindness toward each other instead of this constant competition and frustration with one another. Isaac invites Maia into his world of trains and Legos and he suddenly has this miraculous, growing capacity to engage and play peacefully with his little sis.

Isaac is, by the way, more centered, more grounded, more generally at peace these days than ever before. And there are all these small moments lately when Stan and I look at each other, eyebrows raised in surprise and relief, because we are genuinely enjoying and not merely surviving our times together as a family. More. And more. And more.

I’m sensing the quiet leadership of the Holy Spirit as I engage my kiddos day-in and day-out. Sensing Him leading me in connecting with their hearts, in practically shepherding them rather than merely trying to correct outward behavior. He is expanding me as a mama, enlarging my heart for my children, increasing my delight in them.

And things are still messy and we are by no means perfect, nor will we ever be, but as a family, we are growing together up into Christ and this is one of those hope-laced seasons where if I look closely, I can see it happening.

*****

Isaac delayed eating his breakfast the other morning. He put it off and put it off until he was apparently hungrier than he’s been accustomed to being, like ever, and he suddenly hollered from the living room that he was HUNGRY, that he NEEDED his breakfast, NOW!

There was this desperation in his voice that I’ve never heard from my children before, this hunger that utterly squelched all respect and dignity and self-control and the capacity to wait half a sec for his food to be ready.

And the desperation in my son’s voice, y’all, it gutted me. We quickly got his breakfast ready (again), but his cry for food somehow pulled me into this place of considering the reality of real hunger, of poverty here in my city, in my state, in our nation, across the globe. Contemplating how many, many mamas there are on our planet who over and over again look their own hungry children in the eyes and tell them, “I’m sorry, love — we don’t have any breakfast this morning.”

I was wrecked that day. I’m still wrecked. And I look around our small apartment, y’all, and see excess. I see overflowing kitchen cabinets and more clothes and toys than we really need and even though we gave SO much away before downsizing from our 6-bedroom home in Kansas City, we still have so much. So much.

photo 3-1

photo 2-2

photo 2-1

And I’m grateful. And I’m an emotional mess, kind of. And I want to simplify even more. And I want to give. Oh, do I want to give. And I want to honor Jesus in the way we steward our undeserved resources more than I ever have before.

And I think that’s all I’ve got this morning, y’all. I’ve gotta move toward picking my littles up from school, heading home, working with Isaac on homework for his music class.

And in these weeks as holidays draw near, my prayer for you my friends, my prayer for us, is simply that Jesus would draw our over-arching focus from all our minutiae and our to-do’s and our perceived inadequacies, toward experiencing His heart for us in the good things and the mundane things and the hard things, too.

And if He’s after our hearts and He’s offering us Himself — the sweetest gift — in both the good and the hard, can we really differentiate between the two? There’s goodness in all of it, isn’t there? ‘Cause there’s Him, you guys.

There’s always, always Him. And He is more than enough.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Community, Confidence in God, Encountering God in the Beautiful, Encountering God in the Messy, Encountering God in the Mundane, Family Moments, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A Quick Update (or, the one thing that’s more real than my fear)

photo 2-1

It’s been in the 50’s and pouring down rain for 2 days in a row. Typically I would be head-over-heals for this kind of Autumn weather (boots, flannel, sweaters — you know the drill). But hauling my two littles around in the rain is no small feat. It wears me out at every level.

Isaac’s anxiety has improved in the last few weeks, y’all. It’s a breath of fresh air and a reprieve for us all, to have him not so continually paralyzed by irrational fear. Anxiety is most certainly still an issue, but it’s less extreme and less frequent now, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

And with the anxiety a little more at bay, we’re able to see Isaac’s other needs with more clarity.

Isaac has processing struggles. Have I told you that?

The frequent need to give him the same instruction literally 10-20 times in order for it to register in his mind — it’s one of many reasons that being out and about with him {especially in the rain} can bring me to the end of myself faster than I don’t know what.

And his slow processing speed is just one of a number of “special needs” that I feel aren’t being adequately addressed by simply diagnosing and treating his anxiety.

We are, as of today, officially beginning what will be a months-long (possibly up to a full year) process of obtaining a more thorough evaluation for Isaac through the very reputable child development department of our local children’s hospital.

***

Headaches are a thing for me. They have been for a long time. What I’m seeing lately though is the direct correlation between my headaches and my stress level. My body often reacts instantly, outside of my control, to stressors, even in moments when I don’t necessarily feel stressed at an emotional level.

So I’ve started physical therapy, in part to help train my body and mind to respond differently to stress.

This is a piece of how Jesus is meeting my needs and sustaining my heart in this season. I’m thankful, but this re-training of my brain — it’s a process, and not a quick one.

***

I told a dear friend this morning that I’m overwhelmed, and possibly even a little depressed, by the reality of what this next evaluation process will look like for Isaac, and for us.

photo 1-1

Particularly, there will be mountains of paperwork, and said mountains will be insanely time-consuming. And not just time-consuming, but they will take everything out of me at an emotional level. It is draining and terrifying in the deepest, realest sense — combing through question after question about Isaac’s development and his needs, and facing the reality of every detail and nuance of his strengths, delays, and deficits.

And yet–

The Lord is my shepherd.

Y’all, I can’t — I mean, can. not. — get out of Psalm 23 these days. He is my shepherd. No matter what comes. I will fear no evil. Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life.

The fear and the uncertainty are big and real, y’all. But the tender kindness of the Shepherd? It’s more real. And it calms and comforts my heart again and again.

His goodness pursues me through all these unknowns. Holds me through all the grief because this was so. not. what I imagined that my son’s childhood would look like, and seeing my Isaac Boy hurt and feel overwhelmed and have low self-confidence wrenches my soul like I can’t begin to put into words.

Yet there they are again — the rod and staff of the Perfect Shepherd. He leads me beside still waters, makes me lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul.

Jesus, you restore my soul.

In the right now intensity of this season. In all its stresses and hurts and unanswered questions. You do. You restore me, re-establish me, shore me up inside.

Again, and again, and again.

And all this Shepherding? Jesus is committed to doing it for my boy, too. And I trust that He is, even if in ways I can’t see, doing just that.

photo 3-1

Thank you guys for letting me update you briefly tonight, and thanks for your continued non-advicey :) support. Truly. I appreciate it so much. Your prayers and encouragement. Your companionship in this place.

I love y’all a big ol’ massive heap. I mean, really. I do. So thankful for you all.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Encountering God in the Messy, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Who Are You? {an introduction and an invitation}

Erika Bandersnatch Post

My so deeply cherished friends.

If you’ve read my heart in this little space for any length of time, then you know it is incredibly rare that I invite anyone else’s words to find voice here. Part of the reason for that is sheer busyness — my own and that of the great majority of my writer-friends.

But the second, greater reason is this:

I take your trust more seriously than I can say. It’s a sacred gift — the access y’all give my voice to your inboxes and your hearts — and I want to be always so careful not to take your trust lightly.

That said, I want you to know this: I love Erika Morrison something fierce and crazy. Actually, I think my exact words in a text message to her last night, on the eve of her first book’s release date, were, in part, something like this:

“Love you SO SO SO ridiculous.”

To which I believe her reply was “Ridiculous love is my favorite!!! And so are you.” {Followed by a bajillion or so heart-eyed smiley faces.}

Sorry (but not) to straight-up MUSH about my friend all over your computer screen, but you guys, this girl is my soul sister in the truest, deepest sense of that term, and the precise, poetic, poignant nature of what Jesus has deposited inside her is the kind of stuff that’ll make your soul breathe and burn again.

Or maybe for the first time.

At least, it for sure does mine.

So. Y’all. I could not be more excited to share my friend Erika’s words with you here today, and I am flat-out doing a HAPPY DANCE because HER BOOK.

YOU GUYS. HER BOOK RELEASES TODAY.  (!!!!!!!!!)

I have read Bandersnatch in its entirety and I’m not exaggerating when I say it continues to be a game-changer for my interior life in a way that only a VERY few books have ever, ever been.

Or when I say that I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that comes so near to wrapping words around the passions of my own heart, my own desires to see Jesus’ Kingdom come here. Now. Within and among and all around us.

Read Erika’s heart below, but first, check out her stunningly exquisite book trailer here. And if you read Bandersnatch (which I SO hope you do)… tell me what you think? What questions or longings it provokes? What it ignites within you?

I love you guys so much,

Dana

erika bandersnatch

The cardinals make it look so easy. The honeybees make it look so easy. The catfish and the black crow, the dairy cow and the cactus plant, all make being created appear effortless. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate.

None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.

But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed. We’re told by our mamas and mentors that–like snowflakes–no two of us are the same and that we each have a special purpose and part to play within the great Body of God.

(If your mama never told you this, consider yourself informed: YOU–your original cells and skin-print, guts and ingenuity–will never ever incarnate again. Do you believe it?)

So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.

And yet . . . even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of man made definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities and more often than not, “The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.” ~Frederick Buechner

So, let me ask you. Do you know something–anything–of your true, original, shimmering self?

I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama.

Those are your interests and investments.

I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?

Who are you before you became a Jesus lover or mother or husband?

Who are you without your church, your hobbies, your performances and projects?

I’m not talking about your confidence in saying, “I am a child of God,” either. What I am asking a quarter-dozen different ways is this: within the framework of being a child of God, what part of God do you represent? Do you know where you begin and where you end? Do you know the here-to-here of your uniqueness? Do you know, as John Duns Scotus puts it, your unusual, individual “thisness”?

I can’t resolve this question for you, I can only ask you if you’re interested. (Are you interested?)

I can only tell you that it is a good and right investment to spend the energy and time to learn who you are with nothing barnacled to your body, to learn what it is you bleed. Because you were enough on the day of your birth when you came to us stripped and slippery and squeezing absolutely nothing but your God-given glow.

And who you were on that born-day is also who you are now, but since you’ve been living on this planet long enough to learn how to read this article, then it follows that you’ve also lived here long enough to collect a few layers of horsefeathers and hogwash.

So, yet again, I’m inquiring: What is it that you see before the full-length bathroom mirror after you’ve divested of clothes and masks and hats and accessories and roles and beliefs and missions and persuaders and pressures–until you’re down to just your peeled nature, minus all the addons mixed in with your molecules?

Do you see somebody who was made with passion, on purpose, in earnest; fearfully and wonderfully, by a Maker with a brow bent in the center, two careful hands, a stitching kit and divine kiss?

Can you catch between your fingers even the tiniest fragment of self-knowledge, roll it around and put a word to it?

Your identity is a living organism and literally wishes to unfurl and spread from your center and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for the unique shine of your own soul?

One of the central endeavors of the human experience is to consciously discover the intimacies of who we already are. As in: life is not about building an alternate name for ourselves; it’s about discovering the name we already have.

Will you, _______, rise from your own sacred ash?

Because the rest of us cannot afford to lose the length of your limbs or the cadence of your light or the rhythm of your ideas or the harmony of your creative force. The way you sway and smile, the awkward this and that and the other thing you do.

These are the days for opening our two clumsy hands before the wideness of life and the allure of a God who stops and starts our hearts. These are the days for rubbing our two imperfect sticks together so we can kindle another feeble, holy light from the deep within–each of us alone and also for each other.

There is no resolution to this quest; the only destination is the process. But I hope there’s a small spark here that will leave you wanting, that will leave you with a blue-fire lined in your spine, that will inspire a cellular, metamorphic process in you; an odyssey of the soul unique to you and your individual history, organisms, and experiences.

There is maybe a fine line between being lethargic about learning ourselves and not being self-obsessive and with that tension in mind, how do we begin (or continue) the process of unearthing and remembering the truth of our intrinsic selves?

Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul was written because sometimes we all need a little hand-holding and butt-nudging in our process; someone or something to come alongside us while we pick up our threads of soul discovery and travel from one dot and tittle to the next.

We are the Kingdom people and learning your own fingerprint is something of what it means for the Kingdom to come in response to an earth which groans forth its rolling desire for the great interlocking circle of contribution to reveal the luminous and loving Body of Christ and slowly, seriously–like it’s our destiny–set the world to rights.

Kingdom come. Which is to say: YOU, [be]come and carve your glorious, powerful, heaven-appointed meaning into the sides of rocks and communities and cities and skies.

|||

Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.

Come with me? And I will go with you and if you’re interested, you can order wherever books or ebooks are sold.

Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click HERE.

All my love,
Erika Morrison

Posted in Guest Posts, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus | 2 Comments

On absorbing beauty and going to the park

photo 2

The mountains. Y’all. They are balm to my soul like I can’t describe in words.

But watch me try.

I spent this past weekend up in Allenspark, CO with a group of 30 or so precious women from our church fam.

We worshiped our guts out. I led worship, and it was still more balm, just pouring myself out before the One who’s trustworthy, in the face of my life’s circumstances and in the midst of my heart’s pain, experiencing His heart with my sisters.

We heard from two phenomenal speakers, and you guys? Jesus moved. He moved so tangibly and practically that I found myself in tears on Friday evening, and tears don’t typically come easy for me. I mean, I generally cry — like, really cry — maybe a couple of times in a year.

But oh, did I ever cry.

Because Jesus whispered tender understanding to my heart, reminding me in my very core that He hears and feels the internal agony and grief around which I so struggle to wrap words.

I’ve ached lately over my inability to help folks understand how deeply this season is wrenching my heart, how acutely I find myself grieving.

But He gets it. My God gets it. Fully. And He’s with me in it.

This grief, you guys. It runs deep and it is poignant.

photo 3

We now have one diagnosis for Isaac, and are beginning the (long) process of seeking a second opinion and another probable diagnosis.

To be honest, my friends, I’ve really struggled over how much to say here, because Isaac’s story — his unique combination of struggles and strengths — is his. 

And yet, his story collides minute-by-minute with my own. Profoundly impacts every single facet of my life.

Secondarily to wanting to honor Isaac’s heart and his story, I still have this very real need for my blog not to become a platform for receiving advice.

You all have walked beside me so very graciously here, and I’m so beyond grateful for your companionship, kindness, and support. Yet, for practical advice in this season, I’m needing to pretty exclusively lean into the handful of people who’re bearing practical witness to my day-in, day-out life with my littles. Thank you all so much for understanding this.

All of that said, I do want to tell you a little more of where we’re at with our boy, and a little more of how it’s personally impacted me.

Isaac’s current diagnosis is Generalized Anxiety Disorder. By means of honoring my kiddo, I’ll simply say that the components and variations of his anxiety have dramatically impacted his quality of life, and that of our entire family.

We are, as of the last couple of weeks, pursuing treatment for his anxiety, including weekly therapy. And, as I said above, we’re going to be seeking a more thorough developmental evaluation for him in the coming months.

Little by little, I’m beginning to see improvement. I see Isaac growing a bit more settled inside. There are a few more peaceful moments for him, and a few less anxious ones. For this, I’m incredibly thankful.

photo 4

We have a long road ahead of us, though.

On Going to the Park

By means of illustration, I have a quick (and fairly vague, for Isaac’s sake) story for you all about why I’m afraid to take my kids to the park anymore.

Twice in the last couple of weeks, we’ve been at parks (both parks that are very familiar to us) and Isaac’s anxiety has flared up (mixed with a couple of other special-needs-type struggles).

Leaving out the bulk of the details, I’ll tell you that at one point I nearly had a full-on run-in with another mom (which, if you know me and my non-confrontational-ness, is almost laughable) who was actually yelling at my son while I stood there trying to help him calm down so he could emotionally handle letting another child move past him on the playground equipment.

The next week? Same story, only with a bigger group of children, and Isaac was even more upset. Although, thankfully, this time no other parents felt the need to interject their full-volume thoughts and judgmental glares.

You guys, I’ve never, ever been afraid to take my kids to the park. Till now. I literally have anxiety over it.

Okay, so that was kind of a tangent, but I wanted to give y’all a bit more of a glimpse of what my life looks like these days.

It is agony, watching my son hurting and afraid and paralyzed. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so helpless.

Like I said, we are seeing glimpses of progress, but this will likely be a long journey.

Which brings me back to the mountains.

photo 1

After arriving home from the retreat on Sunday evening, I found myself trying to describe to Stan and to a dear friend the degree to which I was desperate for the beauty of the mountains, and how I didn’t realize my need for them till I actually got up in them.

“It was primal, my need for that rugged, violent beauty. I wanted to eat the mountains. Wanted to absorb them, or for them to absorb me and never let me go. They were so healing.”

On Sunday, I left the lodge early and went for a walk before my morning meeting with the retreat leadership team. I watched the sun’s rays begin to spill over the mountains. I inhaled splotches of light and color, drank in the early-morning silence like it was life to my soul.

And it was.

I stared into the mountains and I never, ever wanted to leave.

photo 5

One of our retreat speakers reminded us of how mountains like our Rockies were created, the shifting of tectonic plates beneath Earth’s surface, the violence required to give rise to such rugged beauty. She spoke of how God’s process of shaping and carving and birthing beauty in our lives so often feels violent to our souls, and oh, was she ever right.

But in all of it, His ways are perfectly, utterly trustworthy.

I believe it, you guys. I believe in His commitment to unveiling His beauty in my life, in Isaac’s life, and in our family.

And I believe there is unprecedented intimacy with Him in all the carving, in the internal violence. There is no closer contact than that of a river with the rock that it carves.

So I’m asking Him again and again these days — let it be that intimacy that sustains my heart. That depth and continuity of communion and closeness through the agony of the shifting and shaping.

Shore me up. Unveil Your beauty. Sustain my heart.

And He does it, you guys. He sustains my heart through all of this.

And one of the ways He sustains and strengthens me — is through you all.

Thank you again for walking beside me here, my friends. Your support and prayers mean more to me than words.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Encountering God in the Messy, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Cracking the windows open a little wider {in which I fill y’all in a bit more on what’s up with our fam}

photo-4 I sit outside tonight at the Starbucks down the street from our apartment complex, and at 6:45 PM I’ve already rolled the sleeves of my cozy flannel shirt all the way down.

The Colorado air is nothing short of perfection tonight. Maybe 67-ish degrees out here, and I may not have felt the need to roll my sleeves down quite yet had I not just consumed an iced chai latte “with maybe kind of a lot of whip.” I’m chilly now, but I couldn’t be happier about it.

Summer’s felt on the long side to me this year, and while I could wait an even LONGER time for winter to show its snowy Colorado face this year, I do adore me some fall.

Which, if you’ve read my writing for any length of time, you already know. Autumn’s approach is cool, fresh air to my soul, inspiration to my inner artist, new life to my weary places.

And y’all? If I’m honest? I’m weary more than not these days.

We are in an unprecedentedly tough season as a family, and I’ve hinted at the difficulty of it here and there in my few-and-far-between blog posts over the last couple of months. But mostly I’ve not felt ready yet to share what’s up.

There’s a process and an order to things, it feels like, and I’ve needed to take it slow — this public cracking open of windows into our very uncharted, very vulnerable season — though y’all who so faithfully walk beside me here have never shown yourselves to be anything other than kind and dear and so very trustworthy in your receiving of my story.

Over the last week or so, though, the desire has risen in my heart to share just a little bit more with you all here, though some details will still need to wait a little longer.

So I’m rolling with my gut here tonight, trusting what I hope is the Spirit’s nudging inside me, and opening these windows just a little wider.

And there isn’t an easy way to say what I want to say tonight, so I’m gonna come straight on out with it, I think.

We are in the process of having our sweet, brilliant boy, Isaac, evaluated for some specific developmental challenges, and a series of struggles that amount to what many would call “special needs.”

The details that I want to wait on sharing with you here are exactly what those needs and challenges are, partially because we don’t have a complete understanding yet of everything that’s going on with our boy, and partially because saying my concerns and predictions of likely diagnoses “out loud” here feels way more vulnerable than my heart can handle just yet.

And given the nature of what I’m sharing with you tonight, I’m hoping I can interject briefly to make a gentle, quiet request of you here, my friends. Could I ask you to wait on giving any advice for the time being?

We are working with a great team of therapists, and we have the sweetest gift of a support system here locally in Littleton, including our church family, Isaac’s pre-K teachers (he’s there 3 mornings per week), a couple of our more frequent babysitters, our local extended family, and other friends, too, who’re dear beyond words.

We are leaning into all of these incredible peeps in this season, pressing into each other, and falling upon the grace of God as we research, seek counsel from therapists and friends who’re experienced with special needs kiddos, and try and put (but not force) all these puzzle pieces together to form a more complete picture of our son’s unique strengths and needs.

photo-2photo-1

The hopeful facet of all of this is that once there are diagnoses, there will be resources, therapies for Isaac, and more education for Stan and me as we commit all the more wholeheartedly to learn to shepherd our gift of a boy into the fullness of all his God-given aptitude.

The flip side of the same coin, though, is that to be honest, y’all — I am so tired. Weary more often than not, like I said above, at every level. Physically, mentally, emotionally. And Stan would say the same, bless his heart. On many days, I think if we were both to keep it real, we would say this season is kicking our you-know-whats.

Stan and I are trying to practice good self-care. We get as much sleep as our littles will allow. We give each other frequent-ish blocks of time away to decompress. We are trying to intentionally carve out times to connect with one another. We take turns managing Isaac as often as possible when his challenges and behaviors bring one or the other of us to what feels like the end of our internal resources… which honestly, lately, is pretty much a daily occurrence.

And the sweetest thing, you guys, in alllllll of this hard, is that we find ourselves somehow sustained by Him. In all the exhaustion and the unanswered questions and the fear. In all the frustration and the utter wrung-out-ness.

photo-3photo

He is fiercely committed to intimately, intentionally forming Himself inside us in the midst of these circumstances, and that reality, y’all? It’s enough for my soul.

Even when I can’t pinpoint or remotely begin to wrap words around exactly what He’s carving or shaping or purifying on my insides because I’m too wiped out and stretched thin to think straight. Even when I break down and I cry and I question how we’re going to keep putting one foot in front of another through the pain and exhaustion of this season.

His work inside us is deeply tender and wholly trustworthy. And the intimacy with Him that comes when I know that I know that not only is He extravagantly committed to Isaac and to our family, but He is also somehow conforming my heart to His in all of this — it is the place I fix my eyes and the One Thing that holds me me up, that keeps me wholly devoted to walking lockstep beside Him, one day, one hour, one breath at a time.

photo-5

Oh, and hey, my friends? One last thought tonight:

I know I said I’m not at a place where I want advice right now, but can I tell you what would bless me and Stan and our fam more than words? Your prayers, particularly for peace to reign in each of our hearts. Your dropping an occasional line or vox or text or whatever to let us know we’re on your heart and you’re holding us before Jesus.

Your support means the world to me. To all of us.

I love y’all more than I can say. Thanks for reading, for being present. Thanks for waiting for details and for loving us well. You are a gift, each of you. Peace to you tonight, my friends.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Community, Encountering God in the Messy, Family Moments, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized | 11 Comments