Some Stuff I Haven’t Told You {in which I get real and update you on our boy}

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Isaac’s anxiety is more pronounced these days.

It’s not quite as intense as it was a year ago, but it’s leaning somewhat in that direction lately.

Did I ever tell you guys what last summer was like for us? Bless my boy’s heart — he was literally paralyzed with fear. It was gut-wrenching to watch.

No, not “gut-wrenching.” I think I actually lack the words to even start to convey how painful, how traumatic it was to watch my son suffer. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so helpless.

We couldn’t go to Target because he was terrified he’d get lost or kidnapped, experiences he’s never even remotely come close to having.

We couldn’t go to the park because he was afraid he’d get “beaten up” by bigger kids. (Or, at other times, because he lacked the social intuition to be reasonably respectful to other kids on the playground.)

At school, he opted to stay in the 3-year-old classroom most days rather than going on field trips with his pre-K class, because riding in the van with his classmates was too scary.

He spiraled and spiraled in random, nonsensical fears: fear that the umbilical cord had hurt him while he was in my belly; fear around not having been able to see when he was in my belly; fear that he would someday be crucified or thrown into a fiery furnace.

(By the way, teaching our son about the Bible has become nearly impossible because EVERY story, every intense thing in scripture, is personalized and causes trauma, up to and including sometimes a full hour of processing in order to talk him through whatever the fear is on any given day. It is heartbreaking to me not to be able to read his very age-appropriate children’s Bibles with him).

Anyway. Last summer.

We were a minimum of 20 minutes late to nearly everything, depending on how long it took us on any given day to coax him out of his bunk bed, out the door, into his car seat.

I tried everything I could think of. I validated his emotions. I helped him talk through his fears. We tried to come up with creative solutions together, ideas that would help him feel safer. We prayed. We prayed with him and without him. We prayed SO much. We asked Jesus to bring peace to his heart.

We had him psychologically evaluated. We began therapy.

And finally, our last option: meds.

Have I told you Isaac’s on medication for his anxiety? I don’t think I have, mostly because I believe Isaac’s story is his to tell, and right now, while he’s young, I want to carefully steward and protect that story.

I continually seek balance in this arena, however, because if our journey with Isaac can in some way be helpful or healing to a handful of people, I want it to be.

Also, to be completely honest, placing a child on medication for mental health purposes can draw so, so much criticism, and truthfully, I haven’t wanted to field it. But here I am, saying it out loud: our son’s on an anti-anxiety med.

Whew. Breathe.

So– the last almost-year has been better. The medication has made a world of difference, though we’ve had to tweak the dosage every now and again. We have an excellent therapist who we all adore, and consistent care from the psychiatrist who oversees his medication.

We’ve been mostly able to go to Target, to the park, to church, etc, without major anxiety meltdowns.

This morning, though? I had to full-on bribe Isaac to get him out of the apartment and into the car so we could go grab some groceries at Target. Ugh.

These types of scenarios have been a little more common lately. And a little more intense. Nowhere near as extreme as last summer, like I said.

But it’s enough to make me really, really aware of my need to walk closely in step with Jesus, to trust Him with my son, with my own heart, with our family.

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We spent the day together yesterday, all 4 of us. We busted it out the door at 7:30 in the morning — boo-yah! — to put in another hour and a half or so of (very amateur) landscaping work at our townhouse.

Did you know we own a townhouse? It’s about 15 minutes from our apartment, here in Littleton. We’ve had a tenant in it for over 8 years, and his lease was up at the beginning of June, so we’ve been in the process of having some major remodeling done over there for the last month.

It’s almost ready to go on the market. Our goal is to sell quickly (which shouldn’t be a problem because the market is crazy-hot in the Denver area) and buy a house here. Stat. Preferably before the end of July.

Yikes. The heat is on. Mega time-crunch.

Anyway. So we landscaped yesterday. And in between chasing bunnies and butterflies, Isaac helped me spread gravel. {And nearly crushed all my baby plants, too, but that’s beside the point.}

We came home from landscaping, fired up the grill because July 4th, and spent time with Stan’s parents.

We swam in the pool, and y’all, my boy is SWIMMING these days for the first time ever. Like, going under water, holding his breath, and swimming.

It is nothing short of amazing, given the fact that up till now, anxiety has always overpowered his desire to try. He’s almost 6 now, and I feared I’d never see the day.

Grateful ain’t the word. Stan and I couldn’t be prouder, and neither could he.

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We ended our 4th of July evening at a huge park nearby, ate burgers on a blanket in the grass, and snacked on M&M’s and gummy worms to our hearts’ content.

While we waited for fireworks to start, Isaac and I left Stan and Maia on the picnic blanket for a while and walked a solid 10 minutes down to the playground, his hand in mine the entire time.

I found myself keenly aware of how his hands are getting bigger, but how comfortably they still fit inside my own. Aware of his soft skin against my dryer, more calloused fingers. Grateful for the fact that he’s still not embarrassed to hold my hand in front of his peers.

Too busy most of the time, yes, but not embarrassed.

I treasured the moment. Don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling, those little-boy fingers.

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The fireworks began at precisely 9:33 PM, and we sat on our blanket and took it all in together, the four of us. Maia leaning back against her Daddy, Isaac leaning back against me. I couldn’t have loved it more.

We sat in traffic a while after the fireworks were over, and finally made it home around 10:45 PM with two falling-over-exhausted children. But I’ve gotta say — for 2 kids whose bedtime is generally 7pm, they sure did well last night. They were {mostly} peaceful and patient while we awaited the fireworks display, and then were cooperative as we brushed candy remnants out of their teeth and helped them into their pj’s.

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A handful of times lately, I’ve noticed something in Isaac that’s shaken me: a kind of distance. Or… something.

 There’ve been times I’ve tried to talk with him about heart-related stuff and he’s avoided the conversation. Not because he was busy or distracted (which is typical), but because he genuinely didn’t want to talk about it with me.

Truth, y’all: I’m really afraid sometimes. Concerned about the possibility that, due to his anxiety and his utter brain-in-clouds-ness, I’ll be more and more frequently impatient with him, and that my impatience will drive a wedge between his heart and mine.

It’s the thing I talk with God about when I sneak in and check on the kids before I go to sleep at night:

Oh God, please don’t let him withdraw into himself. Give me grace to remain a safe place for his heart, and give me the wisdom to draw him out. Even through these years that are so hard, these days that can be SO beyond frustrating. In your kindness, please preserve and deepen my relationship with our boy. His sense of connectedness with me.

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When we tucked the kids in at 11 last night, I kissed my already zonked out Maia-bean, then stood up to quickly connect with my boy in the top bunk.

I brushed Isaac’s hair from his forehead, gave him at least 4 kisses, and found myself saying, “Thanks for hanging out with me tonight, buddy. I like you SO much.”

I really meant it. Like, so, SO deeply meant it.

And I think he knew it.

Posted in anxiety, Family Moments, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Every Side of His Face

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Running shoes on and earbuds ready to roll, I step out my front door. It’s late June, and the evening air is muggy for my beloved, typically-dry-ish Colorado.

Instrumental piano music is my soundtrack for my workout time tonight. It both stirs and heals my heart.

I set off toward my river, and am quickly given pause: tonight’s sky is a breathtaking backdrop, all around me, on every side. I reach for my phone and quickly notice my camera’s inability to focus with precision.

Oh yeah. I dropped my phone in the pool today.

::Face palm::

The lens is foggy. Probably permanently so.

I grab a few pics anyway, hoping even still to capture a tiny fraction of these continually evolving, shapeshifting brushstrokes. A tiny fraction of the way they move me inside.

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I haven’t written in months. Months, y’all, and it’s hard to have even an inkling of where to start.

We went to Estes Park as a family, just the 4 of us, for several days in late May. It was beautiful, glorious, chilly, and challenging to have the kids out of their typical, day-to-day rhythms.

Pretty normal for a family vacay with little ones, eh? But we rode horses, roasted marshmallows, walked by the river, visited a candy shop, played at a playground in the mountains’ shadow.

We made memories.

June rolled around, and my dear friend Tira and I took off for Ouray, Colorado — a tiny town about 6 hours away, with one heck of a spectacular panorama. Whew. I mean. Never EVER in my life have I seen beauty like that.

Our trip had been in the works for at least 9 months, thanks to supportive husbands who knew a girls-only trip would be soul medicine for their wives on a thousand different levels.

Tira and I stopped on the sides of roads and took pictures. We visited waterfalls and ate at fun restaurants and chilled at the hot springs and got massages and took 4 wheel drive trails that were… harrowing… to say the least.

Yes, we went with a guide, but seriously: #dontlookdown.

And the silent, untouched beauty at the top of those mountain passes– I lack words, y’all. It moved me so deeply.

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Even just walking the streets of Ouray, I kept losing my balance, ’cause it seems that walking and looking up {and forward and backward and all around} at the same time are kind of hard to do.

But dang. The beauty was all. around. And it was epic. As was time spent sitting together and talking, and talking, and talking… and laughing as undignified-ly as possible. Yup. Soul medicine. Those few days were incredibly sweet and restorative for my heart.

And THEN. Fast forward to this past Thursday at 11:40 AM: My buddy Amber flies in from Seattle, and after years of history and countless trips to pick up and drop off friends at DIA, I promptly forget how to get to passenger pickup on the West side. It takes me 3 times circling back around and re-entering the airport terminal area to finally end up in the right spot, but when I finally make it, oh man, I could hug that girl and just never, ever, EVER let her go.

Amber spent the better part of 4 days and 3 nights hangin’ with the Butler crew, and suffice it to say she witnessed more of my daily “mom-life” in those days maybe than anyone has experienced in person, ever. I found it incredibly vulnerable, my kids being disobedient and scrapping with each other every other second, me trying to coach and correct and connect and discipline and throw laundry in the wash and do it all with some shred of sanity and kindness… and Amber bearing witness to ALL our crazy.

Holy moly.

And she was the kindest, most gracious witness, y’all. So validating to me and so sweet to my people. She is such a gift, and I lack vocabulary to describe how deeply her quiet presence impacted my heart. How it brought healing in places I didn’t know I needed it.

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And also? You guys, we rafted. Boo-yah.

Just Amber, me, and a buncha peeps we didn’t know, including a guide. For both of our first time in at least a decade. In crazy high water. Intermediate trip — class 3 and 4 rapids. With wetsuits and life jackets and f-f-f-freezing-fresh snowmelt and the whole bit. And it. was. awesome. At the risk of over-using the word, EPIC. Kind of life-alteringly so.

Filled my heart with glee and gratitude, getting to adventure with my soul sista in the mountains of my beloved Colorado.

I sent Amber back to Seattle last night and gosh, I ache for her presence already. I don’t know when I’ll see her again, but I’m choosing to be grateful for continuing Voxer conversations, memories made, and a soul-friendship that runs even deeper than before, if that’s possible.

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The clouds slow me down tonight, steer my focus from working out to just breathing in beauty. I walk down the river a ways, plant myself on a rock, and stare until the fiery mountains of fluff turn darker shades of blue and gray, and periodic flashes of heat lightning punctuate the evening sky.

I want to absorb those clouds. Want their beauty to somehow become a part of me. I need it badly tonight, I think.

Because, as always, there are things I can’t say in this space. Like most online writers, I navigate life on this fine, sometimes indistinguishable line of saying enough but not too much, because some stories aren’t exactly mine to tell, but they intersect and impact my own story in significant ways.

So I’m wondering — could I just ask y’all for your prayers? I would be so thankful if you’d hold me before the Lord.

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The darker the clouds, the more visible the lightening.

I ponder the facets of God tonight as the vivid sunset colors fade. How every side of His face is beauty itself. Every. single. facet. of who He is and how He loves. The vivid, fiery colors of glory, and the darker ones, too.

And how every season of the soul comes bearing some form of beauty, bearing Him — even {and especially} those seasons that wrench your heart. How the hardest days come bearing gifts less easily uncovered, but so deeply transformative and profoundly, gut-wrenchingly sweet.

He is so kind. And so beautiful. Every side of His face. Every season of His love.

I stand a while longer by the river tonight because I can’t quite tear my eyes away from the darkened clouds and the flashes of lightning within them.

After I’ve absorbed as much as I can of the beauty within the darkening sky, I’m surprised to find myself shored up a little more inside. A little more wrapped in peace. A little more still, more hidden in Him.

And I take off running toward home.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Encountering God in the Messy, Family Moments, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Presence, Travel, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

If Your Heart Hurts this Mother’s Day {a few things I’d say if we could do coffee}

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I awake early to sit here and wait in the predawn quiet, my littles still snug in their beds, and a hundred or so passions burning all at once in my soul.

And out of those hundred burning thoughts, this rises to the surface — this aching that comes with the approaching of Mother’s Day. It’s an aching over my own losses, yes — but even more, an acute awareness that for many, this day holds more pain than joy.

So to those who just wince a little inside, and to those who want to completely run and hide as this weekend approaches — to you whose aching heart feels sidestepped, avoided, overshadowed as Mother’s Day draws near–

I so wish I could sit one-on-one with you over coffee in the next few days. I wish I could ask questions and hear your heart’s journey and hold your story with quiet understanding.

Because I want you to know — I see you. I’m not afraid of the depth of your heart’s ache. And I hold you in my heart before the Lord.

You, my friend who parents alone. Day in and day out, cooking meals and working a job and wiping noses and folding mountains of little people clothes, falling into bed exhausted beyond words. Then you wake up Monday morning, and face the grind all over again. And you wonder if anyone sees how your heart bleeds this tired loneliness. How you cry to Jesus for grace, for strength to keep going. Please know — I see you. My heart cries with you. You are not forgotten.

You, my sweet friend whose mom passed away when you were a child. Or when you were 20. Or when you were 50. How old you were doesn’t matter as much as the fact that when you long to dial her number and ask about a recipe, or about parenting, or about a story from your childhood that you can’t quite remember fully, she isn’t there to answer. Part of our childhood dies when we lose our mom. Part of our childhood, and a lot of our right now. Your loss sits heavy in my chest in these days.

You, my friend whose relationship with your mom is broken. The communication is strained if it happens at all and you wonder if the pain wouldn’t be more bearable if there had actually been a death —  instead of this long, excruciating dying of your connection. Of a piece of your soul. Know that I sit with you, mourn with you.

You, my friend whose womb aches empty. Whose desire to birth babies and shape lives has been long delayed. You who have been medically unable to bear children, or whose circumstances for whatever reason have not allowed the fulfillment of that God-given dream. Because the dream to mother is God-given, and when the desires He places within us go long unfulfilled, the throbbing ache can make our hearts sick. I see your pain, connect with it deep in my gut. 

You, my friend whose road to adoption has been longer than you imagined. You who’ve spent long months and years agonizing through prayer and mountains of invasive paperwork, but the distance between you and your child seems no shorter now than at the beginning. The calender pages turn, and turn, and turn again. Maybe hopes have been raised only to be dashed, or “the call” has never come at all. Regardless, the questions loom ever larger in your heart. I’m leaning into those questions with you. Leaning into His heart with you. Sitting with you in the silence.

You, my friend who found yourself unexpectedly bearing life in your womb 6 months ago or a decade ago or 30 years ago — and the fear and questions landed you right in the abortionist’s office. The new life was snuffed out and even though they told you it was just a cluster of cells, something in your gut knew better. Knows better. And you weep, even still, in the middle of the night, because the guilt weighs heavy. I am weeping with you. And I want to whisper it straight to your heart this Mother’s DayForgiveness can lift that crushing weight. 

You, my friend who knows the gut-wrenching bittersweetness of “He gives and takes away.” You who’s been gifted a child and poured out every ounce of your soul, your life, your sleep in love for him or her, only to pour it out all over again in grief. Whether loss struck in the womb, or further down the road, you carry that empty, love-carved cavern in your soul. And some days you have to just breathe your way through each hour, just to keep functioning, just to make it through this one task. To the next. To the next. In my heart, I am holding your hand. Breathing through the grief alongside you.

You, my sweet friend who made one of the most terrifyingly courageous choices imaginable — you birthed your baby… and then entrusted the precious life that had grown within you to an adoptive family. You wrestled, agonized, faced the unfathomably brave realization that your personal resources were less than what you desired for your child. Yet daily, hourly, you carry the ache of that baby’s absence from your everyday life. Your selfless love has personally, profoundly impacted my life, and there’s this debt of gratitude to you that I can’t repay or fully express in words. I carry you close in my heart this week. I honor the selfless extravagance of your mama heart. The beauty of your love.

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All of you. I do see you. Your Father sees you. Carries your pain in His heart, collects your precious tears, and weeps over your heart’s groaning. Over the loss. Over the longings unfulfilled.

And if in all things He is working for our good, for all of our good, and if deeply knowing His heart is that ultimate good, then this would be my blessing for you in this Mother’s Day season:

May you respond to His invitation to intimately encounter Love in the midst of the pain.

May it be a prayer, pulsing in your depths as you hold your raw places open before Him — Christ, form yourself in me, right here. Encounter me in this gaping wound, in all these questions with no answers. Press your scars over my own, wrap my heart in yours, and make your affection tangible to me now.

And may Jesus deeply meet you in that heart cry. May you hear His whisper today that He has not cast you aside, but drawn you close to His heart.

You are seen.

You are valued.

You are loved.

You are held.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

-Psalm 34:18

P.S. As always, please feel free to share if you have friends or loved ones who might be touched by these words. I so value your presence here, friends.

{from the archives}

Posted in adoption, Celebrations, Grief and Loss, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, Uncategorized | 15 Comments

on epic beauty, searing loss, and a wholehearted life

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I’m not planning on writing Sunday evening when I make my way back from my walk by the river and flip open my li’l Mac on the table at “my” Starbucks.

But for the first time in a solid month, words flood my heart and I can’t shove them down. Something in me needs to see it — how wrangling and wrestling and wrapping sentences around the almost inarticulable can be like taking my finger and tracing slowly through a tangle of jumbled squiggles to find the thread that is the Spirit’s quiet working, weaving, connecting things on my insides.

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Saturday morning Stan and I pack up sandwiches and kids, make our way down to Colorado Springs to introduce our littles to Garden of the Gods.

My gracious, it is beautiful. Red rocks like massive towers jutting up from the earth, with Pike’s Peak as the backdrop, still snowcapped and glistening against a perfect sky.

Ugh. I almost can’t handle the beauty. It undoes me.

We splurge on fudge from the gift shop and share a few bites before heading outside to explore. Our kids are soon covered in red dirt and it’s somewhere around 67 degrees — just so that when the wind blows, you ache a little for the sun’s warmth. Our light jackets are on, then off, then on again, which is all good because we’re in heaven out here together.

My favorite Isaac-quotes from Saturday are totally unprompted:

“Mom, I want to marry you.”

“I just love being with my family.”

{melt. my. heart.}

Our almost-3-year-old Maia-bean has dropped her afternoon naps, which is a little on the frustrating side, but also opens up our afternoon schedule, since we no longer need to shoot to be home by 1-ish.

Spring has arrived in Colorado, Isaac is more often regulated these days, and we are living as intentionally as we can, leaning into the life that’s before us with our whole hearts.

Or, as my worship team would say if they were in the mood to tease me (which they generally are):

C’mon y’all. Full blast.

And is there any other way to live? To really live?

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My alarm goes off at 5AM most Sundays, and yesterday is no exception. I turn on the space heater in our bedroom and stumble out to the dark kitchen where our beloved Keurig awaits.

Warm coffee in cold hands, I return to our room, wrap up in a blanket, plant myself on the floor in front of the space heater.

I sit before the Lord, will my heart and senses to awaken to His nearness.

This is my Sunday morning ritual, and I don’t typically find myself in particularly heavy intercession for anyone during this time (other than possibly for myself — something super profound like, Oh Jesus, it’s too early — help!).

But this is where today is an exception. See, a very dear friend of a very dear friend — he’s dying.

Wait, what? 

Yeah. My friend’s friend.

I sit in the dark and I can’t stop praying for him, for his family. I’ve met his wife once or twice. Never personally met him. But because I’ve been told, I know he’s this incredibly precious, open-hearted, one-in-a-bazillion kind of man.

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The sun’s rising and I’m driving to church, rambling to my friend (yup, same friend) on Voxer, and I find myself saying, “I used to think there was something wrong with me because I so intensely felt the pain, the grief, the loss of those I cared about.”

Now, thanks to things like the Myers-Briggs and whoever coined HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) as an actual thing — and thanks to the fact that I’m way more mature in all my “empathy-superpower-ness” than I was 15 years ago — I know that the way I feel for others is merely congruent with the way I love others.

And I’m learning it’s okay for me to feel this deeply. I can wisely steward my heart and emotions before the Lord — and I’m okay. {read: I’m not an emotional freak.}

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I pull up to my Karlie-girl’s house (a precious high school junior who sings on my worship team) yesterday morning before practice, and while I’m waiting for her to jump in my car, I glance at Facebook.

Whaaaa–?!

Another death. This one sudden and by no means expected.

Godfor real?!

Jill, with whom we did house church years ago in Kansas City. Jill, whose parents mentored Stan and me for a season. Jill, who was a close buddy of a number of our friends and acquaintances in Kansas City.

I’m shocked, speechless, aching for her family, for her friends whom I dearly love.

Jill wasn’t a close friend of mine, yet I’m gutted. Profoundly impacted by the news of her loss.

And yet again, I contemplate the depth of my heart’s response.

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We worship our guts out yesterday morning. No holds barred. Full blast. Lay our souls bare before Him, lift Him high because He’s worthy of it.

No matter what.

No matter how deeply life and love and loss wrench our hearts. How utterly they wring us out.

We will hold nothing back in the way we worship. Nothing back in the way we give our love to Him.

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On the way home from Garden of the Gods Saturday afternoon, we swing into Five Guys, one of our family’s favorite burger joints. There are several other tables occupied.

And the music. Y’all, they’re playing great, great music.

And here’s a thing you should maybe know about our boy: Isaac does. not. care. who’s watching. I mean, does NOT.

And I hope he never starts caring, because after epic fudge and epic geographical splendor and epic burgers and fries, should pretty much always come epic moves.

You guys. This boy with unique needs who so frequently brings me to my end — he’s got dance moves every bit as unique as his needs. And especially given the fact that his challenges still frequently overwhelm me, I’ve gotta suck the nectar out of every second of these ridiculously fun moments.

So here we all are, our Isaac-Boy breakin’ it down, Maia occasionally joining him, and Stan and me overcoming our own all-too-grown-up inhibitions to bob our heads to the beat more than a little.

No matter who saw.

A good two thirds of the way into all our breakin’ it down, I realize this has gotta be captured, and if YouTube wouldn’t “mute” my video {“copyright infringement” since there’s music playing in the background — really?!}, I’d share it with y’all here — because I don’t have words for how the moment made me ache for all its goodness.

All His goodness.

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And why is it that this sweet ache of living and leaning fully into the reality of God’s extravagance feels so similar — parallel somehow — to the ache that comes when I allow my heart to go there for others? When I let the feelings come, when I choose this deep empathy instead of shutting down inside to some degree.

Because they are mutually exclusive:

Self-protection and wholeheartedness.

Cynicism and hope.

Comfort and courage.

Meaning, to whatever degree I’m choosing self-protection, cynicism, and comfort, I won’t experience a deep sense of fulfillment: I won’t live wholeheartedly, I will miss out on a measure of hope as I look toward the future, and I won’t take risks.

And there is, I think, some facet of the Father’s heart, of His tenderness, of His extravagance, that we only experience when we lean forward, reaching out to feel the fullness of life, whether in the depths of grief, or in great joy. In searing loss, or in stunning beauty.

It’s in this posture that I find I’m fully awake — compelled toward this full-blast, wholehearted life by His trustworthy love.

{Y’all are so dear, my friends. Thanks for your presence, for your receiving of my heart today.}

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Encountering God in the Beautiful, Encountering God in the Messy, Family Moments, Grief and Loss, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized, wholehearted living | 6 Comments

in which I go ahead and say All The Stuff, because everything that can be shaken will be

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I click the WordPress “new post” button and my stomach does a flip. I take a deep breath and will my heart rate to slow.

I don’t know what to say. So many thoughts, so much happening in my heart, and once again it all feels disconnected, so I’m thinking maybe if I write through all the disconnectedness here, a pattern or common thread will emerge. That God’s invitation in this season will be made clear.

Or at least, clearer than it is this morning.

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My boy has the most amazing therapist and an equally amazing psychiatrist. Only his psychiatrist is leaving the practice. We are seriously bummed.

We saw her for the last time yesterday. She commented on how much more settled Isaac seems, and then she shocked me by saying, “and YOU — you’re a therapist at heart. You just ooze therapist.”

I was undone. How did she see me like that after only 3 total visits? I told her if I could go back to school for anything, it’d be something along those lines. She was unbelievably affirming.

It was one of those conversations you look back on and treasure for years to come.

We don’t know yet who Isaac’s new psychiatrist will be.

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Isaac’s anxiety is still mostly under control, but my two kiddos, y’all? They continue to bring me to the end of myself.

They provoke one another to legit wrath multiple times a day, and things like washing dishes or folding a load of laundry frequently feel next to impossible, because what will they do to one another if I look away for 2 minutes?

Yet they are each absolutely amazing. Brilliant, articulate, creative, hilariously adorable. Within just a 5-minute time frame, they can make me want to pull my hair out, and then completely, totally melt my heart.

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I keep feeling this nudge to write songs again. I need to do it. There’s this piece of my creative soul that only comes alive when I’m writing songs.

I’m scared though. At least, I think I am. That’s the only reason I can come up with for the fact that I haven’t actually sat down and done the work.

A dear friend wrote a poem — this gorgeous, gut-wrenchingly authentic piece of art — and asked me to put it to music. I want to, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to try and pull it off yet.

I’ve been wanting — actually, feeling Jesus moving me — to write songs for my worship team. For my church family. Again, I haven’t sat down to do it.

The literal moment I put fingers to laptop keys and began to write this blog post, my musically brilliant youngest brother texted me, asking if I could write worship lyrics for some songs he’s putting together.

Okay, Jesus. Okay.

I’m saying this out loud here today because apparently I need some accountability. Someday, I’ll record another album. Hopefully before I turn 40.

****

I’m passionate about too many things. My family. Other families. The atmosphere of my home. Young people. Older people. ALL the people, and all the relationships. Encountering the heart of God in worship. Writing words. Writing songs. Singing songs. Speaking. Soul care.

How do I determine where to focus, what goals to work toward in any given season?

Analysis paralysis.

****

Speaking of the atmosphere of my home, have I told you that I’m pursuing minimalism as a lifestyle? I’ve taken so many loads of no-longer-needed stuff to the thrift store in the last couple of months that I’ve lost count. Dishes, vases, clothes, toys, books, and maybe a zillion other items.

I joke that I’m addicted to getting rid of things. Nothing in our home that hasn’t been used in the last week is safe.

It’s becoming a spiritual discipline for me, all this purging my life of excess. I can’t tell you how good it feels. It feels like stewardship. Like obedience. Like a breath of fresh air.

****

I’m still getting headaches almost daily. They’re not all migraine-level, but when they are? Yikes.

Bless Stan’s heart — he takes such good care of me. And I’ve tried dietary changes and essential oils and different combinations of meds (with my dr.’s permission, of course) and I make sure I stay uber-hydrated and I get enough sleep and practice good self-care, and still, they persist.

I have another neurologist appointment this Friday. Since I’m allergic to the three most commonly prescribed migraine medications (Imitrex, Maxalt, and Cambia), I’m not sure what other treatment options are available.

What I desperately want is to stop waking up with headaches so I can get back to working out again. I so want to be healthy.

****

There are a hundred looming uncertainties these days.

Will we be able to sell our town home (currently being rented out) this summer and purchase a single family home for our fam? What school district will we end up in? Where will Isaac start Kindergarten?

We need to have Isaac thoroughly evaluated at Children’s Hospital and it’s over a year wait. When will that process finally be complete? What will the results be?

And what the heck is happening in our country with the utter {read: horrifying} ridiculousness that is Donald Trump?

These questions are really just the beginning. Uncertainty seems to be my life’s theme at the moment.

****

I led worship this past Sunday, and at the last minute, decided to do Cornerstone by Hillsong. I needed these lyrics desperately:

Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Savior’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

Because I am weak, anxiety prone, and sometimes paralyzed by full-on fear. Whatever can be shaken most definitely will be, and He is the only Anchor, the only Rock worth hanging onto through all the storms.

And I think my prayer is something like this: Jesus, just keep me anchored to You, and let me experience your heart, be hidden inside of you the midst of all the questions, all the unpredictable, all the unknown.

Steady me. Hold me firm. My hope is built on nothing less.

****

PS. I love you guys, and I hope that somehow, in all this discombobulated rambling, you’ve seen or sensed or heard the heart of God for you. Y’all are so dear.

Posted in anxiety, Confidence in God, Creativity, leadership, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Music, Parenting, special needs parenting, Uncategorized, Worship Leader Guts | 8 Comments

special needs parenting is hard. sitting still is harder.

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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.

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****

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 | 15 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.

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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.

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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 | 5 Comments

on social media politics and the Father’s heart

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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

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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.

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*****

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)

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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:

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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::

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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.

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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