• Dana L. Butler

Ask Away Friday {in which Sarah digs deep into my soul, and I return the favor}

Happy belated Thanksgiving, my friends!

In this season, one thing for which I find myself incredibly thankful to Jesus — is YOU.  You all who read and receive my heart with such grace.  I am humbled and blessed beyond words by each of you.  I value your hearts.  I’m hugging you in my heart today. 🙂


Ask Away Friday

This week I have connected with a new friend who doesn’t feel new.  Meaning — we have lots in common and I’ve been beyond blessed by her transparency in sharing her story and her heart — and by her intentionality to draw those things out of me as well.  MAN.  Friendships like this are the icing on my life-cake.  I feel so blessed to call Sarah Knepper my friend.

Sarah has introduced me to #AskAwayFriday, a link-up where two bloggers exchange 10 questions.  Your friend answers your questions on their blog, and you answer theirs on your blog.

Sarah’s questions for me went deep fast and I love that.  LOVE it.  Like I said, I dig friendships like this a whole heap.  I had some probing questions for her as well, and you can read those (and her answers, of course) on her blog, Redemption Diary.

1. How do you handle conflict when it comes (because we all know it does!)?

Wow, Sarah – you started off with a doozy!  I love it though.

I am, by nature, a conflict avoider.  Confrontation is ultra, ultra uncomfortable for me most of the time.  That said, dealing with conflict and speaking truth in love are things I have had to be very intentional to grow in throughout my adult life.

If the conflict is with a person from whom I feel permission to speak freely into their life, I will (with knees quivering a little) honestly share my heart, ask questions, and hear them out.  I do my best to partner with the other person to get to the root of the issue.

If I’m hurt toward someone with whom I don’t feel the freedom to honestly share my heart for whatever reason, my natural inclination is still to “shove it” and move on, asking the Lord to help me forgive and not take offense.  Which, I’m learning lately, will usually come back to bite me, as issues pile up in my heart to the point where I have to pursue honest conversation with the other party whether I want to or not.  Sigh.

This is an area where I’m definitely still in process with the Lord.  He’s faithful in it though as I press into Him for confidence and grace to stretch beyond my comfort zone.

2. What food brings you back to childhood?

Oh, I love this question!  Anything my mom cooked when I was a kid.  My faves?  Chicken divan, snow drop cookies, chocolate chip cookies.  Those would be my top three, and definitely the things still I ask her to make when we travel to visit my parents.  OH! And how can I not mention North Carolina barbecue!?!  There is NOTHING better, y’all. Nothing.

3. Why did you choose to start blogging?

I blogged casually for years, beginning in 2007.  For a long time the purpose of my blogging was simply to keep friends and family updated on our foster care journey, and later on I mostly shared general family fun and events.

Through my years of casual, occasional blogging, I’d often feel the “urge” to write something with more depth, something that ignited passion in my heart.  But I’d almost always hit my mental mute button when that desire would pop up, because who did I think I was, thinking people’s hearts would be open to receive from me at that level?  

It was the summer of 2012 when I finally realized those desires were actually coming out of my core, my deepest self.  That they were indicative of the way God had designed my heart.  That probing and writing the deeper things of God and the human heart is one of the things that makes me come most alive.

I felt the Lord inviting me into courage, into hitting the mute button on the who do you think you are voice instead of muting the deep desires of my heart.

So, I moved forward.  Overhauled my blog, chose a name congruent with my core passion (Moments and Invitations), and stepped off my proverbial cliff.  The free fall has been exhilarating and terrifying, grueling and amazing.  I’ve never been more awake inside.  Just within the last several months, I feel like I’ve settled into my writing voice at a new level, and my heart feels settled too — at peace with the rhythm and pace of this journey.  Trusting the Lord with the pieces of my future I can’t yet see.

4. How did you know your husband was “the one”?

Stan and I were close friends before I ever had any romantic interest in him. (He, on the other hand, was crazy about me.  Looking back, I was hilariously clueless.) Developing a friendship with him and even partnering with him in various forms of ministry gave me the opportunity to observe his life.

Stan honored God with his life choices.  His close guy friends were men of integrity and honor, and Stan had intentional, mutual accountability with them.  Stan was humble and incredibly receptive to constructive input from me, even when it was painful to receive.  He honored and valued me — loved me well as a brother in Christ.  He placed a high value on Scripture.  His heart was tender before the Lord.

Once I finally got a clue and realized I’d fallen in love with Stan, committing to forever was a no-brainer — because I so trusted his heart, his character, his love for me, and his passion to be a man after God’s heart.


6 years later — I’m still so, so thankful I married this man.


5. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about motherhood (so far)?

For me, motherhood has been the vehicle God has used to scream to me from the rooftops  (lovingly, of course): “YOU NEED TO LET GO OF CONTROL!!!!”

For this gal who thrives on structure and routine, can I just say — YIKES.  Goodness.

After our supernaturally easy foster daughter (who we parented from 2 days old to 21 months old), our biological son Isaac was an incredibly harsh (albeit crazy-cute) wake-up call.  Isaac’s acid reflux and sleep issues had us awake literally 15 – 20 times a night for his first 9 months of life, and he never napped longer than 20 – 30 minutes at a time.  Nursing was a never-ending struggle.  It seemed like nothing came easy for him.

All my ideas of what it meant to be a “good” mom, all my hopes of routine and schedule — they were out the window.

In that season, a dear friend shared with me the illustration of a surfer — as a parent, you can’t control the waves, but you can master riding them.

Now, Isaac is 3 and we have Maia, our 5-month-old who we adopted at birth.  As a mom of 2 littles, that lesson rings in my heart over and over again: Surf’s up — ride it out.  On the days I succeed at riding it out instead of desperately trying to control what’s outside my control, I have peace and joy in my parenting.  For me, learning to master riding the waves is the ultimate expression of faith that God really does know what I need, and He is committed to fully resourcing me for this season.


With our crazy/amazing/wild/beautiful kiddos.


6. How has God taught you to handle loss?

Walking with Jesus through loss has shaped my heart more than any other experience.  In navigating grief with Him, I’ve encountered His tangible nearness — known His supernatural comforting of my heart — like I’d previously never dreamed possible.

I’ve learned to know God as big enough to handle my most raw, real, raging emotions.  And He’s not just big enough to handle them, but He actually desires that I lay my heart wide open before Him in those seasons.  My honesty before Him, even if some of my anger is directed at Him, is a form of trust, a form of worship.

I’ve encountered God’s heart the most intimately when I’ve chosen to lay my heart bare before Him in the midst of agonizing grief, instead of deciding He’s not trustworthy, closing my heart, and turning away from Him.   His affection for me is fiercer than my fiercest anger and runs deeper than my deepest pain.

He may not provide answers for my Why God?!?!’s, but the sweetness and depth of His comfort become a balm of peace and healing that covers all my desperate pleas to understand.

One question I’ve learned to ask in the midst of loss is this: “Father, how are you inviting me to respond to you in this?  How can I emerge from this season knowing your heart more deeply?  Surrendering to you more deeply?”

All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. –Psalm 38:9

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. –Psalm 34:18

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” -Matthew 5:4

7. What is your favorite movie?

After giving this question some thought, I think I have several favorites.

Mr. Holland’s Opus and August Rush are way up there on my list.  The creativity and sheer amazingness of the music in those movies, the way it moves my heart, the way it emerges from the core of the lead characters with such passion and emotion — it just wrecks me.  I can’t watch without crying.  I’m a musician, and those movies move me to pursue expressing my heart musically with the raw beauty and authenticity those characters exude when they play or compose.

8. What advice would you give a room full of teenage girls?

God created you with longings in your heart — affection, affirmation, intimacy, etc. — longings He is fiercely committed to satisfying.  He invites you to find fulfillment for those desires in Him instead of searching for it in other places — places that might bring a temporary rush but ultimately leave you empty and sucked dry.  He desires to satisfy and fulfill you through and through.

9. What is the most surprising part of adoption?

The most surprising part of our adoption has been the level of openness in our relationship with our daughter Maia’s birth family.  I did not expect open adoption to be so easy and life-giving.  Her birth family is wonderful, and we enjoy them so much.  They deeply respect our roles in Maia’s life and are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of her life as she grows up.  And we are grateful for the same!  We love that Maia will know her birth family as she grows.

I recently wrote this guest post with details on our journey of choosing to stay in relationship with Maia’s birth family, and what our relationship with them looks like now.  [Side note: Her birth mom and older brother were with us to celebrate Thanksgiving!]


At the hospital with Maia, age 30 minutes. 🙂



Meeting our girl for the first time


10. If you could tell the world one thing without fear what would it be?

This is a message that is core to who I am, but I’m still in process when it comes to organizing and clearly articulating it.  [Okay, end of disclaimer.]

In every moment and circumstance, God is attentively pursuing our hearts.  In the happy, the mundane, and the gut-wrenchingly painful.  His invitation to us is to learn to discern His pursuit, and live with hearts that are responsive to Him, whatever our circumstances.

Cultivating a heart that responds to Him in surrender is an expression of trust.  If we rightly understand the tender, unwavering extravagance of His heart toward us, we will respond by trusting and extravagantly surrendering to Him.   Our obedience to the Lord will generally either be motivated by fear of consequences, or it will be a natural outflow of our love for Him as we come to know and trust His heart toward us.  So rather than seeking to put bandaids over gaping holes by forcing ourselves to try harder to obey, He invites us to press in to know His heart toward us, and then obey out of that place of trust.

 _____________________

I know this post is really out of the ordinary for me, but I hope Sarah’s questions have given you an authentic glimpse into my heart, as well as a peek into Sarah’s heart and her depth.  She’s an awesome lady.  Don’t forget to hop over to her place and read her answers to my questions.

As always, if you’re reading via email or a reader and want to click over and comment, here’s your linky-loo.  Annnnd, as I finish up this post on Wednesday evening, I must be all Thanksgiving-prepped-out, because really, when have I EVER said “linky-loo” in a blog post?

Yeah.  So I’m off to bed, my friends.  I pray your Thanksgiving has been peaceful and rich, and your heart is full.

Mucho love to y’all,

Dana

P.S. Linking this post up over at The Real Housewife of Caroline County.  You’re invited to stop by if you’d like to read other Ask Away Friday participants’ questions and answers. 🙂

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