• Dana L. Butler

In Which Life Is Extra In My Face {some (more) honesty about this season}


I sink into the couch on a Sunday afternoon, Stan across the living room studying music theory, Maia snug in nap-land, and Isaac in the playroom doing “quiet playtime” and needing our attention every other minute or so.

Sigh.

Life has felt extra in my face lately. The good things have felt extremely, amazingly, outrageously phenomenal; the hard, just blaring.

A dear friend gave her life to Jesus this week. Did y’all hear me? GAVE her LIFE to JESUS. And I’m celebrating and sobered all at once, because belonging to Him doesn’t mean life’s journey isn’t ultra painful at times.

But chatting with her, talking Gospel basics with her, praying on the phone with her — y’all, it’s been life to my heart. God’s goodness manifesting in her life — the way He is making His love so real and personal to her — is just blowing me out of the water, knocking my socks off, and every other idiom you could possibly think of that would indicate general amazed ecstatic-ness.

I am in awe and so in love with His ways, with His pursuit of our hearts that is so tender and intimate and personal.


****

This week, everyone in our home has been sick to one degree or another. For me, it was a cold and sinus infection that I’m now mostly beyond, and these headaches. Oh, the headaches.  I don’t say much about them, I think because I’ve bought into a lie that talking about my pain is the equivalent of complaining about it, which for sure makes me less spiritual.

But I’m coming out from under that — right. about —- now. And letting you know that every day, with rare exceptions, I wake up with some degree of a headache. They’ve increased in severity and frequency lately. Sometimes migraine-level, sometimes not quite that bad. I also struggle frequently with fatigue, regardless of how much sleep I get. My doc is aware of all of it, and we’re doing some natural things to help with the fatigue, though we’re still getting the headache piece of the picture figured out.

If I’m really honest, I’ll tell you that parenting and living through the headache pain feels like doing life in a fog, distracted, unable to be fully present and engaged. It’s tough a lot of days. So Stan takes the baby monitors most nights, gives me as much sleep as he can, and we pray a lot, he and I, for solutions for my pain. For supernatural healing.


****

Our still-on-the-market basement floods this week — more mud than I’ve seen down there in our entire 3 years in this home, and who knows how much money it’ll cost to get it waterproofed? All this after just having had our gutters completely replaced. And our realtor urges us to paint several rooms of our house, so I’m mourning the impending loss of my sweet red accent wall in our entryway, along with my turquoise kitchen. {Also, mourning the funds it’ll require to have them painted.} And the prayer rolls around in our hearts over and over again: Lord, please sell our house.

****

On the neighborhood front, our neighbor’s husband is back in her house again because apparently restraining orders mean absolutely NOTHING, and because he’d be homeless without her, so she’s “made him a deal,” she says. And after a week or two of “calm before the storm,” I can hear her screams reverberating from inside the walls of her home. Hollering at the top of her lungs for him to get outa my house NOW!” 

But he doesn’t leave, and I contemplate for prob’ly the hundredth time whether I need to call family services for the sake of those precious kiddos over there.

And I shoo Isaac inside, quick, before he picks up on what’s going on.

More perceptive by the day, my almost-4-year-old is. And there is more for him to perceive within a mile of his home than within a thousand suburban blocks. Time and again, I find myself praying, “Lord, I don’t want him to have to process this at age 3…”


****

I’m scheduled to sing on the worship team at church this morning, so I get up early and leave an hour before the rest of my family to be there for practice. I drive alone through our neighborhood, taking a different route than usual, and if I’d had a few minutes of extra time, I’d’ve stopped to snap a picture of the words “WE OPEN NOW,” sloppily painted on an old piece of plywood and leaned haphazardly against a pump at an apparently re-opened  gas station.

Really? My instant internal response is a mixture of amusement, and something along the lines of ughThis neighborhood.

A disdain that continues when I drive past a bus stop and take note of the woman standing there — and the amount of cleavage hanging out of her shirt.


And then? I’m grieved. By the fact that I live here and I’m trying to authentically LOVE in this place, and my natural tendency is to look with harsh eyes on humans who are precious to His heart. And honestly, I’m so exhausted by it all. By the raw, blatant, inescapable brokenness.

But image bearers they are, because He made them so. And my heart’s response is disdain.

On my way to lead worship.

Oh Father, I repent.

God, give me soft eyes for this place. For these people. Soft eyes, and a tender heart. Let me see like you do, love like you do, break like you do….

I drive the rest of the way to church caught up in my thoughts and my deep-heart cries, and I nearly miss my exit.

****

Worship is so sweet today — the tangible affection of Jesus moving on the hearts of His people — and Stan tells me later he couldn’t stop laughing.

All I know is I’m pumping my fist in the air and I can’t stop preach-singing into the microphone, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; where are your accusers now? Where are your accusers now?”

And something in me that used to feel the need to stay small and quiet-ish… is fading.


****

Stan and I pack up kids and kid-gear late this afternoon and head north to Parkville, MO — about 20 minutes from where we live — to picnic and play and enjoy green grass and ancient trees and walk by the river. The kids are peaceful, enjoying the outdoors, and Stan and I stand, arms around each other off and on, watching them. We push them in swings, and Isaac rides his balance bike across the bridge and has so much fun it’s hard to leave.


The air is full of these cottony things, blown by the breeze down from the trees. It’s June 8th and it’s snowing.

And I’m just reaching out and grabbing hold and taking in every moment, the tangible, personal goodness of God in it all. Because what other way is there to live through this season than to seek to see Him in it?

And there is rest for me, Sabbath rest in His heart, in all the in-my-face-ness of this season.

It’s well with my soul, y’all. It really, deeply is.

And I don’t totally grasp how all these pieces fit together, or the fullness of why I’m sharing this today, disjointed and raw. But a sweet friend told me this past week that when she reads here, she sees my bones. One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received on my writing. And I guess that’s what I’m after — authentically sharing myself with you, mess and all. Un-put-together pieces and all.

So I pray that today, you see my bones here. And I pray you find your heart provoked to peer through your own circumstances, to glimpse His goodness. May you encounter a little more of His extravagant heart today.

~Sharing this post with Lisha Epperson and the #GiveMeGrace community.~

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