• Dana L. Butler

On 9-1-1 Calls and Being Utterly Spent


The doorbell rings once, then twice, urgently, in quick succession.

Our Mother’s Day lunch with dear friends gets cut off before it even really begins as we welcome the middle of the three children from next door.

She’s sobbing, afraid. Big sister is on the front porch of her place, hand over her mouth, also crying.

Mom sticks her head out the door and motions to me to call 911.

So I do. Again. And all three kids end up in our living room.

These days have been a deeper pouring out of my depths — of my wholehearted presence — into my present. Into the right now of my life.

My house still on the market life.

My not yet in Colorado life.

My parenting littles, livin’ in the inner city life.

A pouring out of every ounce of my surrender to this waiting season, till I feel utterly spent.

These days have also brought warmer weather, and lots of yeses in the small things.

Things like water [read: “mud”] play in the yard, even though he just had a bath. Things like time at the park with a dear friend, during which [shock of all shocks] we actually manage to fit in some life-giving heart-conversation, even with all our children present.


Things like Facebook chats and typed prayers and treasuring sweet friends as they entrust hearts and stories to me.

And? Things like neighbor children showing up at our door in tears because mom and step dad are fighting again. People are being hurt. Physically, yes, but that’s not the worst of the damage.

So on Mother’s Day, we dry tears, hear children’s stories of violence and who called who what names. We give hugs and cups of milk, break out the toys and guitars and piano, let the kids strum and play. We spend chunks of the afternoon and evening on the phone with 9-1-1 operators and chatting with cops, trying to help mom finally get that emergency restraining order and serve step dad so he can be out of there and the rest of the family can be safe.

We hope.

And Stan and I, we find ourselves the slightest bit on edge, because yup — we’ve gone and gotten “involved,” and what if the guy decides he’s mad at us for the roll we’ve played in helping his wife and her children?

It’s a legit question.

“Getting involved” was not in our plans, and we wrestle over what’s wise, what’s unwise, and how to try and shield our own little ones from the intensity of all of it.

But in this season — in all this waiting and praying, longing and anticipating our coming transition, all these small yeses are feeling like obedience to the Lord.


So we do get involved and the kids from next door find refuge. They fall in love with our home, with our family, with the peacefulness of our lives. The 7-year-old hugs my waist as I talk with the police. She squeezes tight, doesn’t want to let go.

And Stan and I? We find ourselves more and more genuinely concerned for their family.

Concerned enough that we sacrifice much-needed sleep to stand watch late at night as the cops come for the 3rd time in one day and the restraining order is finally served. We watch to make sure step dad really does leave, that he doesn’t come back and try to grab the baby boy or curse out the big sisters as they wait in the old minivan parked in front of the house.

We watch him take off walking down the dark street, his belongings crammed into a hastily packed garbage bag. He stops and hollers a few more angry words back in the direction of the house, then turns around and keeps walking. We don’t know where he’ll go, and I’m thankful for his sake that it’s springtime and not the dead of winter.

The brokenness and need are so blaring here. Overwhelming. Unsolvable.

Stan and I pray, peering out windows in the dark. Jesus, bring your Kingdom. Reveal yourself here. Make yourself known.

We whisper our hearts to each other, how we desire to fully surrender to Him in the midst of this waiting, about what it looks like to choose to be present right here, right now, in our neighborhood, in this house, with these neighbors. About wanting to love those He’s put before us well in this season, to be a haven of peace next door to some scary-dark storm clouds.

And being available to them feels like surrender. Like living fully present, not holing up and wishing away the remainder of this season and then escaping to Colorado.

Which, honestly, wouldn’t be hard to do because all this spending of ourselves is not convenient or comfortable and it is not what we would rather be doing a lot of days.

Yet, as I drag my tired feet up the stairs toward my bed a little too late on Mother’s Day night (can I say that? Mother’s Day night?) — that utterly spent, poured-out feeling is matched, even overshadowed, by this pulsing ache in my core – an ache that I don’t always feel so acutely, but one that I know well.

Love. 

Deep unto deep. His heart for me. Mine for Him.

I don’t know any other way to say this: I just. love. Jesus. so. much.

It wrecks me.

The way He resources my heart, pours Himself into my depths even as I pour myself out, so I make it to the end of a day like this, and I’m exhausted, yes — but I’m simultaneously completely captivated by Him. Undone by the way He whispers it to my heart — reminds me that loving these precious ones is loving Him. That He receives our spending of ourselves as worship. That it’s a pleasing fragrance to His heart.


And this waiting season — this, right here, is where I’m learning not to be afraid of walking head-on right into gaping, desperate need. Where I’m learning to live intensely aware of the reality that His infinity will pick up where my finite, human ability to love leaves off.

Practically in touch with the truth that my limited offering, my small outpouring, my tiny ability to make a difference — when it’s filled by Him, it’s enough.

And the love that burns in the aftermath, even as I feel utterly spent — it makes the pouring out worth it.

No, so much more than.

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