• Dana L. Butler

One Thing I Know for Sure {on living soft under pressure}

It’s 7 degrees outside tonight with a forecast low of negative 4, and the snow falls still — these flakes so fine they’re almost microscopic. It’s been falling most of the day, and I’m thankful tonight that the snow’s light enough for my car’s windshield wipers to handle its weight.

I dig the minivan out just enough to see to drive, make my way just a couple blocks down the road to our nearest Starbucks, and find even the main roads are completely covered by hard-packed layers of white.

Despite the fact that I can’t feel my fingers or toes, I stand still outside for a minute and breathe in the frigid beauty. The stillness of the evening calms my hurried heart. The quiet breathes fresh life.


I mentioned to Stan a week or so ago that I felt like my heart’d been buried under boxes. That in the midst of transition and grief and exhaustion and all the seemingly endless doing of moving and re-settling with little ones, I’d subconsciously kicked into survival mode.

Just keep going, Dana. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

But something is shifting.


Sunday morning rolls around, December 28th, and I’m on the schedule already to lead worship for our church family here in Littleton {in light of the holiday absence of our usual worship leader}.

To give a little context, this is the church where Stan and I fell in love. Our pastor here officiated our wedding back in 2007, and his family has remained some of our dearest friends of all time, even across the geographical distance of the last nearly 7 years.

So despite changes in the composition of the church, coming back here still feels like coming home. And the privilege of leading these dear hearts in worship is a gulp of fresh air to my soul.

The way my heart and my family are welcomed and fully received in this place has already been balm to my aching places, and something inside me comes back to life a little bit as I put fingers to piano keys and pour my heart out in worship in not one, but two services.


In the days since our move, our kiddos have decided afternoon naps are no longer their thing. I’m making it through my days with them by giving them “rest time” in their beds in the afternoon, having them listen to books on CD. So far they’re both enjoying the downtime, and the plus side for Mom and Dad is that 7pm most evenings finds them both in bed, sound asleep.

So Stan and I spend our now blissfully peaceful evenings unpacking boxes, hanging artwork on walls, and sitting face to face while we munch crackers with cream cheese and the most amazing jalapeño jam (thank you, Littleton Whole Foods).

We purchase firewood and a fireplace tool set, and after just over 2 weeks in our new place, we finally carve out time to sit by a fire Sunday night in the post-bedtime quiet.

Our conversations lately circle ’round the exhausting intensity of helping our littles adjust to our family’s new season, and we contemplate practical ways to live more deeply connected to each other and to the heart of God in the midst of all the pressure.

“I’ve not been doing a good job living in the reality of this, babe,” I tell him, “but I know that I know there’s a way for us to walk out this season, with all its grief and frustration and exhaustion, with hearts that’re soft and responsive and surrendered to Him.”

See, what I desperately don’t want is to look back at these days and weeks of adjustment and processing all these major life changes, and realize I only survived this season. I don’t want to cave to stress, to live these days irritable toward those I love most.

I don’t want to be hardened by the pressure, to continue to numb out under the weight of it. I don’t want to miss the gifts of these days. The ways Jesus wants to make Himself known to me. The shaping and forming of Himself that He wants to accomplish in my depths.

And the desire and prayer that’s re-awakening my insides even in these last few days is that I’ll allow the pressure to soften me. To press me more deeply into Him, to conform my heart more fully to His.

That instead of resisting my circumstances, growing hard, and living frustrated — I’ll surrender to this season and to Him in the midst of it. That I’ll lean into intimacy with Him, and that intimacy will be what sustains and carries me and keeps my heart wide open and pumping, through the things that stretch me and pull me and take me right out of all my cherished comfort zones.

So 10pm rolls around and Stan and I sit in the Sunday evening quiet. I’m desperately needing to go to sleep, but I can’t tear my eyes away from the final few flames licking around the far edges of the one remaining log in our fireplace —

— and I can’t tear my heart away from this deep, quiet sense of God’s nearness. Of His movement on my insides. His breathing on my internal flame. This softening of my soul to the tenderness of the One who is faithful to draw me yet again into His heart — Whose relentless pursuit of my deepest places just dismantles me over and over and over again.


P.S. So there’s a new year around the corner, and there’s this word rolling around in my gut these days, y’all. It’ll be my one word for 2015. And even just the thought of sharing it feels so vulnerable (and so right) that it brings tears to my eyes. I’ll share it with you here soon though (she said, as her stomach did a flip). And also? Just thanks. Thank you for walking beside me here for another year. For the continual presence and compassion with which you bear witness to my journey. You all bless my life so profoundly.

P.P.S. Linking my heart tonight with those in Kelli’s community, hosted at Beth’s place this month. ‘Cause I just pretty much love those guys.

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