• Dana L. Butler

some honesty: why i’m mostly silent these days

Hey, dear friends.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post. It was long. It was an effort to let you into what our family’s life is like on a daily basis. The funny, the heartwarming, the painful, the grueling, the mind-boggling intensity and exhaustion that come with parenting amidst special needs.

It’s still sitting in my “drafts” folder. Unedited, and obviously unpublished.

I talk myself out of it continually — this sharing openly about our lives. The lines are too blurry, too scary: how much should I share of all these places my family members’ stories intersect and impact my own? How much do I share of my own internal wrestlings? My own pain?

I don’t wanna talk like a victim. I’m not defined by all this.

But I know this: I need to write. When I don’t, my heart shuts down, subtly, tiny bits at a time. I lose touch with how Jesus is working inside me. And when I don’t share my journey here, I miss the sense of companionship y’all bring, the ways you give me glimpses into your own journeys; the ways you reflect my own heart back to me, give me insights into the Father’s heart.

Gosh. I so love that we’re all in this together.

Anyway. Would you bear with me today as I try yet again to find my footing in a season when writing words feels more vulnerable than ever before, and my stomach does flips while I contemplate which pieces of my daily reality to open up to you here?

I don’t know what’s gonna come out, but I’m aiming for honesty and grace. God help me.

And actually–

— I think what I need to do at this point, rather than to say a lot of stuff about what’s been happening in my family, is to tell you how said stuff has impacted me in the last few months.

To keep it real, this is actually the most vulnerable stuff to share — more so, I think, than if I were to give you details of what’s happened. {And as I sit here with the Spirit nudging my heart in this direction, I may or may not be shaking in my running shoes.}



Okay, so here’s a real, painful lesson that I continually learn and re-learn:

There will always be those who look at Isaac’s special-needs-related behaviors and assume defiance or rudeness on his part, or total, indulgent permissiveness on mine.

There will always be those who judge and jump to conclusions {I know, because I’ve been those people — God forgive me}, rather than suspending their assumptions and considering the fact that for every situation they observe, there is a backstory that they do not know.

Conclusions are comfortable though, aren’t they?

I don’t know if I’ll ever be thick-skinned {dare I say I hope not?} enough to not feel cut deep by another’s judgement. But I long to come to the place where, hand-in-hand with Jesus, I’m able to be aware of people’s assumptions, but extend confident kindness to them in return.

In the meantime though, I’m asking Him to hold my heart still when judgements come, to keep me and my parenting steady, regardless of who thinks what.


Here’s another true thing: I’m learning that my capacity for most communication in this season is precisely nil.

During my weekly handful of “breaks” from my kiddos, I can pretty much predictably be found cleaning bathrooms, running errands, in meetings, doing worship-related work for my church fam…

…or soaking in the silence of my home like a desperate person at an oasis in a desert.

Something I hate a ton: Not having the bandwidth to return messages from friends who are more dear to me than I can tell you. The feeling of having virtually every ounce of relational energy drained from me.

This is so real, y’all, and it can be traced back to what I’m realizing I do with all my minutes and my whole self these days.

Half of it’s this:

Isaac’s needs + Maia’s needs = I spend an unbelievable amount of time trying to mediate their relationship dynamics, both with one another, and with Stan and me.

{To clarify, there are better days, during which the kids play together a little more, are more peaceful and respectful, make fewer impulsive choices, etc. Just… um… not all that often.}

And then the other half:

When I’m not trying to help them work through one emotional/relational challenge or another, I’m doing my best to pour my entire being into relationally connecting with them. Trying to help shore them up in their hurting, insecure places.

I’m trying to love them in ways their hearts can receive.

Engaging them in building a “clubhouse” under Isaac’s bed. Reading books. Inviting Maia to help me cook. Painting pictures. Taking them hiking, one-on-one. Actively listening to Isaac talk about StarWars characters or Minecraft or stingrays or giant squid till infinity, forever and ever, amen.

See, if they’re going to grow up with hearts that are open and deeply connected to mine, I have got to listen and engage and be as present to them as I possibly can in these days.

Because all these “little” things are by no means “little” to them. They are the seeds that, by God’s grace, I pray will grow into teenage and young adult hearts that know beyond an ounce of doubt that they’re safe, seen, heard, and wholly accepted by their parents.

It requires all of me. Every day.

At 7 pm when they’re in bed, it’s all I can do to make myself do some kinda workout for 15 minutes. A lot of days lately, I’ve failed to bring myself to even do that.

So I have un-heard voxer messages sitting on my phone. Unread messages in my Facebook inbox. It tears my heart, being so often absent to my friends who’re precious to me.

I never had a grid for this in the past when friends of mine let communication balls drop, but holy cow, do I know what it means now to just have absolutely nothing left.


Speaking of having nothing left… I’ve had to make this confession lately that has humbled me more than I know how to tell you.

{I’ll say it out loud here because I’m of the opinion that these things need to be said out loud, not kept hidden. People, especially “church” people, need to know we’re not alone, and that it’s okay.}

I’ve recently had to say it out loud to Stan, to my doctor, to a small handful of close people in my life: I know I’m depressed. Like, more so than I’ve been before.

I, who’ve said my entire adult life,”Oh, I’m not prone to depression.” Huh. I wasn’t. Till the last year or two, I guess.

And in the last couple of months, I’ve run up against my limits like I don’t think I ever have before.

Did I mention this is humbling?

Till a couple years ago, I never dreamed I’d need medication to help me keep my head above the waters of depression and anxiety.

And until the last couple of months, I never dreamed I’d have to be this intentional about self-care (i.e. a lot of time alone; time outside; frequent, intentional times spent sitting with Jesus; exercising and eating crazy-healthy — the list goes on) in order to stay afloat while life’s rain and waves pound hard.

BUT. I know I will be okay. To be super clear, I am by no means thinking of harming myself. I’m just incredibly, incredibly fatigued, a ton of the time. At every level.

I do practice good self-care — and I have a husband who is super helpful and caring — and I will absolutely make it through this season. Some days will be easier than others, and some evenings will find me in discouraged tears after the kiddos are asleep, but I’m going to be okay.

I just have to carefully pace myself as I navigate this often-grueling season one day, one step at a time.


One final glimpse into the real me today:

There were a lot of years when, at the end of a grueling parenting day, Stan and I could fall into bed and pray together. Maybe pray for each other, for the kids, for wisdom regarding this issue or that recurring behavior dilemma.

We can’t do that anymore.

And as much as I have no desire for Stan to return to the version of Christianity he experienced before, I sure do ache to be able to pray with my husband again.

At the ends of these nothing-left days, the days that leave me in tears… and on the mornings when I open my mouth to ask him to please pray for me and the kids while he drives to work — and then close it again — my heart breaks anew.


Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Okay. See, this is some of the stuff that paralyzes me lately when I think toward trying to write.

I don’t want to sound like a victim. I don’t want to be defined by my grief, by the deep-down, piercing pain of these days. And I kind of really don’t like for people to know how much I hurt.

I do want to attempt to be honest, though, and this, I guess, is the only way I know how to do it.



There are fun moments, too. There’s laughter, ice cream, warm spring days, and Isaac’s sigh, “Aaahhhh! I just love the family-ness,” when we’re all chillin’ together.

There are hiking trails and sweet views and braids in Maia’s hair and we have the coolest dog in the world.

Stan has a job he enjoys, I get to lead our amazing, beautiful worship team and pour my heart out before Jesus while I do it, and Isaac’s school year is coming to a close next week. {It’s been really great, all things considered.}

Summer’s coming.

And Jesus is faithful.

In the midst of everything, I believe it. I absolutely believe it.

And even in all my not-okay-ness as of late, there’s this much deeper well of very-okay-ness. Because I’m with Him. We’re in all of this together. Lockstep.

And through all this tension and strain, He doesn’t quit His work inside me.

And if the highest aims of my life are that my heart would be further conformed to His, and that I may live in the intimate companionship with Him that comes in that shaping and forming process, then there can be this breathtaking, beautiful depth of contentment in the midst of utter exhaustion and all the other emotions, too… yeah?

‘Cause I trust Him. I trust His work inside me. And His heart and plans for my kids, and for my husband, are no less trustworthy.

So I guess I keep riding all this out with Him, eh? — and try and remember to kiss these insane waves that keep me aware of how desperately I need Him.

I sure do love you guys. Thanks for listening, for your presence here with me. <3

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