• Dana L. Butler

Uncovering Sacred Flames {and Other Thoughts Upon Turning 34}

Thanksgiving Day dawns peaceful in our household. We hang around in our PJ’s for hours, all of us reveling in the relaxed pace of our morning, and in Isaac’s thorough enjoyment of the Macy’s Parade. It’s the first year he’s really been old enough to be excited about it.

I preheat the oven, throw in the breakfast casserole I prepared the night before, cut up a few pieces of fruit and toss with some yogurt, and bam — brunch is served.

With our housemate having moved out already {in prep for our impending move to Colorado} and no family visiting, it’s just the 4 of us for breakfast today. And as much as I’m aching and missing my side of our extended family on this, our first Thanksgiving without my Grandma Kiser, Stan and I are drinking in this time with just our little family unit.

Drinking it in, that is, until we find ourselves up to our ears in… well, disobedience.

Ahem.

We spend precious time in the afternoon and evening with Stan’s cousin and some other extended family, and — well, let’s just say the morning’s behavior train is still rollin’.

With an artistic, easily distracted 4-year-old, and a sweet 17-month-old who’s finding her voice and beginning to exert her lion-cub will, let’s just say we for sure have our challenging moments. And sometimes those moments add up to challenging hours. Days at a time, even.

So I wake up this morning, my 34th birthday, and while my husband celebrates and loves on me, our sweet littles don’t quite get the memo that Mom would love a peaceful, easier-than-normal day.

I smily wryly as I type, because lately, even in the chaotic parenting moments, Stan and I are often able to look at each other, shrug, sigh, and move on through the struggles mostly calm. {Mostly being the key word.}

We are a team, he and I. But this is how this parenting gig goes, we’re learning — try something new, make progress, lose grip on some measure of said progress. Try next new thing, fail epically. Try still another new strategy, and succeed… but only till the next issue crops up.

Parenting our two littles continually puts us on our faces before Jesus, acutely aware of our need for His leadership, His heart, His creativity. Pressing into His commitment to their precious hearts. Leaning into it for dear life, actually, because this stewarding and shaping of little, Jesus-loving people is so not something we can make happen in our own power. Not remotely.

And when we try to do this thing without this humble posture of leaning that we’re learning, we fall flat on our faces every. single. time.

Upon nap time’s arrival, Stan and I plop down exhausted but peaceful at our dining room table, and coffee in hand, I spill my heart all over the table before him. We talk for two solid hours and our conversation winds its way around what it looks like to live whole, integrated lives, embracing the entirety of our humanity as intentionally created and desired by God.

The unzipping of our souls is all at once messy and sweet, painful and profound, and our hearts connect in deep places as we each affirm our desires for the whole of each other — body, soul, and spirit.

I’m reminded of this sacred flame that sometimes gets hidden a bit amidst uncharted parenting territory and the nitty gritty details of life. It requires regular, intentional fanning, a continual rediscovering of the fuel that fed it in the first place.

Seven plus years together, and again on my 34th birthday, I am choosing him. He is choosing me.

*****

I’d told Stan this morning that since our birthday date is planned for Sunday evening, what I’d love to do tonight was just grab a few hours by myself at Starbucks. He wholeheartedly supports my need for space to breathe deep and spill my heart in written word, so I find myself here tonight with a ridiculously amazing peppermint white mocha, and a backpack heavy with books and journal.

I contemplate turning 34, and what’s turning over and over inside me lately is all the ways I find myself changing.

I contemplate Freedom, my One Word for 2014, and the various unexpected ways it’s manifested itself in my life this year. How it’s been all at once terrifying and exhilarating, this walking out from under fear of man and into all these wide open spaces of becoming.

In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I’ve jotted down a handful of fairly random ways I’m finding my perspectives and thought processes being transformed as I enter my mid-thirties.

1. I wouldn’t trade the seasons of loss and unfulfilled desires for anything. I am in love with the ways Jesus has encountered me in grief, how He’s rearranged my insides and covered my raw wounds with His love.

2. The older I get, the more poetic nuance moves my soul. And the more I’m moved by it regardless of the degree to which my logical mind comprehends it. And the less I *need* to be able to fully understand it in order to allow it to move me. I think those gut-level stirrings, the ones that are just barely beneath my word-wrapping reach, are the more important ones most of the time anyway.

3. I am learning to love paradox almost like I love poetry. The nuances and dichotomies and apparent contradictions of faith and doctrine and life experience that instead of contorting my brain and embittering my heart, are more often nowadays propelling me deeper into His heart, and deeper into friendship with those who see life through lenses less familiar to me. I may find more words for this in the near future, but y’all, this particular thing Jesus is doing inside me — it is utterly rearranging my insides, pressing me to the floor, face-down in repentance, longing for humility. Curiosity. A teachable, pliable heart.

And with this post edging up near 1,000 words, I need to stop for tonight. Thank you for reading, for tracking with the disjointed ebb and flow of my heart as I cross this threshold into 34.

Y’all love me so well, bless me continually, and are the sweetest traveling companions. I am so thankful for you, dear friends.

P.S. Linking hearts and arms with Lisha and Kelli and friends, as usual.

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