• Dana L. Butler

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I’m fighting back tears as I approach two other moms. They’re standing and chatting and I feel like I’m interrupting, butting in, and I wonder how on Earth I’m gonna phrase this question without making them think for a second that I’m confronting them over their children’s behavior.

“Um — sorry to bother you — are those y’all’s kids?”

I gesture toward the nearby soccer field where 5 children are running frantically after a ball.

4 of them belong to these ladies.

The 5th and youngest? My Isaac.

They answer yes, concerned expressions on their faces, and suddenly I’m glad to be wearing sunglasses because it is all I can do to keep my eyes from spilling over.

“They are awesome,” I say, as relief floods their faces.

“My son has mild special needs and they have been so kind to him. So inclusive and understanding.”

The other moms thank me for letting them know. I take Maia’s hand and we head toward the swings. I’m still wishing I could just let the tears come.

I’m fairly stunned by the depth of my own emotion, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

And the more it makes sense that even as I chronicle this story here tonight, tears burn the backs of my eyes.

Because this was the park. The one where only maybe 9 months ago a group of slightly older kids were not kind to Isaac.

Where he switched into this mode of intense anxiety and wouldn’t move, and I found myself trying to get his attention, trying to calm him down and talk him down out of the tallest level of the play set, while the mom of the other children literally yelled. At MY kid. 

Even after I’d held up my hand, gestured as kindly as I could manage for her to please stop yelling at him, that I’d take care of it.

She then promptly collected her brood, gave me the evil eye, and stalked off the playground to go find anOTHER park, one where kids play nicely.

No joke, y’all.

By the time they walked off, I was sitting on the ground, holding a crying Maia who’d just fallen down, and I pretty much wanted to cry with her.

Today was the first time I’d been to that park in a number of months and I literally felt waves of anxiety wash over me as we approached and I saw the group of slightly older children playing together.

Oh Jesus, please let this be a positive experience. Please let them be kind to him. Please let him have good social skills for a little while here.

And they were. And he {sort of, mostly} did.

Relief ain’t the word.

It’s the little victories.

****

Spring is here. The trees are budding, the days are more frequently warm-ish and I find myself desperate to notice every. last. second of Colorado’s awakening.

I read somewhere that if you want to raise grateful children, you need to be externally, expressively grateful within their earshot. If that’s true, my kids will maybe grow up to constantly gush gratitude fairly obnoxiously, because I am most certainly gushy these days.

About tiny green leaves on trees and dandelions and tulips popping up and sunrises and sunsets and warmer temperatures and the still-snow-capped peaks of the Rockies against the blue sky.

Always, always the mountains.

****

I feel things in cycles. Particularly things pertaining to my life. Maybe because things (like my children’s behavior or my health) actually move in cycles…Or maybe it’s only my focus that circles and circles.

Whatever the reason, my emotions do cycle and for some reason these days I’m stepping back from my own feelings, noticing their patterns, trying to remain awake to them. Awake to the places Jesus wants to meet me in the midst of them.

A couple of weeks ago found me for maybe the 10th time deeply grieving the “typical” childhood Isaac doesn’t get to have, and the “normal” family life we don’t get to have — the last several days I’ve found myself encouraged. Thankful. Peaceful.

Y’all, my children are maturing. I’m having conversations with Maia — all these complete, complex sentences and giggles exchanged back and forth between a mama and daughter who are growing into the sweetest, coolest companionship.

“My heart is happy now, Mama,” she tells me as she snuggles up next to me in my bed.

She’ll be 3 in June, will be playing soccer on Saturday mornings in April and May because she kind of lives for sports already.

My girl’s growing up.

Maia and Isaac are becoming friends, too. With each other. This is epic.

A few days ago, I cooked a whole meal while they played together. Something I haven’t been able to do in at least a year and a half, because what would they do to each other if I wasn’t right there to keep them from injuring each other in their nearly constant frustration with one another?

Things are by no means perfect now, but they are growing.

And we — our family — are growing. These are good days. Still hard sometimes. Still really, really painful sometimes.

But we are tasting and seeing that He’s good, too.

And yes, He is good in the painful things, in the things that are gut-wrenching, that don’t make sense… and

****

There’s other stuff I wanna write about sometime soon-ish, about minimalism and marriage and body image and managing finances and writing songs, about this deeper level of peace and intentionality that’s rolling in like a mist over all these different facets of my life.

Like gritty, practical, everyday glory. Like his Kingdom both visibly coming, and still yet to come.

But for now, I’ll bid y’all a truly blessed, sweet Holy Week — one in which the kindness of Jesus overwhelms and dismantles your heart anew, leaves you with no other option than to respond to the extravagance of His pursuit.

Because greater love hath no one than that he lay his life down for his friends.

And may we lay our lives down with wild, undignified abandon, in response to this great love.

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