• Dana L. Butler

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I wander the backyard for what feels like the hundredth time lately, Rocky the Dawg on leash, trying everything I can think of to get him to do his — ahem — business.

C’mon, buddy. Pee, poop, do something. 

It snowed a solid foot a couple weekends ago, and our poor pup cut his foot on the 20-year-old lawn edging that the builders put in when our house was constructed. We hadn’t even realized it was a hazard. Oy. We’ll be adding that to our list of items to be replaced.

So, for four more days now, Rocky has stitches in his back left paw, wrapped up in a bandage that cannot get wet. And keeping it dry’s a feat, lemme tell ya, (feet? feat? get it?) when it’s May in Colorado and the weather here thinks it’s the dead of winter and monsoon season pretty much all at once.

I somehow finally convince Rocky to at least empty his bladder, bring him inside, reward him with treats for being willing to hang out in his crate while I’m gone, and make my way over to the church for staff meeting.

We spend time as a staff contemplating Romans 8:18-25, and it washes over my heart like balm today.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed…

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth…

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently….


****

It’s yet again been forever and a day since I’ve written, and these “present sufferings,” all this groaning and waiting and choosing to hope, if I’m honest, are most of the reason for my silence.

There’s been this whisper in my heart though lately, and I can’t shake it, so I’m thinking maybe it’s Jesus.

It’s something about being in a “ministry” role and keeping mostly quiet, allowing folks to maybe conclude I have most of my crap stuff together, and maybe I’m just a quiet kinda girl.

Something about an invitation to inch a little further out of all that. About living and leading visibly and allowing people to see into my humanity, into how I experience my reality. Allowing them to see see my uncut emotions. Or at least my slightly-less-cut ones. ::insert wry grin::

I’m gonna try though, today, to give you a not-quite so-edited glimpse into my life. I feel like I’ve said this more than once lately, so bear with me while I tell you again that this is a difficult line to walk, given the fact that my story, of course, intersects with those of my kids, my husband, and others. So thanks for grace, friends, while I tentatively navigate these murky waters again.

****

Special Needs Parenting Boot Camp continues in the Butler household. I always hesitate to fully tell the truth about these aspects of my life, because the other side of this coin is that my children are absolutely amazing. Hilarious, brilliant, creative, caring, curious, profound. I adore them so much it takes my breath away, makes my heart physically ache.

The special needs side of things, though, is that they are both, even independently from each other, unbelievably, shockingly challenging to parent. Put those two unique sets of challenges in the same room, and, well — it’s fireworks. Not the fun, colorful kind, either. At least, not usually.

True story: A couple of weeks ago, I had no other option but to bring Maia into a psychiatrist appointment for Isaac.

Isaac’s psychiatrist, who sees children and sibling groups all day, every day, was wide-eyed within a couple minutes of experiencing my two loves in the room together. Her comment was a whispered, “WOW. I hope you and your husband get vacations together.”

Truth be told, we are just now, in the last handful of months, beginning to be able to leave the kids with Stan’s parents (who live an hour from us in Colorado Springs) for a night or two at a time once in a while. This has been pretty amazing, I’m not gonna lie. The kids mostly do well at Nana and Grandpa’s, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

****

S’more honesty for you: the last couple of months have seen me brought to the end of myself by motherhood like I never, never dreamed possible. I’ve been screamed at, growled and snarled at, kicked, spit on, elbowed, punched… I could go on.

And y’all, saying this stuff out loud here almost puts me instantly on the defensive, because, let me tell you this right now: my kids are NOT bad kids. They are stinking amazing and I would lay my life down for either one of them in a half a second flat. But dealing with these sets of strengths and needs — this is not parenthood as usual.

I have had to learn (and am still learning — it never stops) to parent differently than I ever, ever, even remotely dreamed I would.

Have I ever told you I used to be THE Grocery Store Parenting Critic?

“Why on Earth doesn’t that mom give her child a spanking?” “If they’d just discipline that kid consistently, he wouldn’t disrespect his parents like that!” “Why the heck did they just buy that kid a donut to get him to calm down?! They’re reinforcing his behavior!”

And THEN. Enter Isaac and Maia.

Ahem.

I’m learning — will likely be learning for a long time — to keep my eyes straight ahead when those Grocery Store Critic glares come (or, if I’m feeling extra brave, to give them a smile as I walk by with my melting-down kid, or my kid who’s randomly shouting that they do NOT like THAT kid while their kid (who is, yes, the “that kid” my child is referring to) walks obediently beside their cart), and parent my child in whatever way I feel led to (or feel desperate to, maybe?) in that moment.

God help me. To parent before Him, as an offering, and not to please or appease a staring stranger. Or acquaintance. Or friend.

Anyway, welp, that was a bit of a rabbit trail.

What I was trying to say is that there’s this thing Stan and I’ve realized, in light of the way parenting is bringing me to my end even more these days than before.

It’s a handful of weeks ago, and we’re wrapping up a literally unbelievable parenting week. As in, I promise you wouldn’t believe everything that happened that week if I told you. And I’m sitting with Stan on the couch after the kids’ bedtime.

Tears threatening to fall, I’m telling him about that day’s version of the crazy, and much to my surprise, Stan responds, “Babe, what do we need to do? I think you need to get out of town for a few days. Go somewhere where you can hike and be outside and unwind, maybe?”

The tears come full-force as I tell him I don’t want to go, that I’d miss him and the kids and I’d just want to come home, that for me to have to leave to get a grip because I’m not okay would feel like failure to me.

And then, the more I think about it — the more I think he’s right. And the more we talk about it in the couple of weeks following, we realize we need to be proactive, not reactive, about getting me away for alone time regularly. {And about getting him away for alone time regularly. Which is a little trickier, given my propensity for migraines and such, but I think I can make it work for him. I sure want to.}

So. All of this said, I’m going out of town in a couple of weeks. For a weekend. By myself. With my journal, Bible, guitar, hiking boots, and that’s about it. I’m half looking forward to it, and half dreading not tucking the kids in at bedtime. But I know I need to go.

****

There’s one other piece of my current reality that feels misshapen. My beloved, wonderful, caring husband — I don’t know how to word this because I don’t want to convey a lack of support for him at all — but he and I are definitely not any closer to being on the same page spiritually.

I can, with Stan’s partnership, say more about this in another blog post perhaps, if I can bring myself to write more specifically about the stuff that hurts. But Stan wouldn’t at this point say he’s any nearer to believing in, or experiencing a relationship with, the God of the Bible.

Ouch. It tears my heart.

For life to continually be as intense as it is, and at the end of the day to no longer have my husband to ask to pray for me or to pray with, to no longer have common frame of reference or worldview — it is more painful than I know how to explain.

****

So. One of these days, hopefully before multiple months pass again, I’mma come back here and say some more stuff. Stuff about the kids, more stuff that I think and feel, stuff about who I used to be and who I am now, in light of all of this.

Because while I don’t feel like I live with a “victim mentality,” I do see ways in which all this “present suffering” has changed me. Is still changing me.

I write to peel back layers, to uncover what He’s doing. To catch glimpses of the glory that’s to be revealed, with which all the suffering and groaning and waiting aren’t worthy to be compared.

Glory. He’s birthing glory.

I still believe it, y’all. He is who He says He is; He’s building and carving glory into our depths even and especially when we can’t discern what in all this Hell He’s actually up to; and because I know He works all things for my good, I have this hope.

I’m all in. Still.

Oh Jesus, let this be worship to you.

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