What No One Told Me About Parenting Teens

Gina Butz family 2 Comments

kids train tracks

Since we have two teenagers in the house, I’ve realized there are pieces of information about what this parenting teens gig entails that no one told me.

I suspect this is because the ones who know are too busy trying to manage it themselves, those who are past it have forgotten, or maybe people have tried to tell me but I just didn’t listen. All viable options. Regardless, here is what I’m learning no one told me:

It’s tiring. Really, really tiring. Suddenly we’re managing a thousand details of who needs to be where and when and what that means about how we’re going to eat and sleep and see each other. They no longer go to bed at 8 pm and in fact choose the hours between 8 and 10 to broach deep, emotional topics. Not my prime time, unfortunately.

It’s emotional. Really, it seems to require a counseling degree which I, unfortunately, do not have. Teens have emotions – lots of them – and it’s a constant balance of affirming those emotions and not letting them take us for a wild ride. Boy, I hope we’re somewhere in the middle.

Suddenly it all matters.When they were little and we wondered whether or not our five year old should play soccer or dance, it wasn’t that tough a decision. Now, it’s, “Should my child try to get into this development program that might lead her to that professional career she wants?” and “Where should our son go to college?” The stakes just got higher, people.

It can be lonely. I don’t think I’ve found it this difficult to connect with friends since our kids were toddlers and I was tied to nap schedules. This might be a side effect of moving to a new place (hence losing the friends I’d made during the “let’s get the kids together so we can hang out” stage) but I find that coordinating time with friends in between work and practice schedules and just life is like finding a four leaf clover. I spend an inordinate amount of time in my car. Audiobooks are my new best friend.

I love seeing who they are becoming. It’s the coolest and scariest thing to see your kids be partly a reflection of you and your husband, and partly their own unique person. I am both proud and a little nervous that our kids have inherited my snarky humor. It’s a dangerous trait! They are us and they are not, and it’s a joy to be part of them learning to own their faith, their ideas, their dreams. They’re like our little padawans.

I don’t want it to end. Oh yes, I heard from everyone that this would go by quickly. I heard, “the days are long but the years are fast.” I heard it, and I believed it, but I always imagined a sense of completion, of anticipation of the time when I would have my time back. I didn’t know how much I would not want this season to be done. I suggested to our son that he attend college nearby and live with us forever. He replied, “I could, but then I might not become a contributing member of society.” Ok, you win, you can go.

It’s been a surprising, exhausting, stretching journey so far, and we’re not done yet (thank goodness, cause I think I’m just hitting my stride). For those heading in to this chapter – hang on, friends, it’s a great ride.


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Promises to My Children

I Am Not My Child’s Savior

What I Want More Than Your Happiness

Gina Butz faith, kids 6 Comments

happiness freedom field sunshine“It’s not fair.”

It’s a favorite phrase from an unmentioned child in our family. It’s true. Life is so often not fair. I wish I could make it fair for you. Mostly because then I would be super awesome mommy in your eyes, and it’s always tempting to vie for super awesome mommy status.

But then I remember that I’m not just about your happiness. I want more for you than that.

More than always wanting life to be fair for you, I want you to know how to handle unjust situations with grace and joy.

More than you always having great friends, I would love for you to be content with loneliness, and for you to develop compassion for the outsider, because you know what it’s like.

More than you acing every test and paper, I want you to learn how to accept failure without it defining you.

More than school being a breeze, I want you to know the discipline of hard work and time management.

More than you winning every game and tournament, I want you to know grace in defeat, holding your head up high and congratulating the winner with sincerity.

More than you never having your heart broken, I want you to learn that being vulnerable is the the way to live bravely and openly.

At the end of the day, more than your comfort I want your character. More than your success I want your strength to get back up in the face of a fall.

But I know. I know that you think this is not what super awesome mommy should do. I know, because this is exactly what God is trying to do with me. Character over comfort. Holiness over happiness. It’s tempting for me to doubt His love when my prayers don’t land me in a comfortable, happy place, but instead right smack in the middle of growth.

I forget that giving me challenges instead of ease is proof of His love, not denial. He loves me too much not to make me more like Him.

I can’t aim for super awesome mommy. I need to aim for “do what is good for you even if it’s hard for both of us because I love you more than life” mommy (I need a shorter term for that). I’m aiming there because I know that’s where He’s aiming for both of us too.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”



I Am Not My Child’s Savior

When Falling Is Good

Promises to My Children

The Lies of “Too Much” and “Not Enough”

Gina Butz faith, identity 2 Comments

offer black white flowers emptyThere are two lies I can live by, flip sides of the same coin.

One lie tells me that I might be too much for other people. I might be too needy, too messy, too emotional, too demanding of the emotional space of others. The lie tells me to live in fear of being “that girl” – the one who asks more than others want to give. It tells me that there’s a limit to how much people want of me.

The other side says maybe I’m not enough. I’m the shirt you see in the store that you like, but not quite enough to try it on, not quite enough to invest in it. It says sure, they like you, but maybe they don’t really like you. Not enough to pursue you. The lie says I might not be fun enough, or interesting enough, or whatever enough of what it would take for them to come closer.

The lies want to keep me in a crazy battle to be less of this and more of that. They cause me to question, to hold back when I should be authentic, to hide parts of me in order to be more acceptable, a constant, “Do you like me now? Do you like me now?” They demand that I find a way to make myself perfectly lovable.

Both lies tell me that the burden is on me to prove myself. It’s on me to earn my spot in peoples’ hearts.

They tell me there is no place to rest.

But the truth sets me free.

“As long as I keep running about asking: ‘Do you love me? Do you really love me?’ I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with ‘ifs.'” (Henri Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son)

Yes, those lies are bondage. When they whisper to me, “prove yourself worthy,” I must learn to say back, “It’s already been done.” The truth is, we aren’t meant to measure worth, we are simply called to live it. You are worth the space you take up in this world. You are worth pursuing.

So am I.brene brown quote

If we weren’t, then the God of the universe would not have taken the time to put us here. He would not have come for us. He would not have died in our place. He’s declared us worthy.

Let’s live in the truth of our worth.


Being Human

Feel Your Worth

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Finding Your Own Voice

Gina Butz kids, life lessons 2 Comments

IMG_8498Thank God for those mint green Converse shoes.

Do you know what they mean to me? The fact that you wanted them means you are learning to know your own mind. My girl, who so often fears choices because they might not be “right,” you knew that you wanted those.

And then you wanted to wear them with your dress. Your words were, “it’s just like those movies where the girls aren’t girly girls, so they wear shoes with dresses.”

Yeah, it is. Let’s pull out Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, although probably you’re thinking of something else since those are my movies, not yours. My heart skipped a little just seeing you own who you are.

All your life, this is what I have wanted for you – that you would know yourself and claim it. That you would see that how He has made you is so very, very good. That you would love how He made you a bundle of sweet, heartbreaking empathy and tough, play through the hurt grit. He made you to love puppies and hate pink. He made you sweet and sassy.

I know that in the age you are, you have so much pressure to be what others want you to be in order to fit in. It might just be a pair of Converse (that we scored on a sweet sale), but to me, it’s an answer to prayer, that you would learn to express who you are and know that it is good.

I am so glad that in the midst of all the voices, you are finding your own.




Hopes for My Daughter, On Turning 13 

Promises to My Children

He Makes Me Brave

Gina Butz emotions, faith Leave a Comment

courageI recently started a new role in our ministry, and I find myself again in uncomfortable places.

They’re uncomfortable because they are unfamiliar. I’m being introduced to people I don’t know as someone who has something to offer. I don’t know how they will respond to my ideas, my actions, if they want what I have to give.

They’re uncomfortable places because I’m scared. I might fail. I might ask questions that reveal my ignorance. I might get in over my head.

They’re uncomfortable because I don’t always know what to do, because people outside of my family are relying on me for work and that hasn’t happened for a long time.

It all requires me to be braver than I am.

be-brave-quotes-4I have this idea that being brave means having no fear, but I know that’s not true. It means walking into those uncomfortable places despite the fear.

Brave is showing up. Brave is trying, even if you might fail. Brave is offering what you have, whether or not you know it’s what someone wants. Brave is uncomfortable.

I so wish it weren’t. I wish I could jump to the place where I feel like I know what I’m doing, and I am confident that I add value by what I do. But there is no growth without being brave, and there is no brave without discomfort.

Thankfully, I don’t have to do brave on my own. God is the one who calls me to give what I have in uncomfortable places. He makes me brave.

He is the one who goes before me, who sustains me, who catches me when I fall. Because of Him, the uncomfortable places become places where His glory shines, where I become less and He becomes more.

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield; your help has made me great.”  (2 Samuel 22:33-36)



Just Show Up

Do It Scared

Looking for Jesus

Gina Butz faith, word of the year Leave a Comment

IMG_8398It seems like people have always been looking for Jesus.

The wise men looked for him when they saw his star in the East.

Mary and Joseph spent three days looking for their son in the temple after they realized he wasn’t with them on their journey. (Can you imagine? “I thought he was with you!” “I thought he was with you!”).

John sent disciples to find him, to see if he was who he said. His mother and brothers sought him out. The woman who was bleeding reached out for him. The crowds followed him. The rich young man. The centurion. Zacchias. The ten lepers.

The soldiers, who came to take him to his death.

Three days later, the women who came to his tomb and found it empty.

My word for this year is “Seek,” and God won’t let me get away from it. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Child of weakness, watch and pray. Watching and waiting, looking above. Seek his face continually. Seek and you will find.

I am trying. I know he’s there. But I get caught up in my activities and fall back on my own strength and don’t make space for him in my heart or my thoughts.

And other times, despite what I know, it feels like he just isn’t there. I don’t hear his voice. I don’t see his hand. I don’t know where he is.

I think of the disciples today. Today, tomorrow, Sunday morning. They thought he was gone. They couldn’t follow him anymore. There was no seeking, no finding. Or so they thought.

But when the women came to his tomb and found it empty, this happened:

“While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!

Imagine the disciples’ joy when they finally saw him. He had made the way for them to always be able to seek him, to be with him, to know him. That’s what Easter means – we who seek him will find him. He made it possible.

If we seek Him, we will find Him.



When Faith Happens

Just Enough Light 

Our Inside Out Moment

Gina Butz emotions, kids, life lessons 2 Comments

insideoutIt started out rough, but it ended well, that day on the field. In fact, it called to mind a moment from Inside Out.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know there was a pivotal moment that formed one of the main character, Riley’s, core memories. It was the memory of her hockey team gathered around her cheering. What we learned later in the movie is that the moment happened because there were coming to cheer her up after a loss that crushed her. Here’s how it happened for us:

Our daughter’s soccer team played in the first of a series of three weekend tournaments a week ago. In order to progress to the next weekend, her team had to win their group of 4. I wrote the details of their weekend in my previous post. Suffice to say, they didn’t win.

My sweet girl met me after the game and promptly burst into tears. As I hugged her, she cried about how she had played poorly (not true) and how this meant they were out. I tried to remind her that everyone makes mistakes, it was a team effort, they played well, but she was, in a word, inconsolable.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that both her coaches had stopped and turned back, as had her teammates. Soon, one of her FullSizeRender (1)coaches stepped in to take her from me. He pulled her in for a hug and talked quietly to her for the next few minutes, telling her, “It’s good that you are sad. It means you love it, it’s important to you. That makes you play hard.” When he was done, her team gathered around her for a huge group hug.

Meanwhile, one of the girls who plays goalie on her high school team happened to be watching the game because she’d played earlier. When I told her Megan was disappointed with how she’d played, she asked if it would be ok if she talked to her for a minute. After her team dispersed, Sarah stepped in and encouraged Megan as well. FullSizeRender (2)

Watching it all, I was so grateful for the loss.

Sure, it was painful to watch her be sad. We were all disappointed – they’re a good team and could have continued. But in the world of youth sports where there is often so much criticism and pressure on kids, to see our daughter loved so well by her coaches and teammates, was a rare gift.

Sometimes the best memories are formed when someone loves us well in a hard place. I’m so thankful our daughter has one of those because of this team.



What Being a Soccer Mom Teaches Me About Parenting

Promises to My Children 

I Am Not My Child’s Savior

Gina Butz faith, kids Leave a Comment

file0001845561961I am not my child’s savior.

This thought occurred to me yesterday as I walked around our neighborhood with an unsettled feeling. I had been pondering the fact that our daughter was an hour away at a weekend tournament that was not progressing the way her team hoped. First game was a bust. Second game they knocked two in the goal in the first ten minutes, but let their lead slip away into a tie game. Those two games meant advancing was impossible, regardless of the outcome of the final game. Our daughter walked away from the second game in tears.

Nothing is more important to her in life right now than this sport. All her future hopes are wrapped up in this. And while we both know that it has a hold on her heart that is too strong, I have to remind myself that it is not my job to make sure her dream doesn’t die. It’s not my job to make it all better. All my unsettledness was because I could. not. fix it.

Oh, but that’s what I want to do. I wanted to take away the pain. I wanted her not to have the loss, the disappointment. It’s what so many of us want to do. We want there to be wins, and good grades, and close friends, and safety. We want to erase everything that could hurt them.

So I set myself up in the position of savior in her heart. It’s heady stuff to have a person who thinks that you can do anything. We slip into the superman complex with our kids in part because it makes us feel good about ourselves that we can be the rescuer, the savior, the protector. We think that if we just stay close enough, say the right words, step in at just the right moments, we can fend off disasters. We believe the lie that we can control their worlds.

It feels right. It feels like love, to protect our kids from pain. But then I look at God and His word and I am reminded that the path to maturity always involves suffering. It makes us like Him.

Ultimately, apart from putting way too much pressure on ourselves to be more to them than we can be, saving our kids takes away the opportunity for them to look to the real Savior, to learn to rely on Him and receive from Him what they need in times of struggle.

Being away from my daughter this weekend was so hard, but so good for her. She needs me to get out of the way so that she can learn to lean on the One who is always there, who knows the value of failure, loss, loneliness, and pain to mold a heart into His image, and whose wise hands can guide her in ways I never could. We do our children a disservice when we don’t encourage them to turn to him in places of fear, hurt, discouragement. Our lives are meant to be lived in dependence on Him. Pain is a pathway to that dependence.

I love what Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, “It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend to keep things running right is not what’s keeping things running right.”

All that energy we spend trying to keep our children’s lives running right is not what keeping things running right for them. In fact, it might just be what keeps them from Him. So let’s resign as the controllers, the rescuers, the saviors of our children. Let’s trust the true Savior and teach our children to look to Him in times of trial.



Where Faith Happens 

Promises to My Children

To the Mother of a Special Needs Child

Gina Butz personal 3 Comments

To the mother with a special needs daughter next to me on the plane:

I don’t know what brought you and your daughter from the back of plane to sit next to me on that late flight from Chicago to Orlando. I hope it wasn’t that someone was displeased by your presence; your daughter did so well on that flight. I’m sure you had no idea all the thoughts and emotions that observing the two of your raised for me:

I hoped that the flight wasn’t too disturbing for your daughter. I know that can stir a lot of anxiety for someone who is challenged.

I prayed that she would feel ok and not be nervous. I prayed that you would have patience and strength to do this journey.

I wondered if you were taking her to Disney, and I imagined her childlike wonder and joy if you do.

I thought about how this has been your life for a few decades, watching her, keeping her happy, caring for her most basic needs.

I loved watching her care for her baby doll.

I wondered how I could help her be at ease – if she would appreciate interaction, or if the attention of a stranger would disquiet her.

But mostly, if I could have sat next to you, I would have wanted you to know simply that I saw you.seen

I saw you patiently making sure her legs didn’t drift back into the aisle where they might be bumped. I saw you point out pictures in the magazine to hold her attention. I saw you when you had to speak for her to the flight attendant, knowing that must have to happen day after day, you communicating for her. I saw when you recognized that she was getting agitated, and you knew that she needed her baby to calm her down.

I saw that you are a good mother. I know most people don’t give much thought to what it means for you to love and care for her day in and day out. I’m sure I don’t know the half of it, but I want you to know that there are people who see you, and want to support and help you in what you do. I hope you know that. I hope you have those people, people who can offer much more than just a prayer and a smile on a late night plane. You are seen. 



Promises to My Children

When You Love Someone with Special Needs

Asking Audaciously

Gina Butz Uncategorized 1 Comment


Are you an audacious asker?

A few years ago, I woke up days before Christmas with the word “audacity” in my head. For the life of me, I don’t know why. So I began to ponder the meaning of “audacious.”

Audacious: extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave; fearless, lively; unrestrained; uninhibited.

You know who’s audacious at Christmas? Little kids.

“I want a pony!” (do kids ask for ponies anymore?)

“I want an iphone!”

“I want . . . I want . . . I want . . .”

In my pondering, I felt the prompting of the Spirit asking me this question, “What would you ask for of Me if you asked audaciously?”

I was stumped. I realized that I don’t usually think in that term. It’s easier to ask manageable, practical, maybe they would have happened anyway kind of prayers. Less hope, less disappointment.

That’s not how we’re called to pray.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . .” (Ephesians 3:20)

But here was this invitation, “What do you want, Gina? What would you ask of Me?” At the time, it was on behalf of my husband, working at a role far too expansive for one person.

“I want him to have an associate,” I threw out as boldly as I could. It felt, well, not audacious enough.

“By the end of January,” I added for good measure. You want audacious? That’s my best effort.

Most of January flew by, my audacity floating in the air like a cloud, threatening to blow away at the first sign of doubt. The last week, a casual conversation with a friend about how her husband was finding joy in projects that involved operations (my husband’s work) led me to share my audacious prayer with her. She took one look at me and said, “Our husbands need to talk.”

You see, Gina? I can answer audacious prayers. I can do more than that, if you have the courage to ask.

So here I am, staring down another Christmas, watching our kids’ wish lists grow as their eyes and dreams get bigger, more hopeful, more expectant. They’re asking audaciously.

And I’m reminded, “Will you ask audaciously?”

Will I ask, believing that He can go so much further, do something deeper, better than I can imagine? Or will I stay in my safe, well-mannered prayers, never risking or hoping too much?

Ask audaciously. Ask bold, brave, unrestrained, uninhibited. Ask for the pony. It might not happen the way you hope or expect, but He answers. Just ask.



Why Christmas Reminds Me to Hope in God

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