To the Mother of a Special Needs Child

Gina Butz personal 3 Comments

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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. 

 

Related:

Promises to My Children

When You Love Someone with Special Needs

Asking Audaciously

Gina Butz Uncategorized 1 Comment

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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.

 

Related:

Why Christmas Reminds Me to Hope in God

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Why Christmas Reminds Me to Hope in God

Gina Butz faith, personal Leave a Comment

single_candleI hate waiting. That’s why I have Amazon Prime.

‘Tis the season of waiting. We wait in lines, for packages to arrive, for family, friends, parties, planes.

In the Bible, the word wait is often translated hope. They are intertwined. We must wait for the objects of our hope.

Hope feels deeper. We don’t just hope for that gift we want for Christmas. We hope for marriage, children, jobs, for needs satisfied.

Wrapped up in our hope is expectation. We have ideas of how we want our hopes realized. And when we are asking God to step into our hope and meet it, we put those expectations on Him.

What does it look like to hope in God? We place our fragile hopes in His hands, but too often the waiting is long, the expectations unmet. We fear disappointment. Sometimes it’s easier not to hope.

The Israelites knew a little about waiting. They waited in slavery, in exile, for the Promised Land, for a Messiah. In their waiting they hoped. They grew expectations. They longed for a leader, a savior, one who would protect them from their enemies and carry them to victory. For hundreds of years, they waited and hoped and expected rescue.

And then Jesus came, and He wasn’t anything they expected. But when I look at His birth, I’m reminded why God is worthy of our hope. In Christmas I see that:

  1. God keeps His promises

Jesus fulfilled every prophecy about the Messiah. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

He has promised us so much – that He will never leave us, that He will work all things for good, that He will give us abundant life. We can hang our hope on His promises.

  1. He meets our deepest needs

Four men lowered their paralyzed friend through a roof, but instead of healing his body, Jesus forgave his sins (and then healed him). The Israelites thought they needed a leader; God knew they needed a redeemer. We think we know what we want, but God wants to give us what we may not even know we need. Christ’s birth reminds me that not only does He knows my needs, He can meet them.

  1. His ways are not our ways

The Israelites probably would not have chosen an unwed, teenage mother or a poor carpenter to parent the ruler of the universe, or have made Him a Nazarene. So many of the chapters of my life I would not have written the way God did, but looking back, they are so good. We stumble the most when we hold too tightly to the ways we think God should answer our prayers. Like the Jewish people, we might miss His answers entirely.

  1. He loves us more than life

One of my favorite songs this year is Touch the Sky, by Hillsong United, mostly because of the line, “You traded heaven to have me again.” Christmas tells me to put my hope in Him because of this: He would do anything, give up everything, just to have me.

It might not happen how, or when I expect, but God is always working good on my behalf, meeting my deepest needs, keeping His promises out of his deep love for me. He is worthy of my hope.

So we wait quietly, attentively, continually, dependently. We put our hope not in an outcome, but in a Person.

Freedom – guest post at Mudroom

Gina Butz emotions, faith, identity Leave a Comment

It was in that Bible study that I realized I was not free.

We were eight couples, all of us fresh into our time as expats in Singapore, struggling to find our footing in what we jokingly called “Fantasy Island.” That group was a lifeline in the midst of our turbulent transition to a new country, yet I often walked away from times with them feeling insecure and unsettled. Why?

Read the rest of the story at The Mudroom blog,The Mudroom blog where I’m guest posting this week. And if you’re new here, be sure to enter your email on the right so you can receive every post.

The Power of a Mother’s Words

Gina Butz family, kids 6 Comments

I saw the attitude creep in.

At first, it was a proclivity to preferring me over dad. That’s normal for a 13 year old, right? But soon it was, “I don’t want dad” and “he can’t do it right” and shrugging off hugs and kisses. It was eye rolling and snarky come backs and at times, downright sass.

My husband, being the gentle, easy going guy that he is, was good natured about it at first. But over time, I began to observe the hurt in his eyes, the rejection he felt from his little girl. I thought, “When did this happen? And what do we do to make it stop?”

And then I started looking at myself. I noticed the words that came out of my mouth when her dad was home late from work, a “you know your dad” comment thrown carelessly in front of her. I caught my tendency to jump in to her issues when I could have left space for her to turn to him instead. I heard my sarcastic responses to him at dinner. In a hundred little ways, I had set the example in how I was treating her father. She was just copying what she saw.

Alright, then. If she can copy me at my worst, she can copy me at my best.

So I began an all out offensive. I held my tongue when she baited me to complain about him coming home late. I talked about his positive traits, his good character, how blessed we are to have him. I made a big deal about him coming home (not as excited as our dog is, but heading that direction).

At first, I got suspicious sideways glances, “Seriously? This guy?” Yeah, this guy. This guy who loves, protects, provides for, encourages and builds us all. This guy who doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves – I see how I have the power to shape how you view him and I am determined to do just that.

It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. The attitude changed. She’s the one running to greet him. She smiles at his corny jokes (most of the time). She wants him to say goodnight too. Her words are different. So is her heart.

inner voice 2I have to keep a watch though. How I talk becomes how she talks. My attitude becomes hers – not just toward her father but everything. How we talk to children becomes not only their inner voice but the voice they use with others. We must be conscious to speak to them and in front of them the way we hope they will speak to others.

There is power in our words, mamas. Power to shape hearts that form words that become attitudes that affect relationships. Let’s use that power to bless.

 

Related:

Promises to My Children

Beautiful

Living a Better Story

Gina Butz faith, personal Leave a Comment

waves water rising drown overwhelmed

This is one of those weeks where I look ahead and think, “How am I going to get through this?”

The temptation is to think, “With a lot of caffeine and chocolate,” but there’s probably a better option.

This is my point of need, and it is a good place.

When life feels overwhelming, when the waves are just a little higher than I’m comfortable, and the current is strong, it is tempting to switch into battle mode and just barrel through. The problem with that style is that I tend to leave people in my wake. I get short with my family. I am not present with people. My body responds physically to the stress of swimming harder. My focus becomes “I just have to get through.” I miss so much.

This morning, as I stare down this week when I know that sitting will be a luxury, there probably won’t be actual meals on the table, and if we looked at what we’re spending in tolls we would cry rivers, I know I don’t want the story to only be, “We made it.”

See, there’s a better story I could write this week, because God is in the picture. All morning He has been reminding me that this week is an opportunity. This is my point of need, where He wants to shows His power in my weakness. He wants to carry us. He wants to give us the strength and peace and patience and joy to do this week like it’s the best week ever.

I can love my family. I can be present with people. I can breathe rest into my body. My focus can be, “Let’s see what He can do with this week.” I don’t want to miss Him in it.

He is bigger than whatever I face this week, whatever you’re facing. We don’t have to live any differently in the deep waters than we do in the places where our feet can touch.

 

Related:

Just Show Up 

When You Just Have to Do One Day at a Time 

 

We Are All Glorious Messes

Gina Butz personal Leave a Comment

buckets galoreI just read a post written by a woman who called herself “that mom.” The mom who seems to be failing on all fronts. She says she’s in a rough patch. I get it. We’ve all been there.

I see a lot of posts like this lately, posts that lift the veil on the highly censored, cleaned up versions we often post of ourselves on Facebook, and show that life isn’t always that great. Most of us didn’t run 10K this morning, or tour Europe, nor did our kids invent something that will now be patented. Today, I showered before noon on a homeschool day. Victory!

It’s good, this kind of transparency. It breaks down walls. It combats shame. But what is discouraging to me is that it seems to create an either/or mentality, and a shaming of those who are doing “well.” We celebrate those who own their mess (and we should) but we draw lines and separate them from those who claim to be hitting their marks. We call those “other people” fake or boastful.

The fact is, these lines don’t exist. “That mom” may have had an off day, but I bet if you sit with her, you would wind up concluding that she’s actually doing a great job, even in the midst of her failings. And the people who are posting their victories aren’t necessarily trying to say they always live at awesome. Granted, they might be, but maybe they don’t feel the freedom to admit that they fall short. That should evoke compassion from us, not shaming. Maybe they’re just trying to say, “I had a red letter day. Rejoice with me.”

Can we be both? Can we be the woman who messes up, but is being faithful and pressing on and sometimes has really great moments that she wants to celebrate? Can we be the woman who is enjoying life and doing well, but let others in to the fact that she’s sometimes less than her best? Can we affirm both? Can we rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn? Can we enter in with everyone?

We aren’t either/or. We are both. We are successes and failures. We are extraordinary and ordinary. We are light and dark. We are glorious messes. If we tend toward focusing on our failures, maybe it’s time we stopped and celebrated what is good. And if we are only showing the shiny parts of life, maybe it’s time to let some people see where we’re struggling. We can be both.

 

Related:

Either/Or Thinking in a Both/And World 

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Just Show Up

Gina Butz emotions, faith Leave a Comment

It’s Monday, y’all, and I for one am not into it. I’m staring down another week of busy, after a full weekend of uff da. Today, it’s enough for me to show up. Still in my pajamas, I’m sure at least until noon, but I’m here. Gina, reporting for life.

But today I’m agreeing with Brené Brown that it can be brave just to show up. Just to come and say, “I’m here. I may not be ready. I may not feel likBrave-Brene-Browne I have what it takes, but I’m here. I’ll do it scared if I have to. I’ll do it less than. I’ll do what there is for me to do, faithfully. And that will be enough.”

Our sweet girl showed up this weekend. She spent most of it trying out for a competitive soccer development program. Right out of the gate, the wind got knocked out of her sails by a shaming comment from one of the coaches after she missed an easy shot. It rattled her, threw her day off. She came home in tears, full of frustration and regret. But I was so proud. I was proud because she stayed. She did it scared. Maybe not the best she could have done, but she showed up. That’s important. That’s brave.

Even more brave to go back the next day and do it all over again. “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” She did.

As I saw my husband off to another tough work day, he looked at me and said, “I’m showing up.” Yep. That’s enough.

This fall has been a series of showing up days for me. Days that feel like they ask more than I have (am I the only one who feels like raising teenagers requires a counseling degree they don’t have?). But I keep showing up. Gina, reporting for life.

Some days, I feel like I did it all really well. I feel like a rock star. Some days, I feel like I’m fresh out of amazing, as my friend and fellow blogger Stacey would say (she’s got a book coming out next fall to tell us all more about how to walk those days, and I’m so excited!). Grace for the rest. Faithful isn’t about how well you do it – it’s about doing it. It’s showing up, again and again.

The reason I keep showing up is because I know that He can use what I bring. He takes my offerings and fills in the empty spaces with grace. I can show up because I know He goes before. I am not alone. I can do it scared, tired, empty, lonely, weak, clueless. I can do it with confidence because He uses it all.

So let’s show up today. Let’s bring our best, whatever that looks like on any given day, and know that it’s enough because He has the rest. This can be our act of courage today, our brave face regardless of the circumstances.

 

Related:

When You Just Have to Do One Day at a Time

Stop Telling Me to Be Amazing

When You Love Someone With Special Needs

Gina Butz family 2 Comments

IMG_3289One of the things that brings me the greatest joy is to hear my children talking to my sister. When they talk with her, they sweetly ask questions and patiently listen to her stories. They treat her with compassion. They make her feel loved. It’s like a balm to my soul.

Why? Because my sister is mentally challenged. Growing up with an older sister who is challenged, I had an acute radar for how other people responded to her. I vetted every friend who came over, watching to see if they would treat her normally. I eyed strangers in public, ready to give them the stink eye if they so much as smirked at her. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of my stink eye.

While my parents have encouraged her as much as possible to live an independent life, she will always needs others’ help and support. She is a perpetual child in an adult body; trusting, simple, open. She needs others to stand with her, to listen to her, to guide her, to do for her what she cannot do for herself.

As adults, I’m not as worried about her as I was as a child, but I still find myself wanting to shelter her. During the last election, we needed to vote early, so I picked her up on Halloween. She came out of her house wearing a pink princess costume with a silver crown. I paused for a minute and then thought, “Ok, let’s go with it.” Of course we got stares and questioning looks at the voting booths. Part of me felt the need to justify why a 42 year old woman was wearing a princess costume, but another part of me wanted everyone to just act like it was the most normal thing in the world. Actually, I wanted more than that. I wanted people to feel the way I felt about her – that they would think that it was awesome that she was wearing exactly what made her happy on a holiday.

I wanted them to see her as the gift she is; a precious, God-given gift. My sister loves purely and wholeheartedly. She delights in little things. She loves to be part of everything. She trusts. She accepts. She gives me opportunities to grow in being compassionate, patient, gentle, loving, protective of the weak, accepting of the different.

And that’s why it’s such a blessing when others step in and love her alongside me. It says, “I see that she is precious too. I will stand with you in loving her.” It says we are not alone, that others will be the protectors, the helpers, the givers. They will recognize the value in her.

So if you know someone who is challenged in some way, know that taking the time to love them isn’t just a gift to them. It’s a gift to those who love them as well. Thank you.

 

Related:

Promises to My Children

What Parents Really Need to Hear

Either/Or Thinking in a Both/And World

Gina Butz culture, life lessons 2 Comments

Our daughter has been watching Once Upon a Time, which is a wonderful show about fairy tale characters stuck in our world. She keeps asking me, “Is he a good guy, or a bad guy?” She wants to know, so she can be sure who to like or dislike. I’ve watched further than her, so I know – these characters will surprise. They aren’t as clear cut as we would imagine. I have to keep telling her, (and I’m thankful that the characters are evolving to prove my point) that people aren’t good or bad. Maybe the evil queen can love. Maybe Captain Hook can be sacrificial. Maybe Snow White can make poor choices. Sometimes issues and people aren’t either/or.

But the thing is, we want them to be. We gravitate toward black and white thinking because then we feel solid. We know where we stand. We know where to draw lines, who to include, who to ignore. We know where to put our energy in defending a stance. We feel safe. We think we’re winning.

It all feels sometimes like a giant game of tug of war. This side is right. No, this one is. Either you stand with me or you stand against me. There is no middle ground. If my side is true, your side cannot be true.

From a Christian standpoint, this feels right. Truth isn’t relative, is it? The problem is that we draw the circle of absolutes much larger than God does. We label people in a way He won’t. Jesus spent the most time with people our society would call “bad.” He called out the “good” people on their hidden sin. He doesn’t categorize us in black and white terms; he sees us for the glorious messes we are, the contradictions of our hearts. Jesus sees the both/and in us.

It’s challenging for us to hold those contradictions. Easier to pretend some of them aren’t true, that we can write some people off as not worth our attention, time, compassion. We can label them as heroes or villains, good or bad. But to be both/and people means we need to open our hearts wider. We need to sit in peoples’ stories so we can know the white police officer who is just doing the best he can, and the black man who is tired of people assuming he just doesn’t respect authority. We can ache for unborn babies at the same time that we are shocked by the ruthless killing of animals. We can recognize that our systems are in need of reform and still have our hearts broken for the desperate who try to cross borders. We can disagree with leaders and not vilify them. We can see people living “other” than us and know that we can still be “and.”

Let’s stop being either/or people in a both/and world. Drawing lines, taking sides-these keep us from moving toward one another with the gospel. Let’s be like Jesus, who sits with people in their contradictions, the mess, the ache of the world and its fallenness, and He loves. The good news is this – He cares about all of it. We can too.

 

Related:

Can We Be Both?

Keep on Loving