Finding Home – Guest Post at The Mudroom

Gina Butz home, personal, transition 0 Comments

photo by Andrew Branch

In October of this year, our family will celebrate the fact that this home is the place where we have lived the longest together. The bar is low: our record is only four years and ten months in one location.

My husband and I started our life together in a tiny basement apartment near downtown Minneapolis. We then spent thirteen years in Asia: six homes in two countries. When we moved back to the U.S., we lived another three months with family before settling here. The idea of having a permanent, long term place is foreign to us.

But in place of permanence, my view of home has expanded.

I’m happy to be guest posting again at The Mudroom today! Hop on over there to read how I experience home now. 

 

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Where’s Our Hope?

Gina Butz expectations, faith, hope 0 Comments

where are you putting your hope?

Photo by Tom Ezzatkhah on Unsplash

I’ve never been an optimist. I don’t like to call myself a pessimist, though. I prefer “realist” because it sounds better. Less of a downer. I just don’t want to be disappointed. Who does? Yet all the time, in so many ways, we hope.

I hope that the light will stay green until I get through it, or there will be good BOGO deals at Publix. I hope that the kids will find something else to do so I can have time to myself, and the key lime pie from last night doesn’t show up on my hips.

Those aren’t so bad. The bar is low. It’s when I hunger for deeper things that it can get dangerous.

I hope that my husband will always be there for me. I desire deep friendships. I long for our kids to grow up to love Jesus and follow Him. I want my life to impact others in a positive way. I would love to avoid pain. I wish all my prayers would be answered in timely and satisfying ways.

That is where hope gets tricky for me, because I know the potential for disappointment is so much greater. These are unpredictable, temporal desires, out of my control. My husband travels and leaves me alone. My friends get busy. My kids have to choose their own way, and it may not be mine. I am just one person amidst a sea of voices. The path of growth often leads through suffering. God has other ways of answering my prayers.

It’s tempting to lower my expectations, play it safe, safeguard my heart.

That’s not where life is though.

So do we stop hoping? Or do we fix our hope on something more solid?

This spring and summer, I have been camped out in the Psalms. I keep coming across verses about waiting on God, hoping in Him. He doesn’t ask us to stop hoping. He just asks us to place it in a different place. We hope not in gifts, but in the Giver.

But what does that look like? For me, I’m learning that it means laying all my desire before Him, acknowledging that they are good and God-given desires.

And then I have to open my hands and release my expectations on how those desires will be met. I trust that He will satisfy me in His time and His ways. Easier said than done.

But when God is the anchor of our hope, we aren’t blown about by the winds of disappointment as easily. We believe that He sees our hearts and knows our ways, and if we don’t get what we want, there’s something better in store. We have Him to come back to, our solid place, when we are disappointed.

Without this, without Him to go back to, I could easily lose hope. But with Him, I am reminded that hope is good. Hope keeps us expectant. It keeps us looking to Him, believing in His goodness, trusting in His love. Hope keeps our hearts open.

In that light, I could be an optimist.

 

Related posts:

On Waiting Well

Having Hope in a New Season

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Running from God

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith, trials 2 Comments

Are you running from God?

photo by Atlas Green

“What would make you run from God?”

A pastor asked us this question one Sunday as he began a series on the person of Jonah, the poster prophet for running from God.

The pastor suggested we might be tempted to run from a calling to another country, maybe one where westerners aren’t welcome. I found myself surprised that a specific location hadn’t even crossed my mind.

No, for me it’s not “please don’t call me to that place.” My “places” are more internal. Maybe I’m not alone.

We are, at the core, self-centered people, which is the heart of the book of Jonah. God was calling him not just to a place, but to a surrender of the heart. That, maybe more than Nineveh, was the place he didn’t want to go.

So he ran toward Tarshish. Not sure what made Tarshish so appealing. Me, I run too, but in smaller, less obvious ways (because I don’t know how to get to Tarshish).

I run by staying busy, too busy to reflect on my heart, too busy to hear from God.

I run until I feel I’ve given enough, done enough, been enough.

I run from insignificance, from feeling small or forgotten.

I run from silence, where I might encounter emotions or truth I don’t want to own.

I run from being exposed to God, or more aware of my sin, is not a place I want to be.

All places where He is calling me to surrender, to let go of what I cling to that I think is life.

I want Him to call me somewhere else,  some place where I look good and successful and admirable, and I don’t have to own the mess inside.

God calls us to places of surrender in order to do a deeper work in us. For Jonah, it was a big fish for three days. I can’t say how grateful I am that God has never felt He needed to throw me in a whale to get my attention.

For me, it’s places of unanswered prayer, unexpected disappointment, unmet desire, loneliness, trials. Those are places we would rather not be, but they are the places where God can bring us to the surrender that needs to happen for us to go deeper in Christ and further in mission.

This was a good reminder for me, to ask myself whether I am willing to sit in the places where He takes me, rather than trying to scramble out to a more pleasant existence. I need to surrender to His work within me.

What about you? Are you running from Him, or are you surrendering to His work?

 

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You Are More Than a Number

Gina Butz grace, identity, loved 2 Comments

You are more than a number

photo from Pixabay

Sometime in college, it occurred to me that I was on track to graduate Summa Cum Laude. I only needed a 3.8. Unfortunately, I attended a university that factored minuses and pluses in the grades, rather than straight letters. I had no pluses-only some A-‘s. Those were enough to make me graduate with a 3.79 repeating, and they didn’t round up.

At first, I wanted to justify that number to people. I looked back in regret at a couple A-‘s that could have easily been A’s had I done one thing differently. But after awhile it occurred to me, “No one cares what my grade point was.”

My worth is far more than a number I achieved.

As our son heads into his senior year, we’re thick in the midst of standardized testing, the ultimate “judge you by a number” scenario. Our boy has studied hard, but the results haven’t been quite what he’d hoped. I thought back on my 3.79 repeating, and told him what I know, “You are more than a number.”

Everywhere we look, we are reduced to numbers: what the scale tells us, how much money we bring in, what our grade point average is, our time on that 5K, the number of our social media followers.

People use those numbers to assign value, to decide who’s in and who’s out, who’s worth their time. They use them to put themselves above others, to feel better about themselves, to claim a temporary space in the world.

But we are so much more than a number.

A number is just a snapshot. It is one picture in a huge collage of the whole of who we are. And most of those outward numbers represent transient, arbitrary, and superficial aspects of our lives. They can change tomorrow, for better, or worse. They won’t be true of us in a week, a month, a year.

They are a poor foundation on which to establish our worth.

They do not measure how much we are loved. They do not measure how well we love others. They aren’t a measure of our intelligence, attractiveness, importance, or character.

They do not define what we give to the world. They do not define our gifts or passions. They do not define our worth in the eyes of God. They don’t add or subtract to any of that one iota.

Some numbers are necessary, for a time. That’s ok. Let’s hold them with a grain of salt, though, and remember that they do not name who we are. We are so much more than a number.

 

Related posts:

When Comparison Tells Us Who We Are

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

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Faith for the Small Life

Gina Butz faith 6 Comments

faith for the small life

photo by Ray Hennessey

I’ve always been small, the runt of the litter. In all my pictures growing up, I’m the shortest one. People regularly assumed I was a few years younger than I was. In response, I became what you might call “scrappy.” Trying to appear bigger, stronger, more capable than I was.

I still do.

Our kids finished school a couple weeks ago, and, in true Gina form, I made a summer schedule for myself that belies the fact that they still live in our home and require some level of interaction. By the end of the first week, I was disappointed that so much of my time had been spent not on the grand plans I had, but on so many seemingly mundane tasks of laundry, driving, cooking, and cleaning.

I wanted more to show for my time. Many of us do. We want a broader influence, greater opportunities, upward mobility. We want significance. We want more than ordinary. The world calls us to accomplish visible, important tasks, not the day to day.

In contrast, the question was posed once at a conference I attended, “Do you have enough faith to live a small life?”Twitter

Do we have faith that God is just as much at work, just as glorified, just as powerful, in the small things? In us doing the ordinary? Doing less? Do we have faith that we would still be just as important?

Confession: most times, no. I do not have that kind of faith. I suspect many of us don’t.

A small life might ask more faith of me than a grand one.

I want that kind of faith.

I want to learn to be small.

I want to be content with the reality that most of what I do is not, in the eyes of the world, spectacular, nor does it need to be.

I want to live every little moment fully, seeing God in every detail, experiencing His power in my weakness and my limits.

I want to believe that it is enough that He sees what I do in secret, that He is honored by my willing sacrifice in the day to day.

I want to be faithful with little, not that I would then gain much, but simply because it pleases the heart of God.

I want to be small so that others can be bigger, believing that others having more space does not diminish my worth.

I want to occupy only as much space in this world as God would have me occupy, no more, no less.

We might be small in the eyes of the world, but in those ordinary moments we can live lives that glorify Him when we do it willingly, joyfully, and with faith that it is enough.

“He must become greater, I must become less.” John 3:30

 

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Why I Love the Enneagram

Gina Butz growth, personal 4 Comments

Why I love the Enneagram

photo by Michael D. Beckwith

I have a love/hate relationship with personality assessments. I enjoy learning more about myself, but most assessments leave me thinking, “You don’t know me at all.” And then I found the Enneagram.

About 8 years ago, when I was coaching a leadership program for our ministry, the other coaches began pulling out their Enneagram books. I was intrigued. I skimmed one of the books, saw myself in half of the 9 numbers, and came to the quick conclusion that the Enneagram is a crock.

But those other coaches were wise people, so I persisted. I narrowed myself down to 1, 3, or 4. My friend, Iris, who is an Enneagram 3, suggested that I was also a 3. Secretly, I wanted to be anything other than a 3.

So I decided that I was a 1. I texted Iris this news, and she texted back, “if you say so.” Apparently she was unconvinced.

A few weeks and several conversations with close friends later, I came to the conclusion that I am, in fact, an Enneagram 3. This was devastating to me. I called Iris, in tears, “Iris, I’m a 3!”

She said, “Oh honey, I know . . . when I realized I was a 3, I was up all night. And in the morning, I thought, ‘if I’m a 3, it’s cause God made me a 3, and that’s a good thing!'”

“Ok,” I choked.

Now, I can guess what you’re thinking. What’s wrong with being a 3? And where’s all this supposed love for the Enneagram?

Well, since that conversation, I have not only embraced my 3ness, but the Enneagram itself. So what do I love about it?

  1. The Enneagram doesn’t just tell you what you do; it tells you why you do it. And if we want to grow or change at all, we have to know the motivation behind our behavior.
  2. The Enneagram doesn’t just tell you where you are; it tells you where you could be. This isn’t a static assessment. Each of the 9 numbers has levels of maturity, so although you’ll never be a different number, you have a vision for growth within your type.
  3. The Enneagram is nuanced. While there are 9 types on the Enneagram, there are subtypes and wings and integration and disintegration on top of the levels of maturity that all reveal our uniqueness. So you and I might both be 3s, but we can still be our own people. It captures our complexity.
  4. The Enneagram helps us see our depravity. Yeah, I know that doesn’t sound like much fun, but it’s necessary. Because if I can’t see how I’m trying to save myself and bring it to God, then I miss redemption. You know why I didn’t want to be a 3? Because I recognized the depravity of a 3, and I didn’t want to own it (guess what-every number has depravity. We can’t escape it).
  5. The Enneagram shows me how to love the people around me. It’s revolutionized our marriage by helping us both see the deeper motivations behind our behavior. Recognizing our kids’ numbers helps me understand what drives them and how to speak into it. Knowing my friends and co-workers on this level helps me see life from their perspective and speak their language.
  6. The Enneagram can lead us back to God. Each number has a root fear that drives it. I have learned that the more I let God speak to my root fear as a 3, the more rested and free I am to live my best self. When I see myself acting out very typical 3 behaviors, it gives pause to say, “What am I trying to get from others that I should be looking to God for instead?” It opens my eyes to my self-saving strategies.

They say that our Enneagram type is the lens through which we see the world. Our lens will never change, but the more we understand our own lens, the more we will recognize how we are trying to do life on our own, and how God is calling us to live more freely and expansively. And, we can develop compassion and grace for others who see the world through a different lens.

So that’s why I love the Enneagram. If you’re interested in learning more about it, I encourage you to check out The Road Back to You, by Cron and Stabile, or The Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Riso and Hudson. Or check out The Enneagram Institute.

Or just talk to me. Give me a little time, and I’ll have you loving the Enneagram too.

 

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On Waiting Well

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith, hope, prayer 0 Comments

waiting on God

photo by Ales Krivec

I might be the most impatient person in the world. I hate waiting for anything. This video’s going to take a minute to load? Not worth it. I have to wait how long for this to cook? Not if I turn the temperature higher.

Don’t even get me started on the big stuff.

Like waiting to see my book published. It seemed like the process was going quickly, like, “other authors might hate me if it’s this easy” quickly. And then it wasn’t. The process is still moving, but oh so slowly. I’m still waiting to see what God will do.

Or this decision we have to make. Our family has prayed about it for months. It’s door 1 or 2. That seems simple. Waiting for an answer is agonizing. We want to know now.

Unfortunately, God seems uninterested in our timelines. He doesn’t usually do fast, especially when it comes to spiritual growth, character change, answering the big prayers, or making the dreams happen.

But Psalm 130:6 says, “I will wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

A night of watching and waiting sounds like drudgery. Unproductive. Frustrating. It flies in the face of my impatience.

Waiting like this means we are helpless. We can’t make that sun come up one minute faster.

It begs humility from us. It requires us to relinquish control. It asks us to trust. It asks us to hope.

I’ve heard the word “wait” in scripture is often interchangeable with “hope.” This verse is asking us to put all our chips on God, all our hope in His goodness.

But hope is scary. Hope opens up our hearts to disappointment.

Yet this is the stance I want to take towards God. I want to be someone who waits well. Twitter I want to be a woman who hopes.

When I read this verse, I think of the watchtowers on the Great Wall of China. I imagine those watchmen putting all their hope in the dawn. Sunrise meant relief – the end of their watch. It meant rest, and rescue. It was a sure bet, that sun coming up. It was hope well placed.

Waiting keeps us dependent on God.Twitter

These months of waiting have tethered us to God. It has been a long night, but it has been a night spent watching and hoping, expecting that He will answer. The night is when we are tempted to doubt, to become anxious, to wonder if He really is paying attention, if He cares. We’re tempted to take matters into our own hands (as if we can rush the morning).

But the night is when our souls learn to trust.

Because morning is coming. Whether it’s the answer to prayer, or the heart change, or the character growth, or the dream fulfilled, He will come. As surely as the sun rises, He comes. 

No, not always the way we want. Often not the way we want. But the way we need, yes. He is worthy of our hope.

And, I’m learning, God seems more concerned with the process than the product. He’s more intent on our dependence than our destination. The night is not wasted. That’s where He causes hope to grow and trust to take root, where He wants to quiet our souls and fix our eyes on Him.

So let’s be people who wait well. The sun will come.

waiting on God

Me practicing watchtower waiting on the Great Wall

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When You’re Angry with God

Gina Butz faith, parenting, trials 3 Comments

What do you do when you're angry with God?

photo by Ben White

“Mom, what do you do when you’re angry at God?”

This was the question I had to field one night before bed (why can’t they ask these in the morning, when I’m fresh? Haven’t they learned by now that mama’s useless at night?)

The question came after a time of tears over unanswered prayer. He’d been exploring the idea that God cares about even the small details of life. He’d been praying about each of them, trusting that even though they seemed “silly,” they mattered to God because they mattered to him.

Until that one. That one thing that was more important than anything else. In that, he got the shaft. That question was accompanied by so many others, “Why is the answer no? Why this time? Why, when He knows how important it is to me? He could have said no to those other things and I wouldn’t care. Why this?”

And my answer to all those was, “I don’t know.”

But, “What do you do when you’re angry with God?” That one I’ve learned a little about.

When I was his age, I didn’t think it was ok to be angry with God (but I was). God is infallible, never makes mistakes, everything’s got a purpose, right? So we should thank Him and trust what we do not see. All true.

All hard to swallow when life isn’t what you thought it would be.

So I told my son that I tell God about my anger. I’ve told God at times that I don’t like Him, that I hated Him even. I have accused Him of abandoning me. I have refused to talk to Him.

He can take it. Like someone beating their fists against another’s chest, He patiently holds us and won’t let go while we vent. All our anger, our doubts, our questions – God can withstand them. And when I have poured it all out, then I can just collapse in His arms and rest.

After all, He knows them anyway. It’s not like we can pretend with Him. What is the alternative? As our son jokingly put it, “I could stuff all my negative feelings deep down inside into a dark place where I’ll never see them again?” Ha. Right. Except he will see them again. They must come out.

It was heart wrenching to witness this spiritual struggle. On the one hand, it was good for him to learn that God is not a cosmic Santa Claus, a genie in a bottle, a butler to ring for more towels. I am thankful that he was learning to pray, learning to make this faith his own.

On the other, it is hard and terrifying to see people teeter on the edge of doubt and frustration with God. I wanted to grasp our son by the shoulders and out of desperation cry, “No, really, He’s pretty great once you get to know Him!” But it was a necessary battle.

God can handle our anger. Rather than live a false faith, pretending we’re ok, trying to ignore our doubts and questions, we can bring them to His feet and know that He will listen, for as long as it takes. And when we’re done, we collapse in His arms and let Him be all that we need.

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The Sanctifying Work of Motherhood

Gina Butz faith, growth, parenting 0 Comments

The sanctifying work of motherhood

photo by Josh Willink

Motherhood has been one of the greatest instruments that God has used to sanctify me.

It makes me vulnerable and helpless. It terrifies me at times. It stretches my heart and mind. It flattens me with the gravity of the responsibility to shape a soul.

My children delight me. They teach me. They make me laugh and cry. They infuriate me.

My children deepen my faith.

Discovering I was pregnant just months before moving overseas was not my plan. But through that God taught me that His assignments for my life are good, His timing is perfect, He knows what He’s doing with me.

Those first months of motherhood, my eyes were opened to how intertwined my value was with what I do and how well I do it. Through the years, God has been using motherhood to slowly pried my fingers from that lie.

In the dark hours of the night, when no one (including my deep sleeping husband) knew that I was awake with our son, God knew. He drew my heart into knowing His character, seeing Him see me.

Trying to fill the endless hours of toddlerhood with meaning, while so much of it was mundane, slowed me down. I found God’s delight in the over and over. He taught me that faithfulness in the small moments is of great value in His eyes.

Homeschooling undid me. It brought me to my knees, to absolute helplessness before Him. It daily asked of me more than I had, while reminding me that He is more than enough for all I lack. It taught me that I am dependent on the manna of His strength and wisdom every day.

Walking our kids through the heartache of transition wrecked me. How do you help someone navigate a heart flooded with emotion when you’re drowning too? God was the anchor I needed to be a life preserver for our kids. For all that was asked of me, He poured in more.

And in the hairy moments when our kids have resisted my mothering, I have learned about the love of God. When I sting with anger and hurt, He reminds me over and over again to stay the course; this is how He loves us. He has taught me to take deep breaths and keep on loving.

When I see my sin and shortcomings mirrored back to me in their behavior, I am humbled. God has used it to keep me honest, telling me again and again that what I need to give them is not a perfect mother, but a confessional one who owns her mess and points them to the One who has redeemed it all.

As they step closer and closer to that door to adulthood and further from my grasp, motherhood has taught me to pray desperate prayers. It has pushed me to trust that God loves them more than I do, and He goes with them when I cannot.

God has used motherhood to reveal my weaknesses, my idols, my self-saving ways. And He has used it to redeem me, to pull me close to Him, to teach me dependence, to give me a greater picture of His love. It has been a holy pathway to Him.

 

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When Comparison Tells Us Who We Are

Gina Butz identity, loved 4 Comments

What to do when you're tempted to compare yourself to others

photo by Aaron Burden

So there I was, scrolling through twitter like I do sometimes, when I noticed a comment by a well-known author I follow.

It was just a random comment, but it had 17 replies. Never have I ever had 17 replies to a comment I made on twitter. It’s a red letter day when I get one comment. The thought that jumped to mind was,

“I wish I was (name of well-known author, whose identity is irrelevant).”

And the next thought that jumped into my head was, “How dare you?”

Not, “How dare you presume you could ever achieve that level of notoriety.”

No, it was, “How dare you think that you should be anyone other than who you are.

It’s so easy to do, isn’t it? I wish I were like her. I wish that was my story. If only I had that job. If only I had that body. I wish I was that kind of mom. I wish we had that kind of money. I want his career trajectory, her opportunities, that life.

In that moment, God convicted me. Because to compare myself to another and think that maybe I would be better off, I would be more loved, I would be more significant, if I were them, is an affront against my Creator.

Who we are, where we are, what we’re doing, what we are able to do–it’s God’s poetry. He wrote us this way. We are designed by the ultimate designer. He delights in how He has made us. He loves what He has created. He wouldn’t have us any other way.

So when you are tempted to look sideways and think, “Maybe that life would be better than this one,” banish the thought. It’s a lie from the pit of hell.

It takes our eyes off what He has made is in us that is so very good.

It diminishes our view of what He has given us to offer the world.

It says less about us than it does about our view of Him and His work.

Don’t wish you were anyone else. Be who He made you to be. Agree with Him that it is good. Embrace it. Live it to the fullest. Take joy in who you are, because He does.

“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

 

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