Rejoicing in New Life

Gina Butz transition Leave a Comment

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This week I fed our kids brown, free range eggs I bought from a neighbor, the first batch of regular eggs we plan to buy from her. Nothing wildly amazing about that on the surface (except oh sweet mama are they good!) but to me it is a victory. Why? Because it is one more small way I feel like I can see a good future here.

I have never witnessed the aftermath of a major storm, but I imagine that the first focus must be pragmatic – get the electricity running, the houses back together, the cracks filled. Do the things that must be done for life to function. What often cannot be rushed is for it to feel normal again, and for life to return. I’m talking about the animals rebuilding nests and the foliage coming back. It take time for a place to feel life-giving again.

Lately, I feel like I can look around and see the buds appearing. I see places where I can see a future. Our son started a new sport at school that he hopes to do all four years until he graduates. He came home from the first practice and said, “Mom, I finally feel like part of a group again.” And the people rejoiced. I walk into church and I know the majority of the people. How did that happen? The straw bales are in place for our garden and have decided to start growing grass without my permission or encouragement. Hey, at least they can grow something! I’m in a project at work I hope will continue long term. It feels like everything is coming up green.

The best part of losing something is that when you get it again, it tastes sweeter. That’s how this feels. I am doubly thankful because I know what it’s like to have been without. There’s new life all around.

 

Related posts:

Absence Makes the Heart Grateful 

Faith(fulness)

What Parents Really Need to Hear

Gina Butz family 4 Comments

Erik and I were in a baffling parenting moment recently. We struggle to find activities that all four family members enjoy together. It’s not surprising to us – for the 13 years we lived overseas, we lived in such a tight community with an abundance of like minded people that we were almost never alone as a family. Vacations, meals, you name it – we had company. Now we’re in the states looking at each other thinking, “So now what do we do?” It’s hard to know how to fill the space sometimes.

IMG_7008We were pondering this issue as we drove to have dinner with friends one night. We decided to take advantage of the wisdom of other couples and ask them what they thought we should do about this.

They listened. They asked good questions. They gave a few suggestions. But what they seemed to realize, and we quickly did too, is that what we needed wasn’t a solution. We needed to hear two things: “You are not alone in your struggle,” and “you are doing a good job.”

Google “parenting advice” and you’ll get “about 106,000,000″ hits. Hope you have a lot of time to read every opinion under the sun. Do this. Don’t do that. You can read opinions that vary so widely it will make your head spin. We all want to do it well. Some of us like to think we’ve found the answers, and can be dogmatic or defensive about them, depending on the day. Or we hide in the shadows, afraid to ask our questions, thinking we’re the only ones who just can’t seem to figure this parenting gig out. We forget that our situations and our children and the way we are individually wired means that there are so few methods that universally apply.

But what we can say to one another is this: You are not alone. You are doing a good job. God is on your side. He will help you. Keep trusting Him.

Let’s say that to each other, and I think we’ll all find it’s true.

 

Related posts:

Promises to My Children

It’s Worth It

The Soul Needs Gentleness

Gina Butz faith, life lessons, personal Leave a Comment

I have been accused, more than once in my life, of being “too hard on myself.” I will not deny this. However, speaking on behalf of all the people in the world who tend to be hard on themselves, it isn’t helpful. What we generally hear when people say that is, “You’re too hard on yourself. You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Stop doing that,” which we will add to the long list of activities we are already should-ing ourselves about.

gentleI know, it’s messed up.

I can be hard on my soul. And while pushing myself might help me accomplish more, it’s not life-giving.

My soul needs gentleness.

This is what God has been whispering to me the last few weeks, “Be gentle with yourself” and I say, “that sound like a great idea, God. What does that look like?”

I think being gentle with my soul looks like grace. It looks like taking a deep breath and enjoying the moment. It looks like letting go of the should’s and ought’s and could have’s. It looks like smiling at the mistakes and moving on. It looks like compassion for ourselves.

This week, for me, it’s looked like seeing the to do list still undone at the end of the day and saying, “It’s ok.” It’s looked like turning around and apologizing for a quick word and forgiving myself in the process. It’s looked like saying, “You’re enough.”

So what could you say that would be helpful to the “too hard” crowd? Maybe the question, “I wonder what it would look like for you to be gentle with yourself right now?” However you say it, do it gently. Our souls need it.

What does gentle look like for you?

 

related posts:

The Soul Needs Space

The Soul Needs to Be Seen

Seeing the Growth

Gina Butz life lessons, personal, word of the year Leave a Comment

Have you been wondering how my mint plant is doing? I’m sure you have. I’m sure that question occupies much your time.

Well, it does come to my mind often. If you’re new here, you might be thinking, “Are these the rantings of a crazy woman?” No, they are the follow up to this post about keeping our souls well, which were inspired by this plant coming back to life:

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Since this time, I have been diligent about keeping this plant (and my soul) well. I have an app that reminds me every few days to make sure this baby is watered and thriving.

 

 

 

 

This morning, this is what it looks like:

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Actually, it’s looked like this for awhile. I’m happy these two stems have grown so much. Their leaves are bigger than they ever were during the Time of Negligence it endured through the summer and fall. I confess, though, when I looked at the earlier photo, I thought, “Wait, where did the rest of the green go? And why only two stems? Why isn’t the pot full?” I want more. I want it faster. Grow faster, plant! Be more impressive!

I feel a lot like my plant these days – I feel like saying, “God, I can do more than this. I could be more significant, more influential.” And He says, “This is enough. Do this much well.” Ok, I say. I will do this well.

 

But can I tell you? This is coming:

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Do you see it? That little green bud in the midst of those dead sticks? There’s more life to be had from this plant. This gives me hope, makes me want to be faithful, makes me want to keep being diligent about doing what it takes to keep this plant (and my soul) well.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

 

 

 

 

Related:

The Soul Needs to Be Seen

Starve the Ego, Feed the Soul

Stop Telling Me to be Amazing

Gina Butz life lessons, personal 4 Comments

be-amazingI saw a shirt at Old Navy during the holidays that said, “Be Amazing.”

It felt like way too much pressure.

It might have felt that way because I was in the middle of power Christmas shopping that should have been spread out reasonably over 5 days, but had been crammed into one due to sickness. That same sickness forced me to bow out of a speaking engagement and left my house a bit of a disaster (tip: if you keep wearing shoes in the house, you don’t feel all the stuff you haven’t swept off the floors). I was just proud to be upright and not in yoga pants.

It feels like that again today, on day 15 of my husband’s 16 day trip around the world (Lord, have mercy) when I’m just happy that I am awake and communicative without the help of legal stimulants.  We’ve only eaten 2 frozen pizzas and a deli chicken. This I call victory.

It seems everywhere we look, we’re being told we can do it. We can be amazing, and awesome, and over the top sparkling, beautiful, jaw dropping. Ordinary is for suckers. Lazy people. Those who don’t really care, who don’t want their lives to count. I shouldn’t just be surviving while my husband is gone; I should be thriving. 

And true, we have our moments – all of us do. We have shining moments when we reflect the glory of God in exhibiting the beauty He’s created in us. We have red letter days. We do.

But living there? Gosh it’s exhausting. And truthfully, I don’t think it’s what the world needs.

What the world needs is not more amazing. It needs people who are living and loving faithfully, authentically, with hope and perseverance and grace. People who have shining moments and messy moments and are ok with all of them. I think this is what our souls need too – we need the freedom to be who we are.

The world needs people who get up each day and choose to live the ordinary moments with trust that even this is significant. We need people who accept who they are, with all their good and bad, beautiful and messy, all together. People who believe it’s all worth offering, and then offer it.

We are people who were created for great works, but also for ordinary ones. We are meant to have places where we amaze and other places where we can’t. There’s nothing wrong with not being incredible at every moment. It’s called being human.

So please. Stop telling me to be amazing. Tell me just to be me, and I will gladly oblige.

 

If you like this post, here are similar thoughts I’ve written in the past:

Being Human

Can We Be Both? 

The Soul Needs Space

Gina Butz Uncategorized 2 Comments

IMG_0477I knew a girl in high school who had a fish tank shaped like a giant bubble gum machine. It had the added feature of bubbles which rose from the bottom. She was not in the habit of cleaning the tank, so over time the water got murkier and murkier. As it did, her fish started to do an amazing trick – it could do flips! This entertained her until the water became so dark she couldn’t see him, so she unplugged the tank in order to clean it. When she did, the fish floated to the surface. He hadn’t been doing tricks – his dead body had been hitting air bubbles.

Sometimes my soul feels like that fish.

In my quest to keep my soul well, I have become aware of the days when I surround my soul in activity and noise. I do too much, and when I take a moment to rest, I gravitate toward a screen – Facebook, TV, something to occupy me. Sometimes I do the screens while I’m doing other things (multi-tasking at its best! worst!). For a time, it’s ok. I can keep swimming. But if I live too often like that, the constant movement will drown my soul.

Our souls need space. Space in the form of silence, solitude, rest. Space to breathe and stretch and feel.

I know why I avoid it. Sometimes I don’t want to hear what my soul is saying. Sometimes it feels empty. Sometimes it feels dissatisfied, lonely, confused, lost. But like I said in my last post, the soul needs to be seen. How can I show my soul to others if I can’t even see it myself? The water is just too murky.

I have some habits I am trying to hold to in my soul keeping endeavor. Less television. Shutting down the computer. Quiet walks with no phone, no music, just me and the pup. Sitting when I could be doing. It’s hard to not move toward the distractions, to just sit in the space, but I’m finding it’s good.

Wide open space. It’s what my soul needs.

Does your soul have space? 

 

The Soul Needs to Be Seen

Gina Butz emotions, faith, word of the year 4 Comments

He saw my soul.

One comment was all it took, “And underneath, I can hear the emotion.” It was an astute observation from a teammate, summarizing what I had shared with our team about my experiences in 2014. He’s a tender hearted guy, this one, and he always manages to look underneath the surface. I teared up in response (I tear up at car commercials and national cheerleading competitions and – oh, you name it, I get verklempt) and my emotions kept bubbling to the surface as we went around the room and others shared how they had heard me. Just when I thought maybe I had pulled it together I would leak again.

I confess, it’s unnerving, being seen like that. I felt exposed. Undone. But the tears were happy ones. They were “you see me” tears.megan2

It’s a powerful thing, for a soul to be seen.

Our souls, I believe, are the truest parts of us, and they long to be seen. We want people to know who we really are, but so often we hide behind masks and false selves that we feel are more acceptable to the world. We aren’t invited to share from the deeper, truer places in ourselves.  There’s no space. No time. But sometimes the soul makes itself known, and if we’re fortunate the person who witnesses it says, “I see who you are, and I welcome it.” And our souls are blessed.

I don’t feel like that as often as I need. In the busyness of being a mama, it’s easy to miss those places where I could be seen by others. It takes intentionality of time and vulnerability – hard to find in carpool pass offs and hallway greetings and church meet and greets. This time with the team reminded me how important it is for me to seek out time with the dear people in my life who see, hear, understand, know, and love me.

I am also reminded of my favorite name for God, found in Genesis 16, when Hagar has been sent away from Sarai and Abram. God meets her there in her sadness and pain, and blesses her. “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). He is El Roi, the God who sees our souls.

It does our souls good to be seen – by God and by others. In the absence of the times when I can be with others who see my soul, I can remember that there is always One who does. I want to sit at that well of the Living One who sees me and let my soul be refreshed.

Who sees your soul? 

Word of the Year 2015

Gina Butz faith, personal, word of the year 2 Comments

The other day, a friend of mine asked me how I did with my word of the year for 2014. Uh . . . ok so it started out well. I chose the word Abide, and I did think about it quite a bit for the first few months. After that, when it came to mind, it was usually in the form of imagining a hobbit house. Seriously. Because abide means to dwell and I feel like dwelling happens best in a little hobbit hole. I don’t know why.

I think part of my downfall, if we can call it that (and I think we should) is that I did not have any practical ways to pursue my word, aside from painting a cool visual of it to put in my office closet. I don’t how much it helped but it looks awesome.

This year, I debated declaring anything at all. I thought about a few words, but what came to mind in fact is a phrase. It might not be a surprise to you, if you read this previous post about my mint plant. No, my phrase is not mint plant, but “Keep your soul well.” 

starve-your-egoI haven’t been able to stop thinking about this phrase since reading John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping. I can put so much energy into what is happening outside and around me, and neglect my soul. My soul is needy. It needs nurturing. It needs feeding. It needs truth, love, guidance, restoration, redemption. These needs take intentionality.

So I have a few practices, habits, that I hope will keep this phrase fresh in my mind and active in my life. I’ll probably post about them in days to come. Hopefully weeks to come, as I plan to carry this one further into the year than last time.

Of course, the first order of business is to create a cool visual.

What about you? What’s your word?

 

In case you’re curious about why I chose previous words, here they are:

Word of the Year 2014: Abide

Word of the Year 2013: Content

Reflections on a Christmas Morning

Gina Butz faith Leave a Comment

IMG_6852It’s the wee hours of Christmas morning. The only other person awake is my mom, stuffing our enormous stockings to capacity, leaving the rest as a stack underneath. In our family, we DO stockings!

Once again, I find myself struggling to wrap my heart and mind around the reality of Christmas. I don’t want to walk away from another season with nothing more than warm feelings and a pile of loot. I want the truth of it to sink deep in my soul and change me.

So I ask myself today, “what does Christmas mean for me?”

This is my answer:

Christmas means I have life. Not just eternal life but abundant life here, now, life with meaning and purpose. It means having a Savior, a rescuer, not just for eternity but for all those moments when I flounder on my own. It means I have a shepherd, a comforter, one who is compassionate on me in my weakness and need. It means, in fact, that I am no longer alone. I have one who sees me, knows me, wants me, holds me fast. I have one who was willing to be limited, weak, helpless, affected, vulnerable, poor, tired, misunderstood, hated and killed for love of me. When it says in Isaiah that He will “open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” –  I was the blind, the captive, sitting in darkness. Christmas means light, freedom, a way out. All of this on his initiative, moving toward me out of love. When I look at this Jesus, I see the face of God. He is personal. He is good. He is zealous for me. For you. For us.

The weary world rejoices.

Death by Gingerbread House

Gina Butz just for fun, personal Leave a Comment

I know ’tis the season for such shenanigans, but we haven’t made a gingerbread house in years, and the following story is why. I wrote this December 11, 2005. It still haunts me. Enjoy:

Today was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, all due to the intense and relentless desire of our son to make a gingerbread house. We made one once, in the U.S., before we knew that you could preserve your sanity and use a kit. I vowed that I would never again make one from scratch. I would have used a kit here, but IKEA ran out before we got one, and the other places are too expensive.

And so here I am, so exhausted, frustrated, and stressed that I resorted to taking a few old potatoes and hurling them at my shower wall as hard as possible.

I need more potatoes.

I thought that it might be hard to make a gingerbread house here because of the high humidity. That was the least of our issues. I thought it would help to use a box inside for reinforcement. Yeah, that wasn’t much help. I could list out the problems, but let’s say that in the end, we have a gingerbread house precariously held together with not just frosting but also tape, glue, staples, nails, and sewing pins. It is a house that any inspector would instantly condemn. I’m afraid to let the kids decorate it because I know the second someone touches it, it will collapse. So it will remain undecorated. In fact, when I get around to it, I’m pitching it. I’d like to pitch it against my shower wall too, but I still have to clean up the potatoes. And the nails might scratch the enamel.

Ethan has been informed that we are never ever going to attempt to make another gingerbread house from scratch. I think seeing the crazed look on my face convinced him not to argue. I told him maybe we could just paint a box brown and decorate that. He said maybe we could just eat the decorations. Hey, even OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbetter! The biggest bummer is that I was at a Christmas luncheon on Thursday and part of the dessert was these really cute little figures made of sugar – trees and people. I asked everyone at our table to give me theirs so I have a virtual sugar forest and village. They will be homeless this Christmas.

(this is not our house. Far, far from it).

 

The next three nights I’m speaking at Christmas events on a more serious note, based on this post from last year:

Missing Christmas