Hope in a Broken World

Gina Butz emotions, faith, grief 1 Comment

A friend’s father loses his battle with cancer. News of an impending divorce. The unexpected death of a young man. Abusive words spoken and then rationalized as biblical. One after another, over the span of a week.

Broken.

IMG_2624We live in a broken world.

I desperately don’t want it to be. I want to have a world where fathers don’t die so young, and people keep loving one another, and children stay with us and people bless and don’t curse. I want families intact and relationships strong. I want safe, trusted, constant, faithful.

But we live in a broken world.

So I take this reality to God and say, “What do I do? How do I pray? How do I live in this?”

And He reminds me that he promises to be close to the brokenhearted and to heal them and bind them up. He tells me that He weeps with us and endures with us and walks the hard roads with us, that His compassion is endless and overflowing and His mercy starts all over again every morning. He tells me to trust in this.

So I say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Come into our brokenness. Come and be all that you promised to be so we have a solid place to stand in it.

We live in brokenness but we are not without hope.

My hope is not that the world will stop being broken, but that we will meet the lover of broken hearts in the midst of it. We will experience Him healing and binding us, bringing beauty from ashes, redeeming the darkness. We will cling to the hope that one day there will be no more brokenness, and every tear will be wiped away. All will be right.

So we keep walking through the brokenness, not in defeat but in hope. Hope in the one who is close to the brokenhearted.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”  Psalm 43:5

 

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Get Quiet Enough to Listen

Gina Butz faith, personal Leave a Comment

The-quieter-you-become-the-more-you-can-hear.

photo from lifehack.org

Years ago, a speaker named Dave shared a story that has stuck with me. He and his friend, Pete, had jobs with a logging company, the details of which are fuzzy to me, but it involved getting logs into a stream. On occasion, for fun, they would ride the logs down the stream for a bit. One beautiful lazy day, they lingered on the logs a bit too long and realized they had come into rough waters. So rough, in fact, that they weren’t confident they could get to shore. Dave asked Pete what he was going to do. Pete, having been a swimmer in college, decided to try for shore. Dave could see that, even with his skill, it was a struggle. He thought, “What am I going to do? I can’t swim that well!” Meanwhile, the water became faster and more turbulent.

Pete ran along shore, encouraging Dave to try to swim. Seeing the danger ahead, Dave made a break for it and began paddling as hard as he could for shore. Despite swimming frantically, he was getting nowhere. Pete continued to run alongside, shouting at him, though the words were lost in the sounds of  frenetic splashing and raging water.

Finally, Dave decided to give up. He could see the rapids ahead. He was a goner. Why fight it? So he went limp. At that moment, he could finally hear Pete’s voice. Pete was shouting, “Stand up, Dave! Stand up!”

So Dave stood up and walked to shore.

Whenever I recall this story, I see myself. I see how I frantically try to work to get life in order, to get to solid ground, when all the while it is right there underneath me, if I would only rest in it. God, for some reason, chooses to speak to us in what Elijah experienced as the “gentle whisper.” We can’t hear it when we are scrambling on our own.

This past month, everywhere I look I am reminded that I am someone who tries to overcome the uncertainties of life by grabbing them by the horns and wrestling them to the ground with all my strength. I fight to keep control over situations that are so beyond me, (the spiritual lives of our children, for example) as though if I just try harder I can conquer them. The result is a tense, overworked, overwhelmed soul who fails at being god.

It’s time I went limp.

Anne Lamott says it well, “It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend keeping things running right is not what keeps things running right.”

God calls me to resign as god, because I’m not good at it. He calls me to let go of my frantic ways and trust. Trust that He is my solid rock, my peace, my salvation, my guide. He will keep things running right. I just need to get quiet enough to hear Him.

 

“In quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

 

 

 

Learning to Respect My Limits

Gina Butz life lessons, personal 2 Comments

Limits. I hate them. I push them. I want to believe I am a superwoman who has no limits. And then every once in awhile (more frequently in recent years) God pulls me aside and reminds me that I do in fact have limits, and that they are good. I should respect them.

I sat down to write about this recently, and realized I already had about a year ago, on my friend Dayle’s blog (see what I mean about God reminding me over and over?). So here is what He continues to teach me:

Our dog Scout begins her daily exercise like her tail’s on fire. We’ve resorted to biking her – walking is just not her pace. Still, she runs so fast out of the gate that she can pull us. I watch her and think, “That can’t be comfortable. She’s choking herself.” Yet many times, toward the end of the ride, I am the one having to urge her along. I can only bike so slowly before falling over, after all. If only she had paced herself.unnamed-1

I’m just like her though. I am not a respecter of my own limits. Physical, mental, emotional – I push them all. I have a lot of passion and ambition, and those are good things, except when they lead me to strain at the leash and pull in directions God isn’t leading me. And the natural consequence? I run out of steam.

If only Scout knew that I know how far we are going every day. Then she might trust my pace. If we’re taking the short route, it’s fine for her to run faster, but we’re usually taking the long back road and it’s not for sprinting.

If only I would trust that God knows where He’s taking me. He knows how far we’re going. He knows the limits He has given me and wants me to live within them. He knows that if only I kept His pace the journey would be so much more pleasant for both of us. If only I would take the time each day to listen to what He has for me, and agree that it is good, and it is enough, and that the tasks that won’t get done will be the path for another day.

Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” I need Him to show me step by step, moment by moment where the boundaries are for me, and I need to walk humbly and obediently in them, trusting that the good shepherd knows me and knows my way.

What about you. Are you keeping pace with Him?

Hopes for My Daughter On Turning 13

Gina Butz kids 8 Comments

Megan 5x7Ok, you finally made it. 13. I have to confess, it’s felt like you’re a teenager for awhile now. You have your emotional ups and downs, and you’re mature beyond your years. That’s my polite way of saying sometimes, girl, you’re a handful. But, I am quick to remind myself that you are far from the terror I was at 13. I wish that on no one.

But whatever handful you are, it’s what you are supposed to be. This is a tough time, and I’m going to tell you that it’s going to get rockier before it gets better. Being a teenager is turbulent. I remember.

I hope it goes well for you. I hope so much. I hope that you navigate these years with confidence, not in yourself, but in who God has made you to be. You are beautifully and wonderfully made. I know you doubt that sometimes, when you look at the widow’s peak you wish I hadn’t given you, or your drive for perfection that frustrates you. But trust me – it’s ALL good. I hope you never let someone else’s words or looks cause you to doubt that truth.

I hope, as you grow and mature, you never lose your childlikeness. It’s different than being childish. Childlike means you stay open, humble, willing to learn, ok with the fact that you’re not there yet, willing to let others help you in your weak places. Jesus IMG_9452said the kingdom belongs to those people.

I hope, as you grow, that you are gentle with yourself. You’re going to make mistakes. You won’t know what you’re doing. You will have ups and downs and disappointments and regrets, but it’s all part of the process. This is how we learn, so I hope you can smile at the fumbles and say, “Now I know!” and move on with compassion and grace.

I hope you value yourself in relationships. I hope you continue to choose to spend time with people who build you up, who love you as you are, and with whom you can stand your ground. I hope you always believe that you are worth pursuing. I hope you never think you have to change to make yourself likable or attractive to anyone.

I hope you know how normal all this is. I know some days you’ll feel like you could conquer the world, and other days you’ll be shaking in your boots. Sometimes you’ll think I’m the smartest, best mom ever, and other days you’ll think I’m a idiot. Your IMG_1077emotions will run wild at times and cause you to think and do things that surprise you. I hope you take it all in stride. (I hope I do too!)

I hope you keep following your dreams. They are good dreams. I hope they become clearer and more tangible, but at the same time, I hope they never take the place of God in your heart. I hope you can hold them open to Him and trust that He will do with them what is best for you.

I hope you cling to Jesus. If there is anything I hope for you, it is this. I hope that as you grow, you see more and more how desperately you need Him, and how He is more than sufficient for everything you need. I hope you love Him with everything you have. I hope you taste and see that He is so very good. I hope this relationship guides you and brings you joy.

I hope in Him for you, kiddo. He has great plans for you. Welcome to 13. IMG_5679

 

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Promises to My Children

The Soul Needs

Gina Butz faith, word of the year 2 Comments

My husband traveled 4 out of the first six weeks of this year. I’ve built up some pretty strong “traveling husband” muscles over the years, but I have to admit it wore me down. I felt needy.

I don’t like to feel needy. Needy feels small and weak and helpless, which is scary. It feels vulnerable. What if no one wants to help me? What if they look down on me for my neediness?

Needy gets a bad rap in our world. We glorify people who are strong, self-sufficient, wildly capable, not a “burden.” We are impressed with them. You know who isn’t? God.

I have searched scripture, and never once have I found a verse where God says something to the effect of, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have managed to pull yourself up by your own boot straps and to rely on no one, not even Me! I’m proud of you for not asking anyone to step in and minister to you in your weakness. Enter your rest, you’ve earned it!”

Which is such a bummer, because I’m really good at all of that.

We tend to respond to tough situations by working harder, toughing it up, slogging through, as though God gives us tough circumstances to see how strong we can be. He doesn’t. He wants to bring us to weakness. He wants us to own our neediness.

Neediness doesn’t mean we’ve failed. It means we’re human.

As we look ahead to Easter, what always gets me about Jesus is his humanity. He got tired. Hungry. Lonely. Overwhelmed. He knew need. He knew hard. He calls us to own our humanity as He did.

IMG_7251So I’m learning, in those needy times, to say it out loud. Not to complain about it, but to call it what it is. And to invite others in to walk with me.

I’ve written about a lot of the needs of the soul, but the bottom line that we have to own is that the soul is needy. Period. The end. It looks different on different days, but the fact is: I have a needy soul. It’s how He made us. And the beauty of it is that we can answer each others’ needs with love and grace. This is the gift we have in the fellowship of believers.

Is your soul needy today? Bring it to Jesus. Bring it to others. The soul needs. It’s meant to need. And others are meant to meet it.

“Carry each others’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

 

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The Extraordinary Childhood of a Third Culture Kid

Gina Butz culture, kids 2 Comments

IMG_1747

Watching the jungle fly by on a train in Thailand

I grew up on a corner lot with a huge backyard across the street from a giant park. The world was our plush, Kentucky bluegrass playground.

Our kids grew up surrounded by concrete. The nearest decent patch of grass was a solid mile away across a busy street.

One day, when they were littles, I lamented this fact to God. I felt like our kids were missing out on a “normal” childhood by being Third Culture Kids (TCKs). His clear response to me was, “Really, Gina? Your kids have ridden elephants in Thailand and climbed the Great Wall. They have been exposed to cultures and languages most people don’t see in their lifetimes. Is this not good enough?”

He made a strong argument.

Our kids never ate Cheerios or played little league or rode in car seats (yeehaw!). I always feared that their strange upbringing would be a source of distancing from friends here in the States. Instead, it seems to have given them some street cred.

IMG_1471Megan jumpinglarge

jumping in the Andaman Sea off the black sand beaches of Langkawi

Lately, our kids and their friends have shared more stories about this sad, grassless childhood with other kids  school which has led to one girl declaring that she wants to be adopted into our family so she can travel with us (perhaps she doesn’t know she could go on her own?). As the stories come out about exotic places they’ve been and lived, the admiration climbs. It led Ethan’s friend and fellow TCK to say to me one day, “I think I’m realizing I have lived a good life.” Yes, yes you have.

In lamenting the fact that I couldn’t give our children a “normal” childhood, in some ways I missed the fact that we were giving them an extraordinary one. No, they don’t exactly know what to do with a backyard, but they can navigate an airport on their own. They can’t tell you how an American baseball game is played but they have road tripped between countries.

Being a Third Culture Kid comes with its gaps in experience, but the experiences they have are so incredibly rich that I wouldn’t trade them. I’m thankful that our kids spent their formative years in other cultures. More than that, I’m so thankful that they consider it a blessing as well.

 

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A Different Childhood

When Falling Is Good

Gina Butz faith, family, kids, life lessons 2 Comments

IMG_5915“I don’t want to fall.”
“I did it without falling!”
“I can’t end the day on a fall!”

These are the kinds of phrases that frequently came out of our kids’ mouths last week as we braved the ski hills of Vermont. To them, the goal is not to fall. In fact, a fall in their minds negates anything that came before it. Falling is ruinous.

I confess, that’s often my main objective too. At the very least, I don’t want to fall when small children are deftly skiing past me. Or watching me from the chair lift. So I happily stay on the hills that boast “Slow. Ski Learning Area” signs. No shame.

But when our focus is only on not falling, something happens to us mentally. Fear increases. Enjoyment decreases. We take fewer risks. We stick to the smaller hills. We miss out. Our falls begin to define how we view the day, rather than being blips in an otherwise fun time. They tell us we have failed, rather than informing a better way to ski.

I wish I could say this problem stuck to the ski hills. The reality is I too often take this stance in life. My fear of falling can give me tunnel vision. I don’t want people to look, laugh, judge. I want to do it well every time. I look at the risk and let fear pull me back. I forget that I’m still learning to do life, and that with bigger challenges comes bigger potential for mistakes, failure, stumbling. Most of all, I forget that falling is actually a good sign.

Falling means we’re trying. It means we’re going out of our comfort zones. We’re braving the harder paths, the new places where we’re not sure. Falling is a natural part of learning to do anything – walking, running, biking, skiing, parenting, loving, writing, friendship, life. Falling is good because it is proof that we are living openly.

So where do I need to risk falling today? Where do you?

“Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!2 Corinthians 6:11, The Message 

 

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The Soul Needs Comfy Pants

Gina Butz word of the year Leave a Comment

Ethan in hammockI’m sitting in front of a fire at a ski resort in Vermont, wearing a giant scarf, an oversized sweater, two pairs of socks, and my favorite Lucky Brand jeans. They’re my go to pants, the ones I’d wear every day if it were socially acceptable.

It’s these or my yoga pants that I look to for days when I just want to be comfortable. We all need comfy pants – the ones we slip on when we just want to relax, let it all hang out, be ourselves.

Our souls need comfy pants.

Last week I spent time working with a group of five other coaches, all of us involved in a week long intensive leadership coaching program. It was emotional work, rewarding but draining. The best part of it for me was being with people who know the real me and welcome it. In short, my soul was comfortable.

Sometimes it’s people like that, or like our new small group with three other couples. There, we all show up with our doubts and questions and struggles and we wrestle together about issues of faith, and everyone’s ok with whatever is brought. Or it’s the friends who sit down with me and look me in the eye and ask, “How are you?” and really mean it, and my soul breathes a deep sigh.

Or it’s the long walk in the woods with my dog, or the book of quotes I have that remind me who I truly am, or the new playlist on my phone filled with songs that restore me. These are places where my soul finds comfort.

In a world that so often raises the bar too high, then judges us for failing it, we need comfy pants for our souls. We need to be able to relax, breathe, let down our barriers, settle in to who we really are and be received. We need a place to curl up by a fire away from the bitter cold. We need comfort.

Where does your soul find comfort?

 

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Rejoicing in New Life

Gina Butz transition 1 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.

 

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What Parents Really Need to Hear

Gina Butz family 5 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.

 

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