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 

Keeping Our Souls Well

Gina Butz Uncategorized 1 Comment

“It’s alive!” This thought, like the ravings of a mad scientist, leapt to mind when I saw this yesterday:

IMG_6994It doesn’t look like much, but trust me – I had inadvertently done my best to kill this mint plant all through the summer and fall. Completely unintentional, I assure you, it’s just that I am not a good keeper of plants. The fact that it isn’t dead is nothing short of miraculous.

I bought this plant last summer at a farmer’s market in Minnesota. I dragged it with us to Colorado, then back to Orlando, where I put it on our front patio. In the Florida heat, it struggled to survive. I often forgot to water it. When I did, I might have drowned it a little. It wilted, and parts of it even died, but I didn’t take time to prune it. It seemed to want to survive, though its leaves were never as large as they initially were. It grew a little crazy, but not strong.

I finally wised up and looked online to see what mint plants actually need to survive. Turns out they need morning sun and other environmental factors I wasn’t providing. In fact, I could have been writing a book on how to kill a mint plant in 10 easy steps. I was not treating it well.

So I moved it to our lanai, where it drinks in morning sun and where I see it often enough to remember to water (but not drown) it. I had to cut it back to its roots essentially and hope for the best.

And now, weeks later, it is sprouting.

It’s no coincidence that I was reading Soul Keeping by John Ortberg when I saw my plant. God felt I needed a visual.

This mint plant is my soul. I can so easily be careless about the environment I put it in. I feed it what it doesn’t need and neglect to give it what it does. I forget about it. I think maybe it will just grow and flourish on its own. My soul wants desperately to thrive.

I’ve been thinking a lot, as I read this book, about what I must do to keep my soul well. I want to be a good keeper of my soul. There is pruning that needs to happen, a change of environment perhaps. Certainly greater diligence to its health and care, putting it in a place where I am aware of it more often. I made a list of what feeds my soul and what does not. I hope to shape my life more and more to fit that environment, so my soul can be fully alive.

How is your soul today?

Promises to My Children

Gina Butz family, life lessons 4 Comments

family photoKids, I know you have a lot of life ahead of you. I know you have big dreams and hopes for how that all will go. There are so many things I would love to promise you about that life.

I wish I could promise you, Megan, that you will become a world famous women’s soccer player and that Ethan, you will invent robots that change the world. I wish I could promise that this world will always love you, that no harm will ever come to you, that you will have an easy path, that life will be fair, that you will be happy and carefree.

I can’t promise any of that.

Here’s what I can promise you:

1. I promise that you will always be loved. I love you so much sometimes I can’t stand it and it spills out all over you in hugs and kisses that you don’t necessarily want. Other times it’s harder because our sin gets in the way, but I promise that I will always make it my aim to love you well. And when I fail, which I will, remember that you are unconditionally loved by the One who made you. His is the one opinion that will never change. He’s wild about you. Let that be your solid place, even more than me.

2. I promise I will love your dad. He’s a good man, your dad is. I’m blessed. But neither of us is perfect and marriage is hard work. I promise I will love him and fight for what we have and show you that it’s all worth it to have someone who is with you for the long haul. We want that for you.

3. I promise that God will always be with you. I wish I could say I always will be. I know I will always try, but I know there will be times that I cannot be there, or should not be there for your own growth. He has no such restrictions. He will always be there with all you need.

4. I promise I will get all up in your business. Hey, I’m your mom. So yes, I’ll ask about who you hang out with and what you talk about, and I’ll put restrictions on what you can watch and play, and I’ll look at what you’re emailing and browsing online. I’ll stick my nose in your room when you aren’t expecting me. I’ll make you eat your vegetables and do your chores. Get used to it. It’s cause of #1.

5. I promise that I will let you go your own way. I know that might seem contrary to #4, and I have to admit it’s hard for me to write, but I know you need to be independent from us. I have ideas about who I’d like you to be, but those don’t matter. What matters is that you be you. I know there will be many times when I need to just let you go, maybe even let you fail miserably. I will. Or at least I promise I will try.

6. I promise that I will always be FOR you. At every competition, every job, every relationship that means something to you, everything you attempt, I will be your cheerleader. I’ll be the last one standing even if everyone else has stopped watching. I will believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself. I am your biggest fan.

7. I promise to be with you in the fight. I have told you that I can’t keep you from all the hard, painful, unfair experiences of life. That’s true. But I promise that whatever you are going through, I will be all in. I will weep with you and be angry with you and pray with you and fight the good fight with you. We will walk the hard roads together.

7. I promise that I will keep trusting God for you. I know you think I’m a good mom. Thanks for that. But the fact is, I’m not enough, and I need to own that. I need to recognize where I am powerless and trust in God to grow you in ways I just can’t. I will keep prying open my sticky fingers to trust you back to Him, believing that He is doing a good work in you.

8. I promise that I will make mistakes. I learned a long time ago that I can’t be a perfect mom, but that’s not what you need anyway. You need a mom who is human and makes mistakes, but gives herself grace and picks herself up to move on. And when I mess up, I will apologize. I can model that for you. Thanks for always being gracious when I do.

9. I promise I will point you to Jesus. At the end of the day, He can give you so much more than I can. I hope you always believe that. I’m never going to stop telling you and showing you, because when you find a well in the desert, you take others there. He’s living water, He’s life. He’s the best I can offer you.


New here? Check out some related posts:

What Being a Soccer Mom Teaches Me About Parenting

It’s Worth It 

Parenting is Hard 



Gina Butz home, life lessons, personal Leave a Comment

IMG_6962As I stand in my kitchen this morning, preparing for Thanksgiving, I can’t help realizing that our time overseas has given me a new and deeper appreciation for certain things I didn’t have before. I made a creme de menthe pie yesterday. Long story short, I had to make it twice. All it required to remake it was a quick trip to the store for two inexpensive items. Overseas, I had to make the pie shell, make the marshmallow cream myself (with precious imported gelatin), make the whipping cream (purchased at great cost at the western grocery store 30 minutes away) and spend a few minutes convincing a person at Starbucks to give me three shots of mint flavoring. I don’t take for granted that we can buy all the ingredients we need to make whatever people requested (in this house, in addition to the pie, it was green bean casserole and sweet potatoes with marshmallows). Not only are they available, but we can afford to buy them. In short, life is easier and cheaper here.

Not only that, we have a giant oven in which to cook food, and our microwave doubles as a conventional oven so I can cook them all at the same time. Our oven overseas was “big” because it wasn’t just a toaster oven. It wasn’t until our last three years there that we owned a refrigerator that was anything more than a glorified dorm fridge. That was ok though – chances were there was somewhere in your house cold enough to thaw a turkey. The problem was storing any leftovers.

And while we’re disappointed not to be spending the holidays with family, we have come to know the joy of celebrating with friends who feel like family. They, too, know what it’s like to not have this abundance. Today, we’ll be grateful together for all we have here.

As challenging as some of those experiences were overseas, I’m grateful for them too. They reminded us that the best gifts are not tangible. So maybe we didn’t have a turkey or the other traditional foods we knew. We have so much that cannot be taken from us – salvation, joy, eternal life, love. All these other gifts are above and beyond. My heart is thankful.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had these thoughts back on this side of the ocean. Here are a few other reflections:

Absence Makes the Heart Grateful 

A Year of Thanks 

The Battle Belongs to Him

Gina Butz faith 2 Comments

IMG_4646We are at war, and I am a lousy general.

There are issues in the world worth fighting for. The hearts and minds of our kids. Strong family ties. Justice for the oppressed. Basic human rights. I don’t stop there though – I have all kinds of ambitious ideas, expectations and goals for myself, my family, my world. I approach them as hills to be conquered.

I am a fighter. I’ve never been one to sit on the sidelines (remember, I’m the overly enthusiastic sideline coach). The problem is that my weapons are not effective.

I fight in my own strength.

I’d like to think I’m a pretty strong woman. I am, by most standards. That’s my downfall. When I see these issues around me that I want to change, I tackle them with all my might and wrestle them to the ground. I come at them with my best arguments, lofty goals, high energy, intentionality. What looks like fierceness is often nothing more than a fearful attempt to control the outcome of a situation. If I just keep trying and try hard enough, I can conquer them, right? Right? Tell me I’m right.

I’m wrong. These problems are bigger than me. They take more than I have. Others are simply not my battle to fight; they’re my ideas, not God’s. Most of them are spiritual battles, led by an enemy bent on our destruction. Who am I against that?

I’m picking the wrong weapons and the wrong battles.

I am not meant for this war, but He is. Lately, I’ve been convicted of my need to lay down my feeble weapons and turn to His power. He sees the true battles and sees them better than I do. He knows what it takes, and He has it. He knows what must be hard fought and what is not meant to be. My best weapon is not inside me but in praying the fight back to Him, trusting that He will do what needs to be done. He wants to fight for me. My job is to step back and let Him.

Do I stop fighting altogether? No. There are some problems worth pounding the table about. But there are some hills that I am not meant to climb. Those I leave to God. I want to fight as one who knows her place as a lowly foot soldier, trusting in my commanding officer’s weapons, wisdom, guidance and strength, not my own. I want to follow His orders on when and where to fight, and with what. The battle is the Lord’s.

“The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.” Exodus 14:14


This isn’t the first time I’ve written about faith. Check out these past posts:

Where Faith Happens 

Faith for the Small Life


Gina Butz faith Leave a Comment

I’m not a volleyball player.

I’m not much for any organized sports, actually. In most I am, at best, a liability. It’s ok. I am who I am.

When I was asked to join in a volleyball game at our women’s retreat a few weeks, I gave them fair warning, “I will not add anything to this game.” I thought surely they would regret inviting me.

Within minutes, I discovered this was not the case. In fact, I soon realized that there was no level of mediocrity which would warrant dismissal from the court. It wouldn’t even get a sideways glance. We were all equally average or below. Our only objective was to keep the ball in the air. And it was fun. We celebrated. We cheered each other on. We laughed. It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing volleyball.

It was a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God.

welcomeWe’re not invited based on merit. It doesn’t matter how good or bad we are, we are welcome. When you mess up, there’s grace. Lots of it. And instead of defeating you, it will make you want to get back up and try again. We celebrate. We cheer each other on. We laugh. It’s good. Welcome.