Freedom – guest post at Mudroom

Gina Butz emotions, faith, identity Leave a Comment

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

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

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

The Power of a Mother’s Words

Gina Butz family, kids 6 Comments

I saw the attitude creep in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Promises to My Children


Living a Better Story

Gina Butz faith, personal Leave a Comment

waves water rising drown overwhelmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Just Show Up 

When You Just Have to Do One Day at a Time 


We Are All Glorious Messes

Gina Butz personal Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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



Either/Or Thinking in a Both/And World 

New to my blog? Click on the icons under Let’s Connect to follow me on social media. Or, enter your email to receive my new posts straight to your inbox!

Just Show Up

Gina Butz emotions, faith Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



When You Just Have to Do One Day at a Time

Stop Telling Me to Be Amazing

When You Love Someone With Special Needs

Gina Butz family 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Promises to My Children

What Parents Really Need to Hear

Either/Or Thinking in a Both/And World

Gina Butz culture, life lessons 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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



Can We Be Both?

Keep on Loving  

When You Just Have to Do One Day at a Time

Gina Butz faith, personal Leave a Comment

I wake up in the morning with the world weighing down on me. There is so much to do and goals to accomplish, dreams to make happen and lives to shape. There’s a future world cup player to develop and a hopeful rocket scientist to challenge. Before that they need to somehow get to college and learn how to be independent and how to drive (Lord, have mercy) and get jobs. There are hearts to be molded and relationships to strengthen before they go, and that’s just in the house.

Out there is a husband trying his very best to do what God has called him to do and it’s hard and discouraging right now. So there’s a foxhole to hunker down in together while we’re doing all the heart molding and relationship strengthening and independence building and future shaping. And in the foxhole there’s cheerleading and listening and believing and praying that has to happen more than it ever has, and I love it, but it’s a battle.

And out there is a world of injustices I want to right and hearts that need awakening and messes I want to sit with others in. There are books and blog posts to be written and speeches to give. There is coaching and leading and creating and loving to do.

It’s all good and necessary and I love it all more than life which is why I want to see it done well so very much.

But as I walk this morning and lift my weary eyes to God, inquiring what to do about this heavy weight, He reminds me that I am only called to do today. My energy needs to cover what is in this sunrise to sunset. He will direct it and sustain it and give me what I need for it.

He sees the future them and the foxhole us and the world of needs and He’s got it all covered. So I take all that energy I thought needed to cover the next 10 years, and I know that it is the portion He has given me for this. Not all it takes for all that I can see in the future – just enough of what I need for this day.

My soul breathes a sigh of relief and the weight lifts because it was never mine to carry. It is His. He’s got this. He’s got us. I just have to do today.


Just Enough Light

The Battle Belongs to Him 

Get Quiet Enough to Listen

Free to Be Me: Guest Post on Mudroom

Gina Butz Uncategorized 1 Comment

Version 2

I deeply desire to be an authentic person. I want to be someone others see as real, and who invites others to be their real selves too. Too often, though, my authenticity looks like what Don Miller describes in Scary Close, “I’m the kind of person who wants to present my most honest, authentic self to the world—so I hide backstage and rehearse honest and authentic lines until the curtain opens.”

This week, I have the great privilege of guest posting on Mudroom, “a place for the stories emerging in the midst of our mess.” The paragraph above is an excerpt from my post. Read it in full here! 

And if you’re new to my blog, welcome! I’d love for you to see every post, so enter your email address to get them and leave a comment to introduce yourself. I’m glad you’ve come.

Seeing Further on Issues of Race

Gina Butz culture, life lessons, personal 24 Comments

So, I’m white. I’m the kind of white where people make jokes about how blinded they are when my skin shows. Hilarious, really. Keep those jokes coming cause they never get old.

I grew up in a white, affluent town. I know there was one black kid in my elementary school, maybe more. There were a few Asians – two of them were my closest friends. As far as I could see, they weren’t treated any differently than me. As far as I could see.

The problem is, I couldn’t see very far. Racism was something that happened somewhere else, but it didn’t touch me there. I assumed that because I wasn’t racist, I wasn’t part of the problem.

At our ministry conference this summer, we talked a lot about what it means to be together as the body of Christ. One of the barriers to that is the lack of diversity among our staff; we’re not reflective of the population at large. We spent time bringing this issue out in the open, asking hard questions, hearing stories – not for the sake of being diverse, but because it is what we are called to do in Christ. We are a better reflection of who He is when we are together.

I walked away from the conference with the realization that I need to see further. Here are some of the thoughts I’ve gathered:

First, it doesn’t serve anyone to say, “I don’t see color.” I understand the sentiment behind this because for a long time I said the same myself. But I think of my Asian friends and how often they are asked where they are from, or are told how good their English is (though they were born in America). I think of my black friends, who get pulled over for driving in nice neighborhoods and asked what they’re doing there. I think of the people who shared their heartbreaking stories this summer of not being seen because they are in the minority, of imbalances of power and opportunity due to the color of someone’s skin. I need to know these stories, and enter in to the heartache of them. I must see what other people experience.

It doesn’t serve anyone to say that because I have lived in another country where I was a minority somehow I understand what it feels like to BE a minority. I spent 13 years in that position, and never did I feel I was treated poorly because of my skin color. If anything, I was envied. And if I did live in a place where I was hated because of my skin, I would have the power to leave. That’s a choice so many cannot make. It’s not about being the majority or minority culture, but about what culture dominates. Being white brings privilege. I must see my privilege.

It doesn’t serve anyone to say, “If you just stay on the right side of the law,” or “if you just work hard and make the most of your opportunities,” you’ll do well. I’m seeing more and more that people can do everything right, but if you have the wrong color skin you can be sitting in a Bible study at church and be killed. It is hard to admit that we have a system that is biased toward the white majority; even harder to admit that I benefit from that system. I may do what I can to treat people equally, but I am still sitting in a position of dominance in a system that keeps others subordinate. I must see what that gives me that others do not have.

I think racism grieves the heart of God, because all of us are created to be a reflection of His glory. We are all image bearers, every last one of us. He sees it all. I want to see what He sees.

I would love to say that I am not a part of the problem, but the phrase that keeps running through my head is, “Silence is not neutrality.” Silence is complicity. I can opt out of this conversation, but so many cannot. I need to opt in because God wants us together. I need to see further.

So I’m making some choices about how I will do that. I will choose to keep posting about issues of race, even though already I have discovered that many white people don’t want to talk about it. I have a list of books to read to educate myself on issues of race (I welcome suggestions!). I am starting to brush up on my Spanish (how do people hold several languages in their heads at once?) so that I can more fully engage with the large population of people in Central Florida who speak it. I want to engage more with people of other ethnicities and to hear their stories. I hope to be a learner. I hope to be someone who listens well, is humble, is apologetic. I want to do it because I believe that what God says is true – we are better together.


For a great reflection on this topic, please read this:

When You Realize You Are Privileged