Sunday, May 5, 2013

Before Motherhood: 6 Things I Wish I'd Been Told

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Happy Mothers' Day in advance to all you mom-friends!

This post is part of a Mothers' Day series (over at the blog of a new friend) called Thanks to Motherhood.  

Upon considering motherhood, all its ups and downs and the ways that God continually encounters and shapes my heart through it all, I wrote this list of 6 things I wish I'd known as I stepped into motherhood.

So, all of you, whether you're already a mama, or waiting to be one, or not even sure if you ever want to be one, this is for you.

I wish I had known...

1. That motherhood would bring me to the absolute end of myself. That sleepless nights and exhausting days and seemingly insurmountable obstacles would stretch me beyond the outermost rim of myself, of my capabilities, of my coping skills. And that that’s okay.

2. That motherhood would be the most fulfilling task I’d ever attempt – but only if I embraced each moment of it with a wide open heart. Only if I dove into RIGHT NOW, head first. Only if I chose to be present to my children, to my life, instead of wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else. That living present and engaged was what would make motherhood absolutely. awesome.

Today my writing is being hosted by Sarah, over at Girl Grows Up. You are hereby invited to click on over to Sarah's place to read the other 4 things I wish I'd been told before becoming a mom. :)

Blessings, my friends!

PS. Be thou not confused - I am still "unplugged" over here! :) I wrote this post in advance and have just stopped over here today to activate the link to Girl Grows Up.  See y'all in 2 weeks!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why I'm Disappearing [And Stillness DOES Get Easier!]

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I was afraid it was flaky.  I was afraid of what people would think.  I was afraid I wasn't strong enough if I admited my need.

For what?

Solitude.  Quiet, still, unplugged solitude.

Over the last month or so, I've found in myself a need to pull back.  To disengage from the blogosphere, and even from Facebook, in order to spend more focused time alone with the Lord.  I was a little afraid to give in to it.

But I've realized - I need to give myself permission to unplug.  And not just once, but regularly.  I need to establish this as the rhythm of my life.

Guys, I feel Him drawing me deeper.  Asking me to allow Him to expand my heart, to "grow me" into places I didn't even know existed.  I sense Him challenging me to be braver, to take risks in the way I write - books, blog posts, songs - and in the way I engage in conversations with those He puts before me.  

I don't even know how to articulate everything I feel, but God is stirring my heart. Things are shifting inside me.

I'm excited.  I'm scared.  I'm anticipation-filled.  I'm in awe of Him.  In love with how He draws me to come away with Him, then challenges me to trust, risk big, and step out onto limbs.

I'm saying yes.  Not without trembling. But a yes is a yes in His heart, and courage isn't the absence of fear, but taking purposeful steps of obedience in the face of fear.

I know I'm being rather vague, and I think I'm okay with that for now.  I really don't have clear words yet to describe all He's doing in my heart.  I might not even be close to having words for it at this point.

But I wanted to share it with you as best as I can right now.  

I also wanted to let y'all know that I'm going to disappear for a couple of weeks, starting tomorrow evening.  

**With the exception of one quick post sometime around Mothers' Day. I'll be guest posting at the blog of a new friend then so I'll post here to point y'all in that direction.**

Otherwise, no blogging, and no Facebook.  I'll be unplugging from those things in order to do some other writing and some heart-work with the Lord.

I will still be available via email (

Thanks for grace in this season, friends.  And for your prayers.  They mean so much to me.  (Side note: I will also be getting away this weekend to work on my book - your prayers for this time away are SO appreciated!)

By the way, Stillness Manifesto is getting some fun feedback.  I've so enjoyed reading your comments.  I've also received a few questions and some "I tried it for the first time and this is HARD!" type feedback.

YES.  It is hard at first.  Stillness is SO countercultural and counterintuitive and counter-our-FLESH.  Our flesh naturally bucks stillness because we are so much more comfortable with business - both internal and external.

2 quick things about that:

1. Stillness really does get easier the longer you practice it.  I personally spent time in stillness before Him daily for a month before I realized - Oh my goodness, my heart NEEDS this time so much.  I began to find LIFE in it.  I was surprised by how MUCH God was resourcing my heart as I just dialed down and stilled my heart before Him.

2. Pressing through the hard times is so worth it, friends!  Remember: when it feels like nothing could possibly be happening because you're so distracted, you can trust that He is honoring your heart-intent to tune in to His presence.  God is at work in our depths as we still our hearts before Him, whether we're aware of His activity inside us, or not.

I am so looking forward to spending extra time before Him in these next couple of weeks as I unplug.  While I'm unplugged, know that you all will be on my heart and in my prayers.

Blessings to you, my friends!  You are so loved.  Thanks for tracking with me through all of my processing today.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How Interruptions Aren't Really Interruptions

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Pile of blankets on the floor next to my son's bed.  Leftover evidence of the nights we've spent sleeping there (me one night, my hubby the next).  Or trying to sleep.  Feverish, croupy, coughing kiddo makes for a looonnnnng night.

Messy house.  Pillows strewn all around.  Toys that've migrated out of the playroom and been abandoned in various and sundry locations.  Blanket here.  Kleenex box there.  Empty apple sauce pouch that didn't make it to the trash.  Dish mountain in the sink, waiting to be tackled.  Extra hours of Curious George on the playroom TV. 

Such is life in the Butler household with a sick lil' guy.

We stayed home from church yesterday morning.  Dearly missed worshiping with our church family.  But honestly, something in me willingly settled down into just laying low with my family.  I enjoyed it.

If I'd Choose to Stop Feeling Interrupted
And then there was this quote that somehow ended up in my inbox yesterday morning (of all mornings), from this post over at The Better Mom.  The timing was hilariously perfect.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.”
~C.S. Lewis
Hello?!  Did someone install spy-cams in my house to observe my life so they'd know EXACTLY what post to send me THIS morning?  I think I laughed out loud at how this post met me precisely in the midst of my exact circumstances.

When sickness invades our home and puts our "normal" lives on pause, it can feel like the greatest of interruptions.

Before that post hit my inbox, sometime in the middle of the night while I was rocking my sicky boy, my heart began to shift.  I went from hating the fact that I was awake and feeling sorry for myself because I'd only slept maybe a 10 minute stretch all night long, to thanking God.

Thanking Him for this opportunity to cuddle with my little guy.  Acknowledging that he won't be little much longer, that before I know it, he'll be too big to sit on my lap and let me rock him.

We hear these things often as moms of littles - from ladies in the grocery store, from our friends whose kids are older.  "Cherish every moment.  They grow up so fast."

Maybe we roll our eyes.  If not our physical eyes, then maybe we roll the eyes of our heart?  Is such a thing possible?

But it really is true.  They DO grow up quickly.  And God offers us grace to cherish these moments, the here and now, when we turn our hearts toward Him in the midst of them.  These "interruptions" of our "real" life that are REALLY our LIFE. 

And there's LIFE to be found in them.

There's LIFE in the extra cuddles and kisses that come with a sick little one.  There's LIFE in the laying down of my own life to serve my family.  There's LIFE in the sleepless nights when I turn my heart toward the Father, acknowledging that He sees my giving tylenol and stroking hair and propping up and adjusting covers for the 12th time, and all my rocking, rocking, rocking.

He sees all this laying down of my life, and receives it all as worship.  A pleasing fragrance to His heart.

There's LIFE to be found when I choose to stop feeling interrupted and wholeheartedly embrace this moment, the one I've been given.  

When I jump into RIGHT NOW with both feet, my heart anticipating divine encounter.

God's waiting in the right now, wanting to reveal Himself, to offer grace for the "interruptions" that make up our real life.  

Grace to stop feeling interrupted and be fully present - to God, and to our lives.

Jump in with me today?
P.S. - My first monthly e-newsletter will come out later this week, straight to your inbox if you're subscribed.  I'm so excited to share this with you!   In the newsletter I'll be able to share a little more intimately than I can on a public blog.  If you're not subscribed to receive it and you'd like to, you can go here to subscribe. (Only takes a few seconds.)

***When you subscribe to the newsletter, you'll also have the option to download my FREE e-book, Stillness Manifesto: A Call to NON-Action (Complete with NON-Instructions).  I just launched this book a week ago and it's getting some fun feedback.  Interested?  Click here to see what others are saying about Stillness Manifesto.***

PPS.  Want to click over to the blog?  It's right here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

8 Creative Ways To Increase Your Awareness of God's Nearness in the Day-to-Day

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Hi friends!

The turning of your heart toward the Father in the midst of your day-in, day-out routines and circumstances absolutely delights His heart.  Focusing on His nearness can also dramatically alter our days: they are transformed from feeling mundane, to being filled with anticipation of divine encounter.  

God is always pursuing our hearts. In every single moment and every single circumstance of our lives.

Here are some creative, practical suggestions of how to increase your awareness of God's nearness and His pursuit of your heart in the midst of the plain ol' NORMALness of life.

1. Start out by leaning in.  Before your feet hit the floor every morning, pull your heart-priorities into order.  Confess your dependence on Him for every breath and every moment.  Trust Him to strengthen you and encounter you throughout your day.  Choose, in those first few moments of your day, to tune your heart in to His nearness and His tender pursuit of your heart.

2. Worship, worship, worship.  Playing worship music (hello,!) and singing from my heart to the Lord helps cut through a cranky atmosphere in our home, especially in the mornings when my son and his... ahem... mommy are often whiny and out of sorts.  Worship really does - it helps change the atmosphere.  The atmosphere of our homes, and the atmosphere of our hearts.  Declaring and agreeing with the truth of who God is aligns our hearts underneath that truth.  It changes our perspective and the way we experience the events of our day. (Important thought: If worship music is becoming just background noise, it often helps if I turn it off for a while and use other methods to stay aware of God's presence and voice.)

3. Meditate on Scripture.  Write it on sticky notes, note cards, etc.  Play recordings of it.  Choose verses in which the Lord highlights aspects of His heart toward you or His presence with you, and post them around your house.  Memorize and meditate on them.  Contemplate His heart as He reveals it to you through His Word.  (Verses I love:  Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 42:8, Psalm 40:1, Deut. 31:6, Phil. 4:13, Matt. 11:28-30, Psalm 18, Psalm 139.)  I'd love to hear your suggestions of other verses in which you've encountered God's heart toward you in the comments.

4. Pray quick prayers to refocus your heart on His nearness.  Again, post sticky notes around your kitchen or office or wherever you spend the most time.  Write quick, one-sentence prayers on them that you can pray in 10 seconds or less, in the midst of whatever else you have going on, that will help reorient you to God's nearness and His pursuit of your heart.  Example: "Father, thank You that whether I'm aware of You or not, You are lovingly attentive to my heart and every detail of my life."  (Examples of more quick prayers to refocus your heart on His nearness can be found in my new (FREE!) e-book, Stillness Manifesto: A Call to NON-Action  (Complete with NON-Instructions).

5. Take note of His tangible nearness, and thank Him.  Pause periodically throughout your day.  30 seconds here, 2 minutes there.  In that brief window of time, ask the Lord to remind you of a moment or two thus far in your day during which His presence and/or voice was real and tangible to you.  Thank Him for making you aware of Him in those moments.  Repent for the moments in which you weren't tuned in to His nearness and ask Him to increase your awareness of Him.  We have not because we ask not, right? (James 4:2)

6. Your work can be worship.  Consider your daily tasks, whether you're parenting, cleaning, cooking, working a job, caring for an ill parent.  Whatever your season, whatever the Lord has put before you to do, turn your heart toward Him frequently in the midst of it.  Ask Him to remind you that He's there, to grab your attention periodically.  Remind yourself that when you do your work with excellence, as unto the Lord, He receives it as worship.  And He is right there, closer than your next breath, empowering you and offering grace for every. single. thing. He asks of you.  He invites you to step by faith into doing all of it in His strength and not your own.  And then, by faith, hear His "WELL DONE" as He whispers it to your heart in those moments.  Your lifestyle of worship delights His heart SO. MUCH.

7. Respond to Him in the hard stuff.  During your day, when a particular moment or circumstance is stressful or frustrating or makes you downright mad, pause.  As difficult as it may be to wrangle your emotions in that moment, turn your heart toward the Lord and briefly ask Him to show you how you can respond to Him in the midst of THIS moment, of THIS circumstance.  "God, what is your invitation to me right now?  How can I respond to you in this?"  He will be faithful to show you.  Responding well to His invitations in the midst of the difficult moments will dramatically change the way you experience those moments.  Situations that would otherwise have made you want to pull your hair out will become opportunities to experience His grace and peace and empowerment in a new way.

8. Practice stillness before the Lord regularly, as a spiritual discipline.  Make this a regular piece of your time with the Lord, in addition to prayer, worship, scripture, etc.  It will probably start out feeling like just that - a discipline.  But as you cultivate stillness as a regular piece of your life in God, resting with Him in this way will begin to be something that you look forward to.  God will use these times with Him to bring so, so much LIFE to your heart.  Experiencing God in times of stillness has revolutionized my walk with Him.  I've learned to focus on and know, in my gut, His nearness to me in those moments of stillness.  As I've learned to be aware of Him in those moments, that awareness has begun to carry over into the rest of my days.  I'm learning to be still and in tune with His whispers on the inside when I must be busy on the outside.  Stillness before Him becomes a heart atmosphere that, the more we practice it externally, the more we can carry it with us inside.  And stillness can be practiced in as few as 5-10 minutes a day.  

For 30 pages of info on learning to cultivate stillness as a piece of your life in God, I invite you to download my free e-book, Stillness Manifesto: A Call to NON-Action (Complete with Step-by-Step NON-Instructions). Just click the link and enter your email address to subscribe to receive my monthly e-newsletter.  When you confirm your subscription, you'll receive the private link to download the e-book.  

You can, of course, unsubscribe from my list at any time (though I do hope you'll stick around!), but the e-book will be yours forever and ever. :)

Blessings to you all, friends!  To those of you who are new subscribers in the last few days, WELCOME!!  I am so genuinely happy to have you all here.  May you continue to find blessing and encouragement for your heart here.  

And may you experience God's clear, tender leadership of your heart as you learn to tune in to His nearness more and more, day by day.

You are so loved by your Father.  So, SO dearly loved.

***Are there other ways you've discovered that help you to stay aware of God's nearness to you in the midst of your day-to-day life?  Please comment and share with us!***

If this post was helpful to you, would you consider sharing it with others?  Here's a quick link to share via Facebook.

(Want to click over to the blog?  Here ya go!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

3 Invitations From God on the Road to Forgiving Community Wounds

Sweet community in my living room.  Fresh air to my heart.
True Body-of-Christ community is wonderful and life-giving.

But if you've done this whole "life together" thing for very long, you know that it can also be one of our greatest sources of pain, because every community is made up of broken, messy, imperfect humans.  

And I don't think we'll ever do it exactly right or be free from all of the messiness.

In community, opportunities to forgive and extend grace to our fellow humans are numerous.  I've personally had more than a couple of devastating experiences within the context of church community.  

I know stories like mine are common.

Past wounds from community that go unhealed or unforgiven create a filter in our hearts that skews the way we experience our current community situations.  
But God has some of His sweetest invitations for us hidden within these painful places, and within His subsequent challenge to us to forgive.

As we intimately encounter our Father's heart in the places of pain in our own heart, whether from the past or the present, we can begin to see situations, and every heart involved, from His perspective.  

It's from that place of intimacy with Him that we can walk forward into true forgiveness.  And simultaneously, into freedom and healing.

Here are the 3 step-by-step invitations that I believe God lovingly extends to us as we walk through pain in the midst of doing life together with other believers:

1. He asks us to look away from our hurt and the ones who've done the hurting, and fix our eyes on Him.

He is the One who is unchanging, even when our dearest relationships are shaken.  He whispers to our hearts: Look to me. Take your eyes off of your circumstances, and let Me bring peace and stillness to your scarred heart.  Trust Me.  Meditate on My character, My faithfulness to your heart, My unconditional love for you.  Find your identity in My heart toward you, and not in the words of those who've hurt your heart.  My voice over you is the one that matters right now.  

2. He calls to us to hold our hearts open before Him.  To choose not to numb the pain by shutting our hearts down.  To trust Him to be the healing balm that tenderly covers our hurting places.

We have a Father who deeply loves us and is passionately committed to our wholeness.  We can rest in this truth.  After community has hurt our heart, we may need to spend lots of time alone with Him for a season, pouring out our heart and our pain and our tears before Him.

Raw, openhearted, honesty with God that flows out of a place of trust even in the face of great pain is one of the sweetest forms of worship to His heart.  

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  -Matthew 5:4 
"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." -Psalm 34:18

I believe there is a unique intimacy with God that comes in seasons like these when we allow ourselves simply to mourn before Him for a time.  When we choose not to "shove" our raw emotions, but instead, to pour out our heart to a Father who is tenderly attentive to our every cry.   

These moments in my personal history have forever changed and deepened my walk with Jesus.

After a time, He takes our hand and leads us out of that season of acute pain and we begin to move forward with Him.  

Healing comes in stages.

3. He invites us to share in His heart, see with His perspective, and experience His compassion for those who've wounded our hearts.

This can be the toughest part: remembering that our battle isn't against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), that it's not ultimately people who are out to destroy our hearts - it's the enemy.  People are broken, hurting, and they hurt others out of the unhealed places in their own hearts.  

As difficult and painful as it may be to ask, seek God for His perspective on those who've hurt you.  Ask Him for His heart of compassion for them.  Ask Him for wisdom to know how best to love and bless them (Matthew 5:44).  

Knowing and experiencing His heart toward those who've sinned against you is another facet of the intimacy with Him into which He invites us as we walk toward healing.

Out of this place of experiencing the heart of God for those who've hurt our hearts, real, genuine, gut-level forgiveness can begin to happen inside of us.  And our hearts can move toward freedom.

When the pain has been deep, forgiveness usually comes gradually, in layers.  It takes time.  

But it does come, as we surrender our hearts to His healing process within us.  As we look at the offenses against us in light of the cross, in light of the scandelous, extravagant goodness of the Gospel.   In light of all that we've been forgiven.

He is so committed to walking this process out with us.  Our hand wrapped in His... our heart wrapped in His.  And the intimacy with Him that comes from sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings brings the deepest comfort, intimacy, and healing.

This is not a "you'd-better-suck-it-up-and-choose-to-forgive" kind of forgiveness (though forgiveness IS a choice).  This is forgiveness that's motivated out of the secret place of intimacy, out of trust in the Father to cover and heal our wounds.  It's forgivness that comes as we move in close to His heart and experience His empowering grace.

Let's trust His committment to heal our hearts, friends, and walk forward into forgiveness together.   This is the path to true freedom.

**Pulled this out of the archives and spruced it up for today. :) Thanks for extending grace!  Busy last week working on my new e-book, which is launched, FREE, and available for download when you subscribe to my monthly-ish newsletter here: 

Stillness Manifesto is a call to rediscover the practice of stillness as a facet of our life in God.  Experiencing Him in this way has radically changed my walk with Him, and I am so excited to share these truths, ideas, and non-instructions with you!


**RELATED: How I Lost My Best Friend [God Crafts Hope in Secret Places]**
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