About the Author

Wife, mom, worship leader, writer, & friend, Dana's passion is walking beside people as they learn to discern and respond to Jesus in day-to-day life.

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  1. I sat on the bus to work reading this and I cried.
    I am 50 and for the first time in my life I am feeling the hard emotions of the first 20 years of my life associated with Christmas.
    It hurts, it’s raw, it stings, I should be over it, it brings me to my knees!
    Thank you for this post. Thank you for permission to be real, to feel what I’m really feeling.
    Bless you x

    • Ruth, thanks for your honest words this morning. As you’re brought to your knees this Christmas, may you find yourself held, seen, known, comforted by Him.

      Blessings and great grace to you.

  2. Thank you for I lost my daughter I’m September and it is so raw people think you can just carry on but you cannot xxx

    • Joy, oh friend- I’m just so sorry. Father, may Joy sense your nearness and know the sweetness of your comfort in this season. Even as she mourns, may her heart find rest in the tenderness of your heart toward her.

      Grace to you in this season, friend. He will hold your heart…

      ((hug))

    • I so get that, Shelli. Yes, He’s in control and He fills in our gaps — the “shoulda coulda woulda” gaps. I’m so thankful He does. And thankful for YOUR encouragement here. Blessings to you, Shelli.

  3. To numb the pain is to numb the joy. Oh friend, you are so right. Embracing the painful things of life is the only way fully feel the most beautiful things. Lovely, heartfelt, and grace- full.

    • Yes, sad…

      But His comfort is the sweetest thing in the world… and not just sweet, but fully, utterly, thoroughly redemptive. He’s good in the midst of pain and loss.

      Blessings to you, Karyn.

  4. Our foster son was with us from 19 days old to 20 months. He went home 3 months ago. We still see him and I talk to his mom but I am overwhelmed with the loss of him and the poverty he lives in. I just don’t understand the why’s and then things get worse when a little girl we hoped to adopt is, instead, going to a very young aunt, herself fresh out of foster care. My heart is so heavy with it all…It’s hard to understand. I’m trying to stay thankful and know the blessings but its just so hard.

    • Stacy, how similar our stories are. I’m so, so sorry, friend. It IS hard to understand. Horrifically painful. Seems so unjust.

      Girl, I wrestle – OH how I wrestle. Hanging on so hard to God’s goodness, choosing to trust His heart toward me AND toward the children we fostered, despite not yet seeing the full outworking of His goodness in their lives.

      Wish I could hug you this Christmas. I know your pain is so fresh. May you sense His arms around you. I’d love to connect more – you can reach me via my blog if you’d like.

      Great, unexpected, surprising GRACE to you in these days, friend.

  5. Thank you Dana for sharing this piece of your story. We all have those broken places where God is the only one who can fix the cracks and jagged edges. Praying for you in this season of joy and sadness. Aren’t those emotions so often coupled together?
    xoxox

    • Yes, He’s the only one who can fix them… and it’s amazing how He can bring healing and peace without anything changing externally. How His love just comes in and covers and restores and mends… And yes, those emotions are SO frequently paired. It’s bittersweet, and it’s in embracing the bittersweetness that I’ve found I encounter Him most deeply. Just…. ugh. Sometimes there aren’t words for how painful life is or how sweet He is in the midst of it.

      I love you my friend. Really, so blessed by you. xo

  6. I’ve been trying to numb myself to the alone-ness. To the hurt. To the desire to be loved and wanted…and to BELONG.

    And then I read this…and started fighting tears at work. I’m so tired of hurting. But maybe He is trying to draw me close through the pain? If only I knew how to let Him hold me!

    Thank you for the reminder that He is near to those that ache.

    • Dearest Dawn,

      I pray that you find the peace of Gods love, I to know how you are feeling. Draw close to Him, and know that I will be remembering you in my prayers that you will find comfort and peace in His Love.

      God Bless You and Merry Merry Christmas.

      • Dawn and Robin,

        I’m so thankful for your honesty here, ladies. May you both find yourselves deeply held by Him in this season. You’re so right Dawn – He IS near when we ache. Praying right now that you’ll experientially know His nearness.

        Blessings and love to you both.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing your heart, Dana. I’m sorry for your pain. It must be so devastating. I wish you joy in spite of pain this Christmas.

    Thank you for your insight to allow ourselves to feel our pain instead of numbing ourselves. I always try to be strong for everyone else around me. I wish I would allow myself to grieve more and to “live wide open.”

    • Trudy, thank you so much. God has brought me a long way. I’m thankful.

      May you be blessed this Christmas with a sense of freedom to BE before Him… and be held. Your words have blessed me today.

  8. Dana,

    A newbie to your sight and yet I feel like I’ve made a friend! My husband and I have a 32 year old son who is mentally ill. We have not seen him in so long I cannot even remember. He was a lively, intelligent and beautiful boy and found the world to be his friend as he got older, instead of his ‘daddy GOD’. My heart aches for all of you ladies. But this I know, the Lords disposition towards all of us is Goodness! He has given my husband and me multiple opportunities to minister and be around 30 somethings! I even mentor a foster high school girl who soon will be adopted by a wonderful couple. Keep watch, and listen for HIS gifts to your hurt and pain! It took us a long time, but we finally tuned into what HE would have for us. We love our son and pray often for him to come back to HIS love and then to us as a family again. But until then, we are given what we need to be useful in HIS kingdom as servants. Watch the JOY return !! It really does! Keep us all Lord from doubting the richness of YOUR love for us!

    • Wow, Dianna. Just wow.

      I sense the depth of your grief over your son and yet the way you’ve surrendered your heart to the Lord in the midst of pain, and allowed Him to bring you into a place of serving and loving and experiencing Him as you lay down your life for others… it’s so, so beautiful. And so encouraging to my heart. Thank you so much for sharing. YES, He’s good no matter what. YES, He brings renewed joy. I’m so thankful!!

      Thankful for His goodness that’s evident in your life and in your words here. 🙂

      (PS – I should also maybe clarify that this site, (in)courage, is DaySpring’s, not my personal site, and they have graciously allowed me to guest post here today. 🙂 I’m really glad you’ve found it though – (in)courage is a continual source of blessing and encouragement. My personal site is http://www.danalbutler.com and I’d love to connect with you further there!)

  9. Words I truly needed to read as my heart does ache over not having my husband home for Christmas this year. THANK YOU!
    Merry Christmas.
    Beth

    • Oh, I can only imagine, Beth. May you and your hubby both sense God’s grace over your hearts even in the midst of the ache. Merry Christmas to you too!

  10. As I read this I bit my lip, doing everything I could not to cry. I feel this, it makes my heart ache, I have not lost what Christmas is truly about in my heart but all the rest of it makes me feel empty, crushed, and alone.. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m here and there is a reason why God has brought me to this point and time. There are days where I just don’t even know where to start, where to find my bearings, where to just breathe, but I get up and I try. You can’t fix things all by yourself, and if someone doesn’t want them fixed you can’t do it by yourself. I’ve been broken the last 2 years, but I trust God completely with his plan, I don’t get it, I don’t like it sometimes at all, but I will follow his will for me…I Thank You for just letting me know that’s it’s okay not to be okay, and that His Mercy and His Grace will sustain me through the changes…God Bless

    • Father, I ask that you’d hold Robin’s heart in this season. That in the broken places, she’d know your strength, healing, and comfort in ways that surprise her. Remind her heart in these days of the fierceness of your commitment to her – that you hold her up and hold her together.

      Bless you, Robin.

  11. Dana, your heart is open and beautiful. Your words here matter to so many other hearts. You’re a gift to share them. Personally, I’d been missing your words, so I’m thankful to be pulled into God’s grace and love like your words often do for me.

  12. Thank you so much for this post, Dana. I cried through most of our Christmas service last weekend. Loved ones lost, kids we’ve never had…this time of year just touches a tender spot in my heart. And it’s comforting to be reminded that’s okay. XO

    • Holley, my heart aches with you. So thankful for your honesty here, and for your continued openness with this community of ladies through your journey over the last year. Praying Jesus tangibly holds your heart in this season.

      Your encouragement is such a blessing. Thanks for your heart.

  13. Dear Dana,
    Thank you for being there. Yes, I find myself lonely & sad during the holidays. My husband divorced me in 2005, and my 2 young sons are “Men” now. They have their own lives. I try to win them over by offering gifts or food to visit. I stay busy with doing God’s work, sometimes volunteer in helping out, friends or at church. I really do know that the Lord is with me! No matter what. I am a registered nurse, but am on workers comp for a work injury. The word of God says count it all joy when we go through trials, because they strengthen our faith and hope.
    Sincerely
    Olivia

    • Olivia, thank you for trusting us with a bit of your story. I’m so sorry for your loss. Just so sorry. I’m so glad you know He’s with you… may you continue to know the blessing of His comfort and companionship through this Christmas season.

      Grace and peace, friend.

  14. Oh, Dana. Thanks so much for this post. It is comforting to know that someone understands. I went through a painful breakup a year and a half ago with someone I loved and wanted to marry and am healing so very slowly. We started dating over the Christmas holidays, so this time of year is full of memories and also brings a reminder that I’m not able to add his name on a stocking and hang it by the mantel this year as I had hoped. My heart aches for what I lost, but I know that God loves me and will bring healing in His time.

    • Oh… I’m so sorry, Rebecca. What a heart-wrenching loss. I ache for you as I read your words. I’m so glad you know God loves you and that you’re trusting Him for healing. Praying right now for you, that in this season, even deeper than before, you’ll know His affection for you – His delight over you that fills your broken places and answers the questions your heart needs answered. May you find heart-rest in the fierceness of His commitment to your life, your future, your profound fulfillment and joy.

      Hugging you in my heart. xo

  15. Dana,
    Thank you so much for sharing your broken heart. So many of my friends do not understand the empty chairs and the missing children. I never thought I’d be here. Most of us don’t. God is using you to lift our burden by sharing. He really does give us angels “with skin on”.
    Bless you,
    Clara

    • Clara, I get it. I get the empty chairs and missing children. I’m so sorry, friend. I’m so thankful that my sharing today lifts your burden in some small way. Jesus gives us His Body – the church – so we can walk together, help carry each other through this heavy stuff. I’m so thankful. May you know His sweet comfort this Christmas… His tangible presence that brings healing and peace and even joy.

  16. I am writing this through my tears. This post, these words have hit me straight in my heart. This year I face the fifth Christmas without my late daughter and while the smile may be on my face as I celebrate our saviours birth with my children my heart aches for the one that is missing.

    • Oh…

      Sara, I read your words and I sit here asking Jesus for something to say, for words that will wrap around and somehow embrace your heart through computer screens and across miles. It’s hard to come up with words because if I were face to face with you I probably wouldn’t say much – I’d want to just listen, hold your hand, offer a tissue, just be present and ache with you.

      5 Christmases, and the ache is still acute. Other children to enjoy, yet longing for the missing one. I get it. I hear you. It’s valid and okay and I hope you sense permission from the Lord to mourn even still. I don’t know if you need to hear this or not – but the fact that you’re still grieving doesn’t make you ungrateful for the life He’s given you. It just makes you human… and a prime candidate to intimately encounter the heart of God – our God who’s close to the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18).

      I so pray you sense His invitations to know His nearness and comfort in the places where your heart feels raw in this season.

      Hugs to you, friend. Thank you so much for trusting us with your heart tonight.

  17. Dana, thank you for this post and for sharing your heart with us. I have missed reading your thoughts, and I hope you are having a lovely Christmas season.

  18. heart full of my both joy and equal measure sorrow, since our son was killed at his college $$ job, the week before he turned 19. Thank you for writing this piece of true “how it is”.
    He’d be 31 now….his best friend married his own sweetheart since age 14, she so lovingly sent ( mind you, I cherish and delight in this) me a photo message, of their darlin’ 3 yr old & just turned one yr old…with Santa. What joy!! that we are, as family. What -I have to hide it -deep sorrow, missing what we thought was to be ours..Brian’s someday wife and family…..it’s like this all of the time. Joy/ache
    We had to move away, from our surviving two, their so loved spouses, our young grandchildren…. Who are salve to our bereaved hearts….in order for my hubby to have a job, after a corporate “reorganization” ended his 22 yr career of integrity, honor, hard work ethic.
    My hearts feels the empty chair, the missing wife, those missing grandchildren.
    And it rejoices with who we Have, equal in measure! Even when it bubbles up with delight! the ache remains…my grief shadow. Oh, Brian, my son….

    • Oh Deb, I have no words. Just know I ache with you and hold you before the Lord in my heart today. And that I value your trust and your sharing of your story here.

      ((Big hug))

  19. Dana, I am sorry for what you have been through. I too am really suffering with the holidays. My grandchildren have been ripped out of my life for no good reason..i am dealing with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. I hate the holidays and cannot wait for them to be over. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

    • Mary Ann, I’m so sorry for that loss of relationship. I can only imagine how devastating. May Jesus draw you in close in these days. May you know His comfort and the hope that comes from trusting His heart toward you, His commitment to your life.

      Blessings and grace…

  20. Oh how much I needed to read this today. “God never leads us through pain apart from a corresponding invitation to intimately experience His nearness.” I lost my mom 7 years ago this coming January and every year I go through the motions of the Christmas season while having the expectation that something bad is coming. Thank you for giving permission to really feel and grieve, because that hole will always be there and the only way to live is to be authentic, before Him and those who love me.

    • YES, Lisa, authenticity is the only way to live fully alive. As you embrace living fully in this season, may the joy come in and begin to eclipse the pain and fear, even just the tiniest bit. You’re brave, sister. The way you’re trusting Him in choosing to live wide open – know that it blesses His heart and inspires mine.

      xo

  21. Thank you! It is so comforting that many blogs (& now yours) tell us to just live where we are in this jolliest of Seasons… My heart still aches, holidays or not, and I appreciate hearing that it is okay and that God surely is enough. It amazes me how easily I forget that sometimes.

    Thanks Dana

  22. Thank you for the encouraging words. For 21+ years I have been trying to get pregnant and have my own precious miracle. I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and had to have a complete hysterectomy Sept 27, 2013. My cancer is now gone but my heart is so raw and days I grieve the loss of that baby I will never be able to have now. The Lord has placed it on my heart to make burp clothes and give them to my doctor to bless new moms with. Making them has been a source of healing and joy but still leaves me feeling empty and lost at times. I know God has a bigger plan and purpose for my life. Thank you for letting us know it IS ok to grieve. God bless you!

  23. last night, after getting up at 3 in the morning due to being woken up out of my sleep just in tears because it is the first Christmas without my father in law and just after finding out we can no longer have any more kids. My heart has been aching and yet through your story it blessed me and reminded me just where I get my joy and hope. Thank you for sharing your story.

  24. Dana,

    Such a wonderfully written post! My heart aches some this year. Not for the loss of children, but for family. Lost my mother 4 years ago last August and now my dad is beginning to show signs of dementia. It is so hard to watch as your parents age. Even harder when you have to be the parent to your parents.

    Prayers and blessing for everyone. May God give you a blessed and Christ-filled Christmas!