The “Jah Jah” Song

We were eating breakfast this morning and, as usual, Miles was talking about a million words per minute.  The poor kid is so quiet in public that no one would ever guess how truly capable he is of talking your ear off.  I was about to start tuning him out when he said, “And, Mommy, who was it that wanted to sing the ‘Jah Jah’ Song again?”

I was stopped in my tracks.  It has been a week, to say the least.  Both my grandparents were hospitalized, our downstairs flooded Sunday night, and it seems like it’s been one thing after another proving that, quite literally, when it rains it pours.

But then my sweet 4-year-old asked me about the ‘Jah Jah’ Song.  

You see, the ‘Jah Jah’ song is a little family story that was told to me by my mom, and that I, in turn, have told to my son.  The story goes that, when my mom and her two younger brothers were children, they and their parents were on a road trip and were singing songs.  The youngest, Mark, said he wanted to sing the “Jah Jah Song”.  Guesses were thrown out, but nobody could figure out what song he was talking to.  Finally, Mark broke down in tears sobbing, “The ‘Jah Jah Song!”.  At last something clicked and somebody finally realized what he was talking about…”I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy”.

My heart was warmed that my son would remember such a story.  “It was Uncle Mark,” I told him. “When he was a little boy.”

“But now Uncle Mark is all grown up, right?” Miles queried.

A shadow passed over the memory, “Well, yes, he did grow up.  But Uncle Mark is in heaven now.  He died when I was a baby.”

Miles fell silent for a minute.  I knew he was thinking.  He’s been wrestling with this concept of dying and going to heaven.  He knows that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, but, quite honestly, he doesn’t want to leave his home and his “cozy bed” and move anywhere.  Not even heaven.

At last he spoke, “But, Mommy, I will get to see Uncle Mark when I go to heaven.  Isn’t that so exciting?”

“Yes, Baby, it is.”

Lord, even in the midst of chaos and hardships, let me see the good.  Let me have the faith of a child.  Most of all, show me how to shepherd these two precious little hearts you’ve placed in my care.  Help me to point them to you.

 

The Stillness and the Truth

Some many days I feel like I’m just treading water–struggling to keep afloat but not really going anywhere.  Waves come at me over and over, but for the most part the water is still and there is no current.

I used to love being still.  I treasured it.  These days, however, more often than not the stillness is suffocating…and inside my heart is anything but peaceful.

Can I be honest with you for a moment?  Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom is a really lonely place to be in.  Many of my days don’t even involve conversation with another adult.  Amidst the loneliness, I am constantly being bombarded with thoughts that I am not enough…that other women do so much more ministry and work and reaching out to others than I do.

Yet, even with all the stillness of not really “going” anywhere, I struggle to keep my head above water.  My days are full of repetitive, mundane, and yet inexplicably stressful tasks.  My house is never clean like I want it to be, and the laundry is never done.  I can’t even keep up with the “simple” tasks of a stay-at-home mom, let alone find time for “ministry” or “work”.

But then, God speaks to me like He did to Martha.  “Caitlin, Caitlin,” He says. “Do you not know that I have called you for such a time as this?  You worry about many things, but one thing is needed.  Your identity and worth and daily goals should be from Me alone!”

And I look into the beautiful blue eyes of my children, and realize that in the bustle of trying to “do enough”, I have neglected to really look and listen to them lately.  I have forgotten what my days are supposed to be about…training and teaching these sweet little gifts in the fear of the Lord.  I have forgotten to make this the sole focus of my days, and have forgotten to delight in this work as my life work for this season.

And I look into the pale blue eyes of the man who won my heart, and realize that I’ve also neglected my relationship with him.  I’ve forgotten that spending time with him is a must and a need.  I’ve forgotten that it’s okay to stop working and just sit and watch a show with him on the rare day he comes home early from work.  I’ve forgotten to seek out and do what would help him better to do his work.  I’ve forgotten to seek and pursue him.  In my self deprecation I have forgotten that he could care less if the house is spotless as long as it’s tidy.

And I look around at the wonders of creation, and realize that I’ve neglected my relationship with the Creator of it all, my First and Truest Love.  I’ve neglected to sit with Him, listen to Him, and delight in Him.  I’ve forgotten how to just sit and open my eyes to the gifts He’s given me.  I’ve forgotten to see those gifts around me and within nature, and to thank Him for them all.

 

Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful calling You’ve set for my days in this season of life.  Forgive me for focusing on what I’m not doing instead of on what You’ve called me to do.  Help me to find joy in this season of life.  Help me to find joy in the stillness and repetitive tasks.  Thank You, Lord, for the gift that is this stillness.  

 

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Introverts…God Made You Brave

Would you believe me if I told you that I used to throw up before going into a new group where I didn’t know anyone?  Because that is 100% completely true.  On the way to the airport the morning I flew out to the conference where I ended up meeting my future husband, I puked in my dad’s car.  And that wasn’t the first time…nor was it the last time.

I was born an introvert, through and through.  I liked people, but I got my energy from being alone.  And I was painfully shy.  My younger sister still reminds me of the time our mom sent us into the gas station to pay for drinks and I made her do it because I was too afraid.  As I turned from a child into a teenager, I relied on others to introduce themselves first and seek me out.  The mere thought of having to go up to a stranger and start a conversation invoked incredible anxiety in me.

And then there was the time that my 17-year-old self sat in my mother’s car crying, because I was too afraid to go into my first college class.  It was silly, and she made me go anyways, but I promise you I really was deathly afraid.

Then somewhere in the space of the next three years, I changed.  Or rather, God changed me.  Over and over and over again He put me into situations that were out of my comfort zone.  But the funny thing was, each time I stretched out of my comfort zone, my comfort zone only grew.

Today, I feel pretty comfortable going almost anywhere and talking to almost anybody.  It’s still a challenge for me and I’m still most definitely an introvert.  When it was my turn to lead the small group discussion at Bible study last month, I did so with a knot in my stomach.  I honestly still hate calling people on the phone, and I still hate public speaking, but I can obviously do them both when necessary.

What’s my secret?  I’ve come to realize that God is so much bigger than any piddly little fear I may have.  Furthermore, when I focus on my fears, I become self-focused rather than God-focused.  When we are so focused on our own fears and anxieties and insecurities, we’ve taken the focus off of God and put it squarely on ourselves.  My guess is that, if you’re an introvert, your world probably does revolve greatly around yourself and your enjoyment of alone time.  And there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert if God made you that way.  But I don’t believe that He made you an introvert so that you could use that as an excuse to be self-focused.  If anything, He wants to use your introverted ways to show you how big He is…to show you that He’s got you right in His hand, and that He can be trusted.

To quote Nelson Mandela (although, to be honest, I feel like I’m quoting Princess Diaries here…anyone in my generation know what I’m talking about?):

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

When we give in to our anxieties and let them keep us from acting, going, or saying, we may just be doing exactly what the devil wants us to do.  He knows that if he can keep us living according to our comfort zone that we will never live life fully as God intended.  He knows that if he can keep us blaming our introvertedness for our inability to act, that we will never step up and realize the bravery and courage that God has instilled in us.     

We all have fears and insecurities and comfort zones.  But, friends, God didn’t create you to live in those fears and let them dictate your life.  He never intended you to use your introverted self as an excuse to keep you from living and working for Him.  God didn’t make you to dwell and act in fear.  God made you brave.

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 “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:10-12

 

*PS: This post is the combination of some thoughts I’ve been mulling over for a while, and the Bible study I’ve recently studied…Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God.  It’s been very challenging for me…and I highly recommend it!

 

Caitlin

Dear Single Girl: True Love (and Real Men) Wait

I grew up in the area of True Love Waits pledge cards, Brio magazine, and Superchick singing about princes starting as frogs.  Saving sex for marriage was practically drilled into my head.  Looking back, one strange thing I remember was that there was a huge emphasis on “if he loves you, he’ll wait”.  Notice, the idea is that he’ll wait because you want to…not because he sees the value in it or wants to wait himself.  Over and over I read lists of ways to tell a guy “no”, tactics for making sure you didn’t “go too far”, etc.  I remember distinctly feeling like the overarching message was that guys, even good Christian ones, had no self-control.  It was up to us women to set and stick to standards…up to us to not let our raging hormones take things too far.

In certain Conservative homeschool circles, this idea has been taken as far as to include both sexes.  Apparently nobody can have convictions and standards and stick to them…hence the need for these people called “chaperones”.  Because, we all know that when we get married all temptations and the need for self-control suddenly disappears.  NOT!!!

You know what, though?  It doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it.  Ladies, I want you to know that before my husband and I were married I never had to tell him “no” or “stop”…never had to argue to him the merits of “waiting”.  You see, the truth is that if a guy actually has a real, active relationship with the Lord and is pursuing Him daily, he won’t be some brainless, hormone-controlled, sex-obsessed ape.  A guy that’s really seeking the Lord will have his own convictions and standards.  A guy worth giving a second glance will be actively fleeing temptation on his own.  Sure, we all slip up and make mistakes, but a man who has the Holy Spirit living within him will never pressure you, rely on you to keep things in check, or be unable to control himself.  A man after God’s own heart will not just submit to your convictions in this area…he will take the lead himself.

Bottom Line: A man worthy of your heart will be controlled by the Holy Spirit living within him…not by his hormones.  Don’t settle for less, Ladies.  

5 Truths About Post Partum Depression

5ppdMy husband recently suggested that we go in with his family on renting a lakehouse for Super Bowl weekend like we did last year.

Honestly…the idea sounded awful to me.  Last year during that time I was knee deep in the mire that is Post Partum Depression and didn’t yet recognize it.  I was frustrated with everyone, didn’t want to be around people, and was dealing with this heavy grey fog that I couldn’t explain or shake.  Just thinking about it puts my stomach in knots.

I cannot begin to describe how wonderful it is to not be in that fog anymore.  Yet, my heart goes out to those currently dealing with it, or thinking that they might be dealing with it.

Post Partum Depression is surrounded by a a lot of lies and hearsay.  Today, I present you with 5 truths about PPD…from someone who has been there herself:

1.) Post Partum Depression doesn’t make sense.

You may be incredibly sleep deprived or you may be getting a solid 8 hours every night.  You may be dealing with a ton of stress and worry, or you may have absolutely nothing big to be worrying about.  It doesn’t really matter or make a difference.  The worst part about PPD is that you feel a certain way in your heart, knowing full well that there is no reason that you should be feeling that way.  Why would you secretly want to run away from that sweet baby that you are so in love with and that you know is a gift?  Why would you feel hopeless when new life and hope is constantly in front of your eyes?  It just doesn’t make sense.

2.) Post Partum Depression manifests differently in different women.

Some women experiencing PPD may want to run away from their babies.  Others may be unreasonably fearful of even letting them out of their arms.   Others may switch back and forth and become extremely moody.  The common thread is that you know in your heart that something is not right…something is off.

3.) Post Partum Depression is not your fault.

One of the biggest lies about PPD is that women who have it are at fault.  They don’t eat enough nutrients or get enough sleep.  They focus too much on themselves.  They don’t focus on themselves enough.  They don’t get out of the house enough.  They aren’t thankful for the gifts they have.  They haven’t turned to God to help.  Or, heaven forbid, they didn’t encapsulate their placenta and consume it.

My friend, all of these are lies.  Post Partum Depression is a mean, hormonal mess that no woman ever deserves.  Simply put, we live in a fallen world and sometimes are bodies just don’t work right or regulate themselves as they should.  Those messed up hormones can control our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to a terrible extent.

4.) Post Partum Depression is a bully.

My biggest memory of my struggle with PPD is that I felt oppressed.  Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness overwhelmed me and I felt no power to shake them.  PPD can make you do terrible things like scream at your children or call your husband ugly names.  It can paralyze you with fear to the extent that you’re afraid to step foot outside the front door.  It can make you feel like a terrible mom for not feeling “connected” with your baby.  PPD is a bully in that it intimidates you and makes you act or feel in a way that you don’t want to.

 

5.) Post Partum Depression isn’t forever.

It may not seem like it right now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  There is help.  Hormones do shift back to normal.  The fog is not unending.  Take it from a mama whose been there.  Know that you’re not alone.  I made it through…and so can you.

 

If you’re struggling with Post Partum Depression, or think you might be, please PLEASE speak out and get help.  Don’t try to “fix” things or trudge along alone.  If you need help don’t hesitate to email me at thelifenotmyown@gmail.com . 

 

Weariness, Lies, and Truth

Three o’clock in the morning rolled around and I had yet to log more than 15 min of sleep.  My three-year-old was just getting over being sick, and now my 1-year-old was down-for-the-count…and she was not pleased.  Every time I’d finally get her to sleep, a coughing spell would wake her up again.  It didn’t matter what I gave her or what humidifier I ran.  She was just not sleeping…and, consequently, neither was I.

I was feeling raw and entirely spent.  Saying that I felt incapable would be an understatement.  I was empty and vulnerable…and the thoughts poured in.

I can’t do this.

I’m a failure as a mom.

I don’t know how to take care of my own children.

I’m a bad mom.

Life with babies is endless weariness.

I’m not cut out for this. 

All these things lies from the devil, but in that moment I believed them.  Those words of poison sunk down to my very soul.  If not for the grace of God, I would have drowned in them.

You see, it was in that moment that God spoke.  He reminded me that these thoughts were not from Him.  Instead, new thoughts began to swirl in my mind.

I can do this through Him.

He will work in and through me.

He has equipped me with what I need to be these babies’ mom and to train them up in Him.

He will be my rest and will give me exactly the amount of sleep I need.

Life with babies is full of beautiful, precious, sweet little moments and gifts.

He has created me for this…for such a time as this.

And then my heart became thankful.

Thank You, Lord for making me their mother.

Thank You for entrusting them to me.

Thank You for the gift of getting to care for them when they’re sick.

Thank You for their healthy little bodies fighting off sicknesses like they’re supposed to do.

Thank You for the beauty and gift of being emptied and poured out.

And from my journal the next day:

“Motherhood isn’t supposed to be easy.  If it was, where would be the growth?  Where would be the unfathomable mystery of so much joy and fulfillment coming from so much emptiness? 

“Today I am tired and so terribly weary.  I’ve gotten next to no sleep in the past few days.  I’m at a loss to know what to do.  I feel like I literally can’t go on.  I can’t take one more night.  And no, I can’t…But You can.  You fill me and give me exactly what I need.

“‘The Lord is my Shepherd…I shall not want.’ ~Psalm 23:1~

“Lord, may I always be confident that I shall not want for anything.  Not even sleep, peace or strength.”

If you find yourself weary, press into Him.  His promises never fail. 

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The True Path to Change

“Yahweh your God is among you,

a Warrior who saves.

He will rejoice over you with gladness.

He will bring you quietness with His love.

He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Sometimes God puts a verse in front of you and you just can’t shake it.  This verse has been burning on my heart and mind lately.  It appeared first in a Bible study, with the instructions to write it down and meditate on it.  Then it began showing up everywhere. My son’s Bible memory verse CD, a book, a song I used to like.  I began to ask God “why?”.  What did it mean for me?

Lately, other things have been burning on my heart as well.  Thoughts, convictions, prayers.  Presidential candidates to decide between.  Helpless babies being deemed not-yet-human and sold.  “Christian Conservatives” being revealed to be deceptive hypocrites and liars.  Syrian refugees desperately needing help.  Students shooting each other at my Alma Mater.

Then, in the midst of all this, Zephaniah 3:17.  But why?  What did it mean?  And more specifically, what did it mean God wanted from me?

Saturday morning there was quiet at my house for once.  My husband was gone hunting and my children’s chests were rising and falling in much-needed sleep.  I opened my Bible and read all of the words Zephaniah penned…and suddenly it all made sense.

This book?  It is us.  America.  “Land of the Free”…and land of the prideful, self-sufficient, and godless.

“I will completely sweep away everything

from the face of the earth–this is the Lord’s declaration…

those who turn back from following the Lord,

who do not seek the Lord or inquire of Him.”

Zephaniah 1:2,6

We Americans often think we’re special.  We think our nation is perfect.  We boast in ourselves and seek the wisdom of the world, yet if something doesn’t change, our judgement and fall is at hand.

“This is what they get for their pride,

because they have taunted and acted arrogantly

against the people of the Lord of Hosts.”

Zephaniah 3:10

Has anybody watched daytime television lately and see how Christians are treated?

“Woe to the city that is rebellious and defiled,

the oppressive city!

She has not obeyed;

she has not accepted discipline.

She has not trusted in Yahweh;

she has not drawn near to God.

The princes within her are roaring lions;

her judges are wolves of the night,

which leave nothing for morning.

Her prophets are reckless–treacherous men.

Her priests profane the sanctuary;

they do violence to instruction.”

Zephaniah 3:1-4

Our land fits this to a tee.  Yet we Christians aren’t really turning to the Lord either.  We think that by voting for the best man that meets all of our criteria, sharing videos of Planned Parenthood leaders on Facebook, and taking a heavy stance on the gun control issue that we can somehow fix our country.  We seek to legislate and bully change, when the true problem lies in people’s hearts.

To quote my ever-wise mother, “We do not have a gun problem, political problem, Democrat vs. Republican problem, or Obama problem. We have a spiritual problem that can only be addressed by filling the heart with the Holy Spirit of God.”

That’s where the good news comes in: God also offers hope.

“On that day you will not be put to shame

because of everything you have done

in rebelling against Me.

For then I will remove

your proud, arrogant people from among you,

and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain.

I will leave a meek and humble people among you,

and they will take refuge in the name of Yahweh.”

Zephaniah 3:11-12

Remember how man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart?  Perhaps we’re looking for answers in all the wrong things.  Perhaps instead of pridefully voting for whom we deem to be the best speaker, who would make the best “leader” in the world’s eyes, and who meets all of our “criteria”, we should be voting for someone who is humble and meek, with the Holy Spirit indwelling in them.  Perhaps we’re seeking to change people’s minds through prideful, vindictive Facebook posts instead covering them with prayer and Christ’s love.  Perhaps instead of trying to fix everybody else or win them over with emotion-driven spiritual movements, we should be humbling ourselves, seeking God, and letting Him change our own hearts.

Don’t hear me wrong…we most certainly need revival and change in America.  It’s just that revival and change begin in our own hearts first.  Don’t stop praying.  Don’t stop seeking the Lord.  Don’t stop sharing the gospel.  In fact, pursue these things more than ever.  Let’s just stop trying to fix things through our own knowledge and strength, and instead start humbling ourselves and asking God to change things His way, through people’s hearts.

True hope and change can only come through humbling ourselves and admitting that we can’t…but He can.

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