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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Dear Single Girl: What The Bible Says About What Matters in a Man

There is nothing sweeter and more innocent than a couple in the blossoming stages of young love.  The other day my 3-year-old asked me why I was smiling so big, and honestly it was because I was reading a text from a friend who is in the throes of it.  She was experiencing what almost every young woman hopes to experience.  Sadly, though, as the years inch ever forward, I still find myself with many, MANY single friends still aching to experience that and marry the “man of their dreams”.

I don’t think their singleness is their “fault” by any means, and I absolutely do not think that marriage is the end-all goal for a woman.  But I do know the growth and happiness it’s brought me, and I know that many of these single women do long for and dream of marriage.  Yet, there seems to be a general pickiness that is throwing road blocks in their path to love and marriage.

Sometimes the pickiness comes from their own high standards and expectations.  Other times, the pickiness stems from their parents and friends having too high of standards for them.  Don’t get me wrong…there’s nothing wrong with having high standards!  Only, sometimes I wonder if these standards are really biblical…and whether these women might be much happier and much less single if they stopped holding fast to man-made “spouse shopping lists” and relied instead on just the Bible.  

Another friend of mine, who is very happily married, shared with me the three things her father and her thought were important in a spouse for her.  In almost every case, if the answer is “yes” to these three things, then there is very little that wouldn’t be able to be worked through.  I think these things are highly biblical and I share them with you today:

1.) Does he love the Lord and have a real relationship with him?

Frankly, I think this one should be an obvious necessity.  Why would you want to be married to someone who didn’t serve your Savior, who will not be a spiritual leader in your home, and who will not be nodded and prodded by the Holy Spirit?

But if you need more convincing than that, look no further than 2 Corinthians 6:14:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 

If marriage isn’t a yoking together, then I don’t know what is.

But, really, if he’s seeking the Lord first and you’re seeking the Lord first, then what can’t be worked through?

But how do you know he has a real, active relationship with the Lord?

Obviously there are a lot of fakers out there (Josh Duggar, anyone???).  But the Bible is pretty clear how we know the truth from the lie…look at the fruit.

Luke 6:45-45 says:

“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Sometimes a lack of fruit is the sign that something isn’t quite right.  A guy can talk a great talk, and even talk up his Bible reading and memorization…but what fruit is there in his life?  What ministries is he involved in?  Furthermore, does he not just attend a local church, but is an active member in it (Hebrews 10:25, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31)?

Finally, watch for the little signs of fruit.  One of the biggest assurances to my heart of my husband’s salvation is after we’ve had a fight.  I know that the times when I hold my tongue and just pray, he will undoubtedly come back to me and apologize and make things right.  The Holy Spirit is constantly tapping on his shoulder, and he’s listening.

2.) Does he love you?

Again, this seems like an obvious one, but it means so much more than that feeling of being in love that’s a crazy mix of emotions and hormones that people call “being in love”.  That’s usually what starts it, but from there it becomes a daily choice to love and cherish you, no matter what.

But let’s look at what the Bible says.

Ephesians 5:25, 28-33a (and I love these verses in the Amplified):

“Husbands, love your wives [seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love], just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…Even so husbands should and are morally obligated to love their own wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own body, but [instead] he nourishes and protects and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members (parts) of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become [e]one flesh. 32 This mystery [of two becoming one] is great; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church. 33 However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of lovingkindness]…”

The Bible doesn’t say, “Husbands, make sure you have an amazing job for your wife.  Husbands, be perfect for your wives.  Husbands, be able to stand on your own two feet without your wife.”  Its merely says love your wives, sacrificing yourself for her daily.

No man can love you perfectly as Christ does, but if he’s genuinely trying and loving you out of a love for Christ, then you’ve got a catch indeed.

3.) Will he take care of you always?

I’m not talking about providing a big house for you and making all of your dreams come true in that area (although that’s not necessarily a bad thing either!).  I’m talking about he will always work hard to provide the necessities plus some for you and your family.  Titus 2:5 says that the older woman are to exhort the younger women to be “keepers at home”.  It would follow, then that a husband is supposed to be able to provide so that his wife can do that.

1 Timothy 5:8 says that:

 “…if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

So, obviously there has to be a balance.  He can’t just sit on his rear end all day and expect money to fall off of trees, nor should he expect to be able to provide for all of his families needs by working a minimum wage job his entire life.  Yet, providing isn’t the same thing that most equate it with today.  The Bible says absolutely nothing about a man having to be ambitious, have high aspirations, or have a “good” job.  (Because we all know a “good” job means nothing more than a very well paying one.)

Look closely at other verses in the Bible as well.  The Proverbs 31 woman is bringing in money for her household  (I’m not advocating that every woman has to work, just that her bringing in money didn’t make her husband “lazy” or a “bad provider”).  The Proverbs 31 woman blesses her husband and he gains because of her.  He is lifted up to a place of honor and respect because of her.  My guess is that he wouldn’t be where he was if he didn’t have such an amazing wife standing behind him, helping and supporting him.

There’s also Matthew 6:25-34, that tells us not to worry about what we’ll eat or wear, but to seek first the kingdom of God.  And the qualifications for church elders and overseers in both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus mention that he must not be a lover of money or greedy for gain.  1 Timothy 3:3 says specifically that he “must not be a bully, but gentle”.  How many “successful” men in the world today could be considered “gentle”?  Are we looking for men that are successful in the world’s eyes, or God’s?

Finally, I would add a fourth standard…

4.) Do you love him and want to marry him?

He may be a great guy and he may be crazy about you, but don’t even think about marrying someone unless you feel the same way about him too.  Make sure you know your heart.  Make sure you know that you could honor and respect and love him.

Furthermore, think carefully about whether the dreams and callings in your heart line up with his.  If he feels called to be a missionary in Africa and you feel called to raise a family in your local city, then there’s a problem right there.  Do your God given missions line up?  Can you serve God better together rather than apart?

Think of Priscilla and Aquila in the Bible.  They were an amazing husband and wife team that served the Lord together (how many women in the Bible are mentioned by name alongside their husbands?).  They were a team in occupation (Acts 18:3 says that they were tentmakers), they were a team in their knowledge and proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 18:26), and they were a team in their sacred calling and mission.  Do you feel like you could serve together in that way?    (This article is a really interesting read for more on them.)

So think hard about whether you want to marry him.  Going all the way back to Genesis 24, Rebekah was given the ultimate choice whether she wanted to go and marry Isaac (a man she had never met) or not.  Her parents wanted her to stay longer, but she agreed to go right away.  It was her choice.  Her heart.

Your friends and parents and even the guy you’re dating may love you dearly and want what’s best for you, but they aren’t you.  They don’t know the secret things God has laid on your heart, and they certainly can’t know what’s in your heart.

So don’t marry a guy just because everyone thinks you’re “perfect” for each other.  Don’t marry him even because he’s crazy for you.  Marry him because you love him and want to marry him.  Marry him because you know without a doubt that God is calling you together, for His ultimate glory.

 

 “Then Adam said,

‘This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.’

 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

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Of Young Love and No Longer Being a Newlywed

My sister-in-law is getting married.  It’s all romantic and rushed in a we-can’t-wait-to-be-married way.  Then there’s the handful of others in my life getting engaged or planning futures together, in the midst of young, blossoming love.

All of it has me thinking back on our own love story.  Five years isn’t a long time to be married, yet that first year of marriage seems like ages ago.  It’s hard to recall what life was like before houses, babies, and crazy work hours.  It’s harder still to remember what it felt like to first be in love: the butterflies in the stomach, the ache to just be near each other, and the promise that you’d never take for granted the gift of not having to say goodnight.

In five years, life happens.  Some days you feel like ships passing in the night, and you most certainly take for granted not having to say goodnight, because only getting to see each other then just isn’t enough.  And one day you realize you’ve almost forgotten what it was like to be that young girl in love with a boy and willing to give up everything you’ve known to be with him.

And yet, the love hasn’t faded.  The giddy, early love has perhaps, but it has been replaced by a constant, truer love.  A love that takes work and sacrifice.  A love that ebbs and flows with the days, but is steadily getting stronger and stronger.  A love that is untouched by a big fight or a season of long work hours.  A love that delights in the easy times, and perseveres in the harder ones.

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Thanks to some airline miles and saving, Andy and I were able to get away for a few days for our 5th anniversary.  It was so weird to be without the kids for that long, and we certainly missed them, but we needed that time with just the two of us.  Truth be told, I’m not the same girl that first fell in love with that cowboy.  She was just a shadow of the woman God is molding me into.  He’s not the same boy I fell in love with either.  If we didn’t take the time to get to know each other over and over again as we grow, we’d find ourselves waking up one day not knowing the person we were married to…and that’s a very dangerous place to be in.

Sometimes I may forget what it was like to be nervously holding hands with Andy, watching love stir and grow in my heart for him.  My love for Andy and with Andy may have its seasons and changes.  Yet, he’ll always be my cowboy and I’ll always be his girl…and that’s enough for me.  


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The Bakers and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

*Disclaimer: This story is completely true and happened about a month ago.  It is not fabricated or elaborated upon.

When we went to bed last night, we were expecting a good nights sleep, but when we woke up this morning, we wondered if we’d even gone to bed.  The sometimes-amazing-usually-decent-sleeper was sick with a fever and was up every. Stinking. Hour.  The toddler played his normal game and climbed in bed with us at one point.  And we had a new puppy that needed to go to the bathroom. A lot.

So then the husband went to work and I (Mama) was left alone with a screaming, unhappy baby, a high energy little boy, and a brand new, not-potty-trained puppy.  
I tried to give the baby a bath to cool her fever down, but the cold water just got her mad.  I hate screaming.  And then I went to get her dressed again and the boy said “I stepped in poop”, and apparently the puppy had had an accident and Miles had stepped right in it.  I hate poop.  And the baby was still crying.  I hate crying.  Finally the puppy was put in a box, because I couldn’t find the dog crate and couldn’t handle her anymore.  But then she chewed a hole through it and ran downstairs and peed.  I hate dog pee.
I had to take the baby to the doctor and had no time to look for the puppy crate, so I locked the puppy in the laundry room with the box pushed against the baby gate at the top of the stairs.  The doctor said that Nora had an ear and eye infection.  Her eyes were crusty, her ears were hurting, and she was just plain unhappy.  
So then we ran into Walmart for puppy toys to kill time until the baby’s antibiotics were ready.  Only, when we came out, the pharmacy still didn’t have it ready, and I had to call the doctors office.  Again. 
And then I decided to go home, only to find the husband upset because the dog had pushed the box aside, squeezed through the baby gate, and ran downstairs and pooped and peed and ripped stuff up.  So I promptly found the crate.  
And the husband was even more grouchy because he had had a bad day at work and had to break up a fight.  Between grown men.
We had words.  But then we apologized and all drove into town for medicine and carpet remover and greasy fast food.  And Miles almost had an accident in the car, but thankfully he made it. 
It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  My mom says that all moms have them.  Do you? 

I’m So Glad You Don’t

Some people criticize Valentine’s Day for its materialism and its promotion of the idea that chocolates and flowers one day a year are enough to keep a relationship strong.  I get their reasoning, I really do.  But you have always felt that Valentine’s Day was one of many opportunities to rekindle romance, and to proclaim your love for me.  I’m so glad you feel that way.  

I remember the heart ache that Valentine’s Day used to bring.  “Single’s Awareness Day” it really was, for I was painfully aware of my singleness.  No matter how hard I tried, each Valentine’s that passed only seemed to stir up feelings and aching that could not be fulfilled.

And then you came into my life, soft yet startling.  Soft because it took a little while for us to actually get together.  Startling because I knew pretty early on that you were the one, and I didn’t know how I could possibly know that about someone that I barely knew…or that may not even reciprocate my feelings.  But somehow I did know.

Our first Valentine’s Day together we weren’t even a “Facebook official” couple.  You bought me roses and we went on a double date with your parents to a quaint little Italian place.  The wait for dinner was a little long, so we made a quick trip to the McDonalds across the street while we waited.  You bought me a hot chocolate and we sat next to each other on the cold, hard fast food booth.  And I remember feeling so thrilled inside.  For once, I wasn’t alone on Valentine’s Day…for once, I had a guy to take me out and pay for my drink.  The fact that I was so crazy about you made it all the sweeter.

I realized today that this approaching Valentine’s Day will be our 7th together.  Each one spent together a changing reflection of where we were in life.  There was the one where we were engaged and went back to that same Italian restaurant together before heading to premarital counseling.  Then there was our first as a newlywed couple, where I scrimped and saved to buy a steak to cook, only to have to keep it warm for hours as you unexpectedly had to work late.  There was the time we got to take a special weekend getaway, and there was the time that we merely went out to dinner.  Work, pregnancy, children, buying businesses…our Valentine’s Days saw it all.

Yet, in each one of them, you made me feel special and loved.  It didn’t matter the trials and struggles we had been through in the previous year.  It didn’t matter how we or our family had changed.  There was always something special, always chocolate, and there was always you.

I’d still love you even if you forgot about Valentine’s Day every year…but I’m so glad you don’t. 



In Search of a Spouse: Before You Go Looking

With as many single friends and family members as my husband and I have, we’ve been thinking back on our own single and dating years a lot.  We’ve talked about the things that we think we did right, and we’ve discussed the things that we wish we had done differently.  It’s funnier how much clearer things are now.

We both firmly feel that, before you ever go looking for a spouse, you need to sit down and figure out who you are and what you believe.  Here are some steps you can take to do that: 

1. Figure out what your core convictions are.  What are the things that you believe that there is no compromising on.  These are the “big deal” things.  These can be broad (such as that Jesus Christ died for the sins of all), or minute (such as the King James Version is the only accurate current English version).  They can also be about doctrine or about lifestyle.  For instance, being a strict Calvinist relates more to your religious walk, whereas how women should dress is related more to day-to-day living.  Whatever the case, these are things that you will not compromise or be swayed on.  Your spouse will either have to agree with you or compromise themselves.  

2. Figure out what you believe that is open to compromise.  For instance, you may think that all moms should be stay-at-home moms, but it’s more of a preference than a conviction.  This is a “not so big of a deal” thing.  Again, these can be broad, minute, doctrinal, or related to lifestyle.   

3. Analyze your lists.

-How long are your lists?  Ideally, your core convictions should be much shorter than your “not so big of a deal” list.  If it’s not, then you need to figure out why.  You are either a.) Very, very firmly convicted, b.) Legalistic, or C.) Too set in your ways.  Conversely, if you have hardly any core convictions, why is that?  Have you really had the time to sit down and figure out what you believe? 

-Why are these your convictions?  Think about your core convictions especially…why are these so important to you?  If you believe all women should wear skirts, or that Christians should never drink alcohol, why is that?  Do your convictions actually come from fervent prayer and searching of the scripture, pressuring parents, or being too steeped in legalism?

4. Keep those lists with you.  As you go looking for a spouse, use these lists as a guide.  Keep them in the back of your mind as you evaluate 

Look for some more thoughts on finding a spouse from my husband and I soon!

9 Reasons Why I’m Glad I Married Young

When you marry young, a certain stigma hangs over your head.  People seem to be just waiting for you to have troubles and split, or at least regret your “rash” decision.  Getting married young can be incredibly hard and frustrating, but it can also be wonderfully sweet.   

I have a lot of friends who are older and single who no longer have any hope of marrying young.  This post is not for them.  It’s for those whom God did call to marry young, and for those who are contemplating it.  It’s for those who question the wiseness of marrying young.  It’s for my husband, my best friend, the man I want to grow old with.  It’s also, in many ways, for myself.

So, without further ado, here are the 9 reasons why I’m glad I married young:

1. We get to grow up together.  Notice I say “get to” instead of “got to”.  We’re still growing up and maturing.  God is still molding us into the man and woman He has created us to be.  The best part is that we get to go through this process together, while making sure that we grow together instead of apart.

2. We weren’t set in our ways.  We didn’t have a lot of time to get set in our ways.  I didn’t have an opinion on what brand of toothpaste was best, and he didn’t have an unchangeable Saturday morning routine.  Granted, we each came into marriage with our own set of opinions and methods, but we’ve also had more of an opportunity to develop habits together.

3. I didn’t have to discover who God created me to be alone.  I’m not the same young woman I was when I got married, nor am I the woman that I thought I would be back then.  The past four years I’ve gone through a lot of self-discovery and growth.  If anything, my husband has furthered this growth as he’s encouraged me to stretch myself, challenged my thinking, and supported me in my pursuits.  He gives me the freedom to become the woman God created me to be, but I haven’t had to do it alone.  He’s been by my side every step of the way.

4. We rely on each other.  When I got married, I had never lived outside of my parents home.  One week after our wedding day, I found my naive newlywed self one thousand miles away in a completely new place.  We didn’t have many friends, and we had to rely on each other for everything.  We also had to learn to depend on each other financially.  We didn’t start out with firm career paths and tons of savings in the bank.  We were both still in school and had next to nothing.  Any worldly success we’ve had since then has been completely dependent on our marriage and on each other.

5. We fit in better with the culture we live in. God chose to plant us in a place where marrying young is the norm instead of the exception.  In our circles, we are far from being the youngest to get married, or even the youngest to have a baby.  I believe God knew that when he put us together.  My husband and I feel more able to reach those in the community because we can relate to the many who married young as well. 

6. We had the opportunity to start a family young.  We waited a year and a half before feeling God leading us to try for a baby, and we’d been married over two years before Miles was born.  Not a long stretch of time by any means, but we still had a good chunk of time to ourselves.  The great thing about having married young, however, was that we were still very young when we became parents.  We appreciate the extra energy that comes with youth…and we also look forward to being young empty-nesters and still having the energy to travel and explore.

7. The sexual freedom. I won’t go into a lot of detail here.  Suffice it to say, sex within the bonds of marriage is a very beautiful and freeing thing.  We didn’t have to wait a long time to experience that.  Not that marriage is a cure-all for sexual struggles, nor is married sex the hot-and-steamy passion it is depicted in movies and books.  Yet, sex within marriage can be unbelievably fulfilling, especially when you’ve gone from the tension of “waiting” and not crossing a line, even though you really want to.  Having the freedom to enjoy all that God created sex to be is incredibly liberating.  

8. Marriage is fun.  Marriage is a lot of work, and it’s far from easy.  It can also be really fun.  Enjoying life with the person who knows you better than anyone else is an unfathomable blessing.  Laughing together, doing spontaneous things, fixing up your house, not being afraid to be yourself…need I say more?  

9. More time with my soul mate. Life is short and goes by all too quickly.  You never know what day will be your last.  I don’t have any clue what the future may bring, but I’m so thankful for these extra years I’ve had with my man.  I’m so glad that I didn’t wait to marry him.

Getting married young has had its challenges, but I don’t regret it for one single minute.  I know without a doubt that I married the man God created for me, and I’m so glad that I didn’t put off the wonderful blessing that marriage is and has been because of my age, or because I hadn’t yet “experienced” the world.  Yes, I was young and unsure of myself, but marriage has not stifled my growth.  Far from it.  Marriage has been the best and sweetest adventure I’ve ever knownI’m so glad I was young when I embarked upon it.