When the Greyness is Darker than the Dark

*I wrote this as I was coming out of PPD, and thought I’d share it with you all.

Dark times and trials are awful, don’t get me wrong.  But at least when you’re in them, you know they’re in them.  And you feel justified to be sad, upset, or at a loss to know what to do.

Those grey times can be so much harder.

You know those times.  Life is good, really it is.  You don’t have any big trials to get through or problems to solve.  Yet somewhere deep inside you just feel off.

On the outside, everything is good.  You put on a good facade.  Because times are relatively good, no one would have any reason to suspect that something was not right.  You hear of other people’s hard, awful trials, and you feel ashamed for the way you feel.  Almost like you have no right.

Know that there is no shame in the greyness.  It’s hard too.  I know.  Light shines clearly in the darkness.  But in the grey fog, it often gets muddled.

Yet, know this too: God’s light is not the kind of light we understand.  It doesn’t get muddled or lost in the grey.  It shines clearly and with warmth, dissipating it away…more like the sun than a lamp.

There is no shame in the greyness.  It is just as hard as the darkness.  Hold fast to the True Light that cuts through the fog.

Finding Yourself in Motherhood

Four days after my son was born, I bawled like a baby as I heard the little cry start again.  It was 3 am, I was utterly exhausted, and this was the fourth time I had tried to lay my new son down and slip into bed.  Thirty minutes later, I fell asleep with him draped across my chest…something I vowed to never do…something the pediatrician who had checked him out in the hospital had told me to never, ever do.  As I slipped into sleep I cried again, feeling like a failure as a mom. 
I’d always wanted to be a mother.  I was pretty sure that, when the time came, I would know exactly what I was doing and that motherhood would come naturally to me.  I was so wrong.
Sure, I had those amazing feelings of love you always hear about.  Changing dirty diapers didn’t make me cringe a bit.  Once the struggle of the first tough month was over, I even enjoyed nursing.  What I wasn’t prepared for were the feelings of inadequacy and uselessness.  My filthy house, dirty dishes stacked high, and inability to get one decent meal on the table made me feel completely incapable as a house wife.  The fact that my son was not a “typical” newborn (as I thought he should be) made me feel out-of-control.  My exhausted frustration at my son when he would scream for hours every night from colic made me feel like a terrible mom.  Most of all, though, I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything all day.  I struggled with feeling a sense of purpose.
I knew that taking care of my son was my purpose for this season of life, but there was a disconnect between knowing that and feeling it in my heart.  I knew I was doing something very worthwhile and purposeful, but most days I felt like I was just treading water.  The problem was that, deep down, I wasn’t just a milk-producing, diaper changing, baby holding robot…there was a very real and individual person just dying to be let out!  The challenge in any change of seasons is finding the balance between who you are as a person and the tasks God has put before you for today. 
For me, finding this balance meant two things.  The first was that I had to change.  I had to let go of my need for control and desire to do things the “right” way and instead be flexible and learn to be the mom my son needed…not the mom I wanted to be.  Anytime God refines us, the process is far from easy and painless.  There were days that I despised the new mom posting on Facebook asking for ideas of things to do because her baby was so easy and she was bored.  Yet, I have come to realize that God gave me Miles with all of his out-of-the-boxness so that He could mold me and force me to let go of my controlling tendencies.  He gave me a very real little individual so that He could change my individual self.
Finding the balance for me also meant fusing who I was as a person with the role of mother.  Again, this isn’t an easy process.  I have come to believe that, in any season or role we find ourselves in, our personality should still shine and show through.  I don’t parent the same as any other mom because I am not any other mom.  I am a tea-drinking, outdoor-loving, greenthumb-wannabe who loves traveling and good food.  Consequently, my son spends a lot of time outdoors, is well acquainted with garden tools, has traveled more than most people will in a lifetime, and will eat just about anything…including spicy food or strong-flavored ethnic cuisine.  He is his own person, but his daily life is the way it is mostly because of who I am as a person.  God placed Miles in my care because He knew that the mama I am is the mama Miles needed.   
As I approach my two-year anniversary of being a mother, I’ve gotten into a better groove.  I have a system down for at least keeping the house manageably clean.  We do eat a home-cooked meal most nights, even if it was something I stuck in the freezer two weeks ago and just dumped in the crockpot that morning.  I already have long lists of freezer meals to assemble and preparations to make for whenever Baby Baker #2 decides to enter our home, knowing very keenly how needed those will be.  I feel very purposeful as I order our home, chase my toddler around, and reach out to other moms in our community. 
I am not the same person I was before my son was born.  And yet, I am more than just a mother.  I am Caitlin Baker, wife, mom, homemaker, and very real person…something that brings me very great joy.    

Dear Single Girl: Would You Follow Him?

Dear Single Girl Who’s Wondering if He’s “The One”:
When I was twenty years old I did something crazy: I got married and moved a thousand miles away to the hills of rural Arkansas.  My husband and I didn’t have much to our name and I was still in school.  To top it off, I had never lived away from home before. 
Four years later, I look back and am shocked by that bold step.  Yet, I’ve never once regretted that decision.  Our marriage has had its ups and downs, just as any marriage does, but we are very, very happy.  I do miss my family and the endless sunny days in Arizona, but I have never once cried from homesickness.  In all honesty, that move from Arizona to Arkansas was not terribly hard for me. 
I get asked almost daily why it wasn’t that hard.  I’ve come up with all sorts of answers.  My personality.  I was ready to have my own home.  I was raised to be independent.  Modern technology makes staying-in-touch easy.  All true reasons, but not enough in and of themselves.  The real truth is that it wasn’t all that hard because of Andy.
When I was a young teenager, I got it in my head that I wanted to marry a man that I could follow.  For a stubborn, bossy first-born such as myself, that was not an easy requirement.  Yet, in my heart I knew that that criteria would be the make-or-break factor for my marriage.  “Would You Go With Me?” by Josh Turner became my anthem.  I longed for a man who would ask me if I’d go with him “to the ends of the sea”, and with whom I knew that I would.
I thought I knew what such a man would look like.  He’d have to be loud and outgoing to balance out my quiet side.  He’d have to be a good speaker, but a poor writer, so that I could be his helpmeet and write for him.  Oh how wrong I was!
Thankfully, I would indeed follow my husband to the end of the sea.  Yet, this man of mine is not what I thought he would be.  He is quiet and reserved and gentle.  When describing him, his grandmother once told me that still water runs deep.  He has a tender heart, yet he can be sarcastic.  He’s a good speaker, but he doesn’t like to be the center of attention.  And he’s a wonderful writer.
When I married Andy, I knew I was marrying a man I could follow.  I have come to realize that it is for this reason primarily that moving away from everyone and everything I ever knew wasn’t so very difficult.  You see, when you marry a man that you can follow, actually following him isn’t all that bad.
You may never follow your man to the ends of the sea.  You may end up getting married and never living farther away than the house next door to your parents.  But I can promise that the time will come when you will have to follow him, and you will be asked to give up or move away from something or someone that you love.  The question is, will you be able to do it? 
And so, as you look for a man to marry, I encourage you to not settle for anything less than a man you can follow.  Don’t look for a man who is good looking, or well off, or charismatic, or seems to have to have it all together.  Don’t look for a man that you will always agree with or that will go along with anything you want.  Instead, look for a man you can follow
I know all too well how important that is.

Dear Single Girl,

Dear Single Girl,

I was having a discussion with a dear friend the other day.  She just so happens to be single.  We talked about men, standards, commitment, etc.  After talking to her, I sat pondering what had been said for hours.

I’ve been married now a whole two and a half years (I know, forever right? 😉 ).  My husband and I have gone through moves, remodeling, trips, having a baby, and so much more in our marriage.  Yet, I really mean it when I say that I am happier now than I even was as a newlywed.  Marriage is an amazing thing, and, if you work at it, it just gets better-and-better.

In fact, I love marriage so much that I want to see everyone get married!  The problem is, that I see a lot of girls still searching.  Often, they are either suffering from a shortage of godly men, setting their standards too high, setting the wrong standards, afraid of commitment themselves, or simply looking in the wrong places.

I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned really matters in a marriage and in a man.  So, here goes…

Look for a man, not a boy.  There are plenty of boys in this world, but there is a startling lack of real men.  A man acts like one.  He’s not afraid of responsibility.  In fact, he relishes it.

Look for someone who doesn’t just talk about the Bible…he lives it. Very few real men have time to sit and talk about the Bible all day.  Sorry, but it’s true.  They’re too busy being faithful in the daily work God has called them to.

Look for someone who is a hard worker.  That kind of man will never let you or your kids starve.  That kind of man will stick with anything, even when it’s hard or mundane.

Look for someone who values marriage and wants to get married. 

Look for someone who’s mad about you.

Look for someone you can play with.  A lifetime is a long time to spend with someone you don’t enjoy being with.

Look for someone who cherishes children.  That’s the kind of man that will make a good dad someday.

Look for a good man, not a perfect one.  A good man makes a perfect husband.  He doesn’t have to be always kind, thoughtful, or romantic…but he does need to be faithful, true, and just.

Look for someone who doesn’t squander money.  He doesn’t have to be the saver of the century, but he should know where his money his going and not be wasting it on frivolous things!

Look for a man you can follow.  Make sure you would follow him wherever God leads, whether that be to the ends of the earth or a common life down the street.

Look for a man you’re attracted to.  They don’t have to be the hunk of the century (and, lets face it, they won’t be that hunk thirty years from now), but attraction is still important.

Look for someone you admire.  

Most importantly, look for a man you can love…and who’s worth the effort to keep your love from growing cold.  Marriage is full of blessings, but it’s also full of work.  Only marry someone who is worthy of both.

Remember, God is writing you a love story beyond your wildest dreams…don’t get in His way. 😉

Blessings,

Caitlin

These Moments

Some days (okay, many days), I look around at my house in sheer frustration.  Nothing is clean…everything’s a mess.  It’s a daily struggle to keep up.

I love my little man, but he has made my life so very unpredictable.  Some days he’ll take several long naps, and let me lay him down, allowing me to actually get a few things done.  Other days, he’s clingy and wakes up if I lay him down.  Some days, I can get him to sit and watch me while I work.  Others, he cries the moment I sit him down, and I spend my entire day walking and bouncing him.

I crave organization.  I love to have an order to my days.  Problem is, right now I never know ahead of time how each day will go.  The only thing I know for sure is that I will spend the day with my sweet baby boy.  How many chores will get done, I don’t know.  It’s even questionable whether I’ll be able to finish my makeup. 

I read other blogs of moms with new babies.  Sometimes, they make me inadequate.  Like when they actually have time to blog, or note that they’re getting back into a schedule…and their baby is younger than mine.  It makes me feel like I must be doing something wrong.  Why is my bathroom still dirty while theirs is clean?

It’s then that I realize that I can’t compare myself to others, or even to my own life in different seasons.  There is no one else in the world with my life, my house, my unique baby boy.  The truth of the matter is, I do the best I possibly can.  I’m rarely idle, and I use every free moment to do something.

My baby may just be more unpredictable or want to be held more than these other women’s babies.  They may be able to do more while “babywearing” because they’re not as tall as me, and don’t have to bend over just to wash dishes.  They may have a smaller house, a husband that’s less busy than mine, or whatever else the case may be.  The point is, I don’t know…and I don’t want to know.  I don’t need to be comparing myself to them!

My only aim in life is to do what God puts before me for each day.  Right now, that’s bouncing a sweet baby boy named Miles, helping my husband in his work, and keeping up with housekeeping to the best of my abilities.  As long as I’m doing that, I should be happy and proud of what I accomplish each day.

My house won’t always look like this.  One day I won’t have any more babies to rock.  And you know what?  I’ll probably wish I could trade my clean, well-kept house for just a few minutes with a fussy baby.  But then, it’s easy to think that the grass is always greener on the other side, in another season.  May I not waste the beauty of this one in feeling defeated, frustrated, and jealous.  May I find joy in each precious moment with my little one.  All too soon, those moments will be gone.