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

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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 . 

 

Let No One Despise Your Youth

Read Timothy 4:12

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (ESV)

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (KJV)

“Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (AMP)

Any way you read it, this verse is for the younger members of the church.  My guess is that if you’re a Christian and you’re under a certain age (or were at some point), then you’ve experienced some sort of prejudice due to your age and that you can relate to this verse.  I know I have and I know that it can be frustrating.

The church my husband and I go to is old.  As in, it was started in the 1800s and we have many older people in the church who have been attending this same church their entire lives.  To say traditions run deep would be putting it lightly.  For a young woman in her twenties who’s only been here five years, trying to step up and serve can be…intimidating.

You don’t have to be in a historically old church, however, to relate.  I’ve been in church plants where the young and their ideas and thoughts were pretty much dismissed due to their age and inexperience.  So what’s a young person to do?

Paul told Timothy to combat this reverse ageism by being an example to other believers.  In the Amplified Bible (which is taken from the Greek), he was literally to be a pattern for other believers to follow.  I want to be clear about something: Timothy was young, but he was far from being an immature Christian.  He was able to be an example to others because he was personally growing in his faith, and not using his age as an excuse to be lazy or act foolishly.

Here are the six areas (depending on the version you use) that Paul exhorted Timothy to be an example in:

  1. In Word or Speech. In this modern age, speech goes beyond just what comes out of your mouth.  What are you saying (or even sharing) on social media?  Do you spread gossip or use foul words?  Does what you say, write, or share promote the Gospel or degrade it?
  2. In Conduct or Conversation (the Old English definition of “conversation” literally means “behavior” [Jamieson, 1877]) .  How do you treat others?  Do your actions show maturity or immaturity?  Do you get angry easily?  Are you living in sin?  Does the way you conduct your daily life exude peace, joy, and contentment?
  3. In Love. In the Greek this love is “agape” love, or selfless, self-sacrificial love.  Does Christ’s love overflow out of you?  What about to marginalized people?  Or to those who get under your skin?  Are you more concerned about your desires or “rights”, or about the wants and needs of others?   Is Christ’s love in you lived out in actions?
  4. In Spirit.  Matthew Henry narrowed this down to “in spiritual-mindedness, in spiritual worship,” (1761).  Are you living in the Spirit or in the flesh?
  5. In Faith. When trouble comes, what happens to your faith? Do you trust God in all things.  Do you obey the things He’s called you to even when they don’t make sense or are hard?
  6. In Purity. Purity is about so much more than saving sex for marriage.  It’s about being set apart, untainted by the world.  Are you allowing things into your life (entertainment, people, etc.) that aren’t in line with God’s Word?  Are you letting your desire to fit in with others cloud your judgement and convictions?  Are you crowding out the Holy Spirit?

My Challenge For You Today: Pick one of these things to work on and choose an action step to commit to.  Then pray fervently that God would help you in this area.  Journal about your progress.

Example: I want to work on not gossiping (speech).  When I am tempted to talk about someone behind their back, I will instead choose one true, good thing about this person and I will say it aloud (or write it in on social media).  I will pray that God would keep this in my mind and help me to change my speech.

References:

Henry, M. (1761). An exposition on the Old and New Testament In five volumes. … By Matthew Henry … (The 5th ed.). London: Printed for John Knapton, John Fuller, James Buckland, William Strahan, John Rivington [and 11 others].

Jamieson, R., & Fausset, A. (1877). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments,. Hartford: S.S. Scranton.Westcott,B., & Hort, F. (1881). Commentar Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible

Moulton, W., & Geden, A. (1963). A concordance to the Greek Testament, according to the texts of Westcott and Hort, Tischendorf and the English revisers, (4th ed.). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.

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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Dear Single Girl: There’s Always Another One Coming

My grandma always told us girls that “men are like buses…there’s always another one coming”.  During whatever current heartbreak we were going through, her words weren’t terribly comforting.  Looking back, though, I realize how much truth lay in them.

My freshman year of college I was on the hunt for a man.  I was lonely, my heart ached for love, and, frankly, I thought that meeting and marrying the man of my dreams was the highest goal of my life.  It should come as no surprise to you that my search for a man fogged my vision and caused me to make more than a few mistakes in the boy department.

The first was a guy that didn’t even like me as more than a “friend”.  In my head, however, I’d decided that he was the guy for me.  I made up this fantasy world in my head where he was exactly what I was “needing”, that we would soon admit our love for each other, and that that would be the end of the story.

All I can say is I am so glad he didn’t show an interest in me.  In reality, he was all wrong for me.  If we’d ended up together we’d have made each other miserably unhappy.  The fantasy in my head did not line up with reality, and dealing with reality would have been an unbearably hard pill to swallow.

The second was a guy who really did like me.  He was a really great guy with a heart for the Lord and I liked him too.  Only, I never had peace about the whole thing.  Something just wasn’t right.  I decided to tell him, but then reconsidered when my hunger and aching for a man tried to sway me otherwise.

In that situation, the only thing that stopped me was God.  Out of the blue, I heard Him tell me two things: a very firm and resounding “NO”, and a very clear directive (and desire, strangely enough considering my former negativity) to join homeschoolalumni.org.

At the time, I wanted to fight Him.  There were no other guys in my life that I was even remotely interested in.  I didn’t even know how I’d meet other guys.  Furthermore, there was absolutely nothing wrong with this guy.  When I say he was a great guy, I really mean it!  What I realize now that I didn’t know then was that he was a great guy, but he wasn’t God’s best for me (nor was I God’s best for him).

And so, with His leading ringing in my head I broke things off with this great guy, joined HSA, and clung to the words of my Grandmother.  Little did I know that a month later I’d meet this other great guy named Andy Baker, or that I’d be engaged to him 9 months later.

My friend, don’t lose heart, and don’t let your hunger for a man cloud your vision like it did mine.  My grandmother was right…you never know what great guy is just around the bend.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

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