As many of you know, a third sweet little one is growing inside of me. I’ve been meaning to write something about this third baby pretty much since I found out I was pregnant…but somehow the words haven’t come. With 28 weeks rapidly approaching on Monday, I thought that now was as good of a time as any to finally write about her. But to do that, I have to go back to the beginning…before this baby was even a possibility in our minds.
A warm summer rain drizzles down this morning, fogging up all the windows of our house. I can barely see through it to my lone sunflower growing, just about to open into a beautiful beacon of joy.
That simple sunflower warms every crevice of my heart. It makes me think of late summer days and fields overflowing with tiny sunflowers, bouncing and waving as I drive past, windows down, breathing in their scent mingled with that of dry pine…simpler times when I was mostly naive to the hard things of life.
My heart is not so naive now. Life is full of hard things…within my family, friends, acquaintances, and the world at large. I fully see now that life is not simple and peaceful like it was when those Flagstaff sunflowers greeted me. It is broken, messy, and many times, sorrowful. Yet, even in the broken a sunflower reaches up toward the sun.
God promises His peace, but His peace is not that of an easy life with few bumps in the road. It is a peace within even when all is tumultuous without. It is not found in the events and circumstances surrounding us…but in the deepness of our hearts.
This morning as I was reading Numbers 6:24-26, I was struck by how the Amplified version defined God’s peace: “tranquility of heart and life continually“. God’s peace doesn’t ebb and flow. It is constant. In light and darkness…joy and sorrow…always.
When the storms of life beat down, may God’s peace pour over us calming our hearts…always.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
*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!
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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
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.
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