Tindell Baldwin »

Breakdowns seem to make for the best writing days. It’s only after a good cry on the phone with my mom that the words come pouring out. In the brokenness of life I seem to find my voice. It was why I began writing in the first place; to share my brokenness with a world that thinks finding Jesus happens after the mess has been cleared.

It doesn’t.

It’s on the days when I literally cry out to God that he meets me, not on the days when I can manage it all. There is something so beautiful about the mess, about the days that knock the breath right out of me and replace it with something real, something full; need.

I need God on the days when my human capacity meets full and I can’t find another ounce of me to give. I need God when my emotions fly before I can rein them in. It isn’t always pretty and I don’t always handle it well but after a few tears that rub my pride raw I find what I really needed all along was to come to the end of me.

This isn’t just for the addicts and the prostitutes or the clear cut sinners, this desperate need comes from the condition of being human not from the circumstance we are currently wound up in. I left a sinful lifestyle to enter into his arms but my need for a Savior has yet to diminish.

It is In the mess where real relationship are built, in the untidy spaces where I can’t pretend any more.  I can’t help but shake this idea that if mess isn’t happening then relationship isn’t happening because we are by nature a mess of being. Running from God, saying spiteful words, loving ourselves above all else and that’s just my list. I don’t know one person who has left this world unscathed by the hurt inflicted upon them or by them. It’s a fact of life, we’ve screwed so much up and we pay a lot of times for things we never bought.

I think for a long time after I met Jesus I believed the lie that because I knew Jesus I needed to have my act together. Then the waves of life still came and beat me back to my knees where it all started and I was once again reminded that in the mess I am met. It’s the mess that brings me to the end of my performance or capacity to pretend.

What I wanted was a band aid but Jesus came to be the medicine not the covering for our wounds. He came to expose and bring healing to them in a way only he can do. The air of his mercy breathes life into our broken wounded parts and I am so grateful he isn’t a band aid.

Ann Voskamp has taught me in her writing to name gifts. Today I am thankful for breakdowns, tears, and days when I realize my absolute need for God.

  • Rich - Amen, and Amen. Been there, done that, and still doing that.

    Your words are right on target and demonstrate that our dependence on Christ does not end with faith, but continues every minute, every day. Blessings on your continued walk of faith.

    http://exegete77.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/the-cry-of-the-broken-part-1/ReplyCancel

  • Tara - Tindell, I so agree with you and this is something the Lord has been teaching me too. This year has been filled with a lot of ups and downs and I have seen the unfailing, unwavering love of God in the midst of my mess and failures. Thank you for writing with honesty and truth.
    God bless!ReplyCancel

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When I was growing up my family used to say it would take a special man to marry me, and not in because you’re so awesome kind of way but more like who is going to tame black beauty kind of way. Don’t get me wrong my family was loving and supportive and all that stuff but facts are facts and I was a force to be reckoned with. (see picture for confirmation)

I always pictured I’d marry someone who would put a firm foot down and tell me it was there way or the high way. I pictured I’d marry someone slightly unforgiving who would tighten the reigns when necessary (really romantic isn’t it). I figured the only kind of person who could “handle me” was someone who was stronger than me. That’s true, but strength isn’t always what we picture. God knew I didn’t need another man to walk into my life and demand change in return for love he knew what I needed was the kind of guy who would love me to freedom. Freedom from pretending I had to be strong, freedom from never acting hurt, and freedom from thinking love and pain were one in the same.

Enter Ben.

This man who caught me so off guard I cried after our first date (true story). I was so scared he was going to hurt me. I was so scared I would let myself show just the tiniest bit and he’d run like all the others.

A girl asked me recently how I knew my husband could handle my “baggage”, how I knew he wouldn’t run and it was simple. The right guy doesn’t run. Don’t get me wrong there were times he was afraid but he stayed and I have never experienced Jesus more than I have in the love of my husband.  Jesus was so many things but I always loved that he won sinful people over by loving and serving them.

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I am so thankful God knows me better than I know myself and I am so glad he made Ben strong enough to weather the storm with me.  Four years ago I walked down the aisle to the man who would walk through life with me, be the father to our kids, and show me a little more about God every day. The man who would serve our family, work hard for our family, and do it all with a compassionate calming love that can change everything.

Thank you babe for wrecking what I ever thought I knew about love, for championing me in my dreams, for loving me even when I fall utterly short, and for making me laugh every day. You are truly my better half.

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  • anna Etheriedge - It’s so wonderful how God matches us up!!!!
    Happy AnniversaryReplyCancel

  • Linda Morris - Tindell I love the picture with Barbara…..I remember the day you were born….God had a plan for your life and I’m glad you found it with Ben. I just celebrated my 50th anniversary and I can tell you “it only gets better”! HaPpy AnnivesaryReplyCancel

  • Beth Joubert - Tindell, love this post about your sweet Ben! Rene and I celebrated our 25th anniversary on Sept 10th!
    Love y’all,
    Beth
    p.s. Passed your book on to friends and family. Thanks for being so honest. You’re a blessing!ReplyCancel

To my girl;

I want to tell you about the world you are growing up in sooner rather than later, I want to sit you down and explain how harsh it is, I want to tell you that you are going to hear so many things and see so many things that are different from what you hear at home. I want to tell you that the world is backwards, that most everyone is missing the point. I want to apologize in advance for the fact that we will probably be those “weird parents” who care when you come home, what you wear, and if you are texting boys at 2am. I know you won’t understand it because you will look around and we won’t be like everyone else. We will want to eat dinners together and take family vacations without the constant buzz of electronics. I know your friends might not be the same. I know you will see things I don’t want you to see, hear things I don’t want you to hear, and be lied to by a world that seems to have your best interest at heart. Let me apologize right now while you sleep soundly in your crib for the times I can’t protect you, I can’t save, and I can’t run to your aid. As much as I would love to be the mom that sits with you in class and reminds you to eat your veggies before your cookies, even though I don’t do that, what I want more than that is for this world not to conquer you but for you to conquer it. Again this won’t make sense for a long time, I was like you once, I was innocent believing that this world could really give me something. I believed I knew better and I kicked and screamed when my parents told me no. It was a rough time but here I sit with a daughter of my own thanking your birdie and poppy for the legacy they let me pass down to you. See sweet girl it’s not just about being different and it’s not even about doing what’s right. No, it’s about someone who stepped in and made a way for it to be different. It’s about a Savior that came for my heap of sins and for your little life. It’s about a God who loved you and I so much he said you don’t have to be the same, I’ll give you hope. He gave you a value that the world is trying to take away. As I write this our culture is in shambles, little girls are being exploited and sex is being sold like a gallon of milk and I just needed you to know you are worth more. I hurt. I weep. I ache for the mothers and daughters who need to hear that. It’s your choice my love, I can’t make you meet the one who saved your soul but I can show you the alternative to the lies. So trust me in fifteen years like you do today, the way you will jump from the couch into my arms and know I will catch you. There will be a time when you question if my arms are there, you won’t trust, it will be hard. Just remember there’s a big picture you can’t see and even I can’t fully understand. Remember you are loved so much and no matter what goes on in this life up ahead of you there will always be one who came to die in your place. There will always be saving

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  • Mike Spessard - Wow Tindell. The way Christ expresses Himself through you is amazing. It’s a perfect balance of Grace, Truth and Light Your frankness and transparency are so refreshing in the Body that is more concerned about image and aires than it is about loving people where they are.
    Your baby girl is very blessed to have you as mommy. Someday she will realize that, and she will tell you.
    Your writing is a gift to all of us. Don’t stop… ever.
    -MikeReplyCancel

  • Noelle Wheat - Through my tears, I’m printing up your letter now,
    for my teenage daughters to read. Thank you for
    posting!ReplyCancel

  • Anna Etheriedge - OO OO OO I Loved this!!! Passing it on – AnnaReplyCancel

At some point our faith and real life collide in a way that doesn’t quite make sense. We are told all these things about God and as children (depending on our childhood) we believe no questions asked. We have no reason to question. I remember singing Jesus loves me… but I was a scared child and nightmares were a constant. I spent most of my childhood nights sleeping on my parents floor huddled in the fetal position in fear of what might be lurking down the dark hallways in my house. Then in elementary school my grandparents got divorced and I remember sitting in my parents big bath tub trying to explain to myself how you can love someone and hurt them? Then my mom started getting sick and we prayed but nothing happened. And where was God? Suddenly he was this big God who didn’t comfort me in my nightmares or heal a broken marriage, the one who never made my mother better, or sent angels to wipe my tears, this wasn’t the God I sung about in vacation bible school. It didn’t add up.

So I ran. I ran away from what I didn’t understand into something that I could control. The Jesus covering I had placed over the wounds of this world was wearing thin and life was starting to break through the cracks.

I run up against the same problem every day but Jesus never asked me to explain him he asked me to trust him. He didn’t promise me a life free of pain and stress he just promised me that my trusting in him provides me hope. I have come up to many a rough patch since my childhood, many times I’ve wondered where God is in the brokenness, where is he in the hurting, where is he on the nights the pain takes your breath away? I don’t know but what I don’t understand doesn’t change what I believe.

I believe God sent his only son to die an excruciating death to pay for my sins.

I believe God pursued me in a personal way and cared about the pit of sin I was in.

I believe that God is faithful and what I don’t understand isn’t as important as the big picture of the story God is writing. I needed a savior and he provided the saving. I was dead but now I live. If we focus on what we can’t explain, what we don’t know, we miss so much of what we do. Ann Voskamp is always challenging in her books for us to remember what we already have instead of what we are lacking, to name the things that make us grateful. I have a million reasons why I believe and I can trust when this world seems backwards. It just takes the act of sitting down and naming them out.

The cross, this life, my renewed heart, my family, my love, the list can continue for pages. We have many reasons to have faith… even when we don’t understand. And you know… In all my years of running I never found anything more calming than a prayer lifted in moments of fear. A personal God writes a beautiful story with our mess of a life we just have to trust him.

  • Where is your [G]od now? | Nikita Says... - […] This blog post was inspired by Tindell Baldwin’s post on her blog entitled “Faith When You Can’t Explain.”  […]ReplyCancel

  • Tara - I’ve been there too, friend. At first it was really, really scary having questions I couldn’t answer (and I admit that at times it still is), but I repeat Proverbs 3:5-6 because it’s true. And while it’s hard, it’s worth it. Beautiful post. Thanks, Tindell. Your blog is always encouraging.ReplyCancel

We don’t praise him from our lips so that we can hear our own voice, we don’t lift up our hands so that he might actually come closer, and we don’t express our overwhelming gratitude to feed some ego or alter some event.

We lift up praise so that he can pour out life.

We lift up praise because in the midst of heartache, in the midst of despair, in the midst of my brokenness I need to praise.

 I need to pour out who I am and what I want at the feet of the only one who can tell me who I am.

 I praise him because the bitterness that threatens to squeeze the life out of my fragile heart is always upon me.

 Poor situations and bad circumstances can always be found.

Pain is just moments away so I lift my hands, not in the hopes that he might come closer because he lives in me, but in the hopes that I might remember just how grateful I am.

 I sing the songs and I breathe the prayers because my heart needs to be refreshed today.

 I lift up cries and tears and aches and pains and he reminds me of the beauty of who he is and how he finished it all.

 He reminds me that I am loved, that I belong, and that he won’t get it wrong.

 In the midst of deep pain we must praise the most, sing the loudest, and practice the art of gratitude. God knows who he is, he doesn’t need to be reminded of his holiness, he needs us to remind ourselves of his love.

God doesn’t need my praise, he is not dependent on it. I need it. I need it like I need air, praise fills my lungs and my heart and reminds me that I have been given all I will ever need.

 So I lift my hands and say a continual thank you not for what could come but for what I have already been given.

  • Claire - Thanks. There are times when I feel unworthy of communication with God through praise, like my mistakes can somehow keep me out- so self-focused. It is good to remember that my heart is moved. God does a work in my heart. We are always on the receiving end. Why would I want to let anything keep me from the miracle of corporate worship? Well written!ReplyCancel

  • Anna Etheriedge - Perfect timing. I couldn’t seem to find even one minute to read emails yesterday, but God had this for me today! Totally convicted to stop and just praise Him… even though nothing’s changed… simply because of who He is! Thank you Tindell. PS- I keep sharing your wonderful book and getting words of blessing in feedback. Your story offers tremendous healing. Way to go for being obedient! AnnaReplyCancel

  • Mary Ann Laverty - So well written-beautiful! And I loved your book!! Thank you for sharing your gifts and your heart.ReplyCancel

  • Stacy Parker - Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story. Your book has touched our family. We met you years ago at Big Stuf and you and your mom came to our little church in Sumter, SC to share with our mothers and daughters. You reminded us all through your beautifully written book how awesome our creator is and the true meaning of Jeremiah 29:11. Blessings to you!ReplyCancel

    • Tindell Baldwin - Thank you Stacy! Loved meeting everyone from Sumter, I remember that day well.
      God bless
      TindellReplyCancel

  • Danny - Tindell, I purchased your book with the intention of “skimming it” to see if it might be beneficial to purchase for my female high school leaders and found myself reading it. To the point that I read it cover to cover just today.

    I do feel a bit awkward posting this on your blog, especially as it’s a book written to girls, 🙂 but your transparency and story has served to bless and encourage my heart greatly today. My heart longs to positively impact the teens God has brought into my life and I truly believe your book will help me serve my wife, female friends and students in a better way.

    I just ordered a book for each of my female leaders and will certainly be sharing your book and story in the days to come!

    Also, I had no clue that you were related to Kristian until the end of the book. I have dear friends that have been involved with Ristee Church in Estonia so I’ve heard great reports of how God has used him in their lives!

    How awesome to see how God can turn our mess into a message!!!ReplyCancel

    • Tindell Baldwin - Danny,
      Thank you! What an encouragement! It can be for boys too I guess 🙂 Thanks for sharing with the girls you know! That makes me so happy to hear it is being used as the resource I intended it to be.

      God Bless
      TindellReplyCancel

  • manicle - the art of praising the Lord is indeed not just a thing we mutter with our lips. It comes from a heart irrespective of its present situation. Gud work, TindellReplyCancel

Whenever I was a teenager and in one of my awful girl moods (happened a lot) my dad would famously tell me to “fake it”, we’d be in public and run into one of his friends and instead of saying hi I’d glare at them like they had shot my puppy. We’d leave wherever we were and my dad would tell me he didn’t care that some boy hadn’t Instant messaged me back (if you are under 14 please ask your closest adult what this means) I needed to be polite to people.

I think as a whole we have gotten in a rut of “faking it”, pretending like life is sunny when we are all secretly mad that life isn’t as peachy as we make it out to be, and although there are some days when the cashier just doesn’t need to know that you haven’t slept in three weeks because of a screaming baby, there should be people in your life that know more about you that what you put on social media. Someone told me recently that social media is just the “high light reel” of life and I have to say it’s changed my outlook on the whole thing. I can show you just enough of myself to make you feel like we are friends but not too much to make me feel uncomfortable. We don’t take pictures of our epic breakdowns after a bad day and splash it over the internet for other people’s enjoyment. We dress our kids and our life up and take candlelit images that make us look like we have it all together.

fake life (what’s on my fridge)

Well we don’t.

real life

 (what was actually happening)

Not a one of us and in some regards that is the beauty of life, of being known, and of having real friendships that will let you have a good cry before they tell you that this too shall pass. I figure if Jesus needed, or maybe wanted is a better word, 12 close guys to do life with than my deep need to have real woman to walk through this journey with is not a sin. I’m not talking about followers or likers or email buddies but real woman who know my stuff and I know theirs. Woman who can come over when my house is an utter mess and they won’t judge me.

I have noticed that whenever I open up about my real desire to have honest friendships that other girls feel the same way. When we drop the filters and are just ourselves something magical happens, we encourage each other, we love each other, and we speak truth into each other.

I think this isolating game we are all playing of changing what real friendship looks like is a dangerous one, because being honest is uncomfortable for a reason, it opens you up hear real truth. Vulnerability about who we are and where we struggle can be scary but I truly believe the scarier place is a life of never truly being known.

I love the harry potter movies (yes I know how old I am) and when I heard this quote it resonated with me.

“Well if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it’s just you alone you’re not as much of a threat.”

-Luna Lovegood

We are powerful together, my weaknesses can be recognized by your strengths and vice versa but if we have no one pointing out our weaknesses then we can be convinced of a lot of lies. Let’s be honest our egos are a lot bigger than we give them credit for and sometimes I need to be taken down a peg (my husband normally gets this fun little task). We need each other on this journey, we need to hear every now and then that we are wrong, we need to hear that we have missed the mark and we need to know when we haven’t. This is how we grow, not by pretending, but by letting people we trust close enough to us to point out our humanness and help us grow in holiness.

I truly believe this journey of life is meant to be walked with lots of people, some people will come in and out and some won’t but walking alone isn’t an option. The bible tells us to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), pray for one another (James 5:16), and confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). I didn’t however find a lot of verses talking about staying in our comfort zones, not being real with our friends, and giving the correct church answers. You are uniquely you but you can be even better when you find girls and woman to challenge you.

 

Its been one of those weeks where I can feel my inadequacy so deeply than even a trip to the grocery store calls for prayer (and its only Tuesday). I text my friends, my family, and I just say please pray. They ask why and I tell them the grocery store is tearing my soul apart. Ok not really but you get the point, it’s been a weak week. It always seems that whenever I have anything writing related that needs to be done Claire gets struck with a bout of teething and/or some twenty four hour virus that will ruin your day and all current plans. I told Ben last night, I don’t want to blame everything on the guy with the red horns and tail (TV version of Satan has forever made an imprint) but can Satan cause a stomach bug in an 8 month old? My instinct is to say no, especially since she really enjoys chewing on the dog’s tail but then again I don’t want to rule out the power of the pitchfork.

All that to say before any interview, writing deadline, or anytime I try to sit down and hash out the thoughts that need to be jotted down life seems to go haywire, I used to fool myself into thinking I had this together but after calling in for reinforcements for the second time this month (AKA dad had to work from home so I could in fact follow through on commitments) I have lost the entire notion that “having it together” is even a thing. No matter what season I have been in high school, college, marriage, pregnancy, or motherhood I have failed. I can make a good show of it but at some point I always end up crying and begging God to step into the mess I have made and make me whole again.

I wonder how much easier life would be if I just recognized I needed him from the get go? I wonder if I stopped striving to make life look good and just accepted that I can do nothing apart from him if maybe I wouldn’t end up weeping in my daughters glider clutching one of her stuffed animals (never happened).

Let me go on the record in saying I have a great life, I am so thankful for all I have been given but great life or not if Jesus is not in my every days I am wrecking it. I miss opportunities, I am short when I need to be patient, and I try to solve the symptoms instead of the real issue.

My husband pointed out to me last night after a radio talk show I did that most parents who called wanted to fix the symptoms not the problem. The symptoms like gossip, judging others, drinking, drugs, etc, etc, etc. We all have symptoms, signs that show us that the condition of our heart isn’t up to Jesus standards and we can temporarily fix the symptoms or we can deal with the real issue. I can get more sleep, eat better, exercise a little more, take more time to relax or a slew of other suggestions that aren’t bad but my body isn’t currently the problem. I might be more rested but if I’m not breathing out truth and living in pure acceptance that I need Jesus… everyday, all day, then it doesn’t matter how rested I am. It doesn’t matter that I eat Brussels sprouts instead of oatmeal cookies I will still be impatient, unkind, selfish, and the list goes on.

Why? Because my flesh is strong when my spirit is weak and vice versa.

The verse in my devotional yesterday was

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”

Psalm 16:11

I want life. I want joy but only in his presence and his power  can I find it.

  • LAURA COTHRON - I AM WITH YOU. MY KIDS ARE CONSTANTLY FUSSING AND FIGHTING – REALLY GETTING ON MY NERVES. IT MAKES ME STRESSED OUT. I KNOW I NEED PRAYER FOR PATIENCE AND PARENTING. PLEASE PRAY FOR ME AND I FOR YOU!ReplyCancel

Yesterday I just felt lost, in my own house with my own day, I knew where I was and I knew what I was supposed to do but Claire cried most of the day, my inbox was full, laundry was overwhelming me, and I needed to somehow make it to the store with a child who was screaming “mama” at me if I moved inches away from her. It was just one of those Mondays. It was particularly bad, nothing life altering happened, it’s just that life happened, and I was being semi selfish ok full on selfish, and I wanted to accomplish things and do thinks and go places and I was wandering.

I think we have all been there, on those terribly ordinary days when we don’t exactly feel like our world is crashing in but we feel like we are wandering through the dessert and we need either Jesus or a great babysitter to save us.  Mondays seem to come and life seems to hit me in the face harder than I expected. Its not bad, its not even particularly stressful its just life. Its ordinary and I have to choose joy instead of the negativity that is overwhelming my brain.

In the few moments I had after an altered 6:45 instead of 7 bedtime in an effort to save my sanity I read this.

14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd.

I saw this and two things came to mind, man how much I needed to be led, and how I needed to take up the full meaning of “sacrificing myself if necessary”. In motherhood I have noticed a trend I get angry when I feel like I am being asked (which never happens because 7 month olds don’t ask if you can handle them) to do beyond what I can. I get mad at God, I get mad at my husband, and I get mad because I shouldn’t be mad. I am blessed with this life and I truly believe that but some days are just hard.

Then he whispers, let me lead you.

No. I can do this. More anger followed by frustration.

And he whispers again, Let me lead you.

sheep

Finally it’s the end of the day and I see that I need to be led, I need him to take my hand and lead back into his ways because I might be a mother but I am not God (the two are often confused) and I can’t help my daughter without his guiding hand, I can’t have the patience I need to have, I can’t have the energy or the strength without him leading me to greener pastures. To pastures where I’m not frustrated that she won’t nap and I couldn’t get anything done. Pastures where I realize the mound of laundry is not an actual tragedy. Pastures where I see that this is all really a gift and my complaining won’t help anything. A pasture where I realize if Jesus could sacrifice for his children I can sacrifice for mine.

We all get there. It might not be motherhood, it might be with your job, or your spouse, or just a friendship gone awry because you wandered from him and now you need to be led back.

He calls us by name, he knows where we have strayed too and he takes us back to him because at the end of all my striving to be ahead of the flock I realize when he said I can’t do anything apart from him he meant that very literally.

  • Anna Etheriedge - I loved this! It SO reminded me of raising my kids. Very long on moments and short on years! I’ve repeatedly told my children “you die to yourself when they get married and again with each child”… but its the best thing you can do to your flesh 🙂 Isn’t motherhood/fatherhood just full of lessons?! So glad we did it, I know you are too- AnnaReplyCancel

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