Tindell Baldwin »

Something wonderful happened last week, my oldest niece Norah put her hope in Jesus. Kristian said something so beautiful when he texted the family that has had me thinking. He said, “The darkness can’t have her, she belongs to the light.” What a proclamation to be able to make about your daughter. I pray all the time that one day I will get to experience that with my kids because I know firsthand, EVERYTHING in this world pales in comparison to being loved and found by Jesus. However, I also know firsthand that choosing Jesus is a daily thing.

I have had this question though that has nagged at me over the past year, can the darkness win? Not even in my own life but in so many of the people I love. Can the darkness take you over even after you know and love Jesus? Can the world be appealing enough to lure you back to the lies you once saw so clearly as lies? The more I experience life the more I think we are settling for a water downed version of Jesus.

This weekend I served at our churches my life for high school kids which is essentially dnow if you were raised in a traditional church like me. The weekend was about dating and purity so needless to say there wasn’t a dull moment. Then on the last night they extended two invitations, one to know Jesus for the first time and one if you’ve walked away and need to come back to the purity God is calling us to in dating relationships. I saw one guy in the front weeping as he accepted Jesus for the first time, his group was embracing him (I was also weeping because I have kids now and I cry a lot). I’m sure his prayer was that life would be different from then on, but as the second invitation was made even more hands went up. Hands that already knew Jesus but had chosen something less, hands that once wept the same tears as they met Jesus for the first time. Hands that made promises and prayed prayers but Monday came and life came, and school came, and the darkness looked grey and appealing.

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I kept thinking about these kids who put their hope in Jesus for the first time and I wanted to warn them, Monday will be hard. School will be the same, your friends won’t have experienced the same thing as you, and you will wonder if the tears and the prayers meant anything. You will wonder if the light is really worth fighting for. The darkness cannot claim you on the other side of earth but here you will still face earthly temptations. Jesus promised us troubles and heartache. Here you will have to face the same temptations as everyone else chose to honor God even when you’re the only one.

You will have to decide if he is worth living for when finances are tough, when your single, when you are lonely, when you are made fun of for choices you make, when your marriage is tough, when your family isn’t what you pictured, when your career isn’t all you dreamed, and the diagnosis isn’t good. We all have to decide if we will let the darkness take us over or will we believe God is who he says he is. The darkness always comes for us, it whispers lies that feel true and ask you to walk away from the God who loves you. It makes promises it can’t keep with temptation that looks appealing.

I truly believe Jesus isn’t just our get out of hell free card, I think he is so much more.  I think he is inviting us into our best life here. A life filled with so much more purpose than just temporary happiness.  I think he is worth choosing no matter what your circumstances are. I think he gives us hope in the midst of heartache and peace in hard days but we have a choice, will we waste the life we have fumbling between the dark and the light or will we live on fire for Jesus…no matter the cost.

My glittery red nail polish has chipped off just in time to paint on the gold that comes with ringing the New Year in. It’s always this time of year you get all reflective and weepy about where you have been and where you are going. You dust off the resolutions from last year and see how you did… I managed to stick to one of mine… not getting pregnant in 2015. It’s a weird one I know but I wanted to enjoy this year fully with the two kids I had. Plus I was a little bit sleep deprived up with a newborn last year and swearing off this whole big family thing. I have since reentered crazy town thinking and recently told ben I will weep when all our kids are out of diapers (he looked at me like I just said I wanted to be vegan).

The end of the year is always so monumental but I never quite understand it. Like the mark of a new year will change all the good or bad we did last year. We all want fresh starts. We want to dust off the old and embrace the new but I, like so many others, have a hard time doing the work it takes to embrace the new. My other goal last year was to finish this second book that has been building inside of me for the past year. I dreamed of have those 50,000 words ready to submit when 2016 rolled around, or even better, having already submitted them. However I didn’t know what 2015 held when I made the tiny promise to myself to finish what I started and I found myself halfway through 2015 putting life on pause again to face reality that was casting a dark shadow over my dreams. I found myself wallowing in reality instead of chasing my dreams.

Life never seems to go as planned. This year all I wanted to do was be a better blogger. That sounds silly but I have been pretty careless about something I care so much about. Not blogging… writing. This is where I work out the kinks in my voice and learn how to trim a message down to 1k words. However my writing is kind of like a tornado, I ride the storm, spend 30 minutes hammering out my thoughts, read it once over, then press publish not caring about the fact that I average 10 grammatical errors per post. I hear that’s frowned upon. I wanted to be more intentional with this space even if it’s mostly for me. Well, when I sat down to write out this post my computer died… and it didn’t come back to life. I had to laugh. I fired up my old computer, thanked God I married an engineer who is worlds smarter than me, got him to save my old files and started out again (hence why this post in being published in February).

Life never seems to go as planned which isn’t always a bad thing, the unexpected twists are often the best parts of our stories. The bottom line is always the nagging question of, do I trust God with my plans? Am I willing to say this is what I want but Lord your will not mine. It’s scary sometimes because God is big and powerful and we like control. However, if we believe the right things about God we are much more willing to lay our plans at his feet without fear. If we truly believe he is good we can make plans with open hands knowing what he has is always better.

That has never felt more real than where I am right now in life. I seem to be constantly asking what is next. For me, for my kids, for our family,” God where are you leading us” seems to be the question I mutter every night as I close my eyes. I have dreams, desires, and plans but more than that I want his purpose and his passions to be poured into my heart. My plans without his guidance won’t be what I imagine. My dreams without his heartbeat won’t be the right dreams and my desires will become selfish if I don’t align them with his. I know my story will be so mundane unless I give him permission to wreck it all.

So as we enter the second month of 2016 I am wondering if we can hold loosely to all the dreams we came up with as January 1st came crashing in. Because here is what I know, this year will hold wonderful moments and disappointing ones. We will see dreams come true and some will come crashing down but if we know where we place our future and our hope we can breathe a little easier because he is the same yesterday today, in the good and in the bad.

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  • Anna Etheriedge - Hi Tindell, I’m still out here reading 🙂 Always smile when you post and can’t wait to read your thoughts. Too many years apart and just a few kids… I feel such a kindred spirit. I always laugh somewhere and you make me remember the “little days” so well. Hang in there, BIG families rock, especially on this end! Love to you and Ben and your preciouses. PS Our recovering-addict is marrying in March!!! To God be the Glory for All He has done! Can’t wait for book2ReplyCancel

  • Tindell Baldwin - Anna,
    CONGRATULATIONS! How wonderful! Thanks for being such a faithful reader! Means a lot!
    TindellReplyCancel

Growing up we used to refer to the Christmas season as “the magic”, mostly to taunt my younger brother long after he had stopped listening for reindeer on the roof. Every year the songs would start to play on the radio, lights would be hung on houses, and red and green would fill stores and collectively we joked that it was the magic. We’d pull out our favorite holiday movies, eat our favorite meals, and all feel a little bit less stressed. We let bathroom sharing quarrels go, laughed at our family jokes, and listened to every Amy Grant Christmas song known to man. As much as “the magic” was a joke it always felt real, it always felt like we really did get to experience something magical. We were never overly religious about Christmas, I mean we knew why we celebrated and we read the Christmas story, but it was more that we felt what we had believed all year. We didn’t light advent candles or read something every night but our house was filled to the brim with love and laughter.

Fast forward and here I am ten years out of our cozy family home and building memories and traditions with my own family. Before December came I sat down and did something I almost never do, I set my expectations and I set them realistically (which means low….). We have two LITTLE KIDS (like we only recently got one out of diapers) and as much as I want to light advent candles and sing carols that talk about Jesus birth I know that realistically someone would light something on fire. As much as I want to read the long version of Jesus’s birth I will have to settle for the cliff notes until my oldest can listen without finding her nose treasures more interesting (boogers and burgers sound a lot alike these days and I don’t know if she quite knows the difference). So I set them low and I decided that we would just enjoy all the newness that came with each part of the Christmas story and the season.

Then the other day she was coloring and she started singing away in a manger, and I teared up because I am a mom and when your three year old sings about Jesus you cry, and then we went to sing a Children’s Choir at church and she asked all about who they sing to and why they dance and I teared up again. Tiny seeds that with the right prayer and nourishment will grow big fruit. A Big God always blows our sand sized expectations out of the water.

The other morning as I was reading my advent book (to myself sans kids because kids don’t care about the dramatic details of the greatest event in history… see booger comment) I realized this Christmas season had been magical. Not because I manifested big God moments but because God came, because he always does. Because each year songs, lights, books, and children’s tiny voices remind us that the magic happened. It was quiet, soft, and slow (like my favorite Christmas song says) but he came and he gave us enough love and hope to make it through the rest of the seasons. We don’t have to feel it, we don’t have to create it, it just happens whether we have prepared or whether we are just bystanders enjoying the show. Magic or not, every year it takes my breath away when I think about the little baby that came not only for my big sin ravaged heart but for my children’s tiny little ones who quietly sing songs they have yet to even understand.

 

Isn’t it true that we all wear many hats in this life? We all have titles with special meaning. Titles that signify who we are and what we love. Titles tell others something about us and help us wrap our mind around expectations. Wife. Mother. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Author. These are my tiles I wear like badges that make me feel found. Titles help us navigate a world that is always asking us who we are, what we believe, and why we matter.

This year almost all my titles have changed a little bit. I have had to navigate adding another little person to our life. Ben changed jobs and I had to learn to be supportive even when I had little to give. I have watched people I love hurt with a pain I didn’t know you could endure and I’ve been disappointed in ways I didn’t think I could manage. I lost an important working relationship that put my career on an even bigger hold than I expected and I had to let go of the title that made me feel slightly important. When my insomnia kicked in hard core after thanksgiving I sat in bed and thought of all the change that had run rampant in my world this past year. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t hurt. I wasn’t angry it was just facts stacking up in the news archives of my brain.

I also traced through the complete joy I had felt this year. Every step of watching my children grow. Joining a small group that has been an amazing support. New and wonderful friends. Laughing with my husband. Joining a church that has changed me to my core. Volunteering in student ministry again. Really good things that have filled me up.

I was thinking about this tonight as I traced the names of Jesus on my chalkboard. I have been following the 100 days of Jesus on email/Instagram and every day I get a new name that talks about the significant titles of Jesus. I started writing out the ones that had pulled me through the good and hard times this year. Healer, redeemer, prince of peace, life, lion, the Lamb of God, reconciler, mediator, father, Living water, and the list goes on. All these titles have changed life’s road blocks into speed bumps.  These profound titles that have carried me through pain with a comfort only the God of heaven can offer. Titles that have promised stability when nothing is stable around me. Titles that have made me valuable when I feel invisible. Titles that have given me the peace to trust when pain seems to be the only thing I can see. The truth is nothing in this life is stable, there are no guarantees but somehow, December seems to roll around every year and remind us just how much God cares and whispers hope into our hurting.

I will always need a redeemer because sin isn’t going anywhere. I will always need a healer because my body is broken. I will always need a reconciler because I cannot get to God without Jesus sinless sacrifice. I will always need the Lamb of God to pay for the gravity of my sin. I will always need a reconciler because sin separates. I will always need living water because this world just won’t satisfy. To sum it up, I will always need Jesus. I’ll need all his name, his titles, and attributes to help me through the rest of the unknowns, there isn’t one part of him I don’t need.

  • susan p - i love you TB. You are a hero to me 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Linda Hughes - How beautiful. I was sitting here writing down “titles” of my teenage daughter. All the things that make up who she is to us and her world, to boost her confidence in the light of poor decisions that created hurt and drama in our home last night.
    She is an athlete, a photographer, an animal lover, a best friend, a singer…….
    I stopped. Decided to check my email. I had purchased your book Popular for her this past summer. She is in the process of reading it ( not so faithfully). So I get your emails.

    How interesting that you are listing the titles of Jesus. As I look at the 2 lists I realize how human we are and how HUGE Jesus is. I mean what/who compares to Him? The LIVING WATER? The PRINCE of peace? LIFE?

    In all that I cherish in my daughter, I must realize that I have got to point her to HIM. He is everything. In him is everything. Oh, for faith to trust him more!

    Thank you for a beautiful email that has touched this hurting mother’s heart. I can’t wait to share w my friends who are in the midst of hurting over their children’s poor decisions and waywardness in these crazy teen years.ReplyCancel

  • Tindell Baldwin - Linda,
    I am so sorry to hear you are going through a hard time with your daughter. I’m so glad my words could encourage you!! It is always an honor when God uses my writing in any way.
    God Bless,
    TindellReplyCancel

Five years used to feel like a really long time. I remember when Claire was born, in those first sleepless months a friend that was a few years ahead of me told me the days are long but the years are short. I thought she was kidding. The days were long. The nights were excruciating. I felt like life was passing me by one minute at a time. Years are short? I laughed. At this rate I thought the years would never come.

Next month my oldest turns 3. Only two more years at home. I can’t believe three whole years have almost passed. On mondays like today I think how did it happen? When did she get so big, how are we already talking about God, the condition of her heart, and the real painful why’s of life? How did we get to the age where she stood at the top of the slide and yelled, “mom, look i’m gonna kill myself,” only for me to realize I can’t mutter sayings anymore that I don’t want her to repeat (try explaining that one to a playground full of moms).

The years are indeed short my friend. I think this is why God refers to our life as vapor… make it count because it vanishes before we know it. The young years are so incredibly hard and yet so incredibly short.  So short that before you know it three of them have passed. I have read that most of a critical years of a child’s life happen before age five. This includes the first six months which my friend and I like to call the “pet rock” phase because while they are adorable to look at…. they don’t do much. Five short years.  When I first became a mom I thought it would be like a sprint… sprint to them walking… small victory. Sprint to them talking… oh crap don’t say that.. small victory and lots of fails. Sprint to them using the toilet instead of their pants… well we will get there. The truth is motherhood is a marathon and I don’t really know what the finish line is. Motherhood is  marathon that requires you to wake up everyday and beg God for enough strength to make it through just this lap with all the huge unknowns still lying ahead. Will we have a good day filled with laughter that makes you think, I can handle three kids, or will we have a day riddled with tears from both mom and child that requires mass amounts of chocolates and questions of just how screwed up my kids will be?  Motherhood is a marathon, so settle into  your pace because the days are long but the years are so short. So short in fact that just when you think you have it down someone changes the race entirely.

Lately I have had to make myself slow down, i’ve been sprinting towards a finish line that doesn’t exist. We have a almost three year old and a fifteen month old (If you follow me on instagram you could probably draw them in your sleep because I have what you like to call a “baby picture problem”… leave me alone they are flipping adorable) and I really want to finish writing a second book but most days its all I can do to collapse into bed and read my latest parenting book to ensure my child doesn’t end up on MTV (just kidding there’s no book for that). This is my gig. I chose it. I chose home not work. I chose to put my dreams on hold until I’m ready to get help. I get to do lots of things I love but pouring my life onto pages isn’t in the cards right now. So the other day I sat down to write and I wrote this instead….

The pages on my computer may be blank but my children’s stories will be well written.

Pace changed. Finish line moved. I’m ready for another lap.

 

 

Me and claire

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I have a weakness for ridiculous novels. The more absurd the story line the more I like it. I’m currently halfway through a series about a time traveling teenager from London who is trying to solve this great family mystery with her hunky older time traveling buddy…. don’t judge… it’s totally written for my age bracket….fifteen years ago. I would blame my love of writing on this little habit, or the fact that my parents put money towards a car when I was younger if I would read something besides Glamour, but the truth is my chronic insomnia is what keeps me up at night turning pages (see what I did there). So because of this little habit I have read far too many teenage novels that involve ridiculous love stories where both the characters have a curfew and I realize I should probably find another hobby.

There is one thing I notice in any book I seem to read, there always has to be a hero. He’s normally male and described as tall, dark, and handsome (unless you are reading twilight where he is average height, pale, sparkly, and blood thirsty… this is stuff great books are made of). The hero is always somewhat predictable but I never really care. I just want him to sweep in with his one liner and see the perfect bow put on the story. Novels are so much easier than real life.

We are all living out a story and the other unavoidable part of stories is conflict and often pain. That’s normally where the hero comes in. The problem with real life is that the hero never shows up when we need them to. The main characters can be really tough people to love and at the end of the day we don’t get to shut the book of our lives and wait for the next chapter. I like to think of my story as always being written but there seems to be a common theme even in my comfortable life… I always need a hero and no human will do.

The only hero that has ever swept in strong and saved me is Jesus. It sounds so Sunday school but it’s just who God is. He is the hero. He is the only part of our stories worth telling. He is what makes me a good mom, a loving wife, or a caring friend. He is what pushes me to die to selfishness and embrace a life of giving away. Hero’s always change things. They come into circumstances and make them different. This is the essence of God. The most messed up of people can find restoration when God walks into the story. He is always the hero. He is always the one worth praising. He is the one who gives peace in a world so filled with evil.

I recently listened to a john piper sermon where he explained that all the good parts of life are from God. I can see that every day when I look at my story. The beautifully written parts, the loving parts, the parts where I forgave instead of held onto bitterness, the parts where I got what I didn’t deserve, the memories of playing with my brothers, the hours I spend laughing with my husband, when I look at my kids and my heart and eyes well up with joy, all the good in life is from God. The hero of any story is the God who saves anyone who calls on him. Life may be a mess and mines not nearly as exciting as many of my novels but I know who the hero is. I know who will save me. I know who I can hope in. I know who will show up, not always like I expect or like I think I need but I know who I can call on when life starts to go in a million directions. I know who can always save my plotline.

 

(pssstt… if you like reading, make sure and subscribe and all my blogs will come right to your inbox.)

In the current political climate it seems our religion is marked more by what we don’t agree with than what we actually believe in. So late one night I started to write out what the dreaded “C” word meant to me. I pray I am always known more by how I love than what I stand against.

It goes something like this.

Yes, I am a Christian…
I am pro-life, tend to vote republican , and was raised in a middle class home
Yes I am a Christian…
I use churchy phrases, have my bible highlighted, and tell hurting people I will pray but often forget
Yes I am a Christian…
My kids know bible songs, we go to church on Sunday, and pray before dinner
Yes I am a Christian…
I don’t say the f word, I volunteer at my church, and sometimes oddly smile at strangers in the hopes they see Jesus
Yes I am a Christian…
I’ve been to Africa… Twice, held beautiful orphaned babies and wept out of misunderstanding, and spent far too few hours in under privileged areas

Although I am a Christian my actions are only a reflection of what God has done for me. My heart doesn’t break because of my label or a sticker I have on my car. I don’t hold beliefs so close to my heart because It makes life easy. I don’t help others to earn heaven points or favor with God. I don’t serve at church because I think it makes me better or cleanses me of my many sins. I’m not pro-life because of my brand or because Christianity demands it of me. I don’t teach my kids bible songs because I don’t want them singing secular music and I don’t pray before dinner because my Baptist background tells me to.

I am a Christian…
Which means I realized I was broken beyond human repair
I am a Christian….
Which means I saw the gravity of my sin through Gods eyes and I knew I had a need
I am a Christian…                                                                                                                                                      which means I met a savior at a cross who held out his hand said follow me
I am a Christian…
Which means I humbled myself to the God who created me and told him to change me, break me, and mend me
I am a Christian…
Which means I beg God to fix my inadequacies and include me in his grand story
I am a Christian…
Which means I will buck social norms with truth knowing there is only one who God holds the key to a great plan
I am a Christian…                                                                                                                                                     which means above all else that I want others to know the saving grace of a God who asks us to call him father.

Christianity doesn’t get me out of the mess of humanity it gives me eyes to see a broken world and the deep need we all have for a savior. Christian wasn’t a label I received or even a prayer that I prayer, it was a belief that I need Jesus and with that need comes responsibilities.

Ephesians 2:8-9 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

  • Susan Peterson - yes! it is by grace for sure! 🙂 love you Tindell!ReplyCancel

  • Jane - This is awesome Tindell! You nailed the heart of it all. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Taylor Stanfill - Wow, Tindy! I absolutely loved this. Such a good perspective on why we do stuff and what it means to be a Christian! Although, I do think my Jesus t-shirts made me a better person in middle school.ReplyCancel

  • Tindell Baldwin - Yes Tay the Jesus Christ in orange and brown were really your witness in high school. haha! Thank you susan and Jane!ReplyCancel

A little over a year ago I sat with a mom as she spoke of her daughter who seemed beyond hope. It was a pretty typical story. I left weeping, blogged about (that sounds so uncaring but it wasn’t… read here) , thought of her some in the following year but never heard much more. I often wondered. Sadly when you hear as many stories as I do you start to loose hope. You start to feel like the world is winning and Satan is just more powerful.

Then I got an email out of the blue and a year later and was sitting across the table from a bright eyed beautiful girl who had fully surrendered her life to Christ. Another prodigal come home. I thought how good God was. I stared in awe at a living breathing image of the power of the cross, truth, and the blood of Christ.

But even in the midst of triumph I feel fear. I sat last week  with my best friend and we were wondering how we keep our kids from this world. We were debating public or private, homeschool or farm far far away…. and our kids are all under 3.  Fear sometimes rules my world. It rules my parenting, it rules my marriage, and it keeps me from moving forward. It isn’t even unmerited fear, I meet a lot of high school girls and I haven’t heard enough come back stories. I fully believe in the power of God but I also fully see the power of Satan in a culture that swallows lies about as much as we swallow big macs and when I scroll through the news it seems I only feel pain radiating from a world that needs Jesus.

So my challenge is to live in fear or believe Jesus is our hope even when life feels hopeless. Believe he can mend hearts, bring prodigals home, and keep my own little ones in the protection of his arms. Believe that he cares even when it seems he has gone silent. Believe he is worth the cost and the only “payout” i’ll receive will be in heaven.  There is a story I read recently when Jesus started teaching the hard stuff, the confusing stuff many of his followers started to walk away, so he turned to his disciples and said, will you go too? (John 6:67)

There answer was so beautifully human, “to whom shall we go?” They knew and they believed and because of that they could not walk away.

So many days I just have to come to terms that while I don’t understand everything (and never will) I do understand there is only one place to go. There is only one worthy of my affection and my attention. There is only one who heals wounds, puts lives back together, and gives tremendous hope in the midst of horrible circumstances.

I know where to go. Even when the prodigals don’t run home, when the injustices against women in children stack up a mile high, when my own life seems out of sorts.

To whom shall I go? Straight into the arms of the one who gave me everything I would ever need at the cross.

S u b s c r i b e
S e a r c h