Tindell Baldwin »

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.

 

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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.

The sadness hits me in waves like huge gushing, tear jerking, eye opening waves every time I open any media outlet. From plan parenthood videos that chock life up to a Petri-Dish of money, to cheating websites that promise you more than what you have, to people wagering exactly what they believe at the expense of others. I have felt nothing short of hopeless. I have felt the darkness swooping over the streets like a storm rolling in and asked God for answers to no avail.

Yet, In the midst of it all, I watch my children who have no idea. They have no frame of reference to the world I will one day release them to. They belly ache laugh at animal noises, silly songs, and tickle fights. They know nothing of political debates, retirement accounts, or future plans. They trust me and ben every day to wake up love them and give them what they need. I have yet to fail them in those two things. I am by no means perfect but they haven’t known real need yet in their tiny lives.

Today I read an article by a woman who in response to the latest Christian wife being cheated on scandal she said the hoped “her daughters breathed fire.” She has young kids like me and I sort of sighed when I read it because for so long that was my approach. I was a girl who breathed fire. I was a girl that thought forgiveness meant weakness and that mercy was earned through a series of paying back. I was a girl who was “stronger” than my greatest hurt. Until life got lonely and I realized I couldn’t strong hold pain into not hurting. The sad reality of this broken down life is that we will run across people who will hurt us and the only thing worth breathing is forgiveness. I have learned that strength comes from showing people what they don’t deserve and the only thing that gives me real peace is knowing I’m not any better. Even if I shelf my faith for this discussion I can’t out hurt those who have hurt me, I can’t push others far enough away so the hurt isn’t there, and I can’t mend my broken heart with angry words breathed from a toxic tongue. Real strength, real peace, real hope, comes when forgiveness is breathed in the broken parts of life. Do we stay? Not always. Do we come back? Not always. Do we learn? Yes. But do we risk our own hearts being diseased by someone else’s brokenness, yes, if we try to outbreak them.

Strength in this world might look like breathing fire, but this world is broken. This world isn’t working. You don’t have to believe in God to look around and say we have lost something. We are trading the real joys in life for temporary fixes. We are making ourselves feel better at the expense of others. So from a former dragon trust me when I say breathing fire hurts you just as much as it hurts the one who hurt you and if I hope anything for my daughter its not that she’s a doormat but a door that God uses to reach people for his glory. I haven’t even lived that long but I know hurt is in the equation no matter how we live.

So, Just like my kids look at me with big trusting eyes and ask me to love them and give them what they need God asks the same from me. Will I trust him to love me and give me what I need? Each day I have a choice when I get my kids up, will I teach them to breath fire in defense or will I teach her to trust in God not people?

Kind words are like honey-

sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

Proverbs 16:24

  • Sherri - Thank you for writing this. Your timing couldn’t have been better. God has definetly used your words to speak to my heart. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Peterson - may we never breathe fire when Jesus only breathes life into us! What a great word today. Thank you TIndell! Miss you and love you!
    SPReplyCancel

  • Tiffany Daniels - Tindell,
    Thank you for these inspiring words! I love that you are thinking deeply about speaking truth into your little ones. I hug my 16-year tight every morning and pray God’s truth over her before she heads out into this broken world.
    May God use our every breath for His glory!
    Tiffany DanielsReplyCancel

My much wiser yet not that much older brother recently told me he hoped his kids hung around all broken people. He hoped they were friends with the people that needed Jesus the most. I thought this was weird because we are Christians and we (sometimes unintentionally) go to great lengths to make sure our kids are surrounded by “other Christians.”

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that our family goes to church each week in the hopes that our kids will grow up with a sense of community there. We hope that Claire goes from one program to the next making like-minded friends along the way… and Briggs too when he stops biting the other children. I realized recently when I faced with brokenness in my own world that my instinct was to pull my children far from it instead of embrace it and point to Jesus. Let me make a disclaimer here that I am not naïve, I don’t expect my kids to be a “light” at 3 or stand up for the bible at 5 but I do hope they don’t believe Jesus is only for the Christians at 15.  I do pray my kids walk in circles of broken people and realize the only thing they know different (lord willing) is the healer of all brokenness. I realized at the end the day I had to believe that brokenness wasn’t contagious it was already in the DNA. When I gave birth to each of my kids I believed they needed a savior (and now that the oldest is a two and half year old I pray she realizes the same soon).

However, the lie I slowly started to believe was that if I sheltered my kids from brokenness they wouldn’t experience it themselves. If I sent them to top tier schools and provided them with the perfect Christian upbringing then maybe, just maybe, they would escape this painful word we hate to say….sin. That’s not the truth though, I am starting to realize that the more exposure I have to others sin the more I cling to jesus. The more I see that humans are flawed no matter how much I love and respect them then the more I grasp that I am not exempt. When Jesus said in romans that all had fallen short of his glorious standard, I think he meant not only me but my precious little babes as well.

So I was faced with a choice, pull away and protect or embrace and trust. I chose to trust that forgiveness doesn’t mean I am weak it means I know I have been forgiven. I am choosing to believe my God has written a story for my children that involves him, and the best thing I can do to usher them into that plan is to trust in a God who is worthy of our lives not just our Sundays.

I sat in a room tonight with 1000+ high school students and heard the story of a fellow leader. A beautiful woman who at 16 was a high school dropout, homeless, and with a history of abuse and alone. It was the cycle of poverty at its cruelest. She was then asked what would have happened if someone had come alongside her at 16 (or earlier) and offered her love and asked nothing in return? What would have happened if she had been loved instead of used? Cared for instead of taken advantage of? Looked after instead of constantly having to look over her shoulder?

With tears in her eyes she said. “Life, it would have meant life.”

And I thought didn’t he just describe the call of a Christian?

You see all too often I think we blame other people’s hardships on the cycle of poverty, pain, or poor choices. We brush away our call to step into other peoples horrific stories as nothing more than a flip chart on a government website.

When I think about my upbringing I think of my Santa Claus Christmases, my family vacations, and my daddy daughter dates. I think of prom dresses and the ability to feel secure and I wonder why I never saw the hurting around me. I wonder why I never came face to face with the abused and saw the incredibly opportunity I had to help? What I failed to see was that while the cycle of poverty might be hard to break the cycle of entitlement is iron clad. I never saw the hurting because I never had to. I grew up believing (and not because I was taught this) I was just entitled to certain things other only dreamed of. I grew up believing that the only person I had to worry about was myself. I relished in success and blamed others for my failure. At my core I just expected life to be good to me.

Then I got to know Jesus and the hurting around me started to collide with what I said I believed. I saw why my family did certain things like help others, befriend the friendless, and give generously. All the sudden the people I most greatly respected didn’t have things they had a heart posture for others. All of the sudden I didn’t want a life headed for comfort I wanted a life headed for Jesus. I wanted to be made a fool if only to be told by my savior one day, well done.

However the cycle is hard to break. When we had kids suddenly I wanted to keep the cycle going. I wanted to pass down the sheer coincidence I was handed at birth. I wanted my kids to never hurt but when I started having to tell my two year old about Jesus I realized she wouldn’t buy into a savior that kept her comfortable. Why send a blameless man to die on a cross if only to rescue a few?  I realized that the best conversation I could have would be a faith lived out and not at the sacrifice of my responsibilities but with the prayer that God would live in my home.

I don’t want God to be the dormant cross hanging on my wall, I want to feel his breath on my family like you feel a sea breeze. I want him to change us. Sure I want good things for my kids but what I really want is a life full of purpose not things, a life filled with the hurting colliding with the blessed, and a life where they hear from God and they just say yes because faith without deeds is dead and I’m not ready to bury mine just yet.

I realized today that this past month marked two years of Popular being released. It wasn’t a momentous occasion or anything (I mean I ate 12 cookies but that was pure coincidence) but I realized I’ve learned more over the past two years about myself than I really care to admit. Part of that stems from the fact that I’ve had two babies since Popular was released (geez) but a lot of it had to do with expectations and real life colliding and since I get a number of emails about writing and girls dreams for helping others I wanted to share some of the things I wish I had known.

  1. You define your success. Before Popular ever hit the shelves my dad asked me what would make me happy in terms of book sales. I didn’t have a number I had an idea, I wanted to hear that my story was making a positive impact. I genuinely prayed for that God would turn lives towards him with my story. It only took a few months before emails/messages/even a few baptism videos that left me in tears came through saying God had done just what I had prayed he would do (imagine that) and I was floored.
  1. Success is alluring. See here’s the thing about predetermining what success looks like its great until you start looking around, at other author’s sales, their speaking platforms, or their latest endorsement. Just like anything in life when we look around we can always find someone better, more talented, and more business savvy (or at least someone without so many tiny people calling them mom). Suddenly I felt fifteen again and begging to be in some allusive cool Christian crowd. When I looked to others to tell me I was successful instead of what God called me to be faithful in then I always came up short.
  1. If God has called you he will be faithful but faithful doesn’t mean easy. I have always believed this to be true except for the easy part. Easy, my friends is rarely the case. I generally know I am aligned with Gods plan when I am the most uncomfortable and begging for his guidance. I worry when life gets easy not because I think God wants me to be in pain but because being faithful to the call of Christ should hurt a little. If we are truly supposed to be “hated” by the world then we should ache (john 15:19). We should ache from the weight of the gospel and the weight we hold to spread it.
  1. Say the hard stuff. The world doesn’t need more politically correct Christians, the world needs more Christians who know what they believe and can live it out in love. Preaching the gospel should not be popular. If Jesus wasn’t widely accepted why in the world would we expect to be?? Now, when I say the “hard stuff” I do not mean your opinions because heaven knowns we don’t need more opinions streaming through social media. Truth is hard, it is messy, but (not be too predictable) it will set you and so many others free. Truth lies in the words breathed onto the pages of the bible you might have laid down long ago. If you truly want to have a message then pick up your bible. Our words are meaningless and can only lead others astray without the backing of truth.
  1. Get some Godly confidence. A dear friend of mine who I met while she was helping me launch Popular told me right before we were about to get on a conference call that I needed some Godly confidence. I knew what she meant. I had the odds stacked against me and many times in the publishing world wanted to hang my head and slide through the shadows hoping no one would notice I had slipped in by mistake and throw me out. I was one of the youngest authors on both my agents and publishers roster and really did feel this voice in my head saying on repeat, “You don’t belong.” It wasn’t Gods and my friend was right, I needed to be confident because at the end of the day I knew who had called me to this crazy journey and could be confident in HIM not in myself.

 So there is my soap box. Thanks for letting me share.

  • Cheri Hardin - Thank you for sharing your thoughts an experiences.ReplyCancel

  • Jessie Minassian - Tindell- Been meaning to comment on this post for a while now. As a fellow author-slash-writer, I resonate with so much of what you share here. The temptation to base success on comparisons is suffocating sometimes. Praise God for His patience with us! Keep doing what you’re doing, sister!

    xo
    jessie minassian
    http://www.LifeLoveandGod.comReplyCancel

    • Tindell Baldwin - Thank you Jessie! I’m so glad it could be encouraging to you, writing is a weird thing sometimes always nice to know someone understands. I need to get your book I love having recommendations for girls!ReplyCancel

Claire has been having nightmares for a few weeks. She wakes up screaming and runs out of her room. She crumples in a puddle outside my door where I meet her, scoop her up, and soothe her. I rock her in my arms and tell her shes safe. Over and over again I tell her she is safe and she believes me. I put her back into bed rubbing her hair and singing her favorite Christy Knockel’s song, “with my roots deep in you i’ll be the branch that bears the fruit and though i’m small i’ll still be standing in the storm, its all for your splendor Lord.”

We have a ritual where if we are in a situation she is unsure of she turns to me and says “mommy keeps me safe?” and I smile and say “that’s my job baby, you’re always safe with me.” But what if I couldn’t? What if America was living in the same terror as the countries around us imprisoned by ISIS and I couldn’t tell her I could keep her safe because girls her age are being taken and sold for unspeakable purposes? What if when here big hazel eyes looked up at me in terror I couldn’t do anything but watch? I’ll tell you what I would do, whatever necessary, even to my own death to protect her little life.

But it isn’t our kids, is it? I sit on the other side of screens and hear about the terror and anguish and then I turn it off hug my babies a little tighter and thank God I live in the US. I don’t want to anymore though. I don’t want to numb out to all America has to offer so that I can ignore the cries of mothers around the world who can’t keep their babies safe. If God is truly near to the brokenhearted then isn’t the closest way to pursue his heart to be near to them as well. I wonder if on the days my heart feel so far from God is because I’ve so distanced myself from his hurting children.

Right now donating funds seem like the only way to help even though it seems so nominal. I am still praying about what else can be done (and am open to suggestions). The bible says that faith without deeds is dead and sometimes I feel paralyzed by the idea that i’m missing the real thing, that my faith doesn’t need to be written out but worked out.

I always have parents ask me how to get their kids outside their bubble, how do you get a teenager to see that the perfect prom dress isn’t quite the chart topping news they think it is. I think we do it the same way we remind ourselves that our world isn’t the only world. We collide it with the big picture, we tell a story bigger than picket fences and perfect Christmas cards (not that any of those things are bad), we step outside the comfortable and embrace the messy painful part of life. We hurt with others even if their pain doesn’t come close to our world. 

I got some disappointing writing news recently in the midst of what I hopped was book number two and I started to feel really bad for little old me. I started to wonder what was the point of my writing and a very clear voice said, “well not you.” I pray it never is. So I wonder if I am the only one feeling completely tired of hearing about the hurting but not helping the hurting. Am I the only one tired of Christian platforms instead of Christians in action?  Will you pray with me about what we can do…. and then do it. 

Here are a few ways to help, bottom of Ann’s blog explains more.

How We’re Serving Victims of ISIS

Into Iraq #1: Love in the Time of Isis

  • Lisa - Hi Tindell,

    I just read your post on Ann Voskamp’s blog and was so encouraged. I also live in Marietta and was wondering if there are any churches you recommend in the area. Thanks for writing about the realities of being a mother of young children!ReplyCancel

    • Tindell Baldwin - Lisa,

      We go to North Point Community Church and love it! Hope that helps!ReplyCancel

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