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Tindell Baldwin »

We all have accomplishments we secretly hope our kids make, I know this is true because my kids are only two and five months and, if I’m really honest, I have dreamed of things for them. For Claire (who is two) I have dreamed of a life of grace… I was not a graceful person. In fact in college my sorority nominated me for a pageant which involved a VERY simple (I’m talking spirit fingers kind of simple) choreographed dance and the teacher would constantly have to circle back around and ask if my uncoordinated 5’10 frame could do the the very entry level move. I couldn’t and I can promise you I was never asked to do such things again. I joked that my head was just too far from my feet. So for her I have dreamed of grace because if I’m honest I was always lacking on it. For Briggs I picture Friday night football games and us cheering him on from the stands. I don’t know why it just feels very picturesque, like what you imagine having babies is like before you actually have babies. Truthfully, I will cheer my kids on from whatever stands they let me cheer from. I don’t care if Claire decides she likes softball instead of ballet (which is more likely since she currently runs into walls… genetics are so unforgiving) or if Briggs loves chess instead of football what matters is that they let me come.

However we all have certain things we are dreaming off…real life stuff, the stuff that really matters. Stuff like planning a wedding with your daughter, or watching a graduation, welcoming your first grandbaby, or just seeing them settled into a life they love. The list in my head of check marks that will let me rest as a parent are long. Then today as I sat with my arm around my two year old, her little hands clutching her bunny and her new Kermit the frog stuffed animal, I realized I really only have one dream that matters. I don’t care about the sports I get to see, the degrees on the wall, the stands I might cheer from, or even picking out that perfect wedding dress.

The walk I want to see them make is that walk down the aisle towards a commitment with a savior. The stand I want to see her take is when she stands in some church or prays a prayer on bended knee that asks the question that will change the whole trajectory of her life. I want to see my kids put their faith in Jesus. I don’t say this because it’s Christmas or because it’s the right answer I say it because my life wouldn’t have any merit if I hadn’t found Jesus or more accuracy if he hadn’t saved me. I say that because as I watched parents and their children walk down the aisle today acknowledging acceptance of Jesus into their heart I prayed a simple prayer, “God please let me get to see my kids come to know you.” Because of all the dreams I hold this is the only one that gives them life. Of all the prayers I make this is the only one that gives me hope. Of all the things I wish for them I know that none of it matters without a relationship with a God that made himself human for us. There are very few things I would say without hesitation or questioning but this I know to be true, a life lived without Jesus is not a life worth living.

Tonight as a I wrap up tiny presents for my babies I am praying to a huge God who made himself so small for us. Not small in glory and not small in significance but small so we could behold him in a way that made him real. Small that made him tangible. This Christmas that is my real wish that one day I would get celebrate this holy night with their hearts that fully understand.

Matthew 1:23

23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[a] (which means “God with us”).

  • Gloria Butler - I pray with you for your hearts desire for your children. There truly is no greater joy for a parent than to know that her children walk in truth! Merry Christmas to you and your family!ReplyCancel

  • deirdre - So beautifully written. My daughter walked the aisle yesterday at Passion City . She is a senior in high school and we have been praying for that moment for a long time ! We are thrilled and so blessed ! Thank you for all you do for teenage girls !!ReplyCancel

  • Anna Etheriedge - And so it begins… like Paul said with almost a mother’s heart, “My little children, for whom I am again suffering birth pangs until Christ is completely and permanently formed (molded) within you…” It is a beautiful (sometimes wrenching) journey to behold 🙂 Blessings to your precious family, AnnaReplyCancel

I had a friend tell me when I was pregnant with Claire that you either get rocked by one baby or rocked by two. I was shaken by one for sure but for the most part I loved being a mom. I had a new found love for this little life and caring for her. I loved watching her experience new things, take her first steps, and her little personality grow each day. It was a sort of beautiful adjustment that went pretty seamlessly.

I handled the first baby so well I figured why not expanding my mothering skills by adding another baby to grace this world. Since you know… I had this under control (this would be the part of the plot chart where we have hit the top of the hill and are making the decent down). I had the house clean enough most of the time, had date nights on a regular basis, was reading through the bible in a year with ben, and was taking extra time to teach Claire about Jesus. I was giving myself mental pats on the back for keeping life under control and I was enjoying it too. Inside the little book we all keep in our heads that evaluates how well we are doing at life I was checking my boxes.

Then Briggs was born. Another amazing gift that surprised us when he arrived three weeks early (key word surprised.. like my hospital bag wasn’t packed) and I knew it would be hard but I thought I’d still be able to check my boxes. However, whereas Claire had molded my world with her tiny hands Briggs had cracked it right apart. I couldn’t perform or pretend to have it all together. I couldn’t create images that looked shiny and pretty most days because I was in a haze of toddler toys and baby screams. I was (and still am thanks to a new wave of sickness) sleep deprived and frustrated. I was cranky most nights. I was bitter that going to the grocery store was a big outing for me and I was angry that pretty much all of my dreams would have to be put on hold for a while. I loved Briggs so much but my selfish nature flared up and I was just lost. Plus my favorite pair of jeans didn’t fit (you see how bad things were…. Sarcasm…. A lot of it)

So one night when I had sort of reached the pinnacle of my frustration and danced at my own pity party for far too long I took out my journal and wrote that I just felt like I was getting an F in every category. I could no longer check all of my boxes and my new reality was just too much. The rest of the world around me seemed to be handling their 2 OR MORE kids just fine and I was drowning. I sat in silence and heard the quite reminder of the gospel tell me that he never needed my performance. He wasn’t asking me to check off my mental boxes that decided whether I was doing ok or not, he was asking me to lean into him and let his love free me.

So if you are like me and have entered a season where you have been cracked apart and can’t hold it together let the truth of Jesus’s words wash over you, “I have come so that you have life, and have it to the full” (john 10:10) the first part of that verse we know well it’s the second part we forget. The first part says, “the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.” The enemy comes whispering that God has expectations of perfection over Jesus’s invitation to simply come. He comes telling us that God needs all of our boxes checked instead of the truth that God loves us the same no matter the mess. Boxes checked or big fat F by the world’s standards does not change the degree to which he loved you… to death.

No matter if life is easy or hard we need God. We need him to make us new, make us whole, and remind us that our best performance doesn’t make us a Christian. Our best performance doesn’t earn us his love or his respect, it just exhausts us. So lets change our boxes not from whether the house is clean but did our kids feel like a gift from above. Not from did we say the right thing but did we love the right way. Let’s change our attitude from do we have it all together to, do we sit and listen to the one who sent his son as a baby to enter our world. Until we really see Jesus as the savior that walked into our mess, we will spend our efforts trying to clean up for him however, our best attempts are nothing more than a manger bed for the king of the world.

So if the Christmas card you sent feels a little fake and the real story is you are a mess then I know just the guy. He tells you to stop the cleaning and sit at his feet just for a moment. Be made new not because he is impressed by your performance or your efforts but because he loved you enough to come for you.

  • Jeff Manget - Great reminder for this Christmas Season!ReplyCancel

  • Anne - Dear Tindell,

    Thank you for this reminder about the true meaning of Christmas. It is not just ticking off the boxes for buying presents and preparing for the Christmas dinners with family and friends. It is preparing our hearts to yield to God, who has sent his only beloved Son to us. And God wants us to come ‘as is’, without having to tidy up our lives or the heavy make-up. God accepts us as we are, loves us as we are. It’s about time we do too! Amen.ReplyCancel

Fight or flight? It’s what we were taught in school as the two responses to danger. I’d argue that it isn’t just our response to danger but rather just life because who really lives a completely “safe” life. I always knew which one I was. I flew. Far away from what was scaring me. I ended relationships by doing things that caused the other person to end it. I stopped calling friends back when it was too hard because part of me always believed running away was easier than fighting.

There are very few people in my life I have really fought for, mostly they are the ones who sit around my dinner table at Christmas and I like to remind them that they aren’t getting rid of me no matter how hard they try. Early in life I realized that pain hurt (ground breaking I know) but what hurt less was causing the pain. Walking away yourself seemed less painful than what I always thought was the “inevitable” leaving.  Blame it on bad boyfriends or deep seated insecurities either way for a little while it was how I operated.

Fast forward to marriage, where running wasn’t an option. Fast forward to kids, who had no agenda besides spending 24/7 with me. Fast forward to obeying a call I felt God put on my life and realizing responsibilities came with the calling. And here I sit wondering why I want nothing more than to bolt to the nearest Starbucks and just escape for a few hours. I never learned how to fight. I taught myself how to make it easy but what do you do when easy isn’t an option?

What do you do when you can’t outrun your current season? When the laundry won’t fold itself, the words won’t write themselves,  and the kids don’t dress or bath themselves (yet), what do you do when you can’t actually scream into your pillow because your two year old will say “it’s ok mama” making you feel 100% worse. What do you do when there is no actual answer but to fight?

Fight for sanity, fight for love, fight for what you believe in, have been called to, and are doing. Fight to be the woman God has made you to be when the path is hard and you feel utterly alone. Fight when no one else understands except the people who love you most. Fight when you want to crawl back into bed and say, “I’m sorry I’m not here right now please try again when my sanity (or a venti latte) has arrived”, what do you do when life “inevitably” requires a fight? When the job is ending, when the emails are pressing, when the kids are whiny, when life is well…. Worth fighting for.

As a woman I so dearly respect put it “you live a life that requires God” (Jennie Allen Restless). In all my years of flying I never had Jesus to tell me I wouldn’t be fighting alone. I never had the comfort of knowing that he who began a good work in me would finish it (Philippians 1:6) . I didn’t know I was his workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) or that he was my ever present help in times of trouble (psalm 46). I am learning now that a life lived to please God is a life lived fighting, whether it’s against the patterns of this world, the father or lies, or just our own selfish nature, a life lived for God is one that requires much more of us. But I have come to find that what is better than avoiding pain is staying and fighting for a God who has already won for me.

  • Ruth - This is everything the Lord is teaching me right now. We must be freedom fighters for ourselves, our children, our marriages and our futures. Beautiful post, and so confirming for my heart. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Anna - TERRIFIC!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca Doster - Love this Tindell. Words I needed to hear!ReplyCancel

    • Tindell Baldwin - Thank you Rebecca! So glad it could encourage you 🙂ReplyCancel

I did the atkins diet in high school, pretty incorrectly I should add, I don’t remember why… I’m sure I had some life altering event like a spring break full of tiny bikinis or a prom dress that involved actually body morphing to fit into. I remember thinking I needed to loose five pounds and FAST (because when you are 16 there is no time to spare) and I read about this diet where you could eat all fat and cut out bread. In my head this was perfect because I could eat a hamburger without a bun and there was no need for bacon to be sandwiched between something that would only diminish its flavor. So I served myself three heaping meals of meat, very little veggies and fruits, and was sick with in one week.  I stuck to it for a few weeks until I was seriously ill and realizing that maybe I was ok with the extra few pounds.

In reality I never had any real issues with my weight but it didn’t matter what the scale said I always wanted to be thinner.  I was chasing the illusive “thin enough” and I didn’t realize I would never get there. I’d think I was doing pretty well until I saw my friend’s clothes or looked through the latest cosmo magazine and the insecurities would hit like a ton of bricks. Luckily my mom wasn’t the kind to feed the insecurities she was more the kind of mom who fed you TCBY when the day brought tears.

I say all this because I just read about a hot new brand aimed at teenagers that carries one size… small. The article included screen shots of teenage girls tweeting about how depressed they were that they didn’t fit into said brand. I wanted to take each girl out to a little TCBY and tell her that small isn’t the only size. As someone who used to define myself by the size of my pants, and if I’m honest still struggles on days, I can commiserate but what I’d tell them over a nice LARGE cup of frozen yogurt is that beauty has all kinds of looks and sizes. What I’d tell them is while my pants might have gotten a touch larger in this body that has housed and birthed two kids my heart has never felt fuller.

I was thinking about this as I got my daughter dressed this morning, she wrapped her chubby little arms around my neck and smiled because life is still good. I want more than anything to protect her innocence, to shelter her from a world that will start lying to her earlier than I care to admit. A world that will give her one mold to fit into and leave her questioning her worth or starving herself to be someone else’s idea of perfect. A world that tells her small is the only option and if you don’t fit get out.

I haven’t quite figured out how to shut out the lies but my goal is to be even louder with the truth. To tell her she is fearfully and wonderfully made. To tell her God made her with great care. To tell her she is worthy and beautiful and to take her out to a nice big cup of frozen yogurt when that isn’t quite enough.

Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Article link here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/14/brandy-melville_n_5978626.html

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In honor of my very best friend and sister in law who become a mother herself mere days ago

 Welcome to motherhood….

The journey that begins differently, each birth story as unique as the child we bring home. Each story stamped with the reminder that no two of us are the same. Each story like a tale of a personal war we survive, a day in the trenches, in a battle we were never really prepared for. Whether it starts in a delivery room, an OR, or an orphanage it’s a beautiful tale.

 Welcome to motherhood…

Where you listen even when you sleep, where you reveal in first smiles, and breathe in the smell of baby shampoo like a long lost friend. Where the love you experience teaches you more about God than the many years in youth group or Sundays spent at church. Where all the sudden you are only half a person and the other half lies sleeping in your arms.

 Welcome to motherhood…

The job with the worst hours, no pay, and very few vacation days. Yet it’s breath taking, life giving, and soul searching even on the hardest days. Its awe inspiring, confusing, and requires many a desperate prayer. It’s a journey where you reach the destination all along the way. Where you keep moving, keep breathing, and keep praying that you have what it takes. Where melt downs are common and freedom feels lost yet life feels so full. Where you ache when your baby aches, rock them to sleep singing when they spike their first fever, and smile through tears the first time they tell you they love you.

 Welcome to motherhood…

Where we never really have it together, we weep and ache to do right by our babes while maintaining some shred of ourself then we release them into the world that seems to want to steal their innocence at the first bus stop. We are only half the equation, only half of the story, and how we want to be the best half we can be. We long to know we can shed our humanness when we hold another’s life in our very hands but the real test of our love is leaning into the one who created them. We love best when we beg for their souls on behalf of a gracious God. We love them well when we realize the real saving comes from the creator. We hold our hands open and embrace the mess of a life that raising kids is. We embrace that we have no real answers just a very personal God. We accept that our best efforts might be snuffed out from a cold world but all hope is never lost.

 Welcome to motherhood…

The hours of labor, years of waiting, or total surprise that marked the start line of something so beautiful it’s hard to wrap words around it. So we wrap arms around flesh and blood and pray God never asks us to let go. We thought the real test of our strength was in the journey to the child in our arms but that really seems to just be the beginning. The real labor, I’m told, never actually ends. It comes in waves and seasons and in different ebbs and flows of life. From dirty diapers and 3 am wake up calls to tear filled conversations over a daughters broken heart, a lost job, or a family crisis. The real mothering never fully ceases.

 

  • Becky Combs - Well said. Having raised our kids to adulthood..we still love & intercede on their behalf. Thank you!ReplyCancel

My dad gives great advice, I’m talking move over Dear Abby type of stuff, in the midst of a real crisis of self or in need of a pre-speaking pep talk you can find me on the phone with my dad. He always makes me laugh which is a big bonus when you are in crisis mode and I know he will love me the same when we hang up even when I reveal most human selfish thoughts (its one of the perks of being the only daughter). I call him we chat, he makes me laugh, then gives me brilliant advice and I hang up and breathe a little easier.

This past Saturday I was throwing myself quite the pity party that involved the perils of having two small kids and wondering if I was ever going to have a moment to myself or sleep again. I knew I was being quite a brat, but we creative types like to do things all out, so I called the one person who would tell me what I needed to hear without actually telling me that I was being a complete selfish brat. I don’t know where he learned this art but if classes were offered I would advise all dads attend. So I whined and he listened, made a great joke that I can’t remember now, and then told me exactly what I needed to hear.

“Don’t look past today, God has given you everything you need for today.” Deep Breath. This is why God gives us parents for little nuggets of wisdom like that. It wasn’t ground breaking but I had forgotten and I needed to be reminded. Because when we are in the midst of a challenging time we want to know the solution is coming, and quickly… so we look out and when we don’t see anything on the horizon we panic.

He was right every day I have just enough and there in the dependence lies the real beauty. When I have to wake up and beg God for just enough to make it through today. When I have to ask him to open my eyes to the real pain in the world so my tiny world gets blown apart. When I have to wonder where my next dose of patience, love, and kindness will come from, that is real dependence. When I write a verse on my chalkboard not so people think I’m churchy but so I can look at it and remember that Jesus himself said he would give rest to the weary and burdened (pretty sure he was talking to all the moms who had multiple small children….I kid…. Kinda). I realized this was just where I was living these days, in great dependence and with little knowledge of what lay ahead. If I started focusing too much on anything besides just keeping my head above water I was going to exhaust myself so I just needed to trust that I could handle today and then when tomorrow came I would do it all again.

Recently when I was putting Claire to bed we were chatting about her day or to be more exact I was going over the family rules and she was saying “yessam” which translates to “yes mam”. It’s a habit I try to remember to go over our day and most of the time I just tell her she’s awesome and keep reminding her to be awesome. This day though had been hard. For both of us. I needed grace and so did she. As I was tucking her in I told her, “the great thing about going to bed is every morning you get a new chance to start over.” I was really reminding myself and I’m pretty sure she said “barney?” afterwards hoping I might cave in this reflective moment but I kissed her goodnight and thought there was very few things a good sunrise couldn’t undo.

  • Pam - I can totally appreciate this blog post even though I don’t have little ones consuming my every moment and energy. I recently said to my husband that I was going to throw a pity party and did he want to come. He asked if there was going to be chocolate? I appreciate your Dads wisdom and your words. I am often guilty of looking ahead and trying to see answers and how I can possibly make it through. It is wonderful to know that his grace is sufficient for today and he will give us all we need. By the way, the days won’t always seem as long as they do right now! Your littles are so blessed to have you as their mother.ReplyCancel

Sometimes life is just overwhelming. Not in a falling apart kind of way but in an “I just don’t know how to put one foot in front of the other today” kind of way. You know it will get better, you know you will indeed make it, but it’s just all a bit much.

I reached that point at about 1:30 am two nights ago when I had only been asleep for an hour and I heard the sheep like cries of my four week old son. I stumbled into his room fed him and cried wondering how on earth I was going to make it through the next day. I knew the toddler in the next room would not wake up and tell me that “the bags under my eyes looked pretty bad and I should probably go back to sleep while she played quietly in her room.” So I cried because it just seemed too much at 1am when I hadn’t gotten more than a few intervals of sleep in four weeks and my body was still adjusting to not being pregnant.  I cried because I was holding a precious gift in my arms but my selfish self just wanted a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Luckily years of chronic insomnia had prepared me pretty well for the perils of motherhood but we all have our breaking points.

So I did the only thing I know to do at one am when life is just life and it’s not bad, in fact it’s beautiful, but you’ve forgotten that. I asked for his grace to make it through tomorrow (and I thanked him my in laws were in town to help). Because it’s ok to need his daily grace when nothing is particularly horrible but you are just exhausted. The grace that gives us the patience to love when we want to snap, to reach out when we want to hole up, and the grace to see the beauty in even hard circumstances. I begged him for his unyielding love that could pour over me even when I was being selfish. I asked for the endurance to keep going because sometimes you just have to keep moving and when I don’t know how that will happen I beg the one who has put my feet on the right path over and over again.

I debating sharing this little saga with you but I figure someone else needs to know that its OK if you need an extra dose of his grace even when your circumstances aren’t as bad as someone you know, or if you like me you just need to be reminded that even great gifts require hard work. Sometimes we just need to free ourselves up to cry a few tears then put our big girl pants on and keep going. It doesn’t make us less than it makes us human, which is just something we aren’t getting out of. So whatever your reasons are for needing his grace today, embrace it and relish in the fact that it’s just fine to need it.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

  • Katie Smith - As always, your blogs (and book as well) continue to inspire me to deepen my relationship with my Maker. Today, yours words and musings spoke straight into what God is doing in my life currently. Thanks for being someone to look up to! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Anne Kerr - How well I remember those silent tears in the quiet night. I would walk my little one and offer tired prayers for him or her. CS Lewis taught me that since God is outside the realm of time, those prayers we offered years ago still ring in His ears, as fresh as when we first uttered them. Love seeing how you show is to be real is to be beautiful. Hope you get some good rest this week!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - Dear Tindell,
    You wrote the most amazing and inspiring book. I am so grateful to you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I pray for you! Also, my church played one of you brother’s songs, “Always”. Such a beautiful song. When the artists name came up, I almost screamed, “Mom, Kristian Stanfill, that’s Tindell Baldwin’s brother!” God’s blessings on you, your family, and your little one.ReplyCancel

Almost a month ago it was one year since Popular was released. One year since my heart and soul was bared on pages to receive both criticism and praise. One year of hearing God work through words, one year of coffee dates with parents that made me weep, one year of emails and cards that let me know the power of God. A year that has taken me more places than I ever thought possible, more encouragement that I dreamed of hearing, and meetings that I never imagined sitting in.

And yet….

I wait. I wait to know more will happen. I wait to know what is next. I wait to know if I am done with my dream of writing. Am I done using the gift that I feel God gave me for his glory? A writer friend told me that writing ebbs and flows with seasons of life and I wonder as I am less than 1 month away from delivering our second child if for these days I am done. It’s hard to imagine life without a pen and paper. Hard to imagine not dreaming of the illusive “next.” It’s hard to tell people that, “I don’t know” when they ask if I will write more books. Because the questions isn’t do I want to? Yes I want to. Every day I dream of ideas but I also feel the gentle pull back of the one who called me to this in the beginning. If they aren’t his words, his story, his truth, then I don’t want to write it.

It’s a sobering reminder that our dreams don’t give us life. I had one big “dream” when I graduated from Auburn University in 2009 and it was to write. It was on my bucket list and I thought one day… maybe. Then 3 years later I was signing a piece of paper that made me a “writer” to the rest of the world (or at least to my tiny world). I thought when I saw my book on shelves, or heard girls were reading it, or reached some pinnacle in my head that fulfillment would come rushing in but instead I just feel the lingering question of what now.

As I bury my head in toddler books, try to learn how to cook on a budget (who knew steak wasn’t budget friendly…), maintain a healthy thriving marriage, be a friend to those around me, love well, and enjoy this phase, I am reminded that sacrifice doesn’t always mean suffering. I am reminded that God doesn’t work on a timeline, that maybe I have quite a few more books in me that he will ring out when the time comes but until then I don’t find my joy in what I’ve accomplished but in the one who has called me to be faithful, today… many more books or no more books. And to be thankful because my house might be messy but its full of the fingerprints of a full life, and my to do list might be a mile long but my daughter will go to bed fed and know she is loved, and while I might feel as a big as a bus God gave me another baby that will grace this earth soon (eeekk).

So learn from me… whatever the dream is that you are believing will take you to ultimate fulfillment might come and go and the feeling of wondering what’s next will follow. Be faithful now. Today. And if the dreams are fulfilled praise him but if they aren’t praise him anyway because when life becomes too much about stages and dreams we miss the grace. We miss the right now. We miss the days we are walking in for the dream of what might be ahead and we will miss beautiful life happening right in front of us.

  • Anne - Sweet girl, you have the highest calling as wife and mother, and I applaud you for recognizing that! You will never, ever regret one second of your time spent on those you love, because you’re right, the seasons change, and all too soon your little ones will be grown. May they rise up and call you blessed, because you are! Love your transparency!ReplyCancel

  • Emily - Hi Mrs. Baldwin. I just wanted to express my thanks to you personally for writing this book. A lot of christian authors dodge around sex and alcohol which makes it hard for teens (aka me) to connect. Your book really spoke to me and made me want to praise God for everything he does. He really is amazing! Thank you so much for your testimony and know that there are girls out there who needed to read this more than you know. Thanks!ReplyCancel

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