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Tindell Baldwin »

I walk circles around the dog park near my house and read my moms text messages over and over again. Its the only contact we have had since she left for Tanzania almost two weeks ago and its the longest we have ever gone without talking on the phone. Her messages take me out of my tiny world where the temperature rivals that of hell (I can only guess) and my routine follows a boring rotation. She has spent the past two weeks in safari, painting schools, and adding the final touches to a hospital that will serve the underprivileged village. I have spent the past two weeks wallowing in my boredom, cleaning our house in what seems like circles, and praying that her and my dad would make it back to the US no worse for the wear.

Her last text brings tears to my eyes and she tells me about the orphanage that they visited and seemingly hopeless cases of the sick, abandoned, and heart broken. I can only imagine. My mother is a mom in every since of the word, her nurturing is only matched by her ability to listen and understand even the most dire of cases. Her arms have held my broken heart far too many times and her words can still sooth even the worst of days. I can picture the children lighting up as my mom reaches out to give them what they will never know, they love of a mother.
It is in this that I realize how much of a mother our own God is, how much he nurture, soothes, and comforts. I realize how much he lends an ear to the desperate and promises love to even the most broken of his children. He is indeed a father but he is also the worlds greatest mother. My mom reminded me of this fact when she told me about Jacqueline, an baby girl who screamed unable to be coddled. Sickness made it unable for her to be held and so my mother sat, her hands reaching through the crib showing Jacqueline love in the only way she could. The effect was instant, the screaming stopped and I can only imagine the small child scooting closer and closer to her cage of a crib to get next to my mothers loving arms. My mom told me that sitting next to the crib, soothing the tiny baby she got an image of our heavenly mother. How often has God come and sat next to my cage of a crib and reached his hands through the bars, soothing my cries. How often does he sit with me for hours, holding my hand so that I can make it through the next minute. My moms word picture was perfect but a tiny voice in my soul told me he did more. In almost a whisper I could hear her say, “I don’t just sit next to the crib I get into it with you.”

Before the cross our world was a cage and the rift between us and our heavenly mother made it so she could only reach her hands through our bars but after the cross Jesus paved the way, he came down and got in out cage since we couldn’t be picked out. He let us fall into his arms in our tiny world just to sooth our tears and let his love fill us. He didn’t let our sickness or our humanity hold him back from his children, instead in the way only a mother can he got in it with us and didn’t let go.

I keep reading that blogs are supposed to be more personal so I thought i’d share a few funny things.

1. My dad once told me that the sign “blind drive” meant that blind people were allowed to drive on that road and I believed him… until I was 19

2. Two years ago not only did an ambulance hit me but it is written on the police report as a hit and run because they fled the scene of an accident to take care of someone who was in an actual accident.

3. Whenever doctors refer to side effects that “rarely” ever happen they are talking about side effects that only happen to me.

4. When I was in forth grade I feel off a pogo stick and broke my two front teeth on my garage floor, they have been replaced eight times since then.

5. I shared a bathroom with my three brothers for the first 14 years of my life and one time when they left the bathroom a mess I put a pot outside the bathroom and deemed it their new bathroom.

6. If I could live anywhere in the world it would be on a street with my siblings and parents.

7. My dog sleeps under the covers with me with his head on the pillow and he has gas.

8. When I was younger I read the apocalypse books and every time my house would get really quiet I thought God had come back and my family had disappeared with out me.

9. I tend to tell people that my brother is Kristian Stanfill… Like right now

10. I once had a pet snake it somehow got out of its cage and was never found again.

11. When I was fifteen I managed to get an infection in my tooth which spread all the way up to my eye. I had to have a root canal and the doctor said if it had spread up to my brain I could have had permanent brain damage.. i’m still not convinced that I don’t.

12. When I was in Africa we paid the zookeepers off to let us pet a cheetah.

13. My dream job would be breeding puppies and writing books.

14. When my nephew was one I taught him to lift up his shirt when anyone says “beads”, I am not allowed to be left alone with their daughter.

15. My brothers and I used to throw our cat off the deck to “make sure it could land on its feet”. The cat promptly ran away.

16. When I was nineteen I convinced a guy who liked me that we couldn’t date because I was grounded indefinitely.

17. I think that Christmas letters are everyone’s opportunity to brag and I would like to write one about all the things I didn’t accomplish this year.

18. The first started writing because I liked the pretty fonts and colors on Word

19. I used to think that all my stuffed animals talked when I left the room so I would always try to walk in really fast and surprise them so I would catch them talking… toy story really screwed me up.

20. I hate all vegetables unless they are soaked in butter or covered in cheese and I believe that sugar should be a major food group.

21. I have sports induced asthma which is really just a medical way of saying I haven’t been active for so long my body rejects even the idea of it.

22. The only two instances in which I get really mad are when guys hit on me and when people wake me up in the middle of the night.. Ben learned this on our honeymoon

23. I get scared by almost anything, including grasshoppers.

24. I tend to say what everyone else is thinking. (hence foot in mouth ministries)

25. I used to have such bad ADHD that when I was in forth grade my desk had to be in the corner facing a wall

This morning I woke up to a text from my mom, who is currently in Africa. She and my dad left four days ago and its safe to say that I have worried more about her than I worry about my own trip in two months. My moms health problems have always held her back from doing things like this. Migraines aren’t really what you want in a mud hut in Africa with no running water but she went and from her text this morning she sounds more alive than ever. Its amazing what God can challenge you to do in the midst of heartache. Leaps of faith are always easier to make when you have only your faith to cling to.

Recently we thought we had the long awaited answer to her ever pressing health issues but once again the end result was more questions. Frustrated and upset my mom had to come to the conclusion that this might be something that goes on for the rest of her life. She might never know the feeling of being healthy and she might always have to hold onto her plans loosely wondering what tomorrow holds. But then again we all do. After a few months of anger our family had to move on with life and it seemed that just when we got our feet on the ground the devil slipped his slimy finger through our doors. More pain and disappointment but in the midst of it all God showed up. He taught us the true meaning of forgiveness and redemption and by the grace of his mighty hands we found a way to be our family once again. We were all teetering on the edge of our faith and my mom being the center held on for dear life. We held on to each other, each of us dealing in our own way with what life had brought us. I always said my mom and I were best friends but to be fair I always thought I was stronger than her then in the midst of tragedy I saw my mom for what she was, the rock of our family.
Then this trip with young life Africa came up and in prayerful petition they realized God was calling them to this trip. So they went, health problems and all. The night before they left my mom and I were on the phone as she divided up her 15 vitamins a day into individual bags, she would be prepared at all cost. Their flight left at 6:00 am and anyone who knows my mom can attest that she is not a morning person but she survived. Courtesy of the Young life Africa blog I learned that part of their trip was to Legho village which has no running water or electricity. My praying knees got weak as I worried and worried about my mom’s health. The blog said they were looking forward to a “simple life” and in my air conditioned house that sounds all fine and great but in a mud hut I have to say I wouldn’t be so willing to agree.
As normal I had forgot something though, God prevails, through no running water and no electricity God prevails. He wasn’t going to call my mom to a trip where he didn’t have greater plans. My mom’s text this morning said she is feeling better than she has in her entire life. Praise Jesus was all I could think. The simple life had cured her, a life dependent on all of Gods promises and a life serving something greater than ourselves. Who knows what will happen when my mom returns to the US but for now she gets to taste a little piece of heaven.

I moved to Houston knowing no one. For the first time in my life I didn’t have a solid group of friends or a family to run home to. I moved out here hopeful that I would make friends fast but sadly real life is nothing like freshman year of college and meeting people took longer than I expected. I should add that I love people and thrive in an environment full of relationships so being at home alone all day was slowly killing me. I turned to the only friend I had, Jesus. As corny as it is when you move to a new city with no job you start talking to the air hoping someone was listening. Praise the Lord that he was and he started to answer my prayer. No, friends didn’t magically appear at my door but he started to ask me to go places, talk to people, and form relationships. Ben and I joined a newly wed Sunday school class and met some wonderful friends who were in the same place of life.

My favorite time God showed up was an ordinary Monday afternoon when I was sitting at Starbucks writing, like I do most Mondays. These two woman came in and one kept looking in my direction like she was trying to place me. I figured she was a teacher I had subbed for or worked at one of the schools. When I got up to leave she started talking to me and ended up putting me in touch with awesome girl who graduated from Auburn. My new friend then gave me the opportunity to volunteer at Living proof ministries. The woman only talked to me because God told her to, she didn’t know me at all. Small reminders that God has not abandoned me in Texas came from people that were obedient when God asked them to talk to a stranger. Growing up in an area of familiarity made me take for granted friendships, connections, and most of all community. I started thinking I didn’t need God to foster these things. I do though. I desperately do.
My dad was reminding me of the well known verse, “Apart from you I can do nothing”. I knew that but had never truly experienced full dependence on God. I never needed him to bring me friends, show me where he wanted me to be, or listen to his still small voice telling me to step out of my comfort zone. The verse is so true though, removed from the comforts of a life full of community I am reminded that I need God for everything. I need him to show me each day what he wants for me, where he wants me to go, and who he wants me to be. It is the hard times when you realize how strong your community is. I think of all the times I passed over the loner because of my own strong community and I wish I could go back because now its me. I now have to depend of people God has called minister to me and pray one day I can return the favor.

Whenever people hear that I want to write a book they always ask the same questions, “what’s it about” and when I tell them it will hopefully reveal truth to teenage girls they ask, “so its a self help book”? I pray it is not, I am not a counselor or believe to have any kind of divine wisdom I am just using what I do have. I have a story. A story that begins in darkness and ends in brilliant light. I know a story that beats all of the odds and proves that God is a God who is mighty to save. The wonderful thing about stories is that Jesus was a story teller himself, he took life lessons and told them in a way that people would be able to grasp, he told them in story form. I might not remember all of Romans but I know all of the bible stories I was taught as a child.

Stories resonate in something that simple advice cannot, I believe its because we all want to know someone understands, we want to know that other people are going down the same path as us. Because some times the path is dark and when its dark, life is scary alone. I wrote this to tell you that you are not alone, I wrote this because you need to know that God can use you despite your past, despite whatever lies you might have embraced and more than that he desperately wants to use you. He can make you squeaky clean, and while it might take a Brillo pad to do so let me promise you that it is worth it in the end.

The prodigal son is a story most of us have heard but no matter how many times I hear it I always get choked up in the end, when his father runs our to meet him despite his wretched failures. If you don’t understand why God could ever love you like that then you’ve missed something huge. He is your father, and while some earthly parents have really screwed up that meaning, to him it is a divine devotion that comes no matter the circumstances. He knows where you’ve been, he knows you have squandered his gifts and yet he comes running. He knows where your head has laid and he knows you have broken his rules, and yet he comes running. He knows you have abandoned his love at times and spit on his blessings and still he comes running. He will always come running. He doesn’t sit at the end of the driveway, arms crossed tapping one foot, waiting to give a lecture. He runs at you full force until you collide into his amazing love. He weeps with you for your hurt, he comforts you with his unearned gifts, and he takes you into his arms where you belong. You belong in his arms, not the arms of the stranger or in the chains of sin, you belong safely nuzzled in your fathers arms. He will clean your wounds and dress your shame, he will bless your return home to him even if yesterday you were lying with the pigs. That’s what your heavenly father does.
I believe if God would sit down to talk to me he would want to hear my story, even though he already knows it. I ‘m sure he appreciates the theology but what he really cares about is your heart and what better way to reveal that then starting with your story.
  • kristinbolt - Hi! I'm Kristin, and I honestly have no idea how I stumbled upon your blog! Must be a God thing (: But this post was so wonderful for me..I'm a college student and I will be a senior this year, which is scary to say the least! I have no idea what the Lord is doing, but I'm trusting Him. That's easy to say..but hard to do sometimes! Anyways..sorry I'm rambling, but thank you for writing. It's great 😀ReplyCancel

  • Tindell Baldwin - I'm sorry it has taken me this long to see your comment but im so glad that you enjoyed it! Hang in there he will reveal him self in due time.ReplyCancel

  • storey - write it! write it! so many girls would be blessed by it! miss you guys! glad to not be spending time with you in the hospital but sad to not be seeing you.ReplyCancel

Well, after thirteen hours of driving and almost going crazy we made it back to Houston in one piece! Our travels included two nights in Charleston and a week in Hilton head for Ben’s sisters wedding, Katie. It was a beach wedding and it was nice to be on the other side, watching as another person said goodbye to her old family and hello to a new life. As Katie walked down her beach aisle I couldn’t help but remember my own wedding.

I wasn’t nearly nervous enough, I don’t think I really understood how much my life was going to change until after the vows. I am a bit of a dreamer so reality never hits until I run right into it. I was standing at the top of the stairs, arm and arm with my dad. I could hear my brother singing and watched as my closest friends made it down the aisle (all without tripping I might add). Then the congregation stood and I head my cue. Time to make the biggest decision of my life, time to walk into forever. Right before I started to walk my dad looked at me with tears in his eyes and asked, “we did ok right?”. I looked at him a little puzzled. I knew we had gone over on the budget but I really did think this was the best time to talk about it. “What do you mean?” I asked, praying this wasn’t going to turn into a Dave Ramsey type of talk. “You and me”, he said, “we did alright”. I smiled, my sweet father, “Yes” I replied finally realizing the weight of the change that was about to take place, “we did alright”. He smiled and I understood for the first time why this was so hard for him.
I should say I’ve been a daddy’s girl since I can remember, always bounding down the stairs when my dad came home. When my mom was sick I was her caretaker but when my dad was home he was my hero. It was all ending though and Ben and I were beginning. No more flowers on valentines day or shopping for mom on Christmas eve. He wouldn’t be who I greeted at the door at 5 o clock and his hero suit had gotten tight in his old age. It all was changing and for the first time I realized how grateful I was that “we had done alright”. We are still human, flawed in the most gruesome of ways, but when you have a family that loves you and forgives it doesn’t really matter. When you come to the end of that aisle and give your dad one final kiss on the cheek you remember the relationship. It wasn’t about fancy trips or what I got on Christmas, it wasn’t even about my big white dress or the flowers, it came down to a relationship and I was happy to answer with confidence, Yes dad we did alight.

Tomorrow is my wonderful husbands birthday and before we jet off to yet another destination I had to sit down and honor him with a few words. I thought I knew a lot about life until I married Ben, and then I realized he knew a lot and I only knew a lot about my little world. Marriage will do that to you, humble you, especially when you are married to a genius engineer who can beat you at any and every game (except putt putt). I thought I knew about laundry and cooking, until I shrunk one too many of Ben’s shirts and made both of our dogs vomit with one of my chicken dishes (and one of our dogs eats stuffing). I thought I knew how to play Mario, thanks to three brothers, but then Ben and I got a wii and once again he surpassed my playing ability. I thought I knew how to have fun, really enjoy life, until Ben and I found our selves knee deep in a pond trying to catch ducks. I thought I knew how to let the little things go until Ben left the toilet seat up and for some reason it really bothered me. I thought I knew how to garden until Ben had to remind me that without water flowers die. I thought I knew how to be selfless until Ben worked overtime just so he could take the day off for my birthday. No matter what I think I know, Ben always seems to know more.

Marriage teaches you a lot about life but even more about each other. More than anything though Ben has taught me how to love. He has taught me how to put my desires aside and do whats best for us, he has taught me how to enjoy every day even if it wasn’t exactly as I expected and he has taught me that devotion can break even the most stubborn. Anyone who is close with me will attest that I am not an easy person to live with, I tend to like things my way (ok thats an understatement) but Ben smiles at me every day and tells me that he loves me. I know I am undeserving but it isn’t the first time I have received love that I don’t deserve. Ben’s love mirrors my saviors because he gives it to me when I least deserve it, he never withholds it out of anger, or tells me I haven’t earned it. He pours out his love on me when I have done nothing to earn it, when i am caught in my sin, and when he doesn’t feel like it. He shows me a little more of my heavenly father with each I love you. I always heard that marriage was a reflection of Gods relationship with us but I never understood how but now I do. Its choosing everyday to love someone despite what they did yesterday.
I am typically not a mushy person but I thought I would make an exception for my sweet husband the day before his birthday.
Now off to Charleston to really celebrate!

I still remember the first time I heard a preacher talk about sex; I was just coming out of my great rebellion and searching for a Jesus I could really get on board with. I was visiting my oldest brother at a youth camp he was leading and I loved the talks. We had fun snorkeling in the ocean, and in case you were wondering Destin does have a great variety of sea creatures. Each night I would sit with my sister in law in the back and watch proudly as my brother pointed thousands of kids to the Lord. When the speakers came on I would write furiously in my journal, anxious to learn about my new faith. In true church form fashion they had a “sex talk” on the last night of camp, nothing like a sex talk to get kids all confused and then sending them home to mom and dad.

It was a woman speaking and she got on stage and started talking about all the reasons why you shouldn’t have sex until marriage, the dos and don’ts kind of talk. I kept waiting to hear something for the kids who had already screwed up, something for most of the kids sitting in the crowded auditorium. There was nothing. I started to wonder, was God’s grace not enough for the kids who had already crossed that line? Are you telling me that God’s hand is mighty to save but oh wait not that mighty? I left feeling dejected and confused something I often felt in church. I couldn’t help but wonder how many girls were left feeling the same thing, how many told had themselves well I guess there is no hope for me?
I decided that night if I was ever lucky enough to talk to kids about sex then I would tell them what people often forget to say, God’s grace is enough and not only is it enough but it can wash you clean. If you have already been there and are wondering how you will ever be whole again then take heart, God can heal you. Sex is a different kind of sin, it’s much harder to heal from but that doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t take it to the cross like everything else. If God knew that sex would be the one sin that could separate you from him then he would have found a way to rectify it. He would have never left the earth with that kind of outstanding debt. When Jesus was hanging on the cross the man next to him, a robber, asked him to remember him in heaven Jesus didn’t hesitate instead he said,
43 “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
` That is the God we serve, he didn’t ask questions, he didn’t need a list of sins, he knew the man had sinned, he was hanging on the cross next to him but instead Jesus assured him a place with him. We serve a God that big, he can forgive the sins of the world and Sexual sin is no different, just because you were covered in shame yesterday doesn’t mean you can’t be smothered in grace today. Walking away from sexual sin is no different than walking away from any other sin. It starts with grace followed by a decision. Its a choice you can make to preserve your heart for your husband. Even if you have already walked down the road God can make a cut through.

S u b s c r i b e
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