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Tindell Baldwin »

I often try to run from my past but there are some days it hits me right in the face. I am a different person now, determined to live a different life but I can’t forget the mess God found me in. The news on CNN reminds me how close I can to never being able to tell my story. I only believe I am alive today because of my praying family, a God who is mighty to save, and the still quiet voice reminding me who I really belonged to.

It was senior year spring break, a mark for any high school kid. My friends were all going on an all inclusive trip to mexico (the kind every parent dreads) and my dad told me if I wouldn’t go on the trip he would take me and my two best friends any where we wanted. We picked aruba, partly because there was no drinking age and partly because we wanted to see the clear water and sandy shores. The three of us had a knack for getting into trouble and when we first arrived we found a liquor store and bought the nastiest coconut rum I have ever had. It tasted like banana boat and pina coladas all tied into one but it did the trick. We sat around the pool at the house my dad had rented and drank rum until we laughed at anything. After a great dinner out we decided we would steal the rental car and go out to one of the local clubs. We had no concept of danger and at 2:00am with everyone fast asleep we drove the tiny Toyota corolla to Carlos and Charlies. We had heard it was the best club and we were eager enjoy the laws of Aruba. We made friends with all the bartenders and danced all night long. Around three the bar was starting to close and I was lonely. My two friends were dancing with a tiny Mexican man but being 5’10 I was left standing in the corner. I heard a voice behind me ask if he could buy me a drink and when I turned around I noticed he was different than the other guys in the bar. He wasn’t from Aruba but defiantly wasn’t from America. He was tall and kinda cute and I was on the mend from a broken heart so I figured why not. We ended up kissing and when I started to leave with my friends he followed me out, he kept asking me if I wanted to leave with him and I knew that wasn’t happening. A kiss was fine but leaving with a stranger was something not even I was dumb enough to do. He told me he’d find me tomorrow and before he left I caught his name, Joran Van Der Sloot. We went home thinking nothing of our new found friend and the next day he found us on the beach again. Once I had sobered up something inside me told me he wasn’t to be trusted and when he asked me if I would go out with him alone I refused. Thank the Lord I did. He got my number called me a few times and emailed me but I never responded. My friends asked me why I blew him off and I told him something about him gave me the creeps.
Six months later my best friend calls me screaming to turn on the news, I did and there was my Aruba friend suspected in the disappearance of Natalie Holloway. I gulp. Suddenly life becomes a little clearer than it was five minutes ago, its not a game. I tried to put the memory behind me, I wasn’t proud of my lapse in judgement or how careless I had been with my safety but I had survived and I didn’t know why.
Years later the past is flooding back as he is suspected again in another young girls murder. I can’t help but wonder why not me? Why did God spare me? I didn’t deserve it, I was as careless as these girls but I had lived to tell about it. I have debated over whether or not to tell this story. After all it just seems like another MTV spring break night mare story but I have a point I promise. Reliving these details is about as much fun for me as swallowing a bucket of nails. I hate admitting how careless I was but I have to hope that if the story hits a little closer to home then some young girl might not make the same mistakes I did. I write this with the prayer that my rugged past might make your future a little more smooth. Part of me never wanted to share this because of my pride, how could I be this dumb? Then again pride has no place in my faith and if I am going to help girls I need to start being a little more honest.
I don’t tell you this to scare you into behaving, like most mothers would hope, but to make the danger in this world and the enemy who loves it a little more real. It is shown that girls from ages 15-21 have a part of their brain that is underdeveloped, the part that experiences fear, so we feel invincible. I thought I was invincible. I was far from it and I cringe to think what might have happened if God had let me learn the limits of my humanity.
It seems that all crimes are against women, every time I turn on the news I hear of another victim of abuse, rape, or murder. We live in a scary world but that why God assured us to “take heart he has overcome the world”. I also tell you this because God is mightier than man, God is all powerful and as a friend of mine said who is going overseas “if he wants you to be bullet proof you will be”. This doesn’t mean you can test God or live life like it is a game but it does mean you can pray with confidence for your kids, friends, and family. I truly believed my mother is the only reason i am alive. She would spend hours on her knees begging God on my behalf. My brothers and fathers did the same but my mom wept for her lost child and because of her faith and trust in the Lord I live as a reminder what faith can do.
I say all of this knowing that many have lost loved ones, many have been victims, and I do not know the ways of the Lord but have faith that he has you here for a purpose. This is why my calling is so clear, he saved me so I can help others and for that and so many other reasons I will tell my stories until I meet my protector.


As we walked into the sanctuary we were surrounded by a sea of black. Quiet murmurs about the accident filling the crowded entrance hall. Over sized pictures had been printed and placed on easel’s so that everyone could remember her smiling face. She was a beautiful girl, eighteen when she died. One of the pictures was of her and my dad, muddy from a day of working on houses in Mexico. She had a catching smile, the kind that made you realize how little you smile. I didn’t know her all that well but my family did. She was in my moms bible study, went on the mission trips with my dad, and was friends with my brother.

The pictures only showed half of her life though, the other part was ridden with addiction. Addiction is weird in a sense that it is not picky. There is no criteria for addiction, no set of rules to follow, just a need. A perpetual need to do something despite your desire not to. She was a sweet girl and I have no doubt that she loved the Lord but at some point she decided it wasn’t enough. At some point the addiction overcame her and she wound up in a deadly accident.
As we sat in the funeral my sister in law weeped. I sat stone cold, a sobering reminder that I could end up just the same. I could end up in that coffin, letting my addictions over rule me. She wasn’t much older than me, living the same type of life that I was living just a little more severe. Her boyfriend had run off the road because he was on drugs and they had both died. More tears and memories of what a wonderful girl she was. I couldn’t believe I was sitting here. I held my moms hand saying a silent prayer that my mom would never have to go through this. I wanted to change, I knew my lifestyle was dangerous but I couldn’t help but think it wouldn’t happen to me. She was into serious drugs but I was just drinking, I kept telling myself that to justify the fear. My sister in law sat next to me, silently crying for her sweet friends death.

I am sad to say that this wasn’t the last funeral I went to for someone my age. I wasn’t the last time I would watch parents weep for a child. It wasn’t last time I would see drugs take another life or addiction choose a persons last days. I have been to far too many funerals of people who lived the same lifestyle I did but had to pay the price for it. I don’t know why I was protected, I don’t know why God chose to protect me and chooses to take others home. I have no explanation for this except maybe he wanted me to tell you this story. Maybe he wanted to give people a shed of hope in a world where tragedy seems ready to strike at any moment.
I tell you the flip side of my story because when I was fifteen I thought nothing could touch me. I was gambling my life with each shot, each time I drank and drove, each time I smoked another joint. I was taking the chance that I might not see college. I took the chance of not meeting my husband, not watching my brothers have kids, not going to my family weddings. I gambled my life and by the grace of God he chose to let me stay for a story. This is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about telling my story, because I feel like God let me run from him so I could give you a picture of the modern prodigal.

We are all prodigal in some way, we run from what God has planned for us because we think we know something better, We think we know what we are missing out on and it is only a grasp away. I thought if I could just get in with the “popular” kids then my life would be good. I thought if I could date the guys I wanted and go to the cool parties then I would feel whole. Not only was I not fulfilled but I was unhappy, empty, and hurting. With each drink I became a little more empty inside. So my goal now is to expose the lie, to shed a little light on a very dark lifestyle. I want others to know what they aren’t missing out on.

After I could see the lie I had been buying I adopted this verse to be my new lifestyle, Acts 20:24

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. “

I realized this life wasn’t worth anything if I didn’t let others know that God is full of grace and ready to forgive. He is always ready for you to run back home.

Fifteen is a lonely place to be, constantly surrounded by competition and boys wanting all the wrong things. You are almost lucky if you make it out alive. I have never felt more lost than when I attended high school football games as a freshman. I had to be driven there by my parents, who went because my brother was the quarter back, and I would meet my one best friend by the lollipop stand. We would wander through the crowds looking for girls to talk to or older boys to look at. All the popular kids our age had one place that they hung out, in the corner by the concession stand. Normally girls would be there with their boyfriends, sometimes older guys, and it always ended up some couple was chanted into doing their first kiss in front of everyone. They would peck and the tiny crowd would erupt in applause. I had even heard of some girls going down to the practice field, behind the stadium, to make out with their boyfriends. I wasn’t in this group although I desperately wanted to be.

At Fifteen I had never had a boyfriend or a first kiss. I started to want to a part of the crowd as badly as I wanted oxygen. I wanted to be able to stand among the cool kids and not just because of who my brothers were. I wanted to have a strong upper classman hold my hand as I walked proudly around the stadium. Instead I was left following around my much prettier best friend, hoping no one noticed how insecure I was. I was shy and awkward, partly because I was so tall. I was terrified of any and all boys and turned a dark shade of red whenever one would talk to me.

All you are asking for at fifteen is to belong, to be loved, and to be a part of something. I wanted to be loved, but not for a night for a lifetime. I wanted to be found beautiful, but because of who I was not what I looked like. I wanted a community where I could be vulnerable, not just Friday night friends. I wanted so much and my Christian life seemed to provide me with so little.

As I walked the halls of high school today I realized not much has changed. Still boys wanting all the wrong things and girls desperately wanting to be loved. I watched a couple make out in the corned (not in a creepy way more in passing), heard a girl tell a guy in one of my classes things I will not repeat on my PG blog, and had a boy tell me he was only in school because his probation officer made him. I smiled, what else could I do. I couldn’t save these kids and more than ever I wanted to ask Jesus where he was. Why had he not made a big statement in Houston Texas but then the small voice in my heart said, “maybe thats why I sent you”. We all want to make changes in big ways but are we willing do it one humble person at a time? If i am not willing to love on these kids what makes starting a ministry any different? I keep begging God to let me change the lives of teenagers and every day he puts me in a place to make a difference. I’ll admit sometimes I try but other days I sit behind a desk, read a book about Christianity and ignore Gods simple task to me. Love others, love others, love others. Love the kids who don’t fit in. Love the boys who make rude comments and refuse to do their work. Love the girls who tell me i’m freakishly tall (which by the way I know). Love them and do this in remembrance of me says my mighty Savior.

“What gets your attention determines your loyalty.”

-Beth Moore
I sit down to write this post only after I have checked my email four times, checked facebook a few times, looked at my phone, called a few people, watched a little TV, let Aiden play with a craw fish (don’t ask), and read up on Web Md ( i have an obsession with health). I have been planning to write for a few days but something always takes me away. Whether it be an urgent phone call, an email I have to answer, the grocery store for the hundredth time, or just the inability to sit still something always distracts me. To actually sit at my computer and write what has been on my heart takes hours, sometimes even days. I am so distracted. My mind seems to be going at a hundred miles an hour all the time. I have this fear that if I don’t keep moving I will miss something. I know God asks us to be still but I figured he meant like when I am lying in bed and mumbling prayers until i fall asleep. The truth is i’m distracted, which has been the story of my life since I was ten and diagnosed with ADHD (or maybe thats what the doctor said I was too busy looking at shiny things to notice). I am distracted by my phone, facebook, to do lists, and twitter. I am distracted by things that mean seemingly nothing but rank very high on my priority list. The truth is sometimes I like distractions, they draw me away from life, let me live in a fantasy world i’ve created around social networks and who I want to be. The truth is that if I am still with God there is a lot he wants to tell and a lot that i’m not ready to hear. Ben and I run around all week accomplishing somewhat meaningless goals together but it is only after we sit together at the end of the day that we go into any kind of depth. I need depth. I crave depth but I don’t always let it become part of my life.
It was only after last week that I realized that while distractions draw me away from God disruptions have an opportunity to push me to embrace God. The little things in life constantly beg at my attention and to be honest a lot of time they win but then something happens. Something that takes you our of your tiny world and makes you need God and not just a prayer kind of need him. Life disruptions knock you to your knees and find you breathing God’s sweet name with each minute that passes by, if you let it. Or disruptions can cause you to blame God, shake your finger at him and ask how could you? Disruptions are often painful, tearful, and can leave you questioning everything you believe but if you let them they can teach you something Great about God. They can teach you more of who God is by simply letting him to be him. He can teach you what peace that transcends understanding really means. Trust me when I say i have every reason to be uneasy. I could let this control my life or I could give God the control. Much easier said than done. I wrestled with God for days. I challenged him and questioned him and cried to him but then I saw he was only asking something of me that I already claimed to have.
I abuse grace. I take it with me everywhere I go and at each slip I throw out my grace card. Every time my friends are hurting I tell them to embrace grace, let it heal them. I admit though that until recently I had never had to truly extend grace. Then I was forced to choose, would I let this disruption prove I believed everything I professed or would I shake my fist at God. I knew I couldn’t do this without God. My email wasn’t going to get me through the day and facebook offered no helpful advice. So i found myself sitting, remembering from what great heights I had fallen. I found myself asking God to teach me the things I claimed to already know. I let him fill my days and suddenly i could breath again. Suddenly my life agenda didn’t seem so pressing. Ben and I found ourselves leaning on each other like never before and I realized I had been choosing so many things over God. My life disruption made me realize why God has asked me to be still and know that he is God because in the midst of it all he never changed. He is God and for that reason alone I should put my distractions aside and let my loyalty lie with him. For the fact that he is God says it all and remembering all that encompasses him takes time, time away from this world.
I don’t know where you are, I wish I did, but I hope you will let life’s disruptions point you back to God not cause you to point your finger at him. It’s a battle trust me I know but its much better to struggle with God than to struggle against him.

Dear Beloved,
I know you are struggling with how to forgive, I know you want to but you just don’t think you can. You don’t think you have the strength but never forget that I do. I can show you how to forgive the wrongs that have been done against you so that you can have peace again. Every time you pray to me I can see this wound festering, begging me to brings my healing ointment. Child I can not heal what you will not reveal to me. I can not mend a wound that you refuse to acknowledge. Ignoring the pain will only make it worse, you cannot go on living like this. Forgiving does not mean you are accepting the behavior or that you are ready to mend the relationship it just shows them that I live in you. I have the power to help you forgive, I have the ability to mend the brokenness in your heart. What happened to you was terrible and I weep for the wrongs done against you but I long for relief for my child. I long to give you peace again. I long to show you what strength you have in me. You have great strength but this is sucking the life out of you. Child it is harder to give forgiveness that to harbor bitterness but anger when left unattended becomes bitterness and it will seep into every part of your life. Don’t become bitter my love, forgive like I have forgiven you. Remember so many months ago when I found you on your knees, you needed my forgiveness and I didn’t think twice. I welcomed you with open arms. They need the same from you, take it step by step, I promise I will be there the whole time. Just say the words you heart is begging of you, I forgive you. Then we will go from there. I will write tomorrow but for now remember these words.
Faithfully yours,
God of Grace

Ephesians 4:32 James 5:16
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as Christ forgave you. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective

I don’t quite know how to start this post. I guess I should start by saying I have always believed in family, very strongly. I believed that if you love each other enough that you can fend off the bad. I believed that if you stayed focused on God then satan would stay out. I prided myself on an honest relationship with the people I cared most about and I believed that I could change peoples idea of family by projecting my idea of our “perfect family”. Then in one earth shattering revelation God reminded me why we can’t put our hope in humanity. God made me stop talking for a little while and listen to him. He reminded me that we all need God. He reminded me why he is a God of grace and mostly he reminded me how flawed we all are.

I wish I could go into more detail but for the protection of what has been left in the wreckage I can only tell you this, we are all human. I can only tell you that God will humble even the most proud and I can tell you that if you give satan a crack he will break your life in half. I could brush off this hard time as life or I could let God teach me what he wants to. I am choosing to let him teach me. I am choosing to learn from others mistakes and choosing love over bitterness, but not today.
When all of this happened I had been toying with the idea of selling a devotional book on my blog for my trip to Uganda in the fall. Once my world fell apart I realized God had a lot to say but most of the time I was too busy talking to listen, so i have stopped talking for awhile and let him speak to me. I am letting him soak my wounds with his truth until I am ready to face the music. I hope he can speak to you too.

Dear Beloved,
I wanted to tell you I hear your cries. I wanted to promise you that I will remain a rock and your fortress in this tough time. Last night I let the rain fall on your broken heart so you would know that you are not alone. Oh how I remember the feeling of being alone. The night before I died for you I was praying to my father and my best friends fell asleep. I felt so alone. Beloved, you are not alone. I promised I would never leave you and I will stick to my promises. I know you have been hurt by humanity I know you are having a hard time trusting the good will of men but take heart, I am neither man or woman instead I am your prince of peace. Oh my child I wish this evil world were not so but I will be there to hold your hand in any way I can. I know this burden is heavy and your heart is full of anger but let me hold you up for awhile. Let me take your burden and wipe your tears. Let me cry with you through this season and when it is over I will bring the sun and we can bask in healing. How I hate to watch you hurt but let me promise you that I have a plan even in this. Remember my pain? Remember what I went through? All of my friends and family couldn’t understand, they were angry and hurt but then I revealed to them my fathers plan for redemption. I rose and my plan was complete and glory shone from earth to heaven. Child this is no different, suffering will soon fade into my glory. I will write tomorrow but for now remember these words.
Faithfully yours,
Father to the Fatherless

Pslam 44:1,5,10
God is your refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.
God is within her she will not fall. God will help her at daybreak
Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted in all the nations, in all the earth

One more period to go. I keep reminding myself of that every time I have to remind the kids that there is no talking during a test. I am lucky they had a test today, I wasn’t in the mood to raise my voice. I hate raising my voice. Silence has become a big part of my life, it helps me think and with middle schoolers I have a lot to think about.

The oddball in the class asked me to call her inker and the other kids snickered. I could tell she beat to the march of her own drum when she asked me if she could read me a exert from her dragon book. I can only assume her new name is a character from her sci-fi fantasy novel. She was the first to finish her test, probably off the charts smart. Her tie-dye dragon t-shirt hangs over faded jeans and when she looks at me it’s almost as if she doesn’t see me.
There is one in every class, the kid that all the other kids laugh a, the odd ball or the social misfit. They never seem to care though, its almost as if they don’t notice. Sometimes I get the feeling the only reason the other kids make fun of them is because they are jealous that they get to be their own person. I wonder who its harder to be the misfit who has their own identity or just another face in the crowd. You have to loose so much to be part of the in crowd, your identity, your values, and anything else that is deemed “uncool”. However to be a loner you need nothing more than your self. To be a loner you are held to no ones standards but your own comforted that after the teenage years fade away you will be left with something solid, yourself. I bet the misfit learned early how much family means and the value of one good friend. I have a feeling inker understands more of herself at 14 than I do at 23.
I wished I had the courage to stand apart from the crowd. I wished I had the courage to chance loneliness to keep my values. Why is it that the fear of the unknown will keep us from almost anything. I thought being uncool would kill me but six years down the road I realize it doesn’t really matter. The crowd I was dying to get into has long since faded and in its place are the relationships I tried the hardest to leave behind. If only I had the courage to be different. I might not have as many good storied but i’d have a lot less scars.
After class I let her read me an exert from her book, she put on her best Shakespeare accent and read me a few paragraphs. I have no idea what she said but I told her she was an excellent reader. She smiled proudly, she already knew. She told me she read at a twelfth grader level at the age of fourteen. If nothing more she was honest. What i wouldn’t give to have that kind of confidence in myself. I came home from work, ridden with PMS, and lost myself in a few good shows. For a moment I wanted to be inker.

I have always had a thing for small animals. My poor mother had to deal so many different types of pets we lost count. When I was ten my brother, the salesman that he is, convinced my mom that getting two rats was a good idea. When I was in middle school I caught a snake and made it my pet which then got loose in the house and was never found again, luckily we moved. I saved a baby bunny when I was eight after my cat caught it and cried for a week when it died because I forgot to put a lamp on it. Pretty much any animal you could buy at a pet store or find in the Georgia woods made it to our house. Maybe its the mother in me but something about animals has always connected me to God, not a creepy holistic way but rather reminding me how intricate God is. Perhaps one of the most spiritual experiences I had was a safari in Africa, watching lions and giraffes wander thought the tall grass made me experience God is ways I can’t fully communicate. Something about nature points me to God.

I recently found a duck pond near our house that is a “breeding ground for ducks” and when you live in a new city, have a part time job, and no kids you tend to spend your days doing whatever passes the time. The first time I went I feel in love with the baby ducks, there were tons of them just following their mother around the pond. They were tiny and fuzzy and I went back day after day just to watch them swim around. (if you are thinking i need a hobby well I totally agree) Anyway one night Ben and I went to feed the ducks before we went out to dinner. The sun was setting and all of the ducks were up on the bank. I didn’t see any of the babies but when I looked closer I saw little feet sticking out from under the mother. When the mom moved to get the food little baby ducks came waddling out. Then it clicked.
one of my favorite Psalms 57

1.Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.
2.I cry out to God Most High,
to God, who fulfills {his purpose} for me.
3.He sends from heaven and saves me,
rebuking those who hotly pursue me;
God sends his love and his faithfulness.

Baby ducks are defenseless, their only protection is their mom. There are days when I feel the same way, the world beats me up and the only place I have to run is to my savior. He opens his wings of grace and I can rest safely in his arms. I can rest assured that I am protected, it doesn’t mean the world isn’t evil and it doesn’t mean life won’t disappoint but it does mean I have somewhere to go where my safety is assured. I can run to my father and hide safely in his wings. I never understood why david used wings in this passage, I have a vivid imagination and for some reason the image of God with wings was a little too cartoon-angel for me but then I remembered the cross, arms wide as if he was telling the world to come to him. His grace pouring down from his body washing this filthy world. I can see it now, arms open wide, a refuge from the storm, the only place I can run for protection.
S u b s c r i b e
S e a r c h