The Undoing

For as long as I live, I will probably never forget the sound of the chunky, white, rocks shifting beneath my shoes as I walked into the refugee camp that I worked in in Greece. I will never forget the taste of the steaming hot Lipton tea burning the taste buds off of my tongue in 90 degree weather or the smell of the first RHU (refugee housing unit) that I walked in. I’ll for sure never ever forget the greetings I received from the tiny children that rushed me and my friends at the entrance of camp every day: “MY FRIEND, MY FRIEND, come, come, come!”I do not ever want to forget moments like that. 

The God-given, God-placed moments that tear you apart and oddly, put the broken pieces of you back together.

It was my first day in camp and I met the two people who would be the vessels in which God taught me the most. My first friend was in her 40’s and I will probably write about her soon. But my second friend was 8. She was the most beautiful, sassy, determined, and independent little girl I have ever met. This little one reminded me a lot of me. 🙂

I would skim through camp my whole shift looking for her. Most days, I found her…those were the best days. I would sit on a bench with her, under this tree that oddly enough provided a heavenly source of shade. She would talk to me in Arabic, and I would talk to her in English (I learned quite a bit of Arabic from her). We would giggle and tell each other how beautiful the other was and usually she would make me a rubber band bracelet or play with my hair. One day, she sectioned my hair off and put these tiny plastic rubber bands around these slivers of hair..right next to my scalp. Painful, yes. Worth it, absolutely. Another day she sat in my lap and colored a picture with paper on my chest and took the longest amount of time possible doing it because she thought that it was funny. She was free-spirited and hopeful and goofy and she reminded me who I was again, just by being who she was.

Coming into Greece, my heart was really hardened by life. If you follow my blog, you know that this year has been extremely hard, but this little girl was a treasure in the midst of the desert. Jesus used her in the most intimate way to allow me to feel safe to be vulnerable and soft again, to be goofy and belly laugh again, and most importantly, to sit in the midst of my life and my dreams and be so hopeful…regardless of the loss or heartache. She helped bring “me” back again. She was a refugee. She had lost everything and her little 8 year old life had been devastated by war. I related to her in more ways than one. Obviously my life is so blessed….but I learned that we all have loss and in one way or another we are all refugees looking for a place to land.

My time in Greece untangled my heart and allowed the fresh breath of God to touch me again. I came back undone in the sweetest way. God is a little sneaky…using an 8 year old refugee from Syria to bring me to the end of myself. But that’s okay, I’ll take it. It’s the sweetest way, full of the most laughs and tears and clumpy fingernail polish.

I’m forever changed, forever given to Jesus, and friends forever with Miriam.

Thanks, Miriam-for changing my life. Thanks, Jesus for being forever faithful.
**This is a small summary, tiny update, snippet of my trip. This blog post, by no means, encapsulates the entirety of what God did on the trip, nor what I learned in total…but for those of you who want to know more, contact me, I’d love to meet up with you. 🙂 **

Advertisements

C E L E B R A T E

To be honest, I’ve been trying to write this blog for a while, and can’t seem to find words to write it.

W R I T E R ‘ S B L O C K.

I don’t think it’s because I don’t have words, I think it’s because I’m in a process of learning to actually BELIEVE the words. But I felt like Jesus told me to write about it today, so I am. Sorry if it’s rambley or shambley (two words I don’t think are real), or if it doesn’t make much sense… I’m working on it, okay? Let’s just walk through this together.

I woke up this morning and Jesus, very clearly, told me to do what I wanted to do today. Which is actually pretty funny, because for the last 6-7 months, I haven’t been able to pinpoint a sliver of what I would prefer “to do.” So, I did what I used to enjoy doing..I sat at a quiet coffee shop in my hometown called “Fresh.”

Got to the counter. Had not a clue what I wanted to drink.
“Cait, what did you used to like?” I asked myself. My answer, chai tea latte with vanilla.

I sat in the coziest chair I could find and unpacked my books, Bible, journal, colored pens, and headphones. Then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks or an elephant on an air plane, the urge to just weep came over me. But I couldn’t weep, I was in public. So tears streamed down my face in the most graceful way I knew how. Again, I was at a loss. Although random tears in random places are more common to me than uncommon the last few months, these tears carried some weight. So I started chatting it up with my main man, Jesus.

It was there, in Fresh, sipping on my chai tea latte with  vanilla, cuddled up in the white rocking chair, that I unloaded what my heart has been holding onto for months. I’m not so sure why it happened today, but Jesus does. I think today was the first day that I was able to feel the pain and choose joy, choose celebration.

After about an hour and a half of spilling my guts to Jesus (discussing my future husband, my current diet, my upcoming trip to Greece, my discontentment, my disappointment, and my desire to be able to celebrate people fully, even in the midst of my pain), I did something that I’ve been terrified to do for a while: I let Jesus talk.

It was there, with my chai tea latte with vanilla, in the white rocking chair that I felt Jesus whisper:

“There’s room for you.”

I wasn’t so sure what it meant, so I sat and waited. Soaking in the truth that there’s room for me. Where? Not sure. Jesus, faithfully, continued.

“There’s room for you to be fully you, to laugh really loud, to cry deeply, to be where you are, how you are. I paid for your spot, I made it big enough. The boundary lines have fallen for you in pleasant places.”

It was in that moment that I realized I was carrying the weight of pain, disappointment, and discontentedness because I didn’t believe that there was room for me in Jesus’ heart. In my pride, I thought I was making room for others to be healed by not letting go of my garbage. How prideful. Jesus makes the room. He makes my friends hearts big enough to listen to me and to cry with me. He makes my family’s home big enough to house me for free. He makes my time long enough to get healed. He makes his love big enough to make me whole.

Jesus then said: “Go buy you some flowers. We are celebrating YOU, today.”

So just like that… my day of “do what you want” turned into “do what you want because I want you to feel seen and celebrated.”

He’s really good, y’all. He knows our hearts better than we do. And by golly, if Jesus tells you to buy yourself pink daisies, buy the daisies. There’s probably a part of your heart that needs it.

My heart needed to grieve and be seen, today. So obviously, I celebrated. 🙂

Messy Burgers

I sat in the line at the good ol’ Whataburger in Waco, Texas (for those non-Texans that read my blog: Whataburger is the staple fast food place of Texas), waiting for a meal that I ordered that was a little too big and a little bit too much money for what I had to spend. But after the month I’ve had, I did not really care. I sat in my car, cool air brushing my face, worship music drifting slowly into the background of my mind, and my mind racing with every situation going on in my life right now. The anxiety in my mind and deep sadness in my heart was probably canceling out any “Glory to God” that was being played over my speakers, but it made me feel better about myself. Don’t lie, you’ve done the same thing before.

Anyways, the car in front of me was taking exceptionally long this particular day and I just wanted to get home. I pulled up, debit card in hand, ready to pay entirely too much for my honey bbq chicken strip sandwich, fries, and drink that I would not even finish. I gave a half hearted smile to the girl at the window. She flung the biggest “Hello!” my way and asked, “Ma’am, did you happen to know the lady in front of you? Because she paid for your meal.” My response was “Are you serious?” followed by a flood of tears. Not the reaction she was looking for, but she continued treating me with an abundance of kindness. I cried all the way home and heard Jesus whisper to my heart over and over again: “Cait, there is grace upon grace upon grace for you.”

You see, “messy” is a kind word to describe the ongoing 2 year season I’m currently battling. Jesus has taught me SO much, but it has not been pretty or graceful. However, God began this last week teaching me about grace very, very practically. I’ve been living in this lie that messy seasons have to be pretty, graceful, kind, gentle, and incredibly quick and painless. But that’s not the definition of messy, or the expectation we should have on processes with God. Sure, there are the quick, painless, fun, pretty lessons that we get in life (Praise God!) But if we are honest, if I’m honest, sometimes it feels like life just stays messy. However, God has taught me that messy lives are what grace is for.

Grace cleans up our messes, cleans our hands, and whispers to our hearts, “You can do it.”

I have encountered the grace of God more in the last 2 weeks than I feel like I have in years. I know that’s not necessarily true, because HELLO, I need grace more than anyone. But I think that I’m just more aware of it. My eyes towards people’s situations have been softened. My heart towards myself has been softened. I think, if anything, because God has been so blatantly obvious about his grace towards me, I am seeing ways to extend grace to people.

I just know that where I am at in life, I am literally unable to do just about anything well, wholeheartedly, or joyfully…even though I try so hard every day. I cannot earn God’s approval at all…I cannot even fool myself into thinking I can do anything to earn the love of God. For the first time in my life, I am grasping the idea that failure invites grace, that wounds crave grace, and that Jesus willing gives an abundance of grace for me to make it.

Grace sets me up to win.

I hit the jackpot with that free Whataburger the other night. Jesus celebrated with me, and I went to bed feeling really really loved. I guess what the wrap up to this post is is this: Buy people Whataburger..you never know what they’re walking through, embrace grace–hug it like a teddy bear in the middle of a thunderstorm, and walk with people through the mess. It really is worth it.

There’s grace to make it, today.
No matter where you’re at in life.
Jesus is for you, cheering you on every step of the way.

An Open Letter to My Heart

Dear Little Heart,

I know it does not feel like this now, but the best is yet to come. In the middle of the loneliness and frustration, the best is coming. Within the loudest laughs and biggest celebrations, it can only get better from here. I know you ask “Will things ever get better?,” a lot, and they will. You just have to continually commit to following Jesus every step of the way.

You’ve been really tired, lately, little heart. Tired from the wear and tear of life. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not taking care of you. For not making your health my upmost priority. I’m sorry for trying to fit you into expectations of others and silly structures that you have no place in trying to mold to. I’m sorry for not properly dealing with grief and disappointment. You are valuable, little heart.

You are strong. The last year and half you have beaten strong and steady through tears, depression, breakthrough, hope, and laughter. You have provided what I need to survive. Thank you for not giving up when the pressure, anxiety, and excitement set in.

Oh, little heart. If only you could grasp the depth of the love which you are gently held. Jesus, gave it all to love you. There is grace for you. Grace to feel the depth of pain and gladness, joy and sorrow. I know that sometimes emotions hit you hard, but there is beauty in the process of sorting through them all. Thank you, oh heart, for feeling deeply..for not being afraid of emotions, but for standing strong and allowing Jesus to work through them.

I’m thankful for you. Thankful for your consistency. Thankful for the butterflies that I feel because of you when I’m on a date with Dustin or the flutter of excitement before going home to see my family. You are fun, heart.

Today is a new day. A day to draw a line in the sand. I vow, little heart, to begin taking care of you. I will do whatever it takes to get you healthy. To sort through your pain and your joy. I want to know you. I want to know what makes you  come alive and what stretches you. I want to know what you like and what makes you laugh, or what makes you mad and what makes you scream. I’ve forgotten who you are. I vow to know you, again. To know you well.

So here’s to the beginning, take two, a new season, whatever you’d like to call it, little heart. I’m your owner, Caitlin, it’s really nice to meet you. 🙂

 

grace, grace little heart.

“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.” -2 Corinthians 12:9

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” -Romans 6:14

“But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness us in Christ Jesus. 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.” Ephesians 2:4-9

G R A C E.

We all want it. Some of people know how desperately they need it, others do not really see how desperate humanity is for it. This complex word with such simplistic meaning. Sometimes overused and overextended, used to justify sinful actions and really bad habits. This word that so often helps people, like me, fall asleep at night. This word. It is weighty. Powerful. True. This word holds a story that’s far greater than I could ever truly fathom with my human mind. Yet, its accessible. It’s freely given. I get to live surrounded in it.

U N M E R I T E D F A V O R .

Grace. No matter how you flip the coin, grace is unmerited favor. Undeserved. Unable to be earned. Fully accessed through Jesus’ body on the cross.

I’m learning how to receive grace. I’m also learning how to receive the love of God. I struggle, battle, fight, have WWIII occur in my heart on a regular basis because I believe the lie that I can do something to earn the grace and love of God. In reality, Jesus did everything I ever needed to have full access to both of those things. But I’m learning that I need grace A LOT more than I ever thought I did.

Grace to fall on my face.
Grace to ask too many questions at my new job.
Grace to eat too many chocolate sprinkle donuts.
Grace to get frustrated with Cooper (my cutie little puppy).
Grace to cry for no reason.
Grace to learn how to be thankful.
Grace to be really hurt and really wounded.
Grace to heal.
Grace to not have it all together.
Grace to laugh until I cry.

That is the season of life I’m in. Life is too big for my little heart to handle. It’s not all bad, but it’s definitely not all easy. I’m learning that, for the rest of my life, my heart will be being molded to look more like Jesus. That has been my prayer.

“God, would you make me tender to your leading? Would you teach me how to trust your gracious heart? Would you solidify in my heart that I cannot earn your affection? Teach me, Lord, how to be abandoned in obedience and covered in grace. Show me how to walk with you and like you, Jesus.”

Grace to burn everything I cook.
Grace to get lost.
Grace to not set an alarm.
Grace to hug my boyfriend too tight.
Grace to not know how to accurately describe how I feel.
Grace to be insecure.
Grace to be overwhelmed.
Grace to figure out the hard stuff.
Grace to dream the biggest dreams.

That’s my prayer for you. That you, dear reader, would walk in the grace that has been bought at a high price for you.  That you would not be so hard on yourself; that you would draw near to Jesus, receiving his grace. Would you not be satisfied with playing it safe, but would you risk, take the leap of faith, jump too high, run too fast and experience the overwhelming grace of God in your own life.

I desperately need grace.
I need favor from God that I did nothing to earn.
Because ultimately, my life amounts to nothing if I do not have Jesus, and that’s what grace REALLY is, a person named Jesus.

twenty-three things about 23.

Well folks: I’m the big two-three.
23 years old, or 23 years young. Either way you flip the coin, my life has been an ongoing story for 23 years as of this past Friday.

I wish I could say I was more excited for this year than I am.
21-legal to drink and do whatever else.
22-you can sing Taylor Swift’s 22 song and it actually apply to you.
23-you’re a year older….WOO.

Another year older.

I recently started working at a hearing aid clinic. VERY different from my old job, but oddly similar. I’m still helping people and still getting to have contact with them…but they’re in a different age category. Instead of 2 years-21 years, I’m servicing 50-110 years. These people have lived quite the lives and in the process, most of them have become rather hard.

They’re bodies are so fragile, yet their hearts are like concrete, and with it being September, I have had thoughts of getting old running through my head.

Another year older.

In my thinking, I’ve started analyzing the elderly heart. Why does it get hard? What has it lived through? What does it feel like? In my pondering, I began applying the observations to my own life, thus the title of this blog: “twenty-three things about 23.” In this list, you’ll notice my observations of the elderly heart applied to my own and also desires of things I want in my 101 year old heart one day (yes, I saw a 101 year old patient come through the door today.)

  1. I want to love deeply. I want to look back on my life and say that I gave my heart away, trusting Jesus to keep it safe, and that I loved people with a depth that they could not grasp, yet they knew it changed them. I want to fall in love, I want to fight to stay in love, and most importantly, I want to celebrate love…not stay wounded by broken hearts.
  2. I want to love Jesus more at the end of my life than I did when I was 8 years old. I want my life to be a reflection of the grace freely given to me.
  3. I want to live fully abandoned to the plans and purposes of God…not hindering myself because of fear or selling myself short because the plans do not make sense…I want “yes God” stamped on my heart until my last day.
  4. I want to laugh frequently and deeply.
  5. I want to make friends and live in community.
  6. I want to have a legacy. One that pours into the lives of her children and others so wholeheartedly and in such a holy way that generations are changed.
  7. I want to keep up with technology and the latest news.
  8. I want to be thankful for where I’ve been and where I am going.
  9. I want to be able to celebrate on the mountain tops of life and in the valleys. Never becoming bitter or angry towards Jesus.
  10. I don’t want my life to be my own. I forever want to surrender my life to Jesus…in the morning and at night and every moment in between.
  11. I never want to hate the nations because of things that they’ve done or wars they’ve fought. I want to love people, and fight courageously for their salvation.
  12. I want to travel A LOT. I do not want to stay in one place forever, sure I want to settle down one day, but I want to explore and see and learn about other cultures.
  13. I never want to look down upon the generations below me. I want to honor them for the example they set for me to learn from, and teach them from the mistakes and the wins that I had in my life.
  14. I want to continue to desire to be hugged and touched. Bear hugs, hand holds, cheek kisses. The sweet stuff.
  15. I want to feed my holy imagination with dreams from heaven.
  16. I want to say “I’m sorry” frequently.
  17. I want to live in the Middle East.
  18. I want to risk it all…move over seas, buy my kids that Christmas present, give too much money to the homeless lady on the street…I do not want to withhold anything for selfish gain.
  19. I never want to stop learning.
  20. I want to have fun hobbies: knitting, hammocking, taking care of a pet sloth..(hey, a girl can dream)
  21. I hope to be a great story teller so when young 23 year olds ask me about my life I can give them incredible stories they will never forget.
  22. I want to stay passionate and full of zeal.

    and finally…..

  23. I never want to lose my wonder. I want to stand in awe of Jesus and of life. Standing with my jaw dropped and heart open to receive new revelations and wisdom from heaven.

I want to be a woman of wonder. Captivated by Jesus. Arrested by grace.
That is what I think my 23rd year of life is for me.
A  Y E A R  O F  W O N D E R. 

Wonder at the process and the product.
Wonder in the wilderness and in the harvest.
Wonder in the messy and the put together.

I’m thankful.
I’m expectant.
I’m held.

Ruff Times

If there’s anything I’ve learned from having a puppy (yes, you read that right. I have a puppy.) it’s that I am TOTALLY not ready to be a mommy. My parents laugh at me because there are days that I love my puppy to death and others in which I want to cause his death! Cooper, my new puppy, has taught me a lot about life…and of course, about God.

Coop loves to play. He plays better than anyone (or dog) that I know. At night time it usually takes about an hour and a half of really hard fetch or “pull on the rope” to make him tired and ready to go to bed. He’s a big ball of energy stuck inside a tiny seven pound body. Sometimes I wonder what goes on inside of his head. He gets in trouble so much but also gets all of the belly rubs he wants. “Does she really love me?” “How much longer to I have to wait here before I get that treat?” “Ooooh yes, riiiiiiiiiiight there! Keep scratching, mom!” My favorite thought that I have thought Coop to have is when someone acts like they are going to throw the ball and they don’t…Coop takes off running, using all of his energy only to realize the ball he remembered chasing is nowhere to be found.

“Now, am I crazy? I know there is a ball around here somewhere. Just where is it? Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball.”

His cute face when he is lost doesn’t keep the ball lost long…usually the ball is only lost a couple of seconds before it flies over his head for him to fetch. The JOY he has. He’s made for fetch, made to wrestle and use all of his energy. Made for belly scratches and barking. I know, at the end of the day, he knows I love him…because every time I walk in the door, I am his favorite human.

11232280_10207088162984999_2785049573799441825_nCooper has taught me a lot about my relationship with God. I’m made for it. Made for the adventure and the love, to explore and learn. I thrive being every ounce of who God made me to be. But something that I’ve learned recently from being that mean person that tricks Coop into fetching after a ball that wasn’t thrown is that God does not play games with me. He does not call me to “play fetch” or leave a place simply as a BIIIIIG joke…to get a laugh. That’s something I’ve caught myself believing a lot recently. That God plays games with my heart and with my head. God is not lacking on entertainment..I provide that all by myself. What God is desiring from me is a fully surrendered heart that trusts that he’s not in relationship with me to tease me just to get a good belly laugh. He’s ultimately in relationship with me for his glory.

I’ve become really thankful for the sincerity in which Jesus pursues my heart. He knows what I need before I say a word and he is faithful, faithful, faithful to me. He’s a say what he means and means what he says God. Is he fun? Yes. But is he careless? No. With Coop, he always ends up with the ball, running back for another chance to fetch. With me, I’m learning that I get the best because there really isn’t such thing as too good to be true with Jesus. 

For that, I’m thankful, full of hope, and expectant.

When life gives you Ramen.

I’ve been back from the Middle East about 3 weeks now, and my mind and heart are still reeling with memories of what happened there. My life is pretty funny now a days. Once again I’m in a transition period of life and, unlike last transition season, I am determined to NAIL this transition, kick its butt, do it well and do it surrendered. So, if you’d like to cheer me on, feel free to insert a custom made Caitlin cheer……right……H E R E. 🙂

Thank you. Thank you.

I’ve been trying to process and get a grip on what God did in the Middle East while I was there and it wasn’t until I heard this phrase from one of my best friends the other day that my heart was shaken to it’s core.

“Contentment is found in a bowl of ramen noodles.” 

What the heck, am I right? You’re probably asking yourself: “Caitlin, that phrase is absurd. Absolutely ridiculous.” You’re right. I thought the same thing too, until I discussed it.

How many times in life do we get ramen noodles instead of the gourmet spaghetti plate?
Or maybe it’s the off brand coke instead of actual Cocacola, or in my case: Dr. Thunder instead of Dr. Pepper?
To shoot straight to the heart strings (my heart strings): how many times do you find yourself single when all you want is to be married and you watch wedding after wedding and proposal after proposal happen and you never even catch the bouquet at the weddings you get to attend.

We all do it. I do it all the time. We get to a certain point in life that we think we will be content, and BAM discontentment sets in again. We are single. We want friends. We want to be married. We get that and we want more. More friends. Our own kids. More money. A bigger house.

Since when was Jesus not enough for our hearts? For my heart?

I’ve been horrible at being content since being back in the states. I desperately long for the day that I get the go ahead from God to move overseas. I long for the day when I can look into people’s eyes who live in the unreached areas of the world and speak the name of Jesus to them for the very first time. My heart longs for the culture, for the people, for the places. I even catch myself longing for the funny, but hard stuff that happens in other countries: not knowing where to buy groceries, not knowing the brands of makeup or even the cool stores, and not being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet. Those longings aren’t bad. The desires in my heart for the nations are God given ones. They’re holy. They’re right. BUT they’re holy and right when they are not my idols. When the thoughts of them bring my heart into alignment with anger or bitterness or discontentment…or they even fog my right view of God, they become bad.

I’ve been really struggling, the last few months, with anger. Anger that cripples me. It was not until this conversation about ramen noodles that I realized the root of my anger. D I S C O N T E N T M E N T.
I’ve been so unaware of the condition of my heart that I thought I was just always going to be angry. But when I realized that my heart was so discontent, I started treating it differently, asking God questions differently, thinking differently. Every time anger has come alive in my heart the last few days, I’ve asked “God, what am I discontent about?” It’s been incredible. So freeing. So good.

I’m learning that I can sit in Texas, longing to be in the Middle East, and be content with my present circumstances. I can get lukewarm coffee and really want hot coffee, but instead, be thankful for the coffee I can get so freely and drink it with a thankful heart. I’m learning that thankfulness really is the key in being content in ALL circumstances.

Philippians 4:11-14 (MSG) says:

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.”

So that’s just that. Paul was in the middle of a ramen noodle experience. In prison. Rough life. Yet Paul says “whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” I want to be that way. Hands full or hands empty, happy or sad, hungry belly or full belly, in America or the Middle East…fully alive and fully satisfied with the One who makes me who I am.

With Jesus, my life is complete and whole.
Even if I do not see it now: I am where I am, because Jesus is here.
My ramen is good. It is what my belly needs. It makes me full.

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
Psalm 16:5-6

sorry, I’m not sorry.

As-salam alaykom! [that’s “hello, peace be upon you” in Arabic. Hopefully google has that spelled out correctly. If not, please do not be offended by my ability to speak about 4 Arabic words.]

I was 30,000 feet in the air flying from one country to another, I had a whole row to myself on the plane, and I captured some legit pictures from the sky. My mind was in a million places trying to figure out where to even begin talking to God. “Do I start with trying to figure out my next steps in life or do I just start with asking him what he thinks about me?” (My times with God while I was in the Middle East were full of questions and statements of concern.)

Thankfully, I asked God what he thought of me, what he had to say to my heart.
Thankfully.
John 10:27-30 says:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

“Cait, you are my sheep. You hear me. You know me. You follow me. In me, you are secure and safe. Although you have no clue what your next steps look like, you are equipped to not only follow me, but you are safe to risk alongside of me.”

I rejoiced in what God had spoken and doodled a picture of a sheep. Little did I know that God had a deep challenge he wanted to place in my heart. I tried to move on, asking God another question, but God made it clear he had more to say.
As I meditated on sheep and shepherds I recalled facts I knew about sheep:

1. They are unable to do anything without a shepherd leading them, feeding them, protecting them.
2. They move in packs. It’s a death sentence if they are ever alone.
3. The story of the lost sheep in Luke 15.
4. Sheep follow the shepherd. No questions asked. They just do.

God had just told me that I was a sheep: now, what do sheep do that I do not do? Where does my heart not align with being a sheep of the greatest shepherd in the history of all time? It was then that I realized how rebellious my little heart had become towards following Jesus. I’ve been believing this lie all year that says “God is going to sell me short. God leads me places and gives me the short end of the stick.” That belief caused me to hold God at an arms length and to be hesitant in just saying yes to wherever he wanted to lead. I had placed people’s reactions to decisions above what God was speaking about them and I had taken many circumstances into my own hands to just figure it out, make it out alive. After about an hour of repenting and laying my life back on the alter before God, once again, God spoke.

“Sheep follow the shepherd unapologetically.”

{{Unapologetic: adj: not acknowledging or expressing regret}}

A question followed: “Caitlin, do you really believe that you are my sheep? Safe. Protected. Fought for.”

My answer led my heart to be undone, and my answer was not my answer, but the Holy Spirit inside of me speaking: “Yes, God. I believe that I am your sheep. Would you teach me how to follow you unapologetically; To not turn back with regret and fear, but to risk it all to follow you and be with you? I lay all that I am at your feet, trusting that you withhold no good thing from me, believing that you make rough places smooth before me.” After I answered, my heart came alive with a new and fresh resolve to follow Jesus.

It was in the sky, flying over the middle east, that I came alive, once again, to the radical, crazy, fun, challenging adventure of following Jesus. I realized that my life, from the outside, does not make a lot of sense. I spent 9 months in a discipleship school and working part time AFTER I graduated college. I took a month off of work to go to the Middle East to love God and love people. I came back to America and quit my job without another job fully lined up because God spoke “Go for it.” My life is risky and crazy. My life is rewarding and sweet. My life is full–full of protection, love, celebration, and direction from heaven.

I have resolved to be an unapologetic follower of Jesus.
If God says go, I’m going to go. If he says stay, I’m going to stay.
So I’m sorry I’m not sorry in advance for the nerves you may feel, the worry you may face, or the risks you might take in loving me. But if you are one of the people who carry me deeply, I thank you, in advance, for letting me be unapologetic in my pursuit of Jesus, for putting your heart on the line for me, for supporting me when the world goes dark. You are the real heroes. And Jesus, well he is the really good shepherd.

open roads

As an introvert, I don’t like people sometimes. I actually prefer to sit in a room with some candles, a good book, and twinkle lights on. No music. No people. Just me and Jesus.

As an introvert, I get tired going to party after party and big group of people after big group of people. Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed with being social, I break down in my car driving from one meeting to another.

To be honest, sometimes I hate being an introvert because I shut Jesus out in the process. I throw little temper tantrums and sit in the corner and cry–ranting and raving about how I just want to be alone. But instead, Jesus comes close when all I want him to do is go away.

Flashback to this past Thursday:
**we will call this little patient of mine, Austin, for security purposes**

“NO, THAT’S NOT HOW YOU PLAY CHECKERS. WE’VE NEVER PLAYED THAT WAY,” Austin yelled with tears streaming down his face.
(If you’ve never had a tiny human, or a not so tiny human, yell at you when all you want to do is help explain to them what’s going on..it’s so hard.)

Austin yelled that statement over and over and over and over and over again during his therapy session that day. He was completely closed off and shut down as he pushed me away.

“NO ONE EVER LISTENS TO ME. I HAVE REALLY GOOD IDEAS AND NO ONE LISTENS TO ME” he finally screamed at me.
Ahh, the root. The root of the issue was not that Austin just didn’t agree with my rules I had put in place. The root was that Austin felt overlooked and ignored. His voice and ideas had been shut down so many times in the past that when someone would listen to him, he felt the need to repeat the same phrase over and over and over again, regardless of if the person he was speaking to had fully heard him.

We ended therapy early that night. I had to take Austin to his mom who semi-calmed him down, apologized to me, and took him home to eat pizza.

I left work kind of discouraged, but also full of thoughts.

How many times do I argue with God, repeat the same things over and over again as I weep in a corner when all God wants to do is explain himself to me. How many times do I stiff arm Holy Spirit from making life easier because I think my way is better?

A lot.

I’m like Austin, frequently, here recently. Temper tantrums, arguments, and me believing the lie that I can present my requests before him and lay my life bare at his feet and he still won’t listen to me. BUT God is the kindest, even when life is hard and the road before me is unclear. He’s patient to let me cry and scream in the corner and then humbly bends down to listen to me and hold me…again and again and again. Even when I don’t ask for it. Even when I want to be alone. Even when I stiff arm him. He picks me up and sometimes he gives me pizza 😉

I’ve been in this place in life where the road before me is so open, but the options are all closed off. I’m sometimes crippled by the lack of direction my life has on certain days. But I also know that open roads lead to beautiful sunset pictures, windows down, music up, and freedom to enjoy the ride. So that’s what I’m doing tonight: enjoying the ride.

As an introvert, I have nights like tonight. Just Jesus and I, talking through life. The depths of my soul are refreshed.

As an introvert, I let my thoughts catch up to me and I get to pray for my kiddos at work.

To be honest, most days I love being an introvert because I can sit in my room, no people, no music, just Jesus and I and I can think, process, and rejoice that:
the best is yet to come
i am heard by the king of the universe
i am full
i am tightly held
the ground underneath my feet is secure
no dream is too big for Jesus

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” –Psalm 116:5-7