BitterSpring

God has invited me to believe in Springtime, again. He’s invited me into this terrifying place that flowers will spring out of barren land and that leaves will burst forth off of bare naked, trembling twigs of trees. Believing that out of the same ground that the most heart wrenching, life stealing, ill-fitting, nasty things occurred on–that new life will spring forth. Something new will follow.

3 days before 2016 ended, I scoured my room. I had the most beautiful globe sitting on my bookshelf. A giant Omani flag hanging on my wall (I love the country of Oman, ask me about it. I’ll brag on the country all day.) Pictures perfectly framed and hanging, untouched since I moved home from Waco. Untouched. Dust settled. These were a few of my most treasured possessions. My Bible held Omani money that, every time I came across it, reminded me to pray for the country. Treasures. Treasures that held bitter heart ties and painful memories. Treasures that, if I was really honest and vulnerable with myself and you, held the only bit of comfort I could find in this season. Wrapped up in “this is not how it was supposed to happen, Jesus” and “let’s dwell in memories, Lord, because my reality sucks.”

I read a book, this last year, called Bittersweet. It says, “a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul.”

An invitation to “believe in Springtime”, again.
A call to daringly believe that if things come in pairs-that the sweet is coming to pair with the bitter. Bittersweet. “Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy.”

I ripped my flag down. Packed up a box of old pictures and letters, jewelry, my globe, clothes, anything that brought up a bitter sense of comfort, a sense of winter and not of spring and I got rid of it. I’d like to say I did it in some big bad girl way. I sobbed the whole way to give it to my friend. Because my friend had to be the one to do something with it.

**Sidenote: I don’t know what season of life you’re in, but find friends that aren’t afraid to get their hands messy with you. That link arms with you and do the things that you are absolutely incapable of doing and that will snatch a pretty globe out of your hands and not give it back to you no matter how many tears you shed, because they’re after your ultimate good, not your ultimate comfort.**

Afterwards, I realized that there was A LOT tied up in those things. Comfort. Hope. Emotions. When I got home I was face to face with blank space on my walls and in my book shelf and in my heart. Blank space.

Jesus always comes.
You see, 2016 was so bitter. The taste of it was so bitter that the mere taste of it causes immediate gagging. I mustered up the bravery to go through my journals to find Jesus’ faithfulness and write it down on paper hearts. 8 little paper hearts that reflect on ways of the faithfulness of a Father that never lets me down, that doesn’t let the little things go unnoticed.

I hung them up where my flag used to hang to take an instagram picture, when I heard the whisper of God say “leave them there, because I don’t leave you empty handed, beloved.”


Spring.
Flowers from barren land.
Paperhearts hanging on a wall that had been empty for a day.
Because that’s who Jesus is.

I believe 2017–no matter how hard or embarrassing or heartbreaking or good or joy filled or incredible or surprising or life changing–is a year of me believing in Spring again. In believing that Jesus is who he says he is.

“I believe that God is making all things new. I believe that Christ overcame death and that pattern is apparent all through life and history: life from death, water from a stone, redemption from failure, connection from alienation. I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy. I believe that loss and emptiness and confusion often give way to new fullness and wisdom.”  -Bittersweet

Happy new year, y’all! 🙂

*Quotes throughout this blogpost came from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Go read it.

Holy Scrubs

I learned how to put on scrubs a few weeks ago. I learned what it feels like to breathe under a mask and what it smells like when medicine is coursing in and out of a 2 year old baby’s veins trying to keep him alive. “Oxygen levels falling,” I heard the nurse say.

“Beep, Beep, Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.”
It was a sound I have heard a million and one times on the ER television shows I watch. Flatline. No heartbeat. A lifeless baby laying before my eyes. A daddy, who is labeled a refugee, fearful of the coming minutes, lost in translation. Swahili is what is understood in his mind. English is what is being spoken. My friend, the interpreter, rapidly translating every word being spoken, a dad paralyzed by the reality that his baby is toe to toe with death.

A baby, body full of infection, born in Africa, with a broken heart. A hole in his heart. A body that consistently is against him unless this hole is fixed and it’s unfixable with an infection.

“He heals the brokenhearted and he binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

I drove that daddy home, after a few hours in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He cried all the way back to his apartment. The moments were sacred. An entire family, lives torn apart from war and persecution and famine and drought come to land of the free and home of the brave to find themselves seated in a sterile, white walled hospital room staring at their intubated, broken-hearted, lifeless baby. Sacred moments. Holy moments where Jesus himself comes close to every single heart. Papa’s, Mama’s (who wasn’t there at the time, but you could feel her pain), Caitlin’s, Interpreter’s, Baby’s, Doctor’s, Nurse’s.

That baby’s broken heart was unavoidable. There was a gaping hole in it. Everyone had to acknowledge it because the baby needed to have it fixed. Should’ve had it fixed at birth (as to why he didn’t is another story for another day). But the point is, in that sterile, still hospital room we all sat. Staring at that baby. Hoping for a miracle.

The truth is. This week, that baby died. That two year old baby, took his last breath. His last, broken-hearted little breath. To be really honest, I’ve wrestled with it, a lot. When you hope for a miracle, when you hope for people to encounter the living God, when you hope to see the fullness of a two year old come back to a sense of normalcy…in a selfish sense of it all, I wanted to see a broken heart get healed. I wanted the baby to get all of the meds it needed, test healthy enough for the surgery, get the surgery, and get to see this little nugget have a battle scar and be strong, brave, and healthy.

Hope is a person named Jesus.

But I’m reminded that Jesus comes close. That he will always come close. I’ve been writing about hearts in my blog a lot over the last few months and I’m finally realizing why. Because broken hearts really are unavoidable. Broken emotions and habits and things in life are unavoidable and they need to be acknowledged in order to be healed. Jesus comes close to BIND or HEAL them. I’m not sure what unavoidable, painful thing you have in your life, but Jesus wants to come close to you. The process isn’t too long. It’s not too messy or too hard or too complex. He’s SO pleased with you.

It’s been sweet, this Christmas season, to be the messiest I’ve ever been. I’ve finally released myself to sit in the mess of grief and of confusion and all of the other things I’m currently carrying and just BE with Jesus. Because Christmas is the time to rest in remembering that the star-breather, the heart-creator, the dream-fullfiller covered himself in flesh with sweat glands and boogers and tangly hair just to get close to us so he could love us the best he could and save us the only way he knew how. So he laid, probably freezing cold in the middle of nowhere in some nasty manger because the Inn couldn’t make room for him, born to a teenage Mom who lost her reputation because she was an unmarried virgin…all to live a sinless life, to die on a cross to pay for my broken little heart–for that two year old’s broken little heart. For that daddy’s tears. For our jealousy and business and comparison and idolatry. He paid for it. He did all that just to be close to us. Just cause he loved us.

And I guess in the midst of the twinkly lights and the last minute shopping, I want to challenge us all to sit for a hot second and acknowledge that we really do have the greatest gift of all. We’ve got the presence and grace of God going before us and behind us, covering our tracks, making our crooked places straight and our rough places smooth. He’s too honest and too good to lead us astray and he’s the most joyful and hopeful One we’ve ever known. He’s Immanuel, God with us, forever.

Even in hospital rooms.
With backwards scrubs and shaky knees.

tbh; a little honesty for your Friday

Yesterday was Thanksgiving.

I woke up defeated and in the worst mood. I shoved that under the rug and tried to put on the “happy, thankful face” that we all attempt at Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until I snapped at my little sister for wearing an outfit that looked very similar to me that I realized something was really off. But what was it?

In the spring of this year, I experienced my first real broken heart. That phrase may make you feel uneasy, but this post isn’t necessarily going to be easy. You see, in the early days of Spring, just before “April showers bring May flowers” was actually relevant, when I still had to wear light sweaters over flowy, floral tops, I made a drive down I-35 that changed my life, probably forever. I honestly can’t remember details of the conversation, what I was wearing, or what the weather was like…but I can remember the exact parking spot where my car sat, the physical sound of broken dreams and my broken heart, and I can replay the reel of phrases that came spewing out of my mouth, trying everything in my power to change the situation, to change me as a person, and to avoid the heart break.

The ending of the story, I feel, is sometimes still trying to be written. There’s never a good way to end something that your heart is tied to. It seems to always be a little bit painful and little bit disappointing. For me, I’ve been grappling with the sting of rejection and utter disappointment that has accompanied my broken heart. To this day, I still find shards of my heart scattered all over the place.

Sometimes they’re found in my car as I drive down the highway, stuck in my head, talking to Jesus. Other times they’re found standing on the sidelines at a volleyball game, knowing that after the game, I may not have anyone to go hug or walk me to my car. Or sometimes those shards look a lot less graceful and a lot more hateful when they are found in curse words and anger that leaks into the day to day. Then there are days like today, where the familiarity of home and family brings those shards to the surface, making me fully aware that my little heart is still trying to make up a coping method to seal off the broken places from the world.

Sometimes it’s not the ending of that relationship that is tied to my broken heart, sometimes it’s my sweet grandmother, who has Dementia/Alzheimer’s. I walk into her house, sticky notes scattered here and there to remind her which way is up and down. My heart breaks.

Other times it’s sitting at work, enrolling a client in my program, when they pull out their facebook feed and it’s plastered with home videos of Al Qaeda beating and dragging different people in Afghanistan. My heart breaks.

I don’t know what your broken heart looks like, but I know that you’ve got one. We all do. Insecurity may steal your joy, or maybe it’s the failing grades at school, or the struggles you’ve discovered in your marriage or your ministry that you never expected. I don’t even know the degree to which your little heart is broken…it may be a little bit cracked or shattered all over the floor, with all of its’ insides laid bare. But something I do know is that Jesus LOVES that broken heart. Our broken hearts.

The question I’ve been asking Jesus a lot lately is, “How am I supposed to function like this, broken and scattered all over the place?” I’m still trying to figure out the full answer to that question, but I am learning that Jesus is holding my hand as I figure it out. Part of that “holding my hand” is that Jesus is really comfortable with just sitting with us where we are. He’s after our hearts, making us whole, making us well. Sometimes that process feels too slow, like months and months down the road I’m still waking up some mornings, feeling the weight of my shattered heart still beating within my chest. Thanks to the grace of some of my friends, I’ve been able to tangibly feel the love of Jesus in the midst of this healing time.

Some of my friends used to sit and give me every reason why things didn’t work, why they shouldn’t work, and how to move on quickly. Those times have since passed and now my sweet friends sit next to me, sometimes not saying anything, eyes full of tears, saying “I hurt for you, Cait and I love you so much.” In the months since my little heart shattered, I’ve learned how sit comfortably in the silence of pain and disappointment with Jesus, how to grieve and how to hurt WITH God, not instead of God. Sometimes we don’t need a quick fix, we need a deep healing of our hearts that only Jesus can give. That’s what I realized yesterday, on thanksgiving, I am really thankful for the ability to be healed by God and to be heard by God. It’s sweet.

So I guess I wrap this post up, abruptly, only because there’s not really a bow on the process yet…no happy ending, only the hope of Jesus that wraps me up tenderly and loves me well.

So to you, wherever you are at: There’s hope at the end of the tunnel. I pray, what my counselor prays over me every week, that you would be filled with the perfect love that casts out all fear, the peace that surpasses all understanding, self-love, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-acceptance and the joy of the Lord that is your strength.

To my bestie pals: thank you. Thank you for extending patience and grace and kindness and love, for fighting for me and extending consistent time to me, even in my flaky-ness. You guys are the real heroes. Big thanks J

And to my broken heart—you’re doing great! You’re strong, you’re capable, you’re doin’ the thing! I’m really proud of you and so is the Father.

When Life Gives You Ramen pt. 2

Well hello, again, sweet friend. The first post about ramen noodles was a hit, so I figured I’d make a part two post, partially because I know it would bless a few people, but majorly because I need to write a post on contentment…AGAIN. To be really vulnerable, I just still haven’t mastered it, and Jesus has convicted my heart the last 5 days to rewrite the original post. So, if you’d like to cheer me on in this tender post, feel free to insert a custom made Caitlin cheer…..right….. H E R E!

Thank you. Thank you.

I have, just recently, caught myself in the middle of, what I’d like to call, an “Obedience Crisis” with God. You know, one of those times in life where God very blatantly asks you to do something, walk through a hard process, love that hard person, etc..etc and when you do it it’s like someone stuffed a confetti gun with a hand grenade and instead of soft confetti, you get a war weapon blown straight through your life and your confidence….yall know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, just follow along for a few minutes. I’m reminded of the phrase my friend spoke a few summers ago.

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

If you haven’t read the part One of this post: take a break and click here —> When life gives you Ramen.

I’ve caught myself thinking a lot, over the last week, “I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, Lord..but obviously it’s something.” I obey, I lose. I disobey, I still lose. I rejoice in the midst of all of the shambles, and things stay shambley. I worship God, beg him to come close, and I’ve felt distant. I’ve watched people (side note: comparison is the thief of joy) and they see the shambles come into alignment, they see obedience produce the freshest, juiciest fruit, and they worship God faithfully and not only does he come close, but he brings crazy breakthrough. YAY GOD for being faithful, but seriously what am I doing wrong?

It’s a lot like watching that bride walk down the aisle and fly off to a beautiful honeymoon and you’ve gotta fly back, sicker than a dog, and muster up the courage to go to work or not. Or maybe it’s living in a run down apartment because your job doesn’t pay that well and you’re watching people buy mega mansions. In my case, I live in my parents house (which is so healthy for me, thanks mom and dad), and I feel like I’m being left behind my all of my friends. If I’m being really honest, am I really sure that God isn’t out for me?

We all do it. It’s like we search for the next best thing, for the next better thing..and it’s not long after we get the better ‘whatever it is’ and we see an instagram post that takes the wind out of our sails and plants a seed of resentment and disappointment at Jesus.

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

I’ve been seeing Jesus come through in crazy ways for me. I’ve labeled this current season of life, the season of unfinishedness. It feels as though every thing is attached to another thing and nothing feels like it will ever be finished. I also can deeply feel the unfinishedness of who I am and who Jesus made me to be. The other day, a friend texted me to check in on a situation, and I melted down. Curse words, destructive phrases, and spewing anger flowed from my heart to my keyboard to a text message to my sweet friend. I felt no conviction or regret until almost 24 hours later…I am so unfinished. As shame overtook my heart, I realized that my hope hasn’t been in Jesus himself, but in Jesus’ ability to come through for me. When situations haven’t gone my way, I’ve lost my ish over it. Some may pull the “rebellion” card, because I actually have felt quite rebellious toward the church, toward Jesus, and towards community…I’ve labeled it my “badass” card. Let me explain: If I can be tough enough, not show my emotions, and just be okay and look content all the time, I think I look as if I can conquer anything and that I am essentially untouchable.

Lets LOL at that for a hot second. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

But that “badass card” has led to many meltdowns and deep deep deep resentment and hatred towards situations and people. It’s not healthy. It’s not holy. It’s not God’s heart. So hear me when I say: “Your badass card pulls you farther away from Jesus and his heart and is one of the most destructive things in your relationship with him.”

You see, when we look around at our friends and our family and compare where we are with what they’re doing and what God is doing, we steal, not only the joy, but the celebration that should come with breakthrough from God. We also steal from ourselves, our view of how faithful God is changes, his character seemingly changes, and we hold him at a distance. But when we are unfinished, when we have sharp edges and mouths cursing like sailors, God doesn’t pull his “badass” card, he pulls us close. He snuggles with us. He brings us close to teach us that contentment is found snuggled tight in the arms of our Daddy.

So this blog post is ending with a list of things I’m thankful for…just because I believe thankfulness is one of the ways that Jesus pulls us close:

Coffeeshops with a sweet Dutch couple with thick accents.
Dirty chai tea latte’s.
Facetime.
Sunshine.
The ability to delete online dating accounts 5 minutes after they’re created (hahahaha! no, I’m not online dating, y’all…but I thought about it.)
Repentance
Bethel spontaneous worship youtube videos
Flannels
Migraine medicine
My job and my boss
My pals
Cooper (ruff ruff)
My family

I’m really thankful that God is not a man. He doesn’t react like us. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He gives us our bowls of ramen at the perfect time. Hot, steamy, and ready to eat.

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

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.