He Wants What’s Best For Me

She should have known better than to return to the dinner table without washing her hands. We were even eating finger foods. But when I asked her if she washed her hands, she defiantly said, “No.” I asked nicely for her to walk back to the bathroom to wash her hands and she refused. So I did what any good babysitter would do; I scooped up my 3 year-old friend and walked her back to the bathroom thinking we could still rectify this situation quickly.

Twenty minutes later, I had baracaded the bathroom doorway with my body and my 3 year-old friend was throwing a tantrum on the floor with tears in her big blue eyes. If she didn’t need to wash her hands before, after spending ten minutes pounding her hands against the bathroom floor, she sure needed to now.

I pulled out the limited tricks I know about trying to convince kids to do what they don’t want to do to much avail. The tears were staining my little friend’s face and she was no more convinced that she did, indeed, need to wash her hands.

I shook my head as I sent an SOS text to my best friend who spends all day working with children. Why wouldn’t my 3 year-old friend listen to me? Didn’t she know that if she would have listened right away, she would have saved herself some pain? I know better than she does. And, as her brothers lovingly reminded her, “Miss Caitlin is in charge.”

But here’s the thing: I may have been the babysitter that night, but I’m usually the tantruming three year-old sprawled out on the bathroom floor. Instead of letting God gently correct my disobedience, I wage an all out war. I could choose to repent quickly, acknowledging His sovereignty over my life, but I claim to know better. Full of arrogance, I ignore that He actually knows what’s not just good for me, but He wants what’s best for me.

I meant no ill by making my three year-old friend wash her hands. I wanted to protect her. I didn’t want her to get sick. I wanted to make sure she was developing healthy habits. I wanted to reinforce the right behavior.

Sometimes God feels like an unfamiliar babysitter simply enforcing rules that don’t even make sense to me. But He’s in it with me and simultaneously aware of the end result. He wants to coach me into being a person who better reflects His glory. But as any athlete knows, a coach is more than a cheerleader. A coach instructs, encourages and when necessary, corrects.

It’s that correcting that hurts and that I hate. Can’t I just get a pat on the back, Jesus? If my goal and His goal is growth and sanctification, then the correcting is not only important, but necessary. I need to remember why He’s doing it. When God says, “No,” or corrects my behavior, He is doing it for my good. He is doing it because He loves me.

God sees the whole picture when I do not. Just like my little friend who once she decided that she would wash her hands still didn’t understand why, I need to remember the correcting is not malicious. He doesn’t mean harm. He loves me. He wants what’s best for me.

2015

It’s fun to write. Sometimes it feels like a to-do list you can’t lose. As I sit down and start thinking through what 2016 could look like, I need to first look back at what 2015 was like. I gave myself the following goals back in January: I want to commit to writing at least twice a week, I want to go to India, I want to pay off my debt, I want to explore what it could look like to do some freelance writing, I want to run another half-marathon, I want to gain better control of my finances, and I want to buy fewer clothes. 

So how did I do?

I wrote at least twice a week for the first 5 months of the year. I went to India. I paid off my debt. I ran another half-marathon. I may have bought fewer clothes, it’s hard to tell. 

Out of seven goals, I accomplished three and a half of them. That’s 50%. If it was an uncurved test, I would have failed, but if that was my batting average or my three-point shooting percentage, I’d count it as a great success. I’m an optimist, who is not all that goal oriented, so by my personal standards, we’ll call it good.

These goals do not tell the full picture of my year. My year was full of experiences that make better memories than any achieved or unmet goals. 

This year I had an awesome girls weekend in Houston with two of my sorority sisters turned life-long friends. 

I watched my sister graduate Magna Cum Laude from college. 

I lasted eight weeks with less than 50 items in my closet. 

I flew to Las Vegas for the third time in 18 months to celebrate a best friend’s 25th birthday.

I watched the 4th of July fireworks with the Chicago skyline in the background while on a speed boat in Lake Michigan. 

I vacationed with ten of my closest friends to Florida coast where we focused on our tans and our relationships with one another. It will go down as my favorite week of the year. 

I visited Lake Papakeechie for the second year in a row with some of the best college friends I could ask for.

I watched my dad undergo open heart surgery and spent a week at home with him and my brother during his recovery. I learned what humility looks like that week. 

I paid off my student loans and then quit my beloved job at J.Crew. I am still adjusting to life without a retail discount. 

I moved from my sweet little apartment where I started to build my adult life into The Bungalow full of character and new friends.

I spent two week in India sharing the Gospel with people who have never heard of a God who loves His people with grace. I will remember my time in India as one of the richest experiences of my life. 

I celebrated Thanksgiving with extended family and enjoyed a day wandering New York City with five of my favorite people. 

I experienced some professional success as we reflected as an organization on our year. 

I met an entirely new group of women at my church as we studied the book of 1 John and grew in our knowledge of who God is and what that means for us.

I have started settling into a new normal, learning what it looks like to have free time again, and praying about what God would ask of me in 2016. 

It would be easy to look at my goals and feel like a failure because of what I didn’t accomplish. But here’s what I continue to learn – God cares more about who I am becoming than what I am accomplishing. So as I look forward to a new start, a blank slate starting in two weeks, I want to focus on becoming. Becoming more brave and less afraid. Becoming more patient and more settled. Becoming more confident. Becoming more me.
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Monday Lovin’

This week for Monday Lovin’ I am recapping five of my favorite things of 2014. I learned to walk again in 2014, and then once I found my footing, my stroll increased to a speed walk. I started to dream in 2014, with a new confidence, one that I don’t know if I’ve ever had. Confidence in God and confidence in myself. It feels good to be confident in my own skin. And so in no particular order, five of my favorite things from this past year.

  1. It was a busy, busy summer. I was in one wedding, went to two more, went on several vacations (Bethany Beach, Cleveland, Las Vegas) and had a lot of fun. But in the midst of all the fun, there was some deep-seated discontentment and uncertainty about my job, my worth and my future. I helped one of my best friends organize Lake Weekend 2014, a retreat for some of our closest friends. The weekend was a turning point for me in beginning to wrestle through the discontentment, uncertainty and fear that had been crippling me, and sitting right beneath the surface all summer. I am so thankful for the questions that were asked and the truth that was spoken that weekend.
  2. I don’t know if I’ll ever have just one full-time job. I like the challenge of balancing multiple jobs, sorting through my priorities and being given different avenues for growth and creativity. The second half of this year, the increased opportunity for came in the form of merchandising the kids section of our store. I look forward to sitting down with the concept book, organizing my information, creating a plan and then executing it. This element of working in retail gives me structure and freedom.
  3. Making the decision to move to Indianapolis has been the gift that keeps on giving. The best part of the move has been the friendships I’ve been able to build, both from the beginning, and also upon a foundation from college. I’ve found a common theme in these relationships – a depth that comes from admitting that life isn’t quite what you thought it would be. Because it’s not, but friends to live life alongside, wrestling with the “not quites” and the “maybe nevers”, can be the biggest blessing.
  4. I made a list in August. It was a list of all the things that are life-giving to me. I went on to make a commitment to these things. Weeks turn into months really quickly when I’m not careful, and without being intentional about how to spend time, I can start feeling empty. Writing was one of the things I put on the list, and something that has really shaped my fall. In October, I wrote 29/31 days on the topic of grace. In December, a blog I wrote was published on a women’s online community. I like the way that writing helps me process, and gives me an outlet; words bring life into the monotony.
  5. Even though each adoptive family I talk to tells me that there’s nothing special about them, I beg to differ. Working with families on their adoption journeys is a privilege for me, and a highlight of my year. I have had such encouraging conversations with families who are beginning the adoption process, or finally bringing their children home. The sacrifice they demonstrate on behalf of the child who they are committed to parenting to truly moving.

Oh, 2014, you’ve been a great year. Thanks for the countless memories. I’m thankful to serve a faithful God who has orchestrated such special moments.

Summer Reflections

As July winds down, summer is almost over. Which breaks my heart. Summer is a special season to me, full of wonderful memories spent at my grandparents’ house when my family came back from Japan for 8 weeks each summer. Summer is when it’s socially acceptable to eat ice cream for many meals. Summer sunsets are very special to me. It’s summer when I feel God closest to me, when I know that no matter what my heart is going through, it’s all going to be okay. And even though the summer isn’t quite over, no matter what this 75 degree Indiana day wants us to believe, I’d love to share about what I’ve learned this summer.

  1. Busy is not a way to describe how I am. It doesn’t count. It may be true of my schedule, but it’s a cop out. It says that what I fill my calendar with is more important that who I am, which is a lie I’m trying to fight hardcore in my life. Busy has a negative connotation, almost to say that I’m a victim to the things I’ve said yes to. These things I’ve said yes to are good things – I need to quit making myself a victim to them. Working a second job is not something that has happened to me; I’ve made the conscious decision and I truly do love working there, I need to stop complaining and start celebrating. I am not and will not be a victim to this culture of busy. Yes, there are times when I may need to say no, or slow down, but that is not a reflection of who I am, simply of what I choose to do.
  1. Adoption changes lives. It’s been a busy summer at work, and some evenings I’ve taken work home, or I’ve gotten up early to get to the office to get stuff done. I’m beyond thankful that I have the privilege of working a job that changes the lives of children in need. For older children and children with special needs, when a family chooses to adopt them, their lives are changed. In some cases, adoption means that a child gets to live. I love that I get to work in an industry that actually changes lives.
  1. Goals are a good thing. I want to get out of debt and pay off my student loans. If you’ve met me in the past year, I’ve probably shared that I have a second job to pay off my loans, or how I can’t wait to be debt free. I’ve tried to put my money where my mouth is and get serious about paying off my student loans. I’m making progress and it’s so empowering! It’s silly, but I love being able to make progress and meet goals on something that I’ve decided is very important to me.
  1. God wants me to be healthy. This means that I put good food in my body, make sure I’m working out enough and also setting healthy boundaries. It’s easy to want to say yes to everything, or be all things to all people, but God wants me to give the things I’ve committed to the best I can and this requires me to set boundaries. I also cannot fix people, I must draw a healthy boundary to love people well. Boundaries bring freedom. Emotional, financial and physical health bring freedom.
  1. Those who were part of the early church were brave. I’ve been hanging out in the book of Acts this month and my mind continues to be blown at the ways the followers of Christ responded to God’s commands immediately. Incredible results follow radical obedience. I want to obey quicker, and with bigger faith. As I’ve been reading, I keep asking God to help me develop my “faith muscle”. Like with any muscle, I have got to work at it slowly and surely, even when it’s uncomfortable.

I’ve been reading my way through 2014 and this summer, I have enjoyed numerous books with a glass of wine sitting on my patio, or with my tumbler on the beach (the best place to read). Some of my favorite books of the summer are:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo), Deepening Community (Paul Born), Boundaries (Cloud & Townsend) and my new favorite book – The Ragamuffin Gospel (Brennan Manning). I highly recommend all of these books!

summer reflections

What have you learned this summer?

 

March

As we wrap up March, I’m left thinking through everything I’ve done. I’m thankful that I think we’ve seen the end of snow (although maybe not) and that the sun is shining. I’m also thankful that Scandal has all new episodes through the end of the season… what can I say? I’m addicted. Not only am I thankful for trashy (well-done television), but I’m also thankful for the lessons learned this month.

  1. A good church body is special. I’m officially a member of Harvest Bible Chapel North Indy, and words cannot express how thankful I am to be a part of what God is doing there. The small group I’ve joined is also spectacular. I’m learning that a church that is purposefully outwardly focused is beautiful. I’m learning that there are churches that exist who truly train and develop their members. The job of the church is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” I can’t quite call myself a saint, but I’m being equipped!
  1. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a great dinner. Even when you’re 23. Please don’t judge.
  1. Nothing can brighten up an apartment in between seasons like flowers. Bright red tulips 🙂
  1. The Book of James can do a number on a heart. Take my word for it. It’s beautiful, convicting, challenging and life-changing. Totally worth the butt kicking. Like after a great workout, I’m feeling stronger and more in shape for the race of life. It’s so practical for where I am in life right now – perseverance, humility and pure religion – those are things I want to be true of me.

I pray that I would have a teachable heart for more months like March. I pray that amidst the busyness and caffeine I would be alert to each moment as it comes, not living in the past and not overly focused on the future, but here in the now, with whatever beauty it has to offer.

November

  1. Living on a budget is difficult. Especially when the first week of the month is Homecoming, and you’d rather eat good food and drink fun drinks than live within the budget. Being a grown-up is hard. There’s grace. I’m learning – about grace & how to live within my budget. Side note: it’s also hard to live on a budget when you really, really like buying clothes.
  1. India has the highest rate of modern day slaves. Thanks, International Justice Mission’s facebook page for that sad statistic. Lord Jesus, help me be a part of your redemptive plan for justice, for freeing the slaves, for finding children homes and for breaking EVERY stronghold. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
  1. Fountain coke Fridays rock. It’s worth the $1.09 to give me something to look forward to and help me focus throughout the 8 hours that separates me from the weekend.
  1. Party planning should be listed as a spiritual gift. Planning events and mingling at them brings me so much joy I have to prevent myself from jumping up and down while giggling. Cookies with the Bulgarian flag on them at MLJ’s Bulgaria Open House last weekend were one of the highlights of my first 90 days at the company. That and meeting new families excited to take the next step in giving a child a forever family. Here’s to super cute cookies and one less child without a home.
  1. It might take until the end of time, but the Lord is going to cultivate a spirit of patience in me. The kind of patience that says, “I know I’m not where I want to be right now, but I’ll get there; I’ll pray and wait, and be present until it’s time.”

I am thankful for November. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice. I am thankful for a God who is continually teaching me lessons, even when my heart is stubborn, especially when my heart is stubborn.

September

As I sit down with my glass of wine to write about September, and all the lessons I’ve learned, I’m in awe. In awe of the sunset right out my window, in awe of the job I got to do today, in awe of the apartment I live in (including the roommates I live with), and in awe of this sweet place The Lord has brought me to in His goodness. This month has been a whirlwind, complete with some breakdowns, frustrations and tears, but I’m grateful. I am eternally grateful to the Lord for bringing me here. And without further ado, the things I’ve learned in September.

  1. Traffic drives me nuts. I’d rather drive double the mileage on the highway than stop and go on main roads. Two weeks ago I tried taking I-465 on my way to work, I haven’t gone back to my old way. I don’t care that it’s almost double the mileage, at least I’m moving.
  1. Hanging out with special needs families may be the closest I get to heaven on earth. On Friday I hung out at a carnival at a local church thrown for children with special needs and their siblings to give their parents a night away. Talk about a step of faith, I don’t like to be reminded of the brokenness of the world, but I’m so thankful for the opportunity. My main buddy was a 9-year-old with Cerebral Palsy. Watching the way his 11 year-old sister took care of him, and his parents interact with him, must be a sliver of how the Lord looks at me. I am covered in sin, and yet He loves me anyways, and is always looking out for what is best for me. Wow.
  1. 163,000,000 orphans. That’s a big number. That’s an even bigger number when you play out the end of their stories if no one intervenes. Come Lord Jesus come, help me be your hand and meet in the lives of your beloved children. 90% of the world’s orphans wouldn’t be adopted. I want to be their advocate just as much as I want to be an advocate for those who get adopted. Orphan care is messy. I want to be on the inside unafraid of getting my hands dirty and not fearful of not knowing the “right” answers.
  1. I’ve always gotten along with my parents, but I don’t think I realized just how great they were until the last couple months. They are my biggest cheerleaders. More than just cheering me on throughout my entire life, they’ve empowered me. They let me make my own decisions, they ask me difficult questions, they’ve cried with me and for me, and they’ve dreamed with me. They loaded and drove two full cars to Indianapolis, moved me in, hung everything on the walls and bought me a ton of groceries. Watching them love me drives me to further advocate for the orphans, who don’t have Sue and Mike Snyder to advocate and empower them, and to remind them just how loved they are.
  1. What I once feared for my first year post-grad is exactly what I needed, and what is best for me. I was scared shitless over paying rent, moving to a new city, starting a new job, being single and having to make my own way. I desperately tried during my senior year to walk down paths that we already paved and the Lord repeatedly said, “No.” Sometimes harshly. Here I am, in a new city, at not just one new job, but two, single, paying my own rent and cooking for myself, and yet, it’s great. I was so scared of graduating from college, that I never thought it would be good. I’ve only been here 1 month, but I really like it. For a girl who got really used to just surviving, thriving feels really good.

I lift my wine glass to September. My first month in my new city. My first month of being a grown up. Another month of remembering that God writes better stories than I can dream up.