My Testimony

It’s been quite a while since I utilized this website. I got out of writing for a while, which was a much needed break over the last year… or so. But that’s a different post for a different day.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the Lord tugging at me to share my testimony. It’s taken me a while to try to condense it into words, because there are just so many different side stories to my testimony, but I’ve just about stripped it to the bare bones for the sake of story.

Like a lot of girls who were raised in conservative Christian homes, my testimony starts after I accepted the Lord into my life. I was six years old, so my story doesn’t come from the dark gutters of society. I had a solid Christian family, raised in church since birth, and memorized scripture. I wasn’t on the streets, in a broken home, or a bad kid. I was just a girl, looking at her plate of peas, wondering why she was the only one who wasn’t allowed to go to heaven. I remembered my brother praying that I would get saved, my parents talking to me about it, etc. I knew how it worked. I knew I was a sinner. I knew Satan was bad, and God was good. I knew that Jesus died for my sins and that without Him, I wouldn’t get to go to heaven when I died. So one night I demanded to know why I couldn’t get saved. Long story short, I accepted Christ that night.

Fast forward 10+ years, and meet 17 year old Caitlyn. I was active in church, I went 3 times a week. Involved in youth group, I sang some, and I read a proverb a day to keep the devil away. I listened to strictly 90% gospel music, 10% country love songs. Not a single song on my playlists had a swear word in it. I didn’t date around, I’d never even had a boyfriend. I championed a big fat purple bracelet that said “PURITY” in bold letters so all the boys would know I didn’t have time for their games. This girl was off limits and 2 GOOD 4 U. “Modest is hottest” was my motto as I strutted around in my knee-length denim skirts and ever-so-fancy coulottes, and girls who didn’t wear these were beneath me. A woman who covered her body was worth more, as I was told, so obviously I held more value than those skanks who walked around showing their thighs (the horror!)

However, in spite of all my efforts to be the perfect Christian girl, I was plagued with doubt. These doubts kept me up at night, stole my sleep, and weaseled their way into my faith until only a shell remained. By all outward indications, I was perfect. All the boxes on my Christian checklist were marked.

  • Talk about Jesus. Check.
  • Obey your parents. Check.
  • Don’t show your cleavage. Check.
  • Listen to God’s music. Check.
  • Don’t swear or associate with those that do. Check.
  • Don’t associate with those who drink alcohol. Check.
  • Attend church 3+ times a week. Check.
  • Be kind and don’t show it if you’re not feeling particularly full of joy that day. Check.
  • Be vigilant in regards to your purity, don’t kiss boys before the altar, and don’t date if you ain’t ready to get married. Check check.
  • Read your Bible every day even if it’s just a verse so you can say you did it. Check.

I was a pretty looking role model for younger girls on the outside, but on the inside I was hollow. Empty. I tried every way to fix this doubt myself. After all, doubt was just a product of not reading my Bible like I should. So I skipped around, read Galatians once, a few Psalms here and there, and read the birth story of Jesus when Christmas came around. I didn’t study the Word in depth – I didn’t know how.

I was spinning my wheels on a road to nowhere, aimless and just hoping God would think my efforts were enough when I died.

Every day I was waking up and setting out to make God proud of my actions. As if there was anything I could do to make an ultimately holy God proud of me. Every time I messed up, the last thing I could think about was prayer. God didn’t want to hear from me. He was angry at me and disappointed. I would have to sulk for at least half a day to prove that I was truly repentant before I prayed for forgiveness.

It was a miserable existence.

One summer, my parents let me go off to youth camp with our church youth group. This was the first and only time I had been allowed to go, and I was so excited! When we got there, they did the usual Baptist youth camp thing. No phones (except for a phone call to parents once a day), no music, no technology, and mandatory participation in every game/activity. For a homeschooled introvert like me who had never been away from her mother overnight (EVER), this was a particulary emotionally taxing excursion. There was preaching two or three times a day, complete with sermons about what garbage people we were and how youths as a whole were going to hell in a handbasket no matter how hard they tried. There was even a sermon about how the “missing people” posters were probably of people who were going about their daily lives when the earth opened up and swallowed them into hell because they were so evil.

I wish I was kidding.

You can imagine how drained and broken down I felt after 48 hours of this. On the third night, there was a night of singing. No preaching or yelling about how much of a sinner I was , I knew that already. You didn’t need to convince me of what a terrible person I was, you really needed to convince me that God actually wanted me. A few songs in, my drained spirit knew it needed something. It was sick of the doubt and fear that plagued it night and day. What if God got sick of me and the earth swallowed me up into hell!? In the midst of the doubt and fear and homesickness, God met with me there. I had never felt the presence of God in such a real way. I don’t know if He showed up for anyone else that night, but it was almost as if He wrapped his arms around me and I felt Him sitting next to me.

Obviously, this was a sign that I needed to be saved again. So I went and begged a counselor, got her to go to the alter with me, and asked Jesus into my heart again. I remember thinking “I need to do something else. I’m not enough as I am. I need to do something more for Jesus to love me. I need to make Him want me.” When I got back home, I had a long talk with my dad about what salvation is, what it means, and how the Holy Spirit becomes more real to us at different times in our lives. At the time I didn’t really know what happened, I just knew things were different. I knew Jesus was real. I knew He had met me and ministered to me there when I was at one of my lowest points.

Now, I can look back and see that moment and know that that’s when Christianity became real to me. Jesus became real and the gospel came alive. After 12 years of remaining on a plataeu spiritually, I finally began to grow. I began to learn how to study, the Word became an actualy story. The spiritual battle became real, but love also became tangible in the thick of it. In the 5 years since that night, I’ve begun to grasp what grace is and how much the Lord loves me just because I’m His. He wants a relationship with me how he made me, flaws and all. The love He has poured into my heart has rearranged and renovated the insides until the outsides began to reflect it.

I don’t wear denim skirts anymore, even though they’re back in style, I’ve thrown away all my coulottes, and haven’t heard an Isaacs song in years. But I’m closer to Jesus now than I have ever been. Those things I put up to make myself more worthy of God actually drove a wedge between us, because it was never about what I do. It was never about how others’ perception. It was never about whether or not people thought I was a good girl.

What’s the use of looking the part when you’re broken and empty inside? On the outside, I looked like I loved Jesus, like I knew my Bible, like I loved other people. I looked like I was kind and sweet and inherently good. I looked like Jesus had changed my life, but on the inside I was still as broken and empty as ever because I failed to grasp the basis of the gospel. Grace. Grace takes you as you are and changes you from the inside out. Legalism (which is what my mindset was called), says that God changes you from the outside first through manmade rules, then transforms the inner man. Which is a false, empty gospel that quenches the power of the Holy Spirit.

But I am not a slave to that anymore! Jesus has radically changed who I am within, and that change is still working its way outward. The love that Jesus has placed in my heart tears down old barriers and put up new ones. It’s changed how I interact with people and equips me to love and value those who don’t share my views. It’s changed my heart, soul, and mind in so many ways I would be here all day listing them out for you.

Thank you for sharing this part of my life with me and reading this entry after a year and a half of silence. If you want to share your testimony with me, feel free to do so! I would love to rejoice in that with you.

Much love always,

Caitlyn.

It Takes A Village

“It takes a village.”

I’ve heard this phrase my whole life, though I never put too much stock into it. It was just a thing that people say. However, over the past few months, I’ve had to come to grips with the absolute truth of this old saying – which was not an easy thing for me to do.

Here’s why.

I’m a performance-based person. I place my worth in how well I perform in this area or that (God and I are working on it, but it’s slow going). If I need something done, I need to do it myself and it needs to be done to perfection if that’s what is expected of me.

There’s one problem with that. I am not a perfect person. In fact, I’m very bad with my hands and prone to accidents. Give me a paintbrush and I MIGHT give you a painting that rivals my pre-k fingerprinting masterpiece. Give me a hammer and a nail, I’ll give you a bruised thumb. Give me a bunch of flowers and a vase, I’ll give you an arrangement that looks like something akin nature vomit.

So you can imagine the root of a lot of my anxiety in life. I’m a perfectionist who has poor motor skills. However, give me a pen and paper with a chance to use my mind, and I’ll be a happy girl. My books are where I find a lot of my validation (not a good source, might I add), because I created them all by myself. They may not be great, but from start to finish, they’re products of my imagination. Mine mine mine!

However, you cannot create, edit, market, and publish a book all by yourself. I’m learning this more and more with each Beta reader that sends a report back to me. Because on my own I’m not all that great at proper grammar, character consistency, and a host of other things. It’s damaged my pride a good bit, but it’s opened my eyes to one universal truth.

It takes a village. It always has. Even in the days before I posted stories online, my mother was there to painfully read through my binders full of scribbled stories.

Lindsey has been by my side since the very beginning. We’re talking those Wattpad days before I believed in editing or character arcs.

Sefa was there to make sure I was properly equipped when it came to arguing with the critics… who were probably right but I won those arguments, anyway.

Lydia and Hannah were my cheerleaders and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give them a shoutout for how often they read my manuscripts.

Mrs. Julie gave me the tough love I needed when it came to grammar – she still does and I love her to death for it. No one has invested more time into my writing skills than Mrs. Julie!

All the time, these ladies were beside me putting in some hard work while I trotted about pretending I did something all by myself. But we never do anything alone.

Let me tell you this, ever since I opened up and started accepting help with open arms, things have gone so much more smoothly. While it sends a bit of a pang through my performance-based heart, I am beginning to see the uncertainty and anxiety about my abilities chip away. Because for whatever reason, knowing I have a village around me makes me feel more invincible than trying to stand alone.

Do you have a village? Tell them how thankful you are for them, and don’t let them go unnoticed! Learn how to receive help – even if it hurts your pride a bit.

Signed,

A Recovering Perfectionist.

Making Room

It’s been a while! But I’m back. Here we are, almost two weeks into 2019. These first few days have been full of change and new beginnings. In good ways and less-than-fun ways. But, I’m thankful for every day that God’s mercies are new and His love overflows into all the cracks and crannies of my heart. I’m especially thankful for grace to cover all the brand spanking new screw-ups.

… Moving on.

I love new year resolutions. I understand all you cool people who are anti-resolutions, but I love the meaning behind the tradition. The whole idea that it’s a fresh start, a new beginning, a time to make meaningful changes. It makes me happy to see all the hopes people have for the new year. I can’t help but think, as I write down all my goals, that every day is the same new start. With the Lord, we have the privilege to start over every month, week, day, even every hour. We have the chance to start over and keep pressing toward the mark.

Which is the thought I’m carrying into this first month of the new year. We tend to overwhelm ourselves with new resolutions. We add to our schedule without making room for new things. We say “I’m gonna work out three times a week.” Yet, we pile that onto our existing schedule and overwhelm ourselves two weeks in because we don’t have the time for our new goals.

Full disclosure: I overwhelmed myself toward the end of last year. I decided to tackle growing my social media platform (trying to, anyway), blogging, starting a newsletter, finish my manuscript and editing, get involved in more real-life ministries, read more, and get a new puppy. All at once. It was too much and toward the end of the year I was in despair.

Who has the time to perfectly schedule our days in order to fit all those obligations?

So, going into 2019, I’m working on making room for the priorities. Clearing out the excess, the toxic habits, the time wasters that don’t add to my life.

( Special shoutout to Apple’s update that allows you to limit how much time you spend on your apps. It was exactly what I needed going into this new year. )

– I’ve vowed to make more time for reading, which requires me sacrificing the time I want to spend binging Brooklyn Nine-Nine and engaging on Instagram.

– In order to make my mornings more quiet and peaceful, I have to set my writing aside until at least 10:00 until I’ve prepared my heart and mind for the day. << That’s a hard thing to do when I get an idea late at night and can’t wait to start on it!

I’m still failing and learning along the way that I can’t do it all. In order to fit in the new goals, sometimes you have to clear out the old ones. Sometimes you just have to tackle one day at a time and pace yourself.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ll never “arrive” in this life or achieve perfection, so why don’t we give ourselves some grace? (Rich words coming from a perfectionist like myself.)

At 21 years old, this is the biggest lesson I’m having to learn – it’s okay to not know what you’re doing. A friend told me the other day, “you don’t have to have your life figured out. You’re 21. And it’s okay. It’s just a season of life.”

You can’t do it all. You can only do what you can, so pace yourself.

Make room.

It’s Okay To Be Tired

Dear Struggling Writer,

It’s okay to be tired.

It’s okay to feel spent.

It’s okay to go to bed early.

It’s okay to know your limits.

Like me, you have probably felt the pressure to be “okay” even though you feel mentally drained. You’ve probably been told that writing was easy and you shouldn’t feel worn out. After all, you’re not doing any physical labor.

But we both know that’s not true. To someone who is not in the thick of it, writing is just a matter of writing one word after another. It’s just telling a story. It’s just simple.

But it’s not. We know it’s not.

It’s spending half an hour debating a single sentence. It’s spending another half an hour wondering if you said it right. It’s searching your mind to find the right way to get what’s in your head to the page. You don’t sit down and automatically know what to say. You have to find what to say.

It’s hard.

It’s not physically hard, but it’s mentally exhausting. That’s difficult for others to understand, but that’s okay. You don’t need them to understand. Take care of your mind and your heart.

Stop pushing yourself so hard. If you need a minute, take one. Make some tea. Go for a walk. Take a drive.

I took a week from social media this last week. It was supposed to be a month, but that didn’t work out so instead I’ve decided to take a week a month to detox from media. Not because I struggle with comparison or dissatisfaction (we all wish we were who we say we are on Instagram), but because of the time it consumes. Trying to interact and grow a platform is very time consuming and – frankly – exhausting.

So I took a week. In that week, I got really excited to get texts/messages from my friends, read a book, notice how the light flickers on the pond out behind my house when the noonday sun hits it. I was in a group chat and actually got to keep up with it. It was refreshing to be completely present in my life for these few days. I wasn’t glued to my phone as much (although when the group chat got crazy, I just had to sit and watch it unfold).

It was a good time to reflect, pray, rest, and come back refreshed. Last night when I got back on Instagram and began scrolling, I was surprised at how people-focused I was. They weren’t just pictures beneath my fingers. They were representatives of people with lives and hopes and dreams. It took stepping away and coming back to put the humanity back in social media, and it made me smile.

So, I say all of that to say this. Take a break when you need it. It’s worth it.

My Favorite Bookstagram Accounts

If you know me, you know Instagram is my preferred social media platform. I love the adorable pictures and the sweet community I have there. So, I thought I would clue y’all in on my favorites! (Just click on the pictures to go to the account!)

To start off, let me introduce you to the SWEETEST #bookstagram girl out there. Madilyn is an absolute darling and I’m pretty sure we were twins separated at birth. I love her happy little Christian feed. It gives me joy!

I love a good magical aesthetic. Is Expelliendsey not the cutest little Harry Potteresque Instagram? I’m not a fantasy writer, but I love her creative vibes!

How lovely is this color scheme? Can you imagine all the work that goes into this feed? Whew! Props to this girl for her top-notch abilities. I’m in love.

I’m a meme girl. Call me tacky if you want, there’s no shame in my game. That one on the top left just gets me – because it’s true and if I don’t laugh I’ll cry. Hahahahamovingon.

I want to be Kim when I grow up. Traveling AND writing books? Yes, please, and thank you. I love her heart for the Lord and her positivity. It’s contagious!!

Another Fantasy author – and another Kim! I found Kim Chance on YouTube and fell in love with her content, so you can imagine my excitement when I found her Instagram… with a PINK theme! It makes me so happy. Also, her writing advice is LEGIT.

These is just a fraction of the accounts that inspire me on the daily. If you have any favorites, leave them in the comments and I will check them out!

And, of course, follow me!