When a Season is Like a Straitjacket

We are firm believers in the swaddle. Any clue what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the baby swaddle — the thing you do with a blanket, where you put it beneath a baby, put their arms down by their sides and wrap the blanket tightly around them, tucking it underneath so that it constrains them and holds them snug. At first it might seem like an unpleasant thing for the baby, constraining them with the baby version of a straitjacket, but by and by perhaps I’ll convince you that it’s a good thing.

Something you may or may not know about newborns is that when they’re fresh out of the box, so to speak, they have absolutely no control over their arms or legs. Maybe very little control, but it seems pretty much like none. They hit themselves in the head and wonder who did it. They scratch their own little faces with their sharp little baby nails, and then cry as if to say, “Who’s scratching me? Stop it!”


With the Bear, and again with the Tank, we found swaddling a really effective method of sleep training. Wrapping them up tightly inside a blanket or a thin sheet (when it was summer and too hot for a blanket) became a signal to them that it was time for a snooze. A swaddle, a pacifier/dummy/binker/whateveryouliketocallit in the mouth, a snug spot in the crib and they don’t need much more direction for the route to dreamland. Apparently it also mimics the feeling of being snuggled up inside the womb, which is a bonus.

Initially, both of our boys fought the swaddle.


You’d wrap them up snug and they’d wriggle and squirm and sometimes cry. The Hubs often stood by their cribs, holding each of them to his chest, firmly swaddled, and he’d gently swoosh them back and forth while they struggled against his firm grip. Eventually, it {almost} always settled them down, and once they learned that it was a cue, it became a tool for good.


I believe there are seasons in our lives when God “swaddles” us. For one reason or another, His hand is holding us firmly in one place, even though we feel like we’re ready for movement, for breakthrough, for a chance to use the arms and legs we’ve been given.

You might feel swaddled:

  • By a job you’re ready to be out of, but the job hunt is getting you nowhere.
  • By your finances constraining you and hindering your movements
  • In a relationship with a roommate, a professor, a colleague at work — you’re ready for it to be done, but you’re stuck for now.
  • In a season of life that’s just hard, but not over yet.

The thing is, sometimes we’re kind of like the newborn flailing her arms because she doesn’t know any better. God in His graciousness is appointing this time and this season, as a time for growth, perhaps a time for us to rest, a time to learn to trust Him, and a time to gain strength.

Most of us know that a beautiful butterfly doesn’t start out that way. They start out as little caterpillars, not particularly exciting creatures, definitely incapable of flying. But after munching on leaves for a good wee while, their metamorphosis begins. And during the pupa, or “chrysalis” stage, growth and differentiation occur. The caterpillar is becoming a butterfly.

The hard skin that surrounds the butterfly, called a chrysalis, keeps it swaddled until this life phase is finished. Once the butterfly is ready to shed the chrysalis, she uses her wings to break through. The strength that she gains while pushing her way out with her wings is a necessary part of the process. Once she’s out, she’ll sit on her old shell, harden her wings and get ready for take off!

Without the chrysalis stage, the butterfly will only ever be a caterpillar. But if she allows the process to do its good work, she will emerge on the other side, strong enough to fly.

If you’re in a season that feels like a straitjacket, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to sit still. You are a part of the process that will grow you and help you become who you are meant to be. When the caterpillar is fully grown, it makes a button of silk to attach itself to a leaf or a twig, and then it sheds its skin to reveal that chrysalis layer — the hardened skin underneath. Some butterflies are able to move their abdomen while inside their chrysalis to make sounds or scare away potential predators.

Isaiah 30:18 says:

Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.

Trust the God who created the seasons as a part of life — the God who is also sovereign over them. Though it seems like He is waiting, He is being gracious. Though it seems like He isn’t listening, He is showing mercy. Like a year of work at a pawn shop, or a week of extra waiting for a baby’s arrival, the Author and Finisher of your faith has blessings in store for those who wait on Him. And in the waiting, you’ll gain the strength you need for the road ahead.


To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn

When I think back on the season where I worked in a Pawn Shop, I remember my time there with fondness. I remember the steep learning curve, beginning to try to think about reading people and not believing everything I heard. I remember marveling at all the important things that I learned that were not part of the curriculum of the Masters degree I’d just completed. It is easy to look back and smile — the season is over.

At the time, however, rainbows and daisies were harder to come by.


There were also those days. You know the ones. The days where you look at the clock and think your life is never going to change. The days where you feel a little bit like Joseph asking the Lord How did I get here? Why? I thought Your plans for me were different from this.

Mopping the floor of the store room in the back of the shop, I’d occasionally find myself fighting back tears. Magna cum Laude. Super GPA. Finished my undergrad a year early. So much promise. Now I’m cleaning chainsaws.

{Amazing how forgetting what’s passed to press on sometimes requires letting go of past achievements and successes too.}

After I’d been there a few months, when I was still learning the ropes, my boss called me into his office for a chat. He was disappointed with my performance. With my education, people skills and ability to speak Spanish, he expected me to bring some momentum to things. My performance was a disappointment.

A few moments later, I was in the bathroom weeping. What sort of failure was I — I couldn’t hack it at the Pawn Shop? Suddenly a question arose in my heart, and I directed it toward the Lord:

“Lord, what do you say about me? How do you feel about my time here?”

And I heard the Lord say He was pleased with me. In my heart, I heard well done.

That was all I needed to hear. I dried my tears and tidied my face in the mirror, and I walked out of the bathroom a different person from the one who walked in. I still had several months ahead of me in the furnace, but this was the beginning of a new season. Living in a way that would please God, even if it didn’t please others, became a part of my life on a whole new level. This somehow forged something in my character that I didn’t find in the classroom, or at the sandwich shop, in Media Relations or at a Bible study.

Though it was one of the most challenging seasons of my life, today I can look back and smile. Sometimes when you’re in the furnace, or the valley of postponement, hope isn’t easy to come by. But you can probably remember a time in your life where you were just ready for that season to end. And you can probably remember another time, when looking back on that season, you wish you’d given life a little more thought, made some decisions differently and treasured the good that was waiting to be found.

Every season will come and go. Some beautiful lyrics from Hillsong’s popular The Desert Song put it well. {These are two of my favourites:}

All of my life, in every season, You are still God I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to worship.


I know I’m filled to be emptied again. The seed I’ve received I will sow.

If you’re in the middle of the battle today, be encouraged. One thing we can count on is change. You’ll be out of the furnace when the timing is right. How you handle your time in the fire will determine what you bring out with you when the doors open.


Keep Your Eye on the (Pawn Shop) Cross

Have I ever told you about the time I worked as a pawnbroker? God did so much in my life through my experience of working at a Pawn Shop  just inside the beltline in Raleigh, NC for a year before I left for Scotland. If you’re not familiar with what a Pawn Shop is, google it, or perhaps we’ll have a lesson about that another day.

In the meantime…you may have heard this expression before: “Keep Your Eye on the Cross.” On one especially fated day back at the pawn shop, God made this lesson incredibly real for me…seriously. Seriously.

See, someone pawned this ridiculously expensive white gold … or maybe platinum cross. It must’ve been 4 or 5 inches long and 3 or 4 inches wide — like, too big for me to close my hand around it. And it was COVERED, its entire length and width, with diamonds. Big, quality diamonds, and there was one really big diamond in the centre. Iced out, frosted bling bling. I could hardly believe the thing was real. But it was! And someone pawned it and didn’t come back to pick it up, so it was in the jewelry case for sale for ages. This was the kind of bling a baller would be so proud to sport he’d put his life in danger for it. Pricetag: $5,000. I’m not even kidding. Well, it was $10,000 but everything was always 50% off.

So, this one day, this guy comes in and wants to see the gold bracelets in the case where the cross is. I open up the case, and start showing him one after another. He’s trying them on, way different sizes, way different looks, way different prices, and I begin to think, “Hmm, champ…you’re either somehow female, or you just have no clue, or else you’re not really after a bracelet.” And in my mind, I heard the Lord say, “Keep your eye on the cross.” My first thought was, “Okay, Jesus, I know. Thank you for the cross” and then I realised the Lord was literally saying, “Keep your eye on that cross.” “Okay, Lord, okay.”

A moment later, I knocked over one of the watches in the case, and it fell out of the case onto the floor. I very carefully slid the case closed, leaned down to pick up the watch while keeping an eye on the case, and then continued helping this guy. When I put the watch back I double checked — yes, the bling bling cross is still there. Sweet. So two minutes later, this guy is still saying “Okay let me see this one…okay that one.” And I’m beginning to think he’s wasting my time. All of sudden I realise, “Holy cow, where is the cross!!!!!?????!!!!”

To this day, I have no idea how the guy got hold of it. I mean I was really paying attention carefully. I looked up at him, and then looked, and I could see he was holding it in his hand down by his side, but it was too big to be completely concealed. I looked at it, looked up at him, and seriously you guys, a boldness came over me like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I said, “Give it back.” He looked at me, kind of uncomfortably, and then tried to play it off, and handed the cross over the counter to me. My heart was absolutely racing. I put the cross back into the case and locked it. He said he wanted to keep looking at bracelets, and I said, “No.” He left the store and my manager was rather perturbed he didn’t have the opportunity to call him in for attempted theft. I was thankful the Lord had prompted me to be mindful of that stinkin cross or I probably would’ve lost my job and owed my boss 5K!

Not just in a literal way, but also in a spiritual way, being mindful of the cross can give us a clearer perspective on what’s happening around us. When we think about Jesus’ sacrifice — coming down from heaven where He was equal with God to save us — we realise that, in comparison, no matter what we give up, we aren’t really sacrificing very much to follow Him. When the enemy tries to condemn us, or make us feel like because of our sin we are unworthy of a relationship with a holy God, we can point to the cross and remind him that our relationship with God is paid for.

And thanks to the Bling Bling Pawn Shop Cross that almost got stolen, I will have the message — Keep your eyes on the cross — etched in my heart for the rest of my days.