Thursday, May 31, 2018

Introverted and Extroverted He Created Them

God created mankind in his own image...Introverted and Extroverted he created them. 

OK that's not exactly what Genesis 1.27 says, but the sentiment is true nonetheless. 

Sometimes I hear the word "Introvert" used as a dirty word, a term for everything Extroverted culture doesn't understand or value. It's a prejudice that can create shame for Introverts and it fails to recognize the fullness of God's image. Introverts are not crippled Extroverts. We are an intentional part of the full breadth of God's image.

We don't dislike people. We don't avoid hard things. We don't flee from meaningful exchanges. We don't wish we were Extroverts--except maybe when we're at a party where we have to network.

We contribute stillness in a world of frenzy. We offer a listening ear when others are speaking. We engage in reflection in the face of impulsiveness. 

Being Introverted or Extroverted, technically speaking, has to do with where we draw our energy. Introverts gain energy from the inside and Extroverts gain energy from the outside. One is made to set ablaze from a spark in the quiet and the other to pour forth the power taken in from a waterfall. There are distinct differences in the way we engage with the world, build relationships, communicate, recharge, and what strengths we bring to the table. But, God can be seen in both...he is a still small voice speaking intimately to one and he is a pillar of light to a multitude. 

Sometimes we, as the Church, label personality traits as Christian character. Being joyful must mean being a bubbly, smiley person, right? Sharing the Gospel looks like engaging as many people in a day as possible, right? Living in Christian fellowship means being talkative and always engaging others, right? Worshiping God looks like demonstrative passion, right?

Yes! looks like a determined smile, evangelism is a slow build through relationship, fellowship is a deep one-on-one conversation, worship is being awed into silence before God Almighty.

Introverts and Extroverts will serve differently. We will fellowship differently. We will engage in spiritual growth differently. Yet it is these differences that will carry out the Great Commission with depth and breadth.

It is only together that we can more fully reflect God's image. What beautiful things we can learn from one another, what fantastic gifts we can give to one another, and what a full mission we can accomplish if given the freedom to celebrate the uniqueness we bring to the table in the context of One Body. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My Favorite Place

There's just something about the ocean. It's the way the sky reaches down into the water, the horizon an infinity of blue and the sun winking back at itself a thousand times.

The waves whisper of a power held back and I marvel that this rippling expanse is but a rain drop in God's hand.

The salt of the ocean visits with each breath of wind, blowing back the intensity of the sun's touch.

It is my favorite place.

The feel of it. The view of it. The sound of it.

Palm fronds dance overhead to their own musical rattling and it makes me smile.

I feel perfectly empty and full, taking in the way God seems to say something in each little detail.

Friday, January 19, 2018

God is Not Overwhelmed

There was a moment last month when I was feeling stretched beyond what was comfortable; I was squeezing out a "Yes" to the Lord when everything inside me was saturated with fear and self-interest. I text a friend about how overwhelming it all felt, as we waited for the response to our "Yes."

Embedded in her reply I read the words "God is not overwhelmed." 

The squirming panic inside me took notice of those words. Their truth washed over me and calmed me. Suddenly this difficult, overwhelming thing had a champion whose hands hold the universe and whose might and wisdom never fail. This situation didn't take him by surprise. He saw the path before us and went even before our "Yes" to make a way. Slowly I let in the courage to lay down more of myself and trust him to walk beside me. 

Then, even more quickly than the situation had surfaced, it disappeared, but the "Yes" has remained. God used it to push back the encroaching tide of self-interest and leave space for new opportunities to trust him.

Since that day the words "God is not overwhelmed" have resurfaced again and again in my mind. The last few years the Lord has given me phrases and verses to focus my year around (20162017), so this year I am claiming the truth and the promise of "God is not overwhelmed" along with Isaiah 40.28, which says, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? the Lord is an eternal God, the creator of the whole earth. He does not get tired or weary. There is no limit to His wisdom."

Admittedly it doesn't take a giant, life-altering situation to plunge me into the deep waters of life, overwhelming me with how impossible it feels to keep my head above water. More often than not, the day-to-day can feel more overwhelming than the occasional monumental issues. And the fact is, that it actually is impossible, save for the rescuing hand of Jesus, who never succumbs to the waves, whose feet can walk on the surface of the deep, whose hands created and hold it all. 

Today God is not overwhelmed. Tomorrow's troubles won't leave him tired and weary. Even the rest of the days of the year can't find the end of his wisdom. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

4 Apps for Surviving Motherhood

I struggle. A lot. I feel like I shouldn't be struggling so much because somehow everyone else must have this whole raising kids, homeschooling, doing ministry thing worked out. And, maybe they do, but I'm guessing there are at least a few moms out there who, like me, feel constantly overwhelmed and a little lost in life. I mean, even now, while trying to type this first paragraph I have been interrupted multiple times, have had to get up at least 3 times to discipline my wayward toddler, and have spent at least 15 minutes trying to defuse ADHD outbursts.

I feel like I can never get anything done, which is extremely defeating for this check-off-the-to-do-list person! Now, I know, taking care of discipline and working through emotional outbursts and doing the laundry (after your baby has spit up on herself and YOU for the FOURTH time that day) is important but it is hard and often lonely work. "The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength," my theme for 2017, has been a constant prayer, and yet I still struggle.

Often I hear people talk about the theology behind what moms do or remind us of priorities but sometimes I just wish someone could tell me a few practical steps to manage it all, dang it!! How do I get it all done? How do I manage to not lose myself? How do I find time to be with the Lord? How do I fight off the loneliness? I need something practical that I can apply to my day and help me get through and that won't make me feel shame and guilt if I don't execute perfectly!

So, I want to share with you 4 apps that i use on my phone that make a difference for me in the midst of the hard, the lonely, and the overwhelming. They aren't life-changers but, really, I'll take anything at this point, right?

The Daily Audio Bible
I found this app when a friend and I were talking about how to spend more time in the Scripture, when we never seemed to have the time or emotional energy to do a traditional "quiet time." As a busy, exhausted mom of little kids I'm trying to embrace the Susanna Wesley approach to spirituality (mom of John Wesley, and 9 other kids, who would throw her apron over her head in order to have prayer time amid the chaos).

It's hard to find the space for deep, quiet study in my life right now, although it is important to find some time for that too. So instead I am embracing this season of life and looking for ways to infiltrate my days with short prayers, small doses of scripture, and--for lack of a better word--mindfulness. I made my phone lock screen a picture of my theme verse. I wear a necklace a friend gave me that represents seeking the joy of the Lord. I say a prayer for a friend when I see her photo pop up on Facebook. And, I use the Daily Audio Bible app. It's $0.99 and worth all 99 pennies.

Your Bible guide, Brian, (and his sometimes over the top background nature soundtrack) reads through the Bible in a year and you can listen along! You can select the link for the whole daily reading for that day, which includes the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalm, & Proverbs and his commentary on the passages at the end, or just choose one of those to listen to. It even has the readings in other languages and a reading for kids where Brian's daughter reads the New Testament passage for the day. I listen while I get ready or make dinner or do laundry. It also has the super cool acronym of DAB, so my friend asks me if I DABed today :).

Momming can be lonely. Especially when you're a homeschooling, work-from-home mom! I'm an Introvert but even I need a few relationships in my life! Most of my family and friends live out of state and I am not a phone person. Even if I was, it seems impossible to coordinate time to talk with my family and friends between everyone's family schedules, work schedules, and different time zones. But, a few years ago a friend introduced me to the Voxer app and we've been voxering ever since!

This is a free app (although there is an upgraded version for a fee) in which you can send voice messages to people. It's the next best thing to a phone conversation and is WAY more convenient for a mom with young kids (and an introvert). I can listen to my friend's message when I have a minute and send her a response the next time my kids have stopped wrestling and screaming! I can send my sister a message while she's at work and then she and my niece can send one back with she gets home. Sometimes I Voxer in real time with folks but other times it's just a fun way to let someone know you're thinking of them or tell them a funny story without having to figure out schedules for a phone call.

Google Calendar
I'm schedule husband is not! Trying to juggle the kids' schedules and family events and our constantly changing ministry schedules is impossible without clear coordination. Being able to share calendars is awesome. My husband MUST add all meetings to his calendar (which I can view) on pain of death :). Our life is run by Google Calendar! But another feature that I love on the mobile app is the "Reminder." I put all the random things I need to do that I think I will remember, but never actually remember, in as a "Reminder" and try to schedule it for a time I think I will have a moment to take care of that task. It will even automatically link phone numbers or emails, etc., if, for example, the task is to contact someone. Awesome! Even if I don't get to the task at that moment it will roll over each day until I mark it done. And it feels so nice to check that "Done" button!

If you haven't noticed, I'm a list person and Evernote is a great, free app for lists and so much more! My use of Evernote is pretty basic compared to what it can do, but it's a great way to keep things in one place and easily accessible from my computer to my phone. I feel like, as a Mom, I constantly have a million things scrolling through my mind: to-do lists, research on issues with kids, school, work and this app helps me try to stay on top of it all.

Sometimes I use it as a place to dump info about different topics, like when I'm researching homeschool curriculum, and store all my thoughts and lists and links in one "Note." Other times I make a Note with a specific list like when we are travelling and I make a packing list with our 500 bajillion items so I don't forget anything. I use it for work to take notes or organize task lists. And, have I mentioned that when making lists it gives you a little check box next to the task that you can ACTUALLY CHECK OFF!!!??

Nothing can make this mom-gig easy, but sometimes it's the little helps that get you through the day. These are my top 4 survival apps. What are yours?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Joy of the Lord is your Strength

Early last year the Lord gave me the phrase "Work smarter with a heart at peace." It spoke to the season I was in of needing to prioritize life and ministry in order to survive and my desperate need to embrace the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding in the face of life's constant transitions and anxieties. I still have so far to go in these areas but the practice of using this phrase as an encouragement, rebuke, and guiding principle for the year fostered so much growth.

I didn't intentionally choose a new focus for this year, but in the past couple of months the Lord has been unmistakably speaking to me of joy and its connection to my strength for the day. 

I'm in a tough season of life for me personally: a task-oriented introvert deep in the chaos of young children and homeschooling, with a newborn arriving imminently and household and ministry responsibilities leaving a growing line of check boxes that glare at and goad me with their emptiness. 

Most days I feel like I am just surviving. I get frustrated and angry and resentful and feel so alone...and yet NEVER ALONE. Deep, pervasive joy is hard for me to imagine in the face of daily monotony and zombie exhaustion. Oh sure, there is joy in listening to my kids' laughter or seeing the Lord do a mighty work in a ministry event but the strength to meet each moment of the day with determined joy? It seems an impossible dream. And then I worry that by my example I will teach my children that following the Lord is a joyless and impossible task, and parenting is a burden best just gotten through--neither of which are the truth. 

And then one day a few weeks ago the Lord brought to mind Nehemiah 8.10 - "The joy of the Lord is your strength." I felt the words rush in and settle down through my body and into my soul and I felt desperate for the hope of it. 



Yes. I instantly recognized the deep need for these in my life.

And so, in the weeks that have followed--being 8 months pregnant, moving, homeschooling, mothering a challenging toddler, and stepping into new life and ministry responsibilities--I have found myself breathing this verse out as a desperate prayer and life-saving promise when I have felt too inadequate and burdened and exhausted to conquer the task at hand. It is followed quickly by the prayer, "Lord, teach me what that even means" because it is clear that I don't understand it yet.

As I meditate on this verse throughout the year I'm asking the Lord to show me what it means to live into His joy and to be able to look at the future (whether it is the hours, months, or years ahead of me) with strength and joy instead of panic and discouragement. 

I trust that He will answer my request because He is a good Father. And, so, I am going to rest in the knowledge that this isn't just one more thing I have to do this year, but something that can, and will, be poured into my weary self as I draw near to the Lord.

With that, my few precious moments alone are drawing to a close and as I get back in my van to drive back to the responsibilities of the rest of the day I am tempted to feel discouraged, but instead I will repeat "The joy of the Lord is your strength."



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hope for the Introverted Mother

The thing about being an Introverted mom is that you spend nearly every waking minute with people, and not just any people, demanding, needy, little people who have no care or concern for personal space. Almost every moment of the day drains you, even the amazing moments. Motherhood in general, and Introverted mothering in particular, can often leave you feeling poured out and spent and yet feeling like everything you gave still wasn't enough. It's easy to lose yourself because where you know yourself best is in the space of the internal you and, let's be honest, who has the time or energy to focus on that when all day is "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mama....!"

Personally, I find this leads to the indulgence of mind-numbing behavior in the rare moments I have to myself because I don't feel like I have even an ounce of energy left to pour into the development of my internal emotional, mental, and spiritual development. My investment in spiritual growth wanes and my pursuit of things that energize me gets put on hold, and slowly I begin to drift, feeling lost in the sea of my exhaustion and suddenly a stranger to myself. It is then that I become full of guilt and resentment and impatience.

I've found myself drifting again recently, feeling empty and without the emotional reserves needed to respond to the challenges inherent in the day. We've had a few really awful days at our house recently and I've felt like a caged beast (an exhausted and insane Momzilla) trapped with other little caged beasts just trying to survive. Today, however, I ran out the door to Panera Bread as if my life depended on it, leaving my husband and children waving on the porch, to whom (I guiltily realized later) I didn't even turn and wave to as I sped down the block.

I took my Bible and my laptop and claimed my favorite back corner booth to slowly start to row for shore. I read in Psalm 73 where it says, "How good it is to be near God," and admitted to myself and God that I wasn't drawing near and I hadn't been filled with that feeling of goodness. Usually I feel guilty and sort of helpless as I try to muster the strength to change, but today God reminded me of mercy. In Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction he writes that we can come to God as children who are loved. Even though we can't comprehend the fullness of God, we never have to draw near to him wondering what we will get in return, for "We know very well what to expect, and what we expect is mercy."

He is a good and merciful father--my father. I am his child. Too often, in the face of the draining list of my children's (and the rest of life's) needs, I forget that I have a father to whom I can bring all of my needs, who never grows weary of hearing "Dad, Dad, Dad...."

The hope for the Introverted Mother is the mercy of God, our heavenly father, our refuge in the onslaught of constant sibling bickering, our strength to answer one more "Why?" and our grace when we feel we are running on fumes for the bedtime routine. He is our shelter in the never ending chaos, a calm place where we can once again find the self he made us to be. It is good to be near God, a position, which if we let it, will gently pull our exhausted selves deeper still into enough mercy to cover it all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Work Smarter with a Heart at Peace

You know the feeling that you are doing everything, and yet, nothing well? It's born of a season of too many plates spinning, too little attention paid to what really matters, and it leaves you harried, anxious, lonely, angry, maxed out, and stressed.

My INTJ-crave for depth and competency makes me a bit intense about life. So people are assured of my competency and dependability, I often say yes to things when I should say no. I ignore what's going on in my heart and what is happening to the relational threads around me in favor of my to-do list.

Sowing this pattern in my life means I have cyclically reaped seasons of extreme burn out and loneliness. I hit the low point of this repeating cycle a few months ago.

No one is meant to do everything, but while some personalities thrive on activity, INTJs are wired for focus and depth. The life of a working, homeschooling, mom of two little people is not a life that lends itself to focus. But, since it is the life God has called me to, it also shouldn't be filling me with anxiety and anger and burnout.

In the past few months the Lord revealed to me the pervading lack of peace in my life. I came face to face with the story of Mary and Martha where "Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to [Jesus] and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her'” (Lk. 10.40-42).

Honestly, as a "doer," this story has always bothered me. I mean, someone has to get things done, right? But when I read it this time I didn't read Jesus rebuking Martha's to-do list. I read him seeing a "doer" in the state she had worked herself into: a heart that was "anxious and troubled about many things." He was gently calling her out of anxiety and striving and into a heart at peace.

In a recent meeting we were asked to come up with one thing, that if we did it well, would cultivate success in ministry and family and life in general. I wrote down "Work smarter with a heart at peace." After I wrote it, the weight of what God has been speaking into me resonated deeply and I have decided to adopt this saying as a rule of life during this life-season.

I can't just work harder--there aren't enough hours in the day. I have to work smarter. I need to attend to the things that are most important and I need to have a pulse on where my heart is in the midst of life's craziness. I can't say yes to everything. It is OK to do less in order to do it well. It is necessary to place peace at the center of all life's striving.

Working harder without peace brings anxiety, helplessness and resentment. I know these feelings well, so I have claimed Philippians 4.6-7 as an operating guide to live out a heart at peace. It says that the peace of God comes through prayer and thanksgiving and it will guard my heart.

As a "doer" and as a working, homeschooling, mom of two kids my heart can use some guarding. When I feel anxiety working it's tired wheel in my head I have been trying to replace it with a short prayer for the need I feel squeezing my chest and a "thank you" for whatever it is that I feel so deeply about. I know myself and this will probably be a life-long journey but little by little I have felt peace seeping into my soul and the wisdom and strength to re-prioritize my to-do list. Perhaps one day I will be able to "work smarter with a heart at peace" with more ease but for now I am taking each step in the right direction as a victory.

Some resources that have helped in my journey: