Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Who's the Boss?

The past month has been a very busy one, with various before/after school activities for each of the kids, and lots of extra hours for me at work.  As a result, the house is in a state of limbo, and I've been ignoring the crunch of...whatever that is on the floor for the past few days.  Finally, after I got my youngest started on her homework this afternoon, I was able to grab a broom and do a quick sweep of the kitchen and laundry room.

Realistic depiction.

As I swept, I felt someone trying to push past me into the laundry room.  My youngest was trying to get a folder out of her backpack.  I explained that I was sweeping, and that she needed to wait until I was finished before she walked into the room.  She left, I crossed the room to get the other side swept.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sneaky little arm and foot hovering at the door.  Youngest was attempting a covert maneuver!  After a sharp rebuke and ANOTHER reminder that she was supposed to wait, she stomped off in a huff and I grumbled as I swept the dirt into a pile.

"Why doesn't she just listen?  I told her I was doing something.  She's so impatient.  It's like she thinks she knows better than I do!"

That's when I got a smack in the head from the Big Guy.  

My control-freak tendencies have been known to get me into trouble from time to time. The thing is, I can map out a completely logical scenario in my head without stopping to pray or listen to what God has to say.  I figure He's given me the ability to analyze and make sense of a situation, so why shouldn't I use that ability?  So I go charging ahead, mentally checking things off as I go.  Problem?  People, situations, and reactions don't necessarily follow logic.


So here I was, grumbling about my kid who obviously thinks she's smart enough to find a way around having to listen to me and wait, while I've been exhibiting the same kind of behavior with the One who is the boss of me.  Ouch.  Not a pleasant realization, but one that was much-needed.

So the floor's clean, and so is my perspective.  Knowing the little apple didn't fall far from the tree gives me a good place to start with Youngest!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Diffidence Dilemma

I know I'm not an easy person to maintain a relationship with.  It's difficult for people to get close to me.  I'm guarded, and if I do expend the energy to get to know someone well, it's after a long period of observation and thoughtful consideration that maybe my interest and loyalty to them will be reciprocated. In the past, there have been a lot of crash-and-burn situations that have affected my thoughts on making new friends and opening up to them, and not wearing my heart on my sleeve seems to turn people off.  My brick wall, it seems, is lit up in blue neon.

Most of the time, I'm completely happy in my little bubble, with the family members who accept me and treat me like I matter, and with the small number of friends who do likewise.  But sometimes I get a glimpse of how the folks outside that bubble might see me, and it's disconcerting.  

High strung.
Unattainable expectations.


These little glimpses tend to kick me into a wave of self-doubt, and all the old self-esteem issues I was certain I had conquered come flooding right back.  Why can't you be more expressive?  Why is it so hard for you to make friends?  Why can't you be more like this person with the vibrant personality?  Don't you realize your personality makes people run in the other direction?  Why won't you just change who you are?

It's exhausting.

Thankfully, these seasons of self-doubt tend to fade much more quickly than they did when I was a sullen teenager wondering desperately why I didn't seem to really click with anyone but my very best friend.  But, at this point in my life, it's worrisome to jump back to that very insecure mindset and question everything about who I am.  Intellectually, I understand that a lot of these things stem from my introverted personality, and that there's absolutely nothing wrong with me.  It's perfectly ok to be quiet and introspective.  But to try to explain that to my heart, which is genuinely hurt when someone dismisses me as unpleasant or undesirable...that doesn't get any easier with age and experience.  And I'm not sure what to do about it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Who Wants a Stagnant Life?

Stability and routine are two of my most favorite things in the world.  There is a great comfort in knowing you have a system, that the system works, and that the system will go on working for the foreseeable future.  You're in the groove, got it down.  The last thing you need is someone coming along and harshing your consistency mellow.


Things change.  And when they do, they DO.  Things in my life have been in a sort of flux since springtime.  It started small, with little things here and there that upset my zen routine and got me flustered.  The logical part of my brain (let's not mince words here...that means the whole thing) desperately reached out for the reason.  Why did things feel so off?  Was I doing anything differently than normal?  Was there some spiritual lesson I was supposed to learn?  I buckled down and clung to what was familiar and comfortable that much tighter, anxious for things to just get. back. to. normal.  Because that's what was SUPPOSED to happen.

This was pretty much the reaction I got.  

The thing about life is, it's not meant to be stagnant OR comfortable - especially the Christian life.  As many years as I have been on this planet, I still have a lot to learn, and a lot of maturing to do.  And the process isn't always going to be zen, uniform, or pleasant.  After a few months of things just not feeling right, not working out right, and getting absolutely nowhere trying to reason it out, I decided to just step back from everything and give it all over to God, because the path to certifiable insanity was looking shorter and shorter.  

Which, of course, was the first step God was waiting for me to take.

Things are still in that state of flux.  The people who frustrate me seem to be working overtime lately.  The inconsistencies in the professed beliefs and actions of people I know continue to confound and upset me.  People I love continue to be blinded to things I know are going to hurt them in the long run, but am powerless to prevent.  I'm still subjected to the stresses of mothering, working, and running a household.  The little things still happen, and there's still that feeling of off-ness in general.  Change is coming.  Nothing I do will stop or slow it.

My saving grace?  A deep breath, a reminder that the world will not be saved by me, but by the One who created it, and by answering His invitation.  There will always be people who do things to frustrate me.  Hypocritical people will always exist, and they're never going to make sense to me.  The people I love are free to make their own choices, and will gain what they need to from the experiences they have, both positive and negative.  Life goes on.  Change happens.  The Lord sees all and adjusts minds, attitudes, and experiences as He deems appropriate.  This is as it should be.

Keeping this in mind, my daily goal is not to over-think any situations, relationships, or encounters I will have.  Rather, I want to focus on enjoying my interactions, not entangling myself intellectually or emotionally when it's not necessary or beneficial.  Instead of transcribing the world into perfect little categories and boxes in my mind and becoming agitated when the world doesn't play along, I need to see what life brings my way and roll with it when it doesn't suit my ideology.  This is entirely new and a little frightening, but it's a challenge I believe I can meet, with a few mental reminders, and a TON of grace and prayer.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's Not You, It's Me.

In the summer of 1987, when I was ten years old, my family attended a small church in a small town. There were very few kids in the congregation, and we all viewed our pastor with a mixture of awe and affection.  He was a gregarious, friendly man who was genuine and fun to be around.  My sister, an equally gregarious and charming personality, had recently been allowed to sit next to him during church services until it was time for the sermon.  One Sunday, I asked if I could sit with him during services and was welcomed to do just that.  I sat through announcements, sang along with the hymns, and behaved in the quiet manner that had always come naturally to me.  After services, the pastor patted me on the shoulder as I thanked him for letting me sit with him and said, in a well-meaning tone, "Why can't you be more like your sister?"

I never sat with him again.  And I eventually came to a certain realization:

Friends, I am an introvert.

Throughout my life, many well-meaning people have tried to help me change what they see as a personality flaw.  If you'd only go out more, you'd enjoy yourself, they'd say.  Get out there and meet new people, make new friends.  They didn't understand the anxiety that flooded my mind at the expectation of being surrounded by people I didn't know and being expected to engage them on some level.  They didn't understand my intense dislike of small talk, and how pointless I found it.  They couldn't fathom why I wouldn't be comfortable in a party atmosphere with lots of people having lots of fun.  Who wouldn't want to have fun?  

The thing only the people closest to me seem to realize is, social events are not my thing.  Being around large groups of people requires so much energy and effort, it takes a few days for me to recover.  That recovery is usually spent at home with my family, and involves lots of reading and quiet time that helps me recharge.  During that period, going anywhere and/or engaging with anyone outside my immediate family is only going to happen if it's absolutely necessary.  For those who don't fully understand introversion, this can lead to hurt feelings and offense that has absolutely nothing to do with anything besides this simple fact:  It's not you, it's me.  

Being this type of personality in a world that largely values happy extroverts is a battle in itself.  Much of my life, the interaction of people who just didn't understand or value introverts led me to believe I was broken, that something had to be wrong with a person who dreaded talking on the phone, who wasn't interested in planning sleepovers with friends, or who preferred to spend the majority of her time immersed in literature rather than interacting with the people around her.  It wasn't normal.  It needed to be fixed.

The thing is, though these behaviors aren't average for our society, there is absolutely nothing wrong with introversion.  Attempting to squash introverted behaviors in favor of forced extroversion may look like improvement to everyone else, but it only succeeds in creating feelings of falseness and misery for the person working so hard to please everyone around them.  Rather than change my personality in order to please those who value extroversion over introversion, I've decided to embrace my introversion - even celebrate it.  I was made this way for a reason, and fighting against the way I'm made is counterproductive and downright silly.  Instead, I'm going to happily accept the way He made me, thankfully and without apologies.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mental Ping Pong

My brain is the type that never turns off, not even when I'm exhausted and desperately willing it to just shut up for ten seconds so I can drop off to sleep.  I can lie awake for hours going over what happened that day, what's going to happen the next day, or some thing or other I wish I'd done differently.  During the day, as I work out whatever's going on around me, I have a steady soundtrack of music going, which is great if it's good music, but is absolute murder if I get, say, Hey Paula stuck on a loop. 
With all this rumination, it comes as no surprise that I often think about work.  If you've read my past blogs, or see me on at least an intermittent basis, you know I've been working as a part-time substitute teacher after one year of working as a fifth grade teacher.  My reasons for going part-time were based on strong feelings of shortchanging my children, my husband, and my  home:  all of which I felt needed to be my priority. 
I still feel that way, and I know my prayerful decision was the right one.  Yet, the "Educator" mindset has never left.  I spend quite a lot of time on websites like Pinterest, looking for things to use in the classroom, and better ways to teach each subject.  I look for ways to integrate technology into the classroom, and literature and projects to make History come alive. 
On top of that, there are positions at my school that are opening up;  full time positions teaching a variety of grades, all students I have come to know and love as a substitute teacher.  I see friends applying for these jobs and...
I'm jealous.
A little voice in my head says, "It's been a year.  Your kids are older.  You know what to expect now.  Just jump back into teaching!"  And I want to listen to that voice SO badly.  Teaching is, without question, my calling. 
But then I remember the incredible amounts of time I put into it last year.  I think about the changes I saw in my own children as they felt they had to compete with my thirty-eight students for my attention.  I remember how tense I was all the time, and how kind and patient my husband had to be just to attempt to get me to relax.  And I think about the changes that have come in our district, just in the past year, and how I gave a little sigh of relief that I wouldn't have to jump through all the extra hoops I've seen my colleagues struggling with this year.
And this...
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31
Difficult as it is, I need to set aside my desire to go back now, and be patient to see how things progress in God's timing.  I can't help but think of Sarah, and how she messed things up by insisting Abraham have a child with Hagar - all because she couldn't stand to wait for God any  longer.  I need to trust that God will show me exactly when He wants me to go back to teaching and, based the promise in the verse above, I trust that He will keep me from feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  He keeps His promises.

Monday, March 18, 2013

When the Yes Man says no.


Who among us doesn't love a nice compliment?  Words and actions that express affirmation are powerful things, and they speak to the core of who we are:
"You are right."  
"What you're doing is good." 
"You are valued." 
"You are valuable." 
Sincere praises are worth a great deal.  The trick is to seek sincerity above flattery, and learn to discern between the two - both in receiving praise and giving praise.
Sometimes, in order to keep a friendship intact, we choose to overlook the things we dislike about a person and focus on the good.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, so long as the things you overlook don't truly matter, in the grand scheme of things.  An obsession with 90s boy bands, though certainly disturbing, can be set aside without much of an issue. 
But what if you've been overlooking things that do matter?
Look, I readily admit to not being perfect.  I have moral and ethical dilemmas, just like everyone else.  If I ever behave in a manner that is inconsistent with my faith, the last thing that's going to help me is a Yes Man.  It would certainly be easy to ignore the things I do that don't jive with what scripture says, just to preserve a friendship.  After all, who wants to be the bad guy? 
It is hard to hold fellow Christians accountable for behavior inconsistent with biblical teaching, especially if that fellow Christian is a good friend you would give a great deal not to hurt.  It is a sucky situation all around. 
But sometimes you have to step out of the Yes Man shoes, take a deep breath, and prayerfully, gently, lovingly, speak Truth.  
Open rebuke is better than hidden love.
Proverbs 27:5
Know that sometimes your loving rebuke will be thrown violently back at you.  Truth cuts to the quick, straight through the blanket of false happiness and comfort that accompanies self-deception desperately attempting to ward off guilt.  Sometimes lashing out is easier than introspection and change. 
But worse than the awful feeling of being rejected for speaking Truth is the feeling of a Yes Man, ignoring the white elephant in the room to keep things pleasant and light, while the elephant is slowly crushing the life out of the person who brought it in.
Sometimes the Yes Man has to say no.
  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Monday, March 4, 2013


I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Sitting in my  living room, I am mere minutes away from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, the utterly transparent waters of the Smith River, and the damp solitude of the towering Redwoods.  This is a place to which people come to retire, to enjoy the most peaceful years of their lives among nature's finest displays.
 There are times I hate it here. 
It rains.  A LOT.  Granted, I am used to this, having grown up in a neighboring county with very similar weather, but I've always detested the rain, and the drippy blanket of fog that always seems to hover until lunchtime, even on our sunniest days.  Most of the time, the skies are a milky gray color, puddling over any hint of blue.  And it's cold.  Lap blankets and thick sweaters are kept close at hand until at least June, maybe later, depending upon our unpredictable weather patterns.
It's more than just the weather, though.  Each year it seems like the crime rate here climbs higher and higher.  Things that made the news of record once in a great while have now become commonplace.  The rampant use of meth is apparent in the sallow-faced, rail-thin people stumbling around the supermarkets and sidewalks in town. 
This place is depressing.  It is difficult to see the beauty around me when I feel invisible tendrils of something nefarious slowly winding around me.  Even today, the muddled watercolor gray skies seem to have leaked their colorlessness over everything, leaving the sometimes vibrant greens and golds of my yard looking lifeless and dull. 
I want to go somewhere else, somewhere bright and warm and cheerful for once.  I want to see the sun more than three months of a good year.  I want to go somewhere alive.

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