Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's Okay, I'm An Introvert!

I had arrived fashionably late. Only about 5 minutes, 10 minutes tops after starting time. I thought I would silently slip through the back door unnoticed. I climbed the steps and into the cold, yellow hallway, my heart picking up a faster beat. I was trying to be an adult about it, act nonchalant.

I entered the all-purpose room staring down at the green high school tiles. Maybe they won't see me?

They were standing in a wide circle that filled the room. A nice woman with a ponytail stepped aside, leaving a space just for me. She leans over and whispers in my ear directions to the ice breaker game they are playing. I hardly heard a word because my heart was beating too loudly and the voice in my head was thinking of ways of escape. I crossed my arms over my chest in defiance. It would be awhile until it would be my turn, I thought.

The gray ball came bouncing my way, bumping up against my feet. My arms remained clenched in safety as my head darted to the women on either side of me. Surely they would rescue the ball from my feet and take their turn. All eyes looking at me I heard the short, gray haired one tell me to pick it up, it was my turn after all. With reluctance I reached down, my mind searching for bits of the directions ponytail lady had shared with me. "I'm new here" is all I could say as I frantically met expectant eyes. Short, gray haired lady started giving me the answers and all I could say was "what she just said" as my face, turning the color of her hot pink t-shirt, began to betray me. I said what I needed to say and quickly passed the ball back to the center of the circle.

At once I plopped myself and my shiny gray exercise ball in the back corner of the room perhaps hoping to be left alone, the only person I knew in the room the smiley, energetic instructor. He carefully showed us how to maneuver on the ball explaining how you could sit as far forward on the ball as you wanted and it would not slip out from underneath you. He bounced in that position for added emphasis.

"It will not slip out from underneath you. I guarantee it." Famous last words. They no sooner left his lips when my ball "of terror" flew out from beneath me and shot into the wall behind me. My arms and legs flailing I landed with a thump on the cold, green floor. Yes, everyone noticed. They shrieked in terror, "Are you alright!?!?!"

Um, yes. I just fell on my bum in front of a whole room of strangers. I was just fine or so I wanted everyone to think.

I scrambled to collect my new enemy, the ball, and sat on it as if nothing had even happened. I was eager for everyone to go back about their business and stop looking at me. Then the voices started back in on me again. They taunted and teased me. I shouldn't have come. If only I had been later I would have missed that stupid game. If I had only been early then I would have had some time to adjust and hear the directions. How could he not know that the ball was going to do that? He had assured us it wouldn't do that but it did. I shouldn't have listened to him. If I left now do you think anyone would notice?

I persevered on, my outward appearance remaining fully in charge and perfectly fine while my inner self volleyed between fight or flight. It's been over 30 years of this. Wishing I could flow, be confident, not care. It seems so much easier for other people. Even though I often want to run I have perfected the art of fight. Fighting through the feelings and putting on a brave front.

That exercise class just exacerbated the fact that I am, at heart, an introvert. For the better part of my life I have felt like my silence and discomfort was not okay. I have blamed that part of me for missed relationships, poor first impressions ("why are you so shy?"), and a multitude of other things.

As I have grown and matured I am beginning to understand that part of me. And I have begun to see that there are "closet" introverts all around me and I never knew it.

You know that lady at church that never says hello? It's not because she doesn't like you, it's because she isn't good at initiating conversations with someone she doesn't know. There are countless examples like this I could share. Sometimes I think we are all so insecure that we assume other people are just cold, unfriendly, or anti-social with us because there is something wrong with us or them. Or other people see our silence as a sign that we don't want to be friends. Maybe that clique of women over there are stuck to each other like glue because they are closet introverts that have found each other. There is comfort in sticking together. There is safety in good friendships that have moved beyond small talk. Introverts can be so complicated!

There are varying levels of introversion. Some struggle more then others. My son is an introvert just like me and I catch myself sometimes pushing him to be more extroverted. Maybe it's because I know how hard it is to be introverted in an extroverted world. Maybe I know too well the internal feelings that keep an introvert from wanting to take risks and reach out to others. I read this guest blog post that talks about being an introvert and I could truly appreciate its perspective. God creates each and every one of us with a purpose. The world could not exist well if we were all extroverts. It was not part of the plan. Introverts have gifts and talents that have a place in this world. Maybe instead of trying so hard to be something we're not, we embrace who we were made to be and seek to find ways God can use us just as we are.

The next time that exercise ball class met I brought a friend with me. A fellow introvert. And we laughed together as we both braced for that night's ice breaker game. And we celebrated when the ice breaker question was "where were you in 1971?" and we could both answer "we weren't born yet". We were "safe" for another week.

Linking up at Thought Provoking Thursdays and Write It, Girl!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

For the Greater Good

Who can fathom sacrifice?

It goes against everything our sinful hearts want. We are selfish people. It takes a quantum of effort to be self-less (and a loving Savior working that out in us).

Only God knows the truest of sacrifices (1 John 4:10). His son was the Sacrifice. By grace and with mercy He gave it all for us. Do we even come close to giving some?

Parents know sacrifice. Daily we bow down to the needs and desires of our children. We give up. We freely give away. And they rarely see or know it. In our deepest places we tie unending knots between our hearts and theirs knowing that one day they will cut the tether and we will be left with…knots.

But even in our parenting sacrifices there is joy. Is it safe to say we can sacrifice when we know there is something greater, better? We can sacrifice for our kids because we love so deeply, because we see worth in it. Or perhaps that is always the gift of sacrifice. When we give away, we receive.

Can we sacrifice our comforts? Can we let go of the things that make us feel safe? Using our own money to buy things for others in need is something, yes. But the clothes off our own backs? Our own food? Could we give it all away? (Luke 12:33; Mark 10:21) To leave the emotional comfort and physical safety of our home, our community, to walk in another's shoes? To get dirty. To be hungry ourselves. This is harder still.

I know a woman who has sacrificed. Sacrificed what others might think of her. She speaks for those that can't, aren't sure how. She shares her story bare. She follows His calling. She has given up her own comfort to comfort others, to teach, to protect. And even though you see her, she hopes you see Him. Yes the heart of sacrifice may be in the unseen surrenders, but might sacrifice also take the shape of one who takes up the cross of another?

I have had the privilege to know and walk life with this dear woman. With God's help she has started a movement. A movement to protect children from sexual abuse. She wrote a book for parents to use as a tool to prevent childhood sexual abuse from happening. She wants to help build a bridge.

My friend is courageous for she champions something that has been taboo for too long, with a determination to disregard any embarrassment or awkwardness that often keeps people from taking action. And she sacrifices her time, her money, her comfort zone (she is not by nature a public speaker) because she knows there is worth in the message, worth in protecting the innocence of children, worth in redemption for those who survived it.

Her's an example of love and surrender for those who deserve to be protected. It may not be the Ultimate Sacrifice, but her sacrifices encourage me to leave my own comforts behind and join with her in this movement.

Might you consider joining, too?

GettingDownWithJesusOur Simple Farm

Monday, March 19, 2012

When You Believe Lies

Cartoon Eeyore

Eeyore: [as he floats in the river] Don't pay any attention to me. Nobody ever does.

After watching the new "Winnie the Pooh" movie (2011) with our kids I can't get Eeyore out of my head. I know he's just a cartoon character, but what made him so depressed and hopeless? What happened in his formidable years that convinced him that no one cared?

At one point, Eeyore loses his tail (again!) and his friends try to find a new tail for him. Kanga knits him a tail and after she pins it on him he says, "It's an awful nice tail, Kanga. Much nicer then the rest of me." Let's face it, Eeyore is the poster child for self-esteem issues, but his negative self-talk may not be very much different from things we think about ourselves.

I may be over-thinking Eeyore a bit, but don't we all have a little bit of Eeyore hiding inside? He seems to come out during the worst of times, when we are feeling really insecure. Unlike Eeyore, we may not always say what we're thinking out loud, but we believe those thoughts to be true or we wouldn't be thinking them.

Can you tell the difference between the truth and the lies? Just like understanding why we do what we do, identifying the lies we believe and tell ourselves is really important. Not only do lies effect how we see the world and others, it effects our relationships and how we connect with people. When we have trouble seeing our own worth and value, then we assume others don't care either.

Usually the "lie" takes the form of our issues. If we struggle with trust then the lie will convince us that people are going to betray us. If we don't see our own value, then the lie tells us we are useless to others. What we are left with is a handful of assumptions, rarely based on any kind of truth. This can keep us from true intimacy and community with friends and family. It can keep us from serving and following God's nudges.

What I don't fathom about Eeyore is that he is cannot see the forest through the trees. He is surrounded by friends, friends that include him on all manner of adventures. Every time he loses his tail his friends go searching for it. They clearly care for him and want him around. Most importantly, even though he is the world's worst pessimist they still love him. They don't wait until he gets a better attitude. They are his friends even though he doesn't see his own value (but they do). Isn't this what friendship is really about? Isn't this how God sees us?

“…He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eyes…” (Deuteronomy 32:10)

Lies are binding. Like the chains we carry and long to be free from. Some of us know the truth, but choose to believe the lies. Maybe it's safer that way? What if we actually believed we were valued? What if we knew we had something to offer, something others desired in us? What would it be like if we rejected the lies and embraced the truth, accepting we are loved and valued in God's eyes?

He saved us. It wasn't because of the good things we had done. It was because of his mercy. He saved us by washing away our sins. (Titus 3:5)

Now if we could just get Eeyore to reject the lies:
Not much of a house. Just right for not much of a donkey.

(Atleast his friends think so!)

Linking up to Write It, Girl today!

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Am Free!


The wind between my toes, my hair dangling, tossing in the breeze. My little legs pumping back, then forth to pick up speed. There is nothing quite like a swing. Even now, as an adult, I seek out the giant swings at the amusement park. To feel the wind between my toes once again. To feel like I'm flying. To feel like I'm free.

Freedom usually comes with a price.

I have battled through the years, chains that bind. I have fought and struggled with the entwining chains of another. Like a knot in a necklace chain, love, for me, has meant helping untangle the mess.

For many of us, we don't even see the chains anymore. They have become our way of life.

The price of freedom is usually suffering and sacrifice. It's never easy to look at ourselves in the mirror and see who we really are. It takes work to break chains, to be free from the idols that enslave us.

I have a friend, named Frank, who is fasting. Through prayer and counsel decided to give up, for a time, an oppressing idol. To instead focus on areas that have been neglected because of this chain and experience a healthier balance. I deeply respect Frank's courage because this was not something that was easy for him to do. What resulted by my friend doing this was freedom. I have never seen such joy and abandon in Frank. Emptying himself, released him.

It's a common thought that if we give something up it will leave a void. That we will miss it and we may not be able to go on without it. But I have observed just the opposite. Giving something up that is right to give can be very filling. The reason we hold so tightly to things is because of fear. We white-knuckle grasp things, our spouse, our children, our idols, because we don't want to let them go. We don't know what will happen when we do. When we allow the bird out of the cage to fly, will it come back? This is the essence of trust. To let go and let God. I think we would all be surprised what God may have in store for us if we would just let go.

There are many definitions for freedom. Freedom is a state of being where we are no longer confined, controlled, or restrained. Freedom means being free from bondage.

What is keeping you from experiencing freedom? What are you afraid of?

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. JOHN 8:36

Multitude Monday:

I am thankful for...

--the freedom I have to be who I am (chains, baggage, and all)

--the freedom to do things I feel called to do without guilt

--the freedom to express my thoughts and share my heart with friends who do not judge

--the freedom and healing I have experienced by facing my issues face on

--the freedom from binding chains I have had the privilege and honor to witness in other's lives

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why Me?

There are a lot of movies out there about going back and changing history. In "Back to the Future", teenager Marty McFly is accidentally sent back in time to when his parents were young. Marty inadvertently causes his mother to fall in love with him instead of his own father which could change the whole course of history, including his very own existence.

In "The Butterfly Effect", Evan Treborn can travel back in time to inhabit his younger self and change the present, but there are unintended consequences. There always are.

I shared some of my story before. But difficult, tragic, heartbreaking things happen every day to any one of us.

And we have all asked, "Why me?"

I heard "A Thousand Things" by Christa Wells today and it struck such a deep chord. This song rings with truth and my heart is overwhelmed because this is my story...or at the very least, what I have always desired and prayed would come from it. That we would find beauty in the ashes.

There is a purpose for everything. There are no coincidences. We might wish we could go back and change history, like Marty McFly, but as most time travelers learn, changing things in the past effects the present, the future. We question things because we only have part of the whole story. And we cannot see how our actions, at each moment of our lives, could be effecting someone else (in a positive way). We know struggles hurt and we may not always understand why things happen, but be assured that good can come from something ugly. God can redeem anything.

So in the midst of the struggle, cling to God's truth and promises and trust Him to work it out.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

A THOUSAND THINGS by Christa Wells

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