Thursday, September 22, 2011

Choose Joy

Sara is a blogger I discovered a year or so ago, and she also has written for (in)courage, an online community of women writing about God and life.  I became immediately drawn in by Sara’s story, a young woman diagnosed with a debilitating disease and therefore robbed of everything she thought she had and all she thought life was going to hold for her.

In such a circumstance, I probably would’ve shriveled up and given up.  Sara, though, did the opposite.  Homebound for years, she loved and loved BIG.  She poured out her heart and she chose joy (also the title of her blog).

I have never met this woman, and she does not know that I exist, but I am inspired.  I know how often I choose to not choose joy.  I instead choose to complain.  I choose anger at God for what He has withheld from me and frustration at people who do not conform to my expectations.  I choose many things, but not often joy.

Sara’s story has taught me that joy is a choice.  Life will be hard.  Whatever course the rest of my life takes, however long or short, it will contain sorrow and grief and loss and pain.  I cannot prevent it or fix it or delay it.  It is a reality.

But I can still choose to praise the One who rescued me from the grave, the One who bought me from captivity, who gives me breath and life and purpose.  I can choose to be joyful that I stand redeemed and forgiven and whole.

Sarah is on her way home. 

And today I choose joy that one day, I, too, will be welcomed home
into a beautiful, perfect eternity where every sad thing will be undone.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Being Introverted in an Extraverted World

I am an introvert. It is part of my nature that I have fought against and complained to God about incessantly over the years.  I have cried in frustration at this aspect of my personality that I am completely unable to change.  I have begged God to take it away.  I read recently that our basic personalities are set by the time we’re in first grade, so as disheartening as it is, it appears that I am stuck this way.

I have been accused of being stuck up and standoffish, and, in one of the most hurtful things ever said to me, accused of not caring about people. (All of these accusations, by the way, have been made by extroverts.)  

The truth is not that I am uncaring, stuck up, or standoffish.  The truth is that I hate small talk.  I’m horrible at it.  Big groups drain me.  I feel awkward in a roomful of people I don’t well.  When I was living in Atlanta, a friend of mine and I used to drink a beer or two just to gear ourselves up for parties.  Alcohol makes bearable otherwise supremely uncomfortable moments.  I would not recommend employing this strategy on a regular basis, but it has its uses.

These introverted tendencies make being new very difficult, even in a fairly welcoming and inviting environment.  Extraversion is rewarded and praised, even often mistaken for kindness and warmth.  These characteristics can and often do coexist, of course, but the lack of one is not proof of lack of the other.  I have been taken in by outgoing charm, attracted to that which I lack, only to find that charm is, in fact, deceptive. I could’ve learned the same lesson by taking Proverbs to heart, but I’m too stubborn for that.

Introversion has its many overlooked qualities.  We tend, on the whole, to be pretty good listeners.  I love lingering, meaningful conversations with one or two or three other people.  I could get to know you over lunch or coffee, and we would probably walk away friends.  I don’t want to just know what you do for a living, I want to know why you do it.  I want to know what you care about, what you’re passionate about, what you’re struggling with, how you’re hurting, and how I can help. 

The trouble is figuring out how to get from the big groups that I hate to the more intimate setting where I can have the kinds of conversations that I like.  I’m convinced that there is a place in God’s kingdom for all sorts of personalities and talents and gifts; I’m not convinced that the church does such a great job of celebrating all of these differences, especially in a culture that so prizes the more outgoing among us. 

I know that my Father knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I know (usually) that I am wonderfully and fearfully made.  I can’t help but wish at times that I was made differently, but who am I to question God?  Who am I to criticize His creation of my heart?  I want to quietly trust that He has a plan for ALL of me, a plan for me to glorify Him and to love others in His name.  He is the author of my story, and He can’t be the author without writing the characters too. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Invention and Reinvention

If necessity is the mother of invention, then what is the mother of reinvention?  Desperation?  Despair? Boredom? 

I ask because I find myself wanting to do a little reinvention of my own.  I have to wonder if it’s born out of my desire to control everything.  The major changes of the last 6 ½ months of my life weren’t exactly of my own making, so it’s left me feeling a bit powerless.  More accurately, it revealed just how much I am NOT in control of my own life. 

I also think that after years of school, fall continues to feel like the perfect time for a new start.  That new school year feeling dies hard, as it turns out. 

So this September, I decided to start afresh.  I’m reclaiming football season for my own (that won’t make sense to most people but I’m happy I no longer have to care about SEC football), I just cut my hair shorter than it’s been since college, I’ve given up fast food and takeout, and started my Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover.  The last of these really just means that in an effort to aggressively pay off my car and my student loans, I can’t afford to do much else, so it coincides nicely with giving up fast food and takeout.  My only fast food before was a weekly lunch at Chick-Fil-A and maybe Quizno’s every now and then, but with no takeout, and a pretty tight eating out budget, I have to cook a lot more.  I like to cook, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it requires so much more planning!

While I think these are all beneficial life changes for me right now, I know that nothing I do outwardly will change my heart.  I’ve been meditating on this verse a lot lately: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43: 18-19)

I need a daily (or hourly) reminder not to dwell on the past, and I love all of the encouragement and promise these verses hold.  God IS doing a new thing—in me and around me.  And my Creator is able and willing to make streams in the wasteland.  Hallelujah!