For the sake of those readers who did not grow up with medical professionals and so are unaccustomed to casual discussion of any and all bodily functions, I will try to avoid too many details. Suffice to say, for almost as long as I can remember, I have had a wide range of digestive problems. After talking to someone with celiac disease over a year ago, I realized that gluten may be a trigger. This seemed to be confirmed when I reduced–but did not eliminate–my consumption of gluten, and saw less frequent symptoms. But I started to have other problems since my gallbladder removal last year, and in recent weeks, I’ve been feeling all kinds of worse.
On Friday, I made some homemade naan, and as I was lying around in low-level but undeniable discomfort, I realized that I needed to follow the advice of the great Ron Swanson:
It was time to admit that my current system wasn’t good enough. I had to make major, whole-ass changes. Starting this past Saturday–Feb. 14, because Valentine’s Day doesn’t suck enough–I became one of “those people” and went fully gluten-free (GF).
I am not happy. I come from a family not only of cooks and bakers, but of skeptics. I haven’t informed my parents (who dine heavily on pizza, pasta, and sandwiches) of this change yet, but I rather expect my dad to dismiss it as just a fad. I have cousins who are already dairy-free for health reasons, so I’ll be throwing another wrench into holiday-dinner plans. I’m visiting a friend in Las Vegas this weekend, and I dread the inconvenience my new lifestyle will cause. I had to nix plans to get Chinese when another friend visits next month, because with all the wheat-containing soy sauce, egg-roll wraps, noodles, fried-food breading, and fortune cookies, I may only be able to eat white rice, green beans, and orange slices–which I can have at home. I will never drink Guinness again (yes, I know they make GF beers, but Guinness is the only beer I’ve ever enjoyed).
Thankfully, I enjoy cooking and baking, I enjoy experimenting, and I enjoy learning about the science behind how things work. So with Internet sources like Gluten-Free-Girl and Gluten-Free Goddess to guide me (not to mention Amazon.com), this might even be fun. I’m not only learning about what this means for my body, but what gluten itself is and how it can be replaced. I feel smarter already.
Right now, though, I’m still in a mourning stage. When it comes to changes, especially ones that seem negative at first, I don’t do well with the part that requires me to make peace and reconcile myself to a new reality–the feelings aspect. I want to fret and fume and whinge about it. But when it’s time to take action, I do a whole lot better. I can problem solve; I can be practical; I can do. In time, my feelings will bow to my actions and my logic, and all will be well.
And no matter how much I b*tch about this, there is something I can’t deny: It’s Day 4 of my GF life, and I already feel better than I have in the last few weeks–physically, at least.
Wish me luck.
And fear not, regular readers–this isn’t going to become an exclusively gluten-free blog. As I said when I wrote about my singleness status last month, GF posts will just become a part of my regular grab-bag of topics.
In general, I struggle with comparing myself to others–usually to my detriment. One example involves my introverted/INTJ personality. Such a personality means I’m a lot better at having fewer, deeper relationships than many broader acquaintances. I struggle to serve and care about people with whom I don’t have a previous connection and with whose history I’m not familiar. I’m not good at loving people just because they are people. I know we as Christians are commanded to love others, all others, but it is hard for me to give a crap about strangers. I’m not trying to excuse myself–I know this is an area where I can be stretched and challenged.
It’s not wrong that my nature, the way God created me, makes me better at channeling my love and service into a few profound, focused, devoted friendships. But often I feel inadequate compared to pastors and missionaries, whose work serves dozens, hundreds, even thousands, sometimes in a single day or hour. I don’t want to be a missionary or a pastor, and I don’t believe I am called to be so in the traditional sense. But sometimes I can’t help feeling like a failure because I don’t have a natural inclination for such work.
The other night, I was reading a couple chapters of Mere Christianity, at a part where C.S. Lewis describes humanity as not a bunch of separate beings all walking around, but one big organism extending back all through human history. Each one of us, he says, is a different “organ” in that organism.
When you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neighbors, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that. You and they are different organs, intended to do different things. On the other hand, when you are tempted not to bother about someone else’s troubles because they are ‘no business of yours,’ remember that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you. If you forget that he belongs to the same organism as yourself you will become an Individualist. If you forget that he is a different organ from you, if you want to suppress differences and make people all alike, you will become a Totalitarian. But a Christian must not be either a Totalitarian or an Individualist.
It got me thinking about my role in that organism (also called “the Body of Christ”). I thought of how doctors have different specialties. Some of them are more generalized than others, but they all have their purposes.
When it comes to caring for the “organism” that is God’s people, maybe people such as pastors and missionaries are the family physicians and general practitioners. They are really good at meeting a lot of common, general needs. Maybe more intense, focused, introverted people like me are the specialists, the cardiologists and oncologists and psychiatrists. We’re there when something (or someone) needs special attention.
A heart surgeon has fewer patients compared to a general pediatrician, but they serve different purposes. The one doesn’t have the knowledge or capacity to do what the other does. In God’s grand plan, neither is “better” than the other. They just have different roles. Sometimes they may be called on to do things outside their usual scope, but in general, God has particular niches for them.
Now, people in the church do tend to think that certain roles are more noteworthy than others. Pastoring and being a missionary, for example, are often considered the “important” jobs, probably because they tend to serve the most people, and they are often the most visible positions.
Depending on where a person is in life, however, or what they are going through at the time, they may get nothing out of a sermon. The pastor is fulfilling his role, but it is not what that one person needs. Instead, it may mean everything for this one person if another Christian, one without an official title in the church, just sits with them and listens to what’s going on in their life, and offers some simple prayer and encouragement. That doesn’t diminish the pastor’s role; they are just serving different needs.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. ~I Corinthians 12: 13-27
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
As more regular readers know, I’ve been struggling with a lot of things since my recent move. It’s been hard to feel established and make connections here. (Ohio’s winter weather doesn’t help.) I’ve been anxious, depressed, and lonely, and feeling far from God. I’ve been frustrated because ever since I began to consider leaving Columbus over a year ago, I’ve tried to do the right thing, but often found myself in situations I didn’t want–such as being at my stepdad’s for longer than I intended, and moving back to my hometown instead of someplace more wild and exciting. I thought this was what I was supposed to do, but I felt frustrated at every turn.
This process–especially most recently–has exacerbated old wounds and longtime struggles with beliefs that I have come to have toward myself over the years. Things like: I don’t belong anywhere, I’m not meant to have a purpose and a “niche” in God’s kingdom, I’m unworthy, God doesn’t care about me in particular, I’m unlikeable and worthless and my life is pointless.
For months, one of my best friends has been unfailingly encouraging and telling me that things are eventually going to get better, that God was at work, and that my efforts would see results. This was nice to hear, but I just got more discouraged because things never quite got better. There were good hours and good days here and there, but things did not seem to really change.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Yesterday, I had a little bit of a breakthrough. I realized that I have been praying for changes in my circumstances, in the hopes that that is what would alter how I think about myself and make everything right. But I realized that, even if things happen the way I want, that won’t change how I see myself. I do have friends who care about me, who are petitioning God on my behalf, who enjoy being around me and want me in their lives. I’m appreciated at my job and I make enough (if not lots of) money. If this hasn’t been enough to change my mind, what will? No change to my circumstances was going to do anything. I had to leave it up to God to make the changes inside me that would alter my thinking and help me lead the life that I was meant to live and be the person I am meant to be. There was absolutely nothing I could do–and I hate hearing that.
With that in mind, I went to the young-adult church service that I’ve been going to for the last few weeks, that I mentioned in this post. There was worship and announcements and I saw S, the girl I met that first night. Then the pastor announced that they were starting a new series of sermons this week. The series title is True Lies: You Are What You Think.
Right away, I think, “Uhh. This sounds…relevant.”
The pastor told a little story to introduce the general idea of the series, but once he got into the actual sermon, I don’t think I stopped quietly crying until it was over.
He talked about how we are constantly bombarded with thoughts and messages, many of them lies: either from Satan/the Enemy, from society, or from ourselves. (You can imagine how much I was thinking of The Screwtape Letters the whole time.) He talked about how discerning truth from lies was important because what we believe, we act on. If we believe a lie, whatever it is, sooner or later that will become some kind of action. Some examples he gave were from his own struggle with pornography, such as, “God is holding out on you,” “It’s not that big a deal,” and, “You can control this.”
He wrapped up the sermon with asking, “What do you believe?” and “Who do you believe?” He then had us all anonymously write down a lie we believe and put them in buckets. The church leaders are supposed to pray over these cards and come back to them next week.
The whole time, I was thinking about how I see myself and what I’ve come to believe, and I was struggling so much. I kept going, “But what if it’s true? What if I’m not wrong? What if what I think about myself is true?” Then I thought, “Why do you want to believe the worst about yourself?” I didn’t have a good answer.
“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” ~The Screwtape Letters
No one looking at me could have known what was going on in my head (though obviously they would have seen the tears), but I felt raw and exposed. I thought, “Wow, God sure prepped the soil for these particular seeds, didn’t He?” Then I realized, “If I’m here, and this is exactly what I needed to hear, and this could change everything, then God must care if He let this all happen.”
It didn’t stop there. It was the last week to sign up for small groups. I had signed up online, but I went to the signup table because I wanted to make sure they had my info. S was there with her husband, and she said, “Oh, we already have your info. You’re gonna be in A’s group.” (I met A the same night, and I had wanted to be in her group already.) S said, “I told him ‘Emily has to be in A’s group!’” And I was overwhelmed, thinking, “Wow, someone remembered me, and actually did something for me, and is trying to help me fit somewhere.” And then I got in my car and cried most of the way home.
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
I really need this sermon series, and I needed the experience I had last night. Yesterday I reached the end of my tether and was going “God, I don’t know what You want me to do. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t think there’s anything I can do. Whatever has to happen to my life, You’re going to have to do it.”
I kept thinking about how moving here created the situation that pushed me and frustrated me and drove me to a point that I was completely prepared to receive that sermon. And if I hadn’t moved here, not only might I not have been prepared to hear it, but I wouldn’t have heard it at all. And who knows what other fruit this will bear that I would have missed out on otherwise.
(By the way, did I listen to “Let it Go” on a loop while I wrote this post?
1. Exercise your ABS (Always Be Straightforward).
Whether you’re meeting at an ice-cream social for the first time, offering constructive criticism, giving a compliment, or delivering bad news, one of the most important things you can do for any INTJ is to be straightforward. Don’t sugarcoat and don’t downplay. Put it in the most logical terms you can. Don’t flirt—they will just miss it.
Also, don’t be freaked out if the INTJ has a strong response—it means they’re human and that what you said has value. Do not put off any necessary communication, even if you are afraid of how they will respond. Get it over with. This is especially important when delivering criticism or bad news. However crappy it may make them feel, the INTJ would still prefer to be told rather than kept in the dark.
2. Know thyself.
Self-awareness is good for any relationship, but it can be especially helpful when communicating with “your” INTJ.
Let’s say that the INTJ did not do something you wanted them to. While this may seem callous on their part, it may be that the INTJ simply did not know it was important to you. Perhaps you yourself did not know how important it was until it didn’t happen. The better you know yourself, the better you can explain to the INTJ why something is important to you. INTJs are notoriously inept at meeting their partner’s emotional needs, but if you can explain and help it make sense to the INTJ (here’s where being straightforward is key), then they will go to great lengths to meet those needs.
3. Give them space.
This applies both to physical space, and to time. Don’t get overly friendly with an INTJ too quickly, or get into their face, or get too touchy, even if you mean no harm by it. Just like with anyone, don’t pressure them to get physical too soon in the relationship.
Give INTJs a lot of time, as well. As Introverts, they not only need solitude to recharge their batteries and empty their “people meters,” but also may need time to process their thoughts about the relationship and the interactions you have had. If you go on a date with an INTJ and don’t hear from them for a while, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are uninterested. They may be trying to figure out what they think and how they feel about you. It’s okay to reach out to them during this “processing” time and show your own interest, just keep things open-ended and light. If they respond positively, it’s safe to say they’re at least a little bit interested. No reply at all, and they are probably uninterested—if they haven’t already told you this directly.
4. No means no.
I’m not just talking about sex. I mean that INTJs don’t play hard-to-get. If they say no to a second date, it doesn’t mean “Try harder and maybe I’ll change my mind.” It doesn’t mean “Use a different approach.” It doesn’t mean “Maybe later.” It means “No—I don’t want to.” If the INTJ says “no” to an activity—be it sex, or skydiving, or a pool party, or going to see a certain movie—they mean it. Pressuring them to do something or go somewhere they’ve already refused will not get you your way—they will just dig in their heels.
Be aware, this is a little different from warming up to a person. An INTJ may become good friends/lovers with a person they initially disliked. But this happens when an INTJ gets used to a person and comes to understand their ways—not because that person targeted the INTJ and wore them down. Refer to #3 and you will have more success than if you just kept insisting.
5. Thicken your skin.
Yes, INTJs (especially younger INTJs or those with less relationship experience) must learn to be softer, gentler, and more diplomatic. An INTJ who is aware of this, who is committed to a relationship, and who is not a complete jerk will work on it. In the meantime, the INTJ’s partner should also learn to not take things too personally, to choose their battles, to let things roll off their backs. INTJs value truth above feelings, so toes will be stepped on occasionally. This is another area where straightforwardness is essential. If the INTJ insulted you, tell them. Explain the problem. But don’t assume that it was intentional, or intended with malice. An INTJ who must constantly explain themselves to an offended partner, and who feels like they must be on guard 24/7, could quickly tire of the relationship. If you know that the INTJ usually, genuinely tries their best in the relationship, cut them some slack on occasion.
6. Show appreciation
A committed INTJ will do what they know will work for the relationship, especially if it makes sense to them. And they need to know when they’re doing something right. Like everyone else, INTJs need encouragement and affirmation, so be sure to let the INTJ know that you appreciate something they’ve done. You can even show affection! Even if they don’t react as deeply as you’d expect—or even if they seem to brush it off—it may mean much more to them than they show.
7. Encourage, but don’t “fix.”
No one is perfect. Everyone has something they need to work on. But because they are a relatively rare type, and tend to lack “people skills,” people often see INTJs in particular as “fixer uppers.” Do not take this attitude. Encourage them to grow, to try new things, to work on their flaws, of course, but don’t treat the INTJ like a house in need of renovation, or a puppy who needs to be trained.
Now, these tips are generally meant to apply to dating/romantic situations, but with proper tailoring, they can also apply to families, friendships, and even business associates. Also, I am aware that not all of these apply to all INTJs. I am writing this from my personal perspective as one female INTJ. Your mileage may vary. These may also apply to non-INTJs. Again, YMMV. Just so you know, I did not write any of these as a response to recent events or interactions. If you are offended because you took it personally, that was never my intention.
~ Andy Dwyer, Parks and Recreation
In a recent post, I said that I was afraid to talk about how well things were going because I was superstitious and afraid that would jinx it.
Turns out, I was right.
I don’t know what happened. It wasn’t one event–in fact, it hasn’t really been any event at all. But things have been so, so awful lately. I have been so deeply, ridiculously, devastatingly lonely here, so much more than I ever expected. Even for me, meeting people is harder than I expected it to be. It’s too damn cold to do anything. I haven’t been sleeping well or eating as much and I swear I’m dehydrated from all the crying. Even here, I don’t belong. I’m afraid that my life is just going to be this endless cycle of moving, trying to establish myself somewhere, making temporary friendships, and then moving on to do it all over again. If that is what the rest of my life is supposed to be, then I don’t want it.
I don’t have a place, I don’t have a niche, and I don’t know what to do. I want a place to belong and people to talk to and to love, but it’s so difficult and it takes so much time, and in the meanwhile, I am suffering. I’m trying to find a church group, but I don’t fit anywhere. I’m so exhausted in every possible way, I don’t have the strength for anything anymore.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
For I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses.
Look upon my affliction and my trouble,
And forgive all my sins.
Look upon my enemies, for they are many,
And they hate me with violent hatred.
Guard my soul and deliver me;
Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.
~Psalm 25: 16-21
I occasionally talk about, or make references to, my status as a single woman, but I don’t like to address it on my blog in depth—except when I feel like I really need to.
It’s difficult to make oneself vulnerable by exposing a deep-seated desire. It’s hard to admit that I need and want other people. It’s hard to admit loneliness. This is particularly difficult for Christians because it seems sacrilegious—if Christ fulfills us, if God supplies our every need, who am I to say that I do not have everything I want and need? Am I suggesting that God has failed me? Am I suggesting that God cannot do everything? There is also the tendency in Christian culture (at least in America) to put on a happy, brave face and never admit that we are struggling in anything, lest it appear that we do not actually have the peace and joy and abundant life that Christ has promised—even though He also promised that we would not be free of trouble in this world.
There is also, in my experience and perception, this cultural idea that a woman somehow can’t desire a romantic relationship and actually have a life at the same time.
A woman who wants to get married–but somehow hasn’t yet–must be desperate, lonely, pathetic, shy to the point of agoraphobic, dowdy and ridiculous and suffocating, who is man-obsessed and baby-crazy, who spends her nights crying into her dozen cats, and otherwise has no life. But I am not that woman.
I want to experience romance (at least for a little while—too much and I would feel smothered). I want to get married and eventually have a child—in that order. Every new engagement or pregnancy announcement brings a struggle between happiness for the people involved and pangs of envy and wondering “why not me?” I struggle with feelings of loneliness. I want to be pursued and desired. When people hear that, though, they assume I am just sitting around, pining and wishing my life away and doing nothing but waiting for the perfect man to just show up. I’m not.
As my blog readers will know, I travel, I wrote a novel, and I’m self-employed. I have close and invaluable friendships, I have multiple interests outside of romance, I read and exercise and cook, and I want to draw closer to my God. I know a relationship won’t solve all my problems. But when people see my life, what I actually do, they assume I am totally fine with being single, that I am not interested in finding someone, that I am always partying it up with my friends and not even thinking about settling down someday. I am not that woman, either.
I don’t want to waste my singleness—but I don’t want it to be forever.
This has been a struggle of mine for a long time, but the past year has been the most difficult so far. Let this be a warning to my readers that I will be discussing this topic and opening up about it a little more often in this blog. I don’t intend for it to dominate my blog–I will still write about introversion/Myers Briggs, movies, my travels, and my cooking achievements–but it will come up more often.
As I have said before on some of my posts about singleness, I am not looking for advice. I am well aware that people who do try to give me advice–how to meet men, how to “work on myself,” how to live a Christ-honoring life as a single–all have the best of intentions. But please believe me when I say that I have heard it all, and tried most of it, and I don’t need more.
I’m not completely sure why I feel compelled to share more of this particular aspect of my life, but right now I am just talking it out, processing it. Maybe eventually this could help others who are dealing with similar things, and inform them that they are not alone and perhaps encourage them to join in the conversation.
I would never use the word “superstitious” to describe myself, but I probably should. The main reason is that I am hesitant to discuss happy events and positive outcomes in my life–especially in such public outlets as Internet blogs–out of fear that this will somehow “jinx” them. A bit silly, really–life is full of ups and downs, and one should never expect either good or bad times to last forever anyway. But I did want to be a little more diligent about blogging this year, so if I’m to begin soon, I have to start with good things.
Because things have, in fact, been going rather well. November and December were filled with angst about where I would move, bewilderment at the answer, frustration in apartment-hunting, loneliness at Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and stress over the actual moving process. One evening I was reading the Bible–either Psalms or one of the prophetic books, I can’t remember exactly–and it occurred to me that this painful time might be, to use a biblical phrase, the final “birthing pains” that would eventually yield a period of peace and joy.
I’m sure that idea must have been from God, because it helped sustain me to this point. And judging by the past week, it was also true.
I really like my apartment: it’s cozy, quiet, safe, and close to everything I need. It’s about 10 minutes from my dad’s, 15-20 minutes from other close friends, and about 5 minutes from one of my favorite spots in the area. The furnace had to be fixed yesterday and I was pleased with the communicativeness and speed of maintenance’s response. There’s even a balcony, which … I’m sure I will enjoy when it is warmer than 8 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
Although I love my dad’s church, I decided to explore other church options. On Monday night, I went to a gathering of the young-adult ministry of a different church. I hated the worship set (the singers were grating, to put it mildly), but the sermon was true and applicable. The whole point was that, yes, God has goals for us, but they are not as important to Him as it is for us to become the people He wants us to be, who can reach those goals at the right time, in the right way. Unlike the last church I went to in Columbus, the population is not all college kids a decade younger than me. The girl who sat behind me started chatting after the service, and she told me a little about herself and the ministry, and introduced me to a couple other ladies. There might even be a small group for me to check out. It was especially great because I felt like I was being friendly with relatively little effort–an experience I do not often have with strangers. Even if I don’t end up staying with that particular church/ministry, it was a great experience, like God was telling me, “Look what I can do. I am bigger than your introversion.”
Also, I have been sleeping better (generally), work has been fine, and the Internet here is way faster than it was at my stepdad’s. So overall, yes, good things!