King of Hearts

IMG_4546Our culture throws around the word “heart” all the time for different reasons. “You’re a girl after my own heart” or “he’s got heart of gold” or “we need to get to the heart of the situation”. But what is the heart? How do we define it?

Besides the anatomical definition of a muscle that pumps blood, this was the most thorough definition I could gather from the dictionary. Heart: The inner part of any thing; the seat of the affections and passions; the seat of understanding; the seat of the will – hence, secret purposes, intentions, or designs; secret thoughts; secret meaning; conscience.

In other words, it’s the center from which everything else flows. The center of life.What keeps us going. Where our drive comes from. Where our actions stem from. The starting point for every action and resolve. It’s – well – the heart. So, when we talk about whole body education, we need to start with the heart.

When we have toddlers in our care, do we start out by teaching them that 2+2=4? No, of course not. We first teach them to share. We teach them not to hit others. We teach them to obey us. In short, we teach them right from wrong. We start by training their heart.

As these toddlers grow into little kids – 4, 5, 6, 7 years of age – we start taking this training to the next level. Instead of just saying this is right, this is wrong; we begin to quicken their conscience. We ask questions of them like, “do you think you should have done thus and such?” And then we explain the whys behind the right and wrong.

Then these kids become teenagers and their “heart-training” takes on a new form. They know right from wrong (usually), and yes, we still need to prod their consciences every now and again. But now we start to hone in on some of the others aspects, particularly the drive. What drives those teenagers? What really lights them up? Where do their passions lie? How can we guide them to nurture the good drives and root out the bad ones?

After years of growth and pain (agony, even), these teenagers become twenty-somethings: ready to test their heart as they take on the world. This is when all of those years of training and trial-and-error are put to the test. These kids walk out that door into the world, and the weight of right and wrong is put fully on them – they must know the difference and how to act accordingly. This is when their drives and passions steer them as they must make choices that will shape their futures – choices about jobs, education, relationships, and hobbies.

It’s a big world out there. And the battle against and for our hearts is fierce. The question is: how well have you trained? Will you stand against the onslaught or will you be a casualty? Can you face the world and overcome it or will you be trampled by it and have your heart torn apart?

As Christ-followers, we can walk into the world with confidence because we do not have to fight our battles alone. We have One who fights them with us and for us. Oh, that doesn’t mean that our lives will be lollypops and roses. Oh no. Instead, that means we will face the fiercest fighting with the greatest onslaught. But we do not go undefended. Instead, we go having every resource at our disposal. And when we follow our marching orders, those resources are available to us at the drop of the knees. But I do not mean to imply that we will never be wounded in action. Or that there may not be days that it seems that the enemy is gaining ground. No. What we do have is the assurance that our hearts will never be taken – even when everything else is in flames. And because of that, we will always keep fighting. We will keep going. We will never give up. And we will always have our hearts safe with the One who guards it best.

So “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23), surrender it to the King of Hearts, and actively train it to face the battle ahead.

~Jo

The Road From Home

roadIt’s a long and winding road, is the road from home. Filled with mysteries yet to us unknown. Fraught with danger, trials, and despair. Ever leading us to we know not where.

Those we meet who help us all along the way. Those who hold us back. And those who for a while with us stay. We embark on grand adventures. Aspire for great things. Invest in risky ventures. And test out our new wings.

The road is full of firsts. Lonely it can be. The strange and uninviting is oft all that we can see. Onward we press relentless, determined to succeed. We will not stop or tarry, even when we face great need.

Yet when the stars shall find us oh so far from home; we carry deep within us all the things that we have known. In our souls are burning the welcome lights of home. And that we always carry, no matter where we roam.

~Jo

Says Who?

“To thine own self be true”, wrote the bard. How simple that sounds! Maybe it’s only me, but it is so complicated! To mine own self be true? Who am I that I should be true to? In a culture that bombards us with the message to throw off all restraint and “be ourselves”, I struggle to understand just what that means.Before delving into this topic, I must confess: I am a chameleon. I can blend into almost any group of people. I can play a myriad of parts. Farmer’s seminar: behold the farm girl. Business/entrepreneur gathering: no problem – enter the practical, business woman. Church gathering for a special event: meet the social butterfly all dressed up. Shopping in a bohemian, free-spirit city: introducing the bohemian me. Homeschool conference: out comes the demure outfit. Playing soccer with athletic friends: pull the hair back into a ponytail and own the field. Traveling across the globe to a village in Africa: yup – we got village fashion. (Ok, so I did stand out a little over there; but hey, I can’t change my skin color!)

All this to say that in a wide and diverse variety of situations, I can look like I belong. I can even go from church to bohemian to soccer to country club to sweats in one day without missing a beat. (Speaking of beat – I do beatnik fashion too). But the question still remains: who am I that I should be true to? If you ask my country club friends, that’s the real me. If you ask my athletic friends, that’s the real me. My farm friends will tell you that’s the real me. And my business friends – well, you get the picture. If you ask Jane, she’ll just tell you I’m a mess.

What I’ve learned through the years is that there is no singular me. All of those above images are all elements of me. But through all of those, there are aspects that stay the same. And those are determined by the “real” me.

“You shall know them by their fruits. A good tree does not bear bad fruit, neither does a bad tree bear good fruit.” This is where I found my answer to “to thine own self be true.” Who am I? I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Because of that, there are certain elements that I always incorporate into my wardrobe. Is my hemline too high? Is the neckline too low? Does this outfit seek improper attention? Am I dressed in such a way that my King is pleased?

In addition to that, I am also me. I like to live (mostly) inside the lines. I dislike frivolity. I have a serious, contemplative, intense mind. All these elements come into play in my wardrobe as well. Frilly blouse or serious, business blouse? Business every time – unless I am insanely going through one of my “curly” moods. (They’re not pretty…and yes, I am insane when they occur). Hairstyle: serious and under control or femininely flipped out and curled? Keep that hair under control!

As you can see, I like to keep myself well within the lines. But let’s take a look at another element. Say I’m going into a situation that “society” says requires heels and heavy make-up. That’s not who I am. I only wear heels on boots but never pumps, and I only wear light make-up occasionally. What should I do? “To thine own self be true.” I would still dress the part, but instead of heels, wear flats, and instead of heavy make-up, wear my normal light. In doing so, I am not inappropriately attired, nor will I be giving offense. But I also have been true to myself, projecting an image of who I am instead of who I am not.

We can never “throw off all restraint” as our culture says. We will always be playing by somebody’s rules. Maybe you play by the rules of Vogue magazine. Or a particular Hollywood star. Or maybe you’re playing by the rules from 1890. No matter how radical or rebellious you are, you will always be within somebody’s rules. No matter how much of a trendsetter you are, you got the idea from somewhere. And “there is nothing new under the sun.”

As for me, I’m playing by the rules first of Jesus Christ and second of my personality. The rest is dictated by my circumstance. Yet to mine own self will I be true.

~Jo

Whole Body Education

IMG_8443“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.”   Mark 12:30

Having recently graduated, but also as a dedicated life-learner, I would like to take some time to talk about education. I’ve experienced a myriad of educational molds: public school, private school, homeschool, and online college. I’ve also been blessed to be a tutor and mentor to several young friends. So, what follows is the result of my observation and the experience of both myself and my friends.

Heart. Mind. Soul. Strength. The whole body.

When we talk about education, we  often struggle with molds. We think that we should all learn in the same way or at the same pace or from the same experiences. That, somehow, we should fit into the same mold and learn from a cookie-cutter education. But my heart and your heart do not beat the same. Your mind and my mind have different bents. My soul stirs at different things than yours. And your strength is developed differently from mine. So why would we think that our education can be conducted the same way?

The first step to a successful education is the understanding and acceptance that every one of us will learn differently. Albert Einstein once said, “Every one is a genius, but if a fish is judged by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will forever think it is an idiot.” Some of us are fish, some of us are falcons, and some of us are squirrels. Squirrels can climb trees, but they can’t fly. Falcons can fly, but they can’t swim. Fish can swim, but they can’t climb trees. Yet, each of them are good at what they have been designed to do. And so it is with education. We must learn our abilities and our limitations; and what we have been designed to do, that we must do well.

The second step is to recognize that we can’t just develop one area of our persons. As human beings, we are complex and intricate creatures; and to only develop a few areas of our design and neglect others is a shame and harms the completion of our education. So, we must do whole body education. We must develop our heart, mind, soul, and strength. And by doing that, we will become the truest version of ourselves.

What is the heart, mind, soul, and strength? Since I will elaborate each area further in subsequent posts, I will only define and briefly describe each one here. The heart: quite literally, it is an organ that pumps life-giving blood, and if it stops contracting, we will die. But by definition, in the sense in which we are applying it, the heart is the innermost part of our being – who we are. It is our innermost emotions, morals, character, feelings, gut reactions, and inclinations. It is truly the core of who we are. The mind: it is our brain. More specifically, it is where we perceive, analyze information, feel, think, will, and reason. It is the command center for our lives. The soul: it is something we see, but can not physically touch. It is the essence of who we are. It is what animates us, causes us to feel emotion such as empathy or anger, and is the spiritual element. It is what speaks through the eyes to others when no words have been spoken. And it is what makes me, me; and you, you. Lastly, strength: it is muscle and endurance. It is the power to resist force, the capacity to endure, and the embodiment of firmness. Both in a physical sense as well as a metaphysical sense.

Heart. Mind. Soul. Strength. It covers every area of us as humans. Yet, we compartmentalize each area, even to the point of complete neglect, failing to recognize their intricate interdependence . In order to be healthy humans, we must nurture each area. And in order to be healthy Christians, we must not only develop each area, but we must love the Lord with all of our being. But how can we do that it if we neglect one? What if we aren’t developing our soul? Or teaching our heart? Or growing our mind? Or building our strength? Then we cannot obey the first and greatest commandment. And so, we must start from the beginning. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 1:7  And when we have started with the fear of the Lord, then we will be able to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

~Jo

Bringing Murphy

We’ve all probably been there. The bags are all packed and loaded. You’re ready for the adventure and off you go! Then somewhere along the journey HE shows up. The dreaded travel companion; the one you thought that maybe this time he had been left at home. The one you thought you had planned too well for him to join you. But, no, he insists on coming on every trip. Maybe some of you are confused. Who on earth could I be talking about? Rest assured, I have not lost my mind. I’m merely referring to he-who-must-not-be-named… Murphy, the self-invited travel companion. You know, Murphy from Murphy’s Law? “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Yeah. That guy. He’s a pest. And it never seems to matter how well you’ve planned, he still manages to sneak into your luggage.

Why do I bring up Murphy? Well, in the past year, I’ve taken two long trips and on both of them, things have gone wrong – dreadfully wrong. But there are a few things I’ve learned from those incidents, and I’d like to pass those on to you.

First, always plan for Murphy. This comes in two forms. The first is to try and anticipate him. Figure out where he is going to show up and then take steps to prevent him. Try to close all of his loop holes. Make sure when you pack the car, you don’t look like a target. Blend in with your surroundings. Make packing lists so that you don’t forget something important. Know where you’re going ahead of time. Plan for plenty of layover time in case your flight is delayed. Things like that; it gives Murphy fewer options. The second is to accept that no matter how well you’ve plan, he’s going to show up. Just anticipate having an uninvited companion.

Second, learn to live with Murphy. If you’ve taken steps to prevent him but have also accepted that he will show up, be ready to roll with it when he shows himself. Be flexible and be strong. Murphy can throw some pretty wacky curve-balls, and we have to be able to dodge them while still staying on our feet. (One thing Jane and I did on a trip was we started acting like Murphy really was traveling with us. So we had some fun with it – taking the empty chair away from the table at dinner, filling his seat in the car, and such.)

Third, forget about Murphy. So Murphy shows up, destroys your entire game plan, and you’re a bit shell-shocked. Relax. God is in control. Even when everything goes awry – whether you miss your connecting flight or your car gets broken into – God has a purpose; a plan. It is our responsibility to believe it and trust. So start looking at those moments as opportunities instead of fatalities. Take a look around and look to see where God wants you to go from here. And soon, Murphy won’t seem like such an odious companion after all.

So forget about Murphy. Live in today – in the now. Don’t fret about tomorrow. Don’t despair about yesterday. Live today. Right now. And when Murphy shows up, keep going, no matter how difficult that may be. And wholeheartedly believe that God has a plan.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

~Jo

P.S. Just to prove a point – as I was publishing this post, Murphy decided to have some fun and make it vanish. So when you’re working on something you don’t want to lose, save it in at least two separate locations so that you always have one copy somewhere. I guess that’s what I get for blogging about Murphy, eh?

Seriously?

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I know; I know. This doesn’t seem like a very serious topic. But cookies are a very serious thing around our house. Dad is always complaining that we don’t have any cookies and he keeps asking when I will be making some. After exhausting all of the varieties in the grocery store, I finally broke down the other day and baked cookies. But I didn’t want the standard overly sweet cookie, and I wanted something a little different in flavor. So I did something new: I created my own cookie recipe. And they were very good (if I do say so myself – the other people in my house agreed). A good blend of crunchy and chewy, they were not too sweet and not too savory with a good twist of flavor for an element of different. Not the best dessert cookie, but certainly delightful for a snack (or breakfast)!

Without further ado, I present to you the Almond Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie!

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Almond Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup almond butter

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. Celtic sea salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup – 1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*. Soften butter to room temperature, then in medium large bowl whip butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in almond butter, combining well. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Combine flour mixture with wet ingredients mixing 1/3 of the flour mixture in at a time. Switch from beaters to a wooden spoon and stir in walnuts, coconut, and chocolate chips.

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Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and form about tablespoon size cookies. Flatten the dough on the sheet, spacing about an inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 1 minute before moving to a cookie rack to cool completely. Enjoy while warm or once completely cooled!

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~Jo

Mad As A Hatter

IMG_7259If there is one fashion accessory I really love, it has to be hats – especially vintage hats. I enjoy discovering hats in antique stores and collecting the vintage styles that blend well with my wardrobe. Wearing them serves a practical purpose, but it also adds a flair of excitement to my everyday style. When I was younger, I used to pile all of my hats upon my head at once and waltz around the house looking very much like the mad hatter.

Mad as a hatter; how did we come by such a saying? Well, during the 1700-1800s, mercury was used to make felt for the hats that were popular at the time, and prolonged exposure to the mercury would cause neurological damage. The neurological damage caused extreme mood swings, tremors, and slurred speech, which in that age was identified merely as “madness”. People who exhibited such behaviors would have been outside of acceptable society. As time went on, those hatters would become a by-word for any who exhibited crazy, eccentric, or abnormal behaviors; leaving many to be labeled “mad as a hatter”. We now know that the cause behind a hatter’s madness was over-exposure to mercury leading to mercury-poisoning and neurological damage. We also know that mercury is a very harmful substance to our bodies, and we strive to avoid it today. But at that time, such things were not yet known.

Today, we no longer make felt for hats with mercury; and hats of those fashions are no longer common accessories. We consciously strive to eliminate mercury from our diets, glass, water, dishes, cosmetics, and other every day items. Yet there are other things in our lives today that can still make us mad as a hatter – for instance, stress. Stress triggers several hormone chemicals in our bodies that, after long periods of exposure, can drive us into a type of madness.

One stress-related hormone is cortisol. Normally, our bodies produce cortisol throughout the day at regular intervals, increasing during the morning to get us going and decreasing in the afternoon and evening to help us wind-down and sleep. However, when we are stressed, we produce higher levels of cortisol, more commonly at night, in order to prepare us for the “impending danger”. We have a heightened alertness/awakeness and have difficulty falling asleep. Ever notice how when you’re stressed, you get a second wind of energy in the late afternoon/evening? This is your cortisol kicking back into high gear. If your body continues to do this for long periods of time, you will experience impaired cognitive function (you will have trouble thinking, making decisions, and reacting), as well as other health issues such as a lowered immunity and unhealthy weight gain. Even if you force yourself to sleep, your sleep will not be restful, and your brain will not be able to properly re-set and process, which can cause us to feel and act mad.

So, what can we do? We’ve all probably read the self-help articles on how to deal with stress, and their suggestions can range from practical to weird to unattainable: go to the gym says one; yell at your boss and get it off your chest recommends another (don’t – it’s a bad idea); go on a cruise and get away suggests a third. Whatever the suggestion is, they all share a common factor: focus on you – make yourself feel better by an external element.

I’d like to offer a slightly different approach. Find a quiet place and bare your soul. Get to the root of the stress. Find what is really triggering that reaction, and learn how to not just cope but conquer. We need to learn to condition our bodies to not be consistently reacting to stressors. In order to do that, we must deal with the root and not merely treat the symptoms.

We all find quiet in different places. Sometimes it might be in the car by ourselves or in a crowded store where we don’t know anyone and are able to retreat into the farthest recesses of our mind. Or maybe it’s on the porch at twilight or in the barn next to the horses. Or maybe it’s on top of a mountain watching the sunset or on the seashore with a sunrise or at noonday in a tree. Or maybe it’s in a closet or in the bath or in your favorite chair with a cup of tea. Wherever it is; go there for a half an hour or an hour and let your head stop spinning and let your thoughts get quiet. And while the world will still be spinning wildly around you, let out a deep breath and bring your mind to a standstill. Relish the nothingness for a few moments (I know, this can be really hard for girls, but seriously, try it). Then as your mind has finally gotten quiet, and there is only you and God, bare your soul. Pull out all the emotions, circumstances, worries, and frustrations. Lay them out on the table, and one by one, talk about each one. Label them. Analyze them. Be inquisitive about them – ask questions, but not in a demanding tone. Shed tears if necessary. Then sit quietly and wait for a reply. “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

Scripture tells us that Jesus would go into the wilderness to pray. Christ teaches us to go and pray in our closets away from the eyes of men. And in Psalms, we are commanded to be still. We all need to take time to be still and quiet and lay our burdens down before Jehovah. Otherwise, we will be as mad as hatters.

“Be still and know that I am God:” Psalm 46:10

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exhalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

~Jo

Why Don’t The Children Read?

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“I hate reading.” Oh how I cringe and weep inside when a child says those words! Where have they missed the bridge between ink on a page and the passport of the mind? More and more often, I hear those fateful words, and I wonder “Why don’t the children read?”

There is a pattern that I have observed in children who hate or dislike reading. Commonly, the books they have been given to read are on subjects that do not interest them – do not capture their imagination. So while we may think that all children should quote Shakespeare and Milton by the age of 5; they will never, ever dare to test the waters if they have never read anything interesting. Reading is viewed by them now as a chore and an immense bore. They would never dream of picking up a book just for the sheer pleasure of reading it.

So let me encourage you that when you are introducing the world of the written word to a child, you should not view them as minds to be filled but rather as minds to be cultivated. Find what interests them, and start them reading there. If they like horses or dogs, give them books like Misty of Chincoteague or Big Red. If they like pirates, let them read Pippi Longstocking, Coral Island, Mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty, and Kidnapped. If they dream of far off places, daring sword fights, and the days of yore, then let them read of the heroes of old in the fairy tales, give them The Princess and the Goblin and The Coronet of Horse; then work them up to books like The Three Musketeers and The Scarlet Pimpernel. If they prefer stories of home, then let them read books like An Old-Fashioned Girl, Farmer Boy, and Mildred Keith. Maybe they love mysteries; give them The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Father Brown, and, eventually, Sherlock Holmes. You may even find a child who would rather read a how-to book than a novel; that, too, should be encouraged. Find books that capture their imagination. And then slowly introduce books that hold the same elements, but introduce new ideas or ways of expressing ideas.

Do not be disheartened because a child has been captured by the simple story of Misty of Chincoteague. That can lead them in a million different directions. They might race across the Arabian plains in King of the Wind or experience the great love and devotion found in Lassie Come-home. And those stories can lead to others, as they might discover a fascination for Arabia or wish to do further research on working dogs. And so each book is a start to another story, another path, another discovery. And they build one on another. Encourage children to read those stories. I, however, must give a word of caution: the written word is powerful, so make sure that what they read is sound; good for both the mind and the character, as well as appropriate for their individual level of maturity. There are millions of books in the world, choose them wisely. As the children mature, both in mind and body, their literature will mature with them. And one day, you never know, they might surprise you with a quote from Hamlet.

~Jo

*If you are no longer a child, but hate reading, here is a note for you: you are never too old to read a children’s story. C.S. Lewis once said, “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” So don’t feel silly reading fairy tales and children’s stories. There is no shame in going back to tap into that wellspring of wonder.

“…if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”~C. S. Lewis. Be progressive! Read a children’s book and discover the joy of reading.

This Is Me. Who Are You?

21587507794_e27f86d00b_kHave you ever stopped to wonder how others would describe you? How they talk about you to those they know? Attractive. Intelligent. Kind. Weird. Reserved. Dangerous. What are the words that they use? Has that question ever crossed your mind? It has mine – many times. Ever since I started working outside the home and became a part of a work-team, I have often wondered how they describe me. Was I the know-it-all girl that didn’t say much? Or was I the reliable one who was reserved and hard to get to know? Or was I the strange bird who didn’t fit anywhere and whom no one could figure out? One day, I got a glimpse at how one person described me to others who didn’t know me. It was along the lines of: “She’s quiet and reserved, but with time she opens up.” So that’s how they perceive me: quiet and reserved. Ok, that is better than the description I had gotten a couple years earlier of being the tall redheaded girl with a ponytail. (For the record, my hair is a non-descript blonde color. Not red.) But was that the only way I was described? Things have a way of coming full-circle at my workplace, and I have received some pretty strange questions that have led me to believe that they talked about me quite a bit; or at least way too much for my comfort. But were any of their perceptions correct? Did they accurately describe me? Most of the time, I didn’t feel as though they got me right. Like the time my boss told me I was low-key and not prone to being emotional or temperamental. At that point, I confess, I laughed at the description. I have a temper something awful and I am most certainly not low-key. As we say in my family, “I just play one on TV.” But he insisted he was right in his perception of me. However, I knew that’s not who I really was.

Often there is quite a difference in how people perceive us and how we actually are. Businesses, colleges, and other people push us to take these “personality tests” to find out who we “really are.” I’ve often gotten to the end of one of those tests and sat there thinking: “Some of it is right, but it is not me dead on.” Why is that? I answered all of the questions as honestly and accurately as possible. And yet, I’m getting a “not-quite” personality result. So, one day, I had my mother – the person who knows me best – take the test for me. The result was accurate. Well, that’s strange. I recorded my result and her result. Then I had her take the test for herself. And then I took it for her. We got two different results. My result for her was the accurate one. Hmm, that is peculiar. So, I contacted my dad to find out his personality type. Then Mom and I took the test for him. Again, they were two different results. And again, the one we took was more accurate than the one he took himself. At this point, I took the results I had and laid them out to see if there was a pattern. And what do you know, but that there was! Every one of us switched two letters between profiles. For example, I am really INTJ, but when I take the test the result is ISFJ. I swapped out my iNtuitive and Thinking for Sensing and Feeling.

So I started thinking about it. What was my second “fake” personality there for? Was it just my mind playing tricks on me or was it there for a purpose? That’s when I went back to how my coworkers describe me. It seemed so close and yet something was off, just like my “fake” personality. Was that it? Did I live in this other personality when I was at work? I took a closer look. The personality and my coworkers’ words lined up. They were one and the same. So, people who don’t know me very well or who I don’t trust yet see this other personality. That makes the ISFJ my “professional” personality, so to speak. The outside world that I come into contact with on a surface level sees a façade of the real me in this other personality. It’s not really “betraying” my real self since I still hold onto my Introvert and Judging qualities. Rather, I have developed myself to put forward a personality which I think is more acceptable for the circles that I am in. If I were to be my true INTJ self, it wouldn’t be acceptable in those circles. They would not be able to handle it. Therefore, in a “professional” setting: at work, at a rabbit show, in a club meeting, at the farmer’s market, at church with the entire church (not the individuals that I have a personal relationship with); I am my “professional” personality, the ISFJ – the Defender. And at home with my family or close friends, I am free to be my real personality, the INTJ – the Architect. So when someone says, “Hey, you’re really low-key;” they’re not mistaken. My “professional” personality is really low-key, but the real me is not. I choose to present to the world an image of a person that I like and feel comfortable introducing other people to. And that just so happens to be the same as my mom’s real personality; the one I get to see every day.

So, this is me. Who are you?

~Jo

Singleness Awareness Day

IMG_2690“So what are you and your significant other doing for Valentine’s Day, dear?”

“I don’t have a significant other.”

“Oh, I’m sorry! Did you just break up? That must be so hard!”

“Actually, no. I’ve never had a boyfriend.”

“No?! There must be something wrong with the boys.”

Yes, I am sorry to say that that was an actual conversation that I had at work with a customer one February. She, kind lady that she was, was trying to be conversational as I was helping her find whatever she was looking for. But her fatal mistake was that she assumed that because I was 1) of age and 2) female that, of course, I was in a relationship. And I’m sorry to say, as well, that she was not the only customer who made that mistake that year. I had many such conversations as the one above as the time drew nearer to Valentine’s Day, and I was not alone. My co-workers were also subjected to these encounters. It finally became so apparent to us that the singles were being singled out (no pun intended), that we got together to create a type of “support group” so that we could laugh over the day’s misadventures at the end of our shift. Because really, it did seem as if the whole world was against the fact that there were actually people who weren’t in a relationship.

Time has gone on from there. I am still blissfully single – a bachelor girl. I have talked to many a girl who does not have a fellow in her life, and there is a common thread through the conversations. We all feel as if the world ranks us as third-class citizens simply because we have not “gotten ourselves a man”. We are neither married nor engaged nor dating, and so we must only be half a person who is desperately seeking for our other half. And so we girls go through life with this idea following us around that in order to be a whole person, we must get married – the sooner the better.

Surprisingly, even girls who have been raised in the Christian church face this pressure. We go through our lives in church, and we are taught that one day we will get married. And the kind, well-meaning people who surround us tell us that we will meet our future husband in youth group; that he will be one of our friends’ brothers. And when we have reached college age and still have no ring, we go off to our Christian (or non-Christian) colleges where we are assured that we will meet our future spouse. But then graduation day arrives, and we may still have not so much as been in a relationship all four years. So we return with our degrees in hand, but no husband in tow and those around us begin to view us as failures. They tell us to go out more. Be more friendly. Not to throw ourselves into our work too much, but leave room for a social life. They offer helpful tips and advice…or even offer to set us up with their cousin’s best friend’s brother’s son. We join the singles group at church, and we are promised that we will meet “the one” there. And yet, time ticks away and year follows year. Still “the one” has  not shown his face. Now we are in our later twenties or early thirties, and our friends and relations have reluctantly given up all hope of us ever getting married. We are now branded as “single” and the message is sent to us loud and clear that “we are not good enough” and that we will never be “complete”, that we are “missing out”, and that, well, they just don’t know what to do with us. There never seems to be an option to be single and happy about it. We are presented with every new “prospect” who shows up in hopes that we will one day be “complete”.

Doubt, which has been festering in our minds and souls since middle school, erupts full force with all of its poison.

“I’m not pretty enough”       “What’s wrong with me?”           “I’m too smart”

“I’m forever doomed to loneliness”

“I’m a failure”    “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough?”

All of these lies that the Deceiver throws our way wash over us in a torrent. And maybe you’re one of those girls who battles this flood of lies every day even though you are still considered “marketable”. But let’s call them what they are: LIES…and let’s take a look at where this idea that we are “half a person” came from.

The Greek philosopher Plato wrote a work called Symposium. In it, he introduced the idea that once upon a time, humans actually had two faces, four arms, and four legs. Because this made them so powerful, they sought to overthrow the gods of Olympus. In order not to lose the offerings and service of the humans, the gods split them in half instead of killing them. Humans now run around their entire life looking for their other half, and once they have found it, they do not want to let it go. And so was introduced the idea of soulmates.

Another idea of soulmates was introduced by Judaism. There is a teaching in the Talmud which says that 40 days before the conception of a male child, a voice from heaven declares who’s daughter he will marry. This is called a “match made in heaven” (you may recognize the phrase if you have seen the Fiddler on the Roof) or “bashert”.

But what does Scripture teach us? Are we half a human before marriage? On the contrary, Scripture teaches the opposite. The Apostle Paul says in his letters to the Corinthians that he wishes that people would be content to be single; that it could be viewed as a gift, but is definitely not a curse (1 Corinthians 7:1-9). In Genesis, when God makes Adam, He does not say “Oops! I made half a man. Now I have to complete him.” No. Instead, He says that it is not good for man to be alone, and so He makes a suitable helper for him. But this helper is also complete herself. (Genesis 2:18, 20-24). And the two become as one flesh, blending together in a new creation. But they were two complete creations before marriage. Not halves. Not incomplete. But whole.

So, to all my single sisters out there, listen up! You Are Complete. You Are Not A Failure. Rejoice in this season that God has given you. It is a training ground for the season into which you are heading next. That might not be marriage. God might have other plans for your life. But you are not a third-class citizen or even a second-class citizen because you are single. You are infinitely loved. Jesus Christ the Son of God still died for YOU. And He rose again victorious. You don’t need a husband to embrace that fact. All you need is to keep your eyes focused on what really matters: Glorifying God and Enjoying Him forever. This will look different for everyone. Some will do this through marriage. And others of us will blissfully be bachelor girls to the end of our days, and bring glory to God with our lives in ways that our married sisters never could. So embrace this season of singleness; and accept that you are complete just the way you are.

~Jo