I’m in the middle of a book on introversion (more on that in a later post, after I’ve finished the book).  I just finished a great chapter on being ultra-sensitive.  You know, that kid whose dad tells him to “man up” and wipe off his sissy tears.  That woman whose best friend tells her to get a thicker skin or she’ll  never survive the world of dating.

Or me.

Until 2010, being an introvert was listed as a pathology; like  a fear of public speaking, it was considered a disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the psychiatrists’ book of mental disorders).  Recent studies, however, show that introverts, and especially introverts who are also highly sensitive, just happen to be born that way.

People who are highly sensitive tend to be highly reactive; it takes very little stimulus to overpower them.  Crowds, new environments, even caffeine or alcohol, all affect highly sensitive people more than the average person.  I can attest to this.  Although I’ve developed a little bit of a tolerance for caffeine, I can still get a “bounce off the walls” buzz off very little.  A single drink is my alcohol limit.  First dates, job interviews, and new surroundings exhaust me.  Some of this I’ve come to just accept about myself.  Other parts, though, I try to change.  After all, you can’t get through life without going to a few job interviews.  If you end up newly single at the age of 40, you either settle for being alone or you figure out how to deal with dating again.

I get the added bonus, of course, of having stress affect my ulcerative colitis.  When I go through too many stimulating activities in the same time period, I get sick.  Period.  I can eat perfectly, sleep more than enough, and do everything else right.  If I, say, have a job interview, a wedding with a bunch of strangers, and an extended family gathering all in the same week, though, I’ll get sick.  (This happened last year around the Fourth of July.)  I’ve learned to pretty much put the rest of my life on hold if I have to go to a job interview; my body can’t handle more than that.

To an outside observer, especially one who is an extrovert who is often bored, someone like me may not seem to be making any progress.

I’m supposed to be finding a new place to live.  I can only do it in steps, because more than that overwhelms me.  Unfortunately, that makes it look like I’m not trying at all, which generates comments, which makes me try harder… which makes me ill.  Then I have to start all over.

A lot of people can’t tell, from the outside, that I have problems like this.  Apparently my frontal cortex is well enough trained that I can override my amygdala (that part of you that tells you when to panic) and appear relaxed among strangers.  I can deal with stress (outwardly).  But, just like my sensitive #2 son, I don’t like scary movies.  I’m more attuned to noises, smells, and textures.  I hate big crowds… or smaller crowds of strangers.

There are some strengths to being like this (strengths wrapped up in curses, as it turns out).  I’m very empathetic.  I literally feel other people’s pain, whether I want to or not.  When I went through my divorce, I experienced far more pain for hurting my ex-husband and my kids than for anything I was going through.  When I watch a sad movie, I cry because I feel what the actor is portraying.  I ache for those in need, especially children.

The curse of that, of course, is that I have to be able to deal with life.  I don’t have the luxury of closing myself off from pain.  I also can’t just “suck it up”.  Instead, I’ve learned to distance myself when I can’t deal anymore (or sometimes before I can’t deal).  I have an amazing set of emotional walls– not because I don’t like people or don’t care, but because I care too much.  I retreat behind my walls so I can function in everyday life.

Before you think, “Oh, cue the violins!  Someone’s having a pity party!”… I’m not.  I like who I am.  Being sensitive means that something as simple as sunset can bring me as much pleasure as  $2000 cruise brings someone else.  Seeing someone hurt causes me pain, yes, but if I can do anything to relieve that pain, it brings me a lot of joy, too.  I experience very low lows (I have been suicidal at times), but I’ve also been absolutely giddy with joy (without ever once being drunk).

I guess my only real issue with being sensitive is that it’s undervalued in our society.  It’s mocked.  Even though I can deal with a root canal with only a local, was a female flatbed trucker, and am about as far from a “girly-girl” as you’re likely to meet, I’m not ever going to be able to just shrug off the little things in life.  I can act like I do… but the reactions and the effect on my nervous system will still be the same.  For that, I get misunderstanding, ridicule, or even well-intentioned advice on how to change.

The biggest upside to being ultra-sensitive?  I bounce back from pretty much anything if you give me enough time.  Better yet… I’ll be there to help my friends (or even my “enemies”) bounce back when something overwhelms them, because I know how it feels.

You can man up if you want to.  I’ll be here when you need a shoulder to cry on later.

 

 

I follow a few male bloggers who regularly bemoan their inability to understand women.  (Actually, they regularly bemoan women’s inability to be understood, but since the flaw is obviously a male one, I decided to rephrase that.)

Here’s the thing: men aren’t meant to understand women.  Women are meant to teach them how to deal with an unknowable God.  We will never fully understand God; we’re not meant to fully understand Him.  Men will never fully understand women; they’re not meant to understand us.

Newsflash:  Women do not understand women either.  You didn’t think only men get an insight into not being able to fully know God, did you?

Even though I certainly don’t claim to understand women (hey, most of my closest friends are male or females with lots of male friends), I do understand how they think.  (You hush… we do think.)

By way of example, I offer Eve in the Garden of Eden:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Genesis 3:6

This is the story of when Satan (successfully) tempts Eve into eating the forbidden fruit and thereby curses the earth for all humanity.  But it does tell how women think.

“… the fruit of the tree was good for food”

Contrary to what men think, 90% of a woman’s decisions are based on practicality.  They have to be, or we’d be overwhelmed.  Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there and weeding through it can be confusing, so our “practical” decisions don’t always work.

One week we are eating low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb, processed diet shakes with every meal… the next week, we’ve discovered we need good fats, low-calorie causes our bodies to hang onto calories, low-carb for long periods taxes your liver (I think… see, even I get confused about this stuff and this is one of my passions), processed food is generally bad, and artificial sugars make you want more sugar.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

In spite of the confusion, behind all this is a desire for a practical decision: wanting something that is good for us.

“… and pleasing to the eye…”

It’s funny.  Men are thought to be the more visual half of the species while women are the more verbal (again, hush).  Yet it is women who worry over the aesthetic of beauty.  Decorating the home, staying in shape, trying to look young, dressing for success, wearing just enough makeup to look polished but not so much that we look easy… even the most tomboy-ish of us (yours truly) occasionally gets caught up in the “pleasing to the eye” aspect.

Men throw mismatched furniture into a room, build up a beer belly with pride, and never have to worry about makeup.   Honestly, men have it easy.

“… and also desirable for gaining wisdom…”

I think this is the aspect of how women think that men get the least.  Women need to know details.  Whether it’s following the Brangelina drama, finding out why Kari and Kim aren’t talking to each other, knowing why we aren’t supposed to be going South Beach any longer, or just understanding how a man’s mind works, we want insight, wisdom, and understanding.  We just want it in a way men don’t understand.  Really, we don’t understand it either.

I’d like to be able to just take something my boyfriend tells me and file it away, face-value, for the long-term.  But my brain instantly starts thinking about the reasoning behind what he said.

Okay, he said he really liked the lighting in my picture.  Does that mean he thinks I used to light it poorly?  Or maybe he thinks that the rest of the picture blows chunks and the lighting was the nicest thing he could say.  Or maybe…

Note one: my boyfriend has not, to this point, made this comment (and probably never will now).  I made it up to protect the innocent.

Note two: women don’t like being this way.  We’d like to have everything work out in our brains the first time.  Men being frustrated over us being this way just makes us more frustrated and irrational.

So, there’s why you don’t understand women in a nutshell: you don’t get Genesis 3:6.  Okay, so there are other bits to us, like hormones and spaghetti memory, but these three basics tend to drive most of how we think.

Now when men don’t understand us, they only have themselves to blame.

I ride the train pretty regularly in my commute to and from work.  On Wednesday, I was on my commute home and the train… stopped.  Just one stop before home and we were told it might be a while before it moved again.

I dithered about it for a while, but I finally got my bike off the train rack, pulled up energy I didn’t really have, and started biking for home: 11 miles.  I’m a good runner, but only a decent biker, so 11 miles largely along CA-118 was a daunting thought…. and a long ride.

It didn’t take long before I was offering up prayers for my safety, songs of thanksgiving when big 18-wheelers were kind enough to not make me roadkill (and draft me for 4.2 terrifying seconds to boot), and promises of eternal gratitude if I just made it home safely.

Then I started getting convicted.  That’s cheating, God.  I’m just saying.

You see, I’m having a forgiveness issue lately.  I used to never have a forgiveness issue.  I got mad, sure, but once it was over, it was over.  Not so much lately.  I have some legitimate bones to pick and I don’t feel like burying them and moving on.

But God wants me to move on for my own good.

Did I mention that’s cheating, God?

So, about halfway along the 118, I start getting angry about the stuff I haven’t forgiven.  Maybe I wouldn’t even be biking if those things hadn’t happened.  (Yeah, I probably still would.)  Maybe my life would be better.  Maybe…

Maybe you should get around to forgiving sometime soon and moving on.

Uh.  I don’t want to forgive.  I mean, yeah, I don’t like the fact that there are times I can get myself in an absolute dither just because I remember I’m supposed to be mad about this stuff, but… I was wronged!  If that person cared about me at all, they would apologize.  They wouldn’t have hurt me like that in the first place.

If you cared about them at all, you’d forgive them and understand that they may be dealing with things you can’t see.

Okay, maybe they are dealing with something.  I get that.  But do I have to be the scapegoat?  When I was going through stuff…

… you made a lot of mistakes and messed up quite a few people’s lives.  That was a lot to forgive.

I made a few mistakes.  Okay, yes, and there was a lot of forgiving.  But you’re God.  You’re supposed to forgive me because You love me!

You’re my child.  You’re supposed to forgive those who wrong you because you love Me.

Okay, seriously, God… that’s cheating.  But… I get it.

So, before I got home (in great time, I might add!), I made a commitment to forgive.  But it’s not over.  Oh, no.

Independence Day was July 4, 1776.  But that wasn’t when our country truly became free from England.  We just signed a piece of paper and fired a few shots.  True independence took years of pitched battles, sacrifice, and commitment.

Forgiveness and independence from my own bitterness is probably going to take the same.  But you have to start somewhere, right?

It’s a good day to have my own Independence Day.

This weekend, our sermon was on worship.  The pastor made a great analogy in the middle of the sermon.  He said (very paraphrased), “Everyone prays at some point.  Sometimes they pray in desperation and then wonder why God doesn’t answer their prayers.  This is like a one-time customer expecting to step ahead of a regular customer.”

This struck a nerve with me because I work for a wholesale hardware store that will cater to the retail public.  Our regular customers tend to get slightly better pricing, credit terms, and slightly better service than Joe Schmo off the street.  Why?  Because we have a relationship.

While I think that God listens to any genuine prayer (and He’s certainly not limited to a one-customer-at-a-time policy), He is still a God of relationships.  Maybe a faithful, longtime believer gets at least the feeling of priority because they know what it feels like to have God speaking to them.

I think the only real trump card in this situation is when someone prays the sinner’s prayer and gives God their life.  This is like the rare time when we get a one-time, $40,000 customer.  We walk that guy to the head of the line because he’s giving us something huge.   In the same way, a sinner coming to saving grace is giving their entire life– something pretty priceless.  His credit is definitely good; he’s paying with the blood of the Lamb.  He’s going to have God’s attention and (if he’s genuine), know it.

To take that a step further, we have some long-time customers who are not-so-faithful about paying up.  They rely on credit and their long relationship with us to get them by.  In the same way, a lot of Christians rely on a long-time relationship with God and a lot of blood-of-the-Lamb credit to get them to the next credit card.  They don’t pray all the time and they don’t grow; they just check in when they need something or feel like they have to pay their statement up. 

I’ve been struggling my way out of debt for a couple of years now.  I can tell you that there is absolute dread when an unknown number comes up on my phone.  I think “credit card” Christians tend to feel the same way.  Church feels like a blame game because they have something to pay up.  Prayer feels like nothing but a confessional.  There’s no relationship… just avoidance of the bill collector.

God’s not a retail store, so this analogy isn’t perfect.  But it still has a realness to it that I couldn’t shake.  I don’t want to be any version of a credit card pray-er.  I want prayer to be me having a conversation with someone I love, respect, and listen to.  I can’t do that as a retail Christian.  I have to buy into this relationship completely or not at all.

Time to be a wholesale Christian.

I admit it… I belong to an online dating site.  I’ve actually tried a few of them.  With the way my life runs, it seemed like the logical thing to do.

I wasn’t really that worried about it.  After all, before I got married, I met all but two of the guys I ever went out with online.  (Yes, that’s an admission of my geekiness.)  I met my ex-husband online.  How hard could it be?  It’s actually pretty tough (I may post why at another time), but that’s  not what this post is about.

Too many people on dating sites have unrealistic shopping lists.

Yep, I’m going to go there.  But let me make a comparison that will maybe help drive the point home.

If you want to go buy a car, you have a budget.  You make a list of what you really want and what you’d like to have and you go out, find a car within your budget, and you buy it.

I’m 41 years old.  I’ve been married.  I’m gonna guess this would put me (or any guy I’m likely to be connecting with) in the category of “used car” at this point.

Do you know how many 41-year-old men and women think they’re going to get not only a new car, but a customized new car.

“Yes, I want the one with the tinted sunroof, the removable seats, the extra chrome, Sirius/XM radio, blah blah blah”… and under my budget.

Let’s get a little serious here.

In your twenties and maybe early thirties, there’s still a pretty good selection out there.  As you get older, a lot of the “good” cars are already paid for.  Doesn’t mean someone doesn’t trade in a good model now and then… but even that good model might not match up with your extreme expectations.

I’ve watched more frustrated people get upset that there’s “no one available” than I’ve seen people get upset about movies being unavailable at the Redbox on a Friday night at 10pm.

If you’re in the same boat as I am, do yourself a favor: make a realistic list… and keep it short.  I have seen a list pretty close to this online:

“I want a man who loves God, loves me, loves my kids, is smart, sensitive, likes to go for long walks, loves my favorite movie, has a romantic side, knows how to lead but isn’t overbearing…”

Seriously, I’ve seen this (and she wasn’t done).

So do yourself (and the rest of the dating public) a favor.  Make a realistic list.  Then pare it down to just five musts.  I’ll even put mine up here, just so you can see what I mean.

  1. Must have an ongoing, personal relationship with God.  Would it be nice if he was active in his church, knew the Bible well, or had been a Christian all his life?  Yep.  Is it essential?  Turns out it’s not… not to me.
  2. Must love me and my kids.  We’re a package deal, the kids and I.  I don’t expect a man to come in and parent my kids; they have a dad.  I don’t expect him to necessarily even have ever wanted kids himself.  But he needs to love my kids because they’re my kids and they’re going to be around.  Be friends with them, not “daddy”.
  3. Have a sense of humor that fits with mine.  Serious all the time is not going to deal with me well… and I’ll probably get depressed.  On the other hand, if his sense of humor is a little too caustic or too “Three Stooges”, we might not ever make each other laugh.  I like laughing.  This is important to me.
  4. Be intelligent.  I’m not talking about book-learnin’.  I’m not even asking that we share the same interests– I’m more than willing to learn something new and I love to be challenged.  But… I’ll get bored.  I know, that sounds snobby.  I don’t mean it to sound that way.  It turns out it’s important to me, though.
  5. Be active.  I realise that when you hit the 40s, the waistline tends to expand on a lot of people.  Mine did for a while.  This isn’t so much about weight as it is about attitude.  Please don’t be the type who wants nothing more than to go home and “veg”.  I don’t need to be go-go-go all the time… but I do need to get moving on a regular basis.  If he’s not going with me, that’s a significant amount of time we’re spending apart.

So, not too complicated, right?  Notice that I don’t have age requirements (mine are pretty wide), height, weight, income, looks, or even location.  It would be nice to find a guy in my city, a little taller than I am, making decent money, who is within a few years of my own age.  But it’s not essential.  I can work with those variables.  I can’t really change the ones in my list of five.

If you’re out there and dating, think about your own list.  I challenge you to get it down to just five things… and everything counts.  If you do this, I’d love a comment about what you settled on, too.

For now, I’m going to stick to my list and be open about the extras.

Proverbs 31:12

She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

I think the wording for this portion of Proverbs 31 is telling.  It doesn’t say, “all the days she knows him” or “all the days she is wed to him”.  Before a woman even knows her husband, she brings him good, not harm.

First, please understand that I know as well as anyone that you can’t go back and change your past.  If God would give me a time machine, time turner, do-over, or Ghost of Christmas Past, I would take it in a heartbeat!  He doesn’t, though, so everything I’m saying here can only be applied from here on.  That doesn’t change its relevance.

Every single action in my life, including what I do when I am single, will affect my future husband (or current husband).  That one bad night in Vegas?  That might result in a bad marriage, pregnancy, STD, or just a drunken night on the town (with pictures).  The bad marriage will be baggage you might bring to your future marriage.  The pregnancy is either an abortion or a child that will follow you the rest of your life.  The STD will affect any future partner.  The drunken night on the town might affect him when he applies for a local political office or a spot in the church elders.

It’s sobering, isn’t it?  As I go back through every action in my life, I realise that there are at least three people being affected: me, God, and my husband.  (It also affects my kids, but we’ll stick with the husband for now.)

Beauty comes when your actions affect your husband in a positive way.  When something you do has a positive impact, then you can say your actions bring good, not harm to him.

For those (like me) who are divorced, here’s a hard one for you: your actions should still be bringing good, not harm, to the man you married.  Ouch.  Besides the obvious fact that what I say and do to my ex affects my children, what I say and do will still affect him.  I am not good at this one!  I try to limit what I say about him, but I need to actually be bringing him good??  I’m going to need a little help with this one, God.

If you keep your focus on God, doing good to your husband should be easy.  If, however, your focus on God slips, sometimes it’s helpful to me to at least consider that another human being might be hurt by my actions.  I hope I bring my husband good… today and every day.

 

Omega-3 fatty acids are needed by the body to run efficiently; our bodies don’t produce them.  Not only do they lower triglycerides, the risk of stroke, and have other benefits that testing still hasn’t proven, but they have beauty benefits, too.  It regulates oil production, keeping skin more supple, prevents acne, and delays the skin’s aging process to prevent wrinkles.

The best sources of Omega-3’s are fatty fishes, fish oils, flaxseed, and flaxseed oil.  Most of us don’t get nearly enough of any of these; 400-1000/mg a day is the recommended minimum.  Try adding a supplement, but also try things like having fish on Fridays, adding flaxseed to your oatmeal or yogurt in the mornings, or using fish oil in your cooking.  Every little bit helps.

   “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble  themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

 

I believe relationships are a need.  The Bible says that God didn’t think man should be alone, so He created woman.  We as people, even introverts, have a need to be with other people, to socialize, to relate, and to connect.

Too often,I don’t pray properly for those things I truly need.  Although the Lord’s Prayer  is most often used as a guideline for prayer, the above verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14 outlines another way to pray.

“If my people…”  The first step is to be sure I belong to God.  While He listens to all His children, He saves the best gifts for those who call Him father.

“… who are called by my name…”  Am I living in His name or hiding my relationship?  When I date, do I date anyone, or do I seek another who has His name written in his or her heart?  Until I am willing to take on God’s name as my own, my prayers are limited by my own ego.

“… will humble themselves…”  Oh, ouch.  This is the hardest one for me.  Admitting you need help is not something most of us like to do.  Admitting we need help in our relationships… that one stings.  After all, we know who we are and what we want!  We should be able to pick the right person out.  As someone who got what she wanted, I can say that doesn’t always work.  I want someone who knows who I am, who HE is, and is looking out for what I need.  In order to get that, I have to humble myself and say goodbye to my pride.  This one is up to God.

“… and pray…”  Okay, let me be honest here.  I pray, yes, but how often do I come before God time after time and pour out my need to Him?  I think I probably bug my mom more with what I need than I do God.  Until I am willing to talk to God time and time again about my needs, I am still trying to solve them myself.  It’s not a matter of time.  It’s a matter of doing.  When I wake up, “God, please bless the man You’ve chosen for me today.”  When I’m driving, God, please keep him safe and prepare his heart for me.”  When I go to bed, “God, take a special place in his heart as he sleeps.”  Why don’t I do that?

“… and seek my face…” Maybe, just maybe, what I want on my time and my terms isn’t what I really need.  I need to stop pushing for my shopping list and start seeking what God has in store for me.  Until I seek His face and His will, I may get what I want, but I may deny myself what I need.

“… and turn from their wicked ways…”  I am no angel.  I’m not even in line to be a future saint.  I have messed up more times than I can count and I still struggle in areas.  I’m forgiven; I have no doubt about that.  But I still fall back into some of the same habits.  I get depressed about someone not liking me.  Why??!  That’s pure ego.  That person isn’t right for me!  I let conversation with a guy go past where it should (no, I don’t mean I get out there and have a full on sexting session, although I was guilty of that once.  I mean I skirt the edge, talking about things I should be saving for a committed relationship).  Until I turn from these wicked ways, I am limiting myself to my own desires.

“… then I will hear from heaven…”  I have four kids and the oldest one LOVES to talk.  A lot.  He could probably talk all day if he had someone to listen to him.  I learned very early on to let him talk sometimes and just pick up on the important stuff.  I know God is a lot less limited than I am, but sometimes I think that’s what He does.  He lets us talk, babble, share, whine, and celebrate, but He truly hears when we put our whole heart into it.

“… and I will forgive their sin…”  I’m divorced.  That’s a sin, no matter how I cut it.  Remarrying, that’s a sin, too.  (Want to get after me for the truth on that?  I might blog it one day.)  God forgives these sins, but I have to seek His forgiveness.  I can’t move on to a new relationship until I have found His forgiveness for the sins and failures of the last one.

“… and will heal their land.”  Replace land with heart.  Or life.  Or relationship.  The whole point is that God will heal.  If I truly seek Him in a new relationship and it really is what I need, then He will heal me and bring it to pass.

Now I just have to take the first step.