The Introvert’s Guide to the New School Year

As a confessed introvert, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to participate in my share of awkward first days of school. Let’s face it, I’ve had entire first semesters of bona fide awkwardness. It never really mattered if my experiences were good, bad or even funny; they have all been awkward and uncomfortable. My general disinterest in people has not been helpful, so I’ve had to develop techniques to navigate those first contacts.

 

Here are my tips for introverts facing a new school year:

 

  • Learn to live among people with grace, humor and Jesus.
  • I am not a fan of being touched by people. Handshakes, shoulder touches and hugs are always uncomfortable.  I avoid uncoordinated high-fives and those weird exchanges when one person expects a hug and the other expects a hand shake by always having my hands full. Carry your books in one hand and your lunch box in the other: my favorite, a Starbucks in one hand and my phone in the other. (Bonus Technique: This tip works on Sunday mornings too. When you don’t want to be approached by the aggressively friendly church greeters.)
  • Always be the one in control of the conversation.
  • Yes, introverts, this requires you to initiate the conversation. By being the first to speak, you might get out of the interaction without experiencing a mental breakdown. Remember, your goal is not to control the other person, but to define your own boundaries. Leave grace for the other person so they don’t feel rushed. Say something like “Hey, friend. I am heading to class in a couple of minutes, but I wanted to make sure I saw you. How’s your day going?”
  • By setting a predefined time limit (a couple of minutes) for your conversation, you set the conditions of your escape without leaving in silence while your extroverted friend wants to share every detail of her family’s summer vacation. You get to say everything you wanted at the beginning and limit the parameters of the conversation.  As introverts, we tend to be curt to others without even noticing. This can be offensive or make you seem aloof and uncaring. By initiating conversation, you show intentionality and that you really do care. If the person you are talking to knows you well, they will understand how hard it is for you to mingle, making your actions more meaningful to them.
  • Don’t feel guilty when you need to refuel by getting some alone time.
  • The start of the school year is the most chaotic and busy time for you. There are all kinds of activities. New sports seasons, homecoming and spirit nights all sound fun in theory and worthy of participation, but after one pep rally you’re exhausted. I know the feeling. In school, I tried to cope by being the overachiever and teacher’s pet. I felt compelled to sign up for every activity or event, but I never truly enjoyed myself.  I never took time to refuel.
  • It’s important to check in with yourself during these school years of your life. Don’t become so busy that you cannot do your best on your actual school work, but avoid isolating yourself to the point of loneliness. You need to find the right balance for you. The special recipe is different for everyone. Even extroverts have to find time to refuel in their own way.
  • Always pray first.
  • The main thing to remember as the new school year begins, is to go in with prayer. Let the Holy Spirit guide you and comfort you when you feel overwhelmed.
  • I have created a prayer guide that I believe would be helpful as you face the new school year.  Subscribe to my e-newsletter and download the prayer guide for free.

 

I am praying for all of you and I know the best is yet to come.

Use the link below to subscribe to my newsletter and get your prayer guide!

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Fear is a big fat LIAR

brown snowy mountain

To some people, climbing this mountain would be a dream come true. They would be excited about the adventure before them. They would look forward to standing at the summit and gazing down below. They would enjoy the thrill of the height and sense of accomplishment. They would tell all their friends, without a tremble in their voice, what they did and encourage them to do it too!

That’s great for those of you that like to do this kind of stuff.

Me… not so much. I was diagnosed with OCD and generalized anxiety disorder by my pediatrician. I was so neurotic as a child that I would have full blown panic attacks going from a different texture of floor to the next. i.e. wood to concrete to tile to carpet. It made me feel like I was falling. You know that feel when you’re half asleep and you feel like you’re falling. I felt like that going from my living room to my kitchen. Wide awake. I’ve since overcame that particular sensory issue, but I still struggle deeply with the same symptoms when I go up steep stairs i.e. nosebleed bleacher seats at a concert. I have severe vertigo-like symptoms when I go near anything resembling a mountain. I full on feel like I am going to pass out. Same thing happens when I’m near super tall buildings. Imagine my predicament when all I ever wanted was to go to NYC and my parents took me for my 16th birthday. I didn’t get acclimated until the last day we were there, I enjoyed my trip as long as we were inside. As soon as I would step outside, it LITERALLY felt like the world was crashing down on me. Sucking any joy I had out of that moment.

Most of my life I can remember fear stealing my joy. Sometimes it was social anxiety keeping me from making friend or when I did have friends they always wanted to do something I was afraid of. Things that the average person  wouldn’t think twice about doing.

The past couple of years I’ve slowly been trying to capture back my joy, ability to have fun, and even some of my happiness. Here are some things that I’ve learned.

  1. Having an anxiety disorder does not equal lack of faith in God
  2. Do not become superstitious with your prayers
  3. Ask your doctor about medicine for anxiety. It helps you, just find the right one.
  4. If you’re truly scared to do something do not let other people pressure you. It is okay to say no.
  5. God can miraculously heal you of fear, and use modern medicine to do it.

 

 

The Right to Bear The Armor of God: The Breastplate of Righteousness

Ephesians 6:14 says “Stand firm then… with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”

 

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Paul uses the example of armor in his letter to the Ephesians. Early Christians would have been very familiar with Roman soldiers in full armor. The image of a Roman guard would come right to mind when Paul says “the breastplate.” According to romanmilitary.net, the Romans did not always use a very large breastplate, but in fact a 20cm square piece of armor that they called “the heart guard.” It is likely that Paul and the Ephesians knew that “the breastplate” was synonymous with “the heart guard.” Paul was telling the church at Ephesus to guard their hearts! Perhaps he was describing the more common piece of armor that we picture that covers the whole chest of the soldier, these breastplates would have kept the soldiers up right with good posture, enhancing their intimidation factor and their ability to pay better attention in battle. Either way, Paul was trying to reach the heart of the church, not just give them a description of a man in armor.

Romans 3:22 explains that righteousness is given through Jesus to those that believe. Our righteousness is not our own. We cannot take ownership of it. We are only made righteous through Jesus and His work in us. Just like Paul tells us to put on the full Armor of God, Job says that he puts righteousness on like clothes. (Job 29:14)

We must also be aware that being right, does not always mean being righteous. When the pharisees would attempt to debate Jesus, His responses were always full of love and grace. His objective was never to prove that He was right for the sake of being right. (He didn’t need to, He is God after all.) Jesus wanted to see heart change in people and in His righteousness He knew it would do no good to argue.

It is not in our nature as humans to do what is right. Every fiber of our being is to do what is pleasing to ourselves not what is pleasing to God. However, when we are saved, Jesus’s perfect righteousness is what gives us grace to be imperfect people. The Holy Spirit helps guide us in our decision making and protect us from being corrupted by the world just like the breastplate of a soldier keeps him from being penetrated by a sword.

 

The Right to Bear The Armor of God: The Belt of Truth

Ephesians 6:10-17

 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,”

The Bible speaks more about clothes than you might think, both figuratively and literally. From Genesis, Adam and Eve were clothed in animal flesh after they were shamed by their nakedness; to the purple robe worn by Jesus in the moments leading to His crucifixion and the white robes the martyrs will receive in Revelation. These details might seem obscure, but these garments all point to Jesus and our redemption.

In Ephesians, Paul is writing to people he had probably never met, but were fellow believers in Christ. He beautifully reminded them of their true identity in Jesus. He applauds them for their faith in Jesus, but also instructs them on how to treat each others as fellow believers. It is like Paul waits to teach about the Armor of God, so the reader has a clear understanding of the tools needed to achieve success in their relationships and their lives. He uses The Armor of God as an example to express how much of our daily battles can only be fought when our eyes are set on Jesus. Our war is not against bad guys and terrorists and the jerks we encounter in traffic. Our war is against the one roaming about seeking whom he may devour. When we realize the reality of Christ in us and He provides a covering over us, we are prepared for supernatural battle (Ephesians 6:12).

Paul calls the Ephesians to armor first with the Belt of Truth. What is truth? It’s JESUS! He is the way, the truth, and the life. Paul says, “…the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation (Ephesians 1:13). When we buckle up our belt of truth, we are putting on the foundation of our armor; the soldier’s belt held his sword in preparation for battle. Our daily devotion to the truth of who Jesus is and the power of His resurrection makes us conquerors over death and the grave. Jesus gives us that same resurrecting power (Matthew 10:1).Spiritually. Physically. Miraculously.

We must arm ourselves with truth, because each day we step out into a world ruled by the father of lies, the enemy. Knowing the truth helps discern right from wrong and real from fake. Knowing the truth destroys every lie.

We must remind ourselves that it is the gospel of the truth that sets men free. (John 8:32)

 

 

Feeling Fruity: Faithfulness

Galatians 5:22-23 Says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Being faithful is making the conscience choice, in every moment, to be in communion with God. If you are consistently in God’s presence you will inevitably display faithfulness because He is faithful.  Looking at each fruit, they individually reveal the characteristics of God. He is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. When showing the Fruits of the Spirit, you are showing His character and what He has done in you.

The characteristics of God are defined throughout the Bible:   

Love: 1 John 4:16 shows that God, Himself, is love. When we live in love we are living in Him and He lives in us. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2017/12/19/feeling-fruity-lovde/

Joy: Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. By sacrificing Himself, we would be with Him forever. That’s all Jesus has ever wanted. We are His joy. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2018/01/09/feeling-fruity-joy/

Peace: Isaiah 9:6 prophesied about the coming Messiah saying that His literal name would be Prince of Peace. He brings us the peace that surpasses all understanding. This peace can only come from Him, Our Savior. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2018/01/24/feeling-fruity-peace/

Patience: 2 Peter 3:9 gives a clear description of His patience when He waits for us to come to Him.  God is infinitely patient with us and gives infinite opportunities to receive His best. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2017/12/05/being-fruity-patience/

Kindness: Ephesians 2:7 says that God’s grace is expressed through His kindness. His kindness is what draws us to repentance. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2018/02/02/feeling-fruity-kindness/

Goodness: Psalm 34:8 tells us to taste and see God’s goodness.  His goodness is tangible. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2017/12/13/feeling-fruity-goodness/

Faithfulness: Romans 3:3 explains that God’s faithfulness is not dependent on our faith in Him. He never fails us, even though every day we fall short of His glory.

Self-control: Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way, but unlike us, He never sinned. Because we have Him in us, we always have a way out of temptation. (1 Corinthians 10:13) https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2018/01/01/feeling-fruity-self-control/

God is so loving that we are able to love others. He is joyful, so we are able to feel inexplicable joy in the midst of any circumstance. He is peaceful, therefore we have peace that is impossible to comprehend. He has unlimited patience for us, so we are able to endure anything life throws at us. God is kind, so we can be kind to even those that are unkind. His goodness enables us to do good things. He is faithful to His promises, not because of anything we deserve, but it is His grace that builds our faith in Him. God is completely self-controlled, everything He does is with purpose, even when we do not understand His purpose (which is most of the time.)

By growing these fruits in us, which can only come from God, our lives show a glimpse of Jesus. If we are living our moments with Jesus, our character becomes more like His.

 

 

Feeling Fruity: Gentleness

Galatians 5:22 Says But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Have you ever heard someone say something so stupid and wrong that it’s like they are asking for immediate correction? Maybe it’s a misguided political opinion or their vote for favorite “Golden Girl” doesn’t match with your own choice.  You are so sure of your own opinions and answers that you make it a mission to correct your uninformed opponent. Because you are RIGHT, you just have to jump in to prove them wrong. Your goal is to ultimately get them to AGREE with you by any means necessary. Guess what? It is not going to happen.

Proverbs 15:1 says “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” I would bet that when you’re responding to these stupid, wrong, disagreeable statements, that you are not giving a gentle answer. The less gentle we are, the less gentle others will be. So many arguments start and grow from the simple fact that both parties want to prove that they are right. I am certainly guilty of this, and it usually almost always back fires. There are times when I am unequivocally correct.  I even have proof from multiple sources accredited by the source of all sources, Google.  Truthfully, it really doesn’t matter how “right” I am if I leave a trail of hurting people in my wake.

As Christians we sometimes have the reputation of being harsh and quick to think we are right without considering the other party’s side. We can be judgmental. The second part of Proverbs 15:1 says “a harsh word stirs up anger.” As Christians, it is our duty to show the love of Jesus. It is not our job to correct others or our right to judge them. Jesus is not judgmental and sanctimonious and He definitely does not want us to be. We all know the feeling of being judged and criticized.  It’s never fun. Our words should always be constructive; never destructive. 

Being Christ-like requires us to understand that He is not staring down with a critical eye, waiting for you to mess up. In fact, He is constantly giving us GENTLE correction and guidance through the Holy Spirit. What if we tried to be more like that? If we see something in someone’s life worth speaking to, let’s pray for guidance on what to say and pray that God will let us know if it’s us that needs to do the speaking. Let us say whatever needs to be said in a gentle way that builds up others instead putting them down. Being right does not equate to being effective.  

By the way, Sophia is the best “Golden Girl.”

 

Feeling Fruity: Kindness

Galatians 5:22 says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Being a person in the twenty-first century can, honestly, just be weird. We are so caught up in the negative, the drama of social media, and whatever is going on in our own heads, that we are surprised when someone is genuinely kind to us. We have “please” and “thank you” instilled in us from the time we can talk. Those phrases become so automatic when talking to our baristas, although we seem to have more real affection for our iced Americanos than we do the humans making them.

We have confused politeness with kindness. I am guilty of this time after time. I am so focused on what’s next that interactions with people become an inconvenience. People that are not directly benefiting me often meld together and I no longer see them as individuals.  Of course, I am the same person that complains about not having any friends and that “people seem so cold and distant nowadays.” I am a hypocrite. 

As I recognized this flaw in myself, I resolved to love people better. This takes more conscious effort than you’d think. I try to find at least one thing that I love about a person, even people I know I’ll never see again. I make an effort to say “have a blessed day” and be the one that catches them off guard, because of my well-intended kindness. These are all great tips, but it’s not enough. Saying “nice” things does not equate to genuine kindness. You see, Jesus loves people just because we’re people. He doesn’t love us because we have done anything worth loving. We haven’t done anything worth receiving His kindness. We simply exist and our Creator is content with loving us for that very reason. 

We are meant to be “imitators of God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2) That does not mean being “nice” just for the sake of looking “nice.” It means making each interaction count with every person. Remembering that you may be the only glimpse of Jesus that person sees, requires you to make it matter. We are ambassadors of Christ and we need to represent Him accurately. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Being kind to someone can actually change their path and show them a better picture of Jesus and less of ourselves.

 

 

Feeling Fruity: Peace

Galatians 6:22 says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

I have struggled to achieve peacefulness since the day I born. As a young child, living with generalized anxiety disorder and OCD meant having panic attacks when my clothes felt uncomfortable or making other people taste my food before I would dare take a bite. As an adolescent it meant not having many friends, because social interactions made me nauseous. As an adult in my early twenties, it means having a fear of my life never working out.

My mind turns rapidly from thought to thought, leaving each fear unresolved as I move to the next one. Sleep time is replaced with fear and doom.  As a child when someone said the “Now I lay me down to sleep,” prayer with me, I would stay awake all night. The prayer of peace and comfort included the soothing words, “if I die before I wake…” I would like to know who thought this was a good idea to tell the kids they might die sometime during the night, then turn off the lights and close the door, leaving a child alone in the dark with two thoughts: I might die tonight and I may not be ready (I pray the Lord my soul to take…).

Growing up as a Christian, I had a bit of a complex, how could I trust God in everything, yet I worried about hurricanes when I lived in a landlocked state.  I often felt guilty for being anxious. Well-meaning Christians did not help ease my guilt when they told me to pray more or to read my Bible more. They assumed my worry resulted from a lack of faith, when it is actually a chemical imbalance in my brain. It was a result of being born.

There is a difference between worrying about life’s big things and having anxiety about irrational things. Essentially there are normal people worries (college, jobs, relationships, or money) and irrational anxieties (texture of foods, looking at tall buildings or walking up staircases with vertical openings between each step).  This is not to say that God can’t heal your anxiety; He absolutely can and He wants to. I am saying that anxiety should be treated as a mental health issue and not as a faith issue punctuated with the accompanying judgements about a person’s faith.

Chronic fear sometimes drains the life out of me. It drains me emotionally, physically, and SPIRITUALLY. Proverbs 14:30 says that “a heart at peace gives life to the body.” Jesus knows the toll that fear can take on the body and He also knows what can help. In Isaiah 26:3-4 God discusses keeping people in perfect peace, because their minds are steadfast. Why are their minds steadfast? Because they trust in Him.

Having worry thoughts can definitely bring doubt into your heart. Doubt that can cause your faith to waver. 1 Peter 3:11 says that we must seek and pursue peace. Whether spiritually or mentally we shouldn’t let ourselves stay in turmoil. How do we do that? We seek and pursue The Prince of Peace. Jesus Himself is our peace. (Ephesians 2:14) When seeking after God, that’s when the Fruit of the Spirit will flourish.

The Lord wants you to be at peace in your spirit and your mind. They feed into each other. Peace is not a life without trouble or fear, but living with the knowledge that your Savior is bigger than the trouble life brings you.