Monday, May 31, 2010

June 1--Hug Your Cat Day

Okay, so tomorrow is Hug Your Cat Day. That caught my attention when I read it. Most animals don't enjoy hugging, but I've seen my kiddos hug cats--and also dogs, deer, ponies, frogs, and just the other night, salamanders.

But, there is just something innate in humans that makes us want to express our love and warmth for other living things by hugging them. Most domesticated animals tolerate hugging even though it goes against their natural inclinations. When a dog or cat hugs another dog or cat it has much different meaning, if you get my drift.

About five years ago, a kitten showed up out of the cornfield. A beautiful washed-out calico of light gray, white, and pale orange, she looked to be about four months old. Most likely she either wandered into the corn field and lost her way or her momma dropped her off there and left her to fend for herself. Either way, she hit pay-dirt when she found her way into our backyard. The kids named her Darla and she followed us everywhere, crying non-stop unless you petted her. She even followed us around the house, crying outside the window of whatever room we happened to be in at the time. Soon she adjusted to life in the barn and settled down. But one really annoying habit remained--her claws.

Outdoor cats need their claws to catch mice and birds and to fend off attacks from stray cats, coyotes, or dogs. They keep them razor sharp and don't realize the damage they can do, even in play or affection. If you don't pay attention quick enough to her pleas for a little lovin', Darla climbs up you to get in your face. In the summer when clothing is minimal, this makes for a mighty uncomfortable experience! Darla is not content to just sit at your feet and let you pet her. Like so many animals, she doesn't rest until she is literally face-to-face with you. If you make the mistake of picking her up, she hoists herself up--using those dagger-like claws--to push her nose right up yours.

Well, the summer that Darla came, Jot decided she would be his "girlfriend". He'd cart her around the yard, lie in the grass with her, swing her on the swing with him, and sneak her into the house to snuggle on the couch and watch TV. He told everyone that would listen that when he grew up Darla would be his wife. (I resisted the urge to tell him that I was pretty sure this was illegal. I hoped he would grow out of it--he has.)

I've told you before about Jot's objection to clothing, so it should come as no surprise to you that for most of the summer--at least when we are home--Jot typically wears only cut-off jeans and nothing else. The rest of us couldn't understand how this bare-chested little boy could haul this cat around all summer with nary a scratch on him.

One night, my hubby pulled in the driveway and noticed Jot, clad only in underwear, carrying Darla around the backyard singing to her. "Who ya got there?" asked hubby, shutting the barn door.

"My girlfriend."

"How come you are the only one who can carry that cat around and not get all scratched up?"

"Cause she loves me," replied Jot, rubbing his cheek on Darla's head.

"Why does she love you so much?"

"I give her cheese."

Apparently, all summer long, Jot had unwrapped the little cellophane-covered squares of cheese and fed them to his "girlfriend".

Do you have someone in your life that is "scratchy" to love? Maybe your teenager? Your boss? Your mother-in-law? The lesson God taught me through Jot's relationship with Darla is that love is worth going to extreme measures to get and to give. Through his little gift of cheese a few times a week, he had a fast friend for the entire summer.

There are people in our life that we are called to love. There are people in our life that are difficult to love. God says, speak the language of love that they understand. If you need to give them food (or other inexpensive gifts) to butter them up--give it. If they understand love as T-I-M-E--spend it. If they feel loved when you invest in them through acts of service--do it. If all they require from you is a loving and gentle touch--invest it. If they long to hear words of affirmation to feel loved by you--spill it.

It really doesn't matter if those aren't the ways you feel loved. It is about what they understand and what speaks to their heart. The love and affection you gain in return will make it worth your while. As my kids get older, I need to alter some of the ways I show love to them--at least some of the time. They no longer fit on my lap. They would die of embarrassment if I kissed them in front of their friends. And their feet are way to big and smelly to make me want to kiss them anymore. I may have to search harder for the "cheese" that will cement our relationship. But I know it'll be worth it. Get out there and hug a cat today!

What have you found to work with the scratchy people in your life?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ESTJ (Extrovert, Sensor, Thinker, Judger)

Today we continue our specific look at the sixteen types in the MBTI line-up. This is going to be so fun, because even if this is not your particular label, more than likely you will recognize someone you know and love revealed on the page. I need to let you know that this is NOT a professional opinion or blog—I’m just teaching you what I've learned over more than ten years of studying personality.

I’m not going to repeat my description of the dominant preferences and such, but if you haven’t been following along, go back and read the beginning of the first week’s post, which you will find under the April archives (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted the part you need to read in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the ENTJ's view of the world as one big event to plan or problem to solve. This week we will change just one letter and see if ESTJs are really that different from their ENTJ friends. Since we change the letter that deals in how we take in information, you will see they are similar in many of their characteristics, but they difference comes from how they know what they know. ESTJ's are take charge people who get things done.  

Living Life with an ESTJ: ESTJs are adept at seeing the necessary steps to complete a project or solve a problem. They are masters at leading others in accomplishing set goals, often leading by their own example to dig in and help until it comes to completion. They excel in organization especially to enable themselves and others to meet day-to-day concerns. ESTJs are efficient, consistent, and can easily express themselves in clear, logical, objective ways. The ESTJs in your life will do what they say and are known for having their act together. Not only do they get things done, but ESTJs are able to anticipate problems along the way and can adjust for them. ESTJs also keep you on their toes with their constant need to have hard questions answered. ESTJs are task-focused do-ers who enjoy completing things to mark off their do-to list.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ESTJ: ESTJs will enjoy working or ministering in areas that are task-oriented, structured, organized, and include other hard-working people. They are often promoted to leadership levels because of their logical, practical, and effective use of times and resources. They tolerate changes but only if the change makes sense for the over-all goal and doesn't mess with their master schedule. They are comfortable making decisions and dealing with concrete facts. They get things done, using the policies, procedures, and politics of the workplace/environment to do it. Some occupations/positions that often appeal to ESTJs include: government workers, insurance agents/underwriters, judge, management, military personnel, police officer, sales representative, supervisor, technology teacher, accountant/auditor/banker, teacher, librarian, and consultant.
Free Time for an ESTJ: ESTJs prefer to complete their work before engaging in free time activities. Often they use their free time as a reward they've earned or in working toward a goal. ESTJs enjoy active pursuits so you will see them participating in sports or gregarious leisure activities or as spectators at events with lots going on. When they spend time with friends or family, they often organize the group into some organized game or sport. Male ESTJs frequently engage in hunting, fishing or golf. Women often send their time in pursuits where they can involve their spouse or children.
Warnings for the ESTJ: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ESTJs need to beware of: ESTJs are often accused to being inflexible. Often they make decisions quickly but then refuse to deviate from the original plan, even in the face of new information. ESTJs will do well to give themselves permission to change their mind. Their quick decision-making also causes them to set themselves up for future problems as they are often so focused on making a decision that they don't think ahead to any fall-out that may occur. ESTJs are skeptical and often look at people for what they can do to accomplish their goals. ESTJs must learn that they aren't always right and seek to discover the opinions of others. They may run over co-workers, friends, or family and need to learn to show appreciation and emotion when appropriate. ESTJs tend to be emotionally reserved, however, when too much builds up they blow their top, often at seemingly inconsequential things.
Spiritual Helps for the ESTJ: Because of their logical and practical approach to life, ESTJs can become legalistic. Their skepticism may lead them to doubt or refusal to believe what cannot be proven. Spending time in mediation and personal reflection may serve to bring wrong attitudes to the surface where they can be dealt with by the ESTJ. Spending time with those less-fortunate and really getting to know them may help ESTJ focus less on the "rules" and more on the "exceptions" and bring more empathy and less legalism. If they pursue answers to the tough questions rather than dismissing anything they don't understand, often ESTJs become people with rock-solid faith.
What Others Say about the ESTJ: Known for their ability to recall facts about reality, decide quickly, and get things done,ESTJs are born leaders. They deal in facts, logic, and practicalities. They are sometimes seen as rigid or inflexible when they set their mind on a course and refuse to change direction. They honor their commitments and want to help others do the same. ESTJs are systematic, structured, responsible, and conscientious.
Okay, who do you know that is an ESTJ? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, let's change it up by switching every letter. INFP's--you're up!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rabbit Tales--Part 2

On Monday, I told you about acquiring Justice’s rabbits for 4-H. They were tiny little fur balls when we brought them home. Polish rabbits are small-sized; ours only made it to about 8-pounds. They have silky-soft fur, big, round, dark eyes, and tiny ears. The male, Midnight, sported pitch-black fur. His pen-mate was Clover, a chocolate color which consisted of rich brown and charcoal gray.

Midnight and Clover lived in our gardening shed all spring and summer. Justice feed them, emptied their poop pan, and worked with them to prepare them for showing. They were on a strict diet of measured rabbit chow and an occasional handful of greens or a half a baby carrot. Every so often, the kids would haul out the big dog kennel and let the rabbits enjoy an afternoon in the sun, amid the cool grass.

The rabbits were frightened at first, but after a few minutes, they’d warm up to the arrangement and hop lazily around their enclosure. But the kids could never venture very far from the cage, because, while the rabbits felt safe, the barn cats thought they looked good enough to eat. If the rabbits could have slipped through the bars, they would have been the main dish in a kitty potluck. Their boundaries gave them freedom and kept them safe from the harmful influences just waiting to pounce.

It’s like that with our kids too. We give them boundaries and in those boundaries, they have freedom. They know where the line is, and as long as they don’t cross it, they stay safe. But, like our little bunnies, there are those who are waiting and watching and seeking to harm them as soon as they get a chance. Evil people and ungodly forces are a real threat, so we stand guard. It is best if we can allow our kids the freedom to move about and wander on their own. We could hold Midnight and Clover on our laps in the backyard, but they would never experience the joy of cool green grass on their little bunny backs or relish the warm spring sunshine on their soft fur. Same for our kids; it is exposing them to the dangers around them that they learn how far to go.

We want to give our kids boundaries so they can grow and learn and explore in a setting of safety. They flourish when we give them opportunities to stretch their legs and “hop” around in environments with boundaries. We watch them and guard them for the forces that would seek to destroy. And in those times when we can’t protect them, can’t watch them, can’t possibly ensure their safety, we entrust them to the Master Bunny-Keeper. He always has it all under control.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rabbit Tales--Part 1

The season for 4-H arrived with the robins and children and teenagers all around our farming community are  preparing to show their animals come July. For those of you not familiar with 4-H, it looks something like this:

Step 1: decide which animal(s) you want to show. The choices range from poultry to puppies, from hens to horses, from cats to cattle.

Step 2: select the breed and specimen you think will catch the eye of the judges. You find it through friends, word or mouth, or animal registries.

Step 3: bring your animal home to the shelter you’ve prepared ahead of time and begin carefully raising and training it. You measure its food to make sure it meets weight. You handle it so it will behave in the ring or on the judges' table properly.

Step 4: you attempt to keep yourself from falling in love with your animal because your goal is to not bring it back home from the fair. You want to sell it for the most money you can get, which usually means the critter you’ve spent hours on over the last few months will grace someone’s dinner table.

If you did your job right, you'll come home with a nice check in your pocket and several ribbons and medals to add to your scrapbook.

Justice decided last year that he would try his hand at raising rabbits. Actually, he first chose sheep, but (thankfully) that didn’t work out. We bought the pen, the food, and all the supplies. Then we purchased two just-weaned, Polish rabbits. I could make some jokes here, but that would be politically incorrect, so I’ll move on.

Anyway, I saw a parallel between 4-H livestock and parenting. I learned that, in a sense, we follow the same thought process for both endeavors. 

Step 1: decide to have children (as opposed to just being puppy-parents or borrowing your siblings' kids for the day).

Step 2: acquire your specimen. For some of us, ours come through biological means. Others will receive a child through adoption, guardianship, or the foster care system.

Step 3: bring home your child to the shelter you’ve prepared (the nursery). Begin the process of carefully raising and training him/her. You will give your child healthy food so they maintain an optimal weight. You will handle them lovingly and with kindness so they will behave properly. You will train them so that some day when they stand before the Judge, they will meet His scrutiny with flying colors.

Step 4: you attempt to keep yourself separated enough to keep from having your heart totally torn out when they are gone. You will not succeed, but you will still attempt to give them freedom and independence, because you know that goes with Step 3—it’s what they need to be healthy. Your goal is to come back from the fair (graduation or college or the wedding) without them. You won’t get any money—in fact you’ll be broke. And thankfully, they won’t become someone’s dinner. However, if you do your job correctly, they will grace others with their presence and you will reap the blessing of having taken a 7-pound bundle of need and helped turn him/her into a full-grown, contributing citizen.

Oh, yeah, and if you’re really fortunate, you’ll also get some ribbons and medals for all your hard work and effort. They will be a little while in coming, but you’ll recognize them because they’ll call you “Grandma” or “Grandpa”.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ENTJ (Extravert, Intuitive, Thinker, Judger)

Today we continue our specific look at the sixteen types in the MBTI line-up. This is going to be so fun, because even if this is not your particular label, more than likely you will recognize someone you know and love revealed on the page. I need to let you know that this is NOT a professional opinion or blog—I’m just teaching you what I've learned over more than ten years of studying personality.

I’m not going to repeat my description of the dominant preferences and such, but if you haven’t been following along, go back and read the beginning of the first week’s post, which you will find under the April archives (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted the part you need to read in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the ISFPs', inward-energized analytical, logical, fact-based approach to life. This week we will change every letter and see if ENTJs are truly the polar opposite of our friends from last week. ENTJs are planners, visioneers, and problem-solvers who are adept at bringing people along to work out the ideas they have stirring in their minds.

Living Life with an ENTJ: ENTJs are known for their skilled leading, their ability to bring order out of chaos and logic into problems, by stepping into leadership roles when they see a need. Their ideas are oriented toward the future and geared toward meeting a need, achieving a goal, or solving a problem. They are adept at stimulating others to do what's necessary to get the job done. Their Thinking and Judging influences allow them to think both logically and objectively about situations and then express their thoughts and judgements in clear, concise, and creative ways. Often their work becomes their life as they strive toward the goals and achievements they've set for themselves. They don't take "no" for an answer and they are natural skeptics. ENTJs are able to see how the parts of an organization, object, or situation relate to the whole, which enables them to develop strategies for planning, goal-setting, and finding solutions.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ENTJ:   Since ENTJs are so skilled at focusing on the future, they also enjoy ministry/volunteer/career opportunities that allow them to use these gifts. ENTJs are also results-minded people with a global perspective and who excel at leadership, so they should keep that in mind when seeking out service or career options. Some ministries or volunteer positions that might appeal to ENTJs are anything to do with finances such as fund-raising, investing, and finance. Evaluating and developing projects often are a strong-suit, so ENTJs might look for opportunities to serve on committees for building projects or strategy sessions for organizations. Some careers that often include a high percentage of ENTJs include: administrators, attorneys, consultants, credit investors, designers, engineers, managers, mortgage bankers, systems analysts, teachers/professors (especially of adults), and human relations/resources.

Free Time for an ENTJ:  Often for the ENTJ, their work is their play. If they engage in leisure activities, it usually has a purpose toward meeting long-range goals they've set for themselves. ENTJs are busy and don't enjoy not having anything to do. Don't look for them to sit still for long. They also prefer to spend time with others, so most of their free time is spent in a group setting. ENTJs tend to be competitive and they love to debate, so you will likely see this show up in their hobbies and interests. ENTJs prefer to participate in regularly scheduled activities as opposed to spur-of-the-moment endeavors.
Warnings for the ENTJ: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ENTJs need to beware of: Since much of their time is spent looking toward the future, ENTJs can allow this to interfere with their leadership and personal relationships. They often can't let go of their goals and cringe under anything that they feel lacks purpose. ENTJs tend to demand competency from themselves, but this can spill over into demanding it from everyone around them and sometimes makes them seem like professional critics. Or on the flip-side of that, they may blame themselves when something fails, thinking their own incompetency caused the failure. ENTJs are zealous, but this enthusiasm can lead them to make decisions hastily and to railroad others in the process. They can become so focused that they discount others' needs and appear impatient. ENTJs are often accused of being emotionally cold. They fear losing control of their emotions and are uncomfortable in situations that are too emotionally charged.

Spiritual Helps for the ENTJ: ENTJs will likely enjoy spiritual settings that allow for rigorous study, debate, and discussion. They will want to have clearly defined principles and purposes for their faith and will often pursue scientific means to support their beliefs. Born leaders, ENTJs enjoy taking headship of projects and experiences that allow people to deepen their faith while doing or serving in some capacity. ENTJs also enjoy times of meditation and prayer.

What Others Say about the ENTJ: Known for their logical, controlled, objective, and planned thinking, ENTJs can come across as critical and tough. However, when tempered, ENTJs strong personality may be described as strategic, challenging, and decisive. ENTJs are also heralded as being fair in their dealings with others. Other personality types appreciate the ENTJ for their leadership and visionary qualities.
Okay, who do you know that is an ENTJ? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, let's change just one letter (the N to an S) and see what difference that crazy little guy makes!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lessons from a Time Machine

“This is the machine that I will make to travel me to the year 2019. By then I will be 21. So I will be able to be moved out and leave this horrible place.”

This is the note we found dangling from our second-story stairway railing, paper-clipped to the belt of a camouflage robe, size 14. My hubby sent the kids to bed early, obviously ticking off Justice, who used the opportunity to use that word power I keep telling you about.

I posted this to Facebook, where it led to a discussion of just how good our kids have it and they don’t even realize it. Contentment is hard for little people. Contentment is hard for us big people, too.

That discussion reminded me that lack of contentment is as old as Moses. No, literally, I mean, as old as Moses. God reminded me that His kids had trouble with this one, so it should come as no surprise when my kiddos struggle there, too. It also should come as no surprise to me that God has also been working in my heart concerning satisfaction, so why wouldn’t He use my kids to hammer home that lesson? But it must be a pretty important lesson we all need to learn, because God sure talks about it a lot.

Remember way back in the Old Testament when the Israelites struggled as slaves in Egypt? (Think Prince of Egypt.) They moaned, they begged, they pleaded with God to come to their rescue. Send us a Deliverer, they implored. Finally, God sent Moses, an old man by this time, back to the land of his youth to lead His people to the Promised Land. After some pretty amazing plagues and a quick escape, the people were on their way.

In the desert, God provided them with a cloud to lead them by day and a pillar of fire to show them the way at night. He parted the Red Sea so they could escape once again from the angry Egyptians and then wiped out the entire army lest they hamper their progress again. He gave them food to eat that they didn’t even have to cook. He kept their clothes and even their shoes from wearing out. He provided water when they thirsted.

They had it made in the shade, right? Wrong—or so they thought. The Israelites were not content. They wanted to go back. The same people who had begged God to hear their cries for mercy and deliverance stood in the middle of the desert and wished to go back to the slavery that had held them captive for 400 years.

Justice wrote his “Time Machine” note sitting in a clean bed, in his warm room, with a full belly, in a house that is paid for and full of people who love him. The Israelites had everything they needed (except a little variety) yet they turned their eyes away from the very thing they had wanted so much, back toward the circumstances they longed to be rid of once and for all.

Have you ever done that? I have. Remember when you couldn’t wait to be married; to have someone to share the rest of your life? Are you content in the marriage He’s given you now? Do you now look at your husband or wife and wish he or she were someone else? Do you think longingly of the days when no one put their expectations on you? Do you even wonder why God allowed you to marry this person in the first place?

How many years did you long to hold a baby of your own in your arms? How long did you try, jumping through hoops, to finally get pregnant? How are you doing with your attitude toward those children God blessed in to your home? Do you wish them out the door to school every morning? Do you pass them off to your spouse or grandma or a babysitter any chance you get? Do you wish for the days when you could sleep till noon and nobody chewed your gum or played in your make-up or spilled milk on your floor?

What about that job you trained for, prayed for, studied for, and planned for since you were barely twenty-years-old? Are you still thanking God for providing it? Are you content that it pays your bills, puts food on your table, and clothes on your back? Or do you bad-mouth your employer, employees, or co-workers every chance you get? Do you count down the days until retirement? Do you slack off and only give half an effort?

Or that house that you fell in love with the first time you walked through it. Are you still rejoicing in the roof over your head? Or are you scheming about how to move up to a bigger house or ritzier neighborhood? Do you constantly complain about the squeaky floor or the make-you-want-to-cuss storm windows or the lack of storage space?

The list could go on and on. I'm not talking about those weak moments we all have when we throw a pity party and then pick ourselves back up and go on. I'm talking about a lifestyle of discontentment. Ask God to show you where you lack contentment. But don’t ask it lightly—because if you ask, He’s likely to show you and it won’t be pretty. Let’s seek to be people who are content with what we have been given. It is only then that we will succeed in training our kids to follow suit.

Paul said in Philippians, 4: 11, 12: I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Let's give up the idea of a Time Machine that can travel us to a time when we can truly be happy and strive to be happy in the here and now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bees in Your Bonnet, Squirrels in Your SUV, and Foxes in Your Vineyard

Dah-dunt… Dah-dunt... Dah-dunt-dah-dunt-dah-dunt.

Do you hear it? It starts out slow and builds in a frenzied crescendo. The theme music from Jaws. There are not many things that can set your heart to fluttering and your blood to pumping like the sight of an enormous shark attacking. In my book, it ranks right up there with black mambos hiding in the eaves of an African hut and the over-grown sewer rat that comes up through the toilet in the middle of the night. (You’ve heard those stories, too, right?) But did you know that bees kill more people each year than sharks?

Our neighbors recently bought their first brand-new vehicle. Up until this point, they've always leased, replacing their car every few years. But now, this is their baby. They were especially careful with it, wanting it to last for years to come. Shortly after they brought their SUV home from the dealership, the entire wiring system shut down. They took it in and it needed repaired. A few weeks, later, the same thing. After a few more weeks and a third complete re-wiring, they discovered the problem. No, the difficulty didn’t rest in the hand of Asian business executives. No terror plot had been launched against them. No street gang had targeted them. They discovered that an unruly posse of squirrels had helped themselves (over and over) to a mid-day snack on their wiring system.

That’s a lesson my kids have taught me. We often ignore the “small” dangers in life, while we run screaming for the “large” ones, when in reality, it is usually the small, unchecked threats that pose a far more dangerous risk to our well-being and theirs too. Our kids fear the boogey-man under that bed, but will tell a stranger on the phone that they are home alone. They fear walking in to the first day of school, but run heedlessly across a crowded parking lot. They refuse to go into the dark basement at night, but wander off aimlessly in the middle of a busy fair.

As parents, we do it too. We drill into our kids’ heads, “Don’t talk to strangers”, yet we leave them at day-care centers, gym childcare facilities, and church nurseries without so much as a thought to who might be taking care of them. We remind them to wash their hands and to not touch anything in public restrooms, but ignore the sassy talk that infects their attitudes. We tell them if a stranger tries to steal them away to kick, bite, and fight, but we allow them to nit-pick their siblings and bite at the self-worth of kids at school and church who are “different”.

We do it in other relationships too. Countless times we focus on the big, flashy, calendar-making parts of a friendship, marriage, or business relationship, all the while, ignoring those day-to-day interactions that make up the whole. In the book of Song of Solomon, the couple reminds us to care for those little things that can sneak by and damage what we've worked so hard to accomplish. “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom". The lover reminds the beloved to put a stop to those “little foxes” before they ruin the relationship they’ve cultivated. Little foxes are cute, but when they are left to run in the vineyard, they chew the tender blossoms, ruining the fruit—the benefits—of the carefully planted and tended vines.

I want to be aware in my parenting, my marriage, my friendships, my work relationships to not allow those “little foxes” (or the bees, or the squirrels) to ruin and destroy what I’ve worked so hard to achieve. Days, months, and years of nipping “foxes” cause children who turn away, spouses who turn to another, friends who turn you off, and employers/associates who turn you down. Don’t make the mistake of spending so much time focused on the big “what ifs”, that you miss the damage being done by the little, seemingly insignificant, things in your reality.

I know I don't always miss those things, and sometimes I do a great job of being consistent and intentional in my dealings with other people. And I know you do, too. But stress, fatigue, depression, and busy-ness are all reasons why sometimes we slack on the things that are important. Be aware today of the real dangers lurking, waiting to steal away the people and relationships that mean the most to you.

When are you most likely to let things slide? What can you do today to keep those "little foxes" out of your vineyard?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ISFP (Introvert, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiver)

Today we continue our specific look at the sixteen types in the MBTI line-up. This is going to be so fun, because even if this is not your particular label, more than likely you will recognize someone you know and love revealed on the page. I need to let you know that this is NOT a professional opinion or blog—I’m just teaching you what I've learned over more than ten years of studying personality.

I’m not going to repeat my description of the dominant preferences and such, but if you haven’t been following along, go back and read the beginning of the first week’s post, which you will find under the April archives (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted the part you need to read in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the ISTP's, inward-energized analytical, logical, fact-based approach to life. This week we will just tweak one letter, changing the T to an F. ISFPs are gentle, compassionate, behind-the-scenes lovers of the underdog. Let’s see how changing the Thinker label to Feeler changes the personality of the individual.

Living Life with an ISFP: ISFPs are known for their compassion. They have a clear understanding of themselves and possess strong values and convictions. They are in tune with senses and rely on sensory data to reach conclusions. They recognize internal sensations and they also use facts gained from their senses to make decisions. ISFPs delight in nature and often seek to help others appreciate it as well. Often their gifts will reflect both their love of nature and their joy in beauty that awakens their senses through touch, taste, smell, texture, or sound. They are the classic peacemaker, the long-suffering harmony-creator. ISFPs are uncomfortable with conflict and with suffering and will work to alleviate both. ISFPs enjoy working behind the scenes to offer specific and practical helps, especially to people, plants, and animals they deem to be in need. This makes them wonderful friends and they usually enjoy deep relationships that they spend a lot of time nurturing. They enjoy and appreciate life to the fullest and inspire others to do the same.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ISFP: Because of their tendency to help the underdog, ISFPs are drawn to work and ministry opportunities that allow them to help meet the needs of people. They enjoy working in atmospheres of cooperation, flexibility, and adaptability. You may never see an ISFP angry, but if you do, it most likely revolves around someone less fortunate being hurt, taken advantage of, or mistreated. ISFPs happily work in the background, responding to the needs they see. Some popular occupations for ISFPs are bookkeeper, carpenter, personal service worker, clerical/secretary, dental/ medical staff, food service worker, nurse, mechanic, physical therapist, X-ray tech, librarian, teacher, homemaker, clergy/counselor, and trainer. Jobs and service areas that allow them to explore their artistic side will appeal to their senses.

Free Time for an ISFP: ISFPs enjoy leisure activities that allow them to enjoy right now. They are “stop-and-smell-the-roses” people. ISFPs also enjoy doing fun things for the people in their life they care about deeply. This is another reason why they never have a lack of friends! Their free time may or may not include others. They are content to spend time with people, yet their Introversion means they will also need and want time alone. ISFPs may also use some of their free time to volunteer with organizations that allow them to help people in need. ISFPs often take great joy in their pursuits. They may choose activities that allow them to tap into the artistic (sensing) side. While they tend to be quiet, ISFPs are also spontaneous and adaptable to new situations. They infuse joy into all they do.

Warnings for the ISFP: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ISTPs need to beware of: Their desire to help others may result in the ISFP neglecting their own needs or putting themselves at the bottom of the list. They need to learn to recognize their own needs and allow themselves to accept help from their many friends. Because of their strong desire for peace, ISFPs may not handle conflict correctly. Instead of meeting it head-on and dealing with a problem, they may attempt to sweep it under the rug and restore harmony at any cost. ISFPs are drawn to a sob story and can be taken advantage of or used by people. ISFPs tend to internalize much of their feelings. They will do well to find trusted people they can share with and get things out in the open. Left inside, their thoughts have a propensity to turn negative. Their behind-the-scenes nature means often they will neglect to take credit due them. ISFPs need to learn to stand up for their own needs and make their desires known.

Spiritual Helps for the ISFP: ISFPs may find themselves the most connected to God when in nature or in spending time in quiet reflection. Often they see God in nature. They may also work out their faith in practically meeting needs of those around them. To grow in their faith, ISFPs may seek out spiritual mentors and role models. Due to their highly sensory nature, ISFPs may enjoy charismatic worship services and styles. ISFPs will also likely benefit from participation in small groups or Bible studies. If ISFPs are in a crowd, they usually prefer not to be singled out, so they may also enjoy corporate worship providing they don’t have to stand out in any way. They will also enjoy learning about the spiritual side of practical matters such as parenting and marriage, especially if it allows them to later use that knowledge to help someone else.

What Others Say about the ISFP: Known as peacemakers and proponents of harmony, ISFPs are loyal and loving friends. They are in their element when they are meeting practical needs of their friends, family, and even strangers. ISFPs are caring, kind, gentle, and modest. ISFPs are understanding and sympathetic. On the flip side, they themselves tend to be tender and sensitive to the words and attitudes of others, which makes them vulnerable to hurt. They quietly go about life, unassuming, and enjoying it as it comes.

Okay, who do you know that is an ISFP? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, I’m up for suggestions. Tell me your label (or someone else’s) and I’ll be happy to head in that direction.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Laughter Is Good Medicine

Well, if there is one lesson kids have definitely taught me, it’s not to take yourself too seriously. I mean, kids corner the market on silliness, giggles, and laughs, to be sure. Today is Limerick Day, so named for the birthday of Edward Lear, whose Book of Nonsense, published in 1846, made popular the form of poetry known as the limerick.

A limerick has a bad rap as a naughty poem, but they don’t have to be obscene or edgy to be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. All limericks have five lines and follow a pattern (aabba), where the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with one another, as do the second and third lines. If you are interested, there are some clearly defined rules for limericks for syllables and form. If you’re dying to know, do a quick Internet search and you’ll have more than enough reading material.

Here's my lame attempt:

My kid’s names are Justice, Jewel, Jot
And I love them each one a lot
They’re loud, funny, and cute
And smart, yet, to boot
It’s no wonder my nerves are all shot

Okay, that’s a really bad example, but I never claimed to be a poet.

Did you know the Bible has something to say about humor? Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Doctors have proven that people who laugh and smile recover more quickly than their somber counterparts. Isn’t it amazing when science supports what God’s word has told us for centuries? An interesting thing to note is the verse that comes right before this one. Proverbs 17:21 says, “To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool.”Ouch!

Something I’ve learned with my kids, especially as they get older and get a better grasp of language and the subtleties of sarcasm, is their tendency to use it as a weapon. Their sarcasm borders on sassiness or their humor comes harrowingly close to being inappropriate. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God tells us that our greatest sorrow would be a fool for a son (or daughter) right before He tells us that laughter can soothe a weary soul. Part of training up our kids is to teach them proper humor. And the flip side of that is to not allow their attempts at rebellion to be passed off as funny or cute. In the words of Barney Fife, "Nip it! Nip it in the bud!"

I’m going to make sure my kids learn the beauty of laughter. I’m also going to make sure the laughter they seek to disperse consists of “good medicine”, rather than the “bone-drying” properties of hurtful humor from the lips of fools.

Okay, now it's your turn. Anyone want to try their hand at a limerick? Come on, dole out some good medicine for us today!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Follow the Leader

I hope all you mommies had a wonderful holiday yesterday. Mother's Day always makes me think back to the eventful days of new motherhood. Three babies in four-and-a-half years made for lots love and laundry, hugs and headaches, sloppy kisses and sleepless nights. And through it all, God has been so faithful to use my kiddos to teach me so much about Him, myself, and the way He loves me and longs for me to look like Him.

Here's a little story I wrote a while back, remembering the lesson God taught me when I used to take three babies to the grocery store:

Follow the Leader
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)

Who knew going to the grocery store could be such a lesson in logistics. After several failed attempts at grocery-shopping with my 4-year old, 2-year old, and newborn, we devised a plan that was do-able. I kept my 2-year old Jewel sitting in the seat of the shopping cart. I strapped and propped 3-month-old Jot into an umbrella stroller that could then be pushed by his 4-year old Justice.

After a few near-collisions and several 2-wheeled turns through frozen foods, I realized I needed to have Justice behind me rather than careening out in front. This made for a fairly safe adventure--unless I stopped abruptly or had to back-track to retrieve an item. In those instances, I usually wound up with the stroller riding up the backs of my legs. My son followed me so closely, any change in direction caused him to bump into me.

I realized their spiritual development would be affected in the same way. If I made a wrong turn, they would likely follow. If I slipped backward, they might back-track as well. If I wanted them to follow my example I needed to follow Christ so closely that if He stopped I would run my stroller up the backs of his legs. My children were watching me, and I had better make sure I was watching God.

God taught me to keep myself so close to the Him, that I could say with assurance, “Follow me because I’m following the Leader.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ISTP (Introvert, Sensor, Thinker, Perceiver)

Today we continue our specific look at the sixteen types in the MBTI line-up. This is going to be so fun, because even if this is not your particular label, more than likely you will recognize someone you know and love revealed on the page. I need to let you know that this is NOT a professional opinion or blog--I am just teaching you what I've learned over more than ten years of studying personality.

I’m not going to repeat my description of the dominant preferences and such, but if you haven’t been following along, go back and read the beginning of the first week’s post, which you will find under the April archives (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted the part you need to read  in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the ISTJ's, inward-energized analytical, logical, fact-based approach to life. This week we will just tweak one letter, changing the J to a P. ISTPs are inward-energized, logical and fact-based, go-with-the-flow-ers. Let’s see how changing the Judger label to Perceiver changes the personality of the individual.

Living Life with an ISTP: ISTPs are independent thinkers. They are adept at taking in information and then doing something with it. They are problem-solvers, healthy skeptics, and are observers of people who generally make quick and truthful assessments of others. This leads them to often remain in the background, but to come to the rescue or defense quickly if needed. They rely on logic and reasoning in their constant search for truth. ISTPs are realists who aren’t afraid to challenge the rules when they see a better way to proceed. They may not spend much time in the spotlight, but they will step up when they see a way to cut through red tape or to share the wealth of information they possess in regard to interests they feel strongly about.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ISTP: Because of their realistic approach to life, ISTPs enjoy working and serving in areas of practical and pragmatic needs. Things like crisis or disaster relief often appeal to them. They may enjoy working with their hands in artistic or craftsmanship endeavors or using their minds for problem-solving. Since ISTPs don’t live their life by a schedule, they may enjoy jobs or ministries that don’t require much planning but rather allow them to get moving. Hands-on tasks and outdoor activities often are at the top of their lists for work or service projects. ISTPs often flourish in the sciences because of their preference for flexibility with a more impersonal bent. Occupations that might appeal to them include: business analyst scientist/biologist/chemist, engineer, accountant/banker, writer, and computer specialist. However, they may also enjoy jobs that help people with practical needs such as teacher, consultant, manager, sales, human resources, career coach, military forces, or lawyer.

Free Time for an ISTP: ISTPs often enjoy leisure time pursuits that involve risk-taking or adventure. Due to their practice of involving themselves deeply in special areas of interest, they may continue to explore a sport or hobby all the way from childhood through adulthood. ISTPs can also become bored with anything and will often switch from one activity to another. They like having the best technology or equipment in their pursuits, so will often up-grade to have the latest and greatest thing. ISTPs sometimes enjoy being alone, but often they will find someone to share their hobbies and activities, such as a friend or their child. ISTPs are good with facts and often use their free time to gain more knowledge or learn new facts. Reading may appeal to them, as well as learning and memorizing sports statistics

Warnings for the ISTP: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ISTPs need to beware of: The propensity of ISTPs to cut through red tape may also come across as laziness or seeking shortcuts just for the sake of getting out of work. ISTPs have a tendency to keep to themselves and not open up or share with others. And often when they do share, they are drawn to share the negative or to point out the flaws, which can turn others off. ISTPs can find themselves alone and lonely. ISTPs enjoy collecting new information and facts, but they may find themselves unable to make a decision or to wonder after the fact if they made the right choice. In collecting their new information, they may put off deciding at all. This is frustrating for anyone waiting on the ISTP's decision. ISTPs sometimes lack perseverance and need to learn to stick out a situation and see it through to completion before moving on to bigger and better things. ISTPs need to learn to focus on long-range plans and goals as well as the short-term practical plan they can see.

Spiritual Helps for the ISTP: ISTPs will likely enjoy the factual and practical side of their faith. Traditional Bible study and prayer may appeal to them, as well as study with a close, trusted friend or mentor. Since traditional worship may feel too “emotional”, they may experience worship more profoundly in nature or an outdoor setting. ISTPs will also likely enjoy spiritual application to things they deem practical like parenting, work-place relations, or service. They will also likely go more willingly to corporate worship if they have a practical, necessary role such as usher, offering accountant, or hospitality.

What Others Say about the ISTP: Known for their reserved manner, ISTPs generally only have a few close friends. However, they are in-depth experts when it comes to the causes or areas of interest that hold a special interest for them. People may refer to the ISTP as “a walking encyclopedia” because of their knowledge on their chosen subject. They are efficient workers, who objectively apply facts and practical thinking to find both the flaws and the solutions. They assess truth and are able to predict and react to immediate needs. While they are known to be logical and practical, they are also spontaneous and adventurous. The ISTJs loved a routine, but ISTPs are adaptable, due to that last little letter. In fact, they will feel frustrated with too much structure and too many rules.

Okay, who do you know that is an ISTP? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, join us as we change just one letter and look at the ISFP. What difference does one little letter make? Come back and see. It's not too late to send me your personality type if you want to see it here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Naked and Not Ashamed

Yesterday, Jewel exploded in the door, words already spilling for her lips. “Mom, today in the pick up line at school, some little kid was standing up on his car seat waving at everyone—and all he had on was his underwear!” To which I asked, “Was it Jot?”

Anybody that knows Jot knows of his aversion to clothing. I can’t count the number of people who’ve seen him clad in only a shirt and undies, just his whitey-tightys, sans clothing at all, or his pink derriere in the air (one time in the sanctuary at church, but that’s for anther day). He just doesn’t like to wear clothes. The tags itch him, the hems scratch him, and forget about it if there is a crisp logo on the front—its got to go. In frustration, he yells, “Mom, this shirt is messin’ with me!”

Actually the whole family somehow feels freedom from lack of constricting clothing. Hubby taught the kids as soon as they were potty trained what it means to “go Commando”. Just when I finally convinced them to wear underwear, he introduced them to the idea of wearing pajamas without any. Hence the morning routine in our house:

“Do you have your homework?”


“Your lunch money?”


“Your AR book?”



“Dang. Be right back.”

Anyway, the first Friday in May (May 7, this year) is No Pants Day. The idea is that you get dressed like you normally do, only forget to put on your pants—on purpose. It is supposed to be a silly, fun way to lighten up and not take things so seriously. Now, I’m not telling my kids this, but it is something for the rest of us to consider. No, not the not wearing pants part, but the not taking yourself—and others—so seriously. I think that is why being naked appeals so much to little kids. That is how we were created to be, in the Garden, after all.

Think about what it means when a child goes naked. They feel no shame. They don’t worry that their chubby thighs rub together. They don’t suck in their gut trying to appear two sizes smaller. They enjoy the feel of warm breezes against their skin and soft kittens curled in their arms. They feel freedom, peace, and security in who they are. Isn’t that something we should all strive for?

So, in honor of No Pants Day, why don’t you symbolically take your pants off for the day? Remove the guilt, the shame, the bondage you feel toward your own body and rejoice in who you were created to be. And if you work from home, go ahead and lose the pants for the day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

You've Got a Hold on Me

Spring Break. Clearwater Beach, Fl. Blue skies spread overhead and a strong breeze blew the pages of my open novel. Bright sunshine warmed my skin and glinted off white caps kicked up by the wind. The kids played in the sand, building castles, houses, and even scenic vistas complete with wild animals (plastic ones, of course). Jot, recently finished with the pirate and cowboy vs. army men and astronaut war that he’d strategized all afternoon, decided to wash the little guys in the surf.

Corralling them in a yellow plastic sand strainer, he stood in the briny water rinsing the sand from their tiny backs, stopping every so often to scratch where the salt itched his legs. Wading a little farther into the waves, he dipped and strained, dipped and strained, washing the little men.

I closed my eyes, lulled by the warm sun, the breeze, and the fact that my hubby hunted shells a few feet from Jot. Suddenly I jolted awake by a sobbing, frantic Jot, running empty-handed toward my towel. “My guys! I lost my guys! A big wave came and they’re all gone!”

I jumped to my feet, yelled to Justice and Jewel to come help, and raced toward the water. Looking down into the surf, I could see a few yellow cowboys, a blue army man, and several grey astronauts tumbling in the white froth. Peering down the beach, I noticed that every time the waves crashed against the shore, more little plastic men came rolling in. Grabbing the front hem of my sundress, I made a pocket and pushed the little men into its safety. We spread out and made our way down the beach, gathering the poor little fellows who had been so quickly snatched out of Jot’s hand. We ended up finding nearly all of them stretched over a quarter mile strip of oceanfront.

God used the experience to remind me of the truth found in John 10:28, I give them eternal life and they will never die. No one can steal them out of my hand. Even though Jot loves his “little guys”, he can’t protect them. He can’t keep them safe if the surf wants to steal them away. He can’t guard them from the dogs who love to chew their little plastic heads off. He can’t defend them against the lawn mower when they’re forgotten in the grass. But God tells us that when we’ve entered into a relationship with Him, that there is nothing and no one that can steal us out of His hand. He is fully capable of keeping us safe there, no matter the storms that blow, the temptations that come, or the mistakes we make.

It gives me great comfort to know that I don’t have to keep hold of my “little guys” all by myself. If I give them to God, He’ll keep a tight hold on them, no matter what waves may come their way.