Category Archives: Musings of a Meek Maniac

This is generally what I have to say when something has taken up residence in the back of my mind, or just staging a riot in my brain.

A Look through the Keyhole; A Glance through the Window

In my ever expanding quest for knowledge and personal development, I have explored and researched many topics and theories. Many of these have found their way into my posts here. And today, after weeks of mulling over information and reflection on personal growth, I’m going to revisit and redouble one specific topic: personality theory. Except this subject is extremely diverse and ever changing in perspective, so I’m primarily going to be talking about the Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram, for these tend to have the most depth. But before I can really dive into how my studies into these areas have aided my personal development over recent years, I’m going to give a little overview of the basic premise of each personality theory.

 

The Myers-Briggs

Many people have generally taken a MBTI test at some point in their life, either for school or business. For this reason, most people know their four letter type. I believe myself to be an INTP, as evidence strongly points to this type, but I’ll explain that in more detail later. What most people don’t realize is that the Myers-Briggs is only the surface of a much larger scheme of understanding personality. You see, what the MBTI is actually characterizing is how your mind approaches information and thinks about different and new situations or circumstances. Or to get right to the crux of the MBTI, it’s really about cognitive functions. So what are cognitive functions? Well, as you might have guessed, this is where the four letter types come in, but this is also where people tend to get confused and lose interest. So I’ll skip the convoluted explanation of how each combination of Introvert/Extrovert, iNtuition/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling, and Perceiving/Judging determine your cognitive stack and just rather give a brief description of the cognitive functions themselves.

Cognitive functions are divided into two pairs of “opposing” sets: Intuition & Sensing and Thinking & Feeling. Intuition and Sensing are called the “Perceiving” functions (or how we take in information) and Thinking and Feeling are the “Decision” functions (or how we process information). Within these pairs, a set is one extroverted function and one introverted function. Each pair are opposing and mirror each other within the cognitive stack, which alternates from either Introverted to Extroverted functions and vice versa. For example, the INTP cognitive stack pairs Introverted Thinking with Extroverted Feeling and Extroverted Intuition with Introverted Sensing. Determining how these functions stack up, however, is the difficult part to explain because of the J and P of each MBTI type. But I shall try to do so simply. ExxJ and IxxP types lead with their Decision function while ExxP and IxxJ types lead with their Perceiving function. So if we take this principle and apply it to the cognitive functions I listed for the INTP, that means I lead with Introverted Thinking. Since a set is of opposing pairs, this means Extroverted Feeling goes at the bottom of my cognitive stack (this becomes very important later). In the middle, would be Extroverted Intuition and Introverted Sensing. So to sum it all up in more mathematical terms, my primary function as an INTP is Introverted Thinking, my secondary function is Extroverted Intuition, my tertiary function is Introverted Sensing, and my auxiliary function is Extroverted Feeling. Got it? Good, because now I’m going to give a quick synopsis of what each cognitive function might look like:

Introverted Thinking (Ti): logical, analytical, focused on facts and formulas, generally has good memory and decisive problem-solving

Extroverted Thinking (Te): efficiency, task-oriented, good structural and organizational skills, keen mind for math and science

Introverted Feeling (Fi): moral character, highly sympathetic, strong personal feelings of justice

Extroverted Feeling (Fe): warm and kind, highly empathetic, cares deeply for the emotional climate of any given situation

Introverted Intuition (Ni): personal perspective, connects the dots easily, quickly sees the source or root of any situation

Extroverted Intuition (Ne): explores possibilities, constantly seeks new experiences, sees beyond the immediate  or present

Introverted Sensing (Si): sentimental, finds peace in repetition, feels the atmosphere or aura of places and people

Extroverted Sensing (Se): thrives on activity, generally well-coordinated, notices the details of a situation first

Confused yet? Cuz that was just my introduction to depth of the MBTI! Now for some Enneagram…

 

The Enneagram

Thankful, since the MBTI explanation covered quite a bit of overall personality theory, talking about the Enneagram becomes a little easier. Basically, if the MBTI relates personality to how a person gathers and acts on information, the Enneagram relates personality to what motivates and terrifies a person. Within the Enneagram there are nine types, each with its own unique qualities, motivations, and fears/downfalls. These nine types are divided into subsets, relating to the source of a person’s personality: the heart (feeling oriented), the mind (thinking oriented), and the gut (instinct oriented). And believe it or not, each type is connected to several other types, which makes the Enneagram more and more complicated the further you get into it. However, for the purpose of this post (and to save my readers a great length of ultimately unnecessary content, as you can wiki the Enneagram for more background that doing so for the MBTI might not have given) I’m going to leave this expose of the Enneagram to a brief paragraph.

 

A Look through the Peephole

So if personality were a room and personality theory the door, the MBTI would give one an approximate view of what a room might look like if one were to look through the tiny peephole in a door, or looking through a keyhole (if you envision an older style door). With this vantage point, one can establish a basic structure of the room and draw some conclusions as to the primary purpose and function of said interior. Such is the reflection of cognitive functions on a person’s character. And since the overall purpose of this post is to reflect on the journey I have taken in recent years concerning the understanding and development of my person, I’m going to break down how my cognitive stack has effected my character, personality, and purpose in life. And just to remind everyone, as an INTP, my cognitive stack is Introverted Thinking (Ti)-Extroverted Intuition (Ne)-Introverted Sensing (Si)-Extroverted Feeling (Fe).

Because my primary function (sometimes referred to as the “driver”) is Introverted Thinking, I am naturally a highly logical and analytical person. I have always been this way, as one’s primary cognitive function tends to rise to the surface very early in life. This focus on decision-making and fact-finding shaped me into a virtual filing cabinet of information. When trying to explain to someone the contents of my brain, it would not be uncommon to use a server room or library archive as a metaphor for the way I compartmentalize and store information. However, there is a major downside to this focus on facts and figures, mainly that of social awareness. Because I am an introvert who is drawn more to information than to interaction, I often come across as distant and reserved. More often than not, my primary function at any given social event is that of an observer. And because I am also an internal processor, my outwardly appearance can err on the side of impassive or intimidating. Years ago, before I really began my journey into understanding cognitive functions and how they affect personality, I always wondered why people acted so nervous around me. I mean, I’m actually a rather laid-back person who enjoys seeing people smile and making them laugh just as much as I want to learn every little detail about their life. Oh, and that latter part also plays into my social anxieties and awkwardness because I detest small talk. I’d rather not talk to someone at all if I can’t carry on an in-depth, meaningful conversation with them. This usually means I keep my mouth shut, especially in group settings. This also plays off the way I was raised but it certainly ties deeply into my primary cognitive function. However, there is a helping hand to get me out of my shell and that’s up next.

The secondary function (sometimes referred to as the “co-pilot”), Extroverted Intuition, is one I kept reined in for many, many years, only giving it enough lease to please my introverted overlord’s desire for information. However, in the past couple of years, I discovered the beauty of unleashing this function’s potential to cause personal growth. As I mentioned before, Extroverted Intuition, at its core, seeks out new experiences and new possibilities. Once I realized how beneficial allowing myself to step beyond my comfort zone and let this function roam more freely, I was able to shrug off the confines of my shell. For example, a couple years ago I joined an online community of (mostly) young Christians, with a clear focus on creating fellowship and subtle undertones of finding relationships. Through this group I expanded not only my social circles but I also broadened my theological horizons and fortified certain aspects of my faith. And this past summer, I made not one, not two, but three separate trips to meet and enjoy the company of members of this group, all of whom I had never met IRL before. Talk about being outside my comfort zone. But in hindsight, these trips really helped me understand the value of building community and fostering relationships with like-minded people. I was able to take these experiences and apply those lessons to my life here in Warsaw, and really step into certain roles I wouldn’t have sought out in years past. But if Extroverted Intuition is the source of seeking growth and pushing my boundaries, the next function is my lifeline.

My tertiary function (sometimes referred to as the “safezone”), Introverted Sensing, often works hand in hand with Introverted Thinking to “protect” me from that what makes me uncomfortable or feels outside my skill-set. It leads me to seek out the familiar and remain within my habitual comfort. Because it is third in my cognitive stack, it often has a juvenile and impulsive nature that only surfaces when I feel threatened or am unable to determine the best course using my driver and co-pilot functions. This reality, paired with the strong family tradition I was raised in, has led me to realize why I shy away from moving outside of Michiana, no matter what opportunity might present itself. This area has been home for most of my life and here I have many family members and friend groups. I have realized this function makes me very sentimental and geared towards a strong sense of traditional values. I also tend to be very adept at repetitive tasks and can easily perform manual operations while letting my mind slip into an open and receptive cognitive state. For example, I currently work as an Inspector, reviewing parts and paperwork for a medical device manufacturer, which allows me to let my eyes and hands perform the work while my ears and mind absorb information through podcasts and instructional videos. However, this function also makes me wary of opening up to new people, as I wish to protect my “blindspot” that is my auxiliary function.

My auxiliary function (sometimes referred to as the “blindspot”), Extroverted Feeling, has a very unique role within my cognitive stack. Not only is it directed outwardly on the emotions of others and their well-being, but it generally presents itself with the maturity and innocence of a young child. This leads me to experience strong emotion with overwhelming presence and can lead to outbursts when I am no longer able to suppress that feeling. Granted, I am very good at hiding my emotions but the fact still remains that I do in fact experience emotions very deeply. And due to the empathetic nature of Extroverted Feeling, I often feel trapped between seeing the hurt in others’ lives and wishing so desperately to help them and having no idea how to approach it. Imagine a little boy seeing his mother crying over a situation he knows nothing about and yet he wants nothing more than to see her stop crying, so he goes outside and picks the first “pretty” thing he spots off the ground and proudly marches it inside to present to his mother. This metaphor encapsulates the approximate complexity with which I feel able to approach the suffering and pain I witness in another’s life. In order to feed this childish desire to improve the lives of those around me, I often step into the shadows and work behind the scenes to make sure needs are provided for and circumstances are prepared for successful operation and completion. Because of this, my leadership style leans in the direction of service first, speak last.

Yet, as one might notice when looking through a small viewpoint into an illuminated space, there are shadows and creeping darkness underneath. Such is also true of cognitive functions. I call this the “shadow functions” of the MBTI. Imagine the personality equivalent of the Upside-Down from Stranger Things, that is to say the shadow functions are the inverse of one’s cognitive stack. So if my normal cognitive stack is Ti-Ne-Si-Fe then my shadow functions would be Te-Ni-Se-Fi, which is the normal cognitive stack for an ENTJ. I realized this possibility when I looked back at my experience as a camp counselor at Springhill during my college years. This high energy, densely populated environment was not very conducive to the naturally introverted tendencies I exhibited at school, where I had a dorm room I could easily escape to and hide from the typical social scene. At camp I had to be extremely organized, very detailed oriented, and highly active. Sound familiar? It should, because those are all characteristics of the Te and Se functions. So while I am naturally a spontaneous planner and sporadic organizer, when necessity or circumstance demand I can become a very rigid and structured person by dipping into my shadow functions. This is something I slowly learned to embrace the older I have gotten because it plays well into how my Enneagram type exhibits successful growth and a striving nature.

 

A Glance through the Window

If the MBTI can give one a obscured look into the room of personality as through a keyhole, then the Enneagram can increase this view as though one takes a peek through the window. Why do I say this? Because I feel it is one thing to know how a mind processes information and approaches any given situation, it’s entirely different to know how people act based on their primary motivators, fears, and instincts. As I mentioned earlier, the Enneagram is divided into nine types and three subsets. My Enneagram type (drum roll please!) is Type 5, also know as “The Investigator”. As you might have guessed based on my lengthy explanation of the cognitive stack that is me as the INTP, most INTPs tend to also be Type 5s in the Enneagram. The Type 5 happens to sit in the “Thinking Oriented” subset of the Enneagram circle (no surprise there right?), but it also neighbors the “Feeling Oriented” subset. This is because the Type 5 is a “relationist” type, always seeking to provide objectivity, analysis, and fair evaluation of the often chaotic world around them. The Type 5 often becomes a stable foundation for those around them; reliable and trustworthy when the drama of daily life presses up against the walls of sanity. However, rather than explain the qualities of the Type 5 like how I broke down the cognitive functions of the INTP, I will instead outline them:

Strengths of the Investigator: curious, insightful, rational, observant, thorough, knowledgeable, able to synthesize lots of information and explain it to others (this often makes them good teachers), and able to find patterns and connections others might miss

Weaknesses: tendency towards isolationism, cynical, intense, headstrong, abstract, self-reliant, overwhelmed

Their Gift: speaking wisdom and truth

Their Need: to perceive and know

Their Focus: “what makes sense”

Their Sin: avarice or stinginess

They Avoid: looking foolish or uninformed

They Grow: through generosity and community

When Striving: they are confident and assertive

When Stressed: they are impulsive and withdrawn

As you might gather from this outline, the major source of identity (or motivator) for the Type 5 is to know and have that knowledge find its use in helping others. As I dug into the Enneagram, this really hit home. All my life I have been a trivia nerd. I gobble up random facts and seemingly useless information, but when I’m able to share those tidbits with some inquiring mind, I feel a unique sense of fulfillment. It also explains why I am drawn to teaching. The core strength of my teaching ability is the extreme depth of my knowledge and the ability I have to relate that knowledge to the common experiences of my students. However it also poses certain challenges to being a teacher, namely I can be very abstract when explaining new ideas and struggle to ask for help when I’m unsure of how to approach a topic or assignment (or difficult situation in general). Part of my background was to be a self-sufficient person, able to take care of myself, which has aided me greatly as an adult but at the same time only placed a significant spotlight on my independent nature. So much so that, even though I greatly desire to be married and raise a family, I struggle with letting anyone else care to my needs if I’m fully capable of meeting them myself. That said, it is easier for me to serve others than it is for me to let myself be served by others. However, the most recent development, and the most affirming aspect of my type, was learning about how my type can accomplish the most growth. It has been a focus of mine, even before I realized this fact, to pursue building community and fostering friendship by allowing myself to be vulnerable in social settings. And part of this had to come from me relinquishing a bit of my pride and getting a little undignified at social events. While I generally give the impression of a “dgaf” attitude, I actually care quite a bit what people think of me, especially strangers who might be meeting me for the first time. This is why I usually am a polite, but reserved, person in unfamiliar social situations and let others take the first step to acknowledge me and strike up an interaction. This is something I still strive to overcome and be more assertive, but I can honestly say I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was a few years ago.

The Closing of the Blinds

I’ll be honest, all of this came from months if not years of reading and research, and I feel like I’ve only scraped the surface of the conversation I’ve had within my own head for the past year or so. But in the interest of openness for you, my readers, I took about two hours sifting though my data to try and synthesize it into a somewhat cohesive look at the essence of my personality. I would like to thank each one of you who took the time to read this post from the bottom of my heart. I hope you feel like you understand me a little bit more and, if you don’t actually know me personally, I hope you understand a little more about cognitive functions. You might not realize it, but this simple expenditure of your time to peruse this lengthy dialogue means a lot to me. And as always, I certainly welcome question and discussion about anything I have mentioned above or anything you might like to know that I may have only hinted at. It is always my pleasure to share any part of the knowledge I keep shelved away and I welcome such conversations. Be well, friend, and don’t forget to be awesome!

 

 

S.D.G.

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Of Prayers, Psalms, and Penance

On Adoration

Oh Lord, Oh Almighty God, my words fall short in explanation
You hold all that is, was, and will be in the depth of Your wisdom
Simple exultation is clearly not enough, yet nothing less than You deserve
Your mercies are new every day and yet never ending
Your love outshines the sun and yet never sets over the cloudy skies of my heart
If only I, like the moon, could reflect Your radiance for just a short time
For in the nights of my years I desire You
And in the days I relish Your presence
For You are good, and You are God
And the truth of these shall never fail to be
 

On Seeking

My eyes blink, wishing to reveal a world of color and wonder
Darkness and vague whimpers of shape greet my sight
Where is the vibrant illumination I seek?
The light my senses crave?
What then clouds my sight, what mystery hides the face of wisdom?
Each step is that of drunken wandering, each call a cry unheard
Yet warmth floods in, and whispers reach my thirsty ear
“Son, thy journey is yet begun
But fret not, for the destination is clear to me
In faith I call thee to step forward
Trust that thine light can shine from within
And guide thee into thy promised rest”
So I lift my foot, setting it out ahead
And ripples of color begin to show
Revealing the footsteps of the One who walks
Ahead, behind, and beside

On Wisdom

Words of truth, knowledge, and insight
Found by those who open the mind and ear
Yet the fount of wisdom springs from within
Guided by the gentle voice of the Spirit
“Gush forth and consume the land
Heal the parched soil of the soul
Restore the decaying corners of the mind
Complete the cracked and faltering heart
For I am the source of all you seek”

On Pain

This wretchedness, the abundance of anguish
Speaking volumes when the throat has no words to utter
Crushing, shattering, piercing to the core
Why must I hurt? Why must it be so real?
When does this ruination of my person find rest?
Yet who am I to question the eternal providence of Your Holiness?
If in trial and tribulation I find my rest in You
Then how shall I not be purified like the silver before the smith?
Strip away my dross, Oh Lord, and allow this pain to yield luster
A shine that reflects you in truest form
Such only painful temperance could produce

On Silence

Staring into space, embracing the void
Emptying self into nothingness
Quiet, still, poised
Waiting
Wanting
Listening
Content in the lacking
Safe in the silence

On the Condemnation of the Flesh

Oh Lord, my Judge and Law-giver
I am wretched and condemned before thy Law
This flesh I am born into hates and rebels
Against all the good rewards
A peaceful and righteous life might obtain
How is it I do that which I wish not to do
When I see exactly what I should be doing
Remove this warring state within my nature
My Lord, My Redeemer
And sanctify my heart that I may cleave flesh and spirit
Leaving an obedient heart loyal only to You

On the Nature of Opposing Lands

Two countries stand opposed
One of rational thought and logic
The other of vibrant emotion and feeling
As the gates of one opens to issue its messengers
The other may very well keep theirs shut
All too often these messengers leave destitute
Forgoing the conversation so desperately needed
To benefit both lands in growth and wisdom

On Forgiveness
 
Oh Glorious Saviour
Thy gift is undeserved
How is it that a sinner like I
Has made it into Thy loving grace
A name written in blood
With an eternal script
Sufficient for past, present, and forever
Perfect to change my heart from stone to flesh
Death into life
And let me not forget this gift
And become callous to the plight of my nature
For Thy forgiveness is not to be wasted
Through a life of iniquity
But rather one to be affirmed in a life of obedience

On Sanctification

If pain has purpose
And trial creates tenacity
Then pour out Thy wrath on my heart, Oh Lord
Great and Fierce Warrior
For its callousness knows no end
And its war with the mind has no amnesty
For the mind knows what is good for the soul
Yet the heart, lost in its sin, continues to rebel
Like the smith with the silver
Purify me from within
Lifting my dross to the surface
And scrape me clean
Letting me reflect Thy holiness from within

 

 

S.D.G.

 

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Willing that the Will will be

So my church just finished a sermon series focusing on the Will of God and how we might discern and respond to God’s Will for our lives. And honestly, this series couldn’t have come at a better time for me, as the question of God’s Will is something I’ve been wrestling with for several months. Lemme build the setting here:

So at the beginning of this year, I finished my Transition to Teaching program at IWU and received my Teacher’s License so I could teach US and World History. This accomplishment as clear affirmation to me that God wanted me to pursue a career in education. I spent the rest of the school year as a substitute teacher, doing both day-to-day assignments and a couple of longer term positions. And I loved it. So when summer rolls around, I had two decisions to make: first, where was I going to work over the summer and second, how far would my search for a teaching job take me from Warsaw? The first question didn’t really weigh on me, as I figured any job I got over the summer would be temporary until I found a teaching job. As far as the second question was concerned, I limited my search to (more or less) to Indiana around and above Indianapolis. So I applied to over two dozen schools over the summer. I heard from a handful and got a few interviews. Of those schools, two actually had the courtesy of notifying me they went with someone else. Of those two schools, one was the school I did my student teaching at, which I had considered my dream job.

So it’s now over halfway through September and I’m still at my “summer” job working as a 3rd shift Inspector for Zimmer-Biomet. So no, apparently God’s Will for my life wasn’t to be a teacher this school year. Or was it? See, I’m of the opinion that God chooses when to implement His will for our lives. And this choice might very well be dependent on how closely we are pursuing our relationship with Him and if we are living in obedience to Him. I believe that God might close a door at one point in our lives because He knows that if we access that blessing too soon, it will lose some of the magnificence and impact God intended it to have. Case and point, the first time I applied for the Transition to Teaching Program a few years ago. I was at a place of lacking direction and purpose, as well as struggling with some major areas of sin and spiritual oppression, in my life and the only route I saw to instill some change was to chase my passion for learning and become a teacher. Looking back, I should have known that the timing wasn’t right because of all adversity I faced just to get my application completed. And when everything was said and done, and my application was in and I was accepted, the door was slammed shut in my face because of a clerical error. Why? At the time I had no idea. But now, I can look back and see that God knew I wasn’t truly ready, in my maturity as a person and a believer. God knew I needed to “grow up” and it took some pretty painful lessons to reach the point where He was finally ready to re-open that door.

So fast-forward back to today. I’m working in a field I wouldn’t have even considered last year and the one teaching job I really wanted and thought I was a great fit for didn’t happen. I’ll be honest y’all, I miss being in the classroom and around students. But I cannot help but wonder God has postponed the blessing of a full-time teaching job because there’s something He wants me to learn first. Is it patience? Is it trust? It is an area of sin that I’m still harboring? Is it an area of maturity I still lack? I really don’t know, and that’s why this recent series on discerning God’s Will has been so impactful. Yet at the same time, I see how my current situation has afforded me certain opportunities. If I was teaching full-time, I probably couldn’t have taken two trips in the past month to meet and hangout with people from a Facebook group I’m in. And both of those trips ended up being a great blessing, just being able to spend time fellowshipping with people my age who are passionate about their Christian walk. I also couldn’t spend nearly as much time investing in building relationships with my various social circles. So I am aware God continues to direct my life and through my obedience to the parts of His Will I am privy to I am blessed.

But that’s the kicker folks. I feel like there’s very little of God’s plan for my life I’m actually privy to right now. I’m mentioned before I feel drawn to being a teacher, and specifically I want to work with middle schoolers, and yet I’m not currently teaching, not even as a substitute. And while I’ve continued my search, there has been no peace about any of the positions I’ve inquired about or interviewed for. I even had an interview at a charter school in Indy last Friday and yesterday morning I sent them an email withdrawing my candidacy for their opening because I couldn’t shake the feeling God still has something for me here in Warsaw. All signs still point that I’m supposed to be here, and all doors that would have led me away stayed shut.

So what is my purpose for this sudden reappearance of literary dictation of mental vomit? Well, honestly I’ve been reflecting quite a bit about the “story” of my life, as I’m less than three months from my 30th birthday. Three decades of life, and what do I have to show for it? Where am I at in my life? What sort of person am I and is that who I thought I would be 5 years ago? What sort of person will I be in 5 years? So many questions, and very few answers. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram, I’m a Type 5, so having too many unanswered questions and areas of knowledge unknown drives me crazy. But here is something I did discover about myself over the course of all these questions: I’m behind.

Wait, what?!? What do I mean by “I’m behind”? Well, through my investigation of the past 10 years of my life and the path it has taken, I’ve come to the opinion that I’m about four or five years behind where I could’ve (or should’ve) been developmentally (socially, emotionally, and spiritually) because of poor decisions, areas of rebellion, and sinful choices I made in my early to mid twenties. Almost every major decision I made since leaving Warsaw for college up until moving back to the area after living in Anderson for a short time, was not really beneficial to my personal growth. One of the things that made me realize my “behindness” was the age group I tend to gravitate toward. Most of my friend group are about four to six years younger than me. And if you believe in my theory of personal development, this makes perfect sense because developmentally I’m on about the same level of this age group (assuming they themselves didn’t squander their years and stagnated their growth like I did). So I have a strange division of maturity, for I have the experience and wisdom of someone perhaps older than I truly am but I lack the social skills and emotional maturity of most people my age. And so know here I am, 29, single, employed in a field I don’t really take joy from, and asking more questions than answers can be found. And all I can say is “God knows, I don’t”. And I need to live in peace with that. Because God hasn’t called me to know everything, just Him, and to obey Him when He calls me. So I guess that’s where I’m at right now, awaiting His call, and the revelation of His specific will for my life. And I guess until that happens, I have to turn to Scripture, prayer, and godly counsel from peers and mentors so that I may best pursue His will in the calling I’ve been placed in at this time. And you know what folks? It actually excites me to anticipate what God has for me in the future, because if the path my life has taken over the past few years is any indication, it’s gotta be real awesome 🙂

 

 

S.D.G.

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Rest(oration) and Relationships

I just realized that WordPress asks what’s on my mind when I open a new Quick Draft window. Ho boy if only WordPress knew… But that’s beside the point, because I’m really just here to call it quits. Not writing, no, this is too much of a release for me to stop. But rather seeking out a relationship. Or trying to be in control of my life in general. I know the topic of relationships seem to pop up in several of my posts lately, and for good reason. For the lack of a better way to put it, I have been pursuing a romantic relationship, mainly through online dating services, for the better part of the past five years. Yes, this means both an investment of time and money, and not a small one either. So why this admission now? Because I feel that is one of the many convictions God has placed on my heart, that I have abandoned my focus on the relationship with my ABBA Father in the hopes of finding a helpmate and spouse. This is not to say I have neglected my faith, for I have still made strides in my theological and spiritual growth during this time. However it is my direct connection to the Creator of all things that I have lost hold of.

There are some factors as to why I am suddenly facing an abyss within. First, as one might guess from having spent nearly five years pursuing a relationship, I have not much to show for it but heartbreak and hard lessons. Not to say that the lessons I have learned were not needed, but if I could go back and change some of my decisions, I can only imagine where God might have been able to use me. Second, the slow but steady fracturing of my social foundations. While my circle of friends has fluctuated frequently over the past few years, I have been living in the same house with the same person (my cousin Jake, who I consider also a close friend) for much of that time. This is about to change come the middle of August as he and another friend are headed to Dallas Theological Seminary. My heart has been aching over the departure for the familiar that I am facing, as I am a more sentimental than most people might believe. Not only this, but I am still in utter confusion what my life will look like in two months time, which brings me to reason three. Third, I am greatly desiring a teaching position so I might pursue my passion for working with young people and learning yet nothing has really turned up. In the meantime I have found a good job, but is by no means something I could do long-term (out of personal preference and comfort, not ability), and it is merely holding me over (at least in my mind) until I find a steady teaching position. And it has been this job search that revealed to me a saddening truth, that I might need to uproot from the little ground I have staked here in Warsaw, IN and go elsewhere. It dawned on me that at age 29, I really have no semblance of stability in my life. I have yet to hold a job for more than a couple years and have only begun to truly involve myself in a community. Yet it is the ties I have formed thus far that sharpen my desire to remain where I am at, and finally have a reason to “settle down”. Fourth, epic Scripture smackdowns. Y’all. The Holy Spirit hits hard. Like Mike Tyson left-hook hard. Like Bruce Lee flying kick hard. Despite missing more church services than attended since the school year came to a close, God has spoken to me every time I have set foot inside my church. I have always appreciated my pastors and the way God speaks through them, but these past couple weeks have been laying it on thick.

 

Point 1: God invites me to rest

I’ve said it before, but my spirit has been experiencing a time of weariness for some time. Like I’ve just been burnt out. And then Matthew 11:28 pops up at church. /Facepalm. Like, how easy is it to forget this? To just get so caught up in life that I forget that there is literally an open invitation from God for me to crash at his place. And boy do I need rest. My current work schedule is the graveyard shift, and I’m finding it harder and harder to sleep when I get home. This is on top of working basically 7 days a week for at least 8 hours a day. Sure the money is good, but the exhaustion is not something I’m used to. And in my attempt to go cold turkey with Mountain Dew (and those who know me personally know how big of a deal this is) means I have little to fall back on in terms of energy reserves right now. So rest would be good. And this is one of the convictions I have facing, to legitimately let God take the reins while I lie down for a while. It’s so frustrating to want things so bad, and not see any visible progress take place. But perhaps this is the lesson God has for me in this time, to let go and let Him steer my life.

Point 2: Faith demands Works

James is perhaps my favorite book of the Bible, and this idea is central to what James is teaching the church. I made the decision at the end of the school year to take a break from volunteering regularly at my church, in the interest of pursuing teaching opportunities and freeing up my schedule. Ironically, the opposite has happened, as I am busier now and miserable because I’m not nearly as involved at my church. James makes the point that faith without works is dead, which can also be taken on the flipside to mean that faith with works is alive! And honestly, I felt more alive serving in my church than I do now. I’ve always been someone who thrives helping in the background, facilitating the good work done by those gifted in evangelism and presence. And having not done much service lately, has noticeably effected my livelihood. And it isn’t just the church in which I wish to serve, but my community as well. This desire is a large part of why I desire a teaching position in the community I already reside, as it would give me greater opportunity to be involved in the lives of the people here. Faith is not just about saying the right things and knowing the right things (which btw knowledge is my thing) but doing the right things. Matthew 25:31-46 is the perfect example of what this will look like come judgment day. Our faith will be proved by the lives we blessed through our service, not through our words. It is not nearly enough to wish someone well, but to give them aid as you are able. This is something God has convicted me of lately.

Point 3: God knows

Something I struggled with is uncertainty. I’m not someone who can stand not knowing something I think I should know. This is a point of great stress and anxiety in my life. Yet as I’ve recommitted myself to reading and studying Scripture, and edifying my brothers and sisters in Christ with my knowledge, I am continually blown away by how impossibly vast God is. Like immeasurably unknowable. And to think He already knows all things, this just blows my mind. And all He asks of me is faith, and through this I am justified through Christ, and sanctified through the Holy Spirit. And if God knows exactly what is ahead (see Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 6:25-31) and is more than capable of caring for my every need, how much more should I stop all my worrying? This points back to my conviction on faith, but even more so reveals I struggles with control. I have walked a tightrope between blind faith and utter control freak most of my adult life, and this struggle is one-sided. That is to say, I’m struggling against myself here. This is one of the tests God has given me, to surrender all control to Him so he can use me in the accomplishment of His good work (Romans 8:28).

 

Now that I’ve spent nearly 75 minutes pouring conviction into script, I need to let my heart and mind rest. Not just today, but every day. Dear readers, I encourage you to do the same. Let God holds the reins of your life, they are much safer in His hands, as they are already big enough to hold the whole world. It’s a silly thing to think that trusting God with something so small takes so much faith, but then perhaps that is the difference between accepting Christ as our Savior, and accepting him as our Lord. We must die to the self daily, put our faith into action, and let God be glorified in us and through us. Cheers and amen.

 

 

 

S.D.G.

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Cultivating the Creative Consciousness

With the school year winding down and opportunities to substitute becoming as scarce as water in the desert, I’m forced to consider what I’ll be doing with myself over the summer. Summer often presents new possibilities and a chance for more activity than colder months, but I’ve often grown complacent and content in doing the simple and mundane tasks. Rather than just do the usual, I’ve thought about what I could do to spice it up this summer. This got me thinking about the qualities I value in others and the first thing that stuck out is the creative nature of people.

You see, I’m draw to the creative expressions of other people. Artists, builders, designers, creators, inventors, writers, dancers, painters, photographers, engineers, etc. Y’all amaze me. You take something unnoticed or undervalued and breathe life into it. Perhaps I appreciate these things more because I do not have that level of talent myself. Personally, my creative talents lie in my mind’s ability to design and create using words and phrases. And I enjoy doing so! I have several story (as in novels) ideas lying around and I might, just might, work on finishing one of them this summer. But let me get back to the purpose of this post…

I want to encourage everyone, no matter what your vocation or hobby, to keep giving it your all. You are needed! You create things for others they often don’t realize they need! Even those of you who don’t create in a traditional sense, remember you are creating moments and experiences every second of every day. Life is about creating memories and every moment counts. So I encourage you all, dear readers, to be not discouraged if you feel undervalued or lacking creativity in your daily life because I assure you memories are anyone’s forte. Value each moment, treasure each interaction, and cherish those memories you create!

 

 

S.D.G.

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Surviving the Soreness of the Soul

There is an indication our body gives when we stretch its capabilities and test its limits. We generally call this “being sore”. And today, on my last free day in my otherwise busy schedule for the next three weeks, I realized this soreness is not limited to our physical bodies alone.

 

It is easy to get so caught up in life’s busy-ness that we never take a moment to sit down and consider what has been happening to us and within us. While I did not necessarily plan for this to happen, I had several days off last week from subbing and I took the opportunity to rest, reflect, and read; all things I haven’t done much of for some time. Granted, one could argue that my last four posts were all reflections, but those were merely trivial compared to the introspective soul-searching I’ve done over the past few days. This internal pilgrimage had me revisiting many of the lessons God has taught me over the past year, facing old temptations, and anchoring new knowledge to a more secure place in my life. And as I wandered through this mental landscape, I felt a heaviness deep within, one not of sorrow or pain, but of exhaustion. I had become spiritually sore, having stretched and spurred my soul to grow in ways only God could have planned, and now I finally feel the aches of this maturity. Yet it is a weight I gladly bear, for I know the fruits of this labor are eternal and good, but must also be guarded and tended to like precious life on a barren wasteland.

 

As much as I would like to divulge every detail of my journey over the past year, I am still not yet finished with my journey of self-reflection and therefore cannot begin to highlight the stops and strongholds that littered this winding path. There is much uncertainty beyond the horizon and yet I feel a fierce dedication to what lies beneath the setting sun, knowing that each new day is an opportunity for growth: physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. And I readily welcome any traveler of this mortal plane who wishes to come alongside me and share their story to do so, as a life of experience has taught me that good company makes even the roughest road a smoother ride. And remember, the aches of life, whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental, are not merely times of unnecessary suffering but rather a sign of growth to come and maturity through experience waiting to happen. Cheers and God bless friends.

 

 

S.D.G.

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A Temporary 4th Down and Goal

I was almost tempted to walk out of the school today with my arms outstretched in a symbol of triumph. But honestly, that level of personal fanfare would have been in highly egregious taste. All things considered, this final week of this temporary substitution assignment went well. The students (well most of them) seemed disappointed that I would be done after Friday, though I wonder how many of them just weren’t friendly with the original teacher. But that really isn’t my concern, I put in a solid month in the classroom as I was asked and hopefully the students learned a thing or two. And the experience will look good on my resume and I should have a decent reference from the school in the future. Now on to the daily reflections:

 

Day 16-

In some ways I hate Mondays (as I should, being a self-proclaimed Garfieldian) but in others I look forward to them. Often, the students are more subdued because of their weekend wariness and generally less disruptive. However, I am also just as tired and can drag my feet for most of the day. I told all of my Science classes why the previous week had been so packed with activities and assignments, and many of them seems to acknowledge the reasons and accept the explanation as a form of apology for working them so hard. I still have an underlying problem of disrespect from some students, and sadly many of these students I have in more than one class. I actually busted out the “coach” voice to silence my 7th period. Many of the students seemed astonished that I could be so loud, or project my voice so well. As middle schoolers, they usually don’t realize how long they are being until you raise the volume one step further. I don’t like yelling at anyone, much less students, but sometimes you need to be a drill sergeant to get respect. The thought crossed my mind today that I might be very disappointed if I need to come back after Spring Break is over, even though that two week break would be nice either way.

Day 17-

Today was a whirlwind. I had two boys get into a scuffle (some might call it a fight, but there was little real aggression involved) during my 2nd period which quickly resulted in a bloody nose. Both boys spent the day in the office but I doubt either felt sorry for what transpired. Even if they were just goofing around, as soon as there’s blood it’s gone too far. My Science classes did an activity with sugar cubes and although they struggled to keep track of all 64 given to them per bag, I don’t believe anyone ate one. Which to be honest would have been rather disgusting because the sugar cubes have been handled by who knows how many grubby hands and picked up unknown bacteria from the table surfaces. I had a girl (one who has never show me respect and obviously doesn’t like me) mouth off to me in Math Lab, so I wrote her up and sent her to the office. Her attitude isn’t likely to change or improve, but I drew a line and she crossed it. And probably not for the last time…

Day 18-

The home stretch is within sight! With only three days left, I can feel a change in my spirit and attitude towards each class. On one hand, the students are starting to anticipate Spring Break and getting antsy and on the other, I’m ready to get back to the crazy life of a day-to-day sub. Most of the classes this week have been fairly low-key and the Science classes are keeping pace with the content I had planned for the week. I’ve hung the “carrot” of a fun day on Friday to encourage them to stay focused on taking notes and completing their work, but there are still students falling behind on their homework. My PLTW class is been very enjoyable to teach and so far I have been impressed with their Invention presentations. One student is a little behind but he also missed the first day the class had to work on their presentations. The Math Labs are basically a study hall as the new students only received their logins today and the rest of the students have kinda burnt out. As long as they are doing something productive and not running around the room like animals, I’m content to play monitor. This also gives me extra time to grade and even read. Since grading and planning have been minimal for this week, I should be able to wrap up the week pretty quick. I’ve warned the students that any missing work not turned in before Spring Break could result in a zero, but what I didn’t tell them is that not doing the work would also mean they’d miss out on the “Funday” Friday. And to be honest, I don’t want to leave a lot of missing work for the returning teacher to track down as soon as she returns after Spring Break.

Day 19-

In most of my classes, today was the final day of actual instruction, except PLTW. Tomorrow will just be a fun day and I told students to feel free to bring in snacks or card games to play. I decided to make Friday a fun day partially because it will be my final day as their temporary sub and also it’ll be Spring Break and I really didn’t feel like planning another lesson. I really this makes me a little lazy but with all the late and missing work to track down, that gives me enough to worry about. It’s basically like pulling teeth with some of these students because, despite giving them the equivalent of lunch detention for more than one day, they still haven’t turned in much of their missing work. I’ve already written up one student for failing to do his homework and will probably write up a couple more before I leave the school tomorrow. I’m actually starting to look forward to not worrying about grading and missing work, as well as no longer having to deal with some of the poor attitudes and lack of responsibility some of these students have displayed.

Day 20-

Last day, last day, last day! As today is a “Fun day Friday”, I literally sat at my desk and read my book while students played card games or on laptops. Any student who had late work got sent to the library to work on it, and this realization seemed to motivate many of them to actually do the assignments. A couple students still dragged their feet and accomplished almost nothing, and these are the same students who have given me headaches the entirety of this temporary assignment. At least I can say I tried to get these students to do their homework but ultimately it is not my responsibility to make them do it. If they want to be defiant, then they must accept the consequence of a failing grade. I made use of my extra time to do all my grading and got the returning teacher caught up with each class’ progress and highlighted any special considerations (such as students who might give her trouble after Spring Break) before turning in my keys and leaving the building. The weather outside was absolutely perfect and matched the warm feeling I had walking away from what proved a challenging but enjoyable experience.

 

Well that wraps it up, unless something drastic happens to the returning teacher in the next two weeks that prevents her from returning and I’ll need to step back in. I’m praying that won’t happen, but I guess if it does then you lovely folks will get a bonus round! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed these reflections, and if this is the first of my posts you’ve read feel free to check out some of the older posts as well. Cheers!

 

 

S.D.G.

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