I love old stuff and it is my favorite to meader thrift shops and flea markets. It’s a manageable chaos, the booths crammed full of junk/treasure. It’s the sort of visual mess I find beautiful and -bonus!- I can leave it there and return home to…well, the typical mess.
Chaos is not my friend.
Lately we’ve been learning to hold loosely to our ideals and tightly to Jesus – given that our ideals and rhythms are (often) fantasy and (regularly) subject to change. There’s been a great deal of personal upheaval in the last few years, within and without. And although I have -in pride of place on my wall- a print reading “It’s okay to be happy with a calm life” – it’s rather elusive.
This month the mister and I started a new discipline, one we’ve taken on at least once a year for 5+ years. We’ve often done it in the fall, to reboot our mindset and our intake. I’ve also taken on some additional freelance work for an Atlanta-based ministry. We started kindergarten with our oldest and our youngest is perilously close to being mobile (sendhelpandbabygates). Not to mention my husband’s vocational work is full-time ministry. [Hashtag pastor’s wife hashtag introvert hashtag who signed me up for this hashtag help me Jesus.]
So although there are new rhythms being established in our home, it sometimes feels a bit busy.
What will help us discipline ourselves? What will keep the busy at bay?
Yesterday I sat at a table with 3 lovely women, sipping coffee and rapidly squeezing our catch-up time in. We hopped on the topic of personality types and theories, delving into Myers-Briggs types with a charming and confident 18 year old who schooled us on our types. She talked us through the strengths and weaknesses of our unique temperaments, as well as the ‘function stack‘ – the ways our brain functions with the world, in order of strength.
I’m an INTJ, which is kind of a rare type, particularly for a woman. The delightful young woman who was educating us on her recent study in personality informed me that if I walked into a room of 100 people, I might find one other INTJ…but it’s likely I wouldn’t. She also disarmingly suggested this may be why I often feel on the outs or misunderstood. [Ohhhhhhhhh goodtoknow.]
INTJs are often painted as the villain or the mastermind (flattering, for sure) – we have quick minds, sharp wit, expansive imaginations, strong intuition, and we’re independent and decisive.We’re open to changing our minds, though, because we want all the data and if you approach us with logic and information, we can be quick to adjust our conclusions.
I can hardly go in to the entire study here, but stick with me: my personality type’s dominant function is Intraverted Intuition – a perceiving function – which means essentially that the characteristic driving my thoughts and behaviors is a continual and ongoing THINKING. My perception of the world and how I interact with things is undergoing consistent scrutiny as I tinker with thoughts and ideas and situations and plans. It’s not even exhausting (usually). It’s effortless. My brain is in its own little world, evaluating and taking apart information and interactions, rebuilding it into thought patterns and worldviews. My personality type’s inferior function – the weakest or “least conscious” function – is Extraverted Sensing. Which means that though I am largely operating in my internal world, the way I interact with sensory experiences of life is outward (extraverted) and can become rapidly overwhelming because of the internal processing of those experiences.
If you’ve stuck with me this long – bravo!
Here is what all that means: although my constantly working and assessing brain seems to be oblivious to concrete details like noise, color, busyness, volume, and rapidly paced things…it’s actually being assaulted by those sensory experiences.
Too much socializing + not enough alone time = stress.
Unfamiliar environments or expectations + having plans disrupted = stress.
Too much noise + needing to focus on many details at once = stress.
All of these things are basically inescapable in my current line of work: parenting (plus ministry).
What will help me with the sensory overload? What will help me discipline myself? What will keep the noise at bay?
It is fall here, which means practically nothing in Florida. We buy pumpkins and make chai tea and try not to be jealous of the boot-wearing, scarf-wielding north. Fall is hard when the weather doesn’t change, because the feeling of needing a seasonal change just lingers. The light is different, maybe the mornings less humid. But here in the south, when fall arrives we just…wait. We keep on with the daily things and we wait – for weather, for holidays, for a break.
If ever there was a time for discipline, it is now.
The hope for rest can be worked out through discipline.
The hope for deep breaths can be worked out in the mundane rhythms of motherhood.
The longing for something to change can be met by the unchanging Words of the Father.
I’m choosing to discipline my intake this fall: what I eat, what I see, what I hear, what I touch. Some of that is outside my control. Parenting littles doesn’t exactly let me curate the noise level in my house or the quantity of mess in the living room. But some of it is within my control.
I can make time to write.
I can go to bed earlier, so my sensory experiences are tempered by a well-rested mind.
I can take a walk outside, even with those delightful noisemakers of mine.
I can minimize my social media experiences, my news intake.
I can eat wisely and in moderation.
This fall the weather isn’t changing and I am still in my uniform: tank top and cut-off jeans from last season. But for the first time in a long time, I have the creative energy, the internal motivation, and the hope rising in order to create space here in this mess. I’m becoming aware of more possibilities for calm in the chaos and of delight in the discipline of rest. This is exciting!
But not too much.