Surviving, I mean Thriving, during the Holidays as an Introvert in Ministry

HolidayStress-SS

Yes, it’s true… I boycotted Thanksgiving the last two years. I stayed in bed and watched movies all day long. This year, I decided to be a good sport and participate in the festivities with family (although I did hibernate on Friday after Thanksgiving).

I don’t think it’s just me… but come November & December, everyone needs something from me… and my stress level just skyrockets! Between family needs, scheduling time with friends, and trying to meet all the demands of ministry needs towards the end of the year, I’m easily put over the edge! Let’s just say Gloria in December ain’t so pretty. I literally just wanna crawl into a hole and hibernate the whole holiday season. For those of us in ministry, every week feels busy because Sundays always keep coming right on time! But add all the deadlines of budgeting, calendaring, and all the Christmas events to the list, and you start to think why you should bother going home just to be back first thing in the morning…

As an introvert, all the demands that are put on my plate is very overwhelming… not necessarily because of the workload but because they all require dealing with people… and lots of people! Don’t get me wrong… I love people! If I didn’t, I would not have stayed in ministry. My passion is to help people grow… but as an introvert, even what I love to do is very draining. I often come home feeling completely depleted. Unfortunately this leads to cranky Gloria. I’ve been feeling horrible because I’ve been so impatient with my family, especially with my dad. I’ve been feeling like the worst daughter in the world. So how do we survive, I mean thrive, during this stressful season?

For me, I need to remember to take more “Gloria Time” for myself. I usually take “Gloria Days” where I go to the beach or do whatever I need to do to refuel! I usually go by myself or with one other friend who I find live-giving and refreshing! As this busy season is upon us, I find myself needing to take more “Gloria Days…” but since it’s just not possible to take that many days off for myself, I take shorter time increments but I take them more often or as needed. I purposefully block off certain morning or evenings to go and do what replenishes me. It could be a walk on the beach, locking myself in my room and relaxing, getting a shoulder massage, getting good coffee or a meal with a friend, etc. Refueling yourself is so important… because when I feel depleted, I just become cranky to everyone around me… and honestly, who wants to be around a cranky person? I know, I don’t!

I need this reminder to take the time to refuel myself regularly, and I find this practice to become especially more important during the holidays as demands and busy schedule grows. If you also feel like you’re on a survival mode, let’s thrive together by doing what we need to do to refill ourselves!

God Knows What We Need

Last Sunday, we talked about how God knows what we need… and how God provides for our needs! Well, I got a first hand experience in God providing for my needs on Sunday, the very day I taught this lesson!

To start, our projector hasn’t been working and we had to do without! Since our lesson was on the Israelites wandering in the dessert and complaining to God during that time, I decided to make the kids act as Israelites… and each small group was to be a family. It felt pretty chaotic having kids walk around in circles (and few that just couldn’t walk but felt the need to run) and their whining and complaining getting louder and louder. Well, when our time was over, I had both leaders and kids come up to me and say: “that was so fun!” “i had so much fun today.” “i wanna come back here.”  Initially I was just thankful to get this feedback and felt encouraged despite all the technical issues we had that day.

When I went out to the foyer to get lunch, I happened to be standing across from a parent that I talk to once in a blue moon. I, of course, started with a small talk: “How are you? How’s work?” Then she proceeded to tell me how much she appreciates our children’s ministry… and she said, “I can’t wait to read this months’ parent newsletter. I read it cover to cover… In fact, I save it every month! Thank you so much for putting that together for us. I absolutely look forward to reading it. In addition, I just want to tell you that my kids tell me what they have learned every Sunday… and I love that they get excited to tell me about it. We love coming here. Thank you!” To be honest, I was caught off-guard because my church doesn’t have a culture of giving feedbacks (positive nor negative) and sometimes I wonder “does anyone read the newsletters? why do parents like bringing kids to our church? why do kids like coming?” I actually told her that her feedback meant so much and her words were my God Sighting for the day because it was one of the most encouraging things i had heard in awhile at the church.

By now, I’m feeling pretty encouraged… and feeling like I’m on Cloud 9, filled with gratitude and great joy for getting to do what I do! Well, that feeling was quickly changed that afternoon as I met with few leaders. Don’t get me wrong… I believe some of our leaders do the best they know how… but I found myself feeling flustered and discouraged in the middle of our meeting. People often tell me that I think very differently about children, youth, & family ministry… and most churches are not ready for that paradigm shift. I always think “how different could I be?” Well, I finally really felt it… and I started to feel crazy trying to explain how I feel about children, youth, & family ministry (I won’t go into too much detail since this isn’t the point of this blog but if you’d like to hear my thoughts, I’m always open for discussion–i just love talking about KidMin, Student Min, & Family Min… so just message me!)

Anyhow, I left that day very deflated. This one incident had erased my joy and excitement… and all of a sudden, I found myself asking a bunch of unhealthy questions. That evening, two of my pastors texted me with encouraging words… When we came into the office on Tuesday, my campus pastor said, “I actually left that meeting feeling more thankful for you and your heart and your vision. As challenging as it is, I am so glad to be doing ministry with you.” Those were the words of affirmation that became medicine to my soul.

Often times, discouraging words and experiences can completely erase all the highs of emotions. As I spent some time processing through the events of this weekend, I was reminded that God bookended that meeting with encouraging words of affirmation that I usually don’t hear for a reason! God knew I needed to be reminded of my calling. God knew I needed to be affirmed of our kids transformation. God knew I needed to hear that parents are in this journey together. God knew I needed to hear that I was an integral part of the team. That moment, I was reminded that the truth of the lesson came real and alive to me!  How cool is that???

One more thing… if you’re a parent or a volunteer or even an attendee, do practice giving feedback to your leaders… both positive and negative (but negative should be done in love and with careful words)… encouraging feedback means so much to a weary soul… and constructive criticism will only help your leaders and ministry grow in a good way!

The Distance Between the Mind & the Heart

We should handle it the best way we know how and get on with it. That’s what my mind says, I just wish somebody would explain it to my heart.
~M’Lynn, Steel Magnolias
 

This is one of my all time favorite quotes from the girliest movie that I actually love… Steel Magnolias!  The reason why I love this movie so much is because it has so many awesome quotes, tearful moments followed by laughter…. and besides how could you not love anything with Sally Fields?

4play-Heart-vs-Mind2The first time I heard this line by Sally Field’s character after her daughter’s funeral, my heart just sank because it resonates with me so much! I always feels like there’s a long distance between my mind and my heart… Over time, I’ve learned to build my mind to be strong and focused (probably as self-defense mechanism) but I haven’t honed in on building my heart as much. My mind often feels strong but my heart often feels weak. I get hurt easily. I get disappointed easily. My mind says not to mind what other people say or do… but my heart can’t help but to feel sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, hurt, and unsettled.  I know in my mind what I should do… but I wish somebody would explain it to my heart because it often doesn’t accompany my mind. I often wonder why God made the mind to think differently from the way the heart feels. It would be so much easier if they just cooperated and worked together.

This morning as I was thinking about this quote, I was reminded that my only source of direction and answer is talking to God and turning to the Scripture. I always wish it was “yes” or “no”… but I often don’t get those direct answers from God, but I know that He has given enough truths for me to follow. Besides, I was reminded that “yes” or “no” isn’t what God wants us to have, but  He wants ME to seek Him… and that’s when He grants us clarity! Now, let’s go tell my heart that!

What Is Enough???

To change the world, we must change our country. To change our country, we must change our city. To change our city, we must change our community. To change our community, we must change the room. To change the room, we must change the table. To change the table, we must change the conversation. The greatest way to change the world is to change the conversation. The more world-changing conversations we have, the greater chance for the world to change.” -Jim Doggett, excerpt from More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger

2 years ago, I read a book that completely rocked my world… so much that I went on a 7-months of fast, and I chronicled my experience starting with this post. What was amazing to me throughout these 7-months was that the less options I had, the easier my life was! For example, knowing that I could only wear 7 items of clothing saved me so much time from standing in front of my closet, trying to decide what would be the most fashionable, most sensible, most flattering outfit to wear. And it hit me that my life was easier when I had less… However, living in Los Angeles, bombarded by fashion, brand names… and being around people who had nice things to wear, brand name purses and shoes… it all influenced me to want more and better things! It’s really not other people’s fault. I’m just not strong enough to resist some of those things. I may not be a big shopper, but I still love my purses and shoes. It was the same for food, technology, etc.

more or lessWell, just last week, I finished a book called More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger, and it rocked my world again! Jeff reminded me that “my enough could mean more for someone else who has less.”  What a concept!!! I know, it’s not rocket-science… but it seriously rocked my world because I was reminded how excessive my life is. I may not live in a mansion nor even a house.. yes, I still live in the same apartment I’ve been for the past 10 years… I may not spend lots of money on shopping because I really hate going to the mall… but I still have more than what I need. My life is not inconvenienced in any way… and let’s face it–all my problems are really first world problems–like wanting a new iPad because mine is three years old and the home button sticks!

The good life is not found in luxury. Rather it’s found in the life that enhances the life of another human being.

Generosity is not about giving money. Generosity is a lifestyle that seeks to understand the needs of others in strives to end that suffering. True generosity is a choice. Generosity seeks to live with less so others can have more. (both excerpts from More or Less)

Sure, I try to do my share of helping others. I am passionate about sponsoring kids through Compassion International and World Vision. I try to help people that I see in need such as homeless that surrounds this city that I live in. If I have food or even leftovers, I’m usually in the habit of giving it away to them. However, I usually give out of excess that I have and because it’s convenient for me to give. I don’t think about what’s actually enough for me… and I haven’t made real conscious to live on less so I could do more for others. That’s what really messed me up!

I won’t lie… this isn’t as easy as it sounds. As I decided to sponsor one more child this past week, I thought to myself “I could just eat out once or twice less per month.” And then I started to think about where I go out to eat. I really do enjoy trying out new restaurants and fine dining. And I sure enjoy my sushi, oysters, and crab. I thought about giving up my favorite dining experience, and I immediately started to feel sad… How ridiculous that I’m getting sad about eating less sushi or seafood when I could be feeding a child for a whole month? It’s an internal struggle…

So… I’ve decided that some things really need to change! I need to do something to make conscious decision to determine what is ENOUGH for me! I need to make conscious decision to understand and meet the needs of others to help end their suffering. It’s a choice!

As I’m still processing all this… I took my first step: I decided that I could surely sponsor another child overseas. That’s why I took one more child through World Vision last week. I’m also starting to clean out my life–to declutter, to donate what I don’t need… and I’ve been thinking through “an enough experiment” that I want to do… I don’t know yet, but stay tuned. As soon as I get that figured out, I shall be sharing! That way, other people can keep me accountable, and I can share my experience and how God has worked in my life.

But for now… go read this book… or at least ask yourself “WHAT IS ENOUGH?” for your life!