Understanding Me

Understanding Me“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” ~ Romans 12:9-12

These verses were read at our wedding over four years ago. We chose our passages carefully, intentionally staying clear of very traditional marriage readings and instead looking for where our hearts lay. They came to rest on practicing hospitality and it is something that has been important to us ever since. As I approach the end of my 20s, there are many other thoughts, activities and hobbies that have become important to me. I’m understanding more about who I am and what makes me feel content. What better place than a blog to record them so I can remind myself every now and then.

What I know

  •  “God doesn’t say ‘I have a plan for your life’ he asks ‘can I have your life for my plan?’” One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that God is not a puppeteer who masterminds our every move. He is in relationship with us. He walks alongside us. He will guide and direct when we ask and my word if we give Him our lives for His plan, He will do amazing things.
  • There are way more important things in life than achieving my agenda and having my own way.
  • Competition is energy wasted. Every life has its ups and downs so comparing yours with someone of the same age or at the same life stage is pointless. Achievement can only be measured by who you are.

What I enjoy

  • Life is about detail: having chocolates in a pretty tin to serve guests with their coffee, having frozen lemons and limes in the freezer ready to spruce up a G&T, having flowers in rooms that not everybody sees – it’s the small things.
  • Discipling younger women at Church. It makes me happy. Simples.
  • Baking. Or more accurately, baking for other people and taking photographs of what I bake.
  • Quiet. I am quite content without noise; without music, without the radio, just with the sounds of nature (without meaning to be overly tree-hugging, I do genuinely enjoy the ‘silence’ of the dawn chorus).
  • Reading. Anything that isn’t a screen. I’m sad that my kindle broke but pondering getting a new one so long as I can turn any backlights off. That said, good ‘old-fashioned’ books are still much loved necessities in this household.
  • Blogging/journalling. I’m not very good at keeping lots of thoughts in my head at one time. I don’t want to forget what I learn and I don’t want to allow good things to pass me by. Writing things down is my way of saving ideas, lessons, ambitions and random thoughts for posterity. Case in point with this blog.
  • Flexibility. Not having every free moment filled with pre-planned activity. I love interspersing work and seeing people with time to potter around in my own space, think, be productive or just chill as my heart pleases.
  • Being creative. Whether it’s drawing, painting, scrapbooking or playing music.
  • Movies at the cinema. They’re an escape from the world but there’s such skill in their production. They are a great art form and at their best they bring together clever scripts, breathtaking music and captivating moving image. There is something even more wonderful about seeing them on the big screen and there are so many movies I’d like to see in the coming months!
  • Baths – especially if I have a magazine or book to read that I won’t mind getting wet.
  • Getting rid of stuff, decluttering, giving things away, creating space – all variations on a theme and they all have the same affect of detox for my soul.
  • Writing postcards. They’re quick, they’re pretty cheap and they show someone you’ve taken the time to handwrite a note to make sure they know they’re loved, appreciated and thought of. So easy and the joy of their response is so worth it!
  • Brunch. Hands down, best meal of the day and totally makes a weekend
  • Kaffee und Kuchen. There are two reasons I love this. Firstly, because it reminds me of my German roots and of my grandparents – two of the wisest, most humble and most admirable people I have ever met. Secondly because cake and coffee go so perfectly together, who wouldn’t want this combination on a summer’s afternoon in the sun or on a cosy winter evening when it’s raining outside? It works all year round!

What makes me content and healthy

  • Not eating too much sugar – ironic for someone who is a self-confessed chocoholic but especially in recent months, my sweeter tooth is making me feel rough.
  • Most obvious answer? Exercise. I’ve flipped between classes, badminton, walking, running (the latter for six months last year, never again) and Tae Bo. They all have their advantages and disadvantages so I’ve opted simply to rotate them as and when I get bored and need new motivation.
  • Having my favourite Bible verses of the moment around our home where I can be regularly reminded of them.
  • When my husband is content. His happiness genuinely impacts my outlook and when he’s happy, I’m a much better version of myself.
  • Eating more fish, more vegetables, not eating when I’m bored… there’s a whole host of eating habits that make me feel healthier.
  • Spending a little time on myself – painting my nails, moisturising, getting a haircut. Simple things that show my body that it’s worth taking care of.
  • Daily time reading the Bible and praying. It shouldn’t surprise me that spending time with God quenches a thirst that nothing else can.

I’m sure I’ll continue adding to this list as life goes on. I’m sure some things on this list will change. I’m also sure that there will be many more lessons for me to learn and lessons that I will need to learn time and time again. It’s all part of the process of understanding me.

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A girl of opposites

I am a confident introvert, a creature of routine who thrives on change, an adventurer rooted at home, a healthy-eating chocoholic and a believer who questions. I’m a leader who happily follows and a musician who loves the quiet. I love simplicity but my thought processes are usually complex, I save money but enjoy spending it, I adore tradition but not for the sake of it, I appreciate photography but rarely art and I stick to the rules, but rarely recipes. I seize opportunities, carefully, I seek out challenges, cautiously and I set goals, flexibly. I am a strategic thinker who lives in the moment, a 21st century technology advocate with a paper calendar and a meticulous planner who loves spontaneity.

Never stop looking for what’s not there

The last few weeks and months have changed me a lot. When I look back on my personality just a few years ago, I see such a stark contrast to who I am today that it quite amazes me. Most of the changes are good, some are neither good nor bad, simply different. I am very aware that I am in a time of learning, trusting, watching, listening, waiting and hoping. That combination brings my introversion to the fore and leaves no option other than to introduce space for flexibility in order to make the most of this time of change because however hard you try, life doesn’t keep to deadlines.

I find it so easy to forget the things I learn so I’m indulging myself by recording a few things that I would love to have known a few years ago.

  • Take life at its own pace, don’t force it to conform to your timings. A life lived according to the schedule of the world will only ever be rushed, unfulfilling and unappreciated. Flexibility gives you permission to enjoy life in the moment without concerning yourself with the paths of others.
  • If the milk runs out, buy some more. Tomorrow will have bigger things to worry about than whether your planned amount of groceries lasts out the week. 
  • Take one day at a time, life can change in an instant.
  • Just aim to be the best you that you can be. No envy, no competition, just you. You will be loved for it.
  • Love with all your heart. Whether or not you are loved in return, to love another makes life worth living and serving friends and family is such a source of joy. The time will come when another person’s love for you will be your strength so in the highs, be their strength. Lean on them. Put pride aside and enjoy all that love truly means.
  • “Never stop looking for what’s not there.” This fantastic quote from the film ‘Once More’ starring Morgan Freeman is so insightful. Dream. Think big. Hope. See light in the darkness. It doesn’t have to be in front of you; it may be years away, it may be tomorrow but never stop looking for it. 

I’m still learning. I hope I always will. For me, this season is so full of new insights into life that I want to capture what I can, if only to read it again in a few years and remind myself that the world is so much bigger than I give it credit for.

Unique blend of me: ISTJ

You hear the phrases banded around often: “You are unique… everybody’s different… you’re your own person…”

But the way we interact with one another very often doesn’t really reflect this. We acknowledge and readily accept that people like different things, believe different things, look different and have different overt character traits. Yet when it comes to working with others, communicating with them and interacting with them effectively, we usually enforce our own preferred methods on them. It is amazing how this can cause tension, confusion and upset without ever intending to do so.

When you describe a friend you would describe their personality – if I were to describe my sister in five words for instance, I would say she is wise,  loyal, creative, introverted and generous. For me, the key word in those five – the one that I think we often gloss over too easily but is the crux of how we interact with one another – is introverted.

If we are genuinely to take our differences into account we would find out whether the other person prefers to be communicated with in person, on the phone or via email, whether they like surprises or whether they hide from them, whether they thrive on social interaction or whether it drains them and whether they make their decisions and actions dependent on a judgement of the situation or a gut instinct. I wouldn’t consider these attributes strengths or weaknesses, they are differences that are so important to understand in all of our relationships.

It amazes me that my sister hadn’t realised that she needed space to process life and have time for herself until I told her she was an introvert. All of a sudden, she began to understand herself more and realised that needing space and time wasn’t a negative part of her personality. People very often mistake confidence (which she has) for extrovert (which she isn’t). Like my sister, I class myself as a ‘confident introvert’ and I think my personality trait is very well summed up by my Myers Briggs personality type.

I know that some people don’t like the label that this places on you but I actually see the value over the label. I see a way of explaining my heart and the way my mind works in an accessible way and I see a method of understanding how others work and how to bring the best out of them.

My husband sent me a link he’d found that outlines the Myers Briggs personality types and their stressors. I am ISTJ, he is INFP, almost the exact opposite of me. Especially in a marriage, understanding these fundamental differences in how we work is vital in complimenting one another and bringing out the best in one another.

ISTJ head and stressINFP head and stressBeing aware of the deeper ways in which people work and changing the way we interact with them as a result, can make the biggest difference with colleagues, friends and spouses. Being ISTJ is just one of the many things that makes up the unique blend of me.

I want to be who they are

Looking around the internet – particularly the blogosphere – there are countless women who exude traits that I want people to associate with me: simple living, creativity, family values, wisdom and so much more. I’m pretty content with who I am; I know what I like, what I dislike, what I’m great at and what I’m fairly dismal at – yet there often seems to be something missing.

There are so many women I can relate to in terms of goals, values and lifestyle that I begin to wonder, how am I unique and what can I offer in amongst this shoal of successful, intelligent and warm-hearted women?

Today I had someone a few years younger than me tell me “you’re living my dream!” My job is the pinnacle of the career that she is hoping for and the goal that she is working hard to make progress towards. It struck me that what I admire in other people, others may covet in me. Who I am and the life that I have, is not to be taken for granted, it is one that others might be dreaming of.

So perhaps I’m not quite as contented as I had thought. I may know myself well but do I see myself as others do, or do I take for granted what I have, leaving me unsatisfied with my place in a vast world?

I love a challenge, I love to learn about myself and the world around me and I don’t think there is anything wrong with goals, ambition and wanting to fulfil your potential. What I think I’m missing along the way is learning how to embrace who I already am, so that I can recognise and appreciate the amazing traits in others without becoming disheartened that they devalue or supersede my own qualities. Instead, I want to be able to absorb those characteristics that I most respect to help me become who I want to be.

I don’t want to be who they are. I want to be my own unique blend of me.