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    Thinking Through The Introvert Advantage {How Are Strong Women Made?}

    February 17, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    Gosh, this next section is a toughie. I have written and rewritten this post. I have deleted it entirely and begun afresh. Everything in my heart, everything I think I’ve learned, sounds dull and hollow when I try and transfer it to the page. After thinking through this a bit, I decided that, as all of my thoughts were inspired by the thoughts of other people, why not present those thoughts instead?

    Not that I won’t comment at all, but I think I’ll start with a lot of quotes.

    This, as I promised, is covering the call-out section on pages 134 and 135 entitled The Arrival of a New Human Bean, the title of which, as it is not a play on words, has already been adequately mocked in a previous post.

    Ahem.

    I wanted to go through the whole section, but as this is a book on introverts, let’s narrow it down and look at the words spoken to introverts:

    The Introvert Advantage
    by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.

    It is important to note your temperament temperature. Focusing twenty-four hours a day on the needs of another being can be extraordinarily taxing. Introverted moms need to find ways to take breaks and be completely alone or shift into a relaxing adult activity.

    [snip] If you are introverted and need time away from your infant, adjust your schedule accordingly. Don’t feel guilty. Find the temperature zone you require and make the time to nurture yourself. Your infant and you will be better for it.

    Okay. Let’s break this into parts, staring with this: Focusing twenty-four hours a day on the needs of another being can be extraordinarily taxing.

    [Christ] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

    II Corinthians 5:15

    Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

    Philippians 2:3-4

    Introverted moms need to find ways to take breaks and be completely alone or shift into a relaxing adult activity.

    If I strive for a “me-centered” life while I am surrounded by a family who needs me, then I will find myself frustrated and desperate indeed.

    -Stacy McDonald in Passionate Housewives Desperate for God

    God’s ways are not our ways, and what the Bible calls us to do is, frankly, backwards in the world’s eyes. Be least in order to be the greatest? Die to live? Go last to be first? Christ’s example is most convicting: God of creation and Lord of all, He made Himself “of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” {Philippians 2:7-8}…Become a servant. humble yourself. Wash the feet of complaining followers. Die to self daily. Do we love God’s Word enough to be faithful to it even when it is difficult? Or are we only willing to embrace it when it makes us happy or fulfills a need? Jesus said that if we loved Him, we would obey His commandments–and not just the ones we like.

    -Jennie Chancey in Passionate Housewives Desperate for God

    If you are introverted and need time away from your infant, adjust your schedule accordingly. Don’t feel guilty.

    There are, however, still some married couples who understand themselves as belonging to their marriage, to each other, and to their children. What they have they have in common, and so, to them, helping each other does not seem merely to damage their ability to compete against each other. To them, “mine” is not so powerful or necessary a pronoun as “ours.”

    –Wendell Berry, in the essay Feminism, the Body, and the Machine in What Are People For?

    Although the Enchanted Ground was a pleasant place, in which pilgrims were tempted to rest after the toils of their journey, they sometimes found the path across it full of difficulty and trouble.

    The air was so warm and still that it made everyone feel sleepy, and the servants of the Wicked Prince had built many little arbors in the hope that foolish pilgrims would lie down to rest in them, and so fall into the hands of their enemies.

    [snip]

    It was now so dark that the pilgrims could scarcely find their way, so they begged Greatheart to light his lantern. With this to guide and cheer them they traveled more comfortably, but the girls and the two little boys were growing very tired, and they began to pray to the King to help them in their weariness.

    Presently a cool, fresh breeze sprang up, and as it blew across the plain the air became clearer, and although the moon was still hidden by the clouds, the children could see each other as they walked along.

    “Have we nearly crossed the plain?” asked Christiana.

    “Not yet,” replied Greatheart; “but this is your last night of trouble. Tomorrow we shall reach the Land of Delight, and you will be able to rest there without fear of danger.”

    Little Pilgrim’s Progress

    Find the temperature zone you require and make the time to nurture yourself. Your infant and you will be better for it.

    But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.

    I Thessalonians 2:7

    Can a woman forget her nursing child
    And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
    Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.

    Isaiah 49:15

    And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”

    Luke 9:23-24

    Flinching at Me-Time

    Whenever I read something that {1} hints at “me-time” and {2} hints that such “me-time” is a need and/or {3} hints that leaving a baby will actually increase a baby’s happiness, I flinch. Every single time, I flinch. Babies want their mommies.

    Period.

    I am not saying that babies will never need to be left for any reason whatever, but it is completely nonsensical to act as if leaving Baby is going to make Baby happy.

    The real premise behind these sorts of assertions is the “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” premise, and the other side of the coin is also true in this case: If Mama wants to make everybody miserable until she gets her way, she can, and she likely will.

    I feel like I’ve been in transition again lately, as far as my perspective on these things goes. It was like I woke up to my own lack of reliance upon the Lord. I am learning, once again, to call upon Him in my times of trouble, no matter how small my troubles might be.

    Time alone comes and goes in life, and I don’t think it is helpful nor healthy for me to build my happiness upon such an inadequate foundation. I am also not sure that, introverted though I may be, I should insist that being alone is the only way I can be rejuvenated. This is rather unimaginative, especially when compared to this:

    Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

    Matthew 11:28

    And also:

    He gives strength to the weary,
    And to him who lacks might He increases power.

    Isaiah 40:29

    And finally:

    Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

    I Peter 5:7

    Do I really believe that I can run and not grow weary? Do I believe that God is more powerful than my own introverted energy levels? I’ve been pondering this question a lot lately.

    There is a balance, obviously, for He also created me to be a certain way. However, when what is asked of me in my calling of motherhood is more than it seems I can bear, do I believe He will strengthen me and help me in the journey? For me, it has become a question of faith.

    On whose strength will I rely?

    And, of course, here we intersect with the idea of God sending Help. I remember distinctly one day when everyone seemed to be sick and I really didn’t think I had the energy and time to make lunch and I prayed…and within an hour there was a phone call with an offer to deliver lunch. Trusting in God and relying on Him does not mean we always carry our burdens alone.

    The “Need” to Escape

    What I question here is the reinforcing of the cultural idea that escaping is ever a helpful thing to do. Whether the temptation is to run from grief, conflict, duty, or whatever, I do not believe that escaping results in stronger character.

    I remember one time having a professor in college who spoke on grief. He said that the tendency in our culture is to run from trials. He didn’t want to do that, and when time came for him to suffer a great grief, he did his best to embrace it. He felt it, and he felt it powerfully, and he came out on the other side…refined.

    I often think this in regard to the “trial” of early motherhood, and I’ll tell you why.

    Even though I wanted to become a mother, I found myself kicking and screaming during my first year of motherhood.

    You see, I was extremely selfish and hadn’t realized it. This little person made many demands on my life, and frankly I found it a little annoying. God was extremely gracious to me in that He forced me to get over myself. To this day, I can remember the feeling, this tightness in my chest. My rebellion against giving myself wholly in service to another person was a tangible physical sensation. Unfortunately {or fortunately, as it turned out}, we did not have the physical resources for me to escape. We did not live close to family, and I couldn’t afford a sitter. We couldn’t afford for me to drive many places and meet friends for lunch. I remember on a particularly hot day that I walked {with Baby sleeping in his stroller} to Starbucks so that I could enjoy their air conditioning, and I bought the smallest, cheapest cup of iced tea they had, so that I didn’t feel like a free-loader.

    I explain this only to illustrate that there was no means of escape, especially since I was completely unwilling to leave my child with a stranger. I was torn within myself: I loved him enough to protect him from those who didn’t love him, and yet I rebelled against what it took to do right by him.

    He was fourteen months old before we moved out of this situation. You know what happened during this time? I got tougher. I learned to submit to God’s call on my life. He had made me a mother, and He forced me to become a decent one. He used a strong arm with me, and I am forever grateful for this. All of our other children have benefitted from this work of God in my life.

    A mother’s ability to handle what it sometimes takes to be a mother is strengthened when much is asked of her…if she {with God’s help} rises to the task. Somewhere inside of ourselves, I think we have a mothering muscle. If we quit and run away each time extra weight is put on, we will never grow.

    The number one lesson I think I have been learning lately is to pray for strength. In motherhood, it doesn’t take long to come to the end of ourselves, no? Do you know where tough mommies come from? God-given weight-bearing excercise of that mommy muscle. There is no way around it.

    I am not tough yet. I know this because I have met far too many women who are tougher than I am. However, I know that any measure of perseverance or strength that I have gained over these years is due to the fact that God has often forced me to meet my difficulties head-on.

    I once had an acquaintance who told me that she went back to work because she just couldn’t stand it at home with the baby. When her second was born, she decided that mothering the children herself was the right thing to do. However, it was an uphill battle because, in escaping from her first child, she had never gained the strength it took to mother.

    I do wonder how many times we miss out on gaining strong arms because we decide to avoid hard things.

    What If?

    What if we are actually refined by the things we find difficult? What if we actually become better–better mothers, better wives, better women–by persevering when something is hard for us? What if we learned to build lives we didn’t feel like we needed to escape? What if this means learning to love things we do not naturally love? What if this is God’s education for us: cultivating our affections, directing them in the way they should go? What if we learned to be content? What if we asked ourselves not what we think we need today, but how we can serve others?

    What if being tired at the end of a long day isn’t such a bad thing after all?

    ____________________
    Possibly Related:
    Unnecessary Dates and Vacations
    Thoughts on “Me Time”

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    14 Comments

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts February 26, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Hello, folks, I just want you all to know I haven’t forgotten that I need to pick up the pieces of this discussion. I’ve had a busy week, so hopefully next week we can tie up these loose ends and move on.

    I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time on the remainder of the book as I feel like I’m spending a inordinate amount of time reading it when there are other subjects I need to be thinking about…

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts February 21, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Hello, Folks,

    I’m sorry I’ve neglected these comments for so many days in a row. There were so many good ones, and I regret not having the time until now. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll try and flesh some of these issues out in a post in the coming week, and we can continue our discussion there.

    I did want to clarify a couple things in response to the last comment, from Anonymous, because the questions seemed to stem from wondering where exactly I am coming from. So, let me try and list a few things (in completely random order, and I apologize for that) that might help:

    1. I think there is a difference between leaving a child and leaving an infant.

    2. I don’t think that leaving a child “alone” with Daddy necessarily qualifies as leaving a child actually alone.

    3. In general, I prefer guiding principles rather than hard and fast rules, so I think it is best this doesn’t translate into some sort of absolute standard.

    4. I am approaching this piece of advice as being representative of the author’s feminism/secularism. In this book, there is no absolute standard for basing morality, from what I can tell. If I was hard on the advice, it was because I was approaching it as thoroughly secular in nature, and therefore dangerous.

    5. Maybe a little personal background would help. I spent a decade of my life (my teens plus a year on each end) sick with Lyme Disease. In addition to this, I spent over three years pregnant, and pregnancy is incredibly difficult for me health-wise. Though health trials refine a person in some ways, they also lead to certain personal tendencies, especially when those health trials are in the formative years of childhood. I spent many years of my life having to seriously manage my energy. Though there is wisdom in this, I also became the sort of person who is in absolutely no danger of overworking herself. I am constantly having to remind myself that I am not sick anymore and that I can get up and move or get tired and be okay in the morning. Old habits die hard. Because of this, I have to strongly resist the pull of the culture that tells me that the best life is the life lived at ease. This is a siren song to my heart, for therein lies my personal weakness.

    6. A couple of the guiding questions I keep asking here as I read this book are (1) What are the temptations to which introverts are prone? (2) What does it mean to follow Christ as in introvert? I am still thinking about these questions.

  • Reply Anonymous February 20, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Brandy, thank you for this post. It is rather thought provoking, and something I’ll need to chew on, particularly the scriptures you shared. Now if I may ‘react’ a bit…

    It seems like you are talking about not ‘demanding’ time to oneself, but rather sacrificing that time to other things that are more important at the time. Is that accurate?

    I must admit I struggle w/ the idea of ‘me time.’ I am an introvert, and I genuinely feel that I ‘need’ at least a few minutes alone or at least in quiet daily to rejuvinate, particularly in the middle of the day. I have learned that I am a better wife and mother when I am afforded that ‘me time’ (and my husband would agree). Just as someone mentioned they become physically ill after a party, I can literally become physically ill in the midst of my day if I don’t have those few minutes. On those days, I tend to join my children in nap time.

    I also see the benefit on my family when I go away for a short time about once a week. I feel refreshed and rejuvinated, but I also feel it is a good time for my children to spend some daddy time.

    I suppose this is where I find a bit of difficulty w/ some of the things you’ve said. I hear many women talk about how a mother needing a little time to herself is selfish and taking away from their families…that even leaving the children alone with daddy for a short time seems to be a negative thing, where I really don’t see that it is. Please understand I am not trying to put words in your mouth. This just seems to be a general belief among those I’ve heard who are against ‘me time.’

    I am willing to admit that I may not completely understand where you are coming from and/or I might need a change of heart.

    I would appreciate any further comments you might have.

  • Reply Rahime February 19, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Hmmm…I don’t think the Bible implied that Christ necessarily had time alone (or with just the Father) every day, but He was very protective of that time when he did want/need it. I also don’t necessarily think that’s the same as so-called “me time.”

    Having said that, I think there’s something to be said for time alone (not just for prayer, which I think can be mostly communal). For me, although it doesn’t necessarily happen on a regular basis, if I don’t have some time alone for an extended period of time, I’ll generally get very worn down and physically ill. Therefore, when I chose to opt out something in favor of time to myself I don’t necessarily see it as a selfish thing, but more just living in reality. I can’t do it all.

    I realize you’re speaking here primarily of the alone-time in the context of mothering. I suspect if and when I am a mother this might change, but I’d be somewhat surprised if it did. I’m not talking about whole days or weekends alone sipping mai-tais on the beach and popping bon bons. 😉 I’m thinking more of a few quiet hours each week (or two), and little things like spending an extra 10 min. soaking in the tub after a long day, those sort of things. I think it’s important for introverts to learn to catch their rejuvenation times when they can–even if it is five min. here or 30 there.

  • Reply GretchenJoanna February 18, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Christ did go away to be alone sometimes, but it wasn’t because He couldn’t be in communion with His Father every moment. Even we are told to “pray without ceasing,” so theoretically we can find strength in the Holy Spirit as Jesus did to meet whatever challenges come to us. I seriously doubt I will ever come close to that constant fellowship; the alienation of heart from mind goes too deep. I am more like Elijah, who needed days of recovery from his spiritual high of doing battle with the Prophets of Baal. God encouraged him and sent birds to feed him. Many times I need similar care after just a lot of what might be called “people ministry.”

  • Reply GretchenJoanna February 18, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Yes, that was a great post by E. Foss. I just finished reading it, and thank you very much! She puts it very well.

    My husband can’t believe I am an introvert, because he’s seen me pull off so many large and small events seemingly with ease. The older I get, though, the more days I need to recover from major expenditures, because of the physical toll of various ailments and illnesses. In those days, thank God, a good night’s sleep–or even half a night!–did the trick.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts February 18, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Ellen,

    I am still fleshing out what I think about time alone (literally alone) with the Father.

    On the one hand, I see exactly what you see: Jesus withdrew to a quiet place alone consistently. On the other hand, I see the reality that women sometimes chase that Quiet Time and it becomes a real distraction and discouragement when they are not successful in attaining it.

    Personally, I see that I need to accept a balance. On most days, I do get a chance to read and pray alone. On some days, I don’t. But I still get to commune with the Father because every single day I read Scripture to my children and pray with them and sing hymns with them.

    I have asked myself different questions in regard to this topic, and I don’t have solid answers yet. For example:

    -How much of the push for Quiet Time is really a result of the Amercian rugged individualism mindset rather than a desire to imitate Christ?
    -Did Jesus experience more of an ebb and flow in His ability to be alone with the Father, rather than daily withdrawing?
    -Because we are a Body, is it really less for me to commune with God in the presence of others?

    There is an interesting chapter in the Passionate Housewives book about this subject. They suggest holding Quiet Time with an open hand, and if children interrupt, take the opportunity to share the Lord with them, instead of being frustrated and pushing them away or demanding “our time.” They also suggest learning to capture the small moments by praying throughout the day, posting Scriptures around the house where we can see it, etc. On the other hand, I do remember reading about someone…was it Susanna Wesley?…who trained her children not to disturb her when she was under her apron, and that was how she spent time alone with the Father. 🙂

  • Reply Emily February 18, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Thank you for such a wealth of insight, Brandy. Great quotes, too. It was a pleasure to read, both encouraging and convicting.

    What is boils down to, I believe, is dying to self. Sacrifice. It would not be sacrifice if we did not have to give something up.

    Ellen mentioned Christ’s example of going off on his own. I think that it is an example we must follow; we all need to reconnect with our heavenly Father, to be still and hear His voice. Depending upon the circumstances in which God has placed us, that might not be until our heads hit the pillow at night, but it is necessary to our spiritual health and our relationship with the Lord, which affects every other aspect of our being and lives.

    Selfishness is an inherent aspect of our sinful condition, so I think we need to be very wary of what we define as “needs.” The giving of ourselves is tiring but what we “need” is renewal from God and the strength that He promises to give us in our weakness. Jesus didn’t run away to hang out and have a latte. ~LOL~ I don’t “need” a night out with the gals, for example, but I do need to spend time in God’s Word and in communion with Him, introvert or not.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts February 18, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    GJ,

    BIRTHDAY PARTIES! Yes, they sure are draining. In fact, I tend to be literally physically ill by the time a party is over and done with, but that perhaps has more to do with overindulging in frosting when I’m decorating the cake.

    Ahem.

    With that said, I have a love/hate relationship with throwing parties. They are draining, but I am also happy to have seen the people I love and care about. What has helped me is that as my husband has realized that this is a great feat for me to pull off, he has tried what he can to help me succeed at it, whether that be bar-be-quing the meal, planning the games for children (he is good at that), or whatnot, he likes the parties and so he wants them to be successful. This has been a huge blessing, especially as the children have grown and I have more on my plate.

    I do think it would be very difficult to not have one’s spouse not live with one in an understanding way…

    I completely agree with not spending our energy inappropriately. This is one of the things I loved about the Elizabeth Foss article I linked to in my comment above. She talks a lot about priorities, and making sure we are taking care of the essentials before going into anything optional.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts February 18, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    KM,

    I will put A Mother’s Rule of Life on my PBS wishlist! I would love to read this. I think that introverts and extrovert have mirror-image temptations when it comes to “drawing strength,” as you so aptly put it: extroverts to draw strength from others around them, introverts to draw strength from self and/or ideas. Now we were created to exist within the Body, and we were also created to think and experience solitude at times, so it isn’t that any of these things are objectively wrong, but I think the temptation is to avoid learning to draw strength from God Himself. Or at least, this is true of me.

    As far as joining organizations, etc. goes, I highly suggest Elizabeth Foss’ post I’m sorry; I can’t do that. I really think that some women can juggle a lot more balls than others, so the key is to figure out what oneself is called to, and do that. However, many times when folks are asking young moms to volunteer, they are asking for them to leave their children, and since Titus 2 says that young women are specifically in training to learn to love their children, I think this can be dangerous.

    With that said, when I had only one child, my church (which was teensy tiny and had only one part-time secretary to run business affairs) allowed me to volunteer to help with necessary paperwork in the office, bringing my infant along in a playpen. I did this as long as he was content with the setup, and then later did a bit out of my house during his naptimes. When we pray for opportunities, God will present them in such a way that to do one thing does not require us to neglect some other necessary thing, if that makes sense.

  • Reply Ellen February 18, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Excellent. I’m thankful that God has been gracious enough to toughen me up gradually. I really appreciate the little breaks, but I’ve learned to take them at home, a few minutes here and there. Probably the hardest time for me was the time when Seth was a baby and slept a lot. I was restless, but God reminded me that this was a short season, and sure enough, it was. =)

    I don’t think women NEED lots of time away from their children, but what about the idea that Jesus took some time alone with his Father from time to time? He spent himself in ministry, but he did take time away when he could. He seemed to model this kind of rest for us. What do you think about that?

  • Reply GretchenJoanna February 18, 2010 at 2:26 am

    I am an introvert, but I didn’t know it during the period of life when I had babies. In fact, as long as I was home or just with my family, whom I knew and who knew me, I could give and give all day every day and not get depleted.

    The only time I can recall from those years, of having that depleted and spent feeling–as opposed to straight fatigue–was after giving birthday parties involving other children and a very extroverted type of activity that was not natural for me. (Babysitting other people’s children was also more of a strain than mothering my own.)

    Still, I could do it, and do a fine job of it. It took me many years to figure out that giving parties wasn’t a good use of my gifts and resources.

    Any woman, introvert or not, should be careful about spending her energies on unnecessary things so that she gets needlessly worn out.

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 18, 2010 at 12:04 am

    If you haven’t already, find a copy of A Mother’s Rule of Life. She walks through a whole process to focus on spiritual needs first (drawing the strength we need from God) and gives some real examples of finding ways to rejuvenate without leaving the kids. (Though she does have a Mother’s Day every Saturday or every other Saturday, I don’t think all women need that time away from their families.)

    I’m not sure it fits with this post exactly, but I face a related problem with those who are asking for me to attend meetings or volunteer. I don’t leave my children, except occasionally with my mother-in-law. I bring youngest with me everywhere until weaning (which was 17 months with the youngest) and if that would interfere with bedtime or nap time, I tend to bow out. I believe God is asking me to be with my children right now, and to focus on what is best for them. There will be plenty of time to volunteer and go to meetings when they’re grown. (I do still want to find some volunteer work we can do together…not sure when I’ll get around to that.) People, even mothers of large families in our local Catholic group, sometimes seem so surprised by my unwillingness to just leave them at home or bring them along even if it’s going to be hours past bedtime when we get home.

  • Reply The Wintons February 17, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    GREAT post. Thanks for sharing!

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