Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm an INTJ Woman and a Freak of Nature

I'm an INTJ and I'm a woman and that makes me kind of a freak of nature.

I discovered this in the past few years as I have learned about Myers Briggs, a personality indicator based on Carl Jung's theory that asserts that we all have innate preferences that direct how we see the world and how we operate in it.  When broken down, you get 16 different personality types and I am an INTJ: Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging.  In other words, I am introverted, I focus on the big picture and exciting connections between ideas, I prefer to make decisions based off of objective logic and focus on systems and theories, and I like closure and structure.   INTJs are known to challenge the status quo and also get the reputation of being just a little arrogant and callused when it comes to feelings because we tend to think we're always right and hold our emotions close to our vest.  And, well, we have been described as "masterminds," I'm just sayin.  (For more information about Myers Briggs check out the Myers Briggs Foundation.)

In the process of becoming certified in Myers Briggs I not only discovered that you can explain every oddity  about me (well, almost every one) through the lens of my personality but also that as an INTJ I am part of only about 1-3% of the population and as a female INTJ I am probably represented in less than 1% of the population of the WORLD.  So, just when I was starting to feel more normal I realized I really am a freak of nature!

I wouldn't have necessarily let you know it but before I knew anything about Myers Briggs and my personality type I thought there must be something wrong with me. I've been "different" since I was very young, just ask my parents.  But as I grew older I began to realize that not only was I just different in general, but I was also very different from most other girls.  At the risk of stereotyping all women, I didn't cry at sappy romance scenes in movies, I didn't "awww" over small puppies and babies, I hated baby showers, wedding showers, teas, and any other activity that was filled with lots of high pitched squealing and "frivolous" activities.  I'd rather talk world politics, literature, philosophy, and connect with someone through a a deep intellectual wrestling than discuss the type of food we like or the best places to find sales on purses.

In fact, being different has become part of my identity.  I have always been the tall girl, the Christian girl, the homeschooled girl, the girl who didn't drink, the girl with her nose in a book, etc., and if those weren't enough I was the girl who didn't really think or act like a girl. That's a whole lot of different.  On a good day I believe that God made me just this freakish because He has a special role for me here on earth.  On a bad day I just feel frustrated, misunderstood, and insecure.

Yes, being an INTJ woman can make me a little awkward in social settings, especially those dominated by estrogen, and can make me a little intimidating because I speak my mind with conviction, but what I really wrestle the different ways that I, as an INTJ, see being a woman, a Christ-follower, a wife, a waiting adoptive mother, a missionary.  I see godly women all around me that I admire and cherish, but there aren't many that I identify with or see myself in.  Sometimes I feel like I'm forging a path "less traveled" and it can be lonely and frustrating out here!

However, lest you think this blog is a plea for sympathy let me tell you that even on the bad days I am grateful to be who God made me, and ultimately I just want to create a platform for other women like me to not feel alone or isolated in our pursuit of a godly life as a _____ fill in the blank with your own "different."  I believe there are god-given roles for men and women in the church, but I'd challenge that they are probably less confining than we make them.  I always come back to the thought that God wouldn't have made me like this if He didn't know that there was a way to be me and be used for His kingdom! And I know that's true for you too.

I'm probably always going to be that woman who tells you what I think, will remind you that it wasn't just us women who were commanded to be meek and submissive, will make some men intimidated when I wear heels and my I'm-OK-with-being-in-charge-if-I need-to be face.  I will not feel that my god-given role is confined only to the home, and I will want to barf when I see men knowingly or unknowingly diminish the roles of women in the church to babysitters and "pulpit candy."  But I am working on saying and doing these things in love and humility and reflecting Christ as best as I can in the person He made me to be.  I don't always get it right but I'm trying.  If this describes you as well, then know you're not alone and even though it sometimes feels like an uphill battle the Lord can use you and your gifts and talents and personality.

Be you in Christ, and if you (and I) sometimes feel like a "different" kind of freak, embrace it...God may have something different for you to do today.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Lessons From Holy Week

Today is Good Friday and we remember that Jesus went to the cross for you and for me.  Today we solemnly thank Jesus for laying down His life in obedience to the Father so that we could find mercy and grace.  This week is Holy Week in the church calendar--the culmination of the entire church year as we acknowledge what Christ did for us through death and celebrate the hope we have in His resurrection. 

This week Andrew and I have been led on a journey that I feel is appropriate for this important week.  The Lord has made the themes of obedience and self-sacrificing love just a little more real to us.

We had a college group visiting us all week, joining us for a week of service and exposure.  We spent time doing work projects and led sessions where we challenged them to set aside their expectations for life and follow Jesus wherever He leads them.  In one session we watched and discussed a video sermon from Francis Chan.  In this sermon he challenges people to live biblically, which for most of the world will look radical and risky but for Christ-followers should be completely normal.  Carve out an hour to watch it, you will not be disappointed  You can find it here.

Andrew and I also received a call about an adoption case this week.  One of the emotional challenges of this process is the vast and stormy seas of unknowns.  I feel constantly kept off balance trying to adjust my expectations to new things God challenges us with about the age, the number, the challenges of children we might adopt.  We find ourselves being forced into uncomfortable conclusions only to accept them, grow comfortable with them, and then be challenged all over again.  And, for someone who likes to be in control I have taken each in stride, unusually going with the flow.  But not this time. 

As I wrestled with my expectations I felt restless, overwhelmed, and emotional.  I couldn't find my feet until slowly I started letting the words that were bouncing around in my head to take root.  I heard the message of Francis Chan echoing in my heart, which really is the message of Christ.  It asked me, how far will you go for Christ?  What will you pour out in an offering of obedience?  I think about what we celebrate today, and really we celebrate Christ's humility and obedience, even unto death.  And we know that Christ asks us to follow Him.  That's uncomfortable and scary and sometimes seems impossible until you realize it's the only logical choice you have.  It doesn't make sense to our world view but we serve a God that says you can only find your life if you lose it and that you must die to really live.  And we serve a God who loved us enough to walk that path first as our example. 

Today I feel at peace.  I know that Andrew and I have submitted our hearts in obedience to what God has been speaking to us this week.  I wish I could say I did it without a fight, but when I finally stopped wrestling I felt the peace that surpasses all understanding.  I don't know what God has planned for our future and our family, but I do know that Jesus will continue to ask us to lay down more and more of what is dear to us in order to be more like Him.  I do know that all I can do is be obedient with what God has put in front of me today and let Him take care of the rest.  I do know that not everyone will always understand the steps that God asks us to take. 

But how can we not take them in faith, when Jesus' journey of obedience took Him to the cross for us?  How can I not lose every last expectation and idol stored up in my selfish heart in obedience to the God in whom my life is found?  How can I not be caught up in the beautiful, upward call of Christ that promises hope and victory if we will follow Christ to the cross? 

In Christ death is defeated, sin is conquered, darkness is transformed: what is there left to fear?  That is why we call today Good Friday, because our God is good and He includes us in His victory!

Rejoice and follow Him!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dear Restless Heart

You think you hide it well, but your eyes tell the full story.  The smile you force onto your face does not have the strength to lift the heavy weight of tears held inside--if the tears do not fall, you think, people will still believe that your world is not ripping apart.  You want to believe that God is true, that change is possible, but, after all, your life still lays like fractured pieces of a stained glass window without shape or sense. 

Your eyes lift and fall without ever looking into anyone else's.  You fear looking up and seeing that someone else has found what you could not, or worse, that their eyes tell their own story of a losing battle without hope. 

Wrestling hope and despair leaves you so weary that you can barely lift the beer in your hand, the phone to your ear, our the palm full of pills to your mouth to numb the gnawing fear inside of you.  On a good day you feel nothing, on a better day you fill the void with rage.  The slightest thing makes you angry because if it doesn't you know you will weep until you drown in the emptiness of your soul. 

You think no one sees you.  I see you.  I want to shake you out of numbness and smooth the hardened lines around your weary eyes.  I cannot, but I know Someone who can.  But you have to stop fighting the breaking into pieces because the One I know is an Artist and His best work is done while bringing life out of the dust.  Let the pieces fall.  He will not fail to pick every one up and make something beautiful with it.   

What do you really have to lose?  The anger?  The fear?  The restlessness?  My deepest prayer is that you will know the Prince of Peace and that, "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds." (Philippians 4:7)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Go in Peace

Candles being packed away and table dressings being folded gently and placed in the cupboard lent a poignancy missed by some in the room.  Four-plus years ago I would not have believed that there would be a lump in my throat as I read our closing liturgy, the liturgy I hated, then tolerated, then grew to be a part of. 

We are in a season of change at World Impact and although God brings many new opportunities out of change, saying goodbye to the comforts that have held you through a mountainous journey can leave an ache in your chest.  Today our staff church held its last service as Antioch Missionary all its liturgical and controversial glory.  We are being led toward new expeditions and manifestations of our collective worship.  For some this passing is no more than a blink of an eye and a moving toward a new vision.  But for others of us, closing this chapter is felt deeply as we remember the things we have been through, the lives connected through our collective wrestling with life, ministry, and each other.  For a few of us, Antioch was a cord that connected all of the transitions, a cord that began frayed and unclear but was woven tightly as we joined with others on this journey and clung to one another for shelter from the storm. 

Never was it perfect.  Never did it breed a perfect union of God's people.  Never did it connect to everyone at all times.  But that is life.  Its value was not its perfection, but in the way that it made us change ourselves as individuals to approach God as a communtiy.  I will miss it, but I also rejoice in the knowledge that God is unchanging and He is ever in our midst.  I pray that He will lead us into something that is different, yet equally as challenging.  I pray that we embrace opportunities that will rock our pre-conceived ideas about worship and fellowship and that we will never seek what is best for ourselves but that which brings a community into the glory and shelter of God.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts..
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, it is right to give Him thanks and praise. Amen

Go in peace.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April Update

April 1, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Suddenly tears threatened to squeeze their potent mixture of joy, sadness, and shame from my well-controlled tear ducts. Even after five years in the city, I still have moments of revelation that break my heart in unexpected ways.

It was Thursday night and, as is my usual habit, I (Adria) sat behind the lobby desk buzzing people in and brandishing pens to enforce sign-in for our Adult Basketball Outreach. Andrew leaned on the desk as we hastily ate our dinner of sandwiches as people started to file in. From the hall I could hear the loud echoes of basketballs bouncing on the gym floor and guys warming up and talking a little pre-game smack, when Jason trotted out to the front desk to check the order of the play list.

Andrew has known Jason for many years, maintaining a relationship with him even through many ups and downs. Jason has struggled in his relationship with the Lord and with some significant family issues and personal decisions while growing up. These things led him into destructive behaviors and to dropping out of high school. Recently, however, Jason has been working on getting his life back in order. Most importantly, he has a renewed hunger for the Lord and has been one of our most consistent attendees of our weekly Bible Study.

As he perused the play list, Jason mentioned to Andrew and I that he had finally gotten his GED certificate. He said it so casually at first I did not register the significance. Andrew said, “Awesome! I want to see it.”

“Yeah,” Jason said, “I’ll show it to you. I’ve got it in my backpack. I’m taking that thing with me everywhere I go.” Then it hit me. I felt joy for this young man, who is making incredible steps in the right direction. I felt sadness that his life reflects so much pain and difficulty that securing a GED represented a major life achievement. And, I felt shame that I have taken so much for granted in my life. I thought, he had to work so hard to get his GED and is so proud of it that he carries it on his person at all times, do I even know where my high school and college diplomas are?

In the face of so much struggle in the city there have been times that I have felt guilty because I was born into the family I was and for the subsequent financial security, physical safety, and educational opportunities that were mine simply because of where God placed me. There are still times that feeling washes over me, but I know I had no more control over where God placed me than Jason did.

What God is teaching me in moments like these is that there is much about my life that I have assumed was my right because I am an American and because I am a “good Christian” who works hard. I am owed nothing. I do not deserve anything more or less than Jason. In fact, Jason has had to work significantly harder to achieve things that I have considered “lesser” than I have had to work to achieve things like a high school and college education. In these moments that God smacks me with humbling revelations I am truly in awe of my friends and neighbors here in the city. They are determined and resilient in ways I will never understand. Praise God for His mercies that meet each of us where we are: broken in our own ways and in desperate need of Him.

Please continue to pray for Jason and for the other young adults in our Bible Study that they would continue to respond to God’s call on their lives and for their strength to continue fighting to live a life pleasing to Him.

For His Kingdom, Andrew and Adria Medlen

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Let the Little Children...Pull Weeds!

We spent the last of today's evening hours outside fixing up our garden (Andrew mocked my city-girl construction of a vegetable garden) and cleaning up the "landscaping" in our front yard (I use that term ever so loosely).  Usually these are not among my favorite activities but unlike yesterday, which was about 40 degrees and terribly windy, this evening was pleasant and the neighborhood full of people.  I felt almost as much satisfaction about our clean yard as I did the sense of community I gained from being in my neighborhood.

Now before you think this a tranquil evening, there were sirens and lots of traffic and about 10 people across the street yelling and cursing at one another for about a half hour straight.  Oh, and Stu, our dumb dog, doesn't listen so he almost got hit by a car and then got cussed out by the driver.

Along with pulling weeds and digging out unidentified weed-tree-stalks, we talked with neighbors and said hello to passersby.  It's times like this that I remember that sometimes one of the best forms of ministry we can do is to just be visible and present in the community. 

Then to make a great night even better some little helpers arrived:
Many hands make light work...or do they?

Anthony is doing some serious stone "sweeping."

Quick, who has the most fashonable wardrode for weeding?

American Idol: Gardening Edition

Stu doesn't seem to be enjoying that as much as the girls!

This was right before we had to chase her down the street as she ran away towards the street.  Little stinker.
Questions heard while gardening with children:
  1. Adria, did you marry Andrew because his name started with an A?
  2. Andrew, did you marry Adria because her name started with an A?
  3. Why didn't you adopt a kid yet?
  4. Can you please get a kid our age so we can play with it?
  5. Is that worm pooping?