Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

A message for extroverts

Bridging the gap between extroverts and introverts

Most weeks I stumble across at least a couple of posts about extroverts versus introverts in my social media news feeds. I’ve blogged about being an introvert myself. In fact, if you go by Myers Briggs personality types, I’m an INFJ, which supposedly the rarest type.

I’ve spent my entire life with people telling me I’m too quiet and wanting me to talk more. I get exhausted when I’m around too many people for too long. Crowds wear me out quickly.

Introverts and extroverts re-energize differently, but they have similarities. The quarantine offers a chance to help bridge the gap in an unexpected way! #introvert #Extrovert #personality #PersonalityTypes #Unity

Add in some social anxiety as well, and social interactions tend to make me cringe. I am paranoid that people don’t actually want to talk to me or that the remark I just made was ridiculous. I don’t easily walk up to folks and make small talk. It goes against who I am.

Living the introvert life

I do my best to get outside of my comfort zone when appropriate and when possible. I try to overcome random anxiety and fear, but I also know I will most be able to relax and recharge when I’m home without people around other than my family.

If I’m being honest, there are also times as a mom that I need to be alone and apart from my chatty, active children.

During the quarantine, I’ve found that I have more on my plate than ever with trying to keep up with my work, the kids’ schooling, a HUGE amount of dishes, laundry, feeding us and so forth. Yet, my tank is fuller sometimes because I don’t have random social interactions with other people.

I don’t have awkward moments waiting outside my kids’ school where I feel like I ought to talk to other parents but I don’t know what to say and I don’t really want to just make small talk. As an introvert, I want real connection or no connection.

What extroverts can learn

But here’s the thing about introverts: we are the minority. Of the world’s population, the majority of people are extroverts. Most of our world and activities are created for and by extroverts. People who are quieter or comfortable being alone are viewed as odd or different sometimes.

What I’m hoping is that with the quarantine, maybe extroverts can understand just a bit more how we feel. I don’t mean in that they have to be alone more often right now, but the drain they feel in being alone. The yearning they have to be with other people and get energy. The desire they have for physical contact or even small talk.

Imagine, extroverts, that most of the world is opposite of you and tells you the thing you most want (contact with others) is odd. Imagine that you must be more by yourself than with others most of the time. That yearning you feel for being with others is the same yearning we feel for being alone when we have been with other people too much.

How we’re alike

While our feelings are opposite of each other, they are still the same feelings. Extroverts need to be around others to recharge and feel drained without enough interaction. We introverts are the opposite. We need time alone to recharge and feel drained with too much interaction.

It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to talk. We’re not weird (at least not just for needing time alone!). Many of us aren’t even shy or anti-social. (I really don’t consider myself as shy any longer, though I did for years.)

Introverts and extroverts are just wired differently. And it’s OK. Neither of us are right or wrong; we’re just different.

Maybe in the midst of other lessons learned throughout COVID-19, we can get a better understanding of each other. I don’t personally have the same longing for being with other people as an extrovert does, but I can completely see where they’re coming from. I’ve had the same feelings from the opposite side of the fence many times.

Why our children need validation

Kids need to feel understood

Recently, I wrote an article for a publication about Social Security disability benefits for people who have the same bladder condition I do, interstitial cystitis. IC has no diagnostic test for it and is instead a diagnosis of elimination. While we have made much progress through the years, some patients are still told their symptoms are all in their heads.

Each patient I interviewed who had received disability benefits — whether it took one year or eight years — said their approval for disability brought them great relief and great validation. In fact, feeling validated was almost as thrilling for them as finding out their financial concerns were going to be improving.

Why validation matters

Validation is so incredibly important. I think it’s something that we often overlook both for ourselves and for our kids. Sometimes we don’t need someone to come along and fix our problems. We just need someone to listen, understand and say, “I see you are suffering, and I’m sorry.”

I have felt that way so many times. I even tell my husband sometimes when I don’t need him to fix a problem and just need him to listen.

I’ve not thought about validation as much when it comes to my children. I suppose that’s because validation doesn’t matter so much when they are babies and toddlers. It’s a bit complex. As they get older, though, it comes up.

Validating kids’ emotions

Over the weekend, my daughter had something she wanted to do that didn’t work out through no fault of hers or anyone else. She felt frustrated, disappointed and tearful. What she was upset about seemed a bit trivial to me, because I have three decades of life on her that give me more perspective.

But, it was a big deal to her. And I realized how thankful I am that at 9 years old, my daughter hasn’t had experiences to give her a different perspective. She hasn’t dealt with great adversity or struggle. I am thankful for that blessing.

As I heard her crying, I debated about how to react. Should I comfort her? Should I leave her be? What did my mom do? What would help her most? I decided to trust my mama instinct, which said to go to her and comfort her. So that’s what I did.

It didn’t take much. I gave her a hug and commiserated with her about how disappointing the situation was. I validated her struggle and feelings. That’s what she most needed. Then I gently guided her through looking for a solution to the problem.

Moving from validation to proactivity

I don’t want her to get so caught up in her emotions that she can’t move forward to fix problems. Obviously that wouldn’t serve her well in life. But, I knew without validation for her feelings that she wouldn’t be able to move forward and find a solution.

She was able to continue with her day. My daughter shed a few more tears and then moved on. She felt understood, which mattered most to her. It matters to all of us. When we are going through a difficult time, we just want to be seen and acknowledged for our struggle.

Adults need validation, too

A couple of years ago, I dealt with an ongoing situation that greatly affected me, yet I wasn’t able to tell anyone about. I remember a good friend whose response in finding out about it later was, “You must have felt so alone.” Her response still touches my heart, because I was validated. I felt seen and heard in the midst of my struggle.

That’s all our kiddos need sometimes, too. It’s human nature. And it’s something I’m going to strive to remind myself the next time one of my kiddos has a breakdown over something that seems small to me.

My children don’t need my irritation, frustration or list of solutions. They just need me to come alongside them, hug them, remind them they aren’t alone and then we can work through it together. I pray also that doing this with small issues in their childhood will lead them to coming to me with bigger, more serious issues as they grow.

Moms on a Mission: Kathleen Brooker

Profiles of moms making a difference

Back in 2009, I was pregnant with my daughter and joined a message board on Baby Center’s site for women expecting babies in October 2009.

Through the years, I’ve gotten to know a few of the moms from that group very well and consider them good friends. One of these mamas is Kathleen Brooker. When we first “met,” she lived in California. Since then she’s followed her husband’s calling as an Anglican priest to New York and now to Anchorage, Alaska.

As a pastor’s wife of a growing church, Kathleen often jumps in teaching Sunday School, serving in the nursery, co-leading the teen group and more.

Kathleen, who is a former mental health counselor, has chosen to be at home with her five children (ages 2 to 10). She homeschools her oldest three and does her best to keep the younger two entertained at the same time. She’s got such a heart for God and has blessed and encouraged me many times throughout the years.

Just reading Kathleen’s responses to my questions encouraged me, and I know they will you, too!

Families with Grace: What is your God-given mission or passion?

Kathleen Brooker: This is such a hard question for me to answer! It’s hard to zero in on the one thing I feel called to. I think that might mean that I haven’t figured that out yet. So many things draw me. I love to serve alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever we happen to be needed.

Right now, my service is mostly with the youth in our church: I homeschool our kids, teach Sunday school, and help lead our teen group. I have a heart for young moms and women experiencing crisis pregnancies. I long to be a kind and loving voice speaking the truth of the gospel into the hearts of those needing to hear it.

FWG: How do you work to live out that mission right now?

KB: I always thought the counseling profession was where I was supposed to really minister, but after over a decade I’ve come to the conclusion that a counseling office just isn’t where God wants me to serve.

So I serve at home by teaching our kids, by guiding their hearts to love Jesus. I serve by helping our teens at church learn to talk about their faith and share it with others. I serve by being a pastor’s wife.

As the wife of an Anglican priest and mom of five kids, Kathleen Brooker is busy. But she has a heart for God that shines through to encourage others. #MomsOnAMission #Ministry #PastorsWife #Faith #Church #Moms #MomLife

I love watching my husband share Jesus with people, whether it’s through a worship service, a sermon, a conversation or a prayer with a stranger who calls at 3 a.m. God has blessed him with a personality and heart to love His people, but that’s not always an easy job. That’s where I come in: I get to be his support as he lives out his mission.

God has set our family on a very interesting course — one I never would have imagined when I started dating my husband! We’ve been married for 13 years and have made three major moves (and two minor ones) in that time.

We crossed the country to serve in California, crossed back to serve in New York, then packed up our family again four years ago to serve a small church in Alaska. We’ve had some painful experiences and some times of beautiful peace and healing. Through all of it, we’ve been a team and God has grown us through our ministry together.

FWG: What are some of your biggest challenges in living out your mission?

KB: I think my biggest struggle is that my calling doesn’t feel like a calling sometimes. It just feels like tagging along where God calls my husband! So often, I feel like whatever I can offer is so small that it just has to be insignificant.

There are so many outreach ministries I would love to be involved in, but I’m just so busy with home stuff that it seems like I don’t have time to actually minister to anyone. That’s when I have to remind myself that this is where God has put me now, right here in this house, right in the middle of all this chaos. And He knows I’m here and what’s going on.

He’s blessed my husband and me with five little hearts that are so open to Jesus and long to know and love Him. That’s my mission right now: my kids. It doesn’t mean I can’t do other things outside the home or that I don’t want to, but my focus these days is on guiding them.

FWG: What have been some of your biggest blessings in living out your mission?

KB: It’s got to be learning to trust that God really does know what He’s doing. It’s easy to say that God is in control when things are going well, but it becomes so much harder when we run into complications in life. It feels strange to say that the times we’ve struggled most have also blessed us the most, but they have.

We had one particularly rough situation where my husband had lost his job. We were living thousands of miles away from family and friends. We were suddenly cut off from the little support and friendship we’d had, and we just didn’t know what we were going to do. I was eight months pregnant with no health insurance and things just seemed awful.

It wasn’t an easy time, but even in the middle of it, we could see God moving. It was amazing to see how He worked things out and provided for us. I love looking back at a situation and realizing, “Oh, THAT’S what you were doing, God!” It’s amazing to see.

I think my favorite example of this is always going to be the birth of our fifth child. I was so done at four children. I even told God that. Apparently He didn’t agree because shortly after we’d moved to Alaska and settled into our new life here, I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant.

I had such a hard time accepting that I was really going to have another baby and I struggled with it right up until the moment she was born and I saw her little face. The moment I held her and looked in her eyes, I heard God whispering in my heart, telling me to just trust Him. He was telling me that He knows my heart so much better than I ever could. He knows what I need and what is best, even when I think I’ve got a better plan.

During that whole pregnancy, I fought against trusting that God’s plan was better than mine. But the second I saw my daughter’s beautiful little face, all my resistance melted away and I was just in awe of Him. He was teaching me a mighty lesson, but He was doing it in such a gentle, loving way. At that moment I had just a glimpse of His amazing patience, love and grace.

I’d love to say that I’ve changed every aspect of my life and that I never worry and always trust wholly in Him…but that just wouldn’t be honest. Every single time I look at my daughter, though, He reminds me that His plans are best. I still struggle to trust Him completely, but I hope that I’m at least taking some tiny steps in the right direction, following where He’s so lovingly and patiently leading me.

FWG: What’s the best advice you have for other moms who are following their passions?

KB: I think my advice would be to remember that God has you where you are for a reason. It doesn’t always seem like we’re making any kind of difference or actually doing anything to serve Him, but we are.

I know I always catch myself comparing myself with other women who seem to be more accomplished than I am, feeling that if they are doing something I’m not, then I must be failing. But that’s not the way this works.

We are all here to serve Him in different ways. For some of us, that may never be a spotlight-type of ministry, and that’s OK. It’s more than OK; it’s what He has planned for us. I think we’re just supposed to follow Him faithfully, serving wherever we are with our whole heart and sharing the love of Jesus where we are.

Read more from the series

Moms on a Mission: Dr. Karen Dowling

Moms on a Mission: Erin Mayes

Moms on a Mission: Mari Hernandez-Tuten

Moms on a Mission: Sarah R. Moore

Moms on a Mission: Stacey Pardoe

Moms on a Mission: Kristin Billerbeck

Moms on a Mission: Crystal (aka InnieMom)

Moms on a Mission: Pastor Stefanie Hendrickson

Moms on a Mission: Amy Cutler

Learning to accept the new normal

Coming to terms with the current reality is challenging

The following post is all about my personal mental health experiences. For the latest information on COVID-19, please visit www.cdc.gov.

In the chronic pain community, we often talk about the “new normal.” While the term seems straightforward, accepting it is challenging.

We must adjust to life with pain and changes that none of us wanted. Because nobody deals with chronic pain and illness on purpose.

Adjusting to the new normal looks different and takes a different amount of time for people. It often involves going through the various stages of grief from anger to denial to sadness until finally we reach acceptance.

While we may still fight to feel better or even for a cure, at some point we work to get to a place where we can say, “OK. This is life now. It isn’t over and I’m going to move forward in spite of it.” At least that’s the goal.

For almost 20 years, I have lived with this new normal, and I’ve felt all the feelings that go along with it. Sometimes the stages even repeat themselves. I still have times of denial, sadness and anger. But, I let go of those feeling quicker than before.

Another new normal: parenthood

When I had my first child back in 2009, I remember talking with some other first-time moms about how motherhood requires yet another version of the new normal. While I loved my daughter so completely and fully (still do!), I had to get used to somebody coming first always. I had to adjust to the new normal where things I want to do (or even need to do) get shifted to low or no priority. Again, it’s an adjustment that has phases just like any other: anger, sadness, acceptance.

When my son was born in 2013, adjusting was easier because I’d already gotten into the new normal of parenthood. Of course I had to make other adjustments in dealing with a newborn and preschooler, but the new normal wasn’t as dramatic. I knew what to expect for the most part in having a new baby to care for.

The difference between the new normal of chronic pain and the new normal of parenthood is the time factor. With chronic pain, I can’t be sure when the pain will stop or start or get more intense. Flares can hit out of nowhere and last for days or months.

With parenthood, I have more parameters. Having children is unpredictable in many ways, but I at least have some idea of timeframe. We usually go into parenthood knowing things like about when our kids will be able to talk, when they will be starting kindergarten, when they will be graduating high school and so on. And parenting phases also don’t last forever.

Both dealing with the new normal of chronic pain and the new normal of parenthood have been on my mind lately as I am adjusting to the new normal of life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The beginning of the pandemic new normal

March 11 was when everything started changing for me and got very real. It was also the day my husband had surgery to repair his rotator cuff in his shoulder. I was even more vigilant than usual about using hand sanitizer throughout the day. In the waiting room, I talked with my mom and my in-laws about how the new travel restrictions would impact their various travel plans.

That evening, the university in our city announced plans to begin online learning the following week. The next day (Thursday), my children’s school announced plans to follow suit with the university.

Suddenly the reality of COVID-19 was very real. I contemplated taking care of my recovering husband, schooling my children and doing work. It was overwhelming.

I had no idea how long this journey was going to be. I was clueless at how much it would turn our lives upside down. As I write this, two months later, I still don’t have all the answers. I’m contemplating questions like when I will feel comfortable enough to let my children be out in public. I’m wondering what it will take for me to confidently go somewhere without wearing mask. I don’t yet have those answers.

The continuing pandemic new normal

Last week, I marveled at how things have changed. I’m used to working at home and being at home. Reality hits me when I leave the house.

I decided to pick up Chinese food for us. It was something I’ve done many times, but this time was different. This time I went into the restaurant and found the tables and chairs put away. I saw newly erected glass surrounding the cash register and both the employees and I wore face masks.

This is the new normal. It’s the kind of stuff we do to try and stay healthy. I can easily forget it as I have adjusted to life at home. We have a school-at-home routine fully underway now. I have figured out how to do my work. I can navigate the various technology needed for the kids’ school. My husband has now recovered well enough that he doesn’t need much help from me. It doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary.

Then I go to get food wearing a face mask. And I remember the world has changed.

Like with chronic pain, I don’t know when the change will end. My state’s governor is working toward a plan to have things all reopened by summertime, but even then says masks are necessary.

Nobody can say what will happen with the school year in the fall, yet. It’s too soon. We are waiting on things like better treatments and vaccines. We are doing our best, but we don’t have a precise or predictable timeframe with COVID-19.

And that’s hard. The unknown is scary and hard. It’s even scarier when I start thinking about all sorts of what-ifs and worry about loved ones. I’ve seen all sorts of articles floating around about both how it isn’t as bad as the media says and how it’s way worse than the media could report. I’ve seen conspiracy theories and scientific articles. But the truth is that nobody can predict the future. Nobody can say for sure exactly how this is going to play out.

My governor has a date to have everything reopened. However, as he announced his plan, he was quick to remind all of us many times that the plan will be constantly reassessed and we may have to take steps back. He, too, doesn’t have a crystal ball.

Managing the new pandemic normal for the foreseeable future

In the midst of all of this, I’ve also seen all sorts of advice articles about how we should have our kids continue with schoolwork for normalcy or that we should just let them do what they want because living life is enough of a struggle right now. I’ve read how this is a great time to organize my house or binge watch seasons of shows on Netflix.

For me, the truth of all those things lies right in the middle. My kids do their schoolwork as required, but they also have downtime. I’m not organizing my house, but I am cleaning well as I go. I don’t have time for major binge watching, but I have watched the entire season of “Supermarket Stakeout” with my family over a few weeks.

I’ve felt the feelings from panic to terror to anger to sadness. I’ve stayed awake at night pondering how we’re going to get groceries or what we’ll do if we can never find packs of toilet paper. I’ve gotten choked up listening to my kids doing a Zoom call with classmates instead of being in school with them.

I’ve stressed out about going into the store and wondering if I made a huge mistake in trying to get supplies for my family even though I sanitized and sterilized myself and my purchases. I’ve felt anxious about not wiping down every piece of mail with a bleach wipe. On and on the list goes.

Managing our feelings about the new normal

If nothing else, COVID-19 has certainly brought a slew of feelings for all of us. We are learning a new normal. There’s a chance that COVID-19 could change things permanently. No matter what, clearly this new normal is going to stick around for a good while.

And so we have to feel all the feels. I have to navigate through the feelings to get to acceptance. Because no matter how anxious or anger I feel, reality is reality and the sooner I can get to acceptance, the better. But just like with chronic pain and illness, it’s an ongoing process.

Sometimes feelings are going to creep up again. Feelings and issues I’ve thought I’ve worked my way through are going to surface again. I’ll have moments when I’m still shocked at wearing a face mask in public even though I’ve done so for months. I’ll have moments when I’m angry at having to sanitize and sterilize everything that comes into my house in hopes of keeping my family safe.

There will be days when I want to smack someone who says that we are in this together because if we were, couldn’t they come to my house and make dinner or do dishes or monitor schoolwork?

But I am going to do my best to get to acceptance and get back there as much as possible.

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10 No and low-cost Mother’s Day gift ideas

Moms don’t need an expensive gift to be happy!

I first put this list together back in 2013 when I had a newborn and a preschooler. Now my kids are 7 and 10, but the list STILL holds true. I’d love every single thing on this list for Mother’s Day any year.

This year as we are heading into Mother’s Day weekend either still in or maybe barely out of quarantine, we must remember moms don’t need expensive Mother’s Day gifts to feel loved and appreciated!

Mother’s Day is Sunday. I saw a cartoon recently where a woman was interviewing for a job as a mom. She said to the interviewer, “So, I only get one day off for Mother’s Day?” The interviewer responded, “Yes, and technically we still work then.” 

I laughed. It was funny in the way that something is when it has a nugget of truth in it. Motherhood has no days off.

Ideally, all moms would be able to relax on Mother’s Day and do what they want to do. But, that’s just not reality. However, moms don’t require much to be happy. If you know a mom (or a married to a mom!) who has young kids at home, I guarantee she’d like anything from this list and most of them don’t even need you to leave your house or spend a penny.

1. Give her the gift of a nap. 

Yep. This is my number one. I love naps. At any given moment, I would happily fall asleep if I could. This includes a nap sitting straight up in a chair (been there, done that). A nap where someone else is in charge of my youngsters for a couple of hours and I actually get to lie down in bed? Now THAT’S a wonderful gift!

2. Give her a compliment on her appearance. 

I’m constantly hunched over doing things like changing diapers, nursing, playing games, wiping faces, etc. Between my hunching, my post-babies’ body (which wasn’t a stellar one to begin with) and the fact that I’m beyond overdue for a hair cut, nothing about me feels attractive 99.9% of the time. 

Sometimes I literally look in the mirror and do a double-take when I find I don’t look nearly like the exhausted, hunchbacked zombie I feel like.  A sincere compliment from my husband might make me roll my eyes on the outside, but it also makes me feel good on the inside.

3. Give her some flowers. 

Listen, I have a fear of plants (I admit way too much in this blog) and even I love getting flowers. A vase of fresh flowers is cheerful and uplifting. They don’t have to be anything fancy. A bouquet of fresh flowers from the grocery store are just fine. 

The best kind of flowers to a gal like me are those I can enjoy in a vase for a week or two then throw out. Other moms might like the kind they can plant and maintain. My own mom and mother-in-law can plant anything outside and not only keep alive, but have it thrive. Go for what the mom in your life likes!

4. Give her a night off from cooking.

Even better, give her the whole day off! Whether we’re the kind of mom who cooks everything from scratch or relies on convenience food or somewhere in between the two, moms are constantly doing food prep of some sort. 

We probably don’t mind most of the time, but getting a break from making three square meals plus snacks for a day is nice. Even better is a homemade meal that we didn’t have to lift a finger for, but takeout works, too.

5. Give her the gift of laundry. 

I still keep my laundry schedule as best I can with a newborn and 3-year-old, but I also pretty much always have a load of laundry hanging over my head. (This is still true now even with my kids being a bit older now!) Right now, I do really, really well if I get two loads of laundry finished in one day. More typical is one load of laundry and even that may sit in the dryer for a few hours (or overnight…). Doing laundry for any mother is a blessing.

6. Give her the gift of a clean house. 

I’ve come across sayings about how cleaning your house when you have young children is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos or shoveling while it’s still snowing. Yep. Sounds about right! Any home in which young children reside could use some cleaning whether it’s putting away some toys, scrubbing toilets or vacuuming — or all of the above!

7. Give her the gift of uninterrupted, fun time with her children. 

What moms really want (after more sleep) is more good memories with their children. Most of us have realized that their childhoods go flying by. Sometimes doing the tasks and chores involved with taking care of our families and everything else keep from being able to just hang out with and enjoy our children. 

Moms need that. Children need that. Take mom out of the house with the kiddos and have a picnic. Or just let her sit for the day and play with the kiddos without having to worry about cooking or cleaning.

8. Give her gifts made with love. 

A craft created by little hands just for mom that mom didn’t have anything to do with is special. Yes, we are that easy. We also love a heartfelt note of appreciation. Being seen for all we do in motherhood is priceless.

9. Give her the gift of alone time. 

We definitely want more memories with our kids, but we also could use some alone time to sleep, read, sleep, shop, sleep, watch television, sleep or whatever we want to do. I’ve been almost finished with the same book for the last three months since the birth of my son. I seriously could have the book finished at least within an hour, but finding an hour to just sit and read on any given day is impossible. 

Maybe make mom’s alone time outside of home so she’s not tempted to clean or catch up on other chores. We’re kind of crazy like that.

10. Give her the gift of appreciation. 

Moms do what they do out of love. We get up every morning and wipe noses, make lunches, play pretend, do laundry, kiss boo-boos, hug through tears and even discipline because we love our children more than anything else. But, we still need to hear thank-you sometimes. 

We need to hear it from our spouses and from our children. My husband has been good at this so our daughter is learning to as well. Just the other night she thanked me for dinner while she was eating. 

Everyone likes to be appreciated. We moms need to know that all our hard work and sacrifices are being noticed. While we don’t do them for glory or for thanks, being appreciated makes us feel good and helps strengthen us to keep going.

Moms really are pretty easy to do things for. We appreciate small acts of kindness. Most of the time we’re so busy taking care of everyone else that we don’t do much for ourselves, so when someone else does something to take care of us, we appreciate it. We accept it as a gift. And we sincerely enjoy it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow mamas! You are awesome, strong women who are doing the best for your children. May your day be filled with lots of love and laughter and — if you’re lucky — a nice, long nap!

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