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How To Deal With Social Anxiety At Church

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Have you taken any of the personality tests on Facebook yet?  They can be kind of fun, but if you’re an introvert with Social Anxiety, like myself, you don’t need to answer a bunch of questions about whether or not you prefer curling up with a book over going out with friends to know that you have a real problem.

You probably dread social situations that involve people other than your close friends.

You probably have one or two friends that you cling to at a party, talking only with them.

You probably opt not to go out when your safe person can’t make it.

You sweat.

You’d rather give a speech to a large crowd than attempt small talk, which you’re convinced you suck at and must feel as awkward for the person on the receiving end of your futile attempts as is does for you (Oh, and, they’re like, totally judging you, too, on account of your obvious weirdness and whatnot).

You probably use that infamous “Find a few people to shake hands with this morning” time between worship and the message to sneak out and use the restroom.

Did I mention the sweating?

This is one of my biggest challenges because I actually like people.  I want to get to know them, hear their stories, get to the heart of a person, pray with them, help them, and listen.  But taking that first step is terrifying.  And all of this is something that has to be overcome if I want to minister to others, because in order to get to know people, you have to get to know them.

In a perfect world, all of my introductions would go something like, “Hi, my name is Courtney, tell me everything about your past and what God is doing in your life now.”  But because that’s werid, I instead go with the more cultural acceptable spectacle of small talk.  It usually looks like this:

“Hi, I’m Courtney, what’s your name?” Oh, God, I can taste how bad my coffee breath smells

What’s the next question… Think!  What’s the next question… Oh right!…

“So, how did you find the Church?”…..”Oh, mmm hmm, mmm hmm”, Nod head up and down, up and down… make normal facial expressions… “Oh, cool, Okay”…

Mayday, mayday! Conversation dying! Think of another question… Weather?  No, too cliche.  Kids?  Yes! Always kids.  “So, do you have any kids?”  Nailed it….. Nod head up and down…. Wipe hand sweat on pants, shake, go back to seat. Whew!

Hot to deal with social anxiety at churchFor a lot of people with SAD, the idea of this encounter is so daunting, that it is simply avoided all together.  But what becomes lost when the risk is not taken is not only the potential of a great relationship, but the very purpose of the body of Christ: Bearing eachother’s burdens, sharpening one another, and growing together.  You miss out on using your God given gifts to impart something on to the people God has put in your path to help, and you miss out on receiving from the people God has put in your path to help you.

The funny thing about us SADers is that we tend to see others who don’t initiate relationship with us as exclusive, or snobby, never lending the thought that they may struggle with the same social crippling that we do.  So what you end up with is people not returning to the church because they “Can’t seem to get to know anyone” or “There’s too many cliques there.”

We simply can’t be effective for the Lord as islands unto ourselves (even though our island is warm, familiar, and has our favorite recliner) Jesus isn’t just our savior, He’s also our Lord, and we’re saved for a purpose.  His purpose.  Which means we’ve got to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and shake a few sweaty hands.  You never know what kind of beautiful relationships might unfold.

I’m not about to tell you that it gets easier or that as you become obedient to the Holy Spirit you’ll magically be cured and skip happily into a new small group, because that hasn’t been my reality.  Overcoming the stuff in our life doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone.  Sometimes people are miraculously healed, and sometimes we have to walk out our faith with a thorn in our flesh.  Those are the times when we have to lean into the Lord and rely on His grace for each new situation as it comes, or for me, for every new person I meet.  I am still terrified to talk to new people, but I do it because I love Him, and He loves them, and as I get to know them, I begin to love them, too.

And God has given us a wealth of knowledge out there to help us with this.  A little practical suggestion?  If you struggle socially, take a course on listening and communication.  The curriculum that our local Pregnancy Center recently started using, called Equipped to Serve, is fantastic and has helped me tremendously with the tools necessary to start and keep a new conversation going.

Another suggestion?  Make it a personal challenge.  My goal for the rest of 2014 is to strike up a conversation each Sunday with someone I don’t know, and try in earnest to plan a dinner with their family.  It’s a lofty goal, but I know that God will help me do it, and I am excited to see what becomes of jumping into the Body of Christ with both feet.

So how about you?

 

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Some Tattoo Wisdom From A Tattoo Lover

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I have some tattoos.

I LOVE my tattoos!

Sometimes, I like to take out a little mirror and just stare at them.  Mostly because I can’t believe that I actually went down that road.

But because I am a mom, and I want my children to make wise choices in their young adult years, I worry about the possibility of the mixed message on the subject that my tattoos will send them.  So now, years before they have a chance to start asking, I am going to plan my answer.

Should Christians Get Tattoos?Q: “Mom, Can I have a tattoo?”

A: “No.”

Q: “Why not?  You have one”

A: “I know.  I was there when I got it.”

Q: “So, what?  You’re all against them now?”

A:  “No, not at all. I love mine and fully support them with the following giant disclaimer:

That Lovin’ Feeling – The Key To An Incredible Marriage

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You know that scene from the last part of Pride and Prejudice where Keira Knightly is walking through the misty meadow and suddenly, there he is.  Mr. Darcy.  The macaroni to her cheese.  Their eyes meet.  Her heart stops beating. And they passionately embrace each other in true love’s first kiss.  To women all over world, this is the very definition of love, packaged up nicely for us by romance novelists and Hollywood.  But it’s not God’s definition, and we’re seeing the consequences of a culture that’s built their marriages on a foundation of feelings.

When you’re in the wedding planning stage everyone you know suddenly becomes a marriage expert, offering you an array of good, bad, or indifferent advice.  Since I was in High School at the time, most of the advice I received came in some form of the question, “Are you crazy?”  But the best nugget of wisdom I received came from my music teacher, who was also our wedding photographer.  He pulled me aside one day and told me this: Read the rest of this entry »

Is Prince Charming Really Dead?

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Have you seen this image floating around on Facebook?  A couple of months ago, I saw it appear in my news-feed posted by a young college student where it received comments such as, “girl, you got that right”, “Don’t I know it”, and “OMG, this is SO TRUE!”  I didn’t think it was funny or true at all.  In fact, it broke my heart.

The truth is, Disney Princes shouldn’t be seen as unrealistic, but instead should set the bar for what a young woman should expect from a suitor: A man who is courageous yet kind, heroic and tender, patient, long-suffering, selfless, chivalrous, hard-working, who lives and dies for the needs of his wife and family, and loves both passionately, and faithfully.  How do I know that this kind of prince exists?  Because I married one.  Unfortunately, as many of the young women who commented on this photo are discovering, not all men fit that bill.  The question is, where and how are they finding all these leavers, cheaters, and mistreaters?

How you attract a man determines what kind of man you’ll catch.

If you’re putting on your sexiest party dress and headed for the club to lay a snare for Mr. Right, please stop acting surprised when all you end up with is Mr. Wrong, because being in a committed relationship has nothing to do with looking sexy, but instead is about being more in love with them than on your wedding day after 9 years of waking up next to the same dragon breath and pillow hair.  If a man is interested in you because of the way you look, what will happen when you don’t look like that anymore? (Or as Proverbs 31 says, “… beauty is fleeting…”)  Believe it or not, there are men out there that are attracted to virtue, character, and faith.  These are the heroes that stay put when the makeup wears off, when the going gets tough, when the stretch marks take over, and when disagreements arise.

One of the seasons I haven’t given my husband enough praise for is when our son, Silas, was born and I went through post-partum depression.  He would come home after a long day at work to a disaster of a house and two kids who had barley been taken care of and start in cleaning, feeding, rocking, changing, cooking, putting them to bed, waking up with a newborn every couple of hours in the night, and then head to work to do it all over again each day for over a month.  That is how I define a man.

“A woman’s heart should be so lost in God that a man has to seek God to find it” – Author unknown

We recently had a youth event where the speaker produced a $20 bill and asked our kids who wanted it.  All, of course, did.  Then he crumpled it up and asked, “how about now?”.  They all still did.  Then he stepped on it and asked again.  They all still wanted it.  Then he spit on it, and asked again.  The bill was still in high demand.  No matter what happened to the bill, it never lost its value.  And neither do women.  God made each of us valuable.  Sadly I see over and over again that young (and old) women feel that somehow their upbringing, past, lies of the enemy, or appearance disqualifies them from being “worthy” of a prince.  They think so little of themselves (consciously or unconsciously) that they settle for anyone who will look their way, then the cycle continues with each new heartache.

God desires for each of us to have a fulfilling relationship that glorifies Him, that’s why He made Eve for Adam.  He has a prince for each of His princesses, and if you trust Him, wait on Him, and really understand the love and value with which He sees you, you won’t settle for being treated any other way.  Prince Charming is indeed alive and well.

Suggested Reading:

Redeeming LoveBy: Francine Rivers
Redeeming Love
By: Francine Rivers
CaptivatingBy: John & Stasi Eldredge
Captivating
By: John & Stasi Eldredge

Proverbs 32

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1  A wife of average character, who can find?  She is worth all the spray-on tan

and highlights she buys.

2She takes off the tags of her new clothes before her husband sees them, and brings him to-do lists.

3She stays up on facebook until it is light

and sets the coffee pot for herself.

4She considers a TLC show and watches it.

She sets about her work slowly, with many social networking breaks.

5Her bed is covered with stacks of folded clothes that will be re-folded twice before seeing a drawer.

Her children rise before her and fend for their own breakfast,

her husband also.

6Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting.  That’s why she buys Clinique.

7Many women do average things, but you surpass them all.