Sunday, September 6, 2009

Turning Annoyances into Opportunities

The vacation is over. (sigh) I came home to a disgusting house where nothing was in the right place and a long to-do list of doctor's appointments, paperwork, errands and organizing that needed to be done STAT. My husband was so wonderful in my absence and got an amazing amount of work done. He painted the whole basement, tore up the old carpet, and sealed and primed the floor for the new laminate that we had a contractor put down the day after I arrived back. He also moved the incredibly heavy wood furniture that I found on sale at a thrift store and bought the day I left for my vacation. It's all in our bedroom looking lovely.

Of course, all this work meant that things which normally stayed in the basement out of sight or in our bedroom holding our clothes were now all over the house, taking up space and inviting the kids to mess with them. Trying to clean and get back into the swing of things with everything so chaotic really stressed me out. This sort of situation is the worst for my temperament. I get very focused on a task and if I am interrupted (as I constantly am by my two children, or the phone, or whatever) my visceral response is anger. I need to consciously work to overcome that anger and deal with the new situation, which is exhausting for me. I am also very easily discouraged and a perfectionist, which means that I set ridiculously high goals for myself and then am thrown into a depression when I'm unable to meet them the way I want to.

Since learning about my temperament, I've been consciously focusing on seeing my emotional reactions for what they are. Rather than letting myself become angry or depressed when I am confronted with challenges, I need to use them to grow closer to God.

Two good examples of this from last week helped me to realize what God is calling me to do. On Tuesday morning our neighbor's dog got run over by a car. Since I saw the accident and knew who owned the dog, I rushed to their house to let them know. Unforunately, it was first thing in the morning and I was still in my nightgown, so I didn't linger in the street to express my sorrow. I ran back inside and by the time I was changed the owner was removing the dog from the street and heading back into their house. I wanted to express my condolences, so I tried to bake them some zucchini bread. I say "tried" because it didn't work out. The bread came out overdone, as it almost always does because I STILL have not figured out how to bake at high altitude (even though I was using a HIGH ALTITUDE COOKBOOK. Ahem.)

My personality took over at this point. Overcome with disappointment that my nice gesture had failed, I sadly ate the bread myself and did nothing for my neighbor. Now, I know I could have used the opportunity for something. Humility, perhaps, in giving a less-than-perfect loaf of bread to the neighbors. Patience, by baking another loaf. Flexibility (which is a virtue, even though it's not usually listed,) by writing out a condolence card and putting that in their mailbox. After all, they didn't NEED zucchini bread to know that I was thinking of them. But I didn't do any of that.

I have been observing lately how often I allow my temperament to control my actions. While I can't change who I am, I can be a better me. I must not allow myself to be ruled by my impulses. I need to master them. It's all part of the greater goal I have for spiritual discipline and going outside my comfort zone to do God's will.

If the first example shows me where I am deficient in my deeds, the second shows me that I am also deficient in my thoughts. Because I want to keep this blog somewhat free of politics I won't go into a long explanation of what has bothered me these past few weeks. Suffice it to say I am not always impressed with other people's opinions or the way they choose to express them. So that, often, when I encounter an abundance of vitriol about a particular issue, my reaction is to turn away from the entire discussion and stick my head in the sand. I give up, not only on the discussion, but sometimes on the person themselves.

Giving up is not in God's plan. But I've been wondering if He is leading me to silence and prayer rather than dialogue and debate. The fact is, I am good at expressing myself, but I am not good at rhetoric. I am too emotionally involved in the issues to discuss them rationally and reasonably. I'm inclined to consider this a strength: I am passionate in my beliefs. My natural inclination is to engage, engage, engage on issues I believe in, but my temperament means that this activity all too often tempts me into judgment and despair.

I feel God is challenging me to give up my way of engaging an opposing viewpoint and instead turn to prayer -- silent, personal, active prayer. When next I encounter a viewpoint or argument that makes me clench my fists and gnash my teeth and consider a witty, hateful status update on Facebook, I need instead to bring my palms together gently, fall upon my knees and pray for peace, kindness, compassion, justice, wisdom, courage, and love. What a beautiful response to being annoyed!

Accountability Analysis
Week of August 30th
Working on: Organizing house for start of homeschool, cleaning, meeting requirements for all activities
Successes: healthy eating, consistent outdoor playtime, all requirements for activities met!
Challenges: finding time for prayer, keeping my temper
Average daily HOS: 0

Week of September 7
Working on: establishing Rule and routine for school year, turning to God when annoyed

Picture credit.


qualcosa di bello said...

i join you on your knees...i am good with expressing feelings, but lately i feel a very STRONG pull to silence in the rhetoric department (excepting homeschool work!). i fact i recently spashed the header across many pages in my prayer journal

i have felt God holding my tongue so much lately & i have been given some tiny glimpses of the fruit of this (all unexpected & graciously welcomed). God bless you in your efforts!! & welcome home too!

Tienne said...

Thanks Qualcosa! It's encouraging to know I'm not the only one being called to this path, and that there are indeed fruits that come from it.

We start homeschool tomorrow, my very first year, very first day! I'm excited and a bit nervous. Mostly excited, though. :)