Thursday, July 23, 2015

a love letter to st. louis

For the past five years, I’ve viewed you as my home away from home. Which I realize doesn’t make a lot of sense, because I only lived with you for two years. I was a full-time student, working three jobs, living in a house with five other women. I was in complete transition in my life. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now, what a huge thing this is - to be in transition in life. It affects how you act, how you feel, how you process things. I remember being more worried about how I would adapt to this transition than I actually had trouble with said adaption. It felt like an easy transition, perhaps because I was so excited.

You are an amazingly fun city to live in, and probably even more fun when you actually have money to spend to do fun things. But there is so much to do that is free, so much to enjoy, that I had the blessing to experience you for the two years I did. Visits to the museum and the zoo and the Botanical gardens… authentic English Tea rooms and Scott Joplin’s house… Apple Butter Festivals and spiritual hermitages...Bread Co and the Archway… 
Birds and Bees Kaldi’s Coffee and many many hours
studying at Starbucks while my fellow seminary student 
barista made me the perfect mint tea… I just have so much love for you.

That’s not to say it was all easy. There were certainly parts that were challenging. I didn’t fit it with most people on campus, and I won’t get into the details of why or how I was treated. But it was bad enough that I almost quit after my first semester. It was either “adapt or die.”  I’m not much of a quitter. So I adapted.  

But I wasn’t willing to change who I was, so aside from the few people on campus, I looked for community at my church. And this is precisely why I consider you my home away from home. Because I found it. I found my tribe. found an pastor who shared my love for music and theology, a mentor who was willing to ask me tough questions, a group of part-time children’s ministry staff that made me laugh like no one else did, a small group that shared my loved for buying local and sustainable living. And none of it was an accident, because God ordained it all. I didn’t go looking for these people. God placed them in my path because I was too afraid to go looking. This was such a reminder of how much he loves me.

When I stopped by to visit you about three years ago, for Sherdonna’s CD release party, it was too quick a trip. 
I didn’t get the chance to really enjoy you again. So when I had the chance to visit this summer, I wanted to make sure to make it count. I had lunch and coffee and dinner and all kinds of other fun things for five days. I didn’t just go to see people, I went to process and rest and get some wise counsel from some dear people at the seminary. And some dear people from my old church… people I love and trust and people I lived near for two years, but somehow God gave me these people as friends for life. 

Between Thai Pizza on the Loop and Comet Coffee in Clayton and 5 Star Burgers in Kirkwood, God reminded me why you are my home away from home. Why I love these people and I love you. While worshiping in a new yet oh so familiar way, I found myself homesick for the old and excited by all that is new at the same time. It was confusing and wonderful.You had the best of me and the worst of me and I will always love having you in my life. The people you gave me helped change me, and I want to thank you for providing a safe place for me to grow and stretch and be transformed by God.

You have my heart, St. Louis. I can’t explain it and I can’t deny it. You placed me in a situation that broke me down and then you gave me beautiful people that put me back together again. I can never repay you for all that you did. But thank you. Thank you for the time, the people, the joy, and the love.

 This is me and Sherdonna.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

friendship and INFJs

INFJs don’t form a lot of close friendships in their lifetime… we are very selective. This isn’t about conceit, but really about knowing ourselves. We only have so much emotional energy we can give to another without great harm to our soul, so we make sure we give it to those we truly connect with, those we deem “worth it.” What I mean by “worth it” is those who come close to understanding us. Those who push us beyond our preconceived notions. Those who challenge us and make us think. Those who aren’t afraid of not understanding us, but are willing to go along with us for the ride. Those who try, need to know they will never fully plumb the depth of our complications (we don’t understand our own complications, so we certainly don’t expect others to understand them either.) Those to whom we give our emotional energy have penetrated our surface, which we keep pretty impenetrable. Because we want those who’ve worked for it, because honestly?  We would do the same for them. The thing about us INFJs is that we have some expectations. Because we know humanity can be better. We look for that in ourselves, and we honestly want everyone else to do the same. 

Once you’ve passed this “test” we are loyal to a fault, even when truly wronged. Not just in a theoretical sense, but in a reconciliatory way. If we’ve invested in you, we don’t want to give you up. We won’t simply forgive and then cut you out of our lives (unless we can no longer emotionally handle it) but we will forgive and continue with the relationship because we have already decided you are worth it. 

Take note: this is a high honor, and it should be treated as such. You will be hard-pressed to find a more devoted friend or partner than an INFJ, because we are happy to put so much energy into those we love. We find it satisfying because we take great joy in making those we love happy and safe. 

We don’t fake relationships. If we want you in our lives, we make time for you no matter what else gets put to the side. See this article. ("It doesn’t matter what gets done if you’ve undone a heart.”) We don’t expect quite the same level of devotion from others, but we do need to feel as though you are making some kind of effort. It doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t have to be at the same level as ours, but some effort needs to be there. We really just want to know that you care and that we matter to you. And we love seeing your personality manifest itself in showing this care. We fully understand that everyone’s idea of being there for you looks different. And we embrace this. Because to us, it’s the people that matter. And the ones we’ve carefully selected to love mean everything to us.

There is a down-side to this level of commitment we have, because while no one likes to be let down or rejected, INFJs take it harder than anyone else. To reject our love and loyalty is to cut us to our core. (I honestly have not found anything that hurts me more.) We value authenticity and integrity and take offense if it’s suggested that our love is meaningless or trivial -  whether you mean it that way or not. Because your actions mean more to us than your words. If you treat us like we do not matter, any words that say otherwise mean nothing to us.

Because we are so incredibly protective of our inner selves, those to which we open our inner selves are priceless to us. Our love and our loyalty take so much from our emotional center, so we view that love and those we are loyal to as a precious commodity. If you don’t like-wise consider it the treasure that it is, it’s best to remove yourself from our lives. Because taking us for granted is something you will regret. We are the rarest of rare personalities, and thus we are the rarest of friends. We are intense. We are complicated. But we are always worth it. Because we’ll push you, we’ll cheer you on, we will ask you great questions to help move you forward and we’ll love you more than we love ourselves.