Wednesday, January 15, 2020

My Default Mode of Operation

My default mode of dealing with difficult situations is to fly under the radar. Or if I can't do that, I shut down until I can get out of there, analyze the situation, research, ask advice, and then formulate a new plan for moving forward.

In fact, if I take any personality test, they'll tell me, this is my strength. This is what I'm good at: separating myself from the problem, observing, analyzing, seeing many possible solutions, and choosing the best one. This mode of operation is like my protective shell. It protects me from things getting to me. It makes existence possible. And yet, it also makes me numb to my own existence.

Because I have these emergency measures to get out of difficult situations, I protect myself from falling into panic and fear and back-biting and neediness. All that is hidden beneath this protective shell. Other people don't see it, and I rarely see it myself. I might be able to go a number of months without remembering I'm just faking it.

It's like I was born a cripple and so I've learned how to use a wheelchair. I've gotten pretty good at it too. In fact, I've gotten so good that I no longer see the need for legs. And a new set of legs is offered to me every day.

"You can walk down this street. You can climb that mountain. You can run and skip and jump."

"I'm doing just fine, thank you." I say. "This is just my lot in life. Look at how fast I go! And besides, walking is impossible. My legs don't work."

It's not just me. Everyone has their own mode of operating. Some people decide that they're going to do things perfectly, so no one will have any dirt on them. Other people are always the givers, thus creating a white-washed facade around all their intentions. Still others alter themselves to be whatever anyone at any given moment might hope for them. Then there are those who desperately cling to authenticity. Some prepare for the worst so that they'll never be caught off guard, never be seen for who they really are. Some float through life, determined to be unaffected by its complexities or sorrows. Some turn right around and blame their ugliness on the person next to them. And finally some decide that if they do a disappearing act, no one can pin anything to them.

These are all different modes of operating. They are ways of keeping our beastly sides under wraps. But they are also what prevents us from seeing the actual state of the union.

Having children has made my default mode of operation very difficult. I found myself overwhelmed by situations with not enough time to analyze them. My resources came to an end every day, leaving me in a rage at my children or hurt at my husband or totally afraid to make decisions.

The children exposed the fact that I was hiding behind my own efforts at goodness. I was using my wheelchair to navigate the road, which was fine until the road got rocky. I needed a better way of operating. I needed to learn how to use my legs.

Using my legs is analogous to learning how to operate fully present in each moment, guided by God's wisdom, secure enough in His love to love others unconditionally, and confident in my decisions to act or wait peacefully. But how does anyone stop using their wheelchairs and stand on his or her own legs? I don't think we can. We have to use Jesus' legs? Okay, this makes for a very strange analogy, I admit.

The only way we can trust Christ to walk for us is to walk away from the wheelchair, that is, to deny old ways of doing things, the ways of coping that got us this far, but are now preventing us from going any further. Jesus says it this way, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23 ESV).

For me, that means noticing when I'm being compelled to withdraw and analyze. When I notice, then I can say, "God, I'm trying to use my wheelchair again! I'm believing that I have to deal with this situation on my own again. I don't have the brain power for this. But you do. Be my wisdom."

Then something phenomenal happens. It's like I'm lifted up. Movement is easy and smooth. I am relaxed and full of laughter and delight. I am walking, or rather, Christ is walking in me.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Enneagram 7: Now is the Next Best Thing

To the next!
To the next!
If I don't like this song,
I'll skip to the next.
When the kids move out,
We'll use the bedroom for guests.
When all three are in school
I'll be less stressed,
Earn extra cash,
Catch up on projects,
Be less perplexed.

But that's far in the future.
Summer's Family Camp is more sure.
And until then I can endure
For there's a dine-around in a week to savor
And tomorrow's church service. That sooner.

I see it all like a mirage in the distance.
It's why I must push through these dishes,
This bedtime routine and their Christmas,
Because the present brings me no joy
Like my hopes for the future do.

This here is repetitive.
This here is irritating.
This here is cluttered.
This here is boring.
I don't know what do do now.
So I plan for later.

Oh God, help me!
I confess
My hope is in the next.
I've believed that hurrying my steps
Would protect me from the now and its effects.

I want to believe that You have joy for me now
In the midst of this incomplete and half-baked dough.
So give me courage to stay in the pain somehow
For there, Your goodness and joy You endow.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Enneagram 9's Running up the Credit Card


I keep charging them to my credit card, these instances of kindness and patience and good listening. I know I didn't pay cash for them because I haven't had any cash in years.

And I certainly didn't use His account like He told me to. He said, "Let anyone who is bankrupt come to me. And whoever uses my account, rivers of gold will burst from their wallets." Yeah. I haven't been taking advantage of that deal. It's just not programmed into me. At the department store where the lit-up ads remind me what I need—forgiveness for that rude comment and understanding for that annoying person and gentleness when the kids are bratty—I want it all. I mean these are good things, right? I'm supposed to own these things. If I have these things, everything will be alright. Right? So I pile them into my basket and run up the credit card.

At the end of the week or sometimes even the day, the creditors come calling. "We see you've been spending borrowed money. It's time to pay up."

I show them my wallet, and they give me that knowing look before entering my front door and taking what I have. They slash through the plastic forgiveness and gentleness, rendering them useless. They empty out the bathroom of all my self-care implements. They take all the health food and the exercise machine. They take away my hearing aids and glasses, the heater and the air conditioner, my blood pressure medication and my inhaler.

When they leave, I am useless to everyone, including myself. I am numb and empty. What else can I do, but sit in front of the T.V. and let its messages wash over me until a new day returns me to my senses.

I know it doesn't need to be like this. I know I can have everything and much more by using His account. It's recognized everywhere. And it gets me the real things, not these cheap imitations that don't last more than a moment. He gives the real patience, the real forgiveness, the real love. And His products don't cost me anything. They don't leave me in a deficit either. I need only remember to stop frantically trying to produce for others' demands and instead, look in my wallet and see its emptiness. That'll remind me to use His account alright.


Friday, January 3, 2020

Digging Up the Roots

Oxalis by Abigail Stevens
The Enneagram is for people who have problems. If you don't have problems, this isn't for you. It's also for people who are open to change. If you have problems and are content with your way of coping, then stop reading. This isn't for you.

The Enneagram can be a tool to connect the dots between our troubles and their causes, the weeds and the taproot so to speak. It can be the final link that makes everything clear.

I know plenty of Christians who trust the Lord in their day-to-day lives without the Enneagram. God bless them! The Lord makes that connection for them. The Enneagram isn't a necessary ingredient to anyone's walk with the Lord, but it can help if you have problems and are having a hard time making your faith work. Here's how the Enneagram might help:

Consider your problems like weeds. All your stresses, areas of anxiety, repeated patterns of unhealthy behavior, outbursts of angst, brooding resentments, and even physical ailments connected to stress, fear, or hurt are the weeds. We deal with these weeds in a number of different ways. Most of us just run a gardening tool right across them by getting rid of the behavior. We stuff it or try harder or justify it or blame someone else.

To get to the root of the matter, this has got to stop. We've got to bring our problems to the Lord and walk with Him through them. This means no longer using the old gardening tools, but doing some uncomfortable digging instead. This means sitting in the ugliness. So gird up your loins and repeat after me.

As I examine my problems:
I shall not blame,
I shall not justify,
I shall not try harder,
I shall not brush it off,
I shall not deny the problems,
I shall not accept the problems as normal,
I shall not guilt myself,
I shall not berate myself,
I shall not adapt a new self-improvement plan,
And I shall not judge myself.

You may have noticed in my illustration of Oxalis above that each sprout has its own little root, and all those roots are connected to the main taproot through runners. Those runners are often buried just beneath the surface of the ground and are what spreads the weed over a larger area. I believe that many of our troubles are connected to one thick taproot. My fear of family gatherings and dislike of church might both be rooted in the same core issue: a desire to be liked. We've got to get to that taproot if we want inner transformation. I'm talking about a change of heart here, not just a change of behavior.

So look at one of your problems and start the dig with a prayer.

"God above who sheds light on all the dark places within me, shine now and show me where I am seeking strength, value, and security. Show me Your truth. Walk with me there. Amen."

Now ask yourself two questions: what do I really want and where can I get it? Chances are when you answer these questions, you'll be tempted to resort to the old weeding methods again.

"But what's wrong with wanting everyone to get along?" "But I have to do this!" "But I'm just being careful!" "But this would hurt anyone's feelings!"

Catch yourself in the act. Don't blame, justify, normalize, or try harder. Seek the Lord again and ask Him to show you the desires of your heart.

Understanding what you really want can be difficult. Here the Enneagram can help. It identifies nine different types of desires. Perhaps one of them resonates with you in regards to a particular problem you're having.

I desire:

1) For myself and others to do things right
2) For people to affirm or appreciate me for all I do
3) To meet people's expectation of me and be loved for that
4) For people to understand me, and for me to understand life
5) To have enough information and energy to handle a situation
6) To be prepared for what will happen next and to know who to trust
7) To have a good time and not be bored
8) For things to happen a certain way so that no one can get to me
9) For everyone to get along and my own needs not to get in the way

All these desires are God-given and good. In fact, they all describe our basic human needs: to be loved (numbers 2, 3, 4), to have control (numbers 8, 9, 1), and to be safe (numbers 5, 6, 7).

If you're having trouble tracing a problem back to one of these desires, you may benefit from taking an Enneagram test to see what number you tend to lean towards. Please don't feel confined to one number. I think we can experience all of these longings at one time or another.

So, now that we've got hold of the root, consider the second questions: Where can I get this desire fulfilled?

Stay away from using the gardening tools! "But I need to be ready for what happens next?" "Is it so much to ask for so-and-so to give me a little courtesy?" "What am I supposed to do? Sit back and become a fatalist?"

Time to pray again. "Lord, show me how You are able to meet all my desires. May I stop trusting myself and others for these things. Help me believe that You can protect and control and assign value. Amen."

When you've got your hand wrapped around that taproot, it's time to start pulling. This is painful. It may sound something like this.

1) Lord, I confess I thought I could do it right on my own, or I thought I knew what was right for others.
2) Lord, I confess I was serving others so that they might affirm or appreciate me unconditionally.
3) Lord, I confess I was performing so that people would esteem and value me for who I am and not what I do for them.
4) Lord, I confess I was hoping to be unique or that someone would understand me.
5) Lord, I confess I was trying to mentally muscle my way to a solution.
6) Lord, I confess I was believing that I would be able to protect myself from harm by all this planning.
7) Lord, I confess that I was seeking fun and avoiding the hard issues.
8) Lord, I confess I was using my strength to make things happen the way I wanted them to.
9) Lord, I confess I was ignoring my own needs in the hopes that everyone might get along and be happy.

Marilyn Vancil's Self to Lose - Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types has much better prayers at the end of her book.

When the weed is pulled up, you'll most likely feel this open vacant space where the weed was planted. Don't leave it open! Not for a second. If you do, a new weed might take its place. Instead, allow God to fill the gap. It may sound something like my prayers below. At the end of each statement, I have linked a pep-talk, confession, or poem that I wrote as I experienced each number.

1) God, You alone know what is good, and You call me good because Your son is in me. (Magnum Opus)
2) God, You alone know all my needs and are able to meet them. You know me entirely and love me. (Dropping the Cup)
3) God, You have already demonstrated my value is equivalent to Your son's blood. I need do nothing to earn it. (Resignation of the Queen)
4) God, You alone assign a beautiful meaning to everything, and You alone entirely understand me. (Abandonment of Fantasies)
5) God, You alone know everything and can make me capable for every decision. (Staying Power)
6) God, You alone know what will happen tomorrow and how to guide me through it. (Practice in Presence)
7) God, You alone give pure joy alongside each season's trials. (Now is the Next Best Thing)
8) God, You are the only omnipotent being. And You will never betray me. (To the Confidant)
9) God, You alone are able to bring about a peace that includes my desires and needs. (Running up the Credit Card)

A side note about this process: you might be tempted to say, "Am I really supposed to do this every time I'm angry or hurt or afraid? I don't have time for this!"

Here's the deal. This ISN'T just a process. This is how we walk with the Lord. It's a relationship. We ask Him to show us the root of our problems. He shows us. We confess our sin. He forgives us. We trust Him to fill in the gap. He does.

It's like marriage. Healthy marriages work when two people work together. Yes, it takes time to talk to each other about where the money should go or how to discipline the children, but that's what a relationship is: doing life together. Sure, there might not be time in that exact moment to have a discussion, but the discussion happens eventually.

Think of it another way. If you were going to cross a desert where a ravenous lion lived, you could spend all your time and energy studying lion-behavior and arming yourself to the teeth. Or you could stick to the Lion-slayer.

We are in a desert, and there is a ravenous lion out to destroy us from the inside out. If we don't have time to learn how to walk with the Lion-slayer, we are going to be eaten.

Here's the good news. You might find that when you work through problems with the Lord, time suddenly unfolds around you in abundance. In fact, all sorts of blessings unfold around you.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Why Little Annoyances Are Very Important

What if the trials that the Bible says brings about maturity are something that happen everyday? What if these trials aren't terrorists burning down my home or my child contracting an incurable disease or being shunned by an unbelieving relative? Although, don't get me wrong, these are definitely trials too. What if these trials might also be the simple unsettling things that happen to me everyday?

My five-year-old shouts at me that she's not going to obey, or when she does obey, she subjects me to her wailing.

My one-year-old won't nap.

I have a headache.

I'm dreading planning the upcoming children's birthday parties.

My husband doesn't speak to the children the way I think is best.

I must figure out how to fill in the paperwork for a business license.

The Christmas tree has crisped, which will make un-decorating difficult.

My son doesn't read as well as his friends, and this worries me.

I'm not sure the leftover spaghetti and meatballs will be enough for everyone for dinner tonight.

Someone makes an offhanded comment that I can't stop stewing over.

Certainly these daily instances aren't worth crying about or seeking advice. I usually plow my way through them without mentioning them to the Lord. And they're certainly not my prayer requests in small group. No, prayer request time is for big stuff and these are small things. Right?

But what if they aren't? What if every one of these little instances is a test of my faith? Will Abigail draw her strength from the Lord or will she try to do it herself again?

I know I ought to be loving, patient, kind, good, joyful, peaceful, and self-controlled. Frequently I manage to produce the right actions too, but it takes a toll on me. Afterwards, I keep expecting to be given my just dues: some time to myself, some feelings of peace and happiness, some extra cash to spend, some reciprocated gratitude or kindness, a season of good health, etc.

It's like trying to grow plants in untreated ground. I plant. I water. I wait for growth. Something green usually comes up, but it doesn't last very long and it's only weeds. I don't have the right seed, you see. And I'm resisting the pain of having myself tilled. It hurts to have my weeds killed.

It hurts to realize that when my daughter shouts at me, I was relying on her self-control to feel my own sense of control in the world. It's frightening when my plans to rest are thwarted by my one-year-old's nap schedule, and I find myself looking for another source of strength besides the Lord. It's humiliating when I must admit my headache is from believing the outcomes are all up to me.

It's those daily instances of irritation, fear, and offense that are a call to worship. These are the trials that are seeking to finish the work of salvation in us. There can be no love, joy, or peace until the ground is tilled and the weeds pulled up. There can be no trust in the Lord until we confess we haven't been trusting in Him at all.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Library Finds: 2019's Books I Enjoyed


If you asked me what books I most enjoyed this past year, this is what I'd tell you:

I'm No Angel by Kylie Bisutti: Gripping story about Kylie Bisutti's journey to become a Victoria's Secret Angel. I found Bisutti's commentary on the modeling industry so interesting since this is something I know nothing about. I was also very impressed with how well her Christian family and husband supported and loved her through her time in that career. Overall, a neat perspective on how Christ works in the modeling world.

Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle: I read this book, a sequel to Tattoos on the Heart, like I would a devotional. It has so many potent ideas that I found I needed time to think things through before moving on. Boyle breaks up his thought-provoking ideas with humorous and heart-wrenching stories about his relationships with L.A. gang members. This book really convicted me regarding how I try to "help" people and how I don't see others as I would myself. An excellent read!

Self to Lose - Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types by Marilyn Vancil: I have already written several posts on this book, (See Part 1 and Part 2) but it bears repeating. This book is a great, simple, and sweet introduction to the Enneagram in light of Christ's command to die to ourselves and follow him. It includes practical applications as well as prayers for each Enneagram type at the end.

The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay: I read this commentary after Grandpa Seelye passed away this past summer. Grandpa taught many Romans bible studies, some of which were taught in my childhood home. I never attended those bible studies because I was too young, but I heard great stories about them. It seemed fitting to read through Romans after he passed away. I found this commentary from the Daily Study Bible Series so accessible. Each section was fairly short and had plenty of nuggets for each day. I was greatly blessed by it.

Blow the Wind Southerly by D.E. Stevenson: This book has also appeared as The Enchanted Isle and Charlotte Fairlie. I could probably put any of D.E. Stevenson's books down here as excellent reads, but this one I read most recently. The story follows Charlotte Fairlie as she maneuvers the difficult tasks involved with being headmistress at Saint Elizabeth's school for girls. True to form, part of the novel is spent in the bustle and difficulties of daily life while the later half is spent on holiday on a Scottish Isle. I like D.E. Stevenson's novels because of how she portrays difficult characters. This book has its fair share of "villains" that harvest what they reap. Who doesn't love a story like that!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Enneagram 6's Practice in Presence

Tomorrow's conversations
Needn't be today's contemplations:
"If they say this, I will say that."
But I keep forgetting
I'm not in charge of my well-being—
That doesn't sound right—
I mean, I'm not burdened
With turning out good results
Or forecasting tomorrow's trials
To make myself impenetrable.

All this rehearsing
Merely fogs up my mind
Hampering listening tomorrow
And sensing today
And seeking God always.

What else could happen?
Have I thought it all through?
Are my guards up?
Are my answers ready?

No.

God will supply the wisdom then
For what I cannot predict now.
God will unfold the scenes
That create goodness within me
And around me and from me.
I needn't strive or rehearse,
Because today's practice in presence
Build's the courage for tomorrow's unknown.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Totally Technical Enneagram Blah Blah

This is a totally technical post about different categories within the Enneagram. All my quotes are from Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson's book The Wisdom of the Enneagram: the Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types.

The Intelligence Centers: where each number is least able to function normally


The Instinct Center: 8, 9, 1

- These numbers are concerned with maintaining resistance and control of the environment.
- They have problems with aggression or repression.
  • 8's: "Nothing's going to get the upper hand on me. No one is going to get through my defenses and hurt me. I'm going to keep my guard up." (Hudson & Riso, 53)
  • 9's don't want certain feelings or states to disturb their equilibriums so they create inner and outer walls.
  • 1's: "I don't want that feeling! I don't want to have that reaction or that impulse!" (Hudson & Riso, 53)


The Feeling Center: 2, 3, 4

- These numbers are concerned with their self-image and the false self.
- They have identity and hostility issues.
- "This is who I am—isn't it? You like it—don't you?" (Hudson & Riso, 56)
  • 2's Looks for the value in the good regard of others.
  • 3's are concerned with how they broadcast themselves to the world. They are also at risk of believing their own press releases about themselves. (Hudson & Riso, 56)
  • 4's maintain their self-image based on their inner "feelings, fantasies and stories from their past." (Hudson & Riso, 56)


The Thinking Center: 5, 6, 7

- They are concerned with "finding a sense of inner guidance and support." (Hudson & Riso, 57)
- They have insecurity and anxiety issues. They have lost touch with the quiet mind.
- "What's going to happen to me? How am I going to survive? How can I prepare myself to keep bad things from happening? How do I move forward in life? How do I cope?" (Hudson & Riso, 57)
  • 5's believe the "only safe place is in their minds, so they stockpile whatever they believe will help them survive until they are ready to rejoin the world." (Hudson & Riso, 58)
  • 6's launch outside themselves to protect themselves from the inner world and then launch inside themselves to protect from the outside world.
  • 7's charge into life for fear of being trapped in the inner life of pain, grief, and feelings of anxiety.


The Hornevian Groups: reveals how we primarily try to get our needs met


The Assertives: 7, 8, 3

- Insist or demand what they think they need 
- Have difficulty processing their feelings
  • 8's demand autonomy to have control
  • 7's demands to do what they wish to feel secure
  • 3's demand attention to gain recognition


The Compliants 1, 2, 6

- Try to earn what they need
- "How can I meet the demands of what others expect of me? How can I be a responsible person?"
  • 1's attempt to earn autonomy by being perfect so others don't interfere
  • 2's try to earn attention by serving and doing thoughtful things
  • 6's try to earn security by doing what is expected of them


The Withdrawns 4, 5, 9

- Withdraw to get what they think they need 
- Have trouble staying in the physicality of life and getting out of their imaginations
  • 9's withdraw to gain autonomy to have control
  • 4's withdraw to gain attention in the hope that someone will come and discover them
  • 5's withdraw to gain security in understanding


Harmonic Groups: Reveal how each number copes when they don't get what they want


The Positive Outlook Group: 9, 2, 7

- Deny that they have any problems
  • 9: "What problem? I don't think there is a problem."
  • 2: "You have a problem. I am here to help you."
  • 7: "There may be a problem, but I'm fine."


The Competency Group: 3, 1, 5

- Cut off feelings and solve problems logically
  • 3: "There's an efficient solution to this—we just need to get to work."
  • 1: "I'm sure we can solve this like sensible, mature adults."
  • 5: "There are a number of hidden issues here: let me think about this."


The Reactive Group: 6, 4, 8

- React strongly and need response from others
  • 6: "I feel really pressured, and I've got to let off some steam!"
  • 4: "I feel really hurt, and I need to express myself."
  • 8: "I'm angry about this and you're going to hear about it!"


Hudson, Russ and Riso, Don Richard. The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types. New York: Bantam, 1999.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

More Funny Things They Say

"My feet are sparkling," Lee's description of his feet when they fell asleep.

I asked Lee what he thought the mission of our family was and he replied. "This is going to take a lot of thinking time to answer."

Lee's way of making friends at the beach is to run up to a kid, any kid, and say, "You get that bucket and start pouring water into that pool that we're making over there."

"Mommy, can I get the clippers and shape our orange tree into a shape?" So glad you asked Lee.

Rose asked me if Satan has a wife because Rose was telling Mrs. Satan to stop telling her lies.

The children were listening to the bible and drama tapes, and at the part where Joseph is bound, and tethers are put on his feet, Rose asked, "Are the feathers on his feet to tickle him?"

I was testing out personality questions on the kids, questions like, "If you walked into a room full of people would you first talk to them or stand back and watch them?" Lee caught on fairly quickly and asked, "Mommy, if you had directions would you want them in Spanish or Sign Language?"

We've been watching quite a bit of the British Baking Show lately. After taking the children to a Spanish bakery, I asked them how they'd judge their pan dulce's. Lee replied, "First I cut it two times in half and poke at it."

Rose showed me a picture she drew of a lake, some princesses, and two geese. I pointed at the water fowl and asked, "Oh, are those geese, Rose?" "No," she replied. "They're gooses."

Rose's reflections about the deck boards: "These boards are not having a good life. All they do is sit here. We are having a good life. We get to play."

When kissing Lee goodnight, he gave me a short report of his day and then threw off his covers and looked at me with concern. "Mommy, I have a question." He pulled his foot up to his face and curled his toes. "Why do I have wrinkles on the bottom of my foot when I do this?"
Benny doesn't say funny things yet, but he looks awfully cute in our Christmas trunk.

Monday, December 16, 2019

My True Loves Gave to Me

On the first hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
A sock chucked out the car window.

On the second hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the third hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the fourth hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Quarreling in the car,
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the fifth hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Lunch on the floor,
Quarreling in the car,
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the sixth hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
A tub of cleaner dumped,
Lunch on the floor,
Quarreling in the car,
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the seventh hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
The laundry room flooded,
Tub of cleaner dumped,
Lunch on the floor,
Quarreling in the car,
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the eighth hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
The Christmas tree knocked over,
Laundry room flooded,
Tub of cleaner dumped,
Lunch on the floor,
Quarreling in the car,
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the ninth hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
My last wedding dish smashed,
Christmas tree knocked over,
Laundry room flooded,
Tub of cleaner dumped,
Lunch on the floor,
Quarreling in the car,
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the tenth hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Notes saying I'm mean,
Wedding dish smashed,
Christmas tree knocked over,
Laundry room flooded,
Tub of cleaner dumped,
Lunch on the floor,
Quarreling in the car,
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the eleventh hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
A family melt down,
Notes saying I'm mean,
Wedding dish smashed,
Christmas tree knocked over,
Laundry room flooded,
Tub of cleaner dumped,
Lunch on the floor,
Quarreling in the car,
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

On the twelfth hour of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Attempts to recompense,
Family melt down,
Notes saying I'm mean,
Wedding dish smashed,
Christmas tree knocked over,
Laundry room flooded,
Tub of cleaner dumped,
Lunch on the floor,
Quarreling in the car,
Beds stripped for play,
Potty sprayed about,
And a sock chucked out the window.

Rose picked me a plethora of lemons to help me feel better.
The kids wrote me this very sweet note after they saw me crying.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Processing "Unkindness"

When someone irritates me or offends me or seems inconsiderate, I have three things to consider:

1) I might consider what their words or actions say about me.

2) I might consider what their words or actions say about them.

3) Or I might consider what their words or actions say about the universe.

I'll probably consider all of these. However, one is more assessable than the others. Trying to understand the universe sometimes makes my head spin. And I don't have access into other's hearts and minds. I do have access into my own though.

Considering what someone's unkindness reveals about myself is the most fruitful. I might discover all sorts of insecurities or unrealistic expectations or unsupported assumptions within me. I might learn that I was placing my faith in what someone thought of me instead of what God says about me.

But I want to consider the dangers of the second option: what someone's words or actions say about them. Dwelling too much on this option can be dangerous.

Let's say someone's words hurt me. I might believe that that person was acting in an inconsiderate way and I might be right. I might then judge them to be selfish. The first belief says something about their actions and how they affected me; the second says something about their heart and their goodness or lack thereof. The first is a judgement I have every right to make; the second is God's territory because only He knows and rightly evaluates people's hearts.

Making value judgements about others can hurt me as well as my relationships. It creates a crust over my eyes, so to speak. It can cause me to interpret all they do through this impairing crust. For example, I may see a supposedly selfish person giving to the poor and assume that they are just trying to look good. This crust makes it impossible for me to see the person as they really are.

I can also form this kind of crust because of people's kindnesses. Someone takes me out to lunch or compliments me, and I believe this person is wise and good-hearted. Again, I'm forming a crust and viewing everything through it. I'm making a value judgement about their goodness.

God has a way of cracking through the crust over our eyes though. It's called real life experiences. One day the supposedly-altruistic person acts inappropriately, or the supposedly-selfish person acts kindly towards me. Suddenly, reality pokes through my blindnesses. I can then chose to peel the film off my eyes or continue in my delusions.

So how do we keep from forming a crust over our eyes in the first place? If we don't make value judgements about wrong things people do, how do we view them, especially if they're offensive?

Perhaps we can think of other's words and actions as if they were glimpses out my car window. When I'm flying by at 80 mph, and I catch a flash of red and skin, I might believe that I just saw a hooker. Maybe I did, but I must remember I only caught a glimpse.

Our encounters with others' words or actions are glimpses at 80 mph. They express a particular way someone was interacting with the world in a single moment. We have no authority to decide what was going on inside of them based on those glimpses, even thirty-thousand glimpses. Our view of the world is limited to this car and the fast pace at which we're traveling. Thus, even making value judgements about the people closest to us, is a bad idea. God alone can judge whether a person is good or not.

As an analyst and a writer, I love imagining what's going on in other people's heads. I love making up stories about what might be happening within them. However, I must never put my trust in those stories. Instead, I think of these flashes of information as millions and millions of puzzle pieces. I love trying to fit them together, but ultimately, I must allow for the complete picture to be put together by God himself.

In fact, the best way to view others is how God views them, but that's another post.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Cautions Concerning Enneagram Literature

As I delve into Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson's The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types, I'm beginning to see several patterns that I've also seen in other Enneagram literature. Here are some of the common ideas that seem like trip wire to me.

Enneagram literature uses various terms to talk about the two sides of ourselves: the true self versus the adapted self, our essence versus our personality, the real self versus the pretend self. I like to think of this as the life of the flesh and the life of the spirit. The use of the terms is not the problem here but rather the explanations of their origins and the methods by which we move from one form to the other.

1) Don Riso talks about how he had a vision that showed how humans are all "beings of light". Riso and Hudson call it the "spark of Divinity in us" (Hudson and Riso, 36). This kind of talk seems dangerous to me. I don't understand why they don't say that this light is the image of God in us. Perhaps they're trying to write for a larger audience than Christians. It is my conviction that we can be sources of light, but only with Christ in us. He shines out of us to display a unique, valuable, and good person. If we have no faith in the Lord, this light will not be in us, only the potential for that light.

2) Riso and Hudson talk about how we have "fallen asleep to our true nature" (Hudson & Riso, 27). An awakening of ourselves can transform us back into our true selves. This doesn't seem true to me. Even when I know what I ought to do, that doesn't mean I will do it for the right reasons (Rms: 7:21-24). We need supernatural power to love others, ourselves, and God rightly. Transformation is God doing something in us, not us realizing we were great all along. Perhaps that is what they mean, but their vagueness seems to leave God out of it.

3) Riso and Hudson also explain how our pretend selves came to be. They state that our parents' or caretakers' inability to meet all our needs caused us to develop these coping mechanisms that eventually became our pretend selves. If this were entirely true, then Jesus would've developed a false self too because his parents were imperfect. And Adam and Eve wouldn't have developed false selves because they had the perfect "parent." We develop false selves because we are born out of relationship with God not because our parents failed.

4) Riso and Hudson explain how each Enneagram type has a way of distorting the Divine attributes within them. They claim that this is the "root of our imbalance" (Hudson & Riso, 22). However, I think the root is much deeper. Sloth, anger, pride, deceit, envy, avarice, fear, gluttony, and lust are indeed deep within us, but there is something deeper still. Why are we slothful? Why are we angry? I think it's because we are trying to meet our own needs. We believe we must control our fate, earn our value, and plan our future. Essentially, we are trying to do God's job, thus, loving ourselves more than we love God or others. This is at the root of our problems.

5) Riso and Hudson list all the Enneagram numbers' lost childhood messages on page 34. These are supposedly things that we stopped believing in childhood due to parents who couldn't meet our needs. "You are good," "You are wanted," "You are loved for who you are," etc. I like to think of these as the truths we doubt from birth because we were born out of a relationship with God. Riso and Hudson say that when we claim these truths, we can then return to our Essence. However, I find it impossible to believe that I am good unless someone who knows me entirely and knows what goodness is says that I am good.  In other words, unless God says I am good, I can't believe it. The same could be said of all the other lost childhood messages. I can't believe this stuff without evidence that such is true.

6) Riso and Hudson talk about observing ourselves, understanding what we do, and letting old ways go. Marilyn Vancil talks about this in similar terms in her book Self to Lose - Self to Find. (See Applications for Self to Lose - Self to Find). "When we trust in the process and give ourselves over to it, however, our true natures comes forth" (Hudson & Riso, 35). As a Christian, I know that the only one to trust and give myself over to is God. Yes, this process is a great one, but transformation comes when I surrender and trust in the Lord's protection, goodness, and power instead of my own.

I want to give Riso and Hudson the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they're leaving their language vague on purpose. Perhaps they're writing for a broader audience than Bible-believing followers of Christ. In any case, what they're saying feels like giving someone a treasure map with the entire route charted out, but not giving them the key to the treasure chest. Seems like a major strike against them, if you ask me.

Hudson, Russ and Riso, Don Richard. The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types. New York: Bantam, 1999.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Enneagram 4's Abandonment of Fantasies

O God, must I go on
In constant disappointment
And nauseating dread?
Do not make me stay here
Suffering the monotony
Of the same chores
And demands upon me.
I have no appetite for this.

O God, allow me to escape
To construct my own realities.
Let me shuffle through my files
That store fantasies for every whim:
Fantasies of my bravery,
Strength and wisdom,
Where I succeed and lead,
Am saved and praised.

O God, how these perfected images
Beckon me like a drug,
Luring me to foster a hunger
For a place where I am the center.
Yes, that is, a hunger for hell.

O God, I don't want to want them,
For I know that every minute I'm there
I increase my dissatisfaction with
All that is good and true and beautiful.
I numb my senses to what is real,
And render myself more inept
To handle the day in front of me.

So, God, save me from these images
Of my own self-made perfection,
These idols to which I bow and slave.

Rather, give me a hunger
For what you have given
Which is good.
Sharpen my senses,
To ground me in the present moment
To see the gifts I have.
To decipher the drama that is now
And to understand its glorious meaning,
Which is never dull or monotonous.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Heart Beat of Justice

Do you hear the drumbeat
The pulse, deep and resonant
Beneath all, speaking justice,
Justice, justice will be done;
Like the soundtrack to each day,
The tempo that demands we walk
To His justice, justice, justice.

It beats not only to thieves sentenced and tyrants' demise,
But to frogs in the cupboards and dead sons in mothers' arms.
Not only to earth's laws and oceans' currents,
But to the mind impaired and the screech of tires.

"By this you shall know that I am the Lord,"
By the vomit on the floor and the water shut off,
By the baby malformed and the cancer consuming.

To the one who chose his own instead of God's:
Justice, justice, justice.
To the twisted will that cannot bend:
Justice, justice, justice.

"I, the Lord, will give judgement:
The crash after the fall
The blindness without the light
The pain that follows the curse.
What is sown must be reaped—
All fruits of egocentricity—
Lest the sky be torn in two
And the mountains crumble."

Do you hear the rhythm behind the pain,
Never ending, never relenting,
The deep drum marching us to perdition
Demanding justice, justice, justice?
Not only a felt consequence
But an impending punishment
Without which the scales will not balance.

We chose our own way,
So He will give it.
He will deal the death blow,
Indeed He has already,
Proffering the apology
That we could never contrive
Unable to walk to justice, justice, justice.

Now the drum beat behind these pains
Reminds us, who shelter beneath His son,
To draw neigh again and again
To Him who will bring us through the night
And into the day.
There the beat will be glorious
As it sets the tempo to an everlasting song.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

We Need More Decorations!


I find it interesting that the Christmas season follows a holiday of thankfulness and plenty. Thanksgiving reminds me that I have enough, and that what I have is quite good. Then suddenly the day after Thanksgiving, I realize, "No! Actually what I have is not enough at all!"

Maybe I shouldn't have opened the Christmas decorations trunk the day after Thanksgiving because that's what started it. I keep a limited number of decorations. I'm not a fan of clutter and garishness. I like a monochromatic nativity scene here and a few classy Christmas cards there, a wreath on the front door and some plain white Christmas lights around our front windows. It took less than an hour to put these things up with the children, and when we'd finished, Lee and Rose danced around asking, "Is that all? Isn't there any more?"

There came upon me a panic, a fear, a feeling of insufficiency. You terrible mother! You haven't done enough for your dear children! They'll be grown in a few years and you'll look back on this time and wished you'd said "Yes!" more often.

I began devising plans. We could make paper chains and string them up around the crown molding. We could paint Christmas scenes and tape them to the walls. We could put paper snowflakes in the windows. We could pick up greenery at Home Depot and drape this around the doors. We could go on a gathering walk and collect seed pods and paint them. We could take the children to see snow on the mountains some weekend. We could take nighttime walks to see the Christmas lights. We could make baked apples and cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate!

While I was growing more and more stressed thinking about all I'd have to do to make up for my deficiencies, the children had gathered all their red and green marble-run tubes and scattered these around the house. This did not satisfy their decorating itch, but I was too frazzled to do anything else with them except to put parameters on their activities.

My feelings of inadequacy continued, especially over the next several days when we entered stores. "Mommy, can be buy a little Christmas tree for the table?" "Mommy, can we get a gingerbread house?" "Mommy, can we have an inflatable snowman on our front yard?" "Mommy, can I buy Grandpa that?" "Mommy, what fun thing are we going to do today?" Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!

I don't know why this catches me off-guard. It was the same with Halloween, except they wanted spider webs and ghosts then. I get whirled into their requests and forget to ask myself, "Do we already have enough? Is what we have good?" And then, obviously because what we have is enough, "How am I communicating to my children that what we have is enough?"

I do want to do festive things with my children, but not to make them happy or to prove I'm a good mother or even to make great memories. I want to do these things because I want to do them, because my heart is in it, because I desire to love them like this, because I have enough and it is good.

So now, perhaps even more than last month, is the season to remember how my cups is full. It's really the best cure I know of to that inner panic that tells me I need to do more, get more, and make more memories. The truth is I have enough to be grateful and joyful and at peace, and I have enough to reflect all this to my children.

Thus, here's a few things I'm remembering that I have:

Miss Esther and her special celebrations with my kids
That Rose was in the right place at the right time to save Benny from a raccoon in the laundry hut

Little sandals that have joined the kids' shoes in their basket
An abundance of laundry: three little piles for three little people
Lisa Francis allowing me to take her children to El Dorado Nature Preserve
Benny in rain boots up to his knees

The amount of playtime the children have gotten out of this nativity set. I like to call this set up "O Mary, where'd you go?"
New-found confidence to take other people's children to the Huntington Library! This is the fog chamber in the children's garden.
Buddies snuggling and listening to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe dramatized
Everyone able to walk together now!