The {Less Travelled} Road Back to You // Lessons from the Enneagram

I’ve been quiet over here – it’s summer, you know. But while I haven’t been writing, I have been reading and listening and thinking.

You know our ultimate dual-mandate: to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves? I’ve long considered this a three-pronged mission. For we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. If we hate ourselves, what capacity do we have to love others? Unlearning a negative view of self is a life-long process, and imperative to aligning with Jesus’ best.

And it seems to me we must understand ourselves in order to love ourselves. The true nature of Rachel that God knit together in my mother’s womb is something I want to embrace fully. In other words, I want to be the best version of myself. Healthy, whole, walking down an ever-brightening path. (A beautiful tandem of becoming students of our own hearts is that we also grow in our understanding of others, able to extend grace and freedom instead of judgment and unforgiveness; able to make God famous by the ways we love each other.)

For this reason, I’m a big fan of studying personality types. DISC, Myers-Briggs, Flag Page, Life Languages, what your favorite 80s sitcom says about you, whatever. Love me some online quizzes. So last year when I started hearing about the Enneagram, I was immediately intrigued.

The Enneagram is a game-changer. Reading through the nine type descriptions and listening to The Road Back to You podcast the last few months, I am still narrowing in on the type descriptions that best fit me and my husband. I’m even planning on buying the book (drastic, I know)!

I resonate with the Helper (type 2: caring, interpersonal people-pleaser) and the Individualist (type 4: introspective, overly-sensitive lover of beauty). Enneagram descriptors show how you operate in times of growth and times of distress, providing rich insights into each type. Interestingly, 2s lean toward 4-ness in growth, and 4s lean toward 2-ness in distress. According to these descriptions, I’m either a 2 living the dream, or a 4 having a hard time. I hope to God it’s the latter. (Surely this makes me a 4.)

They say that women in the South are often pigeon-holed into Two-ness by culture. Same thing for women reared in traditional church settings. The Individualist in me hears this and jumps up, raising both hands, almost squealing in delight… then punching in anger.

I’ll save women in the church for another day.

Personally, this tool is helping me untangle a difficult year in surprising ways. In the process I am discovering a clearer picture of who I’m created to be and what I have to give the world.

We often ask the question, “what does the world need from me?” (Or maybe only 2s ask that question?) Holding a deep love for the church, I also ask, “what does the church need from me?”

It occurs to me that’s an unhealthy question.

Particularly if I’m a 4, the better question is: “What do I have inside me, and what beauty can I make of it?” I find immense freedom in this; in considering not the end consumers, but the initial treasure and its innate value. In remembering I am more than what I do, more than what people see me do. I am more than a second-class servant, more than a housewife, more than a coordinator. I don’t have to bend myself into being helpful just because that’s what the culture expects from me. Whoops! I am getting into what I said I’d save for another day. 

Here’s what I’m realizing: it’s not about what people need from me, because whatever I give they will consume it all, and either praise me or ignore me, and both would be unhealthy in my current state. Also, I am really good at making myself into whatever or whoever people need. A skill I’d like to unlearn, because there will always be immense need, and spending myself on something that isn’t really me is no way to live.

I’d much rather live out of my true self, and trust that God will be meeting needs through me in beautiful ways. I long to know His pleasure not for what I do, but for who I am… for I am His, and He is mine.

If you are still reading and that makes any sense to you, let’s meet at the pool one afternoon and talk through it all! 🙂

 

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My #1 Way to Actually Enjoy Cleaning the House

You walk into your living room and suddenly it hits you: Wait, this place is a mess! Was my house this dirty yesterday? What happened? Who lives here, a gaggle of vermin? Didn’t I just clean… um… a couple days ago?

Naturally, the next thought is: the last thing in the world I want to do right now is scrub these floors (or whatever particular filth you face) AGAIN. UGH. 

For several years now, I’ve been inserting a thought into this exact moment that turns the begrudging reluctance on its head. And I’m telling you, every time I put it into practice, the house work is no longer the last thing I want to do. In fact, it becomes a joy!

So here it is, the very best way to make house cleaning enjoyable:

Invite someone over for dinner. 

Yes, it’s that simple! On first glance, perhaps counter-intiuative: This place is a mess… so let’s invite people into it! But in my head, it works every time. Here’s how.

My husband and I confer over our running list {the we-should-have-them-over-sometime list}, and extend an invitation or two. Suddenly, the indefinite sometime becomes this Saturday night.

And suddenly, I have fresh motivation to do all that ordinary, repetitive work. I use the company’s arrival as a positive deadline. (I’m not so good at getting stuff done with no deadline.) I should clarify three things at this point:

1. My house isn’t perfect; that’s not my goal.

2. I’ve found no one minds the mess. They just love receiving an invitation.

3. The motivation is not fear-based, worrying what people will think of me if they walk into a dirty home. Fear should never choke out the chance for community. Please don’t ever let fear win that one!

It’s joy that propels me – the joy of welcoming people into a beautiful, well-stewarded space. I savor this opportunity to honor people. To give them the gift of comfort, joy, contentment, connection, laughter, and regular everyday life lived together.

As I work, I do so aiming not for perfection, but comfort. I work slowly and in silence, tuning my heart to the dear ones with whom we’ll break bread. The cathartic nature of working with my hands kicks in, and I siphon all those running thoughts toward the coming time around the table.

Cleaning the toilets, I first mumble, how is it possible to pee all the way through the seat to the back wall? But then I remember what my friends have been going through, and the toilets are nothing, and scrubbing turns into prayer.

Picking up yet another smattering of dirty socks and Nerf gun bullets and used bandaids (REALLY?), I remember the times we’ve laughed together, and gratitude swells to overflowing.

Transferring all the piles of random stuff into my bedroom corner,  I wonder about his dad’s health, and her sister’s woundedness, and consider what they need and how we can love on them.

Sweeping rice from under the table, I lean into God’s heart, asking if there’s anything He wants their hearts to know, and listen quietly for his promptings. {Pro-tip: leave the spilled rice on the floor overnight and it’ll sweep up without sticking.}

In short, cleaning for someone else is much more enjoyable than cleaning for yourself. Don’t you find this to be true? We might as well leverage this.

If you really want to go for it, invite someone you deeply respect, to thank them for the ways they’ve impacted you. It’ll elevate the cleaning to the next level!

Hospitality chores are also an opportunity to instill core family values in the kids. We are all hosts, and part of being a good host is honoring guests with a nice place to gather. Having a home comes with the responsibility of stewarding it well.  Everyone contributes, each one responsible as their ability allows. We give away what we have to others. Normal life is having more than five people around the table. I love watching our kids anticipate the visit; the way their smiles break out as they race to the call of the doorbell. One evening with 11 around the table, our friend Cory asked if we have people over a lot. Without hesitating Molly said proudly, “Yep! We’re really good at it!” How my heart leapt!

In the end, my kids are vested, my heart is happy, my belly is full, my house is clean, our guests know they are valued and welcome, our time is rich with intention and encouragement, friendships are deepened. Love looks like something. We are living out our values of community, honoring, and making room. (Also a core value: eating good food.) Occasionally, a long-neglected nook gets deep-cleaned, organized or decorated. When this practice becomes a bi-monthly rhythm, the house rarely gets completely out of control. It’s a win-win-win-win.

Give it a try this week? When you walk into your kitchen and cannot deal with that pile of two-day-old dishes… make your next thought:

Who can I invite over for dinner? 

 

For more ways to make house cleaning less terrible, read 5 Ways to Not Feel Like a Slave in Your Own Home.

How to Be Job’s friend

We all know the story of Job and his three friends who came to visit. These three men are generally disparaged for their tiring, all-knowing speeches explaining Job’s misfortunes. It’s true, they talked so much that they ran out of words. Despite their pompous speeches, you know what I think of them? I think they were amazing friends. One could make the case that the story of Job is one immense lesson on friendship. Remember, Job gave a big long speech, too, and God reprimanded all four of them when He started up. (Reading Job 38-41 in The Message version will give you a fresh perspective on how God talks to His best friends. It’s actually hilarious.)

Why were Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar excellent friends?

Because they showed up.

When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.  Job 2:11-13

They took time off work and travelled to be with Job. This was probably neither convenient, comfortable, nor profitable for them. But they were not afraid to enter into his calamity. They mourned deeply with him. And this is the astonishing part: they sat with him FOR SEVEN DAYS AND NIGHTS WITHOUT SAYING A WORD. Who does that? A really, really good friend. A better friend than I have ever been.

These friends who are known for their verboseness, if we read the story carefully, were initially slow to speak.

I think we can learn a lot about friendship from these guys, particularly about being a friend to someone in crisis.

How can we be a good friend to the Jobs in our life?

1. Go to them.

Show up. Just be there. Don’t be afraid to enter into the mess, into the darkness. It’s a very Jesus-like thing to do. {“I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:36}  We all fret about what to do for our hurting friends, and often this discomfort keeps us away. I’ve come to learn that the main doing that’s needed is just showing up. The presence of a friend makes the dark cell of grief a little brighter.

2. Talk less.

I imagine Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were a deep comfort to Job those seven silent days. And I imagine they cancelled out all that comfort the moment they started talking. Trying to explain why God would let bad things happen to Job. “God has a reason for everything,” we say. “God never gives us more than we can handle.” “Have you confessed your sin?”  “Maybe God is trying to teach you a lesson.” “God works all things together for good.” “One day things will get better.”  Anyone who has been the recipient of these words during crisis knows how much they do NOT help. In fact, they hurt. Of course we want to explain why bad things happen; and who wants an explanation more than the hurting person? But in the middle of the pain is the WRONG TIME to make assumptions, to pretend to be God. These guys tried their best to have answers, and God nailed them on their presumption. {“I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has,” God said to them. Job 42:7} Any words based on discomfort, obligation, unbelief, assumption, judgment, or agenda will hurt your Job and your God. Who are we to know why bad things happen? It’s okay to not know.

It’s okay to not have answers. Don’t try to fill the emptiness with your words.

3. Listen humbly.*    

*This one is for the friends as well as the Jobs.

Job also spoke against the Lord, but after the Lord’s rebuke, he was quick to LISTEN, quick to repent and say God, You’re right! I’m listening to you! I take back everything I said (Job 42:1-6). Job was quick to ask for forgiveness, which put him right with God. But Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were still in need of reconciliation, and their humility came at an even harder price.

“So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf.”        Job 42:8

God told them to go to Job and receive a prayer of forgiveness and blessing from him. Job, whom they loved yet judged. (Don’t we do that to each other a lot?) Instead of listening to themselves talk, they listened to God’s voice, counseling them how to be a friend to Job, how to mend what they messed up. And simultaneously how to set things right with God. (Don’t we all need relational mending?)

Job also listened to God’s voice and prayed for the friends who had just slammed him in his time of deepest need.  Job, covered in disease, plagued by loss, with absolutely nothing to give. Job, who should have been receiving blessing from his friends. And yet God turned the tables. It was Job’s prayer that made everything right again in their relationships to each other and to God. Job, the friend of God. {Job 1:8, MSG}

Do you notice how interwoven it all is? Their relationships with each other and with God?

God, friendship, suffering, and forgiveness are inseparable. If something is off with one, all connections fray.  If we are humbly listening, God will show us how to make it right with God and man. And listen we must, for it may look or sound different than we would assume. Perhaps suffering is an opportunity to deepen friendships. (Could friendship be that valuable to God?)

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.  Matthew 5:23-24

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered. Hebrews‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭

Job’s prayer produced wonderful results indeed.

When Job prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before! Job 42:10

Another detail about Job’s life that’s gone under-publicized! When was everything restored for him? When he swallowed his pain and pride and prayed for his friends, out of obedience to God. When they were all listening, humbled, reconciled.

The result of right friendship with God and man was not only forgiveness, but abundance!

I wonder what would have happened if this trio never made the trip to visit their friend. Would Job have been restored? Would the four of them have remained friends? Would they have ever heard God’s awesome speech? Would we have this profound understanding of relationship? This is why I think Job’s story may be a giant lesson in friendship.

Friends, let’s learn from it? Let’s not let Job’s suffering go to waste?

If you can relate to Job, I deeply hope this last point encourages you. Don’t give up. Your abundance is coming. Keep listening. Keep putting up with stupid people who don’t know how to be your friend right now. Give them grace, even though you have nothing to give. It’s not fair, I know. But you are not alone – Job has shown you the way. Faithfulness is being refined in you in ways you cannot see, and one day you will bear the fruit. One day you’ll be able to sit with someone in silence, and you’ll know how much it means to them to not have stupid friends to have a friend well-acquainted with suffering. Speaking of, you have one of those friends right now in Jesus. You are not alone. {Isaiah 53:3}
And if you have a friend in a hard place, please don’t be afraid to draw near to them. They need you – not for your theology, not for your perfection, not for your “timely words” – just for your presence, flawed as it may be. Don’t be afraid. If you mess it up, maybe God will make something even more beautiful out of the restoration. Maybe He’s been waiting for it all along. Listen, and God will counsel you on how to be their friend. After all, it’s not about you – it’s about God. 

Love is a Person.

Reading through the gospels recently, I’ve noticed something seemingly uncharacteristic about Jesus. He never came out and told His disciples, “I love you.” It’s true, go see! We think of Jesus as the ultimate expression of God’s love, but the exacting Old Testament God was much more vocal in His expressions of everlasting love than earth-side Jesus ever was.

It was not until the Last Supper that Christ implied His love when He told the disciples, “love each other as I have loved you.” -John 13:34

 

As I have loved you. So how did He love the disciples? By doing and saying what He saw and heard the Father doing and saying. And since that’s the only thing He did on earth, He was living and breathing love in the form of obedience.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind APPEARED, He saved us… according to His mercy, by the washing of the Holy Spirit… whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ…      – Titus 3:4-6

Jesus was the expression of God’s love, but not because of the words He said. It’s because He Himself was the WORD. That’s why John, the disciple Jesus loved, opens his masterpiece with this:

In the beginning was the Word…

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  John 1:1,14

Jesus’ love was not in words, because He Himself was the living Word: the living doing of the Father’s love. Jesus was Love in the flesh; the embodiment and conduit of God’s lovingkindness toward mankind. Literally toward men – sent to earth – Emmanuel. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Take a pause and let that sink in? The Word was not the talking kind of word, He was the doing, living, breathing, listening, acting kind. His mere existence in flesh and blood was Love.

Simply put, Love is a Person.

Love is Jesus.

Love looks like something, Heidi Baker says.  Love Does is how Bob Goff puts it.

Yes.

 

When Jesus did talk about love, it sounded like this:

“If you love me, obey me.”

Love looks like something! If this is a challenge to you, let it be. It certainly makes me uncomfortable. Consider your day today and purpose to live like Jesus: short on the talking kind of love and long on the doing kind of love. If Love is a Person, then you already have Love within you to teach you how to love well. Listen to Him. Obey Him. This is Ground Zero for being like Jesus.

The way I see it, friends, if we are not loving each other well, we are living in disobedience.

So let us love well!

“A new commandment I give to you,

that you love one another,

even as I have loved you.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples,

if you have love for one another.”    

John 13:34-35

 

A Back-to-School Blessing + Free Prayer Guide

It’s time! Pencils sharpened, buses rolling, kids excited, lunch boxes… TBD. It’s also  become back-to-school normal for us to gather with school families the night before the first day to pray for our teachers, staff, students and parents.

What a privilege to worship at the front doors of our public school; to walk around the property inviting God’s kingdom to be the norm. Light. Love. Strength. Wisdom. Understanding. Peace. Safety. Comfort. Kindness. Discernment. Trust. Confidence.

And the word that burned brightest in my heart last night: Blessing.

So we blessed each child at Hunter’s Bend Elementary with every good thing we could think of. My husband spoke over the children:

We bless these students. 

We bless every child that knows you and every child that hasn’t met you yet. 

We bless each child with an environment where they will flourish. 

We bless each child with protection and safety, that you would be a safe harbor and strong tower for them. 

Where there is lack, we bless them with provision.

Where there is fear, we bless them with love.

Where there is instability, God be their stability.

Where there is chaos, we bless them with order.

Where there is sickness, we bless them with health.

Where there is isolation, we bless them with community.

We bless each child each family each home with your presence.

Yes. So be it!

As I further considered how to pray the Truth over our kids, several scriptures came to mind. I compiled a short list of Back-to-School Scripture Prayers for teachers and students. Feel free to use it as a jumping-off point to pray for your own students and teachers.

May it be a year filled with blessing for each and every family.

{Download the one-page Back-to-School Scripture Prayers and pass it along!}

 

A Letter to the Women, On Finding Your Place

Church can be complicated. It’s a place we go to feel at home, to find our place. Yet how many times have you walked into a gathering of the saints and felt foreign, invisible, a misfit, out of place?  Oh my sisters, we can change this! For we need each other; in fact we were made to live in community. I wrote the following letter to the women of my church family that may speak to many others — especially those of us searching for a church home, for those of us wondering, is there room for me here?


Dear Vineyard Women,

Happy Summer to you! As you go about your days, hopefully indoors, Kitty and I extend a heart-felt hello and we love you and safe travels and SPF 50 and miraculous ease in traffic and ice cream consumption. Really, though, we write to connect at a heart-level with a thought God has been highlighting for our larger female body. Of the church, I mean.

We are a beautiful body, aren’t we? New folks and long-timers, college students to great-grandmothers, every-weekers and occasional-weekers. Speaking of new folks, if that’s you, we really want you to know that 1) there are lots of new members, so you are not alone; 2) this is a safe place where you can be yourself; and 3) welcome, welcome, welcome! Make yourself at home! There is room for you here.
There is room for you here. That one is for all of us, I believe. If you’ve heard an opposing voice in your head, hear me now: that’s not the truth. There IS room for you here. We need each other! Together we are glory and beauty and life and healing to our community, shining bright.  {Also together we are fun and refreshing to each other.}
All of you together are Christ’s body,and each of you is a part of it.

Lately the Lord has been speaking to me in puzzles… literally. {Anyone else love doing puzzles?} As I was pondering all you wonderful souls and this idea of Making Room, I saw the Lord dumping a box of puzzle pieces onto a table. It occurred to me that in the beginning it takes a lot more room to spread out all the pieces than it does to hold the finished puzzle. At first it is messy – cardboard dust billows, dull brown pieces somehow resist being face up. What is the next step? Each piece is hand-picked, turned over to reveal its color and design, and placed into a pile of like pieces.

My dears, we are this puzzle. We are each pieces of one another, and joined together we make a beautiful finished work. I forget this sometimes, especially during these transient summer months: we were made for Jesus and for each other. Specifically. Think of it! The Father has brought each one of us – with our stories and theologies, skills and giftings, victories and defeats, doubts and dreams – to be right here right now at this church to “fit together perfectly… for the building up of each other in love” (Eph 3:16). Oh how I wonder what the finished puzzle will look like!

Consider your part in the grand design. Have you allowed the Father to turn you over, to reveal your true colors? If you haven’t yet, how about let’s do it together? This is a healing place, to be sure. We need you, even if you’re broken… especially if you’re broken. {Brokenness is the greatest gift.} Without you, the puzzle will have a gap.  Paul says it this way: “If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance” (I Cor 12:26). Discovering who you really are is a life-long pursuit best done arm-in-arm with sisters and mothers who hear the heart of God when you can’t. I am so grateful for such women I’ve come to know here in the last five years. We do this well. Let’s be purposeful to continue in it.

If you’re familiar with your piece and looking for your spot, let’s get creative! What’s something you’ve always wanted to do – spiritual, non-spiritual, whatever? How can we help you do it? What’s an upgrade or enrichment you could bring? What do you have that the body needs? Let us know. For real. Let’s spread all these pieces out and get to puzzle-building, beautiful glory-lights!

 

With joy,

Rachel