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Hope for Withering Seasons

I read the book Humble Roots twice last year––once in its entirety; once in slower, more intentional meditations. What rang true again and again was the title of the first chapter, “Withering on the Vine.” I could not think of a more fitting title for my own life last year. I left 2017 feeling like the crispy pine needles littering the floors. I was not unaware either, which may have made it worse. I had spent much of the Autumn doing what felt like twirling the puzzle pieces of our life to fit them better together, to be more efficient with time and energy. I took time to retreat, to pray, to write even. I shuffled the kids through amazing experiences, read books, hired an assistant, checked my children’s progress. I served in our community, connected with friends, made time for wine nights and date nights and morning coffees and travel. I listened to podcasts, to music, to books. I posted to social media, emailed with clients and brand partners, tried to write blog posts (handfuls in drafts) and slowly progressed through a project I’ve envisioned for this space the last two years. Our home life and homeschool was a mess, literally and figuratively. And in the process, I learned it is possible to have all the right puzzle pieces and totally miss their connection. It is possible in all the hustle, to lose purpose, to blur vision. I was withering under it all. I knew I needed to say no but I couldn’t even discern to what any longer. Hadn’t I taught classes and written blog posts and encouraged others on the importance of slower, more intentional living; of family mission; of disciplined, focused living, of less is more, of saying no? The answer is, of course, yes. And perhaps that shame was the most withering of all.

I am not writing these words to pass on a burden or to laden you with heaviness at the onset of a new year. I know, dear reader, you carry enough of your own. What I want to share is this: it’s okay. It’s okay if the world is running vigorous laps around you while you suck wind. It’s ok to be quiet, even when you’re expected to speak. It’s okay to pull back while others move forward, that is, in fact,  how our legs move so we can walk. It’s okay to fail, to smack into disappointment, to miss planned goals––but remember, that is not the end of the story. Courage is found in sweeping the pine needles from the floor, in using their crispy bits as kindling. Withering is not an ending, it is a beginning.

In a culture that rewards charisma, productivity, showmanship, and results––professional or personal withering can feel like failure. And why not? A garden is always more inviting in the Summer than the Winter; no one prefers a picnic beneath bare limbs and crispy leaves. But the work and purpose of the winter garden isn’t to blossom or to be an inviting space. The work of Winter is to kill off pests and disease, to cut back unhealthy limbs, to form a wet blanket for the earth. The work of Winter is to heal and nourish. Withering is not the end; it is the preparation for something new.

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Six Favorites for Glowing Autumn Skin

Although I do much to protect my skin in the summertime, I always seem prone to dry spots and dullness as the weather cools off and summer’s kiss fades. I imagine I’m not alone. The best combat against dryness and dullness is diet. I can always see the evidence of my diet in my skin. So when I appear piqued, I focus first on eating and drinking more fresh produce and of course drinking an appropriate amount of water. It always makes a difference.

But sometimes, especially as my skin ages, I need something more to fill in those deepening fine lines, dark spots, and dry patches. Feeling the same? Below are my six favorite products to hydrate, nourish, and leave my skin glowing.

Cleansing Balm to Hydrate / Hydrate on the inside. Hydrate on the outside. If you’re needing more moisture, this is your product. I can’t rave enough. The Cleansing Balm is my very favorite product for all seasons, but especially in the colder months when my skin becomes drier. Loaded with Vitamin C and various berry oil extracts, this will cleanse, hydrate, and brighten your skin tones. My skin looks smoother and feels softer with this balm, and I never have that “tight skin” feel after washing my face. Whether you’re a beauty minimalist or in need a catch-all product for travel, this is worth it! Rub on dry skin, and remove with a warm muslin cloth (included with the purchase).

Nourishing Cream Exfoliant to Regenerate Cells / Sloughing off dry, dead skin helps boost cell regeneration in your skin––something that happens naturally in young skin and slows down as we age. This creamy exfoliant doubles as a cleanser for me two mornings a week. The jojoba beads are gentle for your skin and the environment, as most exfoliants contain harmful plastic beads now negatively impacting our oceans and sea life.

Rejuvenating Radiance Serum to Brighten Skin Tones/ Okay, truthfully, I love the entire Rejuvenating Collection, but I noticed an immediate difference when I began using this serum twice a day beneath my moisturizer. After just a couple of weeks, it had begun noticeably firming and brightening my skin, including a couple of dark spots on my face. Plus, I only need one pump to cover my entire face and neck so it last a while.

No. 01 Brightening Face Oil to Improve Luster/ Wait. Oil? On my face? I know. Each of the face oils are a blend of seven different plant oils targeted toward specific skin treatments. This one, recently awarded by Allure’s Best of Beauty for 2017, is for brightening––exactly what I want following the sun-drenched season. The No. 1 oil includes Vitamin C and blend of several oils, including rose hip, black currant, and orange. Plus this doubles as a hair serum for frayed ends, a spot treatment for dry patches, and a primer to even makeup application.

Color Pinch Cream Blusher in Caramel to Contour Face/ This one was unexpected, but has climbed to be one of my daily favorites. I swipe it just along my cheekbones and gently rub in as a contouring bronzer. I often dab a little on my eyelids for a quick spot of color, too. Made with Jojoba ester and carnauba wax, the cream blusher blends well, but also condition and hydrate skin.

Sheer Lipstick in Currant to Add Lustrous Autumn Color/ I tend to stick with lighter, more neutral lip shades, but I love this one for Autumn. In the day, I may just dab a bit for a light flush to my lips, but I love the more concentrated color for the evening or nights out.


As a consultant with Beautycounter, I earn a commission on all purchases through my site. I am sharing them with you because I love the products, the transparency of the ingredients, the public mission for safety, and of course, because I have noticed a beautiful change in my skin as a result of using them. If you have any questions or are interested to hear more about the opportunities with Beautycounter, please feel free to email me!  Thank you for supporting my growing space and small business. You are a gift. 

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On Removing the Television from Home

We spontaneously removed our family’s television a month ago, wrapped up it up, set it in the hall closet, and rearranged the living room. At once, we noticed a difference in the spirit of the place. Our home is not large. We have a six rooms total, including three bedrooms and three common spaces, all neatly connected to one another so that each room becomes as much a passageway as a stopping point. Our living room is a small, cozy space nestled between our kitchen, dining area, and one of the bedrooms. Naturally, this has caused design challenges, but like every space in our humble home, it is multi-purposed. Somehow our television always seemed awkward in it, a bit like an image with “find the thing that doesn’t belong.”

For most of our marriage, we didn’t have a television. Technically, we owned a small one gifted to us when we married nearly 16 years ago, but early in our marriage, we promptly moved it to an antique armoire tucked in a corner of a bedroom. In our former house, we loved raising our children without the cumbersome tele in the living room. It seemed like an afterthought. We had a weekly snuggle movie night with the kids, where we piled in our bed with the laptop. But as you can imagine, we outgrew that practice. Literally. It became difficult for all of six of us to comfortably fit on our bed any longer, let alone for 90-120 minutes for a film. And so nearly three years ago, we purchased our first television and for the most part enjoyed it.

The progression happens quickly though, doesn’t it? What had begun as a weekly film together quickly evolved when the boys purchased their first gaming system with their lawn work money. Plus, our new television was “smart” and offered us direct streaming to Netflix and Amazon. Although we still greatly limited screen time in our home to about 3 hours a week, the tug-of-war for more began to increase. The boys wanted to play 30 minutes of video games; the girls wanted to watch a show. Mark or I would want to watch something else altogether. In our small living space, tucked at the center of our home, when the television was on, it seemed as though home life abruptly paused for it.

We had experimented with various time blocks for screentime––at the end of the day after all our day’s work had been completed, only on the weekend, and so on. It didn’t matter. The change was subtle, but before long, it seemed the TV was on for one reason or another every evening. Our family read-aloud time diminished. Relational dynamics grew more tenuous, while end of day conversation became more shallow. Video game companies created more solo-play games, which meant rotations stretched longer. More bickering occurred between the kids as they wagered who had more or less screentime. And so on. Less than three years and this thing felt like the object of tug-of-war in our home. It was robbing time for us.

It may be easy for me to oversimplify, to pin every discord on the television. We removed the TV not because it was the sole source of all strife or noise in our home’s rhythm but because the television convoluted it. We needed to simplify the terms of our home life again to properly inventory the dynamics and heart of our home. The TV was simply a variable in the equation of home life. For instance, if at the end of the day, the television is a tool to unwind, what are other ways to decompress? What are the sources of stress that need undoing? Since our children are older and growing increasingly more independent, the removal was a little more layered than simply making our executive decision. It’s led to several more abstract conversations about the gift of time and our intentionality, even in reference to the common phrase “killing time.” We’ve had more conversations about consuming and producing, how does the television fit into those needs in our life? The conversations are the parent-training for adulthood when they are deciding these things for themselves.

I’m not sure how long this will occur. Our children fear it may be indefinitely. Wink. Smile. We have still watched shows or enjoyed family movie nights with the laptop, but we have also enjoyed more family game nights and read aloud, too. We allowed the boys to pull it out of the closet for a little video game time when a friend spent the night recently. This choice isn’t about the hard and fast rules; it’s about knowing our home and the needs within it. With a teenager and two more on the cusp, I am aware of both the brevity of childhood and the imminence of adulthood. These years feel so precious, and I haven’t regretted the removal once yet.

Six Recent Books on My Nightstand

Every night I slide into bed grabbing a book on the stool beside me. Most evenings, my eyelids begin to close after just a few flips of the page. Bedtime is clearly not the best reading time for me any longer. My days begin early and by the time I’m tucked into bed, my body seems to intuitively know I need sleep. So if I want to read a book and actually understand what I’m reading, I have to make time during the day, which requires a bit of extra discipline, one that always feeds my soul and massages my brain a bit.

When my children were younger and regularly napping, I tended to find pockets of quiet a bit easier, mimicking their patterns for day rest, but it’s a little more difficult as the kids grow and our energy is more constant throughout the day. And so I look for these pockets in the morning before the kids wake up, on the weekends when we schedule regular periods away from screens, and ideally during the day when my children are working or playing independently. Audiobooks are a lifesaver, too. Also in the moments when I tend to flippantly pick up my phone to scroll social medias, I’m learning to ask myself more often: is this what I need right now, or would it be better to sit somewhere with a book? 

I tend to read with a pencil in hand, an active expectation that I’m going to learn something new, I suppose. The more I mark up a book, the more I connect with it, digest it, practice or think on it. I still remember when Olive first began learning to read, I found her flipping through a chapter book marking every sight she knew at that point. I thought, that’a girl. Although I love immersing into a well-written novel, memoirs, self-helps, and cultural commentaries always lure me. I find myself with stacks on parenting, poetry, writing, business, culture, etc.––books that often directly apply to my living. Fiction feels like spa therapy, and so I always aim to keep one novel and a book of poetry on my nightstand, too. Consider it balance to my constant effort in self-improvement (insert: eye roll).

For those of you who are curious, here’s a smattering of the non-fiction on my nightstand I’d recommend. Unfortunately, I only read one adult novel this summer. ONE! And although promising in ideas, the content turned out to be a bit unsavory, so I won’t mention it by name. (Insert: smirk.) But I would love to hear your favorite fiction recommendations. As you can see, I can use some storytelling balance.


The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection  | As someone who remembers childhood and teen life before the internet, who traveled internationally as a teen without a cell phone, who didn’t have a personal email until her last year of university, and who parented her children’s early years without social media, I LOVE this book! It’s a MUST for every parent and millennial, right alongside Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows. Don’t get me wrong, I totally feel old writing this, but this is the first book that actually refers to my generation as the last to remember absence, to remember life with abstract space and digitally noiseless downtime. He works through many topics in this book, even heartbreaking ones, like the modern hardships of depression and cyber-bullying plaguing teens and young adults. It’s well-written, poetic even, and enjoyable to read without the fear-mongering tone prevalent in other books on technology.  If you’re looking for some practical parenting thoughts on this idea of absence, you might find what I wrote early last year about the hidden gift of boredom helpful.

Gracelaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart | My friendship with Ruth has been a gift of the internet, one for which I’m grateful. Her wisdom, directness, and love for Scripture always speaks straight to me and so many others. She is a gifted watercolor and hand-letter artist, and just launched her first book––a book divided seasonally and topically into over 30 different truths and meditations on Scripture. She sent it to me a few weeks ago to preview, and one of my favorite aspects, aside from the beauty and encouragement, is the way it’s parsed seasonally into digestible segments, making it a gift to pick up while I’m making dinner or taking a small break from school or work. It is always a fresh breath, especially as a mother.

The Soul of Discipline: Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance | Most parenting books address specific stages from infancy to teens, but what I adore about this read is the gentle, holistic viewpoint, defining what discipline is––debunking the negative connotations––and how it evolves through the different phases of parenthood. Written by the same author of Simplicity Parenting (one of my very favorite parenting books), The Soul of Discipline follows the Governor-Gardener-Guide phases of parenting, how our role of leadership changes as our children grow, from the vigilant, boundary setting Governor of the early years through the probing and attentive Gardener during the tween years into the more relaxed decision-maker and more helpful Guide years with our teenagers. Although parents of infants and toddlers might not find the Gardener and Guide sections important quite yet, this book will be helpful to have as a reference in the years ahead. Consider this a gentle resource that will grow with you, one to reference at any point in parenthood. If you’re curious, here’s a list of other favorite parenting books.

Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance  | Mark and I have had several conversations with our children about why we do hard things, and this book was a song of praises for the value of hard work and cultivating lifelong interest. Equipped with heaps of research and narrative, I found myself challenged, encouraged, confronted, and inspired in nearly every life touchpoint––from the way we parent to how I grow a business and cultivate vision in general. I mentioned this book here a couple of months ago, as something anyone working toward hard things should read, and I mean it! I even marked certain chapters to listen to on audiobook with the children in the car. I’m sure they loved the discussion of high and low-tier goals afterward, too. See what fun our car rides are? 😉

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul | This book was handed to me recently by a dear friend after a conversation about our 3-ness on the Enneagram––our constant need to be doing and to be successful in all endeavors, our tendency to perceive that we are loved for what we do rather than who we are. You can read more about the Enneagram, but this particular book has been a well-spring of wisdom, beautiful encouragement, and rest for me in a really hard last few months. It’s rare in modern culture to be reminded of the gift of begin brought low.

The Rain in Portugal  | I picked this book up on a whim last month. I haven’t read any of Collins poetry in a couple of years, but I always remember his lighthearted, masterful play with words and felt I could use some laughter. Plus, his poetry books always have the best covers, and so you know, I totally judge books by their covers. The same is true of win bottle labels. Design matters. But I digress. I like to have books of poetry around the house to pick up when I have a brief moment of quiet and don’t want to commit to a longer period of reading. This collection is cheeky and endearing, whisking me off on a ferry or to Moscow in the most causal way, as if we were lifelong friends having a conversation. This one I’d definitely recommend and re-read.

Hurricane Harvey Relief | Where to Donate

Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

I’m still speechless, even after our own 24″+ rain in 48 hours. Our phones have been constant with the latest developments from friends and family in the Houston and Corpus Christi areas. The images and videos are staggering, and yet Harvey still pours, now into Louisiana. Over 11 trillion gallons of water have been spilled by Harvey and still it rains. Officials are estimating the damage could total near $40 billion. Ugh. It is overwhelming at times to know where to begin helping, and yet people have. Rescue teams and civilians have done so much already, borrowing boats and stepping in to help however. Millions of dollars have already been donated, and daily we watch truck-loads of supplies leave our area for nearby Houston. With over 30,000 people currently displaced from homes, and with so much destroyed infrastructure throughout Texas, these current rescue efforts are only the beginning.

Below, I only listed local organizations invested for the long-term in the relief efforts, with specific funds directed entirely to relief efforts. In general, these are also efforts where I know and trust people involved in the work, or where I know of civic need. I’ve listed needs for everything from blood donations to diapers, to filling wishlists of supplies to opening you homes displaced victims. Of course, money is always needed. You’ll find national and international organizations below that list, ones with dedicated funds to Harvey, and at the bottom of the page, you’ll find businesses currently matching donations up to specific amounts, too. I know the list below is in no way complete, so feel free to add organizations you know and love to the comments for people to find as well.

Erich Schlegel / Getty Images

LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS

I listed below a variety of local organizations who already live and work among flood victims, all which have designated funds for 100% Hurricane relief and ongoing support.

Austin Diaper Bank : Gathering diapers and feminine hygiene products (via Amazon) to drive to Houston for HH victims

Carter Blood Care : Looking for donations to aid in relief of HH victims; search the zipcode to find a clinic near you

Champion Forest Baptist Church Hurricane Relief  Fund: 100% proceeds go to supplies to local relief efforts, including “mud-out help”––clearing mud from homes affected by flooding at no cost to victims

Church of the King Hurricane Relief Fund : 100% proceeds go to relief of flood victims, including creating distribution center for food and clothing

Church Unlimited in Corpus Christi : currently functioning as one of the major distribution centers of the coastal area affected by Hurricane Harvey. 100% of proceeds go to relief efforts.

Ecclesia Houston : all donations go toward supplies, hosting volunteers, and relief efforts. Here is also a supply list they need or an opportunity to open your home to displaced victims of HH.

Food Bank of Corpus Christi : $1 pays for 7 meals; they need resources for their community long term.

GoFundMe has created one page to donate directly to any of the current Hurricane Harvey campaigns, many of who are local Texas businesses and families.

Greater Houston Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund : established by the mayor of Houston to provide tax-deductible relief support to flood victims of Harvey

Harvey’s Heroes via San Antonio Humane Society : an emergency fund created to off-set expenses to shelter pets of evacuees and strays due to HH

Houston Food Bank : Currently closed due to floods, they will be a long-term resource to the community and need resources

Houston Humane Society : a list of immediate needs for animal rescue and care due to HH

Houston SPCA : a list of their immediate needs for animal rescue and care due to HH

Jesus Said Love Hurricane Harvey Relief : all donations will be used to help give homes, supplies, and care to displaced victims of HH, including team members of JSL in the Houston area

JJ Watt Houston Flood Relief Fund : all money toward relief efforts, although it’s unclear exactly how all of this money will be used, but his foundation’s character in the city is reputable.

Love First Disaster Relief (via FBC Houston) : 100% of financial donations go to hurricane relief efforts; also a supply list of needs for donated goods; and a form if you are able to offer a room/housing to those displaced by flooding.

Moms Helping Moms : North Texas group collecting clothing and dry goods to drive to Houston for relief efforts; all financial donations go toward these efforts

Orphan Care Solutions of Texas : Register to host a foster care family affected by the flooding of HH; every financial or supply donations will go to Hope’s Bridge of Montgomery will go specifically to aiding foster children and families who have lost belongings or homes due to HH.

Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies : providing relief to people with disabilities in the wake of HH

South Texas Blood and Tissue Center : Looking for blood donors to aid relief of HH

Texas Diaper Bank : a group aiming to get diapers to evacuating families

Trinity Fellowship Direct Harvey Relief Fund : all donations go to their local efforts in helping provide relief; funds not needs will go to the EFCA Hurricane Harvey Response

United Methodist Committee on Relief : on the front lines, providing relief to victims of HH. Donate financially or consider sending a relief kit.

United Way of Greater Houston : 100% of donation goes to relief efforts, and you can choose which part of Houston you want your donation to affect most.

David J. Phillip/AP

INTER/NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

American Red Cross : If planning to the Red Cross, check here with Google first who is matching donations up to $1M

Americares : Providing medicine and critical care to relieve victims of HH in Texas and Louisiana

Global Giving Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund : help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter

Preemptive Love Hurricane Harvey Fund : Home-base to this international relief organization. All donations are here are going toward local relief to those who couldn’t flee due to poverty, also to surrounding towns without resources to cope with the HH aftermath.

Samaritan’s Purse : 100% of donations go toward the team units in Texas providing relief to HH; to sign-up as a volunteer in Texas

Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

ORGANIZATIONS MATCHING FUNDS

Mark Matson’s Family Foundation (of Matson Money) is matching funds to any charity up to 25K. Email [email protected] to let them know where you donated. You can watch the video explaining here. I like that you get to choose the non-prof donation to double here, which is why I highlighted it first.

Facebook : doubling donations made through Center for Disaster Philanthropy up to $1M (donate button at top of page). “Please know that donations will be distributed to vetted nonprofit organizations with the capacity and capabilities to help Harvey-affected communities recover,” writes the CDP. “The CDP Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund is focused on medium and long-term rebuilding needs. We know from past disasters, especially through our experiences with hurricanes and floods, full recovery will likely take many years. The CDP Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund will support recovery needs long after the TV cameras and news teams rollup coverage and turn the eye of the world away from this disaster.”

Google : Matching all funds made through their page up to $1M and will be donated to the American Red Cross via the Network for Good.

Together Rising : Matching all donated funds up $100K according to this IG post; although it’s unclear where donations are going and at what point donations simply go to their organization.

 

Migratory Birds | A Playlist for Transitions

In the late spring and early summer, before the air becomes too weighty, I love to toss a blanket in the yard and watch the sky––the shifting clouds and migratory birds. Hammocks are perfect for this, too. So are car windows. Although the weather this time of year is too warm to lounge outside without water nearby, figurative shifts are always taking place in our home, even when the movement is too quiet to notice.

The kids are away with grandparents this week, and I’m stealing time a bit to sift through books and write down ideas for the year ahead. Although the summer season will linger here for quite a bit longer, a figurative shift in routine is looming for our home, one that involves messy tables and piles of books and art supplies again. It’s funny how swiftly these years seems to circle around again.

I am feeling more settled these days with Liam moving into the high school years, excited for some of the material he will be studying and learning this year and our conversations along the way. Still the years seem so brief––so very brief. Homeschooling has a way of slowing the years a bit, even as it demands more of the hours in a day, but I am understanding how precious this gift of time with my children will be in the nearing years ahead. I sense we are in a sweet spot right now.

Whether you’re preparing for a new school year or still enjoying the lazy days of summer or planning a last minute road trips, here’s a relaxed playlist for you, melodies that tend to flit and float right along with you.

Shortline RX Y | The Breech Dustin Tebbutt | Migratory Birds Western Skies Motel | Here in Spirit Jim James | Mexico The Staves | Youth Glass Animal | Forest Fires Alex Flovent | Honey and Milk Andrew Belle | Love is All Tallest Man on Earth | Anchor Novo Amor | Holocene Bon Iver | Garden Western Skies Motel | Afterglow Jose Gonzalez | La Belle Fleur Sauvage Lord Huron | I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For Joey McGee | Atlas Hands Benjamin Francis Leftwich |Smoke Medic | Bloom The Paper Kites  

LISTEN ON SPOTIFY

Psalm 23

I have been reading the Psalms and Gospels lately, looking both to deepen my roots in the Scriptures and begin my days with quiet attention again. Life in family of six, filled with businesses and homeschooling and puppy training and meal making and community relationships is busy. Add email notifications and social medias and group texting in the mix, and I’m easily sucked into what the writer Linda Stone referred to as “continuous partial attention.” It’s the modern dilemma, one I’ve been mulling over quite a bit this year.

Sometime last week, I read Psalm 23––words so familiar I could recite them, and yet still they smacked fresh in my soul. I read it again and then again, each time drawn to that first line and the semi-colon right in the middle:

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

I have a thing for semi-colons. I know it’s a bit ridiculous, but I do. In terms of style, they’re one of the more powerful marks in the English language in my opinion, a sublime connection of two separate and complete thoughts. They’re gentle and mysterious, a fingerprint of the writer’s nuance, a nudge to read again. Here, one thought points to God’s protecting and providing care; the other is a truth about my human condition. God cares for me, for us, with the most perfect care and timing, we lack nothing––a truth even when my circumstance and emotions tell me otherwise.

I remember as an older teen doing a study of shepherds and this Psalm, learning more about the detailed and perilous job of a shepherd, understanding how simple this parallel is for a shepherd-king to write about God our Shepherd-King. He leads us to rest and righteousness. He comforts and restores us. He protects us. He invites us to his table. He invites us into his home to dwell with him. The simplicity is beautiful yet still easy for me to miss in application.

But what if I actually believed this truth in my daily living? What if I let these words on printed page steep more deeply in my day as a wife, a mother, a friend, an educator, a writer, a business owner, a sometimes weary or despairing soul? What if God is my Shepherd even when my bank account is empty or when a friend wrestles with sickness or when my children are hurting or when dreams still linger unrealized? What if He’s true when political systems are broken and confusing, when families tear apart, when fear and hateful thoughts are given more media than hope, when people everywhere are hurting? What if, instead of anxious thoughts or fear or frantic working, my thoughts turned toward that intrinsic connection of two truths: God is my shepherd; I shall not want.  

The last week, I have tried to do something a little different when I have sensed negative emotions or thoughts rise within me for whatever reason. It’s not perfect or a fix-all, but it has been helpful in directing my thoughts toward what is true, even when it doesn’t feel true.

Pause.

Draw in a deep breath.

Exhale slowly.

Pray into Psalm 23, something like this:

God, you are my Shepherd King, my rest and righteousness. I am not afraid of the evil in the world, or even the evil that comes against my home, for you are here right now with me, protecting. I am not afraid of want for I know you will provide. My cup overflows at your table. You are good and merciful, and your goodness and mercy will follow me every day to the end. Let your goodness and mercy rise like a flood in our home, in our neighborhood, in our city, pouring out goodness and mercy generously into all the earth. Amen. 

It’s often been simple and brief, something that has unfolded in the midst of my day, while cleaning out my closet, emailing, running with the dog, or making dinner with the kids. It may sound or come about in a different process for you, as it should, but it’s not about perfection or performance. For me, it’s about finding a sense of rest and hope right in the tension of two thoughts, much like that small semi-colon. Be encouraged.

Self-Discovery and the Enneagram

Have you heard of the Enneagram? It feels like one of those words that popped up once and then again and again, and now it’s everywhere. Then again, it’s quite possibly I’m merely paying attention now. Wink. A dear friend first introduced me to the Enneagram a couple of years ago. I took a test and began reading a bit, but quickly felt overwhelmed by all the information! Centers, wings, stress and growth numbers? I listened to a couple of podcasts, but couldn’t quickly orient myself in the language and nuances. It seemed complex and unapproachable, honestly. So of course, I put it down and went back to my beloved Meyers-Briggs and moved on (INFJ, if you’re curious). That is, until this Spring.

Self-discovery sounds like one of those aloof words used while wafting incense or in sitting in lotus, but I’m learning it’s far more pragmatic and even cyclical in nature for me, a journey that ebbs and flows with the terrain of my days and years. There are periods in life, like this past month, where I feel naturally quieter and more reflective. Although I need quiet reflection daily, these more intense weeks  of reflection seem to beckon a deeper searching out of self, and self in the perspective of God.

I am fascinated by the diversity of human life, how we can experience the same exact moment and yet take away different realities based on our life lenses and temperaments. Perhaps motherhood has made me more acutely aware of the need to understand my own life lens, and also those in my care.  It’s a beautiful journey, even though I will be the first to say the reality of self can be bittersweet, as it unmasks the hidden lies of fear and shame and anger with it. But this is where I have received the deepest healing and self-compassion, too.

The Enneagram, like all temperament sorters, isn’t the answer to everything––BUT it is a beautiful, insightful tool for living, for the creative life, for relationships, for parenting, or business. It’s a tool, a help toward understanding your personal lens. There are nine numbers on the Enneagram, each motivated by a specific need, each attached to a specific gift and root sin. That’s the simple bit, but the nuances occur in how each of us move toward health and unhealth (and how very different each number looks on that spectrum), by the influence of adjacent numbers (wings), and the influence of different numbers we lean into in stress or growth. It sounds strange, yes? Our children are old enough to be a part of this conversation, and it’s been enormously insightful in my parenting, to understand how they are motivated in their own actions. For instance, we have three different numbers across our four children: One (Reformer/Perfectionist–the need to be perfect); Two (Helper–the need to be needed by others); and Seven (Enthusiast –the need to avoid pain). I won’t go into details right now, as I want their journeys and numbers to be theirs, but these insights have been a revelation in my parenting.

My Enneagram number is Three, the Achiever/Performer (the need to succeed), but more than learning about me, I encourage you to learn about you! Especially in parenthood and marriage, this is so helpful to understand. I admit at times it’s been really difficult learning about the “shadow self,” but recognizing the darker side of my number has been the most healing and empowering so far. So if you, possibly like me, have an immediate “ugh” that happens when you begin learning about your number, keep going! Every person (and Enneagram number) has something entirely beautiful to bring to their homes, work places, and communities, and knowing our flaws and working through them brings health and freedom!

I listed some of my favorite resources below, ones I’ve read or listened to on the Enneagram. Cheers to a new month, and to self-discovery and growth, regardless of where in life we are. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram and have any resources to add, please share them in the comments!


TO FIND YOUR ENNEAGRAM NUMBER

The Enneagram Institute RHETI Type Indicator

The Road Back to You Enneagram Inventory

Or simple begin reading the Enneagram Type Descriptions  to see where you identify most.

 

TO READ

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr | Written by a Fansican monk, it can be heady at times, even though it is thorough. I needed full attention for this one, but the information is organized well, even with charts that follow.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey of Self-Discovery | This book is such an approachable introduction to the Enneagram, and it’s wonderful as an audiobook, too.

The Enneagram Institute 

 

TO LISTEN

The Liturgist Podcast #37 The Enneagram | This podcast is two hours, although it goes by quickly! Two guests give an overview of each of the numbers with a fun way to listen. This was where I started at guessing where I was on the Enneagram, and then I began reading the books and website below.

The Road Back to You Podcast | Ian and Suzanne (the guests on the podcast above) interview someone(s) each episode, having a lighthearted conversation about specific aspects of the guest’s Enneagram number. It’s encouraging and insightful in a really organic manner.

 

NON-ENNEAGRAM RESOURCES I HAVE LOVED FOR SELF-DISCOVERY

Rising StrongHow the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Neiquist

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Water My Soul: Cultivating the Interior Life by Luci Shaw

Connecting and Disconnecting

I have felt disconnected from this space a bit lately, from online life in general really. Perhaps it’s the pace of life the last few months or the thoughts I can’t manage to catch. Quite possibly, it’s the new puppy in our home, now competing for that early hour of morning quiet, or even simpler, the reality of writing online about out life for so long. I realized just last week that I will have been blogging for ten years this coming autumn. TEN YEARS! Although I haven’t always written from such a public platform, I have still been recording some portion of our family’s life and my thoughts on the internet for most of my marriage and mothering years at this point. And something in that reality has caused pause.

Most days, my mind and heart feel brimming with thoughts and ideas; it merely requires tweaking external logistics to make it happen. But the last month or so, I’ve felt a greater disconnect somewhere within me, one that has left me staring at a gaping hole in content here. I have sat down to write so many times, only to stare at the blinking cursor, typing words that felt forced and empty, only to erase them moments later. Delete. Delete. Delete. In March, I lost two large portions of our family trip to a defective CF card, and simultaneously, my phone has been shutting down regularly or draining battery unnecessarily fast, creating a sort of stalemate in spontaneous photos and videos. Sigh.

This isn’t a moment to address the current state of my technology, but only to say I’ve wondered if all of these factors together aren’t trying to tell me something deeper about my own needs right now. Mark and I just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Our youngest, Olive, turned eight, and we are wrapping up our eighth or ninth year of homeschooling––the details of time seem fuzzy. Liam will be fourteen in the fall, and Burke will be thirteen soon after and Blythe not far behind that. The brevity of these years with children at home is visceral.

So yes, my online spaces and social medias have felt sparse and random lately. And some days the empty pages buck against my longing for productivity, my want to actually produce something with my writing hours, other than deleting them. I feel anxious at times that I can’t produce or actualize what seems so easily jotted down on a list or planner. But the internal tension––the push and pull of doing and being, writing and listening––is teaching me something about my boundaries and needs, and more specifically how again to gently receive myself as I am––whether I am performing as well as my inner-critic would like or not.  I have found over the years, it is vain for me to try and produce anything when I am locked up in my head or feeling this deep sense of disconnection. It is best for me not to stare at a screen or a keyboard or even hover my planner and lists, but instead for a time to simply step away and live.

I know I am not alone in this cycle of inward push-pull of self, this tug-of-war of what it means to be connected in the digital age. So for you, here are a few ways I have been finding authentic connection again, and also making peace with my own limitations:

Take a walk. A brief, slow walk around the block is the most instinctual activity when I have writer’s block or am having trouble quieting/hearing my thoughts. I wander and listen. That’s all. This is one of my favorite articles on the connection between writing and walking: one activity orienting us to our environment, the other orienting us to our thought. I realize not everyone is seeking connection for the purpose of writing, but I tend to think it benefits us regardless of intent.

Meditation/Prayer. I’ve mentioned this so many times in this space, but regularly quieting my thoughts with focused meditation on Scripture and prayer is essential for my well-being and sense of deep connection to anything I put my hands to in a day. This doesn’t require long periods of time. I typically find brief quiet moments randomly throughout our days to quiet my thoughts, and pray often. Wink.

Go outside. So many books have been written on our need of nature. But there is something metaphysical nature speaks to us, something tangible for our souls and bodies that we need to orient us through our lives in the digital world. Breathe fresh air. Go for a hike or a day trip to a nearby beach or river. Sprawl a blanket in the lawn, swing in a hammock, stargaze on the rooftop––whatever works best for your temperament and locale.

Unplug. Instead of searching the web for inspiration or looking to see what others are doing, unplug. Pay attention to the people and patterns of your day. Take mental snapshots instead of grabbing your phone or camera, close your eyes, and savor the image for just a moment.

Listen to music. Thoughts like rhythm. They like movement, even melodic movement. Let uplifting music waft in your home as you play with your children or go about the ordinary.

Read. Read anything that might inspire you or grow you, offline. Visit the library or a local bookshop with your kids (or without them, too). If you’re curious, I share four books currently on my nightstand every month with email subscribers. Wink.

Spend time with others outside of your home.  Make a playdate. Meet up with a friend or creative, ideally someone who inspires you. The simple goal for me: get out of your head.

The list is simple, isn’t it? It’s incredible how such simple choices can breed inward connection, and often as a result, a sense of connection for me here, as well.