Category: #write31days

{all my thoughts} on The Road Back to You

the road back to you review

As I’ve shared in the past, the Enneagram is a tool that has helped me to better understand myself and how I view both God and the world around me. It has given me language for things I already knew about myself, but had been unable to verbalize. It also helped me feel normal, knowing I’m not the only crazy one out there constantly thinking about how to make all things better.

It also has helped me in my daily life. I’ve began to realize that I’m looking at the world through a particular lens, and not everyone has the same outlook. As I learn about how others are motivated, it helps me to have greater understanding and more compassion. And as we love people more intentionally, it changes us too.

I was first introduced to the Enneagram by a spiritual director, and following that session, she sent me home with The Enneagram by Richard Rohr. I’ve read parts of other books about the Enneagram here and there, but this one remains my absolute favorite.

However. I would not give Rohr’s book to most people as their introduction to the Enneagram. Rohr’s book is pretty heavy and very detailed. It’s not for the person who is just wanting to learn a little more.

Instead, I’d recommend Suzanne Stabile and Ian Morgan Cron’s new book, The Road Back to You. It’s an accessible, easy-to-read introduction to the Enneagram.

What I liked about this book:

They acknowledge the Enneagram for what it is: It’s a useful, but not perfect, personality-profiling system that helps us to understand ourselves better. They aren’t crazy, Enneagram-pushing people. They think the Enneagram is incredibly useful in helping people know themselves in order that they can love themselves and others better.

They simplify the complexity of the system without losing much. Wings, stress, and security numbers are sometimes difficult to explain well, but they introduce the concepts well.

Stabile and Cron dedicate one chapter to each of the numbers. In it, they focus on the important:

  • What a particular number looks like when they are healthy, average, and unhealthy.
  • The number’s dark side, or how this personality type struggles.
  • How this number might have looked during childhood.
  • How this number interacts with others (relationships, at work, etc.)
  • The wings for this number

Most importantly, they dedicate a section of each chapter to the spiritual formation of each number. What does it look like to pursue God? What needs to be let go or worked through so that you can allow God’s grace to penetrate the places you’ve closed Him off to? I LOVE that they give 10 spiritual transformation practices to each number.

Where it left me wanting:

The description of each number is fairly heavy on the negative, or dark side. They do this because it’s in the description of the dark side that most of us have an “ah-ha!” moment. And while I understand that, the chapter on my number left me feeling defensive and a bit bad about myself. They warned against this in their introduction, but I think it would have been better to add more positive attribtues in addition to the negative, especially because they are committed to the idea that “the Enneagram should only be used to build others up and help them advance on their journey towards wholeness and God. Period.” Well, I know that’s what they meant when writing this book, but if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought my number was the epitome of an immature, nit-picking human being who is annoyed with the world.

On the same note, I think they didn’t give an entirely fair description of my number. I’m a 1, which is the Perfectionist or the Reformer. Stabile and Cron chose “perfectionist” which has a slightly different focus than if one chooses “reformer”. I highly identified as a 1 when working with my spiritual director and when reading Rohr’s book. However, I’m not sure I would have as quickly identified with a 1 if I was only reading this book.

They describe 1s as perfectionist, detail-oriented people who care deeply about whether there’s a misspelling in a PTO newsletter or if someone squeezed from the middle of the toothpaste. I care about neither. In fact, I tend to overlook or not even see those small details, because I’m often looking at the big picture. I’m much more interested in making the world a better place through organizational reforms, spiritual formation of people, and helping others to love more deeply.

I do often ask the question, “How can I make the world a better place?” (a common 1 question), but I care about the answer as it relates to how others can be be living a more love-filled, God-oriented life, I could care less about how someone loads a dishwasher.

BUT, I know that this is a primer, and that they can’t include everything. I’ve ran this book by a couple of friends who are different numbers, and they were pleased with how the book reflected their number.

Overall Recommendation

If you are interested in learning about the Enneagram at all, this is a great first book. Stabile and Cron gave a sweet gift to the Christian community- an accessible, funny, informative book that places the Enneagram in a space where it can easily be translated into our spiritual formation practices. 

Maybe you’re asking- should I read this book even though I’ve been listening to their podcasts? I was wondering the same thing. Wouldn’t it be all the same information? It’s really not. The podcast gets to the characteristics of the numbers for sure, but I think they focus more on their guest than on getting to the nitty gritty details of each particular number. This book gives the information you need all in one place, with more details than the podcast offers.


Thanks so much to IVP for providing this book as a review copy! 


Can God relate to me as a mother?


When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
    the more they went away from me.[a]
They sacrificed to the Baals
    and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
    it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
    a little child to the cheek,
    and I bent down to feed them… (Hosea 11.1-4)

Sometimes I wonder if God can actually relate to me as a mother.

Does he know what it’s like to see your child suffer and long to make it all go away?

Can he relate to the weight of managing a household, working full-time outside the home, and trying to do each well? Does he know what it’s like to feel like you’re always failing at one or the other?

Can he relate to the monotony of life in some seasons? Diaper after diaper. Feeding after feeding. Sleepless night after sleepless night.

Does he ever feel like he doesn’t know the right decision? Do I email the teacher or just let the situation be? Do I call the doctor or just wait and see? Do I pursue work outside the home or stay put? Do I burn the midnight oil to get things finished, or do I let myself sleep, allowing my family to wake up to things undone?

And while I don’t know His answers to these questions, exactly, I do know that God is maternal as much as He is paternal. In Scripture He has revealed his tenderness, his compassion, his ability to relate to the traditionally maternal instincts of drawing an infant close, feeding a child, doing the long work of holding a child’s hands while they learn to walk. And this matters to me, because in all of my femininity, I need to know that God understands.  I need to know that God deeply values every aspect or loving and nurturing and raising a child.

Of course, this isn’t to say that only mothers cuddle and feed and parent a child. Of course fathers do too. But I liked this particular passage above and how it shows a side of God that we don’t always see or hear preached about on Sundays.

So fellow mommas, be in peace. Enjoy the cuddles. The meals. The slowness that some days bring. Let’s feel the freedom to put down our planners, our projects, our excel spreadsheets, and just enjoy our children.

May we feel the sacredness of reading a book to our snuggly toddler. Sitting on the couch and watching our kids play. Playing a video game with our teenager. It’s what is making us holy.

5 Podcasts that Help me to Grow Spiritually

Sitting behind the steering wheel in my minivan is one of the most sacred spaces for me right now.

Each morning, I climb in the car, juggling my purse, bag full of work that I brought home the day before justincaseifeltlikeworkingonit, lunch box, and with my cup of iced tea. As I settle in behind the wheel, I take a couple deep breaths. I plug my iphone into my radio, and I choose a podcast. As I begin my journey, I think about my day, my kids, my husband. I might pray a little, but mostly I just take in the sweet silence.

After a couple minutes into my drive, I press play and spend the next 15-20 minutes listening to someone talk about something that’s really important to them. Nearly every day I end up in the parking lot at my work, slightly uncertain of how I got there so fast, and always wishing I could just keep on listening a little longer. (more…)

My Favorite Tools to Use with my Planner


When using my planner, I love to have a stack of a variety of books and tools nearby to both enrich my time planning and reflecting… and to make it colorful!

In addition to the Sacred Ordinary Days planner, I use a variety of books:

  1. NIV Bible. I use the one that was published in 2011 because it uses gender-inclusive language.
  2. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Sometimes I’ll use this version instead of the NIV because I love the footnotes included in this version, and the translation helps me understand things a bit differently than the NIV.
  3. Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. I deeply resonate with this book of common prayer. Each day’s reading includes liturgical prayers, Scripture passages to read, a song suggestion to sing/hum/listen, and a short bit of wisdom from a church father/mother. My heart often resonates deeply with the prayers-  a bit gritty at times and always authentic.

Other tools:

  1. If I need a little color action, I use these colored pens, which are more marker than pen, IMO.  I love the variety of shades included. The only downfall-  I just have to make sure not to press too hard so they don’t bleed through.
  2. If I feel like journaling more than what fits in my planner, I use a Miquelrius journal. These journals are super inexpensive at Barnes & Noble, and have a great feel to them. I love the colors on the ends of the pages, the size of the pages, and the fact that it’s spiral bound. In the past I’ve ended up mod-podging the front; the cover material is perfect for it!
  3. Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to read a lot, but instead sense I need some space to pray and think. I’ll use this journal to color while I pray. Each spread has a different theme, so I can flip through until I find something that looks appropriate to my mood :). Yesterday I was feeling grouchy and discontent with my life, so I spent some time at the table with Ada, coloring a page about gratitude and giving thanks.
  4. Music is often a must. I’ve been spending most of my time with One Wild Life: Soul, Spirit, Body;  The Unmaking by Nichole Nordeman; and The Liturgists.

What are the books and tools that are stacked up near your favorite chair?

Night Owls Unite: How to Have Meaningful Time with God at Night


I don’t believe that being a morning person or a night owl is a part of our DNA. I think it often comes by necessity. At least it has in my case.

I used to be more of a morning person. I’d wake up at 5:30 or 6:00a and get my day going. I could get lots of things done before the rest of my friends starting rolling out of bed.

My life after kids has changed me. It’d be dreamy to spend some time in a peaceful, still house before the rest of the family awoke. I’d have my hot tea and my journal and spend time thinking and praying and writing. The kids would come down the stairs and I’d greet them with peace and cheerfulness and a warm breakfast.

But it’s just not happening.

More realistically, they bound out of bed at 6:30 and head straight for my room, armed with a million questions and “momma, can you help me _______”. I stumble down the stairs with my eyes half-closed, trying to do just enough to get them started on breakfast, but not too much that I fully wake up  and ruin my chances for a few more minutes of sleep on the couch.

Needless to say, times spent with Jesus are also not happening in the morning at this stage of life. And I’m mostly okay with that. I have no desire to make over my mornings, but instead choose to focus in on the evenings. It’s in this space of quiet after the chaos that I can say, “Okay, I’m ready to be still. To reflect. To plan. To pray.”

Using the SOD planner as a Night Owl

I played around with a few different ways of using the Sacred Ordinary Days planner in the evening instead of the morning and I think I’ve found a good rhythm.

  1. I spend time in the evenings reading through and thinking about the Scripture passages.
  2. I reflect on my day, asking questions like:
    1. When did I feel most joyful today?
    2. What zapped my energy?
    3. What leftovers of the day am l carrying right now that I need to lay down?
    4. Where did I see God at work today?
  3. I then flip the page and choose 3 projects for tomorrow, along the the cues and rest/rewards. I fill in some of my big events of the day, and quickly pray through those meetings or appointments.

This rhythm helps me to think clearly about the day that’s just happened. It also helps me to look forward, preparing myself for the day that is to come after getting a good nights rest.

I’d be curious– for all you other night owls, how do you create space for reflection, Scripture reading and prayer?




Creating a Family Rule of Life


When opening the Sacred Ordinary Days planner, one of the first things you’ll see is a section that helps you create a rule of life. What is a rule of life, you ask? Great question.

A rule of life is a set of routines, patterns, or habits that we practice in order to help us to become the kind of person we want to be.  A rule of life isn’t about achieving, but about being.

I spent some time last year writing about it in Developing a Rule of Life and Developing a Rule of Life (Part 2). Feel free to read those if you want more background.

This time around, I’m more interested in developing a rule of life with and for our family. We already have a version of this in place, I suppose. We try to talk about and celebrate our family’s core values (compassion, generosity, faith, equality and creativity) on a semi-regular basis, which is a great start. But I think a rule of life takes us to the next level. It means creating rhythms that help us to become people who embody those values instead of just hoping that we end up there.

We’re still in the brainstorming and creating phase, but here are some ideas that have sifted to the top:

  • Read together. We want to be a family that’s learning, growing in our understanding of the world and how other people experience life. Reading helps us grow in empathy and compassion, and helps us to remember that everyone has a perspective and it’s vital to listen to those perspectives.
  • Explore the world together. We’d love to travel together someday, but for now, it means finding opportunities to learn about different cultures, eating different kinds of foods, examining maps and playing with languages. We want to be the kind of people who love well, are not afraid of that which is different, and are listening to the voices that may not always get equal air time.
  • Grow in our faith together. We started out really good about this- being intentional with reading the Bible together every night, praying together, and simply living life with an eye towards what God is doing in us and in the world. As the kids have multiplied in number, we engage in this less intentionally and less often. It’s been challenging to find our rhythm. We keep trying things out, as our kids get older and we start learning about how they might best experience God. We know that our kids might not end up choosing to trust Jesus with their lives, but we also know that we want to be on this faith journey together, always with an open door for sharing thoughts and questions.
  • Give together. We want to be generous with our love, our time, and our money. This one might be the hardest for us. Our budget is tight. Our fairly simple schedule already feels like we don’t have enough time for one another, let alone people outside of our walls. But we continually try to find ways that we can say yes to opportunities that allow our family to engage generously together. Yes to creating a relationship with a child through Compassion International, Yes to making a meal for someone, Yes to spending our money on someone else. Yes to babysitting a friend’s child. Yes to making a bracelet for a friend. Yes to giving a book we love to a friend. Yes to inviting people into our lives.
  • Create together. Cooking. Drawing. Inventing. Creating videos. Writing. Making games. Picasso has been credited for saying, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” We believe that we were created in the image of a creative God, and that when we create, we are playing alongside God.

Here are some questions we asked ourselves when creating our family rule of life:

  • What’s the end goal? What kind of people do we hope we’ll be in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years?
  • What values do we hold higher than others? How can we lean into those?
  • How is our family wired? What natural dispositions or heart leanings do we have? Where are they different from one another? Where are we the same?

As I have learned more about this tool over the past few months, I have come across a few creative ways of writing and illustrating them.

  • This person used a bread recipe format for her rule of life. It communicates the organic nature of spiritual formation, and it’s just really beautiful.
  • This person used images to communicate their rule of life. I would have never thought of this!
  • If you scroll down a little in this post, you’ll see a rule of life written in a word art kind-of-way. I can imagine making something like this to hang on a wall in our house.

Have you ever created a rule of life? How has it helped you to become more of the person God created you to be?


How to Use the Project Section of Your Sacred Ordinary Day Planner


The Project section of the Sacred Ordinary Days Planner stumped me at first.

I wasn’t sure why there were only 3 project slots. How do I decide what’s worthy of a project slot? And on top of this,  I had no idea what “cue” meant, or “rest/reward.”

While I’m still learning, here are some of my thoughts on this potentially puzzling section.

“What? Why only 3 slots for projects? I have a gazillion things to do today!”

TOTALLY. You have lots and lots to do. Your to-do list is unending. I get that. But…. (more…)

The Sacred Ordinary Days Planner


I love planners. Mostly because they save my life. Every single day.

If I don’t write things down, it exits my mind and I never see it again. As you can imagine, this doesn’t work too well for a momma juggling not only her own work and home schedule, but also those of her 4 sweet and wild children. Hence the planner love.

I first heard about The Sacred Ordinary Days planner from a Kickstarter project. A woman named Jenn Giles Kemper had a wild and crazy dream of combining a planner and a space for spiritual reading and reflection.

She knew that how we view and spend our days deeply influences our spiritual formation. And to put all that wrapped up in one? Genius.


My Personal Spiritual Formation Reading List

It’s here. The last day of #write31days. Whew. I have 11 months to recover :).

For real though, this process has been HARD, but I’m so thankful for a supportive husband who has let me sleep in late nearly everyday because I’ve been up until midnight nearly every night this month working and writing. I’ll be sure to return the sleeping-in favor to him as he soon begins his 2 week prelims. Whew.

For the last day of 31 Days of Soul Searching, I just wanted to take it easy and share a list of soul-forming books that are on my “If I ever get 2 weeks of uninterrupted reading time, these books are what I’d read” list.

In no particular order:

  1. Two Steps Forward
  2. The Gift of Being Yourself
  3. The Sacramental LIfe
  4. Simplicity
  5. Just Spirituality
  6. Life Together in Christ
  7. Margin
  8. Praying Upside Down
  9. Faithful: A Theology of Sex
  10. Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith
  11. Eternal Living
  12. The Inner Voice of Love 
  13. Sacred Parenting
  14. Spirit Led Parenting
  15. Undone
  16. Spirituality in the Mother Zone

What books about any area of spiritual formation are you looking forward to reading??

Winning, Losing, and Why My Mom Stopped Playing Games With Me

Today I’m over at Play Eat Grow, sharing some thoughts on Lysa Terkeurst’s new children’s book, Win or Lose I Love You as well as answering some questions on what it means to teach and shape our kids’ hearts as it relates to the Scriptures.



“I Win!!!”

These two words can create chaos out of calm in 5 seconds flat.

I must admit- I’m a recovering sore-loser. I still remember playing Hi Ho Cherrio as a kid with my mom, and totally losing it when I lost. SO MANY TEARS. My mom eventually told me that she wouldn’t play any more games with me.

And she didn’t for several years.


Read more: Winning, Losing, and Why My Mom Stopped Playing Games With Me