Desires, Fears, and the Enneagram

The last year or so has been a journey of growing in self-awareness. Self-awareness, perhaps contrary to what some might suppose, is not actually a selfish pursuit. Or rather, it need not be. One might make the case that Jesus’ own awareness of himself— his identity and mission— shaped his decisions each day. In a similar way, I want to know myself— through the lens of how God has made me to be— so that I can walk in my true calling. If I am not living out of a healthy, mature true self, how can I give myself for others?

The Enneagram has helped me discover these things at a deep level. I appreciate how the Myers-Briggs helps me name my preferences; I celebrate how StrengthsFinders helps identify my strengths (who doesn’t love that?!). But my self awareness and understanding of others grows even deeper the more I understand the Enneagram.

So, what is the Enneagram?

It’s the study of the nine basic types of people. ‘Ennea’ is Greek for nine and ‘gram’ is Greek for drawing.The Enneagram is represented by a nine pointed star within a circle and shows how you are primarily motivated and how you view the world. It is built on the premise that humans are driven by desires and fears. The Enneagram shows us, depending on your basic type, what your particular fears and desires may be. You may see great variations from person to person identifying as the same type depending on maturity level, birth order, and values.


[Graphic from experience]

The history of the Enneagram is connected to various ancient religions, though the exact origin is unknown. Some say it is rooted in Christian mysticism. Many say it was taught orally by other religious traditions in the Middle East. It was introduced in Europe in the 1920’s and in the United States in the 1960’s.

Knowing the history behind assessments helps, but I also typically wonder if various personality tests have any scientific validity. (Most Enneagram Type 5’s out there are probably asking this same question!) Researchers and authors Virginia Price and David Daniels wrote a short book on the Enneagram called The Essential Enneagram. They conducted studies with over 900 people in seven years demonstrating the validity and reliability of the Enneagram.

Here are some basics:

Each person has a basic type and your type does not change. Once you dig into the facets of each type, it may be difficult at first to identify or discern your particular type. If you’re not sure, think about your natural desires, fears, and defense mechanisms as a child. It’s easiest to identify our type if we think about how we naturally were prior to age 25. If you’re still not sure, think about how someone who knew you well as a young person might have described you.

The process of identifying your Enneagram type is meant to to be a journey where much patience is required. You can get online and take a quick test to find out your type, but typing yourself in this way won’t gift you personally with the self awareness potentially life changing for yourself and others who may want to journey with you.

To give you a very brief description of each type, here is a list from the Easy Enneagram.

Type 1 (Reformers) – Realistic, conscientious, and principled. They strive to live up to their high ideals. Need to be perfect.

Type 2 (Helpers) – Warm, concerned, nurturing, and sensitive to tother people’s needs. Need to be needed.

Type 3 (Achievers) – Energetic, optimistic, self-assured, and goal oriented. Need to succeed.

Type 4 (Romantics) – Sensitive, warm, and perceptive. Need to be special.

Type 5 (Observers) – Need for knowledge, introverted, and insightful. Need to perceive.

Type 6 (Questioners) – Responsible, trustworthy, and loyal to family, friends, and causes. Need for security.

Type 7 (Adventurers) – Energetic, lively, and optimistic. Need to avoid pain.

Type 8 (Asserters) – Direct, self-reliant, self-confident, and protective. Need to be against.

Type 9 (Peacemakers) – Receptive, good-natured, and supportive. Need to avoid.

I am discovering that I am a Type 9 with a 1 wing (‘wings’ are a whole other subject, along with ‘arrows’, which add more depth and nuance to the Enneagram). As I began to process this, I started to realize how much I was motivated to make decisions out of a true desire for peace in all areas of my life. And how I sometimes want to avoid certain discussions or situations because its just easier to avoid them than confront. I also tend to have high ideals so my 1 wing pushes me to carry out the vision to make things happen.

If you want to learn more about the enneagram, here is a list of resources:

Introduction to the Enneagram:

The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels, M.D. & Virginia Price, Ph.D

The Enneagram Made Easy by Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele

From a mystical Christian Perspective:

The Enneagram – A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

Digging Deeper in the Enneagram:

The Wisdom of the Enneagram – The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Riso & Russ Hudson (one of my favorites)

The Enneagram in Love and Work by Helen Palmer

The Lifegiving Home: A Review of Sally and Sarah Clarkson’s New Book



“Every rhythm and atom of existence are spaces in which the kingdom can come, in which the story of God’s love can be told anew, in which the stuff of life can be turned marvelously into love.” Sarah Clarkson

We only need bare essentials to survive, but home was intended to be a place filled with so much more. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to envision what a home can be. Sally and Sarah Clarkson have just released a book filled with ideas on how to grow, belong, and flourish in a ‘lifegiving home’. They give us vision for how to create a space that gives life to body, soul, and spirit.

The Clarkson’s home has been filled with tea times, books and stories, traditions, spiritual rhythms and practices, feasting, and a focus on beauty. My family and I have been in the Clarkson home numerous times over the past decade and have been a witness to their hospitality through Bible studies, feasts, Christmas parties, teas and more. Sally lives a full life with her family at home and maintains a robust travel schedule. But she has continued to create a welcoming environment in her home in the midst of it all (usually a delicious candlelit breakfast by the window with tea when I stop over). Sally and Sarah speak extensively in their book about all the people they opened their home to over the course of Sarah’s growing up. They also refer to seasons of difficulty— like a church split, or the abandonment of friends, or the passing away of relatives— when they needed to close their doors for a time.

The LifeGiving Home book is an inspiration to open your home and to be hospitable to your family and others within the limits of your personality and God’s timing. Sally and Sarah share their stories to encourage us to be intentional with what our families and home might look like in our own unique ways.

My family has some things in the common with the Clarksons— our love for music, books and art to name a few. But we also love to play sports and watch them (by ‘we’, and I mean my husband and son!). God created all of our families with unique interests and desires— and all of them can be a springboard for bringing vision in the cultivation of a life-giving home.

How might our homes become welcoming, orderly, lovely, and laughter-filled places where memories are made and shared? I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord to show you what it looks like for you with your life to take a step toward making your home a life-giving one. This new book from Sally and Sarah will a go a long way toward helping your imagination.

Please check out these sites to purchase the book and other resources.

The Lifegiving Home:  Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming

The Lifegiving Home Experience: A 12-Month Guided Journey Links and lists for books to read, movies to watch, resources, and ideas for things to do with your family.

Why I’m Learning to Love ‘Great Books’


“Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

— C.S. Lewis

Reading is something I love to do. The thought of reading great works immediately stirs me… heart pitter patters just a bit. Discussing ideas, themes, and virtue invigorates a part of my soul that would surely be lying dormant if not for great books.

It wasn’t always this way. I enjoyed reading at an early age, but I never developed a taste for classics— I’m of the The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High generation! Then, in college and into early adulthood, I skipped reading fiction, thinking it was a total waste of time. I somehow became convinced I could really only learn or grow or know God through non-fiction. Years after college and grad school, because of the prompting of some close friends, I once again got on the path of fiction reading with To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I remember exactly where I was when I started…it was Springtime….a bed and breakfast in Victoria, Vancouver Island. Not my typical place of reading, but Glenn and I were fortunate to take a trip at the start of a sabbatical seven years ago. Looking through the window of a beautiful Victorian home, I saw a park filled with gorgeous cherry blossom trees. Through the pages of the book, I was dropped into a dramatic story, into the very depths of the human heart, wrestling with themes of kindness, love, hatred, and tragedy.

As I’ve grown, I’ve yearned to read great works that would stretch me not only intellectually but emotionally as well. My desire is not just to get through a book, memorizing information to spit out, or to meet a requirement of sorts, but to soak in a book’s richness. Last week, I began my second book by Saint Augustine, The City of God. Three years ago, I couldn’t have imagined even attempting to read his works. But last year, I read Confessions. His ability to communicate our human desires and longings are outstanding. Of course, as the picture above of my current reading list shows, I don’t only read ‘great books’; but I do try to always include one in the stack.

So, what makes ‘great books’ great?

‘Great books’ echo transcendent themes in an artful way. They are not great because some literary authority approved them, but because they help us to see the human story. A self-help book may give seven steps to living a successful life or give a simple, un-nuanced message about quitting negative behaviors. But a great story may invite you subversively into exploring the deeper motivations for such behavior.

You might see yourself in a character or find it easy to empathize with them. Maybe a character’s voice finally gives you language to voice a feeling from a past experience you didn’t even know was hidden deep in your heart.

“What is an imagination for if not to enable you to peep at life through other people’s eyes.” – Anne, in Anne of Avonlea, L.M. Montgomery

Great books’ need not be a works of fiction. I mentioned reading St. Augustine— his works were not fiction, of course, but fit the designation of a ‘great book’ because of the themes he deals with. Augustine himself describes reading Cicero’s Hortensius at the age of 19:

The book changed my way of feeling…. For under its influence my petitions and desires altered. All my hollow hopes suddenly seemed worthless, and with unbelievable intensity my heart burned with longing for the immortality that wisdom seemed to promise…. It had won me over not by its style, but by what it had to say. (from Desire and Delight: A New Reading of Augustine’s Confessions by Margaret R. Miles)

Great books are meant to be read more than once. Reading great books over and over again helps the richness of their words sink deeper and deeper with each reading. This does not mean that a great book has to be an old book. If reading a great book written hundreds or thousands of years ago is intimidating, try reading a great work of modern fiction. (Wendell Barry’s Jayber Crow is a great example.)

Wherever you are in your reading journey, you can always take another step. You can crack open that Russian novel you’ve been afraid to try; you can read one sonnet from Shakespeare; you can dust off an old classic you were forced to read in high school. Who knows what adventures await!

The Ache of Advent


We spent Thanksgiving week with family up in the mountains. Amidst the frequent meltdowns, fights, and disarray in our rental condo, we experienced brief ‘stabs of joy’, as C.S. Lewis called it— moments that helped us transcend the moment. Joy matters not only because it makes the toil and the cost of life worthwhile, but because it can lead to hope; it can remind us that there is more than what we see and feel.

That same week, tragedy struck our city as three lives were lost in a deplorable shooting at Planned Parenthood. Our hearts, still heavy from the terrorist attacks in Paris weeks earlier, were sinking with grief. Superficial joy has nothing to say to such pain.

The trouble with the generalized ‘holiday season’ isn’t that it is a part of some calculated ‘war on Christmas’; it’s that it leaves us with no lexicon for longing. It gives us snow and songs, elves and sales, cookies and cards…but no vocabulary for grief, for sorrow, for the deep ache in our hearts.

This is why we have come to appreciate Advent. Advent isn’t a spiritual, alternative name for ‘Christmas’; it is its own season, a season of preparation for Christmas. Advent is when the anticipated joy of Christ’s first arrival puts us touch with our anticipated joy at His return. Advent is a joy that helps us hope.

Advent is when we give voice to the ache and pain and longing in our hearts. Advent is also when we confess our own participation in the brokenness of the world. Advent, then, is not only about longing for Christ to come again and put everything back together; it’s about repenting and receiving grace so that we get to be put back together now.

But there’s one more piece. Advent is not only about longing for Christ to put the world back together, not only about repenting and letting Christ put us back together; it is also a chance to participate in bringing wholeness to others.

As we enter the Advent season, could we as the people of God, be a part of the answer to the longing in people’s hearts? Maybe its through buying slave-free products or serving in the local Rescue Mission. Or maybe its through taking a moment to ‘see’ your neighbor who’s going through a difficult time. It may seem difficult to carve out time to give to the things you desire in this season. We’ve had to cut out some of our regularly scheduled things to carve out space to focus on this season.

Yesterday, all around the world we lit the first purple candle in the Advent wreath as a symbol of Hope. Whether we sense God or feel a great void or doubt about his presence, we believe He is the hope of the world. The longing we have in our hearts for this world to be set right will come to pass. There are brief glimpses of Joy that remind us of this hope. Until then…we wait.

Grace and peace,

Glenn and Holly


Advent prayers, devotionals, and music (Glenn)

On celebrating Advent with children (Holly)

Favorite Advent and Christmas reading lists for the whole family (Holly)


Slowing Down to Be With Jesus

IMG_0818Well here it is….Part 2 on The Emotionally Healthy Leader. [You can read Part 1 HERE.] If thinking deeply about my shadow side wasn’t enlightening enough, I went on to ponder the ideas surrounding the concept Pete called, ‘Slowing Down for Loving Union.’

“In an exhaustive biblical study, theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote about how often Scripture describes people who do things for God without having life with God. Characters such as Balaam, the Old Testament prophet, Judas Iscariot, and Saul were all engaged in what most certainly would have been considered effective work for God by their communities, but without having an authentic connection to Him. The only mark of genuine spiritual maturity and ministry effectiveness, Edwards concluded, is the outworking of agape – a self-giving love for God and others. That is the one quality of our lives and leadership the devil can never counterfeit. And the sources of that agape love can be found only in a life of loving union with God.”

For the majority of my life in and around ministry, I have pondered this. But the trouble comes in when ministry itself is what fills all your time. We can spend all our time serving Him, but where do we carve out time to just be with Him? Unintentionally, its easy not to foster a deep and life-giving relationship with Him.

Here’s a peek at Pete’s assessment  – How Healthy is Your Experience of Loving Union with God? (You can rate yourself, Always true of me down to Never true of me)

  • My highest priority as a leader is to take time each day to remain in loving union with Jesus.
  • I offer God full access to my interior life as I make decisions, interact with team members, and initiate new plans.
  • I wait to say yes or no to new opportunities until I have sufficient time to prayerfully and carefully discern God’s will.
  • When I become aware that I am anxious or feeling emotionally triggered in leadership, I slow down to be with God.
  • I regularly set aside time for experiences of solitude and silence that enable me to be still and undistracted in God’s presence.

In considering the life of Jesus, it gives me perspective to realize He spent 90% of his life in obscurity. The stories we know of Him took place in a three year time period. Even during these three years, He continually went away from the crowds and noise to seek His Father.

“Jesus models contentment under pressure, calm in the face of betrayal, and power to forgive at his crucifixion – all of which is the fruit of a long history of oneness with his Father. I am convinced that a significant reason so many Christian leaders lack the qualities Jesus modeled is because we skim in our relationship with God. Whenever we find ourselves wanting the ministry impact of Jesus while simultaneously resisting spending time with Jesus, we are positioning ourselves for a beating and some variation on being run ‘out the house naked and bleeding’.” 

Oh, how I’ve been guilty of this. How many times have I prepared and given out of a dry and weary place? How many times have I led out of my own strength rather than relied on my relationship with the Lord?

When I think of all a day could potentially hold, its easy for me to be a doer rather than a child of God who sits in stillness to listen to His voice. I believe God is big enough to speak to us in many ways if we have the eyes to see and ears to hear. If we choose to seek Him, can He not whisper to us in creation, in the glory of the the clouds, in the whoo of an owl out my window? Can he not bring me peace in mind, body, and spirit through the practice of Sabbath? Can He not whisper His truth in a great book, a Bach cantata or a timeless piece of art? As we expand our view of God’s communion with us, maybe the idea of never ceasing prayer will take on new meaning.

If you’re a ministry leader – a pastor, a small group leader, a missions director, or any kind of leader for that matter – please read this book.  It will challenge and encourage you to develop a deep, communion with Christ, examining its profound implications for surviving stress, planning and decision making, building teams, creating healthy culture, influencing others, and much more.

Here’s a link to buy it now –

The ‘Emotionally Healthy Leader’….Reflections on Our Shadow


Autumn. It might just be my favorite time of the year. The changing leaves, cool brisk morning air, pumpkins, fall wreaths, apples, and sweet cinnamon hand soap are some of the small things that make my heart sing. As I embark into another fall season, much about it feels familiar. An yet no season is the same. I’m in a new season of evaluating myself as as leader. I know this won’t be the last time.

Glenn and I have been reading and talking through a book called, The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero. I have been incredibly challenged in my inner and outer life through Pete’s life experiences and Godly wisdom.

One of the chapters addresses Facing Your Shadow. What is a ‘shadow’? Scazzero calls a shadow “the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than-pure, motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behavior. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are.” Our shadow side may be sin, or simply weaknesses. For some it might be greed, bitterness, anger, sloth or perfectionism. For others it could present itself in a need to be needed or be liked by people, overworking, or a desire to control. Scazerro references Robert Louis Stevenson’s, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I can relate. As I go about my day, cleaning, teaching, organizing (maybe), writing, reading, more cleaning up, driving, chatting…I typically think of myself as a well-adjusted human. But oh, some nights, I am a mess. My insecurities about relationships, educational decisions, family situations– you name it— all come out in a not-so-pretty external-processing. I’m learning the more aware I am of my emotions, and the better I get at communicating them, the healthier I’ll be.

Being an ‘Enneagram 9’, I am a mediator or peacemaker. Because of this, I try to harmonize the various parts of my life. I appreciate seeing all sides of an idea so sometimes taking a firm position on something is difficult. In the past month, I’ve agonized over certain decisions and get frustrated with being what Glenn affectionately calls a ‘process’ decision-maker (as in, I’ve got to test things and see how it feels, before deciding on them). I’m continuing to realize and embrace the way God made me, and yet continue to lean into Him as I lead out of weakness.

[By the way, if you want to dig deeper into looking at your shadow side, you might enjoy the Enneagram typology. Its an ancient framework using nine types helping you identify your true essence and what motivates your behavior. I may blog about this some time…]

Back to the book…

Throughout the book, there are opportunities for self-assessment. [There are more resources related to emotionally healthy leadership and spirituality HERE.] Here’s a portion of Scazzero’s assessment, ‘How Healthy is Your Approach to Your Shadow?’ (Scazzero has a rating scale, but you can use these statements for contemplation here.)

  • I take time regularly to experience and process my anger, fear, and sadness with God and others.
  • I have a healthy awareness of my shadow – my wounds, self-protectiveness, and weaknesses – and how I am tempted to sin against other people in my unguarded moments.
  • I am honest with myself and a few significant others about the struggles, doubts, and hurts deep beneath the surface of my life.
  • I am able to identify the roots of my leadership weaknesses and failures (mixed motives, fear of what others think, anxiety, anger, etc) In my family of origin or in my personal history.

You know it’s your shadow when……

  • You act out inappropriately under pressure
  • You don’t want someone to succeed because they’ve hurt you
  • You get busier rather than more reflective when your are anxious
  • You do and say things out of fear of what other people think.

“The degree to which you can recognize and engage your own shadow is the degree to which you can free others to face theirs.”

Sometimes I wish this process would end, but I remind myself the Holy Spirit is living in me encouraging, comforting, and teaching me every step of the way. My heart’s desire is to disciple others, but how can I do that in His way if I’m not continuing to allow Him to work in my own heart?

If we are to grow into the likeness of God, we must grow in awareness of how He wants to change us.

More reflections on the book to come…

On Making the Bed and Making the Most of Habits


I’ve spent the greater part of the past year delving into literature that, quite honestly, is a bit over my head. From poring over a Russian novel to reading bits of Dante, I switched gears entirely and picked up a book on habits, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Glenn read it first and I followed suit as I do in many of his reading endeavors.

Duhigg distills scores of research about how habits are formed, how habits are changed, and which habits matter most. The part I found most fascinating was a concept called ‘Keystone Habits’, the kind of habits that when changed affected many areas of life. Keystone habits aren’t the same for everyone but once you figure out what they are for you, a chain reaction could occur.

“Typically people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work.  They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use credit cards less frequently and they say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why. But for many people exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.” 

I’m definitely not a naturally disciplined person, but I have to admit when certain areas of my life like exercise are consistent, I make better choices about what I eat, I feel more at peace, and I am probably just a nicer person to be around. Ask my husband!

We can’t deny that we are creatures of habit and easily find ourselves doing the same things over and over. I have found that it’s easy for negative or thoughtless habits to occur in my life if I’m not intentional about how to fill a particular space. In Colorado, it takes a proactive gardener whose willingness to tend plants regularly will possibly reap the reward of their tenacious tending. Without the attention to the plants, it doesn’t take long for weeds, deer, hail or the like to destroy them. I know, I had a vision of being a green thumb more than once and it is far from being fulfilled. (I think I’ve given up on this one!)

I would like to believe that some habits would form without considerable effort upon my part. But I haven’t found that to be true. For most of my life I’ve struggled to get up early unless a schedule demanded that I rise to the situation. In high school it was early morning show choir practice, and in recent years, a baby’s cry. I had hopes that these calls to get me out of bed would become habits. However, as soon as the season was over, I easily fell back into sleeping later than I hoped! Often, I would wake only when necessary, which put me starting the day reactively.

Although I do work well at night (it’s past 10 o’clock as I write), there is something about rising in the still quiet of the morning before the entire house is awake and full of life. Even if I’m barely awake, the habit of rising early sets me in a posture of seeking the Lord, listening to Him rather than responding usually to someone needing something from me. I wish I could say getting up before my family everyday has become a daily habit as a result of reading this inspiring book but it has not….at least yet. I working on it. I’ve been setting my alarm to rise early every day and when I do, I see the fruit of the discipline. The opportunity to meditate on Him and sit in silence to listen to His still small voice is at least a possibility. Even in those moments when I’m tired and feel like its pointless to be up that early, I’m believing that choosing to be disciplined about the habit is building something in my spirit.

I wonder if developing habits— actions that no longer require conscious thought or choice— actually gives us space to see God’s goodness, truth, and beauty. The more I have life-giving habits in place, the more space I have to see to what He is doing. If some practical habits are in place like morning routines, I actually have to think less, makes fewer decisions about things that seem less significant. If my children and I are following our routine— which I hope will become habit— then there is room to stop and step outside to see his creation rather than me spending that energy to remind them once again of what they should be doing. If I don’t have the habit of giving attention to the things God has placed right in front of me, how can I learn and grow?

One other Keystone Habit Duhigg mentions is making your bed. Even if the rest of our upstairs is in disarray something about made beds brings peace. Sometimes its the little things.