A top three for 2018: hourglass, enneagram, and sabbaticals

 

The space between Christmas and the New Year is like a blank page between chapters in a book. The pause between those two chapters lets you catch your breath to reflect on what’s happened and prepare for what’s to come. With all that could be said about 2018, here are the top three things that shaped and impacted my life. Whatever your top three or ten are, I hope you are able to take a moment or two to look back as well before jumping into 2019.

The life changing magic of an hourglass

My brother and sister-in-law gifted me a beautiful hourglass for my birthday and it changed the game for daily quiet time. Once my kids stopped napping I realized the deep need in my soul for quiet space and time each day. Figuring out a consistent and enforceable routine that didn’t involve screens felt insurmountable most days.

One day the hourglass showed up on my doorstep in a brown amazon box. One afternoon after admiring it for a few weeks, Edith wanted to play with it. That’s when it happened — quiet time in her room for one hour with the hourglass to keep track. Since that day she and Frederick, when he has school off, spend a whole hour in their room playing, looking at books, and sometimes staring at the sand so intently they fall asleep.

The steady stream of grains is soothing and reassuring. The visual of time passing through the funnel cues the most restorative part of each day for everyone in the house. That hour of peace and stillness refreshes my introvert heart and mind like no other.

For the love of the Enneagram

For two years I thought I was an Enneagram one. I took an online test in 2016 and it labeled me a one so I read all the things about ones. Some of them resonated, but it wasn’t life changing or mind blowing. This past spring after reading The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and everything changed. If you don’t know anything about the Enneagram, it’s an ancient personality typing system that categorizes personalities in nine main types.

After reading The Road Back to You, I realized I wasn’t a one. After reading the chapter on fours it felt like something finally clicked. It was a giant mirror that reflected all the inner thoughts and feelings I experienced but could never fully verbalize — all the gross, yucky stuff and all the distinct, wonderful stuff too. The Enneagram provides language to name certain thought patterns and motivations that bubbled beneath the surface. It also gives tangible, practice-based steps to grow and develop healthy reactions and responses to ruts in thinking and emotion. Most importantly it cultivates compassion for yourself and others; something sorely needed these days.

Here are a few keys and resources if you want to begin this journey. The first thing to keep in mind when beginning is to read through a good summary of each type — even the best quiz can’t reveal your inner motivations. The second thing to consider are the numbers on either side of the one you think you are. For example, when I thought I was a one for two years neither of the numbers (a nine and a two) on each side of the one resonated with me. You will have your main number, but also a wing number that resonates a lot with you as well. For example, I’m a 4w5 which looks quite different from a 4w3.

The third thing to do is think about what you’re like when you are emotionally healthy and unhealthy. Each number will draw on the positive characteristics from one other number in health or negative characteristics from one other number in distress. A four in health will take on the positive characteristics of a one (which may be one of the reasons I tested as a one) and will take on the negative characteristics of a two in distress. The fourth thing to do is to look at the subtypes of each number. Every number has three subtypes and it was this last step that unlocked everything for me.

Here are a few resources if you want to get started or dive deeper:

This is a great website outlining subtypes — it’s incredibly valuable to read the brief paragraph of each subtype.

Books

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron

(most accessible and easy to read)

The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile

(all about relationship dynamics between enneagram types)

The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut

(a thorough and in-depth examination)

The 9 Types of Leadership by Beatrice Chestnut

(a valuable resource for employers and employees)

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

(written in the 1980s; it’s the first book I read and full of helpful tables in the back)

Podcasts

Typology with Ian Cron

Sleeping at Last — Ryan O’Neal has written songs for numbers 1-7 and will be releasing 8 and 9; the songs are beautiful and the podcasts go behind the scenes describing the songwriting process for each number

The EnneaApp is a helpful and well-organized resource — the paid version is worth it!

Pushing pause on social media

My word for 2018 was rooted. It was a year to go deep and dig into things below the surface — spiritually, emotionally, socially, financially, in marriage, in health, and as a parent. In order to do this well, I felt the need to step away from the buzz and noise of social media.

Twice this past year I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone and didn’t go on any social media for a whole month. In January it was a fresh start that freed up mental and emotional space to just be — to be with my brand new baby, Hugo, to be present for the beginning of a new year, to be myself without comparison or competition.

In July the sabbatical created room to fully engage and connect with Frederick and Edith who were on summer break. There wasn’t a compulsive pull to check in with the rest of the world when the most important people in my world were right in front of me. The photos I took were entirely for our own memories rather than experiences shared with my social network. We went on adventures and soaked up the summer free from the swirl of social media activity.

I still checked into email and Facebook messenger for personal messages as well as texting — pausing from social media didn’t mean isolation. It meant intention. Rather than stumbling into interaction with friends and family, I took it upon myself to foster and reach out in a deeper and more personal way. Social media is so valuable when handled in a healthy way and from a place of wholeness rather than out of boredom or lack. When we come to it looking to receive affirmation, get attention, or find validation it fractures what’s already frail in our souls. When held in its right place we can come it to looking to give care, share appreciation, and connect in meaningful ways.

Taking two months off this year helped keep social media in a healthy place and reminded me to approach those platforms with intention. I would love to hear the things, small and big, that shaped your life this past year.

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Reasons and ways to make meal planning happen

“No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” (Julia Child)

Growing up we ate the same two week rotation of meals until I graduated high school. I can still recite the 14 dinners my mom made for us throughout my childhood. Because of this, I avoided meal planning for years. It felt like returning to the predictable meatloaf Mondays and taco Tuesdays.

All this changed when Josh and I graduated college and both began working full-time. Cooking, health, and budget suddenly became vital aspects of our lives. We each took two nights in the kitchen and spent the other three nights eating leftovers or going out. Spending time chopping, sautéeing, baking was a welcome break from teaching — it became meditative and restorative.

During this season, I began looking to cookbooks and specific cooking websites for inspiration rather than Pinterest, which I found overwhelming because of the infinite amount of available content.

Reasons why meal planning helps your budget, health, and daily rhythm:

  • Going to the grocery store with a list of specific items keeps you from impulse purchases and overspending. Taking stock of what’s left in the fridge and cupboards before heading helps too.
  • Having a list of meals planned for the week prevents those 5 p.m. munchies from happening. When you have a dinner on the docket, you aren’t scrambling and eating the easiest, least healthy thing in sight. Whenever I’m cooking, I pull the trail mix out and munch on some nuts and dried fruit to hold me over. Not having unhealthy foods in the house to begin with leaves the snacking options limited.
  • When you meal plan, pay attention to what else you have going on during that day leading up to dinner. If you’re aware ahead of time how much energy and time you’ll have for preparing dinner that day, you won’t overload yourself with an intense meal on busy days and you can enjoy a longer more involved cooking session on days with more space.

How to make meal planning a part of your life:

  • Set aside time every week to go through the fridge and cupboards to see what’s available and to sit down and create your weekly menu.
  • Write it down. Write down the meals you will make and write down the items needed to make those meals. I use pen and paper for the meals and keep it on the fridge. I use my phone for the grocery list.

Things to consider when creating your menu and grocery list:

  • The current season. Using ingredients that are seasonal prevents getting stuck in food ruts. It also promotes sustainable farming practices and supports local and regional economies.
  • Your season of life. Working full-time? New baby in the house? Give yourself grace to find a pace for meals that works for you.

Some caveats and resources:

  • Be flexible. Sometimes you need a break, so take a night off and make some grilled cheese or pancakes.
  • It takes time — start small and slowly change habits and practices incrementally. If you start small and go slow, change is sustainable and long-lasting.
  • Include some easy days and leftover/clean out the fridge days each week.
  • Maybe you’re in a season when a meal planning service makes more sense than anything (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Daily Harvest are all great options)
  • Try to mix up the protein throughout the week and have at least one vegetarian night (this is good for your health and the environment!) This provides a loose structure and helps to narrow the choices. For example:
    • Monday: beef
    • Tuesday: chicken
    • Wednesday: vegetarian
    • Thursday: leftovers
    • Friday: breakfast for dinner (could be as simple as eggs and toast)
    • Saturday: fish
    • Sunday: take-out or restaurant
  • Cookbooks are inspiring and informative. They don’t just include recipes, but provide valuable insights from experienced cooks and chefs. Here are some of the most helpful ones (budget friendly tip – check them out from your library for free to see if they work for you before purchasing):
    • Simply in Season – this is helpful for a crash course in seasonal cooking
    • The Art of Simple Food – one of the most foundational cookbooks full of cooking wisdom and knowledge
    • Salt Fat Acid Heat –  the cookbook that completely transformed my approach to cooking (FULL of amazing information and beautiful illustrations that will elevate your skills)
    • An Eater’s Manifesto – not a cookbook, but an essential resource that will change your mindset surrounding food and eating habits
  • Those four are foundational resources. Here are a few more if you want to dive deeper:

“Every repast can have soul and can be enchanting; it asks for only a small degree of mindfulness and a habit of doing things with care and imagination.” (Thomas Moore)

Spring: a time to plant and a time to uproot

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With robins bouncing around the yard and the ground softening with spring rain, you can feel the earth preparing herself for a new season.

Spring is all about preparation and transition. It’s laying out plans for growth. It’s putting away the winter gear and pulling out the rainboots and lightweight jackets. It’s an awkward season that’s mucky and transformative.

There are moments and times in our lives that feel a lot like this: those spaces between and those pauses in rhythm. We can feel change just around the corner, and yet it hasn’t happened yet. It’s like the gap between the last step on a swinging bridge and land or the intentional silence between one note of music and the next.

The difficulty comes in letting go of, or more intentionally the uprooting of, things that may have beautiful in a past season but have since become stale or no longer producing life or things that are weedy preventing growth. In our garden bed, the kale from last fall remains. It looks half alive with its yellow and green leaves, but it’s not good to eat. There are weeds popping up in the mostly empty soil.

The temptation to hold onto emotions and mindsets that once served a purpose can leave us stuck in winter when spring comes. We are created to live fruitful lives, and being fruitful requires a little effort.

Sometimes facing those garden beds in our hearts and minds is overwhelming. We think about that disappointment, resentment, insecurity, fear, anxiety and turn away focusing on something else. Doing the work of digging up the roots of these things takes courage and honesty. It requires a vulnerability that’s uncomfortable; it’s a little messy and dirty.

“Those who plant in tears

   will harvest with shouts of joy.

They weep as they go to plant their seed,

   but they sing as they return with the harvest.”

(Psalm 126:5-6)

Once the soil is rid of its weeds and half dead plants there’s a certain amount of surrender and hope involved in planting seeds. Every seed disappears into the dark ground before it springs to life. For a little while you wonder whether the seed is actually going to produce any life and then one day a tiny sprout appears, both delicate and strong.

Take that root of resentment out and plant a seed of forgiveness in its place. Remove the disappointment and sow some hope. Pull out the insecurity and replace it with love. It’s something that sounds so simple yet requires the soft and steady rain of grace and the bright and warm sunshine of honesty. Grace for others and with yourself as the tiny seedling grows. Honesty with others and yourself as different things come to light. Here are some things to ask yourself that may tug at some of those roots and create space to plant something fresh:

What do I want to see grow or how do I want to grow in this next season?

Socially in relationships

Emotionally in your soul

Mentally in your intellect

Spiritually in your spirit

Physically in your body

What things need to be uprooted in my life in order for growth to happen?

How do I plant the seeds for this growth and then tend them to maturity?

Take this season of uprooting and planting and embrace the mud and sweat because the harvest will be beautiful and the fruit will be nourishing. Marilynne Robinson describes “grace as gratuitous” and that’s the measure you have to use – a bottomless, free, unsubstantiated amount of grace. So make sure to pour that grace out as well as receive that grace in.

After the rain, I went back into the field of sunflowers.

It was cool, and I was anything but drowsy.

I walked slowly, and listened

to the crazy roots, in the drenched earth, laughing and growing.

(Mary Oliver, “Sometimes”)