Ecclesiastes and the Enneagram

I’ve been reading through the Bible this year as part of an invitation from my church to a “Journey Through Scripture,” and it’s been so good for my heart and soul. I’ve been reminded that yep, there are parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand and that can feel a bit like hiking through the mud, but then there are other parts of the Bible that are immediately accessible and astonishingly relevant to our current day. Enter the wisdom books of the Old Testament, particularly Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. I’ve found these gems from Proverbs that made for great conversations with my tween-age kids (as I shared with them how convicted I am about how I can easily give in to anger, too):

Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.

Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.

Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.

Proverbs 13:2, 13:10, 15: 1, 16:32, 29:11 (New Living Translation)

Much, much more I could write on the themes of Proverbs, but Proverbs already gets a lot of the “limelight” in books and sermons and articles.

Ecclesiastes is a different story. Outside of the popular “A Time for Everything” passage (“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die …” 3:1-8), we often don’t know what to do with the book that systematically goes through all of life’s most popular pursuits and concludes, “Everything is meaningless.” It’s a bit jarring, to be honest, leaving me with questions like, “What is the point of anything then?” and “How did this book get included in Scripture?” Yet here it is, inviting me (as all wisdom literature does) to go deeper beyond my discomfort, to trace answers to my questions and accept the uncertainty that some questions will remain unanswered this side of eternity.

And yet, I was struck by how Ecclesiastes also brings balance. For a few years now, I’ve been interested in the popularity of the Enneagram (a 9-type personality theory). I was initially skeptical at a theory that would say all people fit into one of 9 personality types, but as I’ve continued to read about it and discuss it with friends who are much more well versed in it than me, there’s a lot that resonates as I’ve learned it’s much more nuanced than a simple 9-personality-type system. What’s unique about the Enneagram distinct from other personality theories is that the nine types arise from motivations. This means that there’s no easy test to determine what your Enneagram type is (although there are many that will help you sort through what your type could be – I recommend this one by “Your Enneagram Coach” ), and you aren’t supposed to “type” other people because you can’t really know what motivates them either. If you’re into the Enneagram, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, rest assured that I’m not going to try to convince you to get on board “the Enneagram train.” I’m simply giving context to what I’m going to suggest – which is how different portions of Ecclesiastes seem to perfectly speak into the excesses (or “vices”) of these nine different Enneagram types. I focused on what speaks to Type Threes, Fours, Fives, Eights, and Sevens, because these are the ones I’ve studied most closely and am most intimately acquainted with (either through my own life or family). [Note: I’m using the labels crafted by Jeff and Beth McCord of “Your Enneagram Coach” as they resonate the most. Click here for their graphic and overview of all nine types.]

For Type Three – “The Admirable Achiever”

Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless – like chasing the wind.

“Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.”

I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. … Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. …

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God.

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless – like chasing the wind.

Proverbs 4:4, 4:6, 2:18-23, 5:18-19, 6:9 (NLT)

For Type Four – “The Introspective Individualist”

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless, like chasing the wind.

To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.

Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise.

Ecclesiastes 6:9, 5:19-20, 6:10 (NLT)

For Type Five – “The Analytical Investigator”

But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.

Ecclesiastes 12:12 (NLT)

For Type Seven – “The Enthusiastic Optimist”

So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?

Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies – so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.

Happy is the land … whose leaders feast at the proper time to gain strength for their work, not to get drunk.

Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25, 7:2-4, 7:8, 10:17, 12:1 (NLT)

For Type Eight – “The Passionate Protector”

Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.

Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person than the shouts of a foolish king. Better to have wisdom than weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much that is good.

If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.

Ecclesiastes 7:9, 9:17-18, 10:4 (NLT)

what I learned in April

20140501-062941.jpgI have been on a bit of a hiatus from the “what I learned” series … not because I wasn’t learning, but I wasn’t recording what I learned. And one of the things I’m learning is how increasingly sieve-like my brain has become in “old” age and post-motherhood. So if I don’t write it down, I may never ever find that thought again. It’s alarming. But, well, a saving grace too that we have technology at the tip of our fingers at almost all times to record these thoughts that might otherwise slip away.

Without further ado … here’s my (remembered and written down) list as I join up with Emily Freeman (fave author, blogger, virtual muse for me …) for “What I learned in April“:

1. Explanation is more exhausting for me than proclamation. E.g. – answering ceaseless “why” questions from my three-year-old twin daughters But speaking/teaching at women’s retreats is invigorating.

2. Chameleons don’t change colors with their environment but with their mood. For example, yellow is angry; white is scared.

3. C.S. Lewis was Irish! Not English, as I’ve always assumed. Learning this from Alister McGrath’s biography of Lewis.

4. I cannot hard boil eggs. I don’t like hard-boiled eggs, which I’m sure is probably part of why I’ve never learned how to properly hard boil eggs. But, like every “good” mother, I wanted to try to dye Easter eggs with my girls this year. So I hard boiled eggs (or so I thought). Alas, after they had turned various Easter-y colors, when dropped on the floor, they cracked. And seeped. Yuck! So I think I’ll cross “dyeing Easter eggs” off my list of things to do with my girls.

5. Speaking at three women’s retreats in a two-month period of time with a non-reduced counseling, mothering, homemaking load is TOO MUCH for me in this season. One retreat a semester is likely more reasonable for me until my kids are in school full-time.

6. I have good friends. Friends who have prayed and supported me and been so patient and understanding as I’ve been “off the grid” the past three months. Very thankful for you!

7. Road trips with friends are way more fun!! Jennifer and I packed our FOUR girls under the age of six into her Enclave and drove down to Columbia, SC, for spring break to visit our respective families. We had a blast – the road passed much more quickly and our girls seemed to entertain each other pretty well.

8. Friends with roots/history are true treasures. While in Columbia, I met up with a dear friend Schelyn who I’ve known since we were neighborhood playmates as kids. And there were tears in our eyes to reunite and meet her four kids, and my two. We picked up right where we left off, all six kids in tow at the Riverbanks Zoo, and had *such* a wonderful time.

9. Creativity is worth nurturing. Thank you, Brene Brown, for being my guide through the fabulous e-course through the guideposts of “The Gifts of Imperfection.” And thank you, Robin and Sarah, for being traveling companions with me. Let’s go make art!

what I learned in November

I’ve skipped a few months, but I’m joining in again with Emily Freeman over at “Chatting at the Sky” for her “What I learned in November” post. Without further ado, here are a few random things I learned this month:

1. There is an actual breed of gigantic-sized rabbits that people own as pets called “Flemish giants.” My friend Seyward ran into one in real life and told our community group about it. We had to look up pictures, and I would say that I am now convinced that our family needs our own Flemish giant as a pet. I mean, who could say no to this picture?!


2. When using my iPhone camera, if I tap on a certain part of the picture, it will focus the light there – thus making an otherwise dark picture lighter, for example. (Thanks to my sister-in-law’s sister, Kelli, for that tip!)

3. Also in the new iOS 7, “Reminders” can also become files – like “Notes.” Just click on “Reminders,” and you can start a new list of reminders. So now I have a “Babysitter” list to remind me of all the dates when I need a babysitter for. Genius!

4. There are a TON of “Extreme” shows that I didn’t know existed – like “Extreme Couponing.” For real. My friend Erin told me about this one, that it shows women who spend 4-5 HOURS grocery shopping with all of their coupons to save the most money. One woman even has an entire closet devoted to her coupon files. Wow.

5. Yes, I’m a bit slow on this one. But I could not believe that Kim and Kanye named their baby, “North.” So, yes, his full name is “North West.”

6. These two YouTube sensations are [sort of] funny and apparently really big trends right now: “Friday” and “What does the fox say.”

7. I tend to feel like I’m sliding into winter doldrums in November, and what seems to help the most is quality, refreshing time away from kiddos with girlfriends and dates with my husband.

8. Making a mattress purchase is an excruciating process, because of (a) the amount of money involved in such a purchase, (b) the amount of time spent in sleep every night – one third of your life if you do it right, and (c) the crazy pressure of mattress stores – worse than car salesmen, I think! But we finally found one we both liked from “The Original Mattress Factory,” which outshone its competition in both pricing and lack-of pressured sales.

9. My daughters can teach me a lot about thankfulness, especially during Thanksgiving. Two quotes – while praying, she said, “God, thank you for everything that’s good and everything that’s not good. Amen.”And this same daughter also came in to the kitchen while Mom and I were cooking and spontaneously announced, “I’m thankful for everyone who’s here!”

10. When your precious, delightful three-year-old twins begin waking up and coming into your room earlier and earlier and earlier … it is time to buy the wake-up clock. This one worked wonders for us and restored some morning sanity. They really don’t come get me until the clock turns green. And we get to decide when the “magic” time will be. Problem solved!

what I learned in August

This is a fun link-up I’m enjoying on a monthly basis, from Emily Freeman over at Chatting At The Sky. Love her blog, her book, her link-ups. Love that she’s also a mom of twins and that I have some teeny tiny connection to her through her friendship with my BFF, Katherine.

1. Roasting broccoli is delicious but fills the house with a pungent odor that lasts for days. Enough said. Don’t expect roasted broccoli if I ask you for dinner.

2. Arbutus is a type of tree. This may not rock your world as it did mine. Explanation: I’ve been using this word as part of an address to a friend I frequently write. And I had no idea it was a tree until coming across the word in the book below.

3.  North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is not about the Civil War era as I assumed before picking it up. Actually it’s written in the Victorian era in England.

4. Pecorino Romano cheese is pasteurized sheep’s milk. Who knew? 

5. Hippos have built-in sunscreen. Thanks, Dr. Seuss’ PBS TV show, where I learned such interesting facts.

6. Foie gras is frog’s legs goose liver! (Thanks, Ann and Rikki for correcting my misinformation.)It’s considered a rare (and expensive) delicacy. That seems a bit strange to me, but I’ve never tried it myself.

7. A pound cake is named so because it required a pound of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. (at least in its original version, which I found a recipe for here.) No wonder it’s so rich! My grandmother from South Carolina whose baking is fabulous enlightened me.

8. A two-night getaway with my husband feels like 400% more time away than one night. If you’re not sure, it’s a very very worthwhile experiment to undertake for your marriage, particularly if you have young children at home. It was the first time in the three years since we’ve had kids that we spent more than one night away. So wonderful to actually have a full day with no deadlines. But the adjustment back to reality … whew, rougher than I thought. I hope to write about that another time.

9. When preparing to speak at a retreat (when preparing any talk for that matter), inviting others’ input is immensely insightful and constructive. I am speaking at a women’s retreat in a few weeks at a local church, and after working for months on these two talks on wisdom, I felt stuck. I emailed a few friends to ask them to be a wisdom “think tank” for me, and many of them were in my living room discussing these talks over coffee the next evening. What a gift to have such friends and such collective wisdom!

9 things I learned in July

This is a fun link-up I’m enjoying on a monthly basis, from Emily Freeman over at Chatting At The Sky. Love her blog, her book, her link-ups. Love that she’s also a mom of twins and that I have some teeny tiny connection to her through her friendship with my BFF, Katherine.

Drumroll please? Here you are …

1. David Kirk and Daniel Kirk are two different author/illustrators of children’s books. David  is of the “Miss Spider’s Tea Party” fame; Daniel created “Sam the Library Mouse” series. Both series are favorite picks from the library for my girls (and for me to read – please, no more Dr. Seuss, can I get an “Amen?”).

2. I am really obsessed with lost things. Although I had already bought a replacement pair of Target Crocs for Lucia because we thought one of her pink ones was missing, when I found the “lost shoe,” I spent about 30 minutes searching everywhere for the original un-lost one. Alas, I had thrown it away already. This scenario repeats itself daily when we have (gasp) lost a lovey or a Lego piece or a doll outfit or … I wish I could say that there was something spiritual about my obsession, as per the Father who awaits the prodigal (lost) son, or the woman searching for her lost coin, or the shepherd searching out his lost sheep [seek Luke 15]. Usually I am more frustrated in my search for the lost thing than inspired by the value of what’s lost. I think it’s more about me wanting to be on top of life and have it in order than my passion to seek what’s lost.

3. If I’m starting something new I don’t mind leading (prefer it actually), but if I’m joining something that’s been in existence for a while I prefer to watch and observe before jumping in with both feet. Definitely seeing echoes of this tendency in one of my twins.

4. My cross-cultural experience helps me in counseling, friendships, and marriage because every relationship involves bridging the gap of individual cultures. For example, I learned in training and experience of a few summers overseas in Mexico and Ireland that it’s important to listen first before talking, to contextualize truth to the shape of that particular culture, and not to rush in too quickly with my own ideas.

5. There’s a local gym membership that includes a monthly parents’ night out for free! You better believe we joined it, and have already used this privilege once.

6. Proclivity to express yourself better in writing points to introverted tendencies. My personality finally explained – outgoing yet processes life best when writing. Thank you, my new favorite book, Quiet

7. I like to trash pick. My husband doesn’t. I’ll let you imagine how I found out that little tidbit. Let’s just say it involved a large dresser on the side of the street that I spotted next door to a friend’s house, and then asked [begged] him to return to pick it up in our car at 9:30pm. We don’t have the dresser. We still love each other and have our marriage. I will not trash pick in the future. Enough said.

8. is a self-publishing website. So perhaps my dream of publishing my own book doesn’t have to be so far off after all? Any writers out there want to give tips on how to get published v. self-publishing?

9. “Peacock” is a term that refers only to the male variety. A female f.k.a. “peacock” is actually a “pea-hen.” In the plural, they are “peafowl.” Thank you, Ann, for that enlightenment at the zoo this afternoon.

a ship in harbor

helsingor-dk165The analogy came to me tonight while talking to my friend Ellen: that this season of transition feels like being in a ship in harbor, waiting to set sail for distant lands. We are loading up the cargo, one box at a time. And we are untying the ropes that bind us to Philadelphia one strand at a time. Each good-bye is a letting go. Tearful at the leaving, joyful at the reflection of what the friendship has meant. We will soon be standing on the ship’s deck, waving good-bye to our friends on the other side. And there will be tears on both sides.

And we will “set sail” to a “new land” of Norfolk, Virginia, where a new life awaits us – yet to be discovered. There will be new friends greeting us at the dock, helping us unload our cargo and initiate ties of relationship that will bind us to our future home. There will be a season of many “hello’s”.

But now is the season of saying “good-bye.” And so I pray that I will be fully present for each one. Soaking up the memories – the celebration of what has been enjoyed in these five years in Philadelphia.

in response to a bee (or wasp or hornet) sting

I’m newly amazed by the power of a little buzzing insect to cause minor (at least) disruption to my life. I got stung by something (which I didn’t even see before OR after) while walking down a street in Chestnut Hill on Friday. It quickly began to swell up … and I quickly began searching for some type of remedy. I’ve tried them all — to almost no avail.

In order of what I’ve tried in the past 48 hours:

1. hydrocortisone anti-itch cream (as you’ll see, should’ve stuck with this one)

2. Benadryl anti-itch spray

3. Ice

4. Baking soda paste (3 tsp baking soda + 1 tsp water)

5. Honey

6. Aveeno anti-itch calamine cream

7. Baking soda/vinegar/chopped onion paste ** this was a really low point

8. Toothpaste (for real — this was recommended as a #1 home remedy here: )

And finally after talking to an ER nursing administrator this morning who I go to church with, she recommended hydrocortisone anti-itch cream. Which is, as you see, going full circle!!

My conclusion: take Benadryl. It (a) knocks you out so that you truly will stop itching (b) works internally to significantly decrease the swelling. And when you have to be awake, go with ICE on top of the hydrocortisone cream (which didn’t significantly decrease itching but does decrease swelling). Twenty minutes of application, forty minutes of rest … repeat until you can’t feel it anymore.