A New Year

As I look back on 2018, I am filled with a dichotomy of emotions that exist simultaneously. I am both exhausted and content. I have both wonderful memories from the year and some that are really painful. My heart is heavy and filled at the same time. It feels like I spent just as much time at the doctor, hospital, and emergency room, as I did just enjoying my precious babies this year, BUT at the same time in all of the sickness, our family was bombarded with love and support from our friends and family which brings me so much joy. I think that this is the way that life is meant to be lived – in the world of the “both/and.” With every hardship and negative, there is a positive and shining light to be found. Sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes I just don’t have the energy or time or desire to see it, but it’s still there. In fact, the positive may just be that we survived. I sure am thankful that “His mercies are new every morning.” I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful for the ability to be both full of love and full of anxiety at the same time. I’m thankful that my babies are both messy and beautiful. I’m thankful that my marriage has both been challenged and strengthened this year. I’m thankful that even though my ministry seems smaller, it also seems deeper. I’m thankful that even though my kids have had around 13 ear infections, a few sinus infections, several stomach bugs, Hand Foot & Mouth, ear tubes, RSV, pneumonia, more runny noses, coughs and colds than I can count, stitches, bumps, bruises, busted lips all in 2018…today they are happy and healthy. I’m thankful that even though 2018 brought my most challenging mental and emotional year as I struggled through anxiety and panic attacks, it also brought me Brene Brown, the Enneagram, a good counselor, and more soul searching and self-discovery than I ever thought possible. 2018 brought both many tears, and also so many belly laughs that kept me rolling for days. 

Each year I pick a verse that defines what I want to focus on and meditate over for the year. I learn the context of that verse and memorize it. I put it on my heart and mind and soul. When I look back and read my verses from the years past, the feelings and emotions of that year come flooding back. I can feel where my heart was at that time and how that verse spoke to me. I have written a few times about my verse for 2018 – Exodus 14:13-14. I have needed this verse so many times this year. As I am sitting here praying and trying to decide my verse for 2019, the “both/and” feels very important. I want the freedom to feel seemingly opposite emotions at the exact same time. This year I want to embrace the fact that I am both weak and strong. I want to feel confident that even though my anxiety might not leave, the Lord’s grace will continue to be even more abundant. I want to focus less on where I fall short and rather on where Christ is more than enough. In fact, I want to acknowledge that without my insufficiencies, the fullness of Christ’s strength may not be seen. So today, here’s to me not being enough but enough all at the same time. 2019, I’m ready for you. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Approval Addiction Part 2

ennea app visualIf you haven’t already read “Approval Addiction part 1,” you might want to go check out my brief overview of the Enneagram and the background of this post. I wanted to split up my Enneagram Two thoughts into two posts because this set deals specifically with me as a “Two” mom. Like I said before, I have always struggled with pleasing others. I have high anxiety and fear and shame about disappointing others. It will always be something that I battle. It will always be something that I will daily hand over to God. That said, the shame of not being enough has been tripled lately with the addition of my 3 beautiful children.

The whole having kids thing, especially three at a time, means that all I want to do and think I can do is take care of them (and all of the other people in my life). Then, I have no time left to take care of myself. I feel so much pressure to take care of them and everyone else around me all at the same time, and I am exhausted from my inability to be everything for everyone all the time. The beautiful thing is that I do not need to be everything or even half of the things that I place on myself. Believing that I am enough is hard, but identifying the lies buried deep down and speaking truth over them, is the first step. Writing down my thoughts in this blog has helped give me freedom to believe them. I re-read these thoughts regularly. Usually my head is filled with others’ feelings and emotions so writing and re-reading this blog helps me remember truth and my true thoughts and feelings. 

Just like the last post, many of these thoughts may resonate with you even if you are not a Two on the Enneagram. Many mothers and females in the church feel anxiety over being a helper as they try to balance all that life calls them to be and do. We are being told by so many people and places exactly what our lives need to look like. We are told that our role is to support and be in the background and not lead. 

I hope that you also find truth and freedom as you read as well.

Please tread cautiously and graciously as you enter into my thoughts for the next few minutes. Recognize that this is difficult for me, and that I am just beginning to figure out how to break free from them. 

Thought #1: Before kids I had time to be an unhealthy Two, running around taking care of everyone, needing to be needed, creating this web of support where I was validated and lifted up for my helpfulness. Now with the kids, I just don’t have the time. So I’m running around trying to patch these holes that are just constantly dripping with water, and it’s impossible to help them all. I’m so afraid that one will burst open and it will be my fault. And in reality they are bursting. I will always love taking care of others, doing ministry, mentoring, and reaching out. There is a healthy way to take care of people. In order to get there, I have to realize that I am not the savior. I love being a Two. I love that I genuinely enjoy serving, mentoring, teaching, being a mom, and giving of myself. Those things bring me life and will always fill me with joy and purpose. I love that I am good at seeing a need and knowing what to do. I love that I am an encourager. I don’t want to ever lose that piece of me. However, I need to let go of the lie that everyone needs me in order to rebuild and regain life and purpose in knowing that Jesus is the one that speaks through me. I am nothing without Him. He should fight for me. I need to be still and quiet and let Him use me instead of me trying to use Him as my excuse to be loved and needed. My ministry will be even stronger when I realize that I am not the savior, Jesus is the savior. I am not that important. But in humility and with confidence I can have a ministry that involves vulnerability, empathy, and boundaries. 

Thought #2: I have 20 texts right now, and it is physically painful to not look at them and respond right now because someone might need me, and I wasn’t able to help them. But if I sit and respond right now, I take away time from my family. They suffer when I keep trying to plug all of the holes and take care of everyone around me. I have to push against the urge to be needed. Saying yes to others often means saying no to my family.

Thought #3: Derek said one small thing that I needed to do, and I lost it because I failed to anticipate that need before he voiced it. I already feel like I am drowning, and when Derek says something that even remotely sounds like disappointment, I lose it. I panic. I just can’t do it all. That pressure to be all things, doesn’t come from Derek though. It comes from myself. In fact, if I said “Derek, I can’t do that small thing right now.” He would say, “That’s totally fine! We can deal with it later.” Why do I put so much pressure on myself? 

Thought #4: I’m learning more and more recently that often the feelings that I have are not my own. It’s really hard for me to identify my feelings and how I feel when people are hurting around me. I feel their feelings so strongly that I think they are mine. And sometimes they are. When I’m around my kids, it’s even harder for me to identify my real feelings. They are always needy, so my feelings are often about them or for them. It’s really hard to express my personal needs because my brain is so full of their needs.

Thought #5: Derek regularly asks me a simple question (like where to put something or what do I want to eat) and my response is a panicked – “I don’t know!” I am a terrible multi-tasker. With 3 kids, I am constantly doing at least 4 things at a time and my brain is so full. Even the simplest question seems impossible, especially if it’s about myself or my needs or my feelings. I have found that calmly saying, “Can you write that question down?” or “Can you ask me again in a few minutes after I have finished the task at hand?” helps tremendously.

Thought #6: Shepherd bit another student at school. I cried and had a panic attack about him going back to school the next day. I want to please everyone and with kids it’s exhausting because I can’t control what they do. I now disappoint people through my kids. It’s a whole new level of balance and letting go. I want to be able to control how they act. I don’t want people to be disappointed in me because of what they do. I want them to be kind so badly, but I can’t force it. And I’m mad at myself for getting so anxious and stressed about it and feel like a burden in that too. I’m still working on the solution to this one. But identifying it is the first step. I have a feeling that I will circle back to this one in another post soon, so stay tuned and please pass along any wisdom that you have found helpful!

Thought #7: I don’t have trouble asking for help and receiving help when I ask. Because in that, I still have control. But when someone offers help that I haven’t asked for our just helps and sees a need that I didn’t see, it’s much harder and I feel guilty that maybe I missed their needs and can’t help them.

Thought #8: I can let people help if it in turn blesses them or helps someone else. And if I take care of myself, it must be to immediately bless someone else. The truth is that it’s ok to just take care of myself. It’s not selfish to do things simply because they bring me life. In fact, I’m much better at taking care of those that I love after taking care of myself. 

I have an inner voice constantly telling me that I am not enough, a failure, and unlovable. Telling this voice to shut up does not help. Speaking gently and confidently to it does. I legit tell it to step down, stop talking, and walk away. Then I speak truth into those areas. Brene Brown says it perfectly in Gifts of Imperfection: “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone. I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” (Page 125 if you are interested.)

I have been asked by several people for the Enneagram resources that I have used. Here are my favorites:

 

Book:

The Road Back to you

Podcasts:

Annie Downs with Beth McCord – Overview of the Enneagram

Jen Hatmaker with Ian Cron– Overview of the Enneagram

The Enneagram Journey by Suzanne Stabile – very detailed and every episode that I have listened to has been amazing

The Road Back to You – The authors of the book also have a podcast that is really helpful

 

Approval Addiction Part 1

As a freshman in high school I read a book by John Ortberg called The Life You’ve Always Wanted. In it he talks about the approval addiction. I knew then that I would always be battling that addiction. I have always wanted to please others – especially those that I dearly love. I want to help and not be a burden. I want to do everything that I possibly can to keep them from being disappointed. With that comes lots of anxiety and an unhealthy desire to be needed and appreciated. I am a helper and a perfectionist. I am a two on the Enneagram with a strong one wing.

ennea type 2

The Enneagram is a beautiful personality test that goes beyond answering the question “Who am I?” and explains the motivation and fear behind why we do what we do. While most personality tests that I have taken are static, this one is very movable and allows space for the way we change in times of stress and security. To take a test click here. BUT please be aware that it often takes months to figure out your exact type. The test just gives you an idea of where to start reading and learning about your type. Message me if you want more details.

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I think we all have something in our lives like Paul when he profoundly exclaims in Romans  7: 15, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” The Enneagram and Brene Brown’s book that I talked about last post have given me the language to explain why I do the thing that I hate but often do anyway. It has given me the words to express and identify how and why and when I get most anxious. It has given me understanding of my husband and other relationships beyond what I could have imagined. Finding words in the midst of shame brings freedom. Shame and fear live in silence and secrets. There is so much freedom in having words and language for feelings that I have always had and never understood! I have had the best conversations because of the Enneagram over the last couple months! My goal is that maybe I can help someone else find their own voice along the way.

Even if you are not a two or a one on the Enneagram, you probably know someone that exhibits these characteristics. Females, especially women in the church, often mistype as a two. We are told our whole lives to support, help, and take care of others. That is the role we often play in the church and at home. This role is a vital one and beautiful. But I often want more. I can talk about women’s role in the church another time in another post, but for now, what I urge you to do as you read these thoughts is to picture your Enneagram two friend, wife, daughter, brother, etc. Step into our shoes for a minute to understand just how we see the world. The beauty of the Enneagram for me has been to both find language for why I do the things that I do, but also to find compassion for how others (especially those close to me) view the world. 

With that in mind, I want to walk through some “two” thoughts that I have had over the last month or so. There are a lot so I’ll post some this week and post the rest next week. If this resonates with you or sounds like a loved one that you have, please come back and read the rest next week!

Thought #1: When people that I love share their pain, I often hear that I have failed. If they are anything but happy, it must mean that I did something or failed to do something that could have made their life better. I failed to take care of them. I feel shame. I have failed at keeping them happy. Or I get angry and think they have failed me, why aren’t they stronger? There is rarely a middle ground. Learning this about myself has allowed me to listen to my loved ones in pain without feeling defensive or angry. 

Thought #2: My Enneagram thought of the day (click this link to get daily enneagram emails) talked about making guilt provoking comments towards people. I do that. I set unsaid expectations for them and drop little comments to make them feel bad if they don’t fulfill my secret wishes. But I do it all in the name of making them better and can’t fathom doing something with poor motives because that would mean that I’m not caring for them and thereby unlovable. I truly believe that if I am a burden and not taking care of my loved ones then they couldn’t possibly love me back in return. I am learning to verbalize these expectations. I need to love without strings attached. Just because I would know to do something for someone to best take care of them, does not mean that I should expect them to do that in return. That isn’t fair, and it isn’t real love.

Thought #3: I’m not very good at the in between. I have 2 options: to be perfect or to be the worst failure ever. I either think I have great intentions and do everything for the right reason and have an inaccurate sense of self-importance, OR I think I have failed and hate myself and think I am unworthy of love. There is no in between. Speaking truth that I am neither perfect nor a failure and yet loved has been life giving. 

Thought #4: I slept great last night. I woke up to find out that Derek slept terrible. I immediately felt shame for having slept while Derek didn’t and wished that I had slept poorly in his place. This is not normal. It’s ok that I slept better than he did. I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t need to be defensive about my good nights sleep either.

Thought #4: In health, I move towards a 4. I am able to be more self aware and in touch with my full range of emotions. I’m not afraid to admit when I am sad and angry and maybe don’t have the best intentions. I am ok when others are disappointed in me or when I don’t have to be the one to fix their problems.

Thought #5: When someone is upset with me or hurt I feel a deep desire to fix it and make it better. Even if I didn’t do anything wrong, I want to make it better. I feel like if they don’t see me as helpful, then I cannot be loved. Sometimes this plays out poorly because I force my “help” on people that don’t want or need it.

Thought #6: Twos are the only number that never go to the thinking triad. We don’t go their in stress or security. It’s all feelings and some anger. So, I can only process outside myself so talking or writing are the only ways that I can actually figure out my feelings and thoughts – hence the creation of this blog.

Thought #7: It’s hard when people ask what do I feel or what do I need because I often don’t know. I feel everyone else’s feelings and know everyone else’s needs, but verbalizing my own often seems impossible.

Thought #8: I often can not fathom that something I did could hurt someone else. Because if that’s true, then I am a failure, and I would not be capable of being wanted or loved. The truth is that I do hurt others sometimes. I am not perfect. Grace is real.  

Thought #9: A girl I was going to tutor decided to drop her class. She is a perfect stranger. I have never even met her. I really want to call her and convince her to not drop the class. Not because I want to tutor her although I do, but mostly I don’t want her to miss out on the wonderfulness of statistics because she is scared or doesn’t have all the info. I want to help her!! But she did not ask for my opinion. She does not know me. She does not need me to fight for her or to save her. But I am fighting my urge to fix this “problem.” I have to re-learn how to say “No”, especially no to things that aren’t even asked of me, in every new season of life.

Thought #10: I know it’s crazy that I often have so many emotions that aren’t even mine, and it’s silly that my friends and family have to ask me, a mature adult, what do you want, what are you feeling, and what do you need? It makes me even more thankful for the people in my life that patiently understand and help me process my true feelings and needs. 

Learning about the Enneagram has helped me start to navigate through these feelings and emotions and scenarios. In the words of Suzanne Stabile, I tend to “over-prepare, over-react, over-think, over-feel, and over-respond.” The Enneagram has given me self-awareness and language to try and see the root of my anxiety. I am just starting to touch the surface of allowing myself time to be confused and to discover my true self.  I am allowing myself time to just sit with these thoughts and let them be. I need time to find grace and to know that I don’t have to take care of everyone or always have it figured out. If you are an Enneagram two, rest today knowing that you are not alone and that you are loved beyond what you do.

And if you are a woman (or man) that feels forced into these two feelings and emotions because you are told that your goal in life is to support and that your feelings and emotions are not important – I hope that you also hear that you are worthy, you are valued, you are loved for YOU. Not for your service and support but because of your uniqueness and simply because you are a daughter of the King. 

And to those of you with loved ones that are twos, tell them today that they are appreciated, loved, and needed not just because of what they do for you or how they take care of you, but simply because of who they are.