As some of you know, last year of MOPS I shared my testimony but not because I wanted people to know how and where I found Jesus, it was because I wanted the women I’d grown with to discover their spiritual gifting. Long story short, while I was in recovery (before I came to know Jesus) my sister had me take a spiritual gifts assessment while I was living with her. The results came back confirming some things I’d always seemed naturally inclined toward but what it added was that the seemingly natural characteristics I’d been using to color the world were no accident. I saw that in Ephesians (2:10) it very explicitly says that God created me with purpose, on purpose. That my wiring and gifting are unlike anyone else's and that He has work for me to do while I’m here. As a recovering addict who hated herself, hearing this truth was life-altering.
So naturally, I wanted every mother in the room to access the revelation I had. To know that she is loved so deeply that the One who chose and created has a plan and needs her help executing it.
As a Christ follower I’ve continued to discover and embrace the things that make me unique. I’ve studied the things about myself that are hard for people to understand, I’ve studied my weaknesses and how to turn them into strengths, I’ve studied who I am in friendship (and discovered I have a LOT to work on), I’ve studied what makes my husband unique so that I may love him more completely. I’ve just studied a lot; but part of the studying has been reading and understanding my Meyers-Briggs, my Harry Potter House (don’t judge and we’re not talking the Pottermore quiz but something way deeper on Tumblr- FYI I’m a Raven-lin/Slyther-claw) but more recently I dove into the Enneagram and if you know me well I've probably talked about how transformational it's been for me.
I got into the Enneagram hardcore about 5-6 months ago because I wanted to “type” my step son so I could love him in his language. I knew I was a 9 from reading a little about it 3 years ago so all I had to do was figure out his number and do some- you guessed it. . . studying. Well, as I said that was almost 6 months ago and in that time I have devoured enneagram information and have built relationships with other people who are super into it too, so we can bounce thoughts off one another. All in all, I found out I am NOT a 9, I’m a sx/sp/so 5w4 and though I’m not certain I’m pretty sure my tritype is 529. See? I went HARD.
BUT- I have seen a softness come over my life as a result of the Enneagram. It’s not a personality test, it’s not ammunition to justify your weaknesses; it’s a program for self-improvement. I’ve experienced more grace in the way I respond to hurtful behavior from other people, I’ve enriched my marriage, I’ve taken massive steps toward boundary setting and more open communication in friendship… all because I now know that people don’t operate the same way I do and that it’s foolish to expect in the first place.
What I haven't done is crack the step-son code. Come to find out, your enneagram type takes more time to reveal itself than Brady’s ten years has given. I feel like he’s beginning to reveal his type but there hasn’t been enough for me to confidently work from. It was kind of a bummer to see all of these lights and signs telling me how much this would aide in my personal growth but that I’d have to wait on growth in the area I specifically set out to grow in.
So I can’t even describe the tone of my heart when Ray Lincoln began speaking last week. And truthfully, you might get mad but I’m not going to just copy down my notes into a post. You need to read his book. The one I’ve almost finished and it’s just now Monday, called “I’m a Keeper.” Its like 23 bucks on amazon (link at bottom of page along with his website.) I will add as a side note that I think 2 years old is a little young to be able to determine which one of the four temperaments describes your child but if you have older kids, jump on this because though it may not look as drastic and impactful as it was for us, who doesn't desire a little more insight into the heads and hearts of their children? Even if your kiddos are tiny, the amount of insight this book offers will equip you more fully as a parent.
What Ray Lincoln taught regarding the four temperaments in children, helped me access a spiritual awakening and growth-spurt in my relationship with my step-son that I'd lost hope for.
After reading about Brady’s temperament (SJ) and mine (NF) as his parent while chasing a toddler all day Thursday and Friday, revelations began to spark like run-way lights leading us to the most raw family encounter we’ve ever had with Brady on his last night with us.
Something this grand is probably unfair to throw out and dangle as a possibility for your family as a result of this book but you have to understand there have been years of prayer going into something helping Brady and I to “connect.” We don’t have biology on our side; the unconditional tie that unites us to our children even when they’re at their worst. This journey has been really hard on our family and marriage. Now, I’m not foolish enough to expect that because we had a family encounter with the holy spirit as a result of prayer, petition, time, and some of what Ray Lincoln said- that all of a sudden I’m no longer going to struggle as a step-mom or that Brady will ever be as vulnerable as he was that night but what I DO have now is a greater understanding of him.
A common ground we share where I can approach him without the heart-guards I’ve adorned like armor; one where he feels safe, seen, and valued. Thanks to Ray’s words and the quiz Brady and I completed together the night before MOPS, I’ve discovered a world inside of him that my harsh criticisms, lack of biology, and prejudices had been blinding me from.
Reading about MY temperament as a parent helped reframe some of the approaches I’ve adopted that were innocent in nature but had been muting the potential for connection between us. As a side note, reading what my (very difficult) temperament needs in childhood brought me freedom and grace toward my parents for some hurts I’ve been nursing for 30 years.
On "encounter Friday night," all we did was sit Brady down and talk openly. We validated how hard it must be for him to bounce between two worlds (because we learned that his temperament thrives on stability and what he's experiencing is anything but.) We asked him what makes him feel most alive which he said is helping others (again common for the SJ temperament.) We then asked what we could help him do here and at home to be able to serve others and feel a sense of worth and value, we asked how he feels about discipline, and what he needs from us (SJ kids feel valued and will bond when involved in decision making.) Not ten minutes later, I was holding my crying step-son as he opened up about things he said he’d never told anyone. I held him while he cried because for the first time, despite my past observations of him flinching when I’d try to put my hand on his shoulder, I knew from taking the quiz with him that he feels comforted by touch. He referred to his mom as his “other mom” for the first time while talking to me and paid me a compliment that I’m convinced Jesus used his mouth to speak to me through. One that silenced some mounting insecurities.
Our desire to pour into Brady has been frustrating and hard-fought. We’ve bought discipline books, consulted elders and experts, and we’ve come up feeling hopeless as a result of the division we felt it causing in our marriage. Kyle and I have lived under varying degrees of fear for the future of our family as a result of feeling so clueless as to how to connect with our oldest. It's hard to joyfully consider adding more children when your parent-heart feels incompetent elsewhere.
God used Ray’s wisdom and willingness to ignite the hope in our family again. Yes, we were blessed with a big time break through and encounter with Jesus but I’m not going to place expectations for continued breakthroughs in the future. In fact, if you attend Red Rocks Church, last Sunday even our head pastor jumped on our MOPS "Freedom" train by encouraging others to name what they will seek freedom from in 2018. For me God whispered the word 'expectation.' (Insert gritted teeth emoji.)
What I will do is secure my resolve to God and to the knowledge that Brady, just like me, is wired differently.
And those things I do in friendship that drive other people nuts even though I've had 30 years of practice? Well imagine how misunderstood he feels about his different wiring at the age of ten. This summer when we have him full time and my NF temperament needs to slow-cool alone in the kitchen after getting frustrated, I will remember that what Brady needs rather than mandated separation disguised as quiet time, is something to do to feel helpful and to know that he is secure, seen, and loved. Isn’t that what we're all after?
Get this book, gain access into the unspoken intricacies of our children and revel in the way God teaches us grace for ourselves and others every single day as a result of being trusted with the role of "Parent." This book brings freedom.
Ray's website: https://www.raywlincoln.com/