Category: faith

If you’ve been a reader here for a long time, you’ve seen past posts where I referenced the Enneagram. You may have even read an entire post I wrote to share the resources I was loving. I identified as my number, helped my husband identify his, and helped dozens of friends figure out their subtypes or discern which childhood wound they resonated with. I bought and read numerous books, listened to several podcasts, shared memes and social media posts, and worked the Enneagram into conversations on a daily basis.

So what happened, and why did it lead to this?

Let Me Set The Scene

In April of 2020, with news all around us about the COVID-19 pandemic, I had an urge to read about the 1920s. The Spanish Flu pandemic and the Roaring 20s got the fiction side of my brain a-churning: what if, my typing fingers mused, a young woman got swept up in religious fervor shortly after that pandemic had made its course through her community? What if people around her, hungry for meaning and purpose after the loss and fear of pandemic life, started following every misguided word she said? What if somebody accidentally started a cult? I really –and I mean really– wanted to write that story.

So I started reading other novels that include fictional cults, and I started researching real cults. That led me to the “Cultish” podcast, with a huge back catalog of fascinating examinations of cults and cult-like groups. I listened fairly regularly, worked on a novel outline, and stayed hunkered down with my family through the spring round of shutdowns in our area.

It Started With An Innocent Question

Fast forward several months. One summer day, I was on the phone with my brother, who lives in Atlanta. We have always been close, but during COVID lockdowns we began texting and calling each other way more often. I love our relationship, because we have a similar sense of humor and although we don’t share every interest in common (for example: he loves wrestling and doesn’t care a whit about planners), we can talk for hours about everything and nothing.

“Hey, sis, so have you read about this– I dunno, this report that the Enneagram came from some demon named Metatron?”

(Here, dear reader, please imagine me fondly rolling my eyes at my ridiculous brother’s obviously confused notions.)

I’m pretty sure my response was something like, “I don’t think that’s right. All my books talk about an ancient origin. From the desert Fathers. Of CHRISTIANITY. Besides, isn’t Metatron a transformer?”

via GIPHY

Later, I pulled several books off my shelf and read the introductions again (or the early chapters where the authors explained the origins of the enneagram and how they’d first learned about it). Every single one either attributed the origins to an unknown ancient source or to the desert fathers; every one pointed to the work of Naranjo and Ichazo in bringing the enneagram to more widespread knowledge through their retreat center.

I knew it wasn’t anything crazy. I knew there was nothing about an otherworldly being named Metatron giving this system to anybody! But all the same, I felt a little uneasy. I moved my Enneagram materials from my nightstand to a less prominent spot on a bookshelf.

Entering the Kingdom of the Cults

One day in the early fall, I pulled up some older episodes of Cultish. In August 2019, Jeremiah and Andrew interviewed Doreen Virtue, a former New Age teacher who shared her testimony. Although she’d been an extremely successful author and speaker, when she met Jesus her life changed. She renounced her books and products, and now uses her platform to share the gospel and to help others avoid the deceptions she was once blinded to.

“What a cool story,” I thought. Doreen is well spoken and engaging, and I really enjoyed the three-part series she was included on.

No big deal, right?

Up Next

You know how social media algorithms love to suggest a Next Great Thing? Whether you’re reading an article, watching a video, or listening to a pod… the platform loves to display something similar or something that they know will grab your interest based on your previous views and clicks.

Well.

On the evening of October 17, 2020, the Georgia Bulldogs played Alabama. My husband and daughters were watching the game, and I was in the living room with them, but –since I’m not the world’s biggest football fan– I wasn’t really paying attention. I had one earbud in place so I could watch a planner video on my phone instead!

The planner video ended, and YouTube served up a thumbnail to entice me to keep watching. The video? “Why I Quit the Enneagram” – from Doreen Virtue’s channel.

My interested was piqued.

I clicked the video.

The Truth

Over the next hour and eight minutes, I was skeptical, shocked, horrified, and utterly broken-hearted in repentance.

Far from an ancient origin, protected and upheld by the first Christians… the Enneagram is rooted in occult practices. Before he died, Oscar Ichazo said that an “archangel” named Metatron, who was his spirit guide, revealed the nine points of the enneagram to him. And Claude Naranjo explained to a live audience that the nine “enneatypes” were revealed to him through automatic writing, a form of demonic communication.

There’s more, of course. Doreen’s video is linked at the bottom of this post, and I encourage you to watch it for yourself. But the main crux for me was this revelation about a demonic spirit guide and automatic writing.

This was not a simple personality test. It was not a path to understanding myself (or anyone else) better, and it was not a way to discover which spiritual disciplines would make me more like Christ.

It was demonic.

I spent several hours that night in prayer and in tears. I’d been the one to read about it, to buy the books and bring them into our home. I’d been the one to start the conversation at our supper club, with eventually all four couples discussing it frequently. I’d shared memes on social media, and written about it on this blog.

I’d been decieved.

The Morning After

Sunday morning, October 18th, my husband rose early to make rounds at the hospital. When he returned home, I was waiting on the couch to talk to him. I shared the whole story, and asked him to forgive me for bringing this into our home. (He’s kind and gracious and did absolutely.)

His one question, though, was, “But– it worked. I mean, you would read that stuff and it seemed so right. If it’s fake, how did it explain so much about yourself?”

Sure, that’s a point. The Enneagram DOES seem to contain a lot of hidden knowledge. A lot of people say they feel seen & known when they begin to learn about the types. They feel understood, sometimes for the first time ever. But that doesn’t mean it’s good, Godly, or beneficial.

Other than the Godhead, who’s been in existence and concerned with the activities of humanity for a long, long, lo-o-n-g time? Our enemy, Satan. It seems reasonable to me that the enemy of our souls could create a system that looks good on the outside and predicts a lot of human behaviors and emotions. He’s been watching humans for a long time (that’s what stalkers who want to steal, kill, and destroy you do).

Even in the Old Testament, God’s people had to discern what to do when something mystical seemed true:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” –Deuteronomy 13:1-5

To be clear: I am not calling for a literal application of this passage. We live under the covenant of grace, and thanks to Christ’s saving work on the cross, we don’t need to apply the penal system of the Old Testament today.

However, the principle of this passage does apply. How do we as believers judge a miracle, a dream, a prophecy — or an insight that claims to explain our whole entire lives, like the Enneagram? Well, the fact that it looks true isn’t the primary factor. Instead, we must examine unflinchingly: to what god is it pointing us?

The Enneagram isn’t pointing us to the one, true, living God of the Bible. It’s pointing us in an ever-tightening spiral of self, and it’s made all the more insidious by the way it has infiltrated the church and used “Christianese” language to look baptized.

We must purge this evil from our midst.

Cast Out, not Dunked

Some will say that Christians can use the Enneagram because they can redeem it, sanctify it, baptize it somehow and use it for the glory of God. “It’s just a tool,” you know.

But, dear friends, as far as I can find in my reading of Scripture, every time Jesus met a demon he did not play around.

He never redeemed the demons, baptized them and gave them angelic names. He cast them out.

He redeemed PEOPLE by casting out the demons that plagued them.

What’s more, when people learned the truth about the gospel of Jesus, they wanted nothing more to do with the occultic tools they had formerly embraced.

Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. –Acts 19:18-20

And that’s how I found myself sitting outside by our fire pit on the afternoon of Sunday, October 18, 2020, burning a stack of books and papers.

I burned every Enneagram book I owned and all my handwritten notes from Enneagram lectures and videos on October 18, 2020.

Now, What?

My home was cleared, I’d sought forgiveness from my husband and from each of my kids in turn. What was next?

After a few days of prayer, I decided that the Lord was leading me to take three more steps.

  1. I made an appointment with our senior pastor. I wanted to share with him the truth I had learned, not only so I could share my heart of repentance but also by way of warning, because a number of people in our church family are just as swept up in the Enneagram as I had been.
  2. I began to earnestly pray for the opportunities to speak face-to-face with friends whom I’d formerly “evangelized” for the Enneagram. I needed to humbly seek their forgiveness, and by God’s grace He has already given me the chance to have a few of those conversations. I believe that He will open doors to more.
  3. And last, I needed to be just as public in my renunciation of Enneagram as I had once been in my acceptance of it. This blog post and social media sharing is a big part of that step. It’s my humble apology to you. If you investigated the Enneagram or dove deeper into it because of my words or actions, I’m sorry. I believe I’ve sinned against God and against you by doing so, and I ask you to forgive me. I also ask you to consider the truths I’ve shared and read more from the resources below.

Does This Mean:

  • if I still use the Enneagram, you’re gonna judge me?
  • if I still use the Enneagram, you think I’m not a Christian (or not a good enough Christian)?
  • you’re going to unfollow me if I use the Enneagram or post about it on my social media?

No, no, and no.

I love you. I’m not sharing this information to exalt myself or point fingers at you. I’m sharing it because when I learned it, one of my gut reactions was wishing I had known it sooner.

We can still be friends. I’m just not going to participate in Enneagram chatter, memes, and book discussions anymore.

But if you ever want to talk about these points or anything else related to the Enneagram, I would love to have that conversation with you. (Unless you want me to help you find your sub-type. I won’t do that.)

For more information:

Watch Doreen Virtue’s interview with Marcia Montenegro and Jillian Lancour: “Why I Quit the Enneagram”

Watch long video of Claudio Naranjo automatic writing video, referenced in Doreen’s interview:

Listen to the Cultish podcast “Decoding the Enneagram”: Part 1 and Part 2

Buy Marcia’s book: Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret

Read Theology Think Tank’s detailed look at the history of the Enneagram.

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Some days, my kids wake up absolutely ravenous. From the moment their eyes open in the morning, their only thought seems to be, “Feed me!” This was especially true in their toddler years, but now that I have a teen and a tween, this modus operandi seems to be back! Those are the weeks that a bunch of eight bananas will vanish in two days.

But then, there are stretches of time where they don’t seem to eat enough to keep a bird alive. They wake up and start to shuffle through their morning routine, but when I urge them to eat breakfast, they moan, “I’m not huuuungry.” There’s no underlying malady – they’re just a little peckish. It takes coaxing or downright parental orders to get them to eat a tiny granola bar or a yogurt cup! Those are the weeks when a bunch of eight bananas goes untouched and turns completely black on the counter (and eventually becomes banana bread).

I’ve noticed similar seasons of hunger and peckishness for God’s Word in my own life. There are times when I’m hungry — starving, even — for more of Scripture. I wake up every morning eager to dive in to my Bible, and all day long I’m drawn to meditate on what I read, or to go deeper by listening to a sermon, talk, or worship music. But, to be honest, there are also times when I’m just not hungry. I don’t feel like consuming the Word. I might choke down a verse or two, but my attitude is a lot like a whiny kid being forced to eat a granola bar before school.

Our kids’ varying hunger levels are based on dozens of factors. They may be more or less hungry,  just because:

  • They’re having a growth spurt
  • They’re more or less active than usual
  • The weather is impacting their appetite
  • Their taste buds are changing
  • They’re going through a phase of focusing on just one or two preferred foods

In other words, it’s both normal and healthy for our kids’ appetites and intake to change from day to day and from year to year. It’s part of their growth.

But what about believers and God’s Word? Is it normal and healthy for us to crave the Word at times and reject it with an upturned nose at other times?

I’d like to propose this: perhaps it’s “normal” –in that, it’s commonplace and most believers can relate to the experience– but it’s not healthy, and it’s not what God desires for us or from us.

I can think of a few reasons why my spiritual appetite lags. Do any of these resonate with you?

  • There’s unrepentant sin in my life.
  • I’m in a vicious cycle: not enough time for God’s Word, so I put it off, which makes me feel guilty for neglecting it, so I avoid it when I do have even a few minutes, which leads to feeling like there’s not enough time… lather, rinse, repeat.
  • There’s a physical trigger (mental health issues, chronic pain, devastating diagnosis) which I’m addressing only on a physical level.
  • I’m distracted by lots of perfectly harmless time-wasters.

On the other hand, feasting on God’s Word is satisfying in a way that no meal ever is. When I’m “eating well” of Scripture, I can walk away feeling full and nourished — and at the same time, primed and ready for the next time I’ll sit down at the table. The more I take in of the Bible, the more I crave it. It’s a different cycle than those vicious, destructive ones which condemn us and convince us we’re doing things all wrong. When I’m regularly reading and responding to Scripture, I notice:

  • I truly want to spend more time with the Word, so I get creative – using audioBible versions, podcasts of sermons or uplifting meditations on Scripture, and worship music to keep my mind set on God throughout the day.
  • I avoid ‘bad influences’ – whatever might otherwise tempt me to get lost in distraction – more easily.
  • I find verses coming to mind and on the tip of my tongue, ready to offer encouragement or wisdom to my family and my friends.

My heart is lighter and more joyful when it’s filled with Scripture and the Holy Spirit. I bet yours is, too. And on that note, I’m excited to share a new project I’ve just launched: Plain & Simple Bible Study.

It’s my heartfelt belief that every single Christian is capable of picking up God’s Word, reading it for understanding, and being transformed by its truth. However, I meet so many folks who feel unequipped to dive in to the Bible on their own. These studies are designed with simple prompts and questions to help you think with clarity about your Bible: what is the text saying? What does it mean? How does it apply to my life?

A 6-week study of 1 John is available now, and Ephesians is coming soon. These free printables are great for individual or group use, and their aim is to help everyone push past their peckishness and eat well of God’s Word.

I hope and pray that Plain & Simple Bible Studies will give more believers the tools they need to create a habit of Scripture study that will flourish in their lives. Please check it out, and share it widely.

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If you’re like me, hospitality doesn’t always come easy. 

Maybe it’s hard for you because you’re introverted. Or because your space doesn’t feel big enough to bring more people in. Or because your kids are young (read: loud and messy and take up lots of your time) or because someone in your household has special needs. Or because you’re single, or a single parent, or because you’re new to town and don’t know many people yet, or because you work third shift.

I hear alllllll of those objections and reasons, and I first want to say: there is nothing but grace for you here. There’s no condemnation.

And there’s also no single right way to “do” hospitality. In fact, I’d say that the misguided notion that there is a single right way is probably the biggest obstacle of them all.

I’ve been feeling God prod me to do more in this area, so I started–as I start all things!– by reading on this subject. Over the last few years, these titles have been super helpful in re-arranging my presuppositions about hospitality (not affiliate links, just wanted you to be able to find them and add them to your cart or wish list ASAP).

But, hey, even if you’ve been thinking about hospitality and DOING hospitality for a while, what do you do when there’s a pandemic afoot? How can you welcome others into your home or around your table when it’s not safe?

First of all, we can remember the point and the purpose of hospitality – it is to make folks feel welcome, right? To feel seen and known, to feel safe. The definition of hospitality is “generous and friendly reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” How can you approach that same end-goal if the usual avenues aren’t available?

Here’s what’s been working for us, at various phases of the shutdown.

In “phase one,” when our state was fully shut down, (aka ”Healthy At Home,” some states called it Shelter In Place) we could only go out for essentials and all gatherings were stopped.

  1. Like many of you, Zoom became our go-to way to gather with friends. I used Zoom to continue hosting Bible study. Instead of women sitting in my living room, we were all on-screen together, but at least we could still read and pray together & encourage each other. I also set up a couple of evenings to gather online with friends for fun – one night we played Bingo and another night we did trivia! We weren’t physically together, but I made a point to set aside time for these women and to welcome them into my life.
An open Bible, notebook, and a coffee cup sit in front of a computer with Zoom open on the screen.
  1. Postcards! I somehow had accumulated a big stash of postcards in a drawer, and I mailed a bunch out each week. The size of a postcard means you’re naturally limited to only a line or two of cheer and encouragement, but what a joy to get something bright and pretty in the mail (that’s not an ad or a bill!) Again – I know it’s not the physical hospitality we are used to pursuing, but it’s a small way to let someone know that they matter to you, which I think is a vital part of being hospitable.
The author's hand holds four brightly colored postcards, pointed into an open mailbox.
  1. Front-yard neighboring. Back in March, when everyone was out taking daily walks, we chalked our sidewalk, painted a front window, and posted a teddy bear in an upstairs window. Lately, when my kids ride their bikes and rollerblades on the dead-end part of our street, I’ve been sitting out on the front porch so I can wave at passing neighbors and chat a bit. I haven’t had any mind-blowing new connections come from this, but I really loved the example that Kristin Schell set in her book (linked above) and am praying that the Lord will use it, at some point.
A front porch with two chairs and a French door.
  1. Calls and texts. I tried to think of folks who I’d normally see once a week or so and make sure to reach out. It was a strange sensation, because we were all using social media more than ever – so it may have felt like we knew what others were going through – but in reality, those one-on-one conversations were more valuable than if I had relied on their public postings on FB or IG.
  1. Caring for the stranger. Like lots of families, we felt like we were using Amazon Prime shipping more than ever before, so for several days I set a small cooler beside our front door with drinks for delivery workers. 

Our current phase (I think we’re in Phase 3 at the moment?) allows some gatherings (up to 10 people, but outdoors is preferable to inside) so hospitality might be an in-person experience again. . . with some adjustments.

  1. I shifted to hosting my Bible study group outside in our side yard. There’s some shade trees and our fire pit out there, so we have plenty of room to spread out in inexpensive plastic chairs (and I have a few of those collapsible camp chairs, too, if a bunch more women suddenly show up). We have all been so happy to see people’s faces that after our official study time, we sit there talking until it’s totally dark. You need to have frank conversation about your expectations if you’re going to do this, about how you’ll space the chairs and whether you’ll require masks, but if the numbers in your area are allowing small gatherings, use your outdoor space to be there for people.
A gravel fire pit area is shown with a pair of plastic Adirondack chairs and a wooden bench seat.
  1. Caring for the stranger. With retail and restaurants open, we are choosing to make our trips short or arrange for pickup/takeout as much as possible, to lighten the contact load that essential workers are bearing. We are also committed to wearing masks every time we go out, and when we are in a checkout line I’ve tried to find at least one opportunity to thank and encourage the worker who’s assisting me. No, this isn’t how we traditionally think of hospitality because we aren’t receiving these folks into our own home – but we are, I hope, giving generously of ourselves and being friendly.
The author is shown wearing a yellow face mask.

I know that we are used to framing our expectations of hospitality around the pillars of “being cozy inside our home” and “feeding the people,” but if we are willing to accept the challenge this pandemic offers us to create new pillars, I think our hospitality muscles will only grow.

Tell me, how are you experiencing hospitality during this strange new season — either by hosting/welcoming, or by being hosted/welcomed? I’d love to hear about it!


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The other night, I stepped out into the backyard with our dogs after dinner. The evening air was still warm, and they romped and gamboled around the grass, barking and nipping at each other’s heels as the sun set behind our neighbors’ houses. I didn’t even hear my youngest daughter slip out the back door.

A sunset in shades of purple and pink silhouettes the rooflines of neighboring houses.

But there she was, suddenly standing at my elbow, wearing her little pink-and-white-striped pajama set. She heaved a deep breath and her words tumbled out like blocks from a toy chest.

“Mom, there’s something I have to tell you and I’m afraid you’re going to be mad at me but I just have to get it off my chest.”

I turned to look at her and give her my full attention. “Okay. It’s okay. Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

“I took a book off the downstairs shelf.” She looked at her feet. “I took it up to my room, and Susannah saw it and said it’s one of THOSE BOOKS and I’m too young to read it.” She glanced back up at me and her eyes were glistening with tears. “I didn’t know, though! I thought it was just, like, a science book.”

I was trying to keep up with this revelation, but I had to interject. “What book are we talking about, honey?”

She gulped. “The Girls Body Book.” 

Not Bad, Just Not For Right Now

I smothered a laugh. Okay. So we aren’t talking about anything bad here (because I was wracking my brain when she said “one of THOSE BOOKS.” It’s not like I own smut or erotica that she could have accidentally grabbed. We have a few books with mature themes I’d rather the girls not read until they get a little older, but nothing that would be truly out of line) –but the thing is, she really felt like this was serious, and I didn’t want to blow her off.

I opened my arms for a hug and said, “Hey, it’s okay. Come here.”

She crossed the space between us, and while we hugged I reassured her that she wasn’t in trouble and she hadn’t done anything wrong by taking the book off the shelf. In fact, if she was curious and wanted to read the Girls’ Body Book, she could – I would like to read it with her, or at least discuss it with her after each chapter or so. But there was nothing bad or wrong in that book. It was just meant for older girls, and so Mom kept it on the downstairs shelf so that we could read it together when it was a good time for it.

She was so relieved. And her tears flowed, and she told me, “I have been hiding it in my room for a really long time.”

“Hiding it?”

“Yeah. I took it off the shelf weeks and weeks ago and then Susannah said that, so I didn’t read it. But I was going to sneak it back downstairs and put it on the shelf so you would never know, but I never woke up early enough so I could do it in the dark. And when you helped me clean my room last week, I was afraid you would find it. And I felt so guilty. I had a stomachache every day.”

So we talked a little about guilt. And how guilt and shame are different, and how when we feel guilty then confession is the right thing to do.

What Comes Next

Her little mouth quirked from side to side, lips pressed together, thinking hard. “So. Um. What is my… punishment?”

I took her hand and we went to sit at the patio table. “There is no punishment.”

She started crying again. “I have been trying to come and tell you for days and days. But I was scared of my punishment. Tonight in the bath, I decided, ‘I just have to do it tonight.’ So I told myself, I would put on my pajamas first and then I would come and tell you and I would say, ‘I understand I was wrong and I will go put myself to bed until you decide my punishment.’

That’s when I started to cry, too.

Rehearsing

Do y’all remember the story of the Prodigal? Oh, sure, we know that boy. He wanted his inheritance and he squandered that inheritance and there was a part about pigs. But that’s not what I’m thinking of right now.

When the Prodigal realized he wanted to go back home, he didn’t think he deserved home.

He thought he’d have to earn it.

So he thought of exactly what to say to his dad, and he rehearsed it and rehearsed it. Then he set off for his dad’s house, planning to say it just so and convince his dad to let him in.

But you know what? He never got the chance to deliver his rehearsed speech. 

He didn’t have to earn his place at his Dad’s table.

The minute his dad saw him, he hitched up his robe and took off running to embrace his boy.

That’s grace.

We’ve All Been Prodigals

And every single one of us has, at some point or another, been a Prodigal. We’ve been stuck in the mud of a far-off country, longing for home, but maybe half-believing that home will never let us back in. Thinking we’d have to earn it. Practicing our return speech and hoping if we say it just right, they’ll accept us.

And every single one of us, if we’ve repented and come back home to our Father, has been embraced and celebrated simply because we belong to Him.

Back to the patio on that summer night. I told my daughter that story, how she’s not the only one who ever practiced a speech and thought they had to work really hard or suffer a punishment to get to forgiveness. And then she had another confession, although she didn’t know it was a confession.

“I keep a list,” she said.

“What kind of list?”

“Every day, I keep a list of the things I’ve done bad. And I try to make them right. But this–” the book she took and hid, “has been on my list for weeks and it made me feel really terrible. Every day I would say, ‘I’ll fix that one tomorrow.’”

My heart broke a little, learning that my sweet girl keeps a list of her own wrongs and works so hard to make them right. The way she’s been holding herself to an impossible standard of getting everything right, always, every day – and writing down every mistake along the way.

And I started thinking. . . a lot of us probably do the same thing.

Keeping A List

Your list might not be scrawled in big second-grade printing on loose-leaf paper and tucked under your pillow.

Maybe your list reverberates in your head, in the voice of someone from your past. Or it could sound like your OWN voice, condemning and berating you.

All the things you’ve done wrong. All the ways you’ve let someone down. All the ways you didn’t measure up, dropped the ball, couldn’t manage, said the wrong thing or did the wrong thing or kept silent when you should have spoken up…

So I want to tell you the same thing I told her. Picture us at my patio table, bathed in the pinkish light of sunset.

“If making a list works like a prayer, where you write down the things you want to confess to the Lord, then go ahead and make your list. If some of those wrongs might have hurt other people, and you can go to them and talk or take action to help make amends, then you go ahead with that.”

“But, honey, if making that list only gives you a stomachache and a headache… if that list makes you feel crummy… if that list makes you feel like a terrible person and if it makes you believe lies about yourself, like that you’ll never get it right or that you don’t deserve forgiveness or that you aren’t worth very much around here then, sister: rip that list up. Burn it. If it’s inside your head, you talk back to it and tell it some truth.”

“When the Holy Spirit prompts us, pokes us, convicts us about sin, we feel motivated to confess and to turn and walk away from the sin. But when our Enemy whispers in our ear about our sin, he just wants us to wallow in it and feel beaten up and sick about it. That’s how you know the difference. And if your list makes you feel sick and bruised and yucky and miserable, then the enemy of your soul is using it to torment you, and you have to stop making a list.”

“Jesus said that when we confess our sins, He is faithful and full of justice. He forgives us and cleanses us. He doesn’t look at us and see the stains of the mud and much left behind. He sees us, covered in His righteousness.”

That was in pretty simple language because the first time I said it, I was talking to an 8-year-old. But friend, how I wish I could hold your hand and tell you this same truth over and over until you believe it. 

If you have trusted that Jesus the Christ made the only sacrifice that could ever be enough – that his death on the cross paid the price for your sin and that his resurrection defeated death and offers you eternal life, that his coming return will bring a perfected new heaven & new earth – then PUT DOWN YOUR LIST and don’t let guilt and shame eat you alive one minute longer.

No more impossible standards. No more berating self-talk. No more never-ending list in your head and your heart.

Confess and release, because your Father is waiting with open arms. He loves you just because you belong to Him, and you don’t ever have to earn that.


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Several years ago, I did a little blog series about contentment. I had this idea that contentment is contagious… and I wanted to spread it around. I still believe that those building blocks are a good basis for contentment, but I wanted to come back to the topic to expand a little as my experience and understanding has grown.

For one thing, friends, in a couple of months a very significant milestone is going to occur. We will have lived in this home for five full years, marking the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my whole life.

Shocked baby with the caption "Oh my gosh!"

(Because of that Army brat thing, which I talked about here if you’re curious.)

This spring, I started to feel a simmering discontentment in my soul. It was honestly unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, and I wasn’t sure at first how to handle it.

Pandemic Blues

For one thing, we were all cooped up here in the house 24/7 with our state’s shutdown measures. Even though I’ve always thought of this house as PLENTY of space for us… once we were all here, nonstop, for months on end I started wishing we had a basement. And a pool in the backyard. And a bigger plot of land where the neighbors were so far away you could barely see them.

That might have been another factor. Our backyard neighbors were… well, not exactly neighborly during the first few months of the corona quarantine. Being able to see a big portion of their home and yard made my blood pressure skyrocket every time they violated the governor’s orders. (And I didn’t say anything or turn them in, because I didn’t want to be mean or nosy. I just thought my thoughts, and wished there was an extra acre between us so I couldn’t see what they were doing in ignorant bliss.)

Ticking Clock

When I started reflecting on what was driving my discontentment, I realized there’s another big milestone approaching. I’ll turn 40 in a few months. Maybe this was my mid-life crisis?

A close crop of an old oil painting. Words are superimposed so the man is saying, "I think I'm having a midlife crisis," The woman responds, "You're 24..." and the man replies, "I might die at 48."

Whatever the causes or motivations behind my discontent, here’s what resulted: I started browsing the MLS. And do you know what happens when a gal starts idly surfing real estate listings? Yup. Eventually she spots a property that catches her eye and keeps her awake at night.

Bored Mom ISO Bigger House

So when that happened, it was a lovely place with 1.25 acres in a tucked-away development of a only dozen homes. The house was older, but it had 150% of the square footage we have here. There was a basement! (No pool.)

Once I saw it, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I made an appointment with our realtor to go see it by myself, then told Chris all about it. A few days later, he went to see it, too. We spent about 24 hours feeling worked up about making a decision regarding this property. Should we jump on it? Make an offer? Scurry to get this house ready to sell?

But after a restless night’s sleep and a morning spent in prayer and thought and journaling, we decided to stay put.

Does that sound like resignation to you? Does it sound like settling?

I promise, that’s not it.

Intentional, Not Complacent

Here’s what I felt the Lord leading me to: we have been working hard to become debt-free, and moving house would move that needle in the wrong direction. Furthermore, if my restless, angsty feelings about this house are based on my Army-brat itchy feet, there’s no cure for that but tincture of time. If the problem is my looming birthday and some sort of age-related crisis – there’s nothing to do but wait it out. And if the primary problem is my unhappiness with my neighbors, well: Scripture has a lot to say about loving our neighbor, and I probably have a spiritual lesson to learn there – which I wouldn’t learn if I run away.

Sometimes standing still is the most obedient thing to do.

Investment for Contentment

What’s more, we decided we wouldn’t just “stay put.” Rather, we decided to get serious about allllllll those little home projects that we hadn’t gotten around to yet. We started a list, and shopping online for new fixtures, and have made a few calls to pros to get quotes on the work we can’t do ourselves.

Will we need to spend money to invest in these projects? Yup.

But will it be less expensive than moving? OH, most definitely.

Baby at the beach makes a fist pump with caption "totally"

We want to be good stewards of our home, and right now that means investing both time and money. We have a few little projects to fix –I’ll post pictures of the woodworking I had to learn to do when our dog decided to eat a wall!—and some new paint and fixtures to pick out. There are a couple of furnishing upgrades that will make a big difference, and some new storage built into a closet should help that space be both more functional and more pleasant to the eye.

I started an Instagram @kentuckyhome.and.cabin to track our progress and share pictures, so be sure to go follow if home improvements and DIY is your jam.

Beyond Home Improvement

But even if home decor Insta isn’t your thing, don’t miss the bigger message (like I almost did).

There can be many different factors that contribute to an underlying sense of discontentment. It’s good and healthy for us to examine those, and it’s important for us to take all of those things to God. He’s the giver of every good gift, and the one who gives us wisdom and understanding.

Maybe you’re in a stage of life where you DO need more space, more land, an extra bedroom, a garage – and browsing the real estate listings and daydreaming about different houses and neighbordhoods is perfectly appropriate. I’m not at all trying to say that any of those things are wrong or sinful.

The lesson I’ve learned this week is that stewarding the material goods we have looks different in different seasons. For the last few years, we have regarded good stewardship as just saving money and paying down our debts.

But investing in our space is a different way to be a good steward – taking care of this house helps all of us to enjoy it more, helps us to make even more great memories within these walls, and goes a long way to ensuring this place will be a safe and beautiful home for our family for 30 more years.

“In this house, you always have permission to:
ask hard questions * read * play together * give hugs
learn * express all your emotions * worship * ask for help * pray
share something you’re proud of, even if someone is having a bad day
talk about the people who have passed away”

Having a heart of contentment may require investment. Do you struggle with discontentment? Do you think an approach of investment could help change that?

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Following, followers… it’s all a bit of a loaded term nowadays, isn’t it? In 2020, the word follow might be more likely to conjure up the notion of social media in your mind rather than the old standby meaning of actually –you know—going anywhere.

But way back when I was a kid, “follow” made me instantly think of just one thing.

via GIPHY

In The Wizard of Oz, Glinda tells Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road because it would take her to the right destination: the Wizard and her ticket back to the arms of Auntie Em. She had a path marked out because she had someplace she needed to be. Now, there were obstacles along the way and her trip home didn’t end the way she thought it would – but the road she was following did lead her to the Emerald City, as promised.

On the other hand, the Lost Boys’ game of following the leader was much more precarious than Dorothy’s journey. Instead of following a marked path, the Lost Boys followed John – and as it turned out, John didn’t know his way around Neverland. They followed him right into a trap set by Tiger Lily’s father.

via GIPHY

A Path or A Person

That’s the thing about following. Whoever, or whatever, we follow has the ability to take us where we want and need to go… or lead us into dangerous territory.

Now, turn that coin over. Consider for a moment: who is following you?

via GIPHY

In your real life, I’m sure there are people who are going right where you lead them. They’re buying a product because you raved about it, or listening to a podcast that you recommended. If you’re a parent or a teacher, kids are following your approach to coping with hard times or they’re hoping to follow your footsteps to an alma mater.

Click to Follow

And then, there’s our social media lives. It’s interesting to me that so many platforms use the word “followers.”  When you click that little button on Twitter, is the person whose 280-character missives caught your attention really leading you anywhere?

I’d like to suggest that you are leading. So the question is, what direction are you taking your followers? Is it a destination worth visiting? Whether you are leading people toward brands and products, opportunities or inspiration, they are following you.

via GIPHY

I believe that we are all accountable to God for the way we influence others.

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6

Does that scare you? Please, please, don’t be scared. (Well. I mean, take it seriously. Be sober-minded about the impact of those words. But don’t be afraid!)

Here’s the thing: we all need to be mindful of our words and our deeds, the photos we post and the memes we share. Those who are following us can either be helped –edified, encouraged, rebuked when necessary, pointed toward Jesus – or they can be hindered by the way we lead.

Everyone’s got followers. Where are you taking yours?

One final note: I’d be a lousy friend if I didn’t close by reminding you of the ONE person you can always trust to lead you.

Your husband is going to get it wrong sometimes. Your friend will point you toward a product that turns out to be a dud, or your mom will give you directions to her favorite store and get you totally lost on some back roads, or your favorite influencer will turn out to be photoshopping everything.

Human beings aren’t always worth following. But you can trust the One who said:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:26

I will follow Him.

via GIPHY

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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