Read Your Strengths: Books that Reflect Intellection

I was thinking about how my strengths are reflected in the books I read. As I move from writing about Intellection to my next strength (Maximizer), I thought I’d share a few books I’ve read recently that remind me of intellection. They aren’t perfect fits, but these books are a reflection of how I’ve taken my current life-stage and tried to become a (somewhat) expert in this field.

The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns
I read this book last year and I categorize it under Intellection because reading the Bible is part of my daily routine. However, I’m an admittedly skeptical reader. I believe in the story it tells, but often wonder how to go about reading it – what exactly is metaphor, stories to empower an oppressed people group, poetry, fact? Enns writes for the layperson without dumbing down his message and I read the Bible with new appreciation.

Animal Madness by Laurel Baitman
We just renewed our zoo membership again but it wasn’t without a lot of discussion and still some niggling hesitation on my part. Our girls love the zoo; I understand that the methodology in caring for the animals is vastly different than it was just a few decades ago; however, there’s still something so sad about seeing animals trying to roam in a fraction of the space they’d have in the wild. Or only interacting with a small section of other species. I try to be honest with Bea when we talk about the animals we see – that this isn’t their natural home; that they probably are sad to be confined; that most were born into captivity. This book was eye-opening for me, even though it didn’t change our membership status, it made me reflect more about the reasons behind renewing.

91721Praying With Icons by Jim Forest
I have a little reading nook in our bedroom where I do my daily quiet time. Above my fuchsia chair hangs an icon of St Francis, an icon on the Madonna and Child, a painting of Joseph and Mary snuggling a newborn Jesus, and a clay cross. I certainly don’t reflect and meditate on these icons in a traditional way, but having them in the corner of our bedroom is a daily visual reminder of saints who have paved the way.

Out of Solitude by Henri Nouwen
This small, timeless book of mediations on the importance of solitude is what first inspired me, back in college, to spend whole days alone, away from the noise of others. Because of Nouwen’s gentle guidance, I learned at a formative stage in my faith journey that taking time (or even moments) of intentional quiet was essential to my spiritual wellbeing.

The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris
Another small but powerful book is one I read during my first year of motherhood. Norris reminds us of those small, quotidian moments which create holy rhythms. Folding laundry, cleaning the house, the daily task of small work, is just as holy as a pilgrimage. She reminds me that these moments are the ones in which I can pray – my kitchen is as beautiful and sacred as any cathedral.

What books have you read that have helped you become and “expert” in your life season? Any I should add to the list?


This post is Day 6 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Seasons of Quality Time

To celebrate our first anniversary, Frank and I hiked the West Highland Way in Scotland. The nearly 100 mile trail wound through farms and small towns. Some days we saw lots of people; other days it was just us on our section of the trail. I’ve written before about one of my favorite days: When Frank and I hiked separately for the whole day, taking in the scenery and processing our thoughts at our own pace. We met up for lunch and, of course, that evening we walked into town together. We were never out of each other’s sight, but we weren’t together, either.

Frank exploring on his own

That evening, when we sat on the sunporch at our B&B, we reflected that it was a good day. We connected, we had a shared experience, but we each had time to ourselves.

Frank and I are in a season of squeezing alone time into the margins. We’ve been practicing a rhythm that seems to work well for our family at this moment: Frank gets up super early and is at work by 5:00 but then he’s home before dinner’s on the table. This means that we’re heading to bed by 9:00 every night, which is probably a healthy choice in any case.

The only downside to this arrangement is that our evenings together are shorter. We have to be more intentional about our 45 minutes before bedtime. But what I’ve found is that, because there wasn’t a crazy rush of dinner! Daddy’s home!! Finish! Play a game that winds us down rather than up! Bedtime!! we are able to have more quality connection in those 45 minutes than when we had longer but were more tired.

Often, in these 45 minutes before our 9:00 alarm sounds, we don’t talk much. We’ll read or scroll Facebook. Sometimes we sit and talk and dream. Sometimes we look at the budget. Whatever we do, we do it side by side. We are sure to sit on the couch together; to sit next to each other, even if we’re not talking.

In some ways, this season reminds me of that day of hiking. We’re together in this, we are in each other’s sight, but we aren’t necessarily walking at the same pace. We’re tag teaming bedtime and household duties. And yet, because we’re still in sight; because we aren’t disconnected, it seems to be working.

Of course, we need actual in-person connecting for this all to work. But it’s a good reminder that sometimes you need quantity time to just soak in (like after tax season) and sometimes we need to recognize the importance of quality time, when we simply don’t have a quantity.

In this season when I’m rarely alone and when I simultaneously need to spend my time connecting, I’m thankful for a partner who recognizes the need to stay in view, to do the work together, and to leave space for quiet.

If you have a partner, how do you connect at the end of a day filled with work and kids and life? How do you best unwind?


This post is Day 5 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Thinking Before Collaborating

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of brainstorming. Besides the fact that it’s not an effective tool for generating ideas, I’ve been in too many settings where one dominating personality takes over the meeting. As someone who needs time to think, I get overwhelmed and then shut down without contributing.

14462845_10154055590273224_8577943402689654064_nLast week, I was able to participate in a “Museum Mashup.” Museums across the country hosted events, either for their educators or for the public, around the theme of museum education. Our team of educators met and spent a morning delving into the idea of “experience.” What makes an experience? How do we draw visitors into the experience of Clyfford Still’s work?

Instead of brainstorming ideas, we were each given 7 minutes to come up with a 3 minute experience based on one of the senses. It was one of the most invigorating mornings! After participating in my colleagues’ experiences, I walked away with quite a few ideas to implement into my next lessons.

It was a reminder that, when given a few minutes to work alone before collaborating, brilliant ideas are formed. Everyone has the opportunity to be heard. We each gave our lesson without building on anyone else’s. Everyone had a chance, no matter the personality type.

One of the things I love about my job is that our education director is passionate about bringing new and well-researched ideas to our department. She is well-read and the way she brings our team together is innovative and allows each person to participate and engage.

When I first started staying home with Bea, I wasn’t sure if or when I would go back to work. I assumed I wouldn’t even start looking until our youngest was in kindergarten. And then, this opportunity arose at the Clyfford Still Museum. Not only did it combine my love for education and art history, it fed my intellection strength: I was on the front end of something new and innovative. There was no trap of we’ve always done it this way. Ideas are welcome and we continually tweak our lessons to make them better.

I still struggle with finding that work-life balance, even in a part-time setting, but I can’t imagine a better place for me and my personality. I’m amazed that I have this opportunity to so fully live out one of my strengths. Whenever the schedule becomes stressful or expectations don’t align with my own, I have to stop and remember what an incredible opportunity this really is.

How do you do in a brainstorming session? Do you find them energizing or overwhelming? What’s your dream job?


This post is Day 4 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Life Unplanned

This past weekend started on an off-footing. (I don’t want to say the wrong foot, but definitely…. Off.) We had talked about going up to the mountains to look at the changing Aspen leaves but the morning whiled away a bit and then it was too late. We ended up cleaning the house (probably a better choice…) and going to a local fall festival (hooray for our neighborhood!) All good activities, but it wasn’t what I had planned for.

img_1799When Frank and I first took the StrengthsFinder test, I was annoyed that he had all happy sounding strengths: Harmony, Relator, etc. Mine were all harsh sounding: Intellection, Context, Maximizer. So many hard consonants!! But, they are totally accurate – I’m not an easy-going, go with the flow type of person. I like plans and schedules.

One of the downsides to Intellection as a strength is that it is easy to become discontent with actual life. The way I envision something happening and the way it plays out in reality can be two very different things.

My friend, Alex wrote a book earlier this year called Loving My Actual Life. She takes her readers on a 9-month experiment in looking at and loving the mundane, every day, beautiful life that we are living right now. The title itself has stayed with me over the months since I first read the book – my actual life needs to be loved. Not just tolerated or liked but loved.

That’s not something that comes naturally – I’m not an effusive feeler, shouting from the rooftops what an amazing experience everything is. But, that deep-down, love for even a neighborhood fall festival, rather than the mountains? I need to remember that. We had fun, we hung out as a family, Bea got her face painted like a unicorn. How better to spend a Saturday morning?

It wasn’t what was planned, but I’m learning, slowly, to remember that these unplanned activities are the memories our girls are forming. And I want them to remember me enjoying them alongside, rather than overthinking what we should have been doing.

Are you a planner or do you thrive on spontaneity?

livinThis post is Day 3 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page


Processing as a Habit

I was talking with a friend the other day about how excited I was for a weekend to myself. I was planning on reading, napping, and talking minimally with others. His first question was, So you’re an introvert?

I’ve always struggled with the introvert-extrovert scale. I love people; I love entertaining; I love not talking to anyone for an entire day; I love time to recharge. As I was reading the description for Intellection, my fifth strength, this phrase stuck out:

You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. StrengthsFinder , pg 129

That’s what has been the most challenging thing for me as a mom. I have to squeeze any reflective time into the margins – from journaling and Bible study to reflecting on life decisions. A lot of my reflective time before kids happened in my 20-minute commute to and from work. I was able to drive in silence, processing the day. Now, I don’t have a commute, so I process on the fly, when I can.

I think it’s an unrealistic expectation to have enough quiet time – that’s certainly not a “mom” problem but a “we live a full life” problem. Carving out time is equally difficult for Frank or for my friends without kids.

I was talking with friends about prayer time the other day – when do you do it? How do you set aside time? The answer is, I don’t. But I try to listen to the nudging of prayer during my daily activities. At our old house, whenever I would clean a certain corner of our kitchen, my cousin’s wife came to mind. So I stopped an prayed. Now, several years and a move later, I still pray for her as a clean the kitchen. It’s a habit. Another friend came to mind as I tidied the tub after bath time. Now, each time I clean up the bath toys, pray for my friend and her own little girls.

I guess processing life is like that, too. Sometimes I’ll have a whole blissful weekend to myself. But the majority of my time is filled with other things – good, important things – but quiet isn’t one of them. So, I’m learning to train myself to process at certain times, while brushing teeth or before bed or after nap and quiet rest. I’m learning that habits are formed no matter how much or little time there is to devote.

Hopefully, just as forming good eating and sleeping habits take time, the time spent on recognizing my need to process will eventually become a habit. One that I can practice even in the midst of this precious-yet-chaotic season.

Are you a processor? How do you find time to stop and think about decisions in the midst of a busy life?

livinThis post is Day 2 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page