My Marriage IQ: Answers to questions you might have!

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I’ve been getting some great questions about My Marriage IQ and thought I’d write a quick post to answer them. Take a look if you’re still in the process of deciding whether My Marriage IQ would be a good gift to get your partner for Valentines Day (you have until midnight on Valentines to decide!). If you have more questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below!

My Marriage IQ FAQs:

How accurate is this Birkman test? Will it really tell me anything useful about myself or my partner?

You’re right to wonder about this since there are so many random personality quizzes floating around out there. Being told you’re a Golden Retriever or Ariel doesn’t really help you improve your relationship. What you’re looking for in an assessment is validity and reliability.

Validity tests whether an assessment tool measures what it says it measures. The short answer is, Birkman International uses a variety of validity tests and the tool is sound. In 2007, Birkman updated the assessment tool to link it to the Five Factor Model – a set of five broad dimensions of personality that are widely accepted in current psychology.

Reliability refers to the consistency or stability of the assessment tool. When the test is administered it should provide consistent results. Give it to someone today and give it to them again in two weeks and the results should stay the same. This is called test-retest. The Birkman scales have test-retest reliabilities averaging 85% which means they provide a highly accurate picture of behavior. For all of you who more on the science and research end, here is the Technical Brief (pdf).

You’re not a counselor or therapist so how can this help our serious relationship issues?

You’re absolutely right that I’m not a counselor or a therapist. This tool is designed to boost communication and understanding in our relationships. It is not designed to address more serious relationship issues. It can help you communicate more effectively, but I highly recommend that you find a counselor or therapist if you need more help navigating the tough stuff. In fact, take your Birkman reports to the therapist and use them as a jumping off point for discussion. Here are some links for finding therapy:

Does this material contain gender stereotypes that will make us roll our eyes?

I hear you. John and I have read a few books where all the illustrations seem to come straight out of the 1950s. My Marriage IQ is about personalized information identifying interests and behaviors that both males and females exhibit. It’s presented in an objective way with graphs and neutral language. You will not find any cheesy illustrations or gender stereotypes to make you feel annoyed or uncomfortable! I also chose to use the word “partner” rather than “husband”, “wife” or “spouse” because My Marriage IQ is for both engaged and married couples.

Does this come from a particular faith perspective?

None of the material touches directly on faith as not all couples share a common faith so I didn’t want it to be a barrier in the process. I do provide faith-based and non-faith-based resources at the end of the guide for those who would like to explore further marriage materials. I am a Christian and so was the founder of Birkman International so both the guide and the Birkman reports uphold Christian values such as the beauty of being uniquely created, the dignity and value of every human being, and the belief that our differences are essential for contributing to the health of our partnerships and community. Also, the overall project is informed by my positive view of marriage as a life-long commitment that is worth working on and fighting for.

So what happens when I buy it?

You’ll receive and email that will have you download the receipt and instructions as well as the discussion guide. In the instructions, you will get a link for each of you to do the Birkman Method questionnaire and receive your individual reports. The discussion guide also contains a link to the instruction videos that clarify key parts of the Birkman Method reports. My Marriage IQ is entirely self-directed so you set your own pace with your partner and take your time. I’ve recommended a series of six date nights but you can do it in any order and for however long you need to. It’s also reusable. You could do a refresher on your Birkman reports every year on your anniversary. The report results are accurate for life so this information is relevant for the length of your relationship! Using My Marriage IQ in your relationship can give you a life-long reference tool on how best to take care of each other.

Why is there a deadline? Will it not be available after February 14th?

My Marriage IQ will be going offline at midnight on February 14th because of some internal changes to the costs and formatting of the Birkman Method reports for certified Birkman Method consultants. I will hopefully revive My Marriage IQ in a new format later in the year and will have to increase the price. If you’re on the fence, now is a good time to jump because it’s a killer deal and it’s not coming back. The individual Birkman consultations I typically do are $325 and My Marriage IQ pricing will likely approach or surpass that in its next iteration.

More questions? Something I haven’t covered? Leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as possible so you can make your decision before Valentines!

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Being present in our bodies

Happy Friday everyone! I had a few threads of thoughts converge for me this week from a blog post, a book I’m reading, and our discussion at life group on Jacob wrestling with God. I thought I’d just give you the gist:

1. Genesis 32:22-31 – Our discussion questions for this week asked why we thought God decided to physically wrestle with Jacob rather than to just talk to him. I had never thought about this but it brought back everything I’ve read about how much more we learn by doing rather than just by hearing/reading. Our beliefs are shaped by our practices – actions influence thoughts as much as or perhaps even more than thoughts influence actions.

It made me see that Jacob’s physical experience of struggling for control for an entire night and finally having to surrender probably had significantly more impact on his life than God just coming and saying “You need to trust me and let go of your own need to strategise about everything.” Fascinating, eh? It’s a lesson he learned in his body. And I’m betting he never forgot it either.

Experiences last in our memories so much longer than lectures. But we have to be present in the moment to learn them too. Jacob couldn’t exactly ignore another man physically fighting him, but I think for us, we often can ignore our own experiences that are trying to teach us something.

2. One Small Change: One LESS Thing – This blog post was so encouraging for me because I sometimes feel like this is my life right now and I felt encouraged to embrace it being this way! I’m not that busy but somehow I get busy every week. And I’ve realized over and over how many last minute things I say yes to because I am available. Sometimes, it does start feeling hectic but often I’m so glad “that worked out” and that I went ahead and answered that phone call, babysat or had a playdate or went to lunch etc. It’s another thing that helps me be present with people instead of living in my head.

3. The Lost Art of Lingering – I’m reading this book on Kindle (it’s a link to Amazon) and it is a great book on mutual mentoring (basically the idea that both people will learn from each other). The last chapter I read was on the simple practice of actually meeting together. The author also talks about how important it is to shut off distractions and be 100% in the present when you meet for mutual mentoring. He mentioned in passing how we can fill calendars up so quickly that we don’t leave room for these relationships that are really pivotal for our growth.

What I liked best about that blog post is that it’s about removing stuff from your life rather than adding something to the “to-do” list (note that Jacob was entirely alone when God shows up. He had sent his whole family and possessions across the river without him). How much do we try to cram all kinds of meaningful activities into your life because we don’t really want to do the waiting, listening and noticing part? How do we clear room to breathe and hear and follow our calling, not the hundred callings that everyone else expects. In the end, it boils down to paying attention – using our physical senses to raise our awareness and live a little more intentionally.

Why does it sound so easy and yet remain so hard?

How do we discern our callings?

I’m excited to be guest-speaking next week at a friend’s church on the topic of how we discern our giftedness and callings. So I’ve been digging through my research and it’s turning up so many gems that it’s hard to even know how to start! Today I wanted to link you up to some of my past posts on these topics in case you’re interested in a little refresher course:

The process of recovering a sense of calling in our lives involves raising self-awareness (Who did God design me to be?) and listening (Hello God, where are you leading me?).

We can’t just start with finding something to do – we have to start with who we are because God designed us uniquely and has unique purposes for each of us. In Listening to God in Times of Choice, Gordon Smith quotes Ernest Larkin on discernment, “Basically the difficulty in all discernment is personal inauthencity. If you are not in touch with yourself, if you don’t know what is going on, you cannot hear the ‘other’ even when the other is God.”

Smith writes, “If we do not accept who we are, and more, actually like who we are, we will probably not be able to meet God freely and respond to that encounter. We will always be attempting to be someone other than who we are; we will be living a lie.”

Often, understanding who God created us to be means first accepting who he did not create us to be. It means letting go of our own expectations and parental or family expectations and maybe even community expectations. It means evaluating all our previous assumptions about our lives and work. It means double-checking how we define calling, spiritual gifts, success and failure.

The outcome of this kind of work should be a new sense of freedom, responsibility, humility and gratitude.

Tell me about times in your life where you’ve struggled with discernment. What was the process like for you?


The Definition of Hospitality


I married into a hospitable family. My husband’s parents has lots of stories to tell about the foreign exchanges students who lived with them growing up, the missionaries they’ve hosted, random kids they’ve taken in here and there. And it’s not just John’s parents but his entire extended family as well (the picture on the left is from a few years ago). A Crozier party isn’t a full-scale party unless there are some unexpected or even uninvited guests to be welcomed and squeezed in at the table. Hospitality is something that flows out of them and I find their example very inspiring.

Last Sunday at church we had an interesting discussion about how alike and how different Christians are from non-believers. We talked about the good and bad aspects of being similar to our culture and the good and bad aspects of being different from non-Christians. I was reminded that we have so much in common with every person we run into, and yet have such key differences in our lives (for example: hope).

I came home thinking that one of the things that highlights both our similarity and our difference from our culture is the call to hospitality. When you boil everything down, the willingness to engage with the other and seek common ground should be a defining mark of the Christian. It certainly was of Jesus. He engaged with anyone and everyone: women, children, Samaritans, Jews, Gentiles, healthy, sick, rich, poor – you name it.

In Transforming Conversion, Gordon Smith comes back to this theme of hospitality several times. I’ve blended some of his thoughts into a definition:

God calls us to welcome the other (Romans 15:7) in the radical hospitality of accepting the other, receiving the other, and not demanding that the other conform or change or be likable or agreeable before they are received. A crucial sign of this hospitality is that we listen to the other – which surely is an act of service . . . We listen to their story, to their joys and sorrows, to their longings and points of disillusionment . . . We respond to the other with a deep regard for persons – for who they are now, and for who they can and might become.

My in-laws welcome all kinds of people into their home without fear. If we as Christians can offer this kind of hospitality to those around us, it will allow us to highlight common ground among diverse people but it will also differentiate us by our listening and our love.

Being welcoming and really listening doesn’t have to mean large parties. You don’t have to have a perfect home and a perfect meal. It can be as simple as a conversation at the mall or work. It can mean finally meeting a neighbor you’ve never spoken to. Don’t let the idea of “hospitality” keep you from practicing it!

A Student’s Prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas

I was organizing in the office last night (you can expect a new “organizing the house” blog post on that coming up soon – the transformation is in the works) and I finally sat down and went through all my paperwork to at least sort it into piles. Wow – I’m a paper hoarder. It’s my weakness. I can’t bear to throw away articles I might reference again, notes I took long ago that might provide some insight later. I get all nostalgic about pages containing brainstormed ideas for projects long completed. Maybe it’s a bit narcissistic (ok, it totally is) but I love rereading my old thoughts and seeing the roots out of which later writings grew.

Anyway . . . all that as a long introduction to a prayer I wanted to share with you today. It was in my pile of notes and it’s something I had propped up at the computer when I was writing the rough draft for my book and I prayed it before sitting down to write every night of that month. I think I first ran across it in Mrs Storr’s English or Creative Writing class in high scool. Sometimes it’s so comforting to pray with someone else, to use someone’s else words. This prayer gave me the words I needed and probably wouldn’t have found on my own.

The Student’s Prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas

The Student's Prayer

Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom, origin of all being, graciously let a ray of your light penetrate the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding, a retentive memory, and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning, direct the progress, and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hope this prayer is inspiring and helpful to you today with whatever you’re working on. We may not be formal students anymore but I think it’s still applicable even in our most basic daily conversations.

Choosing Who We Learn From

Last Tuesday I got a haircut. I love my hairstylist Amy – I’ve written about her before here. She and I are about as different as you can imagine but it’s a good thing. We always have pretty deep conversations about faith, politics, health – you name it. I like to think we learn a lot from each other. This last Tuesday’s conversation was no exception and was a really important reminder for me to be humble.

Amy told me a hard story about feeling out of place and belittled by people she respected. It’s her story so I’m not going to go into the details but it made me think a lot about the people who made her feel unworthy of participating. Why? Because I recognized myself in them. Amy was in a position to offer a unique and valuable voice in a setting outside of her comfort zone. Instead of being welcomed for bringing a different perspective, she got shut down, because the people assumed they had nothing to learn from her.

Here’s the deal: we all want to choose who we learn things from. Some of this choosing is wise (we want to listen to good teachers) and some of it is very, very prideful. We want to only learn from those we admire and respect, from those we assume are more experienced, more mature and more knowledgeable than we are. And when we choose to learn only from those people we perceive as “worthy” of teaching us, we close our minds and hearts to a multitude of other teachers we should be humble enough to hear. All of us prize some kind of intelligence over another whether it’s our IQ, our emotional intelligence our the hard-won insights that come from experience in the school of hard knocks. That’s fine. The trouble occurs when we’re not open to receiving insight from people in our community (or outside of it) who don’t find our mold.

I wonder how often we would be surprised by wisdom if we learned to see it and accept it from unlikely sources.

It reminded me of this passage in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Stay tuned – I have at least one more post I want to write about A Year of Biblical Womanhood but I wanted to share this story while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Listening to God in Times of Choice

Time for a book review! I’ve written about Gordon Smith’s book Courage and Calling several times on this blog because it had a huge impact on my life. Awhile ago, I also read his Listening to God in Times of Choice and it was a gem! It’s short but packed with thoughtful, balanced discussion about discernment and decision-making. Three themes really struck me.

1. We can hear God

Smith emphasizes throughout the book that God does speak and that we can hear and respond to him. While this seems so basic, many of us have seen people abuse this idea and end up shying away from listening to God. You’ve probably met someone who starts every sentence with “God told me to” – in college it was a common excuse for breaking up with someone. So, in another classic example of our human inability to balance things, we tend to swing from that extreme to the other – deciding that God doesn’t speak to us personally and individually but instead speaks only through the Bible. God did give us the Bible as his word to us, but that doesn’t mean we should cut off the possibility of him speaking to us directly. Instead we have to practice discerning God’s voice from all the other messages in our minds. Smith writes, “The words of the apostle in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, ‘Do not quench the Spirit,’ are followed in verse 21 by the exhortation, ‘Test everything.'”

Of discernment, he writes,

“Discernment is the most effective where there is a healthy balance between a Calvinist self-suspicion and a Wesleyan self-confidence. We see through a glass darkly, we are sinful, and our motives are never pure. On the other hand, we have the assurance of our Lord that he will be our Shepherd and the promise of Christ that the Spirit of God will be with us and in us.”

2. Our expectations and God’s will for someone are not the same things!

I think most of us have thought, at some point or other, that we really knew what someone else should be doing with their lives (or you’ve had other people tell you what they think you should be doing!). Maybe we’ve had a similar experience and think their experience should follow ours. We really might have valuable advice to give, but sometimes we’re just exalting our own preferences or methods to the level of God’s will. Smith writes,

“We must free one another to choose. We need to enable each individual to respond to God for themselves and resist the temptation to be God to one another or assume that we know what God’s will is for our neighbor . . . we can be discerning communities only if we make it clear and state it often that we believe in the capacity of each Christian to hear the voice of God and that we do not equate the voice of God with the expectations we have of one another.”

3. God’s silence or “absence”

Smith discusses this several times throughout the book. We want answers in these times of choice and what happens if we don’t hear anything?! Smith writes that God doesn’t necessarily always guide us clearly or give us a simple answer because letting us struggle to figure it out is part of our growth. As we wrestle with decisions, we have to develop our trust in him, be honest with ourselves and mature. I’ll leave you with this quote to chew on,

“The cloud of uncertainty that many Christians feel about their decisions, Tozer says, arises out of a failure to see that God has given them the freedom ‘to follow their own personal bent, guided only by their love for Him and for their fellow men.’ Tozer stresses that this kind of decision-making is not inherently less spiritual. We actually honor God by exercising our judgment and even our preferences.”

Agree? Disagree? What do you think of these concepts?

Listening is Hard

Recently, I shared about finally letting go and seeing a new way forward with my book project. I got some very encouraging words from several people about how great it was that I was so tuned in and quickly sensed the Holy Spirit’s guidance in this area. It was encouraging to hear that because most of the time, I don’t think I am a very good listener. I wish was, considering how so much of following your calling requires listening. Sometimes research just doesn’t translate into practice very fast! Listening is an incredibly difficult discipline and more often than not, I’m a better example of ignoring clear messages.

Consider how this whole project started. At the beginning of 2010, I began to get a strong sense that I should start a new “project” but I didn’t know what it should be. Did I take the time to sit and listen? To ask God what he thought?

Of course not, I got right down to brainstorming and trying to think it out for myself. I got restless, frustrated, made some attempts to start different things but nothing caught on. It took me until the end of February to suddenly realize why I wasn’t getting anywhere. Here’s my journal entry from February 23, 2010:

Dear God,

I feel discontent with life again. A feeling of why am I bored at work and wondering if I should be more proactive in initiating some of the changes that are so desperately needed. I feel like I’m all talk and no action. Help me to see why you have me there.

I’ve been trying so hard to brainstorm, plan, think and analyze new ideas for work, how to make John’s business work, how to live a more free life but I’m finding it nearly impossible to get anywhere. Are you sending me a message saying ‘Why aren’t you asking me first? How about spending a little time listening?’

If you are, then I think I’ve finally gotten the message.

If a journal entry can have a sheepish expression, this one sure does. The cool thing is that five days later this calling project was born! Pausing for God’s plan is hard when you’re an idea person and you just want to get going on something. But this project has been going for almost two years now (much longer than any of my personal projects) and maybe it will go a lot longer if I remember to be patient.

If you’re struggling with listening, you’re not alone. It’s hard to calm our whirling brains down enough to hear anything sometimes. Plus there’s no formula and no set method either! What is encouraging to me is that God is so patient. I didn’t miss my chance to participate in this project because I didn’t pay attention for two months. He still gave it to me when I finally showed up. I’m very grateful for that.

And speaking of being grateful, Happy American Thanksgiving on Thursday!


Listening Exercises

If you need clarity and want to develop your ability to assess what your life is telling you, here are some options for different “listening” exercises you can do. If you love efficiency like I do, you can probably find a way to wrap all of these exercises into one.

If you’re not the kind of person who usually journals, I would say give it a try. Writing a journal can be useful to anyone, even if you don’t normally like to write. If it really sounds awful, tell yourself, you’re going to only do it for one month and then see what happens. Otherwise, get creative – to avoid writing, you could draw, sketch, collage or record yourself talking!

1. Keep a Calling Journal

When you sit down to journal, ask yourself the following questions and track the patterns you see over time.

  • What work were you doing last time you were so absorbed that you lost track of time?
  • What issues or causes really move you?
  • What problems in the world or work world do you think need solving?
  • When you lie awake at night obsessing over the state of the universe, what obsesses you most?
  • What are you constantly reading about and talking to people about?

(this exercise is from Whistle while you Work by Richard Leider and David Shapiro)

2. Daily Examen

This exercise is based on/adapted from Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. This is probably most effective written down, but these questions can also simply be prayed through.

  • Ask God to help you identify the moment today for which you are most grateful.  Recall that moment in as much detail as possible. What made it so special?
  • Ask God to help you identify the moment today for which you are least grateful. What made it so difficult?
  • Follow this with “When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining out of me today?”

Try to keep the Daily Examen as consistently as possible. At regular intervals look back over your journal entries and consider:

  • What might these writings be telling you about how God is speaking to you?
  • What do these writings suggest about your identity? Your purpose? Your direction?

(this originally came from Trinity Western University’s website although it looks like the link is no longer available)

3. The Morning Pages

Every morning before beginning your work, write exactly three pages of everything and anything. “Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.”

For those of you who cannot imagine ever writing longhand again, there is a 21st century method for doing this is at (750 words equals approx three handwritten pages). This can be especially useful for clearing your mind of all those little nagging items you can’t stop thinking about, worries, anxieties, hopes, or just your to-do list. You’re seriously allowed to write down ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING.

At the end of a month of morning pages, block out an hour or so to reread the morning pages and see what you find there. They’re a great reference point for reviewing your life and the discipline of doing them is a great kick-start to other creative activities.

(This exercise is from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron)

Listening is one of the most important skills we can develop, especially in regards to following our callings.

Recovering our Callings

“Calls are where we’ve worn footpaths to and from issues in our lives. The dream that won’t go away is a call, as is the symptom that recurs, the section of the bookstore you always go to first, and the lesson you’ve endlessly had to learn, or are intent on impressing on your children . . . in discovering such patterns, people who feel that they don’t have a call, may be surprised to find not only that they do but that they always have, and that they’ve been responding or reacting to it for much of their lives.” – Gregg Levoy

Two things in this quote are interesting to me:

1. We tend to think Calling will take us away from where we currently are but in fact most of the time I think our callings start right where we are. We want a big mission delivered by lightning bolt, when really most of the time we’re already living it in the small and daily choices we’re making – no experience is wasted. Calling is about noticing and being available – it’s more about how we respond to life. A calling isn’t necessarily only a specific task we figure out and then go do somewhere else someday. It can be a specific project, but it’s more important that we develop an attitude of availability than that we search for one particular mission.

2. God can speak to us through many avenues, other people, dreams, our desires, issues we keep facing. In our busy lives, we’re often oblivious so I think God uses a lot of different methods to reach people. How do you think he reaches you?

When we decide to work on “recovering” our callings, developing our self-awareness and listening abilities are two key factors. If you have time, take a moment to just think through the quote – do you have dreams that won’t go away, lessons you’re endlessly learning? Is there a glimmer of your calling in these things?