Spiritual Practices: Archetypes — The Orphan

Little orphan annie

We are continuing our study of archetypes as a spiritual practice, through the book, Illuminating the Way, by Christine Valters Paintner. You’re welcome to get the book and follow along, or just enjoy the blog and comments. This week we are in the third chapter, the archetype of the Orphan.

To review, archetypes are “instinctual and universal patterns of thought developed in human beings over thousands of years.” (pg. xi) “The Fundamental experience of the Orphan is abandonment, feeling like an exile, and longing for an experience of being at home.” (pg.54)

The inner Orphan invites us to feel the pain of unpleasant experiences… great. This is something I’ve been working on for a long time. In the past, if I had a feeling of rejection, loss or grief, I would pull away from it and stuff those feelings deep. This led to also being cut off from good feelings of joy and happiness because we can’t separate ourselves from only half our feelings.

When I was younger, I lived in Israel for a summer. The Israelis are often referred to as “Sabra,” which is a cactus fruit that is hard on the outside and sweet in the middle. It is hard, at first, to get past the tough exteriors of native-born Israelis, but once you do, you find the sweet, tender person inside. When I was living in there, I was given a nickname by my housemates, “Tough Cookie.” This was not a compliment. God used my time in Israel to help crack open my tough exterior, a safety wall I had built to protect me from my own abandonment issues and help me learn to face my inner pain. They say Israel is like the salt-filled dead sea, it exposes all of your wounds but also helps them heal more quickly. That was my experience for sure.

Welcoming difficult feelings is something I’m still working on decades later. I find the Welcoming Prayer most helpful. You can read more about it here but just let me say it involves sitting with the uncomfortable feelings, giving them space as an important part of you, asking what they need, and then letting them go.

“Conscious suffering is the gateway to our own spiritual awakening and maturity.” (pg. 55)

dorothy day

Our book uses Dorothy Day as an icon for the Orphan, as she was a woman who cared for many orphans and widows. She was committed to social justice at a time when few were talking about this topic. You should google her, as she was quite before her time.

The Orphan is a very popular archetype in literature, especially children’s lit. Think of Little Orphan Annie, Anne of Green Gables, and Oliver. When I was a child, my best friend always wanted to play horses while I wanted to play orphanage. It was not because I had a terrible home life but because I was a fan of The Boxcar Children mysteries. Orphans had all the fun and the inner resources to meet whatever came at them. I made orphans the heroes of one of my book series, The Finding Home Series.

We are living in a time of many difficult realities. Perhaps this has always been true, but now they are thrust into our faces every day on the internet. How do we survive the weight of them? How do we keep from being overwhelmed by the immensity of the pain we are exposed to? Our inner Orphan can help us by giving us strength and resilience. I don’t know who said it first, but I love an idea I heard from Glennon Doyle on a podcast recently, “Just do the next good thing.” That is, we can always do something simple and immediate, in the present. We can’t do it all, but we must do something. This takes the pressure off being overwhelmed and thinking that we must save the world.

Of course, the Orphan has a shadow side, as do all the parts of our true selves. The Shadow of the orphan could be fear of abandonment leads us to abandon others first, or do something to force someone to reject us in advance. It can also lead to betraying our own hopes and dreams for fear of disappointment.

In what ways have you faced feelings of abandonment? How can you use your inner Orphan to help you face discouraging feelings or experiences? Have you experienced the Orphan’s shadow?



Photo Credit. Little Orphan Annie: Young actor Aileen Quinn made her film debut in the 1982 smash-hit musical Annie. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Dorothy Day



Spiritual Practices: Archetypes — The Mother

the mother

We are continuing our study of archetypes as a spiritual practice through the book, Illuminating the Way, by Christine Valters Paintner. You’re welcome to get the book and follow along, or just enjoy the blog and comments. This week we are in the third chapter, the archetype of the Mother.

To review from my last blog, Archetypes are “instinctual and universal patterns of thought developed in human beings over thousands of years.” (pg. xi) “The Mother, in the fullness of her form, is the source of all life and nourishment, of unconditional love and care, the generous flow of abundance and grace.” (pg. 38)

Boy, I thought the Sovereign was a rough chapter. The archetype of the Mother has brought up all of my own mama drama. I had to read the chapter twice.  Mothers are complicated. My own mother was incredibly beautiful and fun and adventurous. She was also a workaholic during the day and an alcoholic at night. As you can imagine, trying to work through the shadow issues I may have inherited from my own mother has been a painful, lifelong work, some of which I’ll share here.

But first, the good stuff. I think it is interesting to look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, as an icon of this archetype. As a non-Catholic, I have not spent much time thinking about Mary, save the yearly Christmas story. I loved the idea that she was there for Jesus birth with her brave YES, and she was also there at Jesus death, with a gut-wrenching NOOOOO.

mary mother of jesus

The idea that the inner Mother helps us call forth a YES to birth new things, new ideas, and creativity, while also holding us during our loss and grief was very comforting to me. I grew up with a very masculine idea of God and I’m eager to press into the feminine side of God. I understand thresholds, having navigated, and helped others navigate, both physical births and deaths, as well as other kinds of thresholds. I love the idea that the Mother is there to help lead us, comfort and guide us over those thresholds.

I was intrigued that our inner Mother is to be a source of stability for us. She helps us stay in difficult places and feel our hard feelings. She gives us love and compassion and shows us the gifts that come from staying in those liminal places of unknowing. I need that right now. Even though I’m older, I’m in a very “what am I supposed to do with my life” space. It is difficult and uncomfortable.

My own mother was a seven on the Enneagram. She craved new experiences like a junkie craves drugs. She worked as a nurse, a dental assistant, a hairdresser, a real-estate agent, and she owned two different beauty shops. We moved every three years whether we needed to or not, and difficult feelings like sadness or anger were not welcomed in our house. As a sensitive child, I was labeled a crybaby and I learned at a young age to stuff my hurt feelings.

Sorting through these patterns has been a life work for me; to stay with hard feelings and not run from them. I’m learning to practice the welcoming prayer and acknowledge that these feelings are a part of me and learn from their wisdom and pain. I have worked with my husband to create a stable home for my children, ignoring the internal clock that tells me every three years that it’s time to move, change jobs, or run away.

As I did the imagery of sitting in the presence of the Mother, I felt that she wanted to hold me. I was reluctant but as I allowed myself to be held, I received a mother’s blessing, calling me out of my shell to risk again. She called me to create boldly and to hold my head high, walking in the confidence of my sixty years of wisdom, love, and acceptance of others.

I loved this prayer at the end of the chapter,

“May you be blessed with a yes on your lips and in your heart to the holy invitations that come your way. May you find yourselves in intimate partnership at all of the times of birth that you are called to labor through, and may you know yourself held through a thousand losses and times of grief. May the Mother nourish you with lavish generosity.” (pg. 48)

I’d love to hear how you relate to the archetype of the mother in your own life, or how your own mother gave you grist for the mill of your own growth. Feel free to share in the comments below.


Photo Credits. The Mother, Mary Mother of Jesus

Spiritual Practices: Archetypes — The Sovereign


We are continuing our study of archetypes as a spiritual practice through the book, Illuminating the Way, by Christine Valters Paintner. You’re welcome to get the book and follow along, or just enjoy the blog and comments. This week we are in the second chapter, the archetype of The Sovereign.

To review from my last blog, Archetypes are “instinctual and universal patterns of thought developed in human beings over thousands of years.” (pg. xi) And this week we look at The Sovereign: “Sovereignty is about being centered in your own power and taking full responsibility for meeting your needs.“ (pg. 20)

This archetype was harder for me to relate to than The Fool. There is a bit of “learned helplessness” in my life based on my family of origin issues, so the idea of coming into my own power feels like a shirt that doesn’t fit comfortably. Also, having been happily married for thirty-five years has meant that there is another person involved in meeting my needs; he is a wonderful man who loves to help me. So…what does it mean for me to embrace my inner Sovereign?

I love the idea of birthright. It is the idea we were divinely gifted with certain unique skills, gifts, and talents with which we can bless the world. In fact, I wrote my first book series, The Birthright Series, around that idea. But, Valters suggest that The Sovereign might be a midlife archetype as it takes a long time to come into your wisdom enough to know your place in the world. This is something I’m still trying to figure out. For me, finding my place in the world is not a linear process, but a spiral I keep coming back to as my life continues to evolve and change. Who I was, in my last big understanding of myself, had to be deconstructed so that I could figure out who I am now — and how to use my wisdom and power to create safe spaces for others. It is an ongoing process that I’m still working on.

king david

My other issue with this chapter was Valters’ use of the icon of King David from the Hebrew scriptures. David had a lot of good qualities: He was a shepherd, a poet, a singer, a dancer with joy (channeling his inner Fool); he was brave against Goliath, and he wrote great Psalms. And, he was also a murderer, a rapist (In my opinion Bathsheba had no ability to say no to a King, and he used his power and privilege against her. You’re welcome to debate that in the comment section). He was a terrible parent, a serial adulterer, etc. So,  I had some baggage to get through when Valters asked us to imagine spending time in his presence. But even that was a graced encounter for me.

I imagined kneeling before him (he was the King after all) and he put his hand on my head and said, “Forgive me.”

I used to work with college students and take them to a week-long camp. There we studied the New Testament book of Mark and eventually got to the story of the woman with a flow of blood (Mark 5:25–34). One intriguing part of this story involves the woman telling Jesus her “whole story.” Since it is recorded in Mark that she’d been bleeding for twelve years and exhausted all her money on doctors, I assume that was a LONG story. We all have LONG stories of pain and suffering. After studying this passage, we gave the students the opportunity to tell their “whole story.” This story-telling often went on until two a.m. One year my male co-leader, after hearing so many women share their stories of sexual abuse, got on his knees and asked the womens’ forgiveness on behalf of all men who had harmed them. It was a powerful moment. He had done nothing to any of us, yet he was willing to stand in the gap for the men that had done harm and ask forgiveness. It was an incredibly healing experience. I felt that power of The Sovereign again when, in my imagination, I saw King David ask my forgiveness. Sovereignty is about owning up to your choices, including your mistakes, and using your power to heal and to bless the world. Now that is something I can try to live into.

The shadow side of The Sovereign is getting caught up in power for the sake of power and misusing it. We certainly see too much of that in today’s world. But another way the shadow reveals itself is in becoming a martyr and not taking responsibility for caring for our own needs, often while resenting those that try to help us. As an Enneagram Two, that is something where I need to be careful. I could easily live in martyrdom and I’m sure I have in the past.

I love the idea that, “Sovereigns create safe and healthy spaces for others to grow and develop their gifts and are never threatened by others living into their own power as well.” (Pg.22) This will be my take home. This is really what gives me joy and life, creating safe spaces for others to grow and being the champion of others’ successes.

What are your thoughts about The Sovereign? Do you see this archetype in yourself? Do you struggle with its shadow? What gifts of the Sovereign do you want to bring to the table of your life?

Photo: Crown

Photo: King David


Spiritual Practices: Archetypes – The Fool


My next twelve blogs will look at twelve archetypes as described in the book, Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics, by Christine Valters Paintner. If you would like to get the book and read along, that would be fabulous. I think it’s a really fun read. It has fun and interesting features, like Icons, Scripture and mandala art — and there is no way I can cover all that in this blog, so you might enjoy checking it out. I also think this book would be fun to discuss in an in-person group and I might try that later too. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the introduction and the first chapter.

Archetypes are “instinctual and universal patterns of thought developed in human beings over thousands of years.” (pg. xi)

They are useful in spiritual practices because they help us get in touch with different parts of ourselves that may be previously hidden to us but can be helpful when revealed. It also helps us get in touch with the shadow sides of ourselves that might be keeping us from living from our true selves.

I have never studied archetypes, so this book is a revelation to me. When I saw the first chapter was entitled, “The Fool,” I thought, “I’m not like that at all.” Boy was I wrong. I’m glad that the author chose St. Francis as the Archetype for The Fool as he has always been a favorite historical mentor of mine. He is most often depicted with birds and other creatures around him, as he loved all living things. He left a wealthy Italian family, gave all he had to the poor and wore a simple brown habit. He lived among and ministered to the marginalized. The church, at that time, was all about money, so he was living in a way that seemed foolish to those in power. He challenged the status quo and began a whole new movement of like-minded followers.

The world could use some more Fools right now, right?

I so relate to St. Francis and the archetype of The Fool. “He described nature as a theophany, a place of divine encounter and intimate relationship.” (pg. 3) If you’ve been following my blogs for any time you know I feel the same way. The “thinnest” places for me are out in the middle of a forest or by the ocean.

It’s only been within the last six years that I’ve identified with my inner Fool. When I aligned myself with my friends in the LGBTQIA community, I was called many things, ”foolish” among them. It was painful to have been an influential teacher, trainer, and speaker, in the evangelical community, and suddenly become “suspect,” and rapidly uninvited to places of influence. I had not changed, people’s perspective of me had changed when I started speaking my truth.

The Fool is like a prophet sometimes, telling the truth by standing on the outside of traditional thinking and seeing things differently. Truth-telling, done with love and humor, can be a subversive act. It can also be painful and lonely, so you have to find other fools to stand with you. St. Francis started a movement of Holy Fools that had a profound effect on the world, then and now.


Each archetype has a high side and a low side, a true self and a shadow self, much like how we talk about the Enneagram. The shadow side of The Fool involves hurting others by using humor to tear them down. I have definitely done that and it grieves me terribly. Once you say something flippantly, to be funny, no matter how many times you apologize, it can’t be unsaid. Another shadow side of The Fool is cynicism. When I was in college I was often referred to as “guileless.” Unfortunately, that is not true of me anymore. The world is such a difficult and hurting place that I’m often given to cynicism and despair.

So, for me, The Fool challenges me to weigh my words, speak the truth in love and not use humor to hurt. Also, I want to keep hoping for a better world and not give into cynicism. When I need strength to stand against injustice, I need to channel my inner Fool. And, The Fool is fun! The Fools energy helps us to not take ourselves so seriously.

Do you relate to The Fool? I’d love to hear about it. There are many archetypes so there may be some we relate to more than others, but I bet we can find some of each one in ourselves and I think the goal is to bring all of their voices and wisdom to the table to be strong, complete persons. Remember this started as an exercise to find out what it means to be our True Selves. “The self that arrives is the self that was loved into existence by Divine Love. This is the person we are destined from eternity to become – the I that is hidden in the I AM.” David G. Benner


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

christmas 2018

Just a short note to say I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and look forward to spending time with you in the New Year!

Remember: Starting the first Tuesday in January, my next twelve blogs will look at twelve archetypes using as my guide the book: Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics by Christine Valters Paintner. If you’d like to get the book and read along that would be fabulous. I think it will be a really fun read.

Spiritual Practice: Metabolizing Change


Remember: Starting the first Tuesday in January, my next twelve blogs will look at twelve archetypes using as my guide the book: Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics by Christine Valters Paintner. If you’d like to get the book and read along that would be fabulous. I think it will be a really fun read.

Now…on to metabolizing change.

If you’ve been with me a while, you know that I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I choose a word, phrase, or picture to try and live into for the next year. Today I listened to an interview my friend Debra Trappen (business coach extraordinaire) did with Tara-Nicholle Nelson (the woman behind My Fitness Pal). I love the six questions Tara uses to prepare for the new year and I’m going to start journaling them to prepare myself for 2019. I’ll attach that interview below plus a free webinar Tara is offering this Friday for making 2019 intentions. You can hear the whole chat and possibly get the webinar too but they said I could share the questions.

Tara says the idea of Metabolizing came from Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward.

When we want to make a transition from one year to another, or one job to another, or any kind of transition, it is helpful to think about how your body metabolizes food. Our body keeps what is lean and nourishing and gets rid of the rest. As we look back on the year, or job, or relationship that is ending, we can metabolize it — decide what is good, what we want to keep, and what we want to let go of.

This idea helped Tara create a Transition Doc on her computer for the new year. I did this for the last job I left. I wrote down all the important things I wanted the person coming in behind me to know. 

We can do this as we review and metabolize the last year. It’s like asking your 2018 self what you want your 2019 self to know.

writing newyear.jpg

Tara uses these six sets of questions to help prepare her for the new year.

  1. What do you appreciate and what really worked for you this year? Just brainstorm this out on paper without worrying about making it pretty or grammatically correct. There will be good things you want to celebrate and there will be some of the hard things that turned out to be useful — hard things that lead to your growth and development. Write it all down.
  2. What questions did I answer this year? What new clarity or inspiration did I receive this year? What things which were confusing became clear? I love this set of questions. I always want to be growing and learning new things!
  3. What became part of my identity? How did “who I am” shift this year? This is important. Sometimes we think, “This is who I am,” as if it is a static construct when actually we are always evolving and changing. A better sentence might be, “This is who I am today.”
  4. What am I ready to release? These may be things we feel didn’t go as we wanted or things we just need to let go of because they don’t serve us well anymore. As Debra Trappen always says, “Shame off you,” let it all go, opening your hands to let it go prepares you to be able to receive new things!
  5. What do I want? What verbs do I want to do? What do I want to create? How do I want to feel? Verbalizing these feelings and desires can take them to the forefront of your attention where you are able to access and move toward them more quickly.
  6. What questions do I need answers to and who might be able to point me in the right direction? Brainstorming this might give you an impulse to reach out to someone; do it right away! That still small voice inside you is Divine wisdom and as you move toward that nudge, life-changing things can happen.

Okay, I’m ready to think through these questions. Let me know if you want to join me and how it goes for you.

debra11  You can find this interview here.

tara nicoleSign up for Tara’s webinar here.


Clock Photo

Writing Poto

Spiritual Practice: Finding Your True Self


If you ever want to work hard on your own junk, try being unemployed for six months. I found myself in this space. At first, it was like an extended vacation. Then an actual vacation: three weeks in Denmark, Scotland, and Ireland. Fantastic. Then one week of excruciating jet lag (how come no one ever mentions this part?). I thought I was coming home to a job, but when I arrived home, that job had evaporated. So, the two extra months off have been difficult. But I did enjoy the slow mornings, daily exercise and two or more hours to read, pray and write. The problem is, what then? Looking at blank calendar day after day got old fast.

It’s a good thing I was reading “The Gift of Being Yourself,” by David Benner. He talked about finding your True Self and I’ve always been curious about what that means and how to find it.

WARNING: Finding your true self means you have to face your shadow self, with all of the layers of false self you have developed over the years through your familial expectations, life experiences, and your own inner critic. This unearthing will take a lifetime.

But, being out of work those last two months and reading this book helped me get my head around the idea, so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned with you.

First some terms:

True Self: The person you are that was “loved into existence by the Divine.” You are as unique as a snowflake. You bring the fullness of who you were created to be into the world — with your gifts and talents — and then you love others with that true self. Nothing else is needed. Just you, being you, loving others, will heal the world. You, resting in Divine love, using your God-given gifts – is enough.

False Self: Unfortunately, like a real snowflake gets dirtied with car exhaust, this beautiful snowflake self gets layered over with lies that can seem both good and bad, but are ultimately inaccurate. Some of this falseness comes from your family of origin. You might have heard, “You’re the special one.” This can be just as harmful as, “You’re the stupid one.” It begins to build a false identity. We get similar false images from society, which gives us messages like, “Women can’t lead.” Or “Men shouldn’t cry.” We internalize these messages and give them to ourselves as, “I’m not good enough. She (or he) is better at this than I am.”

snowflake 2


How do we peel off these layers to find our true selves? This may take some time but here are some ideas for starting.


  • Be honest: Brainstorm all the things that are true about yourself and write them down. Your list might include, “I’m a loyal friend,” and “I’m judgmental.” Write it all, good and bad.  See it honestly and accept that all the parts of you, right now this minute, the good and the bad, are all loved unconditionally by God. Sit with that truth.


  1. Look at your list and identify where those characteristics came from: Did you get your dad’s love of reading? Your mom’s love of hard work? Was your best friend a cynic and you admired and emulated that trait? Find the origins of your false self and the nuggets of your true self.
  2. Then look at each characteristic and decide: Is this characteristic something I want to keep or let go. We have to acknowledge that each one came to us as a form of protection at the time, but perhaps now it is no longer necessary or beneficial in life and we can let them go. For instance, perhaps you developed a wall of protection as a child that kept you safe, but as an adult, it is keeping you from being intimate with another person. It might be time to let that wall come down.
  3. Decide that each time you become aware of a false part of yourself is active, a part you want to let go, acknowledge it, thank it, and dismiss it as no longer necessary. Each time you become aware of a true part of yourself, welcome and reinforce it.

What is the goal?
Benner says, “The self that arrives is the self that was loved into existence by Divine Love. This is the person we are destined from eternity to become – the I that is hidden in the I AM.” (pg. 110)

Tell me about your process in finding your true self. I’d love to hear about it.

To continue the understanding of the true self, I’ve decided to do a twelve blog look at archetypes using the book: Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics by Christine Valters Paintner I’d love you to read it with me and follow along. So, if you want to book-club it, get the book and start reading. You have until the first Tuesday in January to get through the first chapter. I will be illuminating for us all.


Photo Credits: Top SnowflakeSecond snowflake.