I love you so much I could eat you up: what I’m learning from thirteenth century nuns

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Overlook at New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA. Photo by The Manual.

Jesus knows how bodies work

Your hunger for truth, beauty, and goodness is real. Really take, really eat, really be fed. It is here for you. I am here for you. I had been going to mass for months and the real presence was my last obstacle. At a New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA, we gathered around the altar with a few other people at a daily mass, and as the priest spoke the words, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you,” he held up the bread that the monks made there, and I felt in my body that this was Jesus, that he was speaking to me. It was less a command and more permission granted, affirmation given. You are hungry, and I am here to feed you. I was overwhelmed to be seen and known in this way, and I sobbed through the rest of this very intimate mass.  

That kind of mystical experience of the eucharist has only happened that one time for me. I became Catholic shortly after becoming a mother, and my typical experience of receiving the eucharist is much more mundane. I’m usually herding a preschooler in front of me or holding a squirmy toddler. I don’t often feel that I have much of a devotion at all to Jesus in the eucharist. And yet, the grace is still there. He still feeds me. And he feeds the baby inside me, which is growing without conscious thought or effort on my part. Jesus knows how bodies work.

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“If I had you, I would eat you up, I love you so much!”

In Caroline Walker Bynum’s essay, “Women Mystics and Eucharistic Devotion in the Thirteenth Century,” she explores how, for many women in this time, “The eucharist was … a moment of encounter with that humanitas Christi … For thirteenth-century women this humanity was, above all, Christ’s physicality, his corporality, his being-in-the-body-ness; Christ’s humanity was Christ’s body and blood” (p.129). These women had a profound understanding of Jesus’s experience of living in a body that impacted everything about how they understood him and their own bodies. “The humanity of Christ with which women joined in the eucharist was the physical Jesus of the manger and of Calvary. Women from all walks of life saw in the host and the chalice Christ the baby, Christ the bridegroom, Christ the tortured body on the cross” (p.130). And, in a way that seems crazy to us now, these women knew that that they could unite with Christ’s sufferings in their bodies and express their love for him in a physical way.

It is this “being-in-the-body-ness” that I experience when I am tired and distracted at mass. It is not removed from Jesus’s experience. He knows what it is like to be in a tired, distracted body. It is this “being-in-the-body-ness” I live when I look at my baby and am overwhelmed with love for this truly good, undeserved gift. In and through the body, this mystery of new life came to me. When I smother my baby in kisses and nibble at her chubby cheeks, that feeling of I love you so much, I can’t get enough of you, I just want to eat you, is not removed from Jesus’s experience either. God created us, in our bodies, with an appetite for what is truly good. Bynum writes, “Both in a eucharistic context and outside it, the humanity of Christ was often described as ‘being eaten’ … Anna Vorchtlin of Engelthal exclaimed, upon receiving a vision of the baby Jesus: ‘If I had you, I would eat you up, I love you so much!’” (p. 129-130) These thirteenth-century women knew, in a way I am just beginning to discover, that this appetite is real. We live in bodies that literally hunger for the good and beautiful, and it is Jesus we desire. This is my body, take and eat. He is here, to feed us.

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Visitors join the monks around the altar at mass. Photo by New Camaldoli Hermitage

using my gifts

In the first trimester of this pregnancy, when I was feeling super tired and introverted, I found myself using the pregnancy as an excuse to get out of social commitments. I know we planned to hang out tonight, but actually, I’m pregnant and I just want to go to bed at 8pm (real text by moi). Right after that, I was invited to give a talk to some undergrad women for an Advent day of reflection. And I jumped at the chance – it did not even cross my mind to say no.

Before I left my work with campus ministry in California, one of my colleagues, Wes, spoke a word of encouragement that I’ve been thinking about lately. He said something like, I hope this next season of life would give you the chance to use gifts that you haven’t been able to in your work now. I was about to have two babies under two and move to a new state. I remember thinking, Interesting… I have no idea what that would look like. 

Almost two years later, I’m seeing that this stay-at-home mom, Notre Dame grad-wife life has given me the chance to flex old muscles. Two months after we arrived, I started campaigning with brand-new friends and neighbors for family student housing to continue after the demolition of University Village – that was a wild ride that I got surprisingly fired up over (hello, eight wing of this enneagram nine). And little opportunities have popped up since then, that have tapped into my love for writing and public speaking, and have been doable with young kids and have just felt right. 

Along the way, I’ve been learning more about myself. About what gives me energy and life, and finding the courage to say yes to those things. In the fall, I got connected with a very flexible, part-time editing job, helping students with undergrad and grad school application essays. I started this, my own lil blog, and have really enjoyed having a space to share some of my thoughts and reflections (with my ten followers, lol). And most recently, I wrote a post for the McGrath Institute’s new blog about interruptions. 

There have been other opportunities that I’ve gotten really excited about, but the timing just hasn’t been right (like this new Catholic literary journal I found on Instagram that was accepting fiction and poetry submissions that week). I’m learning to be patient and trust God’s timing with this stuff more, rather than try to force things to happen, or be all angsty about it. And mostly it’s just been a cool journey of becoming more confident that yes, I do have gifts and strengths, and yes, there will be opportunities to use them, even in this season.

 

january thoughts on art and motherhood

A new mom friend from Evangeline’s preschool shared this essay with me (thanks, Rose!) and I loved this part especially.

“But at my most hopeful I think that writing and art are essential to motherhood and vice versa. Each accesses the most ancient, the most universal, the most complex emotions. Each requires the nurturing of a new consciousness, a new being, a new way of seeing. Each is endlessly different and endlessly dull, endlessly challenging and spiked with constant disappointment and beauty.” 

I need this reminder in the monotony of winter. As the newness of the new year lessens and January presses on with long dark mornings and gray skies. Each day is spiked with beauty, and each moment with my girls is endlessly different and endlessly dull. I marvel over the little sentences Zelie is putting together and how she plays independently with her toys when Evangeline is at school. I find myself surprised at the pictures Evangeline is drawing these days, the shapes she now makes, the colors she puts together. And I die with frustration when Zelie wakes up in the middle of the night and then naps through the morning spin class I have come to count on with near-obsession. Or when Evangeline needs to be dragged to the potty before she pees her pants. And something about the gray and the cold makes it harder for me to recover from these attacks of extreme grumpiness.

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creativity, but not where I  appreciate it.

All the while, I am looking for ways to create. To write, to share my thoughts. To add beauty to our home. To try a new craft or baking project. Winter lends itself to this, with all the time spent inside and inside my own head. And most of the time I’m not even thinking about my biggest winter project, which is constantly growing, without any conscious effort on my part. Week after week I am surprised to see how big she is and how my belly is growing. It’s just happening. Ordinary, ancient, and amazing.

that time I ugly cried at a poetry open mic

I recently had an experience that I think could be described as mystical, in that it felt like a sudden and unexpected outpouring of grace. I’ve been trying to process what happened and why it happened ever since, because although I am very grateful, it was also extremely embarrassing.

On Wednesday night last month, Chris told me that the after-party for the Thursday night prayer service led by the seminarians would be a poetry open mic, and asked if I would want to read one of my poems. I immediately said no. But then, the next day when his classmate texted me asking if I would read a poem if she did, I reconsidered. Two invitations? I decided I would read my villanelle, but I would also read a very good villanelle.

This prayer service is held in the chapel of the seminary on campus, which has the acoustics of a huge bathroom. The seminarian leading the singing doesn’t need a microphone, his voice carries easily. And the response from the pews is thunderous. It is a beautiful time of candle-lit prayer, most of it sung, with a couple short readings and a homily. The last line that closes the evening is the seminarian singing, Let grace come and this world pass away. And the response is, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 

This last line, the chorus of voices echoing around me, got me. I had this sudden, deep longing for everything to be made right, a strong desire for Jesus. And the way I experience this kind of longing is through crying. (I’ve mentioned I refer to it somewhat jokingly as having the gift of tears, which is a thing, I just don’t know if I really have it). I teared up but quickly pulled it together because everyone was starting to leave and head downstairs for the open mic part of the evening.

After grabbing tea and scones, Chris and I found seats right in front and sat chatting with his classmates, waiting for the poetry part to begin. I was nervous because as it started, it seemed most people were reciting poems they had memorized, or doing original spoken word poems. I firmly planned to just read the two poems I had brought. Some were funny, some were funny and high energy, and mine were neither. But when it was my turn, I stood up, put on the designated “poetry scarf,” and began.

The first poem went fine. I did a little introduction about villanelles, said I’d be reading a really good one for them first, and read it. Then I turned to mine and felt it deserved a little introduction, too. I think I made the mistake of being rather vulnerable. I shared that this poem was about the Visitation, and that as I was a fairly new convert to Catholicism, I was still getting to know Mary. I like this part of scripture because it shows us Mary from Elizabeth’s perspective, and gives us another glimpse into her life. By this time, my voice had started shaking. I realized that I had just opened up a lot of myself in front of about forty people, most of whom I didn’t know. But I took a deep breath and started reading my poem.

As I was reading, it was the strangest thing, it was like I was surprised by the poem. It’s about two women, two mothers with babies in their wombs, and I suddenly thought, I’m probably the only mother in this room. I read, “Already she faced her share of the sword,” and thought, who am I to be writing this about this woman? By the time I got to the line, “Blessed one! With your yes you moved us toward/the home we long for, and all things made right,” I had totally lost it. I was full on ugly crying in the middle of my own poem.

I garbled out the last two lines, muttered, “Sorry,” and tried to sink as quickly back into my seat as I could. I could not stop crying.

I was so embarrassed and I had no way to explain to all these strangers why I was crying. I wasn’t really sure why either. I tried to dismiss it – it’s just because I’m really tired. But as I tried to block out everyone around me and how ridiculous the situation was, I remembered that God usually does speak to me in deep ways through tears. And this had felt like grace – just much more publicly humiliating and therefore bewildering than I would have chosen.

Two days later I went to a lecture on campus about Chiara Lubich, who founded the lay movement, Focolare. I had no idea who she was but for whatever reason I wanted to go hear this talk. The professor spoke about Chiara’s focus on Maria Desolata  – Mary desolate.

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He said that Mary, at the foot of the cross, sees all of the misery and suffering of the world, and holds it all. That Maria Desolata was an icon for Chiara for looking unflinchingly and lovingly at a world in pain. Chiara wrote, “If Jesus forsaken seemed to us to be the pupil of God’s eye open onto the world, we can say that Mary desolate seems to us a kind of camera obscura taking in all that is negative in the world (Essential Writings: Spirituality, Dialogue, Culture, p. 299). And the professor commented, “The Mary who holds the disfigured Christ is also the one who can gaze objectively at the world in all of its disfigurement. Just as a photographic image is developed from a negative, Mary can hope for redemption of a fallen world in the midst of her and the world’s most complete agony (“Chiara Lubich: A Saint for a New Global Unity,” Casarella).” 

And I started to cry again. Was that what I had experienced, a tiny glimpse of this? Was that the grace?

Professor Casarella went on to say that Mary desolate also offers “an icon of knowing how to lose.” He summarized Chiara’s thoughts on this, saying, “Apart from her Son, Mary had very little. When she lost him in his Passion, the loss was total and decisive. But she saw this loss for what it really was. The one who prepared all her life to be alone, became Mother to each of us, to the whole of the world (Essential Writings p.302)… Her love, her capacity for giving is human, real, and maternal. It consists of a unique capacity to bear the sorrow of the world in one’s heart. According to Chiara, when a mother hopes all things for her child and puts up with all the troubles involved, she sees further than others. (“Chiara Lubich: A Saint for a New Global Unity,” Casarella). 

I was sitting next to one of Chris’s classmates and when she turned to me at this point to whisper something, she saw that I was crying. She looked concerned and asked,”Are you okay?” I nodded and whispered, “Yeah, I’m fine, I just had this mystical experience the other night and I think it’s making more sense to me right now.” She accepted this as a reasonable explanation (you’re the best, Jackie).

I’m still reflecting on all this and will be for a long time. But in the meantime, St. Therese of Lisieux said, “Everything is grace.” It took ugly crying in front of strangers but now I think I have some idea of what she meant.

first born out of my womb (a birth story three years late)

First born out of my womb, love of my life. That’s something my mom would say to me growing up, or at least how I remember it. Kinda weird but also great, like my mom (love you!). Chris and I are both oldest children and, let’s be real, there’s just something special about that first baby. Evangeline Marit made us parents for the first time. And, as I’m realizing, everything new about parenting, we’ll hit first with her. At least the basic developmental things in these early years. So, as we celebrated her third birthday last week and I reminisce about these last three years, I thought I’d finally typity type out a birth story. If that’s your kind of thing, read on.

I went into labor three days before my due date, on a Tuesday night. I was lying in bed when I felt some cramping start and I was like, OMG IS THIS IT?? It died away and came back and so I was like, THIS IS HAPPENING! THESE ARE CONTRACTIONS, THIS IS LABOR! I made Chris get out the contraction timing app we had found and start timing me and had all this adrenaline going. We were both so excited. Labor is exciting! I was also so curious what contractions would actually feel like, because talking to moms and reading about labor, it seemed like no one could describe the pain very well. I had in my head that labor would be like running a marathon. It would be hard, I’d need endurance, and perseverance, but I could trust my body, it was made to do this, and I could do this. I would be smart about it, I would breathe my way through the pain, it would be awesome. So, it’s Tuesday night, contractions start and I am SO PUMPED.

LOL.

Those contractions (which I know now were very early pre-labor contractions) kept me up most of the night and were still far apart and I could talk through them (which I felt great about, because I had nothing to compare them to). Wednesday morning Chris didn’t go to work and we tried to figure out what do to. We went to daily Mass, came home and I managed to nap a bit, and then we got fro-yo and went for a walk on West Cliff. Oh Santa Cruz, I miss you.

Wednesday night – after 24 hours of this early labor business – I tried going to sleep because I was exhausted. But there was still so much excitement and adrenaline, so not much sleep. By 10 or 11pm the contractions seemed to be getting a bit more intense, so we called my mom and she drove over from San Jose. We called the birth center to ask when to come in and to see if they had room for me. They said to wait until contractions were closer together, but that we could come later. My mom arrived and relieved Chris, who had been putting pressure on my back during contractions, so he could nap. Then, around 5am, we headed to the birth center. And I was still so pumped. Like, I appeared calm, and I was focusing on breathing, but I was just so excited that it was actually happening. And that I was handling it well, so far.

We checked in and I was only at 3 cm. I was a bit disappointed, but I shook it off. We got into my room, and it was super nice. I ate breakfast, walked around, sat on a yoga ball, took a shower, and walked some more. At this point, I hadn’t really slept for two nights, but I was still riding the adrenaline high. The contractions got more intense throughout the morning but I had my head in the game. I was breathing through the contractions and kept thinking, My body knows what to do. I kept imagining that the more painful the contractions got, the more effective they were, and surely this was going somewhere.

The midwife checked my progress around 11am and I was at 5 cm. Okay! And then, around 1pm, 7cm! Woot! Things were getting more intense, and this was slower than I’d liked, but there was progress! And then … still 7cm. An hour later they broke my water to try to speed things up, and checked again an hour after that, and said, “Oh, looks like it’s 6cm.”

WHAT! I’M GOING BACKWARD?? That’s when I realized, This is nothing like a marathon. I have no idea how long this race is. There are no mile markers, there is no way to tell when the end will be. And with that, I was crushed. I was so discouraged that Chris got really worried. Without telling me, he sent texts to family and friends asking them to pray for me. I think it was probably around this point, I remember asking, Can they just cut the baby out of me? I’d really be okay with that. 

The midwife suggested getting in the tub to try to help me relax and get some rest. Chris got in with me to keep putting pressure on my back, and I tried to lean on him and sleep a bit in between contractions. After the tub time, I rallied a bit and decided to ask for some intervention. They gave me fentanyl, which takes the edge off the contractions, but only lasts for an hour. Once I got the IV in, I had to stay in bed, which was super uncomfortable. I have memories of lying on my back, staring out the window at the sun setting, and crushing Chris or my mom’s hands every contraction while making the weirdest, terrible moaning sounds. Part of me was amused at how weird I sounded, part of me felt bad for Chris and my mom having to sit there and listen to it for so long, and part of me just wanted to black out and wake up with a baby outside of my body.

Finally, around 8:30 or 9pm, I got an epidural. Sitting still on the edge of the bed for the needle shot was hellish, but at this point I didn’t care, because relief was finally coming. It had been 48 hours at this point. Once the epidural took effect, I was able to relax. The plan was for me to sleep a bit, but things started moving quickly. Soon, I was being told to push, and right after that, we met Evangeline!

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We didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl, so that was a sweet surprise. We’d come with two boys names and three girls names, and right away I knew she was Evangeline Marit. With the epidural, I didn’t feel the pushing or her coming out, so I didn’t have as strong of a feeling of relief/giddiness as I did with Zelie, but man, when they held her up and said she was a girl and put her on my chest, it was amazing. And they left her there for over an hour, just letting us do skin to skin. And Chris pulled off his shirt so he could get some skin to skin time too. So cute.

It was a crazy long labor, and not what I expected, but I’m glad it was what it was. I wanted to have a natural birth, but I was open to whatever came up and open to interventions if needed, and it was definitely needed. There’s so much weird guilt, in some circles, about epidurals, so I’m glad I’ve had the experience of using one so I can say, You do what you have to do to have a good birth experience. Every woman is different, every baby is different, every birth is different. It wasn’t anything like running a marathon, it had some crazy emotional ups and downs, and we got this baby girl at the end. Now we’ll see if I get around to sharing Zelie’s birth story before she turns 3.

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Why this millennial convert is grateful for Humanae Vitae

We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. We want a religion that is right where we are wrong. – G.K. Chesterton

As a way of response to the bemoaning in some circles of the Church’s “irrelevancy,” re the 50th anniversary of “Humanae vitae,” (the papal encyclical that reiterated the Church’s stance on contraception,) I’d like to share the story of how the Church wooed this millennial home. 

Unity, contraception, and authority – the super sexy buzzwords that shaped my journey from the evangelical world to the Catholic Church. I became Catholic at a Friday afternoon Mass less than a week after my first baby was baptized into the Church. A couple days before, I had a surge of doubt – How did I get to this point? Am I making the right decision? But when I sat down and thought about my spiritual course of the last few years, I felt overwhelming peace. Having been raised in the nondenominational, evangelical Christian world, I had learned to look to Jesus. To make decisions with the question in mind, Will this lead me closer to God? Will this require me to trust Him more? I was reassured, only Jesus could have led to me this place of trust, where I was ready to submit to the authority of His Church and cross the Tiber.

As a college student in the Bay Area, discovering the Church as a two thousand year old institution that has the audacity to hold to crazy truths that Protestant denominations have abandoned was shocking and challenging and, strangely, very compelling. I probably asked Chris, the one Catholic in our university evangelical student group (now my husband), a million times – You actually believe this? Oh yeah, and there was that. I also happened to find Chris very compelling. Contemplative and competitive, deep and fun, he really seemed to love Jesus … and yet, he was Catholic. Why do you have to go to Mass every Sunday? Why do you pray to Mary? If you eat Jesus, aren’t you a cannibal? I was a bit sassy, but, not so secretly, very intrigued.

I went to a Spanish Mass with Chris in Oakland throughout the summer of 2011 and when I studied abroad in Spain that fall, I found myself going to Mass with a new friend in the program. She was Catholic, and I continued to ask questions. I couldn’t receive the Eucharist, and had some awkward bumbles asking the priest for a bendición when I stepped forward in the communion line, but I went back week after week. The Mass was the same everywhere! If it was true, Jesus was physically present in millions of churches all around the world. Chris, back in California, was hearing the same scripture readings. A unified, global Church! The ritual and form was such, I could participate in a different language. I learned that Catholics fasted the hour before receiving the Eucharist; they didn’t bring their bagels into the pews. Church as a sacred space? Didn’t the Church know it was supposed to appeal to my generation with amplified music and hipster coffee in the foyer?

When I returned to Stanford, I still wasn’t sure about Catholicism, but I was pretty sure about Chris.

“I think we should date,” I said.

Let me think about it,” he said.

And when he got back to me, he said, “I want to date you, but there’s two things you should know. I’m fine with marrying a Protestant, but I want to raise my kids Catholic, and I want to follow Church teaching on contraception.”

WHAT THE WHAT. There’s Church teaching on contraception?

I was shocked to learn that yes, in fact, the Church holds to the traditional Christian view that contraception is a moral issue and it is wrong.

And in fact, Protestants believed and taught this until 1930, when the Anglican Church announced contraception to be acceptable in certain circumstances and other denominations followed suit in the decades after. I had no idea. This rocked my world because every single Christian in my life until this point, once married, had no problem with using contraception. In fact, it seemed to be encouraged. Babies are blessings, but they are planned blessings. Faced with this news, I set about learning more because a) I wanted to date Chris and b) I didn’t want to be a Duggar.

I learned that the Church teaches that sex is inherently unitive, pleasurable, and procreative. I learned that for millennia, Christians have believed that the sexual act is, by nature, tied to co-creating life with God. And further, that couples don’t have the right to actively mess with that (sacred) reality. What about couples who are infertile? What about women past menopause? Neither of those cases involve the couple actively interfering with the sexual act to render it sterile – there’s nothing immoral about infertility. (Though it’s true that the Church has a long way to go in its pastoral care for couples struggling with this).

I learned that the Church teaches that couples can track their fertility to avoid or achieve a pregnancy. There are many methods of fertility tracking, but they are lumped together in the Catholic world under the title, Natural Family Planning

When a couple is highly motivated and uses NFP effectively, it has a 98 percent success rate in avoiding a pregnancy. Well, isn’t that just Catholic birth control, then? Nope. A couple using NFP to avoid a pregnancy doesn’t do anything to alter the sexual act. They abstain from sex when the woman is fertile, following her body’s natural rhythms. It’s an ongoing conversation between themselves and God, month by month, but in general, there’s an attitude, an orientation, that is open to life as each sexual act is open to the possibility of life.

I found all this very new and alarming. And fascinating. People actually do this?? Do they all have a ton of kids because NFP doesn’t work or because they just want to? The vast majority of families I knew growing up had two kids and then were “done.” I was also intrigued because I knew basically nothing about my fertility.

I met with a married woman I knew who had recently converted to Catholicism to ask her about NFP. How does it actually work? She explained briefly how she tracked her fertility, and then told me that her husband actually wrote down her observations each day. He was intimately familiar with her cycle and could see, with her, if she was stressed or sick, from the signs her body was giving her. My take away from this was – I have no idea what cervical mucus even i! It can tell you that you’re sick?? But I was drawn to several points from what she shared. Her husband cared about her fertility. The man could discuss cervical mucus! He had a vested interest in it. And this led me think about, for the first time ever, I don’t want to be the one responsible for if I get pregnant or not. If I get married, I want my spouse to share that with me equally. And a second thought, I don’t want to ever feel used by my spouse, or use him. If we could take only the pleasurable aspect of sex and not the other reality of possibly creating life, by rejecting part of my body, namely, my fertility – well, that didn’t seem as right to me anymore. I wanted to be all in, with him, holding nothing back. It started to make more sense that for something as intimate and powerful as sex, there would be a lot of self-sacrifice involved for the sake of the other.

It was the strangest thing, but as I learned more about NFP, I found more and more that it seemed empowering of women. I met with a nurse and NFP instructor in San Jose and she taught me more about my body than I had ever learned in health class. My body is amazing! Women are amazing! Why aren’t we all taught how to track our fertility? This coincided with an obsession I had with midwifery, and there’s a lot of rhetoric in the birth world about how strong and goddess-like women are, so I was riding a feminist high. This feels like true feminism! Why is the pill given as a solution for any female problem? Why are we told to medicate our fertility away?

Learning more of the why’s and how’s of NFP led me to start considering the authority of the Church. “No contraception” felt like a super personal, crazy demand that the Church somehow had the boldness to impose on me and my sex life… but as a Protestant, I had come to profess Jesus as Lord. And that meant He had authority over my life. This was a foundational part of youth group, college ministry, church on Sunday, you name it. Give your life to Jesus. “Your life” included how you thought about your studies, future career, justice, money, friendships, and sex. I am so grateful for this formation. It molded my heart, from a young age, with an inclination towards radical trust in the Divine Will. But I never once heard anyone talk about Jesus having authority over family planning. Trust God with the number of kids I’m going to have? That’s going a little far, wouldn’t you say?

And yet, why? It began to feel inconsistent. I looked at the spiritual mentors in my life – people living out their love for God in their decisions about money, their work for justice, their sharing of the gospel with word and deed– it seemed nothing in their lives was outside of God’s control. Except, it seemed, accepting children. Save sex until marriage, and then, go crazy? I assumed so, but didn’t really know; it wasn’t talked about. The vibe I gleaned from excitement about engagement and weddings (though, granted, this wasn’t huge in the Bay Area,) was once you’re married, all that chastity and self-control stuff is finally a thing of the past! And this felt odd to me. It started to make much more sense that I was practicing self-control and practicing chastity for when I would need to use those virtues in the rest of my life. If using NFP cultivated self-control in the relationship between a married couple, wouldn’t that be good, not just for the individual, but also the marriage?

There were these flashes, then, when the Catholic Church didn’t seem quite so crazy. Or, if crazy, at least consistently crazy, and very confident of its authority to proclaim truth, which was interesting. I kept getting glimpses of how this counter-cultural lifestyle would require me to trust God more than I ever had to before. If the Church seems more consistent on the sex thing, what else might it be right about? Rather than pushing me away, it drew me in.

I kept reading and asking questions, praying and seeking God’s will. I felt my heart open and continue to soften until I felt I could agree to raise my kids Catholic and do this NFP thing. So, still Protestant, I married Chris in a Catholic church. I went to Mass on Sundays and let the Holy Spirit speak to me, often through the gift of tears . And in perfect timing, it led me to that Friday afternoon Mass at the end of October, my husband holding our two month old daughter who had been baptized six days earlier. I felt the chrism oil dripping down my forehead and knew, when the priest said, “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit,” I could say, “Amen,” because it was Jesus who had brought me home to His Church.

 

 

school’s out

One. Chris finished finals and we did our 2018 inaugural beach trip! Grandma got the girls super cute suits. We found a playground and had a chill time. Evangeline had fun running in and out of the very cold water until she fell over and got soaked and that was the end of that. Zelie was content climbing on Chris and eating sticks and being just way too stinking cute.

Two. Chris’s roommate and best man from Stanford has been staying with us for the last week and a half. For Chris, it’s meant a buddy to watch the playoffs with. For me, it’s been a taste of living in community and I’m reminded that I like it. It’s nice having someone else with us for dinner and to play with the girls (and Kevin does the dishes while we do bedtime – praise!) We’re planning to rent a room to one of Chris’s fellow M.Div’s next year and I’m looking forward to that more now.

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Three. Kevin got us tickets to Hamilton! I think as a thank you for letting him stay? Setting the bar high for future guests! JK, JK. JOKES. But it was awesome. Even the phenomenon that is Hamilton aside, I was struck by how amazing live performances are. We were asked (ushers yelled at people during the first song) to put our phones away and just sit and enjoy being present to these men and women who are brilliant at their craft. Refreshing. And a treat for me to be away from the girls and in Chicago for a day. I’m super grateful to my friends who watched them – when Kevin first told us he wanted to buy tix I thought, there’s no way we can go, but I asked anyway and ROSE AND KATHERINE ARE THE BOMB. #FRIENDSHIP

Four. I’m reading this and I see a lot of my own conversion story in his, and he reminds me of a lot of my friends. It got me working on a post on my conversion, which is fun to write, but still in my drafts.

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Five. My friend Julia requested that our local library buy this new book that we both want to read (didn’t know you could do that!) and I’m next in line when she’s done. I spent some time journaling through a free ebook of Jennifer Fulwiler’s called A Guide to Your Gifts and it was so great. Her new book is about pursuing your passions while having a family and I was like, hm, I love the sound of that, but … what are my passions again? (Classic Enneagram 9, lol). So, this ebook was great for that and it got me all fired up. I have passions to pursue! I want to write a book! I want to get better at handlettering! I want to change the world! And then I felt like I kind of hit a wall. (I want to learn how to edit photos of my handlettering, but Photoshop/Illustrator/Whatever is so expensive! If you know how to do this for free, can you tell me how?) But I took a small step and committed to write each day for one week, not blogging, but seeing what came out (it was mostly poems). I missed some days and don’t know if I even made it a whole week, but it was something! Finding community with writing is something I would really love … waiting for that.

Six. One of the questions in that ebook was, “who are you jealous of?” Because we’re often jealous of people we see fully living out their gifts. And it got me thinking, man, IG often feeds my jealously/envy. And envy is the least fun sin. If you have any tips on combatting that, please share. I usually want to throw my phone away until I have a cute pic to post, which is terrible.

 

Seven. Inspired by Sarah and also Julia telling me that they can survive the winter here, I think I’m thinking about backyard chickens?? Part of me is like, ugh, chickens are gross. And the other part is like, we have this giant backyard, why not jump on that homesteading bandwagon and learn a lot and get some eggs out of it?  #LAURAINGALLSWILDER4EVA #livingthedream

But, we shall see. Maybe I’ll wait til next spring. Oh and the seeds in our garden are growing!! So cool.

Happy Weekend!

Linking up with This Ain’t The Lyceum.