The Beautiful Diversity

Sigh, y’all. Just, sigh. Are we still having these debates? Apparently, we are. Apparently, there are still people out there who cannot accept a diverse Body of Christ.

This past weekend I spent a day running a booth for Blessed is She at a local Catholic Women’s Conference. Though I didn’t really get to experience the talks or any of the events, I did get to experience the people; the women who attended. It was a wonderful mix of women – young, old, married, single, babies on the hips, grandchildren growing up and everything in between. It reminded me of what I love about Blessed is She’s ministry – it’s meant to be a community of women “just like you”, not a community “only like me”. I loved being able to tell older women that we needed their wisdom and how their eyes lit up for the feeling of usefulness it gave. I loved connecting with younger women and reminding them that we have so much to learn from the world they’re experiencing right now.

There are so many wonderful, dedicated, Truth-giving ways to be a Catholic woman and it’s no surprise that the day after is filled with opinions to the contrary. People who still believe that the only path for Catholic women is tight and narrow, with no room for grace and movement. People who see a life different than theirs and declare that it must be devoid of love, dedication and Grace because it would not be a life they could thrive in.

There are some amazing women out there – women who give tirelessly to their families day and night. Women who don’t need rest and self-care or women’s groups or an hour at the gym to regroup. Women who have always gotten by, who’ve done everything right or so it seems. Their lives are wonderful testimonies, and they are truly gifts to our communities and families, but their lives are not the only pattern for a beautiful life of Catholic mother and womanhood.

A woman with talents that can be used right now is a gift.

A woman with talents that can wait for later is a gift.

A woman who knows her limits is a gift.

A woman who pushes her self and gives much is a gift.

A woman who sacrifices what she wants for what her family needs is a gift.

A woman who sacrifices all for what is best for her children is a gift.

A woman who is called to care for others outside her home is a gift.

A woman who is called to care for those inside her home is a gift.

A woman who carefully, prayerfully discerns the right move in all of life’s ups and downs; who dies to self, cares for self, is dedicated, loving and steadfast is one of the greatest gifts of all.

And there are so many ways to do that.

It is one thing to be convicted of basics Truths – love and services of God and family – it is another to be so convicted that we insist the road toward those goals is narrow and unforgiving. That’s not how we support our Sisters and that’s not how we receive and discern the unique gifts given to each of us.

In the depths of our fertility struggles, I would often turn to the women in the Bible and I was also was shocked how many of them wouldn’t fit the molds of often shouted from the mountain tops as the ideal Catholic woman. It brought me to peace, but it also made me wonder what would modern bloggers have to say if Deborah, Gomer, Hannah, Jochebed, Jael, Martha, Sarah or Susanna came before them as modern women – women who didn’t fill a perfect mold, who struggled and sometimes failed or who were set apart through their God-given gifts. If God used imperfect or set apart women all through Biblical history, why cannot the same be happening right now? Why can’t we rejoice in the beautiful diversity he’s given us and recognize the many ways God has planned to use so many different, beautifully different women.

I wish everyone could see what I saw this weekend – the beautiful diversity of faithful women created by a creative and clever God.

Photo via Unplash; Becca Tapert

What I’ve Read

I have fully embraced books that are not in book form and it’s really changing the quantity and type of book I’m reading.  I was a hold out for so, so long, but audiobooks and my Kindle are here to stay.  I love being able to go to the library without going to the library.  I like being able to fill up my Kindle with ten books for the cost of one hardback.  I like not having as much clutter – and that’s saying a lot because I take a ridiculous amount of pride in showing off how well read I am in my bookshelves.

So far in January I’ve finished 11 books, 3 comics and shelved one book I lost interest in.   I already gave my thoughts on a few over on Instagram, but I wanted to post the rest here.

With the Kids: (via Audiobook, we’ve also read a number of real picture books that I don’t keep track of)

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary  I adore Henry Huggins, and most of what Beverly Cleary writes in general.  I like having a wholesome book with a boy character who doesn’t spend most of it making inappropriate jokes.  I love that Henry is resourceful and  (mostly) honest.  I hope we can get through the rest of Henry’s books soon.  Neil Patrick Harris was okay as a narrator, I found his Mrs. Huggins voice a bit grating, but not enough to ruin it all.

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary  As with Henry Huggins, I love Beezus and Ramona as characters – I grew up with them though I don’t think I read all the books.  To be a broken record I love how Cleary writes children – it’s an honest look at how children think, rationalize and love each other and how they interact with the bigger world.  Yes, Ramona is naughty and Beezus can be a bit overbearing, but I love getting to grow with them and see them mature just like I do my children or the kids next door.  Stockard Channing is okay as a narrator, I’d like to see these redone one day with a different actor.  Her little girl voices are a little too much for me.

Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter by Beatrix Potter  I’m not a Beatrix Potter fan in general (but I don’t like talking animal stories for the most part unless they’re fables or similar) but I enjoyed listening to these at bedtime with my baby.  Particularly I liked how they put the songs to a real rhythm and beat – something I always struggle with while reading aloud myself.  Bonus: this one streams for free on Audible Channels if you have a membership.

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne  Another one I’m never keen on reading out loud myself (again with the talking animal stories), but I enjoyed this as an audiobook and will probably try to find the rest via Overdrive.  A good reader and a good performance.  Another one free via the streaming Channels on Audible.

For Myself:

Vox Machina #1-3:  This is my nerdy side coming out, but these are comic books feature characters from a online live-streaming role-playing series that is run by a number of voice actors.  My husband loves them and while I don’t spend the time he does invested in the series I watch occasionally and they do a really good job.  I’ve been looking for a series to replace my beloved Fables graphic novels and this just might be it if they can keep the violence, sex and language to a PG-13 rating.  It’s nerdy and has magic and adventures, etc. and worth picking up if you’re into all that too.

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin:  I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read any Baldwin.  If you’re like me you should work on rectifying this too.  An amazing voice: author, essayist and so much more.  Notes of a Native Son was not what I thought it was when I picked it out, but it was still an amazing read – a series of essays on a variety of topics, mainly on race and the author’s experiences.  I’ve been trying to expand the scope of my reading and my awareness this last year or so, and I’m looking forward to working my way through Baldwin’s works.  I read part of this in text and finished in via Audiobook and wasn’t thrilled with the narrator choice for this one.  It was a bit of a dry reading for a really amazing text.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer:  My friend Kathleen has been singing the praises of the Lunar Chronicles for a while and while I enjoyed the first one I picked up the second and never really got into it.  With all the stuff my family has been going through this last month I needed something lighter and easier to digest so I gave it another shot via audiobook and was hooked.  For YA, and it does follow some standard YA tropes, it well done and satisfying and I’m looking forward to getting through the rest of the series soon.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan:  I read (well listened) to this book in one day.  It grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.  It’s your standard romance novel in some ways, but Ms. Colgan gets it just right by not having all of the main characters happiness and worth set in her romance.  Nora becomes her new self separate from romance, and much of that new self is in finding confidence, separating real life from fantasy and in what she gives to others.  I love that the first love interest didn’t work out, I’m glad that she had her character not pussyfoot around someone obviously not right once the truth came out.  It gave Nora a strength not always seen in these books.  I could have done without what was basically a chapter about Nora and her final love interest shacking up – it seemed unnecessary and I could have done with a bit more development and change on his part, but in general I was very satisfied with this read.  The narrator for this audiobook was just about perfect as well.

A Swing and a Miss:

The only book I didn’t make it all the way through this month was “The Miniaturist” I won’t get too far into it, but it seemed so promising – an interesting plot and Davina Porter, one of my absolute favorite narrators, reading the audiobook.  But in the end it was just not right – too many anachronisms, and not things or sayings, but behaviors.  There’s “ahead of your time” and then there’s just plain “not believable” when it comes to actions and beliefs.  I hate to say it but Davina Porter was not the right narrator for this one – she just sounded to old of a voice for a book seen through the eyes of a naive 18-year-old, small town girl.  I’d skip this one if I were you.

So what are you reading now?  What I should I add to my list? Are you over on Goodreads?

Feature Image: Cesar Viteri via Unsplash.com

Gathering

On our wipe board calendar, I have written a quote by G.K. Chesterton:

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul…”

While everyone is off choosing saints and words and lists and books (which I will admit I do for my own planning and amusement) I feel the need to do a bit more this year and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

A friend of mine reflected recently on her Instagram account and how it reflected her change from “do-er” to “make-er”.  How it was a visual representation of a change in her life.  I feel that same nudge, something is different.  I’ve spent the last few years learning and growing and inspiring and arguing and so often when I sit down to write in this space I’m at a loss for words.  I have nothing to share and I close my laptop and go and do something else – I read, I sew, I play some music, I play with the kids.  It doesn’t feel like enough to say that I’m just “doing” or “making”.  It feels as if I’ve moved in a period of life of application and experience.  What’s important is not what I can reflect or share – which is why my fingers feel empty of words so much at the keyboard – but what I’m gathering.

I think that’s it (I apologize as I’m doing this a bit stream of consciousness).  If the last few years have been years of planting, tending, and trial and error I’m now in a season of gathering.  I’m not sure if it’s gathering a harvest or gathering tools for the future.  Perhaps, in all honesty, it’s a bit of both because if you garden you reap your harvest while preparing the soil for the future – you eat the food and save the seeds.

So perhaps 2018 isn’t about Saints and reading plans and words to guide me; perhaps 2018 is when I enter my gathering season.  It’s a time to do and experience and make and give.  It’s a time to gather – to gather people and be among them, to gather the fruits of skills I’ve spent years developing, to gather experiences both for future use and just for the joy of the moment.

It feels strange, having spent so much time cultivating something that hinged on ability and desire to share and engage, to say “now is the time for me to go and just be”, but that feels right.  I don’t think it means I’m leaving this space at all, maybe just starting to find a new way to use it.  Perhaps instead of this space being intended to share it needs to be a place to gather… I wonder what that will look like?