Answering your questions!

January 27, 2009 | 18 comments

Since all of you asked some great questions in response to the Great Delete of 2009, I thought I’d take the opportunity to answer some of them. Sorry I couldn’t get to them all, I just chose the ones that I could answer quickly since I’m short on time.


1. “Write about scorpions.” (The Sojourner)

I know, I know. Sometimes I suspect that half my readers are only lurking around for the next scorpion sighting (all the posts on that here — scroll down to see them all). Also, you know you might enjoy blogging a little too much when you occasionally have fleeting thoughts that you wish you’d see a scorpion around since it’s such great fodder for posts. Alas, I haven’t seen one since this infamous day in June.

2. “How do you apply your Christian principles in the moments of utter kid-mischief?” (Jane @ What About Mom?)

I say a prayer after I’m done screaming at them.

Kidding. This is an area where I’ve found that preemptive action is critical. For example, on days when I’ve slacked off on prayer and have eaten foods that leave me feeling sluggish, I’m much more tempted to let my Christian principles go flying out the window. Whereas when I’ve started my day by asking for God’s assistance and I’m structuring my days around prayer, getting as much sleep as possible, and eating foods that nourish me physically and spiritually, I am far more likely to respond calmly and prayerfully to kid-related chaos.

For another angle on this, I once shared some amazing advice I heard on this subject here.

3. “I would love to hear a story about your kids…If you choose not to write about them on purpose, I’d love to know why.” (Christine)

I do choose not to go into much detail about my kids here on this blog. One of the reasons is just because I try to keep it pretty focused on the topic of faith and daily life (which of course involves them, but doesn’t usually warrant specific details). The other reason just boils down to “it doesn’t feel right for this space.”

Maybe it’s because there are occasionally some extremely heated combox discussions in which personal insults start to fly and I wouldn’t want discussion of my kids dragged into it, or maybe it’s because I’ve had various websites for almost eight years now and have seen my fair share of seriously disturbing comments and emails, but I just never feel moved to write about my children in specific detail. (That said, I’m not opposed to it in theory and am not suggesting that other bloggers shouldn’t do so.)

4. “Write about how you met your husband.” (TL)

We met at work, at a high tech company where I was an online media developer and he was VP of one of the departments. This was back in the dot-com boom, and I could write an entire book of all the crazy things we witnessed there. We sort of bonded over the insanity of it all. (Think: a lead developer calling me one night before a critical deadline to ask me if I could take him to the hospital because he’d smoked too much crack; $20, 000 open-bar company parties to celebrate vague milestones that wrapped up with police involvement at 5:00am; husband and wife coworkers soliciting people at work to join in their open marriage, etc.)

Oddly, the first time I saw him — he was walking in late to a department meeting — I “heard” the thought, “We’re going to get married.” It was so strange. I really didn’t have an impression of him either way yet — he was just some new coworker coming to a meeting — and the thought really didn’t seem to come from me. I was an atheist at the time, but of course now I wonder if there was something else at work there.

I wrote about our wedding and how our marriage has changed here.

5. “I would like to hear how you trusted God with the possibility of miscarriages or other things going wrong!” (Faith)

This was something I had to tackle early on. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, about two weeks after my husband and I shocked ourselves by realizing that our extensive research and prayer led us to find that the Catholic position on contraception was reasonable and correct and that we (gasp!) agreed with it, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood clot (a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) at 36 weeks pregnant. I found out that it was caused by a clotting disorder that makes pregnancy complicated and somewhat dangerous — in other words, according to my doctors, future pregnancies were out for me. In a flurry of activity I had to leave the midwives I was seeing, get under the care of a high-risk OB and a hematologist, give myself shots in the stomach every day, have an induced hospital birth instead of a midwives-staffed birthing center birth, get on FDA Category X medication postpartum while trying to learn Natural Family Planning, etc.

We did not have insurance that covered pregnancy. The medicine I needed during pregnancy was $2, 000 a month out of pocket (my insurance would pay part for this pregnancy only, but my portion was still $850 a month). Our medical debt went through the roof, and we were in tough financial times to begin with. Everyone pressured us to abandon this Catholic stuff and use contraception so that we wouldn’t have to go through this again. And, just when the dust finally started to settle, we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant again, still with no pregnancy insurance (as well as other concerns that I listed in that post).

In other words…I got a crash course in trusting God. For the first time in my life, I had to pray, I had to combine the medical research I was doing with a trust that if this were indeed the path that God wanted me on that he would work some kind of miracle to get us out of the mess we were in. And he did.

As I write this I’m realizing it probably warrants a post of its own. I’ll share more details in a separate post if anyone’s interested.

6. “I would love to read about your daily life in prayer and in relation to God. Do you go to church every day, or is it just bedtime prayer?” (Mrs. KAOS)

I still pray the Liturgy of the Hours (an FAQ about that here), though I admit that sometimes I fall out of the habit and need to recommit. I also try to go to daily Mass with the kids when possible, which lately has been about once every couple of weeks (in addition to Sundays). (And, yes, it is EPIC to take three kids under four when 33 weeks pregnant.) Other than that I just try to turn to God as much as possible throughout the day, asking for guidance here and there, trying to see him in all things. Some days I’m better at that than others. 🙂

7. “I’d love to read more about vocations — discerning our vocations, and what if we still don’t know our vocations, or what if the vocation we thought we were called to just didn’t pan out?” (Kim P.)

I’m no expert on that subject, but I did some Googling and came across this great PDF about discerning your vocation. I also highly recommend the books Finding God’s Will for You and Introduction to the Devout Life — two of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read.

8. “How do you stay spiritually awake, when your days must be very busy? How do you manage to keep God a priority?” (Tess)

One way would be simply praying every day. The Liturgy of the Hours has really helped in that department. Another little thing that has been surprisingly impactful is to always have a good spiritual book going (in addition to Bible reading, although that’s mainly what’s involved with praying the Hours). I’ve noticed that whenever I’m reading some interesting book about faith, I walk around thinking about whatever it is I’m reading and it helps keep my thoughts on what really matters throughout each day.

I’ve also found that the more frequently I receive the sacraments (the Eucharist and Confession), the more I feel close to the Lord at all times.


9. “You know what I’d like to hear? How you manage to write…with three young kids in the house. What happens when nap time goes awry? Do you have back-up plans?”
(Kelly @ Love Well)

OK, I get asked this enough that I’m going to do a separate post about it. 🙂

10. “How do you view death now as opposed to when you were atheistic? Did you think about death then? Were you afraid? How has that changed.” (Jane)

Great question. I actually have a post in the works about that as well. The short answer is: though I mostly managed to push the reality of death far from my conscious mind when I was an atheist, it was always there, like when you can hear someone’s footsteps behind you. Occasionally the wall would come down and I’d internalize what it really meant to be nothing more than a bunch of chemical reactions. The level of visceral terror and despair that would ensue is nothing I could ever put into words. Needless to say, to be freed from that darkness has been a profound change.

But, like I said, I’ll cover that more in an upcoming post.

11. “What was or is the most difficult thing to get used being a Catholic?” (Jane)

At first it was just going to church every Sunday. Especially before I could receive the Eucharist, it was incredibly difficult to make myself go every Sunday. That’s terrible, I know, but I had only been to church a few times in my life (and even that was just tagging along with friends) and had it firmly entrenched in my mind that Sundays were for total free time.

Overall, though, what I have found to be the most difficult change has also been one of the very best changes: my husband and I practicing NFP and going from viewing our marriage with a “contraceptive mentality” to an “open to life” mentality. (Since there’s a lot of confusion about that term, here’s a good summary of what “open to life” means in the sense I’m using it.) It changed every single aspect of our lives — I mean, everything: the way we think about my husband’s career, the way we socialize, my body image, our relationships with God and one another, our plans for retirement and the future, our view of what a marriage is, our level of trust in God on both a long-term and short-term basis, etc. — nothing was the same after our conversion on that issue.

One difficult part of that has been letting go of the iron-fisted control I once had (or, thought I had) over my life (ahem). But I think the most difficult thing about it has been the reaction of others. Many people in our lives are baffled by the changes they’ve seen with us, and aren’t always understanding about why we appear to be making things harder for ourselves by not using more “reliable” methods of birth control than NFP. We have not always gotten positive reactions to new pregnancies, especially given the medical issues I mentioned in #5, and that has been a recurring source of stress and tension.

12. “Please write about how your conversion has inspired others to…at least question their unbelief.” (Jane)

I do regularly hear from atheists and agnostics who are searching and said that something I wrote resonated with them. As you can imagine, that just makes my day!

13. “I would like to hear about that in relation to having to let go of the ‘ideas’ about ourselves that we had when we were younger…I think that as we get older, the selfishness of our plans and dreams in those areas become clearer and yet the process of giving up those dreams is a very painful sacrifice.” (Hope T.)

I once wrote about this here. Basically, I have found that in letting go of my plans and letting God guide me, I have found more peace than I could have ever imagined. Even though my plans before were rather glamorous and the plans God has led me to now are much more simple, I shudder to think of how empty my old route was.

That said, there have been periods when I temporarily felt a lot of angst about giving up something that I was really set on. I’ve found that, if I can be patient, God will either show me a way to make it happen or give me peace about it not happening. If I feel sorrow or discomfort about letting something go that I just can’t seem to shake, that usually seems to be a sign that I need to pray about it more and see if there’s something else God has to tell me about it.

14. “I’d like to know if you get tired of talking about ‘atheism’ and all that’s included in that topic? Do you feel like that part of your identity clouds over what your are now?” (Rachel)

The short answer: no.

First of all, since I was raised as an atheist and didn’t even believe in God as a child, faith is still something very new and different to me. It’s like a new pair of shoes that I have yet to wear in; I still remember the old pair that, even though they were falling apart, were comfortable.

But the main reason is this: I remember how lost and lonely I felt when I was first exploring religion; it seemed like lifelong believers and I were simply speaking a different language. They would try to explain faith and religion to me and it just didn’t compute. I eventually found that it was former atheists who knew how to explain faith in a way that made sense to me, and I desperately sought to find more people like that. Reading the writing of former atheists — authors and blog commeters alike — was absolutely critical in my coming to belief in God.

I promised myself that if I ever got a handle on any of this stuff I would make myself findable, on Google and otherwise, as a former atheist; that even if I became some super-devout church lady I would always let people know that I used to be an atheist, so that if anyone else was ever coming out of atheism and feeling lost and lonely and hopeless, they would be able to find at least one person to talk to.


That’s it for today! Thank you for all the great questions. I really think I have the best group of commenters on the internet.

18 Comments

  1. Amie

    I have a question, even though you didn’t invite them on this post. It’s a followup to NFP and incredibly personal, so feel free to ignore.:)

    Do you breastfeed your babies and if so for how long?

    Before CCLI did their “extreme makeover” thing, ecological breastfeeding was very much a part of the program. It can help mothers space babies about 2 years apart, which I believe is God’s way of keeping us sane. Your children are so close in age, I wondered if either you don’t breastfeed (or at least not ecologically) or if you are one of those for whom that doesn’t work?

  2. Anwen

    1. LOL about the scorpion comment. P.S. I really enjoy your blog.

  3. KimP

    Jennifer, thanks for your responses to all these issues. I will definitely check out the books on vocations you recommended. One of the best things I ever read about vocations was on your blog and you said “Vocation isn’t what you do, but who you serve.” I’ve starting looking at my life in a whole new way. Who do I serve? Family, friends, coworkers, etc. It’s an interesting exercise. Do I serve the checkout clerk at the grocery store? Probably, for about a minute and a half. So what am I called to do in that 90 seconds?

    Thanks again for this post.

  4. needagoodnickname

    I am all for the natural mothering/baby spacing thing and really believe it can work. But wanted to mention that one of the other things mothers often feel helps preserve sanity — babies sleeping through the night (5+ hours) — also increases the chance of an earlier return to fertility. There may also be ambiguous mucus signs for weeks or months as fertility gears up to return, so that an early return of actual cycles can be a relief. Not that those early cycles aren’t also likely to involve extensive abstinence when prudence dictates pregnancy avoidance….

  5. Vgill

    I’ve been a reader for a long while, though I haven’t commented before. When you said “that just makes that day”, it’s the first time I’ve thought of you as a fellow Texan based on your syntax and diction instead of just references to the Great State. Keep up the good work 🙂

  6. ernie

    I strongly recommend going on a retreat to a Benedictine monastery to experience the full Litany of the Hours. http://www.monks.org/daily_schedule.html , for example, is the prayer schedule for the monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. They have replaced Matins with the Eucharist.

  7. green mom for Jesus

    Praise Jesus for you and your commitment to sharing your faith journey. I can tell from your writing what a beautiful person you are. It’s through our weaknesses and dependence upon Christ that we are made beautiful.
    Love and blessings to you and your family.

  8. Jane @ What About Mom?

    Thanks for answering my question, Jennifer. And I think you’re absolutely right — prevention and preparation (i.e. doing healthy things all the time) is the best way to approach stressful situations.

    Love your blog!

  9. Anonymous

    Hello,

    I wandered onto your blog this morning through a link from another writer. I read with great interest the story of your conversion and your experiences with the Catholic Church. I was born into the Catholic faith, but only recently have I truly come to begin to understand my faith. I have had my own conversion, which I refer to as a spiritual awakening. I noticed that you describe yourself as an orthodox Catholic. I have never heard that term before and would be interested to learn more about it. I didn’t know there were different types of Catholics. I’ve heard the term orthodox used when speaking about the Jewish faith, but never in referring to Catholics.
    Thank you for sharing your faith journey with us!

  10. Annie Peterson

    I love hearing in #5 how God came through for you! He is SO good… it doesn’t surprise me one bit. 🙂 🙂

  11. Anonymous

    I admire you more and more. Your seeking of and speaking with God. Your deep devotions to prayer and family.

  12. Christine

    Wow, great post. I loved reading the “nutshell” answers to these questions.

  13. Christine

    I also want to leave a comment for the 1st commenter, Amie. The breastfeeding “birth control” didn’t work for me (I have 4 children). I would always begin my cycle by the time my babies were 3 months old. We did use NFP for certain times of our marriage but also used traditional, non-hormonal methods as well. I breastfed exclusively for 6 months and continued through the time each child was about 1.

  14. Rachel Gray

    Jen, I just enjoyed your answers to all those questions, and thanks for your blog which I like more every time I read it. Your candid posts about various struggles and God’s provision help me to know God’s ways better and trust Him more.

    Also thanks for the “Finding God’s Will for You” recommendation– a book by my patron saint that I hadn’t heard of yet!

  15. Amy Ellen

    Wow. These are some really good thoughts… especially number two : ) I appreciate the work it was to put down answers to each of these!

  16. Roz

    Regarding our response to “kid-mischief”:

    Reminds me of something Marie Killilea wrote in her story about raising her daughter with cerebral palsy in the 50’s. Speaking about her young son, she commented, “He may grow up to be a bishop if I don’t put his head through the wall first.”

  17. desain kaos

    Love Clotting Indonesia.. mantap. Keep spirit.. Semangat …

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