5 big ideas that changed my life

April 2, 2014 | 45 comments

Every now and then I like to take a step back and examine my worldview. I ask: What core beliefs define my outlook? What are the characteristics of the lens through which I see the world?

I was pondering the subject while putting away laundry yesterday, and I came up with a list of key ideas that fundamentally shape the way I evaluate life. (Yes, this is really what I think about while I’m putting away laundry. It’s sad.)

I thought it would be fun to post a list of these concepts, then have you tell me which ideas have been most transformative to your own outlook.

(Can you handle the excitement?! It’s like Nerdapalooza over here today!)

1. Resistance

I picture I posted in 2009,  after I found out that I had to THROW AWAY a completed draft of my book and REWRITE it.

A picture I posted in 2009, after I found out that I had to THROW AWAY a completed draft of my book and REWRITE it.

Considering that Judeo-Christian tradition has talked about spiritual attack for thousands of years, it’s ironic that it took a non-religious writer to open my eyes to how it factors into creating art.

When I read The War of Art, it led to one of the most profound ah-hah! moments of my life when author Steven Pressfield elucidated the ways in which Evil — or, as he calls it, Resistance — tries to hold us back. He perfectly articulated what I was experiencing with my writing. Without an understanding of what Resistance is and how it attempts to hamper artists, I wouldn’t have written much at all over the past few years — and I certainly wouldn’t have finished Something Other than God.

It comes to play in all sorts of other activities as well. I find that any time I try to break free of sins, or even just overcome inertia to put a little more energy into each day, I end up face to face with Resistance.

2. Peer orientation

Combat peer orientation by raising shut-ins!

Combat peer orientation by raising shut-ins!

When I read Hold On to Your Kids, it was another moment of being thunderstruck by a book perfectly articulating something I had noticed in the back of my mind, but had never put into words.

Authors Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Mate point out that modern society lures children to become peer-oriented, meaning that their entire identity is rooted in their peers, not in their family. They make a compelling case that this is an extremely unnatural and psychologically stressful way to live, and they trace many of the problems that plague youth culture back to the issue of peer-orientation.

The longer I am a parent, the more strongly I believe that Neufeld and Mate nailed it — and the more I think that peer orientation is the #1 battle modern parents should be fighting.

3. Vocation

Want thrills? Try taking six kids to a restaurant at 8 PM.

Want thrills? Try taking six kids to a restaurant at 8 PM.

When I first became Catholic, I was startled by their ideas about vocation.

I always understood the word to be used in terms of career. Catholics, on the other hand, understood it to be your role within a family, whether that’s a biological family or the wider Church family. So, if you are a married person, your vocation is being a husband or wife; if you’re a monk your vocation is to consecrated religious life.

The most fascinating part of it was when I heard this crazy idea that everyone is supposed to put his or her vocation first: Both wives and husbands should make sure that they’re not getting involved in anything that shoves their family into second place.

At first it sounded like the Church was trying to hold us back from doing Important Things, but life experience would soon teach me that, as usual, God was just laying out a roadmap to lead us back to what really makes us happy in life.

4. Temperament 

Sitting in one place to record an audiobook for 14 hours straight: not THAT hard for introverts.

Sitting in a small room to record an audiobook for 14 hours straight: not THAT hard for introverts.

Yet another life turning point came the day I sat down to get the results of my Birkman Personality Inventory. During the introductory chit-chat I mentioned to the test administrator that I was going to a baby shower for someone I didn’t know well the next morning.

She glanced down at the papers in her hand and raised her eyebrows. “Make sure you get some quiet time to recharge your batteries later, ” she said. “Because that’s going to sap your energy in a big way.”

She would go on to explain that one of the most important reasons to understand your personality type is so that you can manage your energy levels. Oddly enough, most of us don’t naturally have a good understanding of which activities drain us and which fill us up — you have to take time to understand your temperament, and then look for the best ways for people with your unique makeup to thrive.

This has turned out to be one of my big secrets to being the mom of a big family. It helps me serve my family better — while getting the most out of my limited free time — when I have a clear understanding of what impact different activities will have on my energy levels.

5. Story

Walking up to rappers to ask them for Catholics speaking tips: "Would it make a good story?"

Walking up to rappers to ask them for public speaking tips: “Would it make a good story?”

I have been aware of the power of story for most of my life: I wrote my first novel when I was in elementary school, and I come from a long line of Texas storytellers. But it wasn’t until I read Donald Miller’s fabulous book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that I understood that stories are the language of the human heart.

I began to see that if you want people to consider your point of view (say, sharing the Gospel with them), they are most likely to listen if it is presented to them through a story.

Perhaps the most transformative aspect of this lesson, though, was that I saw that a life well lived always make a great tale. I used to use a “success/failure” paradigm for evaluating whether I should take various opportunities that came up. The result was that I would often feel called to do something…but I would talk myself out of it because I might fail.

I decided throw out the question, “Will I succeed?”, and replace it with the question, “Would it make a good story?” Suddenly, I began taking a lot more risks, and life got a lot more interesting.

. . .

When I look at this list, it’s hard to believe that none of these concepts were on my radar even six or seven years ago, since they now color every part of my worldview.

What are the big ideas that changed the way you see the world?

P.S. I go into detail about many of these ideas in my FREE ebook, The Family-First Creative, which is available through April 28.



  1. Casey @ My Love Is Too Little

    This is great! I especially love #4. It was very relieving to me to find out that all of my introverted behavior was due to my Temperament and not to some defect in my personality.

    I don’t know if this counts so much as a big idea or concept in the same way you mean, but I would say that Philosophy has changed me. I mean, I’ve always enjoyed thinking and analyzing and pondering, but for a long time my thinking was still pretty shallow, and I accepted popular reasoning without really investigating what it meant. When I read my first book that just barely touched on philosophical topics, I started to see the importance of thinking deeply and really understanding concepts, ideas, beliefs, etc in a fundamental, thorough way. This has really impacted my life, and especially my faith, in a big way. It’s made me interested in apologetics, something I never thought an introvert like myself would be into!

    Lastly, I would say infertility has affected my worldview. Most specifically, it has made me understand that children truly are a gift. I didn’t grasp that when we first started trying to build our family, and I thought we deserved to get the kids we wanted when we wanted them. Now, I appreciate the blessing they truly are.

    • Caroline M.

      My husband would say the same. He always had a mind for it, but actually studying the ancient Greeks, especially Aristotle, had a significant impact on his life – and mine tangentially! Who would you say are your favorites? Have you read Aristophanes? I love The Clouds; he is so hilarious.

  2. Tracy Bua Smith

    Your #2 and #3 ideas strike me as being profound and inspiring too! Maybe that’s why I don’t mind homeschooling and raising “shut-ins”, because it seems in my vocation I’m always striving to build stronger family ties because I have seen over and over again how friends come and go in the different seasons of my life.

    As I read the lives of the saints to my children each day during our “Couch Catechism” morning devotional time, I realize more and more what incredible witnesses they are for the faith and the many positive ways they draw me closer to Christ and His Church. The fact that the Saints have come from all walks of life gives me encouragement to keep on keeping on!

  3. Amelia @ One Catholic Mama

    I love your number 5 and number 2. Especially your number 5. Certianly all the change and transition we have been through the last few years (my husband quitting a career, law school, taking the bar in one state. Teaching for a year. Now we’re planning another major move and taking the bar in another state, not to mention the constant job searching. (Pray for us)) makes a great story!!

    Let’s see…5 big ideas that have changed my life. I would have to say.

    1. Acceptance of Suffering. Once I realized that life isn’t supposed to be easy and suffering is a part of life, it made it a lot easier to deal with the not-easy parts of life.

    2. Unattachment to things. We’ve moved about a bazillion times, and all that moving has made us totally unattached to things which is great, because we can’t afford a lot of things, and our kids tend to destroy all our things anyway.

    3. Openness to new friends and community. Again, all the moving we have done has made me totally open to making new friends and having a new community, even if I only live in proximity to them for a short period of time. We’ve only lived in our current city for 7 months, and could very easily be moving in another 5. But, I’ve still put in effort into meeting people, making friends, building somewhat of a community, because it’s super important.

    4. Practicing Joy. I’ve realized that joy isn’t something you just have..you have to work at it. You have to make a conscious effort to be joyful, and to see the goodness in those around you. As a natural melancholic, this does not come easily to me. I have to work at feeling joy and contentment.

    5. Losing all embarrasement. Over the last few years, I’ve lost the ability to be embarrased. Just lost it. Nothing can phase me anymore. Makes life a lot free-er.

    • Julie

      Amelia, great list! #3 and #5 have been hard for me, but have made a huge difference in my life.

  4. The other Becky

    Many years ago I read Romans. There is a lot to think about in that book, but for some reason the line that struck me most was “make hospitality your special care”. I don’t really think that I am a very hospitable person by nature, and I could tell you a number of reason why I should not try to entertain, but I have been struggling to learn how to be hospitable in spite of myself. I must have been doing something right because just today someone complimented me on being very hospitable. I could write a book, or at least a long blog post, about what I have learned that hospitality means, and I think I am just getting started.

  5. Julie

    What a great idea for a post! I’m too foggy-brained to think on it much at the moment, but this would be an excellent topic to come back to. (You should make it a link-up!)

    I certainly recall several major realizations I’ve had in my life (each five or so years apart) that have not only colored how I see the world, but have lead me to live differently, and better.

    • Catholic Lawyer Mama

      Agree re: making this post a link-up!!! So much food for thought here!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      That’s a great idea! I’ll circle back to it when I have a little more time. 🙂

  6. (Tasoni)

    And there’s that reading list to keep me occupied till your book comes out! Hooray 🙂

  7. Amy

    “Would it make a great story?” I love that. I think I subconsciously make decisions based on this sometimes, though perhaps not often enough. I have been meaning to read The War of Art. Thank you for the reminder!

    A big concept that changed my view of the world was simply that of Openness. I realized that I needed to be more open to ideas that I didn’t feel comfortable with, or to trying new things when life seemed to be leading me a certain way. I used to be adamantly against homeschooling and religion. Now I’m a homeschooler-about-to-be-officially-Catholic!

    Great post!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Isn’t it amazing how much things can change? Congrats on becoming Catholic!!

  8. Adrie@ALittleWife

    First- #4? Check out your posture, girl! (I’m not sure why that jumped out at me….) and #2- I always wondered why, in my family, my attitude toward my sisters was that they were a total paaaaain in the neck and ugh, get away from me, and now my attitude towards them is that I’d really just like to control their lives- and my husband’s attitude toward his siblings was friendship, and still is today. He grew up on a farm, no peers to be seen for the majority of his childhood. I grew up in town, with lots of same-age neighbors. Very interesting.

  9. Amber

    Your number 1 gave me chills!! I just finished reading Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis today. Once you identify your Resistance it is so much easier to overcome.

  10. Amber

    Your number 1 gave me chills! I just finished reading Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis today. Kind of a game changer. I will be reading The War of Art now. Thanks!!

  11. Emily

    This is not going to be as articulate or complete as yours, but here goes:

    1. Authority. I’m an Evangelical-to-Catholic convert, and when I was looking into Catholicism before my conversion, the concept of Authority was by far the most foreign and difficult for me to swallow. Of course Evangelical Christians believe that God has the ultimate Authority. But they believe the main way (really the only reliable/reputable way) He transmits it is through the Bible– which sounds good at first, until you realize there’s no one with the Authority to solve the disagreement if two different interpretations of the Bible arise. You don’t even necessarily have to agree with your own pastor/church, if you have a different interpretation.

    Overcoming the belief of Sola Scriptura and accepting that there’s an actual human Authority, put in place by God, was by far the biggest step in the conversion process for me. Once I accepted that, then all the rest was pretty easy. “Sinlessness of Mary? Purgatory? Confession? Real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? Well, I don’t know of any reason why it COULDN’T be true– obviously God COULD do it– and since the Church says it is, well then okay.” It’s really the trump card. If you do believe it, then you can believe all the rest. If you don’t believe it, then you’re not actually, by definition, Catholic.

    2. What Amelia (above) said about Acceptance of Suffering– and the fact that it’s redemptive even if we don’t see how. An explanation Peter Kreeft gave in one of his podcast talks really stuck with me: Imagine two babies in utero discussing Big Thoughts. They might imagine that Life After Birth (if it exists) is like a bigger and better uterus. But if so, then what are eyes for? What are legs for? What are mouths for? They don’t make any sense in the only environment that the babies know. But after they’re born, they simply say, “Oh, of course. THAT’S what they’re for.” (I mean, the babies of the story. Actual babies are probably way too confused and stressed to be thinking Big Thoughts at that point.) Well, the point of the story is that in life now we may not understand the point of suffering at all, but that’s because we don’t really realize what we’re ultimately FOR. So when we die, we’ll say (God willing), “Of, of course. THAT’S what it was for.”

  12. James Panek

    Love it! What a good idea too – to look back and see what has shaped your life up to the current time. I started writing five ideas that have shaped my life and ended up with two and a half pages in word, so I shortened it a lot to make this comment smaller.

    Five ideas that have shaped my life:

    1. Silence – My dad has always told me “Do not be afraid of the silence.” Best advice I’ve ever gotten. In the silence, God speaks to us in our hearts and are sometimes forced to wrestle with the tough questions in life and often are called to change.

    2. Terrorism – First, terrorism is a terrible, disgusting thing that I wish didn’t exist. Now, back when I was in high school and I knew everything, I knew that morals and truths were relative (tongue-in-cheek). However, one day I realized that I couldn’t say terrorism was wrong if I also believe that morals and truths were relative – all I could say was terrorism isn’t my moral truth but it could be someone else’s. I was very conflicted because I desired very much to be against terrorism but to do so would mean I had to say that there are objective moral truths. Long story short, objective moral truth won!

    3. Death – The one thing that I can tell you with certainty, even if I know nothing about you, is that you are going to die. Thinking on death is brings up all sorts of questions from “what happens after death?” to “what’s the point of getting out of bed today?” Thinking on death is one of the things that lead me to find purpose in life.

    4. Martyrs – I know I’m picking the happiest of things; terrorism, death, martyrdom. A quick story: One of the most influential books in my whole life is a book of the Saints that I had before I could even read. In it there is a graphic depiction of St. Sebastian’s martyrdom (around page 7 or 14 is I remember correctly). As a very young child at the time, I was fascinated by this man who was tied to a tree, shot with arrows all over, and covered in blood, all for the sake of Jesus (although legend says that he recovered and died later). Looking at that picture, I knew, this is what true love is – dying for someone is how you show love.

    5. Marian Consecration – I don’t even know where to begin this one! Just read St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary, or Fulton Sheen’s The World’s First Love, or anything the popes have written of our beautiful Lady. Consecrating my life to her has been one of the most wonderful things I have ever done – it’s hard to explain, but it’s a lot like falling in love.

    God bless!

  13. Margaret

    I particularly like numbers 4 and 5. I have no idea about my temperament, and always seem to need more energy, sooooo I will have to figure that one out. To make the switch to do things without fear of failure is huge. I can see how giving myself the motivation of the promise of a good story could do the trick and help me make different decisions. Thanks!

    • Catholic Lawyer Mama

      I had the exact same reaction!!! Numbers 4 and 5 blew the doors off for me!

  14. Olga Vogel

    I absolutely love your Resistance and Story concepts =)
    It’s really important to know what tries to stop you and to create a marvelous story.

    As for me, I have…

    #1. Diversity of life.

    I somehow managed to realize that life itself has a huge variety of events and situations that you come through. Not all of them are predictable. Not all of them bring ultimate happiness, some of them bring suffering. Some of them even happen to be your cross to bear. And this is just all right.
    It’s up to you to choose whether it would be an experience which leads to being a better person, or would it be a constant pain and whining and fears.
    I mean that this diversity of life is a great adventure that is created for us to be more strong, kind and attentive to each other. And it’s awesome. Without any adventure, life must be dull. =D

    #2. Working with constraint.

    It was very hard for me to let myself do more that I think I can. My type of personality leads me into situations when life is overflowing with things to do. Almost everything is interesting for me, I always want to read 5 books at the same time and to have some supplementary hours to try and practice something that I was dreaming of. Why not growing edible plants at home? Why not read books on programming? Why not be interested in history of Church? Why not write?
    And they say: “concentrate”. They say: “stick to something and do it till the end”. They say “ones who jump from one thing to another don’t gain success in life”. It took time to work with these statements and let myself be free in what I do and what I choose for myself – and eventually to do more. To learn how to gain success while micro-managing tasks, making plans and do what I love.
    The thing that you obviously should stick to, in my opinion, is your faith that you’ve chosen consciously and your zones of responsibility that touch another people around you. Everything else (if it corresponds with faith, responsibility zone and joy of life) is allowed.

    #3. Caring about others as a way of life.

    If you do something for person, not only you may be of great help, but more is given to you. A sensation of love, for example, that has no limits. A precious time of communication and sharing your life with someone else. A highly useful skill of thinking about how other people feel, always. A natural way to stop your own lament and give everything you have to others whose pain is stronger.
    And it’s not always doing something outstanding. Mere food sharing is alright, so does singing together, or simple talk when needed, or a smile that gives hope. Or calling Grandma. Or giving away clothes that you don’t need anymore.
    It’s quite simple, but it’s a drop of water that eventually forms a sea of love and understanding.

    So, the main idea would be…
    …Experience comes in a variety of ways. So try to do things that you love and be there for people who need you.

  15. Mira

    I’d say that a realization there are different types of personalities helped me understand why some people think and act so differently than I do, and also, that I don’t have to be all things to all people – because I wasn’t called to do it. God gave me my personality and I am to use it in the best possible way, to work with it – not to fight it or try to make myself something I’m not. For example, it took me such a long time to be content with the fact that I’m not a spontaneous but rather let’s-have-a-plan-and-stick-to-it person. It really bugged me because it seems that in today’s world ‘spontaneity’ has almost become an idol. I realized that there are many different ways to be spontaneous and creative. I like boundaries around mine. 🙂

    Also, I’ve recently read an article in which something I was thinking about but couldn’t put into words – was succinctly explained: I try to have ‘open expectations’. That’s not to say that I have ‘low expectations’ – it means that I set goals or standards for myself and then work towards them – but without trying to stress too much about the details, or micromanage everything. I try to be content with what IS, and not think about what SHOULD be.

    Finally, whenever I become anxious, I try to remember that ultimately, Our Lord is in command – and it’s something that gives me an instant peace of mind. I have learned to do that by reading your blog.

    Conversion Diary is like my own personal how-to manual for life.

    You have a real gift and I cannot thank you enough for sharing it with the rest of us.

  16. Laura

    my view of the world changed drastically on 12/14/12, and so the big idea that has kept me focused on the face of Jesus Christ is to approach each day with gratitude. When I look for the graces and count the blessings and name each gift, no matter how big or how small, my eyes are opened to seeing that God DOES work all things for good. Giving thanks and praise no matter the circumstance….that has been a game changer for me.

  17. Julie

    Peer Orientation! I wholeheartedly agree. Due to budget and vehicle constraints, my boys were only able to participate in one extra activity a semester, if that! And even though they attend public school, we are still on the same budget restrictions, which means they are home most of the time after school. I’ve noticed that we (the parents) are a huge influence on them, and they will discuss the crazy decisions their peers make, and they are teens now. I feel that the way we live our lives is the main reason we are able to influence more than their peers. And I hope this continues….

  18. Caroline Starr Rose

    I think it’s cool you’re contemplating the big stuff while doing laundry.

  19. Rachel Parker

    I recently read an article about why loving your job shouldn’t be your focus when working, because it’s not a thing you should love. You should love your family and your friends, not a job. It really made me start to shift my thinking, and now #3 is clicking in my head!

  20. Emily B

    1. This one is obvious. I was a cradle Catholic but did not know my faith. Learning, living, and loving my faith has been a game changer!

    2. I haven’t taken a personality test but reading “The Temperament God gave you” by Art and Laraine Bennett was another game changer. I began to look at the world in a different way. I became more understanding of my husband and kids and easier on myself. My husband doesn’t speak until he has thought things through…I thought he was ignoring me. I speak to process my thoughts…he thought I was changing my mind every 3 seconds. You get the idea.

    3. I too read “Hold on to your Kids”. It completely rang true to me. I recognized how many mistakes I had made in caving to culture at times – all with the best intentions. Because of temperaments, it seemed to affect one of my children more than the others and we’ve been working through that for the last few years.

    4. Upon your recommendation I read “The War of Art”. It rang true. It struck me as a subset of “Unbound” by Neal Lozano. Everyone with original sin must read Unbound or go to an Unbound conference. People tend to think that evil doesn’t exist or works in big scary ways. I now know it works on us in whatever way we will allow it, which often seems small, but can have profound effect on uimplications.

    5. “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend. When this book was first recommended to me I didn’t think I needed to read it. After all, I know how to say NO. HA! I think everyone could learn something from this book. I now say YES and NO without the guilt that used to sometimes come with those responses. It helped me to recognize that my guilt often came from others trying to manipulate. I learned all about healthy boundaries…a crucial lesson that was missing from my childhood.

  21. Valerie @ Momma in Progress

    Yes, #2. Reading that book for the first time was eye-opening to say the least.

  22. Connie Rossini

    This post echoes the title of my free ebook, Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your life. The two of those lessons that have meant the most to me are the necessity of daily mental prayer, and trusting God. Both have have made a permanent, daily difference in the way I live my life and order my activities. Another is the call to live a simple life, to focus on necessary things and those helpful for getting to Heaven, and to resist (as you put it) our culture’s materialism and constant noise.

  23. Amy Caroline

    The one on vocation is one that really impacted my life. It changed everything for me and my family. It made our lives so much better!

    Also, is it just me, but I have noticed lately that it seems a lot of bloggers (like myself) are supposed to be the rarest personality group INFJ. I can’t help but wonder how rare it is when all blogger seem to be this one personality type. Or maybe it is the only place we don’t get our energy drained (for the most part, haha) and still get our word out. Hmmm…

  24. Rose

    I need to tape this to my fridge – thank you! I’m having one of those our-brains-must-live-in-the-same-jar moments. Except yours is way more articulate, and mine just sort of feeling-sprays all over everything.

    Really helpful post.

  25. Monica

    I just took my personality test and I’m also an INTP!

    A while ago, I read and loved both books per your recommendation: “Hold On to Your Kids” and “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. I think the first has made me want to homeschool someday and the second has given me a reason to take more risks in life. Both such enjoyable reads!

    Also, from the comments here, I want to second Emily B.’s comment on “Boundaries” being a great book to help with overcoming guilt when saying “yes” or “no”!

  26. Kristen N

    Someone mentioned silence. That’s a big one.

    Loved the list and the comment about experiencing thrills at the restaurant made me laugh. Glad to know about “The War of Art.” Thank you!

  27. Martha

    WOULD IT MAKE A GOOD STORY!!!?? That is epic. If I seriously asked myself that often, I can just see the situations I’d find myself in. After 17 years and 8 kids, lets just say I’m used to failure and am more than a bit skittish about, well, everything. So I just need to reword it, as it’s *always* a good story. Ha!

  28. Kari

    When I discovered, and then fully grasped, the reality that things are not always as they seem, it changed my life. I have always spent waaaay to much time and energy comparing myself and my life to others, especially those people who just come across as PERFECT. You know the type– always put together, always confident, always happy, always successful.

    One day I heard that a **perfect** family friend who I had known all my life was struggling with alcoholism that was destroying her family. I had spent so many years feeling inadequate next to her and had envied her for so many things. It really hit home that her perfect life was anything but. And I looked around at my crazy, imperfect life and realized that it is so full of amazing blessings and is, in many ways, perfect in its imperfections because it is real.

    Obviously, I also realized that often what appears so perfect just isn’t. It was eye-opening for me and has helped me to better accept my own faults and to refrain from putting others’ up on pedestals. Also- it reminds me to pray for others because no one really has it ALL together.

  29. elizabethe

    So, I was doing dishes while I thought of mine — you are not alone.

    In addition to Resistance, vocation, and temperament, which are big for me as well, I realized three others.

    1a. Day to day housecleaning is the frontline in the war between civilization and chaos. I came to this realization sometime in the first year of my marriage when I was actually trying to live the life of a homemaker for the first time. I realized that without cleaning, over time, nature reclaims every fruit of man’s creation. That it’s only by attending to the little tasks of daily cleaning that we carve out a space for ourselves. 1b. When I learned about Resistance I realized that keeping a tidy semi-organized home is an act of moving to a higher spiritual realm (and letting the people who live in that home — like children — also move to a higher spiritual realm) it attacks housekeepers both on a day to day personal/mental level (I’m too tired to clean today, if I don’t dust today it won’t matter, I’m a “messie”, I’m naturally disorganzied,” “I’d rather be comfortable” — all those little excused for not keeping the house reasonably well-running and semi-inviting) and also on a societal level. The constant social devaluing of homekeeping as a vocation — even by the women who practice it — is surely evidence of this.

    2. Habituation — I learned that infants who don’t get enough quiet sleep time aren’t necessarily sleeping when they are in a loud environment, they are habituating — shutting down some of their sensory processing so they can handle the overload. I’ve come to see this kind of aspect operating in every part of life. If you can’t handle one really stressful part of your life, you tend to shut down attention to that thing and overfocus on other things, or pretend like they don’t bother you. Just for instance (and to go along with point one) I used to think that I was naturally unorganized, or I didn’t care about messes, and then I was forced to keep my house very clean (it was on the market) for a month and I realized that I was just habituation and in fact was enormously stressed out by clutter. My home environment growing up was messy and shabby and I just learned to ignore how much all the visual clutter really bothered me.

    3. Decision-fatigue/importance of habits. When I learned about decision-fatigue it was a complete lightbulb to me as to why my life was becoming a shambles. I would routinely decide to do things and then change my mind when it was time to do them and then become just mentally fried by the afternoon. When I started having kids it just became a chaotic explosion of feeling frazzled ALL the TIME even though objectively I still had enough time to do things. I wasn’t planning or making habits or routines and I was completely burned out.

    Understanding that decision fatigue is a real thing (they’ve done social science experiments on judges who have to decide whether prisoners get parole all day, for instance) it REALLY helped me figure out which new things to let into my life. Whenever I decide whether or not to try something new (social media, an app, a new social group/volunteer commitment, a hobby) one of the metrics I use to evaluate it is how many more decisions I will have to make on a daily/weekly basis if I let it in.

    It also led me to understand the beauty of old fashioned household routines I had once completely thought were ridiculous, like “beef on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, Asian on Wednesday” type of cooking plans. Why would you limit yourself like that, I thought? What if you didn’t feel like beef on Monday?” When I started looking at them through the lens of decision fatigue I saw that habits and housekeeping routines and some old-fashioned child-rearing strategies, for that matter, are designed primarily for the purpose of keeping the person in charge of them from burning out from making too many decisions.

    Okay, that was long. I really need a blog.

    • Lisa

      Wow. That was good, practical insight. I’m thinking you must be a fan of Charlotte Mason.

      Definitely, you should start a blog

    • Marina Lehman

      Your list sounds so much like mine! Nicely articulated.

  30. Sarah H

    I love this idea. I might have to steal it for a blog post.

    Your point about Resistance is fascinating, it’s certainly given me something to ponder. I thoroughly agree with your points about peer orientation and vocation.

    Regarding personality, I’ve recently discovered I’m an ENFP, but I’m not sure how to apply that to my life. But it might be worthwhile to investigate it.

    For myself I’d say my 5 were:
    1. Finding out that conversion is an ongoing process not a once for all event…this takes off the pressure to be SURE about everything immediately and gives me time to understand and ponder things in a deeper way.
    2. To ask myself, “Who is in control?” when I become angry and frustrated about things. And even in relation to forgiveness, etc.
    3. That the word translated in the Bible ‘perfect’ – teleios – means ‘mature (consummated) from going through the necessary stages to reach the end-goal, i.e. developed into a consummating completion by fulfilling the necessary process (spiritual journey).’ (from HelpsBible) So I don’t need to be PERFECT immediately, it’s a process! Which goes back to my understanding that conversion is ongoing. Yay! Pressure release.
    4. That (in a sense) I don’t need to clean-up and make room for Jesus in my life, I open the door to Jesus and he cleans up and makes the room. I just need to be open to the change and willing to go along with it. Just a little bit of light makes a lot of darkness go.
    5. That really no-one cares if my house isn’t perfect. In fact, people are more comfortable when my house is imperfect because it takes the pressure off them to have perfect houses when I visit, plus they aren’t in terror of dropping a crumb, wrinkling a cushion, or spilling a drink. Hospitality is about people not houses or fine dining.

    Well that’s it. I might make that all into a blog post now. 🙂

  31. Tammy

    For me the game changing ideas have been:

    1) God may choose a task for you and it is exactly within His will and it may still be VERY VERY VERY hard (and accomplishing it may take years and years). The sanitized & polished American version of Christianity often seems to push the idea that you can tell the task God chose because it will flow easily.

    2) I can love people and nurture them in my life, but I am not obligated to allow other peoples depressions and addictions to ruin my life. My mother is a flaming alcoholic and severe depression ran from my husbands family into mine. Im neither addicted nor depressed and I have already spent enough time miserable over it and I’m done with that.

    3) Knowing your Temperament is really important and it causes us to act out and the sooner you know what yours is, they better off you are. I use this idea to teach nurses and doctors how they can best handle the severe stress of infant death situations…if they dont have a grasp on their own inclinations, they will make unnecessary communication mistakes (in situations where the margin of error is already zero).

  32. Kara

    I love this. The temperament concept is key with me personally. Other perspectives/worldviews:

    Our heritage. I view most everything in life in terms of how we have evolved as a human race – how we historically used to eat, sleep, and conduct our daily lives. We can’t know everything our ancestors did, but we know they ate real whole foods, slept when it was dark, had a lot of movement in their days, had a community and extended family, did hunter/gatherer work with their children involved, etc etc. Some are things I can’t and don’t want to make like the past (e.g., the work I do requires a short commute and time away from my family, but it’s very worth it) and others I can (trying to buy locally farmed food when we can, striving to get to bed by 9:30 most nights). Even if I can’t make something in my current life this day and age look like it did for our ancestors (and let’s face it, I’m grateful for many of the ways we have evolved like air conditioning!!) it helps me to realize if I’m frustrated with some things it’s likely not a pathological issue with me, but an issue of poor fit with our current culture. Like when I’m about to pull my hair out with the kids after a long day in which I’ve had no adult contact. As one of my brain-based psych instructors used to say, “we are poorly equipped for the world into which we have evolved”.

    A Life of Service and Connection – it used to kind of blow my mind a bit when you would talk about how much your paradigm shifted into realizing the peace and joy of serving others as one’s goal in life. I had just internalized that helping people is what makes one happy, and that surely everyone knew that secret even though we as a society like to pretend otherwise. Both my parents were teachers and involved in charitable work, as were my husband’s. We both went into career fields that reflect serving people as our primary goal too. When we make life decisions, it’s often based on this concept, even if something as simple as buying extra food one night a week to have friends over for dinner. Choosing people and experiences with people over things in general.

    Creativity – The importance of having opportunities for our own creative pursuits as well as the importance of admiring the work of others. I think my younger self would have dismissed things like art and music and performances as being superfluous in light of people starving to death in the world and whatnot. But I’ve come to realize the wisdom of the Church on this one, and how key it is to have things that remind us of something greater than ourselves, and to have something that inspires and makes our spirit soar. And in practice for our family, it means preserving unstructured time and doing less activities for our kids so they can play creatively and make art; for me to so I can write and imagine and create new dishes in the kitchen. It also looks like minimizing clutter and buying less stuff, so our house and space isn’t so overwhelming and we have more mental space and time not spent organizing our stuff to put towards projects and free time.

  33. Kristi

    I love this! Hold On To Your Kids is my favorite parenting book, by far. I love your other points too. The idea of vocation also really appealed to me, and helps encourage me to this day (we came into the Church in 2011). Also, the constant referring to people as “souls.”

  34. Julie Meyers

    1. People wear masks. Everyone has some kind of wound. I was shocked to learn this in middle school and every now and again it surprises me again when I think someone has it all together but bleeds like the rest of us.
    2. “You can’t keep it all and have a clean house”–I’ve got a reason to keep everything, but thanks to this thought from Kathryn Porter (author of Too Much Stuff: Winning the War Against Clutter), I realized that’s not reason enough to keep it. I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m learning to declutter.
    3. “There is grace enough for today.” This was my touchstone when I had 3 under 3 and there were some really long days. That time pushed me to grow in big ways.
    4. The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. Extremely fruitful and formative to my spiritual life.
    5. An online group of attachment parenting moms. Is that a big idea? They were so supportive when I was a new mom with no mom friends and I’m grateful for their encouragement as I developed my own parenting style. Yea for building people up, not mommy wars.

  35. Caroline M.

    I’m late to the party, but this is so much fun! I’ll have to do a post on this because otherwise it’d be too long, but in brief:

    1. Recognizing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Top life-changing event.

    2. Working at a rape crisis center and encountering the idea of “rape culture,” realizing how American culture promotes the idea that rape is something good women prevent, and realizing the devastating effects this idea has on our justice system. Working there and learning this concept was one of the biggest game-changers for me.

    3. The overwhelming impact of race in this country, especially in the South. Growing up white in the South means that you inherit a tremendous amount of racial baggage, and I’ve spent the last 10 years peeling off the layers. For instance, in school we were never taught about the Civil Rights movement in our own city, and I didn’t know there was a museum until I was in college. When you learn to see your own racist culture through the eyes of the oppressed, you can’t go back. Some recommended literature includes Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (an excellent but grim children’s book), Invisible Man, Black Boy, the poem “We Wear the Mask,” and The Souls of Black Folk.

    4. Dropped a sola-Scripture perspective and acknowledged that science and religion can co-exist. The Catholic ideas of tradition and reason were very important here.

    5. The philosophy of deontology, which is that every human person has intrinsic worth as an end unto themselves. In this system of ethics, it is important that you never use a person to another end, but that you recognize that a person IS the end/ point. This is what led me to being anti-torture, anti-IVF and cloning, and anti-death penalty.

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