Basil the Great, KonMari, and the Great Eastbound Adventure

Desert caravan LCCN2001705578 (This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. Thanks bunches.)

In a few months, we move east.

All ten of us.

We’re paying for the move by the cubic foot.  On a worn-out shoestring that’s been ready to snap for a couple of years.  So naturally, I took to Facebook to ask for advice. The advice I came out with all boiled down to what I already knew: get rid of stuff. Lots of stuff.

All. The. Stuff.

I read this post, and it’s been the foundation of my efforts.  Haley helped me realize that life does go on even if you don’t hoard your baby items.  Tight finances turn me into a hoarder – too scared to let anything go for fear I will need it. But I came across this quote from Basil the Great:

“The bread you store up belongs to the hungry; the cloak that lies in your chest belongs to the naked; the gold you have hidden in the ground belongs to the poor.”

It doesn’t make any sense to hang onto all the hand-me-downs and spare jackets and spare parts, at the cost of moving them across the nation.  There are people who need these things, and they are good things that should be used, not left to moulder in my garage for years on end. I’m not paring down, folks. I’m renovating. If I wouldn’t buy it for what it will cost me to move it, out it goes. And if I don’t need it, or use it, or love it, it isn’t even really mine. It really belongs to the person who needs it.

I’ve been going through the whole house, and selling/donating tons of toys, clothes, baby things, you name it.  The goal is half our stuff – except books.  (Any books gone is a good thing, but one must not expect too much.)

I also read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – you know, the crazy Japanese decluttering book. It’s a little weird, (and in a family of 10 who even folds socks? We’re proud of ourselves if they match, guys.) but I like it overall and it’s also helped as I have had to decide what to keep and what not to. Honestly I am not convinced the KonMari system really can work for a family (this is a gal who got rid of her vacuum because it didn’t make her happy, until she got tired of cleaning her floors by hand and got a new one. If she can think for one second that she might be happier without a vacuum, we do not inhabit the same universe) but I do love a minimalist approach, and I always want everything as simple as possible.  I found the book to be very encouraging for developing a freer, more generous attitude towards our stuff. Also,  I don’t like a mess, but I’m not good at keeping up with things. Less stuff=less work AND less mess. Win.

My mother always used to tell me, “If you can’t take care of your things, you don’t deserve to have them.” I hated that, but the truth is, she was right.

It’s only lately I have decided that maybe the answer isn’t to wave my wand and somehow make myself into a person who is better at taking care of stuff.

Maybe I just need less stuff.  

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Sweet Little Ones

The New Catholic Bookshelf – vol. 1

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There have been a number of books and articles that have been important to me along the road to Rome. My intention is to post periodically about books I either have read, or am reading, that have been helpful along the way. Recommended reading is also welcome! Also, I have linked these to Amazon, but if you want them, please consider saving a tree – and a buck – by borrowing or buying used! 🙂

One of the first books I read when we started thinking about this was Surprised by Truth, edited by Patrick Madrid.  It’s a compilation of 11 stories by converts from a wide variety of backgrounds, including Reformed, which was my own.  It was helpful for me to read about others grappling with the same issues I was, both the doctrinal questions and also the personal struggles and joys that come with such a major life change.  There are two sequels with more stories, which I have not read.  I plan to, eventually.

Another important book was Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. Another Presbyterian expat, Hahn’s books are engrossing. This one is doubly fascinating because it tells the Hahns’ story from the perspective of both husband and wife. They had a rough road for a while. The book made me realize how incredibly blessed we are that our whole family came into the church together.

One more for now, another Hahn book: Hail Holy Queen.  This is a favorite of mine, and I’m so happy that our parish library has it! The Marian doctrines tend to be some of the toughest for Protestants to even understand, let alone accept. I read a few books about Mary as I struggled with the topic, but this one was hands down the most helpful. All of my worries about Mary were skillfully addressed, and I was able to not just acquiesce to but joyfully embrace the Catholic view here.

Running: Day 5

20160520_134039.jpgFive days into my little running project: so far, so good.  I’ve run/walked three times and I did still get in kettlebell once, and that’s with plenty of crazy going on.  It’ll just take time before I know if I like it, or if I just like the shiny newness of it.  It is nicely refreshing to get out of the house!  I forget to leave the house for days at a time if nobody makes me.  It’s not like I’m gonna get bored in here.  (I’m looking at you, laundry piles. Not to mention the packing which I have only technically started.)  

Anyway, I like the 2 minute walk/1 minute run format, it’s not excruciating the way I expect running to be. I’m a little scared though because on the beginner program I’m following, tomorrow is the last day of that, and then we run more.  By next Friday, I’m supposed to be running 4 minutes, and walking 1.

I kinda don’t feel ready for that, but we’ll see.  I’ll give it a go.  I have this vague idea that maybe a mud run with the kids would be fun someday, but I probably would need to be able to run more than 1 minute in a row, first.

Here’s some shots I took during my walking portions this morning of my prettier stretch.  The uglier stretch looks like a huge busy 4-lanes with a construction project across the road, and who wants a picture of that?  But I want to share these, because I just discovered the filters on Instagram.  Don’t tell me how long they’ve been there, I don’t want to know. People talk about filters, I thought they meant an actual, physical filter on a camera.


I get there in the end.


The Gift of Final Perseverance: A Calvinist turned Catholic

The gift of final perseverance.

While I know that the Catholic view of this is objectively quite different than the Reformed, it wasn’t too much of a hurdle for me during my conversion.  In my own thinking, I don’t think I have actually had a substantive change here, and I think it’s maybe because I was closer to the Catholic view than I realized in the first place.

When I was a Protestant, I held to the Perseverance of the Saints.  That meant that anyone who was truly regenerate was going to persevere to the end.  But, it didn’t mean that anyone who thought they were regenerate, acted like they were regenerate, believed they were regenerate, or what have you, were guaranteed to be right about that.  The possibility of self-deception on my own part, or outward deception on the part of others, was there.  It didn’t keep me up at night – usually – but it was there.  After all, I have a good number of friends who have left the faith after making very credible professions and living very credible lives.  So, I figured they never really believed, never had true faith, though they may themselves have thought they did.

How do you know the difference?  You have to persevere to the end.  You have to read your Bible, pray, and go to church, because God requires these things and neglecting them can lead you astray. You can’t live in unrepentant sin, on an ongoing basis, because a real Christian won’t do that.

Now, as a Catholic, I hold that not all who are given the gift of faith are also given the gift of final perseverance.  So you might have true faith, but it might be the kind which “fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.”  (Matthew 13:5, NAB)

How can you tell the difference?  Well, you have to persevere to the end.  You have to trust God and nurture, not neglect, your faith. You can’t live in mortal sin, but you have to renounce your sins and confess them when you don’t.

See what I mean?  In my own head, there’s not a big difference there.

I have heard Protestants say that the Catholic view is no longer “good news;” my reaction is that I feel like the Catholic way is better news.  Many Protestants, whether they believe in the perseverance of the saints or not, struggle with wondering if they are really saved.  Did they really mean their profession? Do they have true faith?  For sure? “But I sin, sometimes.  And I forget to pray.  And I am still SO MAD at so-and-so who ripped my heart out 10 years ago!  Is that compatible with true faith?  Yes, Christ’s sacrifice covers all, but it’s not applied to everyone.  Do I really believe?”

The sacraments in the Catholic church simplify this problem.  We are given reliable, outward signs, which God granted to the church, and those sacraments do things.  You have regular, tangible, concrete ways to express your faith, belief, and repentance, to receive real and strengthening graces, and to hear and see and taste that you really are part of the Body of Christ. I love that.

Of course the sacraments can be abused and taken lightly.  And you could say, “Well, how do I know that the faith with which I participate in Confession, or Confirmation, etc, is ‘good enough.'” But I would say that it’s more accessible to know within yourself that you are receiving a particular sacrament in faith with good intent, not to deceive or carelessly, than it is to take a full internal inventory.  At least, it is for me.

And, you can ask for the grace of final perseverance.  A couple of quotes from New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

“From our incapacity to certainly know and to strictly merit the great gift, we should not infer that nothing can be done towards it.Theologians unite in saying that final perseverance comes under the impetrative power of prayer and St. Liguori (Prayer, the great means of Salvation) would make it the dominant note and burden of our daily petitions.”


“Nor should the timorousness of the saints, graphically described by Newman, be so construed as to contradict the admonition of the Council of Trent, that “all should place the firmest hope in the succour of God“. Singularly comforting is the teaching of such saints as St. Francis de Sales(Camus, “The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales”, III, xiii) and St. Catherine of Genoa (Treatise of Purgatory, iv). They dwell on God’s great mercy in granting final perseverance, and even in the case of notorious sinners they do not lose hope: God suffuses the sinners’ dying hour with an extraordinary light and, showing them the hideousness of sin contrasting with His own infinite beauty, He makes a final appeal to them. For those only who, even then, obstinately cling to their sin does the saying of Sirach 5:7, assume a sombre meaning “mercy and wrath quickly come from him, and his wrath looketh upon sinners”.”

Spaghetti Sauce – with THM S option

spaghetti sauce with thm option.jpg

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This recipe makes a ginormous batch of traditional meat sauce.  I use a 6 qt pot and it fills it to the tip top (unless, as in the picture above, I forgot to buy mushrooms and wine.  Then there’s less sauce, and also a little less happiness.)

I make this sauce at the beginning of a really busy week; our family of 10 can usually get three meals out of it, plus some random lunch servings, remembering that some are little and 3 don’t like sauce and are allowed to eat plain pasta and carrot sticks.  Everyone else loves it enough to eat it multiple times, so I just leave the sauce in the enameled pot (I have this one ~affiliate link~) in the fridge and stick it back on the stove to reheat another day.  The flavor just gets better with age.

Within a certain limit, of course.
Continue reading “Spaghetti Sauce – with THM S option”

Another New Thing – or, don’t I have enough to do?

A few days ago before the blog went live, I was thinking maybe I’d do some posts about kettlebell.  I have been working out with kettlebells for a few years; they are really a busy mom’s dream, giving you a great workout in a very short time – 10-20 minutes will do a lot.   I have loved using them and have gradually worked my way up from my 10 lb starting bell – which about killed me at the time – to my current 20.

But honestly, I have been having a hard time squeezing them in.  I’ve been blaming the move, which is part of it.  And a nagging neck injury, which is also part of it.  But yesterday I hit on the real reason: I’ve gotten bored.  I’ve put a lot into improving, and I’ve gotten to a point where, unless I’m really going to step things up and go all bodybuilder (if I had time for that, I’d spend it doing something else!), I’m not going to increase the weight of my bell any more, and my technique isn’t going to improve that much more.  So I’m maintaining.  Which is fine…but boring all by itself.  I like something that I am learning and getting better at.  Kids are great for that.  I can never figure them out.

So after I had an interesting conversation with a friend who is a runner, I thought maybe I’d give it a try.  I did used to run a little in college, but I was never very good at it, and I haven’t tried it since.  Yesterday, I did Day One of the beginner program on Runner’s World.

After our first run.

I always hesitate to start stuff like that, because then I feel dumb if it sputters out – and you know, I obviously don’t have enough on my plate moving ten people across the country on a shoestring, starting a new blog, and the other miscellanies that come from being in charge of a small nation  large family.  Clearly, I need to embark on an 8 week beginning running program, too.

Well, I can’t pack all the time.  I have to stay sane somehow!

But I liked the first day.  I thought maybe that the very first stage would be too easy, what with all the kettlebell, but apparently it’s a whole different skill set, because I was plenty challenged.  And bonus points, because fussy teething boy could come along in the stroller.


cropped-profile-attempt.jpgWelcome to my new blog!  If you happen to have followed me over from my old, neglected, dusty blog Diligence Without Fear, you’ll notice that there have been some big changes for our family lately, namely that we have converted to the Catholic Church, and also that we finally (finally!) have obtained that long-sought full time job and will soon be moving from Utah, our home of 16 years, to a brand new town in North Carolina!  You’ll also find that I will share some oldies from that blog occasionally, and that we have a new baby whose birth story I haven’t written yet.  He’s only a year old, guys.  Give me some time, here.

So, I’ll blog about all kinds of things, but especially about our Catholic transition and our relocation.  When the dust settles I’ll turn my attention to our new town, homeschooling, and my efforts to simplify and minimalize our crazy, chaotic life.


Birth Story #1: Erin

As anyone who has known me very long can probably attest, I am deeply interested in the subject of childbirth; particularly natural childbirth.  Get me in the same room with another mom with the same bent and we will talk till the wee hours of the morning.  Been there and done it! 😉

I thought a good way to lay the foundation for the childbirth  section of my blog would be to give my birth stories.  Some are more interesting than others – with #4 being unequivocally the most interesting of all – but they all are, of course, deeply a part of who I am now, and have all informed my own philosophy of birth.  So without further ado…#1, 1999.

Erin’s birth story has to start way before birth.  I found out I was pregnant with her just before my 21st birthday; I was in college and had been married for 2 months.  I hadn’t really planned on getting pregnant yet – we had not, at that time, yet come to the conclusion that under most circumstances babies should be welcomed, not avoided.  So, it was all a big surprise to me – which just seems pretty funny all these years and babies later.

I had never learned anything about labor and birth, and had never given the subject any thought – so I did what “everybody else” seemed to do, and rang up the nearest OB clinic.  There I went for eight months of my pregnancy, during which time I read and studied about pregnancy and birth tirelessly.  Around month eight, it was final: I was a firmly convinced natural birth fanatic.  I was then, and remain today, absolutely convinced that, barring complications, natural birth is by far the safest and healthiest route for baby’s entrance into the world.  So I trotted trustingly into my OB’s office next visit, and mentioned that I didn’t think I wanted a routine IV.  This started a dreadful scene in which the OB became more and more upset by my views, to the point of literally shouting at me in the office.  It was terrible…and I walked out, never to return.  Eight months pregnant, I started from scratch to find a new provider, this time a local, natural birth friendly midwife.

It’s funny, though – it is the mistakes I made after that point that taught me the most important lessons for future births.  My biggest mistake (after choosing a random OB out of the phone book) was in not having a birth plan.  I didn’t think it was necessary; I knew what I wanted, my husband knew, and we talked it over with the midwife, and we were all good.  However, there was a hitch – the midwife had a partner, whom I never met, until – sure enough – she was the one on call when I went into labor.  Now, not meeting my midwife’s partner was another mistake I would not care to repeat.  I ended up with a midwife I had never met, overseeing my hospital birth, with no birth plan.  (Brilliant, O Childbirth Fanatic…)  My labor was pretty textbook for a first labor – on the fast side.  It was 11 hours from start to finish, with about an hour of pushing.  I did have my natural birth, in terms of being unmedicated and mostly free to move how I chose – but I ended up on a monitor much more than necessary, and even had an internal monitor placed toward the end, for no real reason that I was ever informed of.  I would never have consented to this without being informed of the justification, but I was not asked, and it was placed before I had any idea what was going on.  I also tore pretty badly, probably due to poor positioning and lack of proper support.

So – all things considered, it was a good birth, and it achieved its end: a strong healthy baby.  It could have been better if I had been just a bit more proactive about things, and avoided those two big mistakes.

Birth Story #2 – Anna

My second birth was quite different from my first one.  I had everything I had learned in my first pregnancy under my belt, and I was ready to go.  I was also in a new city, and needed to locate a new midwife.  I was careful to interview her at the beginning, making sure we would be on the same page about things that were important to me.  There was no partner midwife in the picture this time, and I made sure to write up a birth plan and talk about it with my new midwife – whose name was Toni.  This was to be another midwife attended hospital birth; that’s what I’ve done with all my births, and have been pretty happy with it.  I have often thought of going for a home birth…I always say, with each baby, that I’m going to do it this time.  But, for a variety of reasons, I never have. These days, while I would still consider a home birth under the right circumstances, I am pretty content with the hospital.  I have a good midwife, and an excellent hospital which is very baby and mom friendly, and actually assumes a natural approach unless otherwise indicated.  That, and the room service brings the most interesting and tasty meals in…not that I recommend you choose a birthing location based on who’s got the best food.  Sure doesn’t hurt, though…

Anyway, my labor with Anna started at 5 am – precisely the same time as it had begun with Erin.  This time, though, the contractions were wildly irregular and erratic, going from strong and close together to very weak and up to 20 minutes apart, or even more.  I spent most of that day wondering whether I was really in labor or not!  (As it turns out, this is a trick my body really enjoys pulling on me.  More in future birth stories…)  I called the midwife, who suggested I eat and take a nap, and see what happened.

So, I napped, and I walked, and hung around, till around 4pm, when another confused call to the midwife led to my deciding to go in to her office and get checked, before she went home for the day.  As it turned out, though I was cheerful, chatty, and starting to really be pretty sure that this was not to be the big day…I was dilated to 8 (yes, 8) centimeters!!  The nurses were shocked – I neglected to tell them I had already been checked, and they admitted me thinking I was really early in my labor.  When I finally thought to mention it I inspired a flurry of activity to gather all the birth paraphernalia…which got to sit there looking lonely, for quite a few more hours.

It ended up taking until midnight for Anna to make her debut – those were some very long hours, in between.  The birth really couldn’t have been much better, though – the only lesson I took away to improve for next time was to pay more attention to my emotional signs of labor.  I may have been way dilated, but I was still emotionally in early labor.  Understanding that would have helped me not be shocked and dismayed at how much farther I still had to go.  But knowing my midwife better, and having a solid birth plan, went a long way to helping me have another good, natural labor and birth.  Most of all, though, I am thankful to God for everything going so smoothly with no major complications.  I have been extraordinarily blessed in that with all my babies, and I do not ever want to take that for granted!

Birth Story #3 – Rebecca – Faster than the Doctor and in the Caul

With Miss Becca, the story starts a few weeks before birth…

I was eight months pregnant and hanging out with my four and six year old daughters outside our apartment.  We played (well, as I recall I was pretty stationary about it!) for a while, and then one of then remembered a toy that was urgently needed for the game.  Not wanting to get up and waddle inside myself, I asked my oldest to run in after it.

No sooner was she out of sight than I heard her screaming like mad – a truly panic-stricken scream that set off all my mommy-alarms.  I had no idea whether she was hurt, or if someone was trying to take her, or what – but I jumped up and ran as fast as I could go to rescue her, without a care to the protests of my heavily pregnant body.  I found her just inside the door – the inner door of our apartment building was very heavy and swung itself shut, and she had gotten her fingers trapped by the door.  It didn’t turn out to be too big a deal for her; her fingers were sore but otherwise ok.

My dash across the yard was not without its price, though.  By the time I got her back to the apartment to examine her fingers, the adrenaline had more or less worn off, and I began to hurt.  Very soon, I hurt so much I could barely walk.  The motion of my uninhibited sprint had damaged one of the ligaments that support the womb, and it was around a week before I could walk very well again.  I was nervous about how this might affect my labor, but as my due date approached, the ligament pain disappeared entirely, and I relaxed.

Fast forward – The week I was due, I got sick with a fever.  I stayed in bed for several days; then, one morning I woke up feeling terrible.  I was still feverish, I was sick to my stomach, and the ligament pain returned and became severe.  I had no signs of labor, but I was worried by the fever especially, so I called my doctor to get her advice.  My symptoms led her to think there might be a problem with the placenta, so I called Mark, who headed home from work (almost an hour commute, at the time).  I also called Grandma, who came to take me to the hospital and keep the girls.

Mark met us at the hospital, where I was shortly to get quite a surprise.  The nurse took my temperature – my fever was gone.  Then, when she hooked me up to the monitor to see how baby was doing, she looked at me kind of funny and said, “you’re in labor!”

How could I be in labor!?  Can you be in labor with no contractions??  But there were contractions, right there on the little monitor screen – I just couldn’t feel them.  The pain of my ligament injury was so severe that it blocked out any sensations of labor.

At this point I began to be really afraid.  I was in a lot of pain already, and it was not the ebb-and-flow of labor that I knew how to focus and cope with.  How was I going to deal with this pain as labor progressed?

Hoping for relief, I got in the bathtub.  Now, in general, I’m not big on water labor – it just doesn’t help me that much.  But this time – it was incredible!  The warm water melted away the ligament pain, and instantly I could feel my contractions.  I stayed there for just a little while, then I felt like I needed to get up and walk around.  As soon as I emerged, the contractions redoubled themselves, and I began to bleed.  A nurse suggested I return to the bed.

At that point, it gets a little blurry.  I had only been there for 45 minutes – I had only known I was in labor for 45 minutes, and now, baby was coming.  I was pushing involuntarily; my doctor was busy with a birth at another hospital, and the nurses were in a panic.  I was a little busy, but through the haze, I remember the room filling with what must have been every labor nurse on the floor, and I remember hearing them paging a doctor, any doctor, to come right away.  No one made it in time, but praise God, there were no complications.  My water never broke; she was born still in the intact membranes, caught by a very anxious labor nurse.

I always wonder what that labor would have been like if I had not damaged that ligament – but as it was, we were kind of stunned at how fast it all happened.  If we had known what would happen at the next birth, however – it would have seemed pretty normal by comparison!