Grace, Works, and a Catholic Convert

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I used to think Catholics taught salvation by works, not grace. After all, they do teach that works are necessary for salvation, and that’s pretty much the same thing.

Right?

Well, no. I’ve mentioned before that as a new convert to the Catholic Church, I was continually surprised by the faith and piety that I encountered. I still notice, with joy and wonder, every time I go to a different parish and it, too, is jam-packed with people who obviously take their faith very seriously.

The same thing happened every time I dug into Catholic theology, including on the topics of grace, faith, works, and justification. I expected to find terrible, man-centered heresy. Instead, I found truth, and beauty.

So, I had some things wrong about grace, works, and merit before I converted.

~1~

“Catholics think they are saved by religion, not by Jesus.”

This is a common charge, and I would have said something like that, back in the day. I love this quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

“Christianity is not a system of ethics, it is a life. It is not good advice, it is divine adoption. Being a Christian does not consist in just being kind to the poor, going to church, singing hymns, or serving on parish committees, though it includes all of these. It is first and foremost a love relationship with Jesus Christ.”

A lot of Protestants, my former self included, would be confused at best to hear these words coming from a highly respected Catholic. A love relationship with Jesus Christ”? Sounds like something straight out of a Bible church to me!

~2~

“Catholics think they are saved by their merit, not grace.”

The Catholic doctrines of merit sound like a foreign language to Protestants. Words and phrases like “merit,” the “treasury of merit,” or “indulgences” communicate to Protestants concepts that Catholics do not intend or believe. The main thing to bear in mind is that “merit,” when speaking of the merits of the saints, or our merits before God, doesn’t refer to anything that comes from us. Consider this quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, found online here:

“The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.” – Catechism, Article 2, Section 1

Or this quote from St. Therese of Liseaux:

“After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “Act of Offering” in Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke (Washington DC: ICS, 1981), 277

For a more in-depth treatment, try this post from Called to Communion.

~3~

“Catholics think they are saved by faith + works, not faith alone.” There’s no room for grace.

You know, I remember from many conversations among Reformed friends about justification the favorite saying that “we are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.” I thought that the Catholic view that works, sanctification, etc., are all a part of justification was a corruption of the Gospel, detracting from the work of Christ on the cross.

Not so. Take this quote from Saint Augustine, widely loved and respected by Protestants:

“What merits of his own has the saved to boast of when, if he were dealt with according to his merits, he would be nothing if not damned? Have the just then no merits at all? Of course they do, for they are the just. But they had no merits by which they were made just” (Letters 194:3:6 [A.D. 412]).

“What merit, then, does a man have before grace, by which he might receive grace, when our every good merit is produced in us only by grace and when God, crowning our merits, crowns nothing else but his own gifts to us?” (Letters 194:5:19).

If you want to dig into this a little more, this article from Catholic Answers is very thorough and includes a helpful compilation of quotes from the Church Fathers. Also, Jimmy Akin has a characteristically super-thorough post on Justification by Faith Alone.

~4~

The Canons Council of Orange (529 A.D.) – the Council all Calvinists should read

I’m going to get really specific here for a minute. I was a Reformed Calvinist Protestant. Anyone who is, was, or knows a Calvinist needs to read and share the Canons of the Council of Orange. (You can find it online here.) It really tears down the idea that Catholics believe that they contribute anything to their salvation that does not come from God in the first place. In trying to select some quotes, I got frustrated, because I really want to share the whole thing with you! But here is a sample:

“That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.” Canon 20

And,

“Concerning those things that belong to man. No man has anything of his own but untruth and sin. But if a man has any truth or righteousness, it is from that fountain for which we must thirst in this desert, so that we may be refreshed from it as by drops of water and not faint on the way.” Canon 22

And,

“Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.” Canon 23

While I’m getting a little more technical than usual, some say that the Council of Trent (online here) contradicts the Council of Orange. Bryan Cross wrote a good post on that a while ago, found here.

Conclusion

So, when I was investigating the Catholic Church, I found out that my preconceptions and assumptions about the Church’s teaching on grace and works were plain wrong.  You can go as deep as you want on this topic (see some recommended reading below), but Archbishop Sheen summed up the simple truth perfectly in the quote from above:

“Christianity is not a system of ethics, it is a life. It is not good advice, it is divine adoption…It is first and foremost a love relationship with Jesus Christ.”

For Further Study

What is the Catholic Doctrine of Salvation – The Christian Freethinker

The Drama of Salvation – Jimmy Akin

Justification by Faith – Peter Kreeft

Moment by Moment: the secret of happiness for moms (and everybody else)

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.” ~ St. Gianna

So the last few years, my life has felt like one long stroll in front of a firehose. Can you relate? I don’t need to rehash all the things that have happened – some wonderful, some hard, some heartbreaking. Some I have written about, and some are just too personal to share with you all. We all have those times, and even in the times when life is on the calm side, kids get crazy. Like all day, every day crazy!

In the middle of it all, moms have to ride the crazy and be a mother to each of her kids. Every one of them is a blessing and a gift, and each one needs and deserves a mother who is present to them, now, even especially when life Just. Won’t. Stop.

How do we weather these days with grace? I’m not getting any younger, and neither are my kids. I refuse to lose these years to the crazy. My baby boy will only be two once; he can’t wait for when my life stops falling apart and we get all the pieces picked up.

I believe the answer lies in St. Gianna’s quote, above. I need to be present. I need to remain IN the present moment, not aching for the past or being crushed by fear of the future. Each day, each minute, each child, each and every glass of water and skinned knee and sibling squabble and knotted shoelace matters. It deserves my attention. It’s important. More important, even, than my big grown-up problems that never seem to go away.

I’ve also found that remaining firmly in the present moment is the best way to respond gently (or at least appropriately) to the endless stream of needs that a pack of kids will bring. The child standing in front of me has a need. I might feel impatient, because I have been responding to a lot of needs, all day long (and none of them mine). It can seem like somebody is always skinning their knee around here (but mostly it’s just Emily, over and over and over again. That poor kid is, um, accident-prone, shall we say??). But, assuming that the need is legitimate, the ones that came before don’t really matter, nor do the ones that will come after. The need in front of me is what matters.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the fifth band-aid I have doled out that morning; the bumps and bruises of childhood hurt just as much the fifth time as they did the first, and deserve as much mercy every time. (Even for the really clumsy accident-prone 4-year-old.)

It doesn’t matter to my 2-year-old that I have heard all his stories before, from siblings who told me the same ones years before he was born. He needs me to hear him, to delight in him, today.

It doesn’t matter how many glasses of water I have handed out. The kid is still thirsty, and deserves not only a glass of water, but a dose of love and cheerfulness to go with it.

I daresay that if we could apply this principle to how we think about not just our own children and routine chores, but also to how we think of those in need around us, it might revolutionize our attitude.  It’s great if we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and buried the dead yesterday. The dead may be satisfied, but I guarantee the hungry will get hungry again. Every day, just like the rest of us. One more reason I am delighted to be a part of the Catholic Church is that I get to be a part of the largest humanitarian organization in the world! One person can’t do everything (even us moms, guys. Seriously). But being part of a network where we all pitch in to see to the needs of those around us day in and day out is a privilege.

So, whether life is sailing along or falling to pieces, I’m certain that St. Gianna is right. Each moment of our lives, good or bad, has value, and has a purpose. A life lived well is really only a collection of moments used well, or moments used badly, but learned from and forgiven.


Tweet: Each moment of our lives, good or bad, has value, and has a purpose.


I love this quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

“The second remedy for the ills that come to us from thinking about time is what might be called the sanctification of the moment — or the Now. Our Lord laid down the rule for us in these words: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Mt 6:34). This means that each day has its own trials; we are not to borrow troubles from tomorrow, because that day too will have its cross. We are to leave the past to divine mercy and to trust the future, whatever its trials, to God’s loving providence. Each minute of life has its peculiar duty — regardless of the appearance that minute may take. The Now-moment is the moment of salvation. Each complaint against it is a defeat; each act of resignation to it is a victory.” (From From the Angel’s Blackboard, as quoted in a wonderful reflection on this subject by Fr. Andrew Apostoli. Emphasis mine.)

None of this is to say that we should enjoy every moment; it not a mom guilt thing. Please no! There are so many tough moments in our lives. We just don’t need to make them harder than they are by dwelling on the ones that came before, or the ones sure to come after. Sure, there will be muddy floors, broken dishes and broken hearts in the days to come. Of course there will. And of course, we carry the scars of our past. We just don’t have to live there.

Today’s trouble is enough for today. I have that on good authority.

Linked up at  www.theologyisaverb.com and www.reconciledtoyou.com/blog.html.

 

How I’m staying sane while my world has gone mad

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

So while things haven’t really gone swimmingly for us this year, at least they have finally calmed down a little. It’s really only the eye of the storm; we are tackling another interstate move in only 6 weeks, and Mark is still searching and searching for work. I so appreciate the suggestions from you all; we’ve decided to head for Missouri to be near family again.

So the crazy marches on. But for right now, our house is listed, and my sick kiddo is still getting better and has far fewer hospital visits and less gear to contend with. I can almost pretend life is normal.

In the lull, I’m trying to recover my sanity, while I also pack and keep my house absurdly clean in case we get a showing. Have I mentioned that we have 8 kids, a large hairy white dog, two cats, a rabbit, and a parakeet? So while I’m in the kitchen trying to make it look like no one has ever eaten anything in this home:

  • my 9 year old is in the living room accidentally spraying the walls with milk (I’m not kidding, that happened tonight)
  • my 2 year old is in the bathroom giggling while he pours soapy water on the floor
  • the dog wanders across the newly swept floor, casually shakes, and instantly sheds her entire winter coat
  • my 7 year old is knocking over another glass of milk in the dining room.
  • and what is the 4 year old is up to? Don’t ask.

Wait, we were talking about sanity. How I’m staying sane. Sorry, I got sidetracked. (Am I staying sane? Let’s just assume, for now. K? Good.)

I’m sleeping with my Rosary

Between some insomnia, and overwhelming busyness cutting into my prayer time, when I stumbled across this quote from St. Bernadette, it struck me as the perfect solution: “In the evening, when you go to sleep, hold your beads, doze off reciting them. Do like those babies who go to sleep mumbling, ‘Mamma! Mamma!'”

This is a practice that I don’t do all the time, but when I am very, very stressed out, I do find it a viable and very helpful way to keep up with prayer time.

I’m learning French.

My daughter introduced me to Duolingo, a charming little free app that lets you learn a foreign language in teeny little bits. I have my goal set to 5 minutes a day, and I’m still blazing through the surprising amount I remember from high school. I have always adored language learning and especially French, and just the little bit of something different that I love helps me feel more like me and less like a human fire extinguisher.

I’m focusing on my health. 

Months of high-stress crisis living have taken their toll on me, not to mention certain middle-agey things that seem to be happening. Did you ever wonder why women gain weight after 40? Now I think I know. It’s because it becomes physically impossible not to eat the entire jar of Nutella. Not that I’m 40 yet, but it’s staring me down, friends.

So, I’m fighting it by running again, and picking up my kettlebell more often, and trying to (mostly) eat like a normal person. This is hard, but I’m a zillion times happier on the days when I’ve done it.

I’m blogging.

This not only takes my mind off things and helps me to connect with others (which is of great value in itself), but I am also working on building this little blog into a business that can contribute to our family income. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort lately on education for myself in the areas of blogging and working from home. It’s been slow going with all the nuttiness happening, but I’m still making progress, and I love that I can set it aside when I have to deal with life.

So, with this little project well underway, I have found a lovely resource to share with you all: The Ultimate Work at Home Bundle. I was thrilled when I saw this recommended by bloggers who have been in the trenches for a good long while and who have built a solid business out of it.

I have not spent a lot of money on my business, but most of what I have spent is on educational resources.  I’m excited to dig into this bundle, which includes 30 eBooks, 14 full eCourses, 4 printables, and 1 audiobook, and comes highly recommended by longtime, successful work-at-home moms. (I’m especially delighted to see two ebooks from Jeff Goins, whose blog has been helpful to me.) It’s a complete library compiled to help you:

  • Identify your marketable skills
  • Juggle your responsibilities and find work + life balance
  • Manage your time efficiently
  • Avoid the most common pitfalls of the work-at-home lifestyle
  • Understand the legal and financial implications of your business (this is the one I need the most help with!)
  • Discover how to get into the business that most appeals to you, whether it’s a wholesale product, service-based, handmade, transcription, becoming a VA, or any other number of opportunities

It also comes with over $500 worth of bonus offers; the package includes 50 digital products and it’s worth over $2,300.

By offering the bundle for a short time only, the team at Ultimate Bundles is able to give us access to over $2,300 worth of amazing products for a whopping 98% off! It’s on sale for 6 days (including today, which is pretty much over, so we’re down to 5 days now). Consider this your heads up if working from home is something you aspire to, or already do! 🙂

The sale ends June 12th, and they do mean it. I missed out on a homemaking bundle a while back because I kind of assumed they’d extend the deadline and maybe knock the price down even more…but this one doesn’t work that way. When the clock runs out, the sale is done.

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(Disclosure: I’m an affiliate of Ultimate Bundles; sales made through my links help pay for another stinking moving truck – at no additional cost to you.)

What are your favorite self-care tips when life gets…lifey? Do share!

Linked up at:

This Is How We Roll Thursday Party

Meeting Mary on the Way to Rome: seven things I learned about the Virgin Mary when I became Catholic

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

“Mary, if you are there, pray for me. Jesus, if this is wrong, show me. And forgive me.”

I prayed that little prayer silently in my head, too scared to whisper it out loud. It was the first evening that what Mark and I had both been thinking had been broached out loud – should we be Catholic?

So began my sojourn into the Catholic Church. As a staunch, old-school Presbyterian, I was terrified at the Catholic thoughts racing around my head, but there was no forgetting the things that I had recently learned, or the doubts that had been raised. After some talking, and some crying, I went to bed feeling as though my whole world was being shaken.

Over the next few weeks, I devoured all the literature I could find on Catholic “hot button” topics, and Mary was at the top of the list. I had held the opinion for a long time that Catholic beliefs about Mary were idolatrous. But, like a number of other things, once I really dug into the Catholic perspective, my objections began to crumble. In my reading, I didn’t find the “superstitious medievalism” that I expected. Instead, I found some things that I had never heard of or considered. There are some wonderful and profound truths in the Marian doctrines.

 

But first things first. Because if praying to Mary is actually idolatrous, I was going to be off the train to Rome as abruptly as I got on.

~1~

Foundation Matters

Like pretty much every other problematic doctrine we came across in our conversion, the questions about Mary brought us back to that foundational doctrinal problem of Sola Scriptura – the Protestant idea that Scripture alone is the sole authority of the church, without the Tradition of the Church.

Sola Scriptura is the lynchpin of the question of Mary. If Protestants are right that the Bible alone is the only rule of faith and practice, then it’s pretty clear that the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about the relationship of the Church to the Mother of her Lord – not if you are lacking an infallible guide to help illumine the places that teach about her. Lacking any clear command to give her any particular honor or expect a relationship with her, Protestants insist that to do so is an extraneous invention, at best superfluous and at worst idolatrous, taking away from or even destroying our relationship with Jesus.

When Sola Scriptura fell apart for me, it was the beginning of a huge cascade of doctrinal questions and changes. I really don’t believe that many of the disputes between Protestants and Catholics can ever be resolved without resolving the relationship of Scripture and Tradition first. Until then, we’re just talking past each other.

For a quick refutation of Sola Scriptura, see here. For a longer one, try Sola Scriptura and Private Judgement by Jimmy Akin. The latter impacted me deeply when I first read it; we had been recently ejected from our Protestant church home of 14 years over a minor doctrinal dispute, and the wounds were very fresh. I’m thankful for those wounds now – they began my journey to the Catholic Church.

~2~

Don’t we only pray to God? Isn’t it the very definition of idolatry to pray to a creature?

In the many years since the Reformation, the development of a language barrier has deepened and hardened the divide between the Church and her separated Protestant brethren.

You see, when Protestants hear the term, “pray to,” it automatically says to them, “pray to a deity, for the kinds of things one prays to a deity for.”

Well, sure. Under that definition, praying to Mary would automatically be idolatrous, wouldn’t it?

But, I learned that that isn’t what Catholics mean. When a Catholic says that they are going to pray to Mary or another saint, they mean “pray” in the different, older sense that has fallen out of common usage in the modern Protestant world; as in, “I pray thee,” or, “pray proceed.” It meant (and means still) simply, “I ask you.” You could say it to literally anyone.

Catholics are simply asking Mary (and the saints) to pray for us, because “the prayer of a righteous man has great power” (James 5:16).

~3~

Even so, why would anyone think that Mary, or any other saint that has passed on, CAN or DOES pray for us?

Well, it turns out that the Church has believed this to be the case from the very earliest days. From Psalms to Revelation, from Clement of Alexandria to Augustine, we see this beautiful belief supported. This article from EWTN offers the grand tour of quotes on this subject from the Fathers.

~4~

The Rosary

Oh, the Rosary. How much my opinion has changed!

To my Protestant brain, the Rosary was the embodiment of everything that was wrong with the Catholic Church. Vain repetition? Check. Idolatrous prayer to Mary? Check. Participation in extra-Biblical traditions? Check. Belief in doctrines or events not directly stated in the Bible (like the Coronation of Mary)? Check. Some people even use images of Christ to aid their reflection – violation of the 2nd Commandment? Check!

Boom. The Rosary was one concentrated slug of Papist heresy, hung on a little string of beads.

If you had told me that in a few years, I would come to love praying the Rosary, and that I would carry one in my purse, I might have replied that I would be better off dead.

Ouch. Sorry. I changed my mind.

The Rosary is a beautiful and profound tour of the life of Christ. (It’s also not required, for the record. I used to think that to be Catholic you HAD to pray the Rosary. This is not the case.) Each decade of the Rosary leads you to reflect on a different event relating to Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. You meditate on the spiritual implications and fruit of that event, and how it impacts you where you are right now.

You know. Awful stuff, that.

~5~

So is the Rosary “vain repetition” like Jesus warned against in Matthew 6:7?

Not all repetition is vain repetition. If so, Psalm 136 would be a problem, concluding each of 26 lines with “God’s love endures forever!” One has to consider the purpose and effect of the repetition.

Father Dwight Longenecker has an excellent article on this; also see Our Sunday Visitor for more reading.

~6~

Mary’s Fiat

Not the car, guys.

No, Mary’s “fiat” refers to her perfect “yes,” her full submission to the will of God when she replied to the angel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

This is not so much something that I learned about Mary from the Catholic Church; I knew this one already. But this is a profound spiritual truth that I am learning from her. When Mary said “yes,” she held nothing back, and her entire life changed in the blink of an eye. From the ridicule she must have endured as an unmarried mother, to the sword that pierced her heart at the violent death of her Son, and all the joy and heartache in between, she was never the same.

But she said, “Yes.” Just yes. I pray the Joyful Mysteries more than any other, because I want that “yes” in my heart, too.

~7~

Further Resources

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum; linked up at Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb.

3 Reasons I Chose a Hospital Birth for my Eighth Baby

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

The necessaries: Please note that I’m not a doctor, midwife, nurse, or anybody else remotely qualified to give you medical advice. Always consult a health professional regarding any medical or health decisions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. K? Good.

I’m a natural birth enthusiast. Have been ever since I got (literally) yelled at by my OB almost 18 years ago for wondering if I really needed an IV. I never went back.

The reader who valiantly wades through all my birth stories will notice a recurring theme – over the years, I never felt fully satisfied with my birth venue. Most of my births occurred in the hospital, under care of a midwife. In those years, I would consider home birth, or a birth center birth, and for various reasons (often financial) always ended up at the hospital.

Then, at long last, I decided to have my seventh baby at a birth center. I batted around having her at home, especially as it was financially viable at that time, and the midwives at the birth center we chose also provided services for home birth. But I ended up opting for the center out of logistical concerns – with a large brood and a small house, I knew that my privacy was at risk if I stayed home, and I am not the type to want my kids present at birth. I get very private when in labor, and I also want to be free to yell all I want with no one to frighten. Sure, I could have sent them all to their grandparents’ house – but did I really want to arrange that? At the time, it was a 50 minute drive, and there were six kids, two of whom were capable of babysitting without adult help.

Given my history of precipitous birth, and also the decent chance that all this might happen at 2 am, I took the simpler route – leave the kids at home, and go to the birth center.

But, while my birth center birth went just fine, there were some things about it that I didn’t love.

Getting There

The birth center is closed at night; when you need to come in, you call your midwife, she’ll evaluate over the phone, and meet you there if it seems warranted.

It’s a sensible plan, and probably the only one that they can practically do, not being busy enough to warrant staffing it at night.

But, if the midwife was delayed or didn’t think my always-quirky labor signs warranted getting checked, I would have a problem. I couldn’t just show up in advanced labor and get whisked away like I could at the ER. Anybody can have a crazy fast birth, but with a previous history, it’s not at all unlikely for me to have another.

This worked out all right, but the stress of fretting about it was real.

Medical Emergencies

This is a tough, tough topic, and one that I have held different opinions on over time. I think where you come down on this is overall going to be extremely individual and personal – and I think that is exactly how it should be.

There’s two basic factors, here:

1. Birth is natural and normal.

The female body is designed to carry and deliver babies, and the vast majority of the time, this goes smoothly. It’s been argued (and argued very well) that being in a hospital leads to unnecessary interventions which increase, rather than decrease, risk. For a really well-done and moving documentary from the home birth point of view, I highly recommend The Business of Being Born. I find this argument compelling, and it drove my birthing mindset for most of my childbearing years. It’s still a topic very close to my heart, with important implications in Western medicine.

2. Birth is a major medical event with specific risks and potential for life-threatening emergencies.

Stuff happens in labor. Most of the time, especially for low-risk moms, everything goes just fine. Most of the rest of the time, anything that does happen can be detected early enough to transfer to a hospital for care.

But very rarely, things happen too fast to wait for transfer or paramedics. Honestly, my opinion here has been deeply affected by the death of a mother a couple of years ago in an online community of mine; she was birthing at home and suffered an amniotic fluid embolism. They rushed her to the hospital at the first sign of trouble, but she didn’t survive. A good website on this complication (run by a survivor, I believe) can be found at AFE Foundation. Of course, being in the hospital might not have saved her – but her chances would have been better.

So really, we all have to strike a balance of the two sides:

Birth is natural and normal, but it is also a major physical event with specific risks and potential for life-threatening emergencies.

That’s not earth-shattering. It’s what the vast majority of people actually think, but that can get lost in the politics of birth. Us natural-minded moms don’t like to scare other moms. It’s not good for a laboring mom to be scared of all the stuff that probably won’t happen, so we (rightly) focus on the positive and the safe.

More medically minded folks, though, worry that too little fear will lead moms to unknowingly take foolish risks. It’s important to take those concerns seriously, not dismiss them out of hand.

When parents and caregivers acknowledge that balance between the normal and the hazardous, that’s when there is a solid foundation to build sane birth practices upon.


Tweet: When parents and caregivers acknowledge that balance between the normal and the hazardous, that’s when there is a solid foundation to build sane birth practices upon.


Local, individual caregivers and local hospital policies, naturally, have a huge impact on safe birthing decisions. I have been blessed with caregivers and hospitals which were overall very forward thinking and friendly to principles of natural childbirth and newborn care, which certainly influences my inclination to take advantage of the safety net there. That isn’t the case everywhere – depending on the medical climate where you live, there may be so much unnecessary intervention that it would drive a moderate mama like me back home for fear of cascading interference in my birth.

(Of course, if you can’t decide, I recommend the hospital elevator. All the safety of having a doctor nearby, none of the unnecessary interventions.) (Um, that’s not medical advice. Always consult your physician before giving birth in an elevator, please.)

Postpartum and Newborn Care

A lot of natural birth minded mamas consider early discharge to be a big advantage of a birthing center. It turns out I didn’t like that. I missed being cared for by nurses, and came to appreciate how reassuring that care can be. Without having nurses tracking our vitals, I worried constantly about Emily in the first few days – was her color alright? Does she feel a little warm? A little cool? Do I need to take her temperature? Infection in a newborn can be disastrous, and hours matter. I worried more about myself, too – about infection, hemorrhage, blood clots. I was used to being monitored for those things while I enjoyed my baby, not worrying about them myself.

Does this offset the additional risk of infection that might come with a hospital stay? Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it, and I’m sure not going to be able to put an end to the debate. Unfortunately, the answer probably largely depends on the bias, experiences, and background of who you ask. It also depends on your hospital. If you are satisfied with the practices and safety record of your hospital, that’s different than ending up in a crowded ward with poor ratings. 

Conclusion

Home birth, hospital birth, freestanding birthing center…all those options have great things to recommend them and some scary stuff to run you off, because birth. It’s one of those wild cards life hands us, and there’s no knowing exactly how it’s going to go.

I have had good experiences over the years with midwife-attended hospital births. I have usually felt free enough from overmedicalization and unnecessary interventions. A good midwife can really help with this. I’m sure I’ve been lucky.

That’s my experience. I don’t know if I’ll have any more babies, but if I do I will be faced with answering these questions all over again, as the medical culture here in North Carolina is quite different than in Utah.

If you like this post, you may also like my eight birth stories.

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33 Rainy Day Ideas For Bored Kids

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Oi, the natives get restless when they are trapped inside!

My kids play outside. A lot. They have way too much energy to keep them locked up. Our typical homeschool day sees us taking care of the books in the morning hours, and then they get a lot of free time in the afternoon. If the weather’s nice, they play outside – we have a good yard with a fence, and big kids who can look out for little kids, so it’s a pretty smooth operation.

20160816_161609.jpg
Ah, the bygone days of warm summer rain.

Except when it isn’t. While I’m not at all opposed to playing in the rain and mud (I like them to be able enjoy the outdoors in any weather), it’s just a sad, sad fact that children can’t be expected (or allowed) to play outside much if it’s raining, windy, and 35 degrees. Or in a blizzard, or thunderstorms, or, possibly, hailing meatballs.

Never mind that last.

Outings

  1. Library. The best…what’s better than the library on a rainy day?? If only they let you have coffee.
  2. Small local bookstores often have a little children’s area to hang out in.
  3. A museum. We like to have memberships to some local fun museums for some getting-out fun when the weather’s bad.
  4. A mall. Lots of space, and most malls have a play area that is free as long as your kids know that you are cheap frugal and won’t put quarters in. Or that you only put quarters in once in a blue moon and absolutely never if they ask! 
  5. When it’s let up enough, splash in puddles and rescue worms.
  6. Invite a friend over. Preferably a kid friend AND a mom friend.

Creative

  1. Paint a picture.
  2. Draw with window markers.
  3. Make homemade play dough.
  4. Make slime. (I haven’t tried these recipes. If you have, leave a comment and let me know if they are any good? Please?)
  5. Roll out some easel paper across the room and let them go at it with crayons or markers – this is a big favorite.
  6. Teach a kid five or up to sew a little stuffed animal: My First Sewing Book by Winky Cherry. I’ve used this with five of the kids so far and they all love it, boys included. It usually takes them a few days to a week to finish it, depending on attention span.
  7. Make cookies. Or popcorn.
  8. Make a vinegar and baking soda volcano. (Bonus homeschool points if you get them to watch a You Tube video about volcanos, too.)
  9. If they are old enough to be responsible, let them use a tablet or video camera to make their own movie. These can be hilarious to watch. Or deadly boring. But, it kept them busy.
  10. Make crayon rubbings.

Tactile

  1. Break out the colored rice, pasta, or beans. I did the rice for my kiddos a few years ago, and they absolutely loved it. I would give them each some in a pie tin and some toys to go with, and it kept them busy for ages. It was kind of a pain, though, because it would get all over the floor and be pesky to clean up (and no fun to step on). When it eventually ran out, from being spilled and swept over and over, I decided not to make more and to try pasta or beans instead. That’s still in the works.
  2. Let older toddlers or preschoolers play in the sink. There’s invariably some spillage, but the fun is worth it. Unless you happen to have an ancient wooden floor badly in need of refinishing. Then it isn’t.
  3. Put baby or toddler in high chair with a little water and some cups and funnels.

Building

  1. There’s always the Legos.
  2. Lincoln Logs
  3. Fort out of couch cushions and sheets.
  4. House of cards. Jonathan used to spend a lot of time on this.
  5. Some kids really get a kick out of dismantling junk electronics and appliances. I will occasionally buy something in that vein at the thrift store. Jonathan is quite good at taking them apart and will be at it all day if I let him.
  6. Build houses out of craft sticks and glue.
  7. Build boats out of styrofoam egg cartons or meat trays.

Quiet Time

  1. Read a book.
  2. Work on schoolwork.
  3. Do chores (No? Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said you were bored. Just tryin’ to help.)
  4. Draw a picture.
  5. Do a puzzle.
  6. Play a board game.
  7. Watch a movie. I’m not opposed to some good screen time, to be honest. I’m picky about content, and I wouldn’t let them watch all day (unless I’m sick, or they are, then, well…), but some PBS Kids, Wiggles, Veggie Tales, nature shows..that sort of thing.

That’s what I’ve got. Have something to add? Leave a comment!

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Catholic Conversion: Seven MORE Things I was Wrong About

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I used to think the Catholic Church was creepy.

Truth, friends. As a Protestant, I was immersed in my own culture, and looking in, good grief. All this praying to dead people, and burning incense, and…the bones. I went to a cathedral in Guatemala City once, and bones. People bones. It creeped me out for days.

The thing is, we shouldn’t judge Truth on whether we’re used to it or not. The biggest barrier to my conversion to the Catholic Church was the layers and layers of confusion, misinformation, and misunderstanding that clouded my vision.

~1~

Catholics are obsessed with death.

Well, you know. The relics. The crucifixes. Good Friday. All Souls Day.

Giotto. the-crucifix- c.1317 Padua, Museo Civico

I never liked crucifixes even as a child raised outside of church. I refused to believe that Jesus had really had nails driven through His hands. It was too graphic for me, I guess.

As a convert coming in from a conservative Presbyterian background, where any pictures of Christ are considered to violate the 2nd Commandment, I had a hard time with the crucifix in church. I could hardly look at it, for months.

But I’ve found that it’s not that Catholics are obsessed with death and suffering. It’s that they don’t fear it. Not just in an esoteric, I’m going to heaven kind of way, but in an everyday mercy kind of way. They feel the call to be messengers of mercy, healing, and love in the very darkest places – including the deathbed. They know that our suffering has great value in the eyes of God, and that it is a critical part of our growth as His children.

~2~

Catholics think they have to get married to go to heaven.

I didn’t think this one myself, but friends have challenged me with it. This example highlights how otherwise highly informed Protestants have been seriously misinformed aboBS001 sut the Church. The splintering that goes on and on feeds on this kind of thing. (And it goes both ways, for sure.)

No. Of course not. Priests, nuns, etc., are celibate, for one thing, so that would be an extremely odd doctrine. Marriage is a sacrament, but so are Holy Orders, so most people don’t receive all seven sacraments in their lifetime – only a rare minority, such as perhaps a widower who then became a priest. Neither is required – it depends on one’s vocation and state of life.

~3~

Catholics live in a state of medieval superstition and fear.

This one I did think. In the sign of the cross, in the incense, in the candles, the holy water, the different gestures…I saw all these things as superstitious nonsense, silly things probably done to ward off evil spirits or something. MyFitzgeraldFairyBanquet more austere Reformed spirituality seemed more logical and more Biblical, free of outward tangible signs of spiritual realities, beyond the two sacraments I accepted at the time.

But as I mentioned in my previous list of misconceptions, we are beings who are both physical and spiritual. Catholic practice is not superstitious – these practices all express and point to spiritual realities which are, for the most part, also accepted by our Protestant brothers and sisters. But, they do so in a way that understands that people are more than just a brain, or more than just a heart. We are physical beings, and our minds and hearts are informed and strengthened by things we encounter in the physical world.

~4~

Catholicism teaches that the Pope is never wrong, which is silly, because everybody knows that popes have lived scandalously and contradicted each other.

This is one I took as a given. It was incomprehensible to me that anybody could be so gullible as to actually believe that the Pope was infallible. It was patently obvious that, throughout history, there have been immoral popes who certainly weren’t infallible. And those pesky contradictions! Catholics were, to be sure, mindless automatons who never bothered to crack open a history book.

Pope Francis in March 2013 (cropped)

It was a top objection for me, in the early days. The problems here come really from two major misconceptions, not one:

~5~

Papal infallibility means that the Pope is perfect in every way. He does not forget phone numbers, and he sure doesn’t sin.

Nope. No, no, no. It doesn’t mean that at all. Infallibility refers to what the pope teaches, not to his personal life. Popes do go to Confession, you know – which clues us in that nobody thinks they are sinless.

Catholics aren’t blind to the scandalous popes. They just know that it doesn’t have anything to do with the doctrine of infallibility.

~6~

Popes can’t be infallible because they have contradicted each other.

The historical record of this really surprised me.  As a Protestant, it was a wPope Saint John Paul II Statueorking assumption that popes had contradicted each other, not once or twice, but so many times that the whole doctrine was ridiculous.

To go into the details of the historical record is beyond the scope of this post, so I’m going to drop you some relevant links on this:

 Catholic Answers – Papal Infallibility. I love this article, and would like to quote extensive portions of it to you, but I can’t. Copyright. Please go read it!

The Christian Freethinker

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

Plus, some books on the Papacy:

Documents Illustrating Papal Authority: AD 96-454 – E. Giles (This can also be found as a free ebook here.)

Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church (Modern Apologetics Library) – Stephen K. Ray

The Early Papacy: To the Synod of Chalcedon in 451

~7~

Catholics have gone liberal and don’t practice what they preach anymore.

I talked about this a little in my first misconceptions post, but this one keeps on surprising me. Sure, yes, there are plenty of “Catholics” who aren’t serious. There are also plenty of Evangelicals who aren’t serious, who don’t read their Bible or take their morality or faith seriously. It doesn’t mean that the Evangelicals aren’t serious.  It just means that the Evangelical churches have, well, people, in them. Those people are not all at the same place in their journey.

Worshippers pray with rosaries. Credit: User:leba12 (Wikimedia Commons).The un-serious Catholics that I met and, even more, Knew About (through hearsay) gave me an unrealistic view of the seriousness of Catholics in general. I keep meeting an endless stream of serious, sincere, practicing Catholics; I keep being surprised when I do. It’s a lovely, heart-cheering surprise, like so many facets of the Church, but I do hope my flawed, ingrained expectations begin to catch up to reality, one day.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

You might also like:

Reading List for The Catholic Convert

{SQT} 7 Things I was Wrong About

{SQT} 7 Things I Didn’t Lose When I Became Catholic

The New Catholic Bookshelf, vol. 3 – movie edition

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

Movies! There are some really fabulous movies out there that are wonderful to watch and share with your kiddos. We sometimes enjoy watching faith-related movies together, especially on a Sunday evening. I think they are a great way to spend time together and also grow in understanding some of the great stories in our family history. I have linked these to Amazon, but as always, if you want them, please consider saving resources – and a buck – by borrowing or buying used. 

1. Clare and Francis – I loved this film!  St. Francis is my oldest daughter’s confirmation saint, and is a constant inspiration for me as I struggle to balance the needs and wants of large family life, the tight budget that comes with that large family, and a desire to live a life of giving, detached from the thirst to acquire, improve, consume.

2. Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine – When I commented that I liked this one, but found it to be a little intense, Mark said that that was because Augustine had an intense life! This was really well-done, but does not make for light watching.

3. Jesus of Nazareth – A classic and really well done film on the life of Christ. This one is our favorite “Jesus movie” as a family. It’s extremely long – 6 and 1/2 hours! We watched it over the course of three evenings around Easter time, and it was a great way to consider the season.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia – BBC Version –  Mark read these out loud to the kids before we watched the movies, and then we watched both this version and the new ones. The kids liked the newer versions fine, but Mark and I like the old BBC ones a lot better. Especially in the Dawn Treader, we felt that they really departed way too far from the original story, without any benefit.  If you aren’t famliar with the Chronicles of Narnia – read them first!! 🙂

 

Previously – Bookshelf Vol. 1 and Bookshelf Vol. 2

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We made it!

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

Well hi from North Carolina! I had this idea that I would be super organized and have scheduled posts going up while I was moving…but that’s not really how I roll.

So here’s a quick catch-up. Ready? Good.

Our drive mostly went well, aside from the bit where the top blew completely off our top carrier out in the middle of Wyoming. That was more excitement than I hoped for, really, but it could have been much worse than it was.

We did buy a house. It all worked out somehow, and here we are:20160807_101127.jpg

We like it, a lot, and we’re happy to be here, though we miss Utah friends, family, and miscellaneous other familiar comforts. It’s an old house, which I both love and am a little intimidated by. This lifelong renter has more than a thing or two to learn (hence the new arrival on my bookshelf).

We did paint when we got here, and I am so very glad we did.  The walls were very, um, colorful. As you entered the from door, you were greeted by bright yellow walls and an orange ceiling. Up the stairs could be seen a Crayola sky blue hall (and CEILING). On the lower level, one could just make out the master bed in the back with its very, very intense turquoise walls and crazy patchwork white trim going every which way.

We got it calmed down a bit thanks to a 3 or 4 day paint fest with crazy helpful family members.

We’re in town, and an 8 minute walk to our parish in one direction and a very cute little downtown in the other. After 16 years in a major metro area, small town life is appealing – there is pretty much no traffic. At all. Of course, there are also the quirks – the only DMV around is drastically understaffed, so in spite of arriving precisely when they opened, I still had to wait 2 1/2 hours to get my driver’s license changed.

So here we are, in a blur of unpacking and finding things and paperwork and thinking we really, really need to be getting ready for school.

Linked up at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

{SQT} Moving: the last two weeks in seven quick takes

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

~1~

So obviously I can’t move and blog…or move and sleep, or move and eat…or move and anything, really…at the same time. After subsisting on potato chips and Drumsticks for a couple of weeks (I don’t think this post gets a “fitness” tag), we loaded our truck on Saturday (with most of our friends out of town. It was awesome timing), and cleaned on Monday.

It takes so little time, sweat, and tears, to write that.

~2~

But, it’s over now, and we get a little hiatus at Mark’s folks’ house for a month or so while we work on buying a house. We’re first time homebuyers, hopefully, and it’s all a little scary, so prayers would be lovely. We originally intended to rent, but it appears that, as a family of 10 with 7 pets, we have maybe outgrown renting. No rentals to be found that we can fit into without sending the landlord into hysterics. It’s been a longtime dream of mine to buy a house, and life has just not cooperated – till, possibly, now. We’ve got one under contract, and wow. It is just as exciting and nerve wracking as everyone always says it is.

~3~

13442315_10209861757084438_4948868528322850170_nIn other moving related news, my daughter Becca, who is an Irish dancer, did great in her two recent competitions. She is really bummed to have to leave her school, teacher, and friends behind. It’s hard to watch her be sad about that. The closest school to our new town is a good 40 minutes away, and we are still trying to figure out what to do.13522026_10210019086057564_7519230255893922185_n

~4~

Miss Emily, 3, got a new haircut yesterday. The fact that I had time for this reflects that moving out is over, and I officially have a few minutes to breathe, here and there. She now has the shortest hair any of my girls have ever had. It’s adorable. And brushable. We had so many battles over brushing her hair, that when she said, “Mama! Please cut it off,” I said, “okay, baby.” And we did.

~5~

Summer prep for a new home school year is always a big deal – but toss an interstate move and a major church shift into the mix, and it’s big. Really big. Curriculum changes, state law changes, moving during the time when I need to be prepping, not to mention no place to have my curriculum mailed to. Hopefully, two months from now, I will have an amazing story of how I brilliantly pulled it all together (or how it all fell into my lap in spite of me. Or how it all went wrong and we managed anyway, more likely). For now, I’m reading Catholic Home Schooling. I started 3 months ago. Don’t rush me.

~6~

Paint colors! Is having a house under contract too soon to pick out paint colors?

Don’t answer that.

Answer this instead:

Mystic Sea or Grand Hotel Mackinac Blue for a kitchen with orangey-brown tile on the counters and a brick fireplace?

And, any recommendations for an interesting-but-relaxing master bedroom color?

~7~

This was the little girls when we got to church Sunday morning after moving out the day before:

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Pretty much sums it up.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.