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31 Things for 31 Years
...a list of what I know (not much) ✨
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I shamelessly stole this idea from my friend Tsh, a joyful writer that I’ve followed for years who I’m fortunate to now call a friend. She is both older and wiser, so go learn from her.
Today’s my birthday. And the older I get, I’ve found I’m actually getting…dumber? That’s not the right word. I’m realizing how little I know. I’m realizing how vast the world is. I’m realizing how often in the past I’ve said things so confidently, so unshakeably, that I later found to be untrue. I’m realizing how much I’ve learned that I don’t truly know; how much I’ve taught that I still need to learn myself. But I do know some things, and I thought I’d share 31 of them with you today.
In France on our Catholic Feminist pilgrimage, Fr. Andrew gave a really beautiful homily on virginity that he started with, “if all of this is wrong, please just chalk it up to me being a young priest who will hopefully learn the truth eventually”. That’s the posture I’d like to start taking. Look, here’s what I know, to the best of my knowledge. If I’m wrong, pray for me.
31 Things for 31 Years
1)If you feel like you’re flailing in your faith life, see a spiritual director. Ask your diocese for recommendations. Just because someone is a priest doesn’t mean they’re a qualified spiritual director, and just because they’re a qualified spiritual director doesn’t mean they’re a good fit for you.
2)Beware the grift of “tear it all down” just as much as the grift of “circle the wagons”. If someone loves to gleefully share random anecdotes insinuating every single institution is corrupt and abusive but shares no tactical ideas on how to improve the church, run.
3)Make your margaritas from scratch. It’s not that hard and they taste so much better.
4)Better yet, marry someone who can make margaritas from scratch, so that you get them handed to you. (Is that anti-feminist of me to say?)
5)We should all have a hobby that isn’t monetized or over-shared on social media. Start baking bread, or wood carving, or beekeeping, or painting. You can be terrible at it and literally nobody will care; just make it something you enjoy.
6)Natural Family Planning isn’t cheap or easy. But it’s incredibly empowering and very effective.
7)We all roll our eyes when older parents tell us that the days are long but the years are short, but I now have two kids in school five days a week. And they were right: the days are long and the years are short. Let the eyerolls commence.
8)No celebrity preacher has all the answers, but that doesn’t mean that none ever offer helpful advice or new ways of looking at things. I can disagree strongly with Matt Chandler on some theological points (and, um, this) but also enjoy the occasional YouTube video of him breaking down some Bible verses.
9)Just because today was hard doesn’t mean that tomorrow will be too. Just because your kids didn’t nap today doesn’t mean they won’t tomorrow. Just because work felt impossible doesn’t mean it will tomorrow. Sometimes that simple thought—just because today was hard doesn’t mean tomorrow will be—can power me through a day.
10) You’re allowed to have mountaintop experiences, even if you’ve been practicing the faith for a while and know the feeling of a retreat high. Don’t be too cool for praise and worship music, or breakthrough moments on retreats, or Holy Spirit winks. Being cold and aloof isn’t a sign of spiritual maturity.
11) Libraries are the best. They are literally free books. If you aren’t patronizing your library and making time to read, find a way to fit it into your schedule. It’ll open your mind, improve your health, and change your life.
12) Get to know your next door neighbor. You need someone to water your plants when you’re on vacation but more importantly, proximity to others can be an invitation to love them. Would your neighbors know you’re a Christian?
13) You’ll sleep better at night if you do the right thing. You owe it to your 2 AM self.
14) Read the classics. If you hated a book in high school, try it again at 31—you may learn new things from it now. Reading Les Miserables is a year-long exercise, and it’s worth it.
15) But also, read whatever you want. Don’t be a literary snob. I love a travel memoir; I love a cozy autumn romance; I love a contemporary novel on modern family life. I read Jessica Simpson’s memoir last year and have zero regrets. I’m usually in the middle of three different books at any given time.
16) On the topic of books, read He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek, Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux, and This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson. In the past ten years, those three books have had immeasurable impacts on my faith life. If you read Therese once and thought she sounded whiny, try her in a different season—saints can be funny like that.
17) Still on the topic of books, if you’re having a hard time navigating our current political climate, read Self-Portrait in Black and White by Thomas Chatterton Williams, The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt, and Wholistic Feminism by Leah Jacobson. All three of those books will help you think about modern political topics in new ways.
18) OK, a final note on books—read children’s books, no matter how old you are. They’re delightful; they teach great lessons; they’re wholesome escapism. The Quimby house is just as cozy and hilarious as I remembered it.
19) The last thing you should do when a kid does something crazy is blame their mom. 99% of moms are out here trying our absolute best. We can’t help it that our kid is the loud and crazy one on the playground; we can’t help it that our kid is the bully; we can’t help it that our kid develops an addiction. Just pray for us.
20) Candles bring a little joy to everything. Light more of them. Target currently has a salted honey candle that is *chef’s kiss*.
21) The truth has never been popular, but just because everyone’s offended and angry with you doesn’t mean you’ve said something truthful. Sometimes, you’re just being a jerk, not a fearless warrior.
22) There are few days so terrible that a Meg Ryan romcom can’t cheer you up. I recommend Sleepless in Seattle for grumpy moods, You’ve Got Mail for tough days and When Harry Met Sally for real, real hard knots. (Yes, I know there is a very inappropriate scene about a fake orgasm, and you know what? I cackle hysterically every time.)
23) Speaking of knots, this novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots is very powerful.
24) Sarcasm and snark are fun and they get you lots of Twitter followers. But they’re also sin, and entirely unproductive, and turn you into a bad listener.
25) If you’re the kind of person who gets nervous or shy around medical professionals, bring a friend to doctor’s appointments with you. Sometimes, questions need to be asked (and re-asked) and your health isn’t something to “uh, sure, sounds good” nod over. Women’s diseases, like vaginismus and PCOS, are often missed and undertested for. If you know me in real life, I will be that friend, happily.
26) TikTok is bad for you, bad for our kids, and bad for our culture. The “good” that comes from it (the occasional chuckle and cleaning tip) do not outweigh the bad. Also, China is stalking you.
27) The best way to evangelize is to ask questions. Ask someone what they think, how they arrived there, and what they’re learning now. God is the creator of wisdom; truly curious people will always find their way to him eventually. Cultivate that curiosity in people. Ask more questions than you answer.
28) Clean out your car while you’re filling it with gas. It takes seven seconds and there’s a garbage can right there.
29) Go to confession at least once a month, whether or not you’re in mortal sin. The priest I knew in college used to say that sin can be like bugs on a windshield; the small stuff piles up over a while and that thing gets real gross before you notice it.
30) Complaining is bad for your soul. Don’t do it. Productive critiques are not the same thing as complaining.
31) Our faith is based on dead things coming back to life. Nothing—nothing—is impossible for God. That does not mean he will work the specific miracle you’re asking for. But it also doesn’t mean you should stop asking.
On My Nightstand
Here are some things I’ve been reading lately that have made me think!
The First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen: I started this autumn-tinged read two years ago and had to stop because I was pregnant and so sick that literally reading about a pumpkin would make me throw up. #HyperemesisIsTerrible Anyway, I picked it up again this year and it is the *definition* of a cozy fall read. I got about a third of the way through before realizing it was a sequel—facepalm—and I haven’t read the first book, Garden Spells, yet. But you can definitely read this one without reading the first one!
Hurts So Good: This piece on how the internet + stigma against women’s health have impacted chronic diseases is WILD. “Since ancient times, women who were diagnosed under the general category of “hysteria” were prescribed treatments such as sex, hanging upside down, and the placement of leeches on the abdomen. Then, in the 19th century, the new field of psychoanalysis concluded that women with hysteria were not suffering from physical disorders, but mental ones. Whether the women’s inexplicable pain was a function of their brains or of their bodies—or of each other (see mass hysteria), or of the devil (see Salem, 1692)—has always been a fraught subject.”
What is a Woman? A Half-Answered Question: I’m no Matt Walsh fan. I’m very much an Abigail Favale fan. Her review of his latest “documentary” hit all the right notes. “Mocking someone, especially under the guise of trying to understand her, feels oh so good—but that feeling of smug self-assurance is corrosive to charity. Nothing kills the spark of love for one’s neighbor quicker than a laugh at her expense.”
The Pain That Is Unlike All Other Pain: Steph is one of my friends from college and she’s been killing it with her pieces in The Atlantic lately. I loved this one about epidurals. Why is labor pain considered so sacred? “Prevailing feminist opinion on the practice has flip-flopped over the years, arguing at different times that pain relief liberates women from the cruelty of nature and alienates them from its beauty. And although the downsides of obstetric anesthesia have largely fallen away in the 175 years since its first use, the desire among some women to experience labor in all its brutality has yet to fully peter out, and perhaps never will.”
In case you missed these Letters:
That Time I Stopped Praying to God - for everyone
How Jen Hatmaker Lost the Plot - for subscribers
Faith in the Face of Healthcare Discrimination - for subscribers
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