He is doing a new thing.
I can’t count how many times over these past few months I’ve stopped and rolled my eyes (and maybe shaken my metaphorical fists a tiny little bit) heavenward and asked God “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? SERIOUSLY, WHAT?WHY??”
I don’t know about you, but when I filled out my little year at a glance worksheet for 2020 back in January, I for suuuuure wasn’t banking on a global pandemic, economic turmoil, or civil unrest featuring quite so prominently. But here we are.
Hasn’t it felt a bit, lately, like something along the lines “LIFE ON EARTH: THE SERIES FINALE?” I mean, were I netflix, I might think about picking up those rights.
It’s a funny tension that we live out as Christians even under the best and most peaceful of circumstances, though, isn’t it? The lines that blithely trip the my tongue during periods of contented tranquility and normalcy, phases like “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” and “we believe that you will come again to judge the living and the dead” take on a little more weight when things feel…weightier.
And that is precisely how life has felt. Weighty. Impossibly heavy for weeks and months on end, not just internally in my heart and in our home, but in the larger world outside our four walls.
I can speak of it now with the tiniest bit of hindsight because once again, that almost miraculous 6 month mark has come and gone and even though we’ve done this six times over now, it still feels like it won’t, and it isn’t, and it may not this time…until it does. (And while I can’t in good conscience recommend a government mandated lockdown as the ultimate sleep training method, I have to say, Ben has been a great little sleeper. Funny what never leaving the house will do for a guy’s circadian rhythms.)
In hindsight? It seems to me very clear that God wanted – and wants – our attention. I’ve had this line from CS Lewis echoing in my head for months now, “…pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
If I retain nothing else from this season of intimate and secluded suffering, may it be a new wakefulness, an attentiveness to the Holy Spirit who was too frequently drowned out by activity and that low hum of static which accompanies ordinary life.
In this wakeful state, I’ve been able to hear the Lord more clearly, (Not like, literally, because tbh I swear too frequently and probably relay a tad overmuch on chemical stimulants for that level of sanctity.) and He has impressed a few action items on my heart. I want this for you, I seem to sense Him saying. Maybe He is saying something similar to you?
First, no more social media. I deleted my personal social media accounts a couple of months ago, and I haven’t looked back. Yes, I’ve done this before. Yes, it’s terribly addictive, and yes, I will probably look very stupid a year from now if/when I crawl back to Instagram like a dog returns to its vomit etcetera etcetera, but I feel so incredibly convicted that the very nature of the game: the algorithm, the endless dopamine feedback loop, the social positioning and posturing and signaling, is not just benign wasted time, but is actually bad for us.
Here is a personal example: when I am on Instagram, I literally see life differently. I’ll squint at a funny or terrible toddler episode through a critical eye and consider “is this good content?” before snapping a picture and freezing a moment and sort of stepping back from the present moment like I’m the creative director or producer of my own life.
When I am the producer of my own life, I am not actually in it, moment by moment. I’m thinking of getting the shot, of capturing the quote. I’m thinking of you guys, of an audience out there, waiting and willing to consume the funny or thoughtful or entertaining content I’m blasting out into the world. And there isn’t anything wrong with that at first glance, right? Except that, for me, it’s constant. It’s not like a well-planned and carefully policed time limit where I indulge in harmless good fun for a set number of minutes a day and then put the phone away, it’s constant.
Is it possible to become addicted to hearing your own voice? That’s how instagram makes me feel.
Whether or not that resonates with you (or whether you now correctly presume that I am a selfish megalomaniac irl) I think we need to be very careful with social media and how much of our time and attention we trade away. Yes, there were days and days on end where I didn’t see another adult human besides Dave, and it felt like a lifeline. But it was a lifeline not tethered to solid ground, not quite capable of pulling someone all the way to safely.
So maybe … reevaluate? Take it to quiet prayer and ask God if He has anything to say about it. I do think He wants more of us, literally, than we realize. I’m not sure at what point I figured this out, but prayer seems to me to be proof that God’s primary love language is quality time.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t managed to restructure my life to resemble anything like the lives of the saints: I am for sure not spending hours or even many minutes strung together in prayer each day, but in the midst of all the chaos of this season, I slammed right up against the brick wall of reality: well, what else are we actually here for?
It’s crazy to me that I think of God as someone I fit into my schedule instead of the other way around. Again, I think this is my dictatorial tendencies bleeding through, but in the off-broadway production of Jenny, the Life, I’ve got God cast in more of a supporting role.
And I think that’s what’s wrong. With my parenting, with my marriage, with my friendships, with my hard days…hell, with the whole world.
So resolution number 2: don’t relegate God to a supporting role in the epic biopic that is your life.
And finally? I think this one is really critical, but I feel super strongly that God wants us to say the Rosary every single day, ideally as a family. Breaking news, right? It’s only like, the one thing the Blessed Mother asks of us in every single approved Marian apparition ever. But sure, I have better things to do with my time eye roll eye roll.
I was certain of it in those terrifying days late in March when nobody really knew what the h was going to happen and every level of society ground to a shuddering halt, and for a while with daddy working from home and a rosy, novel shine on “homeschooling,” or “school at home” or “remote learning” or whatever the hell it was we were actually trying to do, we did it. We prayed a family rosary every day, and it was amazing.
And then April turned to May and May to June and life began to grind back into motion and guess what? Guess what falls most readily off the schedule when things get busy and interesting again? Yeah, I’m shocked, too.
We’re managing a morning decade, me and the kids, which ostensibly Dave and I finish before we go to bed, but…Anyway, begin again, right? Right!
We’re also blessed beyond all understanding here in Littleton, Colorado, and I have my pick of 5 daily Masses within a 9 minute drive of my house and do I make it to one every day?
Don’t bother, I’ll punch myself.
Yes, it’s like letting food go to waste when your neighbor down the street is starving to death. Yes, I need to try harder. We’re up to twice a week for daily Mass, me and the 6-pack, and they are … not good at it. It’s almost like they spent 12 weeks locked in the house and forgot how to sit still, wear pants, or interact with other human beings. But, corragio, we forge ahead.
It helps to get emails like this one after a particularly, um, robust showing at noon Mass:
(Attention pastors: this is how you build life-long brand loyalty. I may re-read this email to myself every Sunday for the next 18 or so years. Also, yes, my kids and 7 of their cousins were all in attendance at this Mass together. Looks like Utopia on paper. Felt – and sounded – more like Purgatory.)
So yes, I need to continue to drag myself and my loud and lovely children before the Lord. Because He wants to spend time with us, with me, and because what do I honestly have to do in my day that is more important? There are no lessons or team sports, no social functions, the swimming pools are still locked down for goodness sake. So ask me again in a week or two, how’s that daily Mass habit working out, Jenny?
I think The Lord is up to something big though, guys. And I think He wants our attention. I think He needs our attention, in fact, to bring it about.
Do we have ears to hear it? That part, I’m seeing, is absolutely up to us. When the still, small voice of God is drowned out in the cacophony of daily living, in good times and in bad, well, that’s on us. That’s on me.
He is speaking. And I want to listen more carefully. And I think things are only going to get more interesting.
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Love reading your writing again, Jenny! I haven’t been on FB or Instagram for several years, and I don’t regret it a bit. I still have lots of friends and I interact with them all the time! My FB browsing in days of yore could not really have been described as “quality time” in any way.
Your post reminds me that I should go spend some time praying now. 🙂
I always love your take on stuff, Jenny. Thank you for sharing in such a raw and witty way! I’m totally with you: He’s on a mission to get our attention 🙂
I am so glad you are writing again. I have read your blog for the past 9 years and the real content here always challenges me to do better.
I can’t find an email contact? I can relate to much of what you are saying here. I have been following Catholic mom blogs for years, since before becoming Catholic and a mother (so, 2013). You are really the only real blogger left of this group. The main destination is now Instagram (I just can’t go there anymore). Please keep up the long form posts! Sending encouragement, prayers
Glad you are feeling well again. Worried about you and praying for you. Great point about Instagram. I’m not even on it but I could totally see myself trying to broadcast my own life. Keep writing!
1. The part about the rosary really resonated with me, I think the same thing an have picked it up again
2. That e-mail is amazing
3. Yes on God wanting our attention but even during a lockdown is still easy to ignore him 🙁
I’m glad you are writing again!
I echo a lot of your feelings about social media (Digital Minimalism is amazing and I know you’ve read it, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot this quarantine time, especially the parts where he talks about how we need in-person contact with words, vocal inflections, face and body language to satisfy our brains. That is very much not happening now, and I am interested in where masked interactions fall in the spectrum of human contact). I still have Facebook and IG but neither is on my phone. IG used to be better, but now it is so loud and really ramps up my anxiety. I’m a consumer-almost-never-poster but still, the noise! It is hard to quiet even in your non-screen-time times and definitely interferes with hearing the Holy Spirit.
You have inspired me so much today! Thanks for dropping some truth 🙏❤️ Taking a lot of this to Serious prayer & discernment…
“It’s almost like they spent 12 weeks locked in the house and forgot how to sit still, wear pants, or interact with other human beings.”
Oh, my, you can make me laugh when I just really don’t find anything funny going on around this town here.
My husband has pretty much given up hope on life ever getting better with this lockdown stuff. I haven’t given up hope, I just don’t really care that much if it does, as it seems the best part of life is behind us. But, then again, new things come on the horizon, like our daughter announcing baby #3 on the way…and our granddaughter stated that “it’s probably going to be a boy, because we already have a girl” So there you have it, these little ones are the ones that save us from thinking the best part of life is behind us. No, it is ahead of us for sure!
Thanks for taking the time to be with us in your writing of a blog, because we look forward to being here with you. It’s like you have a “pen group” instead of a pen pal, isn’t it? And we don’t have to wear any face covering, either, or get the state’s permission to interact.
May I suggest that you join the Rosary Confraternity to help with your rosary consistency? If you’ve never heard of it before, you can find out more here (https://www.rosarycenter.org) and join if you can, because it joins you to EVERYONE who is in it, which is an awesome thing to realize sometimes when you are praying and knowing either that you are relying upon the outpoured prayers of others, or you are helping to lift them in prayer. So, when you pray, you don’t just pray, you develop a sense of shared responsibility for each other. A loving responsibility, not a chore to add to the other chores of life. It can make a difference in our prayer life when we do it for someone else rather than for ourself. It makes us feel a sense of urgency that we might not have if we think of it as merely one option among many in how to spend time, because it takes us outside of ourself. There is something motivating about making a commitment, and that might push you past the “failure” to keep up with daily rosary prayers.
Another tip: plan the decades through the day. While I’m brushing my hair, while I’m making lunch, while I’m folding laundry, while I’m at the stop light. Whatever. Just plan a decade at a time to get through the day. I love to hear how you finish the rosary with your husband, that is something to treasure really.