The Dignity of the Human Person

5/18/17

This is the second post in a series of eight exploring Catholic Social Teaching. Affiliate links are used for recommended resources in this post.

Genesis 1:27 
 God created humankind in His own image 

You might see the idea talked about in its Latin form, "imago Dei". I love that we have a succinct way of expressing a reality so complex and mysterious.

In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the "imago Dei" is explained like this: “the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. (108)"

Simply put, God our Creator took some of the most beautiful parts of Himself and placed them within each one of us. Every human being has dignity because every human being has been made in the image of God. Dignity is not a right that can be earned or lost by our life choices.

By the way, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was released by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2004 under the authority of Pope John Paul II. If you're unfamiliar with the workings of the Catholic Church, this basically means that the Compendium is official and universal Catholic teaching. It's not just a fringe group that blows their social justice trumpet to the annoyance of everyone else. This is for and representative of all Catholics.

(I simply cannot move forward without begging you to buy a copy of the Compendium. If you are Catholic, this needs to be right up there on your bookshelf beside your Catechism. If you are a non-Catholic Christian, you will be encouraged and equipped with extensive language to articulate your Gospel-shaped social convictions to others. The Compendium is not just a feel-good religious book; it holds up in academic settings. Get your hands on this thing, guys.)


"A just society can become a reality only when it is based on the respect of the transcendent dignity of the human person... It is necessary to 'consider every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.' Every political, economic, social, scientific and cultural programme must be inspired by the awareness of the primacy of each human being over society."  (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 132, emphasis mine)

I think it's fair to say a just society is what we all want. Maybe we could all even agree that the foundation of such a society would have to be the inherent dignity of the human person. But the idea of considering every neighbor WITHOUT EXCEPTION as another self- that's where it starts getting uncomfortable, isn't it?

I mean sure, in Mark 12:31 Jesus said the most important commandment- after loving God- was to love your neighbor as yourself. But we all know what He meant. He meant the neighbors who have earned their dignity, earned their respect. The ones who act in a way that makes middle-class Americans feel comfortable. Surely Jesus doesn't expect us to consider the undocumented immigrant taking our jobs as another self. Surely He doesn't think we'll be able to see ourselves in the black teenage boy who shouldn't have mouthed off to the authority figure in the first place. Surely Jesus meant that I love the neighbor who reminds me most of myself.

What if maybe, maybe, Jesus meant exactly what He said? What if, like the Compendium articulates, I am called to consider every single one of my "neighbors" (i.e. people I share the earth with) as another self? Not called to be nice to them, not called to make donations to them, but called to truly believe that they belong to me, and I to them?


Going back to the above quote, what could it mean to take into account not just the worth of my neighbor's life, but equally important, "the means necessary for living it with dignity"? That's the part that will get us.

Let me paint you a picture.

I was born to parents who were not wealthy, and whose own families had their share of financial struggles through the years. But both of their families of origin were white in Mississippi, so even without a cushioned bank account, they enjoyed a basic level of respect and privilege within their communities that their neighbors of color did not receive. My parents were both first generation college graduates, but while not college educated, my grandparents all worked stable jobs and owned their homes (this was made astronomically easier by the fact that the generations before them had legal right to own property. In their state, as you know, this was not a historical given.)

By the time I went to college, my nuclear family was upper middle class. Both of my parents worked at a Christian university so I got free tuition. I was given a brand new car the Christmas before I graduated- the exact make and model I had asked for. I can tell you right now I did NOT live out my first few college years "with dignity", but there was no systematic injustice to blame. I was just an immature idiot.

I had been through a high performing public school and knew how to succeed, so I grabbed my Bachelor's degree with hardly breaking a sweat. I married right after college graduation, to a man also from a stable two-parent, financially cushioned family, and we began our life together.


-->
“With due respect for the autonomy and culture of every nation, we must never forget that the planet belongs to all mankind and is meant for all mankind; the mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity.”  (Pope Francis, Evangeli Gaudium)

Everything about the background of my life set me up to be treated with dignity by our society.

But had my parents, growing up in the deep South in the 1960s, happened to have been born with a different color skin, do you think my own story would have unfolded the same way? We both know the answer to that.

Had my parents been born Mexican citizens, grew terrified for my safety in a city riddled with drug cartel and violence, took the risk of moving to a new country without the finances, education, or language to succeed in it, and tried to piece together a life for me here, would I be in a respected position in our society?

I could go on and on but I'll stop because you get the point.

If creating a just society means working towards a system where every human being has the means necessary for living their life with dignity, how do we move towards that? It's a complicated topic to be sure, but I believe there is an easy place to start.

We love our neighbors as ourself.

That means we consider our neighbor when we make decisions for our own lives. We seek to understand systematic injustices that keep certain people down and boost other people up. We befriend those who make us uncomfortable. We offer our money if it helps, sure, but mostly we offer our butts in chairs.

We sit and we listen. We sit and we become the learners, not the instructors. We sit and we become the weak, not the mighty. We sit and simply be with people. We get to learn that we aren't the saviors. There may be a time for action that comes, but for a good long while we sit down and shut up. We listen to the marginalized, we listen to our neighbors. We have our butts in chairs.

And while we listen, we honor the image of God in our neighbor.



Peter Maurin is one of the most radical and lovely Catholics that I've had the honor of becoming familiar with post-humously. Dorothy Day often credited (or some say, blamed) him for starting the Catholic Worker movement, but as he was more of an odd duck and less of a charismatic leader than Dorothy, his place in history has been rather muted. I feel pretty certain he's a saint.

In her autobiography The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day describes Peter in a way that I believe epitomizes Jesus' desire for how we would relate to the other. Living up to this description would be a worthy life goal for all of us; imagine how differently the world would see Christians then.

“{Peter} did not begin by tearing down, or by painting so intense a picture of misery and injustice that you burned to change the world. Instead, he aroused in you a sense of your own capacities for work, for accomplishment. He made you feel that you and all men had great and generous hearts with which to love God. If you once recognized this fact in yourself you would expect and find it in others. It was seeing Christ in others, loving the Christ you saw in others. Greater than this, it was having faith in the Christ in others without being able to see Him. Blessed is he that believes without seeing.”
(If you've been around long enough you may remember I've quoted part of that before. It moves me like nothing else can.) 

Peter's contribution to Catholic Social Thought remains largely through Dorothy's extensive writings about him in her books and journals, as he wasn't the prolific writer that she was. She even wrote a book entirely about him that I haven't read yet but still feel confident in recommending to you.

His own writings were short and sweet and came to be known as "easy essays". They are compiled on the Catholic Worker website, and here is an example:

1. To give and not to take
    that is what makes man human.
 2. To serve and not to rule
    that is what makes man human.
 3. To help and not to crush
    that is what makes man human.
 4. To nourish and not to devour
    that is what makes man human.
 5. And if need be
    to die and not to live
    that is what makes man human.
 6. Ideals and not deals
    that is what makes man human.
 7. Creed and not greed
    that is what makes man human.

To nourish and not devour.

May we live our lives in such a way towards all.

May we be willing to be corrected, able to be changed, and open to being wrong.

May we honor the dignity of the human person in every neighbor we encounter.


Thanks for joining me for this series. You can read the post before this one here and stay tuned for the next one, the call to family, community, and participation, in the next two weeks.





Discovering the Power of Catholic Social Teaching (even if you're not Catholic... and even if you are)

5/3/17

this post contains affiliate links as recommended resources on the topic at hand

One thing that drew me to the Catholic Church four years ago was the firmly established social teaching. From papal encyclicals (that’s a fancy word for formal writings of a pope to the universal Church) to bishops’ letters, and culminating in the massive Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, I was enamored with how steeped this tradition is in a deeply intellectual pursuit of an understanding and embodiment of God’s intent for the human person.

There has been so much written (over the past 130 years in particular) that seven defined principles have emerged in Catholic Social Teaching. They are:
  1. dignity of the human person
  2. call to family, community, and participation
  3. rights and responsibilities
  4. a preferential option for and with people who are poor
  5. the dignity of work and the rights of workers
  6. solidarity
  7. care for God’s creation
But Catholicism, as they say, is a big tent and although I have found many Catholics to be informed and passionate on these issues, it’s fair to say that most I encounter are somewhat oblivious to the crucial implications of them. There is still so much work to be done in educating our own baptized on these principles.


Jesus Christ came with a social Gospel. Whether or not we are comfortable with that frankly doesn’t matter. One simply cannot read the accounts of His life on earth and come to any other conclusion. He did speak of life after death, certainly, and of spiritual disciplines, an intimate relationship with God, and the importance of sharing the faith with others – but his concern for the systematic treatment of human beings and the social structures that we function in can’t be overstated.

The Good News isn’t just spiritual, far from it. The Good News carries radical and often uncomfortable social implications that challenge us Americans to our very individualistic cores. Your salvation is not just between you and God. Your salvation involves your fellow man. It was always meant to be this way.

For many of us, it can be hard to begin putting abstract concepts into practice in our daily lives. There are so many needs in the world and so many complexities that muddy the waters of important social issues. We can be duped into thinking the justice stuff is just not our “calling” or our particular brand of Christianity. We are sorely, tragically mistaken; but we’re not without hope.


Over the next couple of months, I’m going to be undertaking a study of Catholic Social Teaching here at the blog, taking it principle by principle, citing noteworthy sources, digging up Scripture, recommending modern resources, and bringing it all home to a practical application that will affect our daily lives. (And yes, I say “our” intentionally, because this is just as much for my benefit as for yours.)

But maybe you’re not Catholic. (If I’m proud of anything about this blog, it’s that it is a wide-open space. All people of goodwill are welcome here, Catholic or Protestant, Christian or non, and I love how united we find ourselves on the things that matter most.)

If you’re not Catholic, you might be thinking what the heck do I care about papal encyclicals and letters from bishops? Well as with so many things, the Catholic Church does a fantastic job of preserving universally traditional Christian teaching here. All of my life my dad (a Baptist theologian) always said, “all truth is God’s truth”, meaning we can extract Divine instruction from even unlikely sources. If Catholic Social Teaching is an unlikely source for you, I encourage you to stick with this series and see if you don’t find something beautiful in it.


I’m excited to explore these topics with you guys and wish I could promise to faithfully deliver a post in this series once a week for seven weeks, but life isn’t quite as predictable as that. If you’re new here (hi, welcome!), my family of five is preparing to move back to Texas in June to rejoin a Catholic Worker- a decision that you can read about here. So while I’d much rather be hacking at these keys and poring over the Compendium, life is demanding cardboard boxes and insurance changes.

So no promises about when in the next two weeks it will be published, but the first principle we’ll tackle will be the dignity of the human person. Such a good one. I’m thinking Jean Vanier and Peter Maurin will be making appearances.

And in the meantime, I’m sending out a monthly newsletter this weekend so sign up if you’d like! These typically include a little more personal writing, recommendations for things to be reading or listening to that pique the social consciousness, and sometimes we do really awesome book giveaways. When you sign up you get a heart-stealing printable of a Dorothy Day quote made by Erica at Be a Heart Design. So that in and of itself is reason enough to join us.

I’m thankful you’re here and honored to get to walk through these seven principles with you. Thanks for being my people.

Why My Son's Autism Is Exactly What I Needed (plus a fundraiser for a local ChildServe!)

4/29/17

If you had told me ten years ago that I would have a son with Autism Spectrum Disorder, pre-mom me would have given you a blank stare and maybe a furrowed brow. But this once vague and intimidating neurological condition has, in fact, become a familiar part of my daily life: my oldest of three sons has autism. There is a lot of fearful rhetoric around Autism but the truth is much less scary and much more beautiful than we’re told. Do my 7 year old’s neurological differences make life harder sometimes? Sure. But do they also make it better? Absolutely.

Here are seven ways that having a child with autism turned out to be exactly what I needed.
   


  1. His need for predictability forces me to be organized.
      
      I’m a notoriously disorganized person. I’ve never been good at sticking to schedules, I’m always late, and I generally have no idea what the day will hold when I start it. But having a kid with autism means I have to suck it up and adult. He needs high structure, predictability, and a definite plan- and if I want some semblance of peace I have to deliver!

2. He exposes me to things I’d never seek to learn on my own.
      
      My son’s mind is highly literal and factual. He enjoys stories here and there but if you really want to get him excited, give him a book about tornadoes. I, on the other hand, am a fiction girl through and through. I would never gravitate toward scientific books for fun! But thanks to my kid, I learn more about the earth every day.

    3. His meltdowns often sum up the way I feel inside.
      
      Does any parent enjoy managing meltdowns? Nah. And doing it multiple times every single day is no walk in the park. But sometimes there is something oddly gratifying about seeing someone express feelings in a way I’m not socially allowed to. If I can’t kick and scream over the ice cream shop being closed when we get there, someone should.

4. He works incredibly hard to make and keep friends.
     
      While I’m prone to make friends effortlessly and even take my dearest relationships for granted, social reciprocity doesn’t come easily for my boy. He puts in extra work to interact with other kids, and it inspires me to go the extra mile to appreciate the friendships in my own life.

5. He provides me with the perfect excuse to bow out early.
      
      Social settings are very stressful for my son, so short appearances are usually best. For an introvert like me who would rather be in yoga pants on the couch anyway, his anxiety is the perfect built-in reason to head home and get comfy!

6. His curiosity reveals my laziness.
     
      The constant barrage of questions about how things work- from water towers to windmills– makes me realize how content I am to not discover anything! His urgent need to know the engineering details of a machine might sometimes frustrate me, but it’s also an amazing gift to be reminded to pay attention to the opportunities to learn and grow all around me.

7. His idiosyncrasies make me more accepting of other people.
      
      Knowing my son intimately and appreciating all of his quirks has stretched me out of my comfort zone of people who all think and act like I do. Thanks to my 7 year old, I can understand better the range of neurodiversity in the world; I am much less judgmental and much more openhearted than I was before him. And if he keeps working on me, maybe I’ll be a halfway decent person by the time he graduates high school. We can hope.

FUNDRAISER TIME!

Many of you know that our family only recently received this Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, though we had our antennae up for a long time prior. Our local branch of ChildServe has been an incredible resource for our journey, and we are so thankful for the support they offer families like ours in Iowa by providing evaluation, diagnosis, and therapies.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I'm teaming up with my friend Marla at Usborne Books & More to donate as many books as possible to our local ChildServe's autism department.

How you can help: 

- Use this link to buy some books for the kids in your life, and up to 50% of the proceeds go towards books that ChildServe will receive for free through May 5th!

- Donate books directly to our Ames branch. They've even made a wishlist of Usborne books they think will most benefit their ASD kids in therapy!

- Spread the word! Whether or not you're able to purchase, please consider sharing this fundraiser on social media or even in an email to friends and family. The more ears that hear about it, the more we can shower these kiddos with new books!

*UPDATED TO ADD: My friend Marla is graciously offering to personally match a $50 purchase made from ChildServe's wishlist by midnight tonight (May 1) - that's in addition to the 50% Usborne will donate! Someone jump??  :)


Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes

4/18/17

Hey friends,

I'm committing the cardinal sin of Blogdom and popping in for a short and sweet, uninspiring update. But I wanted to let y'all know that I finally made myself a big-girl website! Woot Woot!


I wanted to make it just right before the unveiling, meaning I wanted to completely move my blog and all it's contents over there- but alas, it was not to be, and that part is going to have to wait. So for now I'll have to link between the two of them which, yes, is a pain in the arse but also means I get to sleep more than two hours a night before we move in June.

(JUNE IS SO SOON!!!)

Anyway. I hope you love it as much as I do. The Upside Down podcast schtuff is there, my freelance work is there, info on the Catholic Worker is there, and best of all...

:::drumroll:::

a huge list of my favorite book recommendations is there, categorized by Justice Issues, Spirituality, Novels/Memoirs, and Children's.  It might be my favorite part of the site.

So head over to ShannonKEvans.com and tell me what ya think? (and pssst if the links don't work, let a sista know)

Happy Easter!
Shannon

Easter at the Catholic Worker

4/11/17

Image: America Magazine

We sat side by side on a hay bale, knees under a makeshift picnic table and bellies full of homemade bread. Samantha lived in a tent by the river. I could sometimes make out the tip of it when I drove by the woods in our SUV on the way home from running errands with my kids. I had heard that she and her boyfriend were troublemakers, a reputation no doubt fueled by their respective addictions, neither of which do any favors for one’s interpersonal skills.

But there at the table, I saw no signs of all that. I saw only a woman who cooed over the baby in my arms. We made small talk, or at least attempted it, until her curiosity could contain itself no longer: “Why are you here?” she asked. She could not keep the skepticism out of her voice, and I did not blame her. I was married and clearly middle class, despite my best attempts to play it down. Why on earth was I hanging out at the Day House, a place frequented mostly by people experiencing homelessness? I chuckled low and got honest: “Because we need friends.”

Three years prior, my husband and I had returned to the United States after two years of serving as Protestant evangelical missionaries in Indonesia. When we came home, it was as first-time parents to a newly adopted son. Between reverse culture shock and the tangled web of adapting to the complications of our son’s early childhood trauma, our lifelong faith suddenly came up lacking. We prayed fervently for healing for our little boy, that his brain would be rewired to send signals of safety instead of fear, but nothing ever changed. And we began to break under the weight of our own inadequacies as our best parenting efforts failed day after day, until we barely resembled the healthy, competent people we once knew ourselves to be. I had never imagined there could be such darkness within me. But then I had never needed to.

Read the rest at America Magazine!

The Song That Autism Sings (Autism Awareness Month)

4/4/17


I figured it out by watching Parenthood.

Little Max Braverman exhibited many of my son's own behaviors except, well, more mildly. My husband and I were saucer-eyed from the pilot episode; I filed mental notes away as if all our lives depended on it because in a way, they did.

It would be two years later, just this past January, that a psychologist would officially confirm what I'd known in my gut for two trips around the sun: my boy has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

He was about to celebrate his seventh birthday. Had he been a toddler, it likely would have hit me like a ton of bricks: I would have grieved, I would have cried, I would have been afraid. But when you're loving and living with a brain that spins in an entirely different pattern than your own for years, you've already known that fear of a life you can't imagine and don't understand- you've looked that fear in the eye and felt sure it would bury you. But it didn't.

Eventually, parents of children with Autism find a way to counter fear with joy, whether it comes before the diagnosis or after. Not because we are superhuman creatures, but because our children are. We see them make their way through a world that wasn't built for them, and we determine to change it. We see them overcome their debilitating anxiety to participate in mundane events, and we're inspired to be more heroic ourselves. We see them crumble when it all feels too much, and the deep groan of love propels us to fight when they can't. In laughter and in tears, in failure and in occasional success, we learn to find a way beyond our own doubts and limitations.

Our understanding of the world and our place within it shatters. It has to, for there to be room for our child in it. But as we rebuild a life out of the shards (occasionally bloodying our hands on the pieces and bandaging them up for each other) it becomes apparent that the window through which we view everything is now stained glass, fit for the most glorious cathedral and - wouldn't you know it? - the presence of God.

This is the gift that Autism offers the world; this is the song that Autism sings. It is in breaking open that we are made whole, and it is in embracing each other in all our imperfections that we can finally recognize the image of God that was right in front of us the whole time.

Today we are surrounded by demand for "perfection" on every side. Efforts are being made to systematically eradicate genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome, reeking heavily of a Hitlerian disdain for the differently abled. Well that's the "depraved world", a Christian might say. But within some streams of Christianity, the singular emphasis on God's healing power unintentionally sends the same message: an atypical life is somehow not as valuable. Maybe we don't believe weakness, dependence, and suffering can glorify God. Maybe we think He secretly only likes the impressively-abled ones. Maybe deep down, we think God is just like us.

My son is a phenomenal human being. The label of Autism helps us understand him but it does not define him and indeed, he often blatantly defies it. We have found strategies and medication that have been life-changing for him and much to our happy bewilderment his teachers report he is a model student. And yet still, life is harder for him than for many other kids. Life is harder for us than for many other parents. But a hard life does not mean a less valuable life. On the contrary, I would challenge us to question whether individuals with special needs don't invite the rest of us in to a life more abundant, one that transforms us from the inside out. It's Good News. It's Gospel.

If it's good news for some of us, it's good news for all of us, or it's not good news at all. And the Good News for people like you and me - the neurotypical, the "strong" - is that our weaknesses, our fatal flaws, don't disqualify us from bearing the image of a Loving God or of bringing good and dignified gifts into a world that needs them. We are enough, every single one of us. We have dignity and glory and beauty and complexity and we are so much more than enough.

Just as we are.


In my journey, I have been inspired by the words of other special needs mothers. Most are softened souls that speak into my literal ear and will never be known as internet famous, but there are also women like MaryMicha, and Kelly, who write online for the rest of us to draw from their wells. If you don't know their stories, I invite you to sit under their wisdom for as long as your coffee stays warm.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
Blink (for the parents of the different kind of kid)
What It Means to Say Yes to Adoption
In Defense of ADHD
When You're Still Looking for the Kingdom of God

When a Family of 5 Goes Rogue

3/29/17


We write our way into writing, my friend Laura says.

So I trust that if I just start hacking away at these cold keys, something's going to come of it.

It is with great joy, anticipation, and gratitude that my family and I announce we are moving back to Denton, Texas this summer. Making this move to Iowa in 2015 was our third marital attempt at leaving Texas, and danggit if it seems we just can't quit her after all. This whole Midwest experiment has only solidified the importance of Place in my finite understanding of the world, and it's a topic I'll likely write more about in the future. We are Texans at heart, it would seem, and maybe we're more loyal than we gave ourselves credit for.

But even though we both spent most of our lives in Texas, and even though Eric's parents still live there (and I don't have to explain to you the treasure that is grandparent proximity when you have three kids), I don't think we would be returning at this point if we hadn't spent the last 2 years of our Texas days in Denton.

Denton is 30 miles north of Dallas, if you're wondering, and is a smallish town despite the fact that there are two universities there (Eric got his Master's at UNT). My dad maintains that it's the ugliest place on earth, but she's a beaut to us. She's home.

We're returning to the Catholic Worker community in Denton that we loved so deeply during our time there. (You may remember that it was based out of our home for about a year, which holds some of the truly best memories of my life.) When Eric graduated, the option of staying was a tempting one but he couldn't find a full time job in the area and we desperately felt we needed life to be stable for a while. We had been through the ringer as a family and needed a soft place to land. Iowa has more than stepped up to that plate.

Our life here is precious. While it took Eric some time to get into the groove of his job, it's now one he has come to love. In addition to the ministry aspect that fills his cup, it's flexible and accommodating of family life. Alyosha's public school is phenomenal. Our parish is bursting with young families to be friends with. Our priest loves our children, and they can feel it. (The loss of that brings tears to my eyes as I type.) Our nearly 100 year old home suits us perfectly. We walk downtown or to school multiple times a week for much of the year. There's even a Catholic Worker farm outside of town.

It is the closest to a "perfect" life that I've ever pictured for us. And I am convinced that it was the goodness of God that led us here.

But I'm equally as convinced that we're not meant to stay forever.

Do we have the choice? Oh certainly. For the weeks that we prayed fervently about the next year, we felt assured in our spirits that either moving or staying would be good. There was no wrong choice, and we could make beautiful lives for ourselves in either location. But in our heart of hearts, we also sensed that there was a certain fullness of Life for us in Denton that would be very difficult to create here.


In Denton we were folded in to the beauty that had begun there long before our arrival. Community had already been forged between college students, the homeless, the voluntarily poor, the mentally ill, the farmers. Literally all we had to do was jump in. And we did. And who can return to the typical American dream after that? There has been a hole in our hearts here in Iowa that we haven't found a way to fill. No matter what we tried to get involved in here, it wasn't the same. It wasn't our people. It wasn't our home. And maybe, for all our wonderings and wanderings, that is simply how the Lord speaks to us.


This summer our family of 5 is going rogue. We're moving back to the Catholic Worker community, prepared to be the root system that it's needed. Eric is my hero for walking away from a comfortable, satisfying, meaningful full time job and embracing the stigma our culture assigns to a man who offers his family an uncertain future. He and I will both be working part time jobs so that we can BOTH truly invest in the work of hospitality for others, as well as the rearing of our own children.

Speaking of the boys, they have not been overlooked in this decision. Far from it. In addition to getting more time with their dad, they will also be surrounded by their godparents (both official and of the heart) who love them as well as a human being can be loved. They will grow up with people who are living out their faith in radical ways, and that will be their normal. They will be accustomed to things that are still surprising to us: being friends with people who sleep in tents by the river, being given gifts that people find in dumpsters. We will keep them safe, be sure of that, but we aren't orienting our life around safety. We believe that giving them a faith that extends beyond church walls is the best thing we could ever do for them. This kind of faith is the reason we're Catholic. Frankly, it's the reason we're Christian. If we can't impart to them the truth that the image of God is borne in all people, and that the Gospel destroys walls and social hierarchies, then what kind of faith are we teaching?



Will we be poor? Well it depends on your definition of the word but to some extent and by our cultural standards, yes. We are choosing to shed the privilege we were born with and dare to imagine a different kind of world than one of looking out for our own and climbing imaginary ladders. We will share radically, but make no mistake, we will be the recipients of others' sharing too, because sharing is the culture of the community. I have no doubt that we will have everything we need.

What will we do? We're committed to taking it slow. For the first year we will give ourselves room to find our way. We will rejoin the weekly potlucks in the park that a modge podge of people attend. We will soak up the weekly Lectio Divinia prayer times and have daily house prayer too. Our roommate will start a garden, and we will learn from her and hopefully feed people from the wealth of it. We will be a home of welcome to the stranger, to the one in need, especially mothers and children. We simply are looking to BE in the world: to be good neighbors, good friends, to live with arms wide open to those who feel their need acutely, and to be transparent about our own need for others. We will discern as we go what our long-term charism is, and we trust that God will lead us where He wants us to go.

Will I still be writing? You bet. You can't get rid of me that easily. I imagine I'll have a thing or two to say. *wink*

Thank you for traveling with us spiritually. Thank you for your prayers and well-wishes. Thank you to my newsletter subscribers who got the news over the weekend and responded with such joy for our family. It's an honor to walk with you.

Shannon

*I have installed a "donate" button on the sidebar that links straight to my PayPal if you want to make a donation to our work of hospitality. No pressure, ever, but it's there if you're interested.*

What I'm Reading, Spring 2017

3/19/17


Spring is officially upon us, you guys. Glory glory Hallelujah! I am quite likely the most cold natured person you know, and so I find the long Midwestern winter months to be rather... indoorsy. When we moved to Iowa nearly two years ago I had grandiose mental images of building snow men and sledding down powdery hills, but can I be honest about the number of times either of those things have happened, at least with me present in the frame?

Goose Egg.

Turns out I didn't magically turn into a snow leopard just because I migrated north. Eric actually thinks I may be part lizard considering my staggering ability to sit in the sun for a length of time previously unprecedented for a human. But I digress.

Back to books! I'll show you mine if you show me yours.


Just Finished Reading:
 





This book is a compilation of essays by various prominent Christians, including many of my favorites, on the Biblical call to a life lived in community. It will definitely challenge you uphill and down, but it rings so incredibly true that it's impossible to discount. I'll put out a little teaser and tell you that although we've had it in the house for a year (Eric's purchase), we have a fairly big life change coming up that prompted me to finally pick it up and read it myself. More on that in an upcoming post! (or subscribe to the newsletter to be the first to know! ;)





This one was recommended to me by an old friend and blog reader (Hey Kaylor, heeey!). Written by political journalist Ron Fourier, it examines the modern parent-child relationship and invites parents to shelf the horsecrappery and love our kids for who they are rather than for how they make us look. Fourier's son has Asperger's (on the Autism Spectrum) and many of the details of their family dynamics spoke to me in a deeply personal way. (Yes, fine, I cried a few times.)



Okay, I'll be honest- I didn't read this one cover to cover. My friend brought it to our recent Upside Down Podcast co-host retreat in North Carolina and I devoured as much as I could during the cracks and crevices of our four days together. Ian and Suzanne actually have an Enneagram podcast by the same name, and I've listened to several episodes and gotten a lot out of them. If you're unfamiliar with the Enneagram, it's a type of ancient personality indicator (for lack of a better term) that is incredibly helpful in understanding yourself and other people. I've done several personality tests in my life and am naturally interested about them in general, but the Enneagram is the most thorough and the most practically impactful, bar none.


Currently Reading:




Doesn't the hip cover make you want to run out and buy it? ;) Seriously though this book is a gem- don't judge it by the outdated graphics. I'm only a few chapters in but it is a prophetic clarion call for our time. The writing is both intelligent and accessible, and he really does a good job of meeting people where they're at.


Will Be Reading:
  
 




Has anyone read this? I've long felt connected to Dorothy Day and have always yearned to know more about her intimate, familial side. Specifically, as a mother myself, I've always been curious about her successes and failures as a mother so driven and dedicated to social causes. I expect this will accurately portray the very human side of this great Christian figure.





You know I had to have a fluffy one thrown in! I'm on the library waitlist for this baby and can not wait! I have major mixed feels about Gilmore Girls (remember that post a few months ago?), but I think this will be a pretty fun read. Only uhhh 7 people holding it before me at the library.


Kids are Reading:




You might remember the name B.J. Novak from his work writing for and acting in The Office, and if so then you won't be surprised to hear that this book is hilarious (even for the grown up reader, whom it picks on). I love seeing my kiddos giggle over good humor, and this one delivers.






This is the first book that we've bought in this wonderful series of heroic figures, but it probably won't be the last. It's incredibly thorough and very well done, and my boys have become fascinated by the trials and victories in Helen's life. I definitely recommend this one.



Taavi's current board book binge read. There is seriously something about this book, because all three of my boys have been crazy about it as babies and toddlers. Taavi's affection may take the cake though- at less than 10 months old he was bringing it to us to read to him! Hashtag prodigy, y'all. (There is a Global Baby Girls one too! And I should add that proceeds go to the Global Fund for Children. Win!)



Eric's Reading:


I've never thrown in Eric's current reads before (maybe because he generally has like 12 super heady ones going at a time), but there's a first time for everything!




The hubs reports that this is classic Richard Rohr: a worshipful look at the heart of a deeply loving God. It's specifically about the relationship between the three parts of the Trinity and the implications on our own lives, and Eric reports that it's voice is an important one.


Alright, party peeps. Your turn! Let me know what you're reading and recommending, in the comments or on FB!


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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

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