I just finished reading Jennifer Fulwiler’s new book One Beautiful Dream.
Do you love reading a book that makes you laugh, cry, and feel like you could conquer the world once you finish it? Then this is it! As a Catholic working mother, this book spoke directly to my heart and the inner struggle to balance work and life. I’ve always felt like I could be Wonder Woman – the woman who can do it all. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have both my career and my family life. Why in Catholic circles are moms shamed for going to work? Why in worldly circles are women shamed for wanting to be a mother? Why are they RIDICULED if they want more than two kids??
Jennifer’s book breaks the glass ceiling for me and so many other women. She is a mother of six. Yes SIX children, with the same husband. I’d love for her husband to write a book next so I could read his POV! The lessons that Jennifer shares from her own lived experiences are incredible and relevant to anyone trying to discern God’s will for their life. Here are a few of my favorites:
- More people = More fun Jennifer refused to believe the culture of death that says that one’s freedom is taken away from having a large family. She also realized over time that inviting more and more relationships into your life was generous and rewarding. For example, the positive interaction with her extended family was important to her success and happiness as well as neighbors, other families at church etc. Each of these played like a symphony in her beautiful dream. When I think about parishes and schools, I think about the many impediments to creating fellowship and more people, more fun. The teachers saying their class sizes are TOO BIG which then in turn declines enrollment. The pastor saying there is NO SPACE for coffee and donuts after Mass which then causes everyone to head straight to their cars and not meet one another. Or from personal experience, when the usher reminds you that you are LATE to Mass and can’t sit in the choir loft because the sound of your baby carries through the church. This mentality of less people = less problems is a cancer to our society and to our church. Time for a reset!
- Be good at not having it all When you accept a culture of life mentality, that often brings with it a tighter budget. Jennifer spoke about choosing the smaller house, the used cars etc. and doing it with great joy! The story about her broken car door and climbing out her driver side window and toppling onto her lawn while the neighbors watched was definitely one of those Laugh Out Loud moments!! But Jennifer was careful to say that while you can’t have it all, you have to be GOOD at it and the same goes for a parish or school. For example, a non-profit institution does not have the expendable income of a Fortune 500 company. So what can you do? The Dollar Store is your best friend! Buy a bunch of black picture frames and print some shots of happy, smiling parishioners and students. This can brighten up your office/hallway in a jiffy. And do you know what people love? Gratitude! Affirmation! The Dollar Store also sells greeting cards, often with spiritual themes. A hand-written note from a school/parish leader goes a lot farther than a glossy perfectly designed brochure. Just skip Target.
- The Resistance is Real This is more true than we want to admit. Jennifer spoke about The Resistance holding women back from fulfilling their dreams and their God-given potential. This resistance is felt in so many veins – culturally, personally, and ultimately spiritually. The devil wants nothing more than for us to go to hell. The devil wants nothing more than for us to FAIL. As we are all reeling from the abuse of clerical power and sexual offenses being revealed in the church, Bishop Barron recently wrote about the McCarrick Mess and says nothing more than this is the devil’s great accomplishment against the American Church. Do not be fooled when you feel burnt out, or there is a struggle of relationships that is tearing down your parish/school program…this is the work of the evil one. However, he can be renounced. I’ve recently been praying the St. Michael prayer with my 3 year old daughter before bed, and I have to admit I felt a little strange the first time saying it. I was thinking this is some intense stuff for her….”all the evil spirits prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” But let’s be real if we don’t address it and call it out by name, we will be deceived. St. Michael, pray for us.
- Intimate service to others Jennifer was visiting her doctor’s office when the nurse asked her if she was ‘done’ having kids. Jennifer said she didn’t know how to answer the question saying, “I thought that intimate service to others was only something you do for a few years when the kids are young. Now I saw it as the very foundation of a rich, fulfilling life.” So good. I agree with her 100% because I thought the same thing. I thought I would regain my freedom once my kids grow up and are in school full-time. When we brought our oldest home from the hospital, I remember rocking her while she was screaming inconsolably and thinking, “She’ll be in high school soon, right? And this will all be over.” What a new mom I was! Another Wonder Woman and hero of mine, Helen Alvare, said in a podcast with Leah Darrow recently that the secret for her balance of work and motherhood was that she took the more demanding job when her children were young. Then, when they were school-age she found a more flexible career so that she could be more present to them in those coming of age years of conscience formation. She found it to be so important to be the one to pick her children up from school and be the one who answered their questions and heard their reactions. Whoa. I had never, ever heard this before. This intimate service to others is a life-long gift and one to be embraced. The mission of the Church is to serve the human person from womb to the tomb, literally, from infant baptism to the rite of burial. It is beautiful to see a parish and a Catholic school in intimate service to others in all aspects of their lives. We see the greatest parent satisfaction and testimonials after a family has been cared for in a time of need. Spiritual bouquets, meal trains, prayer chains are all intimate means of serving others. When the pastor stands at the back of Mass and asks how your chemo treatments are coming along, this is intimate service. When the principal throws a bridal/baby shower for an employee, this is intimate service. Accompaniment is what we are all yearning for, and no one does it better than the Church! And women, break that glass ceiling!