We were supposed to graduate college, get good jobs with health benefits or go to graduate school, then get really good jobs, secure income, pay off debt, begin our 401K, rent a house then buy a house, pay off debt, marry, buy life insurance, work, have one or two children, know how to pay for those children, know how to pay for the groceries to feed those children. If we wanted to marry early, there should be a plan in place to have children later.
They were good virtues, I am sure. The highest virtue was security. The second highest was success.
We did not do it right.
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Marriage and Family Life: Not What We Expected
We had hoped to marry out of college. I delayed my entrance to graduate school so we could hold the wedding. We knew intellectually, waiting to have children was the right thing to do, but we still jumped up and down with joy when we learned I was pregnant. As cradle Catholics of the John Paul II generation, we were on board with using NFP (Natural Family Planning, also called Fertility Awareness Methods).
The moment she was born, I wanted her laying beside me. I wanted to be home with her. I slogged through those last classes ready to get back to my little girl.
Out of money, we returned to California to the hope of picking up the jobs we had when we left. It did not happen. But every month something always came through. More children came. We embraced each one. I worked off and on while my husband grew his music business.
Four kids. Below the poverty line. Living in a beautiful house we rented from my parents. Baby in the hospital. Pregnant again.
We were definitely not doing it right.
Letting God Be Enough
Though I would not trade one moment (except that first trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond when we got married), I wrestled over the years with our decisions in the face of society’s admonitions. I knew in my heart it was right. We were trying to follow God with each step. It just seemed so crazy.
Enter Haley Stewart and her farm without a flushing toilet. Enter her new book, The Grace of Enough. Witness the spotlight on the thing I did not know: we are not alone. This is a generational ache for more than we had.
Some of us were lucky in our youth. Our parents did everything they were taught was right, but something was lacking. In The Grace of Enough, Haley Stewart puts her finger on it by pointing the finger at Pope Francis.
The Grace of Enough
In Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si, he writes:
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading.
The actions of consuming, and perspective that things are prized for their usefulness, can infiltrate our relationships, the way we spend our free time, the way we eat, our whole life.
The Stewart family felt the generational ache. As an answer, they took an opportunity for Haley’s husband to intern on a farm. They sold the house, packed up the family, moved into 650 square feet and learned to use a compost (that is, non-flushing) toilet.
But this is not her memoir. Tagging memories from that year, Stewart examines ideas surrounding the values of beauty, the home, shared meals, hospitality, communities, authentic intimacy in marriage (specifically the use of Fertility Awareness Methods in place of artificial contraception), and valuing interpersonal relationships in family life over income.
She is extremely well-read. But unlike other equally-sound Catholic works, rather than quoting Aquinas, Aristotle, and obscure Church Father ad nauseam, we get quotes from Jane Austen, Chesterton, and Harry Potter. Both are good, but this might be more fun.
The Throwaway Culture
The anecdote to a throwaway culture is not to give up everything and move to a hermitage, but to live mindfully. To engage fully with our environment and the blessings in our lives. It is the Little Way with the Canticle of the Sun and the whole reason art and literature exist. Life should be savored, not just for pleasure, but because it is good. Behold, it is very good.
Hayley’s book is an invitation to follow that command: to behold.
Being Good Stewards
We are stewards. The distractions and noise of our present-day society, the never-ending go when we try to meet these assumed basic goals of home-owning, can leave us filling empty.
As much as this book felt like the culmination of so much of my writing and goals for living, as much as I felt validated, supported, not alone in our decision to follow our Catholic instincts, this book also challenged me. Giving gifts are a love language for me. I was raised with recreational shopping. The bank account told me so this morning.
Both a companion and a challenge to take the next step in intentional living, I look forward to sharing this book with others and whole-heartedly recommend it to you.
Have you read The Grace of Enough? What did you think? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!BIS Reads: The Grace of Enough by @HaleyCarrots #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Kathryn Anne Casey is a graduate of Divine Mercy University, freelance writer, housewife, and mother of four children. Her weekly newspaper column “Here’s to the Good Life!” and blog focus on art, psychology, consumerism and the importance of local community. Find out more about her here.