Choosing your life *and* following a calling

One of my favorite publications lately is The Lily, the Washington Post’s publication for women. They run stories on national politics, women’s health, and pop culture, as well as personal narratives and comics!

One story stood out to me from The Lily this week:

The unexpected life of a millennial nun

The Catholic church seems to be one of the most patriarchal institutions there is. With reports of abuse by the clergy and conservative, and even restrictive views on women’s health, the church seems like the last choice for young women who care about social justice.

But some women my age have chosen just that. The article talks about Tracy Kemme, a 33-year-old Sister of Charity. It turns out that the stereotype of the secluded nun doesn’t capture what nuns look like and do today. Nuns have careers in the community such as dietician, historic housing preservation expert, hospital ethics member, and minister.

It also makes sense that the religious life offers women in my generation something that is missing in the outer world. To put it bleakly, in recent years, I have often felt the same way as millennial women who chose to become a nun: that the world doesn’t offer anything for me to hold on to. Religion isn’t an escape or rejection, but an embrace of life. It seems contradictory, but I can see how choosing “chastity opens one up to love more; that poverty recognizes common ground; and that obedience signifies deep listening.” Nuns are rejecting a traditional lifestyle but embracing the world at the same time.

Nonetheless, being a nun IS unusual. People are going to ask and wonder why women would forego so many possibilities to choose the religious life.

“There is something scary about women who congregate together, something scary about women who don’t live some kind of idealized American womanhood,” says Sister Mary Therese Perez, 36, of the horror nun genre.

This story resonated with me because I feel the same. I think married, single and religious life are all callings. I don’t feel devoted to religion, but the lifestyle of a nun does appeal to me. I care about social justice and helping others, and I don’t fear being lonely.

“I had learned that religious life wasn’t magic,” Kemme wrote this past summer. “[I]t wouldn’t save me from loneliness, anxiety or self-scrutiny. It wasn’t perfect; living with women from different generations and backgrounds was challenging and even painful at times. It wasn’t an escape; ministry with the suffering can be exhausting and heartbreaking.”

How does one prepare for that kind of life? There’s so much training and preparation to become a nun. But at the heart of it, being a nun is having “[a] sense of adventure or willingness to say ‘yes’ to a life that’s going to have twists and turns and lots of unknowns,” she says. “They’re really courageous people who are willing to challenge the status quo.”

I think we can embrace that in our life no matter what ‘calling” we choose.  Let’s keep challenging the status quo, choosing life, and engaging in the world.

Purposeful crafting and thoughtful gifting

Crafts are a big part of my life. The long list of DIYs on my Pinterest board motivates me to keep going so I can one day get to them. At the same time, caring for the Earth is a priority. Crafts use some resources that are harmful to the environment, such as glitter and plastic. 

In keeping with the idea of taking only what you need and being good stewards of the Earth, here are some ways I’m thinking about crafting purposefully. 

Purpose

Full disclosure: I love crafts for the process, but I’m still figuring out what to do with the finished products. As I’m writing this, I realized that I have it backward.

The thing is, you can craft anything you want. Rather than make then think of where it goes, begin with the end in mind. What am I creating this for? It’s so tempting to look at all the DIY ideas and want to make them all. Screening questions before I decide to make:

Where does it belong? 

What purpose does it serve? 

Who am I going to give this to?

People have been crafting since forever, so crafts do have a purpose. A few ideas from brainstorming and DIY blogs tell me that people make crafts to:

  • Pass down a skill like pottery and weaving
  • Remember an event or person
  • Celebrate holidays and traditions
  • Exchange and build community
  • Use in the home for decor or other functions

Crafting purposefully doesn’t mean that you can’t make things for fun. Objects can be meaningful and fun. Look at Carl and Ellie’s house in Up — every knickknack is personal. Their belongings speak to the relationship they had, who they are, and what mattered most to them. I’m taking Carl and Ellie as one inspiration for crafting with purpose. 

Relate

I think we can all get behind thoughtful gifting. Everyone has limited bandwidth, space and budget. We want to give gifts that people are actually going to use. It can be tangible things or experiences, pricey or budget, and DIY or store-bought. (Honestly, a gift card is always welcome!)

The Good Trade, a blog about shopping thoughtfully,  has some great ideas for DIY gifts. These ones really stood out to me:

  • Offer your skills & talents: There is something you are really good at, whether it’s making phone calls, referring doctors, organizing or cooking one particular dish. You can offer your friends a session of one of these services. Remember coupon books? A grown up version would be much appreciated.
  • Use what you have: Going back to being thrifty and good to the environment, it’s always a great idea to use what you have. Plan your budget, think simple, and make multiples of the same thing. 
  • Make or write something personal: A handwritten letter, photo print and symbols to a shared experience go a long way. It’s more meaningful because it can only come from you. 

Work in progress

When I look at the zero waste lifestyle, it’s inspiring but also makes me feel so far from living that way. I become aware of how much waste I create and it can be discouraging to make more things that honestly, might end up in the trash.

But a quick glance at DIY gift ideas shows that handmade gifts don’t have to end up in the trash. The beauty of crafting and eco-friendly hacks is that there’s a way to make everything from bath & cleaning products, to coupons & cards,  to food & drinks, yourself. (I’m a big fan of giving consumables! Treats will ever go to waste.)

“Choose something to make that you wouldn’t mind making over and over. I definitely wanted to make something functional that a wide range of people could use.”

Crafting itself is about being imperfect and practicing anyway. Let’s celebrate the fact that our crafts and gift-giving practices are works in progress, and it can get closer to being zero waste without being there now.

If you are on Etsy, favorite my shop to see what I’m making. When you’re pinched for time, what gifts do you like to give?