Interview: Blogging, Family Life, and Resolutions

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In November 2012, Lisa Schmidt, cofounder of “The Practicing Catholic” blog and social media expert, shared with us some great insights into the communion of saints in our everyday lives.

In Part II of our interview with Lisa, she shares with the St. Josemaria Institute her savvy advice on blogging, social media, family, and resolutions:

Q:  You turned 36 this summer and set out to achieve 36 new things to do.  We usually think about starting new things or resolutions at the New Year, but what a great idea to start them on one’s birthday.  How is it going so far? 

A:  This is a perfect time to revisit my big 3-6, so thank you for asking! I’m known for eagerly (naively?) jumping in feet first, only to putter out shortly into my next best project or idea. Some playful naysayers suggested my list might be a wee bit aggressive. Heck, my husband said it was like New Year’s resolutions on steroids. One reader even suggested I needed more one-time activities such as taking a hot air balloon ride or jumping out of a plane.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t set out to create a litany of so-called one and done bucket list items. I spelled out these 36 things because I wanted to grow in my vocation as a Catholic wife and mother, in my roles as daughter and friend. I needed to make some changes in my daily routine in order to better live out the faith, to be the best practicing Catholic I am called to be. Some items on my list are targeted for spiritual growth, others focus on physical and dietary improvements, and yet others designed to improve relationships.

What’s really cool is the Holy Spirit is placing people along my path to help me accomplish my items. For example, #29 is to play cards with married couple friends. Out of the blue we met some couples at our parish who also love playing cards and want to do it more. One couple even knows how to play Sheepshead, a game rarely heard of outside the Wisconsin state line. I’m looking forward to card game get-togethers with them.

Finally, I have to accept that some things may fall off the list. Running the half marathon is not looking promising given I’m battling side effects of a pinched sciatic nerve. And that’s okay — my ultimate goal is a healthier lifestyle that includes regular exercise and good dietary choices. I can achieve that without training for a half marathon … but I’m not throwing in the towel just yet!

Q:  You bravely shared your 36 things to do on your blog “The Practicing Catholic”, which you coauthor with your husband Joel.  Why and when did you decide to start the blog together? 

A:  It was summer of 2010 and Joel and I had just completed a yearlong “Christ Renews His Parish” retreat process. Renewed and energized, we were looking for something to keep pushing us, to keep us accountable. Additionally we both found ourselves inadvertently being apologists for the Church — we were receiving phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, etc., from friends and family asking for assistance on various questions related to Church teaching. I’ve heard it said that mission territory is often no farther than your neighbor’s front steps. That has certainly been our experience. We were feeling called to do something in the name of the New Evangelization with a particular focus on engaging the Des Moines Catholic community. We talked through our ideas, decided to launch a blog, and settled on the name The Practicing Catholic — praise God the URL was available for purchase because I’m not sure we had a “Plan B.”

Q:  On a practical level has the blog and social media activity changed and/or improved your daily routines, your relationship with your husband, your home, etc.? 

A:  Managing a blog requires writing content. Writing content takes time. While the writing process allows me to better assimilate and articulate thoughts, you can’t get around that it’s flat out time consuming to do the work of blogging. Have I mismanaged my time? Yes. Has the work of the blog gotten in the way of my family’s order and balance? Unfortunately yes. Have Joel and I had an unnecessary and silly argument because of the blog? Embarrassingly yes.

On the other hand, Joel’s and my conversations revolve around the life of the Church — liturgical seasons, current events, media, how the Church is interacting with the world, etc. All that stuff seeps into our conversations now, and we talk a whole lot less about superficial things. We have intentionally wrapped our lives around our faith in large part due to the work of the blog.

Our friend Dr. Tom Neal, a professor at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, encourages Catholics to, “Stay close to the logic of the liturgical cycle since theology is first and best done in the furnace of the divine liturgy.” Ponder that one for a while, huh? For certain, the work of the blog keeps us close to the liturgical cycle. And when I’m synced with the liturgical calendar, everything else in my life is enriched.

Q:  Catholic bloggers are becoming fresh and familiar voices on so many issues from Church teachings and spirituality to the struggles and joys of living the faith and our vocations in the middle of the world.  How do you feel about being one of those voices that hundreds of people are tuning into? 

A: Excuse me while I do my best Wayne’s World impression. “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” There, now I feel better. In all seriousness, it’s a responsibility we gratefully and humbly accept. What an honor and privilege to hear from random readers that they’ve been encouraged, inspired, consoled, or even challenged through the words published on our blog. But it’s reciprocal. When we hear from our readers, we learn and grow from them, too. We’ve become part of an online community where we are nourished and fed as well.

Q:  How do you see individuals, couples, and families using all these rich and varied online resources in their daily lives and in their spiritual lives?  Can you share some tips on how they can manage it more carefully and effectively?

A:  A good friend of mine, a high school teacher who is inching closer to retirement age and could simply avoid learning anything about all these new tools, framed it well: “I’ve got to be in the world, and this is the age I’ve been placed. So I better learn about this stuff and take advantage of it.” She gets that using modern social media allows her to more effectively communicate with her students. You simply don’t want to flee from these tools of our time because of the potential problems they can and do create. Instead, embrace what’s good in them. And how we do that will look different for each of us. Choose your online activity purposefully and judiciously.

Now of course there is a balance to everything. St. Benedict wrote much about work, rest, and prayer. Modern man has done an “effective” job at forcing a sense of disorder on the natural order. We’ve eliminated distinctions. For example, the light bulb has all but eliminated the distinction between day and night and now we can work around the clock if we so choose. That’s a problem of disorder. And if we’re not careful, all these social media tools will add another layer of disorder. I know this well because I struggle with it.

So some strategies: setting “curfews” on screen time, banning gadgets from the bedroom and around the dinner table, and engaging in periodic technology fasts. And maybe above all, call on the intercession of St. Benedict to help us keep our lives properly ordered.

Q:  To blog or not to blog?  You’ve been at that crossroad.  Certainly many people are asking themselves this question right now.  What two pieces of advice would you give them to help them take the leap or not into blogging?  

A:  #1 Pray and discern if this is your call. Do your charisms and skills naturally manifest into the work of blogging? If you feel your gifts are leading you toward the blogosphere world, try your hand at it. Offer to write guest posts for blogs that resonate with you. If the work of writing comes somewhat naturally, continue on. If not, trust that the proper outlet to share your gifts will be revealed in due time.

#2 Don’t allow false humility to get in the way. I often become paralyzed with fear that what I write is superficial, unimportant, less than meaningful, boring. We each have a unique perspective that no one can duplicate; that’s what makes us interesting and inspiring. Our perspective may not resonate with everyone, but if it inspires one person to pick up his cross and follow Jesus, well that would be an extraordinary success, wouldn’t it?

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