On privacy and pain: when you don’t know what to write

On privacy and pain: when you don’t know what to write

woman sunsetThey say, “Write what you know.”

But … what if what you know is too painful, too difficult, too private to write about?

Maybe they’d say that I should write it all down in a personal journal rather than in a public forum. And maybe they’d be right. Just keep expressing, keep trying, keep moving forward.

That’s not my story, though. When life got too difficult, too painful, too messy, I wouldn’t write anything. Not a darn thing. Well, maybe one or two things, but nothing that required me to dig in and peel back the fragile layers of my life and possibly bleed all over the poor soul who happened upon my words.

I admit: I’ve been holding out on you.

It’s sometimes a confusing tightrope to walk, this life of imperfect faith and so-called public platform. I strive to be “real” and “authentic” and “genuine,” with as little difference between how I am behind closed doors and when they’re open. But I also am a flawed human being, tied by sacrament and faith and birth to other flawed human beings. Respect for my dignity and theirs (and yours) means that, sometimes, I write around the things that are breaking my heart rather than fliging the thin veil aside for everyone to see.

The last thing I want this space to be is one where, in my brokenness, I damage relationships and possibly my heart and maybe even your heart as well. I have always, always intended this to be a place of encouragement and redemption.

And so I wait. I wait for it to stop being so painful and difficult. I wait for the sunshine to appear, burning off the months and months of frozen cold and dreary damp in my soul.

I wait for the redeeming wounds of the resurrected Christ to bind and heal my own tender wounds.

Because if there is one thing I can write with any semblance of authority and certainty today, it is that God is not finished with me yet. I know that He is guiding this healing, this transforming, this becoming.

I believe that my story–where Jesus Christ alone is glorified through every detail of my wild and blessed life–is being written, even if I can’t yet see the words.

photo credit: Alex Jones via unsplash 

Blessed Am I: An update and an invitation

Blessed Am I: An update and an invitation

Happy Thursday, friends! It’s been an especially busy and fruitful season for ye olde Real Catholic Mom. Not necessarily for this here blog, as you may have noticed; this poor thing tends to be relegated to the sidelines whenever Mom’s dance card is full with family, conference, retreatconference, retreat, and convention. Woof.

As much as I absolutely love traveling and sharing The Good News with other women and experiencing incredible, Holy Spirit-infused Visitation moments (#myjamforlife), there’s something rather precious and sweet about having nothing (okay, well, almost nothing) on my calendar leading into the holidays except for “normal” Wife-of-one-and-Mom-of-five stuff, which, quite honestly, is plenty for any soul, especially a former (ugh! I cannot tell a lie!) current Martha-holic like me with uniquely challenging and beautiful children like ours. I feel like these blessed blanks on my calendar are God’s way of gently guiding me closer to hearth and home, allowing Him to expertly guide this busy ship to shore for a bit of leave.

My challenge: To honor the blanks and not rush to fill them to overflowing like the recovering human doing that I am.

But y’all must know by now that I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t share a bit of what’s coming up, and they are good things, friends – very good things. To that end, here are my personal invitations to you and yours:


Please join me LIVE for my very first online workshop with the wonderful Blessed is She ministry next Wednesday. The workshop, called Living Abundantly Through Forgiveness and Healing, streams live at 6 p.m. PST // 9 p.m. EST or can be downloaded after the event closes if the live time doesn’t work with your schedule. My prayer is that you’ll leave the session encouraged and strengthened to completely release any nagging bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness behind so you may close out this glorious Year of Mercy with a renewed sense of healing and wholeness.

Speaking of slowing down and digging deep … Advent is coming. I know, I know. But! As with everything, it is an opportunity to draw closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. From the Blessed is She website:

You want to dive deeper into the season of Advent, you desire to lay aside the busy-ness this season can become, and you yearn for a deeper relationship with our Lord. Here is your chance. Here is your time to grow closer to Him, to learn more about Him, and to fall more in love with Him. “Together, let’s prepare our hearts and our very lives for the coming of the Baby.” // Elizabeth Foss, author of By the Manger in the Morning Prayer Journal

***Please note: Clicking through to the BIS website via the above image or the hyperlinked title financially benefits, in a small yet meaningful way, my friend and fellow prayer warrior/speaker/writer/uplifter, Mary Lenaburg. Thank you kindly for your generosity!

For local friends, I’ll be at St. Cecilia Parish again this year for their Women With Spirit Advent Recollection on Tuesday, December 6th at 7 p.m. Stay tuned for more details!

Finally, dear friends – would you please pray for me? The Holy Spirit has really been working on my heart these past few months, and even more intensely these past few weeks. I want to be able to be still (neither my best nor my most natural posture) to listen to and, more importantly, cooperate, with His leading.

Until next time, please know of my prayers with and for you.


Going deeper … {Fabulously Featured @ Catholic Sistas}

Going deeper … {Fabulously Featured @ Catholic Sistas}

Catholicsistas (2)

Over the past year or so, I’ve become acutely aware of the push and pull that surrounds writing publicly about personal things. Because, let’s face it – whether two or 10,000 read what I write – it’s out there nonetheless. How much sharing is too much? What happens when you don’t share enough? Certainly, some experiences are intensely private, and are simply not intended for public consumption, so they remain a mystery to the outside world. Other times, details of challenges come flowing out, and I hear that others have helped or encouraged by what I’ve shared.

It was with this balancing act in mind that I finally sat down to write my About page a few months ago. While I’m happy with how it turned out, I’m still considering – what is the “why” behind my writing? What is my voice? What do I, Heather Renshaw, have to offer that is not already done so brilliantly by so many others? I feel God calling me to go deeper, to get more personal, and yet I am also hesitant because, whenever we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we open ourselves up for more potential criticism and rejection. And that can be painful. And as much as I try to fool myself into thinking that I simply don’t care what others think (I’m not listening … tra la la la!), that’s just a big, fat lie.

Here’s the thing, y’all – I want to be very honest, because, at my core, I am a truth-telling storyteller. I want to help people with my words. As a Mom, I tell my kids to be brave and strong and true – and I need to live that by my example. But sometimes the truth is difficult. And painful. And complicated.

Anyway. I will keep pondering these things – both in my head + heart – and perhaps they may end up on a blog post somewhere, too.

On a MUCH lighter note, the kind and generous Martina from Catholic Sistas asked some fellow writers to spill the beans about our blogs, and my responses are featured today! Head on over there to check out even more of what I had to say about this whole crazy blogging thing and some other fun stuff, too.

Love and peace,


So much awesome: Series launch | Celebrating Rebecca Frech | Giveaway Time!

So much awesome: Series launch | Celebrating Rebecca Frech | Giveaway Time!


I am suffering from a raging case of bad news fatigue, my friends. It’s everywhere I turn; it’s unavoidable! Sometimes all the evil, false, and ugly becomes a bit too much for my little brain to process. So, rather than curling up in the fetal position on my couch with a bottomless tub of ice cream and posting pictures of kittens on FB, I decided to shine a little light on some pretty amazing Catholic women who are making this world a better place in their own unique way. Without further ado, welcome to the very first installment of Celebrating Real Catholic Women! Because sometimes, we need permission to ponder the good, true, and beautiful. Sometimes we just need a break from the bad.


Ain't she purty??
Ain’t she purty??

I first “met” Rebecca online by way of her underrated blog, Shoved to Them. Soon thereafter, this homeschooling newbie had a copy of Rebecca’s latest book in my hands, and, imagine my surprise when she not only generously responded to each and every one of my petty and profound homeschooling questions, but proved to be somewhat of a kindred spirit. Rebecca is extremely talented and resourceful, and she is fiercely intelligent and wickedly hilarious, which I truly appreciate. We finally met “IRL” at Edel, and I can honestly say she is even more awesome in person! I recently caught up with Rebecca for a quick conversation in between history lesson planning, writing, and laughing about cultural differences.

Real Catholic Mom: So, Rebecca, you’ve had a blog for quite a while and even wrote a book. Why and how did you start writing?
Rebecca Frech: I started blogging out of boredom and loneliness. We had just moved to a neighborhood of elderly people; it was just the blue haired women and me. I needed people to talk to, so I started a blog. I never really thought that anyone would read it or that I would have much to say. I figured I’d blog for a few months until I found real life friends, just to help me over the hump.

Writing the book was definitely a calling. I had never read a single homeschooling book before I began homeschooling. It’s crazy but true!

Several years later, a friend began looking into teaching her children at home, and would call me just bawling. After reading the “best books on the market,” she was convinced that she could never homeschool. I was curious and began reading those same books, and quickly determined that there had to be something better out there. When I couldn’t find it, I decided that I would have to write it myself!

RCM: You write about a bunch of different things, but what is your most favoritest thing to write about?
RF: I love to write about politics. If I could get a good back and forth debate going, without nastiness and name-calling, I would do it every day. It makes me so energized! I was a poli-sci major in college and on the debate team, so I think it must just be in my genetic make-up.

RCM: Obviously, your faith plays a major part in your writing.
RF: My faith is the prism through which I see the world, it informs and helps to form my world view. I sit down to write and offer a silent prayer to do no harm. That’s always where I start. I’m not a theologian. I’m just a mom who writes things down in an effort to make sense of the world around me. My great fear is of harming someone else’s faith in my effort to explore my own.

That said, I try to walk in the memory of St. Catherine of Alexandria. She was a great talker who led many people to Christ through the example of her life and the power of her words. If I can, through exposing the imperfections and trials of my own life, help to bring other people to Christ with me … that would be my ultimate dream.

RCM: Okay, so you’ve already got one saint in your corner! If you could spend the day with any saint, who would it be?
RF: I’d spend time with St Philip Neri and his fat, farting dog. He was hysterical and loved to make people laugh. I think a day with him would be one well spent.

RCM: You’ve gotta tell us something about yourself that we don’t already know. You’re interesting!
RF: Is it possible that people don’t know something about me at this point?? I pick up accents when I talk to people. It’s a habit of being a Navy brat. Sounding like people helped me to blend in, so I can drawl and twang along with the best of them. It also means that my kids can tell you who I’m talking to on the phone just be listening to how long or short my vowels are.

If, like me, you need more Frech, connect with Rebecca via e-mail at shovedtothem {at} yahoo {dot} com, and be sure to listen in to Archangel Radio Friday, August 22 from 7-8 a.m. CST when Rebecca chats with the Live Hour guys about all things good, true, and beautiful.


For homeschooling newbies everywhere!
For homeschooling newbies everywhere!

It seems particularly appropriate to kick off a new series with a giveaway, yes? Yes! The gracious and unstoppable Rebecca Frech (see above), who officially began blogging over at Patheos this week, also wrote a wonderfully helpful book I cannot recommend highly enough called Teaching in Your Tiara – a homeschooling book for the rest of us. And she is generously offering a signed copy to one lucky Real Catholic Mom follower!!

Here’s how to win: follow the Real Catholic Mom blog here on WP and Twitter and Shoved to Them on Patheos and Twitter and leave a comment on this blog post by 5 p.m. EST Friday. This isn’t a fancy-shmancy Rafflecopter giveaway – we trust you when you tell us you’re following. A winner will be randomly selected and announced in this week’s Real Catholic Mom 7QT link-up on Friday night.

Good luck!

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, #Blog style!

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, #Blog style!

The power is yours, dear reader! A new entry is within your control!

It’s the first-ever Real Catholic Mom Choose-Your-Own-Adventure event!

Whichever of the following blog titles receives the most votes as tallied via the “Leave a Comment” section, below, will be the topic of a future post!

Note: These are actual titles of drafts I have thought about writing and/or started writing, etc. but for one reason or another haven’t completed. Part of the excitement is that, other than the title, you don’t know what I was thinking when I began the blog (and honestly, some of them are almost 2 years old, so it’s possible that I don’t know what I was thinking, either) so the content will be a complete surprise!

Note 2: If none of the listed titles appeal to you (what!!?), I will accept “write-in” suggestions, as long as they are morally decent and plausible topics for a Real Catholic Mom to write about. (I’m not gonna be doing a book review of War and Peace anytime soon, for example.)

Note 3: Voting closes this Friday (8/5/11) at 12 midnight PST, so vote now!


  1. You won’t be home ’til WHEN??!
  2. My husband is a little bit insane. I love my husband.
  3. Hippo birdie.
  4. Whatever you do, DON’T PANIC!!
  5. Are you killing yourself?
  6. Speak, Lord – your servant is listening
  7. Once a cheater, always a cheater?
  8. Dream a little dream of green
  9. Why “Real”?
  10. What Would Jesus Tweet?
  11. I am the spleen
  12. One year later …
  13. My 2 cents and God’s economy
  14. Why don’t you just shush up??!
  15. Have you lost your vocation?
  16. Doin’ dishes
  17. The tale of 2 Mrs. Andersons
  18. True Love is a decision
  19. Rest in Peace
  20. Oh, baby

Let the games begin!!