Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of love and encouragement I received last week, when I shared that I caught and recovered from COVID-19 earlier this year. I was not originally sure whether I would ever write about it, as I still cannot accommodate the sensation of bottomless panic I felt during the long and pregnant pause after I told my mother I had become symptomatic, or the torturous visions I had of Mr. Magpie raising our two children alone —

Let me catch my breath.

But sometimes I lay in bed at night and fret over the frivolous tone of particular posts in the context of this historical moment, and I felt I owed you an explanation.

Though forming the first paragraph above has made clear to me that I would rather write about nearly anything else on the planet right now, I did want to share two things that carried me through the scariest days of the illness because there may be other Magpies silently enduring their own challenges (health-related and otherwise). The first is the relatively new-to-me modality of books on tape and the second an excerpt from a reflection by a Franciscan friar, Father Rohr.

There was a day when I felt so unwell that I could not open my eyes to look at the TV, but I was terrified to lay alone with my own thoughts. Instead, I listened to Jessica Simpson’s Open Book. Her down-to-earth spirituality and earnestness coupled with juicy celebrity gossip hit just right. She reads her book with a delicious kind of extravagance: there are some passages where it sounds like she’s about to cry, or unable to breathe — so intensely she is feeling her own words! — and others where she appears barely able to suppress a laugh. I found her to be a winning and distracting companion and she has forever earned a place of affection in my life because of it. Later, on the road to recovery, I started Ann Patchett’s Dutch House, narrated by Tom Hanks, and the familiar timbre of his voice was deeply comforting while the details and characters of the novel transportive. These audiobooks were life-giving. I have not been an audiobook lover for long; I just started an Audible trial earlier this year, on a whim. I am convinced God made the introduction because He knew I’d need it.

Providence also introduced me to Father Rohr. One of you lovely readers pointed me in his direction months ago and, curious, I signed up for his newsletters. Many mornings, I skip over them in my inbox. A couple days into my illness, I decided to open one and there, in the middle of the page, were the words I desperately needed to hear. I have since copied them onto a little card I keep in my bedside table and screenshotted them for quick access on my phone, too. I find myself skittish about sharing prayers and spiritual musings on this blog because I don’t like the virtue signaling that tends to accompany such content. But reading this passage — even now, fully recovered for weeks — I feel awash with peace. I thought there might be some of you in search of similar solace and so, let me put my own quibbles aside:

“My life is not about me. It is about God. It is about a willing participation in a larger mystery. At this time, we do this by not rejecting or running from what is happening but by accepting our current situation and asking God to be with us in it. Paul of Tarsus said it well: ‘The only thing that finally counts is not what human beings want or try to do, but the mercy of God’ (Romans 9:16).”

Amen, amen, amen.


+More prayers for tough times.

+Chic Amazon finds.

+A well-stocked selection of Sleeper dresses — the Brigitte is still my favorite dress acquisition of the past year or two!

+These are 50% off and still available in my size, but low in stock. OMG OMG OMG….

+Don’t know who needs to hear this, but — on weaning.

+This striped dress is absolutely perfect.

+Some thoughts from earlier this year on outward signs of spirituality — the comments from Magpies were really interesting, too.

+In love with these pretty floral belts!!! What a chic way to update your favorite LWD.

+Had to have these.

+I think we’ve talked about this a lot before, but these are my favorite bibs for little ones. They fold up small so you can easily toss them in your bag, are machine-washable, and also wipe clean nicely. I find that Hill almost always tries to choke himself by pulling the hard/molded plastic ones off because they interfere with his food. These he almost always forgets about.

+More great baby mealtime gear here.

+This is a great bubble bath for children — you get a lot of product for a reasonable price, and it really suds up!

+Mr. Magpie bought me a fancy caran d’ache pen a few years ago — I think I need a mechanical pencil by the same brand, too!

+Sweet summer bralette on sale!

+Cute paper plates for your next grandmillennial garden party.

+More grandmillennial goodness.

+So smart — a collection of nude footwear that matches nearly any skin tone! Do not underestimate the utility of a nude heel!

+Absolutely love this dress and wish it weren’t sold out in my size.

+Just re-stocked Mr. Magpie’s medicine cabinet with a few of his staples — Jack Black facial cleanser, Jack Black deodorant, and Kiehl’s moisturizing SPF.

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28 thoughts on “Acceptance.

  1. Hi Jen,
    I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for a while, but every time I get choked up. I was the reader who pointed you to Father Rohr (and that’s another reason I hesitated: me, me, it was me!)…but I wanted you to know how happy and humbled this made me feel. I cannot express how happy and grateful that there were things (anything!) that helped you get through that time. Your sharing of this has actually inspired me to get more serious about my reflective and prayer times in my day. To see and feel the way God works through us is just incredible, isn’t it? I am so, so glad you recovered and are back with your beautiful family.
    I hope you don’t take less than kind comments to heart…this blog, and you, are just lovely. Thank you again for sharing. xoxox

    1. Jessica – Thank you so much for the incredibly sweet note. I have so much to thank you for. Father Rohr’s words really buoyed me through a tough time; you were the steward of those words! Thank you so much.


  2. Jen, I feel for your tribulations over these past few months! Thank you for taking the time to write about your experience with and recovery from COVID-19. I’m so glad you’re feeling better.

    Also, looking at Eva’s comment … as a longtime reader of this blog, let me just say that I have a distaste for, and therefore never use, carousels. I’m sure I’m not the only one!


    1. Thank you, MK, on all fronts! Glad to put the last few months behind me. Now I just wish we could get to a place where this virus was behind us all…


  3. I also found Father Rohr’s meditations through your reader’s comment and have loved reading them every day during these strange few months. His voice and messages are powerful and calming at the same time. It is a testament to your blog that not only your recommendations are received but also those of your readers- and they make strong impacts on the lives of others.

    1. Hi Isabel – I’m so glad to hear this and could not agree more that a huge component of this blog are the many ideas, products, books, perspectives, prayers, words of wisdom that shine through the daily comments from the women (and possibly a few men) who read this blog. xxx

  4. Thank you so much for bravely sharing. Your perspective is so helpful, and that verse is such a needed reminder.

    1. Hi Shannon – So glad this resonated. I read this meditation frequently and find the simple prayer “Be with me in this” so helpful. xx

    1. Ah, Tricia! Thinking of you. Weaning both times has been unexpectedly very emotional. My heart goes out to you. In an earlier post on weaning Emory a few years ago, a reader said something like: “Oh I remember how hard this time is — but trust me, you will get through it and it will be a distant memory soon.” She was right. I remember being so upset but you work through it and make it to the other side. I’ll be thinking of you while you’re in the throes, though. xx

  5. My heart went out to you when you shared that you had covid 19 last winter. I’m so relieved to hear that you are fully recovered and that your beautiful family is healthy as well! I too went into Jessica Simpson’s book not expecting much but a light read. I was very pleasantly surprised with all that she shared! I have a lot of respect for her.

    1. Hi Kim – Thank you for the kind note. So fortunate to be on the other end, but still so vigilant about the possibility of Landon or the children catching it…! 100% agree on the Simpson book! I went into it mildly dubious or maybe expecting more of what I saw on “Newlyweds” and emerged really impressed with her candor and self-reflection.


  6. I get how predestiny can give solace but I can’t square it with the intergenerational structural disadvantages (and trauma) that a plurality of Americans face. Is that part of some lengthy plan toi? If so, it seems a cruel one. Sorry if this comes across as sharp—I’ve been mulling over this (too late) for a while now.

    1. Claire – I would love to hear Jen’s take on this, too! Thought I’d reply since I’ve thought about this a lot (not that I have any grand answers). I’ve read many spiritual books that preach acceptance (The Power of Now, Loving What Is, etc.). An almost paradoxical part of it all: Believing it is possible to accept reality—to not mentally resist or fight what is happening in the present moment—and still work for change for the better.

      The classic (simple) Tolle example is if you are stuck in the mud, he’s not saying you should say “Oh well, I guess I’m stuck in the mud forever” (that’s resignation) but also not say “I am such a loser! I hate mud! Why me?” etc. (that’s mental resistance). You can, instead, ACCEPT fully the mud, and from that place of acceptance, work to take intentional actions to change your situation.

      Anyway, to me, it’s more of a mental acceptance for micro moments that is needed—and when I can fully accept those LITTLE moments without mind resistance, I can actually access some clarity on how I could help change the macro, the bigger picture (which certainly needs changing!).

      Of course, this is not quite predestination, more a moment-by-moment acceptance. [And I can totally see how if my situation were, objectively, worse and someone told me “accept it” I would want to punch them in the face though. But maybe that’s a me problem? :)]

    2. Joyce, thank you for this thoughtful response to a comment I admittedly made in a moment of frustration. Your framing (of accepting the micro so as to give the mental space necessary to change the macro) really resonates with me. Going to check out Tolle.

    3. Hi Claire – I know. I have been thinking a lot about this, too, especially while reading “The Warmth of Other Suns,” where the daily burden, danger, and cruelty of life as a Black in the South was so irrationally, incomprehensibly, sickeningly unjust that it’s impossible to read without wondering how such plight could possibly happen in the context of a greater plan? I remember my father and one of his good friends talking about this exact principle, too, in the face of a situation where a child had been diagnosed with an incurable disease — “how can this be God’s will?” I don’t have any good answers to this, and you have made me wonder about the possibility of my intellectual laziness (?) in having believed for a long time now that the Bible is full of contradictions and paradoxes and that sometimes there are lessons that “work” in certain circumstances and that do not in others — meaning that maybe certain passages are only applicable to certain moments and not the whole of life. Again, I don’t know. It is unsettling to say that all I do know is that these words were a tremendous help to me in a time of strain and that I am grateful for them. xx

  7. Can you share Father Rohr’s newsletter address. I would love to subscribe. Since we cannot attend Mass, I am in need of spiritual support. Thank you and blessings on your family

    1. Hi Bette! I’m so sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this — just emailed you separately but here is the webpage for anyone else in search:

      I agree that it’s been hard for me without the ritual of Sunday Mass. My sister, mother, and I started a digital prayer circle where we text each other every morning when praying a specific prayer (we switch out the prayer/novena/meditation every 9-10 days or so) and that has been helpful, but I still miss Mass.


  8. Jen, Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m so glad to hear you are healthy now! This American Life episode will certainly resonate with you: Be warned though since it might be too soon, it is about 2 parents in an NYC apartment diagnosed with COVID and caring for their toddler daughter. Even living in the Midwest, I could barely get through the episode thinking about what would happen to my own toddler. My heart breaks knowing that you and your family went through a similar experience, but I’m so glad to know you’re now on the other side. Hope you all enjoy your well-deserved vacation!


    1. Thank you, Ana 🙂 I appreciate the kind words and also feel lucky that neither my children nor my husband developed symptoms. I have friends who both became symptomatic at the same time while caring for a five month old and a three year old, and I don’t know how they managed it. It was hard enough with one of us unwell! Anyway, where there’s a will, there’s a way and I am so lucky I had Mr. Magpie to lean on. Woof. Cannot wait to put this chapter behind us all.


  9. I am spiritual, now let me sell you some stuff. LOL. Btw, whatever happened to the promise to go back to carousels? I guess it’s just not as profitable? 😉

    1. It’s unfortunate how rude this comment is given the somberness of the meat of this post.

      The format of this post follows the same format that all previous posts follow, this should not be new to you as you seem to have been here for awhile.

      Additionally, as far as carousels go – and while I’m not Jen, I do have my own experience using them – they take an exorbitant amount of work to put together. I am very sure that it has nothing to do with profitability and everything to do with time and the lack thereof.

      I certainly understand voicing an opinion, or even a complaint, but it should be done politely and constructively.

      1. Hi JC – Thank you. I so appreciate the community standards you’re reinforcing here. xx

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