If You Want to Make God Laugh, Tell Him You’ve Decided Not to Go into Public Speaking

by | Nov 5, 2019 | Catholic Living, Things I Think | 11 comments

Last December, my book launch was over. We had had some time to sit with the diagnosis and treatment decisions. The current baby was almost a year and a half old and pretty easygoing, and I was un-expectant for almost the longest time in our marriage. I was finished with the first big round of home and chapel decorating. Things really felt like they were settling down a bit in the Tierney house.

Photos from this year’s Fiat Conference are by the very talented Kelli Seeley.

The husband was five episodes or so into his new Podcast, The Dad Project, and had had a group reach out to see if he was interested in speaking for them. I had had a few similar inquiries over the years, mostly parish groups or moms groups, all out of town and without a budget, really. It felt reasonable to decline or set up a Skype talk instead of traveling. The only regular public speaking I was doing was The Fiat Conference and Little Flowers meetings.

So when the husband received that out of town speaking invitation, we talked it over and agreed that the logistics of either of us being out of town when we have so many kids and commitments just made it unfeasible to accept. We made an Official Family Decision to NOT become public speakers.

And within days, I got an email inviting me to speak at the 2019 Bismarck Thirst Eucharistic Conference in October. It was a very generous offer, and seemed like it would be a really great opportunity. So we put that in the maybe pile for a bit. And then decided to accept. And then I found out on Christmas Day that we were expecting baby number ten, in September. The Fiat Conference is always in October. And then I got a couple other interesting out of town offers, all for fall.

It’s pretty amusing, isn’t it? You wouldn’t think it would be a challenge to NOT become a traveling public speaker, especially one with a newborn. But God is funny like that. For practice, Jim and I ended up doing a fun parenting talk together, and now he’s got his own local conference going for dads. And I got to take three week old Barbara and seventeen year old Jack to speak at the Santa Rosa Diocese Education Congress, and then seven week old Barbara and fifteen year old Betty to Bismarck, ND for Thirst.

In between, The Fiat Conference, planned through nausea and aches and thrown under the threat of wildfires and blackouts and with a baby in a carrier was a HUGE success.

We decided NOT to go to Irondale, AL to do a couple episodes of At Home With Jim and Joy, but then it turned out we could record them at EWTN’s Southern California studio. So (exactly) two month old Barbara and ten year old Anita and my Dad and I went to the new Christ Cathedral campus to record the shows. (My episodes are scheduled to air on EWTN Wednesday and Friday at 1:00pm Eastern time/10:00am Pacific time. After airing, they should also be available for viewing anytime on the EWTN YouTube channel.)

Those weekend getaways with my newborn and my teens were priceless. I never would have planned them, but they were perfect. (And Betty got to do an amazing, and providential-feeling college visit while we were in Bismarck!) I really enjoyed the speaking gigs, and even more than that, getting to meet people in person with whom I’ve interacted in comments for years. And getting to hear in person the positive effect that my blog and book have had on real people’s lives. It’s so humbling and edifying.

All of this has been bouncing around in my head for a while, how odd it is that I have ten kids and a homeschool to run and a house to fix up, and somehow this whole ministry of liturgical living just sort of swooped in here, along with the required levels of competence in writing, photography, graphic design, thick-skinnedness, and now (perhaps) public speaking. People always wonder at how I can do all this stuff, and in all honestly, so do I. It IS rather a wonder.

It really only makes sense to me when understood in the context of Tuesday’s first reading at Mass. St. Paul tells the Romans (and us):

in the same way, all of us, though there are so many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we are all joined to one another. Then since the gifts that we have differ according to the grace that was given to each of us: if it is a gift of prophecy, we should prophesy as much as our faith tells us; if it is a gift of practical service, let us devote ourselves to serving; if it is teaching, to teaching; if it is encouraging, to encouraging. When you give, you should give generously from the heart; if you are put in charge, you must be conscientious; if you do works of mercy, let it be because you enjoy doing them.

 Romans 12:5-9

So THIS is the work I’m supposed to be doing right now, and I’m enjoying it all so much. It manages to fit alongside my primary responsibilities as a wife and mother. I can do it, because God asked and I said yes. So this, right now, is my job for the body of Christ. Maybe it all starts drifting away tomorrow. I really think I’d be okay with that. Maybe I’d take up prophecy instead. I just love that we aren’t all called to the same things. Quite the opposite, we are all meant to be fulfilling different roles, and none is unimportant.

P.S. You can see my talk from the Fiat Conference, along with an extraordinarily moving keynote address by the amazing Mary Lenaburg, and all the other great talks from the day by purchasing a Fiat streaming ticket, good for unlimited views through Nov 20.


  1. Ashlely S.

    I’m glad you took up public speaking! It was so fun to meet you and chat in Bismark!

    • Kendra

      It was really great to meet you!

  2. Marion

    God Bless you and your family for all the things you do.

  3. Camille Dose

    And Nana and Grandad get to do the babysitting for most all of these events. That seems to be our calling and our blessing. Cuts down on our crusing but time for that later.

    • Kendra

      Yes! That’s an important part of the equation. Thanks, Mom!

    • Emily

      Oh thank you Kendra’s mum for all you do!
      We are blessed to have my parents with us to help a lot, and it’s one of the greatest gifts from God to experience His love through the never-ceasing giving of our parents ❤

  4. Stefanie

    It’s amazing you can recognize your calling-truly a gift!

  5. Jane

    I still don’t know how you do it! I’m barely out of bed when my babies are three weeks old, nevermind looking as perfect as you do and doing public speaking!

    • Kendra

      I feel so much better once the baby is born than I do when I’m pregnant, that I’m up for crazy stuff with newborns.

  6. AnneMarie Miller

    I love seeing how you jump right in when you notice that God is calling you to do something. Thank you for your witness!
    Also, that’s awesome that your daughter got to visit University of Mary! My younger sister goes there, and I have heard many, many amazing things about it!

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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