Be Yourself! A Journal for Catholic Girls {Book Review & Giveaway!}

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

***BLOG POST UPDATE ***

The winner of the giveaway is reader Gian!

Thank you to those of you who participated and for your readership!

 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means the blog author may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that the blog author has recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any extra money, the blog author may receive a commission from the affiliate. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details. Thank you for your readership and support!

“Let your light shine!” – Matthew 5:16

The Christmas and gifting season is upon us, and books are one of my favorite gifts to give for birthdays, Christmas presents, and other special occasions. I’m always on the hunt for books that inspire and encourage the children in my life. My hope is to always support authors, encourage thoughtful readers in my life, and spread around my love of literature and the written word. Going forward, I’ll be featuring some book reviews on this blog, and I’m thrilled to share my first one with you today.

When I found out through social media about a journal written specifically for Catholic girls age 9 and older, I couldn’t wait to get a copy! My first impression of Amy Brooks’ Be Yourself! A Journal for Catholic Girls was “Wait! Where was a journal like this one when I was growing up?

Talk about relevant and necessary! Personally, I believe every Catholic Christian tween and teen girl would benefit from being gifted a copy of Amy’s creative work for their birthday or under the Christmas tree this year. It’s that good. Here are a few reasons why:

  • It’s a guided journal that allows the girl to start where she needs to go that day—from listing hopes, dreams, blessings or worries; exploring her prayer style, special talents, and identity in God’s creation; opportunities for reflecting on a myriad of ways to show love to herself and others; and a tangible outlet for quieting herself, praying, thinking, dreaming, coloring; and so much more.
  • The writer speaks directly to the girl, making this special journal a safe and inspiring place for her to be alone with her thoughts and feelings, all the while receiving spiritual encouragement from her Heavenly Father, the Saints, and Mother Mary from the included, thoughtful Bible verses, inspirational quotes, and relevant Saint stories.
  • It’s a fluid, open-ended journal, with various ways for girls to creatively explore their relationship with God, strengthen their devotion, and increase their Catholic faith. It’s one that I can envision so many different types of our precious girls enjoying in so many different ways—all of the reasons just as good, beautiful, pure, and strong as the content of this well-written, enchantingly illustrated journal.

My soon-to-be-eight-year-old daughter was thrilled to have the chance to look through this attractive and interesting Catholic girls’ journal. Although, she’s not quite ready for all the material this journal offers, she shared that her favorite parts of the book are:

  • The cool pictures to color on almost every page throughout the entire journal.
  • The “happy” quotes and Bible verses that popped out at her as she leafed through the book.
  • The Letter to Jesus page which she said she would use a lot to write to Jesus about what’s on her mind and in her heart.

The author was so gracious to gift me two copies of Be Yourself! A Journal for Catholic Girls—one for sharing with a special girl in my life, and one for giving away to a lucky reader of my blog. Please, enter this giveaway for your chance to win a copy of this finely written and illustrated journal for a tween or teen girl in your life! It would make a perfect Christmas gift, or anytime treasure!

To enter the journal give-a-way:

  1. For ONE chance: Please comment on this blog post with a favorite Bible verse or quote from a favorite Saint.
  2. For TWO chances: Add to your comments by telling me about how a beloved book or favorite author resonated with you when you were a tween.
  3. For THREE chances: In your comment, please let me know that you’ve shared this blog post and giveaway on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

***I will choose the lucky winner by random drawing on 11/17/18!***

Be happy in the moment. That’s enough. Each moment is all we need. Not more.”

~ Saint Teresa of Calcutta

 

Advertisements

On Grief and Gratitude

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Ye have lost a child—nay, she is not lost to you, who is found to Christ; she is not sent away, but only sent before; like unto a star, which going out of our sight, doth not die and vanish, but shineth in another hemisphere.” ~ Samuel Rutherford

 

This October, as in years past, I honored the short lives of the children I miscarried. In appreciation for those that traveled with me (and my family) through the compounded grief of losing six children, I’ve been seeking ways to give back and offer personal help to other mothers wrought with the raw pain of losing a child they’ll never hold.

Having moved well past my acute pain and piercing suffering, I finally feel free enough to turn my grief experience into service and action. My writing has been a solace to others, and I’ve personally aided friends through their own child loss journeys over the years. Though, this fall I have felt the call to do something more for the cause.

Locally, there is an organization that exists for this very reason—to shepherd families going through the unthinkable sorrow of losing a child—and I’ve had personal experience with the compassion, care, and services this important ministry offers. Reaching out, I started by writing a guest blog post last month, and hope to do so much more for them and the community of families whose hearts and lives have been forever altered by the loss of a child.

{You can read my guest post on their blog, here.}

 

Now that November is upon us, I have turned my focus toward gratitude, seeking out pleasure in the simple joys, and giving thanks for all the things I too often take for granted. Over the years, this practice in listing my blessings for the thirty days in November has refined my mind and heart—especially when the threads of my inner-being have threatened to unravel into disrepair. My struggles are incomprehensible at times, but I refuse to be broken and ungrateful.

No matter your circumstances, dear reader, I hope you will find the will in your heart to join me in pausing, savoring the good, and giving praise and thanksgiving for any fleck of beauty, moment of grace, and glimmer of hope you find in your world today, and the whole month through. Today, I am grateful to you for taking the time to read what I have written.

 

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” ~ Rumi

 

 

Resting in the Stillness After Personal Struggle

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Silence, I learned, is some times the most beautiful sound.” 
― Charlotte Eriksson

“Slowly, simply, silence, stillness” was my Lenten mantra, my focus, my goal for the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter morning. A lofty goal, yes. Yet, I was convinced this intentional journey would yield the peaceful rewards I was seeking in my personal life. Of all my Lenten fasts, in comparison to all my past sacrifices, in judging the level of self-denial I’ve deliberately imposed on myself, this year’s “halt of self” has been the most challenging in refinement of my mind, body, and spirit.

Do you trust the silence? Or, are you a skeptic of stillness, like I tend to be?

Have you found a way to rest in the stillness? Do you ever allow yourself the chance to rest your weary mind and bones?

Do you welcome in the peace? Or, are you prone to catastrophising out of innate fear?

Have you lived out loud, with joy and freedom from the chains of your mind? Or, do you lurk along in misery, always waiting for the other shoe to drop?

The last three years, for me, have felt like an ultra-marathon, filled with hills and valleys of tears, running at a snail’s pace, feeling completely lost and unprepared for the race set before me, as I carried a weighted pack on my shoulders, trudging through mud, falling down too many times that I’ve lost track. Over the last few weeks, I have seen the finish line in sight and I’m eager, yet still so apprehensive, to finish the race and rest in the notion that the biggest fight of my life thus far, is finally done. I am having a difficult time accepting that the grueling miles I’ve run have amounted to much more than having run a race I was thrown into, without adequate preparation. Now that my desperate pleas and prayers seem to be answered, it’s difficult to switch gears to a place where it’s time to rest, recuperate, recover from the incredible feat I have just accomplished, emotionally.

For so very long now, I have carried that burdensome cross of mothering a struggling child without a compass, my headlamp dimmed, my resolve shaken and trampled on. Yet, here I rise. The truth is the only way I’ve survived the mountainous terrain of my parenting journey is that I’m finally allowing myself to let go of control. Though fears still grapple me with super-human strength, I am diligent in practicing how to breathe through them, pray through them, write through them, and further unloading them in dialogue with my amazing therapist, trying to leave them in that space between us, not letting them drag me to the floor once I return home.

I’ve practiced a lot of self-forgiveness as I’ve fallen flat on my face and the need to forgive and seek forgiveness will remain a focus in my life. Despite my missteps and mistakes, I can recognize that I am loving as best I can today, and have let those circumstances, hardships, and some relationships to just be, freely flying away to where they need to go—even if that means far away from me where I can no longer enact any type of chance to insert my will, my advice, my vision, or my control.

The most humbling lesson I’ve learned in the last three years is that it’s okay, preferable, actually, to let go of perfection and preconceived notions, allowing God to do His job, and to just love—myself, others, my family, strangers, my friends, and enemies—right where I am and right where they are, without expectation nor conditions to that love. Truth be told, it’s a difficult, often heart-wrenching choice, challenge, and cross to bear going on in love when you feel so beaten down and defeated by the compounding hardships of life. But, going on in love and patience, staying mindful to live each day as best as I can, choosing better than before, these new choices and changes only feel strange and unnatural for a time before the transformative lightness is shining from deep within my heart, mind, and soul, changing me for the better.

Slowly, simply, silence, stillness. This has been my Lenten focus and will remain my prayerful path going into the Easter season and throughout the remainder of this year. Hoping for heartfelt and mindful changes for you, me, and the world abound. Be at peace, friends.

“Whenever there is stillness there is the still small voice, God’s speaking from the whirlwind, nature’s old song, and dance…” 
― Annie DillardTeaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

Thoughts on Journal Writing

Tags

, , , , ,

“The pages afforded glimpses into my soul where I’d hidden it, behind masks of paper and ink.” ― Rachel L. Schade, Silent Kingdom

The greatest cure I have found to my own writer’s block is diligently keeping a personal journal. Some days, if my fingers won’t willingly dance across the keys of my laptop, I take up my pen and put the ink to paper, easily scrawling away the mess filling inside my headall of the anxieties, doubts, fears about the unknowns, random thoughts, memories, coincidences, and dreams. Once my journal writing session is complete, which takes me anywhere from 10-20 minutes (depending upon the weightiness of my heart and the heaviness of my soul at the time), I am finally confident and steady enough to confront a blank screen. After I journal, my mind is straighter and freer, and I am able to write fluidly with a clearer perspective, lighter heart and peaceful demeanor―no matter the subject matter.

It takes only a quick Google search to discover why famous authors, past and present, have kept a journal. Personally, I find the process cathartic; a balm to my emotional, sentimental nature. I would much rather my journal be the vessel bearing the burdens of my inner-person, fielding the complaints, taking the hits, mending the brokenness, offering the therapy, relieving the stress, questioning the injustices, remembering the laughter, piecing together fragments of memory, working through shame, healing past hurts, expressing grief, and recording both the simple and profound moments of my life. Essentially, my journal is where I work out the sorrows and write my way to discovering the joys.  

A cup of tea, a near-perfect pen, a journal waiting to be filled―this is my prescriptive remedy for a happy calm. Journal writing is as essential as breath. 

If you’re intrigued by the journal writing process, but have no idea where to begin, I recommend reading this: https://journaltherapy.com/lets-journal/a-short-course-in-journal-writing/

May I also suggest reading this essay on writing?  Ellen O’Connell Whittet muses in beautiful detail about how everything we write matters. 

 

“I say to people that I am not writing, but I keep writing the diary, subterraneously, secretly, a writing which is not writing but breathing.”  ― Anaïs Nin, from her Diary

A New Year’s Hope for Radical Acceptance, Greater Kindness and Deeper Truth

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Don’t you find it odd,” she continued, “that when you’re a kid, everyone, all the world, encourages you to follow your dreams. But when you’re older, somehow they act offended if you even try.” ~ Ethan Hawke, The Hottest State

 

On this New Year’s Eve, I am looking inward and claiming my personally perceived imperfections and failed attempts, owning the disappointments and mistakes of the last twelve months, yet disallowing the negative to shackle me to the past. Ending the year on an introspective note allows me to acknowledge what I should have done better–without allowing grief and shame to weigh me down. For, I trust and hope for a new day and new year to grow kinder, gentler, better than before.

Would you allow that, quite possibly, the most delicate and treasured gift we can bestow upon ourselves during the holiday season is finding a deeper and lasting way to spread love and acceptance, by taking adequate time for intentionally glimpsing within, and setting forth toward a new year filled with anticipation and led by a healed heart bursting of grace, beauty, and acceptance? 

This annual interior reflection I practice has allowed me to extend radical grace and true forgiveness to myself, firstly, and the capacity to extend equal compassion to others in my life. Looking toward the new year set before me, I am feeling hopeful for the freedom of newborn chances, courageous to pursue my truth by way of my dreams, and the energy and faith necessary to walk boldly, yet, treading lightly upon the path that awaits me in the coming year. 

I want to take this moment to wish an incredibly, joyously Happy New Year’s Eve to all of my readers. My wish and prayer for you is for a safe and peaceful night, surrounded by love and friendship, and warmly enlightened by your own hopes for 2018. Thank you for your devout readership!

 

“I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me.

Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;

Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and shall bless me.”

~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

 

Thankfulness for Tiny Breaks

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

“Rest and be thankful.” ~ William Wordsworth

 

Three days ago, I had the pleasure of celebrating another 40-something birthday for which I am glad. My husband and children showered me with their love and attention, and I was thrilled to be surprised by a few handwritten cards in the mail from dear friends. To myself, I gave the gift of a deliberately slow week, taking my time through the most important tasks, letting the non-essentials go, moving away from the computer screen, cutting myself some slack, and indulging in some overdo self-care. I’m grateful to be more self-aware this year than I have ever been in the past, and that I honored this newfound truth on my birthday. Permission to rest may be the perfect gift one can give to thyself.  

 

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. ~ Ovid

 

Being Thankful for this Blessed Life of Mine

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence. ~ St. John Paul II

 

At the end of a full and lively week, I am simply grateful for being given the chance to live out this blessed life of mine. Despite the difficult trials I face and the numerous crosses I’ve been asked to carry, the deep struggles won’t stop me from giving thanks for all that I have, all that I am, and all that I know to be true. It has been quite the journey for me moving from a worrying and despairing heart toward that of one whom can recognize and recall a list of blessings no matter the circumstances of the day.

The process is messy and feels ridiculous at times, truth be told. However, once you reach the peak of graciousness, your life will be forever changed–emotionally, mentally, even physically. It’s not about being a “Pollyanna,” no. Rather, gleaning gratitude is more about recognizing that no matter how awful, cruel, unfair and worthless life seems at times, if you soldier on through the worst and most damaging experiences then you will most likely reach a measure of strength and purification of your entire being that can only be described as enlightening and awe-inspiring. My hope for you, if you are now wrestling with your own tremendously troubling circumstances, is that you may find any reason today to celebrate a glimmer of optimism, search for a light in the dark, and a chance at a better tomorrow.

Readers, there is so much more I want to explore and write about related to emerging grateful from a heart of stone, and I will circle back to it soon, I promise. For now, I hope you are enjoying this “30 Days of Thanks” blog series and that it is inspiring you to set about your own journey toward a more grateful heart. 

 

I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. ~ Brene Brown

In Thanksgiving for Literature and Literary Spots

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else. ~Neil Gaiman

 

Truth: When I was a young girl, I had recurring nightmares about being caught inside a burning house and not escaping until I could figure out how to save my books. This revelation quite possibly tells you enough about me that I should stop writing now! Nevertheless, I persist in written expression of my deepest gratitude to all the authors of the literature I have read over my lifetime and for those I can hardly wait to read. Interwoven into thanksgiving for books, I am eternally grateful for the peace I feel every time I enter a library or bookstore. So much so, that I will forever seek out literary spots wherever life finds me and take a piece of their shelves home with me in eager anticipation of visiting the world of words set between the pages of each and every gift of a book.

Just for fun, here is a sampling of some of my favorite bookstores I have encountered in my travels and places I have lived:

Please, leave a comment and tell me about your favorite bookshops!

 

Some books leave us free and some books make us free. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Thankful for the Practical Things, for Wood Floors and Simple Living

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ~ William Arthur Ward

 

The thanks I give today is for the wood floors found throughout the first floor of the home I share with my husband and children. Yes. Wood floors. These Brazilian-red, wide-set planks have seen better days and will need replacing in the next couple of years. Meanwhile, I can ignore the nicks and flaws and find something special in their worn-in beauty. For instance, that they have provided a steadfast platform for multiple levels of child’s play over the years, from babies on their tummy-time mats, to crawling and scooting toddlers working their way from stacking rings to building sturdy block towers, onto puzzle making, racing trains and cars, and now, presenting the base for elaborate card and board games.

Smooth in surface, these suffering floors offer wide, ample space for practicing ballet twirls, cartwheels and made-up cheers. Children will chase, tag, and hide from each other for fun from one end of the floor to the next. Often enough, the floorboards take quite a beating while we dance in the kitchen to emotion-chosen background music, our feet stomping and bodies moving free-form to the tunes that lighten our moods. So many footsteps of family and friends, neighbors and guests have walked the length of these floors, warming our home with their sheer presence and welcomed visits.

When the day is complete and nighttime falls, clean-up of these wood floors is quite simple and allows extra time in the evening for me to relax and catch-up with my husband after a long day spent apart. These floors in our home are the foundation from which we stand together. So, yes. Today, I am grateful for the luxury of having wood floors–the horizontal platform supporting the hard-won and love-filled living that preserves my beloved family together.

 

The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.  ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

In Gratitude for Learning how to Forgive Thyself

Tags

, , , , , ,

Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil; With them forgive yourself. ~ William Shakespeare

 

Allowing my mind to wander at will during my brisk walk today along the trustworthy path in the neighborhood where I reside, my thoughts turned to the act of forgiveness and what a delicate art mercy can be, especially when extending that grace to oneself. Revealingly, my inner critic is a harsh woman and I persistently fight for victory against her bitter tongue and unrealistic expectations. Today, I am thankful for the great lessons of life and heart that have contributed to my acquired strength, humble formation and greatness of spirit over these forty-something years. Self-reflection reveals I am witness to the lasting goodness, genuine beauty and absolute joy that emanates when one learns to forgive herself with the utmost sincerity.

 

“When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines upon you.”   ~ Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild