Of Prayer, Twitter and Red Minivans

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Yesterday I was tagged in a tweet with an emergency prayer request.

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After promising to pray that Emergency Novena for Christine’s friend, I messaged her to ask what color car her friend drives.

That may seem like a weird question, but I use visual prayer cues for special intentions. When I see a car that resembles one belonging to someone I know and love, that’s a reminder to me to pray for that person.

Christine told me that her friend drives a red minivan.

This morning at Mass, I remembered her friend in prayer, then resolved to turn off the radio on my way home and pray that day’s Emergency Novena.

After Mass, I got into my car, turned off the radio, and prepared to leave my parking space. The car in front of me moved away, revealing that the car parked in front of it was a red minivan.

A couple of miles later, I saw another one.

In your kindness, when you see a red minivan, say a special prayer for Christine’s friend. If you commit to doing this, I’m quite sure that God will make sure you see plenty of those cars.

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Photo copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey. Title added by author. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

#OpenBook: December 2016 Reads

"An Open Book" linkup hosted at CarolynAstfalk.com and CatholicMom.com

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. In December, predictably, my reading list was heavy on the Christmas novella. There are so many to choose from, they’re quick reads, and they’re just fun: the literary equivalent of a Hallmark-channel Christmas movie. But there’s plenty of other stuff too.

Fiction

T36847-cvrThe Strangers at the Manger (Chime Travelers #5) by Lisa M. Hendey (children’s). Number 5 in the “Chime Traveler” series of chapter books for kids in grades 2 and up (younger as a read-aloud), this novel finds twins Patrick and Katie traveling through time to Bethlehem, where they accompany Mary and Joseph through their attempts to find lodging and stay with them until the Holy Family flees to Egypt to escape Herod’s attempts on Jesus’ life. Read my full review.

6-dates-to-disaster-fc-large6 Dates to Disaster (Bird Face #3) by Cynthia T. Toney (YA) The recently-released third book in the Bird Face series, 6 Dates to Disaster, finds Wendy looking for ways to fund her summer plan of visiting Mrs. V and her grandson in Alaska after her stepdad loses his job. An excellent writer, Wendy agrees to secretly tutor one of the girls in the “cool” clique, with more clients to follow, but Wendy finds herself doing more rewriting than proofreading–and is soon accused of cheating. She’s also distracted by her budding romance with David and by a mysterious note she found in an antique jewelry box. ARC provided by author.

happiness-in-betweenThe Happiness in Between by Grace Greene. Sandra’s parents think she’s a ne’er-do-well, not realizing that her ex (whom she’s married twice) is emotionally abusive. They finally agree to let her hide out in the family homestead, where she’s supposed to care for her aunt’s dog and keep an eye on the home. But her ex is on her trail and Sandra can’t tell the nice guy next door that she’s still married; she also can’t tell her aunt that the dog is missing. Good suspense! Netgalley review.

sandys-seashell-shop-christmasA Sandy’s Seashell Shop Christmas by Lisa Wingate. A young military widow tries to escape Christmas by holing up in a resort town with her 3-year-old, fortifying herself against holiday memories. The town conspires against her, though, working to catch her up in the holiday spirit and even providing a love interest.  This was a sweet Christmas novella; I’ve enjoyed other books in this series.

 

endless-christmas-ruchtiAn Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti. A very public proposal right after the prospective bride meets the whole extended family turns into an awkward few days when everyone is snowed in. The only one really feeling the awkwardness is Katie, who’s convinced that it’s not a good idea for her to marry anyone. I loved the family in this novella–such great characters! Highly recommended.

 

connect-the-starsConnect the Stars by Marisa de los Santos & David Teague (YA). A bunch of troubled middle-schoolers and a drill-sergeant wannabe at a 6-week wilderness camp in the desert: what could possibly go wrong? Turns out, quite a bit. Audrey, who’s hypersensitive to people who aren’t telling the truth, and Aaron the walking encyclopedia are challenged to team up with people they thought were their enemies–just so everyone can survive the experience. Great story.

miss-kanes-christmasMiss Kane’s Christmas by Carolline Mikkelson. What happens when Santa Claus’ daughter is assigned to go undercover as a nanny for a Scrooge-like single dad who’s written a book about why it’s a bad idea to let your kids believe in Santa. Yes, it’s predictable. It’s also funny, and the elves were fabulous. As of this writing this novella is still free on Kindle–so go ahead and enjoy.

 

one-enchanted-christmasOne Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg. Sometimes the fact that a story’s premise is far-fetched gets in the way of my enjoyment of a story. That’s what happened with this novella. I focused a little too hard on “that could never happen” with this one. Novelist Maren falls hard for the guy who’s featured in the cover art of her first book. He leads her on and tells her she can come stay at his farmhouse anytime. Suffering from writer’s block, she takes him up on the invitation a year later–and runs into his brother, who’s reluctantly running the place.

dakota-bluesDakota Blues by Lynne M. Spreen. If you liked “Steel Magnolias” and “Thelma and Louise” you’ll enjoy this novel. Fired by her super-demanding boss after taking time off to attend her mother’s funeral, Karen is still trying to regroup after her husband abandoned her for his pregnant girlfriend. She gets roped into driving an elderly neighbor on a last road trip to Vegas in an RV. This is a debut novel, and I hope the author publishes more–and soon!

its-destinyIt’s Destiny: Three Women’s Fiction Love Stories by Bette Lee Crosby, Tanya Anne Crosby and Julianne Maclean. I’m a huge fan of “Memory House.” Fans of Bette Lee Crosby’s work will love how this novel ties in elements from most of her others. But you don’t need to have read Crosby’s other novel to enjoy this story of a vulnerable young woman finding her way in the world, aided by the kindness of an older woman who has a unique gift. It’s easy to love these two characters.
“Lady’s Man” seemed more far-fetched (even though it lacked the magical element of “Memory House.”) This short piece seemed to be leading in a different direction at the beginning and almost lost me in the first chapter.
I liked the story behind “The Color of Destiny” but the story was not as well-told as the other two; there was a lot of repetition and needless foreshadowing.
Review based on ARC provided by the authors.

Nonfiction

PrintWhat Pope Francis Really Said by Tom Hoopes unpacks the truth behind the media’s rush to judgment. I recommend the book to all Catholics committed to defending and living out their faith. Read my full review.

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Strangers at the Manger

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Here’s a book the whole family can enjoy together as the Christmas season winds down: The Strangers at the Manger by Lisa M. Hendey.

Number 5 in the “Chime Traveler” series of chapter books for kids in grades 2 and up (younger as a read-aloud), this novel finds twins Patrick and Katie traveling through time to Bethlehem, where they accompany Mary and Joseph through their attempts to find lodging and stay with them until the Holy Family flees to Egypt to escape Herod’s attempts on Jesus’ life.

Readers will feel as if they’re really there, encountering shepherds, Magi and even Anna and Simeon in the Temple. Hendey’s account of the Incarnation weaves Gospel stories seamlessly with the fictional addition of modern-day visitors who find ways to help Mary and Joseph take care of their newborn son. The stories incorporate a level of detail that will fascinate children who want to know what life was like during Jesus’ time.

Lisa Hendey’s devotion to the Blessed Mother is particularly evident in the way Mary is portrayed in the story.

Books in the “Chime Traveler” series always focus on a lesson the children must learn before they can return to their own families; this book centers on a refugee family seeking shelter in the twins’ parish church.

This series is published by Franciscan Media.

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Monday Recap: January 2, 2017

Monday recap 2016 edition

 

 

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.

At CatholicMom.com

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I Played My Best for Him: A meditation on my favorite Christmas song. It’s not a traditional carol, but it sums up what we need to do every day.

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2016 Nativity Scene Linkup: Our Celebration of the Creche: Join our Nativity scene linkup! Share a photo of your family’s Nativity scene on your blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Don’t forget the hashtag: #CMnativity. Open through January 8!

book notes

Book Notes for Teen Readers: Romance and Mystery by Cynthia T. Toney: Cynthia T. Toney writes novels for teens that combine Catholic characters, compelling mysteries and a touch of romance. I introduce readers to the “Bird Face” series, which would make great gifts for girls in middle school and up.

Book Notes: “What Pope Francis Really Said” by Tom Hoopes: Tom Hoopes’ book “What Pope Francis Really Said” unpacks the truth behind the media’s rush to judgment. I recommend the book to all Catholics committed to defending and living out their faith.

Book Notes: 4 Books for Young Readers from Pauline Books & Media: A new book is always a welcome Christmas gift. I reviewed 4 inspiring reads for children from Pauline Books & Media.

Book Notes: “Fearless” by Sonja Corbitt: I reviewed a new book by CatholicMom.com contributor Sonja Corbitt. “Fearless” invites the reader to take up spiritual warfare against fear, stress and anxiety.

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Praise Moments: “Winter Snow” by Audrey Assad: I spotlighted “Winter,” a new EP by Catholic musician Audrey Assad.

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Meatless Friday: Mexican Omelet: Try this Jersey-diner favorite for your Meatless Friday breakfast, lunch or dinner!

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Tech Talk: 10-Minute Advent Retreat from Catholic Relief Services: For those who don’t think they have time to make an Advent retreat, Catholic Relief Services packs a powerful spiritual experience in a 10-minute online retreat. Here are my impressions of “Holy Family, Refugee Family.”

At Cook and Count

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Cod with Caper-Mustard Sauce

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Mexican Omelet

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Lamb Stew with Roasted Vegetables

At Dynamic Women of Faith

Book Review: Who Does He Say You Are? A review of Colleen C. Mitchell’s spiritual work on women in the Gospel.

 

Monday recap 2016 edition

New Year’s Reading (on the Spiritual Side)

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I’ve always got at least one novel going, but there’s a huge pile of nonfiction awaiting my attention.

Here’s what I’m reading as the year begins.

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The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion will be with me as I start each day. I’ve been reading it since the summer, and its wonderfully-varied reflections fit just right into a busy schedule.

There’s even a book club on Facebook!

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I’m not sure where I heard about this one, but it ended up on my Amazon wish list and I treated myself to it last week. Live Today Well by Fr. Thomas Dailey breaks down the work of St. Francis deSales. I knew I’d chosen well when I discovered in the prologue that deSales was heavily influenced by St. Francis of Assisi.

What are you reading to feed your soul in 2017?

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! 

On the (Nativity) Scene

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The figures in my Nativity made a special appearance for today’s Nativity Scene Linkup at CatholicMom.com.

It was always the custom in my husband’s family that one of the children would put the Baby Jesus into the manger, last thing on Christmas Eve. When our children were little, we took it one step further, gradually adding figures into the scene to build anticipation and correspond with liturgical celebrations. All the figures are kept behind the manger (backstage) to await their appearance.

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Right around now, we’d put the animals into the manger (except the donkey, who was on a journey with Mary and Joseph.)

Early on Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph and the donkey would make their appearance. Baby Jesus would be placed in the manger, last thing on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day, the shepherds would arrive; the kings wait until Epiphany. And the whole scene stays in place at least until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord–sometimes until Candlemas.

I always wanted a set of figures that had Baby Jesus separate from the manger, so he could be placed in it ceremoniously on Christmas Eve, but these are the figures that came with the stable we could afford 25 years ago when we bought our first Christmas decorations together. I’ve added in a table runner that my mom made for me (which doesn’t fit my table but is perfect here), and four different handmade Christmas trees, all made by special people in our lives.

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I’m joining in at CatholicMom.com for the first-ever Nativity Scene linkup! Join the fun; share a photo of your Nativity scene on your blog or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (use hashtag #CMnativity on social media).

On Barb’s Bookshelf: What Pope Francis Really Said

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Every time Pope Francis writes an encyclical or makes an off-the-cuff remark on an airplane, the media (both Catholic and secular) jump all over it with various interpretations.

That’s a problem, states Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said (Servant, 2016). Depending on your news source (or who you follow on Twitter and Facebook) you’ll get wildly different versions of the same wrong story. Add in our lack of critical-reading skills and our willingness to accept “fake news” at face value and you wind up with a great deal of confusion about the Pope’s teachings and motivations.

He is celebrated by some for saying things he never said and rejected by others for doing things they don’t really understand (ix).

That airplane photo on the cover isn’t just a convenient file photo. It’s a symbol of the world’s eagerness to take one sentence out of an entire speech and make a huge (and often hugely inaccurate) news story out of it. The problem is not that Pope Francis holds news conferences on airplanes. The problem lies in what people do with the statements he makes.

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I can’t remember so much attention being paid to things previous popes said and wrote. It’s good, because the world (including the Catholic world) is watching and learning, but it’s challenging, because it’s so easy to take things out of context. I eagerly read Hoopes’ book because I find myself having to say, “That’s not what he said” way too many times when the subject of Pope Francis comes up!

Tom Hoopes traces Pope Francis’ papacy chronologically, from a speech then-Cardinal Bergoglio made in the conclave to the World Meeting of Families in the fall of 2015. Beginning with the retelling of the Gospel story in which Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath and is vilified by the leaders of the synagogue for doing so, Hoopes mentions that Jesus refuses to be “stage-managed by what officialdom is asking him to do and instead [turns] his attention to those who are looking to have a real encounter with him.” (2) Pope Francis operates in much the same way.

Hoopes assures readers who have painted the Pope as “too liberal” of Pope Francis’ unswerving commitment to the dignity of marriage and the right to life, while reminding those who believe he’s “too conservative” that Pope Francis decries the violence that begets more violence and often leads to war. Hoopes also mentions that Pope Francis is not saying anything new. He paraphrases the Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoes Popes John Paul II and Benedict, and frequently references Scripture.

In a fast-paced world with a second-by-second news cycle that reduces entire speeches to 140-character tidbits, Catholics need to read What Pope Francis Really Said to catch up on the truth behind what Pope Francis has said in the past so that they can be prepared to defend, and live out, what the Pope says in the future.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book from the publisher, Servant Books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Words Matter

Copyright 2007 Temple-Samsung. All rights reserved. Via Flickr.

I work with words all day. Whether writing my own or editing someone else’s, I’m aware of the importance of choosing just the right word.

I think my parish may have missed the boat on this one.

The parish was formed in 2007 and formally instituted in 2008, a merger of two churches in the same zip code but on opposite sides of a busy highway.

I don’t know how the nomenclature works in other merged parishes in our diocese and beyond, but in our parish, they’ve been referenced as “the St. Casimir site” and “the Holy Name site.”

Sites.

They’re churches, not archaeological digs.

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Copyright 2007 Temple-Samsung. All rights reserved. Via Flickr.

The term started out when the churches were listed as “worship sites.”

No. Just no.

“Worship” doesn’t even begin to describe what happens at a Catholic Mass.

Lately, I haven’t seen that word pop up in the bulletin or on the parish website, and I’m thankful that the churches are now referred to as churches (or simply as St. Casimir and Holy Name.)

But reference to the two churches as “sites” has become an unfortunate part of the parish lexicon, as evidenced by the early-morning text message I got from a friend today, checking where the vigil Mass for tomorrow’s feast day will be celebrated.

“SC site tonight, right?”

When I mentioned that I knew she didn’t create the term, but saying “site” bugged me, she agreed, and suggested that we use her fourth-grader’s words: “the daytime church” and “the nighttime church” (referring to the Saturday 5 PM Mass.)

I responded, “He says ‘church.’ I like how he thinks.”

#OpenBook: November 2016 Reads

"An Open Book" linkup hosted at CarolynAstfalk.com and CatholicMom.com

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

different-heroismA Different Heroism (Father Jay book 3) by Jane Lebak. Third in a series, this novel covers further ground in Father Jay and his brother Kevin’s contentious relationship, Jay’s impromptu shelter for homeless/neglected boys, and Jay’s ongoing health issues. A shaky truce with his brother and an order from his bishop force Jay into a week’s vacation–and everything starts to fall apart with the gang of “Archangels” he shelters. A fast-paced and enjoyable read. I’m a fan of these characters and eagerly await more Father Jay stories.
tis-the-season‘Tis the Season by Olivia Folmar Ard. In an age of oversharing, a young couple trying to conceive and battling Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) struggles to keep their health issues private. Ironic much? Even more so, considering Lauren spends a lot of time creating and maintaining the perfect social-media persona. And there’s nothing like a holiday trip to see her in-laws to threaten to dismantle all that online perfection. Despite my distaste for “rushing the season” in so many other ways, I’m always up to read a good Christmas story, and this novella did not disappoint.
most-highly-favored-daughterMost Highly Favored Daughter: A Sanctified Suspense by Janice Lane Palko. Set in Pittsburgh against the backdrop of the Super Bowl, this novel tells a harrowing story of human trafficking with an unexpected twist. Heiress Cara Wells is framed with the horrible crime of abusing a young child–but she remembers nothing of what happened that night after falling violently ill. Resolved to untangle the mystery and rescue the young victim of the crime, Cara puts even her marriage and her life on the line. Great local color. (Review copy received from author)
what-lightWhat Light by Jay Asher. Sierra spends 11 months of the year on a Christmas tree farm. The rest of the year she lives in a trailer at a tree lot, hours away from home. This might be her family’s last year at the tree lot, and she’s determined to make the most of it. She’s also determined to give the cute guy who buys trees for poor families a change, even though plenty of locals warn her that he’s trouble. Great premise, well-told story. Appropriate for high-school students (and it’s not even R-rated!) Reads like a Hallmark Christmas movie, which is not at all a bad thing.
christmas-clubThe Christmas Club by Barbara Hinske. Cute Christmas romance novella; a woman loses an envelope of money–all she has for Christmas gifts. Two kindhearted people replace the money, then separately learn how the people who found the lost cash were impacted by the windfall. A series of near misses for the two who replaced the money keeps the story going. This is a sweet, feel-good Christmas story and a quick read.
grace-crasherThe Grace Crasher by Mara Faro. In love with being in love, Julia obsesses over finding an affordable apartment right near her latest crush, a musician who makes her feel like the only person in his audience. Problem is, the only place her budget can handle comes with strings attached: she has to pretend she’s a born-again Christian. What’s an erstwhile Catholic girl to do? And how will she handle it when her landlady’s son discovers that she’s not the person she pretends to be? I enjoyed the local setting of this novel, and I think I’ve been to the Christian bookstore that figures so prominently in the plot (or one suspiciously like it). A great take on infatuation vs. love, speaking the truth in love, and being true to yourself.
someday-someday-maybeSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham. Cute story of a struggling aspiring actress in NYC whose self-sabotaging behavior makes for a fun read, with a little bit of audience frustration thrown in for good measure. WHY does she have to go for the wrong guy? WHY does she go with THAT agent? My favorite part: the pages ripped straight from Franny’s Filofax, between each chapter. Franny’s roommates are terrific characters and merit stories of their own!
destiny-of-sunshine-ranchThe Destiny of Sunshine Ranch by T.M. Gaouette. This novel peeks into the world of children in foster care, kids who have experienced things no child ever should. Sunshine Ranch is the home of a vulnerable child’s dreams, with loving, faithful couple Martha and David caring for and educating 10 children who are in the foster-care system. Life at the ranch is not without its challenges, especially for 10-year-old Benedict who has had things particularly rough. This heartwarming tale has an unexpected ending.
more-than-a-promiseMore than a Promise by Ruth Logan Herne. Grieving the very public breakup of her marriage, artist Elle returns to her hometown to set up her studio and start over. She’s equally captivated and irritated by the 3 young motherless boys next door, left to run wild while their father runs the family business. When the boys’ grandmother threatens the only home they’d ever known, Elle comes up with a crazy scheme to keep the family together and announces her engagement to their dad. The premise is pretty far-fetched, but this novel is worth reading just for the great portrayals of the children.
when-you-reach-meWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This novel for middle-school students follows a city kid who’s on her own after school and must navigate a world that includes the usual middle-school friendship dramas, plus gang violence, homelessness and a series of mysterious notes. There’s a time-travel element as well. Great suspense!
beyond-carouselBeyond the Carousel. Bette Lee Crosby continues her Wyattsville saga with yet another story that reinforces my wish to live in a town just like it. This novel spans three generations of a family whose happy life is shattered by a senseless, unsolved murder. Detective Jack Mahoney, out of love for the granddaughter of the murder victim, stakes his career on solving the crime. Don’t think this is just a mystery, though–it’s a three-generation love story.
(Review based on advance reader copy via Socialbook.) This novel will be released in January 2017.

Nonfiction

fearless-lg-coverFearless by Sonja Corbitt puts fear and anxiety into a different perspective, framing them as spiritual attacks and providing tools with which to vanquish them. In short, Fearless is all about spiritual warfare. A mix of personal testimony, quotes from Scripture and the saints and plenty of wise counsel round out this book, which begs to be read (and reread) slowly and with pen and journal close by. Read my full review. (Review copy received from publisher)

Teresa-21Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta by Heidi Hess Saxton. Heidi Hess Saxton has collected some of Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s most inspiring words and paired them with prayers, daily Mass readings and calls to action in a newly-published seasonal daily devotional. Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations offers food for thought and prayer for any reader who is devoted to this fascinating saint. Read my full review. (Review copy received from publisher)

who-does-he-say-you-areWho Does He Say You Are? by Colleen C. Mitchell. Expect to be surprised, challenged and changed. Colleen brings out the qualities in several Gospel women that are in every woman, and directs our spiritual journey as we discover how we can be healed as they were. Throughout the book, she shares her own journey of brokenness, faith, healing and trust. The Questions for Reflection at the end of each chapter aren’t merely journal prompts: they are calls to action. (Review copy received from publisher)

missing-kennedyThe Missing Kennedy by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff. Examining the lives of Rosemary Kennedy and the Franciscan nun who cared for her during most of her adult life, Pentacoff’s book connects a privileged handicapped woman who lived a sequestered life with the very ordinary women who ministered to and visited her. The author grew up around Rosemary Kennedy, who was cared for by Sister Paulus, the author’s aunt. Koehler-Pentacoff, along with her parents, was present for holidays, birthdays and ordinary days with Rosemary Kennedy. This is a chronicle of an era when mental illness was misunderstood, and treatments for mental illness were dramatically different than the treatment available today. The book is not a comprehensive biography of Rosemary Kennedy, but the story of how Ms. Kennedy’s life intersected with that of the author. (I received an advance copy from the publisher for the purposes of this review.)

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

open book new logo

St. Nicholas: Better Late than Never

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We came late to the St. Nicholas “treats in the shoes” party. St. Nick didn’t start visiting our house to leave a sweet treat for the kids on his feast day until after 1996. That’s the year my oldest started school.

At that Catholic school, all the children would leave one shoe outside the classroom door at some point in the day. While everyone was in the classrooms studying, St. Nicholas would come along and put a candy cane in each shoe.

My son came home to tell us how he’d gotten a surprise in his shoe. Then he asked, “How come St. Nicholas doesn’t visit our house?”

To be honest, I hadn’t known that this was a thing. It’s not something we did when I was growing up. I distracted my curious 4-year-old somehow and resolved to start up the custom the next year.

Over the years, it became something everyone looked forward to; the night before, they’d all go searching for their boots (to have the biggest shoe possible in order to hold the treats or small gifts St. Nick would leave behind) and put them near the door.

The first year my older son was away at college, TheKid wondered how St. Nicholas would fill his brother’s shoe if he was in the dorm. That’s where Priority Mail came to the rescue! I started picking up the small boxes and stuffing them with packets of microwave popcorn, small candy bars, a new toothbrush, and a few candy canes. (It’s amazing what I can jam into one of those small boxes; remember, if it fits, it ships!)

St. Nick mails away 2 boxes now (this year my daughter took her box after Thanksgiving and promised not to open it before today.)

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This morning I mentioned on Facebook that I’d cued up every version of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” that Spotify has to offer in my neverending attempt to get my teenager out of bed. A friend of mine replied that she’d forgotten to set out treats in her children’s shoes today.

“Leave them for an after-school surprise,” I replied.

So if you missed the boat this morning or have never begun at St. Nicholas custom in your home before, there’s no reason you can’t start now.

Better late than never!