On Barb’s Bookshelf: Getting Past Perfect

I found Kate Wicker’s book on perfectionism, Getting Past Perfect (Ave Maria Press, 2017) to be a book of surprises, beginning with the fact that a “seasoned” mom like me, with kids age 15 to 25, can learn important lessons from a mom whose oldest child is younger than my youngest.

 

getting past perfect

I may be a more-experienced mom, but that really only means that I have logged a lot more years of falling into the comparison trap. I’m old enough to know that it’s not good for me (or for my family) but I’m not always strong enough to keep myself from teetering over that precarious edge.

Clearly I spend too much time listening to what Kate calls the “evil earworm.” She begins each chapter with one of these, then counters is with the “unvarnished truth.”

quote from Getting Past Perfect @franciscanmom

We need to hear this kind of truth. We need to acknowledge that there’s a difference between perfectionism and striving for excellence. As Kate observes in chapter 3 (the same chapter from which the text in the above graphic is quoted):

What often prevents God’s grace from working in our lives is less our sins or failings than it is our failure to accept our own weaknesses–all those rejections, conscious or not, of what we really are or of our real situations. We have to set grace free in our lives by accepting the parts of ourselves that we want to perfect, hide or reject. (35-6)

While I definitely agree with Kate’s premise that perfectionism is damaging to us as women and as mothers, I do believe that there’s also a danger in perfect imperfection. We need to be careful about crossing that line between openly admitting our own flaws and foibles in the name of commonality and bringing comfort to others who are stuck in that “grass is always greener” mode, and showing off how bad we have it (even if that’s our schtick.) I confess to being guilty of the latter and even though I tend to fall into that trap, I find it very annoying when all I hear from someone is how “crazy” her life is. It’s almost like we’re competing for the booby prize: who has it worst? We all need to find a balance here–there’s a time and a place for the good, the bad, and the funny.

Whether you’re a brand-new mom or, like me, over 25 years into your mothering journey, Getting Past Perfect has truths you need to hear. My copy has stars and arrows and comments; I’ve circled and underlined and even written down some of the most important points. When you read it, keep your pen handy and open up your heart to realizing that you really are enough.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Getting Past Perfect Book Club at CatholicMom.com! The book club kicks off with an author interview tomorrow, and we’ll begin discussing the book on April 1.

 

Barb's Book shelf blog title
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I received a free review copy of this book courtesy of Ave Maria Press, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

On Barb’s Bookshelf: All In

Pat Gohn is “all in” with her faith, and it shows. She hosts Among Women, a podcast that celebrates faithful women through interviews and stories of saints. She’s the editor of Catechist magazine. And her first book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious (Ave Maria Press, 2013), challenged women to be bold about living their faith.

Pat’s second book, All In (Ave Maria Press, 2017), is addressed to an audience that might be dealing with discouragement, uncertainty, and a lack of deep commitment. Subtitled, “Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters,” this book encourages readers to begin by making a healthy self-assessment of their faith. In chapter 1, Pat observes,

“Even though I may not always feel like a confident person and I fail and flail on a regular basis, my own frailties do not undermine my confidence in my faith. They provide a catalyst to turn to my faith and to place my trust and hope in the eternal truth and goodness of a God who loves me. God came to save and redeem every frailty, every weakness, every sin, and every broken heart.” (15)

all in

Pat is realistic about facing the obstacles that come with an imperfect Church. Because the “flawed humanity of the institution of the Church” (32) is clearly visible and often well-publicized, it can lead people to question why and whether to stand with the Church. Pat responds to this stumbling block by reminding the reader that the Church is the Bride of Christ, delving deep into marriage imagery and concluding that the Church’s “source of power is the Beloved who came from Heaven in search of her, and who longs for her to make her home with him there.” (42)

Honest discussions of sin, mercy, grace, the Sacraments, and human dignity fill out this book. Each chapter concludes with a 3-part reflection: pray, learn and engage. This last section includes concrete action steps readers can take to heal or deepen their relationship with God and with the Church.

This book is just as much for the struggling and/or “recovering” Catholic as it is for the faithful churchgoer. Readers on any stop along their faith journey can benefit from the wisdom and action steps provided here, on their way to going “all in.”

Barb's Book shelf blog title

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

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

On Barb’s Bookshelf: 3 Lenten Reads

It’s not yet Lent, but I’ve had the chance to peek into a Lenten book from Ave Maria Press as well as two new daily devotionals from Franciscan Media, each offering a spiritual companion for your Lenten journey. All three books are sure to help readers have a spiritually fruitful Lenten season.

A book doesn’t have to be brand-new this year to benefit its readers. Paula Huston’s Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit (Ave Maria Press, 2011) is packed with timeless wisdom. The cover blurb touts it as a “practical book,” which means it’s right up my alley. I am, at heart, a practical person, and I can get bogged down and discouraged by books that don’t address my pragmatic side.

In the Introduction, Huston notes,

The beauty of the Lenten season is that it encouragees the development of a humble heart. (xiii)

The beauty of this book, for me, is its learn-by-doing approach. Each day begins with a meditation (usually a vignette from the author’s own experience) and ends with a task. The concreteness of this appeals to me. The author explains that this is not a “handbook for self-improvement” but instead “an invitation to self-knowledge and . . . a small step in liberation from destructive complicatedness–that is, from sin.” (xv, xvi)

My challenge, with this book, will be slowing it down. It’s seriously motivational, and I found myself wanting to do All The Things right now. Slowing down, for me, can be almost penitential in itself, and I need to remember to focus on one day’s task and not try to jump ahead. Lent is 40 days long for a reason. But anything that has me ready to scrub gunk out of hidden corners with an old toothbrush gets motivation points! It reminds me of St. Teresa of Avila’s observation that God is with us every moment, “even amidst the pots and pans.”

simplifying_the_soul

Take your Lenten inspiration from Pope Francis with Diane M. Houdek’s The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis (Servant, 2016.) Each daily entry is divided into 5 compact parts:

  • Bible readings (find those on your own or at USCCB.org)
  • A Word from Pope Francis
  • Taking the Word to Heart
  • Bringing the Word to Life
  • Pope Francis Prays

I was charmed by the “Word from Pope Francis” sections: each one an anecdote or homily excerpt that showcases both Pope Francis’ down-to-earth style and his desire that the faithful deepen and radically live their faith. You’ll want to keep a journal handy for your own reflections, inspired by “Bringing the World to Life.”

From the Introduction:

The greatest hope of Lent is the discovery that it’s not only about penance deprivation, spiritual struggles, and rooting out sin in our lives. Those are often the things we do during Lent. But the hope of Lent lies in what God does. From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has made mercy his hallmark. It’s no surprise that he declared a special year dedicated to the contemplation of mercy. Pope Francis wants us to realize that God’s mercy and grace surround us not just in special times and places but always and everywhere. Lent is a time to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be surprised by God’s mercy when we least expect it. (vii-viii)

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Heidi Hess Saxton shares the wisdom of a beloved modern-day saint in Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Servant, 2016.) Begin your daily prayer with a short scripture passage, followed by a meditation with a story or quote from St. Teresa, reflection/application questions, and a brief closing prayer. The book is described by the publisher as a “helpful resource for reflecting upon the mercy of God—and modeling the generous heart of this saint from Calcutta in our own lives.”

Saxton takes an unusual path in the Introduction to the book, dedicating most of it to the story of four Missionaries of Charity who were martyred by ISIS in Yemen in March 2016, while the local priest, Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, was captured (his fate is still unknown). The author notes that this story “calls us to consider just how far we are willing to go when the Lord asks us to take up our cross and follow him.” (ix, x) She continues,

As we contemplate Scripture and the life and teachings of St. Teresa of Calcutta during this Lent, we have a daily inspiration and opportunity to follow her example and that of her community in spreading Christ’s fragrance to others. And whatever the fuure holds–pain or healing, uncertainty or assurance, dismay or delight–we can anticipate with great joy the glory of the Risen Christ at our journey’s end. (xiv)

Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta offers daily reflections in a slightly longer format than Houdek’s book, and the subject matter is a bit more challenging. There are two reflection questions per day, which make excellent journal prompts.

Teresa-21

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

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Papal Encyclicals Plus, from Ave Maria Press

Who’s supposed to read what the Pope writes? Priests and bishops? Catholic journalists? Secular journalists? Historians?

Yes, but that’s not all. The Pope’s encyclicals and other writings are meant for all the faithful. They are addressed to all of us–and if we really want to understand the Pope’s message, there’s nothing like going straight to the primary source. (That’s true of any message. Here’s the English major in me talking: the more intermediaries you have, the better the chance of misinterpretation.)

pope-francis-encyclicals

I read a lot of things online (on websites or on my Kindle) but for me, nonfiction demands a hard copy I can mark up, underline, highlight, and hang Post-it tabs all over. I’m all about the idea of a “collected writings” of the Pope–and Ave Maria has put that together with a new book covering the first 3 years of Pope Francis’ papacy (the papal exhortation Amoris Laetitia was published just after the third anniversary of the Pope’s election.) The title tells it all: The Complete Encyclicals, Bulls and Apostolic Exhortations of Pope Francis.

According to Ave Maria Press, the publisher of Volume 1, the book includes:

  • Lumen Fidei, June 29, 2013: The Light of Faith is an encyclical on the centrality of faith, the relationship between reason and faith, the Church’s role in the transmission of faith, and how faith results in redeeming the world.
  • Evangelii Gaudium, Nov. 24, 2013: The apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel has been called Pope Francis’s manifesto. It challenges all Christians to approach evangelization anew and overcome complacency in order to fulfill Christ’s great mission.
  • Misericordiae Vultus, April 11, 2015: In The Face of Mercy, the papal bull for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2015, the pope urges Catholics, “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.”
  • Laudato Si’, May 24, 2015: Praise Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home is the landmark encyclical in which Pope Francis issued a call to the entire Church—and the world—on climate change, human responsibility, the role of faith in how we live among God’s entire creation, and the future of the planet.
  • Amoris Laetitia, March 19, 2016: Love in the Family is an exhortation published after the Synods on the Family. In it, Pope Francis ranges in his quotations and examples from St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther King Jr. to the film Babette’s Feast.

I admit to having skimmed Laudato Si’ and Amoris Laetitia online when they came out, but I haven’t really put in the time to really read and learn from Pope Francis’ writings. My plan is to dive into Evangelii Gaudium, because I work in the field of Catholic media and evangelization. But you don’t need a job in such a field to read that apostolic exhortation: Pope Francis makes it clear right up front that he is inviting “all Christians, everywhere . . . to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” (p. 57) which is “the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization” (p. 60). Yes, there are specific sections if that exhortation that are directed toward priests, rather than the lay faithful, but there is much to be learned.

If you’re taking part in the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge, this book provides all of Pope Francis’ major writings in one place and will help you check off that “papal encyclical” box. (Yes, I’m stretching it a bit by reading an exhortation instead of an encyclical, but to be fair, it’s 3 times the length.)

So who should read the Pope’s encyclicals and other writings? If you’re Catholic, YOU should!

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.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

Barb's Book shelf blog title

On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Fearless” by Sonja Corbitt

Sonja Corbitt’s Fearless 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.

Before reading Sonja’s book, I thought of spiritual warfare as something that was undertaken by the clergy or exorcists or very holy people. Fearless brings home the point that we are all subject to attack. “At its deepest root,” Sonja explains, “fear is a spiritual battle with a spiritual enemy.” (6)

Fear comes from the enemy: my enemy, your enemy, and God’s enemy. In affirming the spiritual basis of my fear I am not blaming myself for struggling with it; I am simply acknowledging that I am somehow being manipulated. As St. Anthony [of Padua] said, ‘Fear not. ‘Tis but an artifice of the Evil One to distract you.'” (7; emphasis mine)

fearless-lg-cover

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. Each chapter of the book is divided into sections that are a good length for personal meditation or group discussion. At the end of each chapter, you’ll find a review, an invitation to further action, and a God Prompt, followed by group-discussion questions.

Sonja Corbitt challenges readers to use love as a weapon against destructive fear. Advent is the perfect time to read a book like Fearless: to take up the challenge of fighting the enemy behind the fear and embracing life with confidence.

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 by the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#WorthRevisit: Book News

A few months ago, I mentioned that I’m a contributor to a new devotional in the CatholicMom.com line of books from Ave Maria Press. Well, the publication date is coming up, so I’m going to revisit that story again and remind you to preorder your copy now–this way you can have it as soon as it’s released!

One of the cool things about writing for CatholicMom.com is the group of terrific contributors. Every single one brings something different to the table, and it’s wonderful to be a part of this group.

Even more wonderful is the opportunity to participate in writing a book with these talented authors! Coming this August, The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion features the work of over 80 CM contributors, including the site’s founder, Lisa M. Hendey.

I wrote four reflections for this book of short daily devotions which publishes August 29 from Ave Maria Press. Preorder your copy now and you’ll have it on the first day it’s available.

I’ve had the chance to peek at an advance reader copy of this book, and it’s absolutely wonderful! It’s a privilege to be a part of this spiritual resource.

In just one week, I’ll be in the Chicago area for the Catholic Writers Guild/Catholic Marketing Network conference, and we’ll be meeting at the Ave Maria Press booth for an author photo. Unfortunately, not every contributor will be able to be there, but I’m looking forward to seeing many of the writers behind this excellent book.

CM Prayer Companion cover art

Your purchase of The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion through my Amazon affiliate link helps support FranciscanMom. Thanks!
worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Keep Your Kids Catholic

Exactly whose job is it to teach your children about the Faith? Is it your parish priest’s responsibility? The second-grade catechist? The parochial-school teacher?

While all of these people have a natural hand in passing on the faith to your children, Marc Cardonarella maintains that you are the one who is your child’s primary catechist in his new book, Keep Your Kids Catholic.

keep your kids catholic

I love the subtitle of this book: “Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick.” Just sharing isn’t enough.

Faith should lead to changed lives and changed behaviors–new life in Christ. Children need other types of formation in addition to education for Christian faith to be sustainable, and parents are the only ones who can provide it (104).

There is one teenager remaining in my household. He was just confirmed two months ago. Now is my chance to examine what I can do better as I strive to pass along the faith, to help him stay Catholic despite the influences he faces from his peers, the media, and adults who don’t always set the best example.

I remember a post-soccer-practice huddle one evening, when Coach announced that he’d rescheduled a rained-out game for the following Sunday morning. My kid spoke up: “Um, we go to church…” and after a few seconds of silence, several other boys chimed in to say the same. Coach found another time to play that game. Now is my chance to make sure he continues to speak up for what is right and begins to take ownership of his life as a Catholic.

I am grateful for the faithful priests and teachers in my son’s life, but Marc Cardonarella’s book drives home the point that I can’t leave it all to them. It is my job to examine the example I set, the conversations I have, the way the faith is lived in my family. Cardonarella shares concrete ways parents can secure their own faith, then structure their lives (and their teens’) to support growth in faith.

The Fine Print:
Your purchase of Keep Your Kids Catholic through my Amazon affiliate link supports Franciscanmom.com!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Ave Maria Press, for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed here are mine alone and I received no compensation for publishing this review.

Monday Recap: February 2016

At CatholicMom.com

Lent-2016-CRS-Rice-Bowl-and-CM-Meatless-Fridays-702x336Meatless Fridays with CRS Rice Bowl: Rice and Lentil Mash

This Lent, CatholicMom.com is partnering with CRS Rice Bowl in a special way, sharing the CRS Rice Bowl featured recipes on each Lenten Friday. I sampled Rice and Lentil Mash, a recipe from Laos.

touched by an angel box setNow on DVD: a TV Series that Proclaims God’s Mercy and Love

I reviewed the Touched By an Angel Complete Series boxed set of DVDs, a program with a message of mercy that’s needed even more now than when the show first aired.

 

 

bread upon the waterBook Notes: Bread Upon the Water

I reviewed Bread Upon the Water, a story of perseverance that was written for the young adult audience but which will inspire adults as well.

 

 

 

Magnificat Lenten Companion app collageTech Talk: Magnificat Lenten Companion App

If you prefer to use a digital resource for your Lenten prayer and meditation, you’ll definitely want to explore the Magnificat Lenten Companion app for iOS. I examined its many features in my monthly Tech Talk column.

 

Inheritance album artRejoicing in the Dark Places: Inheritance by Audrey Assad

Praising God when you can’t see the light? Amazingly, it helps more than you might think! The music on Audrey Assad’s new CD, Inheritance, is a gentle reminder that we’re not in this alone.

 

3 Bean Chili Mac small T CMeatless Friday: 3-Bean Chili Mac

My recipe for meatless Chili Mac is Snow Day food at its best: it’s warm, tasty and fills you up. You probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry!

Kiss of JesusBook Notes: The Kiss of Jesus

Catholicmom contributor Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle has written a memoir that views suffering through the lens of faith. I reviewed “The Kiss of Jesus: How Mother Teresa and the Saints Helped Me to Discover the Beauty of the Cross.”

At Cook and Count

sesame chicken tenders (2)Sesame Chicken Tenders: Crispy chicken tenders are always a family favorite. These no-fry chicken tenders get a little extra crunch from the sesame seeds, but don’t dry out in the oven thanks to a sour-cream-based marinade.

gnocchi e fagioli 2Gnocchi e Fagioli: Here’s a meatless dish that comes together in about 20 minutes! It’s easy to make and very heart-healthy. You won’t even miss the meat in this simple meal. Add other quick-cooking fresh vegetables to change up the flavor.

 

 

 

lazy duchess (2) cCooking with Kids – Lazy Duchess Potatoes: These potatoes might not look fancy, but they’re fun for kids to make and an easy way to use up your leftover mashed potatoes.

 

Blueprint- Crumb Crusted ChickenBlueprint Recipe – Crumb Crusted Chicken: This 3-ingredient “blueprint recipe” is a favorite around here and easy to change up by swapping in different varieties of one ingredient!

 

 

maple brown sugar chicken C (2)Maple – Brown Sugar Chicken Thighs: The sauce on this chicken has a subtle sweetness. While the recipe’s a little more complex than my usual cooking repertoire (because I’m lazy), this is definitely worth the extra effort. It goes with any of your favorite side dishes.

honey lime fish fillets with spinach garlic bow tiesMeatless Friday – Honey-Lime Fish Fillets: Fish fillets are an easy way to make a Meatless Friday meal. Try this simple and flavorful dish!

At Dynamic Women of Faith

Book Review: 3 New Lenten Resources from Ave Maria Press

Book Review: A Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman

Book Review: The Kiss of Jesus by Donna Marie Cooper-O’Boyle

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Lenten Resources from Ave Maria Press

Lent sure is sneaking up on me this year; it comes very early! Ash Wednesday is next week, February 10. Here are a few excellent resources for personal and family devotions, brought to you by Ave Maria Press.

sacred reading lent 2016Sacred Reading for Lent 2016, from the Apostleship of Prayer, is a pocket- or purse-sized version of the full-year edition of Sacred Reading, reviewed here. It runs from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday and contains the Gospel for the day, followed by prayer prompts in the Lectio Divina prayer method. Down-to-earth and simple to use, this book takes the mystery out of this prayer process. It’s priced at only $1.75–a bargain, considering all that is contained in the book.

 

 

stations of the cross with the eucharistic heart of jesusStations of the Cross with the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus by William Prospero, S.J., is a unique take on the age-old Lenten devotion. I know many people who pray this devotion year-round, and these meditations can be used in either private prayer or a group Stations of the Cross prayer service. The meditations include quotes from Scripture and the Saints, and are focused on the Eucharist, bringing home the truth of Jesus’ bodily sacrifice on the Cross and in the Eucharist. This book sells for $5.95.

bringing lent home with pope francisBringing Lent Home with Pope Francis: Prayers, Reflections and Activities for Families by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is the Lenten resource I needed when my kids were younger! It’s ideal for families with school-age children and could be used in elementary-school classrooms as well as in the home. For each day of Lent, this book contains:

  • a quote from Pope Francis (from homilies, General Audiences, letters and addresses, and even Twitter)
  • a Parent Reflection to ponder in advance of praying together as a family
  • a short Family Prayer to pray together (this would work well at the breakfast table)
  • a short story from Pope Francis’ life
  • suggestions for fasting and almsgiving, focused on Pope Francis’ exhortation to keep mercy in mind
  • a concluding prayer, including a special intention and a full-day focus

The Parent Reflections in this book are classic Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle: quietly encouraging and deeply faithful. Throughout the book, the fasting and almsgiving prompts are often accompanied with concrete ways to help both children and adults achieve those spiritual goals.

This book is not tied to the 2016 calendar, so the purchase price of $3.50 is a true bargain for a prayer book that can be used in Lenten seasons for years to come.

Buy these books through my Amazon links to support Franciscanmom.com!

I received review copies of these books from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Word by Word: One-Day Preorder Special

I’m excited to announce that there’s about to be a new book in town! It’s called Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary and it’s almost ready for release.

Preorder Word by Word one day saleI’m extra excited because I am one of the contributors to this book, which was organized and edited by Sarah Reinhard. Here’s the background on the idea behind the book, in Sarah’s own words:

This book was inspired by my favorite prayer, the one I call my “blankie prayer.” I got an idea in my head that every word of the prayer was important, and that, of course, I should ask 40 or so of my favorite writers to explain that.

The book will be out on October 16, but since today is the day when the Church observes the Birthday of Mary, Ave Maria Press is having a one-day preorder special! You can order your copy of the book for $10, including shipping. The book is usually $14.95 plus shipping, so this is a very special deal indeed.

word by word coverYou can preorder the book directly from Ave Maria Press for $10 (including shipping) by using coupon code MARY at checkout.

And isn’t Jen Norton‘s beautiful cover art the perfect complement for this book? That drawing is, itself, a prayer.

This offer is good September 8 only, and only through Ave Maria Press.