A Reading Challenge

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This year is my year of books.  According to my Goodreads account, I’ve finished 40 books so far this year.  I would like to take this moment to thank the creators of Audiobooks and Overdrive, I couldn’t have done it without you.

Since I’ve been reading so much I’ve also been thinking about what I’m reading.  I do read primarily for a bit of an escape and pleasure, so I love my good YA and fantasy and historical romance, but I’ve been trying to push my boundaries too.  One way I’m trying to do this is by being more aware of who is writing the books I’m reading while also trying to expand my understanding of experience I have not, and probably will not (whether to do to time, place, privilege, etc.) experience.

One spot that is becoming more and more important to me is in my religious and spiritual readings.  Now let’s be clear this is not saying that men and women who look like me do not have important messages to share to our Church body – race, ethnicity, culture, gender, etc. does not discount ANYONE.  It’s just that working in ministry has made me more aware that the voices readily available are primarily Caucasian.  Yet a quick Google search shows that the Church in America is at least 40% non-white.  So that got me thinking that if I’m to really experience the Church in writing, the authors I’m reading should mirror that as a good first step.

I not only want to understand their experiences, but I also want to know revelations they bring to the table from those experiences.

Thanks to my friends over at FemCath I’ve got a good start on a booklist here on Goodreads.  Do you have anything I should add?

 

 

Corners of Home

Corners of my home today. We’re in the middle of some renovations and a major purging session so things are messy and piles up all over the place. We’re a light fixture, a mirror and fresh coat of paint away from being done with the upstairs bathroom and making progress with the basement. Bye bye wall to wall 40 year old burnt orange indoor/outdoor carpeting! My dad is doing the work as a year or two of birthday and Christmas gifts rolled together, he’s done so much and it’s so great. This 40 years old, hardly ever updated house has had a few fun surprises.

I’ve been working on purging closests and finding ways to better fit our space and I’m nearly there. I have a few days off at the end of the month and have grand plans for the last of the piles in the mudroom and basement closet.

The plan is to be more “a place for everything and everything in its place” around here. It already feels so much better upstairs.

Shelved

I thought we should take a moment to talk books, I haven’t caught up on my reading list in a month or two, but first can we all take a moment of silence to appreciate this book shelf from Bluestockingbookshelf on Instagram?

My little collection of 6 of these Penguin editions is looking a little lonely.

March saw me break my crazy reading streak – with the spring break trip and then going almost right into the holidays I just did not get through as much as the previous months. I am up to 33 books so far this year, which is crazy. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but one of the things that triggered my anxiety and depression when I was pregnant with my oldest was being told I wouldn’t be able to finish a book for about five years. It was soul crushing and when my son was born I became determined to prove them wrong. Reading has become one of those self-care things for me – it’s something I need to do to keep my head in the demands of being a working mom. So I hope no one looks at lists like this (I’ve had years where I’ve barely gotten through a book a month) and feels bad – it’s just the thing I do, not a thing all moms have to do.

I had one book that was abandoned in this set, “A Curious Beginning” by Deanna Raybourn. It was just so, so bad. I like a little light, frivolous reading, but this just had nothing redeeming and I let it go after about page 50 or so.

I didn’t tackle anything really heavy this month and almost all of it has revolved around the Lunar Chronicles. I’m almost done with “Winter” (I had to return it with about 1/4 of the book left to listen to and am waiting my turn to get it back to finish), and I read the second volume of “Wires and Nerve” and the “Stars Above” story collection. I really appreciate out fleshed out her characters are in their backstories – while the books are silly in some places, it’s probably the best YA I’ve read in a while.

I finally read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” which I enjoyed, but I think it was a case of waiting too long and hearing too much hype. I liked it, but I was expecting more so it felt like we only got to know the characters on a very base level. I think I would have preferred if once the girl got to the island the letters would have given way to actual prose so we got a little more meat in the storytelling and experience. Since it was a series of letters it was literally being told “this happened, then this, then this” and I wanted just a little … more. It does make me want to see the movie just for that reason – to experience the story rather than being told it.

I’ve got a bunch of books I’m working on right now in my queue for the next update – including finishing “Winter”, Marissa Meyer’s take on the Queen of Hearts in “Heartless”, “The Glass Town Game” about the Bronte siblings, one of Ratzingers’ Jesus of Nazareth books and I finally got ahold of “Caroline”, the look at the Little House on the Prairie books from the mothers POV.

What’s on your shelf (nightstand, bookbag, passenger seat of your car, etc.)?

March Madness

March is over!  That month went by really quickly thanks to the holidays and our little spring break trip.  I was looking at my April schedule and enjoying its blankness, but then little by little I started remembering a thing here, another even there and once again – a busy month is at hand.

As I said in my last couple of posts I gave myself permission to just let the cards fall where they might for the Easter holiday and I think that was just what I needed.  I did actually manage to get over to Church for a few minutes of adoration on Thursday, and we spent Friday dying Easter Eggs and even managing to read an Easter book and do a little craft.  I went to Mass at my hospital Easter afternoon after work and while it wasn’t the most moving Mass I’ve ever attended there was definitely something special about being surrounded by the sick, the recovering, the people trying to heal or learn to heal – we even had a new little baby in a stroller.  It was quite the mix in the dozen or so people there.  The room where it’s located is right underneath the LifeFlight helicopter pad and nothing drives home the truth of a weekend about death and resurrection that hearing one of those take off during the consecration.

The kids got their Easter baskets and a little indoor egg hunt when I got home and for the first time, I tried not to worry about what others were doing and just rolled with it.  This year’s baskets were filled with little dollar store toys, a bunch of chocolate and a movie for them to share.  It was nice to relax and just enjoy it.

I turned on Rend Collective’s latest album on Spotify while I made dinner and ignored the rustling of candy wrappers.  While it was playing a song from “The Porter’s Gate” popped up in the shuffle and I was blown away.  It’s on Spotify and I highly recommend both.  Porter’s Gate “Establish the Work of Our Hands” was really uplifting after ruminating more and more about being active in my faith and after just having spent the day serving rather than celebrating.

I didn’t get to see Jesus Christ Superstar, but I’m hoping it might play again or come out on DVD soon enough so I can enjoy it.  Though I must say I was having a good chuckle at all the people who somehow got the impression JCSS was a “family show” and got into a tissy about it being, well, what it is.

Ben and I snuck away Saturday night to watch Ready Player One and I think it should be called Ready For My Refund.  We actually walked out of the theatre only an hour into the movie.  It had deviated so far from the original book it was unbearable to watch.  In fact, I turned to Ben only twenty minutes in and said: “I’m so mad I could leave right now”.  And I sat through the entire Avatar the Last Airbender movie so I consider my tolerance for bad adaptations pretty high.  We had to go get a beer and cheese fries and do a lot of nerdy venting in the car to get it all out of our system.

And so now it’s the Easter season – we still have time to get a fancy clothes picture, and our parishes Easter Egg hunt isn’t until… May.  Yeah.  So I figure I’ve still got time to get through chapters we didn’t cover about the Passion and Resurrection in our RE book and do the other Easter craft I have stashed away.  It’s also nearing the end of the school year so we’ve got a Fun Fair, Music Concerts, Boy Scout Meeting and so much more filling up our free time so it will be an adventure!

Not Feeling It

It’s Holy Week and I guess I should be sharing my grand plans, but I as I said in the last post I’ve been giving myself permission to let go of my high liturgical aspirations. I’ve got a couple little Oriental Trading Company crafts to do with the kids about Holy Week and Easter and I’m going to try to remember to pick up cinnamon rolls to make for Friday morning. I’m going to skip ahead in Henry’s Religious Ed book and read some of the chapters having to do with Holy Week and Easter over the next few nights.

I have stuff ready to go for Easter baskets and it looks like all hopes for an outdoor Easter Egg hunt are on hiatus due to last weeks lingering snow. In true fashion, I miscalculated my weekend off and have to work for the next 5 days straight which honestly means it’s all feeling a bit anti-climactic. I struggle with feeling the weight and significance of this week, to begin with, and then to be so disconnected with it due to life just being life really makes my head spin.

I really haven’t figured out the way to experience this week in my real life yet, and I think that’s the key is that I need to figure out how to feel this in the way my life is. I didn’t grow up with this week being very ritualized and it still feels foreign. I’m thinking that maybe I need to find ways to live this out in action to better help me internalize it all. Maybe next year I need to set aside some time on Thursday or Friday to do some volunteering at our Catholic Worker House (it’s been on my list to get involved). Maybe I need to find something we can do to serve those who feel hopeless and abandoned on Saturday, because just sitting around feeling Solemn is not enough for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Mass and its importance, but I’m a do-er. I need to experience my faith in a very active way and this year it’s become obvious that I need to find ways to make my Holy Week experience more active. I have no idea how to do this- but it gives me something to work on for next year.

I’m going to try to get us to Mass tomorrow night and I’m hoping that helps me reconnect with it all. I can never go to 3 p.m. Good Friday stuff because of work, maybe one year I’ll finally remember to ask for extra time off to better experience it, but maybe I can run in for a little adoration on the way home or after the kids go to bed.

I do love the Easter Vigil, but unless the kids stay with Grandma that night we’re just not in a good place to take the whole family. I think I’ll probably end up with the kids at the 6 p.m. Newman Center Mass on Sunday.

One good thing that I’m reminding myself is that Easter is a season and not just a day – it’s okay if we don’t fill every moment of that Sunday with all the celebrations and traditions and fancy dresses and all those things, I’ve got time to celebrate it all.

5 Things for 5 Years

It dawned on me today that with this Easter Vigil it will mark 5 years since I converted.  It’s been a wild ride, never thought in that time I’d go through so much including our three years of miscarriage and writing for a Catholic women’s ministry as well as contributing to Catholic books.

 

So I wanted to take a few moments and reflect on where I am in this journey and what I’ve learned over the last few years.

One:

I’m still learning and reevaluating the difference between doctrine, dogma, disciplines, etc. and how that applies to our lives and teachings.  I’ve hit a wall with certain teachings and their applications recently and my biggest breakthrough has come from remembering that there is one commandment Jesus gave us above all others and when I strip away everything down to it’s bare bones it needs to reflect that love first.  The closer I get to that primary idea the clearer I see doctrines and disciplines in the light of their essential Truth.

Two:

The Church still has a long way to go in reaching out to the marginalized.  As I mentioned last week it’s very disheartening to still see hurtful assumptions and opinions regarding things like family size, sexuality, race, justice, socio-economic issues, etc. come from so-called “good Catholics”.  There’s still such a long way to go and I need to do better.  I’ve stopped reading and following many people this year because of this, and am finding firmer ground to say “I’m not THAT type of Catholic.”

Three:

I’m never going to fit into certain molds within the Church and that’s okay.  I’m not a theological deep contemplative or driven to uber traditional practices.  Learning more about the Jesuits and their “faith in action” ideas recently has really helped me see my place in the world and my faith.

Four:

I don’t need to be a liturgical maven!  Oh, I love seeing people home oratories and constant and consistent liturgical celebrations… but that’s just not my jam.  I love and respect those traditions, but they have their time and place and while some are called to make little monasteries of their homes and families I’ve been feeling more and more called that our place is a bit more public, a bit more action-driven than a constant cycle of feast days and private practices.  I feel like we’re called to be good examples of Catholics out in the world, interacting with others and let God’s love shine through our interactions outside our home.  This has been a big struggle, because I love those beautiful traditions – but I live a different life and in fact I live in an area that doesn’t have those roots (most of our parishes are committed to either certain ministries of social justices or a general support of families, not traditional holy days and other liturgical celebrations and that’s okay!).  If it comes down to taking the time to develop these little celebrations or being active in ministries and other aspects of our community the tug on my heart is the later.  It’s not putting those activities above God, but rather how I feel God is leading me to show my faith AND to teach my faith to my children.  I really believe that whether you’re called to an active life or a more internal life it is the joy of faith that encourages our children more than anything else and there are many ways to show that.

Five:

The last and most recent thing I’ve learned is that I don’t need to deny or ignore my religious upbringing and that there are things I can take from my Protestant past to help my faith.  I don’t need to disregard that part of my life in order to be a good Catholic.  This has come out in how I look at teaching our faith to my kids.  I’ve come to realize that right now what my kids need is to learn to love God and take joy from that – the theological truths and teachings can come later.  Without that love and joy, all the catechism lessons will be for nothing.  I’ve taken time to remember that I grew strong in my faith this way and this is how I know to raise kids in the faith.  I can relax a little and do things my way which draws from both my new Church and my old life.  It was such a weight from my shoulders to give myself permission to do this over the last few months.

This also relates to how I approach my day to day faith life too – remembering that I can draw on the things I learned growing and finding ways to incorporate them into my life instead of casting them aside.  Things like it is okay if I don’t know ALL the Catholic prayers, but can draw on my Protestant upbringing to pray fervently and joyfully off the top of my head.  That I can still celebrate holidays in the way I did growing up and still be faithful and fine. That I can be inspired by others outside of my faith because I’m strong in my foundations – I do not need to ignore the writings and joy in God found in Protestant or even non-christian books and things.  I can use my own reason and intellect to find inspiration and information from many sources and that it can be good to break out of a Catholic only echo chamber sometimes.

Really, five years in I think I’ve finally given myself permission to discover who I am as a Catholic woman and forge my own path with how I interact, how I teach and raise my kids, how I inform myself and where I draw certain lines.  I’m definitely not perfect and I’m not even sure I’m trying for perfect.  I’m trying for better than I was and closer to God.

 

The Lord is Testing Me…. explained in GIF’s

I honestly couldn’t tell you what today’s date is, but I do know that Holy Week must be fast approaching.  How do I know this?  Easy….

Ugh, people.  Seriously, do they hibernate then come out for spring?

When I was in the process of becoming Catholic I made my husband promise that I could be Catholic, a good Catholic, without being a jerk.  He assured me that we could, but sometimes – after weeks like these – I wonder.

I run in a pretty awesome group of people, even though we don’t agree on every interpretation or practice, but every now and then I venture out of that little burrow and I’m just like….

People who refuse challenge their minds.  People who are in the running for “Best Pharisee of the Year”.  People who just need some hand clapping truth shouted at them “THIS.IS.WHY.PEOPLE.THINK.THEY’RE.NOT.WELCOMED.HERE”

GAH.

And guess what?  This isn’t about me sitting here saying “Oh, I’m such a better Catholic than so and so.”  This IS me saying “Hey I’ve got struggles, you’ve got struggles, she’s got struggles and none of it is worse than the other so let’s all ride this craziness together.”  In fact, so many of the ostracized and criticized often do so much better at acting like Christians than the ones doing the pointing and the pearl clutching.

Fear-mongering.  Homophobic bull****.  All types of Prejudice.  Inconsistent expectations.  I’m over it.

I’m over all that crap.  I’m still dedicated to this idea that I can be a good Catholic and not be like all these bad examples…. but ugh, people why do you have to make it such a struggle.

So I guess I need to say that I’m here to not be a jerk.  I’m being imperfect and you can sit at my imperfect table and I think Jesus would sit at our table too.  I’m here if you don’t feel like you have a place or don’t fit in, because after weeks like these and the arguments I’ve diffused and comments I’ve seen – I’m not always sure if I do too.