Being in, or affiliated with the military is a unique life situation. It is something that touches every single element of my day. If asked to describe myself, one of my defining characteristics is that… More
As promised, here is my interview with Julia Hogan. Julia is the author of It’s Ok to Start with You which I reviewed here last week. I enjoyed this book so much and was so honored to be asked to be part of this blog tour. You can go back and see the previous posts of the tour here, on Julia’s website. Or you can click on the links at the bottom of the interview.
My interview with Julia focuses primarily on the spiritual element of self-care. Enjoy!
Thinking about the spiritual element of self care specifically, it can be hard to know where to start. As Catholics, we are blessed with some built in spiritual practices like the Mass and the sacraments. What have you found to be an effective place to start for someone just embarking on a conscious, intentional, spiritual self-care plan within their daily routine, rather than only on Sundays?
I’m a big fan of signing up for a daily email Gospel reflection. I personally like Bishop Robert Barron’s reflections and Blessed is She. They don’t take long to read (5 minutes max) but they help to get you thinking about what the Gospel means for you and your life. I recommend reading it first thing in the morning so that you can reflect on it throughout the day.
I think the most critical lesson for me to take away from the spiritual section of your book was “Don’t aim for spiritual perfection, but commitment.” What would you say to encourage those of us who get so wrapped up with the “right way” that we lose sight of simply following “the way”?
I think that our quest for perfection holds us back from even getting started when it comes to so many things in life but especially when it comes to self-care. We get stuck on finding the “perfect” spiritual practices and quickly become discouraged when we aren’t perfect at them. So instead of aiming for perfection (because it will only leave you feeling disappointed), try instead to start spiritual practices that work well for your season on life. Maybe you can’t go for an hour of adoration but you can make a quick stop in the chapel once a week. Maybe you can’t make it to daily Mass but you can make time for a novena. The point is, let go of the expectation that you have to be perfect and instead find little ways to bring God into your day whether that’s making a short gratitude list, praying before starting to work, or listening to a spiritual podcast on your way to work. When you find what works best for you (and not for someone else), it’s incredibly freeing and you’ll find that it’s so much easier to dive into your spiritual life with this mindset.
Here are my take-aways from Julia’s interview. Isn’t she so good?!
- God loves me and wants a relationship with me. But, this relationship is most often built in little ways.
Not every prayer is going to amazing and you won’t gain some deep insight every time you pray. Set aside those expectations and see prayer as a way of keeping the lines of communication open between you and God.
Find what works best for me, not someone else, and be open to trying things out (but also be willing to change my routines if self-care needs to take greater priority)
When you find what works best for you (and not for someone else), it’s incredibly freeing and you’ll find that it’s so much easier to dive into your spiritual life with this mindset.
I’m not perfect! (No matter how many times I think about this, write about this, it’s still so hard to let go of). I will not be perfect in my efforts for greater self-care. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.
We get stuck on finding the “perfect” spiritual practices and quickly become discouraged when we aren’t perfect at them. So instead of aiming for perfection (because it will only leave you feeling disappointed), try instead to start spiritual practices that work well for your season on life.
Contest details: For a chance to win a copy of It’s Ok to Start with You, visit Julia’s Instagram blog tour post and comment with the new self-care practice you will try. Contest ends Friday, September 14th, 2018 and the winner will be chosen at random on Monday, September 17th, 2018.
Which present would you rather receive? Option A: The beautifully packaged, well thought out, carefully selected exactly for you or Option B: The hastily wrapped in a paper bag regifted white elephant oh shoot I forgot to get a present present? Which gift would you rather give? Option A: The present you spent time creating, or thoughtfully selecting, presented in a manner that is pleasing both to you and the recipient or Option B: The last card in your card drawer with a half hearted IOU promise for a lunch treat at an undisclosed later date?
I think we all know that in both cases, Option A is the preferred choice. There is something about giving and receiving gifts that fills both the gift-giver and the gift-receiver with joy. In Julia Marie Hogan’s new book It’s OK to Start With You, Julia explores how the care of self is actually a form of gift giving:
When we aren’t our best selves, it shows. Think about it: When you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, you simply can’t be the friend, family member, significant other, coworker, or boss you want to be. Even worse, neglecting our well-being makes it nearly impossible to live life as authentic Christians, because we aren’t caring for ourselves the way God calls us to. After all, Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39, emphasis added). page 11-12
Julia introduces her reader to authentic self care, which is actually quite challenging and requires a dedicated level of discipline. But don’t let that hold you up. Julia is gentle with her instruction. This book is full of examples of what to look for in your life that would indicate you are in need of a little TLC. As a licensed clinical professional counselor and psychotherapist, Julia has helped many people identify and adjust their habits in order to lead more authentic lives. She is also very honest with her reader about how she is not perfect and has had to take the time to step back and reassess her choices regarding self-care.
What is so great in this book is that she breaks things down into 5 main categories of self care:
- Taking care of your body
- Prioritizing mental health
- Managing emotions
- Nurturing relationships
- Making time for prayer
This book is mean to be worked with, and you can bounce around if you wish. In the middle, after establishing what self care is and what self-care isn’t (I’ll give you a hint, self-care isn’t eating 5 snickers bars while binge watching Netflix. Nor is it depriving yourself of adequate sleep because you are helping a friend a work who always needs last minute help), Julia offers a self assessment quiz. By simply answering “Agree” or “Disagree” to a series of questions, you are able to see what areas of your life you have self-care figured out, and what areas you need to pay more attention to.
Julia then walks through each area with its own chapter, making it easy to jump to what you need, since you’re sure to be excited to dive right in! Within each chapter are some questions to answer to help guide you in thinking about self-care and making a plan for the way forward. The book concludes with space and guidance for building your own self-care plan as well as some sample plans from hypothetical case studies to serve as inspiration.
It’s OK to Start with You is a multi-function book. Each chapter concludes with some reflection or discussion questions making it perfect for a group study. It also is written with both men and women in mind, so anyone can use it. A student just starting college would benefit from this book just as much as a business executive or stay at home mom.
We all, regardless of gender, situation, or location, are made in the image of God. We are called to love one another as we love ourselves, and we cannot love others as God wishes us to if we aren’t taking care of the selves we have been given. God gave us the gift of life, so that we could share it with others. We need to care for that gift, not for selfish purposes, but for selfless purposes. A common saying is that you can’t give what you don’t have. If you aren’t caring for yourself, you would be able to give of your self in your relationships, home, work, or any area of your life.
I really liked this imagery that Julia used to describe self-care.
It can also be helpful to think of yourself as an instrument for God’s purposes, like a paintbrush. When you are unkind to yourself, all you have to offer him is a worn, tired, sparse paintbrush. But when you care for yourself, you are a shiny, sleek, full paint brush that can be used to create great works of art. (p 40)
If you enjoyed this review, check back next week! From Sept. 10-14 there is going to be a blog tour that I’m involved in to promote this book, and the important topic of self-care. Be sure to see my post on Sept. 14, looking at the spiritual dimension of self-care.
To learn more about Julia, be sure to visit her website: https://www.juliamariehogan.com/
• Julia’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliahoganlpc/
• Julia’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliahoganlcpc/
• Blog tour post on Julia’s website: juliamariehogan.com/blog/blog-tour (the post will be live on Sept. 10)
• Check out Julia’s contest details!: We’ll also be hosting a chance to win a copy of the book, It’s Ok to Start with You! To enter, visit Julia’s Instagram blog tour post and comment with the new self-care practice you will try. Contest ends Friday, September 14th, 2018 and the winner will be chosen at random on Monday, September 17th, 2018.
I have been debating back and forth to write this post. Truthfully, I’m not sure what I can say, what I should say, or what I ought to say. These past 2 weeks have been full of tremendous pain, anger, sorrow and shame for our Church.
As a Catholic, I am so ashamed, even though I have no knowledge or contact with anyone who has suffered abuse or perpetrated it. As a mother, I am fearful and on edge, what if it happened or someday happens to one of my children? As a member of society, I am outraged that something this heinous could happen among people claiming to love and follow Christ.
Naming our feelings is just one of many steps in what will be a long, slow process of healing. We are still not recovered from the scandals of the early 200s. Wounds have been torn back open and new ones made in the wake of Pennsylvania.
In times such as these, it is perhaps understandable to want to circle the wagons, keep everyone and everything close at hand. We can read the Bible at home. We can teach our kids right from wrong at the park under our watchful eye instead of at Religious Education classes. There isn’t time for the parish potluck, and besides we don’t know who will be there.
Tempting though this attitude may be, it is not one that will bring healing and wholeness back to our Church. The temptation to isolate ourselves from our faith would be the height of achievement for the devil’s plans in this twisted mess. Bishop Barron, in his article about this situation, reminds us that “The devil works through temptation, suggestion, and insinuation—and he accomplishes nothing without our cooperation.”
As a mother, it is my job to work with my husband to raise our children in the ways of society and the truths of our faith. We would be abandoning both charges if we turned our backs on the Church in this moment. We show our children every single day what it means to be a member of society through our interactions with others. We model our faith in the exact same way. If we were to stop going to Mass or participating in parish events, we would effectively be training our children that 1. This faith stuff really isn’t the be all end all if it is so easily cast aside and 2. When there is a big problem, something bigger than just ourselves, our actions mean little and aren’t worth the effort to try and fix whatever is going wrong. Pope Francis said, “today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.” We must come together, not be driven apart.
Like I said at the start, I’m still not sure what to say or how to say it. What has happened, what has been allowed to happen, are crimes against so much of Jesus taught us. He exposes the injustice of society. He reaches out to those in need and to those being trod underfoot and raises them up. He loves without measure and forgives without tiring. We as a Church are in great need of His mercy now, for we have greatly sinned.
Regardless of how closely related to this situation you are, your prayers and your presence are needed. I would encourage everyone to pray in a special way through Mary, Our Lady Undoer of Knots. This is a deep, dark problem. One that we most certainly cannot unravel on our own. It will take time, patience, diligence and justice. For the victims it will take enormous amounts of mercy, compassion, healing and hope.
Some other ideas for the way forward:
Read Pope Francis’ letter to the People of God and join him in prayer for the victims of these crimes as well as their families and communities.
Write a letter to your local bishop, archbishop or cardinal.
Pray with #sackclothandashes a growing movement that wishes to participate in acts of sacrifice, sorrow and reparation to God for the terrible sins committed against God’s people. This is a call for fasting and prayer for 40 days. Though it started on Aug 22, the Queenship of Mary, your prayers, sacrifices and support are never wasted.
Holy Mary, full of God’s presence during the day of your life, you accepted with
full humility the Father’s will, and the devil was never capable of tying you up with
Once with your Son you interceded for our difficulties, and full of kindness and
patience, you gave us example of how to untie the knots in our life. By remaining
forever Our Mother, you put in order and make more clear the ties that link us to
Holy Mother, Mother of God and our Mother, to you who untie with a motherly
heart the knots of our life, we pray to you to receive in your hands (the name of
the person), and to free him/her of the knots and confusion with which our
Through your grace, your intercession and your example deliver us from all evil,
Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that
we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts
placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters.