Book Review: It’s OK to Start with You (Read to the end for a chance to win a free copy!)

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

its ok to start with youJulia 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:

  1. Taking care of your body
  2. Prioritizing mental health
  3. Managing emotions
  4. Nurturing relationships
  5. 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/

• Book Listing: https://www.osvcatholicbookstore.com/product/it-s-ok-to-start-with-you

• 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.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Book Review: Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis

For many Catholics Mary is a source of comfort, intercession and motherly affection. This is certainly true for Pope Francis. Throughout his papacy Pope Francis has made specific mention of Mary as “the first pilgrim” and “the perfect disciple” as well as many other titles and devotions. Mary’s unconditional “yes” is for all followers of Jesus the perfect example of what it means to truly participate in the will of the Father in our everyday lives. Alicia von Stamwitz has beautifully compiled the writings, homilies and even tweets by the Holy Father about the Mother of God in this precious book, Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis.

mother maryThis is the perfect nightstand book. While arranged thematically, each excerpt is only a page or two at the most. Pope Francis’ insights into the role our spiritual mother plays are poignant, full of depth and love. While it is a book that highlights Mary, it is always important to recognize exactly what Mary’s role is – to bring us to Christ.

Mary’s gaze is not directed towards us along…”Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Mary points to Jesus, she asks us to bear witness to Jesus, she constantly guides us to her Son, Jesus, because in him alone do we find salvation. he alone can change the water of our loneliness, difficulties and sin into the wine of encounter, joy and forgiveness. Video message for prayer vigil at the Shrine of Divine Love, from the Vatican. Saturday, October 12, 2013.

Pope Francis’ call for the Year of Mercy can be seen in many of his reflections on Mary, the Mother of Mercy:

In the end we will all be judged by the same measure with which we have judged: the mercy we have shown to others will also be shown to us. Let us ask Our Lady, our Mother, to help us to grow in patience, in hope and in mercy with all brothers and sisters. Angelus, St. Peter’s Square. Sunday, July 20, 2014.

This book also allows us glimpses into Pope Francis, the man and priest. He recalls images and titles of Mary that are meaningful to him, such as Our Lady Undoer of Knots and how under the mantel of Mary we learn “true discipleship” (145).

Mother Mary is inviting, warm and inspiring. And in true Pope Francis fashion, it a book that gently guides you into deeper relationship with Jesus through His merciful Mother, Mary.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Book Review: Born to Soar: Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life

As many of you know I have been trying to stay more organized with a pen and paper planner. So far, so good! Not only am I more organized and peaceful about my schedule, I am finding it is easier to remember things I want to write about (because now I have a single place to write them down!) Discovering the benefits of journaling seemed to be the next logical step in the “pen and paper journey.” As luck would have it, the opportunity to review a book that is part scripture reflection, part monarch butterfly life cycle, and part journal landed in my inbox that same week!

Melissa Overmyer’s Born to Soar is a unique book that integrates so many ideas but in a new and creative way. She bases the structure of the 6 week study (this can be read individually or in a group setting) around the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Jumping from each stage – egg, caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly – Overmyer takes the reader, or perhaps I should say the participant or reflector, on a spiritual journey that starts with how God made us and travels through the Eucharistic as spiritual food, cocooning with God, and the practicing and strengthening our virtues. The reflections take on their fullest potential in the final chapter/week where Overmyer explores the ways we, as joyful, fed and transformed people are called to spread God’s love with intensity each and every day. 

This book truly embodies the oft-mentioned phrase “You get out what you put in.” If you want to hunker down and really commit to 6 weeks of daily prayer and reflection Born to Soar would be a great choice for you. Each week has not only an opening reflection that is linked to one of the stages of monarch development, it also has excerpts from John of the Cross’ poetry for added spiritual wisdom. There are journaling questions that can be done individually and then, when desired, discussed in a group study. Finally, each day of the week has a daily Scripture verse and journaling prompt. There is ample space to journal which I appreciated. 

Born to Soar brings a fresh take to long standing desire for many people. How do I make time for God? How can I incorporate more Scripture, journaling or reflecting into my day? This book not only provides the text, it is itself a journal which you can come back to time and again to see how you are maturing toward your imago state, the place of fullness of being, in the presence of God.