Interview with Julia Hogan

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!

Hi Julia! It is so refreshing to hear about self-care that includes a spiritual dimension! Can you share a story or two that demonstrates why having spiritual self-care is so critical to a whole self-care plan?
When we hear the term “self-care”, I think the physical side of self-care comes to mind easily. We think of getting enough sleep, eating properly, exercising, etc but you are absolutely right that your spiritual life requires just as much self-care as your physical, emotional, and relational life. Why? Well, when you make the time for prayer, the sacraments, and spiritual reading, you are spending time with the one person who knows you best, Jesus. I think that when you are strengthening your relationship with God, you gain a deeper understanding of your priorities and direction in life and this knowledge has a spillover effect into other areas of your life. When you recognize and embrace your worth as a woman or man created and loved by God (as you are right this moment), you want to take better care of yourself, you are more courageous in your life, and you are more confident in who you are and what you need to be at your best so that you can be whatever your are called to be in this season of life.
For so many people, the idea of self-care comes laden with all kinds of stereotypes, buzz words, and even guilt. It was so good of you to very clearly define what self care is, and what it isn’t. So often when it comes to prayer, it is easy to become either 1. Discouraged if you feel like you aren’t seeing “results” or 2. Distracted by life and loose the routine. How would you encourage someone feeling either of these emotions about their prayer life?
I think that it’s helpful to think about your prayer life as time spent deepening your relationship with a friend. Just as you will make it a point to schedule time with friends, send them a quick text, or give them a phone call, in order to deepen your friendship with that person, you can do the same thing with your relationship with God. Think of prayer as keeping the lines of communication between you and God open and as a way to deepen your relationship with Him. And when you feel discouraged, remember that when you spend time with friends, even if you aren’t discussing some incredibly deep topic or doing something amazing and adventurous, you are still enjoying your time with that friend. I can think of many times where my friends and I went for a walk around the block and it was so refreshing. We didn’t have any earth shattering conversations but it helped strengthen our friendship. It’s the same thing with prayer. 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.

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.

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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.
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    MONDAY – Physical Self-Care with Barb from FranciscanMom

    TUESDAY – Mental Self-Care with Laura Mary Phelps

    WEDNESDAY – Emotional Self-Care with Erika Marie of Simplemama

    THURSDAY – Relational Self-Care with Sarah of Snoring Scholar

    Also, be sure to enter Julia’s contest to win a free copy of Its OK to Start with You

    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.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

    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: Henri Nouwen: His Life and Spirit

    I don’t typically jump up and get excited about reading biographies. Maybe I’m still scarred from my school days or maybe I just haven’t read any truly excellent biographies. They always seem to me to end up “and then so-and-so did this, then this happened, then so-and-so met what’s-his-name and they went there.” The word dry comes to mind. I don’t know, I just usually can’t quite get into them. Henri Nouwen: His Life and Spirit by Kevin Burns was thankfully not like any biography I’ve ever read.

    Book Review: Henri Nouwen: His Life and Spirit reviewed by Kate Taliaferro at dailygraces.netI didn’t know a whole lot about Henri Nouwen prior to reading this biography which is one reason why I decided to give it a go. I knew he was a big name in Christian spirituality and was around the time of Vatican II. I had read a few excerpts of his works here and there and recall being impressed by his depth and ability to find say something very meaningful in only a few simple words.

    Kevin Burns was able to elevate the genre of biography for me. Rather than recapping the story of Nouwen’s life, Burns found a way to almost paint his life with words. The book is very aptly named: Henri Nouwen: His Life and Spirit. I do walk away from this book with facts about who Nouwen was and what his life consisted of. But more importantly I feel as though I have been offered a glimpse of the spirit of Nouwen, which is really the whole point of his life. To put it another way:

    As his brother [Laurent] says, “I see the way we look at Henri today, and a lot of people who read his books today that do not know him from a personal side. They create another person, generally a very nice person, a wise person. They do not realize that he paid dearly for what he wrote” (107).

    I’m sure it was tempting for Burns to “create” this nice, wise person as the central focus of his biography. However, through diligence, patience and an incredible amount of time, it appears to me that he managed to tell Henri’s story while including the reader in some of Henri’s more difficult moments and struggles. In many ways the hardships which Henri weathered are the source of some of his most genius works and contributions in Christian spirituality.

    Of course, it is impossible to tell the story of someone’s life in a book. Kevin Burns freely admits that and explains in his introduction

    The book in…your hands offers a composite portrait of Henri Nouwen…This portrait is assembled from observations by a small but close group of people who knew him well, and from my own reading of his books…I try, though, to capture something of the spirit and intensity of his life, recognizing the impossibility of trying to capture in words the entirety of any person’s life journey (xii-xiii).

    In my opinion, Burns has done an excellent job in his efforts to share the spirit of Henri with us.