Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What to Read in 2014: Link-Up

We've all been there. That moment when you suddenly find yourself with 5 minutes free, and you think, "Oh, I shall be intellectual and read a book!" ... and then you realize, you have no idea what to read.

When did I last read something other than a magazine?

When was the last time I even read the title of a book?

Do I even remember how to read?!

If you have found yourself asking yourself any of the above questions recently, then this post is for you.

The ladies of #CathSorority were talking about what to read in 2014 recently, and we collectively decided that it would be fun to do a link-up to post our recommendations for all to see.*

So let's list 'em. What are five (5) books that should definitely be on all of our reading lists for 2014?

These books can be fiction or non-fiction, Catholic or not-Catholic, written for adults or written for kids... whatever should be on our personal reading lists, we want to know!

Really. I do not care what makes your list - it can consist of anything from Theology of the Body to Everybody Poops - whatever you deem as worthy of our precious time to read next year needs to be shared with us all. (Well, wait, I lied. If anyone lists 50 Shades of Gray... you are hereby booted from the link-up. We already took a vote.)

And now, without further ado, here are 5 books that I think you should read in 2014...

Thou shalt read the book with this cover.
(1) Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - I may or may not have mentioned this book once or twice  before, but hopefully this gives you the last final hint that you should read this book right now. It is my all-time, ultimate, favoritest book ever ever ever in the world, and I do not say this lightly.

This book takes the fairy tale of Cinderella and gives it a whole new spin and adds a lot of adventure. Ella is spunky and spirited, and you'll find yourself laughing and cheering and probably tearing up all at the same time. You also might find yourself having the sudden urge to slide down stair rails. You just never know! This book is written for ages 8 and up, but it really doesn't matter how old (or young!) you are. I can't wait to read this book to my little girls someday, and if I never have little girls, then I will borrow someone else's... in a totally not creepy way.

Just don't steal this book.
(2) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I've always really enjoyed reading novels that are set during the Holocaust, and this book is so well written and weaves such a compelling story that it is hard to put down.

The novel is narrated by Death himself, which is fitting since Death was everywhere in WWII. He tells the story of a girl living in Nazi Germany who falls in love with the written word after stealing her first book as a young girl. I saw a lot of myself in the young protagonist... and not just because her name is Liesel! (I mean, the author should've spell-checked her name, but whatever, I'm over it.) Death continues to tell Liesel's story, as well as the story of those around her, as he paints a picture of what Nazi Germany was like, whether or not you were Jewish. The book looks long, but the chapters are so short and easy to read... trust me when I say that you will finish the book quicker than you expect and be sad that it's over.

Can you imagine taking a stroll with Mary?!
(3) Walking with Mary by Edward Sri - I have a confession to make. I am cheating a bit by including this book on my list because I have not yet finished reading it. But! I have read up through the Wedding Feast at Cana (favorite Jesus miracle!), and I am enthralled by this book and decided it had to be on my list.

I've written recently about Mary, and this book has helped me even more in understanding Mary's role not only in Jesus' life but also in my life. The chapters each detail a significant moment in time for Mary (such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, etc.) in both a historical and Scriptural context, while also relating each of these pivotal moments to what it means for our own personal faith journey. Sri helps relate Mary's relationship with Christ to how we can better our own relationship with Christ, while also explaining why Mary is just so gosh darn special! Already, reading this book has helped me to meditate more deeply on the mysteries of the Rosary and to see Mary in a whole new light.

When in Rome...
(4) Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn - I often get asked "Can you recommend a book to read for someone who ...wants to learn more about Catholicism..." or "...is interested in converting..." or "...who wants to read about the Catholic faith without getting too bogged down...?" and this is always my go-to recommendation. I first read this book when I started to dive deeper into my faith several years ago, and it completely opened my eyes to the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith. As the Hahns, former evangelical Protestants, fell in love with the Catholic Church, I too found myself falling in love the the Church.  Their struggles with certain teachings were some of my struggles (even though I was raised Catholic), and they tell their story in a personal and beautiful way as they detail their journey to Rome.

High five if you read it!

(5) The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel - I first picked up this book because Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary said it was instrumental in her conversion from atheism to Catholicism, and I trusted her, so I thought, "Eh, I need something to read, why not?!" So I promptly got a copy from my local library and set out on an investigative journey with the author. 

Here is what I concluded when I finished reading: Everyone needs to read this book. I don't care what religion or lack of religion you are, this book outlines the evidence for Christ being the Son of God in a way that is readable and understandable for all. The book is broken up into three sections ("Examining the Record", "Analyzing Jesus", and "Researching the Resurrection"), and looks at the historical, psychological, scriptural, archaeological, medical, etc. evidence surrounding Christ. I would have to say that my favorite chapter was on the medical evidence of Jesus' crucifixion, but I learned something from all of the chapters. If you are a Christian, you need to read this book so you can talk about Jesus from more than just a Scripture standpoint. If you are not a Christian, you need to read this book because I told you to read it. That should be enough, right?

*Please note that the "we" was a bunch of ladies saying "Let's do a link-up!" followed by "Liesl, when are you posting the link-up?!?!"**

**I'm totally happy to do it though... link away!


Since so many people are also posting a list of what they would like to read in 2014, I'm encouraging you all to also list what you would like to read this year! After all, this gives us recommendations as well, right?

Here is a very crafty image of a few of the books I plan to read in 2014!

1. Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler - I just pre-ordered my copy, and was probably more excited than I should have been to get a tweet from the author herself!

2. Pope Awesome and Other Stories by Cari Donaldson - Because stories are fun and the Pope is awesome.

3. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan - Anything by Ian McEwan is a must-read on my list.

4. Dune by Frank Herbert - I started this in 2013 but the holidays distracted me... I hope to tackle it again.

5. Allegiant by Veronica Roth - Because the Hunger Games made me hungry for more dystopian literature (heh, get it, hungry?!).

6. No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers by Michael Novak - This book was listed on Strange Notions... and the author also happens to have the same name as my organic chemistry lab professor from college (not the same person) so it must be a good one.


And now, for the link-up!

Here are the very strict rules and regulations:

(1) Your post should include five (5) books. If you post more than five (5) or less than five (5), I will seek you out on the interwebs and beat you with an e-stick.

(2) Please include a link and/or picture of the books so we can judge the book by it's cover. Very important.

(3) Include a link on your post back to this here mother post so all the other people in the world can find it and post their own recommendations. Go ahead and steal the graphic above for your post, too.

(4) Be sure to visit the other posts in the link-up and read all the books they tell you to read.

(5) If you tweet this post and/or your post, you can use the hashtag #WhattoReadin2014... or make up one that is better. #Becausemyhashtagsareusuallylongerthanthetweet

(5b) Also, if you tweet your post to me, @LieslChirps, I will retweet you! This is a very coveted honor.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mama Mary

I've written before about how I've struggled to have a relationship with Mary.

That was until Mary quite literally nudged her way into my life a little over a year ago.

I had been praying for a special intention that I hold very close to my heart for some time, but I felt like I had hit a stumbling block. I could only do so much by praying, and things weren't happening on the timeline that I wanted. Add in that I still felt like I was in the midst of that pesky spiritual dry spell, and I was getting frustrated... I wanted things to happen now.

There had been a few times during all of this prayer that I had felt a little nudge to pray a rosary for my intention or to talk to Mary about it, but I kept shrugging that feeling away.

What can Mary do to help me with this? How can I even begin to relate to her?

So I kept pushing her away.

On a night like any other, I found myself praying in the chapel. It was very late; the chapel was dark and quiet, and I was completely alone. I sat as I usually do when I'm alone in the chapel - on the floor, right in front of the tabernacle. I had just finished praying a novena for my intention, and was having a little beg session chat with the saint of my novena when it happened.

Mary snuck her way into my thoughts again.

Turn to me.

I pushed the thought aside as I always had before.

Ask me for help. Please.

I gave a mental exasperated sigh.* I closed my eyes, and cleared my mind.

Fine. I give up. What do you want, Mary?

And at the exact moment when I decided to let Mary in, I no longer saw the darkness of my closed eyelids, but instead my vision was flooded with one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.

I could see Mary, as if I was watching her from above. She held my intention tightly in her arms, close to her heart. Her mantle was wrapped around it, to shield and protect it from all harm. Just as she once held her Son, she was holding my heartfelt prayer with all the love and care that a mother can give. Most importantly, she wasn't letting go.

It was in this moment that I began to cry.

This is why you've been bugging me for so long, I thought. You've been trying to show me, all along, that you're taking care of this.

And so, that night, and every night since, I've handed this intention that I carry with me over to Mama Mary. I see her hold it close to her heart, and I know that she will never let go, until the time is right for her to place it at the feet of her Son.

Recently, my spiritual director encouraged me to do a 54 day novena to Mary. As I set out on perhaps the most challenging spiritual quest I've ever taken on, I can't help but think that Mary is behind this, too. Always trying to nudge me into a deeper relationship with her, because she longs to bring me closer to her Son.

*In retrospect, I was so rude to Mary. I know. Again, I'm pretty sure she's forgiven me, because she loves me and we're pretty much like this now:
When we finally get to meet Mother Mary in Heaven, 
from Let Me Be Catholic Tumblr
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