Because some Saturdays, despite the piles of laundry, and the dirty floors, and the ironing pile. . . some days you just have to play!
Because some Saturdays, despite the piles of laundry, and the dirty floors, and the ironing pile. . . some days you just have to play!
For awhile now, I’ve been trying to complete a list of books that we are requiring our teens to read. However, I finally realized that it could be years before the list is actually complete, since I keep finding more. So I decided that I would post the incomplete list and add to it later if I find more resources. Just a quick disclaimer for my Catholic readers: many of these are not specifically Catholic books. Unfortunately, we do not have a very strong Catholic community here, but I have found many of these resources through the wonderful Christian friends I have made over the years, and I am working on finding some more Catholic resources, particularly in the area of chastity. I welcome your recommendations. And in the meantime, I invite you to check out the following, though there are some more small disclaimers on a few of them.
God’s Design for Sex Series: We started using these books with our kids at a very young age. I wasn’t sure about this, but we knew they would hear about all of it from their peers, and we wanted to be able to get the right perspective about it all into their brains before they heard it from the wrong perspective. It has really paid off. It was a little embarrassing for me, because I wasn’t used to talking so frankly and openly about this topic, but the kids were never embarrassed, and they are still all able to talk to me about it freely. These are from a Christian perspective, but I didn’t find anything in them to contradict Catholic teaching except for the issues of masturbation and birth control. The authors don’t take a stand either way on the former, just say that there is some disagreement about the issue among Christians. This doesn’t present a problem for me, as I can easily teach the kids the Catholic perspective on these issues. And they don’t come up until the last couple of books, by which time the kids will be old enough for us to discuss those issues. But I just wanted you to be aware of it.
Beautiful Girlhood, originally written by M. Hale, revised and expanded by Karen Andreola. This is a great book to read along with your daughter. There is even some sort of study/discussion guide to go along with it, though I have not actually seen it other than in a catalog.
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Josh Harris; written by an unmarried young man who realized all the things that are wrong with the whole dating scene, and decided to be radical.
Boy Meets Girl by Josh Harris (sequel to the above title, after the author met and married his wife). Both books are Christian, but not Catholic, but I did not find anything in them to concern me.
Arms of Love by Carmen Marcoux: A Catholic novel dealing with chastity/courtship. Also, check out her website www.courtshipnow.com. My daughter has read this at least 3 times. There is also a sequel, Surrender, which is wonderful as well. I found that these novels present a beautiful perspective on the dignity of the person within a romantic relationship (as well as in daily family life), and because this idea is incorporated into the whole book, it’s almost as if the message is being taught without the reader being consciously aware of it. I found myself caught up in the story, almost as if the family was real, and I came away from it feeling that this approach to relationships is possible, despite what our culture tells us. Girls would be more apt to get into this type of book, but we required our son to read it, too, because it was such a perfect example of what we wanted to teach both about courtship and Catholic family life. He may not have enthusiastically devoured it multiple times and passed it on to all his friends the way our daughter did, but he did read it and like it.
Lady in Waiting by Debby Jones and Jackie Kendall. This is a wonderful, Christian book that “is not about finding the right man, but being the right woman,” one who knows that her true satisfaction can only be found in a relationship with Christ. It will inspire a young (or older) woman to “recklessly abandon herself to the Lordship of Christ, diligently use her single days, trust God with unwavering faith, demonstrate virtue in daily life, love God with undistracted devotion, stand for physical and emotional purity, live in security, respond to life with contentment, make choices based on her convictions, and wait patiently for God to meet her needs.” (All quotes taken from the introduction of the book — no need to struggle trying to describe it when they did such a good job already! 🙂 )
And the Bride Wore White by Dannah Gresh: This is written for girls and also concerns chastity in dating relationships. I would recommend you read this first so you have a better idea of when to have your daughter read it. It’s geared towards girls who are ready to date. I have not had Maggie read it yet, but plan on using some of the ideas it contains when I talk with her about this topic. There is one especially neat idea that I had never seen anywhere: making a list of what to look for in a future spouse, after prayer and discussion with parents and other adults who are living their faith, so that when meeting prospective “dates,” a girl will have kind of an objective idea of the qualities that are important to her before her heart gets entangled in a relationship and clouds her judgment. I’m definitely doing this with my daughters. Dannnah’s husband wrote a book for boys, as well: Who Moved the Goalpost? I would especially recommend these books for teens who have already been exposed to sexual issues or temptations. Otherwise, I believe they could actually introduce thoughts or images that may not have occurred to your teen already. Other books that would be helpful for teens or young adults already struggling with sexual temptations would be Every Young Man’s Battle (by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker), and Every Young Woman’s Battle (by Stephen Arterburn and Shannon Etheridge).
Secret Keeper by Dannah Gresh: This is a wonderful little booklet for girls about the importance of modesty. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
This Clear and Present Darkness by Frank Peretti: Christian, but not Catholic. This is a novel which clearly demonstrates the reality of the unseen spiritual battle that is always raging. Some theological differences, but honestly, it’s been so long since I read it that I don’t remember quite what they were. Read it before having your child read it so you can address any differences that come up.
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge: for boys/men. Also recommended reading for women who want to have a better understanding of “what makes men tick.”
Captivating by Stasi Eldredge: for girls/women. Also recommended reading for men who want to understand women. I highly recommend this book for adult women as well as teens. I found myself moved to tears throughout just because this author validated the way I feel as a woman, even though I hadn’t even realized it. My husband even started reading it and discussing it with me. He was so excited to have some help understanding me! 🙂
Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. This book is not Catholic and the introduction in particular contains a reference to a group of monks that could be offensive to some Catholics. With that said, however, the book itself is a great challenge to teens to exceed the pathetically low expectations our culture places on them, rather than treating the teen years as a time to coast through on a little mini-vacation before reaching adulthood (at which time they are suddenly supposed to know how to be contributing, successful adults!). There is a sequel to this book (Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are) that gets into some more specific ways to “do hard things.”
The 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry. This is a whole book based on Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.” I love that Newberry teaches very specific ways to use this verse as a filter through which to see all of life, thus showing us how to really live as joy-filled people of God.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book is especially great for those (like me) who are not naturally outgoing “people persons.” I’ve had a few interactions with people lately who really could have benefitted from the lessons in this book! Seriously, Carnegie offers practical tips which, when practiced, will help anyone become the type of person who is welcomed anywhere.
Many of these books can be found at www.Christianbook.com. I buy lots of books used on Ebay or new/used on Amazon as well.
So, there you have it, the very incomplete list of required reading for our teens. I hope to update it as I find more, but with the brain fog that’s been haunting me lately, I know better than to make that promise! Happy reading!
I heard today of a dear woman who is really struggling after miscarrying her first baby, and it brought back so many memories for me. When I was going through my own valleys of loss, I found so much comfort in talking to others who had experienced the same thing. I was also ministered to through music, particularly that of Watermark and Marie Bellet, who both have songs specifically about miscarriage. Since I’m a musician myself, these songs really helped me process what I was feeling. I spent quite a bit of time journaling as well, and even composed lyrics to my own song, which have yet to be set to music. I haven’t shared them with too many people, but I got thinking today that if others’ experiences helped me so much, maybe my experience could help someone, too. I’ve shared my miscarriage story here: https://8littlearrows.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/no-pain-no-gain/, but today, I thought I would also share the song lyrics I wrote after my second miscarriage. So without further ado, here it is:
Treasure in Heaven
While I take up this cross
I despise the shame.
I wish it could be another way.
I know I have to say, “Thy will be done,”
But it’s so hard to let go of a life just begun.
Then I hear You say:
“Do not lay up for yourself treasures on Earth,
But lay up treasures in Heaven,
For where your treasure is,
there will your heart be also.”
And now I have a treasure in Heaven
neither moth nor rust can consume,
and Satan has no claim on her soul,
’cause I know she’s already with You.
So break this stubborn human heart, Lord.
Help me say, “Thy will be done.”
Deep down I know it was in your wisdom
that You took away my little one.
My heart is with my treasure.
She keeps my eyes fixed on the prize —
that one day we will praise the Lord
together, side by side.
And in the meantime, my little treasure,
pray for your mother’s aching heart.
Pray for me. Pray for me.
(For Hope, January 1995, Mary Rose, January 2001, Trinity, April 2001)
For a beautiful prayer after a miscarriage, click here: https://8littlearrows.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/prayer-after-a-miscarriage/
We had a wonderful pastor at our parish who served there for ten years until he was transferred a few years ago. Fr. Gary was one of those priests who was so involved in his parishioners’ lives. He would pop by the house randomly with treats for the kids, or go golfing with my husband, and he even took our family to Six Flags two or three summers in a row. When he heard our confessions, we knew that he knew us and cared about us. He loved Mass and the Eucharist and preached it regularly, but outside of Mass he was a fun-loving, social, “regular” guy. The kids flocked to him. He was an integral part of our (almost) daily lives. We miss him terribly.
But it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized just how much. One of our recently ordained priest friends (who was a student when we were campus ministers 15 years ago) came to our area for retreat/vacation, and he came over yesterday to celebrate Mass at our home. What made it even more special was that it was the Feast of the Chair of Peter, our son Peter’s feast day. It was an awesome way to honor the day, and of course was followed by some tasty treats and fellowship.
After Mass, when we were in the kitchen enjoying each other’s company, I glanced over at the stairs, where Fr. Dave was sitting surrounded by every one of our children, from the teenagers down to the baby. I wished I had my camera to capture the moment, but I somehow misplaced it last week. (A side effect of having so many children seems to be loss of brain cells! 🙂 just kidding!) Anyway, it dawned on me in that moment just how precious a time it was. It is so valuable to have our kids regularly exposed to priests and nuns, and not just in the church setting. Our day was the perfect mix of the sacred and the more “worldly.” Just the evening before, Fr. Dave had come for dinner and stayed to play football on the XBox with the kids and hubby. And then last night he went to the movies with hubby and the older kids. What a wonderful way for our kids to see that a priest is dedicated to serving the Lord in such a special way, and yet, he is also just a normal person like us.
Fr. Dave seems to be enjoying the time just as much, and I think is a little concerned with wearing out his welcome. But the truth of the matter is, we want to max out our time with him while he’s here, because we are currently not blessed with the opportunity to do that with our parish priests. But yesterday made me realize one thing — we need to make more of an effort to get to know our priests, even if they may not be naturally inclined to be really involved with parishioners. And honestly, I think it is just as important for them as it is for us. Stay tuned for a guest post from a priest about this matter.
And in the meantime, please join me in thanking God for our faithful priests and praying for His blessing upon them.
P.S. Please ignore the ads that pop up below. I have no control over them, (or at least can’t figure out how to keep them from coming up) and sometimes they are in poor taste. Sorry about that.
I happened upon this prayer the other night on the Faith and Family website, and I found it so beautiful that I wanted to share it. When I had my three miscarriages, one of the things I found most comforting was that I knew the babies I had lost were now little saints in heaven, and could intercede for me, their dad, and their siblings. This prayer comes from a “Mother’s Manual,” and it’s a wonderful way to maintain a connection with your little one, and stay focused on the bigger spiritual realities of what is otherwise a very painful loss:
My darling (name) you are now in joy in the presence of our God; and in your spotless innocence, which He loves, you can speak to Him in a voice that He will heed. You are still my little baby and will surely regard the prayers of your mother who bore you. So with confidence, then, I speak to you. Intercede for me to obtain the favor that I here ask as a mother through her child who stands before the throne of God (mention petition). But, if what I ask is not according to the wisdom and loving designs of Almighty God for me and others, then ask Him to grant what is best according to His good pleasure and to give me the wisdom and faith to conform my will to His. Amen.
By the way, just wanted to let you know, if you’re not aware of it already, that www.faithandfamilylive.com has some great stuff to support you in your desire to grow in holiness and in the Catholic faith. Check it out.
I’m walking down memory lane today, full of emotion — mostly that of gratitude. You see, Advent fifteen years ago was a time of waiting not only for the Saviour’s birth, but also that of my very own “firstborn.” So the preparations that year were filled with added anticipation, and I found myself entering in to the season with a new appreciation for the Blessed Mother’s role in the Christmas story. Our home at the time was quite humble, too (though a step up from a stable), as we were living in an apartment in a college dormitory, where we were campus ministers.
After a previous miscarriage, I was full of gratitude when I discovered that the Lord had blessed me with another pregnancy so soon. This was also to be the first grandchild on both sides of our family, so the whole extended family shared the excitement.
I soon realized that because I was due a couple of days after Christmas, we would not be able to travel to Massachusetts to spend the holiday with my parents and siblings. So my entire family (parents and six siblings) agreed to come to us. And we got permission for them to stay in other campus apartments/dorm rooms that were vacant for the Christmas break. My mom also told me not to worry about Christmas dinner, since I would most likely be huge and extremely uncomfortable by Christmas Day.
However, God had other plans. Joseph decided to arrive early. In the middle of a snowstorm, on the morning of December 19, my water broke, and around 1 p.m. I received the best Christmas present ever. To this day, I have not received a greater one (other than the Baby Jesus, of course). I learned that day the depth of a mother’s love, a love I didn’t even know I was capable of, a love that I’ve since discovered grows even greater every time we receive a new baby into our family.
A gang of college students who had not yet left for their homes soon showed up at the hospital to celebrate with us. They claim that we blessed them with our presence on campus, but with their visit that day they were the ones ministering to us, especially since, with the snowstorm raging, we weren’t too hopeful that my family would be able to make it.
To our surprise and delight, though, two of my siblings, who were to be Joseph’s godparents, braved the snow, and showed up later that day. I’m tearing up just remembering it. Having them there to share in our joy was so incredible.
Two days later, we bundled up our little guy for the short drive back to campus. When we arrived, our door was plastered with signs of congratulations to us and welcomes to Joseph. The students who had become part of our extended family by sharing the dorm with us now shared the excitement of this new life. It was almost like having a bunch more younger brothers and sisters who had all been waiting for this moment, too.
Over the next couple days, my parents and the rest of my siblings showed up. No sooner had they all arrived, then one of the Franciscan brothers at the school showed up at the door with a huge bowl of pasta to feed us all. And Jay’s dad, brother, and grandparents came on Christmas Eve, too. The Baby Jesus was honored by shepherds and Wise Men, and our Joseph was visited by college students, family members, and Franciscan friars. What a Christmas! And to top it all off, one of our good friends, a Franciscan priest who later baptized Joseph, was kind enough to celebrate a private Christmas Mass for the whole family in the small Friary chapel.
On Christmas morning, my entire family squished into our tiny apartment to open presents, prepare Christmas dinner in our Barbie-doll-sized kitchen (quite a remarkable feat for a crowd of that size!), and pass around our new little bundle of joy. When I look back on that Christmas, I still feel the same sense of Christian community that I felt then. We were surrounded by love and support.
We have a little birthday tradition, started by my husband, where we all gather around the birthday boy (or girl), lay hands on him, and bless him. We sing that old song: “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on him . . . melt him, mold him, fill him, use him. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on him.” That’s followed by my husband (and anyone else who wishes) speaking a blessing over him.
As we sang today, I found myself choked up, remembering all the blessed events surrounding Joe’s birth, and I realized that the love I felt then has only increased. It’s not like 15 is a magic age or anything, but there are moments like these, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our crazy family life, when the Lord likes to remind me just how blessed I am.
Now obviously, I’m just slightly biased, but I’m going to brag on my son anyway (mother’s prerogative!). He is an amazing young man. Certainly, he has his moments (don’t we all?!) but generally, he is a great big brother, a helpful and kind son, and a responsible, likeable, funny, confident guy who also happens to love Jesus. I love to listen to him play his guitar and sing, too, especially when he sings praise songs, and sings with his siblings. I am in awe at how the Lord has used him already, and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for his future. I feel so blessed to be his mom.
It dawned on me the other night that we’re already into August. Thinking of August reminded me that one of my precious babies in heaven would have been born in August 2001, had I not miscarried. She was due the 22nd or 23rd (Queenship of Mary, and feast day of St. Rose), so we named her Mary Rose. Looking back on what was, at the time, an incredibly painful experience, I started thinking about suffering, and about how our culture has really robbed it of its value.
When people see my family, and how blessed we have been, they usually have no idea of the suffering that we have experienced on the way to that blessing. People don’t know that I lost my very first baby through miscarriage, before I was blessed with my oldest son. Or that I was afraid afterwards that I would never be able to have children, which was my biggest dream for my future. I could have let that fear paralyze me, but instead, I grasped onto one word my doctor gave me: “hope.” He told me that the miscarriage didn’t mean I couldn’t have kids; instead, I should have hope that I could get pregnant again, since I had been pregnant once. So we named that first baby Hope, and sure enough, I delivered a son just 11 months later.
When we lost Mary Rose after two more healthy babies, I again faced a choice. I will admit, there was a part of me that wanted to rant at God, to say, “That’s it! Forget it! I have three healthy children, and I’m not taking any more chances on getting hurt like this again. No more! I’m done!” I wanted more children, but I was afraid it was going to happen again.
Somehow, God gave me the grace to persevere in spite of my fear. I’d like to be able to say that everything was fine after that, but I’d be lying. Just three short months later, it did happen again, even more devastatingly, as it looked like it may have been triplets this time. And there was really no closure for me, as we had no way of knowing for sure how many babies we were mourning. And it was so difficult to make sense of it all. I mean, God was blessing teenagers and women who didn’t even want babies, and He was taking mine away! Trinity joined her/their sisters in heaven, and I was once again broken-hearted.
But the Lord put wonderful people in my life who loved me and reminded me that He is faithful, and always has a plan even though it may not always be apparent. Their faith sustained me when my own could not. And the truth is, His plan was better. Had I not struggled through all the painful emotions, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to keep trying. And had I not lost those babies, I would not have my beautiful 8-year-old son, who was born the following year. And the best thing of all? I now have at least three little saints in heaven to intercede for me, and for their dad and their siblings, before the very Throne of God.
I was fortunate to grow up with a dad who knew that suffering had value. He would always tell us to “offer it up,” whenever we were experiencing pain of some kind. Oh, how I hated hearing that! But as I got older, I began to see the truth in those words. Christ allows us to join our sufferings to His for the salvation of souls. Certainly God does not need our help, but He invites us to come alongside Him in His suffering. And in doing so, we not only contribute to the work of His Kingdom; we also become holier in the process, by getting out of ourselves. Suffering becomes a powerful prayer when offered for the sake of someone else.
We all have our own crosses to bear, and we usually don’t have a choice as to what those crosses will be, but we can always choose our response. Christ embraced His cross. We can, too. By accepting the suffering that comes our way, trusting in His divine plan, and offering our trials up as prayer, we will come to see that this is what really leads to the blessings that we all want. To think that we can be blessed without suffering in some way is not only unrealistic — it is just not good for us. As a parent, I don’t simply give everything to my children; rather, I teach them to do things for themselves, and let them know that they are not going to get what they want if it is not good for them. Sometimes, I can see the bigger picture more clearly than they can. I need to trust that this is what God is doing for me.
What I didn’t realize when I had those miscarriages is that God would use them to prepare me for something. It dawned on me years later, when I was able to be present for someone else who was going through the same thing — in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to if I had not first experienced it. And I have been able to share it as a witness at various times, even on TV once, so I have no idea who may have been impacted by it. It gave me a compassion for other women that I may not have had otherwise. And mostly, it reminded me, and continues to remind me at other challenging times in my life, that God is sovereign, and that He has a plan for my life that will be better than anything I could ever dream up.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11 RSV)