The Book Pile: March 23-29

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Finished

The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews /Mystery and Manners – Flannery O’Connor

I’m sticking these two together because I basically have the same thing to say about both of them. First thing: I really enjoyed both of these. I mean, I knew I was going to enjoy Mystery and Manners, but I wasn’t too sure about the other book, because, well, I never read book reviews!

Pretty much.

Like I said last week, Flannery isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, which is actually harder than it looks. At least, for me it is. But reading these reviews has inspired me to be more discerning and to think about what I read/see/hear, instead of apathetically taking it all in like I normally do. I know that I am sometimes almost afraid to speak up if something is not that great, because I don’t want to discourage people. But sometimes things are so badly done that it’s almost worse to not speak up (*coughSonOfGodcough*). I’m not saying we should be tearing them a new one, but it’s probably better to be charitably honest instead of lying and fawning all over something just because it’s done by a Christian or has to do with Christianity. I don’t know. I have Many Thoughts about this, and they probably need their own blog post.

 

Abandoned

The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikubu: Welp. It’s official. 11th century Japan is Not My Thing. I kept getting lost and bored with all the staring at moonlight and contemplating blossoms….the only thing this novel made me want to contemplate was the inside of my eyelids.

I’m nothing if not stubborn, so I soldiered on for about 100 pages after I lost interest, but in the end I just couldn’t take it and had to give up. Womp womp.

Up next
A Prayer Journal – Flannery O’Connor : I put this book on hold ages ago and promptly forgot about it until I read this post on one of my favorite blogs, which made me want to read it even more. Well, what do you know. Two days later, I got the magic email of magic that said it was finally in! Serendipity FTW. It’s much slimmer than I expected, but I’m already loving the little bit I’ve read so far.

 

The Second Coming – Walker Percy : Marie recommended Walker Percy to me last week after I mentioned that I liked Flannery O’Connor, because Southern Catholicism, that’s why. I picked this up at random.

 

On Such A Full Sea – Chang-Rae Lee : Sometimes I place holds on books and then completely forget about them. And by “sometimes” I mean all the time. I have no memory of requesting this book, but it looks so interesting. Way to go, past self!

From the jacket:

“In a long-declining future America, abandoned urban neighborhoods have been repurposed as secure, self-contained labor settlements of contented workers–descendants of those brought over en masse many years earlier from environmentally ruined cities in China–devote their lives to the cultivation of pristine produce and seafood for the wealthy residents of the elite walled villages that lie outside….Within one of these labor settlements…lives Fan, an almost mythically gifted female fish-tank diver. When the man she loves disappears, Fan shocks her community by leaving the safety of its gated walls to go in search of him, crossing from one world into another, and another, and another.”

Go me! This is totally up my alley and I’m psyched to read it!

What are you reading this week?

Be It Done Unto Me

 

"The Annunciation" by Fra Angelico

“The Annunciation” by Fra Angelico

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Today is the solemnity of the Annunciation, when our Blessed Mother gave her trusting “Fiat” to the angel Gabriel, and changed the course of history. How wonderful!

When I try to imagine the Annunciation, it almost always ends up as a meditation on how badly I would have reacted if the angel Gabriel had shown up in front of me and given me a message like that. I can see it now:

Gabriel: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Me: WHAT NOOOOOO

Gabriel: The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.

Me: WHAT NOOOOOO

Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

For the past year or so, I’ve been working on trusting God. This has turned out to be much, much harder than I expected. I am a worrier by nature, and it’s hard for me to “let go and let God.” This aspect of my personality, combined with some past experiences that were deeply discouraging and upsetting, led to some extreme fear of God’s will for my life. I was terrified of losing the illusion of control. I took no risks. I only loved those who I was absolutely sure loved me back. I barely prayed. Oh, I went to Mass, recited the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully, joined in the occasional Rosary. But I’m sorry to say that it was mostly out of habit and fear of God’s wrath if I neglected these things. I only sincerely prayed for one thing every day, without fail: “Please, please, God, don’t change anything about my life! I can’t handle it!” In other words: be it done unto me according to my word. I spent almost all of my time inside the carefully constructed prison of my fears and insecurities, and I might as well have been dead.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

I had somewhat of a breakthrough a few months ago because I was given the scariest, hardest penance I could think of at the time.

What was this terrible awful penance, you ask?

The sweet Italian priest downtown told me to go into the pew after he absolved me, look at Jesus in the monstrance and tell Him, “Jesus, I trust in You.”

You cannot imagine how my heart sank. Couldn’t I walk across hot coals or say a million Rosaries or something? Anything but…THAT. I proceeded to wobble out of the confessional, into the pew, and have a (thankfully, silent) crying breakdown. It might sound a bit silly, but I was terrified of letting go. Not because I believed that God would ever, ever do anything to hurt me; rather, telling Jesus I trusted Him meant that I would have to begin to forgive those who had hurt me, including myself. Especially myself.

I sat in that pew for what felt like a hundred years, shaking and sobbing and trying to summon the courage to do my penance. Father was maybe five minutes away from coming out of the confessional for Benediction, and my time was running out. Finally, finally, I forced myself to lock my eyes with the Host, and (somewhat unsuccessfully) pushing down my insecurities and fears, in my mind, I haltingly whispered the words.

“Jesus….

(help help help)

….I…

(I can’t do this anymore, I just can’t)

…trust….

(wait wait wait stop it stop it)

…in….

(too late to turn back now)

……………………You.”

 

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Relief is an understatement for what I felt. I had been carrying the huge, heavy load of my imaginary future for so long, that I hardly knew what to do now that it was out of my hands. It was out of my hands. This was terrifying and exhilarating. I didn’t have to worry about Screwing It All Up, because I had given “it” to the One who loved me beyond imagination. I must have been slightly hysterical, because I began to shake with laughing sobs in the middle of Mass until at last I was utterly worn out emotionally. All that was left was gratitude. Thank you, God, for not leaving us to ourselves. Thank you, Blessed Mother, for the glorious example of your “Yes.”

I wish I could say that after that experience, I was magically able to trust God in everything ever, no matter what. Haha. No. This is something I wrestle with daily, and I will probably struggle with it for the rest of my life. In Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, there is a line about falling “into the kindly hands of the Father.” He continues, “If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One who loves you.” Even though I will certainly suffer and fall during my life, I know and believe with all my heart that no matter how often I fall, I will always fall into the kindly hands of the One who has loved me since the beginning of time, and who sent His Son into the womb of the Blessed Mother, so that I might never be parted from Him.

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

The Book Pile – March 16-22

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So here’s a new thing. At the end of 2013, I realized that I really hadn’t read too many books, which was a bummer. It was a bummer because I used to be the person who *always* had her nose in a book, and somehow, over the years, I had lost touch with that girl. No me gusta. So I declared 2014 to be THE YEAR OF THE BOOK. My goal was to read at least 52 books, but I got into the swing of things real quick, because I’m already at 24. Holla! I haven’t decided what my new goal is; I guess I’ll decide on that when I actually do reach 52 books!

Finished:
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The Tale of Murasaki – Liza Dalby : I checked out The Tale of Genji at ye olde local library on a whim, and then found this book at the Goodwill a couple of days later. Who can resist such a good case of literary
serendipity, especially when it involves historical fiction? Not I. If I’m being super honest, I got lost a couple of times, what with so many -shos and -takas and -shis. It also slowed wayyyy down towards the end, which was a bummer. But the author definitely knows her 11th century Japan, and it shows. Actually, it says on the back cover that she was the only Westerner to ever become a geisha. Say whaaat?
Does a book about that exist? Because I would be all over that.

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Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer : This book gave me nightmares, y’all. (That’s a good thing) I was so excited and NERVOUS to read this, because I’d seen it hyped up so much everywhere, and I was afraid of it not living up to the hype, like so many other books. (*coughcough* The Luminaries *coughcoughcough*) Annihilation definitely did *not* disappoint. It’s about this all-female team of explorers that set out to explore Area X, which has been cut off from their world for years. They are actually the twelfth expedition; many of the other expeditions have ended in disaster. One thing I liked was that I as a reader was discovering Area X at the same time as the narrator, and at various points I was yelling WAIT WAIT WHAT JUST HAPPENED. I never say this, but I hope they make this into a movie one day. Yes. It was *that* good. This is the first of a trilogy, and let me tell you, I absolutely. cannot. wait. for the next one in May. Time, y u no go faster?!!?

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Everything That Rises Must Converge – Flannery O’Connor : I have a confession to make: the first time I read something by Flannery O’Connor (I think it was Wise Blood) a few years ago…I hated it. I know, I know! I don’t even remember why I hated it, but on one of my trips to the library last week, I decided to give it another go with a different book. I’m glad I did, because this was great! It’s definitely not a “feel-good” book; Flannery drags her characters through hell and back in order to bring them to self awareness. My favorites in this collection were “The Enduring Chill”, “The Lame Shall Enter First”, and “Revelation.” The stories are dark and hilarious and honest, and I am now on a READ ALL THE FLANNERY kick, as you can see below.

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This Year You Write Your Novel – Walter Mosley : So I read a blog post somewhere last week about binge-reading, and decided to give it a whirl. I picked a skinny book at random from the library shelf and sat down to speed-read the whole thing or at least skim it hard. It was filled with all this basic stuff about writing which was…helpful?…I guess? I don’t know if I picked the wrong book or what, but I was like, welp, there’s 45 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

In Progress:

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The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews – Flannery O’Connor : This is a collection of book reviews that Flannery wrote for her diocesan paper. I’m about halfway through, and I love that she isn’t afraid to basically say, “Hey, this book really sucks,” instead of fawning all over something just because it’s Catholic or written by a Catholic. Bad writing is bad writing, y’all.

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Mystery and Manners – Flannery O’Connor : This is a book of essays/articles that were collected after Flannery’s death. From what I can tell from the table of contents, it looks like they are mostly on writing fiction, but it also contains her famous “The King of the Birds,” an essay on raising peacocks. I’m anxious to start this one, if only to wash that boring ass Walter Mosley book out of my head.

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The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikubu : Like I said before, I spotted this at the library and when I saw the thick spine and tiny print, I did what any respectable bookworm would do and said CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. I’m slightly nervous to read it, since I kept getting lost while reading “The Tale of Murasaki.” We’ll see how it goes.

What are y’all reading right now?

7 Quick Takes: Well Hello There

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ONE
Hi. I’m Liz.
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Nice to meet you!

TWO
Some stuff about me really quick:I’m a Catholic, and I really, really love everything about the Church. I also enjoy reading, writing, crochet, tea, coffee, baking, making jam, the internet, and oh! Many, many other things. All the things.

THREE
I live in Texas. It’s an awful lot of fun!

FOUR
I started this blog so that I could attempt to spread a little more joy around the interwebs. Sometimes I also blog over at The Cath Sisters Blog.

FIVE
Lately, I’ve been listening to ALL the Nelly songs, thanks to this exchange on Twitter that happened a couple of days ago:
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This is why they’re my favorites.

SIX
I can’t wait to start sharing things with you! 🙂

SEVEN
Go see Jen for more Quick Takes! Have a lovely day!

When Francis Became Pope

popefrancishi

I cannot not NOT believe it’s been a year since Pope Francis was elected! How is that possible? To be honest, the days leading up to his election are a bit of a blur. I was wild with grief badly shocked when Pope Benedict XVI abdicated, and I was definitely still in a weird state of mourning, even though he hadn’t died. I do, however, vividly remember when and where I was when he was elected!

My mom and I had gone to Hobby Lobby to just poke around and dream up some new projects (we’re both very into arts and crafts!). As we were walking through the mall to get lunch, we saw one of the TVs turned to CNN or something, and they were showing St. Peter’s Square! We had a new pope!

Mom and I raced down the stairs to the TV. There were already five or six people gathered around, waiting to see who had been elected. Hey, it’s not every day that we get a new pope! My mom especially remembers this one man who worked in the mall who kept coming up with excuses to leave work so that he could check if the new pope had come out yet. It took over an hour, during which they showed pictures and a bit of background on then-Cardinal Bergoglio. I was THRILLED that he was from Argentina! I furiously texted everyone I knew, Catholic or not, telling them to turn on their TV. Finally, finally, he came out! Mom and I grabbed each other’s hands, and I definitely got teary. The sound was off (darn mall TV!!!), but the captions were on, and we, along with the rest of the world, watched as the new pope greeted us and asked for our prayers. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live!

Where were you when Francis was elected?