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Hey friends, check out my guest post featured on CarolynAstfalk.com

As the author of Catholic fiction for teens and young adults, I find myself in a constant battle of the wills. There’s this desire to delight the reader with an entertaining and relatable story, while still remaining focused on pleasing God and sharing His Word. Some may not think this much of a challenge, but when you reflect on the world we live in, as well as what passes for entertainment these days, hardly a fraction of it would be considered godly. In fact, entertainment is so focused on stories that do everything but promote God’s word, or worse, indulge in ideas that are contrary to God’s word.

When it comes to teen fiction, it’s all about rebelling against everything that used to be considered good, promoting dark and destructive themes, and introducing attractive characters with sinister desires. I could throw out a list of examples, but that wouldn’t be fair, or even necessary, quite frankly. I’m confident you know what novels, past and present, I’m referring to.

That’s life, some people will rationalize. That’s the world we live in. Well, yes, it is. But is it the world we should be living in? Is it the world that God wants us to live in? Is it a world we should be promoting? Is it one we should be celebrating?

Scripture tells us that we should be careful about what we put before our eyes. In 2 Corinthians 7, St. Paul reminds us, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.” To cleanse ourselves means to ensure that nothing unholy fill our minds or our lives. That’s not easy for us to do when we’re constantly bombarded with unclean and unholy images all day long. There’s only so much we can control, but we can certainly limit the unholy and instill within us God’s glory in so many other ways, including the books that we choose to read.

So, does that mean that Catholics should only read novels about good people doing good things in a world where real life messy doesn’t occur? Well, of course not. That wouldn’t be realistic. And besides, Catholic authors are real people living in the real world. Regardless of how much some of us wish to isolate ourselves from this current post-Christian society, we feel deeply about our role in this world. We are aware of the real world issues that teens are dealing with, whether they’re emotional or physical. We understand temptation, loss, insecurity, loneliness, lust, heartbreak, crushes, drugs, premarital sex, depression, suicide and so many other dark aspects of the world that are confusing and consuming for teens and young adults. But we take the dark and we add light.

Writing is a vocation for us. It’s a ministry. Personally, I believe that the Lord sprinkled the gift of writing upon my head and now I must use it to glorify His name. I am to take the world as it is and place God into the center of it where He belongs. I’m to create real lives the way they should be lived in the hopes that teens are inspired and instill the virtues and values into their own lives. Continue reading…

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Catholicmom.com: Sharing Christ’s Way in a Sexualized Culture, One Novel at a Time

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch is Featured on CatholicMom.com

Are You Aware of This Sad and Naked Truth?

 

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Find out what the Teaching Virtues Through Fiction Series is all about!

The virtue of modesty plays a huge role in my novels. Before we start, let’s be clear that modestly is a close relative to humility, but they are not the same. Ironically, modesty is very much understated in our world today, yet immodesty is overly defended by those with a “If you have it, flaunt it” attitude. And not just in reference to clothing.

In the first book of my Faith & Kung Fu series, Freeing Tanner Rose, the subject of modesty is most evident; although the virtue is carried through to the second book, and likely will continue throughout the series. Gabriel is the main protagonist in this book series, and he is the epitome of modesty.

A boy? I hear you ask. Isn’t modesty reserved for girls? Well let’s find out!

MODESTY IN APPEARANCE. Let me explain something here. Gabriel is gorgeous. He’s got dark hair that falls into his crystal blue eyes. He has a face that takes your breath away, and a smile that quickens the heartbeat. And he has an athletic physique. He’s an expert in kung fu, after all. But what makes him the most attractive? His amazing modesty. He knows that God gave him his face and his physique, and so he takes no credit for it. Faith and Tanner discuss this on page 48 of Freeing Tanner Rose. Faith says, “Personality is what really defines a person, and even a beautiful person can be ugly if they’re horrible inside, and vice versa.”

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Dressing modestly. This isn’t just reflected in the fact that Gabriel doesn’t go around showing off his abs or flexing his biceps (FTR p. 47), and you know he could if he wanted to. And it’s not because he’s ashamed of his body. He just doesn’t want girls ogling at him and conjuring up lustful thoughts about him, and yes, girls do that too! Gabriel knows that when God created man, He made something good; something beautiful. And we can’t take that creation and flaunt it or allow it to be lusted after. Tanner comes to realize this later in the story when she returns to the city and poses for a photo shoot, (FTR p. 156) .

Gabriel knows that his body is a temple of God and that he carries the Lord within him. He knows that in carrying Jesus on the inside, he should reflect Jesus on the outside. Let’s be clear, in dressing modestly, we’re not hiding ourselves from people. Instead, we’re presenting ourselves in a dignified way so that people see us for who we are in our hearts, and are not distracted by our physical selves. In essence, modesty means asking ourselves how much we’re willing to reveal for the sake of our dignity. Miss Ruth explains it to Tanner when she says, “I have noticed that you’re not a spinster, Tanner. Just be careful about what you are saying about yourself.” (FTR p. 27)

MODESTY MEANS REFRAINING FROM FLAUNTING our wealth or possessions. When we’re focused on our wealth and we live for the latest trend or fashion, -and Tanner evidently does- we create for ourselves a false god. We live for something outside of God. We define ourselves by our wealth. Additionally, when we flaunt our wealth, we put focus on ourselves, and that is the opposite of modesty. Tanner does this on page 31 of Freeing Tanner Rose when she “pulls out a wad” of money trying to impress the sales ladies at the malls following a senseless shopping spree (FTR p.29). Flaunting is also the same as flirting, and again we see this with Tanner. We also see this with her friend Emma (FTR p.87-88), and later with Natasha (FTR p.176).

“Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; 4 rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

MODESTY IS REFLECTED IN SPEECH. Gabriel is quiet and reserved, and sure he gets frustrated and raises his voice sometimes or says something mean, but he knows when he’s wrong and he apologizes for it (FTR-p.77). He is dignified in his speech. Tanner is the opposite. She’s loud and obnoxious (FTR p.21-at the fair), and she is often rude without apology (FTR p53-camping and p.81-in the limo). In the second book in my Faith & Kung Fu series, Saving Faith, you meet Christian. And this character is also the opposite of Gabriel. He often speaks immodestly. “You know what they say about Maria,” Christian says to his friends on page 71. He’s clearly talking about a girl they are all familiar with and causing scandal in his discussions about her. Modest speech does not cause scandal. Gossip is also considered immodest speech.

MODESTY IS BEING DIGNIFIED in your demeanor. Gabriel is not a show off. He has a lot of reason to be one according to the world’s standards. But he’s not. In fact, his humility is evident when his mother or Tanner praise him and he doesn’t relish upon it (FTR p.35, p.146). He’s modest in his successes. He doesn’t boast. He doesn’t flirt or make a dramatic entrance. He does not try to be the center of attention. Again, Tanner in contrast elevates herself to a very height and self centered degree (FTR p.14, p.61, p.94). And then there’s the beginning of chapter 23 of Freeing Tanner Rose with Natasha who is brought back to earth by Gabriel’s modesty and his recognition of it’s adversary.

When we speak and act modestly, we are in turn treating people in a modest manner. We’re treating them respectfully. We’re not putting them down or making them feel bad about themselves. We’re lifting them with our words and our deeds, even if we’re not aware of it. There are many examples of this in Freeing Tanner Rose and Saving Faith, but more predominantly in the latter when you look at the difference between Christian and Gabriel. It all begins in the first tournament at the end of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2. The fighting styles between the two are reflective of their personalities in general, and more specifically in how Gabriel is more modest than Christian.

MODESTY IS BEING CONSCIOUS about what we expose ourselves to. The shows or movies we watch, the books we read, and the places we go.  It’s what we allow into our minds. Tanner’s favorite place to go is Rick Vonn’s house where all forms of immodesty present themselves. But when she tries to share the experience with Gabriel, he doesn’t understand it (FTR p.74). If we see, read, or surround ourselves with immodesty in a manner in which it is celebrated and promoted, we become immune to it.

In all its ways, modesty is about self-control. Controlling ourselves in the way we act and in the things that we do, even in tiny instances that don’t seem to matter. An example of this is a moment between Gabriel and Tanner in Freeing Tanner Rose:

Gabriel moved toward her and bent down to retrieve the paper, and as he did, he glanced discreetly at Tanner’s black patent stiletto shoes. She wore a thin gold chain on her left ankle. He stood up quickly and turned away, denying his eyes their natural tendency to gaze up. (FTR p. 12)

Modesty is about stepping back and putting the focus on God. It’s about living the way the Son did and pleasing the Father. It’s about giving Him the glory instead of yourself. The Son of God was born in a manger in a barn. He lived a very modest life. And we should do the same by living for Him and not ourselves. When people see us, they should see Him.

“Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24

LET’S BE CLEAR! Modesty is NOT about putting ourselves down or staying quiet in the corner of a room. It’s not about believing you’re inconsequential or nothing special. On the contrary; modesty shows that you have confidence in yourself, you’re strong, and you’re not pressured by your peers or by current worldly fashions. Gabriel clearly proves this. It means that you don’t have to put yourself above others of push others down in order to be relevant. You already know that you are a jewel like everyone else, because God said so.

So you see, modesty is not a girl thing; it’s a virtue that we instill within ourselves as Christians, and it should reflect all aspects of our being and our lives.  And so modesty is everything we as Christians should strive for.

 

***

The books referenced in this post were Freeing Tanner Rose and Saving Faith from my Faith & Kung Fu Series. Free discussion questions are available for both:
Freeing Tanner Rose Discussion Questions
Saving Faith Discussion Questions

For more Catholic fiction reflecting this theme, check out the comments below!

Join the discussion!
Call out to Catholic authors of fiction for teens and young adults. Have you written a Catholic novel that encompasses the subject of modesty? Please share in the comments below, listing the titles and including a brief description of how it’s presented in your fiction.

For more on the titles listed in this post and others, as well as their educational themes, visit Catholic Teen Books For Teachers 

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     Previously published in Catholicmom.com August 6, 2012

“Then why are we here?” Eva asked.
“You are here…” he began to say, and then wondered how much should really be said.
“You are here because God sent you to me.”
“Oh David!” Benedict protested and was about to walk away.
“It’s true,” David insisted, looking back at the boys. “Your mothers and fathers, for some reason or another, couldn’t do it right.”
“Do what right?” Tommy asked.
“Take care of you…they just didn’t have it in them. They weren’t strong enough.”
“Smart enough,” Tommy muttered.
“Sober enough,” Sebastian said.
“Stop,” David said gently. “Don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what? Be mad at them?” Benedict asked. He could feel his face reddening.
“No…no, you can be mad at them,” David said. “You can be mad all you want, but at some point, you need to let it go. You need to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter anymore. You need to forgive them for what they did and did not do, and you need to move on.”
“What if I can’t do that?” Tommy asked.
David thought a moment before answering. “If you can’t forgive and move on, then your feelings will grow and fester and they will eat you alive.” (The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch)

This is a snippet of the dialogue in a pivotal scene from my novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. It comes in the middle of the book and is between David and five of his foster-children, Sebastian, Eva, Tommy, Benedict, and Micah.

It was a heart-wrenching scene to write, and I confess that I cried a little as it played itself out. But it needed to happen. Recognizing the children’s cynicism is essential to the story. My hope is that young readers find the exchange emotionally stirring, although tears are optional.

Equally, I hope readers share the feelings of anguish and sorrow as each character expresses these sentiments. Why? Because if they allow themselves to feel the depths of hurt, then the opposite feelings of hope and exhilaration will be enhanced in all the moments of joy and love and relief.

My desire in this novel and future books is to capture the hearts and minds of all my readers, especially those who have experienced past adversity or those currently dealing with it. In The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, I had to offer feelings they can relate to. And tweens and teens experience so many emotions as they transition from child to adult. Imagine the additional torment that a foster child experiences, or a child dealing with loss or abuse or neglect.

It’s possible that many of my readers will recognize themselves, or a fraction of themselves, in one or all of the characters. If they’re able to form such a relationship, they can tag along as each character journeys through the trials and tribulations that eventually deliver them to God and His unconditional love.

I’m an advocate for overcoming adversity. It’s not an easy endeavor, even in the least extreme circumstances. But nothing is impossible with God. And the premise of this novel is based on, Philippians 4:12-13, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

My prayer is that The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch is an inspirational read and that each young reader gets from it what they need. So far, I’ve had positive feedback. One reviewer, author, Holly Michael recently wrote:

“This heartwarming novel leads readers, along with the characters, on a route toward God, toward His love, and toward healing and the hope of living a fulfilled life. And for those already rooted in Christ, the novel will surely be a faith-strengthener.” (Writingstraight.com)

Another reviewer, homeschool mom, and blogger, Catherine wrote that this novel has worthy teachable moments. I concurred in a post titled, The Many Teachable Moments in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch,” and listed them out. They include finding strength in God, staying pure in love, and accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Catherine added:

“In addition to a delightful read, there are a few uplifting messages revealed in these pages.  For me, the most important was that faith is the only sure anecdote for anxiety.  Coming in closely behind were the ideas that God waits – and that where there is life, there is hope.” (Ourvillageisalittledifferent.com)

One thing I didn’t expect when writing this novel was that it would be inspiring to adults. I’d intended the story to be for tween, teens, and young adults, but grandparents and parents alike have voiced their positive feedback. Additionally, homeschooling parents have praised the book.

I had many hopes, prayers, and dreams when writing The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, and I believe that the final story exceeds my ultimate expectations. This was primarily because many of the scenes, although inspired by me, came to life and directed themselves. I didn’t know the whole story until it was written. I didn’t know the characters until they introduced themselves to me. I didn’t even know how God would make His appearance within the story, until He revealed Himself in my words.
It was a pleasure to write this novel, and I hope that it’s as much a pleasure to read.

If you loved this, then you’re sure to like…

“Saving Faith” Featured on Catholicmom.com Book Notes

Catholicmom.com: Sharing Christ’s Way in a Sexualized Culture, One Novel at a Time

The Many Teachable Moments in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch”

Visit me on social media for more news and reviews on my Catholic fiction or just to say hi:
Facebook: facebook.com/TMGaouette
Twitter: @TMGaouette

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Hey friends! Check out my book trailer for my recent release, “Saving Faith.” Enjoy!

 

You may also be interested in:

Freeing Tanner Rose-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

 

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*Note to youth leaders and teachers: You can pick and choose the questions depending on the purpose of your instruction and the age group of your students/readers.

Character development:

Characters-specific: Determine which characters you wish to discuss, either from the list given or others- Gabriel, Faith, Christian, Nina, Adam, Miss Ruth, Tanner

How important was self-control in this novel?

Compare and contrast the characters Faith and Nina.

Explain the relationship transition between Faith and Christian.

Compare and contrast how Gabriel and Christian used Kung Fu.

In what ways did Gabriel struggle with his own advice?

Describe how Christian’s lack of control was destructive, specifically when it came to kung fu and his relationships with his father and Faith.

Describe the struggles of each of the following characters and how they relate to each other and the theme of the book as a whole- Faith, Gabriel, and Christian.

Why was Faith’s transition so difficult for Nina to endure?

Do you see any similarity between Faith’s struggle with her faith and Gabriel’s? Explain.

How do you feel about the return of Tanner Rose?

Which character was your favorite and why?

Which character do you feel was the strongest emotionally and why?

Characters-general:

Were you able to relate to any of the characters portrayed and in what way?

Were the characters believable?

Was there any experience in the novel that you feel you can apply to your own life experience?

Do you find this novel valuable? Explain your response.

Which character made the biggest transition, in your opinion?

Which character made the smallest transition, in your opinion?

Spirituality:

How is the verse Romans 12:2 reflected throughout this story?

In your opinion, how well does the author portray the presence of God in the everyday lives of the characters?

Is the author successful in presenting faith in a relevant and relatable way?

Give an example of each of the following Catholic values and explain where they were best presented in the novel: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility

 

Book Structure:

Discuss some of the narrative devices that the author uses? E.g. Flashbacks, foreshadowing, third person narration, plot twists, dialogue, and imagery. Do they work?

Do these narrative devices help move the story along or are they just distracting to the story?

Style:

What can you say about the author’s writing style?

Discuss the narrative style.

What are some of the noticeable themes in the book? How did the author develop these themes? Were these methods effective?

The Author:

How well did the author take you into the story?

Was the use of description effective?

Could you envision each character?

Could you envision the setting?

Did you find this novel enjoyable?

Would you recommend it to a friend? Explain your response.

Does this book prompt you to want to read more from this author?

 

Quotes:

Which character quote did you find most effective?

Which character quote do you feel is the defining message in the novel?

 

.PDF VERSION of book study for Saving Faith

Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

You may also be interested in:

Freeing Tanner Rose-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

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saving-faith-cover

Saving Faith is featured on Book Reviews and More. If you’ve read the book or like my work, please leave a comment and share it with others.

Sometimes when you return to a series, especially if it has been more than 2 years there is a little trepidation. I have read many series that ended up going downhill after the first book. Especially if the first book, Freeing Tanner Rose, was so good that at the time I considered it one of the best Catholic Young Adult book I had read. That was not the case this time. And returning to the small town and characters in the Faith and Kung Fu series was like visiting with friends that you have not seen in a long time.

Like book 1 in this series this is an intense read but for very different reasons. Instead of being about someone who has not ever really interacted with people of faith, and helping them turn their life around. This book is about a girl named Faith, who has always been a Christian, a good Catholic girl. He brother is a Catholic and her parents raised her well. But all of a sudden she is making some bad choices, some very bad decisions. She has started blowing off her closest friend. She is making jokes and disparaging remarks about things she believed and was committed to previously. She is interested in a guy with a wicked temper and who has hurt her and left bruises. The boy she is interested in named Christian, is on a Kung Fu Scholarship at their Catholic school. He does not have any faith, and a lot of anger. When he is suspended from school for fighting, Faith has the idea that he can continue to train with Gabriel at the local dojo. And like his namesake the angel, maybe Gabriel can save Faith, even from herself, and maybe, just maybe even be able to influence Christian to help his change course.

There are a number of strengths to this book and the series. First are the characters. Gaouette does an excellent job fleshing out her characters. They are real, and very well written.   Read more of this review and others at Book Reviews and More

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new-release-saving-faith-tm-gaouette

“Saving Faith” is the second book in my Faith & Kung Fu series and it follows the first story, “Freeing Tanner Rose.” In this new novel, we see more of Faith who is feeling very confined in her faith. The story explores many subjects including worldliness, self-control, friendship, dating, and forgiveness, among many others. I will be discussing this novel further and including a list of book study questions.

You can find free book study questions on my previous novels: Freeing Tanner Rose and The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch.

Blessings, TMG

If you loved this, then you’re sure to like…

 

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