So, finally, it was time to move out of my misspelled domain name into something more grown-up. You can now find me at: http://www.libbydupont.com. See you there!
The leaves here in the northern midwest are so confused I don’t think they know what to do. In August, it was in the 60’s, in September the 80’s, and this week it snowed. The leaves, which normally are close to gone by now, are just reaching their peak. (They looked so surreal covered in snow!)
Being the deep, thoughtful person I am, I have thought a lot about the autumn leaves and their beauty. They are so bright, so bold, so fleeting. It has always struck me that they are most brilliant when they are on their way out. How much more subtle the buds are at the beginning of the spring, or the plain green leaves we take for granted all summer.
I think these leaves are like so much like the passing fads of our culture. How much time do we invest in our favorite show’s plot, a celebrity break-up, a politician’s scandal? How bright and flashy these celebs and fads are! How they demand our attention and our love! And yet, which one of us can remember the winner of the Academy Award from our senior year in High School? Who can keep track of which actor fathered which actress’ first child or which singer got arrested for which offense? And yet, how many of us spend significant time on this while neglecting the eternal things such as our loved ones and our God.
The real, life-giving and fruitful leaves are just plain green, like so much of the blessedly mundane routines that fill our lives. So, I hope that doesn’t ruin the fall landscape for you. It really is beautiful. But let’s let it fill us too with appreciation for the other weeks when there is much less excitement and much more fruit.
It’s been one of those days. I showed up for an event today (after having rearranged a few folks’ schedules to accomodate this event in my own) that isn’t until next week. And I KNEW it was on the 19th… does that even make sense? Then as I was leaving the cell phone store after reactivating my dinophone since my current one is still hiding somewhere in my house, I texted my husband to share the news. He called back, “where are you?” In the grocery store parking lot. “You’re not at soccer practice??” Crap. Isaac has soccer practice on Mondays. *sigh* The coach had even called the house to tell us it had been moved to an indoor venue on account, I assume, of the snow.
So, it’s obvious I need to carry (and frequently consult) a calendar. And not lose it in my house. But has also been striking me in similarly humiliating circumstances lately is that perhaps God is chipping away at my need to be superlady. My need to be the best at whatever I attempt. My need to do it all myself. Now, Brad pointed out to me that God doesn’t want me to screw things up. Well, yeah. Of course he wants me to do well by my employer, my family, my school. But that which he does not actively will he sometimes permits for our good. I think that might be part of what’s going on with me lately (or else I’m just going nuts).
St. Therese talks a lot about her littleness, and how much she loved her weakness, and even in a sense her sin because her great need for mercy attracts the merciful Savior. Indeed, he loves when we recognize our smallness because those are the times when we are desperate for his help. And really, our best efforts, those days when we feel we’ve got it all together, are much much much closer to days like this than they will ever be to the perfection and splendor of one act of God.
This is not to get us even more bummed out. Quite the opposite. When I realize that I can never do great things on my own, I invite the help of the One in whom all power on heaven and earth resides. That is how it becomes true that when I am weak, I am strong.
So, as I try to not let my pride pull me down into a pity party of “I should be BETTER THAN THAT!”, I will try to remember what Junior Asparagus was singing this morning as I returned from my first misadventure of the day, “Little guys can do big things, too.” With God’s help, of course.
My mother in law left yesterday after staying with us for a week. She is a delightful human being, and I always enjoy having her at our house. After school yesterday, Isaac and I were sitting at the table having snack. He wanted to write a letter to Grandma, so he dictated, and I wrote. It went something like this:
“Dear Grandma, I wish I was so fast. Faster than nothing! So that I could just speed away if another Nascar was coming toward me.” (At this point I suggested that perhaps he could thank Grandma for coming and for the much stuff she bought him.) “Thank you for my Bumblebee and Grimlock toys. Maybe next time you can get me that big Optimus Prime toy and…” Um, excuse me??
I explained to my dear one that in a thank you note is not appropriate to bring up the things the giver did NOT give. He didn’t really get it, but luckily, I was the one writing.
We struggle to teach authentic gratitude to our son. He’s American, growing up in a country that even in this difficult economic time, does not compare to many places in the world. Plus, for all practical applications, he’s been an only child for all but 6 months of his life. He’s one of only 3 grandkids on Brad’s side and is an only on mine. The kids gets a lot of stuff. By Dr. Ray’s standards, we definitely don’t filter enough of it out.
Ingratitude is ugly, isn’t it? Nobody likes a brat. That’s why we are striving to at least give Isaac the right words to seem grateful. So then I read this from I Believe in Love today: “The most cruel ingratitude is distrust”. Ouch.
How easy it is to get caught up in myself, and my busy schedule, or my weaknesses or fears or whatever and fail to trust Jesus. He does nothing but pour himself out for me, willingly becomming a victim to repair all the things I am tempted to despair over, and I reward him with mistrust. Doubt of his goodness. I am my son, at Target, holding the toy in my hand and whining for the one I didn’t get.
So, this day, I will try to remember, when I am tempted to try and chart my own course or go it alone, that Jesus really does love me. He really does have a plan… I just have to let him work it out in my life. I have to not be a brat.
Jesus, I trust in you.
I was at a beautiful benefit banquet the other night. I could spend pages telling you how inspiring it was and how wonderful the company was at my table. But I would like to tell you about the dessert. It was apple streudel, with a strawberry sitting in a dollop of whipped cream, with some yummy looking rum sauce on the side. And it was sitting on the elegantly set table when we first sat down.
I think the dessert set out on a formal place setting is like the virtue of hope. Hope, St. Paul says, is an anchor. It roots us in the reality that heaven is waiting for us once we get through this valley of tears. It reminds us that there is something greater than what we can see before us.
One other reason I think dessert is a good analogy is because the dinner we had wasn’t something I had to suffer through. I like salad, the bread was warm and yummy, and dinner was a delicious chicken, potatoes and veggies. Sometimes Christians get a bad wrap for looking toward heaven all the time, as if it indicates that we hate this life. No way! Sometimes in our own sorrows we can forget that this life is beautiful and think that it is something we have to suck up before we get to die. While we do have pain in this life, sometimes overwhelming pain, this life IS good. And it is full of joys in their due time.
Having dessert on the table reminds us not to get too full of the good things in front of us and save room for what is to come. (For instance, I didn’t finish all my potatoes just for that reason). We need to enjoy what we have here on earth, but without becomming so attached to these things that we no longer want heaven. I think this is what it means to be “in the world” but not “of the world”.
And the streudel WAS tasty!
I used to think that St. Therese’s “little way” was an easy ticket to heaven. I would hear her quotes about doing little things with great love and think it meant I didn’t really have to try to be holy. All I really need to do is love and that’s it! Great!
Then I read her book. And I got married. And two of my kids died.
I began to realize that the big sufferings in my life were actually easier to handle with love. How can you not love a baby in the PICU? The sheer magnitude of the situation brought us to our knees and required great dependence on God.
What is much harder, I have found, is doing some of those little things. Remembering to put pickles on my husband’s sandwich because that’s how he likes it. Calling back the high-maintenance parent at work right away. Wiping off the counter and stovetop for the umpteenth time this week. These things are the stuff of life, and they matter.
Not all of us will be called to do exotic or amazing things. But we all have an abundance of daily things that we hate to do. Doing these things generously out of love for Jesus and our families is, I believe, what Therese is getting at. When you read this little nun’s diary, you can see what she conquered on this plain. She is one tough cookie!
So let’s not just “practice random acts of kindness”, but premeditated acts of great love. And St. Therese, 33rd Doctor of the Church, pray for us!!
This year I attempted something that I never imagined I could accomplish: I grew tomatoes from seeds. Partially due to my neighbors’ magic potion they fed them while I was on vacation earlier in the summer, (I’m pretty sure), they have grown taller than me. I have even gotten some tomatoes off of them, though they are slow to make the transition from green to red. After a good harvest in mid August, there is now a new class on the vine, all green, playing beat the clock with the impending frost. I have my heart set on eating those remaining 15 or so tomatoes!
So, imagine my dismay when I went out on the deck yesterday to find one of my plants completely toppled over! Apparently, my makeshift method of propping up the 5-ft-tall plant finally gave out. That last leaf grew which was too much for my dear plant and it fell over, caging and all.
I have been working on my moral theology homework this week, where we have been studying virtue. Virtue is a habitual inclination to do the good. And, like a tomato plant, is built over time. Yes, we get supernatural grace for supernatural virtue, but grace still builds on nature. The ordinary way we gain virtue is through practice. We need to get used to doing a good act over and over, in all kinds of different circumstances.
The same is true for vice. We slowly build such a habit by practicing the bad act, over and over. Which is why we should not be surprised when a dysfunctional relationship suddenly boils over, or a situation which seemed under control yesterday now seems out of control. Like my tomato plant, it was just one leaf away the whole time we were adding vice to vice and it finally fell over.
Once we build up a habit of vice, we need to back peddle through all the acts we’ve built up, and that is hard! Grace aids greatly, but the acts still need to be committed rightly, over and over.
Well, after cutting off every branch that wasn’t already nurturing a tomato, I got my plant back up yesterday. Today, though, I have a more real-world situation to deal with before it bubbles over. Can you say a quick prayer for me for courage to practice virtue? Thanks!