Tag Archives: St. Therese

5mm: Not Lovin’ Being Little

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.

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5MM: The Little Flower is no wilting violet

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!!

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What do you desire?

There have been times when I have stayed away from the computer in order to take time to deal with deep, spiritual “issues” before commenting on them.  This time, I was redecorating.  So, no worries.

It occurred to me one night when tucking Isaac into bed that he is four and a half and is still sleeping in a toddler bed.  We have my old (but still in great shape) twin mattress in the basement, and it only makes sense to move it upstairs before our son’s lack of nocturnal mobility stunts his growth.  The idea of making a change to his room, however, made me take a different look at it: it was decorated with baby animals.  The ones we picked out when he was in utero.  Kind of inappropriate for a superhero.  This is what started my “Trading Spaces” week. 

With school starting soon, I knew I didn’t have any time to lose, so I planned to pick out all the stuff I needed in one day.  After an unsuccessful trip to the fabric store and a desperate prayer to St. Gianna, I did accomplish my goal.  I found (and haggled for) a bedspread at the red store, picked out green paint and painting supplies at the orange store and rounded out the day with curtains from the blue store.  That was Saturday.  On Sunday I painted, Monday I removed the tape, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I worked out the fun decorating details.  The room turned out really cute.  Perhaps I’ll break from the spiritual stuff in an upcoming post to give you my Martha Stewart project ideas. 

Anyway, the point is I was super motivated to do the room.  I love being creative and I love my son, so it was a labor of love.  It was with this in mind that I read the following passage from I Believe in Love.  “In order to give Jesus love for love, we must be souls of  desire.” I thought about the zeal with which I spray painted things and searched thrift stores and even carefully cut down the painter’s tape to finish Isaac’s room and suddenly felt like crap.  Why do I not work as enthusiastically for Jesus as I did on this project? So many saints were men and women of such burning desire for the Lord, and I can barely get my butt out of bed in time for prayer or Mass.

Yet there are different kinds of desires, I realized as I thought and prayed more on the topic.  Clearly, there are deeper desires in me than that of wanting to author a reality-TV-worthy decorating project.  I desire a great marriage, for example.  Further, just because something is not done with excitement does not mean it is not an act toward reaching a desired goal.  Actually, I think it indicates a greater desire to act despite our feelings.  Whose marriage could survive (much less be life-giving) if they only acted on happy feelings?  Is it not a great expression of deep desire for a great relationship when spouses  forgive one another, or to do chores they hate for the good of the family?  So when we are talking real desires, the fact that we don’t always feel like doing our duty does not mean that we don’t desire the end.  If we do what we should do anyway, it actually indicates that our desires are very strong.

Which brings me back to my desire for Jesus.  The fact that I don’t always feel like praying doesn’t necessarily indicate that I don’t desire Jesus.  It means I’m a human.  At times it is perfectly acceptable to do our religious duties out of, well, duty.  Just like we do with diapers or carpools or meal preparation.  These tasks speak love when done faithfully.  And frankly, they cannot be done faithfully if they are avoided when we don’t “feel like it”!  But Fr. d’Elbee also warns, “Routine, terrible routine, is the daughter of apathy.  In order to rise out of mediocrity and lukewarmness, renew your desires.”  If our duties to God become only empty duties, then we need to take a step back and remember the desire God has placed deep in our hearts: holiness.  Perfection.  Two things we will fall short on every time. 

So why even try? Because acknowledgement of our weakness is the very pathway to greater desire and ultimately, greater holiness.  It’s called humility.  Humility was the path that the Creator of the Universe chose to take at every turn during his earthly life, and it is the narrow path he sets before those who would follow him.  Humility is not a debasement of ourselves.  It is seeing things rightly.  A truly humble soul realizes that he is a sinner deserving death who instead has received the fullness of the life of God.  The humble man  sees God for who he is, in all his majesty, spending himself foolishly for those who detest, mock and beat him with their sins.  And not for an abstract “everyone”, but for me.  I am Barabbas, convicted justly and allowed to go free.  When we see thing like that, how can our desire for Jesus not grow?

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When We Reach the End…

I pronounced it this weekend: This will either be a fantastic week in our household, or else a supremely crappy one.  Brad and I both had irons in the fire, so to speak.  Both of us were to find out about jobs we’d applied for, and we were watching with particular interest for the “early this week” deadline on the job he’s been hoping for.  If he were to get the job, the holding pattern our life has been in lately would come to an end and we could finally move on with the umpteen projects that were waiting on that.  If the answer came back unfavorable, we would face the bleak reality of probable prolonged unemployment, or at the very least uncertainty, since there is not much else out there for us youth minister types. 

Add to this tension my discovery on Sunday that my wallet was gone and that it was most likely found by some unsavory citizen in the grocery store parking lot.  And then there is the upcoming anniversary of our daughter’s death.  Talk about edge of your seat.

Yesterday at 7am, the store called. Someone had turned in my wallet.  Dare I hope that more good news would follow?  No call came from Prospective Parish.  But every time the phone rang, we both jumped a little bit.  It was Father’s day off, right?

Today, Tuesday, Brad “volunteered” at his former place of employment, as a favor to his lovely wife, at our summer program.  He is a manic message checker normally, so when he answered in the affirmative to my question, “so, have you been checking messages every ten minutes?” I knew he was not exaggerating.  Hanging around at the church while our teens did service projects.  Lunch. Walking around the zoo.  Waiting for pickups.  A few calls, but not the anticipated one. By this time, it was 4:40 and we were resigned to another day of waiting.

Then, in our minivan, two minutes before arriving at our home, the cell phone rang again.  It was Father. And as we pulled in the driveway, I turned off the car and listened.  “Yes, this is he. Oh, hi, Father. Great. Yes, I could come in tomorrow. 2:30? Okay, see you then.”  In that minute-long seemingly casual conversation, we were released from this particular, 6+ month long trial.  Just like that. He got the job.

We literally jumped up and down in our driveway.  Finally, something to celebrate! This time God said “yes” to what we wanted, too! Instead of a party for something we know in our hearts is good, but is sad and awkard and kind of sucks, we can actually invite people to our home to celebrate something that makes us happy.  Hooray!

An instant can change our lives for good or for evil.  As the evil moments have for us, this one also made me think about heaven.  Being suddenly set free from this burden made me think of how crabby I was last night under the stress of all this.  How many times I cried out in frustration and anger that God would allow such a trial after I felt I had already reached at least a decade’s quota worth.  In my joy, I felt a certain regret for not weathering the suffering as well as I could have.  I am left wondering if I gained all the merit God held out for me in this trial, now over. 

Here’s how that relates to heaven.  If this is a sense I get from some relatively mild trial, what will it be like at the end of my life, when in an instant I am released from the burdens of sin and death and sorrow, and every tear truly is wiped away.  Will that joy, too, be tinged with regret for the missed opportunities to have trusted more, loved deeper and given more sacrificially?

Someone recently quoted something (that’s good source citing, isn’t it?), that made me picture our trials as God coaxing his little one to climb one rung higher on the playground so that he could brag about how high the child jumped.  Or perhaps God putting his kid into Honors Math, even though the child struggles, so that his full potential could be realized.  He makes us go through hard things not to punish us or to be mean and vindictive, but because He is anticipating with delight how proud He will be of us (and us of ourselves) when we accomplish that which we did not know we could do.  He’s there through the whole trial.  He knows how hard it is for us, but that it will turn out okay.  He is waiting to brag about us… and in His waiting He is already proud of us. 

So, as we accepted the times when God “takes away”, we will accept the sweeter “give” that is ours for now.  And I will not be too hard on myself for not handling the waiting perfectly, since as St. Therese says, our weaknesses just make Him love us more.  But I do want to remember this feeling of relief, this perspective from safety, so that it may deepen my confidence and trust in Him for the next time He asks me to take a big leap.

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