It’s the HOUSE in Housewife That Always Gets Me…

Scheduling the plumber, schlepping my college kid’s 14 year-old clunker to the repair shop, endless laundry, friends in crisis, carpool runs to and from summer camps, Dr. Mom duties for the sick and injured, short order cook, bum knee throbbing, bill paying—that’s a glamourous synopsis of my week.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got an amazing life.  It’s just that some days I forget that.  Some days are like one I had last week where I just never sit down, never stop folding, cooking, consoling or cleaning until fairly late.  Usually those are the days when someone I am related to will inevitably ask, “So, did you do anything today?”  The particular night I recall now, I noticed at about 10pm when I finished the dishes that my entire family was downstairs watching some goofy movie.  I decided I would join them.  Kid you not, I was downstairs in my seat MAYBE 15 minutes when they started asking for “old fashioned” popcorn (a true delicacy with the Thieme men).  They begged and whined.  It was pathetic but my energy was too low to even fight them.  I just got up, went upstairs and made the popcorn.  I delivered it to their beautiful hungry hands (I mean they hadn’t eaten in at least an hour)….then I went upstairs to bed and just cried myself to sleep.

COME ON WOMAN.  Get over yourself!  RIGHT?

Because I tend to put a Jesus frame around all things, I immediately saw in myself some unflattering gaps in my holiness.  “Don’t be Judgy McJudgerson. Just cut that shit out.”  That’s what I literally had to say to myself about myself, lest the evil dude from Hades would have had me in his grips quickly.

I doubt I’m the only one who whines to herself occasionally about how no one appreciates, no one notices, no one asks me how I am….blah, blah, blah.  I am PRETTY sure, though, that Mary wouldn’t be too impressed with my whining about laundry, dishes and popcorn given that I’ve read the whole “Magnificat” deal a few hundred times. Spoiler alert:  She just found out she’s an unmarried pregnant teenager and she OOZES joyfulness so beautiful it will overtake you. Unfamiliar?  Read it in Luke 1: 46-55.

Here’s my point, folks.  I decided I needed a HOW TO GET OVER YOURSELF manual. I then planned to place it in a prominent location. I googled it and I didn’t find one.  So, I’ve been thinking about the things that help me quickly find the version of myself that I enjoy being around.  I’ve compiled my list, and I have decided to share. Maybe there are one or two of you who could find something here that’s useful.  I find I don’t have to get very far down the list to feel SO MUCH better, SO MUCH more grateful.

Perhaps there are more of you who would like to share your own tips with me.  Please.  I beg you.  SHARE WITH ME ALL YOUR POSITIVITY SECRETS.  More is definitely more.  I love you all and so does the Lord.  You are HIS BELOVED children.  Don’t ever forget it.

SHELLY’S “HOW TO GET OVER YOURSELF” LIST:

1. TELL SOMEONE YOU LOVE THEM

2. READ SOMETHING INSPIRING

3. GET SWEATY

4. ROCK OUT TO SOME LOUD MUSIC

5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE—THANK SOMEONE IN PERSON OR IN A NOTE

6. RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS

7. LAUGH

8. PERSPECTIVE—YOU HAVE IT PRETTY GOOD COMPARED TO WHO?

9. PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE YOU THOUGHT OF IN #8

10. RECEIVE THE SACRAMENTS—GOD’S GRACE IS A CURE ALL

The Knee Brace

Meandering across the church parking lot waiting for kids to come out of school, I ran into another carpool mom, a woman with whom I am familiar, but we are not close friends.

Oh gosh! What happened to your knee? Are you okay?

The moment I asked, I kind of regretted being nosy. Classic Shelly, I thought.  However, then came her truly hysterical reply.

Honestly, I am totally fine. It’s just that I am SO incredibly out of shape that I can barely breathe even walking super slow on the treadmill.  With the brace on my knee, people will assume I am rehabbing and working out is less humiliating.

HAHAHAHAHA!! You are both funny and brilliant!

I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. I so completely identified with this authentic, sunny woman.

How many of us feel both ashamed and humiliated by the shape we are in, by the way we look? If it’s not that, then it’s something else, right?  Based purely on the utterly unscientific data I have collected from my “vast sphere of influence” (ie, other carpool moms, facebook, and in the stands at HS basketball games), literally EVERYONE has some issue about which they would prefer NOT to be judged.

Here’s the thing. This itty bitty slice of my life was just a fantastic reminder to me.  Never look down on anyone.  Only God sits that high.  Here’s a little quote I love, written by St. Josemaria Escriva.  He said, “If you have so many defects, why are you surprised to find defects in others?”

So this was just a tiny interaction in the carpool line. At first blush, it was just the most fantastic giggle.  Laughing is my favorite, so I shared the small story about the knee brace with a few friends.  I was hoping to share a smile.

As I looked back on that encounter, I realized it was something much more. It was God talking to me.  He does it all the time; it’s just that I’m not always listening.

Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” –St. Josemaria Escriva

Christian optimism should encourage us to demand a little of ourselves. Let’s open our eyes and hearts.  As Lent begins, this is an important struggle for us to undertake.  Responding to God’s call, being aware that we are free to do so or free to reject it, is the most wonderful experience of grace.

For instance, I found myself just this week having a conversation about the power of grace. I was trying to point out to a couple of struggling parents that the benefits of Catholic education outweigh the frustrations that they were feeling about the experience.  A woman sitting near me, who overheard part of the chat, interjected and told me she’s not religious and she isn’t sure if she believes there is a God.  She asked me why do I think there is?  It was clearly not the moment for a big theological response—which is good because that is NOT my area of giftedness.  She was judging, being cynical, and truth be told, it was clear she wasn’t really interested in my reply.  So, I just said, “Because He winks at me, ALL THE TIME.”

She put down her drink and looked at me, and said, “He does, does He? Tell me about one of those winks.”

So, I shared with her the first thing that came to my mind. I told her about hearing that a priest had been relocated from the east coast to here in Indiana, and that I had further learned he didn’t have any mass intentions.  So, I sent him an encouraging note, along with a few bucks and some mass intentions—mostly for family members who had died.  There was my grandmother who had just died, my mother in law, the parents of some close friends, etc.  The last mass intention was for myself.  I sent it off to Muncie, expecting to never hear another thing about it, but confident I’d done a good thing.

Some weeks later, I received a reply note from the secretary of this parish in Muncie. It listed all the dates of masses being said for the intentions I’d requested.  The last one listed was a mass being said for my intentions—ON MY BIRTHDAY.

I don’t know this priest, nor do I have any connections with the secretary. God just loves me so much and He wanted me to feel it.  Only He knows truly how much I love the mass.   For my birthday, He gave me the greatest gift I can imagine.  It was a God wink that took my breath away.

Mostly, I think God’s little moments for each of us are meant to be private consolations. They’re just between us and Him.  But this one came tumbling out when I heard “prove it”, so that’s my sign that it’s a Holy Spirit moment.

My little story was perhaps poorly conveyed. I kind of meandered through it, attempting to “put on a knee brace” throughout.  It’s a tad late in the game to try to hide the fact that I’m a Jesus girl, but in certain company that really does make a person feel like a unicorn.  I was exactly like that acquaintance from the carpool line.  I didn’t want to be judged, but I really wanted to do the right thing anyway.

That, folks, is the power of grace. In all our weakness, God still manages to work His magic through us in all His magnificence.  It’s pretty freaking hilarious and breathtaking at the same time when I think about it.  There I was trying to explain why I know God exists while trying to be “casual” about my Jesus girl-ness…what even is that?  Good grief.

This Lent, I plan to take a little time to fast from some things—like harsh judgements, complaining, and bitterness. It seems like a really appropriate time to focus on gratitude, kindness, and forgiveness.  Also?  Maybe less carbs.  Less carbs would be good too.

It seems kind of perfect to me this year that Lent starts on Valentine’s Day, because here’s what I want everyone to know. Know you’re loved – infinitely–by our good and gracious God.  Let all He has done out of love for YOU seep to the very center of you for the next 40 days.  Happy Lent.

 

Be Like Will.

Ummm…Drew?  Did I hear the doorbell ring at 11:30 last night?

Yeah, Mom.  You did.   All you need to know is that Oby is an amazing friend!  I gotta go!!

Ok, then.  Have a great day, D!

The above conversation was one of those “I’ve got no time and I am running late so make it quick, Mom” moments.  Every mother of an 18 year old knows what I’m saying.  In this case, my middle kid had gotten very little sleep.  He had played his basketball game and gotten home about 10pm the previous evening.  He arrived home starving, so I shoved a sandwich and some apple slices at him.  Then, he hustled upstairs to work on homework.  I knew he would be up until all hours.  His academic load is significant— by his own choice.  He’s a bright kid and a hard worker but I do worry about him.  It’s a mom thing.  Is he getting enough sleep?  Is the insane IB homework load just too much?  Would it be better for him to have more time for just being a goofy kid?  You get it.  All of us who have kids constantly have this little interior chatter.

This particular day stands out to me, because as the day wore on, I learned more details about the late night visit of one Will Oberndorfer.  It was a God wink.

Apparently, in the new world of electronic everything, there are online quizzes and apps you must have operational, plus midnight deadlines for assignments….all sorts of things I cannot imagine as I compare my son’s academic experience to my own.  I don’t even pretend to understand any of it, and I am truly thankful to God that I was born in 1971.  Pencils, paper and dogs that ate homework were all actual things back in the day.  I digress.  Anyway, on Tuesday night after Drew had his sandwich and a shower, he began his homework marathon later than normal.  It was pushing 11pm.  Shortly after plopping down at his desk, Drew realized that there was a glitch causing his computer to be unable to run some application he needed in order to successfully complete a required quiz by midnight.  He texted his friends—the other crazy young people who are also up half the night, every night, trying to finish their own work.  He was wondering if any of them knew a way to fix the computer issue.  None did.  His friend Oby offered to let Drew come over to his house and use his working computer.  Drew didn’t want to bother his buddy so late.  He then just thanked his friends anyway deciding he would have to just take the zero this time.  He would take his computer into the Guerin Catholic IT folks in the morning for a technical assist.

Then, the doorbell rang.  It was 11:30pm.

I don’t want you to take the zero.

There was Oby.  He had an operational computer for Drew to borrow to take the quiz.

Was it just a small act of kindness?  Yes.  Did it feel small to Drew?  No.

This week, God used a terrific teenager named Will Oberndorfer to remind me, again, how we can all effect positive change in this crazy, wonderful, and sometimes breathtakingly desperate world.  It’s done one kind act at a time, right in the place where you live.  Simply put:  BE THE FRIEND EVERYONE WISHES THEY HAD.

If we’re all working to be the face and hands of Christ, pretty soon it’s going to be incredibly difficult to go anywhere and NOT see how much we are ALL deeply loved by our truly awesome God.

Atta boy, Oby!  You are the REAL DEAL, kid.

Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.  –Mother Teresa

A Nation Gone Under?

When my oldest son was about four years old, another little guy in his preschool class spilled his snack and juice all over Nick’s lap.  The sweet teacher in this lovely Episcopal school was not too impressed when he screamed a four letter expletive that starts with the letter “s” in response.  I received her admonishment with not a small amount of humiliation.  Now, don’t get all “Judgey McJudgerson” on me.  Clearly, this was behavior he learned from his father.  Duh.

We all have moments of being ashamed of ourselves or feeling lost.  I clearly have little desire to share with you some of my less humorous moments of humiliation and failure, but you can trust me to give you a wrong number if you want to verify some of the finer points of this story with one Tom Thieme.  Ha?

A much more disturbing parenting story came to me courtesy of a friend this week.  Actually, I heard it from two separate gals who shared it out of deep concern for our young people.  It involved a local young man, too young to even have a driver’s permit, who was maliciously bullying a fellow student through social media.  His words, intended for a relatively small audience, were nevertheless egregiously offensive and disgusting beyond anything I have ever seen written.  The family of the kiddo who made the offensive remarks is described to me as “very nice, good people.”  Not surprisingly, the intended victim here was largely regarded by other students as being in a state of great struggle.  My stomach was in knots.

After hearing this story, and one similar to it, during the same week that I turn on the television and see little aside from coverage of the most deadly mass shooting in America’s history, I have some thoughts to share with anyone who cares to hear them.  I hope you’ll keep reading.

“Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

— John Adams, American patriot, 2nd President of the United States

Friends, if you’ve read my words before, you’ll know that I’m much more interested in laughing at life and sharing my “God sightings” than burdening any of you with my political views or lecturing anyone.  I realize that I am a sinner before God and I am interested in judging exactly NO ONE.  Therefore, I hope you will consider my thoughts here with that in mind.

Something is wrong with our country.  What’s wrong has a name.

It’s called secularism.  People are learning to live comfortably without God.

If you think you can stop reading now because ‘I’m not part of the problem”, I’d invite you to continue listening anyway.  It’s one of the most sincere forms of respect, a small act of caring.  I’d be glad to return the favor.

I feel called to echo a simple message that has been spoken by many learned and impressive folks over the last 200+ years in this country.  It feels like an important and worthy message to review today, and however inarticulately I might manage to do so, it bears repeating.

Intending to serve as a guide for his successors, in 1796, George Washington shared a farewell address that was essentially a condemnation of political parties.  That seems remarkably prophetic 221 years later, huh?  It’s a great speech.  Google it if you’re so inclined.  It’s what ELSE he said that really got my attention.

Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Translation?  The government is powerless to contend successfully with a people who lack religion, and therefore, morality.

Great statesman, Abraham Lincoln warned, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next….Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

George Washington and John Adams sound like bright gentlemen who were way ahead of their time in this regard to my ears.  Who else had some like-minded words?

In 1982, Ronald Reagan said, “We can’t have it both ways.  We can’t expect God to protect us in a crisis and just leave Him over there on the shelf in our day-to-day living.  I wonder if sometimes He isn’t waiting for us to wake up, He isn’t maybe running out of patience.”

Then, in 1984 at Reunion Arena in Dallas, Reagan continued further.  He declared, “America needs God more than God needs America.  If we ever forget that we are ONE NATION UNDER GOD, then we will be a Nation gone under.”

I watch the news and YET AGAIN find myself wincing and looking for the remote.  For the love of God, where are Chip and JoJo when I need them, I mutter silently. 

Here’s my concern. You can only come back to something you knew.  When we are on our second or third generation of being “unchurched”, there is nothing to come back to for many people when life, inevitably, throws them a curveball.  Personalized “google friendly” spirituality doesn’t help anyone build a relationship; it doesn’t speak to the emptiness even successful people feel.  Folks are doing their best.  Church or no church, Americans are largely intelligent, and grace is at work in them.  Common grace isn’t reserved for church going people.  Many of these families have been living for a generation or two with very little organized religion.  I’ve asked some questions.  I hear they’ve tried church, even a little, but left.  Maybe they go to church occasionally.  They might be Catholic in name, for example, but not in practice. They might be generous with their friends and in their community.  In the quiet of their hearts, though, there is a God-sized hole they truly may know little to nothing about.  Yet.

The kiddo I told you about earlier with the expanded vocabulary and not enough Jesus in his heart?  He was excused from his school for bullying.  My kneejerk reaction was “Good!  That’s ridiculous and cruel behavior and he deserves it!”  That interior failure of mine (demonizing a child, for goodness sakes) demonstrates how clearly I am part of the problem.  I’m working out how to pray for him and his hurting family without casting stones in my heart.  When I do that, I will love the way Jesus does.

There is no overnight solution or legislation that can be passed which will fix what is wrong with America.  Finger-wagging and judgmental blaming will not convert the hearts of people, but will only feed the demons of hatred.

My Christian friends, I propose the following as a solution.

  1. We must pray, acknowledging before God that we are a field hospital full of wounded people who don’t know what to do, but He does, and invoke His help for our nation and for the whole world.
  2. We must do a better job following Jesus, authentically, and BE THE LIGHT every single day.

Fellow parents?  We can’t act surprised when our children grow up to be confused and empty.  Do you hear me standing on some sort of moral high ground?  Then you hear me wrong.  I am not a superior Christian.  I need to work harder to put down my damn cell phone, look my own children in the eye and have all the difficult conversations.  I’m a Catholic Christian so I need to live that and love it and be transparent.  When I show up at mass, every single week, I show my children what it means to be part of a community who prays together.  I hope that shows my sons the way and they pass it along to the grandchildren I am hoping God blesses me with one day.  I’ve discussed with them that it matters that their possible future union, should God call them to married life, be entered into before God.  My measure of success as a mom to three testosterone filled goofballs is not keeping them safe.  I should try to do that too, of course.  My real task, though, is to direct them to Christ during this small window of precious time where their souls are entrusted to me.  Then, I need to pray like mad that God takes that mustard seed, makes a mountain out of it—and that you and your family do the same.

Each one of us is pitted and scarred by things that have been done to us, and things we have done to ourselves and others.  Leaders in our nation and at pulpits in our churches who are equally wounded humans say and do things which are certainly not of God— this should be of no surprise nor should it shake us from our mission.

We can be the sunshine, or we can be the darkness. Neither of those adjectives describes a political party.  I’m with Jesus.

In closing, allow me to pray for all who are reading.

Most loving Father, help all your children to know that we are your beloved sons and daughters.  Help us to know in our hearts You are love itself, that this necessarily means we are each loved infinitely more by You than even the most loving person here on Earth. Thank you, God for loving me.  Help me to know that Your grace is sufficient, no matter how dark the circumstances may appear.  Keep our hearts fixed on You that we may walk by the way of your righteousness through our time here and into eternity.  In Jesus name.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America’s Great. It is.

Those who know me well are quite aware that I adore a good book and admire terrific writing.  When I have the time, I can devour several books in a single week.  This week, because I have a kiddo who asked, I found myself curiously reviewing the humor and memorable characters of American writer, Mark Twain.  How bizarre is it that a man who’s been dead over a hundred years really got me noodling over the current state of affairs?

Mark Twain once said, “It’s better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Yet, here I go, again.

I’m a big fan of welcome mats.  Ditto, those big signs over the highway that declare things like “WELCOME TO MICHIGAN!”

What could be more simple or straight forward, right?  When I see that cheerful sign on the highway, I know I’ve arrived in the land full of blueberries and big blue water.  I believe they are happy I’m there.  I appreciate the sunny greeting and take the people of the great state of Michigan at their word.  When we’re on a road trip, we usually cheer as we pass this sign and others like it.

I believe most of us who live in these United States of America are in fact pretty darn terrific.  Although I present to you not one shred of objective proof, I believe we hold the most important things in common.  For instance, I stand by my belief that nearly ALL OF US want a bright future for our children.  We want to live in peace.  We want our families to live in a place where they love and are loved now and down the line.  Truly and utterly, I unequivocally believe this.  Things happen in every generation that shake us, it’s true.  Nevertheless, America is full of beautiful faces who are generous and amazing and loved by their Creator.

Here’s more wisdom from Twain.  “The pause—that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, howsoever felicitous, could accomplish it.”

When we pour forth negativity on whatever is happening this news cycle, or insist on pursuing our own viewpoint on social media, ad nauseum, even though our intent may indeed be righteous, I find it often is misconstrued and turns out to be divisive.  The path forward for me involves more prayer and more listening.  I’m not putting an asterisk next to my welcome mat to clarify who I mean.  I’m just not that complicated.  You’re ALL welcome.  I’m happy to have you at my tailgate party– even if your son is lined up against mine on the line of scrimmage tonight.

Usually, I’m a woman of more words than less.  Even my blog posts are usually a reliable 1000 words or more.  I’m arguing this day for the opposite.  Well, unless you are a millennial who wants to take me on over my use of the totally appropriate and not outdated double space.  I’m not old.  I’m just right.  Ha?

“I had been accustomed to vote for Republicans more frequently than Democrats, but I was never a Republican and never a Democrat.  In the community, I was regarded as a Republican, but I had never so regarded myself.  As early as 1865 or ’66 I had had this curious experience:  that whereas up to that time I had considered myself a Republican, I was converted to a no-party independence by the wisdom of a rabid Republican.  This was a man who was afterward a United States Senator, and upon whose character rests no blemish that I know of, except that he was the father of the William R. Hearst of today, and therefore the grandfather of Yellow Journalism- that calamity of calamities.”  (Autobiographical dictation by Mark Twain, 1906).

Amen, Mr. Clemens….and God Bless America.

12 Players Away From Greatness?

RaidersWin

As the parents of three boys, ranging in age from brand new teenager to very nearly 20, it’s not our first rodeo with team sports.  We’ve darn near visited every Catholic parish with a participating boys CYO team in the Indianapolis area, and I’d challenge you to come up with a baseball field in the state of Indiana we’ve not discovered.  Sweaty, smelly gyms full of basketball players?  Football gear that isn’t allowed past the garage?  Check and check.  We’ve got particular expertise in baseball purgatory over the years, as we have traveled with some marginally talented baseball teams to places far and wide with teams who could surely find plenty of other boys to beat them within 30 minutes of home.  Just sayin.

This year’s 12U baseball team is a new one for our youngest.  Changing teams periodically is kind of a baseball given.  They come together, they fall apart.  We decided to say yes to joining this one because a big chunk of the boys on the team will likely be future HS classmates of our Z-man, the practice field at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is like 8 minutes from our driveway….and well…our good buddy Steve Ferrucci was darn near going to have to drive by our house on his way there to help coach the little goofballs.  As the head of transportation at the Thieme house, I was not a bit sad about that development.

How’s the team been looking this summer?  Glad you asked! Well, I’m a big fan of the Raider uniforms, despite their place in the pole position as the most complicated hot mess in the history of sports.  Why would I be willing to overlook the 27 possible uniform combos I am surely going to screw up eventually?  Because they have a cross on the back, and every single tournament someone has asked me about that.  I love the conversations that have ensued.

I’m still working on behaving like a Christian mother should when our boys have one of those “moments” and seem to have zero clue where to throw the ball or how to catch a pop fly—and sometimes when umpires don’t know the rules.  That really bugs.  “But I’m a passionate person” is my typical response to my hubby, in the face of my extraordinary gift of volume.  What of the quality of the team, though, you wonder??  My hubby, a man of carefully chosen words, has responded to those asking that question with this apt reply.  “Well, we’re 12 players away from greatness!!”  That makes me giggle.

I really do believe and trust in God’s plan for each of us—down to the little guy baseball and all!  Yesterday was that gospel reading which includes this powerful passage about His intimate love for each of us which says “are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge.  Even all the hairs of your head are counted.  So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than sparrows.” (Mt 10) 

At the mass I attended with two of my children, the celebrant gave a powerful homily which spoke loudly to that same message about how deeply and intimately we are all loved.  It made me feel slightly guilty for joining my youngest son in a minor eye roll when they declared that this particular man of God was our celebrant for the mass.  After his well-prepared homily with the perfect message, interiorly, I heard, “How about you drop the crappy attitude and work on graciousness, huh?”

My personal holiness is really shining in this entry, ha??  Here’s the rest of the story.

If we flashback to a little over a week ago, this same little Raiders 12U baseball team was playing a game at the Field of Dreams.  Yes.  That’s actually what the ballpark is called.  (Someone else dreams differently than I do).  But, I digress.  Zach was on the mound.  He seemed perfectly healthy.  When it came time for him to bat, though, in the bottom of the 2nd, he hit a ground ball to the short stop and was trying to beat it out.  On the way to 1st base, he came up lame and fell to the ground about halfway there.  It was pretty evident he had injured himself.  The dad of one Z’s teammates is an ER doc.  He glanced over to myself and Tom and inquired, “Is it ok if I go take a look?”  We kind of laughed a little as we were both thinking, “Well, hell yeah.  What are we gonna do?  Offer him a Gatorade?”  It was the uber gracious and sunny Dave Schlueter who absolutely kept Z from passing out when he got a bit lightheaded following the incident.  Certainly, the Doc was the face of Jesus to both Zach as well as his parents that morning.

I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the doc and asked Jesus to just be powerfully present to Z as he healed and recovered.  I had barely finished the prayer when the Ferrucci’s showed up with a bag full of sports distractions and love.

The Orthopedic doc we saw declared it a hamstring injury and put him on crutches and rest.  That’s not what you want to hear when you’re a (soon to be 7th grader and) baseball guy in the middle of the summer fun.  Still, he realized it could have been much worse, and Zach handled the situation in stride.   He cheered loudly (and late into the night) for his guys this weekend and THEY WON their tourney!  He was pumped about the victory and excited to join in the fun at BW3 afterward.

Guess what happened next?

All the coaches and players signed the game ball— and gave it to Z.  It was the first thing he showed us when he returned home from the celebration.

Classy?  You betcha.  Those brand new friends are some pretty solid peeps.

So this week, as we celebrated the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, there were just SO MANY kindnesses I noticed that helped me remember that Jesus loves each of us— all the way down to our smelly, broken-down, baseball loving core.  I felt compelled to share a couple of the baseball variety, because, well, team sports teach us many things.  Some of them are amazingly good and often that gets little airplay. This group of baseball players is not the most talented group I have ever seen, but they ARE 12 GREAT KIDS.

“Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”  — Mother Teresa

Special thanks to the Fremion, Schlueter, Ferrucci, Kreiner, Modleski, McGowan, Ellery, Sevume, Quigley and Sanders families.  Kindness counts. That’s what boys learn when they are being raised by parents who model Christ’s love and value the same.

I’m Not a Project

“Of myself, O Lord, I am not able to entertain a good thought.”  — Mother Angelica

I’m a big fan of Mother Angelica.  If you’ve never heard of her, try Google.  She was a very accomplished woman, but what I liked about her most was her sense of humor and her very honest and conversational style in prayer.  For Mother, she felt prayer was primarily an unceasing daily conversation with the Divine.  She undoubtedly did it more eloquently than I do, but my prayer style is similar.  In that vain, here’s a very recent text exchange between myself and a pal.  In fact, I quickly considered her words divinely inspired in my day.

J:  Btw, you are NOT a project. You are someone’s he’s helping just like everyone else!  No more of that kind of talk outta you!

Me:  Ok, fair enough.  Clearly, I like to think of myself as extra special.

We were talking about a trainer I have been visiting, at her strong encouragement.  He’s helping me get moving again, and the bum knee I’ve been dragging behind me for a year is already seeing some improvement.  It’s a healthy and terrific choice, which Jen’s right, I should be celebrating.  When I said I was “extra special”, I was really kind of making fun of myself.  My terrific friend hadn’t really realized what she was doing, but she had engaged in a holy act of fraternal correction.

Huh?

She called me out on my BS.  She hit the hammer on the head so hard, without even knowing it, that it made me laugh aloud.  We’ve all got our flaws and this is certainly chief among mine.  I have this way of interiorly making any mistakes or sinful behavior on my own part THE GREATEST.  In my mind, I am the champion at being terrible.  Way to go, Shelly!  You win!!  You’re the worst ever in the history of horrible!?  Ha?

Choosing to invest in me is a really, really big deal in my head and heart.  It’s exceptionally difficult.  I am super proud of myself for seeking out help here and going for it.   Blink an eye writing a check for my high school kid to go workout with his basketball guy or to send my little man to some sports camp or whatever?  Nope.  I am also always genuinely thrilled for my hubby when he decides to go play a round of golf and blow off some steam.  It’s so good for them.  Doing the same for me?  The guilt makes my stomach hurt.  Even a single word from another human which might suggest selfish motivations makes me cringe and re-consider.

Seeing more clearly this week, it’s been revealed that many of my choices and thought processes have been not of God.  What I feel like God IS SAYING?  Get over yourself, Shelly.  Write the check, and do the work, and let’s keep talking.

Sharing this lays me a little bare.  Here’s the thing.  I think a lot of women have this interior chatter which is similarly unhelpful.   Their particular issue or need might be different from mine, but for whatever reason, we aren’t worth it, or we don’t deserve it, or we just plain stink.  To God though?  We are His.  Simple as that.  When I love His daughter as I should, I am loving Him.

The same goes for you.

Love your neighbor as yourself?  The Golden Rule has long made me squeamish.  I actually had a close friend tell me it should be amended to read Love yourself as your neighbor.  The thing is, we can’t really do what God wants us to do with that mindset.  She’s the one who made me realize I’m not the only goofball out there and it’s probably past the moment for the “challenge flag”.

Gals.  You’re amazing and beloved.  Mothers are always going to be a target of the king of lies.  Stop listening.  I can’t stop from thinking today and praying about all those young people in Manchester, England.  The face of evil wants to break the hearts of their mothers with their pre-mature deaths, and he wants to keep the beautiful young people from growing up to love the next generation in the same way they were loved.

Ladies, we are raising beautiful souls.  It’s the most important work in the world.   The devil is real and he wants us to fail.  From the middle of Indiana or the south side of Chicago or wherever we are,  in our little lives, we have to understand who we are in Christ.  We are His eyes, hands, heart.  We have to pray with love and know we are clothed with dignity and strength.

My wise and honest friend Jen and the depressing saga on the news today have reminded me that Jesus is the Lord of the universe and evil does NOT have the last word.

Prayer for Confidence in the Future

Lord, fear of the future fills my soul and I realize how little I trust You.  Your Power created the universe and Your providence takes care of the birds in the air and the fish in the sea, and the tiniest insect.  How much more will You take care of me?  Tell me, my dearest friend and guide, what prevents me from possessing that love which chases out what is unholy and that confidence which overcomes every obstacle?  Never let me forget that I am here to do Your will and that You stand by me no matter what happens because You love me.  Amen.

 

P.S.  Lord, if you could keep me from coming to blows with the nocturnal college kid?  Yeah, that would be great too.  Peace out.

If you think I’m bad with God…

If you think I’m bad with God, imagine me without him. – Evelyn Waugh

FOR THE BRAVE ONLY:  MY LENTEN MANIFESTO

The durges of the day hung in my head.

These 40 days of Lent, O Lord, with you we fast and pray, teach us to discipline our wills and follow Lord, your way.

Whatever.  How many more times will I have to listen to that dreadful thing?  Or there’s this cheerful Catholic ditty.  NOT.

We rise again from ashes, from the good we’ve failed to do.  We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew.

I mean, SERIOUSLY?  I didn’t know if I could do 40– scratch that– 46 days of Lent.  The 4o thing is actually a lie.  Do the math.

A harmless and uninformed CVS clerk quizzed me about the “dirt” on my forehead last year on Ash Wednesday.  She’d never heard of Lent and I’m not sure I did a great job encouraging her curiosity with my arm full of bandaids, hairspray, Excedrin and fairly inarticulate babbling about Catholicism while I dug for my Visa with the durges still playing in my head.

 

As Lent approaches this year, I find myself recalling this morning a year ago and that moment with the CVS clerk.  I am in bed with the flu.  There’s nothing like a great battle to keep a glass of sprite down to clear one’s mind of all that doesn’t really matter.

Time for some soul searching.  Stay with me.  I’ll eventually make a point?

So busy have I been, it occurs to me, so wrapped up in my carpool runs and basketball games that when my good friend called a couple weeks ago asking me to take her downtown to IU Methodist for a doctor’s appointment—I asked her to keep looking.

This is a dear friend who has suffered so much over the last two decades from illness that it has at times made me wonder why God is so cruel.  I simply cannot do her history justice here in a few words.  So that one can grasp the gravity– we’re talking multiple bone marrow transplants, brain surgery, skin cancer and that’s just for starters.  She’s gracefully endured emotional and physical suffering that is staggering by anyone’s estimate.  She’s grateful for every blessing—a holy woman of God.

Even after she said, “It’s okay, Shelly, you were just my first call, but I need to tell you something soon” it didn’t faze me.  I was wrapped up in myself.  Face of Christ?  Not so much.

Good and gracious God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

Why on earth didn’t I just say yes?

As a Catholic Christian, I know I need my savior.  I go to mass because I realize that I am a sinner.  There’s no self-hatred in that.  It’s just truth.  If we understand what it means to believe in the incarnation, then we know we are in need of redemption.

Purification and enlightenment.  That’s what Lent is intended to be about.  Absolutely, I should make more loving, less selfish choices with those I adore (see above).  BUT ITS MORE THAN THAT.  What can I do to help me grow closer to Jesus, to be more like him in my life?  What is in my life that can’t remain if I truly desire an intimate relationship with Christ?

God is love.  That’s all he’s got in his bag, says one of my favorite theologians, Bishop Robert Barron.  He points out that God doesn’t only love those who love him back.  His sun rises and sets for the just and the unjust.  When we love, we participate in the holiness of God.  Simple as that.

Love is not a sentimental feeling.  It’s an act of the will.  True love is to will the good of the other, to break out of the deep pit of my own self-regard.  If you “love” hoping to get something in return, that is not love at all.  Love those who are not going to return the favor.  If you love those who are not likely to love you in return, then you have tested the integrity of your love.

Let me explain my Lenten thoughts another way.  Here is some pain shared by some of the people in my life in recent days.  For each person below who spoke to me of their frustration and hurt, the folks they were discussing set off their personal “JAS”.

I really hate myself sometimes.   

The school didn’t welcome my son.   

The coach lacks integrity.   

His employer dismissed him without cause after decades of loyal service.   

I’ve been bullied and disrespected but no one even cares.

My family rejected me.   

My friends left me out.   

Our grown children take advantage of us.   

My husband says cruel things.   

I am unappreciated.

So, it’s all about prayer, fasting and almsgiving at this time of the year, right?  Priests are really reliable when it comes to those three words during Lent. The goal there is purification and redemption, acts designed to make us holy as God is holy.

In other words…our little sun?  We need to make it shine on the people who slather us in awesome sauce AND those who make us want to activate our Jackass Alert System.  (The fact that I have invented this acronym should tell you a lot about the work I still have to do.)  Our call is so completely counter cultural.

Lent is a good time to be intentional in our quest for holiness.  The path of love is not the path of indirect self-interest.  My job for 40 days (and beyond) is to make my sun shine on the good and bad alike.  If I am going to be like God, my bag needs to be full of love.

Praying for my enemies and all who set off my internal JAS, fasting from things that pull me away from God (social media?), giving my time and resources to bring light to others—all of these are better choices for me than giving up diet coke for lent this year.

If the spirit of God dwells in me, reminds Bishop Barron, then my mind, body, sexuality, friendship, private life, public life, entertainment should be turned toward love.  What’s love?  Willing the good of the other.

Imagine what our Facebook and Twitter feeds, our television news programs, our families would look like if all of us who profess to be Christians tried this for the next 40 days?

Instead of hiding it, I place my sinfulness this lent before God.  It’s all yours, Jesus.  Nothing will I leave out.  My dream is to be holy. Draw me closer, Lord.

Sometimes we have the dream but we are not ourselves ready for the dream.  We have to grow to meet it.  –Louis L’Amour

P.S.  Here’s a link to a nice lenten prep video from a priest who makes me smile.  I hope you enjoy it!

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10155199367475832&id=315151565831

 

 

Pollyanna Week

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.  A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. –St. Basil the Great 

When my son was 10, he and his friend Jake came running to me declaring with enthusiasm that they had decided what they were going to do with their lives.

One cannot overstate the absolute “squirreliness” of the bright light that was Jake at this particular age.  I braced myself for the split second between the door slamming behind them both and the beginning of his loud declaration.  ‘WE’RE GOING TO BE PRIESTS, MRS. THIEME!!”

“Well, that’s a noble thought, gentlemen. What makes….”

“It’s the PERFECT JOB!” They both chimed spontaneously. “Your house is totally free, and there are no girls living with you, and you work ONE DAY A WEEK!  We’re going to be priests together and play Xbox all day long.  It will be awesome!!”

“That does sound pretty sweet.  Why don’t you fellas go outside and play in traffic a while, huh?”

THWAAAP! With that slam of the screen door, the silly ying-yangs were back outside getting muddy.

It’s funny how memories come flooding back to your mind from time to time.  This gem was called forth this week, almost against my will, as I picked up a skinny vanilla latte yesterday.  I went inside the coffee shop on this particular afternoon because the line of cars was wrapped around the building.  There was my mistake, I scolded myself interiorly.  Interacting with the world face to face PRIOR to the caffeine is just not always an idea laced with wisdom.

“Those guys are a joke.” said a woman within earshot just behind me.

“What parish are you again?”

“I hate priests. I really do.  What cush life.  They work like 2 days a week……………..”

And so there I stood thinking, “Well, now, she shouldn’t do that.  I should tell her that…” Let it go.

That was the instant the old Jake and Drew life of priesthood and Xbox entered my mind, and I began to giggle. It just struck me funny that the shade these gals were throwing on the priesthood (which is chock full of hardworking guys I just love) was essentially the same ridiculous view shared by Jake and Drew’s childish babble years ago at age 10.  God just gets me, I smiled.  The giggle happened audibly.  Like, out loud just a little.  Here I was trying to LET IT GO and now I’ve gone and done it, I thought, as I saw the glare behind me.

“Umm, excuse me?  Did we say something funny?” Her tone was in the snarky genre.

“Well, yes.  You kind of did, but I don’t think it was on purpose.  Hi, I’m Shelly by the way. I’ve just paid for your coffee.”

“Oh. Oh.  Well…”

“You’re welcome.”

Is there a point to my rambling?  Well, yes, there is.

I had just come from confession.   At said confession, I had basically shared with my favorite confessor about how the world needs less of my opinion and more of my holiness.  So, to follow up that decade of the rosary I had just said as a penance with a smart mouthed defense of my view of what an amazing gift authentic priestly life is for all of Starbucks to hear—in my never quiet voice—well it just seemed ill-timed.

What the world needs from me is optimism and sunshine as well as reassurance and comfort.  Jesus girls should be about His good news.  You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.  Whatever I say should be constructive and life building.  That includes to myself, by the way.

No more pity parties when things don’t go my way or when things get tough. You know what happens in a pity party?  Satan brings the chips! I have to get up and do what I have to do and thank the good Lord for the day.  If I’m beginning to feel resentful or angry or whatever, I’ve got to heed the wise words of Carrie Fisher.

“Resentment is like drinking poison….and hoping the other person will die.”

Princess Leia was wiser than you thought, huh?  Same.  An “evil” priest gave me that jewel too—via text on a day when I was in fact drinking that poison.  It made me stop and smile just like my gracious God in the coffee shop.  He’s right here beside me, a fact He shows me constantly…so what more could I want?

It doesn’t pay to even dab in negativity.

Pope Francis quite agrees with me.  It’s true.  He said this week that “news may be good or bad, true or false.  The early Christians compared the human mind to a constantly grinding millstone; it’s up to the miller to determine what it will grind: good wheat or worthless weeds.  Our minds are always grinding, but it is up to use to choose what to feed them.”

He acknowledged that naïve optimism isn’t necessarily called for either—meaning we shouldn’t be blind to evil.  He simply proposed that “all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent” which happens interiorly to us all.

Exuding positivity requires humility.  I have to admit, I missed the feeling of superiority I occasionally get from using a cynical comment or some puncturing humor with the cranky anti-priest gals at the coffee shop.  A willingness to choose sunshine requires modesty—and I realize that maybe makes me sound slightly mawkish.  The thing is this.  I want to be a lot more like one of those joyous people who draws me in when I am around them. You know them and so do I.  Are they not THE BEST??

A prayer attributed to St. Augustine includes the line “shield your joyous ones”.

Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ

Rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones;

Soothe your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones;

Shield your joyous ones.

And all for your love’s sake.

I read it years ago and wondered why the heck St. A worried about the joyous ones?  It’s easy to be heavy.  It’s hard to be light.  That’s why.

Are there joyous people in your life who buoy your spirits and can be counted on to cushion your anxiety?  Maybe now’s the time to make an effort to use your good cheer to support them.  Play the “glad game” and call it “Pollyanna week”.  Be their sunshine.

I’m brand new today.  CLEAN SLATE.  Yeah me!   I’m not going to dwell on little hurts and irritations.   I can’t be who God means me to be if am making snide comments and unleashing my opinion on all.

I’m calling a Pollyanna week.  There will be positivity, optimism, and listening.  I’m going to be grateful for all that’s going on in my life, and for the gift of faith and be at peace.  Less me, more God.

Who’s with me?

Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

 -St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Peace out, folks!

–ST

 

P.S.  When her friend lingered in the coffee shop, sweet gal #2 stopped me in the parking lot.  She said, “We weren’t being very charitable earlier.  Thank you for the coffee.”

You get more flies with honey.  It’s true.

 

 

 

Your Sweater’s on Inside Out

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.  –CS Lewis.

Typically, my neighbor schleps Zach to school each morning.  I’m the afternoon shift.  The carpool pickup slot has some cons to consider… waiting endlessly in a parking lot, kids eating leftover Doritos in the backseat, and fairly large arguments about who spotted the yellow car and first yelled, “SKITTLE!!!!”  However, on the plus side, the carpool pickup slot which is assigned to yours truly occurs during this coveted time called afternoon.  The morning?  It happens pretty early.

“Wow the morning people have a quiet gig, ” I thought to myself as I shivered all the way to SLDM this morning.  Considering the early hour of exit, I was in pretty solid spirits.  “Look at me all showered and dressed in this (low-key) adorable outfit, and it’s only 7am!” Positively self-congratulatory, I was in the pre-dawn carpool line.

Passing off the dress clothes for the junior high dance, the CYO uniform for the big game at OLMC in the morning, and the overnight bag, (all belonging to my little man), I knew this day was destined for greatness.  I really have got my act together this fine Friday.  My dear friend Renee, victim of the handoff, is one of those people who can wear pjs during the daytime or throw on a ball cap and still look darling. When I try that, well, picture a rounder version of Gilda Radner as Roseanne Roseannadanna on SNL.  Too young to have the vision?  Google it.  She was hysterical and with hair that looked like it had been electrocuted.  Today, though, I had it going on.  Guerin Catholic purple and black, warm and cozy black boots and purple nail polish too!  BOOM!

I was ready to take on the world.  I had a long list of (mostly Christmas) errands, and I was already dressed for the big game against the cross-town rival.  I had a date planned pre-game with my sweetie, AND I had time to start my day at mass.  YEAH ME!!

Taking my favorite seat up front so I can be close to Jesus, I prayed for so many people and I was pretty proud of the fact that I had written down their names this time.  The world is full of hurting hearts and broken bodies.  I gave them all to God.  I was feeling groovy.  As I grabbed my coat and turned to go, there was a tap on my shoulder.  “Shelly, your sweater is on inside out. If I were you, I would want to know.”

HAHAHAHA!!!  The lightbulb came on instantly.  Message received, Lord.

It’s good you were here, Shelly, but hello?  Forget to thank anyone for your zillions of blessings?  Psalm 90, my dear girl.  Try reading it. That’s what I heard interiorly with the tap on my shoulder.

He’s gentle and He’s patient.  Pride is about my glory; humility is about God’s glory.  I feel like I read that in Ephesians somewhere.  Maybe I need to read the whole book and find that bit of scripture.  I’m pretty sure God isn’t so impressed with people who watch themselves worship and who don’t bother thanking Him.

Thank you, Lord for opening my eyes to Your blessings and the grace to acknowledge who You are and how You love me this day and always.  And, Lord, thanks for smiling at me even when I act like an idiot.  I’m going to try opening with gratefulness tomorrow. I love you too. 

Yours, Shelly

I might be slightly less amazing than I led myself to believe this morning.  BUT, I am still a truly beloved child of God AND SO ARE YOU.  Let’s help each other remember that one, huh?