An inordinate amount of time has been spent by myself and my youngest in our driveway this week. There’s a “good” shovel and there’s a “backup”. If you want to feel the satisfaction of moving large swaths of snow in short order, you want to lay hands on shovel #1. However, once you’ve done that several times, it occurs to a person that the “backup” shovel is aptly named, because if you want to keep your back in the upright position, that’s the one you gotta choose. 16 year-old boys should do the heavy lifting. What was I thinking on day 1 of this driveway adventure??
Errand running on this sunny day seemed like a productive idea, and out I went. When I stepped into the first store parking lot, the shiny stuff was hitting my face, and I thought, “What a nice day! It’s definitely SO MUCH WARMER!” So delightful did the weather improvement feel, that when I got back into my car after completing my first task of the day, I opened up my weather app. For the love of God and all things holy, folks, I swear to you what I saw was this. It’s 18 degrees with a windchill of 10. I promptly got out of the car, looked up at the blue sky, as if to the Lord Himself, put my hands in the air, and declared aloud, “FEELS LIKE 10 DEGREES!!” Then, I doubled over laughing at myself.
There was a man in scrubs on the sidewalk. He looked at me and said, “You ok?” I just started laughing and said, “Isn’t it such a beautiful day? Don’t you think it feels warmer?” He replied, “Actually, yes.” That’s when I told him, “My phone says the windchill is 10 degrees. It just struck me as so damn funny!” He smiled wide at me and replied, “Your laugh made my day.”
As I sit drinking my coffee and warming up again, this incident reminded me of a story I heard Bishop Robert Barron tell about one of my favorite saints, St. Therese of Lisieux. I’m paraphrasing, but he said that the sun shines on the great and the small alike, and that Therese knew she was the small. She wasn’t a great spiritual academic like St. John of the Cross. So, she needed to lift her arms in the air like a baby and let God lift her up, as she didn’t have the intellect or giftedness to climb up to Him like some of the great saints.
In my opinion, she lived so well the concept …”For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8).
In a simple way, without really thinking, I feel like I had a little Therese moment right there in the parking lot. In all humility, my silly, childish act smiling with God about the ridiculousness of my weather reality made me realize I’d gotten something right. You see, freezing cold weather is undoubtedly the cross. Shoveling snow until your eyelashes are icy is the cross. However, doing those things and finding joy in them, feeling a certain serenity in the midst of the tiny sufferings? That’s what embracing Christianity looks like in my life. It’s minor and it’s uncomplicated, but that’s the kind of stuff I have to give Him.
Last week, I had to go to see the breast surgeon. Ah, the joys of abnormal mammography. Of course, I was edgy. Honestly, though, I just told Jesus that I loved Him and I trusted His plan for my life, even if it took me someplace I’d rather not go. I suppose it’s easy for me to say today that I meant it, because things ended well. I pray that when the day comes where I don’t get the ending I’d hoped for, I’ll still submit in peace to the will of God, who loves you and I beyond all telling.
You all, there’s nothing fancy about me. I buy my makeup at Walgreens and I wash my face with a bar of Dove soap. I’m impatient, imperfect, and permanently flawed. I know I fail and need God’s mercy. Maybe I will die on my way to a basketball game this weekend, or perhaps I will live to a ripe old age like my Grandma Langdon. Either way, the fact is that just a handful of people will ever have even known that I was here on this planet. But the Lord knows, and His love is radical. So, I consider myself rather hidden and small, like Therese. In her, I see a bit of myself. She had a burning preoccupation with love. Wouldn’t it be a great way to live to emulate that?
In this past year, so many of us have experienced suffering and sadness. Grace invades when we remember that our lives are not about us at all. When we live for the Lord, shining His light on others the best we can, and carry our little crosses with joy? That is the way of love.
For those of you who tell me you feel sad, who share you can’t find God right now, please know I pray in a special way for you. And if you are someone who is reading this wishing someone would pray for you too? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be my deep honor to pray for you and your intentions. Here’s some great, practical advice from St. Francis de Sales on how to help oneself when feeling blue. I hope it helps you as it does me.
“When you find your heart growing sad, divert yourself without a moment’s delay; make a visit, enter into a conversation with those around you, read some amusing book, take a walk, sing, do something, it matters not what, provided you close the door of your heart against this terrible enemy. As the sound of a trumpet give the signal for combat, so sad thoughts apprise the devil that a favorable moment has come for him to attack us.”
St. Therese of Lisieux, Pray for Us!
St. Francis de Sales, Pray for Us!
St. Joseph, Pray for Us!
Mary, Cause of Our Joy, Pray for Us!