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.

 

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

 

 

Top 10 Attributes of Joyful People

Joyand the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (ACTS 13:52)
“Joy is the unmistakable work of the Holy Spirit.” That’s the quote I heard this morning at church spoken by a perky, bright gal named Denise. It really struck me as profound. It’s the soul of happiness. Joyful people are the ones God uses so often to bring others to Himself. How am I doing? Do I have this gift? Am I sharing it as I should? These were my questions and they were a big part of my Lenten prayers this morning. So, I have been contemplating about the most joyful folks I have met in this life, and I am comparing them to the stories of some of my favorite joy-filled saints. Here is my unscientifically created list of Top 10 Qualities of Joyful People! Do you consider yourself a JOYFUL PERSON? How many of these qualities do you have? What have I left out?

1. They don’t take it personally. Joyful people are other focused. They consider circumstances and consider that they may not have all the information. They do not look within themselves insecurely. When things don’t go their way, joyful people do NOT dabble in the form of self-centeredness which takes it personal.
2. They see the bright side. Joyful people tend to do the following when things go wrong, “Well, in good news…” They reflect on lessons learned, solutions which might be employed next time, and they find a way to be content—even in a storm.
3. They don’t judge. They know the only perfect person was Jesus and know “I’m not Him!” They are able to find something positive to say about even the most challenging folks around them. They’ve made their own mistakes, picked themselves up, and are working on their own holiness by shining their light, not wagging their finger.
4. They know there is a time for everything. We can’t always work, nor can we always “have fun”. Joyful people scoop up opportunities to show up for others, they don’t dwell on past mistakes, and take time to enjoy the little things. Sometimes, that means belting out a favorite song or showing up for the little league game. Other times, it means taking time for sacred silence.
5. They are self-aware. Joyful people know what their gifts are, as well as their quirks and shortcomings. They know who they are and what they are capable of. They have the kind of positivity (despite their own flaws and misgivings) that cannot be taken away– because it wasn’t gifted to them by men.
6. They are creative. For many, when joy exists before the “I”, and they are able to live a life standing outside their own egos, a greater sense of creativity is present in them. Joy thinks outside the box. Many joyful people are just plain silly at times! They aren’t afraid to look like a fool. Many times, this will mean they are curious types who ask questions and are truly interested in knowing more about you!
7. They are consistent. Joyful people are not typically regarded as “sometimes joyful”. Others see them that way. Period. It’s sometimes quiet, but ever present. Even in sadness, joyful people still exude flickers of light. It may manifest itself very differently, but it’s always there. It’s a divinely given gift, after all, and is rarely a gift for just a season. Therefore, authentic joy doesn’t need a reason or a season. It’s simply unreasonable happiness which is rooted in deep gratefulness to God.
8. Joyful people are loving. When people describe others they know who are joyful, they always mention love. Don’t believe me? Ask around! The truly happy know joy isn’t a feeling. They are people who have turned themselves toward God. The only response to that is the living of the high adventure and love that is rooted in the divine.
9. They appreciate simple. Joyful people have learned to love the simple things. They find deep peace in knowing their blessedness. Things like campfires, sunny mornings, cool breezes, a long walk, a good giggle bring deep interior consolation. Sure, joyful people might enjoy “the good things in life” just as much as anyone, but they aren’t terribly attached to them.
10. Joyful people love themselves.  They know deep within that they are beloved sons and daughters of God.

I am grateful to God especially for St. Teresa of Avila, St. John Vianney…and my sis Robin, Vivian, Lily S., Jake A., Janie M. and Renee (among many others) for their examples of joyfulness that inspire me!

How Can We Know the Way?

Children's Museum "selfie", including photobomb by Drew and Grandpa!

Children’s Museum “selfie”, including photobomb by Drew and Grandpa!

Spring Break 2014 is looking good so far.

Two of my three favorite young men are home lounging with me and yesterday we were greeted with a lovely sighting. Grandma Kate and Grandpa Jim brought us some special visitors from Chicago. A rarely and smiley day of fun with Aunt Robbi, along with cousins Maddie and Ellie ensued. We giggled our way through the Indianapolis Children’s Museum then onto a late lunch before most of the crew headed off to see either “The Muppets” or “Noah” and I drove down to Bishop Chatard High School to catch some Guerin Catholic baseball action where son # 3 simply couldn’t be left without a fan base, despite the rain.

Granted, it’s not sun and sand, but it’s an overflowing scoop of favorite people topped off with the angelic little toothless grin of my youngest Goddaughter, Ellie! Elle-belle is a 1st grader at All Saint’s Academy near my sister’s home in Naperville, IL.

“Aunt Thelly. I read at thcool math. But it wathn’t even fair. The reading wath impothible. It wath full of eth-eth”

I couldn’t stop smiling at her.  She was just like a piece of candy….you want to eat her up she is so sweet.

“Thesse thent hith theven thons to Thamuel.” She explained.

“Jesse sent his seven sons to Samuel?” I interpreted. “That’s what you had to read at school mass, Ellie?”

“Yeth!”

I mean, she’s 40lbs of sunshine that one. I couldn’t stop laughing. That moment of toothless cuteness is just a tiny window of time I now realize as my boys are all well past it. I SOOOO wish I could have been a fly on the wall at that mass. I think it’s a little rude of my sis to marry a guy from Chicago and move so far from me, actually. Don’t you agree?

Today is Spring Break day 2 and it’s a bit lower key.  I let my two “staycationers” sleep in while I headed to 8am mass. As I was getting ready to leave, my “holy texting friend” Vivian invited me (via text of course) to come sit with she and her hubby for the mass, after which I had set up an appointment for confession.

If I am honest, I didn’t sleep well last night. I was reflecting again on what I needed to apologize to Jesus about and I was tossing and turning. This confession seemed particularly overdue. There are loads of things every day I do or don’t do, or say, for which I know I need forgiveness. I suppose they had been piling up a bit.

Really, though, the biggest impediment for me in being the woman Jesus means for me to be this day is my own lack of forgiveness of myself. Many times, even after I know Jesus has forgiven me, I hang on to my sin, beating myself up over mistakes big and small.

My inner dialogue goes something like this:

Shelly. You know better and look at you. You act like you love God but you are just a worthless sinner. What qualifies you to talk about faith with your kids or friends? You’re nothing but a hypocrite anyway.

When it starts to sound like insanity, a broken record inside my crazy head, I know that I am overdue for some sacramental assistance.

It’s funny what happens when I pray “Jesus, I don’t know what I need, but You do, please help me. I want to love You more.”

“Shelly, Satan is clever. He’s insidious. He knows just what to do to disarm you. Lack of forgiveness of self, stirring up old wounds, that’s the devil. The prayer to St. Michael is a prayer of exorcism– say it. It will help you,” said my confessor very matter-of-factly.

We talked a bit more, and he absolved me, then he handed me a book. He asked me to read it, giving me the assignment of reading the first chapter as my official penance.

As I left my realization was that I cannot allow myself to be far from the grace of the sacraments. I need to be at mass receiving Jesus and I need more frequent receipt of the sacrament of reconciliation. Our priests are exhausted, and so I feel guilty asking for even more of their time. The thing is, that whole “the last thing Father needs is a call asking for time from a pain in the ass housewife”… that’s not righteous guilt. What that is about is Satan trying to take away what I know… by any means he can find which will work to unravel me. However, he cannot. Jesus loves me. This I know.

“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

Shortly after I returned home today, I got an amazingly well timed message from a friend via email.  It was a copied little piece of a larger work of commentary on David by an author with whom I am not yet familiar named Mark Buchanan.

I don’t believe in coincidence. God’s perfect timing is at work.

In Louis Ginzberg’s monumental 7-volume work The Legend of the Jews, a compilation of the Jewish oral tradition, he retells the story of David in paradise. 

According to the legend, David is the superstar of the after life, a personage of “glory and grandeur,” whose throne sits opposite God’s and from which David “intones wondrously beautiful psalms.”

David’s “crown… outshines all others, and whenever he moves out of Paradise to present himself before God, suns, stars, angels, seraphim, and other holy beings run to meet him.”

But the main thrust of the legend is David’s relationship with God.

God throws a lavish feast on the Day of Judgment, and God at David’s bidding himself attends.

At the end of the banquet, God invites Abraham to pray over the cup of wine. Abraham declines on grounds of his unworthiness.

At the point I read this, I think, “Ok God. I’m listening. What are you doing to me today?”

It goes on.

So God asks Isaac, who for similar reasons declines. God then turns to Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua. All beg off for reasons of unworthiness.

Finally, God asks David to bless the cup. And David replies, “Yes, I will pronounce the blessing, for I am worthy of the honor.”

At first blush, this is shocking as I read it. It seems brazen and delusional. Who do you think you are?

The author goes on.

“On second thought, this sounds biblical. The heart of the Bible’s message, muted in the Old Covenant but shouted aloud in page after page of the New, is the improbable, astonishing, breathtaking good news that I am the one Jesus loves.

I am the tax-collector whose house Jesus had to enter, so that salvation could invade it.

I am the leper who cried out to Jesus on his way past Samaria, so that he could speak wholeness into me and then woo me back to worship him.

I am the lame man whose friends lowered me down through the rafters, so that Jesus could speak forgiveness and healing to me.

I am the invalid Jesus found in a dark part of town, bed-ridden and complaining, so that he could say to me, “Get up, take up your mat, and walk.”

I am the prodigal he saw a long way off, who ran to me, threw a feast for me, put his robe and ring and sandals on me.

I am the elder brother who refused to join the party, and so he went out to me and begged me to come in.

I am Lazarus, the one he raised from the dead and then invited to recline with him at the table.

I am not worthy to bless the cup, except He makes me so.

At great cost, all by his own doing, Jesus makes me his own, loves me without condition, forgives me without remainder, places his own name on me, puts his own Spirit in me, and goes ahead to prepare a place for me.

He’s made me a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, one who belongs to God.

I am the one Jesus loves.

 Let that rattle around a bit. Then say this out loud.

THE AUTHOR OF SALVATION IS CRAZY, MADLY IN LOVE….WITH ME.

You’d think this would be the end of my entry for today, wouldn’t you? But for me, who is a certifiable supernatural thinker, it got even better.

So, I read this lovely email which spoke just exactly to the sinfulness which was most bothering me this morning and I felt it was God kind of yelling at me to get it together. I quite literally took a deep breath and said ALOUD, “Thank you, God. I am listening. Your will, not mine…I get it. You love me. I love you.”

DING.

“One new email message has just arrived.”

I click on it, and the email makes me laugh aloud.

It’s from the editor of a Catholic periodical asking ME to write an article on THIS bit of scripture “How can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5).

What took you so long, Lord? I mean, I think I agreed to try it Your way about 6 seconds ago.

You best be sending the Holy Spirit in a big bad way if You want ME to show anyone the way to anywhere, Big Man. I can get lost on the way to the bathroom sometimes.

Our God is an Awesome God. He also makes me laugh. And laughing makes me smile.

SMILING? MY FAVORITE.

And that is all I’ve got for Spring Break, day 2.

 

 

 

43 Things

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’? –William Arthur Ward

That's me blowing out the candles yesterday.

That’s me blowing out the candles yesterday.

“You know you round up to 45 now? And 45 rounds up to 50. So basically, you are 50, Shelly!”

Then, gleeful grins followed by cackling.

This is the kind of grief I am getting this week. But, when you dish it out yourself, you’d better be able to handle a little ribbing. For the record, however, I think I should state that I am actually a very youthful 43 this week—contrary to what some have been told by my husband Tom and my good friend Lisa.

In honor of the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of my birth, here are 43 things, some completely silly, some more substantive, for which I am grateful. They are listed in no particular order.

  1. Family. Yes, some of them are goofballs. But they are MY goofballs.
  2. Birthdays. Just love everything about them—yours, mine—life is such a gift!
  3. Yellow Box flip flops. Thank you, Yellow Box people for making the cutest, most comfy flip flops ever made (and making them in size 11)!
  4. The Laudate App. If you’re a Jesus girl who loves your iPhone, it’s a must have.
  5. French chemist Eugene Schueller, inventor of hair dye. ‘Nuff said.
  6. Pansies. You dudes get a bad rap. What an unfair name. Thanks for being there to usher in springtime!
  7. Teachers who don’t give homework on the weekend. It’s tiring for moms trying to pass 3rd grade for the 4th time.
  8. Books by George Weigel. He has an intelligent, faithful, and accessible voice. Love him.
  9. Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. Yum.
  10. People who smile….cuz smiling’s my favorite!
  11. The St. Margaret’s Guild Decorator Show Home. An annual girly tradition with Mom.
  12. Kenny, who bags my groceries and cheerfully escorts me to my car at O’Malia’s grocery store!
  13. Catholic Schools
  14. Diet coke, with a lid and a straw…in a Styrofoam cup. Lent is extra-long without you!
  15. Boys playing ball outside for hours in my driveway.
  16. Jimmy Fallon. Geez that guy is funny.
  17. Happy, chill music. Stuff you can listen to while you drink your margarita too fast so it won’t melt.
  18. People who “follow me” on Twitter….because let’s be honest….they are a rare breed!
  19. The garbage man. Without him, smelly chaos.
  20. The sun. May I never take you for granted again!
  21. Mass. When Jesus is on board, life just works better.
  22. Laughter. What beautiful noise!
  23. That feeling when you know Jesus used you to help someone.
  24. Hugs. My husband actually calls me a “hug whore”. Is that a compliment?
  25. Acceptance. I’m so thankful to people who like me just the way I am.
  26. Kid President. Don’t know him? Look him up. That’s one cool little dude.
  27. Glitter. It’s just fantastic sparkly stuff and you know it!
  28. Friends. “Faithful friends are beyond price…” (Sir 6:15)
  29. Hand dancing. If it was only an Olympic sport, I’d be IN!
  30. Compliments. Accentuate the positive. Latch on to the affirmative. Just sayin.
  31. Confession. It’s like free therapy for Catholics. Brilliant invention. Forgiveness is pretty great, and that is all.
  32. People who can laugh at themselves.
  33. Dangling earrings. What’s not to love?
  34. Pope Francis. Domus Sanctae Martae, regular guy shoes, a Jesuit who chose the name Francis? He rocks.
  35. Sports. Especially games the Thieme boys are playing in. When Nick Fred crushes it over the head of the outfielder, or Z crosses someone over, or D drains another 3….then the smile.
  36. Bonfires—with marshmellows.
  37. St. Therese of Lisieux. Don’t know her? Read Story of a Soul. Saccharine, sentimental awesomeness!
  38. Chuck Lofton, WTHR-13. He just seems like he enjoys his job so much I don’t even get cranky when his forecast is a bust.
  39. Mackey Arena. Not a bad seat in the place.
  40. Songs from the old “Glory and Praise” book. Sing to the Mountains, baby!
  41. My husband’s socks. Warm, cozy, cushy. Sorry, hon.
  42. Vacation sex. (Sorry, Mom).
  43. Love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)

Mother Teresa said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. So, my birthday week gratefulness list is my attempt to smile at you, and to inspire myself (and maybe you too) to notice how big we are blessed in ways “itty bitty” as well as “ginormous”.

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and REJOICE!

I’m Fat and it IS Tuesday

Today in Carmel, Indiana

Today in Carmel, Indiana

“Global warming, my ass!”  This is the response a friend sent when I shared the following tweet from our local ABC affiliate, WRTV:“@rtv6:  Record low for Indianapolis tomorrow is 2 degrees set in 1873.  That record is very much in jeopardy.”Another pal texted, “Why do we keep breaking all these crappy records?!  SERIOUSLY…I need sun and heat!”

I admit, the 55 inches of snow we have received in Indianapolis this year is making me start to wonder whether the locusts are next.  I know I am supposed to wake thanking God for the day, but I am feeling something less than gratefulness.  It’s March 4th and it’s 11 degrees outside.   I just want sunshine and a temperature warm enough to take a walk outside without my nostrils freezing when I inhale.

So, what’s my point?

Well, besides being another in a long line of frigid days, it’s also Fat Tuesday—Mardi Gras!  Meaning what?  It’s our last day to “revel” before 40 days of penitence, sacrifice during the season of Lent?  Umm.  This thought is a major struggle for me.

Here’s what I’m really feeling:  I’m fat and it IS Tuesday.   That’s about the only commonality between “Mardi Gras” and the space I am this day.   I just put a roast in the crockpot and that’s the closest thing to a “king cake” happening at the Thieme house.  It’s tax season and we are missing our resident CPA.  The whole damp, white of the outdoors plus the frozen, slate colored sky is a winter that has been like the longest Lent I can imagine.  Add to that the rawness we feel from losing my mother-in-law, followed shortly thereafter by the loss of a treasured uncle, and now I have painted you a picture of our emotional and physical state here at the Thieme house.  Now, God wants 40 more days?  What if even just being nice is starting to feel like a stretch?

“My soul is sorrowful even to death….” 

Those are the words of Jesus that feel meaningful to me this day.  He spoke them about how He felt knowing He would be put to death—for you and me.

I think the call for me today is to GET OVER MYSELF.

Like the older son in the famous “Prodigal Son” story, I have acted as if I am put upon.   There he was, obeying his father, trying to do the right thing.  Little brother disrespects his dad, runs off with his share of the money, blows the wad, and then comes back to a hero’s welcome.   “Hello?  Over here, Padre?  Been doing all my work plus that little goofball’s jobs too?  Now, you’re making over that guy?  How about a little love pour MOI??!”   I completely get that big brother.  Legitimate beef, if you ask me!

I’m a lot like that bugged older brother as I think to myself how “poor me” this winter and growl at those around me (sometimes aloud, other times with my evil stare).  Class act, huh?

Here’s a quote that reflects my feeling for what Lent should really be about in terms of my frame of mind:

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”  –C.S. Lewis

Lent is about reflecting on what Jesus did for us.   It’s about gratefulness permeating us to the core of our being.

I, for one, can clearly see that my heart is not yet ready.  It’s possible that I am just a touch crabby.  So, MAAAAYBE I do need Lent.

It’s comforting to me knowing that Jesus spoke these words, “The flesh is weak, yet the spirit is willing.”    The mind of a Christian should be open to God’s will even though we may not understand.  It should be filled with compassion, showing love for others.  We cannot suffer with those around us, we cannot love them as Jesus wishes, if we are too busy thinking about ourselves and grumbling about [fill in your irritants here].

We are called to live outside of ourselves, dropping any self-righteousness or self-pity we may surmise is justified.  It isn’t.

“But You, O Lord are my protector, my glory, and the lifter up of my head.” (Ps. 3:3)

So, as Lent begins, I plan to make a conscious effort to begin my day with something slightly better than “Good morning, God.  Talk to you later.”  By focusing on all that is positive and beautiful, I know that I will open my heart to the great truth Jesus wants me to live— that all is a gift.

The saint to whom I will call for intercession this lent is Mother Teresa.  She’s the perfect choice.  Think about it.  Where did she live most of her life? Calcutta.  Google it.   It’s similarities to downtown Carmel, Indiana are mindblowing—NOT!   Who did she serve?  The poorest of the poor.  AND YET, instead of grumbling like yours truly about gloomy surroundings, or people that irritate, she was just such a cool chick, always quick to smile.  She is famous for posting the following on the walls of her convent:

The Anyway Poem

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;  Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;  Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;  Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;  Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;

It was never between you and them anyway.

Is it just me, or does this pithy little poem seem like a great Lenten list from which to choose?   I believe I will start with a very intentional “Do good anyway” for my first week of Lent.   I’ll let you know how it goes.

Let’s light the darkness, all!

BINGO!

My friend Kit Kleck is rather an inspired mom, if you ask me.  She’s a common sense organizer type.  It would be a piece of cake to give you multiple examples of her simple genius, butStAug my favorite today is this quarterly service project she has coordinated for the junior high kids at St. Louis de Montfort for the past couple of years.  There has been bell ringing for the Salvation Army, feeding the homeless downtown, collection of clothing, etc.

Her inspiration for this ongoing project is the Corporal Works of Mercy:

•To feed the hungry;

•To give drink to the thirsty;

•To clothe the naked;

•To harbor the harborless;

•To visit the sick;

•To ransom the captive;

•To bury the dead.

The idea here is that the children (and their families too) will have the opportunity to practically experience going outside oneself in service of another.  Mercy used in this context is said by St. Thomas Aquinas to be a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s suffering.

Kit put me in charge of the 3rd quarter project, and with the help of my good friend, Julia Mattei, I elected to use my moment in charge to organize a trip to St. Augustine’s Home for the Aged, on 86th St. in Indianapolis, which is operated by the amazing Little Sisters of the Poor.  It’s Lent, I reasoned, and one way to give alms is to share our time.

The uncomplicated opportunity was playing BINGO, talking to, and serving treats to the nursing home residents – and if you’ve ever done it you know it is just a darn good way to spend an afternoon.

Here’s a little peak at our experience with the SLDM  7th graders and about 40 St. Augustine’s residents this past weekend.

My new best friend, who would prefer that I call him “Vincenzo Giuseppi”, told me as I suggested he might want to cover “B 6” (if he has any chance to beat Adele at the next table over),  “You are outgoing and fun.  This is the best time I’ve had in a long while!”

As we began, the kids were timid and quiet.  They had obviously not spent much time in a room full of seniors.  The residents weren’t so sure about us and our squirrely crew either!  However, it didn’t take long before I started hearing kids saying things like “Yes, I agree, chocolate chip cookies are definitely the best” or “You have 3 brothers?  Me too!”

The charming activities director with the Peruvian accent was brilliantly accommodating.  She allowed the kids to assist the residents, call out winning numbers, and run the numbers board………generally just take over the day’s event.

I brought along my 2nd grader who plopped himself down between two charming Bingo- loving old gals who paid so much attention to his every silly word that he said (beaming) “I was like a celebrity Mom.  They loved me!!”

As we were leaving, “Vincenzo” insisted we wait until he made a quick trip to his room.  When he returned, he handed me two puzzles.  They must be 1000 piece puzzles, put together and glued in place.  Obviously, these were treasures.  The larger of the two was a Christmas puzzle.  He whispered to me it was a personal favorite because it’s of Rockefeller Center in NY, and although he likes to joke that he is old Italian mafia, the truth is that his last name is Bennett, and he is from NY.

A Christmas picture, huh?  How appropriate, I can’t help thinking.  Vincenzo?  You and your friends brought Jesus to life for us on Saturday.

That’s how it always goes, doesn’t it?  You do something “to be nice” and what happens is that you end up being the one to whom the gift was given.  I know this.  Sometimes, I just forget.  In this case, the gift is mine applies literally and figuratively.

When we try to be the face of Jesus, we can be certain then that we will find Him and our gift inevitably is joy.

“…Amen, I say to you, what you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25:40)

BINGO!!