Smiling and Loving…and coffee cups

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, my handsome husband texted me from his conference in Las Vegas this week.
Tom: Our keynote is trying to tell me that it’s not all about me. She’s full of it.
Me: Someone should have informed her.
Tom: She also wants me to be positive and find the good in people. She doesn’t get me.
Me: Lmao! She is unqualified to give a keynote to accountants. Someone should have vetted her. Heads will roll.
Tom: Now she wants me to lighten up. Come on woman.
Now, part of what makes our marriage work is that I have a self-imposed rule that I don’t write about Tom. However, I am making an exception today to illustrate two things. First, I’m not really all that good at following rules. Second, he is a truly funny guy who makes me laugh aloud now and then. Laughing leads to smiling and I happen to believe whole-hardheartedly in smiling.

The most authentic voice that has ever spoken about the importance of smiling, in my mind, is Mother Teresa. She said this, (and so much more) about the matter.

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
Well, what if we’re not actually happy? What if we have an “Eeyore” temperament or our personal circumstances are a mess? Isn’t it a little deceptive to fake it?
I have one friend who is from a large, wealthy family who was taught at a young age that she must appear cheerful. She and her siblings felt they were shaming their parents if they didn’t appear to be happy. This kind of “pressure” to smile does feel inauthentic, don’t you think?
On the other hand, several years ago I received a letter from an awkward, even geeky, former classmate. The note came decades after we had been in school together. “You were the reason I made it through school. I knew every afternoon when I got to English class you would be there smiling at me and saying hello. Except for you, the experience was pure misery.” I didn’t see this coming at all.  The thing is, though, I remember making a choice to be kind to this kid. It was my mom. She endlessly told us that we would never be sorry we were too nice. Spot on, Mom. Thanks.
I share these two stories to make a point. These are two very different types of smiles. In the first example, my friend spent her growing up years “faking” joy. It was feigned and deceptive. The purpose? It was done to make people think favorably about oneself, and it’s difficult to pull this off successfully. Why? Because human beings can feel it when you are “all about me.”

Perhaps unbeknownst to Mom, she was channeling Mother Teresa’s approach to joy with her ever present instruction. YOU WILL NEVER BE SORRY YOU WERE TOO NICE. Mom taught us the outward looking smile. The smile which is aimed at another for his or her benefit is silent and powerful acknowledgment that you see the presence of Christ in that person.
“Spread love everywhere you go….”
Love is a decision. When we love, we are making a decision to look outward. It’s not about impressing someone or looking the part. Have you ever considered how you might answer if God someday asks, “How did you love me?”
Here’s three minutes worth seeing that speaks about this truth of our job to love and be a witness to love in a very accessible and relatable way. The priest who is featured is known only to me as “Fr. Rob.” He publishes at This particular video speaks about the red cups at Starbucks that have been on every media outlet ad nauseum the last few days. I think you’ll enjoy it, so I’ve put a link at the end of this post.

What’s my point in all of this?
Even if I’m not feeling it, even if I’m not in the mood, even if you’re like the sarcastic comedian I’m married to and you claim it’s not part of your natural temperament– I do think we should go out of our way (even if we have to force it) to see the good in others, to perform little kindnesses, and to smile at others in our daily path.
Did you know Mother Teresa felt a profound darkness of soul for the last many years of her life? She was experiencing tremendous interior misery for many years. It was a shocking revelation only revealed after her death. It was mind blowing to many, because the world saw intense joy in her eyes, and deep peace in all that she revealed to others.
She smiled for love of God, so that’s the message we received from her. LOVE.
It’s not about you.

P.S. Do you think Mother Teresa would care about the color of a coffee cup? Me neither.

The Naked Saint on the Pizza

03-st-francis-renounces-all-worldly-goods-1299“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”

― St. Francis of Assisi

Earlier this week, I was the mystery reader in my son’s 2nd grade class.  Apparently the clues I sent in about myself made it “waaaay easy” to figure out who I was before I entered the classroom.  You see, “normal moms” send in clues about the type of minivan they drive or how many kids they have, while I chose to share slightly more colorful information about how I dominate my youngest son in wall ball and that I find watching golf on TV torturous.  I’m not sure how I went wrong there, but my little man was a touch irritated.  In any case, the class was expecting me and plenty squirrely when I sauntered in at the end of the day.

First, I read a funny and silly book called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.  Mostly, I chose that one because it’s sure to get laughs from a class full of 8 year olds.  It did.  Then, I went with something a little different.  It was a book about St. Francis.  Perhaps it would be nice for the kids to hear about the saint after whom our new Pope chose his name?  I mean, I love St. Francis.  The Pope loves St. Francis.  His is just a beautiful story of conversion, leaving behind “things” and choosing God.  Nothing but good can come from learning a little more about St. Francis, right?


Let’s review the facts on the great saint from the perspective of an 8 year old.

“Mrs. Thieme, he was kinda a rich guy with a mean dad, huh?”

“Mrs. Thieme, Mrs. Thieme!  He was rich before he went crazy and got naked on the pizza.”

“Well, sweetheart, the word is actually PIAZZA.  It’s not the same…”

“Mrs. Thieme!!  Can we see the picture of the naked saint?”

“Yeah, we wanna see the picture of the crazy naked guy!”

To the parents of 2nd graders in my son’s class at St. Louis de Montfort, I apologize for any conversations you might have had to endure about the scantily clad, mentally unstable saint after whom the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio chose to name himself.  I meant well, my heart was rightly motivated, and it just didn’t translate how I intended.  For the record, there WAS a cartoon style illustration in the book which showed the unadorned backside of St. Francis renouncing his worldly possessions at the behest of Bishop Guido, but I skipped over the page 17 picture.  I did so much to the chagrin of all the boys and girls listening.

Here’s the thing.  St. Francis is a saint worth knowing.  I am a touch friendlier with him than I am with some of his other cohorts there in heaven, because I spent 8 years of my life being taught by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration (SSFPA) at St. Lawrence Catholic School as a kid.  Those gals made sure we knew all about Francis and his simple life of joy.  I knew for a moment he was considered the biggest fool in Assisi, that some people thought he was mad.  But, I looked at those gals who taught me in class each day, wearing those tragic brown outfits and I noticed their smiles.  Nothing spoke to me as a more powerful witness about the love of God than did those happy Franciscan sisters who had chosen to say yes to Jesus calling them to be His spouse.

I was just dying to share a little piece of this amazing man with the kiddos.

Without the ferocity of devotion St. Francis had to God centuries ago, this group of amazing religious women who helped me learn so much about the love of our Awesome Creator wouldn’t even exist.  That’s just one tiny thing among millions that a powerful crazy love for Christ can accomplish.  Francis was on fire with faith and that fire spread like a raging forest fire through hundreds of years all the way to Indiana.  Cool, huh?

Even just this week, our new Pope preached about this idea of “apostolic zeal”.  Pope Francis said at mass on Thursday this week that Apostolic zeal, implies “an element of madness, but of spiritual madness, of healthy madness” in proclaiming Christ.

He urged all present to press on with zeal, the kind of zeal clearly evident in that naked guy I tried to introduce to the 2nd graders.

Said Pope Francis, “There are backseat Christians, right? Those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to Jesus through proclamation and Apostolic zeal. Today we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this Apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church the grace to go out to the outskirts of life. The Church has so much need of this! Not only in distant lands, in the young churches, among people who do not know Jesus Christ, but here in the cities, in our cities, they need this proclamation of Jesus Christ. So let us ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of Apostolic zeal, let’s be Christians with apostolic zeal. And if we annoy people, blessed be the Lord. Onwards, as the Lord says to Paul, ‘take courage!’ ”

I like this Pope.  He speaks my language.  Did you read what he said?

“If we annoy people, blessed be the Lord.”

In the spirit of being annoying  and not letting it drop already (a particular strength area of yours truly), I’ll give you a few neat facts about Francis I learned so long ago that I never got to share in 2B this week at St. Louis de Montfort School.

  • St. Francis invented the first creche in a mountain cave near Greccio where he celebrated Christmas mass in 1223 and shortly thereafter in 1224 received the stigmata.
  • St. Francis wrote the “Canticle of the Sun” but did not write “The Prayer of St. Francis”.
  • St. Francis was canonized in 1228 by Pope Gregory  IX in Assisi, and his feast day is celebrated Oct. 4.

P.S.  Is it just me or do we need more religious women back in our Catholic schools ASAP?!  Let’s pray for vocations!

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

– St. Francis of Assisi