He’s NOT Wearing Green

Life is beautiful; It is a gift even when it is lived in difficult circumstances.  It is always a gift.  (Pope Benedict XVI)

One of my rarely broken rules of this blog involves not invoking stories which include what could be construed as unflattering tidbits about my husband, Tom. You see, I’m pretty into harmonious marriage. For the sake of making a point which I feel is valuable, I’m letting that one go today. He’s working so many hours right now, maybe he won’t notice, ha?

Tom and I, at our anniversary dinner. It wasn’t 6:45am when this was taken. Ha!

As you likely know, today is St. Patrick’s Day. I got up a few minutes early so that I could dig out some appropriately green clothing item and still get to 8am mass on time. Like any sane long married couple, we usually start our days best when NOT sharing bathroom space first thing in the morning. I like sleeping in and Tom likes seeing zero other humans, so it usually works out.

 Use of blow dryers is frowned upon in the wee hours, as is casual conversation.  Tom is NOT a morning person.  In fact, my irritatingly cheerful “Good morning!” used to be greeted with “Is it, though?”  I outed my handsome guy on that one, and he’s curtailed it.  I’m proud of him, as I know it’s not easy being married to me, especially at 6:45am.

Today, my mistake was pointing out that he wasn’t wearing green.  “Do you think I give a rip about wearing green?” he barked. I retorted by pointing out that his Irish grandmother is looking down disapprovingly at this move and steered him to the area with the green golf shirts just begging to be chosen.  My idea was summarily and immediately rejected. 

Transparency is important here.  It’s tax season for my favorite CPA.  When I went to bed well after 11pm, he was still in our home office working.  Also, we’re on the verge of WWIII, it costs $100 to fill up a tank with gas, the pandemic refuses to end, and his Dad has end stage colon cancer.  This moment in history is a difficult one for so many of us.  Some of the reasons we share, and some are our own crosses.

Voracious.  That’s the word I’d assign to myself where reading is concerned.  I definitely read my fair share of beach smut, but I am also drawn to historical works—fiction and nonfiction.  Many of my favorite books are based on the stories of ordinary heroes who stepped into the gap for the sake of others at some of the most cruel and terrifying moments of World War II.  For much the same reason, I am inspired by the stories of the saints.  The tie that binds the most inspiring people I’ve read about is hope.  They were hopeful folks, which allowed them to be fully present in the moment.

Hopeful people show others the light.  They are sacrificial and kind.  They raise money for one small family fleeing the Ukraine.  They show up with Starbucks on a rainy day.  They clear a stranger’s sidewalk of snow or offer to take a friend to the airport.  Hopeful people are upbeat, cheerful, sanguine and they keep the faith.  Interiorly, there is something inside these heroes.  I’ll call it grace.  This grace allows folks to somehow intuit that they start the world spinning again towards peace, towards compassion.

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. (Colin Powell)

The Lord isn’t calling most of us to do something as dramatic as say, St. Maximilian Kolbe.  He was a polish priest who volunteered to die in place of another man (who had a wife and children) at Auschwitz.  However, Jesus might be calling you and I to be beacons of hope. 

Are you feeling down?  The absolute best solution that exists is to be present in the day you’re living and think “what can I do to make someone else’s day sunnier?”  Then, just choose one small, optimistic thing.  Call your Dad.  Buy coffee for the fireman you see at Panera.  Teach a first grader how to play “crazy 8’s”.  Pray a decade of the rosary for a friend—then tell her!  These signs of hope send goodness into the world, and it is transformed.  The same goes for your own heart. 

I’ll give you a personal example.  At the beginning of the year, I was having a particularly blue week.  I then learned that several of the regular volunteers at the Merciful Help Center (a food pantry and so much more) near me were all out with Covid.  I offered to fill in for a day doing whatever was needed.  The hours that I spent that day simply making phone calls to folks in need were nothing special—or so I thought.  The truth is, that day left my bucket filled.  When we focus on what we can do for someone else, the Lord has a magical way of using our compassion for the good of folks in our path to other ends as well.    

Hopefulness expressed outwardly is a big fat “Get behind me, Satan.” 

The world is full of overwhelmed people.  The danger of surrender to the collective consciousness, to the attitudes that surround us have long been a warning siren.  Mark (chapter 8) tells us “Do not go into the village” for what I personally think is this exact reason.  The polarization created by technology is absolutely an existential threat to us as well in this same way.  We can no longer agree on truth. 

The solution I propose is this.  Focus on being the best friend you can.  Don’t wait to be invited.  Notice.  Listen.  Smile.  Give more than you take.  Make the time. 

This past fall, I heard a great talk from a Dominican Sister.  My takeaway from that talk was the pairing of these gems spoken by our Blessed Mother.  They are out of wine…do whatever He tells you.

In other words, if you spot someone whose eyes are are dead today, if it’s your own heart that’s battered, (or even if it’s just that your husband doesn’t even have the good sense to put on a green shirt on St. Patricks day, because life is just A LOT) first, notice who’s “out of wine”.  Then, listen to Jesus and do what He says. 

My solution for Tom was pretty small. It won’t solve what ails him that I ran a couple errands specifically for him today or that I have pork chops waiting for him when he gets home (because no tense German guy wants corned beef after working a 14hr day) even if it is St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe, though, a little part of him will be assuaged by love.

Trust in Him.  In defiance to all that is difficult or even evil, be hopeful today.  In optimism, there is victory. 

St. Patrick, Pray for Us!

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!

For Pity’s Sake, She Said…

Easter Season is the time for Joy and Gratitude!

Easter Season is the time for Joy and Gratitude!

I knew it was coming.
“Will all those married couples celebrating an anniversary in the month of May please stand for a blessing?”
My mind flashed back to that surreal day in the ER where her body laid lifeless in front of me and his forlorn eyes looked through me as his words echoed, “We didn’t make it to 50.”
Making no eye contact, I reached over and put my hand on his knee. He grabbed it and as couples in pews all around us announced how many years of marriage they were celebrating, my father-in-law and I just sat quietly, holding hands. This month, Jane and Tom would have celebrated 50 years of marriage.
Weirdly, this seemed like a good way to start Mother’s day to me. Together there at mass we sat, my father in law, my husband, and our three cute boys.
My own amazing mom was due to arrive shortly, and we would casually celebrate the day with a cookout, just hanging out together doing nothing, and doing it on a gorgeous and warm sunny day delivered with love by a God who seemed to spoil me with blessings on Mother’s Day 2014.
Nick and Drew wrote beautiful notes of thanks, and when paired with Zach’s hand drawn rainbow card, I wondered how God could choose me to mother these incredible children. As the daylight was starting to wind down, my hubby and I went on a joyride in his sporty little red car and finished the day with the most delicious margarita and a short walk downtown.
As I headed to bed, I texted a dear friend, “If I don’t wake up tomorrow, you can tell everyone that I died happy!”
So, this week started out spectacularly!!
Life can be a bumpy road though, and so the past 5 days have brought quite a bit of chaos, some interior anger and a touch of impatience. At one point on Tuesday evening, I found myself at an accident scene with my 16-year-old son and two Fishers police officers, with my phone ringing requesting a home showing, and my 9-year-old son feeling like he was going to vomit.
What happened to the convertible ride and the sunset margaritas, God? Sigh.
It’s so tempting to focus on what’s troubling us. It’s tempting to be angry, or impatient. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s easy to forget gratitude when life doesn’t appear to be going my way. The thing is, God knows exactly where I am. He knows all about my sick little guy, my shaken new driver and his crunched car, my 13 unsuccessful house showings, the giant laundry pile, stressed out husband…and on and on. And He placed me right here, right now. So, here’s where He wants me, and it seems like whining about God’s plan is a touch counterproductive.
For pity’s sake, don’t start meeting troubles halfway. –St. Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa of Avila was a brilliant chick and is an inspiring saint. What makes her so amazing to me is that her advice is so accessible to me in 2014. I mean, she has a point. I’m guessing if she were here to give me some guidance, she’d suggest gratefulness to God for my MANY blessings, a joyful spirit, patience and trust.
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:16-18)
In the spirit of St. Teresa, I’m sharing today my rather un-fancy, somewhat inarticulate prayer, offered with a joyful heart. She famously said, “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.” So, here I go.
Thanks, God for giving me a terrific father-in-law so willing to take in a sick third grader while my house is unavailable. You are amazing and awesome for keeping my son safe on the road, despite his accident and inexperience. I love you and I trust you with the circumstances of my life this day and plead with you for increased faith and the grace to be all that You mean for me to be for those around me today. Lord, You above all know my every need before I ask. Help me to love you more and to be a light for others. Please bless my family and all those for whom I have promised pray. Oh, and God? I know Your plan is the best plan and I thank You for taking great care of me, even when I grouse at you and act like a spoiled toddler. Amen.
There’s no sin or wrong that gives man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger and impatience. –St. Catherine of Siena.