A Dog Named Buddy

“A single act of love makes the soul return to life.”  –St. Maximilian KolbeBuddy

Maybe it’s the fact that I am trying to kick a diet coke habit.  Perhaps it’s because my fridge repair guy has cancelled for the 2nd time.  I’m not entirely sure the reason, but I can say for certain that I wasn’t in any jeopardy of being accused of excessive holiness this morning.

I was focused on a long list of priorities to manage and errands to run.  On the top of my pile are multiple sets of some ridiculous forms the kid’s school has been pestering me for…..FOREVER.

I wanted to shout, “My kids haven’t changed doctors, they still aren’t allergic to anything, we haven’t moved, and our cell phone numbers remain the same.  Yes, you can give my kid a Tylenol if he has a headache.   We still don’t care which number you’re going to use on the phone tree that has never been used in my last 10 years at this school… and last but not least….our language preference is still ENGLISH!  Why can’t we just click a box that says SAME AS LAST YEAR?!”

These are the things that drive me crazy.  Between them and the incessantly barking neighbor dogs, it was just getting to me.  Clearly, I thought, I have lost it.  I need to go get sweaty and work off the anger management problem that seems to be lathering up.

As I drove my blue minivan towards the gym, I noticed the car ahead of me had pulled to the side of the road and stopped.  There she was– an anguished, gray-haired hysterical woman– in the middle of the street.  Inching closer, I could hear her crying and see that there was a dog lying motionless at her feet.  She was inconsolable.  Oh gosh.

The traffic began to backup on the busy road, but everyone gave her respectful space.  It was truly a poignant scene, which made my heart hurt and brought me out of myself.  Making my way out of the area after a few minutes,  I found myself asking God to bring this stranger peace of heart.  It was hard to watch her pain, as she was so raw with emotion, and it remains with me still.

That said, I think it’s worth confessing that I, myself, am not really a dog fan (as you may have inferred in the earlier paragraph).  I have never quite connected with the animal lovers of the world.  I am fully aware of the obvious flaw in character that I am revealing when I share this, by the way.  That said, a friend who knows this about me smiled a bit at my sugary sentimentality over the woman and her lost canine companion from this morning.  She explained to me that a good dog loves you when no one else does, is always happy to see you and she said, “sometimes, nothing feels better than being loved even when you don’t deserve it.”

LIGHT BULB MOMENT.

God loves me even when I don’t feel lovely.  He loves me when I feel abandoned and ignored.  Always.  No matter what.

God uses dogs too?  They are instruments of His love.  Just like amazing girlfriends, loving spouses, freckle-faced kids, beautiful sunsets, and knockout roses.

Who knew?

Notice how when you start remembering to love others, think of them before yourself, you come out of yourself and suddenly what seemed so bothersome is much less noticeable?  When I began to earnestly pray for Ruth and her dog Buddy this morning, I forgot all about my lack of ice cubes and my stack of forms.

Here’s a little scriptural wisdom I could probably use to have tattooed to my arm.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

I’m going to work on it.  It’s that whole concept of thinking more about loving the next guy first, before myself, that gives me fits.  Sometimes I wonder if I am hopeless.  Pretty sure, for example that I need a ladle full of extra grace to overcome the incessantly barking dogs thing.

God did point out to me today that dogs can rather beautifully serve His purpose.  It’s funny how loud he yells sometimes, so, I’ll try.

What does He yell at you about?

Shelly 2.0

What’s wrong with you people?  Why can’t you understand how special I am?MotherTeresa

I mean sure, I have a little bit of a patience issue this week, but the sun hasn’t been out in months here and I am a tax season widow–so there are special circumstances.  Plus, I’ll grant you that I’m well past the pleasantly plump label at this point, but you have to keep in mind the medical challenges and my personal history.  It’s been too cold to exercise EVERYDAY.   I mean, the time hasn’t been right.  It’s a special case.  The laundry might be a smidge backed up, and I forgot to take the trash cans in AGAIN.  The “house” part of “housewife” is constantly giving me fits.  But you see, I have 3 boys playing on five teams right now who need to be carpooled to 2 different schools everyday…. and I hosted Easter last week and this weekend was my youngest son’s first communion.  We were celebrating.  We’re really busy.  It’s spring break.  I’m sure you’ll agree that’s different.  It’s a special situation.  I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

ENOUGH.  My “special” attitude isn’t working.

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. — St. Augustine

Ever feel like you’re overdue for an attitude change, a behavior shift?  If failure drives change, then I guess I am in the middle of a new experience with freedom here.   There is a certain freedom, after all, in knowing I don’t have to worry about screwing up anymore.  It’s happened.  I’ve already done it.  BUT, I hear without failure, there is no growth.

Growth in my case seems to mean I need to come to grips with being a little smaller.  Pun intended.  I mean it literally and in a figurative way.  Now might be time to put down the goldfish crackers and come to grips with my nothingness.

A friend of mine who has survived a long ugly battle with leukemia told me once that she wakes up every day and no matter how crappy she feels, she wants to do something positive for someone else.

Karen is clearly on to something.  It’s time to start waking with a new attitude.  So, I decided a change is in order–less me, more God.  If God is love, then I am going to thank God for the day He has given me by doing something that makes someone smile.  Inspire someone.  Be someone’s light.  Love more.

I prayed about it and I thought about it and I committed to a turnaround.  Let’s go!

Cue reality.   The day before yesterday, my internet went out.  This isn’t a new problem.  We live in a not so bright house, if you catch my drift.   I unplugged it then turned the modem back on.  Nada.  Then, I waited for a miracle.  If a particular service has been dead more than 24 hours, I let my fingers do the walking.  The nice gal tried at the cable company to work her long distance techno magic, but the pinging was to no avail.  She decided I needed a new modem and scheduled a service call for today.

A few hours later, I noticed that my land line was dead.  Since we have the same provider for the phone, internet and cable, I decided I would dial them again from my cell phone and add this issue.  The words of Mother Teresa rolled around in my mind.  Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.  Okay real life, here we go.

That’s when I noticed that the dead modem was looking more alive and my email was operational.  So, I hooked up via cell phone with my good friends at Brighthouse and a customer service gal who identified herself as Vicki answered.  Here’s how our conversation progressed.

“M’am, I see we already have a service call scheduled for tomorrow.  Do you need to reschedule?”

“Vicki, no I don’t.  I just need to chat with you for a second.  You see, when I called earlier for service and talked to the other gal, it was my internet that was out.  Now it’s my phone.  But the internet is working again.  The modem has come out of its coma for now.”

“Oh, okay.  So you want to cancel the internet technician but have a phone tech visit instead?”

“Well, Vicki, not really.”

“Mrs. Thieme, I am so sorry you’re having trouble but you don’t need to get upset, I will do what I can to help.”

“Listen, Vicki.   You can relax and call me Shelly.  No one has cancer over here.  I’m not worked up at all and there won’t be any phone rage.  This isn’t an emergency of any kind.  It’s just that I am bummed I am paying for phone, internet and cable and I don’t think all three have ever been working at the same time for a solid week since we moved here.  I already know all your technicians.  Can we talk?”

“Thank you for being nice M’am.  What can I do?”

“Well, Vicki, I know you have thousands of customers.   There’s nothing special about me or my house.  I am just thinking maybe we can talk about what other options you have there.  Do you guys have a team of super smart geeks you send out to call on the houses of people who are yelling and talking about unfair treatment?  I kinda want a shot at those guys.  Only I am going to be nice and try to make them eat super yummy cinnamon bread that I am now not allowed to eat myself so they will stay long enough to untangle the technology cluster going on over here.”

Audible giggles.  “M’am.  Shelly, I mean.  Can you hold for a minute while I do something I say I am going to do but rarely actual do?”

“You’re going to talk to a supervisor, aren’t you?”

“Yes M’am, please hold”.

“Thank you for holding for so long and being so nice.  I’ve checked your account.  I think we can do a better job for you.  I’ve asked permission to give you a promotional discount we give to new customers.  Your bill will be $61 less per month from now on.  Oh, and this month you have been given a $50 credit.”

“Vicki.  That’s so kind.  Thank you for doing that!  I’m not sure what possessed you but gosh I am grateful.”

“M’am.  I’ll tell you.  It’s three things.   You didn’t complain about being on hold for 42 minutes. You are so funny,  and best of all, you haven’t tried telling me how important or special your problems are one time.”

Hmm.  I think she just said she was extra nice to me because I know I’m NOT SPECIAL.  Haha!!  Okay, God.  I hear you commenting on my change.  Shelly 2.0 it is.

“Our technicians will be at your house tomorrow between 8am and 10am.  Is that okay?”

“Vicki.  I feel like you used a plural word.  Did you say technicianzzzz?”

“Yes, M’am.  I did my best.  Thank you so much for being really nice.  Good luck.”

Pope Francis said, “The sin that repulses me most is pride and thinking oneself as a big shot” in an interview for a book written about him by Sergio Rubin in 2010.  He said when it happened to him, “I have felt great embarrassment and I ask God for forgiveness because nobody has the right to behave like this.”

Seems like our new pope might be working with more updated software than yours truly.

Version 2.0:  Less me, more others, more love, more God.

Amen.

Loving like St. Therese of Lisieux

Gratefulness overwhelms me today.  I wish I could say I thank God each morning like I did on this one.  It is my 18th wedding anniversary.   My husband, Tom, remains the love of my life and one of the most honest and authentic people I have ever known.  To say that we are blessed is a ridiculous understatement.  It also happens to be the feast day of my favorite saint, St. Therese of Lisieux.  It was a holy and very funny priest who introduced me to her just a few years ago.  I don’t happen to believe in coincidence.  Like any deeply Catholic person, I am a supernatural thinker.  God’s plan was that I celebrate my marriage on the feast day of the saint who loved her bridegroom with stunning devotion and with joyful self sacrifice.  I remember reading her autobiography, Story of a Soul, and being blown away by her pure heart and passionate love of Christ.  Today, as I find myself filled with gratitude for the beautiful life and challenging, but rewarding vocation He has called me to live, I uncovered this old editorial I wrote about loving Christ with abandon.  It ran with a photograph of St. Therese, the Little Flower, which I am including in this post too.  I hope you enjoy the message.  What better day than my anniversary to share what I’ve learned about love.  St. Therese, Pray for Us!

Is Jesus Going to Spit Me Out?

Reassurance from others can lead us to believe we are in decent shape as far as “godliness” is concerned.  When we compare ourselves to those around us, we might even convince ourselves we stack up nicely compared to our neighbors.  Our security lies in our church attendance, generosity with others, work ethic, service to our parish, family or community.
Here is the rub, though.  Jesus wants ALL of us.  He wants us to love him with abandon, like our very lives are at stake– because they are!  Lukewarm people love Jesus, believe in him, and desire to do what is good.  We are often even moved to tears by stories of radical faith.  Surely, compared to those who don’t make it to mass at all, or who don’t raise their hand to help, we with caring hearts who share from our abundance and love our Savior, though safely, are in fine shape as far as eternity is concerned.  What does Jesus say?
As challenging as it is, it’s pretty clear the Lord is nauseated by us.  Uncommitted faith is an abomination to our Lord.  The word of God is absolutely concise.  “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16)
Frankly, that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up to attention.  Jesus wants to spit out the half-hearted?  Yikes.
Two amazing saints are St. Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower) and St. Augustine.  These two are clarifiers for me on the issue, because though they are very different from one another, their commonality is loving Jesus with relentlessness.  The former was a contemplative who lived what most would say was an outwardly unspectacular and truly pious life inside the walls of a convent.  She very simply offered her every tiny daily sacrifice out of genuine love of God.  Her God given gifts were quiet, and she lived only 24 years, but her soul cried out to Jesus as spectacularly as anyone about whom I have ever read.  As for Augustine, through the powerful intercession of his mother, St. Monica, he overcame a life filled with sinfulness.  His love for God shines in his words, “I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.”  None of this sounds like halfhearted commitment.
To give Jesus ALL doesn’t mean we must do it in quiet hours of prayer and reverence like the Little Flower, or with bold panache and fantastic conversion like Augustine, it simply means our Savior wants us to use the grace and gifts He has given us to let Him be known.  To do so, we must look to the saints and love God passionately. The purpose of our very life should be to point to Him.
Here’s a good litmus test.  If we are obsessed by God, nothing else can get into our lives— not tribulations stress or worries.  Worry and stress reek of arrogance.  How can we dare to be so absolutely unbelieving when God totally surrounds us?
Are all we hopelessly lukewarm then?  What can we do?  Here’s some sage advice to ponder:
Be not afraid to tell Jesus that you love Him; even though it be without feeling, this is the way to oblige Him to help you, and carry you like a little child too feeble to walk.
 –St. Therese of Lisieux

What’s in a Name?

NULA.  It’s a name that stands on its own, her son eulogized this week.  Think “Cher” or “Beyonce”.  Her son, Joe, couldn’t have been more accurate in his description of his larger than life mother during her funeral mass Monday afternoon.  She lived her life with passion, where slackers need not apply.  Her battle with pancreatic cancer scarcely changed a thing.  She wouldn’t allow any child or grandchild of hers to get away with standing in the batter’s box watching strikes go by, and she went down swinging!

Some people just have a way of making our lives sunnier, our hearts warmer.  They show up when the chips are down, or stop by with a diet coke, or make you laugh until your sides ache.  They just keep putting love out there.  They latch on to the affirmative.

When Fr. Farrell gave the most beautiful funeral homily I have ever heard this week, that’s part of what he said made Nula such a genuine person.  But the most important thing he shared was a reminder.  He reminded the packed house at St. Pius X Catholic Church that God doesn’t want us to be the next St. Catherine of Siena, or Francis of Assisi.  He wants us to live our lives with zeal being authentically US, from start to finish, just like Nula did.

Virtually every great accomplishment, program, or movement about which I have ever read or learned firsthand was started by someone who believed and lived passionately.  It’s painfully easy to decide one “cannot”.  It’s a simple path to nowhere living with a pocketful of excuses and the sense that we surely cannot acquire the capacity to do it.   Is there a single saint who spent their time glorifying God on this planet, on their path to canonization, preaching by word or example the idea of loving as moderately as possible?

So, today, I am writing about loving my Catholic faith, again.  Writing about God doesn’t help me pay any bills.  It’s something I’d told myself I shouldn’t waste my time doing anymore.  I should be matching socks, or helping someone practice their spelling words, or making something slightly fancier than boiled noodles for dinner.  I am madly in love with my family, and I would like it to appear to them that these are not merely words.

Here’s the thing.  I love writing and I love Jesus.  Those two things are my passions as well.   So, I acquired this crazy idea at Nula’s funeral that being Shelly, really living genuinely and passionately as the Shelly God means me to be, well, it means I am going to have to step confidently in the direction of passion.   I think I am just supposed to keep putting love out there, even though Blogging, and Twitter, and all social media seem incredibly narcissistic to me, and despite the fact that there seems to be no reason to believe my homemaking skills have any hope of improving.

It’s all an effort at living who He created me to be, to the fullest extent I can endeavor to try, and with the help of His grace—that’s what He wants for all of us, and He Never Misses.

Visit me at www.HeNeverMisses.wordpress.com or on Twitter at @shellythieme

#PrayersforNula