Be Like Will.

Ummm…Drew?  Did I hear the doorbell ring at 11:30 last night?

Yeah, Mom.  You did.   All you need to know is that Oby is an amazing friend!  I gotta go!!

Ok, then.  Have a great day, D!

The above conversation was one of those “I’ve got no time and I am running late so make it quick, Mom” moments.  Every mother of an 18 year old knows what I’m saying.  In this case, my middle kid had gotten very little sleep.  He had played his basketball game and gotten home about 10pm the previous evening.  He arrived home starving, so I shoved a sandwich and some apple slices at him.  Then, he hustled upstairs to work on homework.  I knew he would be up until all hours.  His academic load is significant— by his own choice.  He’s a bright kid and a hard worker but I do worry about him.  It’s a mom thing.  Is he getting enough sleep?  Is the insane IB homework load just too much?  Would it be better for him to have more time for just being a goofy kid?  You get it.  All of us who have kids constantly have this little interior chatter.

This particular day stands out to me, because as the day wore on, I learned more details about the late night visit of one Will Oberndorfer.  It was a God wink.

Apparently, in the new world of electronic everything, there are online quizzes and apps you must have operational, plus midnight deadlines for assignments….all sorts of things I cannot imagine as I compare my son’s academic experience to my own.  I don’t even pretend to understand any of it, and I am truly thankful to God that I was born in 1971.  Pencils, paper and dogs that ate homework were all actual things back in the day.  I digress.  Anyway, on Tuesday night after Drew had his sandwich and a shower, he began his homework marathon later than normal.  It was pushing 11pm.  Shortly after plopping down at his desk, Drew realized that there was a glitch causing his computer to be unable to run some application he needed in order to successfully complete a required quiz by midnight.  He texted his friends—the other crazy young people who are also up half the night, every night, trying to finish their own work.  He was wondering if any of them knew a way to fix the computer issue.  None did.  His friend Oby offered to let Drew come over to his house and use his working computer.  Drew didn’t want to bother his buddy so late.  He then just thanked his friends anyway deciding he would have to just take the zero this time.  He would take his computer into the Guerin Catholic IT folks in the morning for a technical assist.

Then, the doorbell rang.  It was 11:30pm.

I don’t want you to take the zero.

There was Oby.  He had an operational computer for Drew to borrow to take the quiz.

Was it just a small act of kindness?  Yes.  Did it feel small to Drew?  No.

This week, God used a terrific teenager named Will Oberndorfer to remind me, again, how we can all effect positive change in this crazy, wonderful, and sometimes breathtakingly desperate world.  It’s done one kind act at a time, right in the place where you live.  Simply put:  BE THE FRIEND EVERYONE WISHES THEY HAD.

If we’re all working to be the face and hands of Christ, pretty soon it’s going to be incredibly difficult to go anywhere and NOT see how much we are ALL deeply loved by our truly awesome God.

Atta boy, Oby!  You are the REAL DEAL, kid.

Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.  –Mother Teresa

Pumpkin Pie

Radiating Christ 

Dear Jesus,

Help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go.

Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life.

Penetrate and possess my being so utterly

That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through me, and be so in me

That every soul I come in contact with

May feel Your presence in my soul.

Let them look up, and see no longer me but only Jesus.

Stay with me.

And then I will begin to shine as You shine,

So to shine as to be a light for others.

The light, O Jesus, will be all from You.

None of it will be mine.

It will be You, shining on others through me.

Let me thus praise You

In the way in which You love best:

By shining on those around me.

Let me preach You without preaching,

Not by words but by example,

By the catching force,

The sympathetic influence of what I do,

The evident fullness of the love

My heart bears for You.  Amen

A few weeks before she died, Grandma Jane did something my son Drew remembers as one of his favorite things.  She made him his favorite thing– a pumpkin pie– for his birthday.  It wasn’t a years long tradition, but a one-time gesture of love delivered to our house on his 14th birthday.  As only seemed fitting, we covered it entirely with whipped cream and served it to D instead of cake.  He described it that night as “perfection!”

Twenty-four short days later, she would be gone.

It’s exactly a year later now.  My tall, lanky, middle kiddo is celebrating his 15th birthday.  After 9am mass this morning, his effervescent, joy filled cousin Katie whispered to me, “Don’t leave after mass, Aunt Shelly.  We have something for Drew.”

To my immense pleasure, Katie, who is 12, has taken to sitting with us at mass while her parents sing in the choir.  I suppose, as a mother of 3 smelly boys, I cannot resist the sparkly headbands and bright pink sweaters– even if for only an hour!  She’s a ray of sunshine in my week, holding my hand during the Our Father and giving me a bug hug during the sign of peace.  She is girly to her core.

This day, Katie did something else incredibly meaningful.  She brought Drew the PERFECT birthday present.

Any guesses?

Drew, left, with his little brother, Zach, holding the "goods"!

Drew, left, with his little brother, Zach, holding the “goods”!

Yep, homemade pumpkin pie!!  The happy Grandma Jane memory that sparkles for Drew is a tradition Katie decided to carry on.  I for one happen to think that act by my favorite 6th grader is a great big piece of LOVE!

My favorite saint is St. Therese, the Little Flower.  I have been praying for their help of late that I can always believe, as she did, in God’s great love for me, so that I might imitate her “little way” in my life– radiating Christ.  Small acts, big love.  That’s the idea.  We don’t have to be someone popular, or rich, or important to be Christ to someone else.

Thanks for reminding me, Kate, that it can be as simple as baking a pumpkin pie.

Nicely done, sweetheart…..and props to our Awesome God for using such gorgeous bundle of sparkly love to show us Your face today!

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Pray for us!

 






 (Radiating Christ, by the way, is a prayer which was written by John Henry Cardinal Newman, and was a favorite of another pretty awesome chick who knew just how to do small things with great love..........Mother Teresa.)

Losing Shannon

My dear friend, Janet (L) and her beautiful sister, Shannon (R).

My dear friend, Janet (L) and her beautiful sister, Shannon (R).

Dear Jesus,
I do trust You, but I don’t get it. I know You love us, but wrapping my head around this is impossible. She is with You now, in arms more loving than I can imagine. Help us to trust in Your plan for all of us. Fill Connor and Danny, Jan, Colleen, Rita and Danny with grace and peace. I ask this in Your most holy name. Amen.

He folded his little body in half, burying his face between his knees. No sound came from him but a puddle was forming on the otherwise dry sidewalk there on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. The grotto said, “Our Lady of Lourdes” but I thought of her that day as Our Lady of Sorrows.
It had been two days since she died, but we were out of town and isolated from the media and friends and I couldn’t figure out how to tell my freckle faced little man. I knew he loved her. She had just taken him to Steak N Shake along with Connor, Anth, Mikey and Ty between baseball games. It’s what baseball moms do. She was the teacher who taught them all how to hold their hands when they received Jesus for the first time. It’s what 2nd grade teachers do in Catholic schools everywhere. But, she did them, as all things, with special panache, filled with a twinkle in her eye.
Dealing with death is a fact of life, it’s true. This is different though. It broke me to think of it, and it crushed my spirit into 1000 pieces having to shatter the innocent childhood of my beautiful boy by telling him.
“Honey?”
“What’s going on mom? Why is no one telling me what’s going on?”
“Sweetheart, it’s Mrs. Hall. She died, Zach.”
“What do you mean? I just saw her. She was fine.”
“Zach. She died. I want you to listen to me carefully. Mr. Hall died too.”
“Mom? How? An accident?”
“ Mrs. Hall died when Mr. Hall shot her, and then himself. It was not an accident. It’s one of the most terrible things I can imagine, Z. We can’t be sure why something like this ever happens. You know, sometimes people can’t think straight and they are really sick even though they look okay on the outside. I know you want to understand why….but for now none of us know, and we are all sad. I think we should just focus on what we can do. We can pray.”
“I’m so so sad for Connor and Danny, Mom.”
“I know, Z. Me too. Me too.”
“Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” –Mother Teresa
She died on July 27. It’s been a month.
I was not her Mom, or her Dad. I was not her sister or her son. I was not her nephew, niece, nor was I her best friend. I saw her frequently, and we were friends. We were “Bring Z over and swim” or “You know I am going to eat all of your sunflower seeds if you keep them there” kind of friends.

A month feels like 5 minutes. I was expecting her to walk into the lunchroom and tease me with her smile when I was at SLDM last week with my apron on saying, “What? No Diet Coke? I bet you brought a Coke for Jan! I keep telling her that I found you first and she stole you from me.”
She taught all three of my children and showed up every day with a smile, despite any personal hardship she might be going through on any given day. I saw her with fair clarity, and “I don’t mean to be mean” but Shannon was not perfect nor did she claim to be. Who among us is? It doesn’t change her legacy an ounce.
What I have learned as I have prayed, watched, listened and reflected in one month is that God called her to live that “Spread love” mantra of Mother Teresa and she did it with style and substance. She was not just smiling; she was giving us all an authentic piece of God when she twinkled those smiling Irish eyes in our direction.
My heart hurts—especially for those two boys. I pray, and then I pray some more. I try and make deals with God, and sometimes I tell Him that His plan sucks canal water.
Today, as the one month anniversary of her death is just hours away, I find myself thinking about what Shannon would have done if a terrible tragedy had happened to me, or you, or any one of the thousands in her path?
I know the answer right away. She would let her light shine every chance she had. She would pray with her class, give excessive numbers of hugs and she would keep on keeping on. She would spread love.
I’m not yet ready to change my prayer. I have it memorized now.

Dear Jesus,
I do trust You, but I don’t get it. I know You love us, but wrapping my head around this is impossible. She is with You now, in arms more loving than I can imagine. Help us to trust in Your plan for all of us. Fill Connor and Danny, Jan, Colleen, Rita and Danny with grace and peace. I ask this in Your most holy name. Amen.

Tomorrow’s challenge: Let your light shine. Let no one come to you without leaving happier.
BRING IT, PEOPLE! Who’s with me?

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!

Let’s Start an Intention Avalanche!

In her book “Come Be My Light”, Mother Teresa shocked the world with the revelation of her deep interior darkness.  During this time, God used her radiant smile to shine one of the brightest lights of modern times on countless people all over the world.  This is what came into my mind today when a positive and faith filled friend sent out a message this morning which gave me pause.  I want to share part of it with you.

Everyone will go through some hard times at some point.  Life isn’t easy.  Just something to think about…Did you know the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive? Did you know the people who exhibit the most kindness are the first to get mistreated? Did you know the ones who take care of others all the time are usually the ones who need it the most? Sometimes just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile and see how much pain they may be in. To all my friends who are going through some issues right now–Let’s start an intention avalanche.

The sentiment expressed here is a bit sad but truly lovely at the same time.  I read it as a call to pray for all of those around us, especially those who smile at us radiantly.  Every person—family member, neighbor, colleague– in our path was put there by our all-knowing and loving God.  We have to care enough to pray for them, love them, even though they may not ask.

The note above was sent by a sparkly and positive person– a mom– that I regularly encounter.  I am ashamed to say that I cannot recall having before offered a single prayer for her.  You see, she seems to be doing just great, and she never asked.  That’s not okay.  A friend shouldn’t have to look miserable or advertise their illness or struggle in order to be “prayer worthy”.

“Love one another deeply, from the heart.”  –1 Peter 1:22

Admittedly, I get a fair number of prayer requests.  I consider this a great honor and privilege, and I also think it’s just the influence of my big personality.  I make  “friends” with bank tellers and bag boys and small talk with coaches and kindergarteners.  Just yesterday, for example,  I found myself searching for prune juice at O’Malias with a cute old guy who was a bit turned around and couldn’t find the juice aisle.  I thought I knew where everything was at that store, in fact, until tested on the prune juice.  But, my new bff, Stanley, and I did find it! The “never met a stranger” gene is a gift inherited from my Dad.  Is this a blessing, or a curse?  Ha?!

This kind of giftedness, however, should not be mistaken with the kind of faithful friendship that is possible when we open our lives and hearts up to others.  We have to be willing to take the risk of vulnerability when we lay out the welcome mat to our hearts.  This is why I work hard to honor all the prayer requests, even if it means that I offer a single “Glory Be” on my busiest days for a particular intention.  Someone has usually risked revealing fear or genuine interior desire when they ask for prayer, after all.

However, today’s message made me realize, that’s not going to cut it.

“Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts.  It involves many things, but above all, the power of getting out of one’s self and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.”   — Thomas Hughes

When we look up from our own lives to notice those around us, we have the opportunity to multiply joy or divide grief.  We have to understand silence sometimes speaks loudly too.

It used to be when I heard about this idea of “prayer without ceasing” that I pictured pious little nuns with bloody knees.  It didn’t make the idea of being near God all day long sound like anything but a crummy idea.

Here’s what I think about prayer now.  Prayer is speaking to God in the quiet of our hearts, but it is also sneaking in the back door to do the dishes of the neighbor who hasn’t asked but needs the help.  It’s keeping your girlfriend’s kiddo, it’s sending a birthday card, a sunny text message to a teenager, making a breakfast date, or popping in to grab a hug.  These things take time, it’s true.  That too is a prayer though, and it honors God in a way that is possible for minivan moms like me.

“Whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”  –-Prov 11:25

Today, to thank God for the special people in my life, I am going to pray by action.  I choose my sparkly friend who today selected a unique way to say “help me.”  I am honoring her by letting her know how I see Jesus through her, that I am thinking about her, and that I am thankful for the friendship.  I hope she will feel Jesus hugging her with my hands.

“There are so many hurts that circumstances and the world inflict upon us, we need the constant reinforcement of encouragement.”  –Billy Graham

To all reading this today:  Know that you are loved.  Don’t ever forget that Love came all the way down here to earth to help us in our helplessness.

Now, pass it on!  Get busy!

Up Until Now

The Laundromat life....

The Laundromat life….

I believe I have shared before that the “house” part of “housewife” gives me a fair amount of trouble.  So, when a child fails to meet my remarkably low standards for cleanliness, it suffices to say things have gone far past messy and landed squarely in the middle of just plain “ick”.

This is the predicament my oldest son landed in over the weekend.  He had already had a rough week having injured his back at practice, he was hobbling, a bit broken and I just didn’t have the heart to get grumpy.  When his father used the word “disgusting”, I figured it was time for an intervention.

“How did you do this to yourself?” I asked my 15 year-old.

“Well, I wish I had some exciting story to tell you, Mom, but my room just got away from me.  I’m kind of a disaster. ”

Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they’re yours.  –Richard Bach.

As we ate breakfast, I began noodling about how to handle this one.  Then, I told my sons that they needed to gather all their dirty laundry.   While I did the dishes and danced around the kitchen to my favorite Pandora channel, I heard the scurrying overhead.  A few moments later my incredibly bright middle kiddo, Drew, expressed fairly articulately the serious concern he had about the amount of laundry in his brother’s room.

That’s when it hit me.

“Boys, listen up!  I want you to put all your laundry into large trash bags and bring it downstairs. “

“Ok, Mom.”

As the trash bags filled my kitchen, I was warned that their numbers were going to be disturbing, and I admit, I didn’t realize Nick had that many clothes.  In all, more than 6 large trash bags were assembled.  Wondering if the Irish in my heritage might show itself, the boys searched my face looking for signs of an imminent temper tantrum.  They needn’t have worried this time.  I had devised a plan.  My spirit was calm.

Here’s what I know from plenty of first-hand experience.  We all have well-worn patterns of defeat in our lives.   It was time for a little lesson on how the past doesn’t have to dictate the future and that we must take responsibility for making good choices.  Language can be powerful and words have the power to transform us.  We needed to invoke the power of “UP UNTIL NOW.”

I instructed the boys to put the back row of seats down in the van and told the uninjured teenager who had warned me earlier about the volume of dirty clothes to load up the heavy laundry bags.  An act of Christian charity was about to be performed by all of us for the benefit primarily of my oldest son, but hopefully the lesson would resonate.

“Guys, I need you to bring me every quarter you can find.   And, Zach—grab a deck of cards.“

“What’s going on, Mom?”

“Boys, we are going to the laundromat.”

The Kwik Kleen Laundromat in Carmel, Indiana is what I would deem typical as these places go.  It was adequate.  However, the rows of washers and dryers were an unexpected delight to my three laundry novices.  They seemed a bit giddy in amazement of the place, which I estimate was last renovated perhaps in 1982.  Who knew it could be so much fun to load clothes and coins into washers—13 washers!!?

Zach and I played ourselves into a 5-6 euchre deficit against his older brothers while the washers did their job, and then the completely “awesome” complimentary wheeled baskets whizzed about the place at the hands of the Thieme boys as we dropped quarter after quarter into dryers all over the building.  We were operating so many of them at the same time that my 8 year old worked off his breakfast checking the timers on them all and providing play-by-play.

There are no mistakes. All events like this are blessings from which we can learn.  God clearly tells us that our challenges and problems are not unique.  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all.  (1 Cor 10:13).

When we had finished washing, drying, and folding all these loads of clothes, I looked around and realized that my guys were all smiling from the experience.  We had giggled our way through the laundromat afternoon, mercilessly teasing Nick for the hole he had dug for himself, but with our good temperaments undamaged.  We had freed him to begin again.

Smiling and loading up the van was the perfect time, I thought, to underline today’s lesson.  Surrendering negative thoughts and changing poor patterns means looking to God for a new way.  It’s news I wish I had assimilated years ago, and so, as I learn it myself I want very much to share the lesson with my sons right away.  Waiting until age 42 is a touch pathetic, so I am trying to save my boys a long ride on the “struggle bus.”  How do I explain what we’ve just done?  I have about 2 sentences to impart some hard learned wisdom, since that’s the attention span of 8-15 year old boys.  Hmm.  Choose your words carefully, Shelly.

Come, Holy Spirit. That was my silent prayer.

Then, I said, “Nick.  Do you remember telling me this morning you’re a disaster?”

“Yeah.”

“Up until now.”

“Huh?”

“UP UNTIL NOW, you have been a laundry disaster.”

“And now, I have a fresh start and I will do a better job. “

“That’s exactly right.  You can do this better.  I know you will.”

This is what God tells us.  You must replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  We can screw up in ways small and large, but His advice is filled with common sense.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:8-9)

In other words, think positive and positive change is possible.  When tempted to fall back into old patterns of unhealthy thinking or behavior, add the words “up until now” to your sentence.  I’ve been trying this of late and I think it’s brilliant.

“Up until now, I have been a laundry disaster.”

“Up until now, I have failed in exercise.”

What about you?  Up until now, what have you done??

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. – Mother Teresa