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.

On Pope Alarms, Adopted Cardinals and the Secret of Happiness

Well, I’ve adopted my cardinal.  I’m following @PapalSmokeStack on Twitter, and I’ve signed up for the “Pope Alarm”.  I mean, it’s time to rock and roll on this whole matter of the conclave, right?  I mean no disrespect to the men in black (and red) when I say, “Let’s get ‘er done fellas!”

My adopted Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil

My “adopted” Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil

I was with some Jesus gals this morning.  We took a few minutes to pray for our Holy Mother Church and the Cardinals in Rome now.  We all expressed our fervent hope that the Holy Spirit will be powerfully present.  We prayed that pride would be set aside and God’s choice would be made powerfully clear to the College of Cardinals by His grace.

As history is made, it’s pretty exciting to be a witness.  My oldest, a 15-yr old, reminded me of this fact the morning that we heard about Pope Benedict’s resignation.  As we watched Matt Lauer interview Cardinal Dolan last month, my son recalled vividly being a 2nd grader during the last conclave and described in fairly impressive detail the exuberant reaction of his classmates when the new Pope Benedict stepped out onto the “loggia”.  He clearly felt that as a defining moment in his Catholic journey when he said, “I think I got it for the first time then that I am part of something really big.  Being Catholic I mean.”

Still, as much as we have heard about the “papabile” the last few weeks, participated in prayer and guessed about who our new leader will be, ultimately, a large part of my internal thought process was in sync with a friend who wrote me today to say that it’s simply all in the hands of the “important people” or the “elite” of the Church.

Then, moments later I heard the following.  It was written by Fr. Mattias Scheeban, a relatively obscure German theologian from the mid 1800s.  In this I heard God speaking to me.  I hope you will too.

“The soul adorned with grace becomes a new reality, an ennobled tree which is always green, always in bloom, always bearing fruit.  If you knew yourself, Christian soul, how you would treasure and esteem yourself!  If you but knew yourself, O saintly soul lived and dwelt in by God…lovely paradise of your Creator, splendid tabernacle of the Holy Trinity…if you but knew yourself daughter of the Father, Sister of the son, (spouse) of the Holy Ghost, Associate and companion of the whole blessed Trinity!  If you only knew yourself, how highly you would prize yourself, not because of what you are (in and of) yourself, but because of the dignity that Grace brings to you!”

Is not God reminding me through Fr. Scheeban of how highly God prizes each of us, hearing us and our prayers clearly even despite how invisible or sinful we may feel?  Are you and I impossibly unimportant in the big picture here?  Or, are we all terribly vital and equally valued and loved in the sight of God at this moment and always?

Dig into the memory banks for a moment and remember with me a parable….. the tax collector who stood at a distance and would not even dare raise his eyes to heaven?  Perhaps you recall him too?  He’s the publican in Luke 18 who says “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  Little and despised though he was in the eyes of men, God heard him and he was justified.

Where am I going with all this? Though we may feel of little consequence, though we may feel invisible, our task is to become more like Mary, especially now during this important time for our Church universal.  A faithful soul that magnifies the Lord can ask anything and it will be given.   We have to know who we are in Christ.   If we pray often, give all the praise and honor to Him, He will continue to bless us and guide us on our journey to Him, serving Him in ways big and small– though we may not ever realize what He has accomplished through us—or what He plans still.

So, as the dental hygienist worked on my teeth this afternoon,  I never dreamed we would be talking about the conclave.  She quizzed me about prayer as we chatted about THE smokestack and I confessed about my morning and my prayers and then she said,  “Can I ask you something?  How do you know what to do, what to say?  I just really feel weird about prayer.”   

 I said, “Don’t worry about how to do it.  Just be who you are.  Try to be patient with yourself. God knows you.  Just talk to him.  Just be you.”

Then, I smiled and I dug in my purse to give her a copy of some terrific wisdom from Cardinal Mercier.  You may have seen this before, but it’s worth reading again and again.  One of the Jesus gals gave it to me this morning, and since I had seen it before, I almost said “thanks, anyway.”  I felt nudged to grab it, and I’m so pleased this time I listened. 


I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness.  Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to all the noises of the world, in order to enter into yourself.  Then, in the sanctity of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit) speak to that Divine Spirit saying to Him:

O, Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You.  Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me.  Tell me what I should do….give me your orders.  I promise to submit myself to all that you desire of me and to accept all that You permit to happen to me.  Let me only know Your will.

If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in  the midst of trials.  Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it and you will arrive at the gate of Paradise, laden with merit.  This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity.  –Card. Mercier

Note to self:  Silly woman, when someone offers you the secret of sanctity and happiness, take 2 copies.