Let’s be Real

This isn’t a set the tone. This isn’t a mocking pre-phrase before a debunking. This is a challenge. A request. Let’s be who we truly are, what we truly are, let’s be real.

It’s so easy these days to be fake. Filters, editing programs, online interaction, all of these things and more lend to ease at being who we want to be  rather than what we truly are. Let’s be serious here, who actually is always as optimistic and happy as their Instagram posts make themselves sound? Yeah, certainly not me. Who is always as thoughtful and ordered as they try to be in their blog posts? Again, certainly, absolutely not me.

This isn’t to say that being optimistic, orderly, or thoughtful in public settings are wrong. It simply means this: make sure that you’re not creating someone who doesn’t exist. Are you showing the real you and highlighting great qualities (which is acceptable!) or are you taking those great qualities and blowing them to perfection and ignoring any other part of YOU that might not be picture perfect?

I was at a little group meeting and someone brought this “be real” topic up. It made me think about all the things I post online. It made me truly consider whether I was portraying myself and my thoughts as they truly were or as an “edited to perfection” version. I determined that I could be more real. I could share more about struggles, more about the trials and fears that I encounter and not just the thoughts that spring from those struggles, trials, or fears.

I’ll be real here: if you come up to me at any given moment of the day and asked me, “What are you thinking about?” my answer would most likely be something like, “Well I’m worried about what I should do about so or such” or “I’m worried about what so and so will think of this or that.” I worry…a lot. With those worries, sometimes I encounter a little ‘message’ from God, an assurance, an ‘I love you’, etc. and often times those are my motivations for posts.

So the reality: 99% of the time I’m worrying. Maybe, just maybe 1% of the time I’m thinking something of relevance, worth, or ‘depth’.

What is it you might not be so real about online? Are there things you highlight so much that you don’t ever bring up a struggle or even a talent that would help motivate others? We all have struggles. No one doesn’t. So let’s stop pretending we’re perfect and have it all together. Doing that simply alienates yourself from needed companionship or healing and discourages others on their hard journey.

You don’t have to tell everyone every struggle. You don’t have to publish your faults. You don’t have to have a weekly confession of what you failed at. You don’t have to admit you ate such and such much food in a day. But you do have to be real. (If appropriate) tell the whole story and not just the heroic part of it. For instance: yes, I didn’t want to write this post today. And, yet, I may have used the motivation of cheesecake to get through writing this post. Not too bad right? I hope you at least found that amusing. It’s a little hard to admit I don’t love (all the time) running to the computer and writing down a thought I had, but it makes it real, doesn’t it?

So, today, tomorrow, the next day, try looking at your posts, at your photos and ask yourself if you’re being real. If you’re being you and not the you that was created in your head.

Anyone else use goodies or relaxation time as a motivation or ‘bribe’ to get yourself to do something? Hopefully I’m not the only one…or that might be a little awkward.

Carpe veritatem!

Therese May Signature

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What’s in a Name?

I was reading a book the other day, Follow the Cloud (a very interesting book, in case you were wondering), and I came across a story that really struck me. The author of the book was sitting in his car with his young daughter. This little girl had her favorite doll with her in the car, a doll that she covetously called “Isabelle”. Now the author, deciding to tease his daughter, turned and asked his daughter how “Samantha” was doing. Of course, the daughter quickly corrected him. “Isabelle” was not going to be called the wrong name on her watch. Again though, the author called the doll “Samantha”. The same correction was given him. The author probably should have learned his lesson by that point, but he hadn’t. The “Samantha” word was spoken once more and the little daughter’s pot boiled over. “Daddy, her name is not Samantha, its Isabelle. She is my doll. She belongs to me, and only I get to say who she is. Her name is Isabelle!”

The author drew a parallel between his daughter’s refusing to let anyone but herself name her doll and God naming or defining us. That story and parallel struck me in a profound way.

See, so often we see something we don’t like about our lives and adjectives fly into our minds that degrade us. We find ourselves on paths we don’t like and we define ourselves by our struggles. I know it because I do it…all the time. This story helped me realize though that when I think about myself like that I’m not just offending and hurting myself, I’m offending and hurting God, because I belong to him.

I don’t belong to myself; I belong to God, and I want to give what belongs to God back to God. I want to throw away all the names and adjectives I’ve wrongly used to define myself and I’d like to invite you to do the same. Write it down and then destroy the list, kneel down and speak it out loud or think it silently, in whatever way you want to, just do it. Find somewhere quiet and secluded so you can concentrate and pray. Then think of any adjectives you’ve used to define yourself. As you remember them, say them, or write them, reject them. one. by. one. Hand them to God so he can discard of them as he pleases. Then pray to him to help you let HIM define you, to let HIM describe you.

You are not your own to name. You are his. You belong to him. Only HE can define and name you. And in case you were wondering, he doesn’t call you “disobedient”, “failure”, “ugly”, “not good enough”, or any other adjective you’ve ever used in a hard moment, he calls youBELOVED”.

Carpe veritatem!

Therese May Signature

Check out my review of “Follow the Cloud” here!

Finding Greatness…in the Nothings?

Last night I was thinking about St. Therese of the Little Flower (my confirmation saint), and a thought suddenly occurred to me.

I remember while reading various books about her a number of years ago that St. Joan of Arc was her favorite saint. Both of them lived in France and Therese seemed to feel a connection with the saint. Joan of Arc did great amazing things. She saved France and she died for Christ.

As a girl who has looked up to St. Therese all my life, I know that looking up to a saint and feeling a connection with them makes you want to follow in their footsteps. For example, I wanted to be a nun (a Carmelite, of course), I wanted to do everything with great love, and, yes, I even wanted to die of Tuberculosis.

As these thoughts occurred to me, I realized that St. Therese, I’m sure, wanted to follow in the footsteps of her favorite saint. She wanted to do something great for France, for the world.

And yet, what is she known for? For the little things she did, the “nothings”.

She wanted to be a heroic saint and wished she could go to war and save France, but she got to confine herself in a convent for her Love of God and offer every little action she did too Him.

That may make you laugh or smile, or it may make you feel a little upset. Would not the life Therese lived have be very unsatisfying if those were her desires?

Well, not necessarily. You see, Therese’s first and foremost desire was to do the Will of God. Her love for Him was so great that anything He wished for her to do was the only thing that would satisfy her (look at the determination and patience she had to enter the convent and the sorrow she experienced when she was prevented from entering).

But there’s more! Therese’s “little” things weren’t so little. Her Little Way has influenced so many lives and changed so many hearts. Her Little Way was Mother Teresa’s way of life, to do every little thing with great love. Imagine that! Therese influenced and guided another saint on their way to perfection!

Her littleness became greatness because she had great love. Therese wanted to save France, to do something big like Joan and she did, although maybe not in the way she imagined. She hoped to do something heroic for France but God said, “I have something better. I want you to do something heroic for the world.”

So remember, when you feel upset about the little things you do. About cleaning after your children, about being patient with your co-workers, about anything that just seems inadequate and worthless in the big scheme of things, remember that in littleness greatness is found.

I am sure that once in your life (at least) you have felt that your life is only made up of little things, that when you are asked what you did the only reply you have (though you have worked all day) is “nothing”.  Well, the truth of the matter is that every life only consists in those little nothings. A great politician does many little things to get to where he or she is and has to continue those little things to stay in that place. The bestselling author did many small things to get where he or she is. Daily writing, editing over and over, rewriting stories, discarding stories and trying again. We do small things and over the course of a period of time or our life they amount to great things. But this all depends on how we do them.

Folding the laundry may seem insignificant to you, but what if you folded the laundry in a special way? What if you folded it with great love? What if every time you folded the laundry you offered your actions up with love for sinners? You will fold laundry a mountain of times in your life. Now this action that seemed so insignificant before by the end of your life will be your source of greatness. Your folding the laundry will have given hope, help, and grace to sinners. Your little, insignificant, weekly “nothing” of folding the laundry became an ocean of mercy, grace, and love. You may think it’s silly, but it’s so very true.

Now, imagine, what if you did more than the laundry with great love? What if you did everything with great love? Your ocean would expand to universes. And this is how Therese, Therese called the “Little Flower”, saved her France. This is how her desire to be a heroic saint like St. Joan of Arc was fulfilled in such a perfect way.

You see? Greatness does not only consist in astounding, heroic actions.  It also consists in nothingness.

Carpe Veritatem!

Therese May Signature

Misunderstandings

That very day, the first day of the week,

two of Jesus’ disciples were going

to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,

and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.

And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,

Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,

but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.

He asked them,

“What are you discussing as you walk along?”

They stopped, looking downcast.

One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,

“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem

who does not know of the things

that have taken place there in these days?”

And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”

They said to him,

“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,

who was a prophet mighty in deed and word

before God and all the people,

how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over

to a sentence of death and crucified him.

But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;

and besides all this,

it is now the third day since this took place.

Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:

they were at the tomb early in the morning

and did not find his body;

they came back and reported

that they had indeed seen a vision of angels

who announced that he was alive.

Then some of those with us went to the tomb

and found things just as the women had described,

but him they did not see.”

And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!

How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!

Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things

and enter into his glory?”

~Lk 24:13-35

Have you ever been speaking to a friend or acquaintance about someone, complaining about how they do this or that? If you haven’t, keep it up. I know I’ve done it a countless amount of times.

Imagine one of those situations. Imagine speaking to your friend about your other friend x. said this today. I can’t believe she would do that! I thought she was better than that.” On and on. But then, someone walks up to you and asks what you’re talking about. Awkward!

What are you supposed to say? “Oh, I was just kinda sorta bashing one of the people I claim as my friend, no big problem, right?” I don’t know about you, but I’m sure not going to say that. I’m probably going to say something like, “Well, we were just discussing…how people should be genuine.” Makes me look intelligent, right?

When I heard the above passage from Luke’s Gospel, I was struck with the similarity between my little “gossip chats” and the conversation between the two men. First clue, it says they were “discussing” and “debating”. “Well I don’t think that’s what it means.” “Yeah, but he promised us. He must have been lying.” “I’m not so sure.” Second clue, when Jesus interrupted them (even though they didn’t recognize him for who he was) “they stopped, looking downcast“. Sounds even more and more like two friends caught in the act of gossiping. Third clue, they change the subject. “Oh, surely you must have heard about Jesus. We had just been hoping he was the Messiah, you know?”

What do you think they really had been saying? Go back to your conversations with your friends. If you thought that someone was the Messiah who died and never rose as you thought, you’d probably have some hard things to say. People don’t mince words when they are alone with friends. We know that from personal experience.

Think about it: these men were angry with Jesus in a way. They thought they had had a hood pulled over their eyes. They felt ashamed and they were venting about it. Here’s the question: is it wrong to vent our pent up stress and emotion?

Let’s think about that a moment. Talking about our feelings, about our struggles, helps us cope with them. It helps us understand what’s going on in our mind. It also helps us look at things more objectively. When we keep things trapped in our minds, they can seem much worse than they really are. So is it wrong to speak our thoughts? No, I don’t think so.

Now, I know right now you’re feeling confused and at a discord. These men were speaking ill about Jesus, that can’t be right. You’re absolutely correct. It wasn’t right. You’re still confused. How can it be right and wrong at the same time? Let me clear that up for you: it’s not both right and wrong at the same time.

It is right and maybe even good to speak about your feelings as long as you take the time to understand other’s feelings and give them the benefit of each and every doubt. That’s what these men weren’t doing. They said that Jesus claimed he would rise again on the third day. This was how they seemed to be proving to themselves he wasn’t the Messiah. What’s the problem here? The tomb was empty. They didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. He was a powerful, good prophet. You could see the admiration they had for him by the way they spoke about him, but the moment he didn’t suddenly appear to them after leaving his tomb they got upset. They didn’t wait in hope that the empty tomb meant he had risen. No, they just assumed it was all a lie.

Was it a lie? No. Was it right and good that they didn’t wait in hope? No. Was it honest of them as followers to speak of him that way? No. Was it respectful? No.

Was it shallow of them to see the empty tomb and not seek him out, not wait in hope for his return? Yes, it definitely was.

It begs the question though, where was Jesus? Shouldn’t he have come immediately to his followers to prove he was alive, to prove he truly was the Messiah? I think not. Jesus did what he did for a reason. This passage is a story of faithlessness. It’s a story of impatience. It’s a story of not holding our tongues. It’s a story of gossip. Jesus was testing his followers, just as he tests us by making us wait for a response to our prayers.

This test only proved to these men that they were mistaken. It proved that they still had a long way to travel in their journey of life.

The moral of this passage is this:  think 7 times about a situation, think 7 times about what the other person in the situation might be encountering, think 7 times about why you feel the way you feel, think 7 times about whether a person is the problem or your reaction to the person is the problem, then you can speak.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Put yourself in their shoes. Don’t say about others what you wouldn’t want said about you. Treat others with the kind of respect and kindness that makes them smile.

We can rant or vent, by all means. But let’s just make sure that in ranting or venting we aren’t bashing an innocent man who happens to be the King of the Universe.

Carpe veritatem!

Therese May Signature

Defined by Adjectives?

Have you ever met someone who keeps telling you how you’re this or that? Or kept hearing that you’re this or that?

Sometimes the words are good words: confident, smart, generous, kind, intelligent, pretty, understanding. Other times they aren’t.

So often though, I think that these words start to feel like a trap. Is that all I am? Am I only [adjective]?

Let’s face it. While being smart is super helpful and impressive, if that’s all people think when they think of you, you might start to feel like just a brain. While being pretty is satisfying in some sense, if you continually hear that about yourself, it might make you wonder if your just a pretty face to others.

Adjectives can be wonderful. They help us understand things and describe things to others, but sometimes we need to be careful with them. Sometimes we use bad adjectives to downgrade someone, to define them by things we dislike about them.

Words are powerful and we should use them for good. So get rid of those dirty adjectives and choose ones that you’d want to be applied to yourself.

Now you might be wondering about my comments about the positive adjectives. What’s up with that? We’re building people up, right? Yes. They’re good adjectives and you should continue using them, but I’d like to add that you should try to connect with those you’re describing.

No one wants to feel that a person only wants to get to know them enough to obtain an adjective to describe them. Strive to understand more than adjectives about people. She’s pretty/smart/kind, yes, but what is her favorite book? What are her hobbies? What makes her smile? Of course, this is a two sided process and I realize that. So I’ll address the other side.

Don’t let yourself be define by adjectives.

Now I don’t mean stomp away with a flip of the hair. I mean this: let people get to know you for you. If you’re defined by a certain adjective, let’s say smart, let people get to know you’re comedic side. Let them get to know that you really like playing the piano because it is a struggle. Whatever it might be, just let them know. You have more to offer than adjectives and you know it. That’s why you feel upset when adjectives seem to be the only thing you hear describing you.

Let’s take advantage of our words more than only to praise. Let’s truly reach out and try to understand the workings of another’s heart. We have the opportunity to impact another’s life. Let’s not waste that opportunity.

Carpe veritatem!

Therese May Signature

We Need More Modern Day Cinderella’s

Hold up. I know the title has you girls super excited (maybe), but I’m probably not talking about Cinderella’s in the same way you have in mind.

Let me start with a reference too the original Cinderella. Cinderella was practically an orphan girl. The parents she loved and the only people who truly cared for her were dead. She was left behind with her mean stepmother and stepsisters. Her life, which had been previously filled with joy and blessings, was filled with sorrow, toil, and pain.

Here’s the most interesting part though: she didn’t say a word against her stepfamily. She slaved away. She gave up her past life style and expectations. She gave up her own dreams. All to keep peace. To honor the only family she had left.

Now, here’s the part that is vitally important in this instance. Cinderella was resolved to bear through all her toils. She didn’t seem to be dreaming of “some day” when she would be able to get back at her stepfamily for all they forced her to do. Furthermore, and most importantly, she was not dreaming of a prince to come sweep her away from her troubles.

Now to the point of my post today. We don’t need Cinderella’s who sit around, sighing and crying, dreaming of that fairy tale prince to come sweep their hard life away. Cinderella only got her prince when she was living her life well, not waiting for an unlikely dream. We don’t need Cinderella’s who focus so much on the end of the story that they forget that their living the middle part and doing a sloppy job of making it a story worth reading. Cinderella was content with the here and the now. She lived each moment in the best way she could, leaving a trail of goodness behind her.

We need Cinderella’s who sacrifice of their love and time for other’s sake. We need Cinderella’s who forget about dreaming of a prince because they’re so intent on furthering themselves in virtue. We need Cinderella’s who focus on doing things well, even when the pain is worse than ever. We need Cinderella’s who can inspire generations to live well. We need Cinderella’s who are comfortable in their own skin (after all, our hearts are shown in their best extent when we are ourselves. Not flirting needed.)

I know it’s hard not to put yourself in the place of the reader and look forward to the “happy point” of your story (after all, life doesn’t just end with “happily ever after” in real life after you get married…), but we need to remember that (most…) princesses in fairy tales didn’t sit around waiting for their princes. Snow White was cleaning, cooking, and probably doing laundry for seven dwarves up until she was put under a spell. The Goose Girl had to work as a goose girl after her identity had been stolen from her…no sulking or wishing for princes involved. Belle had to give up all the comfort she knew to live…with a beast. Not a lot of comfort there period. Yet, she didn’t wish for a prince.

If we truly want to be princesses, let’s follow the example of these girls in these fairy tales. Let’s work hard. Let’s care without limitations. Let’s forgive the unforgivable. Let’s sacrifice.

I am going to be a modern day Cinderella. Are you?

Carpe veritatem,

Therese May Signature

 

Why so Judgemental?

If I stop judging other people, I free myself from being judged, and I can dance!

~Patti Digh

A while ago I was at work nearby some co-workers. On a table we were all standing near there was a magazine with a women on the front cover. The women, in my thoughts, looked beautiful. She was wearing make-up, but not too much. The magazine looked pretty old and I found myself liking how different it was from the shocking, disruptive magazines of this modern day.

As I was thinking this though, a women co-worker noticed the magazine on the table and looked at it. She recognized the woman on the front. Her reaction was not what I would have expected though. “Is that really her? Wow! She didn’t look as great back then.” And I had thought she looked beautiful. That only made me wonder how much more beautiful the women really could be.

But my co-workers words had bothered me.

I sat thinking later, wondering why the words really bothered me. What had made me stiffen at the woman’s language? Couldn’t she just have meant that the woman looked even more beautiful now, just as a compliment?

It finally dawned on me though. As I was standing there, noticing this magazine, I had in the back of mind wished ever so subtly that I looked as beautiful as that woman. It was so subtle I did not realize until later.

This realization caused another to unfold. I had not like the comment made by my co-worker because I had heard the slight spite, the slight triumph in her voice.

I realized: she triumphed that this other beautiful woman had faults. She displayed them to gratify her own feelings of inadequacy.

Women, how many times has your day been ruined by that judgemental look in another woman’s eyes? How many times have you ranted to someone about another person’s judgemental attitude towards you? How many times have you cried yourself to sleep because of an unkind word or look? How many times have you dragged yourself from depression? How many times have you been battered and bruised by simple looks, simple words that cut deep?

We have all experience it. If not many times, at least once. Maybe the looks or words don’t really bother you, but I know the majority of us are injured by them.

Here’s the thing though: we sit in our hurt, anger, and depression and we blame that girl who looked at us with such judgement, we blame the women who said that slightly rude thing, but we forget that we, yes, even we, fall into the trap of judging others.

I know I have done it myself! I will be the first to readily admit it here.

So when you start thinking, how dare she? Remember that you dared to. We don’t know where that women or girl came from. We don’t know what is happening in their lives. What we do know is what is happening in our own. We know that it hurts to be judged, that it hurts to be observed and dismissed with a haughty glance.

As women who realize the pain this causes, we should be the first to break the spell. We should be the first to shatter the chains that tie each women as injury is passed on and on.

Try smiling. It’s hard. Sometimes it’s not possible. Sometimes you’ve been hurt too much. But I guarantee that if you try as often as you can, you will change someone’s day. Maybe even your own. I have had it happen to me more often than I can count. I am having a horrible day and all I want to do is avoid this person nearby who just won’t understand or care, right?

But then they approach me. And they smile. And they look me straight in the eyes. Then something like a crippling casing falls off my heart. The hard lines on my face start to relax. After my encounter with them is over, I walk away.

Another person approaches me. This time I smile. Maybe not effortlessly, but it comes more easily since someone took the time to look at me without judging. To look at me and see me not the flaws they want to pick out to make themselves feel better in some round about way.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged”. (Luke 6:37) Right from the Bible, folks.

So…if I’m telling you that judging someone else means you will be judged…then it follows that if you love someone…

You will be loved.

Carpe Veritatem.

Therese May Signature

Managing Your Life

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  (Matthew 16:21-23)

Yesterday, I saw a little girl trying to fit an envelope in her father’s back pocket. At first, she just tried to slide it in, but the envelope got stuck before it was very far in. She was confused. Why hadn’t her envelope fit in her father’s pocket? The pocket looked big enough to fit almost all of the envelope. She decided to try a different tactic. She grabbed the envelope out of the pocket and carefully measured the pocket with the envelope, proving to herself that the envelope should actually go farther into the pocket. Once she had done this, she again tried to put the envelope in the pocket. When it got stuck this time, rather than being confused and wondering what had happened, she kept pushing on the envelope until it finally went in as far as it could.

Sometimes we take our lives and use them the way the little girl used her envelope. We imagine something in our life happening a certain way, but we forget that there are going to be difficulties and things that get in our way. Most importantly, we keep forgetting to check our plan with God’s plan. It’s like trying to fit the envelope in the pocket.

The girl thought her envelope would fit, but she didn’t prove it to herself before she tried. When we make plans for our lives, we should always make sure that they fit in with God’s plan. If we don’t, we’ll run into the first obstacle and back down from our plan. And backing down doesn’t necessarily mean give up. It could mean that we throw a fit, get angry, or become annoyed at whoever or whatever got in our way and blame it. However, if we check our plan with God’s master plan for us and make sure it fits, once we run into those obstacles, we’ll be ready for them. We’ll know that our plan fits with God’s and that we should keep going and push through the obstacles in our way.

“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You.” Saint Peter had a plan. His plan was to live with his Lord all his life. He didn’t want Jesus to leave, or to suffer. He just hadn’t checked that plan with God’s.

“Get behind me, Satan! Your are an obstacle to me.” Christ had checked His plan. He knew that He was doing the right thing. When Peter tried to get in His way and became an obstacle, Christ rebuked him turning away from this plea to give up His plan.

“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Humans beings can be controlling. Sometimes we have a desire to change things and make them better. This is a good desire, we just have to make sure we’re thinking about it as God would. Humans make plans and then fall apart when obstacles confront them. God makes plans knowing that obstacles are going to come He and provides a means to overcome the them. Then when the obstacles do come, He works around them with ease. See? We’re not “thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”

So next time we make plans, let’s go about it the way God want us to. Make the plan, check it with His, prepare for obstacles, and work around the obstacles when they come.

Carpe veritatem!

Therese May Signature