Category Archives: Humility

Patience and Humility Can Be Found in the Toilet

If you pray for patience, God will bring you the perfect opportunities to learn how to be patient. If you pray for humility, He will do the same. I know this to be true because every time I think that I need work on a virtue, I think that praying for it will be some kind of short cut to learning how to live that virtue. Ha. Ha. Ha. Life doesn’t work that way, and neither apparently does God. You see, anything that is worthwhile takes time. I have been remodeling my bathrooms. My experience at this is basically nill. I am not too proud to ask for help. I just cannot at this moment afford professional contractors whose bids could pay for a semester of my son’s future college. So, I pick the brains of my siblings and parents and friends. Sometimes, one of them actually helps me do something, like change out the sinks. Because bathrooms are small, it seems like they should be quick and easy to update. That’s a joke.

I remember the first house my husband and I purchased. It had solid bones but was definitely outdated. We spent the first few years of our marriage (before we had children) painting and updating that house. One of the first rooms we tackled was…you guessed it: the bathroom. It was more like a small closet. It also had lots of bump outs and wall surfaces.  I chose a gorgeous vertical stripe wallpaper (popular back then) for the upper portion, and a solid dark blue paint for below the chair rail. It was during this project that I realized that my husband and I would stay married forever.

Why? Because every time we went to hang a piece of vertical stripe paper, it appeared to be diagonal. Not one single wall in that closet/bathroom was plumb. We started just “eyeballing” it, which worked until we hit a turn in the wall which was also not plumb. Our patience was increased by leaps and bounds throughout that project.

Fast forwards to today. I should have remembered all the time it took for that silly little bathroom when I undertook mine. One is completed (almost…there are always those nagging little details that need finishing up) and the other is 15% complete. I try to keep smiling and thanking God for giving me such a dose of patience and humility all in one project, as I scrub the tile with a toothbrush to bring back its original beauty. Tonight, I grout. Tomorrow, I install the toilet! Any well wishes and prayers are appreciated as I honestly have no idea what I am doing!

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Bravo to Ballet

Having never taken dance myself, I honestly have a hard time appreciating ballet. Watching the ballerinas twirl and jump in unison is captivating, but I still thought to myself, “What’s the big deal?” Enter my daughters.

My oldest and youngest daughters both have taken ballet. My eldest determined she was “done” after about 3 years. To help you understand her decision, you should know a little more about her. She has always had such clarity about what she likes and doesn’t like–even as a baby in utero! I love to tell her the story of how she would only let me sleep on one side. Apparently, this side was more comfortable for her. If I tried to sleep on the other side, she would kick, kick, kick until I flipped. When she was 16 months old and before she had words, she would point and make clear to me which outfit she wanted to wear. I couldn’t believe it! Her older brother never cared about what I put on him. I now realize she simply liked the most comfortable clothing, and at 16 months of age, she began to let me know which clothing fit her the best. So when she told me she was done with ballet, I knew there was no way to convince her otherwise. Plus, as our family was growing, we began to limit activities to 1 per child from both a logistics and financial standpoint. She decided soccer was more to her liking.

My youngest daughter has kept with ballet and transitioned this year into the real ballet program. She is a kinesthetic learner, so dance fits with who she is at her core. However, this level of dance is when it gets hard. Watching her performances and exams has made my appreciation of ballet really vault upward. First of all, the precision and knowledge of how to hold every single little part of your body overwhelms me. Secondly, the dance terms are actually in French, and require the girls to learn a whole new vocabulary. Working back stage, I now see how focused dancers must be to perform. As they stretch and stay flexible and get ready to go on stage, they are thinking through their entire dance and mentally preparing for all the difficult moves required. When they come off the stage, they are sweating and out of breath. Yet, from the audience, they appear light and bouncy and beautiful. The truth is that they make it look so easy that people like me who are ignorant think it is easy! This couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes serious discipline, hard work, and a love of dance to perform so well.

One amazing thing about my youngest daughter is that she is terribly shy. She has such stage fright that she gets physically ill before a play. However, because ballet requires so much concentration and movement, she doesn’t seem to get those jittery feelings on stage. She has really listened well to her teacher and has had the humility to take correction to heart. She has worked very hard this year and it shows. I cannot wait to see her year-end performance in just 10 days!

Challenges of a Foster-Father

Today is the Feast Day of St. Joseph the Worker. He is so special as the Foster-Father of Jesus that he is the only saint that has two feast days– March 19 and May 1. Of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary has a whole host of feast days, but most saints just have one.

I have been seeking to understand the Holy Family more deeply–how they lived, what example they provided for every family, and specifically, what role St. Joseph played in raising the Son of God and living as spouse with the Mother of God.

I am pretty certain of a few things:

1. St. Joseph was humble. Everything about this man speaks of humility. He was a carpenter who provided for himself, then his family by the work of his hand and the sweat of his brow. Although he descended from the kingly line of Judah, he was content to work for his living.

2. St. Joseph was pure. When he discovered that his fiancée was with child, he knew the child was not his. But he also knew that Mary was not the type of girl to cause this to happen. He cared deeply for others and that’s why he was willing to quietly divorce her without fully understanding why or how this came to be. He didn’t worry about himself or his reputation first. His intentions were pure. That’s why God sent an angel to help him understand more deeply.

3. St. Joseph was receptive. When angels came to him in dreams with warnings or clarifications, he listened. It doesn’t mention that he argued back with them. He was open to hearing from God in this way. Also, we have no quotes from St. Joseph. He is silent in the Gospels. His thoughts and prayers were saved for God alone.

4. St. Joseph was faithful. His response to all requests from God (and most likely the Blessed Virgin) was immediate action. That takes tremendous faith! Again, we hear no account of St. Joseph questioning God or the angel-messengers. He took action. If you want to see how to put your faith into action, simply follow the example of the life of St. Joseph.

St. Joseph lived a simple yet faith-filled life. He ordered his entire life around God, and more specifically His Son and the Mother of His Son. He had the same responsibilities of fathers today–to provide for their families. He didn’t always have it easy, especially as an immigrant in Egypt! But he walked by faith and humbly accepted his role in the Holy Family. St. Joseph, Patron of Families, Pray for Us!

Seeing past appearances is a gift

I don’t know why God gave me this gift, but for as long as I can remember, I have always been able to look past the “appearance” of someone, and see their true self. For example, I had a friend who told me that she struggled with obesity. When she said this, I really thought she was joking. Not only because she is naturally hilarious, but also because I never saw her as simply her “size”. She was such a creative, funny, brilliant person that her size just never registered for me. When I told her I thought she was kidding, she got angry. Then she was confused. I tried to explain that I never seriously thought of her that way. She simply could not believe me. She had been holding on to this body image since she was a child. She could not conceive of someone not seeing her this way. I tried to explain, but she could not hear. I really and truly never thought of her as obese, but in all physical reality, she may just be obese.

Another example that comes to mind is people with disabilities. I would never have thought to call them that, but I have learned that “people with special needs” is the politically correct thing to say. I wouldn’t refer to them as either of those two things. I always just see them as people. I see how kind they are and how open they are to others. They are my friends, not my projects!

The last example of this gift is when I see certain people, I can see how they were as children. They can be the biggest, grumpiest mess of an adult, but somehow, I see them as an innocent child. I cannot really explain with words how this works, but it changes the way I interact with them. And people around me cannot understand how I could possibly be friendly to such a person. They cannot see what I see.

For many years of our marriage, my husband wondered what I was saying to people because they all seemed to want to share very intimate conversations with me. I really wasn’t saying anything. I was just appreciating them for who they really are, and they must have sensed that. They opened up and would talk with me in ways that you don’t talk to strangers. As my husband puts it, they share more with me than they may even have shared with their spouse! I am okay with this, and he is now, too. He just smiles when he hears other people start down the way-too-personal-for-normal-conversation path. He finally recognizes and appreciates my gift, too.

 

The Eyes of Jesus

Could you take 14 kids, ranging in age from high school to kindergarten, spend only 7 1/2 hours with them, and then produce a Passion play? That’s what our awesome director did, along with myself and 2 adult volunteers. Our production had lights, music, scenery, props, costume changes–basically the works! The kids had to memorize their lines, follow all the staging cues, and work without a few actors due to illness during part of the rehearsal time. Truly, we had less than 7 1/2 hours of time with them before this group had to perform before a live audience.

Tonight, during the actual performance of The Passion of Christ, the children took to heart what our director said during rehearsal. They fully understood that their performance was to give glory to God. Their honesty and openness made quite an impact on our audience of about 50 people, ranging in age from octogenarians to newborn babies.

After the performance, many people wanted to thank my son for his role as Jesus. He is very humble and graciously accepted their kind words. On the drive home, I asked him how he thought he did, since I was mostly backstage and didn’t see the performance. In his usual low-key manner, he said, “Well, I think I had a lot of help.” I asked, “From the Holy Spirit?” He said, “Yes, definitely.”

You wouldn’t know it from seeing him on stage or from talking with him afterwards, but my son’s role as Jesus Christ deeply impacted him. He told me this was a very difficult role for him for a variety of reasons. Knowing my son, I didn’t ask for those details just yet. He will slowly reveal them as he sees fit. I am so proud of him for taking on this enormous role. After the play, I saw a transformation in my son. I don’t think I can put into words what I saw. It was in his eyes. I think some of my photos captured it. I don’t know, but I think I saw the eyes of Jesus.

Sitting at Table or Serving?

I sat in the most amazing meeting this morning. I was invited to attend because I help coordinate a program that is held at this church on a weekly basis. The meeting was the “Leadership Forum” which included one person representing each church ministry and one person representing each oversight responsibility for running the church facility. I didn’t quite know what to expect since I am not a member of this specific congregation.

However, I did come with a lot of baggage about meetings because I have worked in corporations, not-for-profits, health care, small business and consulting. I generally cannot stand meetings because often there is no agenda and no accountability or the people running the meeting have a different agenda than what is listed on the agenda which becomes apparent during the meeting. I basically dread attending a large group “meeting.”

That’s why I was so thrilled by this meeting with this group of people. First of all, they stuck to their agenda. What was listed, they discussed. Second of all, they actually knew how to dialogue with each other. If someone brought up a problem or situation, everyone truly listened and then made helpful suggestions or offered ideas. If one person had not thought of that perspective, he thanked the other person for bringing that to the group’s attention. No comment was ignored. No eyes rolled. No undertones or hidden agendas that I could perceive (and I am pretty good at hearing/seeing/feeling those things.)

Also, there was an amazing amount of humility on the part of each person in the room. When they shared their results, it was never about themselves. They mentioned all the people who helped make this happen. But their results were tremendous! Remember, I was an “outsider” at this meeting, but they made it a point to help me see that my input was just as important since I used their facility.

It is no surprise that this church is growing in membership each month. If you spend time with their leadership, you see that they are truly servants.  “For who is the greater: the one at table or the one who serves? The one at table, surely? Yet here am I among you as one who serves!” (Luke 22:27) It’s almost like they take the Gospel seriously and live it each day, even in meetings! What a novel idea.

The Worst News Ever?!

Here’s a roundup of the news I have received from this past week: Stroke. Car accident. Death. Terminal illness. Back strain. Divorce. Alcoholism.

Now, before you think all of these things happened to me, well, they did and they did not. What I mean to say is that I would argue all of this does in some way happen to you when you have a large family full of love and brokenness. Yes, some of the suffering is self-inflicted, but some of the suffering comes on in its own.

Our response to suffering shows a really clear picture of where we stand emotionally, morally and spiritually. It’s why one of my friends who is a Protestant minister likes to perform funerals. She says that it is when the suffering is at its peak, so the people are most open to hearing God’s Word. Their hard hearts have been cracked, just a little, by the loss. They become real again, facing things that they have ignored for a long time.

My prayer has always been to let God help me see through the light of Christ, so that when the suffering comes, whether of my own making or on its own, I am strengthened and can give God glory even in those moments.

I was deeply impacted when I watched a news report about 10 years ago when a man lost his entire family in a freak flash flood which washed his minivan off the highway into flash river in a location where this had never occurred before. During his interview, he explained that he and his wife had adopted many children with disabilities. They were all in the car. When the water came over their car, he could not get to his family because he was sucked out through the front windshield. He watched his wife and all of his adopted children get pushed down into the river in their minivan.

His response was, of course, sorrow. But, he said he could not be mad at God. This happened in his life and he trusted God had a plan for him. He quoted the Bible verse that speaks to trusting in God with all your heart. I had never witnessed what that meant until I saw this man on television. He was that Bible verse.

I pray that God will show me how to trust him in those dark moments. I pray that my prayers for my family bring healing and love. I pray that suffering can be offered up for the whole world and make our world a place of deep, abiding peace. I know suffering will come. I hope that I am ready.

Humility of Being Pulled Over on a Ten Speed

This is a true story that happened to me when I was at the tender age of 14. I say this because even as I write this, it seems unbelievable. As I mentioned in a prior post “Banana-Seat Bikes and Penny Candy“, my childhood included many bicycling adventures.

One Saturday, I decided to ride my bike down to the bank and deposit some birthday cash I had received. Unfortunately, my banana-seat bike had a flat tire. I asked my younger brother if I could borrow his ten-speed and he agreed. He was quite a bit taller than I was, and since it was a boy’s bike, it had that annoying bar across the middle. This meant that for me to ride his bike, I had to tip it way over and sorta swing myself and the bike up to balance and go. The bank was only a mile or so away, so I figured I could manage.

All was well until I came to the last stop sign across from the bank. I came to a complete stop but never got off the bike. I just balanced at a stop for a moment, looked both ways and continued riding across the street. Now, the bank was located in a busy neighborhood retail area where everyone liked to go on the weekend. Imagine sidewalks with couples strolling with their dog, families with baby strollers, and lots of car traffic.

Suddenly, I see and hear police lights and sirens behind me. I pull over in front of the bank to see what is going on. The police officer pulls in behind me. I cannot believe it. He is pulling me over on a ten speed bike! He gets out of his car and asks to see my identification. Of course, being 14 years old, I have none and tell him so. He doesn’t believe me. Now, I am a young-looking 14-year-old. I was very petite and definitely not mature at this point in my life.

Meanwhile, his police lights are still on and the entire community around us has stopped to watch this unfold. I remember the looks on people’s faces–jaws dropped, wide eyes, no movement. I continue to explain that I am not old enough to have a license. He tells me that I should have gotten off my bike and walked it across the intersection. I am not even sure this is required by law. I apologize and say I will next time. He says that I will be the kind of driver that kills people. I say I will be more careful. He gets back in his car. I go inside the bank.

I watch him from the bank lobby. After he drives away, I immediately get back on my bike and head home. I never deposited the cash. I think my bicycling was much more dangerous on the way home because I was crying the whole time. I think of this humiliating situation and realize that being humbled can come to us in the most unexpected ways. And believe me, I never borrowed my brother’s bike again.

Accepting the Weather: Sunshine and Storms

I think I have started seeing myself in the weather.  I have been really griping about all the winter weather and how much I am looking forward to spring. Then, lo and behold, yesterday, it was sunny and a balmy 83 degrees. I just couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even happy about it. I told my children that I was having a really hard time getting into this nice weather because I just felt like it wasn’t going to be around long. It felt too good to be true. I even checked the weather forecast which said beautiful weather all week long. I started opening every window in our house to avoid turning on the air conditioning, and it was still too warm to be comfortable.

Let me translate how I see myself in the weather for you:

When God gave me something wonderful like a sunny day, I chose not to even believe it. (Lord, help my unbelief.) Instead of gratitude, I found myself worrying about how long this weather would last, which is a very miserly way to look at a gift. (Lord, teach me to be thankful for all you have given me.) I even presumed to think that your gift is too good to be true which is very humbling for me to admit. (Lord, teach me to trust in you.) I doubted your goodness so much, that I turned to human ways of looking at things to verify your goodness. (Lord, change my doubt into deep, abiding faith.) I even found a way to see the difficulties in your gift. (Lord, give me a clean heart.)

As I began to review my day last evening, I realized just how far off base I was with the way I was responding to this gift of beautiful weather. I decided that I would embrace any amount of sunshine God would provide no matter how long. Then, this morning, I woke up to 39 degrees and overcast.  Boy, does God have a good sense of humor. (Lord, please be patient with me, I am still growing!)

Humility When Meeting the Duchess of York

Many moons ago, the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson came to visit the place where I was working. At that time, I helped with media relations, so I was asked to be on hand when she arrived. Our supervisor reviewed protocol for meeting the Duchess. If I recall correctly, we were supposed to curtsy or bow, and greet her with “Your Royal Highness” followed by “Ma’am” or something similar to this. Obviously, I wasn’t listening very well to these instructions since: (1) I am not English so I couldn’t really understand what the big whoop was, and (2) I did not imagine I would have the opportunity to interact with her. Boy, was I wrong!

Let me set the scene for you: all the big wigs at the company where I worked and the local hoity-toits who donate regularly to the company gathered in the main lobby. Both groups were dressed to the nines. The media arrived and were shown to their area. I was talking with my friend who was the Director of Security, when the limousines arrived. He said, “Hey, help my open these doors for them.” So I obliged. We had just been joking about all the “to-do” about a royal visit. As we both put down the door stoppers and turned around, there was the Duchess of York. She stopped and introduced herself to us. We looked like deer in the headlights! All I could think was, “Why is she talking to us? All the important people are inside waiting for her. Please go inside, so they will not be mad at us!” But Fergie is Fergie. She wanted to have a conversation. I think I tried to curtsy, albeit very awkwardly. My friend bowed while blushing three shades of red. We stumbled through a conversation that neither one of us could remember later. Then, by the grace of God, her assistant gently pushed her through the doorway.

Now, I don’t follow the tabloids or really care about the rich and famous. But it did strike me that day, that perhaps the Duchess of York is really just a humble person like you and me who really cares about people, but whose every move is judged by the media and people around her. My first impression was “I like this lady!” And my next thought was, “So much for believing what you see in the news.”