Tag Archives: humility

No room in this inn

Good Saint Joseph has been on my mind this morning. As I reflected on the Joyful Mysteries, I paused at the Nativity. I thought about what it must have felt like to be St. Joseph. Here he was given the tremendous responsibility of caring and providing for the Holy Family, yet one of his first tasks is a complete and total failure by human standards. His very pregnant wife, the Blessed Virgin Mary, must have felt horribly for him as he knocked at each inn door in Bethlehem. I’m sure he worked hard to find them a safe place to spend the night. But in the end, there was no room in the inn.

Many Christians and non-Christians seem to be following the idea: if you believe, you will succeed. If this was truth, then surely St. Joseph would have easily found a room for him and his expectant wife. However, neither Mary’s prayers or St. Joseph’s prayers were answered. Perhaps, God had a greater plan than either of them could humanly see or conceive.

How often have I fallen into the trap of the wrong belief I mention above. I would add my own twist which is: if you believe and work hard, you will succeed. God has allowed me to experience plenty failures when I pursue things that really don’t matter. He can see inside my heart and knows when I need a good dose of humility. My self-reliance and pride can kick into high gear very easily, and only He knows how to temper that for me. When I am full of myself, there is no room in the inn for God or the Holy Spirit. It’s when I let go of my grand plans and acknowledge that my entire existence rests in His hands that wonderful things begin to happen. Sometimes, I have had to knock on many doors before I realize I am knocking on the wrong doors. He just patiently waits for me or sometimes knocks me over to get my attention!

Let’s pray for the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker when we find ourselves struggling with pride or self-reliance.

St. Joseph, pray for us.
Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us.
Jesus, I trust in you!

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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!

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.

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.

Who Needs a Mirror When You’ve Got Kids?

Who needs a mirror when you’ve got kids? In some ways, children are better than a mirror. Let me share three ways:

1) Children let you know things you already know but don’t want to remember, just like a mirror. For example, “Mom, you’re belly is pudgy.” When I respond with a distressed look, they reply, “But we like it because it’s soft when we snuggle with you!” Now, that’s better than a mirror!

2) Children repeat what you say and act exactly how you do.  When I was in a bad mood the other day, I grumbled at one of my children. As soon as I was done, that child turned and grumbled at his sibling, who then grumbled at her sibling, and so on, and so on. It was horrifying to watch! Also, If you just “say” things to them, but don’t do them yourself, they will never follow suit, just like a mirror would never reflect what you do not do. This is especially true if you have a bad habit–like biting nails or losing your temper or rolling your eyes. Stop those habits now so your children do not reflect a “not-so-wonderful” you. Plus, you’ll be much happier when you look in your “new” mirror (aka see how your children behave.)

3) Children often reflect your love even greater than you gave it. When children know they are loved and are shown how to be honest, how to share, how to forgive and how to obey, their actions often show such great love that it can melt even the most hardened heart. Have you ever been approached by the most adorable child with curls and big eyes who waves at you from their wheelchair and just wants to shake your hand? That happened to me yesterday and I knew that this little child was well-loved. It just radiated from her. Children reflect love so brightly when they are gentle, kind, patience, humble and full of hope.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
whose the fairest of them all?
-or-
Mirror, mirror in my house
reflecting truly both me and my spouse!

I highly recommend that you think through your choice of mirror — they can be brutally honest, but well worth the investment.

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.”