Sunday, June 28, 2009

Give and You Shall Receive!

This quote keeps on popping into my head lately at the most convenient moments! It is such a confusing quote, because a possession given away leaves a person with one less possession, right? WRONG!

God has made the truth of this statement abundantly clear to me in the past few days, in MANY more ways than one, as always! Everything is analagous!

On one level, there is the physical and spiritual service that one offers to others - the simple offer to help someone, be it by the extension of an arm when someone needs to be lifted up spiritually or mentally, or by the elbow grease needed to scrub that last piece of pasta off of the pot to finish off doing the dishes. When done in and with God, in and with TRUE LOVE in its purest form, these tasks become the joy of our lives! It seems an incredible conclusion, right?!?! But, as the angel from perhaps my favorite Bible scene EVER notes, "nothing will be impossible with God." :)

So, scraping food particles off a metal pot doesn't seem the most appealing thing to you right now. No worries. Step one: PRAY. Invite God in to work on your heart. His love is FREE, FULL, and TRANSFORMATIVE! The only reason why we even have the capacity to love fully is because HE LOVED US FIRST! Think about that: how are we to pass on this love effectively in a widespread fashion unless we are carrying AS MUCH OF IT AS POSSIBLE?!!?! Jesus' ENTIRE LIFE was devoted to the service of mankind - He DIED out of service to us, out of LOVE for us. And yet, He was still a MAN, so this is possible for us!!!

It's like being given a gift for no reason at all - because it's a Wednesday, or because someone felt like giving you a gift, because it reminded that person of you. Almost everyone has experienced this at some point. The person receiving the gift is SO surprised - smiling, joyful, filled with love at having received something after having done NOTHING whatsoever to merit it, and that person's reaction causes those same sentiments in the person giving the gift! BAM! Something from nothing! Give and you shall receive! :)

This is what God's love is to us - it's a gift that is given EVERY DAY! It's like waking up to a new gift every day. One day, it's a book. Another day, it's a card with roses. EVERY day, though, it's a personalized blessing. We are all blessed so much every day, and we get USED to it, coming to expect it.

Today, don't expect it. Rejoice in it. Realize it. Find it in the way you didn't expect to be given that compliment, or the way that someone else's happiness gave you happiness, too! Rejoice in the Lord!

It's so easy to complain about how terrible our lives are: "woe is me, look at all the bad things that happened today - I hurt myself and am in pain, I waited in line for something that never happened, things didn't turn out like I expected." The typical response is, "well, it could be worse...." But, this isn't really a good reason to rejoice. In fact, it might even make us feel worse. So what a good reason to rejoice? Thinking about throwing away a gift is a pretty good reason to rejoice. Also, think about God's reasoning for things: why did you hurt yourself? Maybe God wanted you to SLOW DOWN. Why did you wait in line? Maybe God wanted to teach you PATIENCE. Why did things not turn out the way I expected? Perhaps, just MAYBE God wanted to use you in a plan greater than you could ever design or even imagine, and you, yes YOU, are His choice for the task. The only one who can accomplish what He wants for you to do. THE ONLY ONE. "Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope"-style. Makes it kind of hard to turn down the offer of being treated as such a precious resource, hard to NOT REJOICE in being considered so important and uniquely the man or woman for the task, huh?! :)

So, when we pick up our gift in the morning, do we REALLY want to say, "awwww, sweet! Roses!," and shove them aside, putting them in a vase and leaving them on a windowsill for us to see, or do we want to feel the compulsion to give a gift to someone else? Typically, when others treat us with love, we want to "spread the love," right? And EVERY DAY, we are loved more than we can imagine by Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. There is SO MUCH love to pass on every day!

Suddenly, what all of us want seems dwarfed in light of what God wants, and BINGO - dish washing becomes a HIGHLIGHT of the day! Not because of what it is, but because of HOW it is done. Each dish is an offering to God, because He asked for it, and you say "yes" to His request each time!!! Whoah! TOTAL 360, right?!

And God's "yes" encompasses more than just a simple "yes for today" - it requires follow-through in every single area of one's life, every day. Imagine the things God can do with you if you turn over ALL CONTROL to Him! If all your actions are governed by the litmus test of "is this what you want me to do, God?" It's amazing the things that are accomplished when one pays attention to God rather than shoving Him to the backburner!

But [and this is where it gets complicated], giving is not enough. The giving has to be done with a heart full of love, freely and fully, joyful only in loving another as best they can through the task. Don't get me wrong - sometimes it's REALLY hard to love certain people. This is where "give and you shall receive" takes on many different meanings.

Giving love is not always the comfortable, feel-good donation of our time or talents. Sometimes it involves offering graciously - and *gulp JOYFULLY - the left side of your face when someone just cruelly slapped the right side. It is often so disarming that people don't know what to do! Sometimes it requires that you give the gift of the benefit of the doubt to someone, however tempted you may be to assume something. It is often so untrue that you would have suffered great embarrasment having believed what you wanted to! Sometimes you need to offer your heart on the altar of sacrifice to someone else, however scared you are that it is too weak to handle it. It is often capable of more good than we could possibly conceive, because Mary works through our hearts and makes them her own!

God can handle anything. If someone is going through tough times, and you are worried about whether or not YOU can handle their emotional turmoil and help to carry them, just remember: "give and you shall receive!!!" When you want to turn back from God's call because it is too difficult or painful, "give and you shall receive!" Walk firmly knowing that the grace of the Holy Spirit dispensed through Mary can give us a NEW heart, Mary's heart, and her heart is capable of greater love than we can imagine.

It's time to get real with God, to stop all the half-hearted efforts at loving. Trust in God, and His love will surpass every miracle of creation by working wonders in the world THROUGH US, His own creation! And it all begins in PRAYER and the EUCHARIST!!! The importance of prayer (especially the Rosary!) and attending Mass CANNOT be overstated here! God can't love you or talk to you unless you let Him in!!!

Then, the smallest, littlest ways of love are the ones that St. Therese will definitely smile on, and the ones that will please God the most. These ways will be quiet, humble, and full of grace, like our Blessed Mother. And God is drawn to anywhere that He sees our Blessed Mother's graces!

Love is a continual circle that never, ever stops, but it depends on each one of us to keep it going in a larger and larger circle every time! :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ramblings of a Bathroom Philosopher

As I am going through the years of THINGS that myself and my family have amassed over the years - from sentimental objects like kids' art projects to silly things like yard sale finds, I am amazed at how much CRAP we own!!! This summer I have found myself in the position of wanting to clean everything - not just dust, but CLEAN OUT. Dig into the drawers, empty them out, throw away things nobody can use, give away things that people can use. Get to the NITTY-GRITTY of what's tucked away behind neat exteriors. Clean the inside so that it's as ordered as the outside would have it appear.

This is no small task. A decade of junk crammed into a closet is easily ignored. Old nail polish, hairspray, and deoderant is brought up out of the depths of cabinets, and you wonder how you ever managed to ignore this much stuff - some of it REALLY rancid. Other things are less clear: what do I do with this old perfume that I'll never wear but was given to me as a gift? Do I REALLY need a Tazmanian Devil shampoo bottle? How the heck did this glass bottle of Listerine that expired in 1999 get here?!!?!? The bathroom closet is an enigma in itself.

So, yes, Christina, you cleaned, that's great, but why the note? Well, at least in my experience, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is analogous to something else. This summer has not only been a house-cleaning one, but also a soul-cleaning, or, more appropriately, soul-examining one. What do I value? What do I say I value on the exterior but actually need to value more on the interior? What are the expired products that my soul doesn't need, or are actually toxic?? Can I let go of the old perfumes and hang on to only the things I truly value, the things I truly need? Can I get rid of old things to make way for new things? Say I discover that I need moisturizer to make my skin healthier - what if I have no place to put it? Will I cram it in a drawer until it expires? Or will I make room for it by letting go of three of the four hair dryers that are (literally) in the closet?

I think the answer should be obvious, all sarcasm aside. I want a bathroom-soul that is squeaky-clean, no kinda-sorta sentiments allowed. Yes or no. Stay or toss. I need it in order to get by or I need it to get thrown out.

I feel like the Virgin Mary has been that - a beautiful new addition - for me this summer. I didn't even realize she was there until I started taking inventory! I kept St. Therese - she's an essential ;) - but television watching (for the most part) had to go. Prayer had to be added. Mass had to be added. Things that before I had crammed to the back of the cabinet I'm suddenly finding are the best beauty products for my soul. The "makeup drawer" of my soul has no use now - I'm done with the fussing over how I appear to others. Why does it matter if you know that you need to take care of the entire interior cleaning project in order for things to really SPARKLE? For you to be TRULY, DEEPLY CONTENT? For you to be able to love every part of your bathroom, you have to know what's IN it first, so that when you walk into it or need to use it, you KNOW it. You can tell when the shampoo is running low and you need more - you don't end up with unused bottles in the back!!!

And what do we keep all this stuff for anyways - we're all going to die someday, anyhow, and then it'll just get given away!!! We might as well enjoy the peace of an ordered soul / bathroom in this life, because we'll lose the ability to clean it in the next.

I guess it's funny how this happens that one can reflect on life from the perspective of a bathroom cleaning project, but, then again, if the Savior of the World can die for us out of love on a wooden cross so that even those who will never come to know Him can potentially be saved, I suppose that "holy folly" is the only way that any real work in realizing Christ is ever accomplished!! Bathroom philosophy may just be my calling... or maybe I should stick with immigration law. Okay, I'm getting off my soapbox now - I have to open up the box and clean it out, you know. ;)

This is gonna sound crazy...

And for a first post, it's probably never good to be crazy.

But that's a part of who I am, so I think I'll just ask you to bear with me. :)

As I was creating this blog, I was thinking to myself, "okay, you are being called by God to write a blog. What for? What could you ever possibly share with the world of any note that other philosophers, students, and teachers haven't already thought up or theorized on"? Then I thought of the ONE THING that I definitely do have going for me: I notice little things. Little things like the fact that St. Therese of Lisieux has smiled upon me more times than I could ever mention in the course of my lifetime. Little things that happen to me throughout the course of my day to remind me of God's love for humanity. Little things that prove God's existence, that we often overlook because they are just that: little things. And you have to pay attention to ever notice them.

So, I want people to recognize. I want people to notice. And here I am.

One reason why I know that God is calling me to write this blog is because He gave me a little sign when I signed up for it. As I wrote earlier, I was thinking, "this is crazy, this is such an on-a-whim thing, I'll never keep it up, even though I have desired to do this for a while, I don't know if I'm founded enough in my faith to do something like this..." Then, as the prompter thinger asked me for a blog title, I thought, hmmm, I want something to do with Saint Therese, why don't I write about the "little way"? And the title came to be.

You'll notice that the website of this blog is "theresalittleway." Because the availability of every other site name was already taken, this was the only satisfactory web address I could think of. But I hadn't noticed the double meaning until after I re-read it: "there's a little way," and "Theresa Little Way."

Additionally, I discovered that there is a "rose" background for blogs. Oh, the coincidences keep mounting!!! St. Therese is pulling hard for us, folks! :)

This is God in action right here, right now. This is what I'm writing this blog for. :)

Caritas Christi,
Christina :)