a mother’s prayer on Ash Wednesday

ash wednesdayFather God,

It is not even noon yet, and I am aware of how much I need the grace of repentance that Lent invites me into on today’s Ash Wednesday. I have lost my patience with the children you have entrusted me with – the souls I am to be nurturing into faith and repentance. What a high calling! And an impossible one.

Could it be that my greatest Lenten fast will start with admitting I have no strength to parent?

Could it be that the deepest Lenten repentance will happen as I lead my children into it by example (and necessity)?

Could it be that engaging in mercy and justice for me, in this season of parenting littles, will mean that I show mercy first to these two who are entirely dependent upon me for all of their needs?

Could it be that promoting justice begins with repentance of the entitlement I feel about the sacrifices I make on their behalf?

I turn away from such a prayer, but you invariably call me back. You show me a love that has loved me in my low estate, and a love that fights on my behalf for justice, and a love that grows to match (and overcome) the strength of my rebellious will. Lord Jesus, teach me to love this Lenten season. Lord Jesus, teach me how you have first loved me (and how you always FIRST love me … this love is what shapes and propels my love for my children).

In the name of the Father of all compassion and the God of all mercy, I beg you for Lenten grace this Ash Wednesday.


the rescue of an angry mom

Two years ago I wrote a three-part series entitled, “Confessions of an angry mom.” [you can read those here: part 1, 2, and 3] Last week, at the invitation of a good friend from Philly days, I spoke about my struggle with anger to a group of moms in Hershey, PA. And as I prepared for this discussion, I realized that in the ensuing two years, what I am proclaiming now is God’s rescue of an angry mom. It’s a rescue that’s still very much in process, but there is a hope and confidence in my Rescuer now because of the intervening time between first identifying the struggle and watching God rescue me again and again and again. And so I am writing again about being an angry mom – this time through the lens of a backward glance of mercy and grace that’s rescued me from myself, and a more confident hope that HE who began a good work in me will carry it to completion (Philippians 1).

***** [excerpts from my talk – thanks to all of the women who were incredibly engaging and kind listeners who let me know that I am not alone in this struggle!] *****

photo from goodenoughmother.com

photo from goodenoughmother.com

It’s been a long journey for me in my struggle with anger as a mom, and to be honest, I’m still on it. My willful toddlers have become energetic 4-year-old preschoolers. They do not run in opposite directions in Target (usually) and the tantrums have dramatically decreased. And it’s not because I’ve discovered a secret parenting secret. So much of it is developmental on their part. AND YET I will give credit to God for rescuing me from being an angry mom. If anything I share with you will speak into your heart and tell you that there is hope, that you don’t have to be stuck in an endless anger cycle, then my prayers for this morning are answered. I am going to share what’s helped me, and it’s been multifaceted. Your own “anger plan” will be as individual as you are.

(1) What I hope to do is first of all, to let you know that you are not alone! Anger as a mom is so shaming that it keeps us silent, especially in Christian circles. But every time I’ve brought up my struggles with anger, there is always another woman in the room/group/retreat who says, “me too!” We need to walk into the light and be honest with God and one another about our struggles. So I hope that you will reach out and talk to someone about your struggle with anger, whether it’s big or small or somewhere in between.

(2) And secondly, I hope that you will be able to understand what your anger is saying – about you, your life, your heart, your kids, your parenting. Anger has many messages.

(3) Finally, I want you to leave with hope that God loves you in the middle of your anger and that as a Christian, God is even now working to free you from your destructive anger.

 Understanding what your anger is saying

I noticed the many ways that anger can manifest itself – not only the loud yelling or outbursts, but also criticism, sarcasm, a lingering bitterness or resentment. The object of my anger was not always the one(s) I was acting angry towards. Sometimes I was angry at myself for getting angry; other times I was feeling resentful towards my husband and directing it towards my kids; and yet other times I was upset with my kids but taking it out in an angry resentment towards my husband. Ultimately, I was angry with a God I viewed as controlling yet distant. Far from caring, compassionate, and intimately involved in my day-to-day battles as a mom to twins. 

Some of the messages of my anger were:

  • “I don’t deserve this. I deserve better treatment, more respect, kids who listen to me, etc.”
  • “I feel so emotionally overwhelmed that I don’t know what else to do.”
  • “I need a break.”
  • “You’re getting in the way of what I want.”
  • “You are not meeting my expectations.”
  • “I feel helpless to gain control of you.”
  • “I must have control.”
  • “Life should be perfect. You should behave perfectly.”
  • “CALM ME DOWN!” This last one I am indebted to Hal Runkel’s book, ScreamFree Parenting for, in which he discusses the need to take responsibility for my reactions toward my kids. Saying “you make me angry” just isn’t true. I get angry when others get in the way of what I want/think I deserve/expect in the moment.
  • “You’re wrong, and I’m going to make you pay.”
  • “God has left the building/house/Target store.” [and it’s up to me to provide for myself what I need.]

I have unmet expectations, desires that have become demands, and I need to reexamine those desires as well as readjust my expectations. Maybe I’m expecting more of my child than is developmentally appropriate. Maybe I have turned a good desire into a controlling (idolatrous) demand.

Your anger is ALWAYS saying that something is going on inside you. You need to stop, pause, take a deep breath, and take time to reflect. Your anger should get your attention – it’s like a warning light on the dashboard of your car indicating something is amiss inside.

The message of your anger that you’re reflecting to those around you (husband, kids, friends, parents, in-laws) is always a picture of the message you’re giving God. Every emotion is ultimately directed towards God.

What will rescue you from anger

Rescue from your anger as a mom comes as you realize:

  • you need to be rescued (you can’t manage your way out of this)
  • God is powerful enough to rescue you and loving enough to rescue you
  • You are loved right now, right here, in the very middle of your ugliest mom moment that you would never share with anyone. God knows you intimately (Psalm 139) and loves you completely.

Rest here. You are loved. You – YOU – are loved. God knows you. He compassionately stands with me, not as a judge from afar. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, there is no judgment left for you in Christ. Only love. God is with you. Always. His resurrection power is at work to give you what you need to endure with patience.

Colossians 1:11-12 –

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Cry out for rescue. Expect rescue. Celebrate past deliverance. This is the example of the Psalms.

Pray and then call someone. A trusted friend/etc. You can’t do this alone.

Accept your limitations, physically and emotionally. You may need medication for a season, or counseling, or preschool, or a weekly babysitter or housecleaner, etc. There is no shame in your limits, but relief can come as you live within them.

Make a plan for how to remember and live out of the reality of your rescue from being an angry mom. Your freedom/rescue plan. Because you are already rescued forever, how can you live free?

Galatians 5:1 –

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Freedom from …

  • Guilt and shame
  • Isolation
  • Judgment and condemnation
  • Hiding your struggles
  • Trying harder
  • Being controlled by your children
  • Drudgery and duty
  • Following a certain parenting method
  • Depression

Freedom to …

  • Live forgiven and ask for forgiveness
  • Engage in community
  • Receive and show grace
  • Be honest and vulnerable
  • Stop trying
  • Be the parental authority
  • Enjoy your children as the gift they are
  • Be the expert on your child
  • Walk out of depression

Practical suggestions for making your freedom plan

1. Cry out for rescue. Expect rescue. Celebrate past deliverance. This is the example of the Psalms.

2. Pray and then call someone. A trusted friend, small group leader, mentor, pastor, or counselor (or all of the above! I’ve certainly done that.) You can’t do this alone.

3. Accept your limitations, physically and emotionally. You may need medication for a season, or counseling, or preschool, or a weekly babysitter or housecleaner, etc. There is no shame in your limits, and relief can come as you live within them.

4. Make a plan for how to remember and live out of the reality of your rescue from being an angry mom. Your freedom/rescue plan. Because you are already rescued forever, how can you live free?

Further resources


Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst
She’s Gonna Blow!: Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger by Julie Barnhill
Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch
“How Do I Stop Losing It With My Kids?” by William P. Smith (CCEF, New Growth Press, 2008)
ScreamFree Parenting by Hal Edward Runkel
“The Healing of Anger” audio sermon by Dr. Timothy Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, October 17, 2004)

child development
Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel
How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah Klein
Ilg & Ames child development series
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

realistic motherhood memoirs
What It Is Is Beautiful by Sarah Dunning Parker – a poetry book on being a mom of young kids
Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker
Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton

devotional thoughts at a long-awaited baby shower

photo credit: Linda Carreira

photo credit: Linda Carreira

Last Saturday we gathered at the beautiful home of a friend, surrounded by floral arrangements and soft blues and yellows and joy as abundant as the women joining to celebrate her baby boy. All baby showers are reminders of God’s miracle of life, but this one was a particular celebration as we had cried and prayed with her as she waited months that became years. And now – she is weeks away from delivering this miracle baby.

Words were in order. A combination of celebratory thanksgiving and thoughts from a mom four years into the lovely, hard journey of motherhood. And so I wrote a devotional for her, part of which I’ll share with you here:

May you never forget that as long awaited as this son is, even more so is the Son’s birth that gives you and your husband and son life, hope, and salvation.

As joy has come in the morning, let it remind you to wait for morning’s light even after the longest, darkest nights. Not only metaphorically referring to times when parenting feels exhausting, or you’re at a loss of what to do next, or struggles unique to motherhood (or related to it!) arise. But not just metaphoric long nights is it important to remember the surety of sunrise, but especially after sleepless nights of endless crying or feedings or illness! Let each sunrise be a reminder that it will get better and mercies are new every morning.

Motherhood will be wonderful, using all of your gifts in so many ways. And yet … there will be times when even you and your capable husband will feel at your wit’s end. Be quick to ask for help – to remember that Jesus is there, and so are all of us. As much as you’ve been showered with gifts, you are even more so showered with love and with friends who would delight to jump in and help at any point in time. Pick up the phone and call or text or email. Those of us who are moms have been there – guaranteed – and those who aren’t yet might have extra energy to help out (just as you’ve done so many times for me!). And sometimes it may simply be the act of reaching out that will help you to remember you’re not alone. Many days, a phone call with an adult was just what my heart needed to get through a particularly challenging moment.

Finally, use each of the abundant beautiful moments with your son – of peering into his face, making eye contact, catching his first smile, discovering what makes him laugh, snuggling him tight as he drifts to sleep – let all of these moments be a reflection of the love God has for you. James 1:17 says – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights …” I pray you will be closely tuned into the music of motherhood. I’ll close with words from a motherhood memoir I’m currently reading by Lisa-Jo Baker:

On our quietest, least interesting days, I got better at hearing the music of motherhood. Because I know what typically plays in the background is the chaos of squabbles and coats never put away in the right place or muddy boot tracks across the carpet. There are the to-do lists that never get done … In the dark and the tired and the everydayness of those moments, I started to feel it – the weight of glory, the glorious ordinary that is a gift to us who are knee deep in a world where it can sometimes feel like we have lost all the parts of ourselves we used to know like the back of our hands, our favorite jeans, our own names. A gift from God who names every part of who we are and what we do significant. Because “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” There is no part of our everyday, wash-and-repeat routine of kids and laundry and life and fights and worries and playdates and aching budgets and preschool orientations and work and marriage and love and new life and bedtime marathons that Jesus doesn’t look deep into and say, “That is Mine.” In Him all things hold together.

Five Minute Friday: “She”

She is a picture of grace, holding a babe in her arms and leading another by the hand. She is the image of perfect, juggles life and work and marriage and kids and relationships with ease. She eats organic; crafts a beautiful home; sets up elaborate art projects to engage her children’s creativity; all while managing to stay connected to her husband and her God and her friends. And she never spends beyond her budget. She is loving to all, forgives easily, and knows when to talk and when to remain quiet. She has words of wisdom ready on her tongue yet refrains from gossip. She does not silently judge others who make her feel insecure. She does not struggle with the limits of her humanity.

She stands in the corner and silently condemns me when I struggle. She is the shadow of the impossible ideal I feel I must live up to – in order to keep life, what? Perfect? Beautiful? Smooth? She takes the place of God in my heart and my life. She masks him with her demands and deceives me into thinking that she is God.

God rescues me. He gently scoops up my weary soul, reminding me that it is not “she” who sets the standard but HE who sets the standard. And he’s set it high – impossibly so – but he’s fulfilled it already, and so I go free. Free of “she.” Free to be the “me” he is making me to be.


Today I join Lisa-Jo Baker in her “Five Minute Friday” community. You can also join in here to write for five minutes on a different prompt each Friday.

on the eve of preschool

Tomorrow. Tomorrow it begins. Enter the song from “Annie,”

Tomorrow, tomorrow,
I love you, tomorrow;
you’re only a day away!

Tomorrow my almost-3-year-old twins will enter preschool. This DAY I’ve longed for, that felt too far ahead into that distant Future which I couldn’t see through the hazy, sleep-deprived gaze of newborn days and toddler tantrums. Friends who’d journeyed there said the oft-repeated and often-frustrating-when-you’re-in-the-midst-of-it cliche of, “the days are long, but the years are short.” I find myself repeating that phrase myself to friends with weeks-old newborns, who are struggling with finding their way through the maze of feedings, advice, sleep(lessness), diapers, and colic. I’ve said it to friends who are still a few months away from welcoming their first babe into their hearts, and who feel alternately daunted and excited by such a venture.

As I thought about this post, I wasn’t sure whether to camp out in nostalgic-how-did-my-babies-get-so-big, or to join Glennon in the ranks of “hallelujah! Free at last!” I offer my story, which is a combination of both. Only this morning, I have felt both extremes. When my blue-eyed blonde beauties look up at me and say, “I love you, Mommy!” followed by a melt-my-heart hug; when one says, “Daddy is my best Daddy ever!”; when I see them creatively playing and sweetly cooperating with one another, I think that I am going to miss this. Granted, I will still have plenty of it (they’re only going two mornings a week), yet I know this is sort of the beginning of School. We are probably not going to go the homeschool route personally (and I have great respect for those of you who are), so School will likely mean that the next 15 years will include fostering their academic pursuits outside of the home. That’s terrifying when I realize that I am giving over the reigns of control to someone else, even for six hours a week. Will they be ok? What will I miss in terms of small moments you can’t capture? What if they are holy terrors for their teachers or their fellow students? [disclamor: I have no reason to believe that they will be since they are always MUCH better behaved with those other than us … but you never know …] Who will help her if she can’t figure out how to get her lunchbox open or if she skins her knee? Can I bear the thought that it will be someone besides me?

Well, yes. I can if I remember the part of me that can’t wait for tomorrow. I am looking forward to preschool because I want them to learn to play with other kids, to do wildly messy and creative art projects that I won’t have to clean up, to learn to be under another authority besides me, to be guided in their curiosity about this world by teachers trained to do so. This sounds quite noble, and I wish I could stop there. But I won’t. Because I bet there are others out there who, like me, also cannot WAIT for the break. The break from being a referee/personal chef/activities director for two seemingly impossible to please toddlers. Parenting has been as much my journey of finding out who God’s made me as it has been nurturing my children into who God’s making them. And a few things I’ve learned about myself these parenting years set me up for preschool being a lovely break at precisely the right time:

  • I don’t enjoy arts and crafts. In theory, yes, but the actuality feels too messy and frustrating most of the time.
  • I’m not naturally a playful mom, meaning that getting on the floor and doing lego towers for hours (or even 10 minutes) can feel tiring. I do it still because I love the girls who love legos, but it’s just hard for me. Same reason that I don’t really like playgrounds either.
  • I am most refreshed by time alone or with a few friends with whom I can connect on a deep level. To say that’s been a scarcity in these first three years as a mom is an understatement.
  • I am passionate about what God’s called me to outside of my home, too. I enjoy teaching women the beauty of the gospel found in God’s Word; mentoring younger women in their faith journeys; counseling those in difficult places; and writing. The freedom of two mornings a week without my children will free me up to pursue these a tiny bit more than I’ve been able to before now.
  • I am a better mom when I have a regular break to anticipate and in which to find refreshment. I’m not saying that God has not met me in the midst of the trenches of these past few years, but I am saying that I’ve found that I am able to love my husband and children better with regular breaks. This may not be your story, but this has been mine. And I suspect there are many of you in the church especially who have not felt free to admit this. Admit it; ask for grace in the midst of each day; don’t demand breaks in order to be a better mom but DO take breaks as you can, for spiritual and emotional refreshment. Take a break in order to re-engage those God’s called you to in self-sacrificial love.

Will I be a tearful mom tomorrow as I send off my big girls with their tiny backpacks? Of course. Will I be a joyful mom who will feel like three hours is a blissful luxury not to be squandered lightly? Equally so. I expect crying and rejoicing to each be present in this mom’s heart. And for both aspects, I am thankful for a God who weeps with me and rejoices with me and who goes with me and with my daughters as we’ll part for three hours. I imagine that I’ll blink and be writing a similar post about college. Oh my. That may really get the tears going, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

laundry and grace

I fold laundry
in my weary attempt
to organize my thoughts
hoping they will be sorted
so easily
into piles

tidy, categorized by type
with shelves, drawers, or cabinets
to call home
and rest there
till they’re needed.
Then back through the cycle
of use, wash, dry, fold, return.

Is this what your grace is meant to do?
Restore, cleanse, sort out my heart
When I am used up by love?

links to love, linger, and learn from

It’s just about vacation time for us, which will involve an inordinately long time in the car with busy 3-year-olds, about 200% more potty stops than we’ve had to take before, and some quality time with family which will make it all worthwhile. It will also include a small blogging break. In my absence, I leave you with the following posts to enjoy –

Read this about the writing practice of “morning pages” on Chatting At The Sky

Need an internet break? Glennon bravely leads the way here.

My life in the preschool/lego stage in a quote by Gretchen Rubin

As one born and raised in the South, I say – “Can I get an Amen, y’all?” to this article on the Gospel Coalition Blog: The Kind of Churches We Need in the South

on motherhood:

On the importance of not rushing through life: The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up’ And a good follow up on how to savor the summer on Simple Mom: Be like the sunOne final link on this theme, connecting how anger and hurry are tightly connected: Slow to AngerObviously a message that I need to hear!

For those of you who, like me, love your kids but sometimes struggle with what you’ve “given up” in terms of career/education/conversation depth to be a mom: When you’re not sure if you want to be a mom

The title says it all: a prayer for the mom who’s worn

And one last one to send us (and perhaps you?) on your way – 4 tips for vacationing with your family

Mind the gap

This is how I imagine my kitchen to be:

Serene, beautiful, spotless. Could be on the cover or a feature story of “Real Simple.” The countertops gleam; all dishes are put away; there are matching Method hand soap and dish soap containers; and the lit candle signals that it smells as nice as it looks.

Instead, this is the typical end-of-the-evening scene in my kitchen:

20130729-214126.jpgAnd what you can’t see in this image is the dishwasher that still needs to be unloaded (it’s 9:30pm), and a pot on the stove that has another pot nested within it (both dirty, of course).

There’s quite a gap between “ideal” and “real.” To be honest, this particular gap doesn’t really bother me that much because I know it’s only a matter of about 30 minutes before the dishes will be put away and it will at least *look* clean even if it doesn’t smell clean or gleam radiantly. These photos illustrate a deeper gap I wrestle with almost daily. I know that I am not alone in this, because I’ve talked to many of you about it and read your blogs where you also honestly wrestle through the gap. The gap between who you want to be – “ideal you” – and who you really are day-to-day. 

In a conversation with my mom last week, she was telling me about a book she’s read lately in which the thesis is, “We all feel like we need to be perfect like everyone else because we compare our insides to their outsides.” Meaning that you don’t see me yelling at my kids and berating them to get dressed with proper shoes (slippers don’t count) and use the bathroom and get buckled into their car seats and etc etc … before you see us walk into the grocery store all smiles, me holding each of their hands.  Nor do I see your inward struggle with what to wear and does your hair look ok and what about this makeup and do these earrings really match. I simply see the beautiful well-dressed woman who walks into church with confidence and style, leading her equally well-dressed and smiling children behind her. And I’m intimidated by you. I feel less than.

I care so much because it could be that your image gives a picture to the ideal in my head. The who-I-want-to-be-but-feel-like-I’ll-never-be. Emily Freeman in Grace for the Good Girl describes it like this:

I am struck by how I have lived in a constant state of high expectation. I compared my current life to the one I thought I would be living.

What do we do with this? First of all, I mind the gap. I remember that my ideal self and who God created me to be are two different people. And who God wants me to be is who HE is making me to be as Jesus’ life overflows through mine. Which includes me being honest about weaknesses and struggle and confessing and repenting of sin. Secondly, I remember that you’re real, too. So I don’t envy you or judge you or distance myself from you because you seem perfect in ways I’ll never be. I befriend you, because you need friends, too, and you have messy places just like I do. I ask how you’re doing, and really listen. I don’t force honesty, but I offer you the real version of me – hoping that will invite you to do the same in case you’re also feeling suffocated and in need of the space to be real as well.

beach or desert: a matter of perspective

We had a beach day this morning. One of several we have been able to enjoy this summer now that our daughters are better able to enjoy sand-castle building and wave jumping (rather than sand-eating and rushing-too-far-into-the-ocean as they’ve done previously). It was perfect beach weather: 90 degrees, with a breeze coming off the ocean, hot but with the cold refreshing ocean to dip into as needed. And our girls had so much fun with the other family we met there, who have a teenage daughter whom they adore and who is SO great at playing with them. I even had a chance to read two whole chapters in the novel I brought (which before has been merely wishful thinking). It was fabulous. Like turning over a new page of the seasons of our family’s life, pun intended.

But then there was the walk back. And it felt like a desert because of the wide, wide beach. The sand we had all enjoyed playing with now felt hot and sticky and magnetic as we trudged the dozens of yards back to the boardwalk, and then to our car. The refreshing saltwater had dried out my skin, leaving a salty-sticky residue in its place. Beach flies had bitten my ankles. And there was all of our gear to haul back. The beach chairs, the snacks, the towels, buckets, shovels, even (yes) a portable/foldable potty for our potty training rock stars. And one of the girls began wailing. The. Whole. Way. Back.

I was annoyed until I realized that I felt the same way. I love the beach, but there reaches a point where all I really want is to be clean and dry and un-hot. And the only way to get there is trudging back through the sand, over the dunes, into the car, driving on the very long highway until we reach our house. In that long walk back, I felt like the beach turned into a desert. I couldn’t see the ocean; the breeze was nonexistent; miles upon miles (or so it felt) of nothing but sand stretched in front of me. And it could have been the desert, for all I knew.

The desert brings different feelings than a beach day. Connotations of scarcity, drought, survival, complaint, wandering all fit with the desert. And isn’t that how I choose to see life at times? With my “back to the ocean,” as it were, it feels like the desert. Nothing but sand and heat and miles of it stretching in front of you while your child wails and whines the complaint you feel in your own heart. All I had to do was turn around and remember the beautiful morning we had enjoyed there; to catch a glimpse of the crashing waves. To remember that even when it feels like a desert, it’s really a beach if I can see the bigger perspective.

Motherhood particularly challenges me in this way. So many desert moments to trudge through in a given day, week, month, year. But so many beautiful “beach” moments to savor and relish as well. If I have eyes to see, and if I ask God to help me see. His presence with me always transforms deserts into beaches. Because he is Life itself, and there is no scarcity in his presence. 


ordinary happiness, Saint Therese, and faith

In continuing to read through The Happiness Project, I’ve come to the chapter about happiness and faith. I was particularly curious to read Gretchen Rubin’s thoughts on this since she writes from a perspective that’s not necessarily Christian. Imagine my surprise when she begins talking about “imitating a spiritual master,” and then chooses Saint Therese. A lesser known saint who lived a relatively quiet life, dying at age 24 from tuberculosis. How did such a woman become a saint? And then capture Gretchen Rubin’s attention?

It was her ordinary happiness. Meaning that Rubin was impressed that her achievement of sainthood happened “through the perfection of small, ordinary acts.” She quotes Therese’s famous spiritual memoir Story of a Soul as follows:

Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by … every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.

Rubin says, “Therese’s example shows that ordinary life, too, is full of opportunities for worthy, if inconspicuous virtue.” And the theme of Therese’s life is a happiness motto Rubin’s sought to adopt for herself: 

I take care to appear happy and especially to be so.

If Rubin, who by all accounts is a wonderful woman and writer and person but seems to be without a saving faith in Jesus Christ, can make her life happier by imitating this quiet saint, how much more can we who have THE source of happiness that Therese herself knew? One particularly striking story Rubin shares is of a nun whom Therese disliked and was annoyed by, yet made an especially strong effort to appear happy around. It worked to the point that this nun thought that she was closest to Therese of all the nuns! Little did she know …

I’m not advocating being fake. A “pick yourself up by the bootstraps and paste a happy face on” kind of happiness. But perhaps there is something for us to consider – that we should ask God for the grace to choose happiness, and kindness, and love, even when we don’t feel any of those things. That we could choose to be happy, dwell on what’s positive about our situation, instead of always focusing on the negative. I am so guilty of this as a “natural pessimist” and one who as a counselor by profession has witnessed some very hard realities of life in a fallen world.

Another point Rubin makes is that when “the call” comes – meaning the one that will change our lives forever, because it’s the cancer diagnosis or the bad news or the fill-in-the-blank – we then appreciate what we had. She quotes William Edward Hartpole Lecky:

There are times in the lives of most of us when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though that yesterday had passed over us unappreciated and unenjoyed.

And so we are to live as though we’re dying. Because, well, we are. And this doesn’t bring pessimism but a greater appreciation for each day and what’s precious about now. We will not always have today, nor what we take for granted today. 

A moment happened today to bring this all into focus. One of my daughters unexpectedly tumbled out of the back of our SUV onto hard pavement. A friend “happened” to break her fall a bit, but she still got a pretty large bump on her head. It could have been so much worse. And in that instant I forgot about my petty complaints about how whiny she can be or how hard it is to get her to stay in bed. I was simply thankful to wrap my arms around her and give her the comfort she longed for as she repeated over and over again, “Mommy, I love you so much!” in between sobs. That’s a moment that makes me happy, though mixed in with a minor catastrophe. Have you had a moment like this recently? How did it change your perspective – and even your happiness?